March 28, 2009

My friend Dick called last night to tell me that little Lisvi had died yesterday. My heart is so sad, and yet so peaceful at the same time. A while back, Dick had journaled that perhaps more than being in a hospital, she needed to be in the arms of the Father who loves her the most. That image keeps me from too much sorrow. Picturing her in the arms of our Father in heaven, no longer weak and starving, but whole and healthy. How I can't wait to meet her in heaven!

But I do grieve for her parents, who loved her so much and cared for her so well. I pray that they will know the comfort of the Father who loves them the most. I can't even imagine what Francisca must be feeling today. This is the third little one she has buried. I know there will be an empty place near their stove where Lisvi always sat to keep warm.

And I can't help but wonder why God brought her into my life at this time. It seems somewhat ironic that she would live six years and die shortly after we tried to get her help. I believe though that God timing is always perfect, and that our meeting was part of his plan for both of us. What I gave to Lisvi, I can't imagine. What she gave to me is immeasurable. Lisvi touched a part of my heart that I've kept hidden and protected from almost everyone. The part of my heart where I feel the most intense pain, but also the most immense joy. In a way, I think that through Lisvi God gave me back my whole heart.

Why did God let me fall so deeply in love with her, only to have it hurt so much? And I suddenly remember what I'd journaled on Feb. 6:
"As I prayed on the plane coming home yesterday, God showed me that Lisvi did not need to meet me. I needed to meet Lisvi. I needed to willingly let my heart be touched, and wounded, and trust that He will give me everything I need to heal. I needed to learn again to risk letting my heart be touched, knowing it might be broken, but trusting it will heal."
A month and a half later I realize even more how true those words are. Each time I look at her picture on my office wall, I feel a stab of pain at the same time I feel a surge of great joy. Gradually over the days since I've returned, the theme of my heart has changed. For so long it has been, "Lord, I want to serve you, but it hurts too much." I have held back in fear that if I gave my whole heart I would be hurt beyond what I could bear. During the days since my last time in Guatemala, it has evolved to, "Lord, I need your help, because serving you hurts so much." I believe my healing began as I held Lisvi for the first time. It continues each time I remember her.

In my flesh, I want to get angry. To believe that if they had just admitted Lisvi to the hospital, she would be okay. And then I laugh at my foolishness. How can I say I believe that God numbers our days, and then think any of us are powerful enough to change this? The Perezes did what they believed was the best thing for their little one. The sad truth is, it is better that she died in the arms of those who loved her, rather than alone in a sterile crib in hospital eight hours away from her family. We don't know yet what doors our encounter with this family will open for others who live in this remote area, but God does.

So I rest in that knowledge, and in the picture of her in the arms of the Father who loves her.

And I thank Him for the progress Lionel has made at Hermano Pedro, doubling his weight in the last 5 months, though his absence from home continues to grieve his family greatly.

And I praise Him for Zachary (my grandson), who is strong and healthy, and wants for nothing. And I pray that the Lord will place a fire in the Zacharies of the world, to love and serve and fight for the Lionel's and Lisvi's.

March 20, 2009

As I reflect on my last post, I once again realize how much energy I waste on fear. I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the responses I've gotten to my letter. The encouragement, support and even admonitions to be "careful" have made me more aware of what good friends God has given me.

It has been hard, though, to know how to respond to those who have said things like, "You're so brave to be doing this," or "This is so noble." I appreciate what they are trying to say to me, but this doesn't feel noble at all. It feels as natural as drawing my next breath. It is my passion and the desire of my heart, as well as what God is calling me to. I would be more afraid of the regrets I would have if I did NOT follow this call.

This all sounds so un-holy, human, not supernatural. But I am coming, each day, to appreciate more and more that God has planted our desires in our heart, and he wants to fulfill them. Not the fleshly, selfish wants we all fall into, but the truest passions of our heart, are from Him. And they are good as long as we desire Him ABOVE all else. Ps. 37:4 tells us: Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. How sad that we have made desire something to be feared or shamed.

I wish I could put into words the joy, excitement, expectation I'm experiencing as God is starting to move in the direction of giving me the desires of my heart. I sit in utter amazement at the goodness of our God.

March 15, 2009

Well, today I've done it. This weekend I wrote and today I sent out a letter to my friends asking for prayer support as I prepare to move to Guatemala.

