joey’s smile

Written by Joey’s sister Jasmine –

cu

I didn’t meet my brother, Joey, till he was five years old, and I was eleven. When I first met him he had already been through numerous surgeries, been taken into the custody of the State of Texas and had been residing in a foster home for several years.

Some people might say we rescued Joey, that we chose to bless him. But I believe that God chose Joey. Just as God chooses to give us salvation, to adopt us as His children, He chose to bless us with Joey and allowed my parents to adopt him.

From the very start, God’s hand was evident in Joey’s life. Joey’s birthmother knew Joey would be born Spina Bifida, yet she chose to give him life. She may not have been at a point where she was able to parent Joey, but she, through the grace of God, gave him the gift of life.

In 2000 my parents had already been fostering for three years, and praying for God to show them the child they were to adopt. At the same time my oldest sister, Jessica, was living in Texas. One day she saw a Waiting Child television special about a little five year old boy with Spina Bifida, in need of a forever family. She immediately called our mother and said “I think I found your son, Mom.” She certainly had! We had our first visit with him in July of 2000, and he was home by September.

Joey was indescribably cute! At five he was very small, more the size of a three or four year old. At that time he was using braces and a walker for mobility, and we all got the biggest kick of him zooming around, swinging his little legs as fast as he could! Even then he loved sunglasses, and getting all dressed up. The one and only time he ever got truly angry was one day when he had been wearing a suit to church, and didn’t want to take it off afterwards.

God blessed us with eight wonderful years with Joey. They weren’t easy years, by any means. He had many health issues, and his little body was riddled by infection and atrophy. But Joey was a very brave boy. He made it through countless surgeries and hospital stays, and once home he got right back to living his life.

Whenever people talked about Joey, the first thing they mentioned was his smile, and those great big hazel eyes. He was shy at times, but he was always willing to give people a smile. Joey didn’t so much bless people with words, but with actions.

He was one of those kids who invariably draws people to them. Whatever church we were attending at the time, he was the kid people were drawn to. During all our hospital stays, medical appointments, and therapies, everyone was drawn  to him. At our last hospital stay we spent five weeks in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He was sedated and on a ventilator for much of the time, and once off the ventilator he had much difficulty talking, yet by the time we left he was the favorite of everyone on the unit. Nurses actually fought over who would have him for the shift, and others would stop by his room just to say hello.

God used Joey to teach people so many things. He taught people about being content in all situations. Sometimes when he was in the hospital he would get frustrated or upset, but the next moment he would be apologizing for being upset, and back to his happy, smiling self. Even though he was in a great deal of pain, he tried so hard to be a happy patient, and people noticed that.

One of my favorite pictures of Joey was from that last hospital stay. He was on a ventilator, tubes down his throat and nose, and hooked up to dozens of IV medications. Though generally when patients are intubated they are also heavily sedated, he had built up an immunity to the sedation medication and was very lucid. I told him I was going to take a picture for our mom, and asked him to smile. And so there, going through an unbearably hard hospitalization, in more discomfort than most of us could possibly imagine, he smiled. You can hardly see it due to the tubes, but there it is. I cannot think of a better example of the kind of person Joey was. He loved with such a fierceness and loyalty, and tried so hard to please others. He was truly gifted with the gifts of love and joy.

Joey went home to Jesus on September 10th, 2008. He was thirteen, and had been in our family for eight years.

Some may say that he would have been better off being aborted, or dying at birth, but God used Joey. He took what the world saw as flawed or worthless, and He used Joey and his disability to touch thousands.

Some people think that since he was adopted, “not really ours”, that it isn’t quite so bad. Some may say it would have been better if we had not adopted him, that at least then we wouldn’t have had to go through this loss. But we do not see it that way. Joey was, and is still my brother. He will always be my brother. We wouldn’t trade our eight years with Joey for anything in the world. He taught me more about life, love and God, than I can even comprehend. He taught me not to pity those affected by disabilities, but to admire them. He has inspired me to dedicate my life to serving God and those affected by disabilities in any way I can. What is more, Joey has inspired me see how those with disabilities are serving God, and using their gifts to bless those around them, whether through words of wisdom, or through a simple smile that comes from their heart.

Five months after Joey’s death, the Lord prompted me to take his wheelchair on a trip to Thailand with Joni’s organization, Wheels for the World.  Six wheelchair distributions were scheduled.  We completed three and Joey’s wheelchair still had not been used.  As I continued to wheel his chair in and out of my hotel room, it grew harder to wait on God’s timing.  I again asked the Lord to use Joey’s chair for His glory.

One day, I was asked to meet Sompong, a 31 year-old woman who was twenty years post polio.  When I saw her sweet smile, I knew she was the one!  The wheelchair rolled in and as she transferred into it, we knew it was a perfect fit!  Her joy grew tenfold!  As I shared Joey’s story, my family’s story and the photos, tears filled the eyes of both Sompong and her mother.

I discovered Sompong practiced the Buddhist faith and was prompted to ask our in-country evangelist to introduce Jesus to her.  He explained Christ’s unfailing love and how this wheelchair was truly a gift from Christ.  Sompong intently listened and after much prayer, she chose to accept Jesus as her Savior!  As we shed tears of joy, we embraced as sisters in Christ.  Only the Great Storyteller could have written such a perfect ending.  My family and I have such joy in the knowledge that some day in heaven, Joey and Sompong will be smiling as they meet!

jas-and-sompong

About editor

Kara Ferris is the Executive Director and editor of iamviable.org. Wife. Mom of 3. Lover of people. Connoisseur of espresso. Master of Crazy Hair. Heart that beats for Jesus. Passion for those with disabilities, bringing honor, value and raising awareness of God’s intent and purposes for EVERY life. Blessed beyond imagination.

Comments

By submitting a comment below, you agree to stick to our comment policy

  1. Jasmine, your love for Joey and for God shines so clearly throughout this whole article! What an AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL story of redemption in Thailand!!! I think Joey might very well be smiling down on everyone at camp this year. :)

  2. Joey bore the Light of Christ, and held it higher than anybody else I knew. Joey’s smile always made my day, and he smiles still.
    “We will dance on the streets that are golden/The glorious bride and the great Son of Man” (We Will Dance-David Ruis)

  3. Jasmine, I found a precious video clip of Joey playing peekaboo with Lily at camp…would you like to see it?

  4. I remember when Jasmine shared Joey’s story at family retreat in 2009. I was so touch by it!

Leave a Comment

*