The time: August, 2002
The location: Ghana, West Africa
The mission: Deliver & fit wheelchairs to disabled individuals of the country; equip & train the individuals and their families in manipulating & maneuvering the wheelchairs; share God’s love & hope with those we encounter.
A dear friend encouraged my husband and I (and several others) to go on this trip to Ghana with the organization Wheels for the World, and despite a list of reasons not to go we took a leap of faith and went. My biggest fear in going? I asked, “What if one of us gets hurt there?” The response: “You hope and pray a doctor from the Peace Corp happens to be in the country.” I’m not gonna lie – I had certain reservations about going. What would I eat? Would I get sick? Where would I sleep? What would the bathrooms/toilets be like? Questions we all have, but don’t want to say out loud.
I have funny stories to go with each of those questions that were floating around in my mind back then, but those are not for this writing. Let’s just say God extended His mercies and grace to me in all sorts of ways during this trip.
This trip was filled with so many amazing experiences. There is one in particular you need to hear today.
Let me set the stage for you. The majority of Ghana functions as a third world country. The villages are constructed of mud huts and locals sell bananas from baskets they carry on their heads. In 2002 (Sadly, I have not kept up enough to know if things are different now.) there was no Polio vaccine in the country which meant that many citizens would become infected and lose mobility of one or more limbs. In addition, the disabled in Ghana are greatly looked down upon. If you cannot be mobile, you cannot work. You are considered a second class citizen. Wheelchairs are almost nonexistent there, unless brought over by some type of humanitarian organization. So, people crawl, scoot, and are carried places. The disabled become beggars. I remember the first drive through Ghana. There were disabled people everywhere begging for money. People lying on the ground, crawling on all fours -- it was unbelievable to me.
When a wheelchair distribution happens, the government announces it over the public radio weeks in advance with the time and location. This is done so that people have enough time to get there. It sounds unreal, but many crawled for over three weeks to get to the distribution location! Others had family members that would carry them for miles and miles to get there in hopes of getting a wheelchair. Having a wheelchair in Ghana immediately changes a person’s social status. They go from immobile to mobile; unworthy to worthy; shunned to part of society.
So here we are at our second distribution. Miraculously the previous days work left exactly as many people as wheelchairs. We were on a spiritual high for sure. The logistics worked like this: There were roughly a dozen Americans. Two worked registration. Two were physical therapists that performed the physical examinations. Another two to three worked on customizing the chairs to the recipients. Four trained the family members and recipients in how to move around in the chair – turning, braking, etc. The remaining played with the kids and visited with others that came out to see commotion. There were also local preachers there. Once an individual received an examination, a chair, and training – they were taken to the Reverend. He prayed over each person and gave them Bibles.
Well, the day went on and we all assumed that again, we would miraculously end up with the same number of people needing chairs as chairs that we had to give. It was so close to the end of the day that all of us Americans were sitting in the van ready to crash. Our days consisted of breakfast and dinner only so we were ready to find food and sleep.
We heard some commotion. “What are they saying? What’s going on?” we all asked. Our driver said, “This man has come and was not given a chair. There is not chair for him. Even so, the doctors told him that a chair would bring him too much pain. He cannot sit in one.” We were crushed! How could this be? This man…was devastated.
The sweet Reverend Newton would not let this man leave. He beckoned for him to come and talk with him. (Mind you we are all watching this from the van.) They prayed together. The Reverend says – well we don’t know what he says, but the man…GETS UP AND WALKS AWAY! Can I say that again? The man. Got up. And. WALKED away.
We went crazy! There were shouts of “NO WAY!” and screams. We were moving so much the van was rocking non stop. We might have high fived. We definitely threw our hands up in the air. “What just happened?!” we shouted. Reverend Newton very calmly came over and said, “God told me He would heal this man. There was no chair for him because he would not need a chair. I told him that he was healed and that he could get up, and walk home.”
None of us had seen anything like this before! It was truly amazing. We had witnessed something right out of the Bible. It was incredible. A moment I will never forget. A moment I look back to whenever my faith wavers. “Our God is healer, awesome in power.”