Estrella’s Broken Arm, Sept. 10, 2011

I’m borrowing some of Dick’s journals from this week.  For one thing, my camera is acting up so I don’t have any pictures.  For another, as I am getting ready to head to the States I’m finding less time to keep up with my writing.  So this story comes from Dick:

Setting Estrellita's arm

After being on the road from Sunday through Friday I was looking forward to having a quiet weekend at home. Those plans didn't last long though because as I was ending my 6 day road trip and pulling into the alley where I live I received a phone call from Ronny's mom. Ronny is the 16 year old boy whose family we have worked with for years who passed away a few months ago.

Ronny's mom told me that her daughter Astrilla (spelling is not even close) had fallen from a tree and broken her arm. She told me that did not have enough money to get her to the doctor yet alone pay the cost of a doctor or x-rays. When I asked mom how long ago Astrilla had broken her arm she told me that it happened 2 days ago. A short time later I had Pat call to see if we could get more details and perhaps talk to dad who does not seem to dramatize things as much as mom. A few years ago mom had made called to tell me that another daughter was hysterical because she had fallen into a pond and almost drowned. It was only after a 2 hour drive to their home that dad told me that his daughter had fallen into a mud puddle and started to cry because she had gotten her new dress dirty.

However after talking to dad this time we were convinced that Astrilla's arm could really be broken so early Saturday morning Pat, 3 of my boys and I headed down to the coast to see if we could find a doctor that we could bring Astrilla to on a Saturday. Oh yes there was always the option of going to the national hospital in Esquintla but after some of the experiences that I have had with National hospitals I much rather pay for a doctor.

To make what is becoming a long story a bit shorter I will condense things by saying. We got her to a doctor. X-ray's were taken. Mom claimed that we were taken as well because the visit with the doctor, the x-rays and the cast that was put on the arm that was indeed broken came to a whopping $80 American. I wish that I could get taken like that in the USA. Anyway Astrilla is now back home and doing fine.


Her broken arm does not seem to be slowing down Estrella too much.  We stopped for lunch at Pollo Campero in Santa Lucia before taking the family home.  Estrella managed to pack away quite the food, and still had room for ice cream.  (Ice cream makes everything better, doesn’t it?)

Surprise Phone Call, Sept 6, 2011

Esmeralda, Carlos and her teacherEsmeralda visiting with Carlos as her teacher looks on

Dick is up in the Huehuetenango area with Chris Mooney and Carlos from Bethel Ministries.  They are visiting the families Bethel serves in the area, both with school and nutritional support.  The families here are some of my favorites in Guatemala, and I was a bit disappointed I could not accompany them. 

Esmeralda talking to me on phoneEsmeralda talking to me on Dick’s phone

Imagine my delight when I answered the phone today, and it was Dick telling me he had someone with him who wanted to talk with me.  It was Esmeralda, a beautiful young lady who I had met almost a year ago when we took her to Guatemala City to see a neurosurgeon.  She had asked why I had not come, and jumped at the chance to visit by phone when Dick offered to call me.  We had a wonderful visit catching up with each other.

This simple gesture reminded me once again how important the relationships we develop with people are.  Esmeralda seldom can leave her home, even to go to school. I think I sometimes fail to realize how much friendship means to these children who are so isolated.  Lord, make me more aware!

Santiago Atitlan, Sept. 2, 2011


Before heading back to Antigua, we needed to go to ADISA, a special school in Santiago which was started by a Guatemalan lady named Argentina.  One of her students needed the speed on his wheelchair adjusted, and this would give me a chance to finally meet this incredible woman who I had heard so much about. 

I was not disappointed when she came to our hotel to meet us to take us to the school.  She has more energy than I have ever even thought of having, and is one of the most knowledgeable people I have met in Guatemala regarding the laws affecting the education of persons with disabilities in this country.  We became fast friends, and before I knew it, she was not only inviting me to spend time at her school, but stay in her home when I do.  Unfortunately, since I’m heading to the States later this month, I probably won’t be able to do this until at least January.  School dismisses for their “summer” vacation in mid-October and doesn’t resume until after the Christmas holidays.  This will give me something to look forward to in the New Year, however.

Our first stop was at the home of a young man Dick had given a power chair to in the past.  He had received a new one, and his father wanted Dick to pick up his old chair, in case someone else could use it.  While this may not seem like much to us, you need to realize that this chair could have been sold and the money pocketed by this family who surely could use the money.  They care more, though, about another child receiving the gift of mobility than the do about the cash the could earn from a sale.  Once again I am humbled by the generosity of the Guatemalan families we serve.


