It’s another very hot summer day in Sacramento, calling for choice of an afternoon of home coolness, administrating the affairs of home life. As I am perusing e-mails, lo and behold, I am graced with a bright, colorful, and vibrant photograph of the coastline of Ghana, Africa, with the industrious fishermen launching hand-crafted boats into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The full-page colorful invitation welcomes us to Ghana for the privilege to bring “Chair the Hope,” to its people.
“Chair the Hope” is a petite non-profit foundation with the dynamic intention to bring a gift of mobility and expanded freedom to disadvantaged fellow human beings around the world. Wheelchairs are the blessed instruments. Most wondrously, this dynamo for planetary humanitarian uplift is just three years old, initiated by Nathan Ogden, a quadriplegic, and his vibrant partner and wife, Heather Ogden. Already over 2000 wheelchairs have been distributed in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru, and most recently Ghana.
I have been graced to know Heather and Nathan for five years, and I have always been impressed with the strength of presence, warmth of welcome, and power of presentation I experience in their company. When the vibrant e-mail appeared, so too did an immediate “Yes” of intention manifest for me—it was time to step out onto a new shore of life experience and make a difference in a life-changing manner for others. My beloved partner, Janna, intuitively knew this journey was not for her at this time. Without hesitation, I was inspired to share this unique opportunity with my 18-yr old college-bound granddaughter, Abby. I posed the invitation at her high school graduation party. As she came forth with a couple of girlfriends to welcome me, we embraced, and I said,”Abby, would you like to go to Ghana, Africa, with me to distribute wheelchairs?” Without hesitation and a beaming smile, she unequivocally said, “Yes, Pape, let’s go!”
Thus began an epic journey to include a most challenging gauntlet of preparation in a very narrow time frame of three weeks before launch to the other side of the world. We faced the hurdles, hindrances, complications, and stresses of meeting obligations for current passports, required inoculations, visa application complexity, and a maddening variety of Covid 19 tests to be healthfully eligible to set foot outside of the Accra, Ghana, International Airport. Once liberated from the airport, we connected with 22 highly intentioned fellow voyagers, ranging in age from 6 to 72, to share a an angelically guided adventure as a global family.
Our itinerary for nine days was conscientiously scheduled by our lioness leader, Heather. However, Spirit and Life have their own plans regardless of our illusory expectations. Our most significant reason for traveling +8000 miles to a dramatically different country and culture was torn asunder via e-mail to Heather mid-air over the Atlantic Ocean. We were originally to meet with a seemingly dependable array of service groups. They would vet and gather disabled people from their respective neighborhoods for all of us in our dedicated group to meet and individually connect wheelchairs to needful individuals. However, the perceived threat of a Covid contagion triggered an unequivocal termination of our formal plans.
When we were all informed, the next day after Ghana arrival, of this seeming discombobulation of plans, our new Family chose to determinedly move though disbelief, upset, and uncertainty with the conviction, that Divine Guidance would prevail for us to do our work. Heather dauntlessly reached out to our bus drivers, guide, hotel staff, and the orphanage we were to visit for three days, and we asked for Connections to people they personally knew, who were in need of a new and life-changing opportunity for mobility.
Thus, our wondrous journey began anew, as we “trusted in the flow of I don’t know, and God does” to reap an abundance of sacred moments to bring Light, Love, Joy, and Possibility to gracious people. Although we were an other-worldly anomaly of 24 wholly Caucasian people stepping into surprised all-black Ghanian neighborhoods, they welcomed us with incredulity, wonder, awe, gladness, and heartfelt appreciation, evidenced by a plethora of sparkling smiles, childlike enthusiasm, and warm hugs.
One of our visits we stepped out of two parked medium-size buses on the sidelines of a very poor, rustic, and starkly basic neighborhood of stone, mud brick, scrap wood, tin remnants, with one faucet in the center of a dirt common area, as well as a rough-shod latrine serving a number of austere homes each with one doorway and scant windows. Here we met a disabled and downtrodden human being, who was periodically attended by a family member. He had no idea, when he awoke that day, his life would be forever transformed by a simple, yet highly effective instrument of physical, mental, emotional uplift in the form of a very bright red, brand-new wheelchair.
I distinctly remember Noah, who lived in a tin-and-wood scrap shanty, who was informed by his sister, to pick up his crutches, hobble outside for a meeting with some unknown people, who were here to specifically see him. He ventured forth from his low-slung shelter, stumbling with his well-worn crutches, to carry a very thin body with nominal use of his stick legs. Alas, he was faced with a strange, welcoming, foreign group of smiling white people. He was understandably taken aback by such a novel scene. Lance, a strong, yet gentle member of our group, was honored with the privilege to present a wheelchair to Noah, who was in uncertain awe of this other-worldly sequence of events. In the flash of a moment, he was guided to sit in the novelty of a wheelchair, release his crutches, and have at his fully functional fingertips the power of fluid movement. Noah’s eyes watered, his expression somber, his being surrendered, and tears began to gently and freely stream down his cheeks. No words, only humble receptivity to the magic of the moment. The neighbors from the surrounding tenements came forth with wide-eyed wonder, eager spirits, and abundant smiles, as they inherently attuned to the magnetic energy of this precious corner of the Universe.
We exercised the privilege to lead the many little children and the children of our group in a song that quickly stimulated engagement, as we laughed, danced, and embraced. We gathered in a large new family group, with our beloved Noah, for a picture, as he sat nobly in his new chair opportunity for life re-orientation and productivity. It was a heart-rendering moment to behold the joy, connectivity, gladness, and gratitude everyone exemplified. Thank you, Noah, for being a distinctive Contribution to all of us, as you allowed your next life step to unfold.
We are all here to be and make a difference in an uplifting manner, when we choose to allow the Spirit within and without to shine the ever-present Gift of Grace available for all our hearts to touch, express, and share.
Abby, may you know you have been richly blessed by the many riches of this unique adventure, so you may walk with strength, understanding, and sensitivity to gently touch, move, and inspire others in your new University environment--as they are receptive.