I thank you, God, for most this amazing day. . .Nov. 21, 2011

This line from an e. e. cummings poem sums up today for me.  It was the kind of day I dreamed about having before I moved down here.


Many of the kids were going home today to spend Christmas with their families.  While I’m always sad to see them leave, I couldn’t help but rejoice with them in their excitement to be going home for a few weeks.  I got to visit with a number of their parents, and enjoyed talking with each one of them. 

I also got to see off the kids who were going to the Bethel Ministries/Hope Haven camp in Chimaltenango this week.  The kids have been looking forward to this and talking about it since August, and were beyond excited to be leaving with Dick and two of the volunteers, Matt and Jackie, who had come to pick them up.


And there were those who were sad to be “left behind,” either because they have no where to go, or because their families are not able to come yet.  Ervin, especially, would sob inconsolably every time I walked away from him.  Since I’m just getting over another cold, I had not planned on staying very long, but how could I leave him?  Julio, while less vocal about his sadness, sat outside looking totally lost. 

DSC00855So we got out the bubbles, one of Julio’s favorite activities.  It always takes him a while to be able to blow a bubble, having to work so hard to coordinate the muscles of his face, mouth and lips.  When he finally got one, he was so excited.  Ervin was more interested in playing in the bubble solution, but enjoyed himself as well.  Miguel joined us, and managed to blow a few bubbles, again struggling as hard as Julio to do so.  When I started “catching” a bubble on my wand for him to break with his hand, we has ecstatic, and it was great practice for him in using his hands in a controlled manner.


When they were all sufficiently wet from the bubbles, we switched to some activities requiring them to take turns and cooperate with each other.  Even Ervin stuck with us this time, and the kids did a great job of working together.  This is one of the things that bring me the most pleasure—seeing them interacting not just with me but with each other.


Finally, we went to the table and the kids helped me reorganize the foam puzzles.  I’d forgotten that Bobby was inside, and one of the nurses brought him out since she saw he wanted to work with us.  So the kids helped put the pieces into the puzzles, and again we worked on eye hand coordination and control.  The best part was, the kids didn’t know they were doing “therapy,” and had a ball playing with the materials.


While I can tell you a couple of “educational” goals I worked on with each of the boys, what gave me the most pleasure was seeing four sad and lonely boys playing together and enjoying each other’s company.  I’m so glad I got to share this with them.

Don Leo’s Birthday, November 20, 2011


Yesterday was Leo’s 70th birthday, and his son, Leo, had invited the family, including me, to go out to dinner after church today.

We drove to Esquintla, about 45 min. from Antigua, hoping to eat at a restaurant which was a family favorite.  When we got there, though, we discovered that it had closed since the family’s last visit.  So we headed to the highway looking for somewhere else to eat.

We found a “cervicheria” that looked pretty good and went in.  It was a most interesting place.  While we waited for our food, we were serenaded by a small band which was playing for and visiting with a man at the next table.  It was quite interesting to watch them, especially when one of them got their shoes shined while continuing to play without missing a note.  Numerous peddlers came to our table, selling everything from pirated CD’s to nuts. 



When the food finally came, we were not disappointed.  Leo had ordered “Caldo de Mariscos” (shellfish soup).  This was enough to feed two or three of us, but Leo, who has not been eating much, took great pleasure in polishing off the entire bowl.



On our way out of town, we stopped at McDonalds for ice cream (though I passed; after my garlic shrimp I couldn’t eat another bite).  As I watched Douglas, Mari and Leo’s youngest grandson, play on the equipment, I suddenly became intensely homesick for one of the first times since I’ve lived here.


Douglas is the same age as my grandson, Zach.  One of the “Grandma-Zach” traditional outings is going to McDonalds so Zach can play.  As I watched Douglas, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was missing out on with Zach.  I profoundly felt the loss of those special times with him.

