Thursday, August 07, 2008
|I stepped into a completely different world when I got off the plane in Peru. Traveling with a team from Mariners Church, my daughters and I had no idea how leaving the comforts of our Orange County home and serving people in this Third World country would impact us.
Our first day was dedicated to assembling wheelchairs for the handicapped that are immobile due to their inability to afford such a luxury. These cost-effective chairs are provided by the Free Wheelchair Mission; a program that utilizes inexpensive parts to enable the disabled in the poorest areas in the world to move around. My daughters and I worked as a team, putting each chair together in less than 15 minutes. As we assembled each one, I thought about how this simple chair would breathe life into someone who felt stuck. As we gathered together to give the chairs away, we heard heart-breaking stories about people who were paralyzed from being shot, casualties of a car accident and suffering from polio.
We then visited four different homes where we became personally acquainted with families, hearing their tragic story first hand. It was humbling to meet the mother of four whose youngest child could not walk and suffered from constant seizures or the family of seven who lives in less than 500 square feet and have endured emotional upheaval due to their crippled child. The father was so devastated by the disability of this child that he tried to kill himself and failed. He later abandoned the family leaving his daughter to care for the young one while the other children, along with their mother and grandmother, work to provide for the family. The mother and daughter were forced to carry this 6-year old until we gave him the gift of mobility.
The resilience of the people is amazing! My daughters and I met another man who was the target of a gunman when he tried to protect his neighbor’s car from being stolen. This former electrician is completely paralyzed and had been confined to his bed for three months. I will never forget the look on his face when I personally picked him up and placed him in a chair, wheeling him outside for the first time in weeks. He had hoped he would be able to return to work because his wife and children were trying to earn enough money to support the family but were unsuccessful in their attempts. Now he feels like he has a whole new lease on life despite the inability to walk.
The stories seem never ending. Our next stop is a small town named Iquitos. There we plan to help hundreds of people waiting for medical assistance. The majority of people are poor, but their smiles are big. The compassion and joy the girls and I have felt in one day are more that others learn in a life time.