I will list in order the people we visited:
First, Tony. Tony lives way up on the top of a mountain in a village called Suculque. Tony has hydrocephalus and cannot walk. He lays on a low bed that has wheels all day. He is thirty years old and needs a wheelchair. He was so appreciative of Dick and Pat for all their help. He loves the Lord and his mom, and he tells her so. We prayed for him and his mother because life is hard for them. Virgi gave out little cars to all the boys, as well as Tony. Arlis passed out candy to all the kids. Silsa will be 15 next week, and Dick and Pat are invited to the party and will bring the cake. Silsa was having seizures that would last 12 hours. She developed a demonic depression and was not able to walk so was given a wheelchair. Pastors came to pray with the family many times, and today she can walk using only one crutch. She looked very happy and is able to do schoolwork at home. We were invited inside and on the wall was a saying which I believe said, “Jesus is the best.” God is working here.
Freddie was next. He has seizures. He is ten years old, but looks like he is four. Mom was very worried about him because last night he had another seizure. Dick asked her when she last gave him his medicine and she said that it was about two weeks ago. She said she used the money to buy disposable diapers because he doesn’t like the rough cloth ones. So Dick and Pat are going to deliver a supply of medicine to her to give Freddie regularly.
Lionel. On the way to Leonel’s house, John pointed out to us a cell tower that looks like a tree. It truly looks like a very tall tree, and looks like its surroundings. What a great idea! Lionel was our next stop. He has cerebral palsy. He was not at home because he lives in the orphanage in Antigua. We went to his family to deliver shoes and clothing as well as food and hygiene kits that Stephanie Van Beck made for her brother Jeff and father Loren to take along. We were invited inside the house that John and others had built for them a few years back. Actually, it was an addition to the old house. Inside the house there were two beds, so the kids must mostly sleep on the floor or else all in one bed.
The Medicine Lady. She had a grandson that Dick used to visit but has now passed away. He died at 13 years old. Dick and Pat brought her a bag of food. We all stayed by the car as it was up a steep hill and also Dick didn’t know how receptive she would be to a bunch of gringos.
Jose. Jose has a congenital bone disease and he cannot use his legs to walk. He is a spunky and bright 18 year old boy and likes to fix his own wheelchair. He even rigged his electric wheelchair with lights. His electric wheelchair was not working, so Dick fixed it. Thank the Lord for Dick, who seems to be able to fix anything. Jose lives up one a hill, but he can get up and down the path and roll all the way to school every day. When is electric wheelchair was broken, his brothers helped push him up the hill, which was not a small task. Now that his electric chair is fixed, he can do it alone. Jose has a very supportive and happy family. When we just at the house his little 2 ½ year old brother or cousin was hauling a black shoe shine box. The box was almost as big as he was! John was sitting on a bench and he promptly went about shining John’s shoes. John gave him 1 quetzal. I think he earned about 3 quetzales plus lots of kisses from all of us. We were given coffee with cookies and flowers while Dick repaired the power wheelchair. We really bonded with this wonderful family.
Pat was most helpful in interpreting our English into Spanish all day.
This has been a very full day and I feel very blessed that I could experience just a little bit of what it’s like to live here in Guatemala.
We have joined a team from Washington State, many from Dick’s home church, who have come to Guatemala to work with Bethel Ministries for a week. This worked out perfectly as Dick and I would have been coming up anyway on the 15th to celebrate the fifteenth birthday of one of our friends. So, we’ll just stay a little longer, and a fringe benefit is, the team will journal for us!
This morning we all met at Camperos for breakfast and then John, Arlis, Pat and Myself headed out towards Huehuetenango. The other 13 people from Washington State plus Chris and about 5 others from the Bethel crew headed out a few hours later after loading up trucks and vans with food and clothing that would be given away to needy families, close to 100 wheelchairs and enough material to build 2 houses.
The 4 of us left early to get out of the work of having to load all of these supplies into the trucks and vans. :>) Actually the reason that we left earlier than the rest of the group was so that we could stop and visit several families on our way to Huehuetenango.
