May 28, 2009—Part One

So much has happened in the last 24 hours, I thought I'd better separate it into two installments. There is always something new to experience here in Guatemala, and I don't want to risk forgetting any of it. This has been an amazing day

Dick called about 8 this morning, to tell me we would be leaving later than expected—he needed to wait for his clothes to dry! Why did this not surprise me? I’m in Guatemala. . .it’s Dick. . .’nuff said.

About 10 he called, saying he and the boys, Abner and Daniel, were leaving Chimaltenango and would meet me at Pollo Campero’s in about 15 minutes. So, I went, caught a tuk-tuk, and beat them there by about 5 minutes. Was feeling pretty self-satisfied at getting a suitcase and a backpack down there by myself—until Dick confessed that he thought he’d driven right past the house where I’m staying! Why am I not surprised? I’m in Guatemala. . .it’s Dick. . .’nuff said!

After stowing my stuff in the back, we were off for the area around Santa Rosa. The two and a half hour drive was beautiful, and quite restful for me. . .of course, I wasn’t driving. This was actually, though, one of the calmest trips I’ve been on with Dick—no real narrow misses and I only have a few more grey hair from his passing two to four vehicles at one time. The trip gave us a good chance to catch us, as Abner and Daniel were busy with their MP3 players in the back seat. I not sure they said more than 2 words in the car the entire way. Boy, my kids NEVER traveled like that! We took a fairly leisurely pace, even having time to stop for ice cream in Esquintla.


Arriving in Barbarena we stopped at our hotel, checked in, had lunch, and headed for Chilapa to pick up Erik. He runs a bicycle repair shop near the home of one of the families we were to visit today. Erik has invested much time and effort attempting to help the people in his area, and was instrumental in setting up a wheelchair distribution there a while back. He is a genuinely kind man. He rode with us up to Wilmer’s house.

Wilmer is a great little guy who Dick met at this wheelchair distribution. Together Dick and Erik were able to find a teacher to work individually with Wilmer since he experienced too much ridicule when he tried to attend school. As we got to the house, Wilmer greeted us at the gate, riding a small trike that he seems to prefer to his wheelchair when in the house. We had a short time to visit with him and his sisters and brothers before Mama returned home. She could not wait to show us Wilmer’s school work, which was top-notch. His teacher was coming up with things for him to do that were not only at his beginning reading level, but age-appropriate and even interesting.

We then set off to pay Betty, the teacher, who we were told lived only a short distance up the road. Now, you have to realized that time and distance are measured differently in Guatemala than in the States. I’m not quite sure what their unit of measurement is in reality, but, let’s just say that a “short” distance tired me out (especially since it seemed to be all uphill). And I’m not sure if it’s the altitude or the proximity to the equator, but 10 minutes takes a lot longer down here.

After Dick threatened to have a heart attack at least twice, we finally arrived at Betty’s home, to find she was not there. After talking with her sister-in-law, it was decided that we would leave Betty’s pay with Wilmer’s mom. We also discovered how Betty had chosen to work more hours than she knew she was being paid for, because Wilmer was willing to work so hard and was excited about this opportunity to learn. I’m sad I didn’t get to meet this dedicated and creative woman.

For some reason, the walk back seemed much quicker (downhill?). After we discussed arrangements for Wilmer’s trip to see the doctors at Hermano Pedro, Maria, his mom, asked if there was any way his younger brother Walter could possibly see a doctor also. Dick and I had been discussing how to approach this topic, since Walter appears to have a number of medical problems that need attention. Once again, God came through for us, and Mom herself asked for this help. It’s great to offer to help people, but it’s also so easy to come across as “know-it-all” Americans that it’s better when the request comes from the person themself. When this was settled, Maria had one last request before we went—she knew of a little girl in her area who could not walk and didn’t have a wheelchair. Would we have time to measure her for one? Well, if you know Dick, you know the answer was an immediate “yes.”

Berlin, excited to be measured for a wheelchair.

