I'm just not comfortable. . .Part Two

"Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2a

This blog has been in my mind and heart for a long time.  I have avoided it for a number of reasons, but primary among these is I don't want to offend my friends who have said this to me. (I'll explain later.)  More and more, especially through Scripture and reading the books written by Francis Chan, I have realized that being comfortable can be, and usually is, the enemy of being holy--more Christ-like.

Please know that I am not writing this from a position of judgment.  I struggle on a daily basis with my desire to be comfortable rather than obedient.  I even wrote a recent journal about it.
 "And my comfort is NOT important.  I have a decision to make.  Will I follow my feelings, or will I follow the Holy Spirit's lead?  We are not called to be comfortable but to be Jesus to those around us."

One of the biggest struggles I have in sharing our ministry with those in the US, yes, even my friends, is that I am often met with the reaction, "I'd love to serve with you but I AM JUST NOT COMFORTABLE around people with disabilities." Sometimes they even say "people like that." This breaks my heart, and if I can be so bold as to suggest it, I believe it breaks the heart of the Father, and of the Son who came precisely for "people like that."

Think about it.  How many of the miracles Jesus performed were aimed at those with special needs?  To perform these miracles He and His disciples had to be around "people like that."  Can you just image the reactions of fishermen and tax-collectors when confronted face-to-face by ten lepers?  Do you really think they were comfortable? 

No, we may not be able bring physical healing to most of  people with physical limitations, though I do believe that God still heals and have seen Him do so in this country. We can, however, bring Jesus to them.  And I believed many of us are being called to do just that but our COMFORT is drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit as he beckons us to come.

I recently listened to a short sermon by Francis Chan on Hebrew 13:12-13:
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 

Chan goes on to explain that the garbage was put outside the city gate, along with those people who were found to be unacceptable, often including the ill and disabled.  So that's were we can find Jesus--outside our city gate--outside of our comfort zone.  I think this is the greatest benefit of good mission trips which challenge our comfort, and even security. (Security is, after all, an illusion, but that's for another post). 

I believe in 2018, God is directing much of my ministry effort toward the American Churches, while continuing to serve the "least of these" in Guatemala.  There are many churches that feel they are meeting the needs of those with special needs, but few which really are.  The questions to ponder are these:

What is my church doing to DISCIPLE the those with special needs?

What is my church doing to involve the them fully in the life of the church through SERVING OTHERS?

How does this discipleship model for the disabled fit in with the rest of the discipleship done by your church? 

Is it considered enough for your church members to be pew sitters on Sunday morning?

Is it enough for your church members to sit passively in Sunday School classes, and pretty much be ignored by those around them?

Is it enough for your church members to be served, but never invited to serve?

This is the experience of many of those with disabilities who I know.  And they attend what we would consider to be good churches.

This year I will be exploring and challenging you with these questions.  Besides talking with churches, I will be sharing with you as individuals much of what I am learning through my exploration.  

You see, I believe the solution lies not with church programs for those with special needs, but for individuals who are willing to be uncomfortable, and go outside the city gates to come along an individual with disabilities and learn how to disciple and engage them.

I will be sharing stories of individual Christians who have done just that. . .out-reach to a person who may be sitting right near you in church.

Don't know how?  We'll help you.  My biggest suggestion is just talk to them.  

Are they non-verbal?  So are animals and we feel perfectly comfortable talking with them!


I AM NOT COMFORTABLE because I fear I have offended you.

Have I offended you?  I'm not sorry.  The gospel is offensive, and I believe Jesus sent us into the WHOLE world and that includes the world of those with special needs.

I'm just not comfortable. . .

Through recent events, God has helped me articulate the fact that my life is not comfortable.  It is rich and full and joyful, but not really comfortable.  In fact, when I am comfortable, I have learned to see it as a gift from God--a small respite because He is renewing me and recharging me to once more step out of my comfort-zone, often out of my talents and capabilities, and follow where He leads.

