018: MY WHEELCHAIR, MY STRENGTH

Note: This is a special guest post from Mark and Sarah Callaghan who reside in Cumbria, England and run a non-profit organization Jester for Jesus.

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I was diagnosed with limp-girdle muscular dystrophy when I was 12. It is a muscle-wasting disease, so your muscles get weaker until you get to a point where you can’t walk or lift up your arms. I was walking, but differently from any other child at the time. I didn’t use a wheelchair until 1993 when I went on holiday with my parents, but my muscles have got worse over the years. 

Sarah: When Mark and I married, we knew we would love to have children of our own. But to do so would mean using a wheelchair full time. I used to fall quite a lot and I didn’t want to hurt the baby. If you don’t use your muscles then you lose them. The electric wheelchair means I can still zoom around everywhere, so it doesn’t stop me doing much. Obviously, I’m physically limited, but I’m blessed in so many ways. I don’t know why, but I have thought for a long time that when God does choose to heal me, it will be a child who prays for me. 

Mark: We now have two beautiful daughters who support us in our ministry. It’s very much Team Callaghan. They have puppets of their own that they use in our holiday clubs. When we pick them up from school they are keen to find out about our day and what schools we have visited. If I am unwell then they help out - getting Sarah up and getting medication and things.

Sarah: Now I’m in a wheelchair full time, Mark is my carer as well. As a mother, I sometimes feel really guilty that our children have to take on such a caring role. But they are so caring and compassionate. 

We ran an after-school club together, having lots of fun with a Bible slot at the end. For quite a while I felt that I wanted to go into our local junior school and do assemblies. Our church meets there on a Sunday, so I thought about it a lot. But because of my disabilities I couldn’t go in and do that myself and Mark was working as a secondary school teacher.

Mark: Then I was made redundant from my full-time teaching position, which gave us an opportunity to go into schools while teaching part time. A year later, I was going into an interview for another teaching position and felt God telling me it wasn’t right. Then we launched our full-time ministry, Jester for Jesus. The ten primary schools we were originally working in have doubled since then. 

We now run Jester for Jesus together. Our tagline is: “We don’t make fun of Jesus, we make Jesus fun.” We want the Bible to be fun enough that children go home talking about it. We are on to probably the second generation that haven’t grown up going to Sunday school. We want children to see God not as a religion but as a relationship.

The name came by accident when I was running a fun day dressed as a clown. I said that tagline and it’s been our motto ever since. We do assemblies in 20 different primary schools in the local area, a regular discipleship group for ages 7 to 11 and two holiday clubs, along with various fun days and community events. 

 

God’s greatest power can be displayed in our biggest weakness.

 

Sarah: Being in a wheelchair makes me stand out. When we’re out, kids will recognize us and say hello. Parents will ask who we are, so in that sense it’s a bit of a witness to the parents. 

I don’t see the wheelchair as a hindrance. One mum said her son had a wheelchair on his Christmas list so he doesn’t have to walk anywhere! I like to think that it makes them more aware of disability and more accepting that you can’t not do stuff in general life. And I’m certainly the same height as the children. I’m on their level, in so many ways!

We want the Bible to be fun enough that children go home from school talking about it

A lot of schools now have to have wheelchair access, but there are a couple of schools where I can’t go through the front door. I think there’s much better awareness now. It is against the law, almost, to not be accessible for all.

Mark: Our ministry is completely faith-based. We’ve had times where we have bought something or signed up for resources completely in trust that God will provide. It’s like Joshua; you’ve got to get your feet wet sometimes (Joshua 3:15-16). The latest example was when our computer went down last year. We ordered a new one on the Friday. We got a check through the post on Monday that exactly covered the cost. It was dated for the day before we ordered the computer, the Thursday, so no one could have known the amount except God. 

Sarah: There are certain topics we avoid doing because of the wheelchair. If it is an assembly on healing then Mark does it. Children are so black and white and we don’t want them to doubt healing because they might start asking: “Why isn’t He healing Sarah?” Thankfully, we haven’t had that, but God wouldn’t put us in a position we weren’t comfortable with like that. 

Our faith in God is what keeps us going. We don’t doubt that God could heal me instantly if he wanted to, but he chooses not to. Perhaps there is something in that because more people know about us because of my disability. 

Our weakness is a blessing when we lean on God's strength.


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Mark and Sarah live in Cumbria, UK with their two daughters Grace (14) and Martha (10). They attend Croftlands Community Church. They have big hearts for doing God's work among children and young people. With the support of their local church, Mark and Sarah run a group for 10 to 14 year-olds called Ignite. They want to see children be ignited with the Holy Spirit so they are not just God Smart but God Connected. Besides helping run Sunday school at their church Sarah also runs a parent and child group called “Little Nippers” along with some members of the church. They also host a week long holiday club each summer, with nearly everyone in the church getting involved. Just recently they have both become volunteers with Samaritans Purse and work with other local Christians on the Operation Christmas Child Project, Mark taking on the role as Area Coordinator for South Cumbria and Sarah helping out in a supporting role as an administrator.

Mark's redundancy from his full time job opened up the way for Mark and Sarah to go into schools with the gospel message. They started in September 2009 and regularly went into 3 local schools during that year, however this has increased to around 9 schools with the possibility of more. The privilege of going into schools has fulfilled an ambition in both Mark and Sarah's ministry. God has truly blessed them in this work and they both feel they could do more with the schools. Mark and Sarah have lots and lots of great ideas and they are praying into them and seeking God at every turn. They see their work moving into new areas as God directs them along the path He has laid out before them.

They are always open to new challenges and would love to expand their ministry further. Please pray for Mark and Sarah so that God will continue to confirm in a very real way His vision for this Ministry.

You can stay in touch with them through the following channels:

This article originally appeared here.

Dema Kohen

Founder of WeAreKidMIN. Having spent 25+ years in children's ministry, Dema is an expert in making children laugh, creating engaging content and sounding just like Gru (putting that Ukrainian accent to good use).