Florida Conference Admin Travels to “Chair the Love” in Peru
From the time that Frank Sinatra first crooned, “Come fly with me, let’s float down to Peru,” it has captured the imagination of those who love to travel and explore. Some never imagined they’d find themselves in “llama-land,” sharing an experience they’d never forget with great friends. The Florida Conference Administrative Committee sets aside a week each year to plan the upcoming new year of ministry. The committee uses this time to reconnect and rededicate themselves to the mission of supporting Florida’s churches, schools, and members. Thanks to a mission trip that Allan Machado, president; Tim Goff, executive secretary; and Les McCoy, Health Ministries director, attended in 2021, the idea surfaced that they could combine their annual planning meeting with a mission project. Little did they know that the trip would wind up in Peru.
Chair the Love (CTL), a wheelchair ministry formed in Central Florida, prepared a memorable mission trip. Together with CTL representatives and volunteers in Peru, the travelers would be responsible for delivering a container load of 280 wheelchairs. The chairs were ordered from the factory according to specifications from the CTL organizers in Peru. During that time, volunteers scoured the Lima, Peru area, locating those in need of wheelchairs and scheduling several distributions.
In the middle of October, twenty-five travelers left Orlando for Peru for this unique mission. The following day, after a two-hour bus ride, the group piled out onto a dusty soccer field in a small town in the district of Ancón. Patiently waiting for them were nearly one hundred families under blue tarps, sitting on plastic chairs. The recipients and their families had been anxiously waiting for this moment; some had been waiting for up to ten years. This was the day they were to be given the gift of mobility.
The conference volunteers rapidly set to work, together with their new friends from the rotary clubs in Peru, assembling the wheelchairs and organizing them by size. One by one, the recipients’ names were called, and as they were lovingly placed into their new rugged red chairs, tears were shed, and hugs were freely dispensed.
After a successful distribution, participants enjoyed a brief program, starting with prayer and the national anthems of Peru and the United States. After several hours, all the chairs were distributed, but no one wanted to leave. The volunteers hung to the recipients’ stories, such as Pedro’s, who, at twelve years old, had never had a wheelchair. Pedro had to be carried during the few occasions he ever left home. With his new chair, he could now attend school, be with friends, and become a full part of his community. Another recipient, Señor Dominguez, lost his leg to untreated diabetes and had been waiting for a chair for three years. He could now attend his doctor’s appointments and receive needed treatment without aid from his family.
“Chair the Love is one of the most transformational things you want to be a part of,” said Frank Runnels, VP for Education. I’ve been a missionary, I’ve been a part of going to different countries to tell people about Christ, but to also be able to help them with a need in this way is just incredible.”
The next day, volunteers handed out 140 chairs to recipients in the district of Pachacamac. More hugs were given, more tears were shed, and similar stories of newfound freedom were shared. The ability to instantly change the lives of the recipients and their caregivers with a chair was remarkable.
The group couldn’t help but recall how Jesus ministered—first to people’s physical needs, then to their deeper spiritual hunger.
The remainder of the trip was filled with spectacular scenery, rugged hikes, and moving worship. Despite all the beauty they experienced, the faces of the grateful recipients and families stayed with the volunteers most closely. Indeed, sharing the love of God, restoring mobility, and sharing the hope of a heaven where wheelchairs will be banned forever was far greater than the group could have ever imagined! As Allan Machado expressed, “Healing and purpose come from serving.”
Interested in going on your own trip and restoring mobility? For more information, visit www.chairthelove.org.