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Wheels and Wings

Catherine MacKenzie
Wheels and Wings

During the 1980s my family did some mammoth car journeys. My parents seemed to think nothing of attaching a caravan to the back of their Citroen estate and heading off to a tiny little village in the South of France, or a soaking wet caravan site on the banks of the Rhine. The car was one of those unusual vehicles you don’t see anymore, as they’ve been replaced by minivans. It had an extra row of seats at the back. This is something that I would argue is essential for any family of hormonal pre–teen girls. They don’t want to be with you – and on a long journey, the feeling is probably mutual.

I was thankful – then and now –  that the Sony Walkman[1] had been invented, and I have fond memories of listening to a variety of music in the back row – out of earshot of my parents, and out of reach of my two sisters.

Generally a martyr to motion sickness, I never felt ill when listening to music. If audio books had been invented at that time, I believe my family would not have seen me from one end of the vacation to the other.

But why do I talk about this? Well, listening to Joni Eareckson singing “Spirit Wings” is one of my fondest travel memories from that time. You couldn’t immediately click to any favorite song you had on the Walkman – but with a little dexterity you could stop and rewind to your heart’s content. I did.

Around this time I discovered Joni’s books – and at some youth event or other watched the film about her life,  where she acted in the title role.  A young woman, whose world changed forever after having fractured her spine between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, She was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

As a teenage girl on the cusp of entering the adult world, something clicked with the story of a young woman with everything before her suddenly having it all snatched away. But Joni’s story goes on to show that instead of everything being taken she was given something much more profound.

The seventeen–year–old girl who suffered depression and doubts after her accident went through a spiritual battlefield until she could say emphatically “I’d rather be in this wheelchair knowing God than on my feet without him.”

“So here I sit … glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self–centered wants and wishes.”

Her life, from that day when she dived into the waters of Chesapeake Bay, has become one of ministry. Through her books, films and songs she has touched the lives of thousands. Her charitable work has improved the lives and futures of a great many people who found themselves struggling against the same physical difficulties that have impacted her life. Her mission Joni and Friends has spearheaded initiatives such as Joni’s House and Wheels for the World, providing life–changing mobility and the hope of the Gospel to people impacted by disability worldwide.

A simple click will take you to Joni and Friends | Sharing Hope Through Hardship – and you will be astonished, as I was, at the lengths one charity has gone to in order to help others.

[1] Sony Walkman – The original Walkman started out as a portable cassette player manufactured and marketed by Japanese company Sony since 1979. If you don’t know what a Cassette tape is (GenZ) look it up on Wikipedia.

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Joni Eareckson Tada

Catherine MacKenzie
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