Joni and Friends Blog

Jesus Speaks Through Wheelchairs

“If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

James 2:16

Jesus sees a child with a disability – forgotten and immobile on the cold, dirt floor of a back bedroom – and he says, “This moves me. I am filled with compassion. I will do something about this.”

When he hears the desperation of that little child’s mother, begging him to intervene and show himself strong on behalf of their family, Jesus says, “I hear you, I care about you, and I am going to do something to meet your needs.”

Jesus speaks to us through the Word of God, and through Wheels for the World, Jesus speaks through wheelchairs – delivering tangible expressions of God’s love. For that little child left alone in the dirt, a wheelchair is hope they can touch.

A wheelchair tells that disabled child, as well as her mother, family and entire community, that Jesus Christ is real.

COVID-19 has not stopped 70 million people worldwide from needing a wheelchair, and it has not stopped the power of God working through Joni and Friends.

Two-year-old Valentina suffers every day from spina bifida, hydrocephalus, scoliosis, and multiple other disabilities. The extreme poverty and relentless demands of disability that she and her family face living in Peru have been magnified beyond belief during COVID-19. Peru has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world, and the most marginalized – children impacted by disabilities like little Valentina – face the greatest threat.

Valentina’s mother, Sandra, tends to her daughter’s non-stop care – including constant trips to the hospital, changing Valentina’s catheter every four hours and caring for Valentina’s three siblings; one being her 10-month-old baby brother. Sandra gets no help whatsoever.

“I have knocked on many doors for a long time requesting a wheelchair for my daughter, and none of them opened,” Sandra cried. She has even been forced to use an old chair made of cloth at times – a chair that damaged Valentina’s fragile spine even more.

But disability is not the only hardship that Sandra, Valentina and their family must overcome. Getting enough to eat has become their primary need during the pandemic.

In Peru, “people fear hunger more than COVID-19.” When a mother’s focus has to be on finding food for her children, the dream of a wheelchair is all but lost forever.

As badly as Valentina needed a wheelchair, she needed her next meal more.

Sandra could hardly speak because she was crying so hard, but she choked out these heartbreaking words, “I stopped asking God for help.” Her children were being crushed under the strains of poverty, disability, and starvation. And Sandra stopped believing that God cared.

But Valentina’s new, custom-fitted wheelchair allows her to leave that little bedroom – to be part of her family and be by her mother’s side all throughout the day.

“Thanks be to God!” declared Sandra with new-found hope. “This wheelchair is going to help a lot! Now I can keep Valentina close to me!” That new-found hope and joy came not only from Valentina’s new wheelchair, but from receiving the Gospel, and from receiving medical care and much needed food for the whole family.

Jesus restores dignity.

Valentina’s pediatric wheelchair lifted her frail little body up out of the dirt and into a seat of dignity where she can finally be seen as the child of God that she is, because Jesus restores dignity. He also restores community, and as Sandra explained, “This made us to be more united.” Valentina – and her wheelchair – changed their whole family. And now, each time they look at her beautiful new wheelchair, they are reminded, “Jesus answers prayers!”

Families living with disabilities often ask us, “Why do you come so far to love us and present us with the gift of a wheelchair when our own people shun us?” And we tell them, “We come because Jesus sent us. He heard you crying, and he sent us to wipe your tears.”

But here’s the thing… there’s not a Wheels for the World outreach where we don’t end up having to turn people away because we run out of wheelchairs. It’s heartbreaking, to say the least.

And the bottom line is, you can ensure that never happens again.

Will you let the cries of these destitute children move your heart? Will you partner with us and do something about their physical needs as we’re told to do in James 2:16?

Your gift of $220 to send a pediatric wheelchair, $345 to add medical care, food and hygiene supplies for a month, or $1,500 to support a family impacted by disability and poverty for an entire year, will transform lives now and for all of eternity – letting them know that God is real, and giving them eternal peace that lasts. 

Photo of Valentina in a new pediatric wheelchair

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Thank you for giving the gift of mobility and renewed hope in Jesus!

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