MIDDLE EAST - WHEELS
Dates: September 17 - 28
This GO Team will partner with Joni and Friends, a wheelchair distribution ministry. This unique outreach shows
Christ’s love in a tangible way to the disabled and their families.
Updated Tuesday, September 30
The team arrived home safely on Sunday night, excited at what they saw the Lord do in their compassion outreach. Enjoy this final e-mail report from Monique, and consider yourself invited to their GO Team Celebration on Sunday October 26 at 12:15 in the F Mod. Thanks for your prayers - time to celebrate!
How can 346 wheelchairs equal over 1000 people who
experienced living, breathing compassion? Each person who received a
chair last week came with at least one friend, pastor or care-giver. Most
of the children came with one or both parents and a sibling or two or three,
and adults came with the assistance of their family members, too, often two to
four. One family brought a young man (twenty-something) who only a month
ago was fully mobile and healthy, until the day he fell off of a three story
building suffering a spinal chord injury that rendered him a paraplegic - he
and his family are still coming to terms with their new "normal" and
our therapists spent close to three hours assisting the young man and his
family, finding just the right chair (one of those complicated chairs that our
therapists wondered if there would ever be anyone who could use it - and it was
made for him!), adjusting it and educating his family about seating him and
using the chair. This young man's life changed last month in a devastating way,
and he was treated at a hospital and sent home a week later with only a neck
brace. This month we had the privilege of serving him with a quality
assessment and seating, and a lot of loving care...and we pray that it is just
the beginning of them finding hope through compassion in the midst of their
Friday evening after the last day of our wheelchair
distribution, we had the honor of hosting a number of Iraqi families at our
evening meal...about 50 people who had arrived in JDN after being expelled from
their homes in Mosul the previous month...arriving here with very
little...their homes, businesses, bank accounts, jewelry, everything had been
confiscated when they fled to find safe refuge. We listened to their
stories, tearful at times, as translators relayed the details. Our hosts
prepared bags of food and personal care products that each family was able to
take home after the meal that we shared. When we departed our home, our
global outreach pastor said "we're sending you into the headlines"
and it was a privilege to be in the presence of the very ones we have seen on
the news...these who have given up so much to remain in the faith of their
forefathers. Even though the majority are traditional rather than in
vibrant personal relationship with Him, we had the joy of pointing them towards
the encouragement and hope found in the Master.
After Saturday's rest and sightseeing (some visited
spectacular Petra and others visited Mount Nebo (for the view that Moses saw of
the Promised Land) and Madeba before visiting the home of one of the Iraqi
Christian families to bring aid and to hear their story. The last sunset
of our last full day came all too soon, and goodbyes were on the
horizon...difficult to part after bonding so well the past week. Flights
home on Sunday went smoothly, even though we were routed through Chicago for
our connecting flights to various US locations...all flights were on time (or
only slightly delayed) according to schedule...whew!!
We have returned home with a heart full of thankfulness, and
a lot of stories and experience to process and to share. We were given an
extreme privilege to use abilities, training and gifts in service of people who
are not accustomed to the kind of gentle care that the Master. Join us in
praying that the fruits of our time there will be bountiful in those we served
as well as in our own walk with Him.
Thank you for your encouragement, support and prayers and
for joining us vicariously through our updates on this journey. The
stories you have read are just some of the highlights....we hope to
be able to share more with you in person!
and the Jordan Wheels Team
Updated Friday, September 26
E-mail from Monique
Marhaba...Hello! Another full distribution day...and what a day it was! Many families carried in their young children to be fitted for chairs. To accommodate growth, pediatric chairs often have a myriad of adjustment possibilities and can take longer to fit to each child's specifications....some took over two hours, leaving lots of time for conversations prompted by asking questions to get acquainted with each family or by sharing Joni's book with them. With our stations filled and bustling, there was a lot of collaborative efforts and sometimes even family members picked up a wrench to join in the effort. Since they are the ones who will maintain the chairs, our therapists say they welcome the chance to guide handy family members on some of the adjustments over and above the general- use instruction each one is given.