I didn't expect writing this letter to be so hard, or sending it to be so scary, but it was. What if I don't say it right? What if I come off sounding like a beggar? What if they don't understand? What if I can't do it? What if . . .?

And as I write this, I see that's where all the difficulty lies. I keep playing what if. I keep resisting the ruthless trust our Father calls us to. I keep paying attention to the lies my enemy plants in my mind, and let them seep into my heart. When all I need to do is focus on the Giver of all good things. I need to trust in Paul's reminder, to be confident "that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6) To keep at the forefront of my mind, that God is faithful. I believe He has invited me into this process. And that even though I don't have any idea what the future will really look like, He does. And it is good, because He is good.

As I think/pray about all this, Luke 9:62 keeps coming to mind: Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." It's taken me days to be able to say this verse with confidence, rather than shame or guilt at looking back. I suddenly have realized that Jesus wasn't criticizing us for grieving what we leave behind when we follow Him. He was reminding us to look ahead to the promise, to the One who gives the promise and has the power to fulfill it. I think He was trying to tell us that the only way we can serve well is not to focus on anything but what we see God doing and join in. Thank you, Father, for the promise.

February 20, 2009

Today, we took another step in the direction of formalizing a relationship between myself and the Josiah Foundation. Dave, Mike, and Don Pahl (another Josiah Board member) and I were meeting Paul Landrey for lunch. A mutual friend had told Mike, Dave and me about Paul, who lives in Omaha and is the International Director of TOPIC Ministries, a non-profit organization which also serves a missionary sending function.

Paul immediately demonstrated his competence in this area, beginning what could best be called a "structured interview" of the purpose, function, and organization of the Josiah Foundation and how I would become part of their overall mission. His insightful questions helped us clarify how we would structure and manage our relationship, as well as fund raising and fund disbursement. What had seemed overwhelming to me became more reasonable as Paul helped us, step by step, through the process. His wisdom and experience, as well as his patience with our numerous questions, were invaluable to us.

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your expertise and your vision with us! And thank you, God, for connecting us with Paul.

February 16, 2009

Today I received an email from a friend whose family has a Bible institute in Huehuetenango. I'd written him to ask if he knew any good doctors in the area, and, through his father, he was able to send me the name of one his family has known for years. A small thing, perhaps, but as I reflect on my meeting with him, it once again reinforces for me the action of God in the events of my life.

Dave Penner and I met Eddie standing in line to check our bags as we we leaving Guatemala after our first trip. A business woman had asked us what we were doing in Guatemala, and then quickly lost interest as we talked about the orphanage we had visited. However, because of what we had shared, Eddie introduced himself to us and told us about his family's ministry. We exchanged email information and went on our way. Eddie later sent me contact information for Dick Rutgers, who introduced us to Hermano Pedro Orphanage on our second trip.

This may sound inconsequential, but as I reflect on it, it is nothing short of a "Godincident." As a result of a five minute conversation in the Guatemala City airport, God connected me with Eddie, who connected me with Dick, who connected me with Hermano Pedro, where I hope to serve. It is even more incredible, because Dick really has no idea who Eddie is! I stand in awe at the way in which God has prepared the way. I am especially grateful that He has let me see the connections so clearly. And now it seems He has brought this full circle--because of my on-going contact with Eddie (who is living in Seattle), I was able (from Omaha) to give Dick and Roland (in Guatemala) the name of a good doctor in the Huehue area. I can't wait to see what God is going to do next!

February 12, 2009

Well, I'm back to work, hitting the ground running as it seems. I am so grateful God has called me to this church and this ministry. Each time I go away, I realize how much I miss the people I work with and those in our congregation. While I know I'm not indispensible, it is nice to feel that I am missed, and make a contribution. It's even nicer, though, to know that my lay leaders can keep the ministries running well without me!

Have spent a lot of time the past few days reflecting on "God's will" for my life. I used to think that God had this master plan, and, if I deviated from it, boy, was I in trouble. Am seeing now that God's will for me is reflected in a series of invitations--to join Him in what He is doing. This may be in Omaha, Guatemala, or some other place. But always, an invitation. And if I miss one, through inattention or selfishness, He is faithful to issue another. And each invitation has its own series of blessings that come with accepting it.

