Miss Wheelchair Canada: God will restore what was lostOthers, Sponsorship
Contributed by: Compassion Canada
Written by: Laura Phillips
When you talk to Vahen King, who became the first ever Miss Wheelchair Canada in 2017, you immediately sense her unwavering confidence and her fiery grit. You become accustomed to her shared nuggets of wisdom, treasures from a shelf of lived truths. Her story follows a road of bumps and twists—starting with a life-altering diagnosis just a week after her engagement. A miscarriage, a beauty pageant, a dancing girl and sponsorship are the unexpected circumstances used to weave redemption into this warrior’s testimony. I had the opportunity to chat with Vahen about her story—one she is eager to share with the Compassion community.
Tell me a bit about Transverse Myelitis, and when you were first diagnosed.
Transverse Myelitis (TM) is a neurological disorder that’s caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. It all began in 1999, exactly one week after I got engaged to my fiancé, Vaughan. I was rushed to the hospital one morning after experiencing excruciating pain in my chest. Within 12 hours, I was paralyzed from the chest down. After a week of tests, I was diagnosed with TM, with a medical consensus that I would never walk again. They wanted to send me to long-term care with constant assistance, but I refused. With the help of my doctor who believed in me too, I was ready for transport by the end of the month. I’ve been in a wheelchair ever since but have never let this define me or limit what I can do.
Why do you think God allowed this specifically in your life?
I have experienced more opportunities to empower others since my diagnosis. From the beginning of my walk with Christ, my prayer has always been for God to use me to change the world. The pain that I’ve experienced doesn’t come close to the joy I’ve experienced in sharing my pain with others to encourage them. I look back on the difficult parts of my journey and can’t say I would change a thing.
“The pain that I’ve experienced doesn’t come close to the joy I’ve had in sharing my pain with others to encourage them.”
Years later, you’ve had the opportunity to be crowned the first Miss Wheelchair Canada in 2017. How has God used this unique experience to bring glory to him?
I never wanted to be part of a gala like Miss Wheelchair Canada. When the idea was first brought to my attention by a friend, I laughed, thinking that this was no route for a woman wanting to be a minister. After prayer and consideration, I felt God was calling me to this unique platform to allow my story to be heard by a wider audience.
After entering, and later winning the title of the very first Miss Wheelchair Canada, I was not aware of the mass media attention that would swarm me after, but I embraced it. Everyone who interviews me will always hear that I give all the glory to the Lord. That was always my message, but this title has just given me a bigger audience to get this message across.
A part of your redemption story happened at the Break Forth One 2018 conference. There is a journey that you and your husband experienced starting with a miscarriage years ago, and ending in a child sponsorship with Compassion. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Vaughan and I tried to get pregnant about 15 years ago. I got pregnant with twins, and at two months pregnant, I lost both babies. Fast forward 15 years, and it’s a week before the Break Forth Conference in Edmonton. I was speaking at a church, and during worship, I noticed this little girl named Jael worshiping at the front of the church—free and careless. I had a feeling that God was speaking to me through her, showing me how He sees me now. After all the mess I’d been through, He had brought me back to that childlike faith.
Later that night, I was telling Vaughan about this story. When I mentioned the little girl’s name, he stopped me and said, “Vahen, I never told you this, but when we were thinking about getting pregnant, the name I had picked out for our baby girl was Jael.”
The next week at Break Forth, there was a session focused on women rising up in leadership within the church. They talked about different women in the Bible— starting with the story in Judges of a woman named Jael. This is when I knew God was really up to something with this name. I later found myself walking by the Compassion booth and thought I would take a look—I had been thinking on and off about sponsoring a child. I asked the representative if they happened to have a child named Jael. She told me they would check the data base and get back to me, but they likely didn’t.
As I was leaving, the girl stopped me and said, “I found a Jael!” The craziest part was that she was 15 years old—the same number of years it had been since our miscarriage. With tears in my eyes, I called my husband and told him about her, and how God led me to find her at the Compassion booth. Even though Jael was not our own child, we were having a Jael in our family. We praised God in that moment that he always redeems the time and restores all that was lost.
It is clear that God was leading you to Jael this whole time. What do you hope to share with her through your new relationship?
I hope I get a chance to share more with her as our relationship grows through prayer and conversation. I remember at the conference, after I had sponsored her, we were singing a worship song with a refrain that said, “You are chosen, you are loved by God.” At that moment, I pulled Jael’s picture out of my purse and raised my hands high, praying this refrain over her—that she would know she is chosen and loved by her heavenly Father. God has used others to help push me into my destiny, and that’s why I feel God brought Jael into our lives through sponsorship—to help her see she has a future and to walk into her destiny as a chosen and loved child of God.
“I pulled Jael’s picture out of my purse and raised my hands high, praying this refrain over her, ‘You are chosen, you are loved by God.’”
How can others who have experienced grief and heartbreak use their story to encourage their sponsor child?
With child sponsorship through Compassion, you have an opportunity to impact a life. God wants to use my life to help someone else’s. It’s more than just giving money or material goods. It is sharing stories and changing lives. God says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). By you sharing your pain and journey with your sponsored child, God will start to show them that they have purpose. I think that the more real you are with your sponsored child, the better. Don’t underestimate the power of your story.
By sponsoring a child, you have an opportunity to inspire hope. God says if you give out of your lack, out of sacrifice, He will bless it. Allow God to speak and show you more about who He wants you to sponsor specifically.
Interview condensed and edited for clarity and length.