Even with many complicated fittings, our fabulous team was able to seat a record number of 73 people today! Wowee! The energy and joy in our distribution place was evident, with impromptu songs sometimes wafting through the hallway.
Again this year there have been people from locations around the world volunteering in this compassion effort...people from Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Australia, Croatia, W. Bank, Lebanon, South Africa and the US have been enjoying a wonderful unity that has been a joy to experience. We are getting to live out the psalmists words in ps. 133 here!
Fatigue after long days is present, but somehow we are overcoming it...we can feel your requests on our behalf being answered.
It is midnight so I must close and get to bed. Even at this late hour, there are a few bursts of fireworks outside our windows...a local way to celebrate weddings or other special events....how fun is that?!
Updated Thursday, September 25
E-mail from Monique
We have a creative photographer, Susan, capturing images this trip that will remind us of our amazing days here and the people we've had the privilege to meet. (I wish I could share more with you, but to protect their privacy, we'll wait and share photos when we are back home.) Susan has an additional photographic service she's providing this year: she brought along a small, instant printer and is printing a photo taken of each recipient once their fitting is complete...taken with their family members/friends that brought them along with the therapist and mechanic who served them so that they can remember our time together, as well. There have been some very wonderful reactions to this photographic gift....Susan writes:
"We had such an amazing day...it brought tears to our eyes. The pictures given out from that little printer brought smiles from ear to ear, especially to those who have lost everything. We forget that everything can be taken away as long the family is safe; one can start over again. I look at each family before we see them and they have sadness in their eyes; and when they leave they have a glimmer of hope shinning through them. We all need to put a new perspective in our lives; nothing can take the place of precious friends and family."
We realized that for some who have become displaced from their homes in surrounding countries, this might be the only photo they have with them of their family (other than some they may have saved on a mobile phone). Family photo albums probably didn't make the journey with them to this place of refuge. They receive this parting memento with smiles and wonder. (One older gentleman saw his image in the photo and then patted his head, realizing the change in his hairline since he last saw himself in a photo!)
Celeste, one of our therapists, received a hand-written note from a woman who brought some friends who needed wheelchairs (she was completely covered in black, head-to-toe, with only a slit for her eyes). On the piece of paper, she had written "You are a nation of blessing." She warmed our hearts with her words, yet we hope she will discover that our citizenship is not merely of this earth. We're asking father to let the music of our lives point her to find the words of lasting hope and blessing for herself.
Thanks for remembering us...Marina was back serving with us all day, feeling well.
Yawn....it's been another good day and it's time to get some rest. Mas salameh, with peace...
Updated Wednesday, September 24
E-mail from Monique
We enjoyed some lovely vistas of olive orchards and
pine-covered rolling hills on our way north to a new rehab center for today's
wheelchair distribution. Setting up quickly while recipients waited in
this bright lobby, our efficient team got up and running in no time, beginning
to serve families with recipients of all ages. Although a center for wounded
soldiers, we also had members of the community in addition to those who had
served in the military. Once operational, we fitted people with their
chairs for over three hours straight, non-stop. The harmony and cooperative
efforts of our team is a wonderful thing to see and experience. 41
people went home with a refurbished wheelchair and a copy of Joni's story, a
story of hope in the midst of brokenness.
We talk about being flexible, when unexpected occurrences
pop up and when we find ourselves in unfamiliar places, flexible like Gumby...a
fun way to remind ourselves to joyfully roll with whatever comes our way.
Today, our Gumby found a chair that was his favorite (but he was willing to
give it up for someone who actually needs it)!
We were down one team member today who rested with GI
illness, but she felt on the mend this evening after a day of rest.
Please remember Marina...we hope she will feel much improved in the
morning. As we all rest tonight, may we experience refreshment and good
health so we can function to our max as we serve more people with disabilities
and their families tomorrow.