Reflecting on a recent experience made me realize this.  Dick had taken me and my young friend Mary Ann on a short road trip.  I don't get to do many of these anymore, and I do enjoy it (though I have to admit traveling here can wear me out).

A lot of food. . .and my van cannot make it
into the village where the widows live, so Dick
kindly takes us.
We were going to take the food sponsored by a friend in the States to some widows who live in Tecpan, about 2 hours from Antigua.  I love visiting these women, and had not been out there since before my trip to the US.

On the way Dick wanted to drop off food at the home of another family for whom he has a sponsor.  After doing that we passed by the home of Maria, a young woman with a disability who lived on our way to our next stop. Dick wanted to stop in.

Maria has been being cared for by an elderly grandmother.  Grandma had also cared for Maria's two older siblings who had the same condition and died from in.  We know Maria will die from this one day, but the last time I had seen her she was happy  and chatty, sitting in her wheelchair outside of  her simple adobe house.

As I approached the house, I heard someone wailing.  Not whimpering, but the kind of crying associated with the death of a loved one here.  I wanted to turn and run, afraid that we were walking in on the wake of either Maria or her grandmother.

I WAS NOT COMFORTABLE stepping into that grief, whatever it was.  Only by the grace of the Holy Spirit could I move forward.

What I found inside was worse than death.  Maria was lying on a hard, cotton mattress on the dirt floor of her home, screaming as if in terrible pain.  Once again, I wanted to turn and run with every fiber of my being.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE  confronting so much suffering.  I am not a nurse or a doctor, and I AM NOT COMFORTABLE filling in for one, even though none are available in this area.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE looking debilitating illness in the face as it swallows a person whole on their way to death.

I didn't know what to do.  How could Dick or I possibly help in this apparently hopeless situation?  I knew certainty, though, that God had led us here, though we had not intention of seeing Maria when we left home.  So, if He brought us here, He wanted us here.  I WAS NOT COMFORTABLE here, but I had to TRUST that He would lead me in what to do next.

So I knelt down on the floor beside her bed (I WAS NOT COMFORTABLE doing this since increasing I have trouble getting up from the floor--gotta love getting older.)  And I prayed and prayed, and she screamed and screamed.  As I was praying God did not give me any revelation, nor did He miraculously stop her suffering as I would have liked Him to do.

No, the prompting I got was much simpler: put her in her wheelchair.  I have no idea why she was not in her chair.  Her family who had come in with our arrival were all there, and capable of putting her in the chair, but they insisted that she did not like it.  We persisted, and as soon as she was in the chair, her wailing ceased.

We learned that Grandma herself is not doing well and cannot get out of bed.  This requires Maria's siblings to come and care for her.  While what they said would indicate that they cared for her well, what we encountered said otherwise.  No one had been with Grandma and Maria when we came, and you had to wonder if anyone would be there after we left.

The family told me that Maria could not eat, but she was clutching an apple.  I asked if she was hungry and her face lit up.  So Dick set off to look for a pharmacy that might have Ensure, and to get something like ibuprofen to relieve her joint pain.  (The family sad that she was not able to sleep at night because of the pain.)

While they were gone I took the apple, cut it open and began showing her sister how to scrape it with a spoon to get something resembling baby food.  As I was feeding this to Maria, it became obvious she could chew soft food and swallow it easily.  I began giving here bigger and bigger pieces which she chewed an swallowed without difficulty.

When Dick returned with a banana, she was able to hold it ant eat it herself.  She ate as someone would who had not been fed in a while.  Maria can no longer speak, so we have to infer things from her behavior.  I was feeling very uncomfortable distrusting the family until Mary Ann, the young Guatemalan woman who was with us, also voiced her concerns about the truthfulness of the family. 

Dick had bought Ensure, and Maria gulped down half a glass of it.  She was indeed hungry.  This was one need we could meet.  Dick now has a sponsor and will be bringing in Encaparina (a common drink loaded with nutrition) and fruit and other nutrition food that does not require a lot of preparation.  We made it very clear this would was just for Maria and her grandmother, and Dick will be following up on that.

