This is my dear friend Jason Mitchener's testimony... we can only write them to the best we can fit on paper--but WOW--when you visit him more than once, twice, three times... you really see how the Lord has worked, and IS working in Jason's life!!! He reaches out to others left and right-and with that, so many reach back. If only more here in Phoenix, AZ could visit and understand who Jason really is--then you'd understand why I always keep going back!!! We all have such amazing stories, testimonies--and this one sure hits you deep in your heart. He has many many talents-- no matter the fact that he is confined to a wheelchair (that doesn't go any where) fully paralyzed, types miraculously with his mouth, on a ventilator-has been for over a decade... therefore one who is trained how to take care of him if it detaches somehow, or is clogged-knows what to do!! Therefore is tough for him to really get out. He was able to go to the Third Day concert-MAJOR FAN and moderator for them--you'll always hear them dedicate a song to Jason at their concert here in Phoenix. Was great to be able to be there with him... along with our friend @RDBONES too!! As for getting out of his room--room always shared by two. It is a "rehabilitation" center. So most come in--but he will not go out-- sort of like the Hotel California song by The Eagles. He might once every six months-if they have time. His side of the room, as for he has been there since 1991--is jam-packed! We talked this last time that it is sort of like Paul chained in a prison-- he started saying only probably 10x8, not 10x10. I told him with Jason it is more like maybe 2x2 - as for he can't move--at night has to be lied down on the one ear he can hear 15% out of with his hearing aid--the only side he can lay on--and if the ones who don't know how to get him up for the day are there--he can't get up til the next day or so when the nurse that does knows how--but then he sits up with faith at his computer-- enlightening people, writing songs, making art, starting websites... more than most that are not chained to a wheelchair- full use of their hands- don't do! Praise God for his lack of fear! God to his website ( I will put on here so you can see more of what he has done--does--but that is only some.) If you do twitter-- and somehow aren't connected (check his ###) he is @jasonmitchener But talk--and if near by-- go visit-- to get to know the REAL JASON MITCHENER!!
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul writes, “But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”
I'm going to boast about my weaknesses in the hope that you will see some of God's power.
My weakness began over 34 years ago when I was born with a rare neuromuscular disease called hypertrophic interstitial polyneuropathy, or Dejerine-Sottas. I won't go into the medical details except to say that the disease progressively weakens the muscles throughout my entire body. At the age of three, I began using crutches to walk. At fifteen, I started using a wheelchair.
Because I couldn't excel in athletics in school, I put my all into excelling academically. Academics became my whole purpose in high school. I was in several advanced classes and was involved in many extracurricular activities such as Future Business Leaders of America, Mock Trial Team and National Honor Society. I graduated in the top five percent of my class and was chosen by the school principal as the Most Outstanding Male Student.
In the fall of 1988, I began attending Arizona State University studying political science. College was a much different experience for me than high school. In college, I was living on my own for the first time in the dormitory. Whereas in high school I was very popular, in college I felt more like an unknown student among forty thousand other students. One thing that was a comfort zone for me was the ASU Baha'i Club.
For those that don't know anything about the Baha'i Faith, it is a religion founded in Iran in the 1800s. The main foundation of the Baha'i Faith is the belief in progressive revelation. Baha'is believe that God progressively reveals Himself through time by sending different prophets. Baha'is believe there have been nine major prophets, including Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, and the founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah. Bahai's teach equality of the races, equality of the sexes and focus on a desire for world peace. I had been a Baha'i all my life.
One day in January of 1989, in my second semester of my freshman year, I noticed an old friend from high school standing near one of the campus organization information tables. As I was speaking to my friend, the people at the table invited me to their weekly meeting. The meeting was for Campus Crusade for Christ. Since I knew one of my friends from the dorm was in Campus Crusade, I decided to go with him to the meeting. I didn't really care for much of what was said at the meeting. I thought the people were a little too fanatical about Jesus Christ. But I liked the music and I got to see an attractive girl named Juliebeth from my American government class.
Every week after this, I would go the Crusade meetings to hear the music and see the girl. I thought they were very noble reasons for attending a religious meeting.
Until the age of nineteen, I had never heard the gospel once. Through Campus Crusade, I finally heard the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for my sins and that by believing in Him I would not perish but have eternal life. I probably heard the gospel 15-20 times during that semester, either at the meetings or in conversations with my Crusade friends.
When summer came, I still wasn't convinced of the truths of Christianity. A friend gave me two books and asked me to spend some time during vacation reading them and the Bible. The books were "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis and "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell. Both authors wrote that Jesus claimed to be Lord. We can respond to this in one of only three ways: either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic or he was indeed Lord. Lewis and McDowell totally showed the weakness of the liar and lunatic arguments. In June of 1989, when I was reading this in my old bedroom at my family's house, I was only left with one conclusion- JESUS IS LORD! And being Lord, I needed to follow Him. So in my own simple, and at the time, intellectual way I became a Christian.
My first real trial as a Christian came only three weeks later. I came down with pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital. A few days later, I was much worse so they put me in the intensive care unit. As I struggled to breathe, I thought that my life was about to end. Tears ran down my face as I cried out to my newfound Lord, "Lord, I don't understand. I just became a Christian and you're taking my life already?" Not more than a week later, I was much better and back home. Soon, I began to rebuke myself for thinking I was going to die. But when I visited my doctor a month later his first words to me were: "When you were in the intensive care unit, we all thought we were going to lose you." This was only the beginning of God watching over my life.
When I got back to college for my sophomore year, I got very involved with Campus Crusade. I also started attending a church near campus. I was baptized at the church in February of 1990. In my junior year, I joined a small Christian fraternity at ASU and was later elected chaplain. During my years in college, Christian activity was the center of my life. I thought I was a "cream of the crop" Christian, but as I look back on it now I know that I lacked a serious, personal walk with God.
