Still Giving Beauty for Ashes

Fiona being baptized
By: Lauri Barrette
By: Lauri Barrette

When my husband Daniel and I were involved in a devastating car accident in 1984 just four-and-a-half months after we were married, God’s comforting presence was palpable (see Split Second Tragedy Becomes God’s Glorious Intervention, BCM World, Spring, 2008).  Though Daniel was left permanently paralyzed from that day forward, God gave us a deep sense that whatever happened from here on in would be for his glory.

God eventually led us to become BCM missionaries to those with special needs, and in 2001 Handi*Camp Canada was founded. Eighteen years later, this ministry continues to touch lives. Let me just share briefly two of those lives.

Born with spina bifida, Chelsey has been attending Handi*Camp Canada for many years. While she believes that God can miraculously heal, she has come to terms with her earthly debility. She shares, “For me, I’ve come to realize that God has given me an identity and a purpose as a person with a disability.

Last summer at camp, Chelsey shared her testimony with the other campers. She included the story in the gospel of Luke chapter five of four friends who cared enough about their paralytic friend that they took him to see Jesus. Due to the pressing crowds, they had to break through the roof to lower their friend down at Jesus’ feet. Jesus not only healed the man but forgave his sins.

“A lot of people I know have stories like this man’s of others going the extra mile to help us,” expresses Chelsey. “That is the way it is here at Handi*Camp where people take time out of their busy lives and jobs to help us have the experience of Christian camping we would otherwise not be able to have. Throughout my life I have needed different supports. It is vital for anyone dealing with a disability to know there are others like them dealing with the same issues. One of the places where I find this support is at Handi*Camp. It was here I met my closest friends and so many other wonderful people. Each year I learn more lessons about how to be happy with the life God gave me and what he is capable of if you will trust him with your life. I owe so much of who I am today to this amazing ministry.”

Chelsey has her own baking business and contributes her delicious talents to Handi*Camp. She is also a great encouragement to other campers, including Fiona. On Sunday, January 6, 2019, we had the privilege of witnessing Fiona’s baptism. This wasn’t easy for her since she couldn’t lift herself from her wheelchair to the baptismal tank. But two Handi*Camp staff members, Herman and Jim, helped her through the process, and she was delighted to take this step of obedience to God. Fiona shares part of her testimony:

Chelsey in wheelchair with Handi*Camp staff
Fiona celebrates baptism with (L-R) Chelsey and staff, Herman and Jim

“I was born with cerebral palsy. I am now twenty-nine years old and have been in a wheelchair all my life. Sometimes when people look at me, all they see is my wheelchair and not who I really am. They don’t get to know my heart. Sometimes I sit in my room feeling sorry for myself. It has not been easy, and I often ask God why he let me be born this way.

“A few years ago Uncle Daniel Barrette [ed. campers traditionally call camp missionaries “aunt” and “uncle”] invited me to come to Handi*Camp. There they taught me that God will always be by my side and that Jesus died on the cross to take away my sins. Also that one day I will be in heaven with a new body that can walk. Last year at camp my friend Chelsey, who was born with spina bifida, encouraged us to trust God wholeheartedly. So I prayed to God, and he poured his heart into mine.”

Isaiah 61:1-3 promises to the broken-hearted and those who mourn “beauty for ashes” (NKJV). From Chelsey to Fiona and so many other changed lives, we praise God that out of the ashes of that unexpected devastating car accident God is still raising up beauty. That has made it all worth it!

Chelsey sharing baking talents with Handi*Camp