Remembering Mike Townsend
Dear Through the Roof family
It is with sad hearts that we announce that Mike Townsend, Through the Roof’s Chair of Trustees, passed away on 28th November 2023.
Mike and his wife, Edith, had been on a cruise in the Caribbean when Mike was admitted to hospital in Antigua with breathing difficulties. It was found to be a re-occurrence of the pneumonia he had suffered in recent years. He had also endured a cardiac arrest, which meant some of his organs had begun to shut down. Although his condition stabilised for a short time, sadly he had encountered too many complications for his body to recover. Edith’s sister flew out to be with her, to support her in plans and arranging the logistics of returning to the UK.
Mike played a huge role in the development of Through the Roof, having been involved since the early years, and we are grateful for his giving of time, energy, skills and experience. We remember him as someone who was passionate about challenging people’s attitudes towards disabled people and helping them see things from God’s perspective. He was also a great advocate, and role model, for disabled people fulfilling their potential in God’s sight - a real Roofbreaker! A very moving obituary has been published by Premier Christianity.
We will miss Mike, but we share his faith and trust in the Lord, so we rejoice that Mike is now in his eternal home with Jesus. We’re sure he was greeted by those wonderful words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matt 25:23).
Please join with us in continuing to pray for Edith; their daughter, Christine; and the family. Thank you.
Yours in His service
Tim Wood (CEO) and Rev Trevor Hahn (Vice Chair)
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God Grows Our Gifts: Winter 2023 Vital Link Newsletter
Welcome to the Winter 2023 Vital Link newsletter from Through the Roof.
Download your copy to:
- read all about our the latest Wheels for the World work of lives transformed with our partners in Kenya
- watch our new autism support video and share it in churches, with more videos to come!
- hear about the launch of Together @ Home, a new online fellowship and prayer group
- read stories of success for Disability Awareness Sunday 2023, from churches and in the media
- find out the power of a mustard seed, demonstrated by a church in Yorkshire
- and much more...
- Follow this link to download the PDF of the Vital Link WINTER 2023 newsletter
- Or contact us on 01372 749955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a different accessible format
- Or read Vital Link onscreen with the Joomag viewer below:
Wheels in Kimilili and Eldoret, Kenya 2023: blog
Through the Roof is blessed to have two Wheels for the World missions to Kenya in 2023. On the second trip, volunteers visit Kimilili then Eldoret to distribute wheelchairs and mobility aids to disabled people, as well as Bibles, to bring them physical and spiritual freedom. Sophie Luckett, a UK team member, writes about the experience of the mission trip.
Day 1: Arrival at Kimilili
After a long 22 hours of travel, 11 exhausted volunteers arrived in Kimilili, Kenya. We were greeted with a warm and enthusiastic welcome by our hosts at the guest house, owned by IcFEM, our local partner organisation. We were met by Leonard, a local team member, at Kisumu, from where we had a three-hour drive to the guest house in Kimilli. Ruth, Irene and lots of other workers at the house warmly welcomed us and Philip the chef prepared us tea, coffee and sandwiches, before we rested and settled into our accommodation.
Time to pray
After a delicious chicken dinner, we had a time of prayer and reflection as a team. Carol shared Philippians 1:9-11, ”And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
It was a great reminder to us all, that what Paul is talking about to the people in Philippi is the same for us today. We should be praying for ourselves, our team and all the other people that we encounter during our time away that our love may continue to grow and grow in Christ, and pray that any decisions we have to make will be done for the glory of God.
Day 2: Preparation day in Kimilili
Preparation Day! The power of a good night sleep was felt amongst us all this morning, with Leonard noting, “they look a lot better than yesterday”; a cheeky chappy! It was great, as feeling refreshed and rested meant we were ready for a long day of preparation at the IcFEM mission headquarters.
On the short walk to the headquarters, we walked past lots of children and their mothers playing on the grass, with lots of laughter and screams of joy. The children were so excited to see us, they came bouncing over, skipping and very eager to shake our hands and ask us “how are you?” I was so struck by not only the confidence they had, but the contentment, happiness and joy that beamed from them when playing with any other children around them, and greeting visitors in their village. It was so beautiful to see!
Getting to work
We arrived to see the 135 wheelchairs that had arrived in the container before us. It was time to meet the workers from IcFEM who each gave us an introduction about their role on the team. IcFEM aims to reach a huge range of people in the community, through the many programmes that they have thought and prayed so hard about. They want everyone to see that they are a Child of God. Everyone is loved by Him: no matter their gender, age, ability or anything else. Ruth quoted “love thy neighbour as thy self”, which emphasised their mission to reach the lost and to love them like Jesus loves us!