In December of 1991, I thought I knew God's will for my life. I planned on starting a performing arts ministry. This ministry would have singers, musicians, dancers and actors that would travel sharing the gospel. At the time it was just a dream but I sincerely thought it was God's will for my future. I started down this road by writing a play adaptation of a short story. My church decided to do this short play for Christmas and people volunteered to act in it. I was going to be the narrator and director. We had our first read-through of the play which went very well.
I never was able to do the play though because the night of the read-through I started having difficulty breathing. The next morning I was admitted to Maricopa County Hospital for pneumonia. Three days later I was rushed to the intensive care unit because I couldn't breathe at all. Doctors hooked me up to a ventilator through my nose. Over the next few days, I tried to wean off the ventilator but had no success. If the tube stayed in my nose much longer, I would have had major infection so I had a tracheotomy surgery performed. In this surgery, the surgeon cut a hole in my throat just below my vocal cords and then put the ventilator tubing through this hole.
After a few weeks in the hospital, I was transferred to Bryans Extended Care Center on Christmas Day. I often joke that I was the Bryans Center Christmas gift that year. And I'm sure several staff members wanted to exchange that gift. Over the next few months I tried to wean off the ventilator but I couldn't do it.
When I first was put on the ventilator, I totally gave up on God for six months. I never prayed. I never read my Bible. I watched television 14-16 hours a day. I didn't want to die, but I didn't want to live either.
The Apostle Paul often describes the Christian life as a race. When I was put on the ventilator, it was as if a hurdle was put on the racetrack in front of me. God would have given me power to jump over this hurdle, but I listened to Satan's deceiving voice telling me I couldn't jump over the hurdle and should just give up the race. I gave up and fell flat on my face in the dirt. My Christian friends would visit me and try to encourage me as if saying "Jason, get up. The finish line is still ahead." I would ignore them because I was tired of running. One day God spoke to my heart and said, "Get up and run. The finish line is ahead." I answered, "God, you don't understand. I have a forty-pound ventilator on my back. How do you expect me to get up, let alone run?" God said in a gentle voice, "Jason, all you have to do is reach out your hand and I'll help you up."
Praise God, I listened and started the Christian race again. In September of 1992, I shared my testimony at my Southern Baptist church, Church on Mill. In the testimony, I spoke to those that were still running in the Christian race, those that had fallen somewhere along the track, and those that were still in the grandstands and had not yet entered the Christian race. We had an altar call afterward and at least one young lady responded. I watched as a deacon prayed with her and streams of tears ran down her face. To this day, I don't know who that young lady is or why she needed prayer, but I rejoice knowing my testimony may have ministered to her, that God showed His power in my weakness.
After the service, there was a long line of people wanting to talk to me. Five of these people, including the pastor, asked if I ever thought of becoming a preacher. I answered that God would have to call me first. That night, I pondered these Christians' words and decided to seek the Lord on the matter. A few weeks later I was reading my Bible and two verses seemed as if they jumped off the page. Now, I often say that it was as if God had taken a highlighter pen and highlighted the verses for me. I had read these verses before but now God was speaking them to my heart in such a way that was no less real than an audible voice from the clouds.
The verses are in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 …
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; Who gives us comfort in all our troubles, so that we may be able to give comfort to others who are in trouble, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
God was telling me that day: "Jason, I comforted you in your time of suffering. Now, it is your responsibility to go comfort others with that same comfort." God gave me the call to preach, but at the time I wasn't given any more details.
Shortly before Resurrection Sunday in 1994, the staff at my care center asked if I would hold a Resurrection Day service for my fellow patients, many of whom could not get out to church. After praying about it and asking my friend Mathew if he would lead the singing I agreed. We had 35 people attend that service. We sang several hymns and I preached for about twenty minutes. The service went so well that we were asked to do church services every Sunday morning.
God had opened up a ministry for me, without any work on my part. In fact, I was a little confused at first because at the time my devotional life wasn't that great. God later showed me that He opened the door during my weakness so I could fully know that He started the ministry for His purposes and that His power would be shown despite my weakness.
I held services at my care center for almost five years, until the point where I felt called to attend church, rather than lead church. Through the services at the care center, God enabled me to minister to those that were hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually. People saw me in my wheelchair and breathing through a ventilator tube but still preaching about the love of God. My physical weakness became a strength as people realized they too could have the joy of God, no matter the circumstances.
In January of 1998, my friend Mathew had found a way to get me to his church for some special meetings with a visiting preacher named Joe Tindall. Joe spoke on the subject of being lost. He preached about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The Holy Spirit was convicting me throughout the sermon. For several months prior to this, I had allowed my walk with the Lord to almost virtually disappear. I would still preach on Sundays, but without a good walk with my Lord my sermons had no power. After the sermon, Mathew gave an altar call as we sang a hymn. Throughout the hymn, my flesh wrestled with God for control of my soul. My flesh seemed to be winning. The Spirit led Mathew to lead us in another hymn, "Rock of Ages." When we sang the words "foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die," God had won the wrestling match. When we finished the hymn, I spoke words similar to these before the congregation: "I'm foul and I want to fly to the fountain. Even though I preach every Sunday my heart isn't where it should be."
I praise the Lord that His fountain was available for me that night.
Over the last few years, I have focused on writing devotional messages which I send through an e-mail list This led to my devotional book “Just Passing Through: Notes from a Fellow Traveler” It is amazing how God uses the trials of my daily experiences to minister to others. I am blessed when my readers share how they were touched by something I wrote. And I'm thankful that God is using my weakness to show His power.
We all have weaknesses, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual. God's power can be shown in our weakness if we allow Him to work through us.
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