A Supporting Role. . .

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This year has brought some shifts in the work I am doing here in Guatemala.  I seem to be moving from a role of direct services, to one of supporting those providing the direct services.

I still work with kids, but the focus of what I am doing is changing.  A few years ago when I worked on a church staff, our senior pastor constantly admonished us that our job, as staff members, was to “equip the saints to do the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4).  I think I finally learning to live that out now.

DSC02327At the school in Santa Maria, while I’m working with the kids, my main goal is to model for the teachers new and different ways of working with students who have not made progress—who don’t “get it” from the traditional Guatemalan teaching methods.  None of what I do is rocket science, but it is very different from the way things are taught here.  None of it has to do with sharing “theory” or “philosophy.”  It’s all based on showing what works. 

DSC02383I have been led to watch the teachers at the school, and learn from them, and then build upon what they are already doing well.  And it seems to be working.  I know I’m learning a lot, and understanding more about how all people learn.  I’m challenging more of my ideas about what is important and how to do things, and learning more to problem-solve with what is at hand.  And the teachers indicate that the students are making progress, and asking about what and how I do things.  Why is not important here. . .if it works, they’ll do it.  (So different from how we do things in the States.)

DSC03280I’m also working at my church, Iglesia del Camino, helping Maria Dolores, the children’s ministry director.  Again, I’ve had to learn how faith is communicated to kids in this country.  Again, it’s very different from how we do it.  But again, we are learning from each other.  She has a good handle on what the kids need, but she is young and does not always know how to do it.  I’ve learned that, while quite often I could come in and TELL her how to do something, we both benefit more if I ask the right questions to help her figure out what needs to be done and how to do it.

I still work directly with the kids, too.  My favorite groups has turned out to be the pre-teen boys (who would have figured?).  I get to test out what we think will work first hand.

I spend a lot of my time, though, on the computer.  Researching activities, constructing them, translating lessons, record keeping and a variety of other stuff that I don’t particularly enjoy but frees Maria Dolores to do “the work of the ministry.”

It’s harder, perhaps, when doing the “behind the scenes” work, to feel as if I’m doing what God brought me here to do.  It’s harder to feel like I’m doing anything that matters.  But, when I pull back and reflect on it all at the end of the day, and bother to ask God about it, it seems pretty clear that this is where He would have me at this time.




But every orchestra needs a second fiddle for balance.  I pray I play mine well for His glory.

I Got Robbed--Again

social-media-pick-pocketThis time it was on the streets of Antigua; during Holy Week.  Lots of crowds and the “pick-pocket” type robbers slit my purse and took my wallet.

They didn’t get that much cash, but did take my ATM card from my Guatemala bank, my driver’s license and my passport.

What I think bothers me the most, however, is that this money will not benefit the truly poor.  Actually, most of the pick pockets seem to do rather well for themselves.  It’s amazing how skilled they are at their trade and how fast they can disappear.  I’m pretty sure I know when it happened.  I felt kind of a tug as I was talking to a lady with a baby.  I turned quickly, but saw Don Leo had come up beside me, so didn’t think much of it.  I only realized my wallet was gone when we went to buy some pop at a corner store.

images (1)Don Leo and Mari felt horrible about this, since they had talked me into going to the processions when I had only intended a trip to the grocery store.  While I really wasn’t very upset by being robbed (it comes with the territory, I’m afraid if I choose to live unafraid in Guatemala),  I was beating myself up about taking my ATM card with me, and for complying with  the stupid new regulation that foreigners must carry their passport.  And, oh, what a pain it is to replace my drivers’ license.  At one point, I even wondered if that lady with the darling baby had been “in on it.”

protectionThis stopped suddenly, though, when I realized the truth of the situation.  Anything that was taken could be replaced.  It will be a hassle, but it is possible.  I was not hurt, though the thick purse I was carrying was slashed by what must have been a pretty sharp knife only centimeters from my ribs.

