Why Not Me?

What would have happened if David said, "Not Me!" when he saw the vision for building God's temple? Or if his son Solomon said, "Not Me!" when given the opportunity to fulfill that vision. Nehemiah did not say, "Not Me! I am the cupbearer to the king," when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were falling down, he risked speaking to the king about the situation and in return was blessed with permission and provision. 
What would happen in our homes, churches and communities if each person made a conscious choice to NOT say, "Not Me!" 
What if the reason you see the need is because it is to be you? 
What if you washed the dish and put it away? What if you served on that ministry team, went on that mission trip, taught that Sunday School, became a deacon, planted a church, or took that meal? What if you shared Jesus with your neighbor, colleague or checkout clerk and didn't leave it up to someone else? Maybe, we might have fewer dirty dishes and more saved souls. Both make for cleaner environments! 
Let's make it our New Year's resolution to get rid of the "Not Me's" in our vocabulary and take the time to pause and pray, "Is it me?" Then just do it for the glory of the LORD! Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10 
Simply, Tara (Rye)

I read the above in my friend Tara' blog this morning and immediately felt compelled to share it with you, my friends.  I searched for something to write as my wish for you for the New Year, and discovered I could wish you nothing better than to heed Tara's words. . .I encourage you, when faced with a need, to ask, "Why not me?"  At times God makes it clear we should not become involved, but often I think He invites us to join His work through the people he places in our paths.  It's so easy to say, "It's not my job," and not really consider what He might be inviting us into.  Some of the greatest blessings I've received have come from being involved in something that wasn't "in my box" to do.

Remember, it really isn't about the doing. . .it's about responding to His leading, and bringing Him glory in the process.  I pray He invites you to great things this year.

Happy New Year from Antigua, Guatemala!

Christmas Day, a la the Fulp Family

Daryl and Wanda Fulp graciously invited us to spend Christmas Day with them and their remarkable family.  Since Daryl has beaten me to the punch in posting about the day, I decided to borrow his journal entry.  (I'm sure he won't mind. . .I think he won't mind. . .he probably won't mind.  Guess I don't care if he does mind! LOL)

This family, including nine of their ten children, moved to Guatemala about a year ago and are planning on opening a children's home for kids with disabilities.  Today convinced me even more, that this is their special call--not just as individuals but as a family unit.  Take some time to check out their blog, Hope Fulfilled.

Now, here's Daryl:

I am taking some time off to rest and enjoy the holidays with my family, but I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about our first Christmas in Guatemala. While this year has been very different for us, it has also been one of our best Christmases ever as it has fulfilled a dream for us.

Some of the differences this year are as follows:

  • Temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s (No need to check the forecast for a white Christmas)
  • But the song “White Christmas” playing in Spanish from the local Catholic church
  • Christmas shopping in Guatemala City (Not a pleasant experience)
  • No traveling to visit family (We miss the family, but not the driving)
  • Fireworks, lots of fireworks

Christmas here begins at midnight on Christmas Eve as people set off fireworks. We stood on our roof and watched the show as they were shot off from all over the community. Imagine a 4th of July grand finale that lasts for 20 minutes, only this one covered an entire town. It is the Guatemalan way of welcoming Christmas and is quite awe-inspiring.

Many families then go door-to-door bringing food and greeting their neighbors and then return home to open presents. Our family, however, decided to go to bed.

The next morning our family arose early and started our day as we always do, with the story of Simeon from the book of Luke. This tradition started when Brittney, Krishauna and Carissa were very young and has continued. We then opened presents and had a great time together.

At around 9:30 am, Dick Rutgers, Pat Duff and Dave Black showed up with four of the kids from Hermano Pedro. Dick had checked out Louis Andres, Julio, Carlitos and Leonel to spend the day with us. This was, by far, the high point of our Christmas! To see these kids celebrate Christmas in a real home and receive presents along with a home cooked meal made our entire move to Guatemala worthwhile. Several times I found myself overwhelmed with emotion as I looked around our home and saw the smiles on the kids faces.

