Hope Haven Distribution, March 25

Since Dick frequently uses my writing, I thought I'd return the compliment today.  Of course, I'll have to add a few of my own comments!~~Pat

Since we managed to get back home early enough on Thursday to get Jason registered for school and I finally got that much needed shower, I decided to help out at a Hope Haven wheelchair distribution in Antigua on Friday.  (Jason has been back home about a week, and has done quite a bit of traveling with Dick.  He has come back from his "run-away" time in the city closer to God than ever before.  This Monday, he will begin attending a Christian school in Chimaltenango, thanks to the sponsorship of some friends in the States. He's a bit nervous about this, since there are only 3 other students in his class--as compared to the 60 in his class in the public school--so please keep him in your prayers.)

Pat Duff and Esbin (who had no school??) accompanied me. (to the Hope Haven distribution on Friday.) Esbin and I kept busy fitting kids into wheelchairs while Pat split up her time interpreting for me and making communication booklets for some of the kids. (Esbin has become quite the wheelchair mechanic, and can do quite a bit of the work on his own.)

This little guy loved his communication symbols
The books and sheets I'm using in these distributions are pretty generic to start with, but the kids and moms really seem to like them, and most of the kids have caught on immediately to how to use them to communicate.  This is such a stark contrast to how long it is taking to teach the kids at Hermano Pedro to use these.  Each distribution I come up with new and better ideas as to how to customize sheets for specific kids, and am really enjoying working with the Hope Haven team.  Omar, who "runs" the office, is extremely patient with my moving into his office area on these days, and I love getting to know him.  Thanks, guys, for including me!

Not all the kids who receive chairs are immediately thrilled with them.  It is very different from being carried in your momma's arms, or in a sling on her back.  Most kids, though, with a little encouragement, and some persistence on the part of their parents, soon enjoy the freedom the chair gives them.

Esbin encouraging one not-so-satisfied customer!
He soon adjusted to his chair,
and the toy car didn't hurt, either

I know that I have written in the past about parents who want nothing to do with a child simply because he or she has some type of disability but over the years we are meeting more and more families that show a lot of love to a disabled child.Today we met a family that not only accepted their little girl who was both physically and mentally disabled but they considered her a gift from God and a real blessing. Papa especially seemed to radiate when ever he was near his precious little girl. Was he praying that she would some day be heeled? Certainly! but whether that would be in this life or once she got to heaven this man and his wife had an unconditional love for their little girl that I have not seen in many parents. They were a real inspiration to all of us.

I did my share of crying as I translated as Dick talked with this Mom and Dad.  I continue to stand in awe of the deep faith and unshakeable confidence families like this one have in the goodness of our Father.  I stand convicted in their presence, remembering all the times I doubt His love for me when faced with challenges.  This family, and many others, face more difficulties than I can even imagine, and yet firmly place their hope in Him.  Thank you, Father, for the living witness of these brothers and sisters.

Visits from "Homahans"

Norm and Vicki Sutton

Wednesday (Mar. 23) I got to spend the afternoon visiting with two acquaintances from Omaha, who are now serving at an orphanage in San Andr√©s Sajcabaj√°.  Norm and Vicki Sutton, from Christ Community Church in Omaha, stopped by for a visit after taking someone to the airport in Guatemala City.  By the time they left a few hours later, I really felt like I had new friends, and colleagues in ministry.

I'm always a bit concerned when I know I'll be entertaining "strangers" as I fear I won't know what to talk with them about.  Both Norm and Vicki are so warm and outgoing that it seemed like I had known them forever.  Our hearts share a common love for the people of Guatemala, and it was a pleasure to hear their story of coming here, as well as being able to share mine with them. It is always astounding to me how God moves His people where He needs them.  It is also a comfort to talk with others who can't always explain His call, except by saying that they "know that they know" they belong here.  The Suttons, like many other friends here as well as myself, felt like they had come "home" the first time they set foot in Guatemala.

