Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a very special tribute.
I first met Pete Lafferty and his brother Joey back in the early 1990’s when they were young teens in their wheelchairs; both had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most severe form of that disease. The Lafferty family had come to our Joni and Friends’ Spruce Lake Family Retreat. I was so blessed by these young boys, including their mom and dad, Tim and Joan. When the Laffertys speak of living for each day and not taking any moment for granted, they are not recycling a worn cliché. No, there at Family Retreat, it was clear all four loved the Lord Jesus in a big way, and they made such a tremendous impact on all the other special-needs families.
As the years rolled by, and the boys entered their 20’s, their parents helped establish Joni and Friends in New England. I would see them from time to time at the New England Family Retreat, and I remember how sad I felt when I heard that muscular dystrophy finally claimed Joey’s life at the age of 20. Pete is Joey’s older brother by a couple of years. It was hard for Pete, losing his best friend, his little brother with whom he had not only shared many memories, but shared a very tough disability. But the kind of anger and despair that would have consumed other families was rejected in the Lafferty home. In fact, as the years passed, Pete’s faith in Christ seemed to grow stronger. He even took on leadership roles at Family Retreat, even emceeing Talent Night at retreat. You could tell that Pete, in large part by witnessing his brother’s handling of death, you could tell that Pete was preparing himself for the inevitable.
Then came the diagnosis of cancer, and Pete knew for sure that his days on earth were numbered. Because I had battled cancer, and also had a disability, I wrote Pete several times to kind of, you know, just cheer him on. And I would always check in on his Facebook page to see what he was up to. Sure enough, there he was posting favorite scriptures, talking about Jesus, encouraging others in their walk with Christ. Our Joni and Friends’ team in New England alerted me when Pete started to get much weaker. Always the encourager, this remarkable young man decided to record a video that he wanted to be shown at his memorial service. It was a very moving tribute to his parents, a big thank you to his friends, and a passionate appeal for others to accept Christ as Savior. When Pete finally went home to the Lord at the age of 31, I was not able to attend his memorial service, but I sure did see the video that Pete made before he died. I was so moved by it I just thought, I’ve got to share this with my listening friends.
So would you please take a moment and go to my radio page at joniandfriends.org, and be inspired by the courage of this young man who lived life very, very well, glorifying God wherever and whenever he could from his wheelchair! And if you know a family where muscular dystrophy is in the mix, then share it with them. True it’s a tough reality that young people with MD do not live long, but you cannot help but be inspired by the Lafferty family and the way that they have handled it. Oh, and while you are on my joniandfriends.org/radio page, be sure to ask for your free copy of my pamphlet, “Making Sense of Suffering.” It tackles many of the questions that muscular dystrophy would raise in a family, and the answers? Well, the Laffertys would call them nothing short of inspiring, just like their sons, Joey and Pete. Let me hear from you today on my Facebook page, or you can always post a comment on my blog at joniandfriends.org.
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