When Kekoa was born, doctors told his parents that he wouldn’t make it through the night. But not only did he survive the night; Kekoa, whose name means “Courageous Warrior” in Hawaiian, lived with love and joy for nearly 26 years.
Kekoa’s cerebral palsy caused profound medical challenges and a range of disabilities. While he couldn’t speak, he communicated love and joy with a bright smile and ready laugh. And though he couldn’t walk, he taught those around him how to walk with the Lord.
Kekoa’s Gospel Legacy
When Kekoa changed addresses from Hawaii to heaven, hundreds of friends and family members gathered at his celebration of life, held on his 26th birthday. And while Kekoa’s wheelchair sat empty, the blessing of his life had only just begun…
Kekoa’s family knew the selfless, exhausting work involved with caring for a family member with severe disabilities—lifting, turning, diaper changing. It was hard, even in the U.S., with healthcare and basic necessities available. When Joy saw the challenges people with disabilities face in developing countries, she could feel in her bones: “That was a different kind of hard.”
So Joy made the decision to donate Kekoa’s wheelchair to Joni and Friends. Through our Wheels for the World™ program, she knew her beloved son’s chair could be restored and gifted, with the love of Christ, to a person in need.
“If one person can come to know Christ because of Kekoa’s life in his wheelchair, then Kekoa’s life will continue to have an eternal impact for glory.”
“My dad is a prison chaplain. I thought of prison inmates finding purpose and meaning while refurbishing Kekoa’s chair—knowing that their lives could now be different because they had a hand in changing someone else’s life through a wheelchair. The prisoners’ lives are being restored by Jesus while they restore wheelchairs!”
The restoration team did a beautiful job with Kekoa’s chair. Just ask Joy…
“When I saw Kekoa’s refurbished chair for the first time, it was overwhelming. The legacy of Kekoa’s life will continue to roll!”
With Kekoa’s wheelchair restored and ready, Joy traveled to the Philippines to find out who God had chosen to receive it.
Nicole, her mother Chonda, and their family of six live in a one-room home in the Philippines.
“We live in a not-so-fancy place.”
Because of her severe disabilities caused by cerebral palsy, at 25 years old, Nicole cannot walk and needs complete care. Though Nicole needs a wheelchair, Chonda has never been able to afford one. And because Chonda can’t carry her, Nicole had spent years in the house, never getting outside.
“I used to take Nicole out when I could still carry her. Even though Nicole has a disability, she has a right to live in this world.”
Despite her needs for medical attention and therapy, Nicole last visited the doctor when she was thirteen. She hasn’t had physical therapy since age five.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Chonda told us that,
“Nicole just lays down at home all day. She never goes out of the house. It hurts me to see her like this.”
Chonda longed to provide what her daughter needed: hope, connection, and freedom to get out in the world.
“A wheelchair changes an entire family’s life.”
Joy will never forget the moment she saw Nicole in Kekoa’s wheelchair, smiling wide.
“Nicole and Kekoa have the same disability! And they’re the same size! It’s as if it was made for her! Nicole was chosen for this chair.”
The Hawaiian lei is a symbol of love, friendship, celebration, and honor. In ancient Hawaii, wearing a lei represented royalty. Joy brought a vibrant lei to give Nicole—a reminder that she, like Kekoa, is a child of the most high God. And Chonda and Nicole both expressed her overflowing gratitude for the gift of her perfectly fitted wheelchair, delivered with the love of Christ:
“Nicole is very excited about this! And we are both grateful!”
“I’m so happy! I’m very happy that I can get out of the house.”
Celebrating new life and hope with Nicole and Chonda, Joy also felt a powerful connection to her son. She knew Kekoa would love to see his wheelchair blessing Nicole. “He would be so proud,” she said.
As Chonda looked over at Joy, they connected mother-to-mother and Chonda knew in her heart,
“Joy can see Kekoa today in Nicole.”
During her years stuck at home, Nicole had an unspoken dream—to go to the mall. When she shared this, the Joni and Friends team brought an accessible van to pick up Chonda and Nicole. Together they went to the mall for ice cream.
With her new wheelchair, outings no longer have to be a dream for Nicole and Chonda. They can go out for walks, meet with friends and family, and more. Their lives have changed completely.
“I love you all! I hope you can help many more people like me!”
The Gospel Changes Everything
During the same Wheels for the World outreach in the Philippines, many lives changed—that day, and forever:
138 people received wheelchairs
301 people heard the Gospel, and
215 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior!
Joy expressed her amazement at the work God did at the outreach, using the gift of mobility to demonstrate the hands-on love of Jesus to people.
“This has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. Our God is a good Father who prompts us to get out there and love people—to not just talk about it, but to really show them love.”
Across the globe, people like Nicole spend long hours, days, and years in isolation, unable to experience the dignity and freedom God wants for them. When you partner with Joni and Friends, you can change lives by providing the gift of mobility, and the hope of the Gospel to people with disabilities.
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”