Charles’ Story

DSC_1204-2729912536-OLiving Through Childhood With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – I have lived in Dyer, TN which is a small town in northwest Tennessee all my life. I had a normal childhood until I was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy when I was four years old. Most aspects of life remained fairly normal as far as I could tell. This was my parents’ desire. Although they tried their best, they were unable to keep my life normal as I progressed rapidly. I progressed to the point where not only could I not stand up off the floor on my own, but to the point where I was almost completely wheelchair bound by the time I was nine years old. I was exposed to numerous doctor visits in Memphis which was about 100 miles away. I was also exposed to several studies involving hospital visits. While all these medical issues were going on, my life was still moving forward on the home-front. It was almost like any war. My health was in the battle zone. The rest of my life remained fairly normal, like the home-front during a war. The rest of my life was affected by my health – weakness of my hands that affected my ability to write at school, no ability to be involved in any kind of sport, poking of fun by other children at school, an hour of physical therapy at the beginning and end of every day. At age nine, when I became wheelchair bound, it was like the front line came to the home-front. I would wonder if what was going on in my life was a nightmare or reality. Was I going to wake up one day and everything be normal? I never woke up to a normal life. I did learn to live life through all the struggles. What made this happen? How did my mindset change?Charles Standing

My decision to follow Christ radically impacted how I would live with my disease progression. In the fall of that year, after I became wheelchair bound just that summer – probably only a month after I had the thoughts about nightmare versus reality, I made a decision to follow Christ. I may not have fully understood all that it meant to be a follower of Christ other than the basics, but it began a journey that would forever change my life. My faith continued to grow from there as I learned more about discipleship and how to live through my disease process by depending on God.

As my disease progressed, I became weaker and weaker physically while growing stronger in faith and perseverance. I was able to remain above average academically. I think God was able to use the academic successes that I had to help give me drive and determination. I would definitely need these abilities to move through life as God would continually call me. As part of my disease progression, I lost use of my arms by early teens to the point where I could not feed myself. I had to have back surgery (a spinal fusion of 17 inches of my back) to prevent further curvature due to muscle weakness that was not only causing me not to be able to sit up but was beginning to crush my internal organs, primarily my lungs. Without my faith in Christ, there is no way I would have made it through that surgery, if I had even had it done with the after surgery prognosis I was given. I had the faith to move on and have it done since that’s what it would take for me to live. I still believe that my recovery was nothing less than miraculous.

I continued through high school graduation successfully in spite of my physical digression. After making it through that difficult time with the surgery, I continued to get weaker. Through high school my hands were so weak I could hardly write. However, I did manage to draw and paint for my art classes. I had gone to public school in normal classes and graduated from high school with honors and which provided scholarship opportunities for Union University.

The key thing that God would use to shape and mold me into who I am today was the experience that I would have over the next several years at Union University. When I visited the campus, the welcoming environment and ease of accessibility confirmed to me that this was exactly where God wanted me to go to college. At first, I decided to pursue a degree in business management where I felt I was best skilled. I also joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity which provided a social environment of acceptance and spiritual growth that I had never experienced before. It was there that I would meet and make friends that I would have for a lifetime.  By the end of my freshman year, God had really convicted me that He had other plans for my life than just going into business management. He was calling me into ministry. I then switched my academic course to religion and philosophy with emphases in Biblical Greek and Christian Ethics and a minor in business administration.09-05-2011 03;04;43PM11

After a full first and second year my health once again started taking a downward spiral.  I started having more serious respiratory problems, ending up in pneumonia. I was unable to finish classes that semester because I was hospitalized for over a week and had to be in severe regimens of chest percussion therapy that took hours out of my day. My professors allowed me to finish my classes during the summer but I didn’t know if I would ever be able to go back and continue with my life and a life that God has called me. I began to question if I would ever be able to go back or was this the turning point that would stop me from continuing to move forward with life.

My Decision To Continue With My Future – I was faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with my education and future at Union. That summer, through much prayer, even though depression was knocking at the door and it would have been easy to give up, I knew that I needed to move forward. Going against most of the medical advice I received, I was able to tweak my medication and chest physiotherapy schedule in a way that allowed me to go back to school that fall. From there on, God continued to provide me good health and the physical endurance until I graduated in May of 1999.

Just as I graduated from Union, I was informed by my pulmonologist that I needed to have a tracheostomy and begin using a mechanical ventilator while I was sleeping.  In January of 2000, I had tracheostomy surgery and what I was told I would only take three days to recover from, actually took over three months. During those three months, I was unable to talk except at certain intervals and had almost constant respiratory infections. I was barely able to work but God gave me the strength to continue. At this time, I knew it was only through God’s provision that I was able to continue with life after finally getting things figured out. It was also through His provision that I was actually able to get to the right doctor to be able to recover to the point of living life again.