We were soon on our way to  the school to meet Alex. While Dick adjusted Alex’s chair, one of the teachers gave me a tour of the school facility, as well as told me the story illustrated on the walls of the school building.  School was not in session this day, but if the facility reflects the quality of their program, I can’t wait to see it in action.


Since we had to get back home before dark, we were not able to stay and visit too long.  I look forward to the day I will get to come back to spend some time with the teachers in the school, and support the excellent work they are doing.

Freedom at Fourteen, September 1, 2011

Imagine what it would be like to move independently for the first time in your life at age 14.  Today, we were able to make this dream come true for Nery Alex, a young man living in San Lucas Toliman near Lake Atitlan.
On a trip to the lake a few weeks ago, Dick was introduced to Nery by Argentina, a woman who has worked with special needs children in this area for many years.  Nery has been attending school, is an excellent student, but has little use of his hands.  The regular wheelchair he had been using was old and worn, and he needed to be pushed everywhere he went by one of his family members.  Dick knew a power chair would be just the ticket for this young man, and found one he hoped would work on the steep hills Nery must climb to get to and from school. 
Nery's momWhen we arrived at the house, his mother told us that each day Nery would have his family wheel him out to the road to see if it was the day Dick would be returning with a chair.  This emphasized to me  how much the people we serve pin their hopes on the promises we make.  I fear too often Americans who come in for a short time make commitments which are quickly forgotten when they return to their busy lives in the States, never realizing the discouragement this brings to those depending on their help.  We try very hard never to promise anything unless we are certain we can make good on our word.  Even though this was just a few weeks later, it had seemed like an eternity to this boy who had been praying for a power chair literally for years.  (He had driven one when he had been hospitalized one time, and fell in love with it.)  What a privilege it was today to be part of God’s answer to Nery and his family’s prayers.

After unloading the chair from the Land Cruiser, the first challenge was to test and see if it would, indeed, climb the steep hills.  Esbin who had come with us on the trip, was only too happy to take the test drive, and to Dick’s delight, the chair went up the hills without slipping or straining at all. 

Next, Dick put Nery in the chair, and, after making a few adjustments, it was time to teach Nery to “drive.”  Cesar and Esbin were excellent interprets and teachers for this part of our task.  It was truly a joy to watch these two young men from Dick’s neighborhood take part in the ministry.  They have grown so much under Dick’s influence, and are a valuable part of our team here.  Today they outdid themselves in their effectiveness and kindness to this family.

Soon Nery was off, driving the chair as if he had been in one all his life.

I can only imagine the impact this freedom will have on Nery and his family.  One thing is sure.  They know first-hand that God has heard and answered their prayers.  I think that’s more important than the chair. . .

Hurrah! Jessica goes home. . .

9-13-10f cr
September 14, 2010
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September 3, 2011
Today I got to be a part of one of the happiest times we have here in Guatemala.  Jessica Vanessa was released from the malnutrition project at Hermano Pedro.  In the past year we have become very close not only to her but her whole family as well.

A year ago I wrote:
Tonight I met Jessica Vanessa and her mom.  I am always shocked when I actually hold these little ones. . .there was literally nothing to this child.  Our guess is she is somewhere between 15 and 19 lbs. at age six.  And she's beautiful.  And she has more energy that anyone in her condition should have, and she has the sweetest smile. (to read the rest of the journal from Sept. 14, 2010, click here.)


Dick had encountered Jessica when her mom brought her to a Hope Haven distribution in Mazatenango to get a wheelchair.  One look at her and he knew that if she didn’t get help she would not live to use a wheelchair.

It just so happened that there was a news team from Missouri covering this distribution.  They felt compelled to tell her story:

We spent a day in the clinics, before Jessica was admitted to the malnutrition project.  Since that time, Mom has called me Jessica's "abuelita" or grandma.  Not only Jessica, but her entire family has become part of our family.

This trip was the first of many we have made back to visit the family. In January, 2011, Dick returned with a few friends and built a new house to replace the make-shift shack the family lived in (shown above).

Virginia, a widow herself with six children to care for, has become an advocate for other families in her area who have special needs children. It seems that whenever we visit, she has found another family to take us to who is in need of help for their disabled child.

It’s hard to describe the transformation that has taken place as Jessica grew stronger and healthier, and even a little bit chubby. The pictures say more than my inadequate words ever could.

Jessica upon admission, September 14, 2010

October 7, 2010

November 24. 2010

December 8, 2010

January 20, 2011
February 20. 2011

August 6, 2011

Jessica on her way home, September 3, 2011!

