Good News Coming From a Handicap
by: Stafford North | June 6, 2016
On June 8, 1950, in Portales, New Mexico, Ray Read was born and as a baby had a high fever which damaged his brain giving him cerebral palsy. As he grew up, he could move very little and could not speak, read, or write. His mother always brought him to church at the 4th Street Church of Christ in a wheel chair and students at the Bible Chair at Eastern New Mexico University were interested in him and helped with exercises that gave him some improvement. As he attended Bible classes and church he always appeared to be listening attentively even though he could not tell anyone what he was learning.
Ray, however, did learn one way of communicating. He would clench his fist to mean “No” and hold up two fingers to say “yes.” Through this means he could let people know something of what was going on in his mind.
One day when he was nineteen, his mother, Jessie, read to him the story in Acts 8 about Philip’s message to the Ethiopian and how he had asked to be baptized and how they stopped the chariot so Philip could baptize him. When his mother finished the reading, Ray excitedly held up two fingers to indicate his interest in the reading. She asked, “Do you want me to read the passage again?” And he continued waving the two fingers. So she read the passage again and he kept waving the two fingers. At this point she understood that he meant more than just to read the passage again and she asked, “Do you want to be baptized?” He responded with the two fingers and with excitement over his whole body. Two of his student friends soon took him to the church building and baptized him into Christ.
After his mother became ill, Ray was moved to a nursing him to have the care he required, but the students from the Bible Chair continued to show their interest in him. They went to the home to visit and to sing with him. In fact their weekly song time became a very well attended event in the home. They kept taking Ray to church and he even enrolled to audit some courses at the Bible chair.
Dr. Larry Bradshaw, professor of Communications at ENMU, took a special interest in Ray. Over a two month period, he asked Ray questions that provided information through which he could bring a message from Ray to the congregation. On Sunday, October 3, 1982, Ray was wheeled to the front of the auditorium to “preach his sermon.” Dr. Bradshaw had put together a message from his conversations which allowed him to tell Ray’s story. Delivering the message as if Ray were speaking, Dr. Bradshaw spoke of how he could not talk or control his muscles but he could hear, see, and think. He told of how he had been listening for many years to others speak, and now he would bring a message through the voice of another. Ray, through Bradshaw’s voice, used as his text Paul’s passage in Ephesians 6:14 that our shoes should be the gospel of peace and so Ray titled his message “My Walk with God.” He said he had learned about the love of God through those who had taken care of him and that, while he wished he were cured of his affliction, he was thankful to God for the many blessings he had received. He told the congregation that his special ministry was to pray which he could do as well as anyone. He then called on the congregation to sing “When We Walk With the Lord.”
In 1991, Ray passed from this life having influenced many for good even through his many limitations.
(This story provides a great message: whatever our condition in life, God has ways to use us. There is no situation in life in which it is not better to be a Christian—whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, grieving or joyful, young or old, able or handicapped.)