The Best and the Worst (August 30, 2010)

It's taken me a full 24 hours to process yesterday and be able to write about it.  I feel a little like I'm living in the tale of two cities--it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Andrea, one of my housemates, came with me to Hermano Pedro today.  She has taken a week off from language school, and wanted to hang out with the kids she's heard so much about.  She took to the kids right away, and they will be lucky to have her attention this week.

In fact, there are some great volunteers in right now.  A couple of med students are finishing their last week with the kids, and are great with them.  Wilmer, who himself is Hispanic (though I don't know from where) and Sebastian, who is from Germany, will be with us 5 months, working with the kids daily.  All of these guys are very interested in the activities I'm doing with the kids, and join in readily.  It's so much fun watching the kids as they ask these volunteers to get their favorite activities for them, and it's fun for me, too, to encourage them to do the things they don't like.  I'm still challenged, too, to find ways to help these kids who have so many motor challenges, yet such bright minds.

That was the best of times.  The worst of times has to do with sick kids.  A number of kids have gotten respiratory infections, and two, Jojo and Leonel, seem to be getting worse each day, rather than better. 

Yesterday I found Leonel was now on a feeding tube, because he was not eating enough on his own (he originally came in to the malnutrition unit, I think 9 yrs. old weighing 14 lbs., so you can see why this is a concern).  He looked so weak and frail lying in bed.  When I picked him up to hold him though, we rediscovered his smile.  He even drank about 2/3 of his bottle for me today, though it took about an hour to do so.  I love this little guy like a grandson, and it is so hard to watch him struggle.  I'm hoping prayer and time will bring him back to normal.  I think Leonel is partly having a episode of "failure to thrive" as his dad had just visited last week, and I know Leonel gets homesick when he leaves.  I think the hour or so I spent holding him was the best, and hardest, hour of my day. 

Jojo, on the other hand, really has me worried.  For a number of reasons, Jojo continually has breathing problems.  Right now he is so congested he can hardly force the air in and out of his lungs.   When I first saw him today, he was crying inconsolably, but, because he was receiving a breathing treatment and was on oxygen, I was hesitant to take him out of his chair and hold him.   A while later, when he was in bed and Dick was visiting him, he really had a lot of respiratory distress.  He also was burning up.  At Dick's request, I asked the charge nurse about calling the doctor for him, and she explained to me, as if I was a bit dense and just didn't get it, that Jojo had congestion, and that they were treating it. 

Now, I may not be a nurse, but I am a mom, and I know the difference between congestion and not being able to breathe.  I had to walk away for a minute to "regroup" and keep from saying something spiteful. . . when I was back under control, I went back to the desk and said I understood they were treating him, but that Dick thought he was getting worse.  Would she pleeeeaaaasssee call the doctor.  And she did.  I think this was a much to humor me as because she believed anything was wrong.

When the doctor arrived, however, things started happening quickly.  An IV was started (after multiple attempts to find a vein and stabbing the poor kid a bunch of times), another breathing treatment started, the nursing supervisor came in to help, and Jojo was surrounded by people finally paying attention to his medical needs.  Everyone, except Dick, seemed to forget, though, that this was not an unresponsive life-form being treated, but a scared little boy.  The nurses, and even the doctor were so intent on helping him that no one spoke to him, no one told him what was going on or what they were going to do. 

And then I looked up and saw Dick, stooped by Jojo's head, gently caressing him and gazing into his eyes.  I thought my heart would break--seeing two guys I care for both in so much pain.  But Dick didn't pull back from his pain, hide from it.  It was almost as if he were "willing" that Jojo's pain become his own, to take some of the burden off this dear little one.  And I know he did. 

Eventually, Jojo was more stable, and we left.  Walking out last night was hard, really hard.  I was filled with pain and anger and frustration and confusion. I was angry at the casualness with which the nurses treated Jojo´s distress.  I was frustrated wondering how long it would have taken them to notice that Jojo had a problem if Dick had not been there.  And, for the first time in a long time, I was ticked at God for what I saw Him allowing one of His little ones to go through.  I didn't even know how to pray for Jojo except to say, "Come, Lord Jesus." 

