Monday, March 20, 2017

Wheelchair chargers, giant statues, and a perfect plan.

The van was loaded with the most compact luggage we could find in our closets. We had our boxes of Bible club supplies, and all the necessary paperwork to get the five of us and our van into and out of Mexico. I had a portable ramp for any areas that might be less-than-accessible and a bath chair to turn any bathroom into one that would even semi-work for Benjamin. And so even though my husband was in Chicago and I had to figure out the logistics of getting it all to fit around Benjamin's wheelchair -- and the rest of us -- without his engineering skills, I was feeling pretty proud of my organizational skills.

Really really proud.

Right up until we arrived in Beaumont, Texas and I put Benjamin to bed in the hotel. I moved his wheelchair away from his bed and looked for the outlet where I could plug it in. And at that moment, I realized the one thing I had left at home. The one thing that didn't make it into my super organized, seriously calculated, well-planned packing: Benjamin's wheelchair charger.

We had not even arrived on the mission field and already we were about to be defeated. All the work to ensure this young man could serve the people of Mexico would be wasted if his chair died. Three hundred pounds of wheelchair -- plus the one hundred pounds of Benjamin -- is almost impossible to push on a smooth surface. There was no way we would be able to push it over rough terrain.

I tried not to panic. Two kids were in bed. I told them to pray. Mason began to pace. Claire and I began to brainstorm. A quick text to my cousin in Houston to see if she had any contacts by chance. No. A message to our dear friend, Dr. Jan Brunstrom-Hernandez in Dallas to see if she had contacts. It was growing late and she assured us she would work on it first thing in the morning.

I forced everyone to go to bed.

And I prayed.

"Lord I know that you are fully capable of letting this battery last all week if necessary, so give us that peace tonight and let us rest. For tomorrow will be a crazy day and I can't do it safely with no sleep."

And I slept.

We woke early, refreshed and with a message from Dr. Jan that she could get one to us in Mexico sometime mid-week. I feared that might not be soon enough. But it was a good plan C.

We called our dog sitter and asked if she might overnight Benjamin's....and called my cousin Tim who was waiting in Mission, Texas to ride with us into Mexico to warn him that we might have to wait a day or so for the delivery before entering the country. That would be plan B.

And then I had what I can only say was a God-given idea. I sent a text to our wheelchair expert, Will, at National Seating and Mobility, and asked if he had any contacts that might help us along our route.

Initially Will replied that his contact was out of town. I thanked him and prepared for plan B before receiving another text from him that simply gave me an address in Houston and said the charger would be waiting outside the door.

I tried to type my gratitude. Will replied: "Go spread the gospel in Mexico and have a wonderful trip."

Oh how beautiful was plan A!

We barely missed a beat as we navigated our way to that office and picked up this gift! We were able to head in to Mexico right after church Sunday with a fully-charged wheelchair.

With Aunt Nina and Tim at Bethany Children's Home.

So much of the trip was just us being blessed -- blessed by time with my amazing Aunt Nina -- my Daddy's oldest sister -- who has served in Mexico for more than 40 years. Today, she serves alongside her son, Tim, his wife Candi, and their three amazing adult-children. My children were able to spend time getting to know my people. Oh it was so so good! (Not to mention stops with cousins along the route!!)

 Our first day of Bible club was held at the mission's camp mainly for the children's home children. It was beautiful.

We had the ladies from the village join in our "Get the Oreo from your forehead to your mouth without your hands" game...I love the joy on Aunt Nina's face!

Our second and third days were spent in some of the same churches I visited when I was 16! We traveled to the villages and found some of the sweetest little faces waiting to encircle our van as soon as we pulled in!

Cate's ministry involved soccer, volleyball, and bubbles! She was a natural!

But the day I want to tell you about tonight, started here, at the top of a village road that was almost impassable for my low-riding accessible van. Almost impassable. But we made it.

But when we pulled in, no children rushed out to greet us.

No children circled the van to welcome us.

No adults stood around hopeful to see what we would teach their children.

There was no one there.

A quick phone call solved the mystery. The pastor had misunderstood. He thought we were coming the following week. There would be no Bible club that afternoon.

Disappointment was palpable in my van. We had counted out the craft sticks earlier in the day to ensure we had enough for making the little frames. Claire had practiced her Spanish to ensure her sharing of Max Lucado's "You are Special" would be perfect. We had limited the Polaroid photos all week at the other clubs to ensure we had enough left for these children to have their own photos. 

And now all of that was wasted.

We were so sad.

Not Tim. He jumped in the driver's seat (No way I was navigating down the hill!) and said, "I wonder what God has for us instead."

I may have caught an eye roll in the back of the van. Some definite frustration that this was not God's, this was human error (I know my kids). I frantically looked for a way to redeem the afternoon. So I suggested we visit the statue of Morelos -- the priest who helped free Mexico from the Spaniards. The town, Montemorelos, was named for him and I had visited the statue when I was 16 and thought they might enjoy it. 

It was exactly what we needed to find our giggles.

We were in the middle of said giggles when a young girl ran up and asked for our photo. I didn't understand at first so grabbed Claire to translate for me. The young girl's father had asked her to run ahead to ask us to wait and have a photo with them.

We had no idea that we were about to learn how our visiting the giant statue had been God's plan for our afternoon all along.

Benjamin and I had been looking at the city from the overlook. We were apparently clearly visible from the road below.

The young girl, Karla, had seen us as her family drove by. They detoured to the top of the monument site. Soon Karla's family joined us -- Karla's mother, Barbarita, Father, Marcelino, and young sister, Maritza.

Marcelino wheeled his manual wheelchair straight to Benjamin. A spinal cord injury had left him paralyzed and he had never seen anyone else in a wheelchair -- much less a wheelchair like Benjamin's. He just wanted to meet him and get a picture together.

As we met the family, we recognized the sweet little cheeks on Maritza as the effects of steroids. Her mother began to tell her story -- a severe heart defect for little Maritza leaving some significant damage.

My Claire didn't miss a beat before whispering in my ear -- "Our book, Mom!" I nodded and she ran to the van to retrieve the book we had shared at Bible club all week. I knelt down so I could see eye-to-eye with this precious girl and presented our Spanish copy of the book. We were able to tell her that God thinks she is pretty special -- and so do we!

All the while, my cousin Tim was sharing our story with the dad -- our story of how God is present even when things are hard. Of how God has a plan even when things don't go just as we hope....or even as we pray.

And because we had Polaroid film remaining -- we could take a photo of our family standing together with their family and give it to them as a memory of a special afternoon spent together.

And just maybe we left them with more than a photo. Maybe -- prayerfully -- we left them with a bit of hope.

Because a pastor wrote down the wrong day on his calendar.

And because a wheelchair seating expert went out of his way on his day off to get us an emergency charger.

Carol - The Blessings Counter