What I really realized was:  I’m not going to let ANYTHING interfere with my celebration of Holy Week and the Resurrection.  While Paul tells us:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?. , . 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I realized, as I read through the rich chapter of Romans 8, from which the above quote comes, that one thing and one thing only can separate me from the love of Christ and steal from me the joy of my salvation—my own attitude.

Would I let the resentment of have what “belonged” to me taken from me overshadow the joy of what I had been given, and was being commemorated this week—my life in Christ Jesus?  Or would I surrender the situation into the hands of the Father?  Would I trust that: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  I don’t quite know what the purpose of this incident was. I don’t believe God “caused” someone to steal my things to teach me a lesson.

I do, believe, though, that He has used it for His glory.  To teach me in real life the value of my life in Him, and the insignificance of our circumstances.  To teach me, first hand, that my joy is my choice, and not the result of the circumstances I am in.  That only I can separate myself from the love of Christ.

This has been well worth whatever it has cost me. . .

protected by god

Hermano Pedro Update

Camperos continues to be a favorite outing for the residents of Hermano Pedro.  It's such fun for them to actually be able to choose what they want to eat.  Some, like Julio pictured above, are fed pureed food at the orphanage, and love to enjoy a bit of "real" food now and then.

Bobby really enjoys feeding himself these days.  It's a struggle, but he's so proud of himself when he manages to do this.  Ice cream cones have become one of his favorites, though he still needs a little help to keep from crushing them.

The swing donated by Bill Specht, a therapeutic p.e. teacher from the US gets a good workout whenever there are volunteers available to push.
The kids love doing simple crafts and other fine motor activities.  Don't tell them it's good for them!


 Fidel is one of our favorites.  Though he only has use of his feet, he manages to run a computer, draw, write, and even run a remote control car.   Fidel is one of the reasons I hope some day we can begin a community living home for some of the more independent residents of Hermano Pedro.

Melvin can't move, can't talk, can barely manage to eat, but there is no one who is happier.  His nickname is Romeo, because he flirts with all the women who come onto the unit.  He laughs so hard when I call him my "novio" (boyfriend).

Henry has now joined Sonya and Moises, attending school at one of the private collegios in Antigua.  Thanks to Nineth, the wonderful teacher provided to the orphanage by a sponsor through Bethel ministries, for all her work in making this happen.

Gloria was very sick at the end of last year.  She has made an amazing recovery, and has a volunteer from Germany who has fallen in love with her and spend a great deal of time just walking around pushing her wheelchair.  Gloria couldn't be more delighted.

 David, one of our children who has been very sick for a very long time has celebrated his first Easter in heaven with Jesus.  While it has been hard to say good-bye to him, we know he is now healthy, whole and happy, and I hope hanging out with some of our other kids who went before him into glory.

Ervin, who the nurses call my "son," returned from Christmas much thinner, though he could have used to lose a few pounds.  His nickname was "gordo" (fatty).  For some reason he seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time stuck in his crib.  Please pray we can find an appropriate way to confront this with the orphanage staff.  He's a challenging kid, but only becomes more so when confined to his crib.

Yofri has one of the most severe cases of Cerebral Palsy of any of our children.  His back muscles constrict so forcefully his head almost touches his heels.  Here he is lying in a special form constructed by Dick to help keep him straight.  He returned from Christmas much more flexible, and we're wondering what his family did to help him.  We found a child-size hammock which we're going to try using to see if this helps maintain him in a better position.

Marcos Antonio is one of our children up in the malnutrition project.  He came in at age 14 weighing a whopping 14 lbs. if you can believe it.  Through the excellent care he has received at the orphanage, he has gained a substantial amount a weight.  We are praying for a placement for him when he is ready to leave the orphanage.  While we usually rejoice when a child can go home, it appears from what we have heard from the hospital staff, that while the rest of his family is well fed, he is pretty much neglected.  He is a darling child who thrives with just a little bit of attention.


Please pray for our dear Lionel.  He has continued to lose weight, though he has been on a feeding tube much of the time since Christmas.  The orphanage has done a trial of allowing him to try\to bottle feed, and it's only become worse.  We're hoping we can influence the staff into putting him back into the malnutrition project.

