Matthew's Story

  • Jan. 17, 2012
  • #7752

Every great story has a humble beginning! 

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada, and I want to tell you the story of Matthew who, when he was 14-years-old, volunteered with his family at one of our Family Retreats. His parents, PJ and Donna, always knew their son was the sensitive, caring type, but never realized how much so until Matthew was assigned to help Billy, a young kid with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair. Matthew rolled up his sleeves and pitched right in, but during the very first day, there was a big problem. It seems that Billy’s mother had forgotten to pack the specialized charger for the batteries on his power wheelchair. That meant after the first day, Billy was without any power. And his cabin at the Family Retreat was at the bottom of a sloping hill.

We tried to find a charger that would work, but it was a no-go. Like I said, Billy’s wheelchair was pretty specialized. It meant that if this young kid was going to take part in times of worship and all the activities, he would have to be pushed everywhere. But was this a problem for Matthew? No way. This 14-year-old jumped right in, arriving at Billy’s cabin door early every morning in order to push him up the hill to the dining hall, then to the swimming pool, and all the other activities. Now this was no easy feat – remember, Billy’s in a power wheelchair, and even with the motor disengaged, this thing was heavy! But there was Matthew, leaning hard with arms straight, pushing with all his might to get Billy up that hill. His parents were amazed! Their son did not complain all week. In fact, he seemed to delight in the challenge… making the extra effort… going the extra mile… no pain no gain. All that mattered to him was that Billy would not miss a thing, and have a chance to hear about Jesus as well as enjoy the full Family Retreat. Matthew’s parents saw something pretty unique in their son at that retreat. They recognized his extraordinary ease in sacrificing and serving others in need.

That Family Retreat with Billy and Matthew that I just described was 7 years ago. Recently Matthew’s parents, Donna and PJ and I crossed paths, and when I asked about their son, they were happy to give me an update. Matthew is now 21 years old – he’s a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton and in training for the Special Forces. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised to hear that. What his parents saw in him as a 14-year-old is now bearing fruit as he prepares to be sent on special op duty overseas. Matthew is delighting in the challenge of no pain no gain. He’s going the extra mile, happy to make sacrifices in order to now serve his country. And I like to think that our ministry played a small part in helping to shape that young man’s character, for Matthew continued to volunteer at Family Retreats right up until he was ready for the military. Oh, by the way, friend, we’ll be putting up our 2012 schedule of Family Retreats soon for the new year, and if you’d like to serve right alongside Matthew, then make sure this month that you sign up with us to volunteer. And you moms or dads think about sending your 17 or 18 year olds to one of our Family Retreats – Donna and PJ would tell you that it really builds incredible character as these young people push the wheelchairs of others and serve kids with disabilities. Oh, and one more word about Matthew, the Marine. Donna only hopes that he doesn’t lose his sensitive caring spirit in the military… the same spirit she saw at every Family Retreat where Matthew as a teenager, volunteered. But I told her, I wouldn’t worry. Matthew is still all about serving. 

© Joni and Friends

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