Love makes barriers blur

By Martin Lachmann

- Wheelchair distribution in Jiangsu Part II - (for Part I click here)

In the early morning, our group decamped on a two hours ride from Nanjing to Yangzhou, where we met with our local partner the Emanuel church congregation, to distribute wheelchairs for disabled people.

Joni and Friends on the way to Yangzhou

Group photo in St. Emanuel Church

The history of Christians in Yangzhou is a story of ups and downs. The Christian community in Yangzhou has always been large since the founder of the China Inland Mission, the missionary Hudson Taylor, opened a mission station in 1868. In August of the same year the ‘Yangzhou riot’ broke out where the local gentry of the city opposed against the presence of the foreigners. During the boxer rebellion in the 19th century the Christian community of Yangzhou suffered persecution and many dead. Despite the difficulties in the beginning, the Emanuel Church was built in 1906, within a complex of school buildings when missionaries founded a middle school. In 1958, with the beginning of the Great Leap Forward, the church had to be closed and the complex of buildings became a university campus. Although the church building still belonged to the congregation, the church could not be used because of a regulation that does not allow church services on university campuses. When the university moved to the outskirts of the city in 2013, the Emanuel Church became a vivid place for worshiping and church related activities again. The popularity of people remains high and recently a second building has been opened so that church visitors are able to attend the usual overcrowded worship service on TV-screens.

Next to the church we occupied a small building where the wheel chairs were stored and where they were distributed during the day.  When the technicians displayed their tools and the first wheelchairs were unpacked, the first beneficiaries came in sight walking towards our building. They were warmly welcomed to enter by the Chinese pastor Ming Hua and Kou Wei Wei.

Beneficaries on cruches walking towards the church

The Chinese pastor and Amity staff welcoming them

The church congregation provided in advance a list of needy people of the community. After the translators of our group interviewed them, they were consigned to the care of the physical therapists. When the special need of the person was examined, a walker or wheelchair was individually adapted, in consultation between the therapists and the technicians.

Volunteers and technicans are examining the needs of the disabled people

In the end, the beneficiaries additionally received a Bible and Joni’s book - two books to encourage them and to lead them on their future way of life.

Wheelchairs are adapted individually regarding special needs

The Joni’s book is handed out

Xu Yao Huan arrived on the backseat of a three-wheeled motorcycle with his parents. It took him about three minutes to cover the five meters from the motorcycle into the building. He was walking on crutches and he was shaking all over his body when he walked towards the door. It was exhausting work for him to move, and so for his elderly parents, who additionally had to uphold him when he was walking on his crutches. When we asked the mother about a long scarf on his chin she told us that Huan has stumbled and has fallen at home for several times. One of his downfalls caused the scarf. Huan is suffering from Cerebral Palsy (PC). Before, Huan had an old wheelchair from Taiwan but this one has been broken for more than one year and the family is too poor to buy a new wheelchair. Whenever Huan has to move a longer distance, the father had to carry him. In the winter it happens that the water pipes are freezing and the father or his 21 year old brother has to carry Huan to the public bathhouse to give him a wash. The lack of Huan’s mobility gave a huge burden to his whole family. The young man’s mood was obviously affected by this situation and he also had to bear a heavy load. When the new tailored wheelchair was prepared and Huan took place, he was like exchanged. The shaking of his body ceased and after a short time Huan got more and more used to the new and comfortable condition. The tension in his face changed into astonishment and ten minutes later he could no longer be hold. Huan rode on his own on the wheelchair through the room and didn’t want to stop doing so.

Yao Huan before and after he 

received the wheelchair

If a person had told me two hours before, that this young man, shaking all over his body, would ride a wheelchair on his own, I would not have believed that. When Huan, pushed by his father on the wheelchair were jointly leaving the room, their laughing faces reflected the hope for a better future and a bit more freedom in their life.

The family is waving us good-bye

In the afternoon, a man carried a young woman into the room. Her name was Miao Qi Yue, a 23 year old woman who suffers from Cerebral Palsy (PC) since her birth. At home, Qi Yue was sitting in a wheelchair much too wide for her body. Over the years, her whole body tensed up due to her condition. Her legs were crossed and body was twisted when her grandfather carried her in. It took many efforts and hours of massaging for her grandfather to turn her body parts into a right position.

After several hours Yue

 started to relax

After examining her body-measures, it took the technicians about three hours to adapt a bespoke wheelchair for Qi Yue. During the time, Kou Wei Wei constantly encouraged Qi Yue with delicate compliments. Bit by bit Qi Yue’s body relaxed and she opened up. Her grandmother shared the family’s story with us. For three years Qi Yue’s parents spent a lot of money for her cure without success. Then her mum could not carry the burden anymore and ran away. After her father remarried, Qi Yue was without parents and her grandmother took care of her. She was also the person who taught Qi Yue the gospels. After she became a Christian, she started to write a blog and tell her story on the internet. “She loves singing gospels”, her grandmother told us. “Qi Yue’s grandfather, a former party member, never went to church before. However, one year ago he had a difficult surgery. He prayed and he survived” the grandmother explained. “Now, he even goes to church with us”.  During the waiting hours, her grandfather sat patiently close to his granddaughter. After a while, he took Joni’s book and started to browse it.

The atmosphere on this day made barriers blur

When Qi Yue tried her new wheelchair, she said she feels very comfortable. At this time we could not believe we were talking to the same person we met three hours before. The shy young women, who hide her face from us, was sitting almost upright in her brand-new wheelchair and steadily smiled, so did her grandparents. When Qi Yue’s openly smiled at us it was nothing, but marvelous. 

Qi Yue’s smile made our day

On this day something remarkable happened. In this small outbuilding of the Emanuel Church in Yangzhou, little miracles happened. Tears changed into laughter, shyness and shame into pride, happiness and hope.

We were amazed how

much can be achived in such a

short timeframe

Even physical conditions seemed to change in such a short period of time, which I never imagined to be possible. It wasn’t solely the physical relief the people received, but rather the feeling that there is someone who cares about their fate and show affection to them. The whole team did a great job in doing so and soon the atmosphere of the tiny room changed into an atmosphere of joy, both for the beneficiaries and our team. The warmth allows the barriers to blur, and soon we were all beneficiaries of this unique situation.




- Wheelchair distribution in Jiangsu Part I-

Wheels for Love