Disabilities no barrier to love

Chris van der Westhuizen
Chris van der Westhuizen

Chris van der Westhuizen has had to struggle most days of his life. He was born with a heart problem and suffered brain damage from severe pneumonia at three months old, which left him with physical and learning disabilities. This made him an easy target at school where he was bullied for being a weakling and stupid.

He struggled to learn to write or to express himself and yearned for acceptance. Despite working really hard to overcome his disabilities, he felt like a failure in many things.

"I felt degraded throughout my upbringing," Oom Chris, now in his mid-sixties says. "The only person who accepted me the way I was, was my mother. Others called me stupid and treated me as such." Chris's father loved him but was an alcoholic and their relationship was strained.

His mom believed in Jesus and taught him Christian values. Chris attended Sunday school as a child, and then church and has often prayed. He says he can look back and see how God has protected him many times from danger.

Nevertheless, until recently, Christianity was an external religion for Oom Chris, rather than a loving relationship with his Creator God.

Earlier last year, however, he came to a crossroads.

"I realised I was stagnating and going nowhere [spiritually] except deeper into my sin and despair. I no longer wanted to be lost in darkness. I yearned for peace and for God's light."

One day, listening to Radio Pulpit, Oom Chris heard the presenter encourage listeners to reach out to a church and put their life in God's hands, allowing Him to take over completely. Oom Chris went back to church and heard again the gospel he had been brought up with: the good news of how Jesus came to rescue people from their wrongdoing and to give us hope and a new life.

That was the message Oom Chris needed. On Good Friday morning 2018, he decided to fully commit his life to Jesus. Now he says, "I know I am saved, based on the authority of Scripture, which says 'if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved' (Romans 10:9)."

Through his adoption into God's family, Oom Chris has found complete acceptance, freedom and love. "Jesus heals me physically, mentally and emotionally. He is my strength and my rock," he declares.

"God is with me. He loves me just the way I am. He listens to me and is in control of my life."

Unfortunately, Oom Chris' earthly family members are unhappy about his decision and he has faced criticism and opposition from them. "However, I am at peace as Christ gives me the peace. I have more compassion for people and a desire to share Christ with those with needs, both physical and spiritual. God is so good to me and I pray that God will enable me to communicate the love of Christ to others."

One of Oom Chris' favourite passages of the Bible is the beatitudes in Matthew 5, which include the encouragement: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven." (verses 11-12). He also takes comfort from Psalm 23 about the Lord being his Good Shepherd and Psalm 121, which his mother taught him and reminds him "my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth".

Oom Chris exhorts others, "Jesus is the living God! He is a wonderful Saviour. He is the only way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Place all your trust in Him alone.

"I cannot wait for Jesus' return and for us to be with Him forever!"