Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Free Wheelchair Distribution Party


The challenges we face are not the things that usually come to people's minds; we've grown accustomed to the cockroaches, we're unphased by the smell of burning trash, lice is nothing but a minor inconvenience and we never expect anything to start or finish on time. The real challenges include remaining docile to the Holy Spirit and seeking His guidance in every situation, resisting the temptation to acquire "stuff" which could alleviate discomfort or inconvenience, and knowing when to say "no" so that our personal prayer time is not compromised.

Another challenge is remaining sympathetic to those who are suffering and not allowing the sheer abundance of need to numb our senses and distort our ability to see each one of them as Jesus Himself in the disguise of the poor, crippled and lame.

Last July our family was scheduled to visit a small village several hours away. About 16 youth group members had accepted the invitation to accompany us and were waiting at the church.  Before leaving, we broke open scripture and read the gospel for the day, which just so happened to be the story of the Good Samaritan. Many of the kids were hearing the story for the first time, so we dove in and discussed the importance of caring for the needy that we encounter even if we're in a rush, even if we have other plans, even if.... even if...

This isn't the actual road, it's just a photo I found online
of the same region of Peru. The road is very similar.

Hoping they understood Jesus' teaching, we piled into Burrito Gris and headed out.

You can read about our outing in the blog post titled "Make DISCIPLES of all Nations"; however, the story I wrote fails to mention the most profound event that occurred that Good Samaritan Sunday.

As we were returning from the remote pueblo, bumping along the rocky dirt road, we came upon a man with malformed legs who was literally dragging himself along.  We were dumbfounded by the realization that the gospel we had just read hours prior was coming alive right before our eyes. We stopped instantly and jumped out. Our new friend explained with a smile that he was making a "routine" trip into the city (over 10 miles away) to sell fried plantains with his brother. After he accepted our invitation for a ride, we lifted him into our van and continued on our way. When we arrived, we carefully placed him upon the sidewalk and asked what more we could do. "I have everything I need and I thank you for the help," he said. Before parting ways we prayed together, but my heart still felt heavy.  Not wanting to make a promise that we couldn't keep, I kept my desire to provide this man with a wheelchair to myself. As we drove away I peered back to watch him drag himself along the sidewalk. I was sad, but also incredibly inspired by the humility with which he bore his cross.

Later that day I "just so happened" to receive an email from a friend who was "just checking in".  I explained the divine appointment we had earlier in the day and shared our burning desire to provide the man with a wheelchair. Our friend insisted that we postpone any purchases until he could "check into some things", and so we did...

Unbeknownst to us, an amazing ministry was coming to life. Our friend didn't just "check into some things", he opened the floodgates of an outpouring of grace that would change the lives of hundreds of people. By contacting Free Wheelchair Mission, a US-based, non-profit organization dedicated to providing mobility to the needy in the third world, and completing all the necessary legwork, our friend provided us with the opportunity to help 43 people and their families.

For the past several months we've been working with priests, nuns and various leaders of the surrounding communities to locate people in need. Free Wheelchair Mission requires copies of the potential recipients' legal identification, current photographs along with medical certificates from the provincial clinics which provide diagnoses and explanations of need. All praise be to God, the combined efforts of many resulted in the collection of all needed documentation. The same group worked together to ensure that the recipients had transportation from their village to ours, which in some cases was over two hours. Coordinating this part of the effort was a miracle in and of itself.

After securing the date for the "Liberation Party" the task of planning all the festivities began: some offered to make rice while others compiled playlists of Christian praise and worship music, the folks from our town's municipal office set up a stage and provided all the decorations. We assembled gift bags which included a crucifix handmade by a member of Team Carmody, rosaries which were also handmade, a vinyl picture of Jesus (which happens to be my favorite), prayer cards and more. Each person's efforts helped to make this day possible.

The day before the party we had to kill and pluck 63 chickens...



The first step was buying them from "the chicken people" in our town.

They allowed us to use their vehicle to transport them to a friend's house.



Behind our friend's house we paired up for the task ahead.

My job was to keep the chicken still by holding it's feet together and wings from flapping while my partner sliced it's throat open and drained all the blood.




Next, we dunked the chickens in a pot of boiling water to prepare them for de-feathering.

