Jon Sheptock talks faith and traveling
Tyler Morning Telegraph
Jon Sheptock is a Christian singer who travels around the country sharing his story and beliefs. Part of what he shares is how he believes God uses his life as someone who was born without arms and a short right leg. He, his wife and his three children live in Huntsville.
Sheptock, 36, will perform and speak at The Salvation Army’s annual Fall Revival at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday at 633 N. Broadway Ave., Building No. 1.
So tell me about your experience growing up with a disability. Does that affect how you feel about God? Do you ever question ‘why?’
I have in the past. Growing up, especially through my teenage years and early adulthood, I questioned it all the time. Nobody around me looked like me or had the same disability as me and I had a lot of problems growing up with a disability because of the stares, the name-calling. So I really came to the point where I felt like God was really the only thing that I could really rely on in order to get me to where I am now, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here today.
Do you remember a specific moment where you realized that, or was it a gradual process?
No, there was a pivotal moment in my life and I’ll share this when I talk in the service on Sunday. There was a pivotal moment in college where I saw my life going down a dark road. I was growing deeper in despair and discouragement; failing college, not even going to classes. I had no hope, had no future. It’s hard when you look like I do, not many people are going to look at you as a potential employee or want to take a chance with you. I was fighting a battle between living and dying. So, thankfully I cried out to God instead of throwing myself out of a window in a library. I just had to get up to that breaking point, because the only time you can really look up is when you’re truly on the bottom of life. I was at the lowest point in my life and I had no other alternative but to look up.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in New Jersey and then when I was 8 years old I moved to Florida for 14 years.
Were you raised in a Christian home?
Yes, I was. I was adopted because I was abandoned at birth by my biological parents. They saw me and didn’t want to take me home for whatever reason. I have documentation that my mom was kind of upset and angry. I don’t know if it was just the heartbrokenness of not having a perfect child. That very same day they signed paperwork that I should be placed in foster care. So I lived in foster care for about six months, and then I was eventually adopted into a family and it totals 34 kids.
Yeah, 27 of us are legally adopted and seven of us are adopted.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story like that before.
(laughs) Yeah. And if I didn’t live it, I wouldn’t believe it, you know what I’m saying? I’ve got black brothers and sisters, I’ve got Korean brothers, I’ve got brothers that have Down’s Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy. You name it, we’ve got it.
Your parents must be pretty incredible.
Yes! I mean, at first my parents were just adopting children to get into heaven. They thought that being good people and having a good moral compass and doing good works was going to get you into heaven, but after living that way for so many years, a lady came over and introduced my mom to a woman’s Bible study, and that was the first time my mother realized that she didn’t have to be good enough in order to gain acceptance from Christ. The only thing she had to do was put her faith and trust in Him and believe that God sent His son Jesus to die on a cross for her sins and she would be forgiven. So, my mom became saved. A couple months later my dad ended up becoming saved as well. My mom is still living, she’s 75 and is taking care of eight kids at home. My dad passed away in 2000.
That seems like a lot to draw from. Do you use that to relate to people in your ministry?
Yeah, I go around and do a lot of, for instance, prison ministry. With the story behind my life and my disability, being able to overcome, you know, people, or doctors’ predictions of me never walking or amounting to anything, I can relate to some of those guys, because maybe they didn’t have a good upbringing. I had a good upbringing, but I still had to deal with the outside world. When people see someone who has no arms and a short right leg pretty much living their dreams—when I was younger, all I wanted to do was sing, and God’s allowed me to do that. I go and speak to at-risk youth. They can really see. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but when people see you standing in front of them, overcoming obstacles and challenges that life has thrown at them, it’s different. Yes, I went through a lot of junk, but I live by Philippians 4:13, ‘with God, anything is possible.’ I’m married, and I have three daughters, a 10-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. God has allowed me to go all over this country and share my testimony and life experiences and show people never to let this world bring you down or let people’s comments or remarks or ideas sway you from living the life that God wants you to live. He has a special plan and purpose for each and every one of us. He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 that he has a special plan and purpose and wants to give us a hope and a future. Those plans aren’t to harm us, but to help us in every and all situations, if we truly rely and put all our faith and trust in Him. He can bring it to pass. I’m a living example of that. Otherwise, if I wanted to, I would just sit in a corner and cry all day if I didn’t know that I have Him on my side. When I felt like I didn’t, I just wallowed in my own self-pity and it got me absolutely nowhere. So if I can inject some motivation and inspiration into someone’s life with Christ, then my job is done.
You mentioned, when you were a kid, the name-calling and staring. Do you get stared at as an adult, and how do you handle that?
Yeah. Even if I go to the mall with my wife or something I get stared at, or even when younger teens want to be cool, they’ll make snide remarks and make fun of you. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. My wife is like, ‘I’m feeding all your other children, you feed yourself,’ because I do everything with my feet. I change myself, bathe myself, brush my teeth, wash my hair, drive a car, changed poopy diapers. So when I’m out in public, I know if I start taking out my shoes and put my feet up here and eat my food, the whole mall is going to be looking at me. Even though I’m 36 years old, I’ll still feel like my self-esteem is not always there sometimes. You still kind of feel like, ‘Man, I don’t want people staring at me while I’m eating.’ But I think it’s a slow process that I’ll always have to keep in check, because I always have to remind myself this is how God orchestrated things. This is how I’m made. I have to embrace it, and there’s days I feel like I don’t want to. I just want to stay in my bedroom by myself or with my family. But, there’s opportunities where people come up to me and are very intrigued and want to know, which is a great opportunity to share my faith. So, that’s the cool part. There’s another side to everything.
Is there anything else you want to add?
After people are done listening to me sing and hear me share I hope they know, ‘Yes, we have to go through life’s challenges, but we can turn those challenges into victories for Him. So that’s what I want my life to be, victorious living.