Unstoppable: How Author Florence Lunde Has Redefined Success While Navigating Society With a Disability
People with disabilities are not mentally impaired. When we are in a restaurant, speak to us not our companion. Just because the body does not work well does not mean that our mouth does not work well. Do not ask our companion what we want to eat. Ask us directly.
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing author Rev. Florence Lunde.
As a young girl, author Florence Lunde came down with respiratory paralytic / bulbar polio at age twelve and a half leaving her with a severe physical disability. Unable to accept the physical disability she went into a severe depression causing her to contemplate suicide. Mentally screaming “God help me,” Jesus her Messiah appeared, came into her life, protected and healed her pain. She proves through her story that He wants everyone to be saved, healed, delivered, and living their life for His glory. Rev. Lunde is the author of “Digging Deeper: The Bible Study” and its companion book “Digging Deeper: The Devotional.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was born in New York City into a middle income Jewish family. As a child I was active, participated in sports, studied piano for six years. In the fifth and sixth grade I was in the “music class.” At the age of 12 1/2 my life was turned upside down. That is when I came down with a respiratory/bulbar polio. I was totally paralyzed from the neck down and placed in an iron lung because I could not breathe. I was extremely sick and in a coma. When I came out of the coma I was blind. I remember the nurse asking me how do you know you can’t see and I said to her as I closed my eyes and then opened them “because that is closed and now my eyes are open and I cannot see.”
My mother told me the doctor came out and said to her “well mother, medical science has done all it can and now it is up to God.” Having gone through physical rehabilitation I was brought to the point that I could use a wheelchair for locomotion.
I was the first student in the New York City Board of Education that attended high school in a wheelchair. I graduated from Christopher Columbus high school in the Bronx, New York and attended New York university for my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
In my early 20s I became severely depressed to the point of suicide, received psychiatric care for this depression and I was placed on medication. When I finally excepted Jesus into my life my life became worth living I was loved just as I was and Jesus healed my mind giving me a newness of life and a joy to live. I want to share this with the world. I want people to know that even though life is throwing them a curveball Jesus alone can straighten that curveball out and give them a meaning to their life. I want people to know that they can have victory over their circumstances through God’s word. To this end I have written three books which are self-help books.
I wrote these books because I know firsthand the power of God in my life and how that has made all the difference. He alone has kept me, He alone has allowed me to continue on with my life in victory spite of having a severe physical disability and I wanted everyone who has been thrown a curveball in life to know how to overcome and live their life to the maximum. I have had many reports from people who have read my books telling me how much they have helped by them and that they re-read them and re-read them.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
In 1953 I returned home from sleep away camp and as most preteen girls did, I kissed my friend on the mouth when I greeted her. However, I did not know at the time that she was a “carrier,” the term given to those people who carried the disease to others but they did not get sick themselves. I became paralyzed from the neck down and placed in an iron lung where I stayed 24 hours a day until some muscle recovery occurred.
Unfortunately for me I became severely depressed in my late teens through my 20’s because I could not accept the physical disability. Back in 1953 people with disabilities were “kept in the closet” which meant that we were not supposed to get jobs or live a “normal” life. There was no home attendant service to help people with activities of daily living and there was no services for people with disabilities. All I saw my future was a nursing home. My depression was so intense that I had an actual physical pain in my chest and tried to commit suicide. One day I was in my bedroom thinking of ways to kill myself when I screamed out “God help me.” At that split second there was a bright light in my bedroom and I knew that I knew that Jesus was the Messiah promised to the Jews and that if I did not get psychiatric help I would for sure kill myself. The one good thing I gained from the psychiatrist was “You want to killl yourself, wait till tomorrow because everything looks different in the light.” I am so glad I listened.
Knowing Jesus as my personal savior, that he loves me just as I am and that I am OK has turned me from an angry bitter person into a loving joyful woman. Someone had given me a poster that said “you are OK God does not make junk” that poster hung on my wall for several years. No longer am I depressed and certainly do not want to die.
God sent me a loving husband and together we made a life. We both worked, traveled, and founded His Abundant Love Ministries, a ministry by/for people with physical disabilities.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability?