All is well here, and we're very thankful for
this opportunity to be right where we are meant to be.
Updated Tuesday, September 23
E-mail from Monique
There is something about the time in the Mid East - it
appears to fly by at a faster rate or has the ability to pack in many things in
less time and before you know it, it is lunch time at 1:30 PM (which is
considerably early for this culture that often has lunch at 2:30 - 3 PM) yet
only feels as if it is about 11 AM. Perhaps it is the hustle and bustle
of multiple custom-fitting stations with therapists assessing each person who
needs a wheelchair, mechanics personalizing the corresponding chair for each
recipient, or the foam cutting and vinyl-upholstering of custom made support
cushions or the whir of a jig saw and sander fabricating transfer boards or
wheelchair table/trays. By the dusk at the end of our day, we were
dragging with a good kind of "fatigue" after some very meaningful
interactions with the people who crossed our threshold.
Today, we welcomed two middle-aged brothers who brought
their father to receive a chair. Their family had to flee their home in
N. Ir@q weeks ago when people of our faith received ultimatums and forced
expulsion. They sought shelter in a nearby town until the Kurd*sh
f*ghters protecting the city said they had to withdraw and could no longer
protect them so they had to seek shelter outside of their own country...finding
themselves trying to survive here with an uncertain future. They've
experienced such loss yet are so devoted to the master and are trusting their
lives to him. They appeared to warmly welcome the opportunity to share
their story with brethren who were gentle and caring, after having experienced
brutality. As their father received a wheelchair (and a walker to help
him regain some mobility), they seemed so encouraged by kindness. We are
humbled to meet people who have been living in the gripping headlines recently,
and to have the opportunity to bring gentleness and help into their lives.
We also had a reunion with a woman who had come last year,
bringing people with disabilities from her village near the Ir@q border to
receive wheelchairs...she and her lovely daughter brought six more people this
year. They have a society that cares for their neighbors in need,
year-round. Both women were completely covered in black, including
a full veil over their faces, and yet their eyes danced as we recognized each
other, embracing, and as they watched their neighbors being served.
Our therapists are serving with skill and with heart.
As Celeste ordered a cushion designed to be a back support on a woman's
wheelchair, she seemed to choke up as she said "this lady was beaten on
her back, and now lives with pain as well as the loss of mobility."
Another family brought their grandmother, 101 years of age, and she was
so jovial about posing for a photo in the embrace of her therapist after her
fitting was complete. Some assessments and adjustments can be completed
in under 1/2 an hour, but we had a number of complex seating situations that
required close to two hours to complete. (Our local volunteers take time
to talk while families are waiting, offering Joni's bio and sharing snacks and
drinks with them.) Please ask the father to guide our therapists and mechanics
as they are making hundreds of decisions each day to carefully seat each
recipient with excellence....it is tiring work.
We continue to enjoy serving side-by side along with our
local hosts and volunteers. We appreciate their translation as well as
their help with learning about the Middle Eastern culture.
Looking forward to more connections and conversations
Updated Monday, September 22
E-mail from Monique
We had the privilege of meeting families and individuals
with mobility challenges, including local and also Syr*an people. While
wanting to be efficient (as we hope to seat close to 300 chairs this week) our
hosts encouraged us not to rush people through the seating process but feel
free to take time to interact, with the help of our interpreters. Whether listening to the heartbreaking stories of injury during the civil
conflict in Syr*a, gently assessing the curvature of a spine for a
custom-designed support cushion, or playing cars and eliciting giggles from a
shy young boy laying on a mat awaiting his new chair, or demonstrating
therapeutic exercises to a young mom who wants to help her son, we were amazed
how many people received wheelchairs on Saturday without ever feeling rushed.
Conversations about struggles, followed by words of hope and encouragement
happened naturally throughout the day as our team took time with each one who
came through our door. "Look at how these people love us" said
one amazed woman to one of our translators...and others made similar comments
with wonder that people who live in other parts of the world would care enough
to come and offer them assistance. Some are shy and fearful when they
first arrive, uncertain of what to expect, and they leave with broad
smiles. What a privilege to be here! What joy we are experiencing as we
serve together, a joy that is not depleted by sharing but rather, multiplied!