As I write this a day later, I realize Jesus answered my prayer--this time through the hands and heart of Dick as he cared for Jojo.  Okay, God, I get it. . .if we want to be Jesus, we have to embrace the suffering of the cross as He did. . .thanks, Dick, for another object lesson. . .

A Convicting Sunday (August 29, 2010)

We had four baptisms at church today. . .three youth, and one adult man.  One of the young men who was baptized just left an orphanage, and is homeless and looking for a way to support himself. (Guess it's not much different here when you "age-out" of the system than it is in the US.  These kids are just dropped into living on their own.)  He accepted Christ as a result of a conversation one of our men had with him in Central Park.  And I think how often I avoid "those people" in Central Park, because I'm afraid they'll just want money. 

It made me think of an old woman I pass quite often outside of Camperos.  She is very elderly, looks very frail, and has a huge goiter.  I'm usually in too much of a hurry to stop even to give her a few coins, though I do pray for her.  As I listened to the story of how this young man came to Christ, I felt James 2:16 ringing in my ears:
16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

The sermon today was on "What Does God Expect."  It felt like a sucker-punch when Pastor Mike used James 2:17 as one of his first Scriptures: In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Okay, God, I hear you; I get it. Tomorrow I will find this woman, and not only give her a donation, but explain why I am doing so. . .because God told me to. 

I wish that were the end of it, but God wasn't about to let me off the hook yet.  Mike shared with us that 2 billion people profess to be Christians.  That's 1 out of every 3 people in the world today.  Why, he asked, don't we see more of an impact on the world by those who claim to follow Christ?  He suggested that we don't really mean it when we pray "Thy kingdom come."  How we live "my kingdom come" and constantly challenge God saying "when is enough enough?"  And I think of the Ray Boltz song, "What If I Gave All?"

Mike has called our church to 24 hours of prayer and fasting, beginning Wednesday at 6:30 and ending Thursday at 6:30, seeking God and asking Him to help us get serious about what He calls us to do to bring Jesus into the dark places in our community.  He's asking us to intentionally and sincerely pray, "Lord, please break my heart with the things that break your heart." 

I have to admit that I'm not crazy about praying that prayer. I prefer a sanitized version, along the lines of "Lord, please give me a heart after Your heart. Change my desires to line up with Your desires, change my passions to line up with Your passions."  I really don't want my heart to break.  I think of the few times I have let God break me with someone whose situation I know breaks His heart.  I think back to Lisvi, a 6 year old who died shortly after Dick and I brought her and her family into see the doctors at Hermano Pedro.  I don't like my heart breaking.  Can't I just serve, without having to feel anything?  I fear I'm once again back to my old stance, "Lord, I want to serve you, but it hurts too much." Again, I am convicted.

And still He wasn't done with me.  As I was leaving the church after service, ready to put in my offering , an elderly lady stepped in front of me, dropping two coins into the offering box.  I instantly knew I had just seen "The Widows Mite" lived out in front of me.  And I thought about how casually I had prepared my offering. . .in obedience, maybe, but not really with generousity.  I had turned an opportunity to encounter God into a ritual. 

And I realize that, though I'm on the mission field, I have yet to give my all. . .

Forgive me, Father, for the selfishness and fear that lead me to hold back from You and Your people.  Forgive my indifference when I am in a hurry. Forgive my indifference when I follow empty ritual. Forgive my ego, which at time takes pride in thinking that I've given all, when it's really You, Jesus, who's given all for me.

Postscript: morning of August 30

This morning I opened the devotion I regularly receive from Ransomed Heart ministries, and read:

True strength does not come out of bravado. Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for? . . . As Frederick Buechner says, "The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up an:d transformed." (The Sacred Journey)

I guess I'm hearing Him. . .not sure I like it. . .guess it's time to put my talk into walk. . .

