Nick Vujicic never gave up.
A native of Australia, he was born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare congenital condition characterized by the absence of all four limbs. Early in life, Vujicic was taunted and suffered mentally and emotionally, but came to terms with his disability.
Today, he enthusiastically serves as a Christian evangelist, author, motivational speaker and TV personality. Earlier this year, he and his family were featured on a TLC reality show called Born Without Limbs.
Vujicic, 32, lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Kanae, and their two sons. The couple were married in 2012. Their first son, Kiyoshi James, was born in 2013, while a second, Dejan Levi, was born in August 2015. Both the children are healthy.
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Earlier this month, Vujicic was at the Mardel Christian Bookstore in Arlington to promote his book, Stand Strong: You Can Overcome Bullying (and Other Stuff That Keeps You Down).
During his tour stop in Arlington, Vujicic answered questions for the Star-Telegram about his faith journey of overcoming severe hardships from a Christian viewpoint.
You have a book out about bullying. Why is that important to address the issue?
“Unfortunately, 4,300 teenagers commit suicide in this country every year. In the 880 schools I’ve been in, we did an anonymous survey and we figured out that 40 percent of the reason teenagers actually attempt suicide is because of abuse at home and 40 percent is because of bullying at school. So, deep down in everyone’s heart and mind, everyone has compassion, and if they just knew that the gossip, the subtweets, cyberbullying and stereotyping actually brought people to a hatred of their own life to a point of trying to give up, I don’t think anyone would continue with bullying. So, we’ve been simulcasting live in schools in a big way against bullying and asking kids to stand strong. Christians should set the example because we know about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.”
Your message of overcoming difficulties obviously gives people hope. What is hope?
“I thought I needed arms and legs to be happy. But you don’t really need those things. If your happiness is in temporary things, then your happiness will be temporary. But if your happiness is in knowing you are a child of God, that God loves you and is with you and Heaven is real, that’s when you become unstoppable. Not even death can hold you back.”
You struggled early in life. Was there a turning point when you began to get a grip on overcoming your challenges?
“When I was 13, I actually hurt my foot playing soccer. I realized I had a choice. I could be angry for what I don’t have, or be thankful for what I do have. At 15, I read John 9, and realized that if God has a plan for a blind man, then God has a plan for me. I didn’t need to know all of his plan at the time, I just needed to trust that he had a plan. I needed faith. I said, ‘God, if you can use a blind man, then you can use me.’ ”
You meet many people who have handicaps, how do they respond?
“People have different handicaps and are on different journeys. Some have accidents and that’s a little more difficult than being born with a disability because you have to relearn everything. So, it’s just the ground level that brokenness is brokenness and hope is hope. I tell teenagers it’s worse being in a broken home than having no arms and legs. So, it’s the disabilities of the heart that people relate to, the fear of the future and fear of what people think of you. So, you tell them the perfect love of God casts out all fear. That’s not to say that I’m always happy or I don’t cry or I’m always smiling. But I know that God is faithful and he’s always with me.”
You’re reaching a lot of young people who struggle with self-worth. What are you telling them?
“Read Psalms 139 that says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. That means you don’t have to worry about what the world says. It’s not about how tall you are or what you are good or not good at, or how many friends you have or do not have. It’s about knowing that you are a special child of God and God has a plan for you. You need to give yourself a chance.”
What are some of the more extraordinary things you’ve done despite your challenges?
“We’ve done skydiving, scuba diving and surfing, and I’ve driven a car. I also love fishing. I enjoy the scenery. I love where I live in Los Angeles. I enjoy being with my wife and boys more than anything.”
You parents were an inspiration. What did they teach you?
“They didn’t spoil me. If I wanted something at the store, I would have to pay for it with my own money. I would vacuum the floor for $2 a week and that’s how I would earn my pocket money. So, it taught me to work hard and not expect everything to be given to me and to just be thankful for what I have.”