We got straight to work: the four therapists, two techies and helpers from IcFEM all started arranging the wheelchairs into piles, according to the coloured tape which showed the size differences. 135 wheelchairs, numerous sets of crutches and walking aids and 8 buggies were sorted, then we selected what was needed for day 1 of the distribution.
Meanwhile the other members of the team were arranging all the extra materials: seat covers, harnesses, extra padding and foam. Myself, Carol and a few members from IcFEM were sorting out all the Bibles for the wheelchair recipients, putting stickers on them and sorting them out for each distribution day. While we did this, we had a lovely opportunity for conversation, where we found out lots about the workers’ families, children, wives, husbands. It was such a precious time for both myself and Carol as we began to build foundations for friendships with those we’d be working with over the next few days.
Visiting IcFEM hospital
After lunchtime, we visited IcFEM Dreamland Hospital, where Ruth gave us an amazing tour of the site: the different wards, inpatients, outpatients, and then the school. It was incredible to see the work they have done and prayed for over so many years. This year they have opened the new-born unit for premature babies, where they’ve recently had tiny triplets staying. Currently the hospital is building two new operating theatres. We ask that you may continue praying for God's provision, that the resources and funds will be available.
Please also pray for Wheels for the World teams: that the Lord is with us and will continue to use us for glory, honour and praise.
Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
Day 3: First distribution day - Naitri
The first day of distribution: 26 wheelchairs; 12 mobility aids. The team were ready to go, although slightly apprehensive and a little nervous for what the day would unfold. We were reminded of Philippians 2 verse 3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
When we arrived in Naitri, we were greeted with a crowd of women welcoming us off the coach, hugging and leading us inside the centre, ready for the distribution. One older lady came and lead me over to a little corner of the field, where there were four children, one who was severely disabled and looked in quite a lot of distress.
As the play specialist on the mission team, my aim was to make the little boy and the siblings feel as comfortable, loved and valuable as possible, whilst they waited to be seen by one of our physios. I greeted little Moses gently with a wave and a “Jambo” (a Swahili greeting) and gave him time to look in my direction and understand that I was talking to him. Throughout the morning, I supported the family and brought in a range of different sensory toys, lights, noisy toys, and little cars and a dolly for the other children to play with.
Moses really responded well to the stimulus of the lights. He would fixate on them, which would calm him down and would relax his body. We also made a makeshift swing out of a large scarf. I demonstrated using this to the family to show them how they can give Moses relief, as well as sensory input, from being swung side to side.
Having the time and resources to come alongside the family and teach them how to engage with their children was hugely rewarding. It led to lots of positive conversations and the families feeling cared for and acknowledged. After having these conversations, I was then able to give the therapist team the information they needed to support the families. I continued to be available to support the children and families during their consultations.
Prayer and pastoral care
The Pastoral Team sees each person who comes to the distribution, and their family. The team have been opening up the Bible and sharing Psalm 139: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The most important thing for people to know is that there is a God who made them in His image and loves them. Please pray that each person we encounter will see the love of Jesus and will come into a personal relationship with him.
Each person who receives a wheelchair also receives a Bible, and all people who see the pastoral team receive prayer and a copy of Psalm 139. Carol in the pastoral team has been reading to the children from a book called ‘Just as I am’ which highlights that God made them in his image: that they are special to Him and loved very much by Him.
Day 4: Namwela
A number of people walked into the distribution centre, visibly struggling; they were provided with walking aids. Many of these people were limited in their mobility due to circumstances that in the UK would have been resolved and treated, resulting in no lasting impact.
One adult that Kathy saw had a large open wound on the top of his foot due to a road traffic accident. He really needed a skin graft but could not afford the medical insurance. He was provided with a walking aid to help him to get around and a referral has been made to Dreamland Hospital. With the support of IcFEM we hope he will get the treatment he needs to make a full recovery.
During the morning, Joanna saw a wonderful 71-year-old man, John, and his adult grandson. John was wearing a very smart burgundy suit and very trendy croc shoes. The grandson did lots of the advocating for John, as he is blind, has diabetes, previously had a stroke, and was very tired, falling asleep quite often.
John also has memory problems, which we suspect may be dementia. Joanna fitted John with a wheelchair which will give John a comfortable and safe way of being moved without having to be carried everywhere. This will have a huge impact on John’s grandson and the rest of the family who care for John. Carol and the pastoral team prayed with them. She encouraged the grandson to keep doing a wonderful job in looking after his grandfather, reminding him that Jesus will give him the strength each day. John was given an audio bible to take with him so he can still regularly listen to God’s Word.
