PET-Kansas was born around Kirby and Chris Goering’s kitchen table in Moundridge in 2005 when friend and former missionary, Larry Hills from Africa, asked Kirby a poignant question:  “Would you be willing to establish a Personal Energy Transportation shop, that is, a PET shop, here in Kansas?”


PET-Kansas was born around Kirby and Chris Goering’s kitchen table in Moundridge in 2005 when friend and former missionary, Larry Hills from Africa, asked Kirby a poignant question:  “Would you be willing to establish a Personal Energy Transportation shop, that is, a PET shop, here in Kansas?”
Hills first met Kirby back in 1967 when they served together in Zambia. Hills says, “Kirby and another volunteer were doing their Mennonite Volunteer Service with us. We had dinner together every night. They became like sons to Laura and me.” After Kirby returned home, Hills stayed on to complete 33 years in the field. Now here they were, nearly 40 years later, around the Goerings' kitchen table in Kansas.  
Soon after Kirby returned home from Africa, he and Kris were married. They had a family, established a muffler business in Moundridge, and kept themselves busy farming.  The unexpected visit from Hills, then retired in Florida, brought them together again. Their rendezvous had some interesting repercussions: Hills asked Kirby to take on yet another project, this time, a PET wheelchair shop in Moundridge.
During their visit, the Goerings learned that Hills and his wife Laura had retired at Penney Farms in Florida. Knowing the great need in Zambia, Hills established PET-Florida.  He shared the story that motivated him: One day he was walking along in the bush and thought he heard rustling in the bushes. He checked to see what was causing the commotion, only to discover a young mother dragging her body through the weeds with her arms. She had a baby tied to her back and two small children accompanying her.  The mother's legs were non-functional. Hills made an appeal to Mel West, a United Methodist pastor in Missouri who developed the prototype for today's PETs with a retired airline engineer, Earl Miner.
Chris had spent much of their married life listening to Kirby's heart-rending stories about the poverty of the people in Zambia. During his two-year stint there with Mennonite Volunteer Service, he saw the most desperate of the poor who had little or no recourse to modern medicine.  An everyday virus or a healthy woman birthing a child in primitive conditions frequently resulted in permanent debilitation or death.  Complications correctable in a developed country like the United States turned into living nightmares and often burdened the people's families.
The Goerings' answer to the Hills' request was a definitive, “Yes!”  Kirby dedicated space at his business, Kirb Service, to the newly established project. Chris stood by her husband with a sense of excitement and mission.
Two years later, in 2005, PET-Kansas opened its doors. Today, five years into the project, nearly 900 life-transforming PETs have been built, shipped, and fitted for people in the developing world. The Goerings' deliver most of their PETs themselves and retrofit them to recipients. PETs are free of charge to the poor. Each of the 17 PET shops in the U.S. has a reciprocal relationship with the other. Thus, the Goerings' PETs have been sent to twelve other countries - Ethiopia, Honduras, Vietnam, Afghanistan, The Congo, Haiti, Peru, El Salvador, Chad, Tajikistan, Eritrea, and Borneo.

April of 2010 witnessed the Goerings' fourth trip to Honduras. The demand is so great that each year the Goerings build more to keep up with the need. Using volunteer labor and donated materials, along with donors' contributions, the PET-Kansas shop in Moundridge manufactures about 250 PETs per year.  The Goerings do this without monetary remuneration.

PET DELIVERIES
Friend and former neighbor, Ashley Williams, has connections in Honduras and organizes the Goerings' deliveries. To ship PETs to Honduras, the PETs are transported in a container from Moundridge to the Gulf in Houston for clearance by customs. There the container of PETs is loaded onto a freighter and transported by boat to Honduras. One week later, the PETs arrive in Tegucigalpa where, again, they must clear customs.  At that point, Williams, who flies ahead of the Goerings, contacts the Vargis family which sends a group of volunteers from the Church of Christ to pick up the PETs and store them. By the time the Goerings fly in with their cadre of volunteers from Kansas, 200 recipients will all be identified and on an official waiting list for PETs. Distribution sites are set.  Meals, vehicle rental, and overnight lodging are ready to go, quite an undertaking for a small PET shop in Moundridge.
PET RECIPIENTS
One recent recipient of a PET, a young woman named Karla Ondina Ortega Bahahona, lost a leg when she fell from a train. The train ran over and amputated her leg.  For years she wished she could have a car but the cost was prohibitory. When Williams discovered her on one of his preparatory trips, he gave her a PET. Today Karla sews for a living and is taking classes to become a lawyer to represent the poor in her country. She drives her PET with pride and says she no longer needs or desires a car.  
Another recent PET recipient, Herbeto Arturo Vargas, has mobilized his small watch repair ship on his PET. Instead of being sequestered inside his shop on a side street, he now takes his shop on his PET to the city center where he has doubled his business.  
Nothing gratifies the Goerings more than seeing people, who struggle in the doors at their distribution centers, roll out the door with their countenances shinning. For many, it is the Christmas gift of their lives.
One quiet woman with a gentle spirit, Illma Lisseth, from Choleteca was afflicted with polio. She showed up at a PET-Kansas distribution center early one morning before the gates opened in April of 2009. Illma's legs were short stubs; neither were functional. Her quiet spirit and gentleness captured the Goerings' affection. She lived with her disability as best as she could, but there was so much more that Illma could have done, had her handicap not stifled her possibilities.  When Illma pulled her torso up into her new PET, she received a new identity.
Another gentleman from San Pedro Sula showed up at a distribution last April. His anomaly was quite visible: He had no legs, but he had four feet. “Just watching him roll out the door in a PET was a miracle in motion,” say the Goerings.
The Goerings say their PETs restore dignity for many of their recipients. By using a PET, they are physically elevated to the level of their peers where they can meet the world eye to eye. In many cases, their self images, and often their lives, are transformed. They can go where they want to go without relying on others. Many become entrepreneurs, finding work such as shining shoes, selling newspapers, sewing, cooking and making deliveries. Sometimes they carry their children in the PETs or haul garden produce from door to door to make money for their families. “It's a life-changing experience,” say the Goerings. “We're blessed to be part of it.”
During that eventful visit over the Goerings' kitchen table back in 2005, Larry Hills told the Goerings about a PET recipient in Zambia who was a teacher. The teacher couldn't walk.  Every day for twelve years his mother hoisted him onto her back and carried him to school to teach. When they arrived, he would lower himself to the ground and pull his body across the dirt to get to his building and classroom.  
After receiving a PET, the man told Hills, “Getting a PET was the happiest day of my life. I no longer crawl to my classroom like an animal. Now I go in like a Man.”
Today because of PET-Kansas, nearly 900 PET recipients in nine countries are singing a song of gratitude for the gift of mobility this Advent season. Every day for these people is a holiday, a 'holy day.' For them, Thanksgiving means 'thanks-living.'
To learn more about PETs, contact the Goerings at (620) 345-2394 or email them at petkansas@hotmail.com. They provide programs for churches, schools, and civic groups. They can also arrange for tours of the PET-Kansas facility at 320 W. Ruth Street in Moundridge.  Persons wishing to send tax exempt gifts or donate materials, in kind, to build PETs are also needed. Visit the new PET-Kansas website at www.petkansas.org.