When our family was invited to attend Focus on the Family’s “Live” event in Southern California this past November, we figured it would be a special evening.
Along with my wife, Melissa, and our son, Trevor – who has Down syndrome – I had previously enjoyed the privilege of visiting Focus on the Family for a broadcast taping about “Shining a Positive Light on Down Syndrome.” The Nov. 11 Orange County event was the first night of Focus’ five-city pro-life tour, and we would be in the audience this time, witnessing a live interview with Jim Daly, John Fuller and special guest Joni Eareckson Tada.
We have followed Joni’s incredible journey of faith, read her inspiring books and heard her pro-life message many times over the years. We knew that she became a quadriplegic as a young adult and has dedicated her life to supporting the disabled. Yet we had only admired her from afar. That night
we learned that the in-person Joni was more genuine than we ever imagined.
Trevor, Melissa and I first encountered Joni during the pre-event reception. Joni arrived soon after we did, and she quickly took notice of Trevor. Everyone parted to make room as her wheelchair quickly rolled over to where we were standing.
Joni, meet Trevor
“I’m Joni,” she said with a smile. “What’s your name?”
“I Trevor!” he replied.
“How old are you Trevor?”
“Trevor,” Joni asked, “what brings you joy in life?”
“I love singing worship songs!” he said. “I work for Angels, Ducks, Rams and Trojans!”
“I love singing worship songs, too!” Joni said. “What do you do for those teams?”
I shared with Joni how Trevor was hired as the team store greeter by the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, the Anaheim Ducks in 2013, and the Los Angeles Rams and USC Trojans in 2018. I told her that over those
years, Trevor has become known, admired and often loved by tens of thousands of sports fans, fellow employees, team executives and professional athletes.
“Wow, I’m very impressed!” Joni said. “It’s been such a blessing to meet you, Trevor! I will continue to pray for you and that you continue to glorify God while you work.”
When I look at the photos we took of Joni and Trevor together that night, I can’t help but think about how both of them, in their own unique ways, are ambassadors for life: joyfully proclaim God’s message that every human being is incredibly precious, infinitely valuable and eternally significant.
Buoyed by his interaction with Joni, Trevor spent the rest of the evening meeting new people and engaging in conversation with one and all.
‘Do you love life?’
Joni spoke passionately about pro-life issues that night. She shared with Jim and John how God created
all of us in His image, how we should treat people with disabilities with the utmost dignity, and how we should therefore continue to fight for the sanctity of all human life. She expressed great sorrow that babies diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome are too often aborted because so many assume that they will bring little “value” to society and never experience a truly happy or fulfilling life.
Amazingly, she then addressed the crowd of several hundred people: “My new friend Trevor is here tonight. He’s 29 years old and has Down syndrome. Please stand up, Trevor.”
He stood up to great applause.
“Trevor,” Joni asked, are you happy?”
“Yes, I am!”
“Trevor, do you love your life?”
“Yes, I do!”
Joni turned back to the audience.
“Trevor,” she said, “like all people with disabilities, provides undeniable proof that every child is here for a reason … perhaps especially those the world thinks are imperfect. Thank you for being with us here tonight, Trevor!”
Our son sat down to even greater applause.
A heart-breaking statistic
I went on a men’s retreat a few years back where the visiting pastor challenged us, “Find out what breaks your heart, because that’s where God is calling you into ministry.”
Melissa and I taught Sunday school when all three of our sons were younger. I’ve spoken about drug and alcohol issues at college fraternities and led several Bible studies. We’ve fed the homeless on skid row
and sung Christmas carols at nursing homes. While these were all “good” things, they weren’t done out of a broken heart.
What breaks my heart is that 70% to 90% of preborn babies in the United States diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Some European countries are even striving to be “Down-syndrome free.” In other countries, boys born with Down syndrome are sold into back-breaking slave labor; girls are sold into lives of prostitution. The potential fates of children who have Down syndrome are what break my heart.
We learned of a woman who was pregnant with a child who had Down syndrome. She was unsure of what to do at first, but after meeting Trevor she decided to carry her child to term.
One stadium at a time
We recognized that Trevor had some cool jobs with sports teams, but we started to wonder if there could be more to it. Perhaps we could try to replicate what Trevor does at other athletic venues around the country by by encouraging teams to hire individuals who have Down syndrome to work as greeters at their stadiums.
Maybe then, when a woman discovers she’s pregnant with a child who has Down syndrome, someone could tell her, “Before you do anything, go see ‘Tommy’ at the local stadium.” Or, “Say hello to ‘Susie’ at the local arena.” These ambassadors for life could lead to saving the lives of even more babies who have Down syndrome.
Two years ago, we formed nonprofit called Angels for Higher to promote the hiring of individuals with Down syndrome to work as greeters in sports stadiums, athletic venues and college campuses across the country – and eventually around the world. Angels for Higher has enjoyed success this past year as sports venues have come to appreciate how employing our greeters helps their brand, their business and their reputation in the community.
Along the way, Angels for Higher’s greeters joyfully demonstrate the message that every human being is incredibly precious, infinitely valuable and eternally significant in God’s sight. It’s our prayer to transform the pro-life, special needs culture of the world – one sports stadium at a time.
Like Joni said that night, we’re all here for a reason.