Stormi Link is an artist who has a heart to serve the Lord with her gifts. She is a student at the Art Institute of San Diego, does graphic design for her church, and she recently served as a Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life intern in Uganda.
Multiple pterygium syndrome, a rare birth disorder, has left Stormi with limited movement and near constant pain. She is one of the only people in the world with this condition.
When Stormi felt God calling her to serve in Africa, she knew there would be many obstacles—both physical and from loved ones who doubted she was up to the task. Stormi recently shared with me her experience serving in Uganda.
Dustin: What was the reaction when you told family and friends at church you wanted to serve with Joni and Friends in Uganda?
Stormi: At first everyone just said, “oh cool,” thinking this was just another one of my crazy ideas. Once they realized I was serious, a lot of them took a step back because they didn’t think it was possible.
My pastor was honest with me, and said he didn’t think this could happen. But when he saw me put in the work, eventually he became one of the major financial supporters for my trip.
What was your biggest fear before going to Africa?
Before going, I was nervous about the travel. Once I got there, I was worried if I was up to the task of serving children with disabilities in such challenging circumstances. But the Joni and Friends team leaders were great. Even though they knew I was nervous, they still pushed me to do my best and to serve.
What moment stuck out to you the most while serving there?
We did three home visits, and all of them were somewhat shocking—but also eye opening. I was told the conditions these children lived in were bad, but I was overwhelmed when I saw it for myself. We provided basic advice about caregiving and hygiene to families with disabled children. I assisted a missionary and helped massage the hand of a young girl named Sarah. That was a first for me. I felt like I was giving Jesus a massage.
How did this experience affect your faith?
My walk with God is definitely stronger now. Being there forced me to trust Him wholeheartedly. Now I know if He can take me to Africa and bring me back, there’s no limit to how I can serve through Him. Now I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and offer a helping hand. Even if you think you can’t do something, or don’t know how to do it – you shouldn’t close yourself off from an opportunity to serve.
How would you encourage others who want to serve, but worry their disability may hold them back?
I totally understand why they might be a bit nervous, but my advice is to just do it. Everyone is insecure at times, but if you want to be involved, you have to put yourself out there. The worst thing someone will say is no. If a church or organization says you cannot serve, that may not be the right church or organization for you. Don’t let that stop you. Find somewhere that will say yes.
What message do you want to send to church leaders about people with disabilities who have a heart to serve God?
I think the greatest thing a church leader can do for a person with a disability is to invite them to serve even if they don’t ask. And don’t just have them pass out welcome cards, or something menial – but in a way that uses all their abilities. Don’t approach someone just because they are disabled. Approach them like you would anyone at your church – make yourself genuinely available to them because you care about them.
Do you want to share any other takeaways from this trip?
Don’t be afraid to follow your calling. If God calls you to do something… do it! Because God may see something in you that you don’t yet see in yourself.
Click the video below to watch Stormi’s life-changing trip to Uganda.
Dustin Winebrenner serves as a Producer/Editor in the Joni and Friends Visual Media Department. He uses his passion for storytelling to capture the experiences of families affected by disability. He has served in this capacity, both domestically and internationally, at Joni and Friends Family Retreats and Wheels for the World outreaches.