“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. I say, “I am disabled now but not forever!”
I WAS born in 1974 in Paris, France. There were problems during my birth, and later the doctors told my parents that I had cerebral palsy. I had limited movement, and when I spoke, it was hard for people to understand me. In time, I also became an epileptic, and it was easy for me to get infections.
When I was two years old, my family moved to Melbourne, Australia. Two years later, my father left my mother and me. That was the first time that I remember feeling that God was my Friend. Mum was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and regularly took me to Christian meetings. There I learned that God loved me and cared for me. God’s comfort along with Mum’s love helped me to feel safe, even though our situation had changed.
Mum also taught me how to pray to Jehovah. Actually, it is much easier for me to pray than to talk. When I pray, I do not have to struggle to say the words, but the words are clear in my mind. And because it is difficult for people to understand me when I talk, it comforts me to know that Jehovah understands everything I say, whether I say it in my mind or struggle to say it out loud.—Psalm 65:2.
HOW I ENDURED MORE PROBLEMS
At the age of five, I could no longer walk without the help of heavy splints. And even with them, it was very difficult to walk straight. By the age of 11, I could no longer walk. Later, I could not get in and out of bed without the help of a machine to lift me into my motorized wheelchair. I control my wheelchair with a hand lever.
Sometimes my disabilities discourage me. But then I remember that in my family, we always say that we should not worry about the things we cannot do, but we should continue to do the things we can do. This has helped me to do well at horseback riding, sailing, canoeing, camping, and even driving a car around a track! I show my love of art by painting, sewing, quilting, embroidering, and making ceramics.
Because of my serious disabilities, some people have doubted my ability to make my own decision to worship God. When I was 18, a schoolteacher told me to leave home so that I would not have to follow my mother’s religion. The teacher even offered to help me find a place to live. But I told her that I would never leave my religion and that I would leave home only when I was ready to be more independent.
Soon after that, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two years later, I moved into a small apartment. Here I am happy because I have both help and independence.
AN OFFER I DID NOT EXPECT
In my life, many things have happened that have tested my faith. One day I was completely surprised when a disabled schoolmate asked me to marry him. At first, this made me feel good about myself. Just like most young women, I would like to get married. But no one can say that two people will have a happy marriage just because they both have a disability. More important, the young man did not worship Jehovah. Our beliefs, activities, and goals were completely different. How could we have a happy life together? I want to obey God’s command to marry only someone who serves Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 7:39) So I kindly told the young man that I could not accept his offer of marriage.
Even today, I know I made the right choice. And I have no doubt that I will be happy in the new world that God promises. (Psalm 145:16; 2 Peter 3:13) Until then, I will do everything I can to continue to be loyal to Jehovah and to be content with my situation.
I often think about the day when I can leap from my wheelchair and run as fast as I can. On that day, I will be able to say, “I was disabled, but now I have perfect health that will last forever!”