Our keynote speaker is Sib Charles, the Senior Manager for Joni and Friends Pennsylvania. Sib has been involved with the ministry of Joni and Friends since 1986. In 1991 Sib helped to spearhead the Family Retreat program for Joni and Friends, which now has 28 Family Retreats throughout the country and 16 internationally. As Senior Manager Sib helps to equip local churches to welcome and include individuals affected by disability into their church life. She is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University. Sib is married to Jess Charles and the mother of one grown son. A farming accident in 1983 left Sib’s husband Jess a quadriplegic. Sib and Jess together advocated for the needs of individuals affected by disability.
Additionally, we have special guest speakers Maria and Mike Francis who will share their amazing story of thriving with disability.
Mike Francis has been a pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in DeLand, Florida since 2000. On Memorial Day 2015, Mike headed out on a 50-mile bike ride, but a massive heart attack stopped him after just a few miles. In the fourteen minutes that elapsed before EMTs began CPR, somehow Mike’s body circulated enough blood to keep him alive, but not enough for his brain. In the days and weeks that followed, people around the world prayed and medical staff marveled as Mike regained consciousness and then speech. “Miracle Mike” moved home after 15 weeks in five hospitals and one skilled nursing facility.
So much is lost in a brain injury, but the essential Mike is all here. Mike is not only well educated (B.A. and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley, M. Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary), but widely read and intensely curious, and almost all of that knowledge is misplaced somewhere in his brain. However, his faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ, his belief in the Bible, his passion for prayer, and his pastor’s heart remain unquenched, as do his tremendous sense of humor and love for his family and his flock at Immanuel. Although Mike cannot name all the books in the Bible, he can share the Gospel with as much passion and wonder as ever. By God’s grace, he continues to make progress, helped by an amazing team of paid and volunteer “miracle workers.”
Maria and Mike met as students at U.C. Berkeley and were married while Mike was in law school. When Mike began practicing law in Seattle, Maria pursued a masters degree in Russian studies at the University of Washington and then worked for six years with refugees from the Soviet Union and elsewhere. They moved with their three children to Orlando in 1997 in order for Mike to attend Reformed Theological Seminary. Meanwhile, they began seeking answers for their son’s differences, eventually learning of Asperger’s syndrome when he was six. In 2000 they settled in DeLand, where they poured their all into the Immanuel congregation. For Maria, this meant walking by faith to lead the women’s Bible study, direct vacation Bible school, and host countless meals and events. As the family’s needs evolved, she rejoined the work force, performing all manner of administrative duties, first at The Geneva School and now at the Stetson University School of Music. Together, they are seeking the Lord’s will for their new normal.
You can follow their journey at their website: http://mikemarathon.com