Life in a wheelchair: “Some things are complicated, many things are possible”


March 22, 2022

This interview appeared in the EiNS magazine of the Evangelical Alliance in Germany (EAD)

From: //

Martina and Horst meet at work in a drug facility. They fall in love and get engaged. Then she has a serious car accident. They both struggle with God.

Martina, Horst, you worked in a facility for addicts. How did that come about?

Martina Köninger: I was at a Bible school in Jerusalem and had to leave unexpectedly because of the first Gulf War. I learned about a drug facility that was looking for a potter. I wanted to combine my profession with working with people.

Horst Köninger: A friend recommended Schloss Falkenberg to me. We Zivis* had to practice the daily routine with the guests. Getting up in the morning, going to the workplace on time … I was challenged because I was shy by nature. The work inspired me to question my own life.

What fascinated you about each other back then? When did it spark?

Martina: I find it hard to get involved in commitments. For the first six months of our friendship, I broke up with him almost weekly. Because we lived in a close community, I learned to love Horst’s stable, balanced manner.

Horst: My first impression: breakfast time 7:00 to 7:20. Regularly at 7:15, the door opened and a young woman with long brown hair came in, dragging a blue jeans bag behind her and sat down on the nearest chair, sighing. She was so different from me … One evening Martina told me about her life. I found her whole manner inspiring. I was immediately in love.

Then came the accident. What happened?

Martina: A week after we had agreed on our wedding date, I had a serious car accident while shopping for materials. I barely survived and was in intensive care for a month.

Horst: We were in a meeting when the police came and said that my fiancée had had an accident. A co-worker drove me to the hospital. I could only see Martina through a pane of glass. It was uncertain whether she would survive the severe injuries.

Under the starry sky, I suddenly began to sing praises.’

I wanted to be alone and went for a walk. I was angry at God: why didn’t He save Martina? The longer I walked, the calmer I became. Under the starry sky, I suddenly began to sing praises. I could not explain it to myself.

If I remember correctly, Martina wanted to end the relationship. But Horst stayed on …

Martina: Under the influence of morphine, which I had to take because of the pain, I told Horst wild stories. Although I did not yet realise what permanent damage I had, I broke up with him, thinking he had better find himself another woman.

Horst: I was shocked and called the head doctor, who reassured me that the confusion was due to the painkillers. Ending the relationship because of the consequences of the accident was never an option for me. I love Martina as a person, whether she can walk or is in a wheelchair.

What did it mean in practical terms to suddenly live with a disability?

Martina: Despite everything difficult, we also had fun experiences. Once we went to a restaurant in two wheelchairs. On the way back, two old gentlemen pushed us up a steep hill. The man pushing Horst was completely out of breath, but Horst didn’t dare to get up …

“Suddenly I was no longer the young woman, but a wheelchair user.”

I was troubled by the fact that I could no longer do many things. But slowly I realised what was possible, albeit with a lot of effort. I learned to swim, canoe, ride a horse and ride a wheelchair bike. If only there weren’t so many stairs! Being stared at all the time put a lot of strain on me. Suddenly I was no longer the young woman, but a wheelchair user.

Horst: Many hurdles and obstacles opened up. Suddenly I, the shy one, had to ask things for my wife, ask people to vacate the disabled parking space. On our honeymoon in Portugal, we got a flat tyre on the beach. We took a cab to the nearest bike store. There I put Martina on the counter and she explained in English what we needed.

Were you always clear that you wanted children and that it would be possible?

Martina: I gathered information about what it means to have children with paraplegia. After seven years, I was ready for a child. The birth went easily, our daughter was easy to care for.

When Philine was a year and a half old, a double pregnancy was announced. The boys were born at 34 weeks. Twins often come a little earlier, but they had problems with their lungs after birth.

Jachin had to go to a special clinic. We are grateful that he survived the difficult eight weeks. Today, both boys have completely intact lungs. But when he was one year old, Boas was diagnosed with severe hearing impairment.

Horst: When we thought everything was over, the new diagnosis came like a hammer. Now we had 200 percent severe disability … A family in our community supported us out of their own concern. It became important for us to learn sign language to ensure communication.

In all that time: What has sustained you? When did you especially doubt, when did you experience God intensely?

Martina: When it slowly dawned on me that God was not healing me, I was angry. What about all the healings I read about in the Bible? It took months before it slowly occurred to me that God was up to something else in my life. Yet God has been close to me all the time, enduring when I have cried out to Him. I have felt his closeness.

The honesty in the Psalms has done me good. With time I realised how valuable it is not to be at the mercy of a vague fate, but to have a friend in Jesus with whom I could talk, argue, even be angry with and shout at.

Horst: I particularly remember the day of the accident, when I was first so angry at God, then became calmer and calmer, and finally began to praise God. This certainty that God is there and holds me, catches me, no matter how far I fall. The inner peace, contrary to all rational understanding, has helped me to get through difficult phases.

Horst is self-employed, Martina is involved in the PerspektivForum Behinderung and in refugee work. How do you manage all that having a disability?

“Living inclusion is always a powerful testimony.”

Martina: Many things are more complicated with a disability, but still possible. After my accident, I thought I had misheard when I thought God had called me to the mission in the Middle East. Now these people are coming to our church.

Horst converted the entrance to the Willkomenscafé for wheelchair access especially for me. That made a strong impression on people. Living an inclusive lifestyle is always a powerful testimony. It shows in a very practical way that everyone is valuable.

Horst: My self-employment is an advantage because I can manage my own time. So I could take the children to doctors who don’t have a barrier-free entrance. When Martina was away at meetings of the Evangelical Alliance, I could have the children. I then did my unfinished work in the evenings or on the weekends.

Martina, in conclusion to the Perspective Forum: What do you wish for in relation to people with disabilities?

Martina: When I was in a wheelchair, I was shocked that I couldn’t get into most churches and congregations because of the stairs. It hurt me how few Christians have learned to deal with disability. I sought contact with other Christians with disabilities, and we founded PerspektivForum in the late 1990s.

I wish that Christian congregations would follow words with deeds. Are not people with disabilities so valuable that we should invest money and work so that they can participate? This must not be left to the Diacony**. It is no substitute for inclusion on the ground, especially since very few people with disabilities live in diaconal institutions***.

Thank you very much, both of you! And God’s rich blessing!

The questions were asked by Uwe Heimowski.

This interview appeared in the EiNS magazine of the Evangelical Alliance in Germany (EAD)

From: //

* Zivi is a substitute for military service. If you don’t want to do the mandatory military service you can instead do social service.

**Diacony has started in the church in Germany centuries ago and is now a huge social organisation which has not much spirituality anymore.

***Social housing run by the Diacony.