This picture of Brittney and Leonel is my favorite.  He seldom
smiles and it was wonderful to see him laugh!~~Pat

We opened presents and enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by Wanda.  (The food and the company were wonderful.  I'd been craving corn casserole since Thanksgiving, and have to admit I "pigged out" on Wanda's!~~Pat) 

Somehow we were able to move the furniture in our living room and put two large tables together and fit everyone around them. Everyone enjoyed the food. Brittney was even able to get Leonel, who will not eat and is on a feeding tube, to eat six good bites of cheddar mashed potatoes.

The afternoon was spent playing and, (Daryl and Dick had a couple of spirited [competitive?] matches of ping pong on the Fulps' new table.  I was a little worried I might have to intervene, but Dave Black was the official scorekeeper and managed to keep everything civil!~~Pat) all too soon, it was time to take the kids back to HP. Once again, I was overcome with emotions. This time it was because I looked around and realized how many more children there were who spent the day in the wards. I have a dream of seeing more and more families who live here and work in HP open their homes to the children and adults who reside there for Christmas each year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some day every ward was empty and the nurses could take the day off?

(I was pretty overcome with emotion, too, when we took the kids back, but it was bittersweet.  I had to remind myself and Daryl that we can only do what we can do.  It didn't make the day any happier, though, for the kids left behind today.  It was beautiful, though, to see the tears in the eyes of Dahlila, the head nurse, as she thanked us repeatedly for taking the kids out for the day.  It would not have been possible without her help, and we felt like we should thank her.  I pray with Daryl, though, that more children will be invited to more homes next year!~~Pat)

I want to thank each and every one of you who pray for us, support our ministry, and enable us to be here. It is the greatest privilege we have ever known.

There are more pictures below. Have a very happy New Year!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thanks, Daryl, Wanda, and Crew for an amazing Christmas Day.  We thoroughly enjoyed every minute we were with you.

Christmas in Guatemala in pictures. . .

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Christmas Eve Guatemala Style


My day began early as I got up to put the finishing touches on some costumes for the children's Christmas presentation at church in the evening.  I think I've been seeing, crowns, beards and angels’ wings in my sleep.


About 10 am Mari called to ask me to help her with a last minute trip to the market.  Like in the US, the "stores" are crowded with last minute shoppers.


By 3:00 I was at church, helping set up for the Christmas Eve service.  (I'm part of the children's staff now at Iglesia del Camino!  At least for a while. . .)  I loved how everyone pitched in.  At right, Antonio, who recently graduated seminary, vacuums the stage area.

Before the service, Pastor Mike (in the suit coat—a first!) gathered all the staff together, under the setting sun, for a time of prayer and reflection.


As we prayed, I looked up and saw a lone star in the sky, and couldn’t help but remember the Star of Bethlehem.

And here are some of our kids, preparing to present the Christmas Story to the congregation:


         Our Angels


Our Shepherds


    Our Kings

Maria Dolores, our children’s ministry director, did an amazing job sewing most of the costumes.


Just as we were about to begin, there was a power failure—only on the street where our church is located.  With emergency lights and cell phone flashlights, we started our service.  As Pastor Mike reminded us, there was no electricity the first Christmas.

DSC01434Pastor Mike and Luis holding their cell phones to shine the light on our shepherds.

The lights were off and on throughout the service, but did stay on long enough for the kids to sing two songs for the congregation.


And our Carols and Candlelight were just the ticket with unreliable power.

When church was over, we made a quick stop at my house to pick up tamales, ponche (a Christmas punch loaded with pieces of fruit), and cookies and headed up to Dick’s house in Chimaltenango to meet a bunch of his kids who had had to work late.



With Esbin’s help, Dick played Santa. (Maybe now that Christmas is over, he’ll cut his hair and trim his beard?)


Dave Black, a friend from Canada, joined us for the evening (though I think he came mostly hoping to get some chocolate peanut clusters!)

About ten o’clock, Dick brought Dave and me back to Antigua where I joined the Hernandez family for their traditional dinner of tamales at midnight. (And to think that I used to groan about having to attend an eleven o’clock Christmas Eve service at home.  Of course, no snow makes traveling much easier here!)



