I can do all things....
A ministry for the disabled
Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
They say everyone has a cross to bear. Warren Coupel was given his at age 30, and though it took a while to accept it, he now believes his illness has made him a better man.
Coupel had a normal childhood. After high school, he worked in construction and in the petrochemical industry. His physical health was fine until age 30 when he learned he was in the early stages of muscular dystrophy. Not long after the diagnosis, he needed a cane to help him walk, and by age 33, he was confined to a wheelchair.
“I had a lot of anger in my heart,” he said. “I was angry with God. I used to pray over my legs and wish that I could walk again. One day, in prayer, God said, ‘Stop worrying about ‘form’ and start doing the work I sent you to do.’ At that moment, I quit struggling. The fight was gone and I accepted my situation.”
Coupel now believes that God used his illness as a tool to reach people he otherwise would not have been able to reach. “Now I share my story, my testimony, my faith … with other people. It was a revelation coming to this wheelchair, it has changed me for the better. I’m a better husband, father, son … a better man.”
For a few years, Coupel was involved with another faith-based organization that creates outdoor adventures for those with disabilities. He volunteered at first, then became a leader, and eventually was named a vice president. “It was a great experience,” he said, “but it was based near Lake Charles and I wanted to be able to offer something similar here in Baton Rouge.”
After a lot of prayer and discussion about starting a new ministry, Coupel and the leadership team that is in place today, came across a Bible verse that spoke to their hearts — Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
4:13 Outdoors was born, and today, Coupel and a staff of 15 organize hunting and fishing trips, campouts, sporting events, bow-hunting activities and more for disabled children and veterans. “I came to realize that everyone has a disability,” he said. “For some people, it’s physical. For others, it’s as simple as being scared of the dark. That’s bondage, too. We serve the disabled, but that label has come to include children who are at-risk … so we also help those struggling in school, those who have been bullied, and those who have lost a parent.”
Most of the people he helps are referred through local schools and churches. Many are nominated online through the 4:13 Outdoors website. “A lot of people will not come out and ask for help, but if help is offered to them, they are grateful and will accept it,” he added.
Outdoor adventures are just one component of the 413 Outdoors ministry. “We support a lot of organizations in the community,” Coupel said. “We co-sponsor events and raise funds for groups like the American Cancer Society, Bayou Autism Chapter, Dreams Come True Foundation, and others. Wherever the need arises, we want to be there to help. We have done disaster relief related to the 2016 flood, and in Assumption Parish, we served 8,000 meals in one week to help people who were affected by a tornado.”
“During our events and our trips, we use the time to minister to others and tell our own stories of what God has done in our lives,” Coupel said. “It’s how we connect and become part of the same family.”
Coupel finds therapeutic value in the work he does. “I do it because of the smiles on the kids’ faces,” he said. “I understand that wheelchair they are sitting in and that little body that doesn’t work. I had my childhood so I’m fortunate. Some of these kids are thrilled just to be outside their house — to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. That’s a blessing for me to be able to do that for them.”
In the grand scheme of life, a lot of things are clearer now, Coupel says. “We have to love each other no matter what. Our differences — skin color, mental, physical, religious … these are boundaries that need to be broken down. We need to love everyone the way Christ loved the church. Once you’re out there doing work like this, you see everyone’s the same!Your heart is softened … you begin to understand things at a different level.”
Coupel says his life was not only changed, but saved, when he accepted Christ. But he doesn’t judge others who choose a different path.
“I know that some people never get past their anger. Not everyone comes to terms with their situation and gives their life to God. But it’s our prayer that everyone would. Once I realized that God doesn’t want any of us to suffer, I was able to let it all go. I know in my heart I am doing his calling … and that brings me happiness.”
For more information, call Coupel at (985) 992-0856 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit 413outdoors.org, where there are forms to fill out if you would like to donate, become a sponsor, or nominate someone to be helped by 413 Outdoor Ministry. The Facebook page is 4:13 Outdoors Ministry.