It took some time, but Laura Lee Wright finally heard the message from God loud and clear.
“My disability is a gift,” Laura Lee exclaimed as she recounted her life story during Sunday services at Community Church on November 24. “When the Father gives us gifts, we are to use them for kingdom growth.”
Laura Lee was born with cerebral palsy but hasn’t let that stop her from using her gifts to further God’s kingdom.
Laura Lee is a full-time missionary staff member with Camp Daniel, which ministers to the disabled, and is a part of our GBCC family. She is passionate about relationships, true community and the spiritual growth of people, especially those with disabilities.
Laura Lee is the product of a teenage pregnancy, and her mother barely survived her difficult birth. In the aftermath her mom had to learn how to read, write and talk all over again and lost her short-term memory, while Laura Lee grew up dealing with CP.
"Life was really challenging,” Laura Lee said. “Life was hard."
Kids at school made fun of her. She had a drooling problem. There were no special education classes back then and teachers weren’t sure how to teach someone with CP.
Around her 12th birthday Laura Lee attempted suicide. But God had other plans for her life.
In her early years she grew up in a legalistic setting, so religion to her meant following rules and trying to measure up.
“In fourth grade I got kicked out of CCD class,” she said. “Already I knew the church wasn’t for me."
It wasn’t until later in life that she discovered God’s grace.
Laura Lee was placed in foster care at age 14 and considers it a “real blessing.” She wound up living in a home with 11 other siblings, and she had a foster mom that loved Jesus and had the special ability of never giving up on people.
“This woman, every morning she sat with a bible and cup of coffee,” Laura Lee recalls. “That was a model I grew up with. Her words to me: 'I’m not going to give up on you. I’m going to be here for you.' She has ability to love no matter what.”
It was a great picture of God’s love, but Laura Lee continued to endure some bumps along her path.
As a freshman in college Laura Lee got involved in Campus Life and made a profession for Christ. But her understanding of God’s grace wasn't completely formulated, which led to a crisis of belief and walking away from God.
Laura Lee calls her 20s a “lost decade” filled with alcohol abuse, drug use, a bad marriage and a lot of pain.
Eventually she wound up working in Florida with special needs people. One of people she worked with was a man named Bobby, who had Down’s Syndrome and was a believer. Bobby overheard Laura Lee denigrating people who believe in Jesus, so one day he had a heart-to-heart talk with her.
“Bobby struggled to get a lot of his words out but this was clear as day,” Laura Lee recalls. “He said, ‘Laura Lee, you may not believe in Jesus, but I do, and I’m going to pray you into the kingdom.’”
In reflecting back Laura Lee now says: "Because of prayers like Bobby's, it really is the reason why I do the ministry I do.”
Soon after her Jesus moment with Bobby, Laura Lee was required as part of her job to help Bobby find a new church. Not coincidentally, she kept hearing the story of the prodigal son, who was wandering and eventually came back to his father.
“If you’ve been pursued by God, it becomes pretty obvious,” Laura Lee said. “Every service I was in, it was the Luke 15 passage about the prodigal son.”
It suddenly dawned on Laura Lee what God was trying to tell her. "I’m the prodigal daughter, and there is a heavenly father who opens his arms to any of us, including me,” she said.
Laura Lee is grateful that through her trials, doubts, struggles and rebellion, God continued to pursue her.
She has devoted her life to serving people with disabilities and offered some keen advice for anyone wondering how to relate to the disabled.
“It really goes to embracing anybody that comes into our lives and into our paths,” she said. “You may be scared, it is OK to be uncomfortable. We will lead you and guide you into relationship. We just need the opportunity to do that."
For more information about Camp Daniel or how you can volunteer: https://www.gbcommunitychurch.com/volunteer/opp-detail/430677/camp-daniel/