Thailand (MNN) — Wheels for the World is Joni and Friends' flagship wheelchair outreach program. Staffer Mike Yuen just returned from Thailand, where they distributed 400 Bibles and wheelchairs to the disabled. "We work with both the ministry of health, as well as an in-country ministry there and churches–they're the ones that generally help us identify the need. In this case, the government actually identifies the people who have the need, and the church partners with us to set things up and then do follow-up."
Poverty, disability, and isolation are often closely partnered, so the dream of mobility seems unattainable. That's why Wheels for the World can open so many doors to hope.
The ministry takes donated wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers or other rehabilitation equipment through a volunteer organization called Chair Corps. From there, they are cleaned, repaired, and made ready for use.
The distribution is just the beginning of the ministry. For every trip, JAF needs competent physical and occupational therapists, wheelchair mechanics, and support people. Distribution and evangelism teams custom-fit each wheelchair specifically for each recipient and train him or her in wheelchair use and upkeep. Team members also give each recipient a Bible and communicate the message of God's love for them. That's the nuts and bolts of the outreach.
On their most recent trip to Thailand, the team was faced with a great opportunity. Since the country is 95% Buddhist, it presents a unique challenge to evangelistic workers. Yuen says Buddhists welcome pieces of various religions, whatever makes sense to them. "They will incorporate Jesus into their Buddhist faith if they think it's convenient and they think it makes sense to them. It's a little bit difficult to communicate across those kinds of lines. That's where the church follow-up is really important, because over time they can help people to understand the difference between Christianity and Buddhism."
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