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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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. . ."
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."
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.
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!