My accomplishments are as follows:
1. I am a college graduate receiving my BS and MA in speech pathology from New York university. I received my degree from the Berean college and my graduate certificate and Christian ministry from the King’s Seminary.
2. I am an ordained minister of the gospel
3. I worked for 29 years in an inner-city Hospital in New York City as a speech language pathologist.
4. I and my husband are the founders and Pastors emeritus of His Abundant Love Ministries; a ministry by/with people with physical disabilities.
5. I am the author of three books: God’s Word for you; Digging Deeper:the Bible Study and Digging Deeper the Devotional.
6. I am a trustee of the Worldwide Fellowship of Polio Warriors and membership secretary. I write a devotional for our newsletter.
7. I live in a 55+ community and I have started a club within my community called “In Spite Of.” This club is a social club reaching out to those within my community who have a physical disability.
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
Don’t dwell on what you can’t do, and do not listen to the naysayers instead focus your energy on the things you can do. Do not let negativity from others influence you. You can do it! Trust God he alone is your source.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Actually there is more than one particular person that I am grateful towards. The first person is my mother. She never doubted for a moment that I would become “successful,” she was with me every step of the way supporting, encouraging as well as helping me navigate the system of the time. Her favorite phrase was “you will and you must.” She never let me quit. My mother stayed with me the first week of college making sure that I was able to get around and helped me ease my way into a scary situation for me.
When I moved out to live on my own my mother used to do my grocery shopping and pasted an itemized list of how much I owed her. If I did not pay her to the penny she asked me for the penny. This used to upset me and get me extremely angry because I felt that as her daughter she should not even charge me and if she did charge me don’t come after me for the penny. Years later I asked her why she did it and she told me because she wanted me to know the price of everything and how to budget my money. She know I really had no experience in the reality of life.
The second person is the psychiatrist who told me “if you want to kill yourself wait until tomorrow because everything looks better in the light.” Had I not listened to him I would not be here.
The third person is a pastor/counselor that helped me understand the love of God and how it related to me. One day he told me “unless do you understand that it was God’s love that allowed your disability you will never be successful.” What a true statement that is. God has used my disability in so many ways to bring glory to himself and I am grateful and thankful that he chose me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe that I am not only a role model but also I give encouragement to those with any type of limitation that it can be done with the help of God. If I can succeed in this world anyone can.
As a speech language pathologist, in the department of rehabilitation medicine, for 29 years I treated primarily the elderly who sustained cerebral vascular accidents. I was able to help them live in the community rather than be place in a nursing home. Part of my job duties was to create a mini expo of goods and services our patients could utilize.
His abundant love ministries ministered people within the five boroughs of New York City for 10 years under my husband and my direction. Our ministry had a television show on BronxNet, the Kings table, which one 3 beta awards for television excellence. The television show reached everyone within the viewing area.
I know my three books have brought encouragement to the reader. Readers have told me that they re-read it and reread it because it brings it so much encouragement.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
1. People with physical disabilities are not an “inspiration.” We have not been put on this earth to be an “inspiration” for anyone.
2. People with physical disabilities have the exact same emotions that everyone else has. We all need to be loved, affirmed, and treated equally.
3. People with disabilities are not mentally impaired. When we are in a restaurant, speak to us not our companion. Just because the body does not work well does not mean that our mouth does not work well. Do not ask our companion what we want to eat. Ask us directly.
4. People with disabilities can work equally well alongside their non-disabled co workers perhaps with some reasonable accommodations.
5. People with disabilities do not appreciate being stared at. Nor do we want to be asked “what happened.” We wanted to be treated just like everyone else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
This is not an easy question to answer for me. I thought long and hard about this vacillating between several people such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, President Joe Biden and the Dalai Lama. By answer to this question is I would love to meet Oprah. She has gone through much in her life she has struggled a lot and I believe has compassion to those who struggle in life. She is an extremely strong woman obviously successful and I would like to sit and just talk with her.
I know you asked for one person however I cannot omit meeting President Biden because he is an extremely compassionate and empathetic human being having gone through loss of his wife and son he knows firsthand struggles and how to push through loss and become successful helping others along the way.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Unstoppable: How Author Florence Lunde Has Redefined Success While Navigating Society With a… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.