“Disabled Now but Not Forever!”
As told by Sara van der Monde
People often tell me, “Sara, you have such a lovely smile. Why are you always so happy?” I tell them that I have a special hope. It is summed up in these words, “I am disabled now but not forever!”
I WAS born in 1974 in Paris, France. My birth was difficult, and later I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. I had limited limb movement, and my speech was hard to understand. I also developed epilepsy and was prone to infections.
When I was two years old, my family moved to Melbourne, Australia. Two years later, Dad walked out on Mum and me. That was the first time that I recall feeling close to God. Mum, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, regularly took me to Christian meetings, where I learned that God loved me and cared for me. That knowledge, along with Mum’s love and reassurance, helped me to feel safe despite our changed circumstances.
Mum also taught me how to pray to Jehovah. Actually, I have found praying to be a lot easier than talking. During prayer, I do not have to struggle to verbalize the words, but I “hear” them clearly formed in my mind. And because my speech is difficult to understand, it is reassuring to know that Jehovah understands everything, whether I say it silently in my mind or with stumbling speech.—Ps. 65:2.
Coping With Setbacks
By the time I was five, my palsy had advanced to the point that I needed heavy caliper splints to walk. I really wobbled more than I walked! By age 11, I could not even walk. Later, I could not get in and out of bed without the aid of an electric hoist to lift me into my motorized wheelchair, which I maneuver using a hand lever.
I admit that at times my disabilities get me down. But then I remember our family motto: “Don’t worry about the things you can’t do. Just get on with the things you can do.” This has helped me to succeed at horseback riding, sailing, canoeing, camping, and even driving a car around a track! I express my artistic nature through painting, sewing, quilting, embroidering, and making ceramics.
Because of my severe disabilities, some have questioned my ability to worship God as an intelligent adult. When I was 18, a schoolteacher urged me to leave home to “escape” my mother’s religion. She even offered to help me find accommodations. However, I told her that I would never leave my faith and would leave home only when I was ready to be more independent.
Not long after the episode with my teacher, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two years later, I moved into a small apartment. Here I enjoy a happy balance of support and independence.
An Unexpected Proposal
Over the years, I have faced other tests of faith. One day I was completely floored when a fellow student—also disabled—asked me to marry him. At first, I was flattered. Like most young women, I yearn to have a partner in life. Yet, having a disability in common is no guarantee of a happy marriage. Moreover, the young man did not share my faith. Our beliefs, activities, and goals were completely different. So how could we make a life together? I was also determined to obey God’s clear direction to marry only a fellow believer. (1 Cor. 7:39) Therefore, I kindly told the young man that I could not accept his offer.
Even today, I know I made the right choice. And there is no doubt in my mind that I will be happy in God’s promised new world. (Ps. 145:16; 2 Pet. 3:13) Meanwhile, I am determined to remain loyal to Jehovah and to be content with my current circumstances.
I yearn for the day when I can leap from my wheelchair and run like the wind. Then I will cry out, “I was disabled, but now I am sound in health—forever!”