We Carry Kevan: Six Friends. Three Countries. No Wheelchair.

We Carry Kevan: Six Friends. Three Countries. No Wheelchair.

by Kevan Chandler

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Overview

A story about friendships and commitment to one another so incredible you wouldn't believe it if it wasn't true.

Kevan is just one of the guys. It's impossible to know him and not become a little more excited about life. He is an inspiring man permeated by joy, unafraid of sorrow, full of vitality and life! His sense of humor is infectious and so is his story.

He grew up, he says, at "belt-buckle level" and stayed there until Kevan's beloved posse decided to leave his wheelchair at the Atlanta airport, board a plane for France, and have his friends carry him around Europe to accomplish their dream to see the world together! Kevan's beloved posse traveled to Paris, England, and Ireland where, in the climax of their adventure, they scale 600 feet up to the 1,400-year-old monastic fortress of Skellig Michael.

In WE CARRY KEVAN the reader sits with Kevan, one head-level above everyone else for the first time in his life and enjoys camaraderie unlike anything most people ever experience. Along the way they encounter the curiosity and beauty of strangers, the human family disarmed by grace, and the constant love of God so rich and beautiful in the company of good friends. WE CARRY KEVAN displays the profound power of friendship and self-sacrifice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683973171
Publisher: Worthy
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 117,854
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

KEVAN CHANDLER grew up in the foothills of North Carolina with his parents and two siblings. The youngest of the bunch, he was the second to be diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare neuromuscular disease. He has a Bachelor's of Arts in Counseling from John Wesley College. In the summer of 2016, Kevan and his friends took a trip across Europe, leaving his wheelchair at home and his friends carried him for three weeks in a backpack. An avid storyteller, Kevan is the author of several books and speaks worldwide about his unique life with a disability. He is also the founder of We Carry Kevan, a nonprofit striving to redefine accessibility as a cooperative effort. Kevan lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

POINT OF DEPARTURE

It was late June 2015, a lovely time of year in Fort Wayne, perfect for walking the streets of downtown and getting a last-minute lunch with friends. I was with a couple of young adventurers: Tyler and Drew. Wed run into each other at Fortezza (a coffee shop I call home) and decided orange chicken was in the cards. Over lunch, we shared our dreams and plans. They both had college graduation on the horizon, and the question of what would come next was foremost in each of their minds.

What's next? It's a contagious question, you know, and I was compelled.

For as long as I could remember, I'd wanted to visit Europe. I recall sitting at my desk in eighth grade and day-dreaming about it. My people, the Chandlers, came from England less than a hundred years ago, and our Christian heritage can be traced back to a Dublin flat in the late 1800s. I grew up in the shadows of literary giants from all over the United Kingdom and other artists from the surrounding lands. So much of who I am today comes from these familial and cultural roots, and my heart has always been drawn back to them. As Tyler and Drew shared their hopes for the future, something within me wandered, as it so often has, into the Old World. The feeling welled up and I couldn't hold it in anymore.

"Guys," I said, "I'm thinking of going to Europe."

That's how it started. That's how the thought was finally voiced. There was now, in a sense, no turning back. Whether the dream came to fruition or not, it was no longer safely tucked away inside my imagination. The dream was out in the real world, and I suddenly accountable to it. This was a threshold, a line drawn in the sands of life; and crossing it meant nothing would ever be the same again.

Bolstered by the encouragement of Tyler and Drew, I sent a notice of intent to three friends: Andrew Peterson, Luke Thompson, and Tom Troyer.

To each of them I sent the following: "I've always wanted to go to Europe, but it seems impossible with my wheelchair. So, what if I had a team to take care of me and carry me where I can't go on my own?"

I wrote to Andrew Peterson for his blessing. He's an accomplished songwriter and novelist. He's travelled the world and knows well the cost (more than financially) of such an endeavor. He also knows me. And I trust him. He was the litmus test. If Andrew thought I could pull it off, if he believed in the idea, it would fly.

I also knew if we were going to do something this crazy, we needed it to be documented. We needed proof. So, I contacted Luke Thompson, filmmaker extraordinaire, a man with a keen eye and a good heart. Luke and I had collaborated on smaller projects before, and an opportunity to work together again was welcome.

