A Dream Re-purposed
At the age of thirty(1992), only days prior to a 1,000-mile bicycle trip, I came down with an invisible, debilitating, flu-like illness. Months later it was diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which doctors say feels like having AIDS. My symptoms included severe pain and a persistent low-grade fever. When standing still, my heart rate would rapidly rise from 80 to 160 beats per minute. As a nurse I knew medicine did not have answers for CFS. This left me devastated. My health was now unreliable and resulted in the inability to continue practicing nursing. Of course, I was depressed and scared. “Why me?” I wondered. Does my life still have a purpose? I realized it does, but I also realized I had a choice: “Will I become bitter and give up, or will I embrace God’s new vision for my life?”
Still fiercely battling CFS eight years later (2000), I recognized my sense of security and identity were both physically and emotionally crushed. I doubted whether God really had a plan for me. I was about to sell my bicycle, but a friend said, “You can’t sell your bicycle. Selling your bicycle means you are giving up hope.” I knew she was right. I kept my bicycle. That decision became a turning point in how I adapted to my condition. II Corinthians 12:9 came alive to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Unexpectedly, I lost my private disability income for CFS three years later (2003). Again, I became despondent and questioned whether God really had a plan for my life. Yet, God pursued me. He wanted me to invite John and Carolyn Lutembeka, a Tanzanian couple, over for dinner. Three months later I finally obeyed. From the Lutembekas I learned $100 would buy a bicycle, allowing a pastor in Tanzania to travel to five villages. On average the distance between villages can be a six-hour walk.
My bicycling passions, buried since the onset of CFS, rushed to mind when the Lutembekas shared their need. They were unaware that cycling was woven into the matrix of my life. Before I was diagnosed with CFS I had bicycled 10,000 miles on four continents. I rode from “coast to coast” across America twice, around England and Scotland, in Zimbabwe, Africa, and through Israel. Late that evening, after the Lutembekas left, God challenged me to provide them with $1,200 in order to buy bicycles for pastors in Tanzania. Due to my financial crisis I wrestled with God’s challenge. He won, but I did too. Within a week of giving $1,200 I received $1,500 unexpectedly from three different sources. This sparked a new vision for my life.
Out of this vision His Wheels International (HWI) was born in 2005. HWI is a not-for-profit Christian cycling organization. Our mission is to provide pedal-powered transportation for the able and disabled through global partnerships as a tool for expanding Christ’s Kingdom.
Now finishing our eighth year (April 2013) we have distributed over 1,600 bikes to people affiliated with 90 countries. We have done research and development and have designed 22 different hand-pedaled three-wheelers, which we affectionately call trikes. The trikes are for those disabled by landmines, polio or birth deformities. Over 60 trikes are on five continents and in Vanuatu off the coast of Australia. Trikes have been manufactured, fabricated and assembled in these different places.
HWI continues doing research and development to further improve our trike design and the manufacturing process. We offer a trike building program, which allows nationals to develop metal working and mechanical skills while building trikes.
In Wheaton, Illinois, volunteers refurbish, repair, and recycle bicycles for refugees and immigrants and others in need locally.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). When CFS struck, I wondered whether God still had a plan for me. Now I know the answer to, “Why me?” I am living life for His glorious purpose. Through HWI I have gone further around the world than I could ever have imagined before I was stricken.
Do you struggle to believe God has a purpose for your life? The truth is God already has a plan for you. I have found this to be true in my life, especially in such things as the ministry of HWI. You can find it to be true in your life, too.
Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior was my first step to finding God’s plan and it can be yours too. The Bible says that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and who He made us to be (Romans 3:23). But there is hope. If we humble ourselves and admit we are sinners, He will forgive us and give us a brand new start (1 John 1:9).
Read the rest of the story in my memoir, Riding on Faith: Keeping Your Balance When the Wheels Fall Off
If you have questions, please contact me.
His Wheels International
P.O Box 423
Wheaton, IL 60187-0423