A glorious journey
Meabh Carlin knows firsthand the healing power of God.
Meabh (pronounced Maeve) is an international student from Craigavon, Northern
Ireland. In August 2011, she was attending a World Youth Day in Madrid when she
was hit by a taxi and suffered severe injuries to her pelvis, groin, knees, heels
Doctors told her she would never walk without assistance or a limp, a crushing
blow to a young woman who had once dreamed of being a prima ballerina.
After spending almost two months in the hospital and 1½ years in a wheelchair
while learning to walk again, the 21-year-old now is studying in America. She is
pursuing a degree in education and will be traveling to Peru in May for a mission
trip. Throughout everything, Meabh has given praise to God.
"I believe our strength comes from only God," she says. "That strength can enable
you to do all things and overcome all obstacles."
Meabh knows all about obstacles, but she doesn't consider them an impediment.
Instead, they are opportunities.
Nowhere has that been more evident than in her experience with the college's cross
country team – yes, cross country for a young woman who had been walking again
for only a few months before she came to the States.
When she arrived in LaGrange, Meabh says she felt like "a lost lamb" as she explored
the college's Fair on the Hill, an event held during First Week to introduce new
students to the college and community.
"I didn't know anything, I didn't know anybody, but then someone approached me
and asked if I played sports, maybe because I was wearing tennis shoes," she says.
"I told him that I don't play tennis or anything like that, but that I do run a
Turns out her new friend was Matt Donnett, Head Cross Country Coach. Donnett
encouraged Meabh to try out for the team.
"Something in my heart told me it was the right thing to do, so I decided to try
it and see how it went. It has been the highlight (of my time at LaGrange) so far."
Her start wasn't exactly auspicious.
"I remember the first race we did," she says. "It was in the evening, in Georgia
summer weather – humid and horrific. It was the first 5K I'd ever run, and it was
Halfway through the race, Meabh had a panic attack. She was in pain from her arthritic
hips and overwhelmed by the experience.
"I asked myself, 'Why are you doing this? How did you even think you'd be able
to do this, after everything?' I was very emotional and told my coach I couldn't
But Donnett knew Meabh is made of stronger stuff.
"He told me, 'You are not going to give up on me,' and I knew he was right. I've
never given up and I'm not going to start now."
She finished last in that race, but was determined to do better. Meabh continued
training with the team, but developed her own program, running twice as much as
she had before.
"I didn't want to be last again," she says. "The next few races, I really started
to pick up my time – I dropped three minutes the next race, and three minutes again
the next race. It became this gradual improvement."
At the USA South Championship in November, Meabh didn't come in last – she had
her best personal time ever and followed teammate Lauren Brandner, who was the
team's leading runner throughout the season.
Donnett has nothing but praise for his Irish runner.
"Meabh has to be one of the best-natured, hardest working, determined athletes
I've ever had the privilege to coach," he says.
To Meabh, running isn't just about the sport.
"For me, it wasn't ever about succeeding," she says. "It was more about saying,
'This is the body God has given me. How can I make it the strongest body possible?'
It was more than just running for a prize. It was like a prayer, me saying 'Thank
you, God, that I'm able to do this.'"
She compares her experiences in LaGrange to a voyage of self-discovery.
"It is this journey of progress to show people that it doesn't matter how bad
your situation is, it doesn't matter what a doctor tells you, it doesn't matter
how hopeless life seems, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel," she
says. "I've learned to love a life without limits, a life God has planned for me."