Zach & Nate glider

But, as I sat there, I reminded myself about why I’m here.  I do miss Zach and Nate.  And I also know that those two little boys are well loved and taken care of by their parents.  I love the times I’m in Omaha and can lavish attention on them.  These two kids don’t want for anything.



Then I thought about the kids at Hermano Pedro, who this very afternoon where probably lying alone in their cribs.  With no one to play with them or give them attention unless they were lucky enough to have a few volunteers working with them today.  While physically well cared for, the social and emotional needs of the kids here are sorely lacking.  And I missed “my” kids here in Guatemala.


And I looked at Alejandro (age 11) and Douglas (age 5), and was very grateful to have them part of my life here.  I looked at the rest of the Hernandez family, and thanked God that He has placed them in my life.  At the same time that I sorely miss my biological family, I have been welcomed into the heart of my Guatemalan family.  I am blessed. . .

Adrian and His Grandma

I "borrowed" this one from Dick, though he doesn't know it yet!  We're both behind on our posting, though, so I'll take his "help" whenever I can get it!

Most of our wheelchair distributions take place in large buildings where 50 or 60 wheelchairs are given out and fitted in a single day. Although I enjoy these very much I must admit that some of my favorites are the days when we go out and give out just one or 2 wheelchairs. Today was one of those special days. Fact is today we brought the average down a little bit by giving out 0 wheelchairs. I know that 0 is not an impressive number but I still consider it a very valuable day. Let me explain.

About 2 weeks ago I received an E-mail from Joel Vandyke. Joel told me about a gang member who was in prison in Guatemala City who told him that he had a 9 year old son who needed a wheelchair. Adrian, lives with his grandmother in one of the red zones of the City. Red zones are places in the City that are considered unsafe for outsiders to go into. However they are also places where there is much need. Since they are not the best places for strangers to be asking for directions Pat, Elsa (A therapist who works with Hope Haven International), Sarah (A therapist who is here working with Bethel Ministries for the week) , Calin, Kevan, Cesar and I arranged to meet Adrian and his grandmother at a McDonald's in a better part of the City. Edwin, the prison Chaplin had agreed to drive Adrian and his grandmother there.

Edwin and his wife showed up with the little boy and his Grandmother right on time. (Actually they were about an hour late but that is about as close to being on time as things get here in Guatemala.) Shortly after meeting them grandmother told us that the the wheelchiar that I had brought with me was no longer needed because her grandson had received an identical wheelchair at a Hope Haven wheelchair distribution just a few days earlier. She apologized to us for making the trip to the City for nothing. We all looked at each other. I think that we were all thinking the same thing. This had not been a wasted trip. Even though we had just met the 2 of them we were already in love with them both and even though Adrian apparently had some form of bran damage and could not walk or talk, he was one of the friendliest kids that we had ever met. And it was immediately apparent that his grandmother had a deep love for him. Grandmother told us that she had been working with him a lot and that she felt that he would benefit from a walker. After examining him I agreed. After talking with Grandma Pat felt that she would be able to figure out a way for him to communicate as well. We told grandmother that it would be easier for us to assess what type of walker and communication system would be best for him if we knew a little more about his environment though. 10 minutes later Grandmother, Adrian, Pat, Elsa, Calin, Kevan, Cesar and I were in my car and driving to where this family lived.

It took about a half hour to reach their home and most of Grandmother's time was spent holding him and looking out of the window of my car while naming things to her grandson. Even though his mother had deserted him, his father was in jail and he did not live in the best of neighborhoods it was apparent that Adrian was not starving for love. When we reached their home we were greeted by 3 more kids whom we were told were cousins of Adrian. We were told that both of grandma's sons are in jail. This was not one of the safest neighborhoods that I have been in but Grandma was doing her best to make her house a real home for these 4 kids. It was hard to say goodby but we promised that we would be back soon with a walker, some food, some communication ideas and some more Christian love. Had this been a wasted day? Perhaps so if we had been looking at how many wheelchairs we had given out, but I do not believe that is what it is all about.

"There are people in the world so hungry 
that God cannot appear to them
except in the form of bread."