The End of College – Towards the end of college, I began to develop an understanding that God could allow my life to be a ministry in the secular business world where I could provide support for myself and my increasing healthcare costs. It was then that I began my involvement with my Dad’s trucking company. Through my leadership, the business became so profitable that it was able to provide for all of my expenses and more. But as the income grew, I became more dependent on myself and my own abilities and less dependent on God. I fell further and further away from the Lord.

The Lord began speaking to me about falling further out of fellowship with Him and His purpose for my life. God gave me a wake-up call one day in the summer of 2007 at a Sunday evening service. It was actually before the service even started. I had spent a lot of money that summer on two trips that I had taken. I came under heavy conviction about the lack of frugality in my life. I was convicted of how foolish my life had become. God spoke to me saying that He still had a plan for my life that I needed to follow. It was unclear exactly as to how this would play out but I knew it was time to follow His leadership and get back in the right direction. In steps God kept bringing me closer. In late summer of 2010, God began to reveal His calling to me to the point that I knew I should start speaking more often, and I started teaching a class on the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5 – 7). Through this process, God really began to change me into what He wanted me to be again.

Through time spent alone with the Lord in prayer, He began to show me His will to get married and lead me to the person that would become my wife. I became extremely sick with a respiratory infection in late November and was forced to spend most of every day resting. During this time, I spent a lot of time with God in prayer about direction for my life. I began to really get closer to the Lord. With the intense fellowship that I was having with God, He spoke to me about many things. I came to believe that it was the Lord’s will for me to get married and that I needed to pursue it. I then started praying intently for Him to provide a wife for me. I knew that if I only had the faith of a mustard seed that He could move mountains in my life. By early January, I met the person I would marry. Her name was Spring Stohler and she lived in East Texas. She seemed to be more than I could have ever asked for. She had a strong relationship with Christ and desire to follow the Lord’s will for her life. We had an ease of conversation that I had never had with anyone else before. She was a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate. She was very talented. She had a Bachelor’s degree in nursing which made her able to understand my health situation. And on top of all this, she was beautiful. God quickly developed a love for each other in both of us. We both knew that He had called us to each other. God had blessed me far beyond what I thought I had ever deserved. God used Spring to further shape me into the person He wanted me to be. He used Spring to fulfill His calling for my life.

The Lord continued to bring us closer and closer together throughout the spring. After she came to visit in March, we both knew that it was His will for us to get married. She was very busy with her two jobs, being a professor of nursing at a community college and being the director of women’s ministry at her church. I was very busy with work and my daily healthcare routines. We visited more to make absolutely sure it was the Lord’s will for us to marry.  We found time to talk to each other at least an hour every day and several hours every weekend. I proposed to her on May 16. We got engaged on May 17 and set our wedding date for October 15, 2011.

The Wedding Day – Our wedding day was very special to me.Although it had been a rough week preparing – getting all my medical supplies and staff together for the trip to Lufkin – the day of our wedding was the most exciting and greatest day of my life. I remember right before she began walking down the aisle, a song beginning to play. Something seemed unusually familiar. It was the voice and style of Spring. She had written and recorded a song especially for me to be played as she was walking down the aisle. My eyes began to fill with tears because the moment was so special. The lyrics are, “For you are more, more than I ever wanted. And more than I could ever have dreamed of. And more than I could ever have hoped for and more, so much more. And I pray, that from this day on our love will be a reflection of the One. The One who brought us to this place. The One who saved us by His grace.”

An Unexpected Beginning – When we got home the following Monday, things began to happen that we never expected. We dove into a staffing crisis that we never expected. By January our whole staff except for one part-time person had turned over. This had left Spring working many hours providing for my care. Although it was very tiring for her physically and both of us emotionally, God used this time to draw a closeness to each other that He knew we needed because of His infinite wisdom. We have continued to have staffing issues since that time and have come to realize that this is probably a never ending reality.

In the past year of our marriage we have both experienced tremendous spiritual growth. As I have had a constant accountability partner in Spring, God has revealed many areas in my life that needed change. We have spent much time in dialogue about God’s word and theological matters. We have been able to constantly discuss how the Lord was working in our lives. He has spoken to us over and over again about how He wanted us to begin our speaking and writing ministry. It has become even clearer how The Lord has brought our ministry together through our life together.

Today – As I have left what I perceive to be my financial security and decided to follow Jesus in total surrender by fulfilling His call to our ministry, we both know without a doubt that He will provide for all our needs. We may not understand exactly how but we know He will through His wisdom. We are overjoyed that the Lord of the universe is using us to reach the lost of this world.