Lawrence Ter Horst, 79, of Ireton (Iowa) Christian Reformed Church, was forced into retirement by a stroke. “Now what can I do?” he wondered. Then an invitation drew him to the ministry of building KidChairs for disabled children who are considered “the poorest of the poor” in developing nations. KidChairs are special wheelchairs built to fit children.
Ten years later Ter Horst still loves the work. “I like to do something that is worthwhile; my time is not my own—I want to use it to the best of my ability to God’s honor and glory,” he said.
Nine wheelchair-rebuilding centers are scattered across CRC classes Minnkota, Heartland, and Iakota (regional groups of churches). But few donated wheelchairs are built specifically for kids. The need far outstrips the supply of available chairs.
So chairs are built from scratch in a donated vacant building in Ireton from a design first drafted by three Dordt College students. Each chair is fitted to a child in a developing country. “It is 100 percent driven by volunteers and donations,” said Marlowe Van Ginkle of Trinity CRC in Rock Valley, Iowa.
To date more than 6,700 KidChairs have been sent to children in 40 countries. Five hundred more are being built. At $180 each, the chairs are built to navigate the challenging environments of the countries to which they are shipped.
John Reinders from Ireton’s First Reformed Church has met some of the children who have received the chairs. “Some have been carried all of their lives. Some have never been out of their house,” said Reinders. “[The chairs are] life-changing.”