At midnight, the sky here lights up filled with fireworks from every direction, welcoming the birth of Jesus.  It always brings tears to my eyes as I see Don Leo going room to room with a pan of incense, inviting the newborn Jesus into each corner of the house.


One of the sweetest moments of this Christmas Eve, though, was given to me by Natalie, Leo’s granddaughter.  I would not be spending Christmas Day with the family this year, as we would be taking some of the Hermano Pedro kids out to Daryl and Wanda Fulp’s for the day.  Natalie couldn’t understand why I was leaving them, so her mother, Julie, explained that these children have no families to care for them on Christmas.  At this news, seven year old Natalie burst into tears at the thought of children without families alone in orphanages, especially at Christmas.  Oh that we all could have her tender heart for the least of these. . .

Lunch with Doña Mati


While most of what I do at Hermano Pedro involves the children’s area, I have gotten to be friends with some of the older folks who also call Obras Sociales “home.”  (They house approx. 120 children and an equal number of adults.)

One of my all time favorites is Doña Matilda (Mati to her friends).  This lady has suffered a stroke which has left the right side of her body paralyzed, but her mind is still sharp as a tack!  I have known her over a year now, having met her when she was sitting out in front of the orphanage in her power wheelchair.

When describing her, the first word that comes to mind is elegant.  Though she wears donated clothes, has an institutional hair cut, and few of her own possessions, she emits a serenity and peace that has drawn me to her.  This month, for the first time, I was able to take her out to lunch with the help of Alejandro (Leo’s grandson) and Mari Estelle (Mari’s daughter).  Mari joined us to round out the foursome.


After completing the required paperwork, I looked all around the older women’s unit and couldn’t find Doña Mati.  I finally discovered her in the corner of one of the dormitories, primping like a young girl going out on a date.  The nurses said she had been excited all morning, getting ready for our outing.  Though we were actually a few minutes early, my heart broke when she softly said, “I was afraid you’d forget me.”  I assured I had not, that in fact I had brought some of my Guatemalan “family” with to meet her!

While she had the opportunity to chose anywhere in Antigua to eat, she selected Pollo Campero.  As we walked there through the park, Doña Mati came alive, in much the same way I see the kids blossom when they go out.  She shared that she has only gotten to leave Hermano Pedro once or twice a year since coming there to live.

After her stroke, her daughter didn’t feel she could care for her, and brought her to Hermano Pedro.  Unfortunately, her daughter is worried that if she comes to see her mother, the institution will ask her to pay for her care (not true), so Doña Mati hasn’t seen her daughter since the day she arrived.  She also has a sister who lives in Guatemala City, but never visits her.  So she is quite alone.

During lunch she told some of her story, and I discovered she had been a cook and housekeeper for a number of Americans in the past.  She said she wishes she could still cook now. 

As we visited, I watched a friendship begin between her and Mari, who loves cooking more than anything.  They chattered on like two schoolgirls about their recipes and experiences with Americans.  I had secretly hoped this would happen when I invited Mari to join us, and was happy to see the friendship unfolding.  Mari has promised to return to see Doña Mati on Sundays, as her church is just down the street from Hermano Pedro.

As we walked back to Hermano Pedro, it was almost as if I could see the energy draining out of Doña Matilda.  While she had enjoyed her time with us, it was hard for her to return to institutional living.  She helped me understand a bit more how even the best institution cannot hold a candle to a home setting. 

And I realized that just as our children need attention and stimulation, the older folks need companionship and activity, also.  Many volunteers come for the children.  Few are willing to spend time with the adults.  I pray God will send more helpers with a passion for the elderly to work alongside us. . .for a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime.

A Divine Appointment Walking Down the Street

As I was leaving home one morning, I passed this couple on the street.  After greeting each other, we continued on our way.  After I had gone about half a block, I hear the gentleman calling, “Seño,” the local greeting for a woman when you don’t know if she’s married or not.

I went back and he asked me if there was any way I could help them pay the fees so their fourteen year old son could go back to school.  He quit school last year to help support his family by working in the fields.  This year, though, his parents really want him to complete his education.

I usually don’t work with kids who do not have a disability of some kind, but there was something about this couple that drew me to them.  I took their information and said I would ask in my journal if anyone was willing to sponsor him.  And, really, I sort of forgot about them.