(To read the whole devotion, click here, scroll down and click the link for Daily Readings and choose August 30.)

A Wedding Celebration (August 28, 2010)

Spent most of today doing the things of ordinary life: laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning my room, working on stuff to use with the kids next week.  When I'm doing "mission work" I'm very conscious that my every word and action is to bring glory to God.  Am trying to apply that same principle to daily life activities--letting everything be for the glory of God.  Am not very good at this yet.  Anybody have any secrets?  I think I need to reread Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God.  Somehow scrubbing chocolate ice cream stains out of a shirt doesn't feel very holy. . .

Leo dancing with his granddaughter
This evening I experienced my first wedding in Guatemala.  Many of the customs are similar to those in the States, but there were many new twists.  Pablo, one of the sons in my family, very kindly walked me through the etiquette of a Guatemalan wedding, so I was prepared for some of the nuiances.  Others, I learned on the fly.  Am grateful that, as a whole, the Guatemalans give much grace to us foreigners, and are not easily insulted!

I have to confess I've gotten a little obsessed with marimba music here.  Tonight I got to dance to a marimba band for the first time.  It was hysterical to hear from so many of the Guatemalans at the wedding that they were surprised to see a gringa know how to dance to a marimba.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I really didn't know what I was doing, I just tried to keep up with my partner. (I never was very good at American dancing.  Guess this is another place I'm more at home in Guatemala!) Leo just about danced all of us women under the table, despite his poor health.  He loves dancing to marimba, and it was so neat to see him actually enjoying himself. 

I got to meet more of Leo's family today, and really enjoyed myself.  I find myself loving being a part of Guatemalan celebrations, and spending time with the people here.  I hear that many missionaries live in "missionary compounds" or gated communities of North Americans.  It might be safer there (I'm not convinced of that, though) but I know my life is richer because I live among the people.  Am grateful for how easily they seem to have accepted me as one of their own.

Lazy Afternoon (Aug. 27, 2010)

I worked at home this morning because Xiomara, the volunteer coordinator told me the other day that there would be 92 people visiting Hermano Pedro today.  That's too many for me; I go on overload.  So I spent the morning researching ideas for the kids, and putting together activities.  The kids will be excited to have a whole bunch of new stuff to do next week.

Spent the afternoon just "relaxing" at the orphanage.  When I got there all the kids were in bed, so I snuck into the room housing the littler kids.  I've not spent much time with these guys lately, since the older ones want to do work the minute they see me.  So today, I would concentrate on this half of the unit.  Leonel still looks very weak and now has an IV running.  Am really concerned about him.  Jojo, though, looked a bit better today.

I haven't seen much of Julian lately and yesterday a therapist with the team gave me some suggestions on things to do to help him focus.  So, I went to his bed and worked with him for a while.  When I put up the side to go and ask Dick something, Julian began SCREAMING at the top of his lungs.  I've never seen him cry before.  So, instead of doing any exercises, we rocked for about an hour.  He was so calm during this time, and I enjoyed the cuddling, too.  He's a neat kid, very bright, with no communication.  Makes very little direct eye contact, but LOVES his back rubbed.  Today I was working with his legs quite a bit, trying to get some resistance when I pressed against his foot.  It's hard for me to tell if he has any muscle strength in his legs, because he doesn't like this and keeps bending his knees.  I'd love to see him be able to use a walker.
Anyway, after an hour of rocking, he willingly went back to bed, and I moved on to the Malnutrition Unit.

I've not spent much time here.  I've almost been avoiding it, and am still not sure why.  Part of the reason is I guess I've been concerned that I would lose my focus from my main work.  Today, I not only lost my focus, but lost my heart once again.  Gidy is a beautiful, smart, mobile, verbal five year old, who is back in the hospital because of malnutrition.  She looks perfectly healthy to Dick and me, but one of the therapists explained that much of her size is just swelling.  She is a darling.

