THAILAND - Born without arms or legs, motivational speaker and author Nick Vujicic is filled with energy to further inspire people across the world.
Now, about 1.3 billion people know about his story, up sharply from December 4, 2010, when he was on TV and seen by 270 million people in all of Latin America. His goal is 7 billion.
"We are just thankful that governments around the world can use me as a source of inspiration for teenagers, for the disabled and special integration into the mainstream school systems," he said during an interview in Bangkok earlier this month.
Vujicic, 31, was not born a happy person. The Serbian-Australian evangelist and motivational speaker was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by the absence of all four limbs. As a child, he struggled mentally and emotionally as well as physically. He was treated as a normal child, disciplined and encouraged to do his chores like fixing his bed, cleaning his room and vacuuming the house.
At 10, he wanted to commit suicide but aborted the decision for fear of leaving his parents with guilt or shame. His parents made his home a safe refuge, where he could always return for love, acceptance or encouragement.
"Maybe they would have said to themselves that they should have done more. They did nothing but love me so they didn't deserve that pain. That's why I decided to stay," he said.
He is determined to pass the same thing to his children, with the plan to spend quality time with them to show his love despite his busy schedules. He wants to reach the world, but he needs a balance. His first priority is having time in prayer, in devotion, and meditation. The second is his family "to make sure that I am an excellent husband more than an excellent speaker and an excellent father more than an excellent provider".
To people who are down, Vujicic encourages them to think about joy.
"I think joy is what we are looking for. Joy is more than happiness. Happiness is at times temporary, but joy is something you could hold on to. Joy even when you are crying. There's a deeper joy that it's so deep that it can't come out of the emotion at that time. It's joy that you could hold on to. It's joy that says okay, if Nick can do it, then I can do it."
He noted that hope helps him have a positive attitude.
"Some people say the way to find hope is to have a positive attitude. Totally wrong. If someone is dying of cancer and they do not know where they are going after this life, how can they have a positive attitude. Because I know where I am going and because I know who I am, even death itself doesn't scare me. I want people to know that once you have hope, then you have the automatic fruit of peace and rest and it's not that I was trying harder to think more positive, it's me knowing that every day is an opportunity to spread the seed of love."
His story has inspired many around the world including in Thailand. Well, Vujicic said others also inspire him.
In Thailand, he was inspired by do-gooders that he intends to - over the next five years - develop an army of 10 million people who would give one dollar a month, so that he could donate the money to the people. He hopes he can one day come back to Thailand and give away some big cheques for the good of this nation.
But his true inspiration came from Philip Toth in San Diego, California, who at 22 started getting symptoms of a disease and it took 12 months before they diagnosed that he had ALS. He experienced torture muscle by muscle, organ by organ, nerve by nerve, his body slowly and painfully shut down.
"But he wasn't sad, or feeling sorry for himself. And doctors gave him three months to live. He actually lived for five years. I met him two years before he died and I saw him and his smile. He couldn't walk, couldn't talk. He could still use his head and with laser technology he started a website. I realised if this guy can't walk, can't talk and he touches hundreds of people, what am I doing. That was 11 years ago and that was the year I started speaking."
Life can be miserable, he said. But people can change that by setting small goals and moving one day at a time in the eventual journey. His parents told him "do your best and God will do the rest. That helps me a lot".
He has faith that no person is a mistake and that they are wonderfully and fearfully made to encourage and love others, the conviction that helped him know his true value when he was a child. It's his turn to tell all the importance of FAITH - Full Assurance in the Heart.