 Many of our kids have been home with their families for Holy Week and Easter.  Some, like Jessica, have families who could not afford the transportation needed to take home an individual in a wheelchair, so had to stay at the hospital.  Her family did come to visit her, though, and she really enjoyed their time together.

Please pray for the safety of our kids as the return to Hermano Pedro this week.

An Evangelical Slant on Holy Week

DSC03140This journal probably won’t be what you would expect from and Evangelical. . .just sayin’. . .

IMG00041-20120405-1247Holy Week here in Antigua is a time I usually approach with mixed emotions.  I love remembering what Jesus did for me.  I’ve not been so fond of the way it is celebrated in Guatemala.  I hate the crowds and congestion that come to Antigua during this week.

DSC03068This year, however, God has been working in me through the various processions I’ve experienced this week.  It all began Palm Sunday, when I looked out the window of my church and saw “Jesus” riding down the street on a donkey.  The Catholic Church down the street was re-enacting Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.  At first I thought, this is kinda cool.  As I reflected on it a bit more, I thought about how surprised I was to see “Jesus” riding down the street.  And I realized that this was probably exactly the reaction of the people in Jerusalem on the Sunday He entered the city on a donkey.  Something special is going on here. . .

Today I witnessed two of the major processions that occur here in Antigua.  When I saw these processions for the first time more than six years ago, I have to admit they kind of “weirded me out.”  And I realize there is a lot of superstition and ritualism that goes into these celebrations.  But this year, I’ve learned something new from them.

IMG00089-20120405-1306As I watched the “cucuruchus” carrying the statue of Jesus carrying His cross down the street today, I was struck by how much these processions teach about the events of Holy Week.  I realized they are not that much different from the Passion Plays we currently have, or even the morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries.  They teach the truths of Scripture, often to people who can’t read.  And while I by far would prefer that people go directly to the truth of Bible, I realize that even here in Antigua, a substantial number of people are illiterate.  And I appreciated a bit more the reasons behind the processions.

I also appreciated how, for me at least, today’s processions made the experience of that first Holy Week a little more real.  I always am in prayer during this week for the people and city of Antigua—for those things that separate this place and its residents from the God who loves them, for those who know ritual and religion but have no experience of relationship with Jesus.  Today, as I was asking God, “What does all this really mean?” He showed me something new.  He showed me that as much as I hate the crowds and confusion, this, too, was part of the reality of that first Holy Week. 


The streets here are crowded with people who want to honor God (as much as I might disagree with their beliefs about why and how they must do this, I realize most are sincere in their desire to please God).  They are also filled with tourists who want to experience the “local color” and merchants who are hawking their wares.  Some are patient, some aggressive, some indifferent.  But you can’t help but find yourself overcome by the sea of humanity that is Antigua this week. 


I realized that, as Jesus carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem, things were very similar.  The roads are rough rock, similar to those we have here.  The buildings even look a little bit the same on the outside.  And I imagine there was a sea of humanity crushing around Him that Friday, the same mixture we had today. 


Some were there out of simple curiosity; there were probably those there taking advantage of the crowd to sell what they could.  Then there were those, like Mary the mother of Jesus, and John, and the women, who truly loved Him and were there only for that reason.  And I tasted first hand a little bit of the emotion of those who were following Jesus out of love, and the frustration they must have had with those who were crowding around for less honorable motives.  I don’t know if my words can convey this, but this profoundly affected me on many levels.

IMG00122-20120405-1323A short time later, a group of women came down the street, carrying a statue of Mary.  While I don’t want to discuss the differences in the way Catholics and Evangelicals view this woman, I did gain a greater appreciation for the role she played in the story of salvation, and for the pain she willingly bore out of loyalty to her Son.  God brought to mind how I suffer emotionally and even spiritually when my son, Jon, who is a Marine, is deployed to a combat zone.  There is a constant ache in my heart that is always just below the surface of my awareness, and often manifests as an acute stabbing sensation in my heart.  How I continually had to fight  my fear for his safety and surrender him to the care of the Father.  I imagine Mary must have experienced something much more profound as she look on her suffering Son.

