John & Kelly Olerud: Trust and Overcome
John and Kelly Olerud enjoyed a life most of us only dream about. They fell in love in college and married in 1992. John’s career as a Major League Baseball player earned him millions of dollars a year. He was one of the game’s most-respected hitters and best defensive first basemen during his 17-year career.
"God’s given me an ability to play baseball," John says. "Going out and playing it to the best of my ability was one way that I could glorify Him."
John's desire to glorify God was born from his relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Kelly's strong testimony and encouragement, John committed his life to the Lord in 1990. It was the same year he broke into the major leagues as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
John won two World Series championships and a batting title while playing for the Blue Jays from 1989 to 1996. In 1997, he was traded to the New York Mets. In 1998, Olerud nearly won his second batting title with a .354 average.
In 2000, he signed a multi-year contract with his hometown team, the Seattle Mariners. He also won the first of his three Gold Glove awards for his outstanding defense at first base.
"Somebody who has an ‘unbalanced translocation' usually doesn't survive."
But something else happened that year, and it turned the Oleruds' lives upside down. Their second child, a baby girl named Jordan, was born with a rare chromosome abnormality known only as "tri-some 2p, 5p-". It's so rare; she's the only person in the world who has it.
"Jordan has a deletion in her fifth chromosome and an addition to her second chromosome," Kelly explains. "She has an ‘unbalanced translocation.' Somebody who has an ‘unbalanced translocation' usually doesn't survive."
While there's no "official" name for Jordan's condition, Kelly says, it affects everything in her daughter's life. Jordan even has difficulty eating because she's unable to coordinate swallowing and breathing.
"She has refluxed in every single place in her body where you can reflux," Kelly adds. "She has something strange in almost every organ in her body… For Jordan, every single detail of her life is a struggle. Nothing has come easy for her."
When doctors first told the Oleruds about Jordan's condition, John was not discouraged. He had faith God would see his family through a difficult time.
"Early on, I was the more upbeat (saying), 'Hey, this is gonna be all right. This is gonna work itself out. I just have a good feeling about this that within a year or two years things will be a lot better than where they are right now.'"
"For Jordan, every single detail of her life is a struggle. Nothing has come easy for her."
While John still stays positive, there has been little improvement in his daughter's condition. The days, months and years have been marked by only the smallest steps forward. Now five-years old, Jordan still gets most of her meals through a feeding tube. Under-developed communication and motor skills means she requires constant, around-the-clock care. But Jordan's condition is an obstacle the Oleruds are determined to overcome.
"God created her in my womb, exactly the way that He had planned for her to be," Kelly insists. "And, He tells us to believe in who He is and trust in who He is and so, I think, that's how you overcome obstacles because we're all going to face something in our life. We are guaranteed that something is going to be a challenge for us."
The Oleruds, now a family of five, are facing their challenges head-on. But they're not satisfied asking God for small improvements. John and Kelly are praying for a total and complete healing for their daughter. They believe taking Jordan and her condition to the Great Physician will bring miraculous results.
"We've been praying about it since before she was born, and I've never heard the Lord say, 'No' to me," Kelly says. "So, I'm going to continue to lay it before Him and trust in a God that can heal."
John continues, "We're going to try to be the person that is so persistent that finally the Lord says, 'Okay, uncle. All right, here it is.'"
"I'm going to continue to lay it before Him and trust in a God that can heal."
Armed with an unshakeable faith in God, John and Kelly view their struggle as a special way to share the love of Jesus Christ. They've created a foundation to provide support for special needs children and their families. It's called, "The Jordan Fund."
"We knew what it was like to have a child with a special needs child," Kelly remembers. "So, we wanted to set up something that could help other families with special needs children. We want to show them God's love through something we can do."
"Our heart is to help people in whatever way we can," John explains. "Whether it's helping out with equipment or different things that would help out the family [and] help out the child."
In the midst of their own struggles, John and Kelly hope to use the resources God has given them to lend financial support to others. They want to help families with things like therapy, home-nursing care, specially-equipped vans, and whatever else they might need to make life easier.
And as far as their lives are concerned, the Oleruds continue to trust God in all things.
"We want to show them God's love through something we can do."
"We're just trying to get through each day, right now," John laughs. "A lot of what the future holds depends on what the Lord wants.
"We're going to continue to pray that it's His will to heal her." Kelly adds. "And, we're going to continue to do all that we can. I want to work as hard as I can in getting her to her therapies and working with her at home and spending the time with her so that she can be the best that she can be."
For more information about the Jordan Fund, visit www.jordanfund.org.