Changing Lives in Guatemala

Imagine, if you will, never having walked due to a birth deformity; losing a leg or two due to diabetes or other health challenge; or being disabled in a tragic accident…and suddenly the gift of mobility comes into your life.  That was the blessing we offered to during our wheelchair mission to Guatemala in January 2018.

Through the generous donations of the Asbury, Lynnewood and the San Ramon Valley United Methodist churches, a team from those churches traveled to Guatemala to distribute 110 wheelchairs in partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation and the Rotary Club of Guatemala City.

This was a remarkable opportunity to engage with families that had no means to purchase a wheelchair.  They carried, carted or hobble-walked a family member everywhere.  Our recipients included disabled and mobility challenged children, adults and seniors.

We started our week volunteering for a day at Virgen Del Socorro in Antigua.  This long-term care facility, run by the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church, is for children and adults with permanent disabilities.  Many of these residents suffer from Cerebral Paralysis.  We found this to be a rewarding and enlightening experience, so appreciated by the residents.

Our first wheelchair delivery was to the Hospital of Santo Hermano Pedro, a charity hospital that turns no one away, and only charges what a person can afford. This Franciscan hospital provides medical services by local staff and volunteer physicians from around the world.  We also spent time working in the day care center and the wing for young children.  We were particularly touched by how children with clef palates, club feet and other congenital deformities received help and hope.

Our second donation was to a senior care community in Antigua.  This government run residence provides compassionate care to elderly men and women who have no place else to go.  It was amazing to see mobility limited residents slip into their new wheelchair.

Our largest distribution was at an event in Guatemala City sponsored by the Rotary Club.  It was exciting to walk into an outdoor pavilion filled with anxious families selected to receive a wheelchair.  One by one, each family was called to the front to accept the wheelchair.  One by one, we collectively celebrated the grateful, beaming recipient and their family. It was one of the most heartwarming moments you can imagine and one of the most humbling.

We delivered what seemed like an endless stream of wheelchairs.  To see a very young boy experience mobility for the first time in his life, brought tears to our eyes.  This little boy had only known life as his loving and patient mother carried him, on her back his entire young life.  Adults who had lost a leg, or seniors who could no longer walk on their own, were simply grateful beyond words.  As our host, Alejandro, said, “You changed many lives today.”  My goodness, we did, with great love, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Thank you for your donations, prayers and the privilege to be your representative to the people of Guatemala,

Steve Elliott, Debbie Hammond, Christina Silveira, Kayla Dees, Phil and Elva Cooper, Tim and Patti Arnold, Skip and Liz George, Doug and Mary Ellen Huey.

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