One of the books I spent the weekend with was A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada. This was an encouraging, hope-giving read—but also challenging—which I should have expected since the subtitle is Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty. I cried my way through the many inspiring stories and felt I had to share one of the sweetest with all of you.
From A Place of Healing: “I [Joni] have a physical-therapist friend who recently received the most priceless, precious gift you can imagine. But it wasn’t a normal gift.
My friend arrived in Cameroon, a very poor country on the west coast of Africa, with our team, ready to go and fit disabled children to new wheelchairs. It turned out to be very difficult for the team to travel to the place where we were to distribute the chairs. So it was pitch-dark by the time they pulled up to the small center where all the people with disabilities were.
They’d been arriving all afternoon from distant villages, literally dragging themselves through the dirt, or being carried by relatives. Now the little center—even this late at night—was packed full of disabled people resting on the floor in thin blankets.
Even so, they were deliriously happy when our physical therapists pulled up outside. Our team kept the lights of the jeep and the truck turned on, while disabled children and adults and family members spilled out of the door into the parking area, where they celebrated the team’s arrival with a welcome song.
They were so excited that their song lasted over an hour!
The next morning our team began fitting each disabled child and adult. There was one little girl named Joyceline who had an enlarged head due to hydrocephalus; she was not able to walk and had also been battling malaria. She was the quiet one who watched all the goings on, sitting silently on the floor with a shy smile, wide-open eyes not missing a thing. She waited her turn without complaining or whining.
Finally, when several hours went by, it was time to fit Joyceline. And that’s where the unusual gift comes in. As my physical therapist friend started measuring this precious African child, the little girl began singing (almost in a whisper) a song over the physical therapist.
She placed her tiny hand on my friend’s shoulder and began composing her own little worship song.
‘Jesus loves our friends, and He cares so much for us. He loves you for helping us, for sharing with us His care. Jesus is the One we love so much. We are happy in His love. We want to say we love you too.’
Joyceline made up that little song, singing her praise and worship to God while she rested her little hand on the physical therapist’s shoulder. That day the Spirit of Christ permeated the entire hillside of that small village in Cameroon, and our Wheels team members discovered that those who are poor in this world are often the richest in faith. That physical therapist received the best gift ever—the gratitude of this dear little daughter of the living God.
Oh sure, she had given Joyceline the gift of a wheelchair. But what my friend received was far more valuable. Priceless, really—the incalculable thankfulness of the poorest of the poor.”
Back to me: After reading Joyceline’s story, I asked God to give me just a touch of her sweet spirit. Would you say a prayer for Joyceline and the many folks at Wheels for the World?