Dogwood trees are blooming throughout Escambia County these days.
Published 1:09 pm Monday, April 9, 2007
By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
A group of Brewton residents was able to give new life to those in need during a mission trip recently to Costa Rica.
Church members from First United Methodist took part in a wheelchair distribution project to some of the poorest residents of the South American country.
The group distributed 140 chairs, visiting churches, orphanages and private homes over four days of mission work. They partnered with the Wheelchair Foundation, which paid for half of each $150 chair. Brewton donations - including those through a silent auction held at the church in February - provided the rest of the money.
Planning for the trip began months ago, with the idea planted by Carl Dickerson of Pensacola, who works with both the Methodist church and the Rotary Club on similar wheelchair distribution projects.
Glaize said he and the others on the mission trip expected it to be a meaningful experience, but none realize just how life-changing it would be.
On one of their first days in Costa Rica, one of their fellow missionaries told the group, “You don't realize what a great gift this is. This is like giving a family in the United States a car.”
For the poorest of the poor, a wheelchair is an expense too great to meet. Patients in Costa Rican hospitals may have the use of a wheelchair during their stay, but once they are discharged they cannot afford one, said Ashley Grantham, the youth minister at First United Methodist who also went on the trip.
Because of that, entire families benefited from the gifts of the wheelchairs. Many mothers told the group that their backs ached from years of carrying their children.
Each day brought new stories - and new opportunities to reach out, Glaize said.
A man named Victor had cerebral palsy; he “walked” the block to his church on his hands.
Another man had been carried around by family members for 53 years.
Amid the joy of wheelchair recipients and the devotion of mothers who thought nothing of carrying grown children, the group also saw extreme poverty and need. At one house, in a neighborhood so poor that dozens of houses shared just one power line, a woman received a wheelchair that allowed her to move from room to room.
The group also visited orphanages for special needs children. Most had been born healthy but were abused so greatly by their parents that they now suffer permanent physical and mental damage.
The group saw small miracles at every stop they made.
When their story aired on Costa Rican television, a little girl whose grandmother had long since had a leg amputated saw the show. The girl later recognized the group's van and the street and, with her mother, begged for a wheelchair for her grandmother.
It just so happened that that day the group had put an extra wheelchair in their van.
At another location they met a woman so ill she wasn't able to attend church anymore. Her family member told Glaize that all she wanted to do was “praise God in song.”
Glaize said he expects the Brewton church to continue with mission work involving the Wheelchair Foundation and Costa Rica.
One of the greatest needs the group saw was that for special needs wheelchairs, which are more expensive than the regular chairs, Glaize said. “We will try to raise some money for them,” he said.
Glaize said he and the group appreciate everyone who donated money or said prayers for the trip - and he hopes to take more people on the next mission trip.
Church members who went on the trip include: Glaize, his wife Alecia, and their children Anna Grace and Curtis; Grantham; Joey Turner; Anne, Randy and Corey Rilling; Debbie and Sandy Hardee; and Dennis and Jenny Adams.