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  • Hello.

  • My name is Matt Kuyvenhoven.

  • I'm a junior, studying Marketing at Calvin College.

  • And I'd like to welcome you all to the 2017 January Series.

  • I'd also like to extend a special welcome to our guests

  • on our, or on three of our thirty, or three of our fifty remote

  • webcast locations in Denver, Colorado,

  • Tulsa, Oklahoma,

  • and Whitehall, Michigan.

  • Now if you would all please bow your heads and pray with me.

  • Heavenly Father, we thank you for this day,

  • we thank you for safe travels here today.

  • We thank you Lord for the daily opportunity

  • to challenge ourselves, grow and learn,

  • especially in this month of the January Series.

  • Lord, we acknowledge

  • your presence with us in the trials of our lives

  • and we pray that we can acknowledge them more often on a daily basis.

  • Be with us this day. Keep us healthy, keep us safe.

  • In your name we pray, Amen.

  • Now, Jordan Daley. He's a research associate

  • at Calvin Center for Social Research.

  • He's going to introduce our guest.

  • [applause]

  • Good afternoon.

  • As Matthew mentioned, I'm a recent grad of Calvin.

  • And while I was here, I took advantage of

  • an opportunity that would remind me how big

  • our world is, and that our God is even bigger.

  • I joined a group of Calvin students and faculty

  • as we followed the yellow conch shells

  • through the way of St. James El Camino de Santiago.

  • El Camino is a 500-mile pilgrimage through northern Spain

  • with its orgins in early Christianity.

  • Presently, people from around the world continue

  • to traverse El Camino for a variety of personal and spritual reasons.

  • I had expectations for my trip,

  • such as eating unique food, practicing my Spanish,

  • and getting to know other Calvin students.

  • I experienced so much more.

  • I found rest and renewal,

  • was reminded of what it truly means to be in a community,

  • and learned to embrace aspects of creation

  • that we often take for granted.

  • Ultimately, I learned not to put limits

  • on what God has in store for our journey.

  • Throughout my trip, I listened to stories of others

  • and got to see life from their perspective.

  • Today, we get to hear about life from yet another perspective.

  • Through an incredible story that not only enriched

  • the lives of those along the Camino,

  • but continues to enrich lives each day.

  • This is the story of Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray.

  • Justin lives with a neuromuscular disease

  • that progressively restricts the ability to use the arms and the legs.

  • Many people might consider this a fundamental opportunity

  • to place limits on God's plan for the future,

  • and be content with saying, “I can’t.”

  • These two gentlemen did just the opposite.

  • As they embarked on a 34-day journey

  • with a resolve to overcome

  • all manner of obstacles that they might face.

  • One in a wheelchair and one on foot,

  • Justin would trust Patrick to push him through the Camino.

  • By relying on faith, friendship, and fierce determination,

  • these best friends of over 40 years

  • took on a challenge that many would consider unimaginable.

  • And in doing so, they inspired communities across the world.

  • Justin and Patrick have both continued to move lives

  • through the production of their film and their upcoming book

  • both titled, “I’ll Push You,”

  • and their foundation, Push Inc. which emphasizes the importance

  • of community and relying on

  • one another to tackle life's many challenges.

  • We are very excited to have them here today.

  • Before we continue, we’d like to remind you that

  • Justin and Patrick will be available to greet the audience

  • in the west lobby of the Covenant Fine Arts Center

  • following the presentation.

  • Calvin College is grateful to GMB Architect and Engineers

  • and the Richard and Helen DeVos foundation

  • for underwriting today’s presentation.

  • Before they take the main stage, there will a brief video.

  • Without further ado, please join me

  • in welcoming to today’s January Series,

  • Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray.

  • [clapping]

  • [walking]

  • -It still amazes me how far we've come

  • (music playing in background)

  • -That's been something that's so rare. I haven't seen a friendship

  • like that before.

  • I don't know how much time he has

  • [music]

  • Mechanical malfunction

  • It's hard not to feel like a burden in this

  • - fabrication?

  • *groans*

  • slow, go slowly

  • ahh I'm cramping

  • -His body is feeling the effects of the last several days

  • (music playing)

  • -It sucks! Trying not to let Justin know that it sucks though.

  • (music playing)

  • -Man! I don't like who I am

  • (music playing)

  • Okay seriously dude it's time to walk

  • - *laughs* I'm just faking it guys

  • -I have no idea how far this goes -I don't either

  • Sometimes, it's best not to know

  • -It's really hard to let somebody do that for you

  • (music playing)

  • -Yo what's up bro? *laughter*

  • (music playing)

  • -I don't know how I'm gonna be able to do it

  • (music playing)

  • *****

  • (music playing)

  • These are waters that are too deep for me to handle on my own

  • (music playing)

  • It was pretty stupid. Honey, I love you if I die

  • I love you

  • -If I do have the time that I have here now, then let's enjoy it

  • (music playing)

  • How're you guys doing? *clapping*

  • -alright, How's everyone doing today?

