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A beautiful portrait of Ellice wearing her haku lei in a grove of trees.

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month! This month we take part in the worldwide recognition of those who live with limb loss and differences. During this month, we aim to bring a fresh lens of hope and inspiration to our community to share stories of courage and raise support for this ministry that provides the direction towards living an unstoppable life.

For most amputees, limb loss isn’t a choice – generally speaking, it’s a dramatic and traumatic experience in loss. Sometimes it’s a congenital matter, but a non decision nonetheless. But for a small few, choosing to remove a limb is a choice for freedom or for life. For Ellice Armstrong, it was the latter.

The word that best describes Ellice, perhaps, is graceShe carries herself with an ease and comfort that is rare and noticeable, not for its loudness, but for the tangible peace of its presence. Yet the gentility with which she lives her life isn’t the byproduct of an easy life – her course has hardly been what people would call gentle at all. 

The Accident

In October of 2016, Ellice was in a motorcycle accident on her daily commute from work – she lost control at 50mph when a vehicle entered her lane. Causing a separation between her shoulder and her neck, her arm was instantly paralyzed. For the next three years she would wrestle with the idea of removing her arm, battling the types of thoughts that most of us will only ever attempt to imagine. 

“I finally realized that the only reason I was keeping my useless arm was because I cared too much about what people think and I thought I needed to look like a ‘normal’ person,” says Ellice. “I realized that amputating my arm reflected more of who I felt I truly was on the inside. The day of my amputation was a really happy day for me.”

Return to Faith

What does one feel like on the inside to imagine a better life without an arm, one might consider. Perhaps, or so it seems, that it is a place of acceptance – of self, of circumstance, of life, of fate itself. That wholeness comes not from the body, but from the posture of the heart. Although that’s a quality that is deeply evident in Ellice today, it wasn’t her first take. 

“I let my faith go after my accident because I was angry,” Ellice said. “I was told to have faith for [my arm] to come back and it didn’t.”

It took, it seems, a redefining revelation of what “faith” truly means to reconcile again with the goodness of God – and Ellice credits her experience at the Beautifully Flawed Retreat with much of that healing process. 

Though Ellice was aware of Bethany Hamilton through the movie Soul Surfer, it wasn’t of course until her own amputation that she really began to connect with Bethany’s story. With a natural love for skateboarding and snowboarding, Ellice had added a photo of Bethany to her vision board as a reminder that in 2021 she would learn how to surf – little did she realize at that time that she would end up learning how to surf for the very first time with Bethany herself.

“That was one of the most magical things I ever experienced in my life,” said Ellice. 

Bethany Hamilton and other surf instructors showing Beautifully Flawed attendee Ellice on the sand how to properly stand and balance on a surfboard as well as how to adapt with her arm limb difference.

According to Ellice, her initial intention in attending the retreat was to simply connect with a community that was also missing limbs. Without others to relate to as an amputee, she wrestled a sense of isolation. And although she acknowledges the immensity of love and friendship that she received at the retreat, what she really points to is a connection to the presence of God. 

“It was during Bethany’s testimony that I realized that the control she seemed to have over her life actually came from her connection to God,” says Ellice. “It was intimidating and it was beautiful. It’s what I want more than anything now. I left the retreat not wanting to let that go anymore.” 

As anyone who has “walked in faith” for long knows, it’s not an eternal season of hope or joy or comfort. In fact, more times than not it is stretching, difficult and uneasy, too. As Ellice discovers step by step the course of her life, she dreams with great, abundant grace of how to serve others and erupt the passions of her life. 

We are honored to be a witness to Ellice’s life.

Mahalo to Our Sponsors

Thank you to the following corporate sponsors who have already made direct contributions towards our upcoming retreat! We couldn’t do this without the support of:

Make Incredible Things Happen

Help further our mission and programs that support young people living with limb difference or those who’ve experienced traumatic limb loss by making a tax-deductible donation.