I prayerfully ask you to take some time from your busy schedule to reflect upon how we are all created by the Master’s hands. Like that old violin that had no value, when you allow the Lord to touch your life, He molds you for His kingdom work. Here’s a story from my life to show you what I mean.
Twelve years ago I needed supportive housing with attendant care because I have a very rare neurodegenerative condition that a gerontologist diagnosed as variant oliviopontocerebaellar ataxia. Yes, that’s right. I had to see a gerontologist at Scarborough Grace Hospital, because this condition is mostly seen in people much older than 38 years of age. In fact, I was the youngest person in the physiotherapy rehabilitation class!
The disorder is increasingly affecting my ability to type. I have been told by specialists that as further deterioration occurs a time will come when I need to speak my thoughts into a computer program that will type for me. Even now it takes me three times longer at times to type than for many people. I struggle with the damage the condition has caused with tremors in my hands and fine motor coordination. Sometimes, my brain does not understand where to put my fingers on the computer keyboard.
People like me need a strong hand up, not a hand out. We need access to scholarships and bursaries to further our education, so we can have a level playing field with able-bodied people. We need government and community to work together to give us internships and jobs that offer a future for us and our families. We all need those dreams to become a reality.
I was living in a room of a house because that’s all I could afford on disability. A friend of mine at my church suggested applying for supportive housing through her organization.
For several months I waited for a response to my application for supportive housing. I waited and waited some more. Finally, I got a call from Katy Pfeiffer, who was an Executive Assistant for PACE Independent Living. I was told that if there was any downturn in my condition I was to call right away. That day came when after taking a dizzy spell, I tumbled down the stairs. This was God’s message to me to admit my need for help. That was tough because I valued my independence. The Lord’s message was clear. “Kevin, it’s my will for you to leave your home and go into supportive care. Trust Me. Be willing to admit you need the help of others. I have much to teach you about the gift of receiving.”
I fought against my pride and made the call. I admitted to my urgent need to go into supportive housing. When I told the Executive Assistant I fell down the stairs, she was quite concerned. She said, “It’s now a safety issue for you to leave. I’m putting you at the top of the list for supportive housing.”
Within a very short time I had my interview. I would need help with cooking, cleaning and laundry. I couldn’t afford these services because I was living on the income from Ontario Disability.
I learned while being on welfare what it is like to wonder if you’ll have enough to pay for your food and a place to live. Before going on disability the government of Mike Harris decided with his common sense revolution that I could live on the meager income of $520 a month. My rent was $400 a month. That left $120 for my food, transportation and articles for my self-care such as shampoo, shaving cream, soap, toothpaste and razor blades.
One day after a long day of looking for work, I thought I didn’t even have enough money to return to my dingy basement room when I was on welfare. I checked and double checked my pockets. No token or money could be found. I offered the remaining amount on a $5 phone card in exchange for a bus token. I was looked upon with disgust by the stranger I asked for help. I was relieved when checking my pants pockets again, one token had lodged itself deep down in one of my pants pockets. I breathed a deep sigh of relief thanking God for His provision. No one should be subjected to this humiliating indignity.
Martin Luther King in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech spoke about a world of love,brotherhood and equality. His dream for all those who suffer the ravages of poverty to be freed from it is my dream too. We can have a world where many can take off the grave clothes of spirit-killing poverty and put on the garments of freedom from its oppresion. We will need to do the hard roll up our sleeves work to make Martin Luther King’s dream and the dream of all who fight the daily war against poverty a living reality.
Please reflect on what Martin Luther King has to say to us about what such a world of equality and racial harmony would look like. I believe I’m traveling through my own journey of poverty that I would truly understand the suffering of those who live not only in poverty of the body, but moreover a far more crushing kind of poverty, the poverty of the soul. It is the poverty that seeks to destroy the light of hope for anyone to escape poverty’s evil clutches that diminish our hopefulness for a brighter future. Let Martin Luther King’s words sink into your soul.
I cried myself to sleep many nights pouring my heart out to God. I wanted to die. I said , ” Lord, why are You putting me on this awful and miserable journey? Father, I can’t stand to live like this any longer! Please take me home now!”