Then there was Tom Troyer.

* * *

After college, I had a group of friends who were truly free. We played music together, had simple jobs, and lived fully in community. Each week, typically Monday nights, we gathered for a potluck and jam session. Everyone brought food to share, same with instruments, and we took turns hosting at our houses.

Not many of the houses were wheelchair accessible, but it made no difference to us. We still met at all of them. Some were accessible with ramps, but others boasted incredible flights of stairs. Not a problem. Without a second thought, my friend Hayden (a bear of a man) would scoop me up and carry me inside, leaving my wheelchair outside or in the van.

As Hayden carried me, Tom Troyer would hurry ahead to move obstructing furniture or hold a door. Id be set on a couch or on the floor (I preferred the floor), and from there my friends brought the evening to me. Philip Keller gathered food for me or would be the first to come and visit. Tom and Philip shared an apartment with their wives, and two other guys (Luke Carson and Jackson Holt) shared a house just down the street from them. A handful of others came from surrounding neighborhoods and the UNC Greensboro campus nearby. Folks filled their plates and then joined me on the floor, and music came together in the same space. There was never a hesitation, and no one thought of it as an exceptional thing. This was our community, living together and loving one another in subtle choices.

One day around that time, Tom and I were driving together to a recording session in the mountains. We had a few hours in the car, and conversation turned to the topic of crazy things we wanted to do in life. The time I had spent with Hayden, Tom, and this group of friends had awakened in me an ever-growing desire to not be limited by my wheelchair. It had been the case with my parents growing up — I did plenty of things outside of my chair — but these guys took the concept to a new level. I began to realize the possibilities. So I mentioned to Tom that Id like to spend a day or a weekend independent of my chair.

"What would you do?" he asked.

I wasn't sure, because I hadn't given it more thought than that.

Fortunately, he had something in mind. "If you're going to be out of your chair, we should do something you couldn't do in your chair." His "crazy thing" he wanted to do? Go urban spelunking. It's like cave exploration, with ropes and hooks and headlamps. The whole deal, but instead of caves, you will find yourself in a sewer system. I wanted to have an adventure outside of my wheelchair and Tom wanted to explore the Greensboro underground — and what's more, he wanted to explore it with me. So, we had a plan.

Jump ahead to a cool April night in 2014. We met at Luke and Jackson's house. Tom laid a steel backpack frame on the coffee table, and I was placed in it. As I lay there on my back, with my legs hanging off the table and my arms crossed over my chest like a dead man, the wrapping commenced. We had two ENO hammocks that formed a cocoon around me, securing me to the frame. I faced backward, opposite my carrier. This process was all done with the faithful aid of Philip, along with Luke and Jackson.

Once the makeshift pack was assembled, we set off into the night. I started on Tom's back, and we found a door to the city's plumbing at the bottom of a short flight of stairs. Unfortunately, it was locked from inside, so Jackson entered through a nearby manhole and navigated his way to open our door. We broke into the underbelly of Greensboro like burglars. We found ourselves in a warm room, well-lit and full of black pipes. This is kind of odd, we thought, and admittedly a little disappointing. Not exactly a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles setup. And we certainly wouldn't find Batman, Killer Croc, or Solomon Grundy in these parts, but we decided to go further in and further down. As we proceeded, the pipes crossed our path more frequently and inconveniently until there was little room left to maneuver. The pristine lighting also abandoned us, plunging my friends and me into darkness.

Tom is a tall man, almost tree-like. His thick, black beard and hair, along with a set of pronounced eyebrows, are his canopy, and long limbs swing loosely at his sides like branches blowing in the wind. Fitting into smaller spaces is a challenge for him already, but add me to his back and those close quarters are suddenly even tighter.

"We're gonna have to take you down," Tom said to me finally.

A thick pipe hung across our path like a fallen tree. So far, we'd climbed over obstacles or crawled under them, but this space was simply too tight. The guys would have to dismount me from Tom's back and pass me over.

"Let's do what we need to do," I said.

On the other side of the pipe, we came to another open room. It was a wide, circular room, and I half-expected guardians to step out of the shadows, surrounding us with dark eyes and raised swords. This room was fairly well lit, a kind of oasis before returning to shadowlands beyond.

