From a Wheelbarrow to a Wheelchair

From a Wheelbarrow to a Wheelchair

As a photojournalist for Joni and Friends, I have the privilege to see firsthand the life-transforming work that Jesus is doing all around the world. Along with many joyous moments, I’ve also seen hopelessness and devastation that families living with disability experience in developing nations. In February, a small team of us traveled to Haiti, a truly dark place overrun with political turmoil and poverty. (gunshot) I went to collect stories with our Joni and Friends videographer, Matt, and our photographer, Chris, along with other staff and volunteers. Over the years, I’ve collected many heart-wrenching stories of children, adults and families living with disability. These stories have emboldened me and humbled me, and their memories I’ll forever hold close to my heart. One of these stories is of Josleen, whose mother brought her to our Wheels for the World Haiti Outreach in a wheelbarrow. My first thought when I saw this precious girl was, wheelbarrows are made for transporting dirt, not people. You could see that Josleen’s family had done their best to make this wheelbarrow comfortable for her, but she desperately needed a wheelchair. When I came closer to Josleen, I could see that she was wearing her Sunday best, this fancy purple dress, as she waited with her mom for her wheelchair. Instantly I could see that she had not had a bath for some time, and as I bent down to her level to touch her sweet face, I noticed the flies buzzing around her and a strong odor. Josleen is 16 years old, but is so thin and frail. Afterwards we took Josleen and her mom inside the church to get fitted for her wheelchair. Something had happened with the fans inside and the air conditioning stopped working. While the mechanics worked on her wheelchair, I sat on the ground beside her, fanned her with a sheet of paper to get some air for her, and I prayed for her and sang “Jesus Loves Me”. It was the least I could do to bring her some relief from the heat and also a comforting presence, something she probably never had experienced from a stranger before. Disabled people in countries like Haiti, are not used to being interacted with, touched, spoken to, or even looked at. They’re typically ignored and neglected. So any simple human interaction, such as a gentle touch, eye contact, or a smile, really goes a long way. When her wheelchair was ready, the team of mechanics and physical therapists carefully lifted her out of her wheelbarrow and placed her for the first time in a seat of dignity. A Haitian pastor came over the Josleen and her family to give them a Bible in their language. And the best part, he shared the Gospel with them for the first time. Josleen was able to hear and know that Jesus loves her and created her for a purpose, and her mother was able to hear those comforting words from Psalm 139, that her daughter is fearfully and wonderfully made. You may not ever have the chance to meet someone like Josleen, but as someone who’s seen Jesus work and move in the most hopeless and darkest situations, your support of Joni and Friends, through your prayers, service, and financial gifts, are truly transforming lives for eternity. Thank you for serving alongside us to reach young boys and girls, just like Josleen, with the love, hope and joy of Jesus. (upbeat music)

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  1. God Bless everyone at Joni and Friends for being such a great Blessing to all of these precious souls, and for spreading God's love and the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Amen!

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