The Name that is a Place (Ros' Blog)
I have just returned from a ministry trip to India. It was an enjoyable but moving trip, staying in a home for girls rescued from trafficking, and having lots of opportunities to speak both within a church and to other groups in the city. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was being given the privilege of speaking to a group of Indian and Swedish businesswomen about why we should honour and value people whose learning disabilities are so profound that they will never be able to work or make an economic contribution to society, what we can learn from them and why we should not overlook the other kinds of contributions they make to our communities. I could tell it was an eye-opener for some of the people present; one lady said I had made her see something she had never thought about before, and asked if I would come and speak to them again if I come back to India in future.
But for me the overall impression which I bring back from my trip is of how easy I found it to connect with God while I was there. It felt like what the old Christian mystics would have called a “thin” place – somewhere where the veil between heaven and earth seems so diaphanous, you feel as if you can reach through it and touch God. For sure it was partly to do with the atmosphere in the girls’ home – the continual laughter, dance and song seem to belie the trauma of the girls’ past life, and speak of a God who truly heals. But I think it came most of all from the absence of distractions.
At home I have a radio beside the bed, and I wake up and flick the switch to hear the news. I sometimes work late, sitting up in bed, and go to sleep with my laptop beside me so it’s there for me to check my emails when I wake up. If I get in, tired, from work, I can flop in front of the TV while I summon the energy to prepare dinner. In India I had no bedside radio, and my phone stopped working on the second day, so I couldn’t call or text anyone or check emails on my phone. The TV is not connected to any network, and is only used for the girls to watch movies on DVD or online on a Friday evening. So none of the usual distractions were present.
On my second morning, I woke up humming “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds”, and for the rest of the trip I couldn’t get it out of my head. I fell asleep each night with it running through my mind, I woke up humming it every morning, and on the days when I was alone at home preparing for meetings while the girls were out at their morning lessons, I let rip with all 6 verses, as there was no one there to hear me! It’s my most abiding memory of the trip, meditating more and more deeply on the words of that hymn as the days went on. I know that in the hymn books of my childhood the fourth verse begins, “Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend” but I once read that John Newton originally wrote, “Jesus, my Shepherd, Husband, Friend” and the compilers of our hymn books baulked at such intimate language being used to describe the relationship with Jesus. But as a woman who no longer has an earthly husband, I find strength and comfort in the thought of Jesus filling that role.
I recalled the Scripture that says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe”, and I came to realise that the name of Jesus is not merely a proper noun of 5 letters or a phrase we attach to our prayers, it is a place. And in that place we encounter our Shepherd, our Husband, our Friend, the Rock on which we build, our Shield and our Hiding Place and all the other wonderful pictures which that hymn paints.
And the really joyous thing about this is that this place which is the Name of Jesus is accessible to all of us. No wheelchair ramp is needed to get inside; no sensory impairment is a disability (in fact by reducing the distractions around it may even make entering that place easier for some people); no intellectual impairment is a disqualification, since this is a place where deep calls to deep in the realm of the Spirit, and intelligence plays no part.
So I have decided to be much more intentional about ridding myself of the distractions that keep me out of this place. I am not switching on my radio when I wake up. I am banning my laptop from the bedroom so I’m not tempted to check emails as soon as I wake up. I’m switching the TV on when there’s something worth watching, but not just as a matter of habit or boredom. I’m driving around without the radio on, and finding God in the silence. This morning, when a traffic hold-up doubled my journey time into work, it wasn’t an irksome commute, it was an extended worship time.
I’m looking forward to making a third visit to the girls’ home in India some time next year, but in the meantime, I want to do all I can to make sure that I hold on to what I discovered of God while I was there, and not allow the distractions of our western lifestyle to draw me out of the place that is His Name.
Golf Fundraising Day
Following our last successful Golf Day in 2014, we’ll be holding another fundraising day of fairway fun on Friday 22nd July. Come along, support the work of TTR, and enjoy the day’s activities, including an 18-Hole Stableford Competition, Blindfolded Putting Competition, and Wheelchair-seated Longest Drive.
The whole day begins with registration at 8am, and costs £65 a head, including coffee and bacon roll on arrival and a two course lunch.
It's at Tyrrells Wood Golf Club, The Drive, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 8QP. To find out more, and book your place, please follow this link to email Margaret Bale.
Wheels in Kenya 2016
A Wheels for the World team are hard at work in Kenya from the 17th to the 27th February, distributing chairs, walking aids, vital training, and physiotherapy to disabled people in rural Eldoret.
