Margie Willers – From Pain to Pearls

Margie Willers wearing a bright red knitted top sitting at her dining table smiling

The Encourager

Please note that since this article was written Margie has passed away. We are deeply grateful for all she gave to this ministry and to the Kingdom of God.

Sitting with Margie in a Care Home in Mt Maunganui I am deeply moved. The co-founder of CFFD (now Elevate Christian Disability Trust) is completely bedbound, unable to sit at her computer, unable to do anything for herself. Her speech difficulties mean residential care situations are difficult, it’s an endless struggle communicating with staff, many of whom only speak English as their second language. But this is not why I am moved.

Margie tells of the birth of CFFD and her story, a story that is as intricately woven into the beginnings of the ministry as Di’s story is. From being called ‘Rubbish’ by one of her first teachers, to becoming an international speaker and writer, Margie’s life is a testimony to the transforming power of God.

Margaret means “pearl”, and Margie loves this picture of herself. Like her namesake, God has taught Margie to turn the sandy irritations of her disability into a beautiful pearl for His glory. Jennifer Rees Larcombe said it this way, “Margie is frequently being told if only she had more faith she would be healed. I can tell you from experience that it takes infinitely more faith to go on serving and loving God in a wheelchair than ever it takes to walk away from one.”

Margie was born in January 1948 in New Plymouth, after her mother endured a three-day labour. The birth itself was complicated and the lack of oxygen caused what was later diagnosed as cerebral palsy. A thorough medical examination at 10 months revealed she had athetoid cerebral palsy, the most severe degree of disability a child could have.

A black and white photo of a young Margie sitting in church

In spite of the negative predictions and slow progress, her mother never gave up on her first child… She encouraged and prayed for Margie, allowing her to explore and create, believing she had a fulfilling future ahead. Her mother gave her the most precious gifts of all, her love and her time.

It became evident that Margie faced some painfully huge hurdles. Even though the medical profession’s advice was to “put her away into an institution and forget about her,” Her mother was determined to help her learn to read, write, run and dance! She believed her daughter had a meaningful future. After joining the Crippled Children’s society her intelligence was quickly recognised and it was felt she would receive the best help by sending her to the Cerebral Palsy Unit attached to Rotorua’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. So, when Margie was four and-a-half her parents made the painful and difficult decision to send her there for therapy and schooling. The seven years were ones of rigid discipline but they prepared Margie for her future education and gave her a determination to succeed.

In 1959 she returned home and began attending Te Puke Primary School. Despite her difficulties with writing and speech, she soon proved she was as intelligent as her classmates. However, not all teachers understood Margie and her disability made for huge adaptations in an already busy classroom.

One teacher called her ‘Rubbish’, however later introduced her to a typewriter. This proved to be a Godsend, opening doors in reading and writing which her next teacher, Brian Dixon, capitalised on. He saw Margie’s potential and focussed on achievable goals to expand her skills. This eventually led to computers, which has been such a blessing; enabling her to write emails, devotions, talks, and later her two books. A pearl has surely come from the so called ‘rubbish.’

Margie at her typewriterBut Margie’s dream was to be healed, to get out of her wheelchair, to be free of the restrictions of her disability, and to have a useful fulfilling ministry for the Lord. So when the English faith healer, Harry Greenwood, came to town, she and her friend Kathy went to his healing meeting. Here she had an amazing introduction to the power of God to heal and save souls. She also had a vision of a beautiful young woman standing on the stage wearing a beautiful yellow dress! Every part of her body was perfect and co-ordinated. Then she realised that woman was her! She had a microphone in her hand and was preaching a powerful message to the audience before her.

..As the years went by God gave Margie an unfolding vision of what this new ministry would look like.

This encounter filled her with hope, and soon after led her to take a trip to California to hear the great healing evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman. In March 1975, she flew to LA supported by her friend Molly, with her yellow dress ready in her luggage! Here she met up with her sister Helen. They attended two of Kathryn Kuhlman’s miracle services with great expectations – but no physical healing. She went home devastated, disappointed and feeling a failure – she must have lacked faith not to be healed. It was so painful to pick up the pieces and face the future – still in her chair.

But God. He wasn’t finished with her yet! He had new friends to encourage her and a new ministry for her to fulfil. Margie had known Di Willis for some years. Di was an Occupational Therapist who remembers watching Margie typing at a Paraplegic Conference. Di and Margie soon became best friends. After her disappointment in America, they became like sisters as Margie spent holidays in the Willis’s wheelchair accessible home in Auckland. While attending the Willis’s church she met Joy Smith, a former missionary, now on the pastoral team of that church. Joy encouraged Margie to come to a place of surrendering her life, and healing, to God. Joy saw a picture of doors being opened by Margie’s wheelchair; a revelation of the future ministry Margie would have. These friendships were part of God’s healing process, bringing beauty from the ashes, pearls from the pain.

