Giving the Gift of Mobility Through Free Wheelchair Mission
God didn’t intend for us to live on the ground. No one should have to crawl.
It was this fundamental belief that led Don Schoendorfer to create Free Wheelchair Mission, a ministry that designs, manufactures, and ships wheelchairs and mobility devices to those in need around the world.
In 2001, Don was working in the medical field, patenting devices that would improve medical services. Everything changed when he traveled overseas and saw the challenges and living conditions faced by those who struggled with disability-caused mobility issues.
Moved by the compassion he felt for these people, Don began producing low-cost, rugged wheelchairs to meet their transportation needs. As his mission continued to grow, he learned just how important these wheelchairs were to the people who received them.
“The people we meet have often lived their entire lives on the ground and in back rooms, shunned from society, and family sometimes,” Georgia Kloos, a development officer at Free Wheelchair Mission, said. “This is no way to live and, if given the mobility they need, jobs, rehabilitation, and restoration are in reach again. The cycle of poverty begins to break when people can be mobile on their own again.”
Free Wheelchair Mission works to “provide the transforming gift of mobility to people with disabilities in the developing nations as motivated by Jesus Christ.” To do this, Don and his team provide their $80 wheelchairs and mobility devices to a network of like-minded distribution partners in 93 countries.
Once on-location, these partners offer the wheelchairs to anyone who needs them, distributing until they run out. For Georgia, this is both the best and worst parts of their ministry.
“My personal favorite part of our ministry is when someone realizes the gift we are giving is free and, for the first time, this look of relief comes over their face. It’s then followed with an overwhelming sense of joy and then gratitude and they ask why. Then we get to say, ‘Well, because God loves you and knows you have a need.’ Then we get to introduce Jesus,” she said. “My least favorite part is when we run out of wheelchairs at a distribution and have to turn someone who was hopeful away.”
The ministry has already distributed over a million wheelchairs and, with the help of churches, foundations, corporations, and volunteers in the U.S., they hope to never turn another needy person away. With the help of these partnerships, communities of “Ambassador” volunteers, numerous fundraising events, and screenings of a new documentary, “Visionaries,” they hope to reach people all across the nation and the world.
In addition to volunteer work and donations, Free Wheelchair Mission happily welcomes any and all prayers for their ministry.
“Please pray for us that in the next few years ahead we can reach our next one million recipients. So far we’ve given away over one million wheelchairs and our goal is share our new documentary with one million people in hopes that they will get inspired to donate even just one wheelchair,” Georgia said. “It took us 16 years to get to our first million and we are looking to get to the next million in a few short years and definitely by 2025.”
Even with these challenges, Don knows that there is no other work that he’d rather be doing.
“I did know it would be challenging and a whole lot of hard work, but I wish I knew how easy and how enjoyable it was going to be. In the beginning, I did not completely understand that this was God’s mission,” he said. “After countless miracles, I did make the connection. What a thrill to be working for the power that created the universe. Whatever happens, success, failure, joy, sorrow, it is all under God’s plan, and I get to sit back and enjoy the journey. It cannot get any better than this.”
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