Our first stop was at the home of Erica and her family. Erica is the girl that has a serious skin disease that leaves much of her skin looking like that of an alligator. There is no cure for her condition but thanks to John and Arlis her condition is much improved due to the medicine that they have been providing for several years now. It was a real treat for the 2 of them to once again be able to spend time with Erica and her family. Christopher lives not to far from Erica so while we were in the neighborhood John and I hiked up to his house to see how he was doing. Last time that I was there he said that he was having some problems with his power wheelchair. It seems though that the what ever problem he was having seemed to have cleared up on their own because now that I had the time and tools to fix it he claimed that there was no longer a problem. Christopher himself is also doing much better. For a while there he was having seizures at least every other day. Next we drove to a village where 2 brothers lived that Pat, Dave and I had met a little over a month ago. Both have muscular dystrophy and neither of them have much hand use or any use of their legs and both need wheelchairs. They have both been invited to the wheelchair distribution that we have planned for Sunday but that will be up in Huehuetenango and that is close to 2 hours from where they live. Erica's family had originally introduced us to this family and when we were there earlier today they told us that the boy's parents said that there was no way that they could get them to the wheelchair distribution. Today's visit was to tell them that we would bring the wheelchairs to them and fit them in about a week when we are on our way back from Huehuetenango.
Shortly after getting back on the road that leads to Huehuetenango we met up with the vans so everyone arrived at the hotel at about the same time.
The members of the teem are going to break into 3 groups this week. Several of them are planning on journaling so I am going to publish some of the things that they write.
Yours in Christ: Dick
and Amy’s dog, Boby
My connection with Mirna actually started the day I met Dick in 2007. Deb Reeg, Dave Penner and I had just visited Hermano Pedro for the first time and had taken some kids to lunch with Dick. When we returned, Dick asked if we wanted to go with him to visit a “traditional Mayan village” not far from Antigua. We jumped at the chance, and he took us to visit Mirna, to measure her for her first power chair.
That day was very humbling for me. We visited the family an unpainted cement block bedroom where Mirna was watching TV. It was my first time entering a home, and I was more than a little uncertain of how to act. It was especially uncomfortable for me, too, since I was the only one of the four of us who spoke much Spanish, and believe me, my Spanish wasn’t that good. (Just good enough so people expected that I would understand what they said, not good enough that I did understand!)
I was almost brought to tears by their poverty, though I’ve come to realize now that I live here, that this family does better than many we work with. I was more moved, though, by their obvious love and affection for Mirna, and the great care she was given. That was no small task for her mother who had 9 children, including Mirna with Cerebral Palsy, and three older children who were deaf.
We visited Mirna, and while Dick measured her for a chair, her mom sent one of her sisters out to get us juice and cookies. It was so hard to accept this simple gift of hospitality, since I was pretty sure they had spent more than a meal’s worth of quetzales to buy us this treat. God spoke to me in that moment, teaching me that real humility was gratefully accepting a gift from someone who could not afford to give it to you. I ate every bite and drank every drop, praying all the time that I wouldn’t get sick from eating “local” food. (I didn’t, but I was sooooo careful then! The people who trained me on “hygiene practices in a Third World country” would cringe if they followed me around now! And I’ve not gotten sick from food given me in villages, praise God, but I have from food eaten in so called good restaurants!)
We aren’t bringing her a power chair yet. Her arms and hands have deteriorated to the point where she cannot drive a hand operated chair, and will need some kind of head controlled model. Before investing the time in rigging that up, though, Dick wants to make sure that sitting in a chair will be possible for her without causing the bedsore to erupt again.
This chair, though, will give her the ability to move around her house more, sit at the table to eat with her family, and hopefully even get out into the community sometimes. Our goal is for her to be able to attend the afternoon girls’ Bible Study Amy DeYoung teaches once a week at the school.
To say Mirna was excited with her chair is an understatement. She beamed like a teenager with a new car. And, placing her in the chair, we all realized how contorted her arms and legs have become without therapy. We discussed it and I will be returning a couple times of week to do stretching exercises with her to see if we can get her into a better sitting position.