About a week later, they came to Mari’s house looking for me. (Though they didn’t know where I lived, it wasn’t too hard to locate the only “gringa” living in my neighborhood.)  We invited them in, and Mari, the ever gracious hostess served them breakfast.  We visited, and I learned more of their family and their lives.
It just so happened that these folks were Christ-followers, and shared with me that they believed God had told them to ask me for help.  I told them that while I still did not have a sponsor for their son, I would try to find one (I would remember this time!).  I noticed that before they ate, they each individually prayed over their food. . .and, before they left, the father, Francisco, asked if we could pray.
He and his wife, Consuelo, prayed the most beautiful prayers over me, never praying for a sponsor for their son, but praying forcefully that God would protect me, strengthen me, and bless my work.  Afterwards, they told me that they had been praying for me each day, and would continue to do so, whether or not I was able to help their son, because I was working for God.

You can imagine the shame I felt for wondering initially if they had told me they were “evangelicos” as a way for trying to “hook” me into helping them.  I was humbled by their simple faith and powerful prayer.  I resolved to look for a sponsor, but wanted to meet their son first to see how serious he was about studying.
During the next few days they stopped by a couple of times, not to ask if I’d found a sponsor, but because God had given them Scriptures to share with me.  I discovered that Francisco seems to carry his Bible with him always, and reads quite well.  Consuelo has confided that she cannot read, because her family didn’t think girls need to learn to.  (I hope to bring her a “Proclaimer,” an audio Bible, the next time I return to the States.) And we would pray together, with their focus continually on God blessing my work.

After one of these prayer times, I knew we would sponsor Isaac, even if I had to do it myself, and shared this with them.   If you would like to be a part of this by sponsoring Isaac, please email me for more information.  The cost of his sponsorship will be $35/mo.   All that was left was to meet Isaac.

Last week Francisco and Consuelo brought Isaac to the house.  (Unfortunately, when I went to take a picture of him, my camera battery was dead!)  This is a quiet young man, who appeared almost embarrassed that his parents were asking me for help.  He did want to study, however, and had no other idea how he was going to pay for it.  I found that he was in “Segundo Basico,” the equivalent of eighth grade, which, since he was only 14 was a pretty good indication that he was a good student, and his parents had started him to school on time.  Many fourteen year olds I meet are only in second or third grade. 

The clincher came, however, when I asked him about his life with God.  He said, honestly, it was so-so.  He had a hard time believing that God really loved him, or even was aware of him.  It was such a joy to share with him that I KNEW God did, because that was why God sent his parents to me.  That was why, while I don’t work with kids who don’t have disabilities, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to make an exception. 
He looked a bit startled at my surety of these things.  I asked him if he had ever read the Bible, and he said no.  So I simply presented the “Good News” of Jesus to him.  (It was really neat to do this right before Christmas!).  While he was not ready to make a decision to follow Christ, he wanted to know more.
I gave him a copy of Josh McDowell’s book, More than a Carpenter, written in Spanish.  I’ve found that many here have an easier time understanding his plain talk than than do understanding the somewhat complicated language of the Bible, so thought this was a good way to start. (Remember, for many here, Spanish is a second language.  I struggle to read the Bible in Spanish, and the only thing that helps me is that I usually know what I am reading in the English version.  That’s why, even with those who can read, the Proclaimer is such a good tool.)  Isaac promised to read it and return to discuss it with me.  It brought tears to my eyes to see him flipping through it while I visited with his parents.

I am firmly convinced that my friendship with Isaac is not only about his education, but about his eternity.  We will continue to talk and I’ll look for the “Holy Spirit moment” when he is ready to join us in following Jesus. I can hardly wait!

