We arrived at the clinic in La Gomera shortly before ten o’clock, and had a chance to visit with one of the social workers there about a number of families in the area, and also about the use of water filters to provide clean water to some of the villages. In the past, after Dick has given out filters, we return a few months later to find most of them tossed off in a corner of the house, no longer in use. Lidia suggested we place them in the health center, the school, and the church, and then gradually let the “need” and desire for filters in the homes grow on its own. This sounded like a good idea to us, and we’ll follow up on it soon, God willing.
Annie arrived as promised, and we were off to visit the young woman she had told us about yesterday. She said that she lived “close” to the clinic. Well, here in Guatemala, “close” is a relative term. After a number of twists, turns and at least a couple of miles, we finally arrived at Paty’s house.
Paty, we were told, had been able to walk until she was about 11 years old, at which time she had a high fever and convulsions. Now, she is not able to move either her arms or legs, and the only way she can swallow is to lay flat. Just a few days ago, as her mom tried to transfer her to the lawn chair to feed her, Mom tripped and they both fell to the ground.
While Paty has a wheelchair, it is not the correct size and does not provide her sufficient support to sit properly. We are also hoping to find a specialty chair which will allow her mother to recline the seat, so she will not have to move Paty every time she needs to feed her.
Paty is very bright, and got very excited when I asked her if she would like a communication book to help tell her mom and dad what she needs and is thinking. Her mother immediately told me that Paty loves to read. When I asked her what kind of book she would like, Mom told me that Paty’s favorite book is the Bible, though she does not own one. I will be bringing her a large print Spanish Bible when we return to La Gomera the next time. Mom also said that Paty loves to listen to praise music, though they only have a radio. I would love to be able to bring them a small CD player and some praise music.
Paty surrouned by her family,
along with her neighbor Annie who led us to her.
I can’t quite put into words the effect Paty had on me. So many of the children and adults we work with have been disabled since birth. Paty, however, had known a “normal” life, and has had to adapt to being totally dependent on her family for her very existence. If anyone would have a reason to be angry and sullen, it would be her. Yet, she is one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever met. She smiles easily, and though she can only communicate by shaking her head yes and no, she makes you feel immediately welcome in her presence. And, more than that, she lives with a strong faith that not only enables her to endure her situation, but praise God in and through it. She is the incarnation of Paul’s command to praise God in all things. I felt touched by the Holy Spirit just being with her.
We were just about to pull away from Paty’s house, when Annie’s children began yelling for us to stop. A young woman had come to Annie’s asking if we could follow her to see another person who needed a wheelchair. Dick looked at me and said, “That’s what we’re here for,” and in moments we were following her on a bicycle through the streets of this small village to Yelsin’s home.
Yelsin is 14 and we believe has Muscular Dystrophy. His body has been becoming progressively weaker, and he is now no longer able to raise his arms or support his weight on his feet. Yelsin, too, has a wheelchair, but it is obviously not a good fit. Yelsin attends school and his mother must push him to and from the school each day.
After looking around the house where they live, Dick offered the family the option of a power chair. They were immediately interested in this, though seemed surprisingly unexcited about the offer. I think this is another instance where what we have offered seems too good to be true. Combine that with the fact that many of these people have been promised a multitude of things by well meaning outsiders, who unfortunately have not returned to fulfill their commitments. This family, I think, was exercising reasonable skepticism. I can’t wait, though, to see their reaction when we are able to return with a power chair for this young man.
Leaving this aldea, we dropped Annie off back at the clinic, and headed to Cerro Colorado to bring a new chair to a young lady who lives just down the road from the Hernandez family. On our previous visit to measure her for a new chair, this child would barely look at us. The most fun part of this stop was watching how the little girl immediately took to Katie and had a great time playing with her. She seemed to come alive under Katie’s attention. It was sweet to watch as Katie patiently helped her to take pictures with her camera.
While we were at this house, a woman appeared, asking if we could come and see her child. He, too, needed a wheelchair, and lives just across the road from the family we were visiting.
So, once again on this trip, we kept a “divine appointment” in meeting another child in need of a wheelchair, and became acquainted with Marvin and his family. As we walked into their yard, we were pleased to see one of Marvin’s three brothers sitting on a log, holding him. So often children with disabilities are ignored or hidden by their families. It was good to see Marvin is a meaningful part of his family.
Marvin was pretty afraid of all of these strangers suddenly showing up at his house, and really didn’t want anything to do with any of us. Even Dick, who usually can charm even the most resistant child, was not able to hold him. We did manage, though, to get basic measurements, and will be bringing him a wheelchair, God willing, in the near future.
Our final stop was to see the Hernandez family. They have been calling saying that they are having trouble continuing to send their children to school. Apparently, the teachers in their school have not been paid in the past two months. They are now selling snacks at the school to provide some income, and the children are expected to each bring 5Q (about $.60). For some this may not be too much of a problem, but with 5 children in school, and dad unable to find work, this is impossible.
So many times in the schools here there are unreasonable (at least to us) demands made on the families. When parents have barely enough money to put minimal food on the table, what may seem like a small request to the teachers can become a major impediment to the children continuing in school. Besides the reprimands the children receive when these demands are not met, the teachers also frequently dock points from their grades when they do not comply. This can be a real source of frustration for kids who are just making the grade.
It broke my heart to hear Clara, the 14 yr. old daughter in this family, talk about quitting school to sell lemons in the market, so her brother and sisters can continue attending school. In the past, Clara has struggled with school, and the past 6 months or so she has been doing better than ever before. It would be a crime to have her quit now.
So, among all of us, we figured out a short term solution to the problem, and will check back with them next month, to see how they are doing.
As I look back on this day and yesterday, I feel a tremendous burden for the people we serve. So many come to us asking for help, and, when faced with so much need, our resources are pretty measly. I try to keep looking to the Provider of All we need, but sometimes I have to wonder when we will be able to help those who have already asked us for help, let alone those we are yet to meet. I ask you to pray that God will continue to provide all we need for our ministry not only to continue but to thrive.
I often hesitate to ask for financial support, but I have been admonished more than once by people I respect that “I have not because I ask not.” So, if you would like to help sponsor all ($180) or part of any of the six wheelchairs we need to give out, or to make an undesignated donation to the general needs of this ministry, please email me and I’ll be glad to send you more information.