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Wheelchair ‘just a platform’ for Eva Self’s life & witness

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (BP)–While Eva Self devotes most of her time to raising two daughters, for thousands she is also an inspirational figure who emphasizes God’s faithfulness.
The Hopkinsville, Ky., homemaker has secured a national platform as a speaker for “Renewing the Heart,” a series of women’s conferences sponsored by Focus on the Family.
Paralyzed from the hips down by an accident in high school, Eva received a standing ovation from 20,000 women at the inaugural “Renewing The Heart” last fall in Nashville, Tenn.
“She is one of the most authentic presenters I have ever known,” said Lisa Harper, director of women’s outreach. “People never feel like she’s selling them or giving them a canned presentation.”
Harper met Self when both worked for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and had seen her touch teens at FCA meetings. Her story is a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty, the Focus official said.
Although the only speaker without a national profile, the Hopkinsville, Ky., homemaker was invited to speak at this year’s five conferences. Among other speakers will be Dobson’s wife, Shirley; author Kay Arthur, and humor evangelist Dennis Swanberg. The keynote speaker for last fall’s event was well-known author Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham.
“That was pretty intimidating,” said Self. “I was eight months pregnant at the time and in a wheelchair. I felt like the farmer who entered his mules in the Kentucky Derby. He said he didn’t expect them to win but he thought the exposure would be good for them.”
In 1978, a few weeks before her life-changing accident, the North Carolina native watched the movie, “Ten Commandments.” Afterwards, she prayed, “Lord, make me a Moses. I want to be an influence in many people’s lives.”
The mishap occurred March 2 during a sudden snowstorm, when her car skidded off the road and flipped over.
While she had accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of 8, the accident tested her faith. At first she was angry at God — and those who gave her books by Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed by a diving accident.
Eva’s frustration peaked when her doctor told her she would never walk again. She thought her paralysis would be temporary.
“I remember screaming, ‘Why, God, why? What I done so terrible so deserve this?'” she recalled. “I had never smoked or drank. I was a pretty good kid.”
More struggles followed, with her range of emotions including self-pity. At one point she told the Lord, “I can’t conceive of life in a wheelchair.”
But God made himself real to her, she said. After pouring out her heart in prayer each night, she felt a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
“That was the best counseling I could get,” she said. “At the end I knew I had told the one who could understand. It was a comfort to know I could tell him.”
Despite her injuries, she managed to attend her high school graduation ceremonies and went on to become the first member of her family to graduate from college.
After earning a music education degree at Gardner-Webb College, she became an area representative for FCA. During a regional athletic conference she met Hopkinsville attorney Andrew Self and formed a friendship that eventually became romantic.
She moved to her husband’s hometown after their 1991 marriage and became active at First Baptist Church. Eva teaches a women’s Sunday school class and sings with the worship team, while Andrew is Sunday school director.
“She’s an amazing lady,” commented her pastor, Jim McKenzie. “She’s an inspiration to a lot of young mothers who are struggling with rambunctious kids. Then they see Eva who’s mothering her children so well in spite of her handicap.”
A set of hand controls in her Buick LeSabre enables Self to drive her children — Abbey, 4; and Audrey, born last Oct. 10 — around town.
She uses a sport chair to play tennis with her husband, and she also enjoys tossing a football and playing hide-and-seek. Her only limitations are not being able to climb steps or get in a swing with her oldest daughter.
“Abbey just looks at this chair like a big nose,” Self said. “If she asks me to do something and I say that I can’t, she’ll say, ‘Watch me, then.’
“I think this wheelchair is just a platform that God used to draw me to himself,” she added. “The worst of times can become the best of times because you come closer to knowing the Lord.”

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  • Ken Walker