I can’t imagine the torture of this mother as she watched Jesus walk to Calvary.  The torment she experienced as she stood helplessly by His side and watched His life drip out of Him on the cross.  She freely chose to be there when she could just as easily have hidden at home and protected herself from this pain.  But she was there out of love, willing to endure whatever was necessary to show her love of Jesus.  This was confirmed for me in an interesting way a few moments later when another statue came IMG00206-20120405-1432down a different street—at the back of the platform was another statue of “The Sorrowful Mother,” but at the front of the platform was a statue of Simeon holding the Baby Jesus.  And I remembered his prophecy to Mary—that a sword would pierce her heart, and its fulfillment this dreadful Friday.

I couldn’t help but admire the strength of this woman, and her unfailing loyalty and devotion to Jesus.  It made me want to be more like her. . .one who sticks with Jesus regardless of the personal cost.  I can only hope He finds me half as faithful. . .

I’ve learned much this Holy Week.  I have a clearer image of just how much He suffered for me.  I’m starting to appreciate those things which unite all Christians, rather than focus on that which divides.  I’m looking for Jesus wherever I can find Him, even in places I think unlikely.  I think I’m al little bit closer to Him than I was when this week started.  And, really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Being Used Wherever We Are

Today was one of those days that made me wonder if I focus too much on WHERE God wants me to be, when my focus and desire needs to be to be used by God WHEREVER I might find myself.

Dick and I both write about “Godincidents,” and I do believe that God places divine appointments in our paths.  But sometimes I think I get out of balance, thinking that if I weren’t on in exactly the right place at the right time (the time and place He ordained), that the ministry I get to do would not have happened.  How egotistical! As if God could not do His work without me!  I’m lucky He lets me be a part of what He is doing in the lives of His people.

More and more I am beginning to believe that He will use us  wherever we are, if we are open to His Spirit guiding our steps, and even more willing to place each ministry opportunity before Him for HIS go ahead before jumping in to meet a need.

Yesterday, as we were walking through the park with some of the Hermano Pedro kids, a man starting following us.  Finally, he worked up the courage to speak to Dick—though, since he was speaking Spanish, really didn’t help him very much.  Dick pointed him to me, and we discovered that this man had a ten year old daughter who had had a stroke at birth.  She had a wheelchair, but he felt it wasn’t right for her.  Could we possibly get her a new one?

He walked with us back to Hermano Pedro, and on the way we discovered that it just so happened that his daughter would be coming with their family to Antigua tomorrow.  It just so happened that Dick had planned to be at the orphanage, too.  Plans were made to meet up with them today.



And we did.  Maria de los Angeles was a bright, beautiful young lady who was more than excited to get a new wheelchair.  You could feel how much her parents loved her, how well they cared for her (she receives therapy twice a week at Fundabien in the capital, and also attends school).  Her brother, sister, and cousins all enjoyed her. 


Dick had been able to get an appropriate chair from the Hope Haven factory (it just so happened that some of their staff was coming to the orphanage this morning) and was able to structure a chair that will better support Maria and allow her some freedom to move on her own.  While Dick worked on the chair, I got to show her family around the children’s ward at Hermano Pedro—they were very interested in each of the kids and their unique stories.


None of this is particularly remarkable, except for the fact that both Dick and I had been struggling yesterday with whether or not we should take kids to lunch, or should we be other places where we were more needed.  As I sit back and reflect on this, I can’t help but think of the sign my brother game me before I moved to Guatemala:

Each day here, I learn this to be more true. . .He knows where we need to be, and He doesn’t keep it a secret.

Down here, wherever we look we see need.  I sometimes joke (sarcastically, I’m afraid) at missionaries down here who say they are waiting for God to give them a ministry.  I laugh that they can go out in the street and throw a rock, and wherever it lands, that’s a place they can do ministry.  And this is to some extent the truth.  There are so many needs I could work 24/7 at saving everyone and still never make a dent in the deep poverty, both material and spiritual, that I meet each day.

