Wheels to the DR

  • July 25, 2011
  • #7626

Joni shares about the need for pediatric wheelchairs at a recent Wheels for the World outreach in the Dominican Republic.

We’ve taken wheelchairs to many countries, but not like this one!

Hi, I'm Joni Eareckson Tada and as I always say ‘Thank you for spending these few minutes here with me on “Joni and Friends.’” I always love it when I can share an encouraging story or a scripture, something that’ll bless you, and today is no exception. Like I just said, we’ve met lots of people with disabilities when we take wheelchairs overseas, but when we went to the Dominican Republic earlier this year, I tell you it was like nothing we’d ever seen.

You’ve heard me say that infants with disabilities don’t often survive in developing nations – when a child is born with a disability, sometimes it’s viewed as a curse, or a hex, or a bad omen. So before the child even has a chance at life, he is often allowed to starve to death… but not so in the Dominican Republic. We were overwhelmed at the number of disabled children. In fact, we totally ran out of our pediatric wheelchairs before we were halfway through our wheelchair outreach. Why so many kids with disabilities? Well, the Dominican Republic is one of six countries in the world that has strong pro-life legislation… you can’t get a legal abortion. And secondly, Latinos love their kids, even with a disability. So while, yes, it’s exciting to see so many children with disabilities… it’s heartbreaking to see how their little bodies are so twisted and stiff, rigid and deformed. With so many disabled children and with so few social services in the Dominican Republic… these agencies simply can’t handle the incredible number of children who need physical therapy and other support services. The result? Yes, these kids survive – praise the Lord, but they often lie in bed all day in one position; their parents know nothing about the importance of repositioning their child… of the need for physical therapy or range-of-motion exercises. And so these kids languish and, over time, their little frames become so stiff and spastic.

That’s why I want to take my hat off to our incredible Wheels for the World physical therapists who labored in the Dominican Republic with us. They spent hours – I mean hours -- trying to adjust each pediatric wheelchair to fit every child – it meant putting together special trunk supports and leg lifts and head rests and chest harnesses. We hand-fit 171 wheelchairs and over 50% of them were children… children whose disabilities were incredibly severe. So – you know what – the next time we go back to the Dominican Republic, hey we’re taking lots more pediatric wheelchairs! Oh, and one more thing, I want you to know that there were over 155 parents and children who said “Yes” to the salvation message of  Jesus Christ – is that great or what! 

So please pray for the disabled children of the Dominican Republic, would you? They are in a very unique and different situation. And pray for our Wheels for the World team delivering wheelchairs and Bibles in Uganda this week. And if you know someone with a disability, maybe the parent of a special needs child, I have a special booklet called “God's Word on Disability” that I’d like to give you – a copy of it in Spanish, too (in case you know someone going to the Dominican Republic). This little booklet has plenty of encouragement and helpful hints for anyone with any kind of limitations, and you can get your copy by heading over to my radio page at joniandfriends.org. And while you’re there, take a look at all the Wheels for the World trips we’ve got scheduled for the next 12 months – and hey think about serving with us would you? For the sake of Christ and for the sake of kids with disabilities!

© Joni and Friends

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