Guess you could say I now believe my life with God is more of a dance, with Him leading, than a forced march with Him commanding. Wonder if this is what Paul meant when he said, "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive." (1Cor. 10:23) Responding to some invitations will "build" me into the woman God intended me to be from all eternity, will help me live from my "good" heart. The will of God in my life, then, is to accept those invitations which are from Him, beneficial and constructive. And, when I blow it, miss the mark, fall short--He gently corrects my steps, all the while holding me tightly in His arms. He is determined to finish what He has started, transforming me into the very image of Jesus Himself.

How all this pertains to moving to Guatemala is becoming clearer. God has given me a ministry in Omaha which I love, and am fairly good at. I can choose to stay here, play it safe and secure, and still be privileged to serve Him. On the other hand, He has offered an invitation to risk, to trust Him ruthlessly, to serve Him in Guatemala, and to experience new and different blessings. Each is good, but I believe one is best--to risk and trust Him. Not something I've very good at--I'm willing to serve but really like knowing I can take care of myself if I have to. Isn't that just the height of illusion? In taking this leap, I will come to know Him in different and deeper ways. In doing this, I need to be prepared for the next invitation He issues and face the future without fear. In 1 Cor. 6:12, Paul again reminds me, "'Everything is permissible for me'—but I will not be mastered by anything." So, Father, once again I surrender my fear, my tendency to control, my desire for earthly security. And I recognize, once again, that you will meet my desire for security, not with a counterfeit, tangible security, but with the eternal security of knowing I am held in the palm of Your hand!

This morning I had breakfast with Dave Penner, president of the Josiah Foundation, and Mike Wenig, its treasurer. One step in the direction of risk. God's reassurance, through the support of these two good friends that this risk is not foolhardy. As we talked of my trip and my plans for the future, I actually felt, maybe for the first time, "This really IS going to happen!" As we began to talk the nuts and bolts of my going to Guatemala under the Josiah Foundation, I was humbled at the faith the board is placing in the vision I believe God has given me.

An added blessing is that both Mike and Dave have been to Guatemala. Dave and I have served on the same short-term teams a couple of times. In fact, we were together on my first trip to GT. Mike prayed with our team in preparation for our second trip. Mike and Dave also made a trip down last January. So when I talk with them about people and places and ideas and activities, their experience and insight is most helpful. And their excitement at what God is doing matches my own. It is very clear to me that God has purposely orchestrated these events to help provide me with encouragement and direction as I move forward. Looking back, it all seems almost impossible how things have fallen in place. But isn't it just like our God to do the impossible?

I can't wait to see what impossible things God will do next!

February 7, 2009

Today was the first chance I'd had in a few days to check my email. In it I found a response Dick Rutgers had shared, sent to a young lady working in Antigua, who was grieving the death of one of the young women at Hermano Pedro. His eloquent words describe the situation better than anything I could say, and left me broken and hiding:

I am unable to sleep because in a few hours I will be bringing Lisvi and her family the rest of the way to their home. Lisvi is a six year old girl that I have fallen in love with. Not because of any outward beauty. At fourteen pounds Lisvi looks more like a shriveled up old lady than a little girl. Lisvi who is unable to talk and scarcely has the strength to change expressions has stolen my heart because she is one of God's children. Her parents recognize that as well and could not love her more if she were the most beautiful princess in the world. I have struggled for several days now trying to convince them that it would be best for Lisvi if they admitted her into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. The room that is located just upstairs from where Chochi stayed. Two days after convincing Lisvi's parents to let me take them to Antigua they decided that they could not bear to be separated from her and asked me to take her back home with them. I must admit I was a bit bitter at first but during our five hour car ride home yesterday I watched both father and mother as they took turns holding their precious daughter. The love that they had for her was unquestionable. I began to realize that she needed them far more than any silly hospital. Reading your journal today helped to confirm that. Perhaps much like Chochi, Lisvi needs to be home with a Father that can hold her tightly.

I have to admit I only quickly skimmed through his response. Again, the thought, "Lord, I want to serve you, but it hurts too much," was at the front of my mind, as I quickly skipped to the next email. If I just don't let myself think about it, it won't hurt so much. If I just distract myself, it won't hurt so much. If I just try to forget, then it can't hurt, can it?

