Like the biblical accounts of the blind man in John 9 and the death of Lazarus in John 11, what may seem to us a tragedy is part of God's eternal plan to bring glory to Him.
Some 21 years ago, my son and daughter-in-law became the parents of identical twin boys named David and Tyson. They were the joy of our lives and so much alike that we could not tell them apart. At church, I could hear them call across the church yard as they would run to me hollering, "Papa, Papa." They would jump into my arms and hug and kiss me.
We have a hard time remembering those days now because much has happened since then. About their second birthday, they came down with a disease that is still unknown, although many diseases are similar to it. The doctors did not know how to help them because the disease could not be properly diagnosed. The twins lost their hearing and most of their sight, and their motor skills were impaired, making it difficult to walk. Their bodies were braced by hand and wrist, foot and ankle, and back braces. We had a harness for them, so we could support them while they walked. At church, they would smile and reach out their crippled hands to church members along the aisles. You can imagine how it affected those members who may have been known as "complainers." In spite of all the boys' problems, God gave them a radiance that captured everyone's heart. They seldom complained about anything.
Soon, Paige was born, and we rejoiced over this beautiful little girl who would soon be able to help her brothers. However, at about the age of three, she developed the same disease and was deaf, legally blind, had little use of her arms, but could walk. My son and his wife have raised these children, which has required around-the-clock supervision and has eliminated any privacy in their home. I am so proud of the love and sacrifice they have shown to my grandchildren. The little girl is now 16 years old and must use a wheelchair along with her brother. I used the singular "brother" because David is no longer with us, and that is a story that relates to the blind man and Lazarus.
Almost five years ago, David started getting weak, and we took him to All Children's Hospital to have a feeding tube inserted in his abdomen because he was having trouble swallowing. At the hospital, his mother and I comforted David, and I will never forget that day. He asked his mother something, and because I could not understand him, I asked her what David had asked. His speech was understood by his mother but not me. She told me that David had asked her to ask the doctor if she knew Jesus. What an indictment that was to me, in that here was a deaf, legally blind, wheelchair-bound grandson whose speech could only be understood by a few. He was a missionary, wanting to know if the doctor knew Jesus. I will always remember that night, but there was a day later that is stamped in my memory even more vividly.
David died just a few weeks later. At the funeral my heart was breaking, but God showed me something I will never forget. There were over 500 signatures on the guest book at David's funeral, and many more were there who could not get in. There was standing-room only. The minister stood before us, and looking into the casket, he said, "If David could sit up in his casket and ask all of you one question, he would ask, 'Do you know Jesus?'" He then preached the gospel message to let everyone know how they could become members of God's family. As I looked around the congregation of that packed church and saw all those people who had probably never heard the gospel and who had never darkened a church door, I was reminded of those words of Jesus in John 9:3: "Jesus answered, 'It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" And also at Bethany, in John 11:40 we read, "Jesus said to her, 'Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?'" We saw the glory of God that day, and only eternity will tell which of those attending David's funeral will be in heaven with David and the rest of our family.
Let me share about the other two grandchildren. Tyson graduated from Armwood High School in the spring of 2006 in hopes of pursuing a degree in missionary work, but his disease has hindered him from doing so. However, he left a real legacy that will not be forgotten. Each year at Armwood, they select a sweetheart king and queen for Valentine's Day. Each student is given a paper heart, and the student may give it away to whomever he or she chooses. At the end of the week, the boy and girl with the most hearts is crowned King and Queen of Hearts. I have a picture of Tyson in his wheelchair, and both he and the wheelchair are covered with paper hearts. For the first time in the history of Armwood High School, a freshman was crowned King of Hearts. In his senior year, he was selected to be in the Homecoming Queen's court, and at the prom, he was escorted by two beautiful girls.
Recently, Tyson had to go to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen, because he was having difficulty swallowing. A friend of the family was visiting, along with myself, and Tyson asked the same question his twin brother had asked five years earlier. With his mother interpreting for him, he asked her to ask the visitor if he knew Jesus. The visitor said he was a Catholic. Tyson, in all his wisdom, asked again, "Do you know Jesus?" I stood there with tears in my eyes, remembering David's same words and seeing God's glory being revealed before my eyes again.
Paige is a beautiful 16-year-old now and has a smile that will melt your heart. She was able to walk until a few years ago but now spends most of her time in a wheelchair, and she recently had back surgery. Paige currently has teachers coming to the house to help her pursue her high school degree for as long as her health permits. These kids are God's special angels, and although I do not understand God's plan, He is God and He knows what He is doing. God's glory can and does shine through deaf, crippled, and legally blind angels, and He has given to us these special individuals so we might see His Glory.
Please visit www.insight.org/specialneeds for more information on Special Needs Ministries of Insight for Living.