This letter is to thank all of you who contributed to make the Philippine Wheelchair Mission a reality. Five hundred and fifty wheelchairs were delivered to people in the Philippines who cannot walk and could not afford a wheelchair. More than 350 chairs were distributed before the short-term team left the country. Requests were still pouring in, and the remaining chairs will be distributed shortly.
A team of people from Big Valley Grace Community Church raised the funds to purchase the chairs, assemble, and deliver them.
The chairs were manufactured by the Free Wheelchair Mission and distributed by LifeWind International and HCDI Philippines. In the following pages we will share a few selected stories of how the lives of individuals and families were transformed by your precious gift.
Joseph is a 13 year-old boy the size of a six year-old who is a victim of polio. Quiet and shy, he sat in his chair with an expression of wonderment. He cracked his first smile only after Jeannie brought out a package of Jelly Belly Beans.
Jeannie Dalrymple and Connie Chin, two members of the wheelchair team, entered Joseph’s neighborhood though a three-foot narrow rocky path. His 11 siblings, mother, and neighbors stood around amidst the cement, wood, and “half” constructed homes of their urban development. This was an event!
Joseph’s neighbor, Lilia, had been ministering to his family, facilitating Bible studies in their home. Every day she watched Joseph crawling on dirt, gravel, and mud in order to go to school or play with his friends. She prayed God would provide him a wheelchair. She even thought about calling GMA 7, a local television station, but felt God saying, “No, just wait.”
Lilia heard about the Philippine Wheelchair Mission through her church, and her prayers were answered. “I could never afford this,” she says of the wheelchair, “this is God’s answer to my prayers.”
“I will be at school every day next year!” These were the first words out of Billy’s mouth as he sat in his new wheelchair. Billy is 15 years-old. He has a six year-old brother who is also unable to walk. Their mother carried them to school every morning and picked them up again one at a time to carry them home in the afternoon. Now that Billy was older and bigger, he frequently missed class because he was just too heavy for his mother to carry. Billy and his brother both received wheelchairs.
Billy goes home pushed by his mother while his younger brother is pushed by his sister.
Editha Lazona from North Cortabato has a son, named Crispin, who is 47 years-old and unable to walk. Editha supported the two of them by running a small store attached to the front of their home. She testified that now that Crispin has a wheelchair, he can run the store and she can go out to buy supplies, run errands, and find other work.
Ritcher’s face brightened with the realization that there was hope he would be able to function again. Before he became ill, he worked at City Hall. He could have recovered completely from this viral illness, but no regular therapy was available to him. Consequently, he has been confined to his bed for the last six years.
The wheelchairs were being distributed at a small sports complex in the in the community, and people were being carried from all around by family and friends to pick up their chairs. Ritcher, however, could not get to the gymnasium because his father, who used to carry him around, had sustained a stroke two weeks earlier that left him hemiplegic. Upon learning of the situation, the team took a chair to his home.
At first there was hopelessness and sadness in his face, and he refused even to sit in the wheelchair. Finally, he was persuaded to get into the chair. As the team taught his mother some therapy exercises to help with rehabilitation, a smile came over Ritcher’s face as he began to realize there was hope he could regain function. In the meantime, the wheelchair will assist him with transportation and he can be part of the community again. Ritcher’s father was also given a wheelchair.
Thelma couldn’t believe Christians would help a Muslim like her. Thelma is a single mother from the Muslim B’laan tribe in Mindinao. She was left to raise her four children alone when her husband was killed in a work related accident. One of Thelma’s four children is Primo, a seven year-old boy the size of a three year-old. Primo had an illness at three months of age which left him with atrophied and weak extremities. He never walked, but desired to go to school. Thelma was praying for a wheelchair for her son, and had a plan for getting one. She voted for a man who was elected to serve as her Barangay Capitan, and would now ask him for a favor in return — a wheelchair for her son. But God chose to supply what was needed by another way.
Before Thelma had opportunity to take her request to the Barangay Capitan, she learned that free wheelchairs were available from the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) team working closely with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). After receiving the chair, Thelma expressed her gratitude to the donors who gave the chair, and testified publicly that she could not believe Christians would care for and help everyone — even a Muslim like her. She said she was touched by the care that was given her, and by the fact that the Christian God “is a kind and loving God.” Thelma then opened her home for Bible Study. By the way, Primo can now go to school!
Ryan, an eight year-old with cerebral palsy, testifies that he can now go to school because of the wheelchair.
Reymark, a 13 year-old with cerebral palsy, wanted to go to school, but only reached first grade because his guardian aunt could no longer carry him. His aunt had been praying for a wheelchair. Answered prayer!
Crispin is a stroke victim. He spent much of his time sitting on his bamboo cot looking out the window into the sunshine. His family had rigged up an apparatus in his room using bamboo poles and a cloth harness that enabled him to carry himself from his bed to a small table where the family left food they prepared for him and to the potty chair. He spent much of his time alone while his wife worked in the fields. When visitors came to the house and his wife was out, he would call from his bedroom, “Come in,” and the visitors would find their way back to his room.
Crispin’s wife learned of the free wheelchairs and walked 45 minutes each way several times in the hot sun to ensure that Crispin would receive one. The Vice Mayor of his municipality accompanied the team to deliver the chair to Crispin at home. As a result of the visit, the Vice Mayor promised Crispin that he would cement the floors in his home and make a ramp out of the house to give him access to the world. Praise God! When Crispin got his wheelchair, he came out of his bedroom and entered his living and dining room for the first time in seven years. He spontaneously raised his hands giving praise to Jesus for the wheelchair.
Through the Philippine Wheelchair Mission project, we set out in faith to achieve the following objectives:
To distribute 550 wheelchairs in the Philippines, giving mobility and hope to 550 disabled persons and their families.
To raise awareness of disability, especially in those communities where HCDI has Community Health Evangelism (CHE) programs.
To establish support groups for the families of the disabled in HCDI program areas to focus on local solutions to the needs of their disabled.
To mobilize Filipino workers to transform lives and communities through the power and hope of the Gospel.
To facilitate evangelistic/benefit concerts in Manila and Cebu featuring singer and evangelist Ray-an Fuentes. Through this concert we will share the good news of the Gospel and at the same time raise awareness of disability in the church and community. We also hope to provide resources for HCDI’s CHE ministries in poor communities throughout the country.
It is too early to truly measure the full impact of what God has done, but we saw His hand at work on so many different levels and in so many different dimensions that it is nearly impossible even to summarize in this short document. We praise God for a successful trip and for all the lives that will be changed. May God receive all the glory!