After travelling all day to get to our team, on the back of several motorbikes one man received a wheelchair, accepted a Bible, and voluntarily gave his life to the Lord. Praise God. Keep up with daily events, and stories of the lives changed during the trip, by following the team's blog (connectivity allowing), follow this link to find out more. Thank you for all of your support and prayer!
“Though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11.4) (Ros' Blog)
Every now and then I like to research disabled people from the past. I find it fascinating to see how, in an age when there was little understanding of disabled people’s strengths and abilities, and little teaching within the church of a Biblical theology of disability, some people still managed to triumph in circumstances that might defeat some of us modern Christians, and to shine a ray of hope down the centuries to us.
One such person was Hermann of Reichenau. Hermann was born into a noble family in 1013. He was born with severe disabilities which it is hard to diagnose all these centuries later, but which almost certainly included cerebral palsy and a cleft palate. He could not walk and a special chair was made for him to be carried around in.
Despite his physical limitations, Hermann was highly gifted intellectually. At the age of 7 he was sent for schooling and care to the monastery at Reichenau and studied under Abbot Berno. This in itself was quite remarkable, as it is really only in the modern era that education has begun to be made fully available to disabled people. He took full advantage of the opportunity and excelled academically, growing up to write scholarly works on mathematics, astronomy, history and music. Hermann was familiar with much Islamic scholarship in the field of science, and made it available to the Latin-speaking world.
Despite his severe physical limitations – he was never able to walk, and spoke only with great difficulty – Herman’s rich spiritual life was evident to all. He became a monk and eventually succeeded Berno as Abbott of the monastery at Reichenau. He became famous for his patience and joy even when he was in great pain, and people travelled from far to learn from his example. He wrote several hymns, some of which are still sung or said as prayers by Roman Catholic Christians today, including a number in praise of the Holy Spirit.
Another of my heroes from the past, and one who has affected my life not only by his example, but by the writings and spiritual exercises he left, is Ignatius of Loyola. He was the youngest of 13 children, born in 1491 into a noble Spanish family, and lost his mother in early infancy. Unlike Hermann of Reichenau, he was not born with a disability. He was gripped by the tales of chivalrous knights and determined to make a great name for himself like the most famous among them.
At the age of 17 he joined the army and gained a reputation as a fearless fighter. He excelled and rose through the ranks until, at the age of 30, a French cannonball broke one of his legs and wounded the other. It was the end of his military career. He was returned, badly wounded, to his parents’ castle, and underwent several painful operations (in the days before anaesthetics!)
As he lay in bed recovering, he read a number of books on the life of Christ, which had a profound impact on him and led him into a life-changing encounter with and vision of the One about whom he read. Ignatius went on to found a religious order, the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits. He is valued today by Catholics and Protestants alike for his spiritual exercises and his method of Bible meditation which have helped many Christians deepen their relationship with God, myself included.
Ignatius taught people to read the Bible imaginatively, putting themselves into the shoes of one of the characters in the passage and many have found this has opened them up for God to speak to them through His word. He taught people to take note of the world around them and also of their own emotions and mood, and to use these to enable open and honest communication with God in prayer.
While he was a powerful and well-respected soldier, Ignatius was largely deaf to God’s call on his life, and concerned mainly with enhancing his own reputation. It took a devastating injury which put paid to his military career for him to come into a place of weakness and dependence in which God could use him powerfully.
These men, though long-dead, still speak to us today, both by the example of their lives and by the teaching they left. They show that no physical impairment can impair the spirit that is devoted to God, and that the joy of the Lord is not overcome by pain or physical infirmity. My prayer is that we all learn to lean on God in whatever circumstances we face, and find in Him the kind of joy that will carry us through whatever life throws at us.
Wheels in Ghana 2016
Read on for highlights of Wheels in Ghana from blogging team-member, Phil Cutland Green, and check out his superb photographs of the trip on our Facebook page and in the gallery at the bottom of this post...
DAY 10 - Final Day
So it's our final day and we headed off to the warehouse where the chairs had been kept. We fitted about 10 wheelchairs to some people that hadn’t been able to make it to previous days. I think we managed another 10 or so in a few hours whilst we were there. The team spent time sorting out the tools, paperwork etc and generally packing up for our flight home later that evening, and after some lunch we then headed off to Tema Market to buy local gifts for loved ones at home. They sell all sorts of things from food to fabrics and beads.
We then headed to the airport for an uneventful overnight flight home. As the team have shared so much over the past 10 days I found it hard to say goodbye. We are hoping to have a reunion though and I am sure we will keep in touch. We said our tearful goodbyes and headed our separate ways back to “normal” life.