When I walked in she immediately rushed up to me, hugged me and gave me a kiss.  Yesterday I'd told her I'd be back, and this is one young lady who will hold me to my promises.  We played outside with toys for a bit, and then she just wanted to cuddle.  She was enthralled when Dick took out his camera, so I went and got mine and she took some pictures to show you all what the porch area of malnutrition looks like.  She really did a good job for never having used a camera before.

All too soon it was time to leave, and she didn't cry, just told me I couldn't go.  Not in a demanding way, but with a firm "No!" each time I explained I needed to leave.  I promised to come back, either tomorrow or Monday.  After extracting a promise from me that I'd come to see her tomorrow, she finally agreed to let me go, after filling my face with more kisses.  I don't know much of her story, but expect I will be spending quite a bit of time being loved by this little one.

August 26, 2010

New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus

I started out my morning going out to breakfast with a new friend, Judy Kerschner, who has started New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus for special needs students and others who just don't "fit" in the public schools here.  During our three hour breakfast, we talked about everything and anything, and I feel like I've known her for years.  Judy has been here since 2000 (I think) and has many connections both in the educational community here as well as with the missionary network in Guatemala.  She's invited me to go with her to the first Saturday prayer meeting of English speaking missionaries here, and I look forward to meeting others God has called to this area.  I think I will learn a lot from Judy, not only about missions but my own spiritual growth.  Thank you, God, for connecting two of your children.

Stopping in Central Park for pictures with the team from Kentucky
Today a small team from Kentucky was visiting the orphanage.  These folks were great with the kids, and we were able to take 6 of them to lunch.  This team was great.  Not in a hurry, willing to take time playing with the kids, letting them go at their own pace.  They seemed to enjoy the lunch together, and even hung out with the kids at the orphanage after we got back.  They were a marvelous team to tag along with.  Thanks for letting me come.

Henry ready to go!

Elmer, looking cool
Jason, one of Dick's kids, getting into playing with the kids

I think I've written about the concern on the part of the orphanage staff about the kids getting sick.  Well, keeping them cooped up in a non-ventilated room has not seemed to help much (go figure).  Today, two of the kids very close to my heart are very ill.  Both are very medically fragile, Jojo having hydrocephalus and dwarfism, and Leonel continuing to struggle with malnutrition.  I ask prayers for both of these dear ones.  Leonel, especially, looked very weak to me today, hardly responding when Chris visited him.

Chris visiting Leonel

Dick holding Jojo

Spent the night at home.  It's amazing to me how much time I spend on the computer, either blogging, answering emails, making activities for the kids, or researching how to help them better.  I was just about to call it a night when Mari came in saying she had a craving for a carmel sundae from McDonalds.  Would I go with her since it was almost 9 at night.  Never one to turn down ice cream, I agreed, and paid my very first visit to McDonalds in Antigua.  While the menu and the prices are the same, the environment is very different.  There are beautiful gardens in which to eat, study or just relax.  This McDonalds also had a McCafe, a coffee shop designed to attract adults, with a variety of coffee options and pastries.  I just might have to go back there again.

August 22-25, 2010

Esbin, one of Dick's kids, with Estuardo

Spent a lazy Sunday just relaxing.  Good to do once in a while.  Dick wanted a break from the kids, so we had an early dinner together.

Monday I worked with a number of the kids at Hermano Pedro.  It felt good to get back into the swing of it.  Only problem is, I was so into working with the kids, I forgot to take any pictures.  It was another dreary day where the kids weren't allowed outside, and I tried not to get too crabby at the claustrophobia.  I did "borrow" a table from one of the other wards and brought it inside so we had a place to work.

We took Carlitos, Ervin and Bairon to lunch at Camperos.  I've yet to figure out why it's too cold to be in the courtyard at the orphanage, but not too cold to walk 4 blocks to Camperos.  But, since it works out in our favor, I'm not asking any questions.  Once again Carlos came to life the minute we got outside the orphanage, and screeched in delight most of the way to the restaurant.  We had time to play on the equipment today, and, though Carlos is afraid to go on the slide himself, he loves watching the other kids.  Dick tells me Carlos has become "my" kid.  I have to admit he's the one I most enjoy taking to Camperos, because he is so different outside the orphanage.

