In Good Hands: Jeremy Kamberger’s Faith Overcomes Obstacles
Jeremy Kamberger can launch a Frisbee so far that people do a double take when he throws it. He can also hit the bullseye of an archery target more often than just about anyone. And, he’s a lifeguard. Why are these things a big deal? Jeremy Kamberger was born without hands.
“This is how God created me,” said Jeremy, who sees his condition as a positive. “It’s been neat to see how God has used me in different ways to impact others. I just go with the fact that this is how He wanted me. There are people who ask me if I would ever consider surgery to have hands and my response is always ‘no.’”
A gift from God
Jeremy believes his condition is a gift from God. He is one of ten children of John and Mary Kamberger, of Clear Lake, Iowa. Six of his nine siblings were adopted from China, and Jeremy is confident his life’s course would have taken a much worse path if he had been born with hands.
“If I did have hands, I wouldn’t have been adopted, so that’s how God worked in that situation. I’ve seen how God has used me to impact more lives without hands than if I had them.”
Most importantly, being adopted into the family of John and Mary allowed Jeremy the opportunity to hear how he could also become part of the family of God.
Jeremy came to America from China at the age of seven in 2008. His family attended Clear Lake Baptist Church when he was younger and now attends Faith Baptist Church in Mason City. Growing up in the close vicinity of Iowa Regular Baptist Camp (IRBC) and attending events there frequently, religion was a staple in his life. He heard the gospel regularly.
“I used to be a follower and just went along with what everybody else was doing,” said Jeremy. “When I was nine, my sisters were all talking about getting saved, and at the time I didn’t know what that meant. That night, I talked to my mom and dad, and they walked me through the gospel. It was the night right before they went to China again to adopt another child, so at the time, there were only four of us from China living with them. I accepted Christ that night.”
Like many Christians, Jeremy began to doubt whether or not his decision was real that night. Over the next seven years, those doubts grew stronger, especially the more often he fell short and fell into sin. One night at Senior High Camp at IRBC changed everything.
“My Senior High Camp year of 2016, one of the topics was ‘Be Sure,’ by Mark Davis (Vice President of Enrollment and Student Life at Faith Baptist Bible College). The title itself struck me. I wasn’t sure that I was going to heaven if I were to die that night. Afterward, I spoke with one of my counselors, made assurance of my salvation, and rededicated my life. Since then, I’ve been striving to live for Christ. It’s been cool to see how He’s grown me, and how He’s led me to Faith Baptist Bible College (FBBC).”
Jeremy is a sophomore at FBBC this spring. He is majoring in Pastoral Studies with an emphasis in Youth Ministry. Camp directors and camp friends have been big influences in his life, and Jeremy’s goal is to someday enter into youth ministry, either in a church setting or a camp setting. This summer he will be traveling to Gowen, Michigan, where he will serve as a counselor at Lincoln Lake. The director at Lincoln Lake, James Reynolds, is a longtime acquaintance, and Jeremy is excited to see what ministry is like in a different setting after all of his experiences at IRBC.
While he looks forward to a summer filled with new ministry experiences, Jeremy’s current focus is on finishing his sophomore year of studies on a strong note and enjoying every second with his friends on campus. He is well-liked amongst his peers and well-respected by his resident advisors and campus leaders.
“God has used Jeremy as a display of God-given endurance, willingly embracing and contently resting in God’s sovereign will,” said Joe Turman, a Men’s RA at Faith. “He loves people, and that is most passionately seen in his dedication to camp ministry.”
“Jeremy is an awesome young man who has a wonderful heart for service! He has always expressed an easygoing and fun-loving spirit,” said Charlie Carter, Assistant Dean of Men.
A new adventure
This spring, Jeremy is also focused on finishing strong in another new adventure: track and field.
Jeremy is running short-distance races in the 200-meter dash. His coach, Ryan Long, says he has been a great student-athlete to work with, has maintained a positive attitude, and has improved throughout the season. Jeremy’s most recent time was 28.83 seconds at the Grand View Invitational at Duke Williams Stadium in Des Moines on Saturday, April 10, 2021.
Why track? Jeremy says it’s because he loves being a part of a team, and he loves the challenge. He also sees it as a way to be a great testimony to competitors from other teams.
“I love fellowshipping with people I wouldn’t normally hang out with,” said Jeremy. “I don’t expect myself to get very fast, but I enjoy the challenge of it, and I’ve always worked out for fun anyway. I know that when I come out and run, everyone’s going to see me and say, ‘There’s a guy without hands running!’ But through that, I’m learning how God can use me to impact and inspire others to not let disabilities stop you from trying new things.”
Defying the odds
Trying new things has become an essential part of everyday life for Jeremy. Besides throwing a Frisbee like a pro and shooting archery better than most people who have hands, Jeremy has also learned how to fire a handgun, type on a laptop, drive a vehicle, and open doors with keys as a security guard at Faith.
Jeremy considers the accomplishment of becoming a lifeguard at IRBC as the biggest obstacle he’s ever overcome. In 2018, he was given the opportunity and went for it. “By God’s grace, He gave me strength for it, and I passed it,” said Jeremy. “It was one of those bigger moments that most of my friends didn’t think I’d be able to do.”
He says that it is not lifeguarding, but throwing a Frisbee and shooting archery that usually draw the biggest reaction amongst his peers and that it has taken a lot of practice and the right mindset to be able to do those things.
“The first time I saw that disc fly through the air at IRBC, I had to do a double take,” said fellow schoolmate Sawyer Gogerty.
“I can’t think of many things more incredible that I’ve seen than watching him pull keys out of his pockets and open doors for Security,” said Admissions Representative Jacob Kirkwood, who has overcome disabilities of his own in his journey of faith.
Accentuating the positive
While he excels at difficult things that most people with hands struggle to do, it’s the simple things that frustrate Jeremy the most. Things like tying shoes (he wears flip-flops and pull-on boots most of the time), and trying to reach for objects that he just can’t get to. Those are things that are consistent discouragements for him, but Jeremy says it’s just God’s way of teaching him humility and recognizing that he does still need people’s help every now and then. According to Jeremy, maintaining a healthy sense of humor is vital.
“I throw it upon myself to make hand jokes. I just get it out of the way as soon as I meet people.”
Jeremy’s sense of humor was on full display several weeks ago on “Fake an Injury Day” during Faith’s annual Spirit Week. Wearing a shirt with a short-armed tyrannosaurus rex that said “T-Rex hates push-ups,” Kamberger bandaged up his arms and teamed with a fellow friend, Jaeden Gerig, who wore his own t-shirt that said, “I found this humerus.” Jeremy jokes that, despite the fact he’s missing half of his own humerus bones, it hasn’t affected his sense of humor in the least.
When asked what advice he would give others who are struggling with their own disabilities and doubts, Jeremy gives simple yet foundational counsel. He says it’s all about having the right mindset and the desire to accomplish a task.
“If somebody says I can’t do something, I’m going to try to prove them wrong. It’s knocking down that mental wall and knowing that God gives you strength to do it.”
Jeremy’s words provide solid advice everyone can use no matter what the task or trial, and his perseverance and positive attitude are an inspiration for us all.