When it came to de-feathering I was the laughing stock of the gang.


I finished one for every three of theirs. Not only was my speed inferior, but my quality left a lot to be desired. I often tore the skin and struggled to get every feather off.



As the women cleaned the chickens they separated the parts.

Their compensation for a hard day's work was a share of the parts that wouldn't be served to the masses: feet, heads and organs.



When the chicken prepping task was complete we were supposed to begin assembling the wheelchairs, but we couldn't...


It was 7PM, the night before our big celebration - the homemade juice had been prepared and was being chilled, the gift bags were arranged - red bags for the ladies and yellow for the men, the speeches were written and the music was cued, but the wheelchairs still hadn't arrived from Lima. The word on the street was that the truck would not arrive until 11PM or so, which by Peruvian standards could mean much later.

We were tempted to be totally freaked out.

Acquiescing to the inspirations of the Spirit, Chris sneaked away to the church, where he begged Our Lady of Good Help for her intercession.

Moments after he left the church we heard unfamiliar rattles and saw extra bright lights coming down the main road toward the plaza.








"It's here!!", the kids all yelled.

Around 8PM everyone gathered around and helped unpack the truck.





We invited every capable set of hands to help.


The volunteers from Lima demonstrated how to assemble a wheelchair and then set us free to starting working.



With a room full of helpers, they estimated it would take 4-6 hours. Thank you Jesus for every sacrifice we get to make for YOU!!!





Jack, who loves building things with his hands, got right to work.




We were happy to see that some of the Lost Sheep were willing to give up their evening to help out as well.


The next day we invited the volunteers from Lima to our home for a yummy American breakfast followed by praise and worship.


It was the perfect start to a long-awaited day!




The kids from our town helped to get everything set and ready to go!



As the recipients began arriving they headed to the church to wait for the festivities to begin. When we finished all our last minute running around we met them there. My first bucket of tears fell as we entered and saw people, who were unable to sit upright on their own, laying on the floor. One by one we took the people to the municipal building where they could rest more comfortably.





The volunteers from Lima taught Anna and Katelyn how to adjust the chairs to fit each individual.








So, after each person's paperwork was processed they headed outside to get the finishing touches on their new ride.





The scheduled program began as our mayor welcomed everyone.

We had hoped to meet with him before his talk to brief him on the fact that Jesus revealed to us in prayer that He wants to be the guest of honor at this event, but we didn't have time.

How silly of us to think that the Holy Spirit is somehow bound by our incompetencies! To our surprise and delight the mayor began he talk by thanking Jesus for making the whole day possible. He acknowledged the unity that has developed between the Christian churches in our town and stated boldly that we need to act as Christians should if we want our town to continue improving. It was beautiful!!




Chris led the group in prayer and then shared a personal testimony about his own father who was wheelchair bound for Chris' entire childhood.




A friend's daughter was our MC for the event and did an amazing job of keeping the focus on Jesus.

She read the story of the Good Samaritan and shared our experience of the man dragging himself along the road. Using the gospel story as a reference, she explained the importance of caring for others, even those we're not necessarily close to. Our MC told them about our friend in New York who worked hard to make this event possible, even though he would never meet any of them.




During the presentation there were people in the crowd weeping. I want to believe that it's because they were contemplating the profound impact that the Holy Spirit can have on those willing to listen for His soft voice.





As our MC finished up, people were directed to the church to receive dinner.



We served about 500 meals thanks to the tremendous generosity of Team Carmody!!!



I was grateful to be working alongside of a friend who kept reminding me to laugh and have fun.





In between scoops of the tangy sauce I was responsible for drizzling atop the chicken and rice, I would sneak away to say good-bye to the folks that had traveled so far for the gift of mobility.


It was hard to keep a dry eye as I watched family members effortlessly push their loved ones across the bumpy, dirt road - especially as I remembered seeing so many of them being carried just hours prior.




We continued serving into the night until all the huge pots were empty.


Once again, we collapsed in bed confident that we had given the day all we had to give.



In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." Oh, how I delight in the words of Our Savior!!!

PS - We haven't been able to find the man from Nuevo Mundo who was the inspiration for this whole ministry. We humbly ask for prayers, that the Lord guide us to him so that we can be the Good Samaritans that we desire to be.

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