rebekah-from prison of pain to pulpit of praise

Editor’s Note – “Have you met Rebekah?” asked one of the campers to another.

“Oh my gosh, have you seen her smile?” was the reply.

During the first 24 hours of our Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Oregon this past August, the whispers continued to spread.

“Isn’t she beautiful?!”

“You can see the love of Jesus just shinning right through her!”

Rebekah is a young woman who happens to have cerebral palsy, a young woman who happens to use a motorized wheelchair, and a young woman who exudes radiant joy. But that joy was birthed through a process of descending into the depths of despair. Rebekah had such a life changing experience at a young age that I believe was essential. The Lord had used this time to conform her heart to his, and He had also used another exceptional young man to bring her a very special message.

I watched as Rebekah went around to our various campers, comforting them, praying for them, loving on them in a very tender and genuine way.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

I am truly blessed, having come to know Rebekah and I can’t wait to see how the Lord continues to use her in other people’s lives for many years to come.

It is my pleasure to share with you, Rebekah’s story:

rebekah-from prison of pain to pulpet of praise

Written by Rebekah and her mom, Laurena

Edited by Kara Ferris

Rebekah was born the fourth child into a family already challenged by financial pressures and a paradox of love & violence. Simply put, hurting people, hurt people…even when those people are children. The pregnancy, distraught by a fall, broken bones, DVT (deep vein thrombosis), & multiple hospitalizations, resulted in her premature birth. The emergency C-section delivered a tiny, fragile 2lb 11oz baby girl with her own set of complications. Each day that she survived was a victory, but also brought more issues to be addressed (under developed lungs & heart, digestion, hydration, ventilators, resuscitation, pneumonia, “death” of much of the white matter in her brain…), along with the prayers of many. With every new obstacle, her mother held on to what God had placed in her heart, over and over, since the time of her slip and fall, “My hand is on this child…she will be just fine,” never imagining that “just fine” held a larger definition.

By the time Rebekah was 18 mos. old, she had the diagnosis of “spastic-quadriplegic cerebral palsy,” and was now a child of a single mother (and would have no contact with her father for 11yrs). During the next 2 years, it became apparent, that a motorized wheelchair would be a vital part of this happy toddler’s life.

Loved and encouraged by her brothers and sister, mom, extended family and caring therapists, she grew into her new found “freedom.” Even total strangers, were drawn and amazed by her infectious smile and personality…God’s “hand” was on this child and she already knew in her heart that He loved her and would use her to fulfill His purposes; after all, her grandma had been speaking Jeremiah 29:11 over her life since before she was born.

Entering school brought with it new joys, new friends, new challenges, and the growing sense that she was “different” from the other kids. Most of her class mates were drawn to her cheerful demeanor, but some seemed to be frightened by it and, hurting people, hurt people…even if they are little people. And even if they were only a few, those hurtful comments stayed with Rebekah, and began growing in a deep place in her soul, adding each new layer of hurt to the last, composting her pain and feelings of inadequacy. Words of rejection whether real or imagined, further laid the ground work for deception and depression.

At the age of 7, her family moved back to her mother’s home town. Now her grandma could visit with her almost every day, and even though she often spoke the same words of encouragement offered by others, Grandma’s words went deeper. So deep that Rebekah was able to turn her young eyes to the desperate need of Afghan refugees in 2001, and with the help of her trainer, family and community, raise over $1,500.00 in aid by riding her adaptive trike and taking pledges per pedal rotation. And she began to experience the fruit of yet another of her grandma’s favorite Bible verses to speak into her life, “Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power, at work within me, is able to do far more than I could ever dare to ask or even dream of, infinitely beyond my highest thoughts, hopes, prayers and desires.” Ephesians 3:20

The recognition she received for her efforts didn’t make sense to her…she was only doing what God had placed in her heart to do. But that was the very reason He honored her, and with each interview, each speaking opportunity that would come, she would continue to honor Him.

Only a few months after this, her grandma was diagnosed with cancer. And the next few years would test, strengthen and even shake Rebekah’s faith in God and His goodness. She would begin to doubt God’s sovereignty, His purpose, even His love for her.

In May of that year, a healing evangelist was coming to Portland, OR. Rebekah, after years of praying for the healing of others, decided this was HER time. She prayed and read scriptures pertaining to healing, and asked her mom to fast with her for a week before the meeting. Certain that she would be walking out of the arena that evening, she left her power chair at home, opting for a folding manual chair. Before the speaker came to the stage, she felt a trip to the “powder room” was in order. She didn’t want to miss a thing! On her way back to the seating area, she noticed a man in a wheelchair, outside of the doors, and struck up a conversation (something she is known for!). Within moments, they were praying together for his needs and the needs of the throng gathered inside the Coliseum. As they left the meeting that night, in her wheelchair, but with a renewed sense of God’s power and purpose she exclaimed joyfully to her mother, “There must be something God has left for me to do in this chair, or I wouldn’t still be in it!”