The next email was from Roland Elf, sending pictures of our trip. All the tears I'd held back, came quickly to the surface. Luckily, I'm sitting at my brother's computer rather than in an internet cafe this time. And as I sat crying, I seriously wondered if I could forget about those I love in Guatemala, forget I'd ever met Lisvi, Silsa, Francesca, and many more. Forget Lionel, Ervin, Elmer, Byron, Moi, Sonja, Veronica and the rest of the kids I've gotten to love more with each visit. "God, I want to forget because it hurts too much. You've got the wrong person. I can't do this. I'm just not enough. Not strong enough, not compassionate enough, not faithful enough."

Then I opened the devotional I receive daily:
This is the last thing the Enemy wants you to know. His plan from the beginning was to assault the heart, just as the Wicked Witch did to the Tin Woodman. Make them so busy, they ignore the heart. Wound them so deeply, they don’t want a heart. Twist their theology, so they despise the heart. Take away their courage. Destroy their creativity. Make intimacy with God impossiblefor them. Of course your heart would be the object of a great and fierce battle. It is your most precious possession. Without your heart you cannot have God. Without your heart you cannot have love. Without your heart you cannot have faith. Without your heart you cannot find the work you were meant to do. In other words, without your heart you cannot have life.
Daily Readings, Randsomed Heart Devotionals (2/6/2009)

So, I'm sitting here crying as I write, finally feeling all I couldn't let myself feel while it was happening.

As people begin asking me how my trip was, I really don't know what to say. "Great! I met and fell in love with a 6 year old who is probably gonna die. I fell in love with a three month old, who wasn't starving enough to go to the hospital, yet." My heart feels so bitter right now. It's not so much that I don't feel, but so often I don't want to feel. "Lord, I want to serve you, but it hurts too much." The theme of my life, I guess. . .

Finally I realize that my attempts to protect my heart are playing right into my enemy's hands. Have I not read, over and over in Scripture that Jesus "looked on them with compassion," not the professional detachment I have been taught to have? Yet, over and over again, I try to protect my heart from hurting, and wonder why I feel empty.

But I think maybe I'm getting it right this time. In my heart I rage not at the God who loves us, but at the enemy who desires our destruction. As I prayed on the plane coming home yesterday, God showed me that Lisvi did not need to meet me. I needed to meet Lisvi. I needed to willingly let my heart be touched, and wounded, and trust that He will give me everything I need to heal. I needed to learn again to risk letting my heart be touched, knowing it might be broken, but trusting it will heal.

February 6, 2009

This morning as I was finishing packing, Mari came in to visit. She is so sweet and always apologizes for bothering me. Usually she brings a treat with her. Today it was a chocolate truffle. Yes, food surely is a large part of life down here. Mari was going shopping and wanted to make sure I didn’t need anything before she left. We would leave for the airport in Guatemala City about 11 am. She also brought another gift, a beautiful gold scrolled bracelet. It appeared to be older and I wondered if it was a gift given her by Leo. I cried for the last time this trip when she explained to me that this had belonged to her grandmother. She wanted me to have it because she really has no family left, and said I was the closest thing she had to a sister. I don’t know if anyone has ever said anything to me that has touched my heart more.

A short time later, Mari returned with more gifts. . .chocolate discs used to make hot chocolate, and boxes of “pan dulce,” the sweet bread I like so much. It was quite a trick to pack all this into my already full suitcases. Why is it clothes don’t go home as cooperatively as they come on vacation? All too soon, I was ready, and it was time to go. The drive to the city was more subdued than most of our conversations. Neither of us wanted to part, but we both knew I would return. The time in between was what we discussed. Of all the drivers I’ve ridden with in Guatemala, Mari was by far the most cautious. I still haven’t figured out if that is good or bad!

After receiving numerous warnings from Mari that I would watch my purse, and promising her I would get something to eat in the airport, I was off. For the first time in 10 days, I was once again really on my own. Though the airport was quite busy, I checked in without problems and soon was comfortably seated on the plane which would take me back to the States. The under-booked flight gave me plenty of room to stretch out and time to reflect as I headed back to Chicago to spend the evening with my brother.

February 5, 2009 evening

Last night I finished packing and was getting ready to turn in when Leo knocked at my door and asked me to have coffee with him one more time. It seems each trip we have at least one deeply spiritual conversation, and this was it. Four years ago I prayed that I would be able to take Jesus with me to share with whatever family I lived with. I learned that Jesus often takes me to a mission field to MEET Him in a new and different way. My friendship with Leo is a constant reminder to me of what it looks like to live a life completely sold out to God.