Tuesday was a short day for me at Hermano Pedro, but I learned a lot.  Today was the first time I brought out crayons, and I was amazed at how well the kids could "draw" once I showed them the correct way to hold the crayon.  Even Bobby, how struggles so much with picking up objects, did a great job "writing" today.  We will do more of it in the future.  Ervin is still trying to figure out which hand he likes to use better, and that was fun to watch.  Carlos was happiest just holding paper!  And Delmi, who had been crying by the wall, had a great time watching the other kids work when I brought her over to join us.

Tuesday afternoon I went with Andrea and Romy, two of my housemates, to take a cooking lesson at El Frijol Feliz (The Happy Bean).  While I learned to make Pepian (a traditional Guatemalan chicken stew) and Rellenitos (fried plantain stuffed with chocolate and refried beans--it tastes much better than it sounds), what I was most proud of was that I FINALLY made a tortilla someone could actually eat.  Tara and Kelly, you'd be so proud of me! 

Today, Wednesday, I spent the morning playing secretary for Dick as he measured folks at Hermano Pedro for new chairs.  We went into areas of the hospital that I didn't know existed.  A team of therapists from the US is coming in a few weeks to help build chairs and seat kids in the children's homes, and we wanted to have the information ready for them when they get here.

Since each new chair costs Bethel approximately $75, I figure we "spent" close to $1000 in just a few hours  Correction:  Since each regular chair costs Bethel about $70 and the therapeutic chairs many of these folks need run $180, I figure we spent about $5000 in just a few hoursthis morning. (Thanks, Donna, for setting me straight!)  Looking at these pictures of some of the folks in their current chairs, I think it's a good investment.

I got up into the Malnutrition Ward for the first time since I moved down.  I could easily spend all my time "hiding" up there, just cuddling kids, but still think the kids downstairs need me more.  Hardly even talked to any of "my" kids today!  Tomorrow a small team from Kentucky is coming in, so a number of kids will get to go to lunch.

After lunch, I got my first haircut in GT, and I'm very pleased.  A friend of Mari's owns a salon in the city, and came to the house today to cut our hair.  I think she did a great job, the price was right (about $12, for a cut and style) and I managed to convince her I really didn't want to dye my hair.  Caleb, the children's minister at Westside, reminded me tonight that I "charge" when I get my hair colored (referring to the donations received from the kids at VBS, and my subsequent "make-over").

It's been a busy couple of days, but good ones.  Now for a little shut-eye, so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow!

A Better Day (August 21, 2010)

Today was better!  Think I just needed a break.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day difficulties that I forget to have fun.

So today I had fun.  I went to the city shopping with three of the students living in the house.  I always love it when the students want to hang out with me, because I've got to be at least 20 years older than the oldest of them.  Usually find myself being called "Mama," and even "Mamasita" sometimes.  (Today I learned that Mamasita has the connotation of a woman who is "hot!") 

Phil had a long list of the things he's been wanting for a while and can't find here in Antigua.  Things like roach motels and plug in air fresheners. . .he has one more month here and I think some of the novelties of Guatemala have worn off a bit!  After the recent break in, too, we've decided we all want some pepper spray, and he's heard you can get it in the city, too.

So shortly after breakfast, we jumped on (literally, since they hardly stop to pick you up) a camioneta (chicken bus) and headed for Guate. Chicken buses are what happens to old school buses from the States when they are deemed too old and/or unsafe to transport students.  They travel through Mexico, get a new coat of paint, and become the inter-city transportation in Guatemala! The ride is approximately one hour, and always reminds me of how much I hate roller coasters.  Today the trip in was pretty calm, and since we got on just outside the bus station, even got seats. 

