Elevate Literally Saved Me

Bonnie (a young woman with short dark hair and using a wheelchair) beside a friend (a young man with a full, dark beard using a wheelchair) at National Camp 2023

The Encourager

I attended the 40th Elevate Christian Disability Trust National Camp. Since 40 years is such a significant milestone, I thought now would be a great time to share with everyone the impact this organisation has had on my life.

I was first introduced to Christianity at 7 years old. My neighbours at the time took me to my first ever church service, where I felt nothing but love and acceptance. I was also invited to a second church a few years later, by some people that helped my dad through his drug addiction. This church also gave me the exact same feelings as the first; I’ll always be grateful to these churches and the people in them for making me feel so welcome.

Unfortunately, in 2007 when I was twelve, my faith took a turn for the absolute worst. My sister invited me to stay for the night claiming she had a surprise for me. Every little bit of intuition I had was telling me that this situation felt unsafe, as it was the first time that my sister had ever asked me to stay over. I went anyway though, as my dad said I had to and I thought it would be nice to spend time with her as we’d never been that close. When I got to her house, we got straight into the car. I waited in great anticipation and excitement as, like most twelve-year-olds, I loved surprises. Little did I know that what was waiting for me on the other side of the car journey was, and still is to this day, the most traumatising night of my life.

It was what is known as a healing meeting. Being so young at the time, I couldn’t truly get a grip on what this was. I just remember being surrounded by disabled people, and one main person on stage doing a lot of shouting. At first, I was only anxious, but that anxiety turned into pure fear and uncertainty when someone came up to me and said, “you’re going to hell because you can’t walk”. After hearing that I couldn’t stop crying and begged my sister to take me home. She only agreed to do this when the meeting was over and letting the preacher pray for healing of my disability. Which she had told me just seconds before that she wouldn’t let him do so. As we left, I promised myself that I was going to be an atheist for the rest of my life.Bonnie with Ps Bruce laughing at National Camp 2014

Three years later, a school teacher invited me to attend a presentation about Elevate. Having not heard of it before, I asked “what’s Elevate?” she replied, “it’s a Christian organisation”. As you could imagine, I was more than hesitant to go, but, for some reason, I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea. I comforted myself, by saying that I wouldn’t be talked into becoming a Christian again and so I agreed to attend.Bonnie with 2 friends at National Camp 2014

As I was watching the presentation, I saw how Elevate had led people with disabilities to and helped maintain their faith. It made me happy seeing how included and loved people seemed to be feeling while attending National Camp. I also remember thinking how much I missed feeling connected to a church and accepted in the way that I was when I attended church at 7. After the presentation had finished, I decided to take a chance and attend my first ever National Camp (2011).

As camp approached, to say that I was nervous and scared is an understatement. I was a shy, timid 16-year-old who had no identity in God. That all changed when I attended my first praise and worship session there. As I was singing, I was completely overcome with emotion, suddenly remembering the awful words that were said to me the night I stayed with my sister. I sat there crying for a while with my head buried in my arms and then I heard someone encourage me to go up for prayer, so I did. I slowly drove up to pastor Geoff Wiklund with tears streaming down my face. I still remember the kind words he prayed over me all those years ago and how he accepted my then truly broken soul wholeheartedly. While he was praying, I could literally feel the lies that were spoken over me as a young child, break free from my spirit like shackled chains, quickly losing their hold over my life. In that moment, I realised that I am and always will be a perfect child of God, free to live the life that He has called me to live, WITH my disability intact. After this I decided to get baptised and fully commit my life to Christ, and I don’t ever plan on looking back!

Bonnie's baptism in 2011To the founders of Elevate, and everyone else involved, each of you are absolute legends. Thank you for working tirelessly over the years to make Elevate the truly incredible organisation that it is. I just want you all to know that apart from Jesus, Elevate literally saved me. It is the sole reason why the faith I have today is undying. Thank you for making it the one place where I feel as if my disability isn’t the first thing that people notice. Despite this long story, I’ll never have enough words to describe how truly thankful I am. Here’s to another 40 years and infinity!


By Bonnie Pascoe


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'Can I Come Too' Resource is a new Christian Camping Resource that Elevate is creating. But we need your stories... Have you or your child with a disability had an experience with attending or not being able to attend a mainstream camp that you’d be willing to share? People’s stories are vital in creating awareness and can be the catalyst for change. They can help challenge, inspire and motivate others. Your story could be what motivates a person to make a change! Please tell us your story online here or email it to info@elevate.org.nz