“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
The Joni and Friends Wheels for the World™ program provides life-changing mobility and the hope of the Gospel to people living with disability worldwide. In countries from El Salvador to Thailand to Nepal (and many more around the world), people with disabilities experience the tangible love of Christ through the gift of a wheelchair, fitted with care by our volunteer physical therapists. Their stories radiate with the hope of the Jesus.
But the wheelchair recipients aren’t the only ones who experience new life and transformation through Wheels for the World.
After our “Chair Corps” volunteers across the U.S. collect used wheelchairs, those wheelchairs go to restoration centers located in federal, state, and private correctional facilities across the country.
That’s when changes begin behind the prison walls…
During his incarceration, Javier’s son was involved in a serious accident that left him in a coma. Javier felt useless and worthless, unable to help his family in crisis.
As his family got help from others, and his son eventually recovered, Javier realized that he needed to start giving back.
Working in a Wheels for the World restoration center, Javier is responsible for quality control. He makes sure that every wheelchair and piece of mobility equipment is in top condition before leaving the shop. He checks the tires, upholstery, and all moving parts, down to the wheels, which need to be greased and adjusted so they’re not too loose and not too tight.
Javier appreciates how Wheels for the World has helped him change and start giving back. He says:
“God’s helped me help other people now—basically what I should have been doing in the first place. Wheels for the World has made such a big impact on my life. It’s a great feeling knowing I’m able to help other people.”
David came to a Wheels for the World restoration center while serving time on a sixteen-year sentence for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. While in prison, David came to know Jesus, and his life began to change.
At the shop, David was given logistical tasks: keeping an inventory of crutches, canes walkers, and wheelchairs; receiving chairs; handling shipping and paperwork.
For David, Wheels for the World provided an avenue of meaningful connection with the outside world, as well as a way to contribute.
“The love of Christ comes through Joni and Friends and Wheels for the World at so many levels…. Wheels for the World gives us an opportunity to serve others and stop serving ourselves.”
Working in the shop inspired David to adopt a new life verse:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
David expressed gratitude for the inspiration and opportunity Joni and Friends has provided to him and his fellow inmates. He has seen transformation happen through Wheels for the World.
“There are men I have witnessed personally who have come to Christ through Wheels for the World. And they have changed. They have overcome addictions; they’ve overcome their failures.”
David shared that he now sees that there is no limitation to what Christ can do, even for people living behind bars or in paralyzed bodies.
“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”
Phil, a Wheels for the World Shop Supervisor, has witnessed God frequently transforming inmates as they restore chairs.
“Inmates who previously lived self-serving lives, taking from society, have the opportunity to serve others. […] By teaching the skills needed to restore a wheelchair, it also helps restore the lives of the inmates. They learn and they grow, and they become more confident. They acquire the skills that will help them when they get out.”
And until the inmates get out, they take heart seeing the difference the wheelchairs they restore make to children and adults with disabilities all over the globe. Each shop has a board where photos, thank-you notes, and stories about the wheelchair recipients reflect hope and light back to workers living behind bars.
The stories on workshop bulletin boards confirm a glorious truth: that each properly greased wheel, well-fitted armrest, and repaired seat is part of God’s ultimate redemption project—bringing lost and suffering people back to himself, safely into his fold.
Joni’s Encouragement to the Inmates
Joni herself writes to the inmates, offering encouragement. In one letter she reminded the workers in the Wheels for the World shop that God himself is in the restoration business—not just of wheelchairs, but of their lives and their relationships, with others and with himself.
And every act of restoration, whether mechanical or spiritual, points to a God who is making things new, and will see the work to completion.
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”