With the undiagnosed pernicious anemia (B12 deficiency) that wouldn’t be discovered until July 2001, I collapsed over 40 times in two years. I fought off several times of having bronchitis and a seemingly never-ending battle with one flu bug after the other, along with the debilitating pain of repeated sinus infections. Even some of my friends and some in my family judged me as being lazy. I had enough. I wanted God to be merciful and call me home. My Lord had a different and far more awesome plan than I could have ever imagined.
Through this agonizing time many times that haunting voice of my manic depressant schizophrenic father would terrorize my mind.” You are weak. You are a mama’s boy.You are stupid. Your brother is smarter than you will ever be. You are a clumsy fool. You are a good for nothing. You are a waste of flesh. You are a disappointment to me.” Another wound the Enemy afflicted my mind with was my step -grandmother saying when I could not understand how her cable system worked, “Do you work at being stupid?”
These are the soul-crushing words of abuse that many like me suffer. The stinging pain of cruel and cutting words leave their mark long after the scars of physical abuse heal. They are a seething and stinking poison to the spirit. They are the tools the Enemy uses in his arsenal of destruction. Even after over two years of counseling for the abuse experienced at the hands of my manic depressant schizophrenic father, I am still healing from that horrific time of my childhood, teenage and young adult years.
No one should experience this level of suffering. I beg of you that whenever you see a person physically abused, please report that individual to the police. There is never under any circumstances any justifiable excuse for abuse whether it is physical or emotional. It’s wrong and more children, men and women need to come out of their terrorizing prisons of unrelenting pain and say enough is enough. Then and only then can those who tell their stories of abuse to those they trust finally heal and live the fulfilled life of abounding joy that is the fundamental right of everyone.
If it hadn’t been for the help of friends and my church, I wouldn’t have survived that gut-wrenching and joy-stealing time. Friends came with groceries. A Salvation Army family services coordinator made sure to add treats like cookies to the food she would give me. She knew the value of comfort food when you are poor. Others recognized the value of a cup of coffee and their time. A close friend of mine would bring me gifts of books about theology, pastoral care, and counseling, His gifts of English literature, Christian and classical music helped me focus on things of beauty and grace. These agape love gifts calmed my jangled spirit.
This caring friend would take me out for a dinner at Swiss Chalet. He even purchased a desktop computer that allowed me to do my writing and research for my graduate studies in counseling at Canada Christian College and Graduate School. They were his gifts of agape love for me. He remains one of my most treasured friends and fellow brothers in Christ.
Thank God for friends who see our value. They know we are a beautiful creation of the Master’s hands.
A friend of mine from church said, “Kevin, when you have your interview to get support care, I’m praying you’ll cry. You need to learn to admit when you need help.”
Admit I need help? God, why this journey? What is this wonderful plan You have for me?
I prepared my case using the training and ability in journalism and debating God gave me. But God had a more difficult way I would prove my need for supportive care. Cry.
I was so nervous when that day came for my interview. Would I say something i shouldn’t say? Even the palms of my hands were sweating.
As I look back upon that day my Lord had prepared the way before my arrival. As I got off the Wheel-Trans bus, I saw a man in a power chair. I was drawn to speak with him. I didn’t yet know the reason for it. The prompting of the Holy Spirit was persistent.
Here I was telling a person I knew nothing about the story of my life. I became excited when I found out he was a Christian! As his eyes met mine he said, “Kevin, I’m going to pray that you are the one who gets the apartment. I hope you get accepted. I would really like to be your friend.”
I was speechless. This humble man of God wanted to be my friend. He didn’t know me, but he was already battling in the heavenlies for me. I cried in my spirit tears of a fellow brother in Christ’s love as Doug prayed for me.
I prepared all the things i would say. I put all my medical documentation in a file folder.
I breathed my own prayer to be the successful applicant. I kept praying over and over again. “Lord, please let me be the one. Let me know when to cry.”