Our limber scouts, Philip and Luke, went on ahead and returned with shaking heads. Pipes wove like vines in those halls, and even they couldn't get through, let alone a man with a burden. With this news, we returned the way we came, back topside to find other routes. This wasn't the only sewer in town, after all.

We went further and found another sewer with a different kind of entrance. Philip stayed close to support Tom, who still carried me, as we eased our way down the muddy bank of a freezing creek. Thin branches whisked our faces and legs as Tom's shoes sank into clay and slid on slick leaves. A splash announced our arrival in the creek, and we stared into the gaping maw of a pitch-black sewer world.

With a deep sigh from each of us, we headed inward. The first section was submerged, except for a ledge along the side. We alighted this and edged our way into the cave. Tom stepped slowly yet with confidence, and I hung on his back, suspended over the water below. My feet dangled loose like bells from the steel frame, swinging back and forth with a whimsy that the rest of me didn't share. This is adventure, I told myself ... danger, discomfort, chance. It is a strange paradox to want entirely to be where you are and, at the same time, not want it at all. This is adventure as it looks from the inside.

Eventually, the ledge connected to a tunnel and everyone dropped to all fours. I was suddenly on my back, staring up at a concrete ceiling less than an inch form my face. I cringed with the prospects of what could happen — anything from serious rug-burn to an all-out broken nose. I had never broken my nose before and didn't plan to start that night. Jackson crawled up behind us, reaching out to keep his hand like a veil between my nose and the rock.

This tunnel led to a small opening with a manhole overhead. Three tunnels branched off from there, but we decided to linger a moment. Looking up through the manhole, we realized exactly where we were! A street wed driven on and walked down a hundred times. The revelation brought laughter among us, which led to shouting as we called up to the street and its unsuspecting passersby.

We made our way back to the creek and set off for one more sewer. We found another creek, this one deeper and colder, and it led us into a massive sewer entrance, much bigger than the last. This tunnel was tall enough that we all stood upright, though the ceiling was still uncomfortably close. We walked together side-by-side with room to spare. Water rose to the shins of my friends, and the dark sludge made it impossible to know what we slogged through. Phones and flashlights illuminated our path, along with the headlamp we'd brought for the carrier. Graffiti dressed the concave walls with signatures and warnings to turn back now, which we did not heed. How could we?

The passage curved to the right, and we followed it. Our voices, even as low as we kept them, echoed like an army down the watery hall and back. We walked beneath a highway and the rush of cars rumbled like a distant thunderstorm. Drainage ran from holes in the walls, which added to the mix a subtle sound of moving water. And, of course, there was laughter. It's one of my favorite things about these guys — the joy in the journey, which they embrace ... children at play with the scope and strength of men.

* * *

An hour later, we sat together at Jimmy John's (the only thing open in the middle of the night). Sandwiches and sodas marked the celebration of our success. Shoes dried under the table as we reminisced. And I don't remember who it was, but someone mentioned spiders, and I flashed a curious look.

Philip scratched an itch and pushed up his glasses. His sharp elbows jutted out as he prepared for another bite of sandwich, "Yeah," he pointed out. "In that last sewer, there were big wolf spiders all over the ceiling."

"How did I miss this?" I cried, realizing how close Id been to them.

For a moment, I was rattled by it, feeling vulnerable to such creatures and what they could've done to my defenseless body. Suddenly, I even felt those devils creeping up my spine. A shiver shook them free, though, and I felt instead a profound sense of virility. I'd walked with my friends in the spiders' lair, and we had emerged unscathed and better men than when we had entered. We were changed by survival, shaped by the going, and the world opened up that night to ask the same thing we did: What's next?

CHAPTER 2

LAYING OUT THE FLEECE

It had been a year since we explored those sewers, and the experience resonated between Tom and me like a legend. It was an adventure we'd never forget. So now I asked him, "What if we did that again, but above ground, and in Europe — for a month?"

In all honesty, I wouldn't undertake the trip without Tom or Luke. They were essential company, just as Andrew Peterson was essential approval.