So I’m trying to relax a little.  Sure, I still ask God’s direction in where I should go, but more often I’m asking for His direction in discerning what I should do where I find myself.  I’m stressing less about doing the “right” thing, and trusting more that the people He places in my path are the ministry He has for me in this moment. 


Should I travel with Dick and the boys to Santa Rosa, or should I stay in Antigua and spend time with the family for Easter?  How much time should I spend at Hermano Pedro with the kids who didn’t get to go home?  Should I go to Santa Maria to do exercises with Mirna, or should I take Doña Matie out to lunch?

So I ask God.  And sometimes He is very clear about what He wants me to do.  I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt that He had invited me to Guatemala.  No one and nothing could convince me otherwise. So I came, and it was easy, because He was so clear and I was so convinced.

Other times, He seems silent.  I don’t really know which of two good things I should pursue.  I believe in those times, there are opportunities for ministry in both choices, and it doesn’t matter which one I choose, He will use me in whichever environment I find myself.

Most often, though, I have a “prompting” in my heart, mind, and soul that I should pursue one opportunity over another.  It’s not clear, but it’s like a strong inclination.  I’m not talking here about doing what I FEEL like doing. . .too often I don’t FEEL like doing anything.  I’m talking about feeling gently “pushed” in one direction over another.  Sometimes “pushed” in a direction I really don’t want to go. . .

don-039-t-just-stand-there-do-something-novelty-slogan-pinback-button~7560652So what do I do when I’m not sure?  I do SOMETHING and look for the reactions as I take each step forward.  And it seems that, whenever I desire what I do be glorifying to God, it is. Those things that I initially didn’t feel like doing becomes deeply satisfying. He surprises me almost everyday at what I am able to do, when I rely on His leading and His strength.  If I overthink it, becoming obsessed with doing the right thing in the right way, I become paralyzed, doing nothing. 

If I take the one step, He always seems to show me the next one.  As a good friend has told me, you can’t steer a car when it’s not moving.  God can’t lead us when we stand immobilized, worry too much about doing the right thing in the right way.  Do your best and He will do the rest!you'll get run over if you just stand there

Update: Carlin and Jason on the Move!

Dick writes-

I want to update you on 2 more of my boys. Any of you that have kept up with my journals over the past few years knows that Calin and Jason have been 2 of my biggest challenges. During the first few years Calin spent about as much time being kicked out of my house as he did in the house, and it was just a little over a year ago that we found Jason after he ran away from his home and disappeared for 2 months.

Calin and Jason are once again out of my house. I have not seen either of them in several days. Fact is they are no longer in the country. Am I worried about them? A little, but no more worried than the average parent who's son or daughter had gone to another country on a mission trip. This time they have gone with my blessing. That's right these 2 young men and several other Christian teens from Chimaltenango have gone to Nicaragua on a mission trip. They will be spending the next several days in Nicaragua sharing their faith in a number of churches and public schools. I will tell you all about their trip when they return in a few days. Better yet I will have them tell you about it!

I stand in awe of what I see God doing in the harts and lives of several of the teens that hang out at my house. To God be the glory!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Spur-of-the-moment Trip to the Coast

IMG_0927fA few days ago, while we were up visiting Norman and Vicki Sutton in San Andres, we received a call from the Vincente-Hernandez family in Cerro Colorado.  Herlindo, the oldest son, had fallen on his bike and severely broke his arm.  Could we get them to the clinic in Santa Lucia where we had taken his sister Estrella when she had broken her arm last year.

Ordinarily we would drop what we were doing to help this family.  Though Mom can be fairly difficult, both Dick and I have a strong tie to the family.  Their oldest son, Rony, had died about a year ago from Muscular Dystrophy.  We had promised at the time that we would not “abandon” them as the children had feared because we no longer needed to check on Rony’s chair.
This time it was different, though.  We were hours away from Antigua, which is a couple of hours from their home near the coast.  This time the family would have to handle things on their own.  We did tell them that we would call Carlos, the office manager for Bethel Ministry, and ask him to deposit funds in her account so she should take Herlindo to the clinic. 
After numerous confusing and sometimes frustrating phone calls, it was determined that Herlindo would need surgery on his arm and needed to go to the National Hospital in Esquintla.  Mom had told Dick that he would be released from the hospital today, so we planned on heading out to take him home.

