Chairs of hope, hearts of joy!

Day 5  Posted by Brad 2-2-12

We started the day with a first for everyone in the group. We drove to Santa Lucia, near Antigua, and participated in a wheelchair distribution for 22 people. We were able to sponsor the distribution because of the generosity of our friends and family. Thank you for your support!

We went to the wheelchair shop in Chimaltenango to pick up the tools and supplies we would need. Bethel had the wheelchairs already loaded on their truck to take to the site. The staff of a local rehabilitation group, along with the local Mayor’s office had chairs and refreshments prepared. All of the people who were to receive chairs arrived at 8:00. Most came from nearby communities.

The people who received chairs were so wonderful. Most of these people came to the distribution in a wheelchair already. They have spent their lives in a chair, and were in need of a new one. The younger people had outgrown their chairs, and the older people had worn theirs out. There was one young man who has not been in a chair very long. He was 17 years old, and had been shot while being robbed. The bullet grazed his spine, which left him temporarily paralyzed. He has been able to make great progress in his rehab.

There was a good mix of young and old. There were two brothers who were in their 80’s. There was a wide range of reasons people were in chairs. Some were due to childhood illnesses, and some to accidents or trauma. One such man was Jorge. Jorge had polio when he was 6 months old. It ravaged one side of his body. He did not let that stop him in life. He had an amazingly positive outlook on life. He was actually able to drive. He drove a bus for a living. One day when he was driving, a man who had been deported from the USA, and was high on drugs and alcohol, crashed head-on into him. It took 45-minutes to cut him from the bus. It destroyed the good leg that he had. The medical people wanted to amputate. But, he earnestly prayed, and they ultimately saved his leg. Jeff and John were helping fit him for his wheelchair. Both of them developed a quick friendship with Jorge. As they were talking, Jorge was quoting Scripture verses. He began to quote an extensive poem from memory. John and Jeff were blown away by this. They gave Jorge their email address and asked him to send it to them. I know they can’t wait to get it.

Each one of us helped where needed. We brought chairs over to the stations, we cut foam padding for seats, we adjusted footrests and got to know the people as we worked with them. I know each one of us was greatly moved by what we saw. Most people would look at these individuals and be confused how they could be so happy and grateful. Many would look at them and pity them because of their disability. I found them to be some of the most joyful people I have ever met. The pure joy came from their heart. It wasn’t manufactured. It was true joy from a heart grateful to God for the blessings in life. I wish I had that spirit more often. It was actually contagious. I found myself drawn to their smiles and spirits.

Six people gave their lives to Christ after the distribution. One woman was on the local community staff. She was not receiving a chair. She was just their to volunteer. She stood along side of one family as Pastor Juan spoke about the need for Christ in life. As she listened on, her heart was broken. The walls she had built around her heart completely crumbled and she began to cry. Pastor Juan told her about her need for salvation, that is only possible through Christ. She knew he was right. She gave her heart to Christ right there! I told her later that she will never be the same. Ezekial 36 says that God will give us a new heart. He will take away our heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh. He will forgive us of our sins, and no longer count them against us. Christ takes the punishment for our sins. In return, we are credited with His righteousness. So, on the day of judgement, God will not see us as the sinners were were, but He will see the blood and righteousness of His Son. Now, that truly is Good News!!!

After the distribution, we ate lunch and headed to visit with Luki and Juana. Luki is the woman we met 2 years ago. Many years ago, Luki was coming home from work on a bus. After so got off the bus, another bus ran over her. Realizing something was wrong, the bus backed up, driving over Luki again. The police came to the scene, and Luki was pronounced dead. They put a sheet over her and left her while they did other things. Luki was not dead. She lifted her hand and cried out she was alive. What a miracle! She has 3 wonderful kids. One works for Bethel and dreams of being a pilot. One is a girl named Johanna. She is 17 years old, and completely adorable. We have been sponsoring her education through Bethel for the past 2 years. In April, we began to sponsor her to learn English. We found out today that Luki and many other woman had been fired from their jobs due to a new Mayor taking office, and cleaning out the old employees. Luki is a single mom, and depends on her salary. She made $130 a month as the team leader of a street sweeping group. Now that she is without a salary, Johanna has had to go to work as a babysitter to help make ends meet. This means she cannot continue in English classes. She actually has to live in the house of the family she works for. They have problems with alcohol, and Johanna says the couple gets verbally abusive with one another. Johanna has to keep the baby separate as this goes on around her. This breaks my heart. I consider Johanna to be like a daugher to me. If I knew my 17 year old daughter was having to do this, I would do anythig to get her out. We are praying for the best way to help Johanna. We need to raise financial support to keep her from having to do this, and get her back into class. Unfortunately, the job market is terrible. The chances of Luki finding a job to replace her lost salary are almost nothing. If you feel like you are in the position to financially help, it would truly be a blessing beyond measure. I would love to raise financial support to allow Johanna to return to class, and relieve the financial burden on the family. Please email me at bradups0301@yahoo.com if you think you can help.

We finished the afternoon by visiting Juana. She is the woman you see on my pictures with the smoke damaged eyes. A local Louisville family is advocating to bring her to the USA for eye surgery. I asked Juana what she would like for us to pray for. She said that she needs prayer for her eyes so she can be a good example and support her girls. I told Juana that no matter what happens with her eyes, she is already an excellent example to them. When I look at Juana, I see a strength that is rare, especially in the circumstance she is in. Her daughters adore her, and she is an excellent mom. She loves them, and you can tell they know it.

I am continually amazed at the love, compassion and strength of the people in Guatemala. I cherish each opportunity we have to spend time getting to know them. This trip has been far better than I could have dreamed of. Thank you Lord for this week in Guatemala! What an amazing opportunity to live in the center of God’s will!

By the way, I want to thank John for his pictures. Many of the shots you see were taken by him. He has been amazing. Maybe he has a new career!

Tomorrow is vacation Bible school. I can’t wait!

Dios te Bendiga,

 

Brad

 

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