Overcoming with Joy
by Jesse Florea
Brandon R.’s medical chart reads like an encyclopedia. He has primary immune deficiency, osteoporosis, arthritis, a seizure disorder, glaucoma—the list goes on and on.
Many mornings as a child he’d wake up in the hospital. When he did find himself at home in his own bed, he had to face an arsenal of medications that included doing more than 30 inhalers for severe asthma.
“I had more than 20 medications that my mom gave me,” Brandon explains.
But anyone who met Brandon didn’t immediately notice what was wrong with him, because what’s right stood out even more. Brandon’s smile and laugh let everyone know he had something special. And he wasn’t shy about telling adults and kids what it was.
From printing out John 3:16 and taping it on his hospital door to handing out tracts, to listening to Adventures in Odyssey in his hospital room, to visiting nursing homes, Brandon took every opportunity to share the Source of his strength.
“I just want to get the message across to people that God loves them, that Jesus died for their sins and that if they believe in Him, they can live with Him forever,” Brandon says.
When he was 10, an international newsletter asked Brandon to share his thoughts on “Why Children Get Sick.” He wrote that everything happens to the glory of God: Children are better able to be happy in their circumstances. Plus, they don’t blame anybody and are quick to trust God.
“I write this as a child who has been ill his whole life,” Brandon wrote. “Yet I have the greatest joy in knowing Jesus.”
“Normal is how God made you”
Joy, yes. Happiness, not always. Brandon’s health issues kept him out of school and made it hard for him to have friends his own age. His friends tended to be doctors, nurses and other sick children. Oftentimes his friends died.
Brandon’s medical problems started after his third birthday. From that time on, Brandon endured countless tests and spent lengthy stays in the hospital. When he was younger, he told his mom that he just wanted to be a normal kid.
“Back then my definition of normal was never being in a hospital, getting to do whatever I wanted and jumping, playing and riding my bike,” Brandon explains. “Now I understand normal isn’t like that. Normal is how God made you. He made everybody special—that’s normal.”
What’s “abnormal” is the joy with which Brandon lives. His joy is contagious and got him noticed in some special ways.
When he was younger, Brandon appeared on a TV commercial for Southwest Airlines and spoke to large groups of adults for Make-a-Wish Foundation and Ronald McDonald House. He even met the president of the United States!
Not only does Brandon’s family encourage him, but his church provides amazing support. One time every member of the church drove to his hospital to cheer him up. And for many years church members and a popular Christian author paid for Brandon’s family to go to Wind River Ranch. This Christian guest ranch in Estes Park, Colorado, gave Brandon the opportunity to ride horses and play with “normal” kids from around the country.
In just the one week he was there every summer, Brandon’s passion for Christ and joy for life would raise everyone’s spirits.
“God can use you in any circumstance no matter what your age, health or life is like,” Brandon says.
Brandon’s story originally appeared in Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Photo by Steve Starr. Find out more about this award-winning children’s magazine by clicking here.