As the years went by God gave Margie an unfolding vision of what this new ministry would look like. He would use her as she was, with her talents and wheelchair, to open doors that would otherwise be closed. God answered her cry for how to do this through Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.” He led her to attend Faith Bible College, in Tauranga, as a student. This truly was a step of faith as Margie overcame the hurdles of adjusting to the limitations of her disability as she lived full-time on campus for 18 weeks. It was a learning curve for Margie, students and the lecturers, and by no means easy. But she was determined to prepare herself for the ministry God had called her to. It was to be a time of learning and revelation, and a further yielding to God’s purposes for her life. Here she received some clear visions bringing healing of the past non-healing and revelation for the future.

A black and white photo of a young Margie smiling at the camera as she's doing a painting holding the brush in her mouthOne prophetic word was, “The church needs your voice. There are hundreds of people who still live in institutions. They are in wheelchairs… they are angry, rejected by society.…. they will not hear eloquent preachers…… The disabled need a strong prophetic voice from their own ranks that will point them to Christ….. You understand their speech.…… You can identify with them. God has touched your life. He has called you and chosen you to call others to follow the way of the cross. He wants you to be a voice to the church for the disabled.”

It became so clear that Margie wrote, “My responsibility was to evangelise the disabled, and help the church to accommodate them, accept them, relate to them and develop their potential.” She later wrote, “It was not to be a sympathy ministry but an empathy and answer ministry.”

As Margie shared her vision with Di Willis, she discovered that God had laid a similar burden on Di’s heart. Together they prayed, shared ideas and visited people with disabilities in their homes and institutions. Eventually they planned an event in Hugh and Di’s home in Auckland for these folk – their first dinner party, just like the banquet described in Jesus’ parable in Luke 14. They went “into the highways and byways and invited the blind, lame, and maimed to come and dine.” The Willis’s lounge was packed with people –some in wheelchairs, some with white canes, others with slow speech and awkward gait; all there to hear the vision for a Christian ministry for people with disabilities.

And so Christian Fellowship for Disabled (CFFD – now Elevate) was born, a fellowship of people so long rejected and ignored not only by society but also the church. Now they were being welcomed and accepted, as Margie and Di began speaking to church groups, women’s gatherings, Bible Colleges, and included in the life of the church. She would even return to Faith Bible College as a guest lecturer! (She was nominated as their favourite in 1991!)

Writing her autobiography, “Awaiting the Healer”, was another step of faith for Margie. The aim of writing was not to receive accolades but to share with the church at large some of the realities of living with a disability. With her trusty Woody Woodpecker wand, she laboriously began tapping out page after page. It took her three years of painstaking effort, but in 1992 Margie received recognition from NZ Christian Booksellers’ Association and won the Silver Award for that year.

Publishing her book was only the beginning of a demanding schedule with speaking and promotion of sales for the next 18 months. Her life’s story was an outreach which lifted the bar for CFFD and the Christian Ministries for Disabled Trust (now Elevate Christian Disability Trust). Margie’s season as a CMWDT trustee ended in 1990 because of her busy schedule, but as her audiences and readership grew, they gained insight and understanding of the scope of the work amongst disabled folk. People became extremely big hearted and financially supported the growing ministry throughout NZ.

Camps soon became a vital part of the organisation – both on a national level and in the regions. The National Camp at Labour Weekend at Totara Springs, Matamata, became a permanent fixture from 1983. Young and old, no matter the disability or denomination, all who attend have been impacted by these gatherings and Margie has been the speaker many times.

While living in Auckland, Margie had an opportunity to teach Bible-in-Schools. Cherry Lewis, a friend of the ministry, invited her to teach her class at the Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy in Mt Roskill. Cherry wrote to Margie, “You are leaving such an incredibly amazing legacy. Your life as a Christian woman of God is an outstanding example to us all. You once wrote about an outreach project giving you a joy-filled and faith-filled sense of purpose and fulfilment. She said Margie thrived having a project. One project has been painting: from pictures to Christmas cards to pottery and her beautifully decorated stones with a message.

A black and white photo of a young Di and Margie sitting side by side on a stage

Margie and Di speaking in 1980

Margie’s second book “Undaunted Faith,” was published in October 2004 and dedicated at her home church, Beatty Avenue Bible Chapel. This book contains 48 inspirational meditations, anecdotes and short stories especially for the clergy and those in Christian ministry. Margie shares from the godly wisdom she has gained on her own journey with disability.