Visiting Families in Tecpan

I left Antigua early this morning to take the bus up to Chimaltenango where I was meeting Dick, the boys, and Liz, a volunteer down to help with camp.  After a quick breakfast at Camperos, we headed to the Bethel shop to pack food bags we would be taking to six families living outside of Tecpan.
This area is one of the most beautiful in Guatemala, and if I were to move to a village area, I think this one would be it.  (Dick reminds me, though, the people in this area are still not too fond of us gringos, but I do love the area and the people I know there. The problem for me is, I often forget that I’m a gringo.)
When we arrived, we discovered that Maria Son was not at home, but was a few miles away at her parents.  Maria was Bethel’s first contact in this aldea, and this young widow with four children is one of my favorite Guatemalan women.  We visited for a while with Maria’s sister, Josefina, and her family, though.
DSC01046Josefina’s oldest daughter (I think named Gloria) has not been in school the past few years since the family could not afford to send all the children to school.  As in many areas, the families choose to educate the boys, sometimes at the expense of an older daughter.  This girl  is somewhat fearful of returning to school since she is about 14 years old and only in the second grade.  She really wants to at least learn to read well though, and we promised to try to find her a sponsor.  School in this area is relatively inexpensive, so, if you would like to help sponsor Gloria for $25 a month so she can return to school and learn to read, please email me and I’ll give you further information.
Gloria spends hours every day weaving “huipils,” the blouses worn by Mayan women, and often purchased by tourists.  She will spend a month working on one blouse, and will learn less than $100 for the finished product. This money goes to help feed her parents and her five brothers and sisters.
DSC01058 croppedWe were shortly off up the hill through a corn field, to visit another family in this immediate area.  Magdelena lives here  with her four children part of the year in a metal house built by Bethel ministries. Her oldest daughter, Rosa, works in Chimaltenango, and when school is in session, they live there so the young children can attend school, and Rosa can work and still care for her mother.  Mom is bed-ridden, and we are currently trying to get some medical tests done to see what her problem is.  (This is one of the things we do with our medical fund.) 
DSC01067 cropSilvia, Magdelena’s daughter, is blind, and spends her days sitting in the house, basically vegetating.  She has a “Presenter,” a hand-crank and solar powered audio Bible, she loves to listen to.  She also loves Christian music, and has been wanting a CD player for a long time now.  Through Liz’s generosity, Silvia now has one and can listen to music to her heart’s content.
Adelina, the youngest daughter in the family, just graduated from sixth grade and will be beginning “Basico” (jr. high) through the kindness of a sponsor.  If you are at all interesting in sponsoring a child like Adelina for the upcoming school year, which begins in January, please email me for information.
DSC01071Adelina carrying a bag of groceries on her head, which I could not lift with both hands.  Even Dick’s boys complained about how heavy the bags were, and she carried it without a word.
DSC01075We set off down the trail to the next family.  This family only receives food periodically.  There is a father in the family, but they obviously are very poor and need help.  Mom and the 19 year old daughter earn money weaving.  We’re not quite sure what dad does, if anything, and don’t ask too many questions.  Dad does not like “gringos” coming on his property.  Unfortunately, we need to pass through their land to get to the next two widows we would be visiting.  Today, dad was not at home, and we had a chance to visit with the family before moving on.
Our next stop was Samuel’s family.  Samuel’s mom is yet another widow with five children.  Not that long ago, SamuDSC01109el was not in school because he was working in the fields to earn about $10 a week to feed his family.  While the younger children were going to school on sponsorships, and even though one was available for Samuel, his mother could not afford to give up this small income for food.  Hearing this, his sponsor increased their donation by $40 a month and now Samuel is in school and loving it.  An added benefit is that he can still work the fields during vacations and weekends.  We didn’t get to see him today, since he was out working, but had a wonderful time visiting with his mother, grandmother and siblings.
Our last stop was at the home of Maria José.  She is an extremely frail widow with eight children who live in a two room adobe house.  We were invited in today, and were astounded by the poverty in which they live.  One room is a kitchen of sorts, with no more than a fire pit and some crude shelves. The other room had a single bed.  We asked where the children sleep, and were told on the bumpy dirt floor—without blankets.

