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 Sept - Oct 2004
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COVER STORY: Sherri and Wayne are not invisible when it comes to their ministry!
Did Your Vote Count?
A Reading Resource
The Flavors of Fall
Simple Scrapbooking
3 Easy Gifts to Make
Be Anxious for Nothing
When is it Time to Leave Your Doctor?
Moments with God in the Mountains
Dangling in Depression
Are You Allergic to Your Church
I Want More!
Talk Over Tea with the Editor
Tell Us Your Thoughts
Strive to Thrive Health News
Joy Bites
Strength in the Shadows
Volunteer Corner
Book Review: Cherish the Days
Ask the Doc
HopeNotes: hopekeepers
Group & Leader Information




Sherri was an active young woman with two college degrees and an exciting career. But in 1991, just as she was to preparing to purchase a new home for herself and her beloved horse, she became ill and unable to work. . .

Overwhelmed with emotions surrounding her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Sherri began keeping a journal, focusing on all of the confusing misunderstandings people had about her illness. She transformed this into a pamphlet to pass onto caring friends who wanted to know more. Six years later, after she married Wayne, he suggested jumping onto the world wide web to share her writings with others. "When he offered to put the three pamphlets I had written onto a website on the internet, I said, 'What? Who would read it?' I knew the internet was huge and thought this idea was kind of silly. Yet once I thought about it I figured he might actually be onto something. If he did this, when I met someone, all I would have to do is to hand them a card with the website address and say, 'Here. This will explain everything.' That would be such a relief! So we put up the web site."

Today, the web site gets over 125,000 hits per month and Wayne and Sherri feel blessed to minister to others, even if it means through their suffering. I sat down with Wayne and Sherri to find out more about their experience, their ministry, and even their marriage.

hk: Sherrie, what was your life like before the onset of your disability and what is it like now?

I was a busy, active workaholic! During college, I worked, was a cheerleader and was very active in musical theatre. After college, I was offered a position with the government and they were going to pay for my Master's Degree. Everything seemed like it was really coming together. Then I suddenly became very ill and unable to work. I lost my career dreams, my house and my horse. Now it is all that I can do to get through daily activities like showering, therapies, cooking, or going to the doctor. Every day I feel like I have a horrible case of the flu, complete with deep body aches from head to toe, weakness, dizziness, nausea, headaches, memory loss and difficulty thinking. Before, I used to work even when I had pneumonia, but this is much different. This is debilitating, beyond mind over matter. Now every movement, every thought, and every breath takes energy as if I am trying to climb a mountain with people trying to pull me back down.

hk: Why did you feel compelled to specifically have reference to invisible disabilities?

At the onset of my disability, I had severe pain in my spine, legs and head. I felt as if I had a horrific case of the flu and could barely sit up or even breathe. It took everything out of me just to talk or think. When I became paralyzed from the ribs down, I was admitted to the hospital for a week while they ran tests and they diagnosed the MS. I figured I would rest up for a couple of weeks and then go back to work.

After months of physical therapy and steroid treatment, I began to regain most of the use of my legs, though it remained difficult to stand or walk. Nonetheless, the wheelchair and crutches were not what had been keeping me from returning to work; it was the unbearable fatigue, weakness, pain, dizziness, nausea, memory loss and cognitive impairments that kept me down.

I wanted to go back to work more than anyone else wanted me to. Still, as I began to walk again, those around me began to question why I was not back to work. I had gone from receiving compassion for what I had lost, to being accused of malingering. Supportive and understanding friends quickly became suspicious and frustrated with me, because they could no longer "see" the obstacle that was causing my limitations This continued lack of belief in my word, despite what others could see, was a blow that brought devastation far worse than the illness itself.

hk: What do you consider an invisible disability?

When we started our website, we grappled with a name that would properly describe a condition that is debilitating, yet not obvious. We came up with the term "invisible disabilities." This does not necessarily exclude those with an evident impairment or those utilizing an assistive device. For example, in my case, I used a wheelchair but was restricted by my inner symptoms, not the challenge of the chair itself. One living with an invisible disability has symptoms that are debilitating such as: extreme fatigue, pain, weakness, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction and more.

hk: How has your ministry grown over the years?

When we first put up the website, we just posted writings from my journal. It didn't take long for the news to spread and we started getting e-mails from people telling us we had "put into words" exactly how they were feeling, but could not express. Visitors expressed that it was important that their friends and family read the material, so we put the three essays in a booklet format for more value and validity.

This year, Wayne became the founder of Invisible Disabilities Advocate [and Where is God?] and obtained non-profit status. He has a passion for people who are hurting not only by the hand of their illness or injury, but by the lack of understanding of those surrounding them. He is eager to transition into these organizations as his full-time career.

Despite our lack of vision, God had a much bigger plan for this ministry than we ever could have imagined! We are amazed every day at what has happened.

hk: Wayne, tell me about "Where is God?"

Christians have another hurdle to overcome when meeting someone with a chronic illness. People were coming up to Sherri to tell her that she must be "lacking faith" or else God would have healed her. Or, that she must be hiding some "secret sin" that she needed to confess.

hk: That's tough, Sherri.

Yes. These were the worst kinds of accusations anyone could express, because my faith was all I had left. God was my every source of strength to go on and I knew without a doubt that He could heal me; I did all I could not to stand in the way. On the other hand, I also knew that God was God and not me. I prayed as we are instructed to pray in 1 John 5:14-by asking for His will. I believe that God knows best, even when He says, "no," and that's the highest form of faith-trusting He knows what He is doing, even when we have lost so much. The Bible instructs us to believe in what we cannot see. God is my soul source of purpose, even though I've lost so much. Telling me that I lack faith is like jabbing a fiery hot dagger right into my heart.

Visit Sherri and Wayne's Website




This is a PARTIAL article. The complete article was featured
in our Sept/October 2004 issue.
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