The last two days have been very busy but extremely positive. We’ve seen 87 people over the first two days of the distribution, but there will be a much wider impact on their families, friends and community. We pray the Bibles they have received will be well used, and that the people will integrate into a loving and welcoming local church.
Day 5: Sunday rest
A day of rest… the 11 of us split between 3 different churches on Sunday morning. Some of us went to Chrisco, some went to Friends church and others visited King Jesus Gospel Ministries (KJGM). It was so lovely to be welcomed and accepted into each church.
Graham, who has been our administrator and finance man, went along with three others (including his wife Kathy) to KJGM. The sermon was on the Good Samaritan and was preached by David, part of the IcFEM team who is one of the pastors, and guest speaker Leonard. Graham was thrilled to hear the sermon preached, with the link to disability inclusion. They sang hymns in both English and Kiu Swahili, and the preacher David’s twin sons sang a duet. The noise of praise for Jesus was joyful.
After our church services, we all went back to our host’s houses. Carol, Gunn and John went to Macdon’s house where his wife Shelia cooked a delicious hearty meal, and there were lots of appearances from their own children and other people they support in their home. The children sang them lots of songs with actions, which brought lots of smiles and laughter.
Day 6: From calm to crazy-busy!
The busiest, craziest, most tiring day: 10 hours; 57 wheelchairs; 6 mobility aids. Our 5 therapists, 2 technicians, 1 admin, 1 play specialist, 1 pastoral worker, 1 photographer and our lovely translators and workers from IcFEM tackled the day with compassion, empathy and strength from the Lord. We drew on the promise in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. It was great to be reminded of this, as lots of us were feeling a bit nervous and fatigued with the amount of people needing to be seen – but it is not from our own strength, but through the Lord’s.
The day seemed to go by in a bit of a blur… Neil and Enos, our technicians, were hard at work all day long, fixing parts of the chairs, making lots of cushions and adjusting lots of footplates. Neil was relieved when the day was finally over, but was joyful as he reflected back on what the team had achieved. He said:
“It was a very worthwhile day, seeing so many people helped with wheelchairs & mobility aids. It was evident that they were pleased by the smiles on their faces which showed their joy in receiving wheelchairs and the impact it will have on their day-to-day life. They were then in a situation of being able to go to church; the children were now able to go to school; when previously so many of them were stuck at home. There were lots of challenging and complex adjustments that needed to be made for the clients, but I was grateful for the partnership and teamwork that Enos and myself developed, along with IcFEM partner David. It was a tiring but a great day!”
Sammy signs 'happy'
One client that arrived at the IcFEM headquarters was Sammy. Sammy was only 21 but had already conquered many challenges in life – he has cerebral palsy, was non-verbal and unable to walk. Sadly, his father died and his mother left him when he was three, taking the other ‘healthy’ siblings with her, due to the stigma and difficulties around having a child with a disability. However, a lovely guardian took him in, loving and caring for him. Joanna (one of our physios) requested that I came over to Sammy, as during her observations, she noticed that he was gesturing with his hands.
Sammy was indeed communicating to us using Makaton. Once we realised this, I began talking to Sammy using the basic symbols that I know. He had already been given the wheelchair at this point, but adjustments were being made by the techies. The independence that Sammy had using his wheelchair, as he was able to self-propel, would allow him to comfortably and safely get around college and his home.
Sammy beamed with joy and kept signing ‘happy’. He was now ready to go to the pastoral team. Both myself and Joanna were feeling very emotional at the joy in seeing the transformation from a young man shuffling in on the floor, to the same man leaving with dignity. I signed to Sammy ‘Jesus loves you’ and he reciprocated ‘Jesus loves you and me!’. Which was the best result!
Day 7: Kwaheri (goodbye) Kimilili, Jambo (hello) Eldoret
We had a lovely debrief with our partners at IcFEM in Kimilili, as we prepared to say goodbye. We chatted through the trip: the strengths, the weaknesses, the improvements, but most importantly we prayed with thanksgiving to the Lord for the 102 wheelchairs, the 44 mobility aids and the many Bibles given out. We pray they will have a ripple effect through the families and local communities.
The director of IcFEM, Solomon, led the meeting and was visibly emotional whilst reflecting back on what the team had achieved over the three distributions, transforming the lives of many in their communities. Matthew 28:19 tells us to “Go out and make disciples of all nations”. The distribution of wheelchairs and mobility aids was extremely important, however even more importantly was the spiritual health of all those we encountered. What side of the fence were they on? Had they rejected Jesus, were they undecided or had they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour? We pray that seeds of faith in Jesus have been sown.