Maria went with us to show the way, knowing full well she would have to walk home the distance it took us about 15 minutes to drive. I am continually humbled by the willingness of people who have so little to do so much to help others. How she and her young daughter would cover the distance home, I couldn’t imagine. Then there was Erik, who left his shop with no notice in the middle of the day to go with us. Here I’d been complaining about the walk to Betty’s house. Forgive me, Lord, for my addiction to my own comfort.

Our activities had taken us quite a bit longer than planned, and I was a bit disappointed that I would not get to meet Bayron until tomorrow. Bayron was the deaf child I’d brought down a communication system for. Little did I know what God had in mind.

May 28, 2009, 2:44 AM Mountain time

You know that old song, “I felt the earth move under my feet?” Well, I just woke up to feel my bed move under my bod! At first I thought it was just the vibration from one of the numerous trucks which pass the house each night. But it kept goooooiiiinnnngggg. . .

Then I remembered where I was—Guatemala—in an area with numerous active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes! I flipped on my light to hear Mari calling to me to come into the garden area of the house. (She later explained that, when she married Leo years ago, she’d had this area reinforced with concrete to better withstand earthquakes.) Once out of bed the tremors didn’t seem nearly as strong, but they continued for almost a minute. This was nothing like the 10 second rumbles I’ve felt before! Standing there, I actually had to fight back the fear. . .”what if this is the ‘big one?’” Then I laughed at myself, realizing, if it was, there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it anyway, so I might as well enjoy the experience. At least now I have something to write about! I am going back to bed, however, asking God, “Are you SURE you said GUATEMALA?”

(7 AM: The news reports say there was a 7.1 earthquake in Honduras, just west of here. It appears it was off the coast, possibly with the epicenter in the ocean. Not much is known yet about damage or injuries and fatalities. This is all reported with about as much emotion as the stock market quotes. Am realizing, in this part of the world, earthquakes are just part of life. No one worries too much about them, and they just deal with the results. You could say, they just let God be God and remember that they’re not!)

May 27, 2009

Arrived in Guatemala without any problems. Once again, Leo picked me up at the airport. The traffic in Guatemala city seemed even worse this time, if that's possible. Of course, as soon as I arrived, Naya, who helps with the housekeeping, insisted I eat, even though I'd had lunch on the plane. Food is still a major means of socialization here.

It seemed that I'd had barely enough time to unpack before I was called to dinner! When I went to the garden table, Mari had put a bouquet of roses at my place to welcome me. I burst into tears. These people treat me so well. I am becoming accustomed to being spoiled. . .I could learn to like this. Of course, dinner was a "special" meal and cake was served for dessert to celebrate my arrival.

Got to meet the students staying at the house at dinner that evening. One is a young man from California, one a young woman from Connecticut, and two young men from England. So, am learning just how different British and American English can be, as well as trying to resurrect my use of Spanish.

Talked to Dick and it was agreed that we would leave tomorrow to take Bayron his communication system. We will also visit a few other families in the area. Since the area where we are going is near the El Salvador border, our trip will take two days. Am wondering which of Dick's neighborhood kids will come along as interpreters. We'll see tomorrow. . .now I'd better get some sleep so I'm not late in the morning.

May 21, 2009

Right now I’m almost too sad to cry. Just last night when I was praying God reminded me of what He taught me through Lisvi. Guess now I know why. . .Today I got an email forwarded by Dick Rutgers from a mutual friend in Guatemala, Roland. Roland had been part of the group I had traveled with last January. He was writing to tell us that another of the children we had worked with had died this week. From Roland's email:

On Monday I received the very very sad news about our little friend Rodrigo. I offered to take him and his mother Francisca, the week before to Antigua. . .He was having fever and coughing and I think he had a convulsion before he [died]. . .Rodrigo is now with God.

Again my heart hurts. And I sit here, so sad for Francisca, Rodrigo's mother,—after how hard she’s fought to give that little one life, I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to have to let him go. And again, my selfish heart focuses on how I don’t like actually knowing first hand these dear ones who are suffering so much, whether in Omaha or Guatemala.

