In the Wheels for the World program, run by Joni and Friends (JAF), wheelchairs are made available in different parts of the world, and a team of volunteers travels to assess, modify, and fit wheelchairs for people with disabilities. In October 2015, the first Wheels for the World program in North India took place. JAF worked with their Indian partner, Operation Equip India, the Community Health Global Network (Uttarakhand chapter), as well as the Engage Disability team with EHA members. Herbertpur Christian Hospital was chosen as the venue because it was near Dehradun, North India, was central to access, and had the appropriate facilities. Overall, 210 wheelchairs, 46 sets of crutches, 42 walkers, and 32 canes were distributed. The following article by Anneliese Petersen, a Wheaton College biology student interning at Landour Community Hospital, tells the story of this wheelchair distribution through fresh eyes.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13).
These past weeks I was struck by the idea of truly loving others. I think that we, working in a mission hospital, are certainly people who love. We recognize that the poor and marginalized need additional care and support, and we are eager to give it. But I find that, at least personally, I do so only to the point at which it is comfortable for me. I love others when it is easy, when it is uncomplicated, when it is fulfilling. But the Scriptures say to love genuinely. To love as a brother, to show great honor, to be fervent and not slothful.
A few weeks ago, there was a massive Wheel Chair Distribution (WCD) taking place at Herbertpur Christian Hospital. I had the joy of attending with a team from Landour Community Hospital to see the work that was being done. I was awed by the fullness of care that was being given, and found that the WCD model really was a reflection of this verse from Romans.
Patients with significant disabilities came from all over the region, each one having been sought out and assisted by a pastor in their community. This provided a local contact and support. The pastor represented someone from the patient’s community making a commitment to come alongside and love the patient, long term. More so than just neighborly kindness, they were showing brotherly love to the disabled in their villages.
Upon arrival, the patients were met personally by both a physical and an occupational therapist. These volunteers worked to understand the individual needs of the patient, and to prescribe the most adequate wheelchair for each situation. Mechanics and builders then discussed with the therapist and customized wheelchairs there on the spot. Many patients had come in on old, uncomfortable wheelchairs that had clearly been donated. Nothing could match the look of joy on their faces as they transitioned into new wheelchairs that comfortably matched their needs. Were the old wheelchairs bad? Certainly not. Sometimes we can only do so much, and a simple wheelchair is better than none at all. But these clean, customized wheelchairs reminded me of the call to “Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” In just seeking to get by, in donating uncomfortable wheelchairs, we miss out on the opportunity to give others the best that is available. These new wheelchairs gave great honor to the patients, and reflected a deep, fervent, brotherly concern for the patients’ welfare.
I was reminded of how, in my own city of Chicago, I often get my leftover restaurant food packed to give to the homeless men on the street. Certainly, they are grateful. They need food. But how much more honoring would it be if I were to buy a cheaper meal for myself, and buy a second of the same for them? Thus, rather than giving away my leftovers, I would be able to give new, untouched, personal food. This is fervent love, in contrast to the slothful love of giving only what we don’t desire ourselves.
Finally, after being fitted with a new wheelchair, each patient met with a counselor, physiatrist, or social worker. These individuals set out to rejoice in the hope of a new chair, be patient in the affliction of talking through each patient’s struggles and challenges, and be constant in prayer as each patient was told about Christ and his deep, unwavering, honoring love for them. And, of course, there was a huge meal served. What better way to show hospitality?
So I pray that we hold this image in our minds and hearts as we serve our neighbors. May we love genuinely, with brotherly affection, fervently honoring those around us. May we rejoice in the hope we find in the Lord, weep with the afflictions of others, and, above all, constantly seek the Lord in prayer each and every day. For in Him alone do we find peace, strength, and joy for the journey ahead.
A Publication of EHA USA | December 2015