The permanent facility for Casa de Esperanza was fully paid for in June, and I am finally taking time to tell the story. . .and I think it's a good one. Many of you have heard bits and pieces, but here is the big picture of what God has done in the last 18 months.
In March of 2015, our ministry had about $3000 saved to put toward the purchase of land on which to build a house.. It seemed to me that God was making it clear it was time to start looking. Due to the needs of our guys, there were some specifics the lot would have to meet. . .including being walking distance to a school and some type of stores, park, etc.
I was astonished to find out that, while I had been told I could purchase land for $30,000, this was only in very isolated areas, or for very small pieces of land. Any lot near a town would run between $65,000 and $70,000 for land, and to build the type of home our guys need, we would need at least 1.5 to 2 lots (lots are pretty small down here). I looked at some spots, but the price was overwhelming.
At the advice of our realtor, I began looking at existing homes. I saw some beautiful homes, but none that would serve well of our ministry. The prices were running more than $235,000, and I was in sticker-shock to say the least. Each night I would go back to God saying, "Really? Are you sure? Okay, HOW?" I was not discouraged, but only because I was so sure God was going to move, and was wishing He would hurry up and do so.
About three days before I was to come to the US in April, 2015, for our second fund-raising dinner, I received a call from Tere, my realtor. "I know you're busy, but we just listed this house and you have to see it. God built it for you!" We arranged to meet the next day.
As we pulled up to the condominium entrance (here gated communities are called condominiums.), Before I could say anything, Tere told me, "Don't yell at me! I know it's a condominium, but this house has a private entrance." (I had been very specific that I wanted a home where "normal" Guatemalans could easily come one go; condominiums here are designed to keep these people out!) As we walked across the beautiful ground, and around the club house and swimming pool, I was thinking, "Surely this is not the place for us. It's too "rich" for a ministry like ours."
When I walked through the door, though, God took my breath away. It was an open concept house, newly remodeled, and, Tere was right. It was perfect for wheelchairs. One floor and lots of outside level space. The bathrooms were small, but I figured we could make one large bathroom by knocking out the wall between two of the bathrooms, and make due with the one large one in the meantime. So this house had two things I had never encountered in Guatemala: a private entrance to a house in a condominium, and an open floor plan.
I held my breath as I asked the price. I thought I misheard when Tere said $170,000. In fact, I asked her to go back to the office and check the amount. Now, $170,000 was still a huge amount of money, but the land that this house was sitting on was 2+ lots, so I figured we had at least $120,000 just in land. There was no way I could build this type of house for only $50,000, so I figured she had to be wrong. Later that night I got a call. The price was $170,000 firm.
So I made an offer of $160,000 with $17,000 down and left for the US. Now remember, I had $3000 in hand at this time, but I was sure God was leading me this way. (Never, in being a single woman in ministry had I felt so alone and out on a limb all by myself. And never had I been so sure God was leading me to do something. Talk about blind faith. . .)
A few days before the our dinner, I received word that there were three other offers on the house, and ours was the lowest, so we, in all probability, would not get it. I was disappointed, but excited, too. Now I had a floorplan to use in designing our own house---someday.
We held our dinner, and God more than blew my socks off. In two weeks, we raised more than $50,000. I had never been responsible for that much money in my entire life. I returned to Guatemala anxious to begin looking for land once again. After seeing this floor plan, I knew we shouldn't settle for something that would not really serve our needs.
I made an appointment to meet with the realtor, and she surprised me when she explained that the owners still had not accepted any offer, and her boss thought we should make another offer for the full $170,000. (The night before I left to come back to Guatemala, an older couple who have been my faithful supporters since the beginning of this ministry had me to dinner. When I was leaving, the gentleman handed me an envelop saying, "Raise your offer." When I got home, I found a check for $10,000. This seemed a confirmation!) When she asked me if I could raise my down payment, she was amazed when I offered $40,000.
Our offer was accepted that same day, with a payment schedule over the next year. Our second payment of $13,000 was made, using the $10,000 from fundraising and the $3000 I had saved.
Our third payment of $117,000. I had no idea where this money would come from. As the due day approached, we had more and more unexpected expenses, and what I had been saving was rapidly used up. It was the most humbling experience to go to the owner's attorney and ask for an extension of 12 months. He was sure the owner would not accept this, and I was mentally preparing to start looking for a new place to live. (We would get 75% of what we had paid returned to us, but still. . .) We would meet again the following Tuesday to go over the owner's response.
