Middle East - Wheels 2013

Middle East - Wheels

Dates:  October 16 - 27
Ministry Partner:
  Joni and Friends
Ministry Focus:
  Wheelchair distribution to disabled in Middle East

We are excited to once again partner with Joni and Friends with a wheelchair distribution ministry. Again, we will show Christ's love to the disabled and their families. This team will include occupational therapists, physical therapists, and those handy with tools.

Updated Tuesday, October 29

Our Wheels for the World Jordan experience has come full circle now that we have returned to our homes, safe and sound.  Yet the ripple effects of our 12 day journey continue to spread, as we have all been impacted by the joyful unity of our group while we shared compassion with individuals and families in need...and we, in turn, were moved by their life stories and their warm receptivity when they received wheelchairs and mobility aids.  As words of hope and the story of Joni's life have been shared with those who came our way, we pray that the encouragement they received will spark a light in their lives that will outlast the chairs they received.  And our hearts have been touched by the delightful hospitality and partnership of our  hosts...their dedication and divine compassion as they serve quite selflessly has been a powerful role model and we feel privileged to have joined them for a fraction of what they do throughout the year. 

Thank you for thinking of us as our trainers had the opportunity to offer instruction on Disability Awareness with a mixed group of Christians and majority faith people!  After an eye-opening discussion of statistics re: prevalence of disabilities and an engaging brainstorming session on how to identify and meet needs locally, the group was told the final session would involve looking at the Scriptures for a divine perspective on suffering and disability....a session that was optional for whoever would like to stay.  We found that just about everyone who attended the first session stayed for the second, and we hope that there was encouragement even in the face of the challenging reality of disability.  It was heartening to meet young Jordanians who are actively reaching out to orphans and people who have a variety of disabilities, and were so glad that they came to take part in the training!  Thank you for lifting that request for us.  

There are stories of miracle chairs....the little girl who's father didn't like the custom pediatric wheelchair that the therapist selected for her since the front edge of the seat was jagged with two different lengths...but when the child was seated properly in the chair with her hips in the right place, it became evident that one leg was slightly shorter than the other, exactly fitting the two different lengths of the seat...and the one supportive strap on one of the foot rests was exactly in the right place to support her lower leg as needed...amazed, the family was all smiles as they wheeled her home in a chair that came custom-fit exactly for her!  Just ask any of us for more stories like these and we will be glad to share them. (If you are in the SoCal area and would like us to visit your group to share photos and stories, just ask and we'll find a date on the calendar!)

Each act of kindness, each encouraging smile, each adjustment of a screwdriver or a wrench, each family whose burden has been somewhat lightened through receiving mobility aids....you have helped make each of these rays of light possible.  Thank you for partnering with us - we really felt your support and your prayers.

Updated Saturday, October 26

She arrived laying horizontal in the back seat of the car, unable to sit up.  Her hair is close cut like a young boy's, her arms and legs contracted stiffly.  Her aunt and younger brother accompanied her as one of our therapists found a reclining chair in which to transport her into our distribution site.  This 33 year old woman has spent her life horizontally on a bed, unable to travel, to go to school or to contribute.. to her community...left alone each day as others go off to school or work.  She has difficulty even speaking, yet our therapist instantly recognized bright intelligence behind her sparkly brown eyes.  He told the rest of us to watch and pray as he fitted her, as we were going to see an amazing life change just from properly fitting her into a supportive chair that would allow her to sit up and to have mobility.  And by the way, her name is HOPE!

It took more than an hour to carefully assess her, find the right size chair, make adjustments, design supportive cushions and even fashion a padded table/tray for Hope.  When the chair was ready and she was gently moved into the seat, her aunt was crying, her brother was crying, and she looked around and saw the team crying.  Although she was all smiles, tears began to stream down her face.  Hope blew kisses to everyone she passed as she and her family departed.  What will this new mobility mean in her future?!  What opportunities to participate in her community will now open up for her?  What talents will be discovered or unleashed??   She took a biography with her (all recipients receive Joni's biography, those who request it receive a Bible as well), and we trust that the quality of her name that we could see shining in her eyes will be the greatest gift she has received.

After a day of rest while enjoying ancient sites yesterday, today there will be a time of training for local people interested in learning about how to reach out to people with disabilities, how to embrace and include them in communities and churches!  Remember to lift this special opportunity as we hope many will join us and gain the vision to engage with their special needs neighbors.

Updated Thursday, October 24
The days are so full of activity as we continue to meet with individuals who need mobility aids...wheelchairs, walkers or canes...and our talented therapist and mechanics and custom cushion crews are doing such a great job assessing and fitting each one.  Tears appear in the eyes of delighted recipients, their moms and dads or friends that bring them, as they experience the respectful and compassionate care.  One recipient said this is the first time that she felt that she was treated like a full person.  We have a full day of appointments and have to work efficiently to fit each one, yet we take time to hear their stories...some congenital disabilities, some degenerative conditions, some disabled from accidents, or explosions/conflict in Syria...and each one is offered a copy of our founder's biography. 

Yesterday, we were at a rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers for distribution, at the invitation of one of the princes who has such compassion for people with disabilities in this country.  We have been very warmly received, and the physiotherapists at the center enjoyed collaborating with our therapists.  We served soldiers and members of the general public there, and they were also very eager to receive the biography.  We know that your support and lifting us is opening hearts to warmly receive us everywhere we go. 

 Thank you so much for going along on this journey.  Today we are going to a new location and are eager to see the people that we will meet.  Our group continues to be healthy although a few backs have been tired.  Please lift us as you remember us.

