West Palm Beach Update

We just had our 2nd Expo of the year this past Saturday (Belize was the previous Sunday J) and God poured out some awesome blessings on us as we had our highest attendence of any outreach to date!

We are still sorting through the stacks of waivers and walk-up registrations (actually Matt and Talley Macintosh are doing that for us as our new quarter time ADMIN support staff – PTL!) but I can tell you we gave out 1,100 free lunch tickets by 1pm with people still checking-in. J

The new turtle races, caregiver’s spa area and helicopter pictures were great additions this year and as always there were lines at the ever popular boat rides, kayaking and lunch areas. More importantly though, is the fact there were 5 folks who prayed to receive Chrst at the Gospel Braclet station that day and are being followed-up with locally by staff from Family Church West!

Below is a photo collage of our God blessed day in WPB and we hope you enjoy the pictures and smiles!

COLLAGE - 2015-2 SFL1 ALE

Belize Expo Update

We are back in the US from Belize and while we are completely pooped out, we are thankful for such a God blessed trip! It is hard to even know where to begin sharing but overall we were both so impressed by the humility, graciousness and gratefulness of the people of Belize. Despite the poverty we saw in the “developed” area where we held the Expo outreach, most people were so thankful for what they had and even more appreciative of any blessing we could offer through God’s grace and mercy in our lives.

At the Expo outreach, we saw lots of smiles as usual but also many tears of both sadness and joy. I was particularly overwhelmed by the number of mothers who came carrying their children with disabilities because they had no other way to transport them. To be able to provide them with a pediatric wheelchair or stroller was very humbling as you could see from their faces the impact it would have on their lives.

All in all, God brought over 125 folks with disabilities including their family members, our team distributed over 30 mobility items and fitted those who came as best as possible and we had two people who prayed to receive Christ at the Gospel bracelet craft area that day. People came both early and late and as the news spread via a local radio station who came out, we were contacted about needs elsewhere in the country and requests for further help in Belize. Before we flew out, we even had the opportunity to share on a national TV station about my testimony, the Expo outreach and our hopes for more ministry there in the future.

Below is a photo collage of the Expo in Belize. I particularly love the top three photos showing a very young mom carrying her daughter into the outreach on the left and after receiving a pediatric wheelchair to the right. God is so good! It only gives a glimpse of the smiles, tears, fun and need we saw but hopefully, you can glean a bit of the joy we experienced as we were privileged to be the hands and feet of Jesus to such a gracious people. :)

COLLAGE - 2015-2 BLZ ALE

What is it all About?

ARTWORK - DG 2011-11 (1) VERSE

You know being in ministry, we see lots and lots of needs and hear lots and lots of ideas about what we should be doing to meet those needs. Unfortunately, we cannot meet all the needs that we encounter but we know who can: God. That’s why we try to keep Him front and center of all we do.

Why? Because life is all about God.

It’s about how he has created us, how He loves us and how he longs to bless us with good and have a relationship with us even though we all have chosen to go our own way and sin.

He desires this so much that he sent his only son, Jesus to die as payment for our sin so by each of us asking for Jesus to forgive and save us we are forgiven, justified and become His children sealed forever by His Holy Spirit. In turn, we now have the burden of all of our sin lifted, are righteous in God’s sight, cared for and protected by Him and able to fellowship and rest in Him.

This does not mean life will be trouble free and always easy but with God continually with you now life will be purposeful, fulfilling, safe and full of joy as you follow Him and are guided, comforted and strengthened by His presence.

Our hope at Access-Life is that everyone we encounter, serve or touch in some way will see the love of God in our lives and be encouraged and drawn closer to the Lord Jesus our savior, redeemer, shepherd and steady friend.

If you have a question about having a personal relationship with God our creator through His son Jesus feel free to call or e-mail us through the information on our website at http://www.access-life.org or visit http://www.gospel.com.

Our Story – Part Two

IMG_6923However, our story does not end there as God always has something bigger and better on the horizon for us as believers and little did I know fishing was only a small part of His plan for the coming season of our life. You see while consulting and working from home, Leanne and I also got involved in a local disability ministry (per some persistent prompting from a neighbor) and joined the board of the DFW Joni and Friends field office in 2005. Soon afterwards, we were invited to attend and help out at our 1st Family Retreat hosted by the area ministry. We were excited thinking we had so much experience and wisdom to share but as usual God turned things all around on us at camp and changed the direction of our lives.

Up to this point in my life I had rarely been around others with disabilities since leaving rehab in 1984. I had been mainstreamed through my education and job so much that the only time the topic of disability came up was when my colleagues would see someone else using a wheelchair and ask if I knew them as a joke (like we were all in a club). In turn, I was not sure what to expect at the Family Retreat. However, once we arrived the sense of God’s presence and unconditional love overwhelmed me to the point it felt like a small piece of heaven on earth.

DLG PORTRAIT (2)The real game changer though camp the last night of the camp at the talent show. This is the time when the campers and their families get to be the stars and given praise for not what they can or cannot due but because they are created in the image of the only most high God. About half way through the program two sisters, Leslie and Lauren came up to sing “I can only imagine” and although Lauren had a beautiful voice and sang like someone you’d hear singing a solo in church, all eyes in the chapel were focused on her sister Leslie. You see Leslie had severe cerebral palsy. She used an electric wheelchair like me because of her spasticity and contractures but was also virtually non verbal used a communication board. But the look on her face and in her eyes as she struggled past the limitations of her body to make movements and sounds to honor and worship Jesus ushered everyone in that building into the most powerful place of worship I have ever experience.

