Joni and Friends Blog

Changing Lives Around the Country and Around the World!

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Hebrews 6:19

We met 9-year-old Emmanuel and his dad, William, when they came to our Wheels for the World outreach in Cuba. Emmanuel has cerebral palsy, and without a proper wheelchair, he has been unable to leave his home. But when his father learned that our Joni and Friends Texas team would be nearby, preparations were made to bring Emmanuel to our distribution site in hopes that there might just be a wheelchair for Emmanuel.

William explained that buying a wheelchair in Cuba isn’t just a luxury, it’s an “impossible dream. I must use the money I earn to feed my family.” Time after time, William was forced to make a heartbreaking decision: save money in order to eventually buy a wheelchair for his son, or spend the little money they have on food to feed his family.

It is a burden no parent should ever have to carry.

Then, when our Wheels for the World team arrived on the scene, it was a true miracle – for William and Emmanuel, as well as for countless other Cuban families buckling under the strain of poverty and disability. Through Wheels for the World, they were given new hope even in the midst of their unimaginable hardships. Finally, Emmanuel would receive the wheelchair he so desperately needed without having to go hungry.

Travel in Cuba is challenging, to say the least. Poverty prevents families from being able to afford a car. Yet William made provisions to get his son to our Wheels for the World outreach. He was willing to do whatever it might take to help Emmanuel have a brighter future! His devotion to his son and his entire family has remained strong despite the dire circumstances they face each day.

Both William and Emmanuel were exhausted from their grueling early-morning journey to the outreach site, but they greeted our mechanics and therapists with smiles that would melt anyone’s heart. And we soon learned that Emmanuel’s laugh is contagious!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them!’”

Psalm 126:2

While the mechanics were adjusting his new wheelchair, Emmanuel batted around a big green balloon, smiling and laughing with others in the room. His joy was evident! Meanwhile, As William watched his son beam with joy over his new wheelchair, tears filled William’s eyes.

“I cannot believe it! I will always remember this experience with you. Tell the people who sent this wheelchair that we are very thankful!”

William expressed how amazed he was that our Joni and Friends Texas team would come all the way to Cuba to give wheelchairs and Bibles to people they did not know.

Now that Emmanuel has his own sturdy wheelchair, he can go to school, play in the park, and go to church! And because he and his father were also given a Bible and the Joni book in Spanish, they have had a personal encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ! Indeed, they have experienced the love of Jesus through Wheels for the World, and they have now seen the true meaning of Emmanuel’s name: God is with us!

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You can show families living with disability that God is with them, too! Your gift will transform the lives of children and adults with disabilities – in Texas, in Cuba, and all over the world!