We strived to show the love of Christ in whatever role we played during the days in Kimilili. Carol and the pastoral team were really able to show people why we came on this distribution: not for our own glory, but for Christ’s – to show how wide and long and high and deep His love is for all people, including those with a disability!
On the road to Eldoret
A last snack of chai tea and a slice of bread was eaten before we headed off on the bus, beginning our journey to Eldoret. The 2-hour drive went relatively quick, with the majority of us falling asleep before the driver had turned the engine on!
We arrived in Eldoret, at the CBR guesthouse, where we were greeted by Reverend Grace, who took us to our rooms and allowed us to rest and recharge before another day of distribution. After a delicious fish dinner, we had a time of reflection and prayer as a team. Carol opened up the Bible in Philippians 4; it was great to be reminded of the peace that the Lord gives us and how we need to take our anxieties to Him and let them go, because He is in control:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Days 8 and 9: A sprint to the finish!
An early start: breakfast at 6:30am; doors opened at 8am. Verse of the day: Philippians 4:8 “finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”. We were out of a comfort zones, another new place to navigate with new people who we needed to get to know, we were tired but rejoiced that it was a new day.
We set up our stations, the 5 therapists scattered around, the play zone, the techie corner, the check-in station in the sun, and Carol in a little side room. Now we were ready and eager. And we were excited for the clients we were going to meet.
Therapists Frances, Belinda, Kathy, Gunn and Joanna were whizzing through each client, carefully assessing and working out which wheelchair or mobility aid would be suitable, and what adaptations they would need to make with the techies.
Joy and faith
A very smiley and chatty young girl, who was around 11 years old, stole both mine and Kathy’s heart. She had polio as a young child which affected her walking and was using homemade crutches out of wood to get around. The girl loved bubbles, and was very excited to be able to use them herself. We had lots of games of who can pop the bubbles the fastest, which echoed a roar of giggles around the centre.
Kathy was able to provide a set of new crutches, which fit the girl correctly, and instantly she was up walking around and smiling lots. The girl and her parents were evidently so grateful for the freedom that these crutches would be able to give her in being able to safety and comfortably move around her school and her home. She left with lots of little toys and when asked what she wanted to be, she said “a Doctor, not sure what type, but God knows.” What an encouragement of faith this young girl had: her trust was completely in Jesus’ plan for her!
Before we knew it, the last wheelchair of the trip was fitted! Please pray with us that all those wheelchairs and mobility aids we have distributed would bless their users and the families and communities around them.
Day 10: Goodbye Eldoret, hello Nairobi!
"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call and me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. Jeremiah 29:11–13.
It was great to be encouraged that the Lord knows his plans for us, he knows what will happen in our lives. The Safari truck was 45 minutes late and the entrance fee to the National Park caused a lot of stress... But God was still in control, and he knew what his plans were.
Seeing the sights
The group split in the afternoon. Four went around the town, visiting the Bead Factory, the Giraffe sanctuary and the Karen Blixen Museum. The other seven of us ventured to the National park for a Safari tour… to see the lions (we hoped). After all the chaos of the truck turning up late and the long process of getting into the park… we were all finally relieved when we went through the gates, onto the bumpy terrain to go and find some animals.
We all got very excited when we spotted the first giraffe, and the first zebra. They were so beautiful and elegant close up. Riding around was very exciting and we left just after darkness, seeing a whopping 25 or more different species of animals and birds of prey. The wonders and the awe at God’s marvellous creation never cease.
We returned back to the CHAK guesthouse, where we enjoyed our last dinner as a team and said farewell to Enos who would be travelling overland back to Zanzibar. Then we were off to bed for an early night as our alarms were set for 4:30am to ensure we arrived at Nairobi airport in time for our flight home.
The past 10 days have been such an amazing, eye-opening and humbling experience. It was a joy to come out to both Kimilili and Eldoret and serve alongside their local teams. Please pray for IcFEM and Reverand Grace and all at CBR that the Lord will sustain and strengthen them day by day, as they continue to serve their local communities. Pray too for each encounter we had with all those at the distributions, pray that little seeds would have been sown, and they would open up their Bibles and come into a personal relationship with Jesus.
Find out more about Wheels for the World at this link if you'd like to get involved by applying for a trip, fundraising, donating funds or praying for the work. Thank you for your support.