In the summer of 2004, I attended my very first Joni and Friends Family Retreat. I went as a volunteer, also known as a Short Term Missionary (STM), being a buddy to a person touched by disability at a camp which served the entire family for five days. I had written on my application that I was active and energetic. When I read the profile of my camper, whose diagnosis read like a page from Webster’s Dictionary, I was filled with nerves and excitement.
I had come to this camp, thinking that being able bodied, I would be a blessing to others. But what ended up happening was that I grew to love a young woman who looked beyond the exterior, who spoke with full honesty, who knew how to laugh, knew how to live in a place of unconditional love and acceptance. Brooke opened my eyes to a world often unseen by those of us who are able bodied. God opened my heart through Brooke and so began this passionate love for serving those with disabilities and in turn, allowing them to serve me in a way that I treasure, teaching me more about what God sees as important.
A few months after attending my first camp, I was called by the Bay Area office of Joni and Friends and asked to come on staff for the next family retreat. It is in volunteering with Joni and Friends that I have found my life’s passion, as a Short Term Missionary Coordinator. I now train the incoming volunteers at camps both here in the US and internationally, giving them the tools which break down barriers through understanding and compassion.
It was sitting in a local coffee shop with one of our camp families, hearing more about their story that the idea of a website came about. They were sharing with me how doctors had pushed them to abort their son during pregnancy because he had received the diagnosis of having spina bifida.
This son Bryce, now 18, sat in his wheelchair next to us, gently holding his father’s hand. Bryce, this tender young man who all of us had grown to cherish and love had once been labeled as, “not a viable fetus.”
My eyes filling with tears, I said, “Someone should write a book, telling these stories.”
“Maybe that someone should be you,” replied Rachel with an air of confidence as though there was no reason why I shouldn’t be the one, regardless of the fact that I had never taken writing classes or had anything published.
On the drive home, I prayed, “Well, God, is this something that I should do?”
I didn’t hear a verbal reply but somehow felt deep within that Rachel was right, maybe I was the one. Once home, I sat at the computer just to check domain names and see what was available, maybe a website would be a good place to start. I typed in, www.viable.com and it was taken.
“OK, God, what next?” My fingers began tying what instantly came to me, www.iamviable.org and it was available and so began the journey…
I’ve been told by a publisher that in order to write a book, I need to either take classes or find an author to help me because my resume is not so very impressive. I knew that if a book was God’s intention that these stories would tell themselves. I knew that flowery words, eloquent speech and perfect grammar would not be necessary. It would be the very lives of who God has touched and how He has moved which would give the words their meaning.
And so here I am, a simple tool, putting into words, helping to tell their stories, putting them onto this website, making a place, allowing each spirit to shine.