We also decided that Maria needed something softer than that dirty, hard cotton mattress to lay on, and since there was no one to take her to the bathroom at night, diapers to help her stay more comfortable in the night. We will be providing her with diapers and if anyone feels led to sponsor her diapers for one month, they will run about $40 a month and you can make a donation at Reason to Hope, Inc.  Even a donation for a one month supply will help us a lot.  Just email me at patd@reasontohope.org to let me know your donation is for Maria.

I had an egg crate mattress and a large piece of memory foam a friend had given me (everyone wonders why I save this stuff for which I have no immediate use!) and Dick took that back to her a few days after our visit.  This seems to have made her much more comfortable lying down.

This whole situation made me UNCOMFORTABLE and continues to do so.  We have no real way of knowing how well the family is caring for her.  I left determined to contact the social worker for the area and ask her to check on Maria and her grandmother.

However, I failed to get Maria's full name, and there are no addresses here to send out a social worker.  The social work system here is complicated and I'm still trying to located one for this area.

If anyone in Guatemala knows where the nearest Social Workers would be located, please let me know.

I AM NOT COMFORTABLE involving the government in this situation, but know Dick and I cannot follow up often enough ourselves due to the distance.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE realizing that the only way a social worker will find Maria is if we take him or her in there ourselves.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE facing the reaction of the family when we do so, though I will present it as an attempt to help all of them care for Maria.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE with this whole situation.

And my comfort is NOT important.  I have a decision to make.  Will I follow my feelings, or will I follow the Holy Spirit's lead.  We are not called to be comfortable but to be Jesus to those around us.

Please pray with me that I will be faithful to be Jesus in this situation, no matter how uncomfortable I might be. (Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He talked about dying to self.)


Partner with us to empower the poor and disabled in Guatemala to achieve their potential through the ministry of REASON TO HOPE, INC.

To help you understand our specific needs we have developed a 

to share with you our specific needs at this time.  The year 2017 has been a challenging one for us financially due to unexpected expenses and significant medical needs on the part of the residents of Casa de Esperanza. We need your help to continue and expand our services in 2018.

Will you partner with us to bring HOPE to these neglected and forgotten individuals?

Black Friday???? Giving Tuesday??? A Balanced Perspective

I am realizing this year more than ever the truth of calling this day Black.  Even in Guatemala, a land where two-thirds of all children live in poverty, the consumerism of this day has taken over.  In fact, though Guatemala does not celebrate Thanksgiving, we now have Black WEEKEND, devoting three entire days to worship at the altar of materialism. How sad I am that, along with humanitarian assistance to developing countries, we have imported the worst our culture has to offer.  The belief that materials things can make us happy, that we deserve the best, that we need to have more.

I am in the US for Thanksgiving this year, and for the first time in eight Thanksgivings am having the "pleasure" of having my senses bombarded by Black Friday advertising and the out of control desire of our culture to have "just a little bit more." Now we cannot wait until "zero dark thirty" on the Friday after Thanksgiving to begin our consumer craziness, we open the stores Thanksgiving evening to get a jump on our conspicuous consumption. It makes me sad.

And it convicts me.  I am not immune to this social disease.  While I may only be shopping at Dollar Tree, I am still overcome by what I see and how quickly I want more.  It doesn't matter that I might want it for "the ministry," these are still things which we have gotten along without just fine for the past seven plus years.  Yet, now because I know something is available, I FEEL like we can't live without it.

So what is the response of a Christ-follower to this? 

I have not known. I have struggled with a balanced attitude toward money. I have felt guilt for the relatively wealthy life-style in which we live even in Guatemala.  I have struggled with asking for donations because I hate asking others to entrust me with their money to use for our ministry. I struggle each time I make a purchase to determine if we really need what I am buying.

