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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Volunteer Spotlight: Heather Major

The Encourager

I have been involved with CFFD Waikato since the lovely late Edith Morris and her husband Noel hosted a hui* at their house in February 2012 with Di and Hugh about CFFD Waikato being resurrected. The group had been in recess for 10 years as I recall and Athaline Morris (no relation) was the previous leader who had to stop due to her health. Andrea Buchanan and Monique Briggs were the first team to pray and lead, then I joined them later. My late husband Glenn was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997. When Princess Diana died, Glenn was recovering from neurosurgery. The world was grieving but our little world had been rocked off its hinges.

When our daughter Rachel was born in 2002, Glenn had two days left of radiotherapy. A year later it became apparent he had some radiation necrosis, which for him meant things like speech, mobility and fatigue were affected. It was a new aspect of our journey.

My mum had heard of Elevate (or CMWDT as it was then) but I wasn’t sure I could handle the idea of my husband being disabled and having a brain tumour. I heard a quote on the radio today and wonder if I was subconsciously thinking at the time that “the certainty of misery (cancer) was preferable to the misery of uncertainty (not knowing what the disabilities would be and how they would progress)”. That fear didn’t last long and going to camp was a huge education for me. Life is for living. Let’s get on with it!

Heather Major and her daughter Rachel

When Rachel was only a toddler, we went to our first Elevate National Camp. Di Willis (co-founder of Elevate) replied to my enquiry about camp, “Oh some people have had to pull out and they were in the lodge, so clearly you are meant to come.” Rachel’s now almost 21, so it seems a long time ago since that first camp. It was memorable because we were getting our heads around the idea of living with disabilities whereas before that we had been living with cancer. Glenn went to his eternal home in December 2011.

I have been leading CFFD Waikato since 2013. Annette Viviani joined me in 2020 to be my co-leader as my other jobs, minister at All Saints Community Church in Hamilton and part-time chaplain at Waikato Hospital, also keep my weeks full.

CFFD Waikato meets every second Friday at 11.45am. Lunch, fellowship and laughter, celebrating birthdays, discussions, praying for each other, singing and Bible study are all part of what we do. We also like to have visitors come and talk to us.

We focus on what we can do, with each member of the group doing something to participate, and with Jesus at the centre of it all.”

Marc Van de Laar, Cathy Harbour and I take turns to lead the Friday meetings. Marc plays guitar and often our friend Tom Kelly plays keys and Rentia DeVries does solos for us quite often.

Highlights for CFFD Waikato over the past few years have been when we hosted Canon Andrew White (Vicar of Baghdad), and when we went to Mt Maunganui on a bus and used the beach mats so we could go onto the beach.

I continue leading CFFD Waikato today, with Annette Viviani, because we are whānau. I can’t imagine our group not being part of my life! We journey life together, with Jesus as our guide. We don’t get hung up on what we can’t do (e.g. I don’t have much time with two jobs). We focus on what we can do, with each member of the group doing something to participate, and with Jesus at the centre of it all.

*Māori term that means meeting

By Heather Major


Get involved!

How can you be involved with Elevate?

There are many ways that you can become involved
with Elevate Christian Disability Trust.

Prayer – Pray for the ministry, the people, the provision, the opportunities!

Promotion – Let others know about us! Give The Encourager magazine to someone who needs it today. Like and share our different Facebook pages and posts. Read our blog articles and share them with your church, friends and whānau.

Practical – Come and volunteer at the Drop-in centre, regional branches, national or regional camps or at the national support office in Onehunga.

Provision – by donation, automatic payment, sponsorship, bequest, or through goods and services.

Contact us at to find out more
or to register your skills/abilities so we can link you
in to our next suitable project or event. Also, get in
contact to find out where we have regional branches
around New Zealand.


To make a donation to Elevate Christian Disability Trust using a
Credit Card please visit
or Internet Banking.

Our bank account details are:
Elevate Christian Disability Trust
Account: 01-0142-0029706-00 (ANZ).
Please include your name and the word “DONATION” as a reference.