In the last few weeks I’ve met with so many terribly hurting people. But God has been gracious—in the last two weeks I’ve also gotten to be with four people who prayed to give their lives to Jesus. Have been a bit concerned because, rather than feeling emotionally excited, I’ve almost felt emotionally broken that He would let me be a part of these decisions. And I’ve SEEN changes in these folks! I feel like I’ve been walking on holy ground and it’s almost too profound to be excited about. Only awe and reverence fit.

As I’ve asked God about this, He’s given me the word “harvest” to meditate on. I’d taken my youngest son Joel with me to visit the last person who prayed (since I was going to an apartment of someone I didn’t know). He’d waited for me in the car, and when I came out and told him another person had come to Christ, he said, “Mom, are you SURE God is saying GUATEMALA?” In that instant I remembered that, about two weeks ago, I’d asked God to let me see (open my eyes) how He was working in Omaha as much as I see Him working in Guatemala. And I knew that was exactly what He’s done.

Then yesterday, I was preparing for a group I lead in a small town about 30 miles outside of Omaha, and was teaching on the woman at the well. As I read past the passage I’d assigned I came to these words of Jesus, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” And I realized that God has been good enough to let me actually SEE what has been going on all the time. . .and also has helped me understand where I am getting the ability to do what I’m doing, even though I feel profoundly tired. In the same passage Jesus said, "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” And I’m realizing that my strength is coming only from Him.

But it hurts to start to care about someone, let them into your heart, and risk that things won't turn out the way we think they should. So my temptation has been again, to shut off my heart. In the middle of all God is doing, my heart is still heavy. And I remember Isaiah 61 (I think) where it tell us God will give us a “garment of praise” to replace our “spirit of heaviness.” And I choose to praise, rather than hide again in the dark places of my heart, and hide even from Him. And as I praise God for letting Rodrigo come into my life, I realize that he, too, is part of the harvest.

Still I keep fighting so hard to keep caring in the abstract, but it seems He just won’t let me. . . ‘cuz it’s not about me. . .There are too many more Rodrigo's and Lisvi's out there who still need help. Once again I pray, "God, I need your help because today serving you hurts so much."

May 7, 2009

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

As I prepare for another trip to Guatemala, I can't wait to see what God will do. It has been hard to give my heart fully to the work I am doing here at the church. Well, tonight God brought me up short.

I'd gotten a call from a man earlier in the week, saying he needed to talk with someone at the church. I suggested he wait till next week when Pastor Mike would be back from vacation, but he said he needed someone NOW. Though I don't usually meet with men, I agreed to see him tonight.

What a blessing. In the space of an hour I got to see God take someone who claimed not to believe in God (though his words seemed to indicate he was fighting someone he claimed not to believe in) and transform him into a brother in Christ. And I got to sit by and watch. Sure, I shared a few scriptures, told some of my story, but mostly, this man talked himself into beginning a new life with Jesus. It was amazing to watch the Holy Spirit do his thing.

I learned a lesson from this experience. I don't need to travel 1900 miles to find someone who has never really heard the good news. This young man, though he's been slightly exposed to religion, really had never heard the story of Jesus. In Omaha, Nebraska, with churches all over the place. How I take for granted that all have heard.

In Romans (10:13-15) it says "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." However, Paul goes on to remind us: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" And tonight God sent me no further than my office to "preach" to one who had not heard. And the more he heard of Jesus, the more he wanted Him.

Had a similar experience last night. Am leading a fellowship group in a town not far outside Omaha, for a group of women who work together. Not really your "churchy" type ladies, but wonderful women and great friends. There are about 20 of us meeting together every Wednesday night in the home of one of these dear ones. And we are grappling with the question, "Who is God?" Last night we got to talking about Jesus. And it was amazing. I could see the Holy Spirit working in the minds and hearts of these women as I had the privlege of introducing them to my Lord and Savior. For the first time some of them realized that Jesus is not concerned with "religion" but with "relationship." That He came to set us free from the sin that ensnares us. I could visibly see HOPE dawn on many of their faces. Again, I get a front row seat to watch the work of God.

Lord, open my eyes to see those who are hungry to hear your Word. Jesus, let me never take for granted the privilege of serving You and sharing You. The harvest IS ripe. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me to be Your witness in Jerusalem (my neighborhood) as well as to the ends of the earth!