Updated Tuesday, October 22
Saturday dawned bright and clear in this city in the Arabian Desert.  After Friday's good warm-up with 4 stations for fitting recipients with their new chairs, we were ready to hit the ground running!  It is really something to sense the affection that is growing amongst a group where some of us have just met and yet because we share the same gratitude to God and want to share His compassion with people who are in great need, we are really enjoying one another's company as we serve together. We have been asking Him to bless the hearts of those who come for chairs, their families too, and it is quite an experience to finally get to meet them face to face.  In some cases, the faces here are veiled....let me tell you about two of them:

Our partner here distributes applications and then arranges appointment days and times for people to come be fitted for chairs.  Amongst his contacts, one worker contacted a woman and her daughter that operate a society that helps people with disabilities in a dusty, forgotten village on the eastern border, a 3-4 hour drive from here.  She was skeptical that it would be worth renting a vehicle to transport 6 of the people in their care to receive a chair here...it couldn't possibly be as good a fitting as he described.  But he insisted that it would be so helpful to her people and so she and her daughter rose early to gather six people with disabilities and bring them.  They both were dressed in black from head to toe, with only their shiny brown eyes visible. but those eyes danced as they told me through an interpreter that they couldn't believe what they were seeing...it had to be 80% better than they dared to imagine from our partner's descriptions.  They watched as our therapists gently assessed each of the people from their village discerning the kind of fit and support needed for each case, and watched the mechanics and cushion-makers create adjustments and supports to meet the therapists guidelines.  The smiles and hugs were beautiful to behold.  By the time the last one was fitted, the two women were quite overcome with gratitude and pronounced blessings upon us all.  It sometimes seems as if "the person" is lost inside the black full-cover...kind of like she becomes invisible.  But I would look directly into the mom's eyes as we spoke through the interpreter....I wanted her to know that I really saw her and heard her.  Preparing to leave, she thanked me and as we reached to kiss both cheeks the customary Middle Eastern way, she actually lifted her veil so I could see her face as we kissed.  I was VERY touched by this gesture...I have never experienced this in any of my previous visits.  They had a long drive back to their village, but we are so glad that they were very happy they had made the journey.  (Perhaps some passed the time by reading the biography that each one took with them!)

Last summer I met a new friend who was helping refugees who were in desperate need of food and aid, even though she herself is also one.  She's very determined to bring the help to those who need it most, and she is quite eager and confident in her new land that is far from her home.  And today, she brought a number of disabled neighbors who needed a wheelchair and we had a very happy reunion.  She, too, was so overjoyed to see the excellent care provided for her people, both young and elderly, who received chairs.  One petite blind woman in her eighties had been paralyzed when there was an explosion in her home. She and her family left their home to seek refuge here, traveling for days to get to the border.  How rewarding to be able to bring kindness and aid instead of hurt and harm to one who had already experienced too much of the later.  Families with little ones with congenital disabilities received well-fitted chairs with good support that have some ability to be adjusted as their child grows.  

The mechanics have a well-organized tool table and they are enjoying the opportunity to put their handy skills to work fitting chairs.  Undaunted by some of the more complex adjustments that come along, it is neat to see how much they relish using their creative and ingenious trouble-shooting abilities to work in those instances. They have a" can-do" attitude and are doing a great job.  Those of us making custom cushions are also having fun with our design and upholstery tasks...it's rewarding to see them placed onto a chair and then the recipient set in place, comfortable in their new chair.

Together, we're daily lifting the unity of our group to Him, and asking for wisdom as each person comes to us so we can serve them well.  We are enjoying seeing these requests being answered every day!

Sunday morning brought a refreshing break with a time of worship and then an afternoon seeing some ancient sights....Roman, Nabatean and Byzantine structures (or what is left of structures) along dusty paths on mountain top settings...quite awe-inspiring!  Everyone is healthy, adjusting very well to the new time zone and are enjoying the local Mediterranean fare.  Thanks for remembering to lift us up!

Updated Saturday, October 19
We arrived after two smooth flights and landed with the soon-to-set sun on the horizon, one half an hour earlier than expected. All our bags arrived too and we met up with teammates from Cairo and Lebanon and the West Bank.  We checked in to the hotel and had dinner with a small team from Switzerland along with our hosts... Quite an international evening!

Our first day today was off to a great start with worship with the int'l groups including another team from S. Arabia and Qatar, all here to bring humanitarian aid. Then we went to unwrap and organize the chairs which was completely lightning fast and went so smoothly, a miracle since we needed to make up orientation since worship went over hours. Sweet time!

Then we had 6 recipients come, as an afternoon warm-up before a full day tomorrow. The first was a Syrian momma and poppa with a darling 5 yr old daughter who needed a chair. They were so grateful, and momma said now she can go to school! All 6 today were children and teens... How joyfully they wheeled around in their new chairs.

Such a great spirit among the team and the local helpers...such privilege to be here!

Updated Friday, October 18
We got word that our team arrived safely after an uneventlfy flight.  The first wheelchair distribution has already taken place, with pediatric wheelchairs.  One team member writes:  "We had a small group of recipients this afternoon as a good warm up for a full day tomorrow. All pediatric kiddos today, starting with a 5 year old Syrian girl. She was so excited to wheel around in her little black chair and mom and dad were so delighted."

Thanks for praying as our team steps into complicated lives with the love and compassion of Christ.

Updated Wednesday, October 16
Our Wheels team took off today for the Middle East.  Please pray for their ten days of compassion outreach to the disabled and their families.  Check back here for details throughout the week.  For security reasons, we will not be able to name the country, or post pictures of the team, until after they return.