Rays of Sunshine: Jimmy Chestnut

1-19-2017-thursday-9As we just finished our 3rd annual outreach to Belize (see the previous 2 posts and photo collages), I thought it was appropriate to highlight, Jimmy Chestnut, one of the many hardworking and faithful volunteers who made the trip as this month’s Ray of Sunshine.

Jimmy was a great addition to the Access-Life Belize Team this year as he brought a genuine servant’s heart and the enthusiasm of a first time short term missionary to Belize. He also, brought a great deal of experience. This experience is not something most folks have or to be honest would even want on their resume. You see, Jimmy is a person living with a disability. He has Cerebral Palsy and uses a manual wheelchair to get around. Like many folks living with disabilities, he does not let these extra challenges slow him down but relies on the Lord with a Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ” attitude to move mountains in his daily life.

His quiet and innocent smile made most of us serving along side him forget that the mountains of life are even bigger in Belize as the muddy roads, rough inclines and multiple transfers in and out of his wheelchair each day never changed his rough but boyish grin. This overcoming attitude is what made his presence so important to those we met as it inspired many to see that “with God all things are possible”. Yes, even in the inhospitable conditions of Belize someone with a disability can serve God and be used by Him in a mighty way.

1-18-2017-wednesday-1That was Jimmy’s testimony from the start as he jumped right in with helping to prepare hygiene kits to give out to people in the villages and cleaning crutches and walkers to distribute at the Expo outreach. He was always eager to help with whatever tasks needed to be done. At some of the sites where our team built ramps, Jimmy was able to interact with people in the community, allowing them to see firsthand that disabilities don’t have to limit a person’s ability to serve God and others even in Belize. This message was again seen as Jimmy was able to work with Sharyn and Mike King at the Adaptive Fitness booth during the Expo and met several people in wheelchairs who came by that day, including a man who was a double amputee and another man who had been wounded in the military. 

1-21-2017-saturday-eli-10On the way home from the Expo, the team stopped by to visit Eli, a man who we built a ramp for in 2016. Mike King had a hand cycle to give to Eli and several from the 2016 team were looking forward to seeing Eli again. Jimmy admitted that when we stopped in Eli’s village, he really didn’t want to get out of the van because he was tired and was hurting from all of the activity of the day and week. Jimmy told the team that he sensed God telling him that he needed to get out of the van and visit with Eli, so he did, and he received a blessing in his life from being obedient. Jimmy encouraged Eli to continue in his faith journey and told him that he didn’t need to have “can’t” in his vocabulary. It was a moving experience when Jimmy voiced a prayer over Eli and ask God to help him to stand firm in his faith.

1-19-2017-thursday-37All in all, it was so encouraging to see God faithfully helping Jimmy overcome every challenge and being a blessing to others around him. From his fellow team mates to those who were surprised to see someone in a wheelchair coming to serve them, Jimmy brightened up the days of hard work and uplifted new friends all week long.

Rays of Sonshine: Our Royal Ambassador

Many of you know David Browne our Access-Life Royal Ambassador as he travels both near and far to all of our Expo outreaches in Texas, Tennessee and Florida and even some of our other activities like the Big Wheel Deal and Jingle and Mingle activities in Central Florida. Despite being on a limited fixed income, having a disability and approaching the ripe age of 63, He does all this “on his own dime”, with an “I can do all things through Christ” attitude and exhibiting the enthusiasm of a teenager!

2013-2-dbFor those of you have never met David, although there are not many of you out there as he introduces himself to virtually everyone he encounters, let me share with you a bit of our story with him.

We first met David at the 2011 Central Florida Expo. Dan and Faith Eriksen brought him with them to the event set-up as well the outreach the following day. They all attended church together in Deland, FL and as David lived alone in a retirement community where he and his mother lived before she passed, Dan and Faith thought Access-Life and the Expo would be a good experience for him. Boy were they right! After the event, we started receiving periodic calls from David not only sharing about what was going on in his life but asking questions on how he could help. He even started introduced himself as “David Browne with Access-Life”.

WEB PIC - DBAfter a few months of the calls and occasional invites and visits to David’s community for lunch, it was clear that he had taken Access-Life to heart and had assumed ownership of whatever role he could to further the ministry’s mission. He was sharing the all he knew about Access-Life with everyone he knew and even some he did not. I can still remember him calling one day disappointed when he was told by friends he knew in New Jersey that they had never heard of Access-Life. He was befuddled that the news had not reached them yet as to him our small nonprofit ministry was like the biggest para-church ministry in America. :)

The amazing thing about David’s inspired sharing is that it is such a great example one of the underlying themes of Access-Life that God wants to see people living with disabilities integrated into the body of Christ so that we can all benefit from the gifts God has given them. It has been such a blessing to see how God has used David by him simply sharing with others like a true Royal Ambassador. It almost makes me laugh to think of the time David was taken on a cruise with some family friends and he called us asking about the North Texas Expo on Lake Grapevine. He needed the information to share with a couple he met at their evening dinner table from Grapevine, TX. Yes way!

img_20160920_100552Isn’t it awesome how God will work in our lives if we simply make ourselves available to Him? And sharing the Good News is what being an ambassador is all about, right?