Written by Dick

VBS—Guatemalan Style, Nov. 14-19


A few weeks ago, Maria Dolores, the children’s director at IDC (Iglesia del Camino) asked if I would help with Vacation Bible School. (We are in the midst of the kids’ “summer” vacation; they go back to school in January.)


While I’ve been teaching the school age girls’ Sunday School since last January, I was a bit hesitant at first to agree, knowing the amount of work that goes into VBS (apologies to Westside).  I’ve been away from Children’s Ministry for more than six years now, and am six years older and six year slower than when I worked in preschool.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with the kids, and I think I’m the oldest person working with the kids here in any capacity.


After much prayer and trying to convince God I was too busy with the kids at Hermano Pedro to add one more thing to what I am doing, I finally obeyed and agreed to teach.  I’m so glad I did. (As far as “abandoning” my HP kids, I had a cold most of the week and wouldn’t have been able to go into the orphanage anyway.  Guess God showed me!)


We used a curriculum adapted from the Wordless Book from Child Evangelism Fellowship.  We teachers traded off teaching the different ages, so I got to know many of the kids at the church.  Since we taught in both English and Spanish, things took a bit longer than what I was used to, but we managed.  The most difficult thing for me was remembering which language to stick with so I didn’t confuse my interpreter!


“Snack” here had a whole different meaning from the sweets usually served in the US.  Guatemalans traditionally have their coffee break (“refaccion”) at 10:30, and it is as substantial as their breakfast. All the snacks were made by women in the church.  This week we had taquitos, cuchitos (at tamale like food), and tostadas.  The food alone was worth working VBS! 


One of the favorite times for the kids seemed to be the missionary story at the end of each day.  I found this very interesting in our context, where I am considered a missionary.  The story was about a missionary in India and a child he impacted.  The kids loved it, and loved asking us if we (the North Americans) were really  “missionaries” or just here because we like Guatemala!  This led to many interesting discussions about just what is a missionary.


We ended the week with a family outing on Saturday to San Miguel Duenas, which is at the foot of the Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes.  I had a great time getting to know some of the parents of the kids that I’ve been teaching in Sunday School all year.


Congratulations Esbin and Jason!


This year two of Dick’s boys “graduated” from the equivalent of Jr. High.  Esbin graduated from a public school, and was so excited that we were able to come up for the graduation ceremony.

DSC00289For Esbin, school is quite a challenge, and we’re so proud of him hanging in there and graduating. His determination to stay in school is especially remarkable considering that he has been abandoned by his mother.  He was taken in by another family, and shortly after he moved in with them, the father of the family drowned.  A few months later, the mother died from an infection on her leg.  This “blended” family is being held together by the young adult son and daughter, who have continued to care for  Esbin and his brother, as well as their biological siblings.

IMG_0929Jason graduated, with honors, from a private Christian school he has attended.  This is remarkable for the young man who, a year ago, was missing and we feared dead.  After Dick received a call from a pastor in Guatemala City and convinced him to come home, he began going to the same school as Cesar and Fernando, thanks to the generosity of a sponsor in the U.S.  This seems to have made all the difference for him, and he has excelled academically and socially.  He truly is a work of God.  Jason has become one of my favorites of Dick’s kids, and I was very disappointed to miss his ceremony since I was sick.  Dick provided me with photos, however.


Jason receiving his class ring from his parents
as a proud Dick looks on

Both of these young men will be continuing their schooling in January.  Jason wants to study tourism, though recently, after working with the Hermano Pedro kids at camp, is considering teaching or nursing.


Dick with Jason and Cesar.  Cesar didn’t graduate, but received an award for his excellent grades.

We are especially proud of these young men, since many stop their studies and go to work at this point.  I can’t help but think that this is in large part due to Dick’s influence and his constant interest in their schoolwork.  Way to go, Guys!

