Here's 25 wheelchairs for the handicapped which will be awarded to people -- you'll meet some of them in a minute. The Church has provided funding for 50 of these chairs. While a few of them will be awarded to Church members who are handicapped, the rest will be given to people who have been qualified by the Center for the Handicapped, a Catholic church sponsored project. Last July, the Barlows, who direct the Church's Humanitarian efforts in the country, had prayed very specifically that Heavenly Father would help them find a project to help the handicapped. Later that day, Pres. Muliele of the Mission Presidency came into the office, and talked with the Barlows. He told them of this center and Brother Jean Baptiste of the Catholic Brothers of Charity, who sponsor the Center. The Barlows made contact with the Center and found an answer to their prayers.
Here's a good look at the brand new wheelchair for the handicapped. They sit in a nicely cushioned seat, and by using their hands and arms to turn the crank, they can propel the front wheel and the chair as a whole. The chairs are made in the shop at the handicapped center. The church contributes $ 300 for each chair, which probably allows them to make a reasonable profit to support the other activities at the center. The frame is solidly made, and the wheels come from China and look to be of good quality. The wood is solid hardwood which should stand up to years of wear.
Sister Lengelo, one of our new missionaries who just arrived this week, shows one of the better wheelchairs that these people have been using. Just a white PVC chair mounted to a metal frame. You can imagine how difficult it is to try to propel the chair when the wheels are well behind your shoulders, and your hands are under the arms of the chair.
The wheelchairs have been paid for by the Church, through its Humanitarian outreach project. (This plaque on the back of the chair says "Gift of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", in French.) This year, under the leadership of Bro. and Sister Barlow who head the Humanitarian Services here in the Congo, the Church will provide funds for many projects -- more wheelchairs, healthcare education, food production projects, etc. The biggest project for this year is the start of a water project that will bring water to a city of 100,000 plus several other smaller villages. The project will tap a spring about 35 miles from the city of Luputa, store water in a large reservoir, and bring it to Luputa which now can only get untreated dirty water from several other sources. It will take 3 years, and the Church will provide well over $ 2 million of funding for the project. This was the first recipient among the 20 or so who would receive their wheelchairs in this ceremony. As his name was called, he struggled out of his chair, and wrenched his body into position to move forward. After a moment of steadying from this helper, he demonstrated his desire for dignity by walking the last 20 feet on his own.
He's approaching the table to sign for his wheelchair and then to begin a completely new life in his new wheelchair. It was painful and yet inspiring to see them be able to twist their bodies with a determination that few of us can match.
He really got his new chair rolling -- and knew how to use it, leaving the helper in his dust. What a wonderful thing freedom is. And can you imagine how he will love the day of the resurrection, when he will come forth from the grave with a perfect and glorified immortal body.
Surely, he was grateful and offered his thanks. But how we ought to thank him for our limited ability to help another of Heavenly Father's children. You should see his smile, although his left eye was so occluded that I wondered if he could clearly see us.
This lady's feet were so deformed -- you can see how misshapped they are.
One of the last people to receive their wheelchair was this man. We have seen many of these -- so crippled that they scoot along on their feet in flipflops, using another pair of flipflops to protect their hands. Can you imagine what the gift of a wheelchair will be to this man?
Here he is approaching his freedom to move in the world. Brother Barlow, who organized this project along with his wife Marilyn, watches this with somewhat damp eyes.
There were many more similar recipients -- all so moving. If we enjoy good health, how grateful we should be for this marvelous gift, and how willing to share our good fortune and resources with those who are not so fortunate. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me..." Matthew 25:40.
Love to all of you -- Don and Marsha