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Wheelchair fitting in the bodega


Many of you have seen the few photos posted by Cindy, Daryl Fulp, Dick Rutgers and myself about a wheelchair fitting done in our bodega/warehouse late last week.  There is so much to this story.  It takes more than a Facebook post to tell it.

Years ago, even  before Dennis and Doris Rice were officially part of Vine International, Woody befriended staff from Joni and Friends.  I am not sure the facts of those beginnings but I think for Vine, Woody met the Rices at one of those joint events.  Joni and Friends (J&F)are wonderful to work with.   After a few trips the staff of J&F started doing their own teams; worked with Bethel, Hope Haven, and Wheels of Hope… Vine went back to our calling and provided shipping services.

Back to the future – today.  J&F receives donated wheelchairs from all over the USA.  They refurbish these in prisons.  These chairs are sent worldwide.  J&F has blessed Guatemala for years.  We receive donated chairs to disburse throughout the over 100 medical ministries that Vine International serves.  So many stories – on one container the chairs were restored to such a high quality the customs agents accused us of acquiring new chairs with the intent of selling them (no one would give away chairs that looked so good, apparently).  It took several days to document the course of those chairs from beginning to end.  I can imagine the convicts smiling with pride when that story got back to them.  While on the ‘convict’ subject when this container was unloaded our team had two former convicts, now brothers in the Lord.

Domingo is 75 y/o grounds keeper for our complex of bodegas.  He helps us unload and knows our ministry.  When unpacking this wheelchair container Domingo asked about taking a chair for a 14 y/o girl, friends of his family, but he didn’t know what was wrong with her.  He demonstrated with his arms that she had contractures.  The short version of our wheelchair philosophy, ill fitting chairs in children can shorten lives by causing pressure necrosis, restricting breathing and blood flow.  When wheelchair containers arrive at the bodega, Cindy and I quickly separate pediatric chairs from the standard adult chairs.  We insist they seek professional advice for child fittings and adults with special needs.  Daryl Fulp AND family, Hope for Home Ministry , and Dick Rutgers get our pediatric chairs because they can fit kids very professionally.  They were coming Friday, I emailed and asked if they would see Domingo’s little friend.  This family was at our warehouse over an hour ahead of time.  Dick and Daryl came in the same vehicle.  ( I would pay for the recording of that conversation coming and going from our warehouse – these guys do better comedy than recent professionals in the news).  Cindy and I padded a cart to use as a bed.  Dick measured.  Everyone was looking for a chair for Maria Jose.  We pulled out about three and started loading the rest.  “This is a perfect chair for Maria”, Dick said.  And then the work began.  We kept one of the other two chairs because of specialty pads we spied.  The rest were loaded and that truck sent on its way.  Dick and Daryl worked for three hours maybe a little longer.  Jeremiah Fulp, Daryl’s son, stirred the pot some, salvaged the specialty pads and did some of the floor work.  Our friends David and Nacho, assisted, adjusting pads, go-fered for saw and contact cement.  We were getting close.  The DOLE container arrived and David and I got pulled away…

I had to stop ( it is unsafe to drive a forklift with tears in your eyes) when I saw Dick, Daryl, and Nacho holding the crying parents by the hand over their daughter and praying.   These are good parents.  Services available in USA are not available here.  This dad carries his daughter wherever they go.  They probably don’t go a lot of places because… well because of a lot of things.

Earlier my big strong tough friend, Nacho wasn’t to be found.  I spotted him against the far wall, back to us, head down.  Unusual.  I got to where I could pull away from Dick and Daryl and went over.  One could tell he was emotional.  I asked what’s going on?  He said “I can’t look at that!” (interpretation ”my heart is broken for that family”).  And then he said, “Brother, where is the church?”  Right arm around his neck, I got in his face and pointed the fingers of my left hand at his heart, “right here” I said and then pointed to Dick, Daryl, Jeremiah and the parents/Maria Jose and “there, Nacho”…  it is not large buildings, monoliths of man’s faith in man.  Church IS what is happening right now.  It is the Loving One Another going on over there.  I asked Nacho because he has the language skills, the compassion of Christ, the desire to obey Christ’s command – love God, love your neighbor, to go and serve that family.  He did and did so well.

Two chairs put together for one 14 y/o child… Mom forgive this run on sentence, but I want y’all to see the hundred little actions that brought a family in Guatemala a small miracle.  There were two families in the USA with children with special needs that outgrew their chairs, who donated them to J&F, someone or more than one, collected and got the chairs into one of the many facilities J&F uses, a team of prisoners, inspected, cleaned, polished, may have changed a tire, did some repairs, plastic wrapped, collated these two ‘perfect’ chairs into almost 200 other chairs, along with walkers, canes, crutches, a driver picked up an empty DOLE container may have had pineapples/papaya, bananas from Guatemala, took it through the gates of that prison, signed all the paper work, waited until loaded, sealed the container and drove to Gulf Port, Mississippi or Mobile Alabama, the container was lifted off the carrier and swung into place on a cargo ship, ships crew crossed the Gulf of Mexico, the smaller Gulf of Honduras, off loaded, another driver cued it in line for the customs officer to inspect, a random greenlight/redlight (more thorough inspection),  another driver with an armed security guard brings container to Villa Nueva, next day another driver with an armed security guard brings it to us, Domingo, David, (Cindy can’t help for another few weeks – she is so frustrated) Nacho, myself unload in about one hour, sort the chairs, Domingo dares to ask for help for a friend, Daryl and Dick have been called already, on Friday the above story happens, 8 – 9 man hours of labor, a mom and dad entrust their precious daughter to men they don’t know… The hugs and tears of a mother and a father, the smile of a 14 y/o cerebral palsy affected young lady now comfortable in a fitted chair.  How many hands, hearts, involved?  How much is that chair worth?  I can’t answer either question…I know what I saw in that dad’s face and I KNOW what deep passion I felt in his hug… I just KNOW it is right and righteous.  I know the folks involved on this end and know they will tell you if Jesus were not real, they would not be here loving one another… Thank You Jesus, Amen.


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