There are two large shopping centers located in the same place, on opposite sides of the street.  I've been to these before, but for the students, this was their first.  It was fun to watch them as they encountered familiar brands and items that we cannot get in Antigua. It felt a bit like being in the States again.  And I was also reminded of how much I do not enjoy shopping in super-stores, especially on Saturday! And what did I buy after all this effort? A few things to use for activities with the kids in the orphanage, facial cleanser and some really good chocolate.

But the kids all had a good time, each found some treasures (can't remember the last time I saw a thirty year old man excited about finding a spray can of Lysol!) and we didn't get lost, so I count the day a success.

Had a late lunch at Pizza Hut, rode home on a somewhat less tame chicken bus, and took a long nap that just about lasted to morning!

Today was hard. . . (Aug. 20, 2010)

Really hard.

I think I must have been tired or touchy or something.  But it irritated the snot out of me to once again walk into the children's ward and find the nurses more engaged in making decorations than they were with the kids.  All the kids were inside, some still in bed.  No one was allowed outside today because the doctor has decided that's why so many kids are getting colds.  I know it's the rainy season but it's spring like temps. I wonder what it will be like in January when the temperatures do get cold.  Besides, cold air does NOT cause colds (sorry, Mom, but it's true!).

The kids were still anxious to work, though, and work we did, with a short pause for lunch.  After lunch all the kids (even the ones who usually are left up) were put to bed.  I tried to make the best of it by working with them in their beds. How I miss the days only a few years ago when I was physically more able to lift and carry kids.  The only ones I can get out are the smaller ones, or those, who, like Ervin, can and will support their weight.  God help me, though, if I have to get him back in bed alone!

Today it seemed a number of kids were especially needy.  Henry's mother had just brought him back from a visit home, and he was very sad.  Elmer was cranky and cried every time he didn't get his way.  Bobbie felt like I had ignored him, and sobbed when it was time to put the activities away for lunch, because he hadn't had a turn.  Byron's electric chair was broken (though Dick managed to MacGuyver it back together again), and since he couldn't move around on his own wanted constant attention.  And my precious Ervin, he was just Ervin.

How I wish there were five of me.  How I wish the nurses would join in with what we're doing.  How I wish I had a real place to work when we can't be outside. 

But I can spend my time wishing, complaining about how things aren´t the way I want them to be, or I can focus on the one child that is in front of my right now. Believe me, I want to cry, complain, today even maybe scream a little.  But, though that might (probably would) make me feel better, I really don't think it would do much for the kids who today needed some lovin'.  Today, though, for some reason, it was hard to get my mind off of myself and focus on what they needed.  It was hard to be patient when Byron dropped the spoon he was trying to put in the tray for the 10th time, and wanted me to pick it up RIGHT NOW!  It was hard to remember how far Ervin has come when he would purposely knock the spoon out of Byron's hand just as he was about to get it into the tray.  It was hard to be patient when 7 kids all want attention, and there are 3 more lying in their beds crying and I can't get to all of them. 

And as I write this, I realize just how much I am like the kids.  I stumble daily in my attempts to love.  I carelessly smack (maybe just with words, but they hurt nonetheless) at those closest to me when I don't get my way.  And sometimes I just want someone to notice me, to pay attention to me.  And my Father patiently puts up with me in all these times.  More than that, He pursues me, comforts me, heals me. 

And I know He'll come through for me tonight, for I can say with Paul:
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.                                                     2Cor. 4:7-9

Guess tonight, I'm just realizing how much my jar of clay (some of my friends would probably say my "cracked pot") at times gets in the way of His all-surpassing power. Father forgive my self-consciousness and let me focus on you, realizing you will not permit me to be crushed, nor will you abandon me, or let me be destroyed. I will not despair.



Where I Belong (August 19, 2010)

I've been praying for discernment to know what things I should do here among the hundreds of needs I see almost each day.  Walking into Hermano Pedro today confirmed for me that I'm where I belong.  I almost cried at the excitement of the kids when I came in after being gone a week.  Maynor told me that the nurses had stored my materials for me, and offered to get them.  The kids couldn´t wait to get to work.  Today, though, I mostly wanted to get reacquainted with them after not seeing them for so long.  I never understood how Dick could miss them so much when he was on the road.  Now I do.  I love traveling, but I love being with "my" kids even more.

