December is full of traditions that warm our hearts and link the past to the present. Even during difficult times, it’s hard to imagine the holidays being complete without those special activities passed down by loved ones. At Christmas, I envision the grocery sacks filled with popcorn balls that my mom made. I can still hear the happy chatter between Dad and me as we enjoyed her homemade candy.
One of my traditions is because of David O’Brian. He is a man with cerebral palsy who has given great gifts to many without even knowing it. After graduating from Ecola Bible School in Cannon Beach, Oregon, he made his home in that town. Over thirty years ago, he started inviting his handicapped friends from Portland, to come there and visit him. This was a bit complicated because their own disabilities made it impossible for them to drive. But David found a way. He rented a wheelchair accessible bus and found a friend who could take them down. Students from the Bible School became the hands and feet of Jesus as they helped his friends throughout the weekend.
A few years later, God expanded his vision. He started TRYAD ministries, so people with disabilities would have the opportunity to hear and experience the love of God as they enjoyed a trip to the beach. Friends from his community helped with this endeavor. For many years, David rented wheelchair accessible buses from a local transportation company, and hired a driver to take the people from Portland. For several years, a Young Life leader who works with developmentally disabled members drove a group down from Washington. Individual parties, like my friend Lisa, who is a paraplegic, and her husband have their own transportation.
Sharing stories and memories from Triad, is a favorite part of the conference. One year, we were upstairs when the power went out. The fire department had to come and help us down. This year, tears of joy trickled down some of our cheeks as we remembered our friend Dorothy. She could not talk, but when we worshipped she squealed with delight. She had to have communion served through a feeding tube but this Christmas, she’s celebrating Christmas face to face with Jesus!
This year I questioned whether I should go, but one of my friends, whom I only see once a year, said “You have to come. It won’t be the same without you.”
I’m so glad I went because I could connect with old friends and make new ones. Life is busy, but blending the activities of daily life with traditions brings a special kind of richness to our lives.