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 Nov - Dec 2004
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COVER STORY: Joni Eareckson Tada
Avoiding Holiday
Family Feuds
Peppermints
Taking Care of Me
Saying Yes to God
What's the Nicest Thing Someone Did For You?
Yes! There is a Santa Claus
8 Time-Saving Cooking Tips
Mustard Seed Christmas
A Soldier's Prayer
Talk Over Tea with the Editor
Tell Us Your Thoughts
Strive to Thrive Health News
Joy Bites
Strength in the Shadows
Volunteer Corner
Book Review: The God I Love
Ask the Doc
HopeNotes: hopekeepers
Group & Leader Information
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Yes, there is a Santa Claus. Storybooks say that he and Mrs. Claus live somewhere in the North Pole, but a rumor has spread that they actually live in a little town outside of Atlanta, Georgia and they go by the off-season name of Ed and Anna Butchart. Known around the world as "Wheelchair Santa" Ed gives more than just simple promises of dolls and trucks; he and his wife give the love of the Lord to both adults and kids that live with physical disabilities. He may not have typical reindeer, but He doesn't need them. "It's been an amazing ride," says, Ed. "God is so good."

Ed's book, Red Suit Diaries, is a heart-warming (and sometimes bittersweet) tale of how God put him on this path. He's had an interesting career path that would have left any man running for the North Pole wondering what God's plan was: A twenty year career in the Marines, a salesman job of medical diagnostic products, and then an ordained pastor.

It was in Vietnam as a Marine he repaired his first wheelchair for a 12-year-old girl who had lost her legs from a land-mine explosion, but he didn't realize the calling God had in store for him. Back home in Georgia, he met a man at church who had cerebral palsy. Ed admits, "I was quite put off by him and didn't know what to say to him so I didn't say anything for a couple of years and then one day I said, 'hello' and to my astonishment he answered me, 'hello!'" Soon Ed was coming by this man's home to visit, and the man asked him to help change a light bulb. "An amazing feeling swept over me because it was the first time I had ever done anything for somebody who could not do it for themselves. So I began to do other odd jobs for him and for other people in that same complex who were all disabled." They asked Ed to lead a Bible study and with support from Mt. Carmel Christian Church, Ed took the plunge and went into ministry full-time, even going back to college to get a degree in theology.

"We didn't really know what exactly we wanted to do," says Ed, "but five days later somebody gave me a wheelchair. Well-they told me 'one is by the dumpster at the parking complex.' So I went and got it. Then somebody gave me another one and another one and I started working on them in the garage. My wife said, 'Well, what are we going to do with five wheelchairs?' and I said, 'I don't know. I'll fix them up and give them away!' So we fixed those up and gave them away. And then there were more and more. Now we've given away almost 12,000 wheelchairs, one at a time."

Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) is now a multimillion-dollar charity that repairs wheelchairs, van lifts, hospital beds and other equipment for the disabled, a mission ministry of Mt. Carmel Christian Church, giving away medical equipment to 36 states and 62 countries, including a recent load to Iraq. The ministry now resides in a 65,000 square foot building in Stone Mountain, Georgia. "We have seen God's hand in everything we've done. God has done many miracles to keep our finances afloat and the medical supplies coming in," says Ed. In fact, he's written another book about the miracles that have occurred within this ministry, hopefully due out in 2005.

Ed was Santa for his church when he decided to grow a real beard and become a "professional Santa." "It fits in with what we're doing here because I am the Santa that gives away wheelchairs," says Ed. . . er, Santa. "I get letters here addressed to 'Wheelchair Santa.' When you give things away, that makes you Santa Claus, whether you've got a beard and a red suit or not."

People all over Georgia call him Santa, but he's right-it's not because of any red suit. "People come up to me all the time and say things like, 'You gave my mom a wheelchair and I want to thank you. It made her life so much better for the two years she lived.' People who don't have an opportunity to hear that are depriving themselves of an incredible blessing. We always tell people that they don't need to thank us, but to say their prayers tonight, and thank the Lord, because He's the one who put this thing together. He is the one who inspired someone to donate it to us so we could give it to you. That's all we're doing."

"We had no idea when we started what we were getting into or that the need was so great," says Ed. "There are so many people out there who cannot afford a wheelchair or a walker, or anything. Their whole lives are limited by the fact that they can't afford the equipment so they can live a full life. Once we discovered how many people were out there, the task just became completely overwhelming. No way could we do this by ourselves, but the Lord kept providing a way! And that's what we learned: When you are in God's will for your life, He is going to provide and take care of you so you can get things done."

Their building is the home to a thrift shop, repair rooms and even a small "Santa room" filled with donated toys. Disabled children and siblings who visit can take home as many toys as they want, Most gasp when they see the room, but they usually only take one.

"I worked jobs all my life that paid me big money to do it," says Ed. "But I never found out how valuable I was until I gave myself away and people began to tell me about the impact of what we had given them had had on their life. Then I began to understand how favored my life was. And it just floored me. It just completely overwhelmed me." Butchart told Caroline Mack of EnabledOnline.com. "Dreams and desires are every bit as real for those who do live with a disability. They are people just like everyone else, wanting the same things-someone to love them and accept them as they are." "We don't apologize for being a Christian organization," says Ed. "We tell them where it came from, we give them the stuff, we don't ask any questions. We give them our little message and they go away with it and what they do with it. . . I don't know. . ."

But sometimes he does know. A mother of a young girl recently approached Ed and said that last year her daughter had sat on his lap and he had told her about the best gift this world had ever received-Jesus Christ. This little girl went home so excited that Santa loved Jesus! Christmas morning she said she would just "pray to Jesus to tell Santa thanks for the toys because Jesus and Santa are good friends." She soon accepted Christ into her life and was later baptized, because "I know it's the right thing to do because Santa did it."

But this humble Santa accepts little credit, "I am faithful to the task that God has called me to do. But you think I didn't cry when her mother told me that? I just sat there and lost it! I couldn't even get up out of my rocking chair." Yes, my friends, there is a Santa Claus.

For more information contact FODAC at www.fodac.org or 770- 491-9014. Your donations or volunteer time are appreciated. If you live in Georgia you just may be able to see Santa himself!


This article was featured in our Nov/Dec 2004 issue.
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All information on this web site and from hopekeepers MagazineŽ is copyright, 2004, not to be used without permission in print or electronically. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes your acceptance of our Terms and Conditions. Please contact us at rest@restministries.org if you would like to reprint it for public use. Permission is not needed for 10 or less copies of personal use (send to a friend, share with your support group, etc.) We're happy to answer your questions about it.