Subscribe to the Joni and Friends Ministry Podcast
An abortion survivor and one of eleven adopted sisters (most with disabilities), Sasha Carpenter returns to the podcast to talk about her family and their ministry and advocacy work, her own journey living with cerebral palsy, and how to be a voice for the voiceless in today’s world.
As the first daughter her parents adopted, Sasha has witnessed the adoptions of her sisters—including many joys and struggles. She says,
“When you bring a child home you hope they will show improvement and grow. But like in Joni’s story, some disabilities require major, permanent life adjustments.”
Living in such a complex family has taught Sasha a lot about sacrifice, grace, and loving as Christ loves. For the Carpenters even basic outings can be difficult.
“With the wheelchair and strollers we need, our family can’t go anywhere quickly. I have to slow down and enjoy each day for what it brings. Our needs help us recognize our dependence on God, every moment of every day, and trust his plans and purposes for us.”
The Carpenters have learned the importance of trusting God on a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis.
Sasha often turns to the reminder in Proverbs 3:5–6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
But sometimes in life—especially life with disability—the “straight paths” the Lord provides can appear difficult, tedious, and exhausting. Sasha offered an everyday example: if her family goes to the beach, her father has to take many trips back and forth from the car, shuttling his daughters and their gear. What a hassle! It can be tempting to say, “why bother,” and stay home.
“But [if we skip the beach] what enjoyment would be missed—what blessings would be missed, in our lives and for others who get to enjoy seeing my sisters crawl to the water or eat ice cream on the boardwalk?”
Sometimes laying down our lives looks like slowing down, carrying an extra load to the car, or being patient standing under the hot sun. Simple things can fulfill Christ’s command:
“Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
“Look after orphans and widows in their distress…”
Sasha herself was adopted from Russia. Her sisters come from countries across the globe. Sasha shared that she has visited each of the countries her sisters came from, to see the plight of the orphans firsthand.
Seeing the orphanages that could have been her sisters’ (and her own) homes if not for adoption has shaped Sasha deeply. She recalls one visit to a Ukrainian orphanage:
“What you saw was a large room with rows and rows and rows of beds. And everything was white: white walls, white pillows, white sheets, white beds, white coats of the staff. There were 40 children in the room, but not a sound.”
Most children in the orphanage had lost the ability to converse because of lack of personal care. But one boy broke the silence, asking that Sasha come sit and talk with him. The boy’s name was Nicolai. Sasha was shocked by his appearance—skin stretched over bone.
Nicolai and Sasha couldn’t communicate much; Sasha didn’t know Russian at the time. But God used their encounter to touch her heart. From that moment Sasha wanted to learn Russian and to give back—in particular to ease the plight of orphans in eastern Europe.
Because of their experiences with disability and international adoption, the Carpenters founded Ting Ministries, an international agency that advocates for and serves people in eight countries: the Philippines, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, and the United States.
The services provided vary based on the people’s needs—food outreach, adoption advocacy, ministry to orphans and widows, medical outreach, educational opportunities, and even rescue from slavery and oppressive forced labor (particularly for people enslaved as brick kiln workers).
“In all our locations we are one ministry with one purpose—to proclaim the Gospel,” says Sasha, who works with alongside her family at Ting. In all their efforts they aim to fulfill the command Jesus gives in Mark 16:15:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Sasha’s Journey with Cerebral Palsy
People are sometimes surprised to find out that Sasha has cerebral palsy. Some wonder if her limp comes from a twisted ankle. When misunderstandings come up Sasha takes the opportunity to talk about disability and share her adoption story.
Though her cerebral palsy is mild, Sasha has dealt with obstacles. As a child some doctors didn’t think Sasha could learn to walk. But through years of physical therapy she has gained the strength to walk independently. Because of depth perception and balance issues she is only now learning to drive at the age of 25.
Sasha has experienced God’s provision as she’s navigated challenges of her cerebral palsy—both in giving her strength and in creating a platform that allows her to advocate for other people with disabilities. Sasha encourages people who don’t have disabilities to get to know those who do, even if it’s hard or awkward at first.
“If you haven’t grown up with disability and don’t have a disability yourself, you don’t necessarily know how to interact with someone who has a special need.
One thing my sisters’ disabilities and my own cerebral palsy have taught me is how to bridge the gap between people who have disabilities and people who don’t. I hope to be a bridge—to build better community.”
A Voice for the Voiceless
Sasha shared that people often ask her, “If the Lord would take away your cerebral palsy, would you want that?” Her answer is no. Why?
“My cerebral palsy has made me in so many ways, who I am today. Growing up with a disability has taught me grace, patience, and understanding for those the world would look at as being weak, or less valued.”
Her experience has positioned and gifted her to do the work described in Proverbs 31:8-9:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Sasha’s story, her disability, and her family have all led her to opportunities to advocate for others—particularly people with disabilities and orphans. When she speaks to adoptees, she emphasizes the point that every believer’s identity comes from Christ. Our value and purpose both come from him. As Ephesians 1:5–7 says:
“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…”
This message carries special power for orphans, adoptees, and people in deep grief. Sasha can testify to this power. And to anyone suffering today, Sasha has a direct message:
“The Lord loves you and forgives you. I pray that my story touches your heart and turns you to God’s Word.”