Were her brothers and sisters happy to have Jessica home? You decided. . .

So it was a real treat to go with Dick as Jessica returned to her community of “La Benedicion” (the Blessing) after a year of her being away. When I first came to this aldea, I was struck by the irony of a place of such desperate poverty being called a blessing. A year later, I finally understand. . .those who live here are the blessing and they have surely blessed our lives.

Rosa’s Family

While visiting Maria’s family in Tecpan, I finally met Rosa, the sister of a young blind girl.  Bethel has built her family a house only a few feet from Maria’s. This was the first time I’ve visited this family, since usually no one was at home when we were here.  This time, Rosa had return to Tecpan to get guisquils (a squash like vegetable) to seel in the market in Chimal.  She was very eager to have me see their house here.

Rosa’s mother has been ill, and right now the family is living in Chimaltenango so that the youngest daughter (age 14) can care for the mother after school.   Rosa asked if we’d like to visit the family today when we returned to Chimal, and we decided to give her a lift back to town when we would leave Maria’s.

When we arrived, we walked into a large building which seemed to have many rooms.  I soon discovered that a different family lived in each room.  We climbed a number of stairs and made our way to the family’s room at the rear of the house. This space was a vast improvement from where the family had lived the last time they were in Chimaltenango. Their previous dwelling was a room in an abandoned building, with no electricity or water, and boarded up windows. This place has those “amenities” and is warm and dry at least.

We made our way to Rosa’s part of the house, and found her mother, 2 sisters and younger brother waiting her return. Sylvia, another daughter is blind and unable to do much around the house.  The youngest in the family is a boy of about 10 years.

IMG_1637It appears Mama is almost bed-ridden, though we’re not quite sure why.  She says she gets too dizzy to walk whenever she stands up.  It does not seem that she has seen a doctor, however. They have been receiving food assistance from Bethel ministries, and survive on what little Rosa can earn selling vegetables, doing laundry and doing other household work when she can find it. Today the youngest brother was also sick in bed with a high fever.

The biggest concern, however, was that the fourteen year old girl would be finishing “sixth” grade this October and would need to move on to “Primer Basico” (middle school, sort of) in January when school resumed.  The problem was, this is much more expensive the primary school.  This young lady (whose name I can’t remember, sorry)  loves studying and is a good student.  Dick tells of how she literally jumped for joy when she was told she would be able to attend school with the help of a sponsor. 


Now she worries that she will have to quit school.  She beamed when we told her we would try to find her an additional sponsor to help with the extra cost of continuing to secondary school. If any of you would like made a monthly donation to enable this bright young woman to continue her studies for another year, please email me and I’ll give you the details. Lately we have been feeling a significant burden over being able to keep the girls studying past the most elementary grades, and this is one young lady with a lot of potential, who hopes one day to be a bilingual secretary and earn a wage to help her care for her family.  We would love to be able, with your help, to see her dream come true.

Memorial at Maria’s—August 30, 2011


Maria and her family

Today Dick, Chris Mooney, Brian, Carleen and Esbin set off for Tecpan.  We had been invited to a memorial service marking the fourth anniversary of the death of the husband of Maria, one of the four widows in this community. 

IMG_1620Four years ago, Maria’s husband left for work, as he did each day, to deliver bananas with Jorge, one of the Bethel Ministries workers.  As he left, his mother said, “Be careful, son, your family needs you.”  Maria’s husband replied, “Don’t worry.  If something happens to me, God will care for my family.”  A short time later, he was killed when he was hit by a truck crossing the highway to meet Jorge.

Jorge, of course, shared this story with Chris Mooney, the director of Bethel, and they went to see what they could do to help this family.  Maria was barely more than a child herself, and now had four children to care for alone, the youngest a newborn baby.  She spoke hardly no Spanish (only Katchikel, a Mayan dialect) and had never been more than a few miles from her home.  This visit began a long time friendship between Maria’s family and those associated with Bethel.


A sponsor as found, and Dick began bringing food into the family once a month to help out.  Soon, Bethel built them a new house, on a dry, raised cement foundation (only a short time after this, an adjacent building was blown down by a storm and the new shelter kept the family safe).  An attempt was made to help Maria raise pigs to become more self-sufficient.  This failed, though, when feed proved to be too costly and one of the momma pigs ate her offspring (yuck!). 