As things often go with the communication here, we found out just shortly before we were to leave that he would not be released today.  When Dick called I heard in his voice his indecision about whether or not we should still head down or wait till he would be released.  We decided to go, since we could still try to visit him, and both of us wanted to see Jorge, a young man with spina bifida who lives in La Gomera.
Soon, Dick, Marcos, Miguel, and Esbin picked me up.  This turned out to be exactly what we believe God wanted us to do.
IMG_0927cWe had been wanting to see Jorge since a friend, Daryl Fulp, had told us the doctors from a Faith in Practice team at Hermano Pedro had recommended amputating part of his foot.  (To read more about this, click here to read “Prayers needed for Jorge.”)  We hoped to get done in time to visit Herlindo during the hospitals “generous” visiting hour of 1-2pm.
We visited with Jorge’s mom for a while, and got her thoughts and opinions on the surgery.  This whole decision was breaking her heart, and she seemed encouraged by our visit.  We then went over to the school a few blocks away to see Jorge.
When we entered the gate of the school, we saw Jorge surrounded by his classmates, listening to music on his phone.  This is such a blessing to see, as many children in wheelchairs are pretty ostracized in the schools here.
We obtained permission for Jorge to go to lunch with us, and soon were off to a local “comedor” (diner).  We had hoped to visit with Jorge some during lunch, but the boys immediately commandeered their own table.  It was great fun watching them, though, as they were typical teenage boys wolfing down food.  This isn’t an opportunity Jorge gets very often, so that made it extra special.
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After lunch we went back to Jorge’s house and finally approached the topic of the surgery.  He was dead set against this, and even has threatened to harm himself if forced to go through with the surgery.  We assured him of our love for him, no matter what his decision, but that we needed to make sure he understood what would happen if he didn’t have the surgery.
DSC03053bWe then gently confronted his threat to self-harm, asking him to make a verbal contract that he would not harm himself and call one of us if he felt like it.  He listened pretty intently, but would not make the commitment.  During this time, Marcos, Esbin and Miguel had been quietly listening.  But now, Miguel began talking. . .doing a better job than either Dick or I (or probably any professional counselor) could, encouraging Jorge to face the facts, and move forward.  This sounds harsh, but Miguel did it in such a compassionate way that he really seemed to get through to Jorge.  When Miguel was finished talking, I asked Jorge if he would like Miguel to come with when he went to the hospital for the surgery, and he immediately shook his head yes.
DSC03054bDuring the time Miguel was talking, I had been watching Esbin as tears filled his eyes.  When we were done, I asked Esbin if he would like to pray for Jorge, and he agreed without hesitation.  Now this may seem like no big deal, but, as Dick commented, a few years ago this young man was one of the most foul mouth kids around, and was still somewhat shy about praying aloud.  But he did, and it was beautiful as we felt the Holy Spirit fall upon us as he interceded for Jorge and his family. I was moved to tears. . .
When we got back into the car, I told the three boys that I had never been more proud to be their friend than I was at this very moment. (Marcos had earlier “translated” my Spanish into “good” Spanish as we explained to a lady how she could get an examination at Hermano Pedro.  Marcos’ English is not that good, but he does an excellent job of understanding what I am trying to say and conveys it efficiently and compassionately.  He’s been with us enough that he knows the routine as well as I do.)  Dick affirmed everything I had said and added a few compliments of his own.
As I write this, I realized that God had taught Dick and me how we did not need to take care of everything ourselves—but that we were to be the conduit that brought the people together who need ministry and can do ministry.  It has been our belief all along that we are here to support the Guatemalans, not do things for them, and, watching the boys take over today (and knowing how well Carlos had taken care of Herlindo) confirmed that this is the direction our ministry is going.  While we could not have orchestrated these events, our Father certainly did, and it’s amazing to reflect on it.  After all, as I often tell people in the villages, we are only God’s workers. . .