I was born two months premature, my mother almost dying during her three day labour. 40 years ago, this was a big deal. Even before I was born, due to my mother's circumstances, the doctors had advised an abortion. My mother chose to go against this advice. I was diagnosed with brain damage at birth and the doctors told my mother I'd be a vegetable all my life. At 18 months they then discovered that I was also blind. My mother never gave up hope and amidst a terribly violent and unstable home life she persevered in teaching me basic skills that my other siblings took for granted. Little by little her perseverance paid off and the baby which the doctors had tried to persuade her to abort, learned to eat, sit, stand, walk and run.
At 7 I went to a crusade where I heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus and came under His Lordship (though it wasn't for another 8 years until God really arrested my heart).
My school years were very lonely, transferring to a private Christian school at 12 after first attending a school for vision impaired children. No-one really knew how to handle my disability and so I was either left alone or made a spectacle of. In hindsight these lonely years were good training and probably saved me going astray more than I did.
By the time I was in my mid-teens, the 1 or 2 percent sight I had had diminished to 0. Amazingly, my brain still recreates what my eyes think they see and it is only when I go to touch the imagined scenery that I know I actually can't see at all.
Right from young I knew that I wanted to glorify God with my life and though coming from a broken and disfunctional home, God always brought godly people into my life at just the perfect times.
When I was about 15, I was convicted through the testimony of another student at school that Christianity was more than a set of mental beliefs and it was then that the Lord convicted me to live for him wholeheartedly. While this meant unquestioning obedience to His word, it also meant discovering my strengths and using my life for his glory. At 16 I rode a tandem bike from Adelaide to Canberra to raise funds for the Bible society, right at the time my parents divorced. I remember arriving in Canberra and everyone else calling their family to tell them of their achievement but feeling the deep sense of loneliness that I had no one to tel. In my later teens I enjoyed singing and was part of a Christian band which visited churches where we gave our testimonies and sang.
Though my parents (having divorced) never encouraged me in my studies, I knew that God wanted me to do my utmost best at whatever my hand found to do (Prov 9:10). I was the first totally blind student in SA to study mathematics, physics and science at high school level and to this day, the first to complete a degree in computer science in SA. During my degree I received a grant to purchase equipment to aid me in my studies with the goal of helping me to help others with disabilities. I finished my degree in the top 15% of students.
Toward the end of my degree I met my wonderful wife. I now have seven living children (plus 1 with the Lord). In the providence of the Lord I now write software used by hundreds of thousands of blind people all around the world to enable them to use a computer, (fulfilling the goal of my grant).
In spite of what the doctors diagnosed and predicted, God had other plans. I have lived an extremely fulfilled life, raising children, making them wooden toys, helping educate them, writing books, and doing more than my sighted siblings. I even ran as a senate candidate in the 2010 federal election for the Christian Democratic Party founded by the Hon Fred Nile.
My mother said that out of all the people she knows, I had the most reason to be bitter and the most reason to be a failure. My life has indeed been very challenging and continues to be challenging as I learn to raise a family without sight. All I can do is thank god for what He has done in my life. I have learned firstly that God's grace is sufficient for me. In my weakness, His strength is made perfect (2 Cor 12:9). I have also learned that we must be content no matter our lot in life (1 Tim 6:6-8, Heb 13:5). Finally, we must apply ourselves. God will not do for us what we ourselves are commanded to do (John 11:44), He only does what we can't do. We must make the most of every gift and use it for His glory and for the benefit of others. There is no room for selfishness in the Kingdom of God (Mt 25:26-29, Rev 4:11).
My heart now is to proclaim the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ and to see multigenerational faithfulness at a time when many children of Christians are leaving the faith due to our secular education system. Our family ministry, Faithful Generations was started because of this conviction. My wife and I have written 5 books between us and spend every waking moment in the work of the Lord, from educating and discipling our children, to writing books, to writing letters to politicians or the media, making short videos, to speaking at conferences. Our heart is to see our progeny love and serve the Lord and to reclaim what is fast being swallowed up by humanism, to re-tell God's hand in history, and to make history for his glory.
My favorite verse and our family motto comes from Joshua 22:5: ... take diligent heed ... to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Joseph's Blog - www.josephstephen.com.au
Faithful Generations Ministry Website - www.faithfulgenerations.com