On a Mission: Local man spends vacation helping Pakistan’s poor
SILVERTHORNE – They came on makeshift prostheses, in blankets carried by their loved ones or by dragging themselves through the streets of small Pakistan villages – disabled poor who gathered earlier this month to receive wheelchairs brought by Americans.
Mike Liu was one of those Americans. Liu, who works in the Silverthorne office of the U.S. Forest Service as a special projects coordinator, was part of the Mobility Project, whose mission was to match about 200 donated wheelchairs to the disabled poor of Pakistan.
He used two weeks of his annual vacation to give out the wheelchairs. In fact, Liu typically uses his six weeks of annual vacation time to help the needy – be they in Pakistan, as in this case, or in other developing countries.
“This job is a good way to earn money to help finance my trips over to help people,” said the married father of four. “I have the full support of my family. I wouldn’t be able to go without their support and backing.”
Liu learned of the Mobility Project through his church, Agape Outpost, and said the idea of the program tugged at his heart.
“Developing countries appeal to me in that so often they have so much less than we have in the United States,” he said. “As far as the poor, I’ve always felt that as part of my faith in Christ and God, we’re asked to help those in need. I can’t think of anyone more needy than the disabled poor.”
The wheelchairs, donated from throughout the country, were shipped to Pakistan ahead of the volunteers.
Liu said he wasn’t worried about going into a war-torn country.
“A lot of our friends weren’t sure if I’d return,” he said. “I guess I was apprehensive, but not fearful. I thought I was going with God’s blessing. Whether He chose to protect me or not, that was a risk I was going to take. I don’t think just because you go to a risky country that no harm’s going to come to you.”
The volunteers went to two villages in Pakistan – Quetta and Koti Nunan. The needy, who had been notified in advance of the available wheelchairs, came to the volunteers.
“I saw a lot of suffering,” Liu said. “Several had calluses on their knees. One amputee had rawhide wraps for stumps, a piece of rubber on the bottom, and was walking on makeshift prostheses. Some were crawling. You’d see a lot of them dragging their lower body down the street. A lot of them were carried in. We had two little girls come in carried in blankets.”
The disabled had fallen victim not only to landmines and bullets, but also to polio and other diseases.
“I’d say at least half of those we saw were crippled by diseases we take for granted because we are vaccinated against them,” Liu said. “Those vaccines aren’t available to the poor in developing countries.
“Fortunately in Pakistan, most of the roads are paved, so the wheelchairs definitely granted the recipients a lot of mobility.
Those who got the wheelchairs reacted with smiles and tears.
“Because of the language barrier, a lot of them would touch us or rub our heads to express their thanks,” he said. “A lot of the kids were kind of frightened at first. But we also brought along toys. They were bright and smiling by the time they left.”
While this was Liu’s first time in Pakistan, he taught rural villagers in China about crop rotation and nutrition on three different occasions. His wife, Jan, has also gone to China to teach English to villagers.
He admits it’s not a typical way to vacation.
“It has cut into the family vacations a little bit,” he said. “But I feel God directed me. If there’s a need and an opportunity and I can meet that, I’m all for going.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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