Probably the most familiar verse in the Book of Jeremiah is 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
For Adam Villiers, this verse was the rock he clung to during a stormy life of seemingly endless, potentially deadly challenges.
“It’s my favorite because even though I’ve made wrong choices in the past, I know that God has a plan,” said
the 35-year-old Abbotsford, B.C., worship leader, husband, and father-to-be.
Adam’s challenges began when he was born more than two months prematurely, weighing less than three pounds. “I nearly died three times at birth due to being deprived of oxygen from a 24-hour labor,” he said.
When the labor finally ended and Adam was born, doctors discovered he had cerebral palsy and said he would likely never walk. When he did start trying to walk, at age 4, it was so difficult that five operations were needed. But that wasn’t Adam’s only medical challenge; shortly after he was born, he also underwent surgery to repair a hole in his heart.
Adam was placed for adoption at birth and lived in the hospital ward the first year of his life. At age 3, he was adopted by a couple who also took in foster children. Unfortunately, his adoptive father was an alcoholic whose booze-fueled violence eventually ended his marriage.
In the early 1980s, Adam was in a horrific car accident that killed his cousin. The Doerksens, a family living nearby, heard the crash and came to his aid. Through that tragedy, Adam became friends with Brian Doerksen, who later became one of Canada’s most accomplished worship singers, songwriters, and recording artists.
Brian, 12 years older than Adam, could see how difficult the boy’s home life was and took the time to teach him how to play guitar. He also commuted 45 minutes each week to ensure Adam attended church. It was through those church services that Adam, at 8 years of age, committed his life to Jesus Christ. But he continued to struggle with feelings of worthlessness.
“As a teenager, I didn’t think I would ever get married or even live an independent life,” he said. “I thought that God only used people who are able-bodied and not people like me. I gave up on life and made wrong choices. Even today I walk differently than most people. Being made fun of when I was younger was hard. It made me think that everyone was against me and that I wasn’t worthy of friends.”
At 16, Adam got his driver’s license. No longer needing transportation from Brian, he stopped making church attendance a priority and started hanging out with non-Christians. A year later, his mom told him he was adopted, and that devastating news, along with his new misguided friendships, put him on the path to disaster.
First it was alcohol. Then, when he was 19, a friend introduced him to cocaine.
“Even the person who was dealing the drugs told me: ‘It’s not worth it. If you do this, you’re gonna want more.’”
And the dealer was right. Adam spent the next two years addicted to cocaine and doing whatever it took to finance his habit, including stealing from his landlord, who found out and evicted Adam from his basement apartment.
But even during that dark time, Adam never stopped believing in Jesus: “I knew God was real and I knew I needed His help.”
Now homeless, Adam was rescued by his foster brother, Mick, who took Adam to his home. A week later, Mick drove Adam to a detox facility, and that’s when his life began to turn around.
Adam stayed at the Abbotsford treatment center for three months, then lived another year in an Aldergrove, B.C., church-sponsored halfway house. During that stay, he went back to church. Then, at the suggestion of Brian Doerkson, with whom he had remained in contact, he moved to England for seven years to work for Vineyard Music and several other music and ministry organizations. Those years helped restore his faith walk with Christ.
“Life is definitely not perfect, and I have made some mistakes along the way,” he said. “An occasional [alcoholic] drink, for example, but God can do amazing things for those who are honest with Him, themselves and others.”
Back in Canada for five years now, Adam works as a computer service technician and helps to lead worship at the River Community Church in Abbotsford. He and Michelle have been married for three years.
“My wife and I have been so blessed in such a short space of time,” Adam said. Michelle has endometriosis, a condition that makes it very difficult for a woman to get pregnant. The couple was told that in vitro fertilization—an expensive procedure where an egg is removed from the woman, fertilized with sperm, then placed in her uterus—was their only option.
But then a miracle: Michelle became pregnant naturally.
“I love sharing about that part of our life,” Adam said. “To see our prayers answered in such a huge way—there’s no mistaking that it was God.”
Adam’s friendship with Brian has continued to deepen, to the point where Brian performed on Adam’s first worship CD, “Show Me the Way to Your Heart” (available through AdamVilliers.com).
Recently, Adam has come to appreciate the risk his parents took and the sacrifices they made when adopting him, despite his cerebral palsy. His adoptive mother, who was 55 at the time, died seven years ago. But Adam’s adoptive father is still alive, has stopped drinking, and the two men are restoring their once-broken relationship.
Sharing his mostly painful life story with others has not always been easy.
“For a lot of my adult life, I didn’t want to talk about it,” Adam said. “But I find the more I share, it’s as much of a blessing for me as it is for others, who may be experiencing some of the things I’ve gone through.”
And he always tells people this truth: “What it comes down to is that life is all about a relationship with Jesus, then having all your other relationships sharing this same value.” ©2013 BGEA
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