We recently had the chance to catch up with Gray Jorges and talk about the long history we've had with him in support of Wheels of The World missions. Through our Reclaimed for Good Program we are able to repurpose what others would consider trash and help our local, national, and global community.
Here's a little inside scoop from Gray on how this mission started. We hope you enjoy!
"It all started listening to Moody Radio out of Chattanooga, TN. They were interviewing a dentist who had been overseas on a short term mission trip. I had grown up in a family that supported missions. We had missionaries stay in our home. So when I heard a missionary story on the radio my ears perked up and I tucked it away in the back of my mind. Well, we’ve been coming over to Scottsboro; when I say 'we' I mean me and my family, since Unclaimed Baggage opened its doors. We were just customers shopping and of course you get to know the people working here because they tend to stick around (we both laugh). I was talking to one of the women who was working in the jewelry department at that time and it just came up about spiritual things. She said 'we have medical supplies we don’t know what to do with' and I remembered the radio story from Moody and said “let me make a couple calls”. One of my college buddies father was the director at Moody at that time. I call him up and ask him if I can have the contact information of the dentist that had been on the mission trip they shared on the radio. He said 'Yeah! That’s a great idea.' Shortly after I contact Unclaimed baggage and said 'I know someone that’s taking mission trips. If you’ll let me have those medical supplies I’ll go through them and see if it’s feasible to carry them overseas to help this mission.' So, we did that!
I was a businessman at the time. I had a warehouse in Chattanooga and started sorting out the supplies. After time, other people in the medical profession found out about this mission and I became a contact point to collect these supplies. There was no plan or rhyme or reason behind gathering the supplies, it just came together. There are several hospitals in the Chattanooga area as well as clinics and doctors’ offices so, folks would rather give the supplies away than throw them away. As things became available and more people found out about this mission, other people began to bring things in as well as Unclaimed Baggage. It became a back door thing and we were given dedicated warehouse space to store everything.
With the wheelchairs, most people in the Christian community know of Joni Eareckson Tada. Since we were getting a lot of wheelchairs it was very natural to contact her organization in California and let them know we have a bunch of wheelchairs; as well as crutches, walkers, and canes, etc. Well, that’s exactly what they needed! They gave us a point of contact by the name of George in Atlanta to work through.
I’m just the middle man. I come over and I pick up the supplies, carry them back to Summerville; George will meet me there with a truck. A group of men will eat breakfast and come over to help. I won’t even have to put this stuff in the warehouse. It will go straight from my truck to theirs. All the wheelchairs, metal crutches, canes, and walkers go to George in Atlanta. He has a 53ft. container there. There’s a business man in the lighting industry in Atlanta who volunteers his truck. So, George comes up in a company truck and carries the supplies back to the 53 ft. container. Once that container is full, it then goes to Louisiana where Angola prison is located. Angola is Louisiana’s maximum security prison facility. People doing 20 years to life. Dangerous dangerous people. 5000 inmates, it’s a farm. It’s a vast vast place. But, Joni works with them there with a select group of inmates that get to repair the wheelchairs. Of course, they have to be so careful in prison because you’re dealing with metal. The opportunity for making weapons or anything else is there, so it’s a very controlled environment to repair these wheelchairs. It gives the inmate the opportunity to give back, to be productive, to feel like they are a part of society, to be a part of something bigger. The inmates repair the wheelchairs then they are shipped through the port of New Orleans to go around the world. The wheelchairs are totally repaired, in great shape and ready to be used!
This is amazing story to tell, because it’s about something that is lost and given a second life. Because these supplies are being shipped with a Christian organization not only are they meeting the physical needs of somebody who truly has nothing, like people being physically carried by family member’s begging on the street, but also gives them the good news of Jesus. We’re giving these wheelchairs, canes, crutches, etc. as Christ gave freely to us, we are mimicking or modeling His example. There is good news. These items meet the physical needs but there is a spiritual need as well. It’s a beautiful story and I’m glad to be a part of it."
There is so much need in the world and we've been blessed with much to give. We can't express how much it means to us to be a part of this ministry. Take care and God bless!