A collage of 6 photos of people at different events within Elevate. There are people smiling in a group photo with Di at the centre, there are different people talking and connecting, playing games, speaking on stage and cooking at a BBQ and there's a laughing young boy with his hands in the air riding a zip line. The following words are in the bottom right hand corner: "We would love to hear from you! Have you been encouraged or impacted by one of our articles? Do you know someone whose story would encourage others? Email us at Phone us on 09 636 4763"




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Too Busy to Rest?

If you’re constantly driven by ‘what needs to be done’, you’ll burn out, and fail to do what God has assigned you to do.
So here are some practical suggestions for pacing yourself:

  1. CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS. The Bible says that it’s not smart to stuff yourself with too many sweets (Proverbs 25:27). You wouldn’t put sugar into your petrol tank, so be wise; educate yourself about good nutrition.
  2. BE CLEAR ABOUT WHERE YOU WANT TO GO. Set specific goals, and have a plan and timetable for reaching them. Don’t be controlled by mindless routine.
  3. INSTEAD OF IGNORING YOUR PROBLEMS, RESOLVE THEM. Act before they become chronic and start sapping your energy.
  4. DON’T ‘VEG’ ON TV. Too much television dulls you mentally and lulls you into lethargy. “But they that wait upon the Lord….renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31).
  5. IF YOU’RE OVERLOADED, DON’T TAKE ON MORE. Don’t say “Yes” out of a sense of guilt, false responsibility, or the need to be needed.
  6. TAKE A BREAK. When did you last take time to get away? A change of pace and fresh scenery are great battery-chargers.
  7. GET TO BED EARLIER. When you burn the candle at both ends, you are the one who burns out. You say, “But I’m doing it for the Lord”. Notice what the Lord says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, sit up late…for so He gives His beloved sleep”.

The following Devotion was the very next day:
“My Yoke is easy and My burden is light.”..(Matthew 11:30)
His intention for you is to discover His will for your life, unlock and develop the gifts He’s given you, draw daily on His power, use your commonsense, and don’t live stressed out.

  • CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE – you can’t always control what happens to you, but can decide how you’ll respond to it.
  • GET PHYSICAL TOO – physical exercise has value too! Feed your mind with Scriptures too – meditate on them until they take root and grow within you.

A few days ago, I saw this Bible verse – Jesus said, “Are you TIRED? WORN OUT?… Come to Me. GET AWAY WITH ME and you’ll RECOVER YOUR LIFE. I’ll show you HOW TO TAKE A REAL REST. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. LEARN THE UNFORCED RHYTHMS OF GRACE. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)
The Devotion: “Too busy to rest?”, in is worth looking at also –

The “Blessed” Man and Woman

Dr Bob Grass wrote this, printed in “The Word for Today” for Sunday 24th March 2013:

Here’s a key (in the Bible) to being blessed:

“BLESSED is the man who WALKS not in the counsel of the ungodly… But his DELIGHT is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he MEDITATES day and night. He shall be LIKE A TREE planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its FRUIT in its season, whose LEAF also shall not wither; and whatever he does SHALL PROSPER (Psalm 1:1-3 NKJV)

A BLESSED man or woman tends to STAND OUT because

  • their CHARACTER is deeper,
  • their IDEAS are fresher,
  • their SPIRIT is softer,
  • their COURAGE is greater,
  • their LEADERSHIP is better,
  • their CONCERNS are wider,
  • their COMPASSION is more genuine, and
  • their CONVICTIONS are more concrete
  • They’ra JOYFUL in spite of difficult circumstances, and
  • show WISDOM far beyond their years. And
  • they are FULL of surprises;
    you think you have them boxed in, but they turn out ot be UNPREDICTABLE
  • When you’re around them you feel slightly off-balance because you don’t know what to expect next.

