A Crippled Hero

crippled missionary

He is an unlikely hero brimming with unassuming nobility.

But the reality is, if you were to walk past him on a crowded Chinese sidewalk, you might not recognize it. You would notice him, no doubt, as he hobbled past you with shriveled leg, his body suspended in mid step by a pair of worn aluminum crutches. But you might not see the warrior within.

Brother Hu fell from a tree while climbing with boyish vigor at age eight. His parents were too poor to take him to the hospital, so he laid in bed for months in his rural Hani village.

Without the medical care he needed, the muscles in his right leg atrophied and shriveled to a fibula wrapped in skin.

The only thing his parents knew to do was to call the village witchdoctor to perform demonic rituals over their son.

Chickens were sacrificed.
Offerings were made.
Blood was spilled.
But the heaven of the gods was brass.

He was doomed and damned in a nation that had no need of a crippled child.

But God has a funny way of lifting the unassuming from the ashes.

He was doomed and damned in a nation that had no need of a crippled child. But God has a funny way of lifting the unassuming from the ashes.

I first met him in 2005, after he was set free from demon possession, and introduced to a Savior by a local Christian missionary in his village. The foaming at the mouth and writhing in the dust halted immediately, he stood up to follow Jesus, and never looked back.

After years of discipling Brother Hu at Within Reach Global, we sent him to an underground Bible school and intensive leadership training. He matured in his walk with God. He grew in his gifts of intercession (he has a keen sensitivity to the spiritual realm) and—surprisingly—his gift of healing.

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It’s a unique sight to behold, as a crippled man lays his hand on people, prays for healing, and sees miracles happen in the villages he is church planting among.

I was recently near the China/Laos border with Brother Hu, traveling to unreached people groups in 26 Tribes region. Our team of local missionaries hiked up steep mountains, sharing with people who had never heard the gospel before. And leading the pack was—you guessed it!—Brother Hu, hobbling up the minority trails with a knobby homemade wooden walking stick. (He prefers his wooden cane to crutches while hiking Chinese mountains.)

“Slow down, big guy!” we joked as we followed him up the trail. “You’re making us look bad!”

He smiled, encouraged, but kept his rapid pace.

“This is nothing,” he said. “When I hike into unreached villages, I usually walk 10 miles into the jungle until nightfall. Then I sleep under a tree, wake up, and continue a few more miles to the village!”

“This is nothing,” he said. “When I hike into unreached villages, I usually walk 10 miles into the jungle until nightfall. Then I sleep under a tree, wake up, and continue a few more miles to the village!”

“Okay, now you’re really making us look bad!”

I can almost hear heaven cheering as if for an Olympic athlete as Brother Hu hikes into forgotten regions.

As dusk colors the clouds orange and pink, a farmer leans on his hoe, tired from a long day’s work in the fields. He squints into the distance as a shape begins to form on the trails rising to his home. He wonders why a crippled young man is headed to his village. In a few minutes, the tribal farmer will hear about how God loved him so much that he sent his Son to die for him.

His first chance to ever hear the gospel will come in the most unexpected form.

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Because Brother Hu agrees with Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

It’s inspiring.
It’s ridiculous.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on my own commitment to the call of God.

Brother Hu has led innumerable people to Jesus. He has prayed for countless people, and seen them healed. He has trekked hundreds of miles on a leg and a cane for the sake of the gospel.

Brother Hu has led innumerable people to Jesus. He has prayed for countless people, and seen them healed. He has trekked hundreds of miles on a leg and a cane for the sake of the gospel.

He has enough excuses to stay at home, content to simply pray for the lost. But he needs a little more action than that!

Sometimes I don’t think Brother Hu even realizes that he is crippled, which makes me rethink the validity of my many crutches.

What’s holding me back from action for God?
Do my excuses hold that much water?
When will I get off this warm pew?

A crippled young man is fast becoming my hero, shaking me from lethargy, and inspiring me toward greatness.

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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