Pastor Joel at the pulpit, preaching.

A Preaching, Traveling Quadriplegic 

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This article is part of our Fall 2020 Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses on traveling with a disability. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers

When‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌three,‌ ‌my‌ ‌family‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌were‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌car‌ ‌accident‌ ‌that‌ ‌resulted‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌high-level‌ ‌spinal‌ ‌cord‌ ‌injury‌ ‌that‌ ‌left‌ ‌me‌ ‌unable‌ ‌to‌ ‌control‌ ‌anything‌ ‌below‌ ‌my‌ ‌shoulders‌ ‌or‌ ‌breathe‌ ‌on‌ ‌my‌ ‌own.‌ ‌Traveling‌ ‌with‌‌ ventilators‌ ‌and‌ ‌all‌ ‌my‌ ‌daily‌ ‌medical‌ ‌supplies‌ ‌isn’t‌ ‌easy,‌ ‌but‌ ‌my‌ ‌parents‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌taken‌ ‌several‌ ‌trips‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌past‌ ‌35‌ ‌years.‌ 

‌One‌ ‌such‌ ‌trip‌ ‌came‌ ‌once‌ ‌I‌ ‌had‌ ‌received‌ ‌my‌ ‌license‌ ‌to‌ ‌exhort‌ ‌from‌ ‌CRC‌ ‌Classis‌ ‌Central‌ ‌Plains‌ ‌in‌ ‌2017.‌ ‌A‌ ‌pastor‌ ‌friend‌ ‌invited‌ ‌me‌ ‌to‌ ‌preach‌ ‌at‌ ‌his‌ ‌church,‌ ‌but‌ ‌his‌ ‌church‌ ‌is‌ ‌near‌ ‌Louisville,‌ ‌Kentucky (‌about‌ ‌550‌ ‌miles‌ ‌from‌ ‌home).‌ 

‌Since‌ ‌I‌ ‌depend‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌machine‌ ‌to‌ ‌breathe,‌ ‌I‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌have‌ ‌someone‌ ‌awake‌ ‌with‌ ‌me‌ ‌at‌ ‌all‌ ‌times‌ ‌should‌ ‌problems‌ ‌arise.‌ ‌My‌ ‌parents‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌cover‌ ‌24‌ ‌hours‌ ‌a‌ ‌day‌ ‌and‌ ‌travel,‌ ‌so‌ ‌I‌ ‌needed‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌my‌ ‌caregivers‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌at‌ ‌night.‌ ‌Planning‌ ‌for‌ ‌four‌ ‌busy‌ ‌people‌ ‌to‌ ‌go‌ ‌away‌ ‌together‌ ‌takes‌ ‌careful‌ ‌planning,‌ ‌including‌ ‌several‌ ‌months‌ ‌of‌ ‌looking‌ ‌at‌ ‌schedules‌ ‌and‌ ‌hotels.‌ ‌

However,‌ ‌just‌ ‌a‌ ‌week‌ ‌before‌ ‌we‌ ‌were‌ ‌scheduled‌ ‌to‌ ‌depart,‌ ‌I‌ ‌unexpectedly‌ ‌spent‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌days‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌hospital‌ ‌and‌ ‌feared‌ ‌that‌ ‌our‌ ‌plans‌ ‌would‌ ‌no‌ ‌longer‌ ‌work.‌ ‌Thankfully,‌ ‌God‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌a‌ ‌quick‌ ‌recovery,‌ ‌and‌ ‌we‌ ‌continued‌ ‌preparing‌ ‌to‌ ‌leave.‌ ‌Packing‌ ‌my‌ ‌supplies‌ ‌for‌ ‌just‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌days‌ ‌away‌ ‌requires‌ ‌many‌ ‌bags‌ ‌and‌ ‌checking‌ ‌that‌ ‌everything‌ ‌is‌ ‌included.‌ ‌It‌ ‌took‌ ‌several‌ ‌days‌ ‌to‌ ‌pack‌ ‌everything‌ ‌I‌ ‌would‌ ‌need‌ ‌and‌ ‌get‌ ‌my‌ ‌luggage,‌ ‌along‌ ‌with‌ ‌my‌ ‌parents’‌ ‌and‌ ‌caregiver’s,‌ ‌packed‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌vehicle.‌ ‌Sermon‌ ‌planning‌ ‌also‌ ‌took‌ ‌time‌ ‌and‌ ‌prayer,‌ ‌but‌ ‌I‌ ‌reviewed‌ ‌on‌ ‌Friday‌ ‌evening‌ ‌before‌ ‌we‌ ‌drove‌ ‌all‌ ‌day‌ ‌Saturday‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌to‌ ‌our‌ ‌hotel.‌

‌Once‌ ‌we‌ ‌arrived,‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌good‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌my‌ ‌friend‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌wife‌ ‌again‌ ‌after‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌years‌ ‌apart,‌ ‌but‌ ‌the‌ ‌evening‌ ‌was‌ ‌spent‌ ‌on‌ ‌planning‌ ‌logistics‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌services‌ ‌I‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌leading.‌ ‌When‌ ‌I‌ ‌arrived‌ ‌Sunday‌ ‌morning,‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌glad‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌the‌ ‌church‌ ‌was‌ ‌easily‌ ‌accessible,‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌stage‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌ramp‌ ‌so‌ ‌I‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌preach‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌difficulty‌ ‌in‌ ‌planning,‌ ‌God‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌me‌ ‌to‌ ‌present‌ ‌his‌ ‌Word‌ ‌twice‌ ‌that‌ ‌morning.‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌preached‌ ‌since‌ ‌then,‌ ‌but‌ ‌all‌ ‌within‌ ‌Iowa‌ ‌with‌ ‌much‌ ‌less‌ ‌trip‌ ‌coordination‌ ‌required.‌ 

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