Al’s Wheelchair Story
One of the things I enjoy most about my work is that I often get to make connections as part of a network of God’s people working to meet needs. This is one of those stories.
Last year (2013), Surge made a survey trip to Bolivia with the idea of discovering if there was interest and need for the type of ministry we are involved in using soccer as a means of building relationships, specifically focussed on children in need. Well, that led us to a partnership with the Stansberry orphanage. One of the reasons for this connection was my previous close friendship with Mario and his dear wife Eva (from Tambo days), who are serving as house parents for 10 children in the orphanage. They were so gracious to take us in and do the extra work of preparing meals for our team during our stay.
But Mario’s mother was also staying as she was recuperating from a fall where she broke her leg. She was basically bed ridden and spent most of her daytime hours in a mat on the front porch. As we came and went walking past her, we of course greeted her warmly trying to encourage her and lift her spirits a bit.
Mario’s brother, Jaime, also a good friend and a very talented mechanic, had designed a home made wheelchair out of bicycle wheels and welding a frame to hold the chair together. I thought it was quite ingenious, but proved out to be a bit bulky and heavy enough that it was hard for their father Abdias to push around. At that time, I thought to myself that it would be nice to be able to bring a real wheel chair to help them out.
I must regress for a moment and let you know that I have travelled twice now to Peru with some medical doctors that like to use their knowledge and practice to help people. They have also supported a hospital in Ghana, West Africa. Last spring I was called upon to help them unload a truck and a few days later load an ocean container with medical supplies headed overseas. While unloading 30 or 40 wheel chairs, I asked “what do I need to do to snag a chair like one of these?” The good doctor, immediately said he’d give me one! And there it sat in my home for a couple months, while I wondered how I might get it to Bolivia.
In July, the time finally came as I was leading another team to Bolivia to develop the soccer ministry further. It was under the 50 pound limit for luggage, but how do I get it within the size dimensions, so I don’t have to pay the fee for oversize luggage. The leg and foot support were already off, but I discovered I could also take wheels off and repack it smaller than it was. Well, to make a long story short I got it close enough to dimensions and fit it in a canvas bag & taped it up (see picture).
Then the only concern was what would happen at customs. I knew from experience that this could present some issues and we already had soccer gear and shoes to donate. Passing through customs was not a problem, however, even though I was asked about the contents, once the official heard it was used it was free passage through.
You should have seen the smile on the faces of the family members, once I got the chair put back together. Since Mamita was up the road 4 hours, I decided to play the part of an old man for the sake of a picture—oh, that’s right, I am old!
My purpose in sharing this is to thank all that had a part and also to demonstrate the great pleasure I get in making these connections and meeting people’s needs. I should also mention, of course, that prayer is a powerful thing. I don’t think these events are just random chances of coincidence, but rather is the work of a loving Father who cares deeply for His people.