I went home and wrote an email to our friends and supporters, asking them to pray with us over the next four days that the owner's heart would be moved to work with us. As I was writing the letter, I was praying and suddenly stopped, telling God, "I have done what I thought you wanted. It hasn't worked out. Now what are YOU going to do?" I got a clear answer of one word, "Watch." I finished the letter with renewed hope and a sense of expectancy, anxious to see just what He was going to do. I really had no idea if He meant He would find our a new house, give the owner a new heart, or what would happen.
On Sunday I received an email from a couple who had already heavily invested in our ministry. They explained that God had recently blessed them financially, and had even indicated that the funds were for me. Then they received my email. They were giving our ministry $100,000 toward paying off the house--only string attached was that they were to remain anonymous.
I could hardly breathe when I read their response. Then I cried. When God told me to "watch", he had already provided what I needed to these friends. He had even indicated it was for our ministry. He had it all in control.
When I returned to the attorney, saying I had $100,000 of the balance to give him, he didn't believe me. He actually thought that I had been holding out on them. I didn't know what to say except, "We prayed, God answered."
Needless to say, they accepted the $100,000 and would give us three more months to raise the rest. With fees and taxes we still needed about $20,000. Through donations God provided $10,000 and reminded me of a small retirement account I had from when I was changing jobs. There wasn't much in it, but, when I checked, if I cashed it in I would receive. . .you guessed it. . .$10,000. So I did and we paid off the house.
While I never had any problem donating the money (after all, if I asked others to invest in our ministry, why wouldn't I?), I sort of felt that perhaps I was taking things into my own hands and now trusting God. As I prayed this through, however, I realized that once again, ten years before I ever knew I would need it, God had led me to put aside funds that He would use to pay for a house in a country I had never seen for a ministry I had not even dreamed of.
It is rather scary buying property in Guatemala. There are no escrow accounts, holding money until the title is transferred, so much is done on "faith." It seems at every step in the process, another fee is required, but, once again, God has provided what has been needed. . .never ahead of time, but always on time.
So, how does God buy a house? By bringing us to our knees. . .and that's the best place to be.
Roberto, one of the permanent residents of Casa de Esperanza has been hospitalized for the past 11 days with a ruptured appendix. Our staff has been doing a tremendous job of covering the house and helping to stay with him in the hospital, but it’s still been quite a strain on all of us—especially Roberto. This has also been a tremendous strain on our limited budget. Because of the emergency nature of this illness, we chose to use a private hospital. While the cost is nowhere near what it would be in the US, we are anticipating the bill will run us about $7000, which is far beyond what we have in our emergency fund.
This has been my first time to deal first-hand with medical care here in Guatemala for something more serious than a cold. It has been a learning experience to say the least. There is a national hospital system which provides free care to patients—however accessing their services can be a challenge. You wait hours in the emergency room to see a doctor, and sometimes the skills of the physician you see leave quite a bit to be desired. You often must pay for extras, such as anesthesia and surgical supplies, so, in reality, this can still cost a significant amount. Private insurance is not available to persons with significant health care needs, such as our young men. So we did the best we could with what is available.
Since I feared Roberto might have an appendicitis, I opted for the more expensive option of a private hospital. The head doctor saw him immediately, and diagnosed him. The problem was, the surgeon on call comes from Guatemala City only in the evenings. In the meantime, his appendix ruptured.
The treatment plan then changed to treating him for six weeks with antibiotics, and then returning to remove the appendix. (For those of you who are concerned about this, I checked the Mayo Clinic website and this is the preferred course according to them. Who knew?)
|Roberto's veins were really a challenge for the nurses|
who needed to set up IV's. It often took numerous pokes
and more than a half hour to finally find a vein that wouldn't collapse.
After four days of IV antibiotics and a couple of pints of whole blood, the infection was not subsiding, and the doctors decided to operate. Surgery took place Saturday night, and lasted three hours. There were some complications—previous surgeries done after his original accident had “rearranged” his intestines, and part of his ruptured appendix was attached (?) to his bladder. The surgeon thought he had managed to clean out the infection sufficiently for him to recover more rapidly.
|Roberto's first time back in his wheelchair after surgery.|
It was tough.
After another week in the hospital he was finally ready to come home last Saturday. His previous malnutrition and physical condition have made his recovery a much slower process than normal. Please continue to pray for his recovery, and that he will cooperate fully in his care. Roberto can be a bit stubborn if he doesn’t feel like doing what he needs to do. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with at 12-year-old rather than someone who is 27. (This is understandable, given his history of neglect, but still challenging, and I find myself struggling often with frustration and impatience. Maybe you need to pray for me?)
