100 MORE Stories from Peru
I know what you are thinking. His last post was called “5 Stories.” And that was actually 5 stories. Now this is called “100 MORE Stories.” Is he really going to share 100 stories? No. I won’t write a blog that would rival War and Peace and ask you to read it. But I do want to explain that in one day, our team of 7 gringos experienced God changing over 100 more lives forever.
After building 140 adult-sized and 10 kid-sized wheelchairs, we met at a park to distribute them. By 10 AM, people were coming from all over Rhimac to get their chairs. Busses filled with people who had no legs, couldn’t walk, and were so severely disabled that they could barely function showed up. And these busses were public transportation. We didn’t have anyone out picking people up. These people figured out a way to get to the distribution site on their own!
Our team of 7 from Chesapeake Christians Fellowship was responsible for getting people from the busses and into seats that were inside of a small stadium in the park. We had 1 ramp, 4 borrowed wheelchairs, and 7 people who did not speak any of the language.
The guys in our group got tired of waiting for wheelchairs so we carried the people from the busses to the chairs! Two people would interlock arms behind the disabled person’s back, place their other arm under their leg and carry them about the length of a football field. And these were people who, many times, were not able to bathe or even ever had the dignity of going to the bathroom alone. Many of these people smelled of urine and feces, sometimes it was moist from fresh stains.
I was asked to seat one gentleman who was so physically and mentally disabled that I could not communicate with him in any other way than how he moved his eyes. I took him to the seating arena in a borrowed wheelchair and tried to move him to a regular seat. His eyes went wide and he tried to stop me from doing this. It was as if he was scared that if I removed him from the wheelchair that he would never get another one. He started to cry and tears were falling from his eyes as I tore his hands off the sides of the wheelchair and picked him up to put him in the lawn chair. This broke my heart. But no one could get a chair until the government, doctors, and church signed off that he had been approved.
He needed to wait.
Soon after most people were seated, the hands started going up with calls for “baños. Now that these people were comfortable, we had to figure out ways to get them to bathrooms which were up by the entrance. We didn’t have enough wheelchairs to make this happen so we did the next best thing, we literally picked up their lawn chair and carried them to the bathroom.
This proved painful as the chairs had sharp edges on the bottom and some of these people were over 200 pounds!
Afterward the process was much like the Department of Motor Vehicles in the states. You go to a table and wait for the government to sign your paperwork. After that you slide over to table two where a doctor signs your paperwork.
Once you get the mandatory signatures, you move to the circle of chairs where Camino de Vida, the church sponsoring this event, shares a message through their indigenous pastors. They bring a message of hope, mercy, and grace through a story of a simple $68 wheelchair.
Once everyone signs your paperwork, you go to the final table, give them the paperwork, and wait for your chair. While waiting you watch others getting fitted for their chairs which get customized on the spot by the local Mercedes-Benz techs.
It was during this time that my stories came to life.
The guy who started crying because I had to take the borrowed chair away from him flashed me as close to a thumbs up as he could muster. His eyes again filled with tears. These were not the tears of fear from before but tears of joy. He pointed his handlers at me and they rolled him over to me. He reached up and hugged me When I tried pulling away, thinking the hug was finished, he kept a strong hold, tears in his eyes, not wanting to let go. The one person with him looked at me and said in broken English, “You have friend for life.”
Another woman was having trouble finding where to go. She was confused and her daughter, who needed the child chair, started crying. A few of us came to her aid, and even though we couldn’t understand each other’s languages, God gave us the ability to communicate with each other. After she got her chair, this woman came up to me, tears in her eyes, saying “gracias” over and over and over. She pulled out a very old polaroid camera and took a picture of me with her daughter. The little girl held on to that picture as she left and kept looking at it.
My final story is another little girl. This girl came in with her mom, a single mother. She is not able to walk, so her mom held her up as she stood on her feet, kind of like how I trained my daughter to dance. She was struggling to try and hold all the paperwork and her daughter and walk to the back of the park to pick up her chair. As she got to the back, she almost dropped her daughter. One person from our team yelled, “Hey Fred, get over there and help that woman!” That was one of the best commands I ever listened to. As I picked up that little girl, she melted into my chest. My heart began to beat as I immediately fell in love with this little girl. Her eyes connected with mine.
I truly believe I was staring into the eyes of God.
They shot through my soul.
Any walls that I had ever built around my heart throughout the past 42 years of my life came crashing down. I was defenseless and I simply cried.
Twenty minutes later we had the girl in a wheelchair. She looked up at me and held out her hands. I went in for a hug. I hugged her and kissed and she told me, ever so quietly, thank you.
Her mom spoke to me for five minutes. I didn’t understand a word she said, but that was alright. My heart understood and that was all that mattered.
The day numerous people came to Christ by seeing the service that was provided. Young women. Young men. The elderly. The infirmed and disabled. The all were made equal through the saving grace and mercy of a risen Savior.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, I want you to know that He is there for you. We aren’t promised an easy life, but we are promised that if we call on Him He will see us through all our problems until we make it to the other side.
As we leave Peru, there are so many stories left yet to be written. There are so many more people we are called to reach. Whether you are connected to a church or not, please consider doing a charitable work in Peru through Camino de Vida. www.caminodevida.com You can sign up for missions trips there or simply donate to their cause of “blessing others because we are blessed.”
For now we head back to the states, forever changed by the hearts of the people of Peru, the Holy Spirit moving in us, and, of course, a $68 wheelchair.