Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wheels for the World

This was my first wheelchair. I purchased it while living in Alaska. It was a good chair, and it took me to many places. With this chair I was able to go shopping with Will. I was able to go to church. It took me to people's houses for visits. It took me around the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, and it took me around the Georgia Aquarium. It took me to and from the hospital when my son was born. It came with us on our 5,000 mile move from Alaska to Georgia. On the long trip it took me in and out of hotels, in and out of roadhouses, through vineyards and orchards in British Columbia, on a ride through Badlands National Park, and out to see Mount Rushmore. It has taken me to the swimming pool, and it took me to Cow Appreciation Day a couple of years ago (costume included!). I have a lot of memories of good times had because I had a wheelchair to take me and someone to push me.

Now I have a newer wheelchair that better suits my current needs. My old one was rarely used anymore. I did still use it occasionally, but I couldn't say that I truly NEEDED a second wheelchair.

I know that there is someone out there who needs my old wheelchair more than I do. I remember reading about Wheels for the World, a ministry by Joni and Friends, and I wanted to give my old wheelchair to them. They take old wheelchairs, fix them up, and bring them to individuals in foreign countries who don't have access to wheelchairs and other mobility aids. These items that we consider a necessity, they consider a luxury.

In the book, When God Weeps, one of the chapters shared about a wheelchair outreach trip to Africa. Here is an excerpt from the book that shares a little about that trip:

We westerners sat upright on benches, facing the ragtag crowd. "And now, Christian brothers and sisters," shouted the pastor, "let us give a warm welcome to our most gracious friends from America who have traveled very far to bring us wheelchairs and Bibles!" Cheers erupted; then, a welcome song. The full rich drone of African harmony twisted my heart, and tears fell freely as we listened to the disabled people applaud each other's testimonies and to the readings of Scripture. A half hour of constant praise passed easily, and then I was asked to speak.

"Thank you, friends, for welcoming us," I said as I wheeled into a clearing on the sidewalk. My JAF friend pushed a wheelchair-gift alongside of me. "God is good!" someone shouted as the first child was placed into it. Another chair, another disabled person. Hands began clapping in rhythm as a flow of crutches and wheelchairs were passed from our group to theirs. More syncopated clapping, loud and snappy. Ama bobbed her head in time, beaming a proud smile as she rubbed her stumps on the leather armrests of her chair. The teenage boys with polio started a dance in the clearing.

"Look," I said to a team member, "even the people who know there aren't enough wheelchairs to go around - they are so happy for those who get something." 
The rising moon was lightening the eastern edge of the night. As we readied to leave the slums, the Africans bid us farewell with one more song:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know, I know He holds the future;
And life is worth the living just because He lives!
Is it the neon glare? I wondered, as I squinted at their smiles. No. It was joy out of this world.

My pastor friend lit the way back to the van. As we jostled across the street, my thoughts were jumbled. So much gladness in the midst of misery. Joy, like a fresh daisy, sprouting up from manure.

"What happens to Ama when it rains? Who takes care of her?" I asked.

The glow of the flashlight gave a sheen to his smile, "God takes care of her."

Oppressive heat. People penniless. A girl with no hands, no legs to walk, no bed, and not even a fan, living on concrete. It doesn't sound like God's doing a very good job. I recall hearing something; a boy who lived in a box by the trash heap said, "You westerners are the ones we can't understand. God has given you so much, you have been so blessed...why are so many people in your country so unhappy?"

From When God Weeps, chapter one.

Just last week a man from Wheels for the World came to pick up my wheelchair. It will be fixed up and brought to someone in a foreign country who is in need of one. I am excited to have the opportunity to share my wheelchair. It has taken me many places. It has traveled from Alaska to Georgia to Kentucky, and now it will travel to a foreign country to be given to someone else. I hope that someday in heaven I will be able to meet the person who receives my wheelchair and hear how they were blessed by it. How exciting that will be! I will ask him or her to run through a garden with me or do cartwheels down the streets of gold on the new earth. We won't need our wheelchairs anymore because we will be made new! Exciting indeed!


  1. I really appreciate the last couple of your posts. A couple of things struck me. In regards to giving your old wheelchair to Joni Erikson's ministry, I was reminded of the verses on contentment: "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Tim. 6:6) "Be content with what you have for He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Heb. 13:5). That poor boy's comments on us Westerners not being happy despite all of our material wealth is quite sobering.

    The other post that challenged me is the one on your bad day recently and your willingness to accept from God's hand the lot He has granted you to bring honor and glory to Him with. My mom and I subscribe to the Women of the Harvest website and they regularly send out Picture Praise which is a verse and picture you can set as the background for your computer. The most recent one I got has the verse Is. 45:9 = Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker - An earthenware vessel among the vessels of the earth! Will the clay say to the potter, "What are you doing?" Or the thing you are making say, "He has no hands"? It's interesting that believers such as you and I can struggle with God's will for us from different perspectives, yours from a health one and mine from more of a location/church one. This has been a great reminder to me to humble myself under the mighty hand of God, succumbing to His will and purposes for me, even when I don't understand. So thanks for sharing your attitude of willingness even in the hard days when there are tears and pain. May we continue to exhort one another even more as we see the Day of the Lord approaching. (Heb. 10:25)

  2. What a precious person you are, how inspiring!
    stopping in from SITS

  3. Thank you for visiting me on my SITS day!
    Thank you for staying positive. You help so many with your attitude

  4. The story from When God Weeps brought tears to my eyes - especially this part:

    "Look," I said to a team member, "even the people who know there aren't enough wheelchairs to go around - they are so happy for those who get something."

    This moved, convicted, and encouraged me - thank you SO much for sharing this passage.

    In terms of your wheelchair, I know your generosity will bless someone in ways you can't even imagine. :) God's so good like that!

  5. What a lovely thing to do! And what a great lesson for your little guy -- giving to those who need it. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!

  6. Just visiting over from SITS! What an amazing woman you are!! To deal with your life and the things that you have to encounter make me feel humble....

    So glad to read you great blog.

  7. Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest" in your comment.

    Hello Rachel.. You are entered to win the bracelet. Love your site.. I love that you have painted toes to make you Happy! Love that..


  8. What an awesome thing to do! Happy Saturday to you! I am slowly making my way around to all the blogs that visited me when I was featured on SITS to say "Thank you". It is indeed a fabulous SITStahood.
    Be blessed!

  9. what an amazing post! I hope whoever gets your revitalized chair will be as blessed as you were with it!

  10. beautiful post! Visiting from SITS- Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest.

  11. Stopping over from SITS - Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest.

    May your generosity of spirit be richly rewarded. :-)

  12. Such a neat ministry. My mother in law is in a wheel chair. I will have to tell her about this ministry. You are a strong woman! Keep fighting...


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