You know as Christians, We are all royal ambassadors for Christ here on earth. Our job is to live a wholesome, holy and godly life so we can accurately reflect Jesus and His kingdom. We are to live abundant lives full of His peace and joy and share with others His gifts of faith, hope and love so that everyone we come in contact with will smell the sweet fragrance of Jesus in our lives.

That’s exactly what David does and why He is our one and only Royal Ambassador.

Rays of Sonshine: Inspiring Hope

As we started preparing for 2017, I felt that God was encouraging us at Access-Life to do more this year to inspire our great team of volunteers from across TN and TX and into FL. Not just to give folks a pat on the back or say, “job well done” (although these are important too!) but rather something to help each and everyone know that they are a valuable part of the ministry and an integral member of the Body of Christ.

I believe God wants you to know you are making a difference for Him and while we won’t always see the impact God brings through our service, it is our hope and prayer that God will enable us to communicate and covey this truth more effectively this year and as long as we serve together reaching people living with disabilities for Jesus. :)

In turn, starting in January, we’ll be posting a special BLOG story each month about a volunteer or participant and how God has impacted their lives through Access-Life and in turn, each of you!

This is a big undertaking as finding these stories of faith, hope and love will require some work and even help from you all. So if you have a testimony, experience or story to share please contact me at doug@access-life.org and we’ll see what we can do to get it written up, backed-up with pictures and posted as an encouragement to others. :)

Be on the lookout for the first Rays of Sonshine post on January 2nd, too.

Are You Ready for Christmas?

artwork-dg-2011-12-2Christmas is just 10 days away. Are you ready? The season when love came from heaven and salvation was given in the form of a baby boy is about to come to a conclusion. Are you ready? The day when we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us all is almost here. Are you ready?

Are you ready to not only celebrate Jesus’ birth but to honor Him with your whole life all year long?

That is our hope and prayer: to see each of us so grateful for this most wonderous blessing that the joy and peace brought through Jesus into our lives will be an overflowing expression of His presence everyday until Christmas is here again.

Wouldn’t it be awesome for God to bring heaven to earth everyday of the year by the outpouring of His Holy Spirit through the lives of every Believer. A wholesome word spoken, a fitting smile given or a gracious prayer lifted up all in Jesus’ name.

Now that would not only make for a merry Christmas but a happy new year, too.  :)

Thank you on Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving here today, we wanted to take the time to tell you all how much Leanne and I appreciate you guys and all you do for the ministry. It takes a lot of folks doing a lot of things to effectively reach people living with disabilities with the Love and Gospel of Jesus and we are so thankful for all your prayers, service, sharing and giving. :)

cropped-doug-in-tree-with-lg.jpgIt is our hope that you know that you are making a big difference by being the hands and feet of Jesus to individuals and family members affected by disabilities locally through the Expos, Big Wheel Deals and Outpost activities and we pray that this fact and the verse below encourages you!

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12

Thank you again for being a blessing and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

The Foundation of Faithfulness

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” is one of my favorite hymns as faithfulness is a core element of our faith. Our faithfulness is so important but God’s faithfulness is the real foundation and rock of our relationship with Him. It’s not what we have done or can do but what God has done through Jesus and the promises He always keeps.

We slip, mess-up and even fall flat on our faces from time to time but God is still faithful. He not only picks us back up, dusts us off with His forgiveness and even carries us until we are able to walk again as He holds our hand and never lets go.

What is even more amazing is that He does all this because He loves us and not because we deserve it. He imparts His holiness, purity, righteousness, protection and provision on us and our lives because of Jesus and what He has done for us.

God who is completely holy, only light and all good faithfully fills and surrounds us with his Holy Spirit enabling us to live a godly life set a part and separate for Him. What an awesome truth that when we believe and walk in it, we can truly say: “I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me”. Philippians 4:13

Here are a few verses that I hope encourage you in these facts as you walk each day in the loving care of Jesus, your Savior, Redeemer and Friend. :)

scripture-picture-3

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

Now glory be to God Who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or dream of– infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes.  Ephesians 3:20

But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Romans 15:14

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:7a

Redeemed Child of God

ARTWORK - DG 2011-11 (1) VERSEYou know, one of the sweetest words in the Bible is redemption. It is so rich in connotation and meaning. It addresses who we are, who God is and how much He loves us. What else matters, right?

Here are a couple of definitions in case, you are not sure of it’s meaning in Biblical context:

Redeem: When a family member pays a price to buy someone or something back. In the New Testament, our brother Jesus redeems us from our sin, or sets us free, by his death on the cross.