God answered my prayer. In the middle of the interview I broke down and cried. The manager and program coordinator were so understanding. They listened as I admitted my need to be cared for. God was having no more of my stubborn pride. I was to stop being like the characters John Wayne portrayed, who denied the depth of their needs. This was a time to learn that as the Bible says when we admit our weakness, that’s when Christ’s guiding love within us makes us strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I cried for a few minutes. Then, I composed myself. The manager spoke with a heart of love as he said something like this, “Kevin, I’m going to recommend that you are accepted for the apartment. Another person could still get it. The fall you had down those stairs and the challenges of your medical conditions tells me you need help right now.”
My sorrow turned to joy as I heard about the manager’s willingness to recommend me. I thanked him tears still flowing.
I raced out of the building in my wheelchair with a spirit of joy. I told Doug the great news. I told him to keep it confidential. I said while I would be recommended, it was still the decision of PACE Independent Living if I would be accepted. Doug smiled in a knowing way as he said, “Kevin, God has it all in hand. You’ll be the one they pick.”
A few weeks later I got the official word. God decided I would be the one. Within a few weeks, I was in my apartment with the attendant care I would need. Normally, people even with difficult health and mobility challenges have to wait years to be accepted for supportive housing.
Many months later the manager and I talked about that day. He said something to this effect. “Kevin, you came prepared like a lawyer presenting your case. What moved me the most was when you cried.”
God for His kingdom reasons has made major improvements to my health in the last two years. On February 7, 2011 God got my out of my wheelchair to the point that I don’t need it all of the time. I can stand to deliver a sermon, sing, give a speech or lead worship. I can walk for short distances with a walker. Through medical treatment with a combination of allopathic medicine and ongoing treatment at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, I can put in longer days researching, reading, writing, editing, singing and songwriting.
I am planning to open my own private counseling practice here in Englehart in partnership with Karen in God’s time and if it is His will.
On a romantic note God allows me from time to time to be able to stand in position and dance as I sing Karen’s Serenade.
I’m a graduate missions student at a prestigious distance school called South African Theological Seminary. My thesis is about how the residents of L’Arche Richmond Hill (just north of Toronto) with developmental challenges go from a societal perception of being a liability to being a profound life-changing blessing of agape love.
Jean Vanier, who is the founder of L’Arche, gives the reason for its existence in the video below.
When we truly see God in others, our Lord touches us in a special way. We embrace the gift of a holy and perfect love that gives expecting nothing in return. We see that we all a loving creation of our Lord. As I give of myself to others God gives back to Karen and me that leave us speechless.
I welcome the time that I will spend living at L’Arche. I will be working hard interviewing the residents and staff, playing ,worshiping, serving and living with their community, It will be a time of refreshment for my spirit. I won’t be required to be strong, They will want me to be the Kevin who isn’t afraid to laugh and cry with them. I pray I will feel their spirit speak to mine as I learn from them what it truly means to come into their lives with as their chaplain at one time Father Henri Nouwen said, should be two open hands, not a clenched fist.
I’m hoping that God will open a door for me to do relief preaching for pastors. Our pastors need pastors. They are so overworked. They need people who will give them time off just to relax and enjoy being with their family.
I am open to being a motivational speaker for companies, churches and any organization. Karen and I, have prayed about God’s direction quite a lot. We are willing to go anywhere God wants us for His glory.
Karen delivers messages and speeches with passion and conviction.
Please keep us in your prayers as we have an important meeting with Reverend Dr. David Neelands on November 5th. He is the Dean of Divinity at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. Karen is applying to enter a Master of Divinity program. I will be discussing future entry for chaplaincy training.
My primary callings are to be a wounded healer and pastor to the pastors.
If we can help your church or organization in any way, please let us know.
We praise God that swelling that has been in my throat for over 48 years has been going away. This is allowing my trained tenor voice to get much better. Please pray that if it is the Lord’s will, I will be part of a group of people who produce a series of music CDS for the purpose of poverty alleviation. Let us work together to come up with solutions to address the injustice and inhumanity of poverty. We can do it working together.
I am a miracle of the Master’s hands, and so are you.