International ministry helps provide wheelchairs to people in need

Monday, November 7, 2011
Wheelchair technicians work on a wheelchair in preparation for a Joni and Friends Wheels for the World distribution. (Photo courtesy of Joni and Friends/A. Larry Ross Communications)

Chances are you will need to use a wheelchair at some point in your life, even if only temporarily. If you live in America, you can easily find a wheelchair in any number of sizes, colors and styles. If you live somewhere like Romania or the Dominican Republic, it's not that simple. A wheelchair can cost an entire year's wages -- a cost so prohibitive that you might be stuck crawling or relying on others to carry you.

Wheels for the World, a ministry of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, collects, refurbishes and delivers wheelchairs and Bibles to people in developing countries. Several Southeast Missouri organizations donate wheelchairs to this ministry, offering not just mobility, but hope to the people who most need it.

Stephanie Goddard, a Gordonville photographer who coordinates collections in Southeast Missouri, says the Bible passage James 2:15-17 inspired her to work with Wheels for the World: "'Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,"' she quotes. "Basically, we want to use the equipment to reach people for Christ. How could you walk by someone crawling on the ground or see a mom carrying an adult child and say 'Jesus loves you' and not meet their needs? You and your actions might be the only Bible someone might read."

Some of Goddard's regular donors include the Lutheran Home, SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence, the Kenny Rogers Children's Center and Alliance Rehab. Manual wheelchairs as well as walkers, metal crutches and metal canes can also be dropped off at Cape Bible Chapel.

"Up until we decided to help Stephanie with the program, we were just throwing things away that could be used in a much better way. There just isn't a way for us to use those parts other than going through an organization like Wheels for the World," says Tim Underwood, business development manager at the Lutheran Home. "We felt like it was a great way to put those worn out parts that could be rejuvenated again to good use."

Goddard picks the items up from each collection center, and when her horse trailer is full, she and her husband take the equipment to the St. Louis collection site. From there, the equipment is transported to correctional facilities throughout the United States, where it is cleaned and refurbished, then transported to countries in need.

"Giving a wheelchair to a person in need (about a year's wage) makes them wonder why you would do that for them," says Goddard. "Then you are able to introduce them to God's love, because it's only through Him that the wheelchair was provided for them."

Volunteers are needed at every stage, from donations to transport to delivery. For more information about Wheels for the World and how to get involved, visit

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