The culture shock still hits me and I guess it will be different for each member of the team but part of me wants to go straight back and help those in need. Yet life goes on in the UK and it's back to work tomorrow and generally life is very comfortable here. Whilst it's far from perfect, we are very blessed in the UK to have the NHS as well as other facilities for those living with disabilities. I am also missing the camaraderie and fellowship of the team. It’s been a pretty full on trip this time with long and challenging days. I thank God for the team and I pray for them as they head of back to families and friends. It has always made me more grateful for what I have and for what I don’t and it spurs me on to give more where I can. Over the next week as I go through photos and video I took I know I will reflect more. I pray for those we managed to give a wheelchair or mobility aid to. I pray that it blesses them and helps them on a day to day basis. I pray also for those we weren’t able to help and really need a chair but I hope that at some point they would get one.
I hope most of all we showed them love.
Till next time…
Phil Cutland Green
I didn't hear my alarm going off again so missed breakfast! I had a granola bar in the mini bus on the way back to Sogokope. We had our now regular devotion time in the minibus lead by Fred and a few hours later we were back at the same venue as the previous day.
We discussed how well the team works together, despite only meeting each other once before at our team day! Today was no exception and as before it was really busy. I remember some of those we met today like Atul, John, Victor, Mary and Comfort, for example. Of course the day to day reality of Ghana is very different than life in the UK, especially if you have a disability. I pray for those again that we have been able to give the gift of a wheelchair or mobility aid to. For those we haven’t been able to help, in most cases, we have still had the opportunity to pray for them and minister to via our pastor Fred. The need is very great here, and there is no simple way to solve the challenges that people with disabilities here face. I am again left feeling a little hopeless, but I know God’s way bigger than me so I’ll trust he’s got it all under control. Tomorrow we have to pack and then do a mini distribution before we head to the airport.
Like the rest of the team I am pretty exhausted - this has been my most challenging Wheels trip so far.
We start our days with devotional times in the back of the minibus with worship lead by Nathan and his trusty guitar, followed by some spiritual input from our Pastoral champion – Fred, who is originally from Ghana but now lives in the UK. On our Wheels trips we usually have a Pastor and Fred is fulfilling this role admirably.
Although the gift of mobility is one of our aims, salvation is the ultimate goal and once people have been given a wheelchair they have the chance to pray with Fred (along with Joel from the local partners affiliated to Joni and Friends). Several people have become Christians during this trip.
We also keep reminding ourselves that we should be showing love and not just fitting people in a chair. That's sometimes hard to do when it's really busy and you're really tired, but in my view the team are really delivering here. It’s not always possible for them to have a long conversation but the team do try and learn more about the person they are trying to help. They are often on their knees assessing and fitting wheel chairs, and in Africa, it's hot, dusty and sweaty! If someone did that to me I’d suggest it was love.
Today we were in Sogakope, a few hours drive from base. We had been planning for the worst today and yet when we arrived there was real active calm. There were a small number of people there and we were told others would come in batches. In the end we saw about 60 people and had to tell some people to come back tomorrow since we wouldn’t have time to see them. Even still it was 7pm when we started to pack up.
There was a lady called Naomi (22) with severe deformities. When she arrived Martin did an assessment, and the reality was that we couldn’t really do much. She wouldn't fit in a chair due to her deformities. That said Martin came up with the idea of effectively putting her on a wooden platform on top of a wheelchair shaped with foam. This took a long time unfortunately but even though the sun had gone down we were able to give her a customised chair so her family could take her out and push her around to see some of the outside world.
At one level what we do is a drop in the ocean but if we can just help in the salvation of one person or help transform someone's life with a mobility aid then it's worth it.
Please pray for Naomi and the plans God has for her. I pray that we have somehow been able to improve her way of life.
It was another early start.. I can’t quite remember what time but we head off on the long journey to Akatsi.
There have been some organization challenges, and today we ended up with a 2 hour delay before we could even get set up. We had to relocate to a local Catholic Church, where the power was only on briefly during the day, so couldn’t use any mains-powered tools, so the foam cutter was out of action and meant more time cutting and shaping foam. There was no air-con or fans so within 30 mins the team were dripping with sweat!
We saw over 60 people today! The previous day we had seen around 80 people. They all were vying for a place at the front of the church near our reception desk as they believed it would help them get a wheelchair faster. The signs of potential desperation but also frustration were evident. One challenge was just keeping people far enough away so that the team could get on with the distribution. The language here is different so that also meant an additional challenge. Near the end of the day we had to start telling people there were no more chairs available which was really tough. The team would have loved to have helped them all, but it just wasn’t possible. There was disappointment from many who came and went away with nothing.