Up to that time I had always known God had a purpose and plan for me. But what about others with more severe and profound disabilities? That night God hit home with me that yes, He does have a plan for everyone regardless of their abilities or disabilities. In fact, there are things He wants accomplished thru people with disabilities that He cannot do thru others.

Soon after this epiphany God began working in our hearts and minds as well as circumstances for us to going into full time ministry serving individuals and families affected by disability. In April of 2007 we went on staff with Joni and Friends in Florida and held several Family retreats of our own as well as church training conferences and other programming. Then in 2010 Leanne and I had the opportunity to start our own ministry, Access-Life.

2015-1.3 CFL ALEThrough this journey God has stretched us and shown us many things but the true purpose of disability ministry is of the most significant. It is not just a benevolence ministry but rather a two part holistic life intervention. First to share the hope, love and gospel of Jesus with individuals and families living with disability but secondly to make sure they know that God has a purpose and a plan for them and wants them fully integrated into the body of Christ!

Our story – Part One

cropped-doug-in-tree-with-lg.jpgAs a young boy, my uncle used to take me bass and crappie fishing near Dandridge, Tennessee where I grew up. Like many kids I fished less as I grew older, entered high school and I became more involved in traditional sports like baseball, basketball and football. I even played a little tennis and discovered girls too. I was at that age where teenagers believe they are invincible.

All that changed in 1983 when I had a diving accident between my sophomore and junior year that left me paralyzed and without the use of my legs and hands. I crushed the disc between my 5th and 6th vertebrae and all the sports I enjoyed not to mention daily activities of living life were gone. It was the first time that I realized I needed God. Not just to forgive me of all the mistakes I had made or would do in the future but to be my strength in coping with my new disability.

Jesus became my Savior while I was in the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville, TN and my new found relationship with the Lord gave me so much joy it was hard for me to doubt or ask why. I just moved forward with the attitude of doing all I could to make the most of my life. Now that’s not to say that I did not struggle or have obstacles to overcome but through it all God was there every step of the way guiding, encouraging and strengthening me.

After spending 9 months in the hospital I was sent home and eventually went back to school. It was a very scary time for me wondering how I would be received but again God was gracious and surrounded me with great friends and caring faculty. Fellow students would help me go from class to class, share notes and even get my lunch tray. The school even gave me a PE credit for taking therapy on site and I was elected president of our student body my senior year.DG & LG HURST (2)

I eventually graduated from high school and went on to graduate from college and law school. I met and married the most wonderful woman I know (and my best friend) in 1991 and later became VP of a company in Texas too.

Through out this time I still maintained a passion for sports and outdoor activities but never could really figure out how to successfully enjoy them like I did growing up. I played wheelchair tennis for a while using athletic tape to hold the racquet but knew I would never be able to play tennis like a paraplegic much less able bodied person. Fishing though had so many other variables like seasonal patterns, water clarity and temperature and of course the independent thinking of the fish. These are all great equalizers making fishing a more level playing field for everyone regardless of disability.

In 1998 my wife, Leanne and I move to the DFW Mid-cities for a job and yes, two blocks from our house was a nature center with nine stock tanks. Unfortunately, I was so busy with my new position that I rarely got to enjoy this blessing until several years later when I started my own consulting firm and began to work from home. Now I could squeeze in time virtually every day to go out and wet a line either early in the morning or late in the evening. Looking back I can definitely see God’s hand working as there was such little effort needed for me to go out and figure out through trial and error how to do what I knew in my head with my disabled body.

2014-1 RPB BESTI started out with the basic push button reels and Leanne taping the rod to my hand but one bad cast and my lure, rod, reel and me would be hung up and unable to move. If I was able to break the line my lure would be gone and my day of fishing with it. Eventually, I figured out how to use a regular open face reel and with the help of an occupational therapist from our Sunday school class developed a wrist wrap that I could take on and off to switch rods.

I still was not tying my own lures on the line and a lost lure meant my time on the water was done. Then one Saturday I lost my lure early in the morning. Leanne was in Dallas at an event and I thought I can’t go back to the house now, I just got out here. So then and there I decided to take what I knew in my head and see if I could figure out how to tie my first cinch knot since becoming a quadriplegic. It really made me think, was not a very orthodox technique and took a while but after several trials and errors I did it. Leanne now says I tie the prettiest cinch knots around and it only takes me a minute or two at the most.2015-7 snook (7)

Since then I’ve learned how to do all my own tackle rigging and release fish back into the water on my own. I’ve fished against able bodied anglers in tournaments and even won some awards and money fishing but my biggest milestones have been the new things I learned how to do through trial and error that I never thought were possible. It makes me smile to think that with God all things are possible.

Welcome to Life Link

LOGO - ALP LLINK 2016Life Link is the official blog of Access-Life and designed to keep participants, volunteers and fans of the ministry up to date and blessed through announcements, stories, pictures, videos and devotions regarding area Outposts and Expos as well as general programs and activities that share the love and gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus with people living with disabilities and connect them to Christ honoring churches, organizations, resources and people!