She lived in the family home until 2018 with carers coming in each day to support her. For the last three of those years, her dear sister Helen was her live-in companion. The demands for Margie to be constantly on the ministry circuit plus attending camps proved to be draining, and slowly this took a toll upon her body, meaning she could no longer appear on the public platform. However, Margie continued to use her trusty Woody Woodpecker to type up her regular devotions and articles for this magazine, blessing many with her ‘pearls’ of encouragement.

Margie continues to be a shining ‘pearl’ as she witnesses to staff and visitors alike at the Care Home. Margie wanted to leave you with this encouragement from. Ecc 3:1 For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Through all the seasons in her life Margie has sought to bring glory to God, as she has allowed him to flow through her. In re-reading Margie’s book, and in interviewing her, I’ve been so moved and reduced to tears at times. Her story truly brings glory to God as she submitted her life to Him in the midst of her trials. May you be inspired by her story and allow God to turn your Pains into Pearls.

By Heather Vincent 
Heather lives in Tauranga with her husband, Brian. They have both been involved in Elevate since attending National Camp in 1985. Her book, It’s All Right Mum!, was published by Daystar in 2004.


Margie (Margaret) Willers, our co-founder, went to be with the Lord on the 7th of February 2023,
aged 75 years. She lived her life in honour of God and in obedience to His call on her life. Margie
impacted many people, through her speaking, writing, co-founding of this ministry and anyone she




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An Experience I Will Never Forget

The EncouragerIn July this year, I went on a ministry trip to Fiji, which had a profound effect on me. Pastor James and Viv Anson from FaithPointe Church in Auckland led this amazing mission alongside Atawhai Morgan and myself. During our stay, we were hosted by Pastors Samu & Radini Susana who set up FaithPointe South Pacific in Nadi a number of years ago.

Pastors Samu & Radini Susana sitting within the village

Pastors Samu & Radini Susana

We travelled to Vatulele Island, where there was a Sevens rugby tournament in which our planted church had a team playing. There were no shops or resorts on the island, so we were billeted in the village community. No mobile coverage or WIFI was available to us while we were there, and so we had a truly unique “village experience”. There were only five foreigners on the island, ourselves and a lady from Australia who was helping to sponsor a village team from the mainland. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. They had a generator for the village that started at 6 pm and shut down at 1 am.

During our stay, we ministered to people at night, visited different village huts with our team, played worship songs, prayed and sought healing for many. During this time, I met Viti Dranica, a 65 year old, born again Christian lady, who shared her story with us. She had been unable to walk for five years due to knee issues. Living with her was a 13-year-old named Saimoni, who she had looked after since her sister died giving birth to him. My first impression was that I could see “the joy of the Lord” all over her. She was “shining” with God’s glory.

She had a powerful passion for all things about God. We had many conversations over the days I spent on Vatulele and often prayed together.

…My first impression was that I could see “the joy of the Lord” all over her”

Blair Woolley & Viti Dranica

Blair Woolley & Viti Dranica

We visited her house one evening with the ministry team, and many tears were shed as we worshipped and prayed together. Viti had a profound impact on me. The way she prayed and the joy she possessed was truly amazing. Pastor Samu told me she was a prayer warrior and an encourager to people who are lay preachers in the Village Church. She was actively involved in sharing the gospel and had a real passion for praying for people within the village community.

Viti had minimal furniture in her hut as she could not use it. She moved around the house crawling or sliding on the floor, which genuinely humbled me. She was unable to leave her hut due to her mobility issues. While on the island there were a number of large formal get togethers, and each time as I made my way to them I saw her dressed up and sitting in her doorway so she could take part in the activities and worship from afar. It broke my heart.

Tapa cloth made by Viti with a turtle design

Tapa cloth made by Viti

Pastor’s Samu & Radini Susana (from Vatulele originally) set her up to make tapa. Bark cloth, or tapa, is not a woven material but is made from bark that has been softened through soaking and beating. The inner bark is taken from several types of trees or shrubs, often mulberry and fig, and designs are applied with paints and vegetable dyes of light brown, red, and black. Viti has a floor bench and the tools she needs to beat the pulp into cloth within the confines of her home. This allows her access to work at her own pace.

The tapa is regularly collected and put on a ferry back to the mainland, where Pastors Samu & Radini Susana pick it up and bring it back to Nadi. It is sold online and makes its way to all over the world. This allows Viti (along with others on the island) to provide for herself and her sister’s orphaned son who she has looked after since he was born.

I hope to return to Fiji one day for further mission work. I would love to reconnect with Viti.

She was a genuinely inspiring soul; utilising her talents to make a living for herself and her nephew. In addition, she reached out to others to make a real difference for the glory of God. What a great example she is setting.

By Blair Woolley


Blair Woolley has been volunteering for Elevate for 10 years and is an Auckland CFFD committee member. He would like to acknowledge his daughter Nadine Rogers, who took time out from her busy job as a journalist, to write this article together.




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