It was another late finish only leaving Akatsi around 8pm, so dinner at 11pm again. My prayers are with those who didn’t get chairs. For those that did I pray God blesses them and it really has an impact on their lives in a positive way. Please pray for them too.
About an hour and a half’s drive took us to Akropong. Today there were so many memorable faces: Solomon, John, Anan and Isaac were just a few of the children we saw. There were a couple of children who were deaf, blind, or deaf and blind. It was heart-wrenching seeing how well Anj interacts with the children, especially with one of the girls today. She reminded me of what I have to be thankful for and how blessed I am. We couldn’t provide anything for her unfortunately, and I just pray for a miracle in her life, it was really heart breaking. It’s pretty hard to take pictures when you're in tears behind the camera! The team were absolutely fantastic today, still working until just after 9pm, then some went on to help Joel load the container for the morning.
Like everyone else I am exhausted, but the team is still in good spirits despite the challenging day. Please continue to pray for them. Pray for those today who didn’t get a wheelchair or mobility aid, we just didn’t have the equipment appropriate for their needs at times.
First distribution day - finally! We headed to KPONG, about 40 minutes north of where we are staying. A large hall held people with a whole range of disabilities and several children, which is always heart-wrenching. We saw 60 people today, and gave away about 40 wheelchairs, the others were judged better off with other aids such as crutches. In each case the OTs and Physios determined the most appropriate aid, based also on what we have available with us. From time to time it got really chaotic - lots of people moving around, some wanting to be seen before others, but the team are just that... a team. Collaboration flowed, advice was given as well as sought, and I felt proud of them all. We ended up working till about 19:30 with our last two clients, a boy of 13 and a lady of 44 (who looked like she could have been 13 or less). Both came in crawling on the floor and both left in wheelchairs.
I am always hit emotionally by the youngsters - often the happiest there! It’s really great to see the transformation a chair makes to them. Whilst we don’t often get to see what happens afterwards and how their chair does alter things, we can only pray that it does. Personally I struggle with my emotions, I feel sad but at the same time get to share in their joy and excitement.
Please continue to pray for the team, and for those who received the gift of mobility today. Pray that it will be a real blessing to their lives. Thank you God for watching over us.
We headed off to a local church at around 9:40 and ended up in Sunday school when we got there, having a lesson on when/if ever there is a time when lying is acceptable. Then after Sunday school the main service started...
It’s very interesting to compare cultures and how church operates in different countries. Church here goes on longer than at home, and they have more collections and loud preaching.
With church finished we headed off to Shekinah. Ellen, our host, showed us the embodiment of her vision of some years ago: a building that was home to 25+ children of all ages who were originally left out on the street, and survived by living hand to mouth. This may have been because their parents had died, couldn’t cope or just didn’t care. We met with lots of smiling and excited faces when we arrived. We had brought some gifts and helped to organise the library where the toys, books, and games etc would all be stored. With no government funding, Ellen has to rely on donations and handouts. She takes the children through school (and has to pay for books etc) and then hopes that with an education they can go on to get jobs and hopefully never be back on the streets.
On the way home my heart was breaking thinking of the children, from birth upwards, who were left out on the street and not as fortunate as those in Shekinah. Please pray for those without families and for those whose families just don’t care or can’t cope. I know God knows every single one of them and I pray he’s looking out for them all tonight. Please pray too that we will be a blessing for those we see tomorrow and for all the logistics as the distributions get underway.
Saturday started out with breakfast followed by our devotional time. The plan was to head off to the market and then get to the beach to possibly see a Ghanaian sunset. However, like many Wheels trips things don’t always go as planned and today was no different. We drove for a few hours to the east of Tema, - and somehow ended up at a funeral! Whilst one could imagine this being a sad event, in Ghana it is essentially a party, from what we could gather. Whilst we didn’t fully understand what was going on, I was hoping that the friends and family were celebrating the life of the lady who had died and that after this world I’ll meet her and explain how I came to be at her funeral.
Back home for dinner: fish, rice and some vegetables. Tomorrow it's Church, and then we will be heading off to Shekinah to see the work Ellen does with homeless children. Some of the team are suffering a little, and not feeling 100%. Nothing too serious, but please pray for the team for health and strength for the rest of the trip, especially next week when the distributions begin.
Another small miracle... there were more chairs than we were expecting, this not only gives us potentially more flexibility but also allows us to hopefully help more people. The team are blessed with so many different skills and helped get wheelchairs ready for distribution.
Good news about the container, which had not only docked but had been unloaded and the chairs were at the storage depot by the team arrived. We didn’t expect this to happen until Saturday at least. Now for those who have experienced African ports and customs in the past this is a miracle!
Please keep praying for the team and we'll update you with their news...