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Pick Up Your Legs and Walk

From Action International’s ACTION POINT 1998 (Revised 03/2001)

Phantom pain is real, just ask Mike Meaney.  Phantom pain occurs because Mike’s brain doesn’t know that his legs are amputated seven inches below the knees.  He can’t rub his feet at night.

“What I’m walking on right now is like the stilts they use to plaster a ceiling,” says Mike.  His two prostheses allow him good mobility, and allow him to travel over the world.

In 1984, a routine physical exam turned up adult-onset diabetes – a condition where the pancreas is producing insulin but the cells don’t recognize it.  Diabetes attacks the nerve endings.  Numbness follows, then sores and ulcers, then amputation.  Eight years later, Mike had no feet.

So what is he doing in foreign missions?

“I was lying in bed one day after my first amputation and I felt a “delicious, warm depression,” he explains, because depression is sometimes comfortable.  Had he mired in that slough, this story
wouldn’t exist.

“Then God spoke out to me very plainly,” Mike continues, “and He said, ‘You can lie there and feel bad for yourself, or you can get up and get going!’ And that’s exactly what I did.”

A friend gave Mike a copy of Tim Hensel’s book, You Gotta’ Keep Dancin’ – a story that provided Mike with his new favorite verses and a new philosophy.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”  Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)

The verses enlightened Mike’s soul.  A year to the day after his second amputation, Mike was flying to Baku, Azerbaijan to teach English to 15 doctors in a medical university.  The oddity of Mike’s situation landed him a spot on Baku’s national TV station and a chance to share his faith.  Mike likes to say, “God took my feet and told me to GO!”

“I told the doctors in Baku, ‘You are the “heights” for me.’  I never thought I’d be able to do something like this,” he says.  “God chooses the weakest people so that He gets the glory.”  “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 1 Cor 12:10

And then there’s Marie, Mike’s wife.  He describes Marie’s tenacity as a “gift from the Lord.”  She  supplied a perfect balance between sympathy and exhortation.  She made a sign for Mike’s hospital door that read, “This is not an unhappy room!”  After his second amputation – when Mike had nothing left to stand on – Marie stood tall for him.

“I didn’t understand what God was going to use me for,” remembers Mike.  “I told Marie, ‘What’s God going to do with me now that I don’t have any feet?”  Together they learned the healing process.  Marie
made another sign that read, “First cry, then pray, then plan, then get up and get going!”  Good advice, says Mike.

“I had pretty much a nominal Christian life until my amputations, I’m sorry to say.  I would rather be just like I am now – than have two feet and be where I was before.”

So the journey goes on and not without pain.  Last summer, Mike fell on their deck and the fall forced a bone through the skin.  That stumble required four months of healing in a wheelchair.  Again, depression loomed but God was bigger.  Praise Him!

“Lord,” prayed Mike, “if you want me to serve you by sitting in this wheelchair for the rest of my life, and just praying for people – I’ll do it.”  Shortly, Mike would encounter Doug Nichols and a second career – this time in foreign missions.

When ACTION’s International Director, Doug Nichols asked Mike and Marie to join ACTION as missionaries, they were ready.  Mike’s first assignment?  Go to the Canada office in Three Hills, Alberta, for two weeks and offer assistance with their computers.

“There was snow on the ground,” recalls Mike, “and there’s nothing worse for someone with artificial feet.”

The trip to Canada soon prompted a second assignment to the United Kingdom for both Mike and Marie, where they spend one month at the ACTION UK office in Bewdley, in January, 1999.

“We did everything from helping tidy up the office to making data bases,” recalls Mike.  But like the snow, unique challenges lurked ahead.

“Three flights of stairs every day going up to the office!” he exclaims.  “That was the toughest part.”  Mike needs both hands for balance, so Marie carried the luggage – which bothers Mike.

Since their return in February, 1999, Marie has gone a second time to the UK, this time to write Christ-centered curriculum for underprivileged children in Africa and other countries.  Her Doctorate in Education and 33 years of teaching experience offer huge benefits to the ACTION team worldwide.

Now what?  Trips to 5 Sub-Saharan African countries, Romania and Kashmir are in the works for 2001 where they will build Educational Resource Rooms as an adjunct to the regular local schools.

“A big gift God has given me is the International and US offices and the people,” says Mike about ACTION.  “I’m so honored to be a part of it, I don’t know why the Lord picked Marie and me to be here.”

But we do, Mike.  Thanks for dancing.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV):

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls
Yet, I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The sovereign LORD is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights.

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