The Story of the Van

Sometimes a story is too remarkable not to share. Such, I believe, is the case with the following story involving the congregation of Salem Lutheran Church at Mendon, IL. I was privileged to witness God’s hand at work in a very active way. My name is Dan Wilson, an insignificant detail. The reason that I was allowed to witness this act of love and compassion is that I am currently serving Salem as their interim minister. Mendon is a community served by three churches located within the boundaries of the city limits. Salem Lutheran is, by numbers, the smallest of the three. Smaller numbers, however, do not accurately reflect a smaller spirit especially considering the numerous ministries this congregation supports both within the larger church as well as directly impacting the Mendon area. Obviously, the Lord does not require large numbers to do his work; recall for instance how many were fed with just two fish and five loaves of bread!

Visiting with congregational members, I became aware of circumstances of a young family living in Quincy in a challenging situation. The mom is a single parent, with two special needs children, one of whom is afflicted with cerebral palsy and was therefore wheelchair bound. Transportation for this family was a critical issue as their current van was not handicapped equipped, the heater was not working properly, brakes were not dependable, the floor was rusting through and the makeshift ramp which Grandpa had devised, was proving to be increasingly difficult to load the child into the van due to the weight of the wheelchair itself coupled with the angle of the homemade ramp. After the visit, the more I thought about this situation, the more God seemed to lay it on my heart. Discussion with various people in the congregation led to the conclusion that perhaps with the help of other congregations, we could jointly try to raise funds to try to help this situation, especially since winter was fast approaching. Could we accomplish this in time, however? After all, what could we as a small congregation hope to do with a challenge of this size? Discussion at the next council meeting revealed that a local business was to have three vans coming into its’ inventory the next week. Was this the Holy Spirit encouraging us to move forward? We became aware of a handicapped van, somewhat local, that may be available for purchase. As intriguing as these leads were, none of them proved to be viable. A search of the internet sites, Craigslist, and various dealerships revealed a Ford handicapped equipped van with a lift was for sale in Macomb, IL. During my visit with an elderly member of Salem we discussed the enormity of the transportation problem for this family and the limited resources of the congregation. After discussion with his family, they decided they would like to direct the memorials which had been previously given in his deceased wife’s honor be directed toward helping this family with their transportation needs if this might become a reality. A generous and noble offer, but this only got us half way toward our goal. Salem’s council advised they wanted to proceed with this project and somehow the congregation would take care of the remainder. Making a long story short, the van was purchased and delivered to the family in Quincy, the seller providing a full tank of gas for the family. A congregation, few sometimes in numbers but big in faith pulled out all the stops in faithful service to Jesus’s calling. Through their efforts, I was able to witness God’s hand at work in a very real, a very tangible way. There are many more details to this story that space will not allow me to explain here, but if you are interested in knowing more, I will gladly share with you personally. Salem Lutheran Church, Mendon, Illinois an active congregation living out God’s work through faith using our hands in service!

This is an excerpt from the response of the mom concerning the van: I have been in shock since I arrived home to find the van in my driveway. It is very nice. It drives great and that lift is wonderful. I thank you and the congregation from the bottom of my heart. It is life changing and also proof that if you just have faith and hold on and keep praying, miracles happen. This van has truly changed our lives and taken a huge burden off my shoulders.