Half Dead—Actually Alive and Well, Part 2

  • By: Joni and Friends
  • July 9, 2014
  • Cause 4 Life

Michael with Cause 4 Life Interns

Today's post, One Sudanese Man Finds Life in a Wheelchair, is Part 2 of a story written by Danielle Ledoux, Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life Vocational Intern. Read Part 1.

...As Michael Panther recovered from spine surgery, the fifteen-year-old wrestled with depression as he faced life in a wheelchair. Neither he nor his family saw any future for him—someone that Africans labeled as “half dead.”

But one day, a woman who regularly visited the Kenyan hospital to counsel and play with the children approached Michael. She wheeled him into the playroom—a simple room filled with only a small table and chairs, some scattered toys, and a television. Positioning him toward the television, she introduced Michael to the movie Joni.

Joni Eareckson Tada’s journey through quadriplegia gave Michael the peace that he craved. Accepting his circumstances and the fact that God had a purpose for his life, Michael experienced a vibrancy for the first time since his back problems began.

Aided by this determination to live by God’s purpose, Michael finished high school in Kenya at a British international school. But once again, God used Dr. Mead to drastically change the course of Michael’s life. While Michael’s classmates filled out applications for universities in the United Kingdom, Dr. Mead paid for Michael to come to the United States.

“I’m not going to let you go back to South Sudan or the camp,” he assured Michael.

Since he couldn’t stand the bitter winters of Michigan where Dr. Mead’s family lived, Michael chose the climate of Louisiana State University and majored in economics, eager to solve the world’s economic woes.

However, God gently shifted Michael to another opportunity. While staying at Dr. Mead’s home, Michael discovered a unique retreat going on next door. At this Family Retreat hosted by Joni and Friends, Michael found himself talking to the Chicago director of Joni and Friends. She told him about the ministry Wheels for the World that used wheelchairs to introduce people to the love of Christ. All those years ago when Michael had watched the movie Joni as a hopeless teenager, he had no idea God would give him an opportunity through Joni to pass on that message of new life. In the fall of 2013, Michael applied for the Cause 4 Life internship program, hoping to “give a smile” through Wheels for the World to people like him—people labeled half dead.

Throughout his six weeks of service with Wheels for the World, Michael’s desire to return to South Sudan strengthened. He has many hopes for the future, such as joining Wheels for the World on a missions trip to Africa one day, getting his Master’s, working for the South Sudanese government, and even running for president. But for now, Michael continues his college career at LSU as one of its busiest seniors.

With all his activities and ambitions, his parents sometimes can’t believe that the boy they perceived as half-dead is actually alive and well in a wheelchair. And yet the reason is unbelievably simple. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

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Wonderful story, very inspiring!
  • July 10, 2014
  • 12:38 p.m.
  • Vicky Olivas
Thank you so very much for posting this encouraging story of hope and peace in the midst of life's struggles. It is my heartfelt prayer that my daughter will one day become a Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life intern. My day has been blessed beyond measure after reading Michael's tremendous testimony.
  • July 10, 2014
  • 8:09 a.m.
  • Patricia Robinson