Flying to Fath!

My closed caption transparency for my new Youtube video. I am Amanda Forry-Fino, CP Gal here to tell you about my coming to the Christian faith story.

Flying on an airplane has always scared me since I am afraid of heights, and I had been on one before 9/11. Since then, I had refused to fly on a plane. Except once. My mom made me fly on one when we went to Charleston, South Carolina, from Las Vegas, Nevada, for Thanksgiving 2012, a trip that I sometimes forget since it was extremely fast and short.

 When we got on that airplane, I fell in love with flying. Also, I was treated like a VIP with my disability, having someone who knew their way around the vast airport to push me around in a wheelchair.

While living in Pahrump, Nevada, in April 2016, I was homeless after my mother left me at a counseling center in the middle of the session after making no sense and walking out, shutting the door. The image is still in my mind.

 When I did not- find her in the waiting room, I called her, and she told me that she would not come to pick me up. If I came back home, she would call the cops, she said. I only wanted to talk to my counselor alone about our latest mother and daughter fights.

By now, I had become afraid of her, my own birth mother. Then it hit me with a numb feeling—I was homeless. I had to really think fast of someone I know to call Ronald Fino, a father-like figure whom I met a while back. Since then, we had been in touch via Facebook, yet I didn’t have my phone or anything on me.

They let me use the office computer to log into my Facebook account first, really hoping not to mess up my password since I was shaking like never before. I hoped that Ronald was on, seeing the green light on by his picture.

I quickly typed him, what is your number? I need to call you now. He replied right back. I called him as soon as I could, and we talked with the aid of another person that understood my speech impairment. Ron offered to have me fly back east to where he and his family live in Williamsburg, VA, but  I needed money.

I was lucky that Britney, my little sister, showed up at the counseling center with my laptop and phone. Someone asked her why she was not taking me home and she was like, take her. Or was it me, remembering that Britney shot me a nasty look when our eyes met? My eyes were full of hate, now looking back at her.

In the meantime, the counseling center contacted the women’s shelter and took me there. I was so lost. A women’s shelter—wow, I never imagined that I would be at a women’s shelter. When I got there, “Joni,” my new caseworker at this women’s shelter, told me that they would pay for my ticket if I, Ronald, and his wife agreed. We were all on the same page, yet it was too late in the day to make plans to fly out.

 They took me to a hidden women’s shelter. I had nothing on me except the clothes I was wearing, a laptop, a cell phone, and my medication. By now, I really felt like I was homeless. Joni showed me a room and tried to get something for me. A woman there took me under her wing and helped me out. I was continually thankful for her.

 At last, alone in this room, I let myself feel and let my hurting feelings out—26 years of bottled-up crying. I did not expect my own mother to do this to me. I knew that I had lost my family. My “Gragwa” finally called me back when she returned home from being in Las Vegas (her home in Pahrump, Nevada, was forty-five miles from Las Vegas).

My “Gragwa” was shocked and upset to learn about my day. She wanted to know where I was, but I could not say because I cannot tell her, and besides, I did not know where this home was. I just gave her Joni’s cell phone number so my  “Gragwa” could call.

The day after the next, I found myself at the airport in Las Vegas, ready to fly on my own. I was terrified because it was something I had never done. Also, this was one of the worst times in my life. I prayed to God to help me on that day. Joni’s help getting me on the plane was a blessing. I bid her goodbye, leaving her at the gate.

I was very emotional, but I was seated by this man who “talked” to me through my laptop. We had a friendly conversation as I told him a part of my story. I told  everyone that I was seeing my “Uncle Ron.” I figured it would be safer and easier to say, “I’m going to see my uncle.” Since I have a speech impairment, I have found that laptops and Smartphones are the best way to connect with people.

I had a short layover, and I called my grandmother, and she told me that she had just seen my mom and sister and heard that I had left the state. I  forgot all that was said and spoke, but it did not sound one bit good.

I got on my next airplane to Washington DC. I will never forget flying over DC at night with a sigh of relief—I made it out. Here I am in the US Capitol. I just know God had a hand in this as I saw Ronald smiling right out the main door with his white MR2. We drove from DC to his house. Now six years later, I can recall that day as flying home at last!

I am here, still “flying” today as a self-advocate, a proud Virginian, a concerned citizen, and a member of the Training Alumni Association (T.A.A.)—an association of graduates of the Partners in Policymaking program and the Youth Leadership Academy supported by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities that facilitates grassroots advocacy. I am a proud graduate of the class of 2020.

