Wheels for love

By Martin Lachmann

- Amity's wheelchair distribution Part I -

Joni & Friends, an American partner of the Amity Foundation, came to China to relieve the suffering of people with disabilities and their families by distributing wheelchairs and organizing a family retreat camp. Families with special needs received care, support and encouragement from American experts and volunteers from local churches.

The story of Joni & Friends and its reach out to China

Technicians and physical therapists working together on a wheelchair

Joni and Friends is a Christian foundation that advocates disability ministries and the inclusion of people with disabilities in the church and communities. At the age of 17, Joni Eareckson Tada experienced a neck fracture in a diving accident, which left her paralyzed. For two years, Joni had undergone hardship and rehabilitation. Putting her trust in God, she responded to her destiny and started to help others in similar situations. She founded Joni and Friends International Disability Center. Today, Joni and Friends reaches out around the world to serve people with disabilities and advocates dignity and respect for them. Joni and Friends came to China in 1999 for the first time. In 2008, after the Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan Province, the cooperation with Amity started with the “Wheels for the World Project”, which distributed wheelchairs to the victims of the  earthquake. Joni and Friends run projects in China three times a year, ranging from wheelchair distribution and family retreat camps to disability ministry training for churches.

The focus lies in the capabilities of people with disabilities

In 2014, the Amity Foundation and Joni& Friends joined hands and went out to the communities in Jiangsu Province to distribute wheelchairs with the support of local Chinese churches. The team consisted of physical therapists and technicians, who adapt the wheelchairs individually for the beneficiaries, as well as social workers, translators and other specialists. “To make sure that the focus lies in the capabilities of people with disabilities, and not on the handicaps and a limitation, one of our group members is a person with impairment”, explained Brian, the leader of the group. Most participants were volunteers who contributed their annual leave to serve people with disabilities in China. The reasons for the passion to volunteer for the technicians and physical therapists working together on the wheelchairs, included the joy and valuable experience of serving in the name of Jesus and putting their faith into tangible action. “I have come to love China” and “it’s an expression of love to them”, explained Ginny, one of the social workers.

The spirit of love

One of the social workers from

Joni is chatting with a

beneficiary of the project.

“It is very nice to see how the love of Jesus is handed over through wheelchairs.” Brian stated and added, “To see how the church changes the attitude of people with disabilities shows the precious value of this work”. The vision of promoting Christian ministry in the disability communities comes along with Amity’s efforts of advocacy for people with disabilities and can be associated with the quotation of Bishop Ting, the founder of the Amity Foundation: “Christianity moves and compels people, not by its doctrines, but by the love made manifest”. This spirit was witnessed during the next weeks. Joni and Friends worked with the Amity Foundation to reach out to church communities in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province to support disability communities and their families by visiting them, distributing wheelchairs to them, and staging a family retreat camp for them.

(This article was first published in Amity Outlook Nr.8 )

Read - Amity's wheelchair distribution II- Love makes barriers blur