LivAbility Magazine

Edition 14 | Fall 2018

A young girl looks right at the camera and has a huge smile. She has short, dark hair. She is wearing a hoodie and blue bandana around her neck. Red and blue stripes run diagonally across the photo.

Story by Brooke Brown

Jennifer Conway recalled the bright smile of little Esmerelda as the girl got comfortable sitting in her very first chair. The mother cried tears of joy.

Conway was with them on behalf of a disability ministry, Joni and Friends Arizona. She was in Mexico to capture video and photos of the experience on behalf of Highlands Church in Scottsdale, which partnered with Joni and Friends to send a team to Rocky Point, Mexico to deliver 50 manual wheelchairs in June.

In four days, they fitted 25 chairs for 25 people.

“There’s a lot more stigma about people with disabilities in other countries, so we wanted to make sure they knew they’re loved,” Conway said.

Joni and Friends Arizona is celebrating its 25th anniversary of service throughout the state by expanding their reach past Arizona’s borders.

The Wheels for the World Ministry, started by Joni Eareckson Tada, is meant to “bring the gift of mobility and the Gospel message to people with disabilities worldwide,” according to the website.

“On our last couple of mission trips to Mexico, we were doing vision care, but we noticed the needs of the people with disabilities and wanted to meet them,” said Missy Farrington, the Special Needs Ministry director at Highlands Church.

The team for the Rocky Point trip consisted of the Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life interns who work at Highlands Church, some Highlands Church families, and several physical therapists, occupational therapists and mechanics.

“It’s important to have the therapists and mechanics on your team so that you can be sure each person who receives a chair is comfortable and seated properly,” continued Farrington.

Each person receiving a chair was called back to the therapy room to be fitted individually.

“The interns helped cut and cover pieces of foam, which especially allowed the younger kids [to] be able to grow into bigger chairs, so they will last longer.”

The other chairs were left for the church to distribute as needed.

The rest of the team spent time praying for the specific needs of the other families while they waited to be fitted.

“We really wanted to meet their spiritual needs as well as their physical ones,” Farrington also said. To do that, the team also served all the families a fancy dinner.

The chairs serve another population: inmates at Kingman Prison, who refurbished them.

“It’s neat because each chair is assigned to an inmate who follows it through the whole process, and they get to sign their name on it at the end,” added Farrington. Joni and Friends partners with several prisons throughout the country in this way.

Back in Mexico, it was a special moment for Farrington to watch Israel, the pastor’s son, get settled into his first chair after spending years being carried around, over his father’s shoulder.

“He could finally see what was going on around him, greet people, and become part of the community,” she said. “It was a blessing to see.”

For more information on future Wheels for the World trips, visit or

Portrait: Writer Brooke Brown

Brooke Brown

Brooke Brown loves to tell all types of stories that encourage others. She’s the author of The Little Butterfly Girl, a writer for Autumn Magazine, an actor in Theatre360, a public speaker and runs Brooke’s Butterfly Touch: Creative Storytelling Services, which strives to help others discover the power in sharing their own stories in order to cultivate hope, opportunities and understanding.

Read more by Brooke Brown.