And once again I realized, the chair and the therapy are important for Mirna. What is more important, though, is her knowing that we care, and more importantly that God sees her in her need and isolation and has sent us to her. What a privilege. . .
We stopped on the way to visit the Marvin’s family, and take them to buy school supplies. (Marvin is a shy little guy who we had given a wheelchair to a few months back. At that time the family had been living in not more than a shack. Now the house they lived in was even worse.) Yesterday, as Dick had driven by their house, their mother had flagged him down, asking if he could help pay for the books and materials her three boys needed to go to school. We had picked up some materials on our way down this morning, but there were still a few things needed, and Carlos, the older boy, also had a list of more things that he needed for school. He directed us to the local “libreria” or bookstore, which was in a home which also doubled as a beauty parlor. Carlos managed the purchases like a pro, coming to Dick periodically, to check if the price of something was okay. It was as if he couldn’t believe he was really willing to buy the things that his family needed for school.
When we returned to the house, Momma and the boys were so excited and grateful for the help. Mom said the boys needed new uniforms, but Dick suggested that maybe the family could get them since we had help with the rest of what was needed. We will be back in a few weeks, though, to check that the boys have what they need. There is a working father in this family, though we have been told by neighbors that he drinks up most of what he earns. We don’t want the boys to not have what they need for school, but we also want to challenge papa to step up to his responsibilities. We’ll see when we return.
We headed on to Rony’s home and visited with the family a short time before we left with the girls to go to Pollo Campero in Santa Lucia. The girls were so excited, and quickly changed into their best clothes—their school uniforms—to go out to eat. All of them did, except Jessica who is not in school this year. She is staying home to watch the two youngest boys while Momma goes to town and sell lemons. We had tried our hardest to keep her in school, and it hurts to see her losing an opportunity to continue her education, but this really is a family decision. We continue to pray, though, that she will return next year. I was so proud, and frankly amazed, that while we were eating lunch she started to tell me about how each day, she works with the little ones on “school,” teaching them to count and write their name! She has said for years she’d like to be a teacher. . .and she is teaching where she can. I was proud of her, though it was hard to find enough words to tell her just how much so.
It was great fun watching the four girls, along with Mariana, who had come along with us from Antigua, run and play and just enjoy life. This is a rare treat for all of them, and I had forgotten how much fun it was to spend time with just girls. Most of the time I’m with Dick and the boys, and their outings have a different spirit than today’s excursion. I can’t remember when I’ve heard so much screaming and giggling! And I’m proud, too, of Dick, who managed to handle all the estrogen in is car with grace and perseverance. He enjoyed, too, driving in a way to make the girls scream in delight.
On our way back to Antigua, we stopped to see Angela and her family. Dick had driven the family home from Hermano Pedro yesterday, after the car of their driver had been stolen outside the hospital. They had come to town with 8 people, most of them little children, and Angela, who cannot walk. It would have been difficult for then to travel home on the bus, so Dick willingly made the four hour plus round trip just to take them home, even though he would be driving the same route again today. They were more than grateful, and even more so today when we brought some backpacks and school supplies for the children, and a new wheelchair for Angela. We love to visit this family, and once again today, they greeted us to Cokes to show their gratitude. What a great way to end our day.
Dick dropped Mariana and me off in Antigua on his way back to Chimal. After supper at Mari’s, Kara joined Mariana and me for another girls’ movie night. We were all tired, but content with the experiences of the day.
A few weeks back, we went to Retahuleu with Mario and his daughter Maryanna. Mario adopted Maryanna when she was tiny and is raising her as a single parent. While we were traveling, we talked about Maryanna needing a woman’s influence in her life, and we decided she could spend some weekends with me doing “girl stuff.”
While we have not gotten together as often as I have hoped (I really don’t know where the time goes), she is very special to me and I hope to get to spend more time with her.
This weekend we did shopping in the market (Maryanna knows her way around there better than I do! She insisted on carrying the food back to the car for both Mari and me) and had dinner at Mari’s. Mari is, as the Guatemalans say, “enchanted” at having a little girl around, and instantly fell in love with Maryanna. Friday we had a girls’ only movie night at my house, and invited some of the young women students staying at Mari’s to join us.
