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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

His Ability

By Christina Quick
Aug. 21, 2011

Disabilities should not be roadblocks to ministry

When Don Metcalf sensed God calling him into ministry as a teen, he thought there must be some mistake.

“I always felt a desire to be significant in the kingdom of God, but I never saw myself as having any abilities that He could use,” Metcalf says. “My message was, ‘Lord, use me,’ but in my heart I didn’t think He had much to work with.”

From early childhood, Metcalf considered himself to be developmentally disabled. Though the label explained his poor grades and inability to read and write at grade level, it was false. Metcalf’s family moved often, and no one discovered the real source of his struggle: a severe visual impairment. Metcalf is legally blind in one eye, and his remaining field of vision is obstructed by a condition that causes constant shimmering.

After dropping out of high school several times and flunking out of his first year of college, Metcalf decided to have his vision checked. With a proper diagnosis came the realization that he was dealing with a disability, not an inability.

Today Metcalf, 57, serves as senior pastor at Desert Reign Assembly of God in Downey, Calif. He symbolically carries a Bible to the pulpit, but he is unable to make out the words. Passages he intends to read must be printed ahead of time in a large, bold font.

“I’ve learned that everybody has something they can use as an excuse for not following God’s call,” Metcalf says. “The real issue is confronting the handicap that’s within you. It’s our attitude that holds us back. If you can get past that disability, any physical disability becomes miniscule.”

That’s the heart of Bob Mortimer’s message. In his early 20s, Mortimer lost both legs and his left arm after walking into a power line following a car accident. He later accepted Christ as Savior and followed God’s call into ministry. Today, as an Assemblies of God evangelist and motivational speaker, Mortimer speaks in churches, military hospitals, school assemblies and other venues.

“The only handicap you have is the one you put on yourself,” Mortimer says. “It’s not about legs, arms, wheelchairs or any other physical issue. God’s strength is unfailing and unending. I’ve found that He will give you what you need to accomplish His work.”

In 2008, Mortimer and his family cycled 2,500 miles across the nation, preaching and ministering along the way. This summer the family embarked on another cross-country bike journey, this time following a more southerly route. Mortimer pedals a custom hand-cycle.

“God took what the world would look at as weakness, as something that would keep me from accomplishing things, and He is using it for His glory,” Mortimer says. “It’s not uncommon for people to come up and say, ‘I’ve got two legs and two arms, and there’s no way I can do what you’re doing right now.’ I tell them they’d be surprised at what God would enable them to do if they allow Him.”

Mortimer says he sometimes meets people who feel called to ministry but hesitate to pursue it because of a physical disability or some other perceived barrier.

“I tell them God won’t ask you to do anything without giving you the equipment to finish,” Mortimer explains. “He may ask you to do something that in your own mind you’re inadequate to do, but He is more than able to carry you through.”

Philip Dunn was already serving in ministry when he encountered a life-altering physical challenge. In 2003, Dunn was diagnosed with macular degeneration. He also had cataracts on both sides of his lenses, a condition not easily treated with surgery. Physicians told him he would eventually lose his vision.

“I believe there is a purpose for everything,” says Dunn, senior pastor of Valley Christian Assembly in Charleston, W.Va. “When I walked out of the doctor’s office, I had a sense from God that this was an assignment I was on.”

By the next year, Dunn could no longer drive. He switched to a large-print Bible and printed his sermon notes in increasingly bigger type. As his sight continued to fade, he resorted to writing his notes by hand using a thick, black marker.

As Dunn stood in the pulpit and looked down at his notes one Sunday in August 2006, he realized he could no longer read at all.

“I was devastated,” Dunn says. “I was able to preach the message, but I thought my ministry was finished.”

Dunn says the realization he could no longer read the Bible struck him the hardest. Yet his passion for God’s Word sustained him.

Dunn had developed an interest in Bible memorization when he participated in Bible Quiz as a young teen. In the ensuing years he memorized hundreds of verses, and he faithfully reviewed them on a regular basis.

“There were times when I was so discouraged, and God would bring a verse to my heart that would encourage me,” Dunn says. “If I had not had that, I would be out of the ministry today. In my darkness, the Word of God was a light that directed my path.”

Today Dunn, 53, memorizes Scriptures in Braille and uses audio commentaries to help prepare his sermons.

“I believe for miracles,” says Dunn, who also serves as a presbyter for the Appalachian District of the Assemblies of God. “But I also believe this journey I’ve been on has a purpose. If we can’t go through difficult times with hope, how can we be an example to others? Even when bad things happen, we can be victorious for Jesus Christ.”

Paul Weingartner, AG national representative for the blind and director of the Center for the Blind, says God uses perceived limitations to showcase His strength.

“Paul’s thorn in the flesh mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7 kept Paul humble and dependent upon God, and it showed off the power of God in his life,” says Weingartner, who is legally blind. “A disability can become an enhancement to a person’s ministry, not a hindrance.”

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer. She attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo.

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