As soon as I walked in, I heard cries from Ervin, and just had to take him out of his crib.  It was 11 o'clock, and apparently he still had not be put in his wheelchair today.  I was a bit frustrated, as it seemed a number of kids were still in bed, as the nurses sat preparing for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the children's unit on the 16th of next month.  I wish they'd show half as much excitement over the kids as the do the existence of this unit.  I need to reign in my critical spirit a bit, but guess my tolerance level is a bit low, given the excellent program I visited yesterday.

Today I worked for the first time with one of the teens in the Belen unit.  Lanz greets me every day as I arrive, and appeared to be quite bright.  Today he showed just how bright he was.  He is a very independent worker, if you just give him a little praise and attention now and then. 

It seems I'd just started working with the kids, when Flori, a social worker from the Santa Rosa area came to get me.  She wanted me to see a child who was waiting for a doctor up in the clinic.  Marco Gonzales is five years old, has a cleft lip, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.  Flori wanted to know if I thought we could get him a wheelchair someday.  I called Dick who was on his way to the orphanage, and asked him to bring in an application form when he came.  I visited with the parents for a while, and learned this dear little one was having multiple seizures every day--partly because his parents can't afford the $20 a month to buy him medicine.  When I met his little brother, my heart absolutely melted.  This was a loving family stretched to the limit by trying to care for their son.

When Dick came, he measured Marco and when we discovered he would only be in Antigua this one day, Dick called the Hope Haven wheelchair factory to see if we could get him a chair today.  As usual, the answer was "yes."  After a quick lunch with a few of his neighborhood kids, they were off to the factory to set up a chair for Marco while he waited to see the doctor, nutritionist, and head therapist.  Some days things just seem to fall into place, and today was one of those days.  Thank you, God.

While they were gone, I spent time with Estuardo, a little guy with autism.  He has the highest pitched shreek I've ever heard in a child when he's upset, and makes the loudest popping noise I've ever heard a mouth make when he's happy.  Today we went into a gated area outside, and he could run free, and play.  I put a mat down on the floor, gave him some plastic glasses to play with, and sat down and let him have at it.  Today there were many more "pops" than there were shreeks.  I even heard a variety of other babbling noises from him as he ran around, occassionally hurling himself into my lap for a hug.

This may not see like a lot, but a hug from a child diagnosed with autism is a major accomplishment for the child.  It was really neat, too, that whenever someone would walk by and try to talk with him, he's jump back into my lap.  For the second time today I was moved to tears. While we didn't do much "work" today, Estuardo and I spent time getting used to each other.  I have to admit, though, that I'm trying to find a better way to get him back to bed after we work.  I got a real cardio work-out today doing this.  Sometimes I feel every bit of my age, and navigating him into the ward was one of those times.  Gratefully, I finally figured out if I had him walk backwards, he didn´t fight me as much.  I'm sure he still knew where he was going, but cooperated, maybe because he saw the desperation on my face.

Dick and the boys returned and seated Marco in his chair.  Flori still had not found a way to pay for the medicine he needed, so I made sure that at least for a month Marco would have a chance at being seizure free.  What we'll do next month, I'm not sure.  I know I can't provide for every kid that comes through the clinic, but today was one of those days I felt I needed to take care of the need right in front of me.  If anyone would like to sponsor medicine for this little guy, please email me and I'll help you set up something.  $20 a month would cover it.

Sr. and Sra. Gonzales could not seem to believe that in one trip to the hospital their son received not only the medicine he needed, but his first wheelchair.  Before either Dick or I could explain that these were gifts from God, Sr. Gonzales grabbed my arm, asking God to bless us for helping them.  Once again I got to explain that we only worked for God, and it was our privilege to be able to be the vehicle by which He blessed this family.

All together, I'd say this was a very good day.