Saturday we headed out to visit the Vincente-Hernandez family in Cerro Colorado. Dick and I had been promising the girls in this family that we would take them out for a treat, and we thought it would be great fun to have Maryanna join us for a trip into Santa Lucia to Camperos. We were right. The girls ran and laughed and squealed as if they had been best friends all their lives. (I was a little worried the management would ask us to leave, but we got out of there before anyone complained!)
Sunday Maryanna was a big help setting up the classrooms at church for Sunday School She’s such a hard worker, I wonder how often she has time to just be a kid. Hopefully we will have more times where she can do just that.
Maryanna getting a “driving lesson” from Dick.
Shh! Don’t tell her dad!
Judy, who is only four years old, is afraid of me. Hopefully, we will come to an understanding quickly
All of the children in the school have some reason they cannot succeed in the public schools in Santa Maria. The classes here are small, the teachers very dedicated, and the commitment to serving God in the children is foremost. However, there are a few kids who are not progressing even with this extra love and attention, and they will be my focus.
Ronald had encephalitis when he was about two and was completely deaf and blind for over 3 years. He has been miraculously healed, but has much to catch up on. His younger brother is in the preschool room.
Azucena, who has some autistic like tendencies, was lost for over three days about a year ago. She could not tell anyone who she was or where she was from. By the grace of God, another missionary recognized her at a children’s home she had visited and Azucena was returned to her family.
Education in Guatemala is very different than in the US. Much work is based on memory and repetition. Hand writing and copying text is very important. Many exercises are based on coloring, painting, covering pictures with tissue paper, etc. Great for developing fine motor skills, but it doesn’t do much for a child’s ability to read and do math (especially if they have fine motor or memory deficiencies).
“Seño” Rosangelica demonstrating the concepts of big and small using concrete objects. Very innovative for Guatemala. . .
I’ve met with Marisol, the Guatemalan director of the school who was Judy’s first teacher when she started the school thirteen years ago. I had been somewhat concerned that the way I work with kids would not be well-received, or taken as a criticism of what the teachers were already doing. Silly me. God had already taken care of this. When I asked Marisol what she would like me to do, she identified exactly the three things I had talked with Judy about doing as we drove up to the school. She’s pretty much given me free reign to do what I think I need to.
”Seño” Dahlia cooks and serves a substantial snack to the children each day, in addition to the breakfast they receive at the beginning of the school day
It was a hard decision to make, committing to be at the school on a daily basis. I’ve committed to one month of daily service at the school. After that, we’ll see how things go. I will not be able to travel (I think I’ve actually disappointed Dick by this a bit), and I know I won’t see as much of the kids at Hermano Pedro, but I really feel God has called to the school for a season.
Pray I find the right balance in all this.
Today’s post is written by Dick. Trips to the Immigration Office to renew my visa are always interesting. Today though I was struck by the lack of “separation of church and state” we experience here in Guatemala. Nativity displays in government offices and the ability of missionaries to visit and teach Bible lessons and values in public schools are two examples. No, I can’t say Guatemala is a particularly Christian country, despite the religious celebrations and processions, but they do at the very least acknowledge the reality of God. Somehow the different religious groups seem to coexist somewhat peacefully. Maybe when you’re struggling to survive it’s easier to put aside doctrinal differences and focus on our dependence on God for our very lives.
This morning Pat, Dave and I headed for the big city. All 3 of us had at least 1 reason or another to go to the immigration office. Not our favorite thing to do but misery loves company. Besides that I am the only one who has a car. (Not to mention that I’m the one who can communicate effectively—sort of—with the government workers.~~Pat)It is more than 3 weeks after Christmas and this Guatemalan government building still has it's Nativity display up. It has been quite a few years since I have been in the USA for Christmas but it is my understanding that nativity display's are not allowed to stay up in government buildings 3 weeks after Christmas. The World Race teem is sharing Jesus in several of the Guatemalan public schools this week. Perhaps they can ask one of the students if they know if that is true. (Yes that was meant to be a little sarcastic, but it does leave one wondering who should be sending missionaries where.)
