Ukraine (MNN) — Disabled athletes brought home medal after medal in the 2012 London Paralympics. Their triumph attracted the attention of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who intends to allocate $38 million in state funding to support disabled athletes.
"With your courage, you have proven that you are the people of unlimited possibilities," Azarov said, "and many can only envy your success."
Life for the disabled in this former Soviet Union nation previously meant two things: isolation and confinement. While Ukraine society took note of a demographic it previously shunned, Global Aid Network (GAiN) partnered with Joni and Friends-Wheels for the World (JAF-WFTW) to release them from the bonds of immobilization.
Last week, a team of 25 therapists, mechanics, and support staff met with 144 patients and families, matching each patient with a chair that fit their exact needs. They shared the Gospel with 400 people, and 157 became Christ-followers. Two new believers accepted Christ after He provided a unique chair for their daughter Elaine, a little girl with cerebral palsy.
Elaine needed a wheelchair with a bar across the front; this would give her something secure to hold on to and would also keep her in the chair. Jill Neuenschwander, a physical therapist who had been on over 20 WFTW trips, told the family she had never seen the type of chair they were looking for on a "Wheels" trip. This, combined with the fact that Elaine and her parents had arrived on the very last day of distribution, made it highly unlikely that they would find the chair they needed. Very few pediatric chairs remained, but after presenting their requests to God, team members found a pediatric wheelchair with a bar across the front.
One elderly man, Stepan, needed a stable wheelchair. He has only one leg, and because of the imbalance this causes, Stepan had tipped his chair backwards and fallen on his head three times. Teams were able to find him a new chair that he could safely propel by himself.
Stepan shared with teams his testimony of hardship. Nazis kidnapped him in 1942 and forced Stepan to shovel coal for trains during WWII. He wept when recounting the trauma and fear he experienced. Pray for Stepan to find peace and comfort in the God who never leaves.
Wheelchairs are like gold to the disabled in developing nations. Those who received chairs from GAiN and JAF-WFTW will experience new life and purpose with their newfound mobility. Keep them in your prayers. Pray also for the 157 believers who found new life in Christ. Pray that they would find a church or Christian friends with whom they can fellowship and grow.
Wheelchairs distributed on this trip were collected at the GAiN Distribution Center. It operates year-round in packing and shipping aid to places around the globe. Each year, the distribution center also conducts volunteer work projects where aid is packed prior to shipment overseas. Click here to get involved.