Half Dead—Actually Alive and Well, Part 1

  • By: Joni and Friends
  • July 8, 2014
  • 1 Comment
  • Cause 4 Life

Michael Panther, Cause 4 Life InternMichael with fellow Cause 4 Life Interns

Today's post, One Sudanese Man Finds Life in a Wheelchair, was written by Danielle Ledoux, Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life Vocational Intern.

Handicapped. Special needs. Disabled. Impaired. In Africa, people use the term “half dead.”

But that term couldn’t be further from the truth for Michael Panther, a young man using a wheelchair for seven years now. While his countrymen consider him half dead, he is more active and alive than he has ever been. Not only are his days full as an economic student at Louisiana State University (LSU), but he is also the president of LSU’s International Student Assembly and the director of LSU’s Student Outreach, just to name a few. Recently, his activities center on a Cause 4 Life Internship with Joni and Friends in Southern California. These internships equip college students and young professionals to use their educational training in Christian disability ministry.

But the story of Michael’s journey from South Sudan to the Joni and Friends International Disability Center is a paradox—a paradox like death leading to life. Michael’s story demonstrates that disappointment, restrictions, and suffering are not the end, but the beginning of greater opportunities.

Michael began life as a healthy baby born in the middle of a civil war in South Sudan. At the age of thirteen, he discovered that he couldn’t run as fast or as far as he used to. This weakness grew day by day, along with a pain in his back. Desperate, Michael’s father took him across the border into Kenya to seek medical care. But father and son were forced to spend two years in a refugee camp that lacked any medical help—meanwhile, Michael’s condition steadily worsened.

But God’s grace appeared in the form of an American missionary doctor who operated a Kenyan hospital for children with bone conditions. Dr. Tim Mead frequently toured surrounding hospitals, looking for needy children. By no coincidence, he visited a refugee camp—the camp where a father with his fifteen-year-old boy were languishing.

Bringing Michael back to his hospital, Dr. Mead diagnosed him with tuberculosis of the spine and performed two surgeries. Though saving his life, the surgeries and the complications that followed permanently left Michael in a wheelchair.
“God saved me there a lot,” Michael remembered about those hospital days. “No one knew there I would be alive.”

But depression attacked the fifteen year old. Lying in his hospital bed, Michael constantly cried, begging God to explain why he deserved this pain. And as if the pain, the wheelchair, and emotional toil weren’t enough, Michael keenly felt the stigma from his countrymen—the despair of being “half dead.”

“People thought it was the end of my life,” Michael said quietly, gently rocking back and forth as if to ease the misery of the thought.

And the wheelchair might have been the end for Michael, except that he was about to be introduced to a young woman who experienced the impossible—death leading to life...

Read Part 2


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1 Comment

I’ve had the joy and privilege OV knowing Michael. He radiate strength, purpose, and the love of Christ.
  • Dec. 18, 2017
  • 6:48 p.m.
  • Melissa Dalman