It is a rare honor to spend the day with a person that is full of joy and peace despite the enormous circumstances they are faced with.

Joel is thirty-six years old, he is severely physically disabled. He is wheelchair-bound and is aided by a tracheostomy to help him breathe and keep his airway clear. He eats blenderized food through a tube, and he has a catheter. Joel’s muscles contract severely, which can be painful and exhausting for him. He takes various medications to help him. Joel is non-verbal for the most part, but his heart reveals strong messages that are clearly understood. One of the things Joel reveals is that joy is a gift from God that enables believers to find hope and peace—even when life is seemingly hopeless. He knows that God’s peace and joy are a vast treasure that nothing or no one can steal from any of us.

“He knows that God’s peace and joy are a vast treasure that nothing or no one can steal from any of us.”

Joel’s family gets to care for him in his home, and they find great pleasure in doing so. Recently the family went on an outing. The trees swayed gently in the breeze in the warm sunshine, as they strolled down the historic streets of Saint Augustine, Florida. Joel is being pushed by Matthew, his future brother-in-law with whom he shares a deep connection. As we walked along, Joel smiled at the passersby; he enjoyed meeting the various dogs that were relishing a walk with their owners, and he became elated when he innocently flirted with the girls that caught his eye.

Joel and Matthew with the captivating hammered dulcimer.

With Matthew at the helm, Joel and the rest of the family were steered to someone especially captivating. A man playing music on a unique instrument. As we all approached, Joel lit up with a glow of intense interest. Matthew then introduced Joel to the beautiful percussion-stringed instrument called the “hammered dulcimer” which consists of strings stretched over a trapezoidal resonant soundboard and is played with designed sticks called hammers. The melodic rhythmic sounds of this ancient instrument were being performed by Robert Burns.

Joel and his family listened attentively as Robert played; it is wondrous to witness the connection that Joel made with Robert through the music he was playing. Robert introduced himself to Joel, as he also recognized and was thankful for the connection that they had made.  When the family introduced themselves, there was an instant harmony among all as they stood in a circle sharing with one another. Robert shared that he had a lifelong passion and love for music, and that he enjoys an international following and is a full-time musician, composer and music educator in St. Augustine. He then offered a copy of his CD entitled Simple Imagination. Matthew shared his love for Rich Mullins—a famous Christian Artist (Our God is an Awesome God) who is also known for playing the hammered dulcimer.

Joel, and his family, highly recommend that if you visit St. Augustine Florida, seek out Robert Burns on St. George Street and listen to the beautiful sounds of the hammered dulcimer played by Robert Burns.

The author, Susan Blatzer, is Joel’s mom. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband and two of her five children. She is a volunteer at Christ’s Church and a huge fan of Bold City Voice!

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