We got back from the City just in time to go to the opening ceremonies of the School that Cesar and Fernando are attending. Most of my kids started school this week. Calin and Miguel are the only one not going yet but they will start next week and now I will once again have to wait in line to use my computer.
It turned out that he was the team leader of a group from The World Race which is beginning its trek of 11 countries in 11 months here in Guatemala. Last year we had a group from this organization working at Hermano Pedro, and they were wonderful. This was a group I had to get to know.
After church, we visited for a while. The group told me about their assignments, and we discovered that they would be serving at Hermano Pedro a couple of days a week. I told them a few things about the orphanage, and agreed to meet them there today to help them settle in. Then they stopped me dead in my tracks once again, when they asked how they should pray Sunday night in preparation for what they would experience at Hermano Pedro. This is not your “usual” mission team. . .
Today at the orphanage, I found out just how true this was. The team jumped right in and got involved with the kids, though I know this was not easy for them. As Lindsay, one of the team members, put it in her blog,
I wasn’t sure that they would understand me or even know I was there. After 20 minutes, I found Melvin…he’s the hospital “Romeo”...I began to rub his head and as when he smiled at me the first time, my heart melted. It was in that moment that everything was OK...in an instant I just understood how to love them. I just needed to give them some attention and let them know that I am “here”…exactly the way God loves us.
One memory of this group will always be burned into my mind an heart. As I approached the kids who are in the cribs nearest the nurses station (those who are most in need of constant care), I saw this “gentle giant” of a man standing over David’s crib, just gazing at him, and I knew instantly that he was praying for David. I came to know this young man, Ryan, as having one of the tenderest hearts of any I have met. He felt an immediate connection with David, who is pretty much non-responsive, and as a result does not get much attention from volunteers. But Ryan was there, and promised both David and me that he would some spend time on each of his visits to Hermano Pedro with this dear little one who seems so alone.
Yes, this isn’t your ordinary missions team. . .
To God be the thanksgiving,
To God goes the glory!
Today we are meeting Clara, Amanda, and Maximo at the Aqua Viva office to go and visit some children there and older persons who they think need wheelchairs. Clara who runs Aqua Viva has organized this just since yesterday. We head out at 8 a.m. Maximo is a local man who Clara has connected with for his local knowledge of the people and their needs.
At our first stop, we find a 84 year old man, taken in by a family because he has no relatives to look after him. He has no use of his legs after being hit by a motorcycle. Dick measures him for a chair, and hopefully he can receive one at the next distribution here, if possible. We then visit a 80 year old grandma lying in bed who can also use a wheelchair to get around.
Now we head out of Huehue and up into the hills to a village called Canabaj. Here we find a 2 year old boy, Ramiro, with C.P. Dick talks to dad that anything is possible with kids like these, even walking and talking. This brings a smile to dad's face, (and also to Dick), and behold while Dick was talking, Cailin has befriended Ramiro, and even is helping him to walk! Dick measures him for a chair, and will bring a walker also. Next we meet Josefa next, a 87 year old grandma who could use a chair and possibly a walker. At our last stop, we find Evilio, a 91 year old man, who is still pretty sharp. Dick asks him what his secret to such good shape is, and he raises his arms, as if lifting weights. Dick interprets this as Evilio going to the gym every day! He has difficulty walking and could use a chair. At this last home about a dozen neighborhood kids show up, and are pretty shy until we send Pat to them. By the time we leave, they are laughing, and taking pictures with us. They never had a chance once Pat, the Guatemalan grandma, went after them. According to Amanda, there have been gringos here before, but never much interaction with the locals, especially the kids. As Dick says afterwards, "We did not seat a lot of people today, but I think we have shone a little of Jesus light to the people we met."
Dick is finding more and more of these types of visits fulfilling. Not necessarily giving out anything, but just talking and visiting with the people. After today, I would agree with him.
We had intended on going home on Friday, but God has kept us here a couple of extra days.
Thank you, Lord.
(And we didn’t forget Dick’s birthday. We had pop and pizza at the hotel tonight. Believe it our not, even in this remote city in northern Guatemala, Domino delivers (in less than 30 minutes!~~Pat)