Thirteen…a real teenager! And a tender heart towards God, Rebekah heard a woman talk about her salvation experience and realized that even though she loved God and asked Jesus to come into her heart as a small child, she had never asked Him to forgive her of her sins and accept His free gift of salvation. She prayed with that lady on TV, and began to understand just what was at stake. Eternal life!

During the next 14 months, the deaths of ten deeply loved family members, mentors and friends including first her “Nana” and then her grandma too, overwhelmed her with grief. The bitter tears flooded her soul right down to the layers of hurt. Those voices had been kept at bay by grandma’s constant encouragement and prayers for years, and now it was up to Rebekah.

She studied her Bible and prayed. She spoke to youth groups and at Summer Camps. With great conviction she shared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) She knew in her head about God’s love and power and truth. The value He places on each and every person; every person, except her. Why hadn’t He healed, or kept safe, the people she cared for so deeply? Why had He not delivered her from the prison of her wheelchair? Her prayers became something she performed out of a sense of duty. Reading God’s living word was reduced to a religious act. As she abandoned her prayer language, she began listening to the language of self pity, and hung on every word. Depression crept in, the enemy of her soul had gained a foothold.

There were moments when she would find encouragement and truth, like when she saw a man, born without arms or legs on TV, sharing his testimony. He spoke of God’s love and of hope. There was the joy of forgiveness and restoration of her relationship with her father, his wife, and another grandma! But there were further disappointments as well. She was told that she would not be graduating with her high school class. She would not be allowed to address them as a group. She would not be allowed to officially participate in the commencement (despite the best efforts of several school board members).

By her 18th birthday, she had perfected in her mind just how she would end her pain. She was able to open the knife drawer and if she insisted, mom would leave her home alone while she went shopping.

That next week, everyday seemed darker than the one before, the voices louder, “You are such a burden. Nobody really cares about you. They all just pity the poor little crippled girl.” The depression deepened and by the time Sunday came, the desire for sleep and self loathing made the task of getting Rebekah ready for church next to impossible, but her mother was determined that God’s hand was still on Rebekah, and that being in God’s house among His people, worshiping together was where she needed to be. As they entered the sanctuary that morning, something fell out of the bulletin. There were tears in her mother’s eyes as she picked up the insert and asked Rebekah, “Do you still think God has forgotten you?” laying it on her wheelchair tray.

Nick Vujicic was coming as the 2009 Baccalaureate speaker, the man who had talked of hope on TV, and the whole community was invited! A peace and sense of expectancy flooded over her. Maybe she could exchange her self-pity and depression for a life filled with power, love and a sound mind.

She began to recognize what was true again and asked the Holy Spirit to prepare her heart for the message that would be shared. Again, God’s word became alive within her, and she asked Him to do a mighty work in her school, fasting and praying for the breaking of strongholds in the lives of those who would hear Nick speak.

Ephesians 3:20 was about to find a new reality in Rebekah’s life, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Not only was she set free by the power of God in Nick’s testimony of hope and love, she was privileged to share her heart in a special time of prayer with him, and found courage to face the challenge of taking her eyes off of her disability and trusting in God’s ability, getting her focus back on Jesus and bringing Him glory.

In June of 2010, Rebekah was asked to pray the prayer of dedication for her senior class Baccalaureate, 2 years before the “projected” date of her graduation! She continues to speak at camps, to business groups, and in each new venue God provides, following her heart to reach a hurting world with the love of Christ and a message of hope and God’s transforming power, as He enables her to view her wheelchair not as a prison of pain but as a pulpit of praise.

To God be the glory, great things He has done and will continue to do!


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  1. Rebekah’s story is beautiful. What an inspiring young woman. I hope and prey that my daughter Cynthia turns out like her. she is 10 and has CP. She is confined to a power chair and uses a communication device communicate. But she already has a special connection with he heavenly father. Maybe someday we will meet her at a JAF retreat.

  2. Dear Rebekah and Laurena,
    i love the story you and Rebekah it made me almost cry that story sure does talk a lot about what you and Rebekah have been through your entery life
    what a inspiring young teenger you have been
    God loves you and prays with you every day when ever you are working or sleeping
    i love you a lots Rebekah and Laurena

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