Saturday, February 27, 2016

Belize Stories: Belsie M.

This story was written by Linda Tipps on the Hearts of Christ team.

Belsie came to the Access-Life Expo in 2015 with her little girl who was in need of a wheelchair. Belsie carried her daughter in through the gate and was able to leave pushing her daughter in a wheelchair. Belsie and her daughter touched the hearts of everyone on the team.

One month later, Belsie took her daughter to El Salvador to get medical help. While they were there, Belsie's daughter died during the night. Throughout this past year, Belsie has been grieving the loss of her daughter and has had a very tough time.

This year, Belsie once again came to the Expo at the Hearts of Christ mission. She came over to the Prayer and Share tent where I was with big tears in her eyes, and we prayed and hugged and cried together. It took great courage on her part to come to the Expo with empty arms, but things started to turn around.

I told Belsie that I had asked God to send me an interpreter to help me to talk to some of the people who didn't speak English. Little did I know that God would send me Belsie. I told Belsie that the best thing that would help her deal with her grief that day would be to help others.

Between me and Belsie, we began sharing with people who came to our tent to make gospel bracelets. I urged Belsie to pray with one little girl out loud. It wasn't long before a smile returned to Belsie's face.

Belsie told me that she is going to college to be a teacher and she is playing soccer. I thank Jesus for bringing Belsie back to the Expo this year!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Belize Stories: Expo Day

Saturday was Expo Day, the day we had been preparing for all week, and really for months prior to the trip. Access-Life organizes Expo events in several locations in the United States. These free community outreach events provide a time of Christ-centered encouragement, support and fun for individuals and families living with disabilities. The events in the States include activities like boat rides, bank fishing, archery, crafts, games, and a photo booth, as well as food for everyone who attends. One of the main purposes of our trip to Belize was to provide an Expo event at the Hearts of Christ mission, and we adapted it for the space and activities we could provide at that location (no water nearby, so fishing and boat rides were not available).

We started setting up early on Saturday morning and people started arriving at the gate a couple of hours before the publicized start time of 10:00am. Not wanting to turn anyone away, we let people wait in the shade until the event registration was ready and at 10:00, there was a steady flow of people who came to attend the Expo. Many came carrying loved ones who needed medical equipment and others came in using equipment that was in disrepair or not suitable for their need. The medical supply area was very organized and they took information from the people who came and gave them a number that would be called when it was their turn to be served.


There were many other activities to offer people during the day and I had the joy of walking around taking pictures of people enjoying the crafts and painting and games and archery. Participants could also get their photo taken by the Access-Life backdrop and the photo was printed for them to take home as a souvenir.


I also had the blessing of seeing the smiles of people who received medical equipment and supplies during the Expo. Nearly 50 wheelchairs, crutches, canes and walkers were fitted for people, and many other medical supplies were distributed. Some traveled from hours away and pooled their money to bring a loved one. Another group came together from Belize City, over an hour away.

Over and over, I heard people express gratitude for the help they received and they told how the equipment would improve their quality of life. One woman who received a walker with a seat attached said, "I can go anywhere now! If I get tired, I can sit down."

One father brought his son, Steven, arriving a couple of hours after the Expo had started. At the registration tent, they saw that a pediatric chair was needed for the boy, and Pat Tait began to pray that one would be available. Pat's husband, Doug, was working in the medical equipment area and Pat told him of the need she was praying for. When it was Steven's turn to be fitted, a pediatric chair was available and Pat and Doug were able to see how God had worked and answered their prayers.

The needs we saw at the Expo and during the rest of the week were overwhelming at times. God used everyone on the team to be Jesus' hands and feet. We all had a function and we all worked together as one body. Leanne summed it up well when she said, "We do what God gives us to do today and trust Him for the future."

By God's grace, we were able to help many people in Belize and by His grace, we will be able to return next year and once again join Him in the work He is doing there.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Belize Stories: Visiting the Nursing Home

Each day of the trip was a highlight, but I think that Friday may have been at the top of my highlight list. We had waited until the Hearts of Christ team arrived so that we could all travel to San Ignacio to deliver some medical equipment and supplies to the residents at the Octavia Waight Centre. We spent over an hour visiting with the dear people who live there and it was such a joy!