Over time, you realise that their IDEAS and ACTIONS can be trusted. And why is that? Because they have a SPIRITUAL ROOT SYSTEM that goes down to STREAMS OF LIVING WATER. Consequently, what they put their hand to PROSPERS.
And you can live this way. How? By setting your SPIRITUAL PRIORITIES in concrete. The arch enemy of spiritual growth is BUSYNESS, which is closely tied to something the Bible calls WORLDLINESS – getting caught up with SOCIETY’S AGENDA to the neglect of WALKING WITH GOD.
Whichever way you look at it, a key ingredient to prospering is – TIME.
Not leftover time, not throwaway time, but QUALITY TIME.
TIME for MEDITATION (thinking, pondering on God’s Word that you’re just read);
TIME for COMMUNICATION (praying to god, letting Him talk to you through those versus; talking to HIM how your day has been, your hopes, visions, and dreams, what His desires are).
Unhurried, uninterrupted TIME with God.

The 10 Commandments

Monthly Central/West Auckland Joy Ministries service.

How are you getting on remembering them, and which NUMBER goes with which COMMANDMENT? Maybe there is a fun way to remember them – a song, a poem, actions, a story perhaps?

Did you notice that?

That these “Ten Commandments” can be divided into 2 groups – our relationship with GOD – and our relationship with MAN (People). Our relationship with God is up-and-down (vertical), and our relationship with Man (People) is side-to-side (horizontal). And the 2 together form the shape of a Cross.
Jesus summed up “The Ten Commandments” in the same way, didn’t He, in Matthew 22:37-40, when He was asked in v.36, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied: …………….>

Jan Bridgeman

Jan Bridgeman

Do you remember what it was that Jan Bridgeman spoke about in our September service? It was Commandment #8, wasn’t it, “Do not Steal”. We’ll never forget it – as someone dressed up as a robber stole Jan’s handbag, and ran off with it.
We can get used to stealing – such as:

  • Taking a piece of fruit without paying for it
  • Eating a block of chocolate in the fridge that’s not ours
  • Not giving back someone’s pen after borrowing it
  • Turning up late for work
  • Taking extra time for our lunch break
  • Being on Facebook during work time when we are on the computer [unless it’s part of our job]
    – God calls all of these Stealing.

But then Jan made it really personal – bringing it back to Commandment #1 (God wants to be #1 in our lives) – not giving God the best of our day (praying, and thanking Him, and reading the Bible early in the morning), or failing to meet with His people, and keeping the Good News of the Gospel to ourselves. LET’S SEE HOW TO.

What is in the Offering?

We have all heard offering calls. This week I had to deal with my own. I had $20 credited to my personal account. That meant I had to tithe $2. But the account it went into charges $2 if you make more than one withdrawal in the month. I just gave $5 from another account.
Then I read this week in First Samuel about Eli’s two sons and how they stole from the offering that which was theirs but they took it in a wrong manner. God killed both of them in the same day and the family was cursed with no atonement for that sin.

God was not really interested in my $2 it was my heart. He was happy to wait until next month. It is not just our finances. We bring an offering of praise and worship to God. That also has to come from a right heart. I got a new insight into how the Lord looks on our offering and the value that He places on it. If it is not right He will let it go for a time. Then He sends a warning as He did with Eli and then if it doesn’t change, suddenly we are destroyed.

When you next give an offering make it a true one. Realise it is important to God. He places a high value on it and it is not to be taken lightly. God bless you as you give.



I have a word from God for you. It is one that Paul spoke to Titus to tell his people and I believe it is good for us as well. Paul said “remind them”. So I am reminding you.
We are to be:

  1. Subject to rulers and authorities. You will know who is in authority over you and we need to give them the respect the Bible instructs us to give them. It saddens me that often we whine about unbelieving authorities because they don’t behave in a Christian manner. Surprise they are not Christians. Our sad protest won’t help them become one. I believe we need to be creative and constructive in our efforts to bring change.
  2. To obey. Jesus in the Great Commandment told the disciples to “teach them to obey”. In judges everyone did that which was right in their own eyes. I see that today. So obedience is a good reminder.
  3. Be ready for every good work. I believe that we need to prepare for every good work. We have an evangelistic event coming with Greg Laurie. Lets prepare and be ready to help and invite someone.
  4. Don’t speak evil of anyone! Full stop enough said.
  5. Be peaceable and gentle. We know what that looks like and we just need to do it. Examine your actions and tones and ask yourself the question.
  6. Show humility. Be a sermon walking. Remember it is God that does the work through us. Give glory to Him.

Blessings Geoff