Joni and Friends Blog

God is a Father to the Fatherless

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

1 John 3:1

Emerson and his mother were one of the first to arrive at our recent Wheels for the World outreach in Guatemala. At 16 years old, Emerson’s growing body is almost impossible for his aging mother to lift and carry. The physical burden of having severe cerebral palsy without the luxury of a properly fitted wheelchair had become a cross too heavy to bear. Yet it paled in comparison to the emotional pain both Emerson and his mother had experienced throughout the course of their lives.

Emerson’s father was an abusive man. He routinely beat Emerson’s mother, even while she was pregnant. Emerson’s disability is attributed to his father’s physical abuse.

If being born disabled at the hand of his father wasn’t devastating enough, Emerson contracted meningitis when he was 8 days old – adding to his disability and leaving him completely paralyzed. And when his father died while Emerson was a baby, the physical abuse ended, but his mother was left to care for her dear son and his older sister alone.

Emerson’s mother loves her son dearly, but that doesn’t make caring for him 24 hours a day any easier.

At 16 he still wears diapers and will for the rest of his life. And though Emerson is paralyzed, the flailing, spastic movements caused by his cerebral palsy make it extremely challenging to keep him safe. In fact, the old, broken wheelchair that Emerson had been using never fit him properly and never had any safety features. When Emerson experienced a spastic episode, he would often fall out of his wheelchair or knock himself over – wheelchair and all.

Life was growing increasingly difficult for Emerson, his sister, and their widowed mother. Can you even begin to imagine how depressing life had become for this family after so much heartbreak and trauma? The rejection and isolation they felt, not to mention the tragic memories of their father’s abuse and the abandonment of any dreams for the future… it’s a wonder Emerson’s mother found the strength to get up and face each new day. Or how about the guilt and shame she must have experienced, knowing that Emerson’s disability was preventable?

The hopelessness and despair that shadowed their daily existence trapped them under a blanket of darkness.

Emerson’s bleak existence mirrors the same outlook experienced by thousands upon thousands of families caring for a child with disability. In every age group and every culture, they are desperate for real answers and everlasting hope. They need the Gospel—the Word of Jesus—and practical help, too!

As much as Emerson’s mother loves him, there was only so much she could do to provide for his needs. Selling clothes on the roadside barely brings in enough money for food, never mind a properly fitted wheelchair. What we take for granted as a necessity was out of the question for them. And so each day looked like all the others before… with Emerson falling out of his broken-down wheelchair or even worse, knocking himself over with his broken wheelchair landing on top of him.

It seemed that things would never improve for Emerson or his mother. Would they ever know what the love of a father is supposed to look like? Would they ever come to experience the protection and provision of their heavenly Father? Their spiritual needs required attention, too. They needed Jesus. They needed a Bible!

Emerson and his mother needed to learn about God’s promises from his Word, showing them that hope is not found in temporary things but only in Jesus. And that the love of God our Father is faithful and true.

“Here are the words of Jesus, who is the Amen. What he speaks is faithful and true.”

Revelation 3:14

Worn out and weary from the day-to-day demands of living under the strain of disability and poverty, Emerson and his mother arrived at our Wheels for the World outreach with the hope of receiving a wheelchair, and they did. But they also received an even greater gift that day—the Bible in their own language! The hope of Jesus became accessible to Emerson and his whole family!

Our Wheels for the World volunteer physical therapists carefully assessed Emerson’s needs and tenderly fit him into his very own wheelchair – complete with all the safety features he so desperately needed. And as our therapists became the hands and feet of Christ, the promises of Jesus from his Word became real to Emerson and his dear mother!

When Emerson’s mother saw her precious son in his new wheelchair, she was ecstatic! Emerson received his very first harness, keeping him safe and secure in his new properly fitted wheelchair, and guaranteeing he would never fall out of his wheelchair again! And the smile on Emerson’s face said it all… “Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning!” (Psalm 30:5)

Emerson and his mother endured year upon year of weeping and desperation, but in the blink of an eye, their weeping was transformed into joyful praise.

And now that Emerson has a safe, sturdy wheelchair, the youth group leaders from his local church have promised to pick him up and bring him to church where he can learn more about the love of Jesus!

But Emerson wasn’t the only one who learned about Jesus that day. There were 24 people who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior that day! There are now 24 new members in the body of Christ – 24 more hearts transformed by our Father’s never-ending love!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

1John 3:1

The seeds of God’s word and truth were planted in the hearts of everyone in that tiny village that day. The visible Gospel came to life right in front of their very eyes through every wheelchair and Bible!

Families who struggle daily with disability need to know Jesus and need to find hope in his Word! They need Bibles and they need God’s promises to take root in their hearts today! They need to know that God is a good, good Father!

When we deliver tangible help and share the salvation message with children and adults living with disability through his Word, it’s not just “Good News” – it’s the best news ever!

Would you let the Lord Jesus work through you to send Bibles and wheelchairs to lost and broken people worldwide? Will you send your generous gift today so that more and more widows and orphans will know what the love, protection and provision of our Abba Father looks and feels like? You can turn their weeping into joyful laughter that brings great praise to the Lord!

Thank you for giving the greatest gift of all—the Word of God!

–Joni Eareckson Tada

You Can Support Joni and Friends!

Today, you can partner with us and come alongside families living with disability! Your prayers and support make a monumental difference in the lives of many – now and for all eternity! 

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