After a very short night’s sleep, we had a quick breakfast and headed out for Chimaltenango. This is the day that so many lives would be changed through mobility.
The distribution was being held at a church next door to the Bethel wheelchair warehouse. We arrived early enough to begin moving wheelchairs into place. Our plan was to give 50 wheelchairs. Chris told me this morning that we would be giving 52 wheelchairs. This was great news!
All of the people receiving chairs were trickling in to the church. Some have come from very far away. Chris always opens by singing a silly song to break the ice and help the people feel more at ease. As exciting as this is for the families, you know the anticipation is making them nervous. These distributions are so organized. Bethel has many staff and volunteers who help make these events go smoothly. Donna Mooney and her daughter Lizeth were there to translate and help make sure the chairs were fitted well.
Scott had one workstation, fitting chairs and seat cushions. Don Pablo was an elderly man who came to receive a wheelchair. He had an old wood cane with him. As Scott prepared his chair, he asked Scott to also make a metal cane for him. His current cane was “old and gnarly” according to Scott. After finding an old walker, Scott went to work and made a metal cane. Don Pablo called Chris’ daughter Lizeth over. As she leaned in, he handed his old cane to her and said, “I won’t be needing this anymore. I want you to have it.” This really hit Lizeth in the heart. She told him that it meant so much for him to do this and that she would hang it on the wall.
Tom and Rick were working together. One sweet moment was when an elderly woman who was blind asked Rick and Tom to come over. She reached her hands out to feel their hands. She was praising God, thanking them both by name. Rick said that this was probably her way of “seeing them”. It was a real encouraging moment when we found wheelchairs and walkers with Mission Mobility stickers on them. It shows the power of the volunteers around the country working together to send the chairs. As we witnessed today, they truly change lives.
I had a workstation as well, and was assisted by an 18-year-old intern from St Joseph, Missouri named Ava. She came down with the group that recently built Pastor Juan’s church. She is staying until March. It was great having her there. Not only did she speak some Spanish, but she was very handy with the wheelchairs. One moment broke my heart. As each person’s number is called, the family and friends usually bring the recipient over. One elderly woman was brought to me. They were struggling to lift her, so I began to help. As I reached for her, I saw a grimace that told me she was in pain. But, she was already in the air, so we just had to keep going. As we sat her down in her chair, the pain was obviously immense. It turn out she had been moving around with a walker, and took a huge fall. She broke her hip. She had it repaired, but she is obviously still very tender. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. A happier moment was when I had a 94-year-old woman come to my station. When I asked her age, the son (who was about 70 years-old himself), happily said that his mom was only six years from reaching a very special age. They were a very sweet family.
We went to eat lunch at Pollo Campero. Rick had to make sure that Tom had a Pollo Campero experience before he left. I missed it, but I understand that Tom was doing some fancy dancing with some radio station people doing an on-site radio cast. Man, I wish I could have seen that!
We then headed over to see some old friends, Luki, Tulio, Johanna and David. Luki is the mom who was run over many years ago while walking down the road. When the paramedics arrived, they pronounced her dead. They covered her with a sheet and were waiting for the people to come get her. They were all shocked when some time later, Luki began moving around. Imagine their surprise!!! Luki is one tough woman!!! Her son Tulio is going to Aviation Mechanic school in Guatemala. He is doing well, but really needs to learn English. His sister Johanna is such a sweet girl. She just graduated from High School, and had to go to work because Luki has not been doing well. As Johanna was walking home, a van pulled up next to her, and three men jumped out. They attempted to kidnap her by pulling her in the van, but she fortunately got away. She quit her job as it continued to keep her out late. Luki’s youngest son is 13 and so smart. Holly had me bring a Transformer figure to give him. It took me about 3 days to figure out how to make it work. David did it in 10 minutes.
We then went to see Juana. She is the woman who had eye problems and came to live in Louisville with the Shutt family. We love Juana so much. Earlier, we went to visit her new house that is being built. They just poured the concrete floor today. They are getting close to being finished. Juana was happy to see pictures and video. Her eyes are doing well.
As we were leaving, Chris stopped the van and went into a home. He came out with a 17-year-old girl named Maria. Chris said that her appendix has been inflamed for the past 10 days. She had a compress around her waist. She is in desperate need of the procedure to fix this. We immediately donated the funds to make that happen. Our prayer is that tomorrow morning Maria will be in the hospital getting her condition fixed.
Finally, we headed for church. Tonight was the special dinner at the church. This is always one of our favorite but most difficult times. It is basically like a family reunion. Difference is, everybody likes one another, and gets along well at the church! J The food was very good. The little girl Claudia came to sit by us. After finishing her plate, she was really eying my food, but in a sweet way. I asked her if she would like some of mine. She smiled and said that would be good.
Each of us had the opportunity to say a few goodbye words. It was a difficult moment for us all, because while we are saying goodbye, it’s only for a year. I don’t really cry a lot, but I felt the Holy Spirit really overwhelm me. The thing that God was bringing to my heart was to tell them, “Love one another”. After a week of being in many of their homes, we knew of the pain, suffering and brokenness in many of their situations. I told them through my tears that not only do we need to ask forgiveness from God, but that we need to seek forgiveness from one another. That loving one another is what brings joy and fellowship. They had the room set up with several rows forming a large square, with the young kids in the middle. Tom commented how the center of the room was the future leaders of their community. As I was speaking, I told them that they should love their children as they are the future of their town. I also told the children to love their parents, because they are a gift from God to raise and love them. I told them to love to older people in the room, as they are the ones from whom you will find wisdom. In the end, “Love one another”.
Because we see the same families every year, we decided to try to get pictures of them all, so we remember names and faces better. So, we took photos of all the families, one by one. That way, we know what kids belong to certain people. We actually got pictures of everybody. We also got a lot of hugs. Actually, I don’t know if I have ever been hugged so much in my life. Rick was finally able to hold KoKovena. It made his night. Blanca’s family came up to us and wanted to talk. They were all hugging us and would not let go. One of the girls named Jaime said she wrote a letter to each of us and wanted Chris to read it. Even though I have never heard her say a word in English, she wrote her letter to us in English. She said that while she no longer had a dad (since her dad died 7 years ago), she felt that we were her dads. That she loved us and would be praying for us this next year. Wow…what an emotional time. Quite honestly, this is one of the most important parts of what we do.
I want to thank everyone for donating towards our trip. We have been able to help so many people over the past week. From wheelchairs, stoves, education sponsorship, food distribution, clothes, shoes and medical care, we could not have done any of this without your generosity. You have given us the privilege of getting to come here and change people’s lives forever. What a week!!!
As I finish the blog, the wind is howling and the temperature is cold. So many families are sleeping in bad homes with no blankets or heat. I am already thinking about next year. I hope you will consider partnering with us and donating.
We leave the hotel at 4:00 am. I will write one last blog in a couple of days. Quite honestly, it takes a few days to decompress and formulate my thoughts. I will also ask each of the other three men to write a blog post with their thoughts.
Dios te Bendiga,