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Leading by Example

Published on March 17, 2023

Chad Bonham

Daniel Lee has never been one to allow his disability to define him or dictate what he can or cannot do.

Diagnosed with Type 1 Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also known as brittle bone disease), he stopped walking at three years old because of constant fractures but quickly engaged in as much physical activity as his circumstances would precariously allow.

That’s been true for Lee ever since. He’s pushed the limits in all areas of his life to the point of graduating from college at the age of 20, racing in half marathons, marathons and ultra-marathons, and even represented Malaysia in the 2013 Asian Youth Para Games on the sitting volleyball team.
Lee, currently an FCA Area Representative in Malaysia, even took his faith as a challenge to push through the limits of family faith. His father was a Christian when he was born but later converted to Buddhism. He describes his mother as a “free thinker.” But Lee grew up mostly around friends of other faiths in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“I was always curious about faith, creation and God,” Lee says. “I was 14 years old when my dad died, and I thought maybe it was karma for doing something wrong.”

Lee’s life immediately took a dramatic turn when he and his mother moved to another part of the city. There, he befriended some Christians who invited him to church. After two years of attending, listening and soaking it in, he finally made the decision to follow Christ.

“What kept me going to church was the warmth of the people there,” Lee recalls. His faith took root and experienced rapid growth while in college. During that time, some of Lee’s church friends noticed that his wheelchair was heavy and clunky. So, they told him to pick out a new model for Christmas. Blown away by their generosity, Lee decided to get a sports wheelchair, which led him into the world of long-distance racing.

Lee also saw the need for more inclusion in Malaysia along with an opportunity to reach out to people with disabilities. After graduation in 2012, he became an ambassador for Run for the Nation (RunNat), a Christian ministry in Malaysia, and shortly after, became full-time staff. After serving with the ministry for three years, Lee moved on to another company to work in youth leadership development, then resigned two years later to pursue full-time ministry and chase his dream of competing in the Paralympic Games.

IAgdoYbkIn 2018, Lee’s life took another significant turn when he met FCA Chief Field Officer Dan Britton and FCA Director of Field Operations Silas Mullis at a sports ministry conference in Orlando where he was part of a workshop on All Ability sports. He was then invited to Kansas City to do another workshop at the FCA Support Center.

“It really struck me how humble the leaders were in admitting that they needed to do more, and they needed a plan,” Lee says. “They were recognizing that when the Bible says to make disciples to all nations, the word nations actually means people groups. It’s not just about going to all parts of the world. It’s about making disciples of all people groups—including people with disabilities. It really struck a chord in my heart. It gave me a great impression of FCA.”

William Chang, FCA’s Regional Vice President for Southeast Asia, was also at that conference in Orlando and immediately took notice of Lee.

“I was intrigued by his personality and character,” Chang says. “He didn’t allow his disability to stop him from doing the things that he wants to do. I saw his passion for sports ministry, especially serving the people with disability in sports. He was struggling all alone and the Lord led me to invite him to join Team FCA. I knew he could do a whole lot more being with a team.”

Lee officially joined FCA on September 1, 2020, right in the middle of the global pandemic. That didn’t stop him from organizing an awareness and inclusion campaign for people with disabilities in December. He partnered with a local ministry to conduct webinars and produce promotional videos to help give the sports community ideas on how to adapt activities that would allow people with disabilities greater access.
Outreach was equally difficult in 2021 so he shifted into other areas of ministry with FCA. At the end of 2021, Lee was able to turn his attention back to his passion. He hosted an All Ability bowling event in December and began focusing on how to use recreational sports as a platform to reach people with disabilities and their families.

“I’ve been blessed to speak to parents and to their children with disabilities,” Lee says. “It’s important for these families to have activities they can do together. This creates a support system for them and shows them what’s possible.”

Lee is also planning to get back into competitive racing with the hopes of eventually representing Malaysia at the Paralympic Games. It’s part of a two-pronged strategy that will allow him to simultaneously impact the general People With Disabilities community through recreational sports inclusion while serving elite athletes and coaches in sports such as wheelchair racing, blind soccer, amputee soccer and sitting volleyball.

“Sports are not the ultimate goal,” Lee says. “Sports are just a tool for me to show the purpose God has given me. Sports aren’t the prize. God is the prize. I want to encourage athletes and coaches no matter what their level of competition and give them the opportunity to see God’s potential with them.”

Malaysia does not currently have adequate infrastructure for people with disabilities to participate in recreational and competitive sports. Lee is working diligently to promote a nationwide conversation that will engage organizations that serve that community. He is also seeking to raise at least $5,000 to cover quarterly activities including one large event each year. Consider supporting this effort and giving here.

Along with those plans, Lee seeks prayer support as he organizes two“I hope that I can be an example, a role model and an ambassador for Christ.” -Daniel Lee All Ability sports training events for each half of the year.

“The model that Daniel is setting up can be duplicated all over Southeast Asia,” Chang says. “Staff from Philippines and Malaysia are the only two countries that are serving people with disabilities in sports right now. Our long-term goal is to have staff in each Southeast Asia country specialized in All Ability sports.”

“I hope that I can be an example, a role model and an ambassador for Christ,” Lee says. “And that my testimony will encourage them and encourage the children with disabilities to see that there is hope, there are great possibilities.”


Photos courtesy of Daniel Lee