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Wheelchairs & Mission Trips

A story of God’s unquestionable provision.

We just got back from a family mission trip (highly recommend family mission trips), and for my next three installments of the brand spanking new Everyday Exiles I’ll be sharing with you a few of the God Moments we experienced along the way

Jenny wasn’t going on the trip, but she saw the sign for donations at the back of the church and pulled my wife aside one Sunday after the service to ask if we had any interest in wheelchairs. Interest? Were we interested in figuring out the logistics, paying the fees, and lugging wheelchairs through the airport? No. Lia gave a half-hearted “I guess so,” which Jenny took as a “Yes.”

The next week, three wheelchairs show up at the back of church. We put stuff on them so we didn’t have to lug the other donations like children’s formula and bar soap to the room we did our packing in. My kids used the wheelchairs to race each other back and forth down the hall while we packed the other donations. We made jokes about how we could put fake casts on Dave-Dave and Anna Rose and roll them through security.

The thing is the mission we were serving had its own wheelchair manufacturing business! There were dozens of wheelchairs already there. What was the point in bringing three more?

We took them anyway. TSA gave us some odd looks as we able-bodied folks pushed them through security. The agents gave us a confused stare when we asked them to gate check the wheelchairs all the way to Santo Domingo. I was somewhat amazed to find them there when we arrived. We almost forgot them to tell the truth. They hadn’t come through on the baggage carousel. In my broken Spanish I asked this young woman wearing a blue polo who looked at me funny before she spoke into her walkie-talkie that I was sure didn’t work. She pointed to a door that led to a dingy back room.

My children were delighted. They raced each other through customs. The hotel staff lugged them to our hotel room where the wheelchairs stayed until Tuesday when we finally remembered to bring them to the mission. They told us to throw them in the physical therapy room because they weren’t sure where to put them.

I went off to the construction site. Lia went to work in the clinic. A little while later, the mission’s physical therapist (a beautiful Dominican named Yuvelis (you-vail-iece) came into the clinic crying. Lia was concerned. This woman has had hardships in the past. Lia has helped her in the past. Lia was prepared for the next sad story.

Yuvelis said (in Spanish), “I have this patient who is in desperate need of a very certain type of wheelchair. I have looked all over the Dominican Republic and have found nothing. I have looked on the Internet, but the cost was impossible. Then, I walk into the clinic this morning, and there it is!”

She told Lia, “For you, bringing this wheelchair is a small thing. But for this family, this wheelchair will change their lives.”

This wheelchair we almost didn’t bring.

This wheelchair that we made jokes about and raced through customs.

This wheelchair that will now provide the support Eliezer needs to live, that will provide his mother the ability to push him instead of carry him.

This wheelchair that God knew this family needed, that God brought to them through a rag tag bunch of unknowing Americanos.

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Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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