Today we returned to the hospital to have his stitches removed, and he is progressing well. We are facing a new problem, however. If you remember Roberto, you might remember that he came to us with horrible bedsores. We have been working on them consistently, and he has been improving, except for one on his back. The treatment for his injury five years ago was to put a steel rod in his back to stabilize his broken spine. Over time, his spine has begun to curve forward, in part due to his poor posture. Before his recent hospitalization, the rod had begun to break through the skin. At first it was a small blister, which gradually increased to about a half inch opening, exposing the rod.
He was seen by a neurosurgeon in late December, and he recommended using a particular membrane which is often effective in treating wounds such as these. Unfortunately, it was not working, and we were making plans for Roberto to go to the orthopedic hospital in Guatemala City when his appendix acted up. This was obviously put on hold to treat a more life-threatening condition. After the time in the hospital, however, the opening has progress to be about 2 inches long, and very painful for him.
I have to admit this is all pretty overwhelming to me. I thought caring for his bedsores was difficult, but it pales in comparison to having to clean and bandage this wound on his back. I know I can only do this because of the strength God gives me to face it, but it scares me each time I bandage it. It breaks my heart knowing that, unlike his bedsores, he feels extreme pain every time I treat the wound. So, now that he is cleared to move on for further treatment, I sincerely ask you to pray for wisdom in deciding where to have this next surgery done.
The orthopedic hospital is part of the national hospital system, and I am very concerned about the quality of the care he will receive there. With the expense of his recent hospitalization, however, a private surgeon seems out of the question. Our neurosurgeon is recommending one of the orthopedic doctors who he believes to be competent, who works at the national hospital. We are trusting his opinion as we move forward. Over everything, though, I am trusting God to direct me in how to best care for this young man who already has suffered so much.
If you feel moved to help us with the cost of Roberto’s treatment, you can do so through the Josiah Foundation. You can contribute on line at www.josiahfoundation.com, using the link for Donations. Please look for the link for Mission Guatemala.
If you prefer to use a check, please designate your desire for the funds to be directed to our ministry by noting Mission Guatemala on the memo line of your check. You can send your donation to:
The Josiah Foundation
Attn. Mission Guatemala
2112 S. 163rd Circle
Omaha, NE 68130
I first met Maria almost eight years ago when I visited her small community with a service team from my home church in Omaha. She had four children, the youngest only a new-born. Only a few months before we met, she had been widowed when her young husband was killed crossing one of the treacherous highways we have here in Guatemala. She was timid and scared and cried easily. Though I spoke limited Spanish, I could not really communicate with her, since she spoken only the Mayan language of Kaichikel. She had never been more than a few miles away from her small village in the highlands of Guatemala. She was timid and scared and cried easily. My heart broken for her and her children.
When I moved to Guatemala in 2006, one of the first places I visited was her home. By this time she had learned to speak limited Spanish, and with my limited Spanish, we somehow managed to become fast friends.
Over the years our friendship has continued to grow. I participated in the memorial service for the second anniversary of her husband's death. I was with her as she navigated the process of receiving surgery at Hermano Pedro Hospital to repair a hernia. I have watched both her and her children grow and develop over the years. I have purchased her beautiful weaving regularly to help her provide for her family. I am privileged to call her friend.
Over the years I have gotten to know her neighbors, many of whom are also widows, and they have become my friends, too.
When Dick Rutgers and I visited in November, we were distressed to find how conditions had worsened in this area. Though they live in the middle of some of the most fertile fields in Guatemala, they own only the small plots of lands in which their corrugated tin houses sit. They struggle to keep their children in school, and unfortunately many of them, such as Samuel and his brother Josue have had to quit school before graduation to work in the fields to help support their their families. My heart continued to break, now more profoundly, for these are my friends.
|Samuel & his brother Josue who we hope will help with our project|
Dick, some of his boys, and I went back Christmas Eve, bringing each of the widows' families a small chicken and some basic foodstuffs for their Christmas dinner. It was nothing compared to what most, even the poor, would be a eating that evening, but the rejoiced as if it was a feast.
I longed to do something more. Our ministry was pretty strapped financially at this time, and I wasn't sure what we could do. I knew, though, that I could pray. As I did, an idea took shape. I have friends who have been working in sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua. As part of their work, they have been helping the women develop "kitchen gardens" so they can supplement their diets with fresh vegetables and even some fruits. Would thus work in Tecpan?
You can see these women don't have land to make a normal garden.
Talking with Dick, he didn't think the women had enough land to make this worthwhile. I didn't know enough about even backyard gardening to make any helpful suggestions. While my desire to help these women didn't dimish, I had no real idea what to do. I couldn't get the idea of small gardens out of my mind and prayers thoguh. How could I interest my Omaha friends in this project when they were already committed in Nicaragua?