Redemption: Redemption simply is reestablishment of Christ’s ownership of our lives. Redemption is a past, present, and future activity. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the penalty owed for our sin, breaking its power to condemn us now and forever.

I love the connections made to family and ownership as well as to the past, present and future. Jesus obviously is at the center of it all as He is the one that has paid the price to buy us back through His sacrifice on the cross. He is our kinsman redeemer for those of you who know Jewish customs and traditions.

You see, we have all chosen to walk away from God, sinned and in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption which together is salvation in Christ.

For reference checkout Isaiah 53:6: “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” That pretty much sums it all up.

The great news though is that by repenting and turning back to God we are not only forgiven and redeemed but we are completely cleaned, restored and made new again. It does not stop their either as part of our redemption is that we are also born again into a new covenant with God base on Jesus’ righteousness and sealed forever by the Holy Spirit never separated from God our Heavenly Father again.

Now that’s a pretty sweet deal. :)

Christ is all I see

Scripture Picture (2)Ever wonder how to do the impossible? Ever wonder how to accomplish all God has set before you? Maybe for you (as it often is for me), it’s just making through the day that is the monumental task you cannot imagine accomplishing.

Whether it is the every day juggling of family, work and friendship priorities, a huge, ultra important project or test coming up or just getting out of bed to live the overcoming and abundant life God wants for you, the answer is the same.

You need to walk on water.

Now I’m not talking about walking on water in the conventional sense like Peter did in the Bible but rather rising above your circumstances and walking above the things of this world in a place of overcoming joy and matchless peace.

Oddly enough both are accomplished the same way. What enable Peter to do such an amazing thing? Faith and focus. He had faith in Jesus knowing that with Him all things are possible. He also, had a laser tight focus on the source of his faith: Jesus. When combined a miracle occurred.

A similar miracle can occur for each of us as we combine our faith in Christ with a tunnel vision focus on Him. Again, we may not actually be treading on waves of water but rather waves of the world.

Now most of us reading (or in my case writing), have faith in Jesus as our Savior and even Lord. However, most of us (including me), don’t have our eyes on Him daily much less truly focused on Jesus moment  by moment.

Trust me I know it’s hard in today’s world with every kind of advertisement blasting junk at us all day. And, oh the news. That’s a positive pick me up. The information age has become the age of information overload, too.  It’s like we have waves of negativity crashing all around us. But keeping our eyes, ears, mind and life focused on Jesus is what enables us to rise above all the junk. It’s essential to walking on water.

Remember what happens to Peter when he starts looking around and notices the wind and waves? He sinks like rock! Fortunately, Jesus is always there for us and He reaches out to rescue Peter. Isn’t that true of so many of us. We’ve let our eyes, ears, minds and lives wander to where they should not go and the only thing keeping us from drowning is the gracious hand of Jesus holding our heads above the waters of life.

Today let’s all start a new trend. Rather than putting our focus on the latest news, trending stories or top headlines, let’s put it where in belongs: on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. As the hymn says: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus”. And then what happens: “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”.

Here are a few verse to encourage you along the way.

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Colossians 3:1-3 1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

God’s love shines through a child’s eyes!

IMG_3945Although this year’s NTX Expo had some great God moments, my fondest memory isn’t from the outreach itself. In fact, it  was 3 days before when we were sharing with a local VBS missions group who was stuffing our goody bags.

About half way through the morning shifts of classes, a church member who I’d met the year before at the same church VBS approached me and told me about a young girl who she was caring for from overseas.

She said the girl was sent to the US by missionaries for the third time to have more surgeries to further correct her contracted limbs. I don’t remember the cause of her disability but she was born with both her arms and legs tightly contracted leaving her unable to use either. The woman told me the surgeries had helped but that the young girl still has many physical challenges including not being able to walk on her own.

The love and compassion she had for the little girl was very evident and it inspired me to see God’s care for “the least of these” through her actions. In turn, I was a bit surprised when she asked if she could bring the little girl to meet me. I thought, “Why me, I’m no doctor or surgeon”? I mean there is nothing I had to offer to help her physical challenges. I can’t even move my own legs or fingers.

Then the  woman explained that she thought if the young girl could meet me and see how God was using me for His Kingdom (yes, even me), she might be encouraged to know that God could use her, too.

Well, when she brought the little girl in the room, the love of Jesus in her eyes melted my heart. She was exuding the joy of the Lord and it ministered to me beyond what I could ever imaged her being blessed by meeting me. I was especially touched as I held out my hand to show her how my fingers did not work like her’s and she responded by reaching out and smiling.

You know, I may not see that little girl ever again this side of heaven but I know that God will use her in a mighty way on this earth. It may not be easy but with Jesus in her heart she will bless many folks much more that she did me that day.