First United Methodist Church of Bryan hosted a celebration luncheon on October 24 for their mission, the Brazos Valley PET project. The PET Project, Personal Energy Transportation, builds a three wheeled, hand cranked cart for mobility impaired people in developing countries. Seun Oke, a PET recipient from Ogbomosho, Nigeria, was the guest of honor and the West District superintendent, Rev. Wanda Bess, led over 130 guests in the invocation. Rev. Rick Sitton of FUMC Bryan says, “This ministry receives support from the entire church and puts dozens of men and women to work with their hands so that others may know the hand of God touching their life.”
Seun Oke visited the United States in honor of the 20th anniversary of the PET project. Seun contracted polio as a child and was forced to quit school. Since receiving her PET Seun was able to finish school and complete vocational school. She says, “The PET cart has changed my life totally.” Brazos Valley PET is one of 23 PET shops in the United States and one in Zambia. The PET project began 20 years ago when Rev. Larry Hills, a Congo missionary, told the UMC Rev. Mel West of the need for a 3 wheeled hand-cranked wheelchairs for victims of birth defects, polio and land mines. Earl Miner, a product designer, designed and built the first prototypes that could stand up to the difficult terrain often found in developing countries. Since that time over 48,000 PETs have been built and delivered to people in need. The Brazos Valley shop, which moved to Bryan from Luling 5 years ago, has built over 1,600 PETs. The Bryan shop is currently building 175 PETs to be sent to Vietnam and 50 to be sent to Honduras.
First United Methodist of Bryan provides the Brazos Valley shop with funding and many volunteers. However, with the encouragement of FUMC the Brazos Valley PET shop has volunteers from many different Methodist churches in Bryan/College Station, the West District and from other denominations. FUMC La Grange provides both financial and volunteer support along with Methodist churches in Brenham, Alvin and Beaumont. The West District Missions Committee, at the encouragement of Rev. Bess, has also provided funding. Some of the volunteers and board members of the Brazos Valley PET are from other denominations. FUMC Bryan leads an ecumenical effort to provide mobility to people in need. District Superintendent Rev. Wanda Bess, who has worked in the shop herself, says, “FUMC Bryan is leading the community in the effort to provide mobility throughout the world.”
The United Nations estimates that over 70 million people with mobility disabilities do not have the use of a wheelchair. These people are forced to crawl on the ground or must rely of relatives to carry them. They often face a stigma and prejudice because of their disability. Once a person receives a PET they can go to school, to work, care for their families and overcome the stigma of prejudice. “We need more PET carts for them so that their lives will be changed as my own life has been changed,” says Seun. FUMC Bryan is helping to change lives through the gift of mobility.
For more information on the Brazos Valley PET project visit their website at: http://petbrazosvalley.org/
Submitted by: Margo Newcomb (PDF)