This time of year it gets cold at night, and both Dick and I felt our hearts break at the thought of these children sleeping huddled together to keep warm on a floor so uneven I had a hard time walking on it.  And this woman has never asked us for anything.  She has only recently begun receiving food assistance after her family was discovered almost by accident. 
I have a few donated quilts left, and between them and the blankets the camp volunteers graciously left, these children will at least have warm covers this Christmas.
As we were getting ready to leave, Wilmer, one of Maria Son’s  sons ran up to us from the field where he had been working, excited that his mother had come home to see us.  So once again we were trekking up the steep path for a visit. 
When we got there, Maria brought out a children’s huipil she had been saving for me.  She’d thought I had a granddaughter and that I might like it for her.  Unfortunately, no granddaughters, but the huipil was so beautiful I could not turn it down.  It will be a beautiful wall hanging, and I might even get it framed.  The only problem was that when I went to pay Maria for it, she only wanted to accept a third of what the weaving was worth.  It took a while talking to her about the fact that while I appreciated her friendship, it would not feed her children.  Finally she accepted a bit more, but still gave it to me for far less than she could have sold it in the markets.
When it was time to go, the crowd of children and adults following us had grown shockingly.  Dick would have to turn the car around to get out from where we had parked, and we were not quite sure how to keep all the kids safe as he did so.  I think Dick wanted to strangle me when I suggested he let all the kids ride in the truck as he turned around, but it would keep them out from behind the back wheels.  Dick reluctantly agree, and we discovered you could easily (?) fit more than 20 Guatemalan children into a Land Cruiser.
I know I’ve written a lot about this one trip, but this area is very dear to my heart, and each family here has a wonderful story to tell.  At times people challenge me as to why I am Guatemala while there is so much need in the US.  These stories explain why. . .not just the poverty I see here, but what I don’t find here.  I seldom see hopelessness, entitlement, anger, or any of the other things I have been taught are the side-effects of poverty.  Each visit I learn more from my friends living here about living life to the full.
These families have a joy that only comes from their firm faith in Jesus, and their strong sense of community.  While we took food to six families, there are probably sixty more who are in just as much need who we pass on the way into the aldea.  There is no jealousy or resentment shown by those who are also in need.  They often tell us of needs of other families in the area, but seldom their own. 
They welcome us as long lost friends, and it fills my heart to bursting when children whose names I cannot even remember come running up to my shouting, “Paty, you’ve come back.”


DSC00874This morning Dick picked me up and we headed over to Hermano Pedro to take a few more kids out to camp.  These were kids who couldn’t stay overnight, but we thought would enjoy a day trip.

After some confusion about which Christina I had gotten permission to take to camp (we ended up taking both after Christina #2’s cries touched Dick’s soft heart!), we were on our way. 


What I had not anticipated, though, was how much the kids enjoyed just riding in the van!  Christina #2 sat in the front seat, waving at everyone we passed, for all the world looking like a “queen” riding through the streets acknowledging her subjects.

DSC00876This three week camp is a joint project of Bethel Ministries and Hope Haven Ministries from Rock Valley, Iowa.  Pastor Bill VanDyken is the driving force behind the camp.  We had worked together a bit on projects in Omaha, and since Bill had had some medical problems this last year, it was especially good to see him.


While we were there, the campers put on a number of skits, including a number of the kids from Hermano Pedro.  Bayron was the “magic mirror” in Blanca Nieve (Snow White). 




Henry “interviewed” a number of campers and did an excellent joy.  He loved being the center of attention.


We had a great lunch and I got a chance to visit with some of the kids from villages who had come in for camp.  I’d met a number of them on trips, and it was fun to catch up.  Also, the kids from Hermano Pedro who were staying at camp were excited to see us.



After helping change diapers for a number of kids, we headed out to the grassy area to spend some time just rolling around on the ground. 


Ervin was a bit anxious at all the freedom, and kept “walking” over to the van, ready to get back to the security of the orphanage.  The best part, though, was that he was WALKING with minimal help.

One of the best things about camp is the freedom it gives the kids to just be kids.  Moises, who has trouble even pushing his wheelchair himself, enjoyed showing off for the camera.

Moises showing off for the camera.

Returned home to Thanksgiving dinner with 20 friends and family.  I had done most of the cooking yesterday (since I knew I was going to camp) and Mari did the turkey. 




   Buffet before. . .










    Buffet after. . .



And, in true Guatemala fashion, the evening ended with a marimba dance fest!


For not being a holiday in this country, we sure lived it up!