One of my favorite Bible stories has been that of Gideon and his fleece. Gideon felt a tug to do something great, but he didn't trust his own gut. So, he set out a sheepskin one night and asked God to wet the fleece if the tugging was from Him. The next day, the fleece was wet on the dry ground — but Gideon wasn't satisfied. So he laid the fleece out again and asked for the opposite, just to make sure. And the next morning the fleece was dry and the ground around it was sopping with dew. Andrew, Tom, and Luke — these men were my fleeces.

I heard back from all three immediately.

Andrew: "This is incredible."

Luke: "Dude, yes!"

Tom: "Oh my."

And we were off. I found two more carriers in my friends Ben Duvall and Philip Keller, and we dove into details. Philip took on the travel plans, booking flights and researching accommodations. Tom spearheaded backpack research and development (we knew we'd need to make some extensive customization to the makeshift rig we used in the sewer). Luke handled the financial and fundraising side of things. And Ben kept me sane.

I oversaw the process as a captain might oversee his ship. Along with the physical details, I handled our media presence — interviews, email responses, and online posts. Ben was a close friend, a brother, and he helped regularly with my personal needs. He was scheduled to shower me two or three mornings each week, and we typically hung out the other days, too, just for fun. Our lives had become significantly intertwined over the previous years. I trusted him, and he knew me well, so Ben could keep an eye on whether the stresses of leadership were getting to me. And if they did, he knew how to help.

When Churchill was elected prime minister (the first time), Lord Moran was hired as his personal physician. That was his official title anyway. His real job was to monitor the prime minister's mental and emotional health during the onset of a world war. This was Ben's job. He was my Moran, caring for my personal wellbeing as we stepped further and further into the stresses of such an all-consuming project. At least there was no world war.

I remember one day during planning, I awoke to what seemed like an endless stream of emails, and my phone wouldn't stop ringing. It seemed everyone had questions — supporters, friends, family, reporters, everyone. It was all good, encouraging even, but oh so overwhelming.

I had been downtown that morning, but I felt so bombarded that I headed home to try to escape. As I rolled along the river, I tried to slow my heart rate and take deep breaths, and I prayed aloud.

"Lord, I've always wanted a platform and audience, and this is awesome, but it's so much so fast and I don't know what to do, I don't know how to handle it well, and I need help, please."

I pray in run-on sentences.

By the time I got home, I had a text from Ben, asking how I was doing. He was up to date on how crazy things were, and when it became clear that I was overwhelmed, he headed right over without another question. Ben arrived at my house that afternoon to find me pacing my bedroom, thoughts muddled and tears brimming. I'd always been an extrovert, but this was a whole new level. It was too much too suddenly, even for me. He came in and sat on my bed, fiddling with his phone while I finished writing a text to someone.

As I finished texting, so did Ben, and he looked at me with a cocked grin. Nothing about Ben Duvall is symmetrical-his feet, shoulders, eyes, nose, his grin. From head to toe, the man is thin and crooked and friendly as a '90s comic strip. "You all right?" he asked.

I chuckled and shook my head. "It won't stop going off," I said, tapping the screen of my phone.

Ben nodded, then calmly took my phone and set it on my desk. "You need anything before we go?" he asked.

We ended up at JK O'Donnell's, a pub downtown and regular spot for us. Sometimes, you need that quiet time, just you and your best friend at your favorite pub. We sat in contented silence, phone-less, sharing a plate of scotch eggs. For an hour that night, life was normal again and we were just two dudes at a pub. It was enough to recalibrate me, to stabilize my heart, to organize my thoughts, and to help me jump back into the captain's chair with a level head.

So yes, Ben kept me sane. But we were on our way, and it was going to be a wild ride.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "We Carry Kevan"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Kevan Chandler.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Andrew Peterson xiii

Prologue: Flight 1

1 Point of Departure 3

2 Laying Out the Fleece 13

3 Plans and Preparations 19

4 Gathering the Crew 31

5 Gearing Up 43

6 Learning to Fly 55

7 Ready for Takeoff 63

8 Paris 73

9 The City of Light 81

10 Band of Gypsies 103

11 Crossing the Channel 123

12 In Search of the Boy Who Never Grows Up 129

13 Into the English Wild 151

14 Turbulence 175

15 Skellig Michael 183

16 Ascent 201

17 The View from Here 223

18 Reentry 231

Epilogue: There and Backpack Again 239

About Us: We Carry Kevan 261

Acknowledgments 265

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