While not traditional “missionaries,” Mari and Leo have housed dozens, if not hundreds of students in their home over the years. I have stayed with them three times now. First hand I see them being joyful servants to those God brings into their lives. From my limited experience, these have been a variety of people and personalities, yet they approach each with a hospitality that is definitely a gift of the Spirit. Tonight Leo and I talked about his recent bout with cancer, his surgery, and his constant pain. And, as in all our other conversations, he ends each explaining that he has no reason to complain. This is all for the “glory of God” who has done so much for him. When he says these words, and you look in his eyes, you know this is coming from his heart. So, often without words, just by living out his life joyfully before those who God brings to him, he shows more of who Jesus is by his life than many who wear the title “evangelist.” He reminds me of the statement of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all time. Use words when necessary.”

I guess this is why I selfishly return to Guatemala. I see Jesus in action. Whether it is in Dick with the children, Mari and Leo with their students, Ben and Andy playing soccer, Fernando’s instant generosity, or the Perez family caring for Lisvi, I over and over again see Jesus. Do I believe Jesus works in the States? Absolutely. But I do think we make it harder for him to shine through. Often we are so “qualified” and “competent” in what we are doing that it almost seems like we are letting Jesus just “come along for the ride.” Some of us acknowledge that God acts, but even then, it almost seems as if we EXPECT that He should intervene on our behalf. And when He does, how seldom am I truly grateful, if I even recognize His hand at all.

So when I am asked why I “need” to move to Guatemala, I guess this is my most honest answer. I need to go to meet Jesus. I need to go to live in constant awareness that everything I am, everything I have, everything I do is because of His constant presence in my life. I need to go to stay connected to the vine, and let the vinedresser prune me to bear more fruit. And to remember, always, as my friend says, this is all “to the glory of God” who has done so much for me.

February 5, 2009

Since this was to be my last full day in Guatemala, I decided to allow myself to play “tourist” for part of the morning. It was “market day” in Antigua, and I took the opportunity to “comparison shop” for items I knew I would need to purchase when I move down. As much as I hate shopping in the States, and even avoid the “tourist market” in Antigua, I have to admit I love the activity of market day in the municipal market. These are mostly open air stalls, with everything from flowers, to peppers, to pots and pans, to towels. No organization, no rhyme or reason to where things are located, so just walking through it is an adventure. I was so proud, too, that I have been here often enough now that for the first time I did not get lost among the twists and turns among stands that all pretty much look the same. I did break down and buy myself a new wallet, and a “cup and ball” game for my grandson.
Mostly I just walked and looked and soaked up the atmosphere. Many of the stands sell food, and the smell of “barbeque” filled the market. I managed to control myself and not eat any of the “street food” Mari had warned me about.

When I’d had my fill of shopping, I headed to Hermano Pedro. As I entered the courtyard Moises and Sonya called out from the therapy room and hollered “Paty”. It felt so good to be recognized. As I write this, I realize that it’s the same for these kids. They sit, day after day, waiting for someone to recognize them, acknowledge their value, call them by name. We who have so much freedom and so many friends take this for granted. For the children and adults in this orphanage, love and attention is the greatest gift we can bring.

I hunted through the dormitory to find Lionel. For some reason, they seem to keep moving his bed to a different place each day. He still was a bit congested, but again, I was allowed to take him outside. We were immediately joined by Moises, who seems to have “adopted” Lionel since he moved downstairs. The small smiles I got from Lionel were nothing compared to his belly laughs when Moi played with him. The tenderness Moi shows for this little one is beautiful. He has his own ministry here, looking out for and welcoming the new kids.

Though it was still morning, it seems a lot of the kids were already back in their beds (assuming they had ever gotten out of them in the first place). After playing with and feeding Lionel, I made the rounds of the beds to visit each of the kids. I wished I could have taken each of them out for a while, but knew if I did I would not get to say good-bye to all of them. I decided a little attention for each would trump a bit of freedom for a few today. Again, I was surprised that a number of them knew my name, and many seemed to recognize me. Again, I realized the value of just being with the kids, loving on them, showing them they are important. I’d like to think that I’d done something for them, but in reality, they have given me much more than I could ever give them. They have made me a better person by becoming part of my life.

After helping feed a number of kids supper, it was time for me to head home for my last night with the Hernandez family. I wasn’t prepared for the tears that began to flow as I walked away from the area housing the children. I can’t imagine what the people in the halls thought of this crazy “gringa” crying her eyes out, but I really didn’t care. Each tear confirmed for me that I really do belong here.

