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His simple prayer sparks new attitude toward life

CORONA, Calif. (BP)–Born a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, Michael Van Hov had every reason to have a bad attitude toward life.

And he used to.

But now, in his mid-20s, Van Hov has a smile on his face and looks at life differently.

“It was a dramatic change,” said Randy Corona, an employee at the Teakwood Home for the disabled where Van Hov has lived for several years in Corona, Calif. “I noticed his attitude changed and the things that he used to enjoy started to bug him, like swearing.”

Last year Van Hov prayed with Pastor Galen Greenwalt at Vision Plus Church, a Baptist congregation in Rialto. “It was a child-like prayer,” Greenwalt said. “He was so sincere.”

Van Hov asked Jesus to forgive him of his sins and come into his heart.

“I asked him to be my Savior,” Van Hov said. “I prayed the sinner’s prayer.”

Now, Van Hov chooses to watch Christian TV channels or flips on his radio to hear preaching.

“He’s always willing to know more about God,” said Corona, who has known Van Hov for two years.

Many times Van Hov, who was adopted at the age of 3 by Maggie Van Hov, gets frustrated with life.

“I just stop him and we pray together and it helps him,” Corona said.

Van Hov, with a smile from ear to ear, said he can feel God in his life.

He said he also “decided to get baptized. I was scared to be baptized but it was one of the best days of my life. I asked my pastor and decided to do it.”

For Greenwalt, it also was a special day.

“We helped lift him up and lowered him into the baptismal because of his physical limitations,” the pastor recounted. “It was a very moving time. Everyone was very emotional.”

Van Hove invited many of his friends and relatives for the occasion.

“He was on cloud nine,” said Maggie, a special education teacher who lives in Riverside with her other son, Tim. “He made the decision himself and he did a good job.”

Employees of his group home and family friends began taking him to church where he has made many friends.

“A lot of people have helped me read the Bible and get me to church,” said Van Hove, who has to rely on others for transportation. “I get really bummed if I can’t go to church because I miss my friends. They are my family.”

Van Hov works two days a week as a janitor and two days a week passing out fliers for a Real Estate company.

“At work I try to tell people about Jesus,” he said.

Corona plans to help Van Hov memorize verses from the Bible because Van Hov has trouble reading. “That’s why he listens to the radio and TV so much so that he can learn about the Bible,” the group home worker said. “He always makes it a priority to know more about God.”

Last year, Van Hov also earned his Eagle Scout Award from his Boy Scout troop.

“His troop in Riverside has other handicapped scouts and Michael just fit in,” Maggie said. “He worked hard to achieve what he did. Only 3 percent of scouts earn the Eagle Scout award.”

To earn the honor, Van Hov supervised the refurbishment of a water fountain in the backyard of his group home.

“Because we couldn’t use it as a real fountain, we put dirt in it and planted a vegetable garden during the summer,” he said. Residents at the home ate the harvest of tomatoes, squash, green beans, zucchini and eggplant.

“I did all the watering,” Van Hov said.

Van Hov added that he now looks forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate Christ’s birth.

“We should be giving Jesus presents, not [give gifts to] ourselves,” Van Hov said. “It’s His birthday.”

    About the Author

  • Kelli Cottrell