Traveling Mercies

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A Wing and a Prayer Delivering Dignity

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Web Brief #57 July 2, 2003

A Wing and a Prayer – Intro

Welcome to this UMTV Web Brief; I’m Reed Galin.

If you’re going to be flying on vacation this summer, you will have plenty of company. Travel industry experts say air travel will be up. That’s good news for airlines, not such a plus if you’re one of those standing in long lines at the airport. We know of an oasis. It’s in the terminal, but far from the concourse craziness.

A Wing and a Prayer – Story

Airline passengers fly in the face of fear.

Mary Susa, passenger: “It’s very stressful and rushed and then you’re concerned about planes’ going down. Are you going to make it to your destination?”

Terrorism, the SARS virus, canceled flights – airport anxiety is at an all-time high.

Marc Frost: “Since 9/11, it’s just not fun.”

Chaplain Chester Cook is there to help.

The Rev. Chester Cook: “Normally, you don’t have to walk too long before you find somebody who needs a friend.”

This United Methodist ministers at Hartsfield International in Atlanta, which sees a quarter of a million passengers a day.

The Rev. Chester Cook: “We see a lot of people who are fearful of flying, and sometimes look to a chaplain for help.”

To cope with the stress, employees and travelers alike seek refuge at the airport’s interfaith chapel, Cook’s base of operation.

The Rev. Chester Cook: “We have Muslim and Jewish and Christian, all three, in the chapel at the same time, either doing their prayers or reading Scripture.”

Donna Lee / Passenger: “My faith goes with me everywhere I go.”

The chapel was comfort for Donna Lee, who travels the world with her Christian music ministry.

Donna Lee: “This is a great way to pass the time. And you can pray for all the people out there that are walking around stressed, and maybe bring some peace to some people.”

Cook works in the moment. His is a different kind of congregation; it’s always taking off.

The Rev. Chester Cook: “In the airport, we have a microcosm of the world, and they’re all welcome here in our chapel.”

A Wing and a Prayer – Tag

Airport chapels have become more popular since 9/11, but more difficult to get to because of added security. There are more than 135 airport chapels around the world.

Delivering Dignity – Intro

Land mines and polio outbreaks are realities in Third World countries where 20 million to 30 million people have lost the use of their legs. Many of these victims crawl from place to place. This tragic fact inspired a Missouri man half a world away to manufacture a little dignity for such people.

Delivering Dignity – Story

This is where new lives are created.

Natsound: “We build three of these in a half a day.”

Natsound: “We are getting pretty close to final design, I’d say.”

These volunteers are building PETs – Personal Energy Transportation vehicles.

Steve Baima / Volunteer: “The people we distribute the PETs to are crawling around on the ground. They have virtually no life whatsoever. Every one of these we produce is one more person up and mobile with a restored life and a new lease on life.”

Mel West / PET Founder: “Seven hundred sixty-one last year. We hope to do over 1,000 this year.”

The idea came from a friend of the PETs’ creator, retired United Methodist elder Mel West.

Mel West: “With our United Methodist work in Zambia, we have more there than any place. We’ve sent them 600 by now.”

Today, PETs are found in nearly 30 countries, assisting survivors of polio and casualties of war.

Mel West: “The need is utterly endless.”

While the demand far exceeds production, here the spirit is what keeps this project moving forward.

Mel West: “We’re doing the best we can one at a time to get the people up off the dirt and mud and give them dignity.”

At $250 each to build and ship, it’s a small price to change a life.

Delivering Dignity – Tag

This shop is in Missouri. A second recently opened in Florida and another shop is setting up now in Texas. Mel West and others hope this effort will just keep growing around the world.

Next week on UMTV …

Move over, Eminem and Snoop Dog. The Rappin’ Rev is taking over the mic.

Thanks for watching. Make it a good week.