Day 4 - Posted by Brad
Have you ever heard the old saying, “Where the rubber meets the road”? I have always understood that to mean the moment of truth in a particular matter. You may say, or intend to do something, but this is where practice turns to action. Today was the day where all of the “giving” of wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches by so many hospitals, medical equipment companies and individuals connected with the people who were in desperate “need”…Giving meets need!
Bethel Ministries International is the group we are spending the week with. They work with the disabled and impoverished in Guatemala, providing mobility to those who cannot get it otherwise. Bethel depends on volunteers in America to collect used wheelchairs and other mobility equipment and shipping it to Guatemala. Their Guatemalan staff then takes all of the wheelchairs to refurbish and distribute. Mission Mobility was created to organize the collection efforts in the U.S., finding volunteers to collect the equipment in many states across the country. You can read more at the website .
Many of us on our team this week have been volunteering with Mission Mobility since the beginning. We have spent many hours calling hospitals and nursing homes, driving great distances to collect and then organizing the effort to put them into shipping containers bound for Guatemala. We tell everyone we know about this effort. We describe the people in need, and how they can help. But, quite honestly, at times it is hard for people to fully grasp how a used wheelchair from Indianapolis, Indiana can actually make its way all the way to a disabled person in the middle of Guatemala. Today, I got to personally fit a little girl named Jennifer into a chair I collected from National Seating and Mobility in Indianapolis last year.
We drove two hours this morning to a town called Santa Cruz. The drive was so beautiful. Scott took several beautiful images. This is only the second distribution Bethel has done in this area. Our plan was to give 50 wheelchairs today. For many people today, this is their very first wheelchair in their life. One 15 year old boy has been in need all of his life, and his mom got to push her son home for the first time ever! Can you imagine..15 years of carrying your son everywhere you go?
As we unwrapped the wheelchairs, Rick found one of the chairs had a Mission Mobility sticker on it from Louisville. I helped Jorge fit little Jennifer into her new chair. With some minor adjustments, Jennifer was set! I say all of this to encourage all of the volunteers who are collecting. I also say it to encourage those who have so generously donated equipment. Your generosity has given the blessing of mobility to someone in desperate need. You literally helped change someone’s life forever!
One of the women that was helped today was 105 years old. Wow…what a long life. Imagine what she has seen and experienced in her years. So much of it is not good. She has endured physical and emotional pain unimaginable by most of us. She has lived through a Civil War within her country that took the lives of so many. Yet, she was full of joy. As Rick and Rich were helping her, she took Rick’s hand and placed it on her shoulder. Rick, being the nice guy he is, began gently rubbing her shoulder. After a moment, she then took that same hand and placed it on the other shoulder. He rubbed the other shoulder as well (free massage). Through all of her pain, she praised God for her wheelchair and the comfort she received through the time Rick and Tommy helped her.
Another woman was Maria. She had paralysis due to a stroke she suffered long ago. She had never had the use of a wheelchair as well. After being fitted by Scott and Tommy, Scott began teaching her how to set the brakes and work the wheelchair. Scott then took her to the center of the large building we were doing the distribution in and began dancing with her in her wheelchair. Holding her by the hands, moving in a dancing motion across the floor. A few minutes later, Tommy came over, tapped Scott on the shoulder and cut in on the dance. He danced with Maria as well.
A man named “Paula” came to the distribution with his body curled up tightly into a position where he was unable to stretch out. After fitting him in the perfect wheelchair, Scott asked how he felt. He said very good. Scott placed his hand over the man’s heart and asked, “Yes, but how does the wheelchair feel?” Brad Clay was filming this entire process. Brad said that a picture of the man’s face is worth a thousand words. Here is his face as seen through Brad’s camera. He was finally experiencing great physical comfort and relief. Guess what he did? He praised God for His faithfulness. If you read last night’s blog, you should be noticing a pattern. These people have absolutely nothing. Even worse, they have incredibly difficult and pain-filled lives. Yet, without fail, they praise the God who created them, and thank Him for comforting and providing for them.
Tom Ballinger was fitting a young girl that had physical and mental special needs. Her feet were so curled up that they had to layer a lot of foam padding to allow her feet to rest on the footrests. Tom said that the moment her feet touched the foam padding, she got the sweetest grin on her face. She had never experienced this kind of softness on her feet.
Tommy and Scott were struggling to communicate with one of the people they were fitting. Neither one of them are as “proficient” as Tom Ballinger is in Spanish. (Ha-Ha) There was a Guatemalan photographer named Richard who was walking around capturing the event on film. He walked up to Tommy and said that he spoke English and that he would be happy to help. Tommy grabbed him and did not let him go. Tommy told him that he was a direct answer to prayer. We have all been praying long before the trip that God would bring the people we needed into our paths and help us accomplish His will. While Richard needed to walk around and film other things, he faithfully kept coming over to help translate. It was such a tremendous help.
Speaking of photography, Brad Clay rocks!!! He has been an amazing blessing to us. He has already captured so many special moments. Brad said that he often times listens to music on his headphones as he is filming. As he walked around today filming, his eyes were filling up with tears. To see what God was doing in that room, coupled with great worship music was overwhelming. Brad said that as the other guys were putting away all the supplies as were preparing to go home, he saw the photographer (Richard) come walking in carrying a woman who had two canes. He said that many people walking by on the street outside heard what was going on with our group. When this elderly woman heard, she knew she needed to come see us. Richard scooped her up and brought her in with just a few minutes to spare. She was so incredibly thankful.
After each person receives a chair, they have the opportunity to speak with a pastor who is willing to pray with them, and offer them help and hope. It is a time of great praise as these people get to hear more about the God who loves them. The local government leader prepared a lunch for the team after we put everything away. One of the pastors stood up praising God as 21 people gave their lives to Jesus Christ. For them, this is where “God’s giving” met “their need”. Now, they have a new wheelchair, with a new heart, and a new eternal future!!!
We then headed back to Tecpan to visit pastor Juan in his family’s new house. This has been a dream for them for many years. They have been living in the back of their church for years. A team from the U.S. came in at the end of last year and built their new home. They just moved in a few months ago. We were all so happy to see our friend Juan happy in his new home. They are such a special family.
We also spent time talking with his wife’s cousin Viviana. She has two kids that have been diagnosed with Hepatitis-B. They have been told they need medicine for the next month that is too expensive for their family to receive. Not only that, Viviana also has a thyroid condition that is causing immense discomfort for her. This is not a short-term problem. She needs to travel to Guatemala City often to get a check up to ensure the dosage of her medicine is correct. This prescription is too expensive for her as well. This family is enduring tremendous hardship. We are going to help her children with their medicine. We are praying about how we can financially help Viviana in her condition. Please pray for Viviana.
Finally, we were all invited to the home of one of Juan’s church members. His name is Jose, and he has a wonderful and giving family. They wanted to say thank you for all that our team has done, not only this year, but past years as well. Jose is a farmer who raises avacados, blackberries and snow peas. He has a very beautiful home and cooked the most delicious chorizo, tortillas, black beans and grilled onions. It was a great time of fellowship.
I cannot thank everyone at home enough who has so generously given to meet our needs on this trip. I know how many different worthy causes pull at your heart. Thank you for believing in what we are doing, and supporting all of our projects. Every man on this team is thankful beyond imagination.
Tomorrow is another busy day filled with stove installations and blanket distributions. Please pray for our continued good health and the people we will interact with tomorrow. It has been amazing so far. I know God has much more planned.