Lilo Ljubisic – The Choice Is Yours

Lilo Ljubisic (Canada) [Athlete & Goalball Player] (Goalball, 1984 Los Angeles: Silver) (Discus, 1992 Barcelona: Gold; 1996 Atlanta: Bronze; 2000 Sydney: participant) (Shot Put, 1988 Seoul: Bronze; 1992 Barcelona: Silver; 1996 Atlanta: Bronze; 2000 Sydney: participant)

(illustration by Simon Smith, © Simon Smith 2011, used with permission

Lilo (Ljiljana) Ljubisic was born sighted in Yugoslavia, but a childhood illness and the wrong medical treatment led to increasing blindness and pain. At PE lessons she normally did not participate, rather she remained in the library. So, it was a massive surprise to her when her PE teacher, Mrs Henderson suggested to her to play volleyball. ‘But I hardly can see to hit the ball.’ Lilo replied. ‘Don’t rule yourself out because of that! You got the physique, and I noticed you are estimating distances well.’ Replied her teacher.

It seemed a crazy idea. Two weeks later, after a quick crash course in volleyball and diligent practicing, Lilo played her first game. She was serving, and only heard a thud, and then silence. ‘What happened? Where did it go?’ Lilo asked. The referee shouted: “One nothing. An ace!” Lilo continued serving, sending fifteen straight serves sailing over the net to win the game for her team!

A new life began for the teenager. Lilo’s mother always told her that God had a special plan for her life, and sport began opening doors for her. At university she took up goalball, a team sport designed for blind people, winning silver with the Canadian Paralympic team in 1984. Later she turned her attention to field athletics, to discus and shotput. Lilo was determined that her disability will not get in the way of doing her best. With coaching, guidance and support she won gold, silver, and bronze medals at various Paralympic Games, setting new world records.

Lilo rediscovered her Christian faith of her early years and was baptised.

“Faith is the basis of my life, the sustaining power to overcome adversity. In the shadowy, cold valleys, we realise we aren’t self-sustaining – and need to lean on God’s love and mercy.” (Lilo Ljubisic)

Lilo learnt through her life by the aid of sport and the grace of God that we can make a choice. We can either accept the circumstances to dominate and control our lives or we can face our challenges and overcome them with God’s grace. Lilo made the choice not to accept the limitations put upon her by her disability or by others but dream big and set gaols: “visualising your dream brings you closer to your achievement – especially in my case since I’m blind.” I wouldn’t be surprised if her approach to life is based on Hebrews 11:1:

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and being certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I personally love her advice for young people, indeed to all of us:

Frist, challenge yourself to do the best you can with the talents with which you are blessed. Second, grasp the power and strength in teamwork. No one stands alone. Find people who will support your dream and help you to make it a reality. Third, focus on what you can do, and not on what you can’t.”

So let us walk in faith not in sight, and make to choice of leaning on God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ.

[from GV; based on ‘Who Comes First?’ by Chris Hudson]

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