Vicki and one of their babies at the home
The Suttons live about 3-4 hours from Antigua, and are working at Hogar De Vida in San Andres.  Norm helps with construction and maintenance, Vicki with administration, and they both serve as "second string" parents to the 30 or so children living in the home. Hearing the stories of their ministry could not but help to encourage me in mine.  All too soon they had to leave to get home before dark, as the last part of their journey, is difficult in broad daylight, but especially dangerous after dark.  I can't wait to visit them again, hopefully at their mission this time!

Then, Thursday, Dane Underwood, also from Omaha, arrived to spend a few weeks working with us here in Guatemala.  Dane is also under the sponsorship of the Josiah Foundation, which serves as my sending organization.  Dane's hope is to visit a number of countries in Central and South America over the next 12 months to work alongside exisiting ministries.  On Saturday, Dane moved into Mari and Leo's house, and will be with them during his time here in Guatemala.

"Borrowed" from Michelle's
Facebook page
Dane is helping me initiate a new phase in my ministry, where folks come down to work with me for varying lengths of time.  Some, like Dane, are independent and responsible for their own activities.  Others, however, are coming specifically to work with us, and we will be more responsible for their well-being while here in Guatemala.  Michelle, a speech therapist from Kentucky, is coming this Friday to work with me and the kids at Hermano Pedro on communication.  Hopefully she will be able to work with the kids at the New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus also.  Two young ladies from Omaha who are graduating high school this May are also praying about spending some time down here working with us over the next 6 months.

All this is to say, again, my ministry is expanding to include mentoring those who come to serve short term.  While I still feel like a newbie here, I hopefully have gained some wisdom to share with those who come for shorter periods, and I surely have friends who are much more experienced than I to help them on their journey.  While I'm not someone who seems to thrive working with larger teams, the idea of introducing one or two people at a time to what God is doing here in Guatemala excites me greatly.  Pray for these folks who are coming, and pray, too, that we are able to help them discover what God has for them down here!

Hope Haven Distribution, March 10 & 11

For a number of weeks, Mark Richard, the director of Hope Haven International here in Guatemala, has been asking me to create communication boards which their ministry can give out when they hold wheelchair distributions.  I have been somewhat at a loss as to the best way to do this, since communication boards, like wheelchairs do not come in "one size fits all."

To help figure out how to do this, I decided to tag along with Dick to this distribution to see just how things played out, and see the best way to help them with this "missing piece," as Mark calls it.

Since I'm not a mechanic at heart, I got to spend most of my time interpreting, and getting to know the kids and their families.  As the days progressed, I started to get some ideas of ways to construct these boards so be useful, but also simple.  In reality, though, I think I will probably try to be at most of their distributions for the next few weeks to help refine the system.  The Hope Haven workers and volunteers have their hands full just fitting and modifying the chairs for the clients who come in. 

Hope Haven has a grant from the office of the First Lady of Guatemala to hold distributions every Thursday and Friday for individuals from different parts of the country who come in groups to their shop here in Antigua.  So, I imagine I'll be spending a good bit of time there the next few weeks!  I have to admit, that the folks at Hope Haven have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and a part of their ministry, and I am enjoying getting to know them.

I was once again touched by the number of single mothers who had brought their children, of all ages, to receive wheelchairs, most carrying them on their backs.  There seemed an unsual number of little guys at this distribution, and I had a ball playing with them and talking with their moms.

Dick and Lana making adjustments
I believe our oldest client was a young man who was 31. His single mom has been caring for him alone all these years, but says she is getting too old to carry him now. One of the hardest families to talk with as another single mom whose son apparently has muscular dystrophy. Mom did not know the name of his disease, but did say she knew he was getting worse each year. We decided not to tell this mom that her 18 year old son had already outlived most children with this infirmity. Fitting chairs for these two young men was especially challenging, since the more years one is without a chair, the more contorted one's body becomes. The guys at the Hope Haven Shop, with the consultation services of Lana, a physical therapist from Sioux Falls, SD and Dick, they did an amazing job "MacGuynering" what chairs were available into ones that would serve these two young men.

As with the Bethel Ministries shop, many of the workers at Hope Haven are themselves in wheelchairs.  It was particularly touching to see a mom talking with one of the women mechanics.  Afterward, Mom told me talking with her had given her more hope for what her daughter might be able to do in the future.  Sweet. . .