Then, last week,  I heard Nick Failla preach what was probably the best teaching I have ever heard on finances.  I encourage you to watch the link I am sharing below to get the full effect and benefit from the wisdom God gave him in teaching on this hot topic.

To summarize Nick poorly, I encourage you to ask yourself just one question:  Am I using the resources God has given me to advance His kingdom or build my own?  Nick's take on this may surprise you, but I know it's worth your time to watch it. Click the picture below.

Re-evaluating my values

Sunday morning, when I went to church, I could not find a parking space.  I decided to go to the overflow parking at a nearby shopping center and ride the shuttle over.  When I got there I was disappointed to see the shuttle was not there.  (In fairness, I had arrived between services, and the second service had not let out to make room for those coming to the third.)

Not knowing for sure when the shuttle would return, I decided to go to a coffee shop in the same shopping area and splurge on a cup of flavored coffee.  It is rare that I allow myself this luxury, but being in the States, it seemed a normal thing to do.  I ordered my coffee, a small one at that, and was astounded to be told it would be $4.98!  That's twice what I would pay for the same cup of coffee in Guatemala, and I have to admit, I was taken aback, and somewhat convicted at the same time.

You see, that is what an average "camposino" or farm worker in Guatemala would make on a good day.  Many earn less.  And here I had just paid that for 12 oz. of coffee (perhaps harvested by these same workers who receive $13 for 100 pounds of beans) without really giving it a thought.  The coffee was a little bitter in my mouth, and it wasn't because of the brew.  

Now, do I think it's wrong to buy a cup of coffee? Of course not.  What I began to contemplate was how, after just a little more than a week in the States, I had spent $5 without giving it a thought.  How I had acclimated to the culture around me so quickly.  And I have to admit, it broke me. We have limited resources in the ministry, and in Guatemala I would never spend $5 in such a cavalier manner.

Please don't think I'm suffering for Jesus down there.  I live in a simple apartment by US standards, but it is luxurious compared to my neighbors.  Do I allow myself creature comforts?  I do.  I even splurge on a $2.50 cup of flavored coffee once in a while when funds are available.  (I also buy Coca-cola for the guys to enjoy.)  But it is not an every day occurrence done without a second thought.

What we think of as luxury in the US
A luxury "dream home" in Guatemala

What convicted me the most was the many years I spent money so casually on things that I thought I needed.  It never occurred to me that I was being extravagant in comparison to the majority of the world.  When presented with an opportunity to share with those who had less, I would struggle, worrying that I would not have enough left for myself and my family.  I have to shamefully admit, I was a tight-fisted giver, giving out of obedience to the Word, but not with joy.

Why am I sharing this?  First and foremost, to hold myself accountable.  In seven years in Guatemala God has changed my ideas of stewardship and taught me that much of what I thought was a need was really a luxury.  And, in a few short days, I fell right back into my previous ways.  It was a humbling experience which I don't want to repeat.

I am also sharing this, however, to challenge the multitude of people who "want to give to XYZ ministry but just can't afford it." Really?  What if you intentionally sacrificed a latte a week?  That would free up $20 a month to give to those who need it much more than you.  What if you forego dinner out once a month, and give that money to the organization God has been putting on you heart for so long?  What if you're on a limited budget, and only have $5 to give, and you're embarrassed to give so little? Do you trust God to multiply this widow's mite with his abundance.

This really isn't about organizations that need your donation, though they (we) do.  It is about our hearts and attitudes before a Father who has been so generous to us.  We who have been given much have a responsibility to care for those who have so little--and this is most of the people living in the world today.  They are poor not for lack of effort on their part, but for lack of resources and opportunities.  And we, who are overflowing in opportunities and resources, so quickly forget about them.  God forgive us.

So the next time you drive by all those expensive coffee places, open your heart to the voice of the God who tells us: 

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."~~James 1:27

I am making it my conscious goal to protect myself from "being polluted by the world" (my culture in this case). 

Will you join me?