February 4, 2009

Again, this morning, we were back in the clinic with Silsa and her mom. Am learning much about patience and perseverance through this clinic experience. After waiting about an hour and a half to see the doctor, the news was that Silsa needed to see a specialist, and would need to return March 24th when one would be available. I was disappointed that they did not even give her any medication to help with the seizures. So Dick will be bringing her and her mom back down again next month. I was once again impressed by the matter-of-fact way in which Sylvestra accepted this news, saying only she was grateful that her daughter would get to see a doctor! Oh, how I complain when my doctor at home makes me wait 15 extra minutes to be seen!

With this taken care of, the families and Dick were ready to head back to La Libertad. It was so hard to say good bye to each of them. I dissolved into tears when Sr. Perez thanked me for all I’d done (which really wasn’t much) and promised to pray for me. The kind hearts of these folks continue to overwhelm me. So after hugs and kisses from the families, and a sarcastic remark or two from Dick, they were on their way. And I pray I will see them again when I return. I fear, though, that I may never see Lisvi again until we meet in heaven.

Since I would not be meeting Pastor Julio’s family until one, I still had time to play with the kids. Lionel seemed to have a lot of congestion in his chest, and I wanted to make sure one of the doctors checked him over, so he was my first stop. I was surprised when the nurses let me take him outside, but he really enjoyed it, even if he was a bit subdued. The doctor decided that most of what we were hearing was in his throat, rather than his chest, and wasn’t too concerned. I’ll be sure to check on him tomorrow.

Poor Ervin has some kind of skin eruption, so is stuck in his bed (at least this time there’s a legitimate reason). He knows I’m a sucker for taking him out, and it’s hard to listen to his cries as I can’t even touch him for fear of spreading his infection to the others. I wouldn’t feel so badly except I know Dick will be gone for the next few days, and Ervin will probably spend most of his day cooped up in the crib he hates. This makes me more determined than ever to return, if only for him.

After helping to feed a few kids, it was time to meet Pastor Julio’s family across from the cathedral in Central Park. As I waited, I was offered numerous tours of the city, shoe shines, and taxi rides. It was fun to just sit and people watch for a few minutes. Soon, Julio’s son Arturo and his wife Lily arrived to take me to their home in a small town about 20 minutes outside of Antigua. I have known this family for about four years now, stayed at their home, eaten at their table, and worshipped in their church. They are my second “Guatemalan family.”

This reunion was a sad one, however. The gangs in the area have been demanding bribes or threatening to kill Lily and Arturo’s three children. There is a long story behind this, but, unfortunately this happens to families all too often in Guatemala. The worst thing you can do is pay these criminals anything, and unfortunately, the family had done just that in the past. So the extortion demands keep coming, each time for greater amounts. This last demand was absolutely outrageous. In fear for his safety, Dennis, the 13 year old son, has been sent to a military school near the Honduran border. The two girls, Wanda, who is 11, and Genesis, who is 9 are living as virtual prisoners in their own home. Their father takes them to and from school, and they go no where else.

Even amid these dire circumstances though, we enjoyed catching up on each others lives. The congregation is building a new church building, and it is fun to see the progress they have made on it. Each trip it is a little more complete. The men of the church spend their Sundays worshipping God through their work, and are so proud to show off what they have done! Julio told me they are planning to be done with it in March. (Since this is Guatemala, it remains to be seen March of what year!)

Over a wonderful dinner prepared by Lily and Julio’s wife, Amelia, we talked of my plans to move to Guatemala. The entire family is so excited, and really wanted me to give them a date I would be down. I explained it would be in God’s time, but I believe that time is coming, hopefully in January of 2010. A long discussion followed as to where I should live. They adamantly offered me the rooms above the old church, free of charge, saying I would really be one of their family then! They even pointed out that my children might feel better about me moving down if I had a family to watch over me. With all this family is facing, their willingness to take me in is humbling. Once again, I saw people in almost impossible circumstances reaching out with concern for me. I don’t know that I have ever felt as loved as I do by my two Central American families! How blessed I am!

