“This wheelchair is my Mercedes-Benz,” said 55-year-old Alice M. Nyankolor.
She said her movement is no longer restricted, adding, “All I have to do is go to the bus station check-in and upload my wheelchair and off I go.”
Nyankolor was among 50 people who received a new wheelchair shipped by Asbury United Methodist Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, through its Barrels of Love ministry. The program provides semiannual shipments of clothing, medical supplies, textbooks and more.
To distribute the goods, the church collaborates with Healthy Women, Healthy Liberia — a United Methodist Global Ministries Advance program — founded by former Global Ministries missionary Dr. Christiana Hena, who returned to her native Liberia in 2012.
Nyankolor said the gift of the wheelchair is a blessing to her and other individuals in her situation.
Residing in the hilly community of Kakata, in Margibi County, she said it is a painful experience not to be able go where she wants.
“This wheelchair is a release and an added sense of independence when it comes to my movement,” she said.
Dick McCreight, a member of Asbury United Methodist Church who oversees Barrels of Love, said the church also works with Through These Hands, a medical mission in Slatington, Pennsylvania, to ship hundreds of boxes of medical supplies twice a year.
“We firmly believe that God connected Asbury Church, Through These Hands and Healthy Women, Healthy Liberia to help us improve the lives of our friends in Liberia,” said McCreight, adding that the church has been shipping Barrels of Love to Liberia for nearly 20 years.
Recipient Victor Barlay said the wheelchair helps him feel more like an equal in society.
“I go to the physically challenged meeting without begging people to take me along or dragging me to the meeting,” he said. “I can now go to some of the places (others) can go without being hindered because of my condition.”
At 45, Barlay makes hats and baskets from local materials that he sells around Kakata using his wheelchair. He said the wheelchair enables him to make more money.
“Taking my baskets to the market to sell was not possible, but with the wheelchair, I am a competitor in the basket market,” he said.
Hena, medical director of Healthy Women, Healthy Liberia’s Waterfield Primary Healthcare Center in Kakata, said Asbury United Methodist Church has been instrumental in its intervention in the lives of the people of Margibi County, especially the physically challenged.
“We (have) received annual shipments of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, stools, toilet seats, Pampers/pads and protective covers for those who are bedridden through the church’s Barrels of Love ministry,” she said.
She said the church also is helping to provide safe drinking water to villages in Lofa and Bong counties and helps support 15 students at various levels of their education through scholarships.
McCreight said Asbury United Methodist is planning to help build another well in 2021 in Bonogelekeh town in Bong County, which currently doesn’t have a source of clean water.
The church’s most recent Barrels of Love shipment will be distributed soon in Kakata, and another delivery is expected to be made in May or June, he said, adding that there also has been some discussion of an additional shipment of children’s books in the next month or two.
McCreight said he is grateful for the many partnerships that allow church members to fulfill this ministry.
“We are living the joy of mission. When we answer God’s call, he guides us, connects us and opens doors for us, and in the process, we find our congregation energized and excited about being Christ’s hands and feet in service to his people.”
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