I was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a difficult birth. However, I have decided to wear my CP as a “badge of courage.” 

My CP is what is called Mixed Type CP. I have muscle spasms, making it hard to relax. I have no control over my voice tones, and these two are the parts I really hate. I cannot work a real job. I have a grammatical learning disability as one of my quirks. We all have them. Some people have problems remembering names! My problems include grammar and spelling issues, which my mind apparently does not recognize. PTSD can also accompany cerebral palsy.

When most people think of PTSD, they think of soldiers on the battlefield. Sadly, however, post-traumatic stress is something that can affect anyone, regardless of their background, who has survived traumatic events. I found my formative years exceptionally difficult because of a dysfunctional family experience that spanned three states and took me out of mainstream education.

 I was isolated in my youth by homeschooling and not receiving the treatments I needed like OT, PT, Speech Therapy, and pediatric visits. I have endured lots of traumatic childhood experiences, including physical, mental, sexual, and emotional abuse that led to my PTSD and Bipolar disorder.

While coping with the death of my father to cancer at age fifty-nine, my biological mother changed from a loving mother to someone who struggled to love me. This resulted in her having me locked up through my teen years in my own family home.

My mom led me to believe that anger and hate were the way to live. I have survived three murder attempts by her hand. I felt like an animal, a monster that needed to be locked up. My mom tried to get me locked up in a mental asylum or a group home for disabled people so she could forget about me — acting like I was never her own daughter. I was driven to the near edge of life on several occasions until I opened the Bible to read God’s word and meet my savior Jesus Christ.

During our conversations, I discussed my desire to find a good neighborhood church with my recently connected Godmother, Liz. Also, I have talked about finding a church with Dad for a while.

Using Google to search “church near me,” I discovered a Presbyterian (PCA) Church nearby with values similar to mine that seemed like they kind of fit. Note:  my Godma’s pastor texted her back that moment, saying it was the only church he would have recommended in Williamsburg! Lucky me, it was not all the way across town.

 On Aug 8, Dad and I visited this Presbyterian Church after introducing myself via email and explaining myself and my CP. Moments after stepping into its open window chapel, I knew I had found what I was looking for in my lifetime, like welcome home Amanda. As if this was just waiting for me to find,

I was at peace and at peace with God. It was a place I could see myself growing in, growing older, and taking this church as my second home.

Within a few weeks, I seemed to like this church more. I met my beloved sister and Bible teacher Cyndi, her husband, and her mom.

 As a result, I joined their six-week discovery course. I just had to decide whether this church is the right one for me. I joined the church,  upholding my church vows and showing my commitment to them. Getting baptized at my new church was especially important since I was never baptized as a child.

On a cold chilly day on November 21, 2021, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I was baptized at age 31 in front of family and friends in my church, either live or via live streaming. During my baptism, everyone watching was moved as if the Holy Spirit came upon us and gave me a new heart. As stated in the Bible, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV) God indeed put into me a new heart along with a new set of eyes like Paul on the road to Damascus.

That was one of the most important days of my life. Since then, I have fully embraced being part of my church while making new friends. The Christmas eve church candlelight service is particularly enjoyable to me. The Women’s Ministry at my church enables me to grow in the grace and truth to become a better woman.

I have seen hope and joy in myself that can only come from God. He continues to have lots of work to do within me through the Spirit to overcome things like anger, fear, shame, and doubt when they arise.            

 I desire to share my story of coming to faith with other disabled people, telling them about God’s love, and helping them fly with their disabilities. Creating YouTube videos on my YouTube Chanel, CP Gal’s World. Speaking on Zoom or traveling throughout the USA for disabled people in God’s name. My vision is to make the church more inclusive to those with disabilities. My goal is to educate others on how to welcome them and make church a more enjoyable experience rather than making them feel judged for their disability or the life choices they are forced to make because of it.

Published by Amanda Forry/Fino

Amanda Forry/Fino is a certified disability advocate, CP gal, and author of her autobiography, Eternal Sunshine of the CP Gal’s Mind. She is a disability rights advocate and active Alumnus of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. She has also joined the leadership team and presented for the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, Training Alumni Association (TAA). She is a Va-LEND graduate and Public Speaker. In her free time, Amanda enjoys reading and writing books and walking. Being a member of her church, she enjoys blogging on Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, Amanda lives with her family in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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