One of the ladies we met named Joyce had a love for hymns and pretty soon, a group started singing with her. We sang "How Great Thou Art" and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" and "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy." It was a precious time and made my heart fill up with love and joy at the special gift we'd been given that afternoon.

We also had the blessing of meeting Ms. Bridgit and she was celebrating her birthday that day. She especially liked Doug and told him that he had "the most beautiful blue eyes." We got to sing "Happy Birthday" to her, both Belizian-style and American-style.

The residents are so well-cared for and loved at this facility. The motto on the sign reads, "Aging with Dignity; Living with Respect." You can see the love on the faces of the director, Sue Lopez, and the rest of the staff, and they were all so grateful for the supplies that we brought. Sue said that what they didn't use there, they would share with people in the community.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Belize Stories: Ms. Rose

The first part of this story was written by Helen McClaren from the Access-Life team:

"While the team was building the ramp for Eli, Beth, Pat and Helen distributed food to residents in the neighborhood. Everyone was receptive and very appreciative. One neighbor, as we were praying with her for her health to return, encouraged us to find Ms. Rose who lived down the street and was very ill and could use the food as well.

When we found Ms. Rose, she invited us into her home. She was sitting on the couch looking very sad, but she thanked us for the food. She told us that she'd had a stroke seven years ago, evidenced by a withered hand. Ms. Rose said that she had asked God to heal her and He had not. Then she admitted that she was depressed.

Beth prayed for Ms. Rose to have joy in her heart and Helen talked to her about the Apostle Paul asking God to remove his affliction and how God said, 'No,' but it made Paul more dependent on Him. After telling Ms. Rose that we loved her, we left her house."

As the week continued and the team had time to share stories and pray for people we had met, Helen, Beth and Pat mentioned Ms. Rose and how sad she seemed and in such need of joy. When the Access-Life team was getting ready to leave, they expressed hope that the Hearts of Christ team would be able to go back and visit Ms. Rose to bring her encouragement.

Before the Hearts of Christ team left to go home to Tennessee, they had an opportunity to go back to the village of Ontario to visit with Ms. Rose. She shared with them about losing her two sisters within two days, and then about having a stroke. Ms. Rose said that she had not been out of her house in five years. Korie Williams helped her out of the house and she was walking with a walker, then the team got a wheelchair and wheeled her around the village. Ms. Rose loved being outside and actually was able to smile and laugh with the team.

It was great to see the pictures and to hear about the follow-up visit that the Hearts of Christ team made to Ms. Rose. Oftentimes, it takes ongoing contact with people to let them know that they are loved by Christ and by others around them. Pray for Ms. Rose and for her heart to be filled with the joy of the Lord.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Belize Stories: Mr. Guerrera

On Wednesday afternoon, we headed to the village of Buena Vista to build a ramp for Mr. Guerrera. He was also an amputee, but still had one of his legs and used crutches to get around. His home needed a new ramp, though, so the crew got to work pretty quickly.

While the ramp was being built, others on the team walked throughout the village distributing rice and bean packets and met some of the children in the village.

 This little guy is the grandson of Mr. Guerrera and he turned out to be quite a ham for the camera! He eventually came out of the house and toddled around the yard and tried to pick up his grandfather's crutches.

After the ramp was completed, we gathered with the family to pray and offer thanks for the blessings God had provided that day.

Mr. Guerrera and his daughters also were able to come to the Expo on Saturday and we were able to give them some medical supplies, including new crutches for Mr. Guerrera.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Belize Stories: Meeting Eli

During one of our team conference calls before we went to Belize, one of the women with Hearts of Christ in East Tennessee told us about Eli, a man who had been in a wheelchair for several years due to an accident, and had become a Christian this past December. He was mentioned as someone to pray for as we prepared for the trip and to let us know that he would be one of the people we'd be building a ramp for while we were in Belize.

