Posted by Rick – 1/10/13
The 26th is fast approaching. Back to Guatemala! I like the sound of that! Who would have thought 2 years ago, I would be saying BACK to Guatemala. Prior to the summer of 2011, I would have been hard-pressed to find Guatemala on a map.
In July 2011, I traveled to Chimaltenango with a group to work with Bethel Ministries. Cliche though it may sound, the trip changed me. It was humbling to work with Bethel and see the many facets of their mission. Chris and Donna Mooney and their team have such a heart for the people of Guatemala. Our entire mission trip was a great experience. Afterwards, I knew that somehow, someday, I would be back.
Fast forward to August 2012. Chris and Donna came to the US to visit family, as well as visit some churches. One portion of their trip brought them to Iowa! We were excited to have the opportunity to reconnect with our friends from the south! While we visited with Chris, he explained how Bethel was experiencing a shortfall in wheelchairs and equipment due to supply problems in the States. Chris hugged me and said that he believed that I was to help with that problem. Now, this was one of those “chill run down your back” God moments! Less than a week prior, during my quiet time, I had been praying for God to start using me in a practical way to serve. Chris’ request was an obvious answer to the prayer! After sitting down with Chris and Donna, and with John and Jean Mitchell of “On His Path”, we said we would do our best to help.
Though it seemed lofty, our goal was to send a 40-foot-long shipping container full of wheelchairs and medical equipment to Guatemala in early November. With less than three months to coordinate, and a mountain of equipment to find, our task seemed insurmountable.
Flyers were posted. Newspaper articles and press releases were written. Ads were posted on Craigslist and numerous phone calls were made all in hopes of finding medical equipment to send to the Bethel. Countless prayers were lifted up throughout the process. Slowly but surely, a few wheelchairs and crutches at a time, God provided the equipment.Through much prayer, and the hard work of a team of willing ministry partners, we sent the container to Guatemala on November 6 . Our total equipment numbers are as follows:
126 Wheelchairs, 33 Power Wheelchairs, 246 Walkers, 214 Pairs of Crutches, 26 Canes, 16 Commodes, 64 Boxes of Miscellaneous Supplies and Donated Items. Several monetary donations were also received to aid the wheelchair ministry
It was amazing how God enabled so many different people to come together to make this possible! To use the words of one of our volunteers, “This project truly exemplified the Body of Christ.” Many people and ministries worked together toward the common goal of honoring God.
It has been a blessing to be a part of this equipment drive ministry. The Lord used it to test and strengthen my faith! Through it, God answered prayer after prayer. Just when I would get down, thinking we would be short of equipment, prayers would be lifted up and doors would open and donations would appear! God revealed His power again after Thanksgiving, when I specifically remember praying that I would get back in the Wheelchair collection mode. I prayed that the connections made in the past few months would produce fruit. Literally, 3 hours later, I received a phone call regarding a large donation of wheelchairs; that afternoon I loaded the trailer with 12 wheelchairs and other equipment! WOW!
We did, however, have one slight hiccup in shipping the container. Hurricane Sandy hit the day before we loaded the container, virtually shutting down the east coast shipping point. It was decided that we would pursue Plan B, and send the container to the Bethel by way of California. Though we hoped the container would arrive in Guatemala in time for Christmas, God had other plans. A dock worker’s strike in California forced all shipping out of that port to shut down, stalling our container for one month in a shipyard. Subsequently, the container was flagged to be checked by US Customs to be checked. As we here in Iowa learned of these events, we became very discouraged. One evening, John Mitchell and I, along with our families, specifically prayed for the strike to cease so Chris and Donna could get the equipment they so badly needed. The next morning, God answered our prayers! I received notification that the strike ended, and the container shipped! Even now, the container is on its way to Guatemala. Ironically, the container’s estimated date of arrival at Bethel is January 29 — three days after we arrive there for our mission trip. (I actually thought when loading the container that it would be kind of cool to be there when they received it……I had no idea then that I was even going South again)
During the process of collecting medical equipment, I made a connection with a Bethel Ministries partner in Louisville, Kentucky – Brad Clark. Brad and I worked together on coordinating the logistics of getting equipment he had collected for Bethel delivered to Iowa to go on our container.
Though Brad and I spoke frequently during the collection, I little suspected we would soon meet. Just prior to Thanksgiving, he contacted me with an invitation to join his small team of men from the Louisville area to travel to Guatemala in January. I was excited at the opportunity, especially considering that we will be able to distribute the chairs that we collected!!!
My first trip South was a mixed team of 10 men, women, and teenagers, which was great. However, I am excited about the prospect of this trip being a small group of men. I am also excited about the focus on this trip; how it will focus more on SERVING alongside Juanito to serve the people of his church, and to meet and serve alongside all the guys on this trip. I also look forward to serving my friends at Bethel Ministries!
I know God has great things in store for us!
To John, John, Brad, Scott, Tim and Keith: I am anxious to meet and serve with you all. See you in 16 days!
Dios te Bendiga
Rick (Ricardo) Fulton
PS: There are many opportunities to help Bethel. Please consider participating in our ongoing wheelchair and medical equipment drive, so that the people of Bethel Ministries might better be able to serve the people of Guatemala. Check out their website at www.bethelministriesinternational.com If you have any connections for equipment, please contact Brad, myself or any of the guys on the team! Thank you!