On most days my email inbox has messages from friends and acquaintances in El Salvador. Seventeen years ago when our congregation first became connected with ministry in El Salvador, communications were exchanged once every six months via hand-carried letters as delegations traveled back and forth.
When emails first traveled to and fro, we were careful to address each other with long and formal greetings, wishing for one another the comfort of family and friends close at hand and asking God to bless our families with good health. These greetings are still shared but often in a more condensed version, for with familiarity has also come an informal style, with a quick hello and a quick sharing of the daily prayer concerns and the small challenges or joys of everyday life.
A couple of weeks ago, I received just such an email from a pastor friend. Subject line: "Prayers." Text: "Dear brothers and sisters, may God rain down many rich blessings over you to raise up in prayer my mother in-law who suffered a thrombosis or embolism and is paralyzed on half of her body and cannot walk and needs a wheel chair and my wife is suffering so for this reason I ask you to include them in your prayers in worship on Sunday. Also, my grandma is weak because of her age and cannot walk so she also needs a wheel chair so pray for her too. Her name is Maria."
The next morning I was at church. A woman was there with her husband who has a debilitating disease. He had a new wheel chair, and the woman asked our pastor and me if we could take the old one to El Salvador with us. We were less than a week from departure and had our extra suitcases ready to go, so, thinking practically I said, "Sure, we could take it when we go for the Mission of Healing in February."
After I got home, I got to thinking...didn't I just receive a prayer which spoke to the need for a wheel chair? Sometimes God must just laugh at how slow I am to catch on to God's knocks on my head. I called up our pastor who contacted the woman, and the chair made it into our pastor's trunk and it arrived at the airport ready for a journey. We piled a few suitcases on top of the chair, and Pastor pushed it along into the line at the ticket counter.
When the question came as to how many bags we were checking, I said, "Well, would it be OK to push this wheelchair to the gate and to gate-check it?"
"For a person who will be riding in it?" tentatively asked the ticket agent.
"Well, not exactly. There is an elderly grandma in El Salvador who really needs this chair," I explained.
"Sure, no problem." She smiled.
We wheeled that chair through the airport, gate-checked it, wheeled it to our connecting flight, gate-checked it, wheeled it through customs, squeezed it into the micro-bus and drove it to San Salvador.
On Monday mornings, the Lutheran Church pastors gather for worship with the Bishop in San Salvador. We parked the wheelchair in the back of the church, hoping to encounter the pastor who had sent us the prayers. After worship, we did connect. After hugs and greetings, I asked if his family needed a wheel chair. "Well, YES!" was the reply. "Well, we have one!" He was so surprised and we shared the whole story.