Elsie Vander Weit was born with cerebral palsy more than 60 years ago in the Netherlands.
Elsie Vander Weit
While the condition causes involuntary muscle movement and imposes physical limitations, it has played a role in building her relationship with God and inspired her to serve as a long-time advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).
Her story and those of three other CRC members are included in the new book Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion. Published by the Alban Institute, the book by religion writer Mark Pinsky recounts the stories of people such as Elsie whose faith has helped them deal with their disabilities.
In the book, Vander Weit describes what it meant to be the daughter of loving, committed parents who brought her up in the CRC. “I’m thankful I had the kind of parents I did,” she says. “They treated me normally.”
Her parents were Dutch immigrants who arrived in the U.S. with a strong faith in God and $200 in their pockets. They settled in northern New Jersey.
Vander Weit says her upbringing helped to shape the great love she has for God and sustained her through times of physical and emotional difficulties.
She also speaks of how, as she grew up, she dreamed of being able to attend college and go on to seminary. But at that time those opportunities weren’t available to her.
With the help of the CRC’s ministry shares program, the Office of Disability Concerns has helped Vander Weit to fulfill her dream of becoming involved in ministry—in her case, advocating to include persons with disabilities into the church.
“I’m thankful for how the Lord has provided direction for me in my life,” she says.