(followup to But then God…. by Annette Fulton)
A few weeks prior to this trip, we discovered a need for a special wheelchair. A mom we were building a home for had a 10 year old daughter who could not walk and is deaf. This Mama had carried this child, Claudia, everywhere. Also, due to the muscle condition in Claudia’s legs, it was often necessary to comfort her in a special position which often caused her mother to hold her for hours and hours a day. This prevented this single mom from finding work, and also required her older son to forgo his education so he could work in the fields to help the family. This dear child required lots of attention and this dear Mama provided it.
We recently posted a wheelchair need on Facebook. I had many doubts we could find a chair, but God didn’t. Within hours of my post, a chair was found and within days it was delivered to our home to be taken on our trip. Many faithful friends were part of this miracle. I was in awe of God this day! We not only received this speciality chair, but other small children’s chairs in the process.
Excitedly, we transported this chair and another through airports and customs. We couldn’t wait to show Chris (from Bethel Ministries) this amazing chair! Upon arrival, Chris examined the chair and agreed it was amazing, but then our hearts sank. He explained that this incredible chair was desperately needed in Guatemala, but it was unlikely to fit Claudia. This chair was made for a younger child. Disappointed, we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that the chair would certainly bless some child in Guatemala. Claudia would definitely get a chair at the wheelchair distribution, but they may not have the right size yet. We knew Claudia would eventually be given a chair that would suit her needs.
Our first full day in Guatemala was wheelchair distribution day. Chris began the day by praying with the crowd that had gathered in the large, tin-roofed auditorium on that rainy morning. I understood little of what was being said, (as I only know how to smile in Spanish), but it was clear that this was a faithful crowd. Old and young were there, and many had travelled hours to arrive on time. As we lifted our heads from prayer, tears could be seen on their faces, their hands still held together, lifted high as the continued to proclaim, “Dios, Dios”!
This day was not about a team from Iowa, or about a chair we lugged through customs for hours the day before. This day was about God. These people had not yet even received a chair but they were praising and thanking God. Tears began welling in my eyes as I scanned the crowd and spotted Claudia. Her precious mom was also praising the Lord.
This is the rainy season in Guatemala. It is not unusual to receive a downpour for an hour and then the sun returns. This was not that day. Rain continued throughout the morning and afternoon, providing a constant hum on the tin roof in that large building, sometimes loud, but often a low rumble.
Once the teams began the fitting process, the ‘hum’ of the room was not the rain, but the whirl of activity surrounding each fitting. Families gathered around as a team of three to four ensured each component fit the person properly. Seat belts were made and added to chairs, as the rough terrain could easily cause a person to be thrown from their chair. Foot rests were adjusted; seat pads were added to protect the person from sores; and ultimately the team was able to pray with the family. The families then met with a pastor to hear about the Lord and set out to make the journey home.
I anxiously awaited Claudia’s family being called up. Her dear mom, Angelica, along with a small friend, waited patiently with her – often shifting Claudia in their laps to make her more comfortable. It had been a long day for them, and being amongst a crowd in the city was not normal for this family.
The young girl who accompanied them watched cautiously all day as others around them received chairs. Her tentative look of concern rarely left her face. She was very sober. Angelica also sat with little expression, but would certainly return a gentle smile whenever engaged.
Claudia required a specialized chair, and Bethel had several amazing technicians to carefully fit these needs. These fittings often took a long time, and most other regular chairs had been distributed by the time she was called up. Bethel had a few small chairs that might work for her temporarily, but we also had the chair we brought so they could get an idea of her specific needs. We already knew it was unlikely to fit her, but it was important to get measurements so a perfect chair could be found.
She was scared and did not want to leave her dear mama’s arms. As she wriggled around, Chris and Saul carefully walked around the chair checking her position from every angle. After a period of time, and a series of measurements and checks, Chris paused and stepped back to take a final look. He paused again and then said,
“You’re not going to believe this… this chair fits her perfectly! It is going to work for Claudia!”
What? What did we just hear? We couldn’t believe it!!! My arms began to tingle, and I had that feeling of awe again. The same feeling I had on the day this chair was discovered. I knew this had nothing to do with us, other than for God to reveal His presence. He is always around, but we often miss Him. I am so grateful He allowed us to witness this. Again, it’s not about us at all, but He does want us to know him. I stood back as Saul adjusted and transformed that chair for Claudia, for her mom and for her family. Their life’s were about to be changed, and so were all of ours who witnessed this.
Once Claudia was finally placed in the chair and began to roll around her expression changed from fear to joy!! Oh, what a good God we serve!!!
Claudia and her family left the day changed; physically, emotionally and spiritually!
The story doesn’t end here. The very next day a team went to their home to prepare the ground for a new home for this family. We were fortunate to be on this ‘cement slab’ team.