On Wednesday morning of our trip, we headed out to the village of Ontario to meet Eli and to distribute packets of rice and beans to the people in the village. When we drove up, Eli was on the porch working on someone's bicycle tire (he repairs bikes for a living). After they finished, Korie made the introductions and the builders got to work removing the old ramp (the porch remained, but was reinforced). We saw some frogs that lived under the ramp and uncovered the hiding place of a tarantula, which caused some excitement, especially when the tarantula appeared again later in the process!

While the ramp was being built, Eli and Doug, who has also been living with a disability for many years, were able to spend time talking and getting to know each other, sharing their stories. Eli told Doug, "I've lived for 13 years since my accident and have never met another person in a wheelchair." Eli was able to see how God has worked in Doug's life through his disability, and that he can be used by God to encourage others as well.

Later, some of the Hearts of Christ team told us about when they met Eli and shared Christ with him. Eli didn't think that he could become a Christian because he didn't know anything about God. They told him that he only had to repent and believe and that he could learn more as he spent time with the Lord. Eli said, "I finally decided it was better to live for God than live for nothing."

Our team was also able to bring Eli a new manual wheelchair to use while he works and also repaired a motorized wheelchair that Eli had already owned, but needed updating. Eli was appreciative of the new "wheels" as well as the ramp and porch and the other practical items that the team brought him. There was also some places in the flooring in his house that needed to be repaired and the team was able to take care of that to make it easier for Eli to maneuver around inside.

Eli was another person we met who told us that he had prayed for God to send help and that we were an answer to his prayer. Thankfully, we have a Good Father who sees our need, and hears and answers our cries for help!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Belize Stories: Ms. Mary

On Tuesday morning, we headed into Belmopan to the home of Ms. Mary. She had come home from the hospital the day before, after having her second leg amputated below the knee due to diabetes. When we drove up to her house, her sister greeted us and we explained that we had come to build a ramp for Ms. Mary's house and visit with her, if she was feeling up to it.

After a few minutes, we were shown inside to visit with Ms. Mary in her room (not everyone went in at once). She was sitting up on her bed and greeted us with a smile and was so excited to hear about the new ramp. We learned that her pastor and friends had made the arrangements with Korey, so it was a surprise to Ms. Mary.

One of our team members, John Deeds, who owns a medical supply store and is experienced with fitting people with wheelchairs, talked with Ms. Mary and then he and a couple of team members went back to the Hearts of Christ mission to see what we had that would be a good fit for Ms. Mary. The rest of us stayed and prayed with Ms. Mary and heard a little of her story and the ramp-building began.

Ms. Mary's faith and trust in God was evident and she told us that she believed that she had lost her legs for a reason and that God is good. Ms. Mary said that she had been praying for God to send her help and she knew He would come through. What a blessing she was to us and we had gone in thinking we needed to encourage her!

With it being our first ramp of the week, there was a little trial and error, and one minor injury, but soon the workers were in their groove and the platform and ramp began to take shape. As it was getting completed, John and the others came back with a motorized wheelchair for Ms. Mary and got it cleaned up and looking good for her. Also, Nancy (our team Physical Therapist) and Ashley (our nurse) were able to spend time with Ms. Mary, showing her some strengthening exercises and gave her some medical supplies.

When the ramp was finished, we all went back to see Ms. Mary and brought her the chair. She was so thrilled and surprised that she was going to be able to leave her bed and her house with the help of the chair! John and Nancy helped Ms. Mary get into the chair and gave her some "driving" lessons. Then we asked her if she would like to go outside. She wanted to go check out her new ramp!

As she wheeled through the door and out onto the porch, she was so excited to get out in the sunshine and said that she wanted to sit outside the rest of the afternoon and wave at everyone passing by! She had originally thought that she wouldn't be able to get outside until her legs had healed and she got her prostheses. Being able to have a wheelchair and leave her house gave her freedom to even go to the store in her neighborhood by herself.

Ms. Mary was able to come to the Expo on Saturday and enjoy the activities and being out among her friends. She told Alicia, "Some people want the blessing, but not the Blesser. I have both!"

God used our team to bless Ms. Mary and she blessed us above and beyond our expectations!