But God knew what he had planned. A few months ago I received an email out of the blue from Mike Williams, one of the men working with the project in Guatemala. Would I "allow" him to stop in and visit us for a few days on his way home from Nicaragua? Of course he got an immediate and enthusiastic "yes!"
In early April, Mike spent four days learning about our ministries. Mike fell in love with these women, too, and immediately began to strategize how we could make this work. He has a plan, and we are actively engaging others to join us in this ministry. (If you're heart is touched by these women, email Pat to find out how you can become part of what God is doing in this poor community.)
We hope to begin our first gardens next October. While this won't solve all the nutritional problems of the area, it's a start. Until this takes off, however, we would like to provide monthly donations of beans, rice and corn to these five women.
|While they live amid some of the most fertile land in Guatemala,|
these women do not own more than the small plots
on which their homes sit.
But could you see your friends with nothing substantial to eat, unable to spend their children to school, and stand by and do nothing? Neither can I. Would you join us in prayer that God will provide the funds (about $125 a month) to pursue this?
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? …~~James 2:14-16
Last November, Moises made Casa de Esperanza his forever home. His journey to us was years in the making.
|Moises playing soccer in a Mulholland walker. |
Oh, how I wish I could find one like this for an adult!
Life became more difficult for Moi as he grew into adolescence. The normal strivings of a young man his age were seen as disobedience and rebellion. With punishment, Moi became more rebellious, controlling the only things over which he had power. . .his eating and his learning.
|Moises and Sonia at graduation with |
Nineth, their teacher from Hermano Pedro
Hermano Pedro was not designed or equipped to deal with a young man like Moises. More punishment led to more rebellion and the cycle continued. About this time we opened Casa de Esperanza. I talked with Moi frequently about the possibility of him living with us, but I don't think he believe it would ever really happen. (I have learned that many promises have been made to these young men by people with the best intentions, who leave Guatemala and become busy with their own lives, and never return. Your "word" means very little to them.)
Last July, Moises turned eighteen, and because he is mentally competent, became an adult in the eyes of the government, and able to decide for himself where he would live. Moises does have a family, but they live in a very remote area where Moi would have no opportunities for education or employment. On top of that Moises' dad, like many of the men we encounter, is a practicing alcoholic, who, while caring about his son, had no desire to take him home.
The day after his birthday, we received a call from the social work department at the hospital. Moi wanted to come and live with us. In so many ways this has felt like bringing home my own child. While all my guys are special to me, Moises and I have the longest history, and my emotional attachment to him is the strongest.
|Moi leaving Hermano Pedro|
to move to Casa de Esperanza
I would love to say that it has been all sunshine and roses living with Moi. Honestly, there have been struggles. The life outside the institution Moi had experienced with me and other volunteers had been mostly fun and eating out. Living 24/7 with someone is far different. (I'm afraid I'm not nearly as nice or as much fun as Moises expected!) He is learning, as the other guys have had to, that with the freedom of living in a family, there are responsibilities, too. These are not nearly as much fun, but are essential to adult living.
|Moi watching the semi's that park outside our gate, and visiting with the drivers.|
Studying is something Moises, I fear, will never enjoy school. While he is bright enough, his interests are much more physical. Soccer is still his passion and he manages to play pretty well while propelling his wheelchair with his feet.
|Osmi and Moises ready for their first day of school|
I smile when I look at Moi, because in my mind's eye, I still see the little guy I first met, who was so longing for love and acceptance. I see the same desires in the young man, and pray that we can help meet them, and draw him to the One who loves and accepts him completely.
Help us make Casa de Esperanza
Last May we signed a contract to purchase our present house in San Pedro Las Huertas, a small community outside of Antigua, Guatemala. We moved in Oct. 26 with the help of a team from all Nations Church, having made a down-payment of $40,000. We have been renting the house as we continue to raise funds to cover the balance of $130,000.
In the ensuing months, we have raised and paid and another $13,000, bringing our current balance to $117.000.
We're loving it . . .
This house has proven to suit our ministry needs in almost every way. While the condominium struggles to accept our young men (there is still much discrimination against the disabled in Guatemala) the town itself has received our guys with open arms and they are enjoying the freedom and peaceful environment we have in this smaller town. Moises and Osmi have started studying in a private school here (the only which would accept them) and are well accepted by the staff and students. We a small connection group, members of our church in Antigua who live in San Pedro, who meet here each Friday evening. God has just begun to use this house for his purposes and to reach San Pedro.