Graduation at New Life, Santa Maria de Jesus


During this past school year (January through October in Guatemala) I’ve had the privilege of spending some time with the students at New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus.  Today I got to join with them in celebrating the graduation of ten of their sixth grade students.

This graduating class was special to the school for a number of reasons.  First, it is the last graduating class that remembers where the school started, not in the beautiful facility they now call home, but in a small house in the community.  This group has watched their school grow from a few children to more than 90.  They have a special appreciation for the legacy of New Life. 


Blakey addressing the Sixth Grade graduates
as her mother looks on

Today was special, too, because it marked the end of Blakey’s studies in Basico (the equivalent of our high school program).  Blankey was the young girl who first inspired Judy Kerschner to begin educating special students in Santa Maria, and was the only student when the school began that first year.  Next year, Blankey will be joining the staff while working in the office.










To celebrate this occasion, there were a number of musical performances but both students and teachers.  This reflected well the community which is New Life School.












The critical role the parents have played in their children’s ability to receive an education was honored when the parents accompanied their graduates to the “stage.”


In addition to receiving their diploma, each student also received a Bible and prayer from either Judy or Amy DeYoung, who also supervises the school program in Santa Maria.  This was a most special and sacred time.


When the graduation ceremony was over, we were treated to a scrumptious lunch prepared for the staff and visitors by the parents of the graduates.  It is an honor to be considered part of this community of students, teachers and more importantly, followers of Jesus Christ.

Westside Team, Oct. 8-15


One of the reasons I wanted to make sure I was back in Guatemala on time was to be here to greet the team for Westside Church in Omaha (my home church) which came down in early October to work with Bethel ministries.  I had been looking forward to their arrival since VBX at Westside last June.  The kids had raised over $14,000 to be used for ministry here in Guatemala, and I was grateful to get to be a small part of what they would do here.

I was especially excited that some old friends were in this group.  Of course, there was Caleb Smagacz, the Children’s Pastor at Westside, and Mike and Wanda Kearns were also coming for the first time.  Mike and I worked together in Care Ministry at Westside, and Wanda has been one of the ladies faithfully sewing diapers and sending children’s vitamins to us.  I was so excited to introduce them to “my” kids.  A last minute addition to the team was Kelly Toole, who works in the Preschool at Westside.  She had been down here with her daughter almost 5 years ago, and I was so anxious to show her how the kids had grown up.  In addition to these old friends, I made some amazing new ones this week.

outside Hermano PedroSunday we met the group at Hermano Pedro after church.  I stood amazed as many of these folks who had never been exposed to children with severe disabilities fell in love with and loved on the kids.  Dick and I saw would be the case immediately, when we began the tour in the older girls’ area.  Usually groups stand in the middle of the ward kind of shell shocked.  It brought tears to my eyes to look up and immediately see this group spread out in every part of the ward, talking to, touching, loving the girls, in spite of their language differences.  I was like Jesus was all over the room. . .and He was through these loving people.  It was hard to get them to move on to the next area.

Adam and Julio



Mike and Bobby




DSC00022Presley and baby









We spent most of our time in the Annibel, with the little kids.  It seemed each person found a “special” kids to love on, and you could see on their faces how the kids were affecting the people on this team.  I will always remember Ron, a “gentle giant” of a man, hold Paulo, one of the kids who tugs at my heart the most.  Paulo has little if any vision, and frequently spends his afternoons crying alone in his bed.  I often come and sing to him, but am unable to hold him because of his size.  This wasn’t a problem at all for Ron, though, who scooped him up and cuddled and just loved him.  This is the first time I have ever seen anyone hold Paulo, and he just melted into Ron. 

The next few days the team dove into housebuilding, in spite of the torrential rains.  I didn’t accompany them to these builds, as I had other commitments, but did spent the nights at the hotel in Chimaltenago with them.  Each night I got to know them a little better, and by the time they left, felt close to each one of them.  Their companionship and friendship blessed me greatly, and I pray they will continue to be involved in our ministry and perhaps return here again.  I’d love to host any of them!