My first encounter with Maria was shortly after the death of her husband, when I visited her home with on of the first Guatemala mission teams from Westside.  We had brought food to them, and saw their “new” house.  This experience deeply touched many of the members of this team.  Whenever I would come back, I did my best to visit this beautiful lady, her family, and her amazing neighbors.

About a year ago, Maria needed surgery, and we were able to help  her get it at Hermano Pedro.  Bethel frequently has brought teams out to visit, and Dick and I visit when we can.  I really is one of our favorite spots to go, and we sometimes make a trip here when we feel like we need to be refreshed a bit.  (See Aug. 11 posting)  This family and their neighbors are as much a blessing to us as we ever could be to them.

Now, the youngest of the children is four years old, the two oldest are in school, and the little girl who used to run hiding under a basket when Dick would come is now one of the first to greet us.  This family has become our friends, and I was honored to be included with Dick and the Mooneys in the invitation to this “culta” (prayer meeting) honoring her husband and praying for Maria, her family and their future.

We arrived a bit early (actually on time, but by Guatemalan standards, early) and I was able to visit the home of Rosa, another widow who Bethel has built a home for and been serving in this area.  Rosa, who has been ill, is now living with three of her children in one room back in Chimaltenago, but her oldest daughter had come to the home in Tecpan to get “guisquil” (a type of squash popular here) to sell in the market in Tecpan.

IMG_1625Shortly we were called back to Maria’s the service began.  We were met by the elders from Maria’s church, who led us in praise and prayer for about an hour.  These eight or nine men share the responsibility for the local church, and they rotate the responsibility for preaching among them.  Their prayers were beautiful and heartfelt, and I’d love to return some Sunday to worship with them.


After the prayer time we were treated to a delicious lunch of a type of stewed chicken and rice.  I felt somewhat awkward, as I was the only woman eating with all the men, but the Maria insisted that I do so. 


IMG_1628After we ate I did slip into the other building where the women were cooking and eating and visited with them for a bit.  They took great pleasure in trying to teach me once again how to wear a corte, the traditional skirt worn by Mayan women.  I think they are beginning to agree with me that gringas need four more hands to be able to hold up the skirt while trying to wrap a long belt around their waist and pull it tight to hold up the skirt.  I still fear I will walk out of mine, and am experimenting with ways to use velcro to help secure the garment.

Recent Reflections

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying lately about the place of desire in our lives. More than anything else in my redeemed (circumcised) heart, this area seems to get me into trouble, for I mishandle my desire.

I have tried to ignore my them, pretending they aren’t there, and find myself frustrated. I’ve tried to kill my desires, and find myself feeling dead inside. I’ve tried to get what I desire in my own power, through effort and grasping, and find myself empty and wanting more. Why, I ask, do I have to desire anything? Why can’t just the present moment be enough?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying lately about the place of desire in our lives. More than anything else in my redeemed (circumcised) heart, this area seems to get me into trouble, for I mishandle my desires. I have tried to ignore my them, pretending they aren’t there, and find myself frustrated. I’ve tried to kill my desires, and find myself feeling dead inside. I’ve tried to get what I desire in my own power, through effort and grasping, and find myself empty and wanting more. Why, I ask, do I have to desire anything? Why can’t just the present moment be enough?

In Scripture, God promises to give us “the desires of our hearts” (Ps. 37:4) yet so often I get into trouble when I set out to pursue what I think I desire. My grasping for what I want still leaves me frustrated, wondering why now that I have “made it happen,” I still feel so empty.

We have a choice in how we face our desires—will we try to make them happen, orchestrate our lives around them, or surrender them to our Father? After all, the purpose of my life is not to pursue what I want, but to follow Him, serving Him, and bringing glory to His name. So why do I have to desire anything but Him? Is the very fact that still have desires sinful?

As I've studied this issue, I've come to believe that our desires are not wrong—they come from the deepest parts of our heart. The problem is, we see them clouded by our flesh, so we often don’t interpret them correctly. Our appetites (flesh) contaminate the Godly desires He created in us. We don’t interpret our desires correctly, and therefore often get into trouble when we pursue them on our own, trying to make them happen. We may be able to get what we think we desire through our own efforts, only to find ourselves just as wanting as we were in the first place.

When we take theses same desires to God to interpret for us, and surrender them to Him, He can then meet our authentic, legitimate desires, for it was He Who put theses desires in our heart in the first place. He alone knows the real desire of our heart, so He alone can meet them.

“Trust in the Lord and do what is right; make your home in the land [by turning from evil and doing good—cf. v.27] and live secure. Make Yahweh your joy, and He will give you the desires of your heart!”—Ps. 37: 3 & 4