On Sunday, after a morning gathering with local brethren for
praises and teaching, we enjoyed scrumptious Mediterranean "fast
food" before a hike through ancient
ruins on a hilltop with spectacular views of the surrounding
We had two under the weather today who remained in their
rooms to rest, but I am glad to say that both were up and able to join us for
dinner tonight. We trust all will be up to another full day of fittings
tomorrow. Thanks again for remembering us to father.
Updated Saturday, September 20
E-mail from Monique
Greetings from our new distribution site, a vocational
training auto shop that was eagerly cleaned and set up by our volunteers for
receiving our wheelchair recipients. Former car bays are now serving as
custom-fitting stations for a different kind of "wheels!"
After unwrapping the wheelchairs and preparing the site and setting up the
mechanic's tools and cushion-making center, we received our first 17
One gentleman, a civic leader (sheik) could not contain his
gratefulness as he watched others being fitted to their chairs, even before he
received his, repeatedly proclaiming "God sent you to grace us with the
gift of these chairs!" He looked through the biography of Joni,
flipping to the page where she wrote of her questioning why heaven had allowed
her to become disabled, and he said he has asked the exact same question.
Joseph's encouraging words about heaven's care brought a light to his
A tiny brown-haired girl with curls came with her adoring
father to receive her little pediatric chair. During her assessment, Sara
(one of our therapists) noted her serious little face and said, "I don't
think she will ever smile." A number of attempts to cheer her
couldn't budge a smile, but after she was placed in her new chair and was able
to propel herself forward...she headed to the door! Joseph greeted her
there and said that when you receive a gift, you say "thank
you...shokran." She turned and headed back to Sara's station and
gave her a hug, saying "thank you!" and broke into a shy smile!
Those of us who saw her, beamed with joy, her proud father did, too!
It is such a privilege to serve men, women and children with
a mobility gift that will be a daily reminder that heaven cares about their
Today, Gene, Sara and David will be involved in a Disability
Training for community volunteers (including some from local fell*wships),
providing practical training on ways they can reach out to serve and include
people with disabilities in their communities. We want to encourage those
who have the compassion to do this but just need to know the tools to adapt and
provide practical assistance to those who have disabling challenges.
Thanks for remembering us! Our group had a good
night's rest and looking forward to a full day.
Updated Thursday, September 18
E-mail from Monique
Ahalan...Greetings from the Middle East!
This is our first update from our destination...we arrived a
few minutes ahead of schedule after a very smooth and uneventful flight, and
all our luggage arrived with us. Thank you for remembering us to the
father regarding our travels to get here. We are always thankful when our
bags arrive with us because we've got supplies packed in with our belongings to
be shared with the people we will meet. Our mechanics have a lot of metal
tools with them, and we found favor as we passed through customs with only 3
bags going through screening and the rest being waved on through...very smooth.
After checking in to our guest house and enjoying a warm
dinner, we are now turning in for a good night's rest before the morning's
orientation and preparation for serving people with disabilities. We will
also be unwrapping the shrink-wrapped wheelchairs in the morning and setting up
stations for tomorrow afternoon's 'warm-up' distribution that will serve our
first 15-25 people. There is a lot of anticipation and excitement among
us as we look forward to meeting those whom we have been lifting to the father
long before ever seeing them in person.
We are so thankful for your encouragement that has helped
get us here. Thank you for being a part of our journey of compassion.
Updated Wednesday, September 17
Our Wheels team headed out to the Middle East this morning, the nine SoCal members to be joined along the way by 8 more, making this one of the larger Wheels teams we have ever sent. They are heading into a part of the world that badly needs the compassion of Christ - pray for hearts to be open to these gestures of love, and to the truth that inspires them!