“As a kid, I never thought that anything good could ever come from my broken pieces….you know, I went to school and kids would look at me and be like ‘what happened,’ and I go ‘cigarettes’ (audience laughs),” Nick Vujicic, evangelist, author, speaker, and president of Life Without Limbs, said with comic relief.
At the March 11 Church by the Glades “Hope & Healing” special event for the Parkland community of first responders, teachers and students, Vujicic used his life experience and humor to help heal the pain still felt in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Despite having no arms and legs, Vujicic’s humor, empathy, and Spirit-filled exuberance that characterized his speech testified to the wholeness of Christ that defines him. Perhaps, it is this relatable quality that draws many hearts to Christ in his global ministry and inspired Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and Church by the Glades to host him as a Church United effort to speak to our broken-hearted community.
In a funny, personable accent, Vujicic galvanized the congregation to laughter as he shared, “A lot of people say, ‘all you need is positivity’ (audience laughs), ‘just be positive’ (audience laughs). I feel like head-bucking them in the face (audience laughs). Just be positive, right?”
As he expressed that there are times when one questions how God, in His goodness, can allow tragedy to happen, Vujicic stated that how we live affects others.
“… I as one person who was once affected in school by bullying and isolation and feeling angry at this idea of there’s a greater purpose in life,” he said, “… first of all, condolences to those of you who lost or were affected by this tragedy here, and I will never ever compare any ounce of suffering by one person to another.
“I will never forget …three people in my life, my first cousin had a baby and he only survived for three hours, my first cousin of 27 years old died of bowel cancer. My Dad at 62 died of pancreatic cancer last year. I nearly died three years ago. When you look at life being so fragile, the question is why are we here and where is God? And what am I going to do in my life to find happiness and joy? We know that no amount of alcohol can ever drown the pain. We know that no amount of drugs can ever give you back what you’ve lost…what we need is real love.”
Fayra Castro, volunteer at Church by the Glades who attended the “Hope & Healing” special event, echoed this point.
“[Vujicic] shows us we all have different areas where we’ve all lost somebody or something,” she said. “There is hope for everyone one and every situation. We just have to hold on to that, stick together, communicate better…stay strong. You will get through this with hope and with faith.”
But could the relief efforts of the church go beyond Nick Vujicic? Executive Director of Church United Edwin Copeland pointed out that the current generation of leaders need to build up the next generation, considering the spiritual decadence and brokenness in South Florida.
Church United stated, in its invitation letter for the “Hope & Healing” event, that through its Mercy Fund, it has garnered “close to $100,000 to meet the long-term spiritual and social needs of those affected” by the shooting. One of these efforts was the Nick Vujicic “Hope & Healing” event at Church by the Glades. Agencies such as the Broward School Board have also allocated the money to initiatives such as enhanced school safety, teacher training, and reinforced windows, and armed guards, Copeland said. Other events include a meeting of the largest campus ministries, with the vision to “change one classroom at a time, one sphere of influence at a time. That’s what makes lasting change,” Copeland said.
But the journey does not end here. Copeland also noted that the Church will remain after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas story has dissipated.
With the funds generated, Church United has been rallying the Church and para-agencies such as First Priority and OneHope to bring about this long-term change, Copeland said.
“We win the war in the end. ‘Behold, I am making all things new (Revelation 22:11),’” Copeland said.
To participate, visit churchunited.city.
Photo: Church by the Glades
Lydia Hicks serves as editorial assistant at Good News and is a graduate of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University. She can be reached at [email protected].