February 3, 2009

Early this morning I met our friends at Hermano Pedro. The Perez family was in the pediatric clinic upstairs, while Silsa and her mom were waiting to see the doctor downstairs. I found myself somewhat uncertain of the rules and procedures of the clinics, and I can only imagine how lost these folks felt. There was no doubt in my mind that I would spend the day learning how to navigate the clinic system here. I was so glad when Dick appeared, and I could ask all my “stupid” questions without fear of being made fun of. (Well, this is sort of true. At least no one else would understand him making fun of me because he only can do it in English!)

As I sat with Lisvi’s family upstairs, I realized that these people had become my friends. I naturally became part of the rotation of holding Lisvi, and was grateful for how comfortable the family had become with me. Their patience during this long wait, never becoming the least bit irritable, was amazing.

While we were waiting for the doctor, Dick called me from the clinic downstairs. Silsa needed to go to a hospital on the other side of town, and I would accompany her and her mom. So we loaded, once again, into Dick’s car and went to the “other” Hermano Pedro Hospital. This one seems to be more designed for acute care. Silsa needed a CAT scan, and I was pleasantly surprised at how modern the equipment was, and how professional and competent the staff members were. Again, though, the wait was agonizingly long, though neither Silsa nor Sylvestra complained. This gave me a chance to visit with and get to know this family, so it was time well spent. After about two and a half hours, Dick returned and we went back to the “first” Hermano Pedro. We would return after lunch to pick up the test results.

While we had been gone, Lisvi had seen the doctor. He had been willing to admit her to the malnutrition ward, but, as we had expected, her parents could not bear to part with her. They took a quick tour of the malnutrition ward with Dick, but were resolute in their desire to take their little one home. They did, however, receive nutritional counseling and supplements which may help her gain some weight. How long she will live is in God’s hands alone, but, as Dick reminded me, she is well loved, and that may be what she needs the most.

After this intensely emotional morning, we decided we needed a break and would take some of the kids to Pollo Campero. Ben and Andy joined us so we set off with Moises, Elmer, Minor and David. This was just the therapy we needed! The kids love to go out, they love to eat even more, and their joy in this excursion lifted our spirits. I didn’t even become discouraged when Elmer started to tantrum on me when it was time to go. It was a bigger challenge, however, to keep my cool at Dick and Carlos taunting me about not being able to “keep that kid quiet.” Once again, the children I can handle, it’s the ADULTS who challenge my patience!

After retrieving Silsa’s test results, we discovered that the doctor she needed to see was in the clinic only until noon. She would have to return tomorrow. With this news, it was decided that tomorrow Dick would once again travel north with both families, so they would not have to tackle a “chicken bus” with Lisvi and Silsa. I would stay in Antigua and spend more time with the kids at Hermano Pedro and other friends in the area.

I was more than a little discouraged at the thought of Lisvi returning home, but really did understand her parents’ refusal to leave her. Would I leave my child in an strange hospital, with people I didn’t know, and travel to my home 8 hours away? Not on your life. And at least we knew these good people would do everything they could to keep Lisvi alive. What more could we ask?

February 2, 2009

I woke up this morning feeling a bit under the weather, so Dick and Fernando went to pick up the other family we would be taking to Antigua, and let me sleep in. This also gave the Perezes time to just hang around at the hotel, rather than spending two more hours in the car.

Fernando took some pictures for me when they picked up Silsa and her mother Sylvestra. Silsa is a beautiful, shy young lady of 13 who, about six months ago, lost the strength in her legs. She also began having severe seizures. She would be coming with us to find out if the doctors at Hermano Pedro could figure out what is wrong with her, and give medication to control the seizures. Her family has already spent all their money on local “doctors” who have not helped Silsa, and now refuse to see her because the money has run out.

So, eight of us piled in the Land Cruiser and headed back to Antigua. And, after some of the roads we’ve been on the last few days, the traveling seemed easy. We even stopped for dinner at a “steak house” near Tecpan. I was so excited, because I actually recognized this as a place we’d eaten on my last trip to Guatemala. This stop broke up the trip nicely.

When we arrived in Antigua, we went straight to Hermano Pedro to sign in the girls to see the doctors in the morning. Dick was also able to get accommodations for the two families at Casa de Fe, where they could spend the night free of charge. This hostel was full of people who would be seen at the various clinics the next morning. After dropping the families off, we then attempted to drive to the home where I was staying. Since I walk, and do not pay attention to one way streets, this was somewhat of a challenge. Fernando, once again, came to the rescue and navigated us directly to my door. After all I’d experienced the last five days, I was ready for some solitude and a good night’s rest!