  • (laughter)

  • Alright, we're gonna take you guys for a wild ride today.

  • How does that sound? You guys in for it?

  • You ready?

  • So uh, first off, thank you very much for having us

  • and Calvin and our underwriters

  • for graciously getting us here

  • We are very, very grateful for the opportunity, so thank you,

  • and for all of you guys

  • for taking time out of your day to hear us ramble on

  • for a little while.

  • We're gonna share some stories with you today

  • Just for clarification

  • I am Justin Skeesuck

  • and this is my BFF forever,

  • Patrick Gray.

  • And uh, we're grateful, so thank you.

  • Yes, thank you.

  • So we're gonna share some stories

  • And the stories we're gonna share today, there's a number of them

  • um, mostly relate to this journey you just saw a little bit of a,

  • a few video clips about

  • but, uh, these stories are stories

  • that have kind of shaped our perspective on life.

  • uh, a perspective that, permeates

  • kind of who we are

  • and, we hope will permeate the world around us.

  • They've influenced our mindset on

  • our relationship with one another

  • our mindset surrounding our families

  • and most notably reshaped our perspective

  • on God

  • And it's a gift and a blessing that we get

  • to share these stories

  • and so we are just thankful

  • that we get to be here

  • with you guys today

  • but before we dive into some

  • of those stories

  • Justin is going to give you

  • a little backstory on our history.

  • Real quick, can we get the monitor up front?

  • It's not showing up so I don't have to turn my head around please?

  • While they are working on that

  • I think I can go off of memory,

  • so we will see how this goes.

  • So Patrick and I,

  • like you learned a little bit about our intro,

  • we have known each other

  • for almost 42 years.

  • We were born in the same hospital,

  • just about 36 hours apart.

  • Our mothers knew each other

  • when they were growing up.

  • Our parents knew each other growing up,

  • or when they got to college.

  • And we've been very, very blessed to have

  • a very lifelong friendship

  • that we've just been exploring all together.

  • We grew up just like normal kids

  • Doing, kind of like, fun crazy stuff

  • And not being anything crazy

  • just getting in trouble now and then

  • But we did alright

  • You know when I was fifteen and a half

  • almost sixteen and a half

  • sixteen years old

  • My life changed

  • When I was

  • just before my sixteenth birthday

  • I was traveling from my hometown

  • to a nearby town to play in a basketball tournament

  • And a friend of mine was

  • driving his truck and ended up

  • rolling it on the freeway

  • going about 80 miles per hour

  • And believe it or not

  • I actually walked away from the accident

  • couple scrapes and bruises

  • nothing to really be

  • concerned about

  • Except for just going through this really crazy accident

  • But about six months later

  • I started noticing

  • weakness in my left foot

  • I was running down

  • othe soccer field

  • that following fall

  • and my foot was just flopping around

  • it wasn't working the way that it should

  • So I brought it to my parents' attention

  • and went to a podiatrist

  • and he said that he couldn't do anything

  • for me so he said I think you need

  • to go see a neurologist

  • And so I went to see a neurologist

  • and he was completely stumped

  • and thus my lifelong pursuit of

  • being in doctor's offices

  • I didn't know it at the time

  • being so young

  • I'm going to condense this long story

  • into a short story for the sake of time today

  • But several years later

  • I was finally diagnosed with

  • a progressive neuromuscular disease called

  • Are you guys ready?

  • I might quiz you later

  • It's called multifocal aquired motor axonopathy

  • Did you guys get that?

  • If you want to know

  • what it's like

  • It is almost identical to ALS

  • So those of you who know what that disease

  • is like, not a good one.

  • Eventually my life will be

  • cut short

  • With ALS, you typically have a

  • four to six year lifespan

  • sometimes shorter sometimes longer

  • But mine is an unknown diagnosis

  • it just progresses and eventually I

  • should, from what I've been told,

  • pass away due to complications

  • from the disease that I have

  • So, as you can imagine, it makes life quite challenging.

  • It started with my left foot, went up my left leg,

  • went to my right foot, jumped up my right leg, and stayed to my

  • waist and below for many years.

  • And throughout that time, I was able to use braces on my feet

  • to keep me upright, and then as my legs started getting weaker,

  • I started using a cane; one of which Patrick actually made for me.

  • Pat made a cane for me one time.

  • And a walker, then I ended up using a manual wheelchair full time,

  • and now I use a power wheelchair full-time.