Our final payment is due next month,
and we are still short about $100,000
We have met with the attorney for the owner, asking for an extension. We should have the answer soon. There is a possibility that we will have to nullify the original contract and find somewhere else to live, but we are earnestly praying that the owner will work with us to find a mutually agreeable solution.
Do I believe we have made a mistake in moving to purchase this house?
I believed in April that this was the house God had led us to, and continue to believe this. I have counseled with fellow missionaries who have many more years of experience in ministry and fund-raising and they, too, agreed we should move ahead with the purchase in April, and still believe we should expect God to do a great thing. I can do no more than believe Him and be obedient to his leading, even when it feels like foolishness.
Foolishness to the world . . .
And I do feel foolish right now, if I'm completely honest. I am someone who likes to have their ducks in a row and craves security. God is again teaching me to relinquish control of every aspect of my life and ministry to Him, and Him alone. He is teaching me more firmly that my only security is found in Him, and in my obedience to His will as I understand it. This is humbling and scary. I have asked His forgiveness for anything I man have done to impede His movement.
I continue to trust His goodness and great love for us.
Want to get involved?
We have a number of suggestions for you.
There is nothing more powerful than when the people of God join together in placing a need before God and surrendering it to him.
Contact one of the many restaurants that partner with non-profits to have fund-raising nights where a portion of the profits are donated to the organization. In the Omaha area there are a variety of establishments which do this, including Texas Steak House, Chik-fil-a, and Le Peep. Check out this list to see if your favorite restaurant is one of these.
Contact the individual restaurants for their requirements, and get in touch with me to let me know what we need to do to empower you to host the evening, and serve as a liaison between the restaurant and the Josiah Foundation to assure the funds are received and credited to our ministry.
Host a Missions and a Movie Night
Is there a new release out on video that you believe everyone has got to see? Host a "Missions and a Movie Night" at your home. Invite your small group, even your neighbors, to join you for a movie and give folks the opportunity to make a donation to our ministry. You can even "sell" candy for donations if you choose. It's a great way to build community and help us at the same time. Contact me at email@example.com for more information and possible movie recommendations.
Spread the Word
Tell others what God is doing in the lives of the disabled through Causa de Esperanza. Share with them how they, too, can partner with us in prayer, encouragement and financial support.
Not sure how to do this? Visit our blog and website to become more familiar with what is happening here in our ministry. Talk about this with family and friends as God leads you to share.
I'll be in the US in April. Invite over a few friends and let me tell them about our ministries and our residents. Talk to your pastor or small group leader about allowing me a few minutes to share our ministry with your church and/or group members. Know someone who would be interested in what we are doing? Invite us to lunch--I might even pick up the tab!
This is NOT about asking for money. It is about celebrating God's work in Guatemala, in spite of significant obstacles. The Israelites joined together regularly to celebrate the great works of our God. So should we!
A Week of Sacrificial Eating
Talk with your family about foregoing your usual weekly menu and eating only beans, rice and tortillas for one of more meals a day. Remember us in prayer as you are eating this simple food, which is the typical diet of the people of Guatemala. Many cannot afford the beans and rice and subsist only on tortillas, and are grateful when there are a few beans to eat with them.
If you choose, you can take the money you have saved and donate it to our building fund. Again, the money is secondary to the prayer and increased awareness in your family of the needs of those living in poverty.
We are in need of a team of "Ambassadors" to keep our ministry in the minds of those living in the US. With the daily rush and pressures of life, it is hard to remember that there are those in desperate need, not far from the borders of our own country.
We need people to help with organizing our annual Taste of Guatemala dinner, managing our silent auction, cooking and serving the food, and helping with clean up.
We need others with expertise in graphic design and communications to help us improve our presence on the internet and in print.
We need people willing to send out mailings twice a year, updating our ministry partners on what has been happening here in Guatemala.
We need people to represent us at missions' conferences and churches on their "missions Sunday" activity when we are not in the US
We need. . .you tell me! What are your ideas about how we can better spread the word about the work of Causa de Esperanza, to the glory of God!
Write me for more information. Or call my Skype number: 402-557-0353 (this is a Nebraska number which relays toll-free to Guatemala) and share you ideas with me. If I don't answer, leave a voicemail message and I'll call you back!
From experience, I know God will call some of you to invest financially in what we are doing, either through a one time gift to our building fund, or on a regular basis to cover our general ministry needs. We are grateful to those of you who take of this challenge. You may think you can't offer much, but your small donation is honored by God. He puts together many "widow's mites" to provide for us daily.