Hope Haven workers break to play basketball
Some of the kids seated in chairs

Heading home

My New Home and Puppies

My house is the white one with the HUGE black doors
The beginning of March I moved into my own little "casita" just across the street from the Hernandez home where I had been living.  Mari has been having more and more large groups, and I was out-growing the one bedroom I had.  In the past, Mari's two sons have lived here, and the landlady gave us a two-year lease.  The rent is incredibly low for Antigua, since the family and the owner are friends.

Dick and his kids helped me move in.  I can't believe how quickly it went!
I love those kids. . . When I went to pay them, they told me they don't charge friends.
So I bought them lunch at Piccadilly--pizza.

My front door. . .

The side door to the patio. . .off my bedroom

My kitchen area

The entry way and living area
I love the arches. . .
My bedroom
My office. . .one wall of the bedroom

I love the wooden ceilings and the brick. . .
I think it adds "old world" charm
Yes, inside plumbing and running water. . .
all of it cold!
The shower head has an "instant water header"
Affectionately known here as a "widow maker"
The guest room. . .ready and waiting

View from the guest room window. . .
Yes, it's right on the street. . .about 5 ft. away
from where the "chicken buses" pass by, beginning at 5 am
My own "pila" for handwashing clothes

Since the family, especially it seems the two sons, Manuel and Pablo, were afraid I'd be lonely living alone, I have adopted two dogs. (Guatemalans can't seem to imagine someone actually being content living by themselves.)  Manolo, Leo's oldest son, has a dog that had just had a litter of 12 pups, so there were plenty of little ones to choose from.  The are part Chow and part Rotweiller (I can't believe I actually have a Rotweiller, let alone two, but so far they are pretty mellow!) and look like two little bears.  Hence their names, Yogi and Booboo.

They are already too big to sleep on the end table

Yogi on left, Booboo on right

It's been a bit different living on my own, but I am finding having my own house gives me varied opportunities for ministry. . . including talking with neighbors who I had never met living in the "big" house.  Seems they thought I was just here temporarily, and now I seem committed to stay, and worth getting to know.  I'm especially enjoying the kids and will have to stock up on treats. . .

March Hermano Pedro Update

With all the traveling we’ve been doing, I haven’t been at Hermano Pedro nearly as much as I would like to be. There have been many volunteers coming to the orphanage, as schools around the US and Canada begin their spring breaks. Two visitors were friends of Dave Black, who took some of the kids out to Camperos for lunch. Here, pictures are worth a thousand words:

Miguel Angel



Bobby really enjoyed the food--especially the ice cream cone. . .

We also had a team of high school students in from Bayside Church in Florida. Many times these groups become spectators, rather than participants, with the kids. This group was different, however. They dove right in and loved on the kids, and accepted the love that the kids gave them. When the doctor would not let us take kids to lunch (it was too cold; 64 degrees, but cloudy) the group decided to postpone their own lunch and stay to feed the kids. After their lunch, rather than going shopping for souvenirs, they decided to spend even more time at the orphanage. They were a great group and the kids thoroughly enjoyed their time with them.

Dick's boys helping with activities

Benjamin Mooney with Ervin
You can see how much he loves the kids. . .

Ervin wearing Benjamin's cap. . .
Que guapo (Looking Good!)

More and more I’m finding myself investing time helping the volunteers and explaining the kids to them, helping them find more to do with them. When people will only be here one or two days, it sometimes seems like more trouble than it’s worth to orient them. However, I’m finding that telling the kid’s stories is of value in itself. I love to see the faces of the kids when we stop by their beds and talk with an about them. Hopefully it touches the hearts of some of the visitors, too.

I still spend time working with the kids, but seem to have to sandwich it in between the times we are flooded with volunteers. I’m trying to process how to best invest my time. Some of the kids receive a type of schooling from the orphanage, as well as the ones who are being educated by Nineth in the Bethel Ministries classroom. Then, there are the ones who are most disabled, and the least responsive, who receive little if any attention. Somehow, these are the kids that pull at my heart the most. When I see how they come alive with just a little attention, I can’t help but think that doing sensory stimulation (like you would do with a baby) is invaluable. I’m having a hard time that accepting that I can’t do it all.