Well, I returned to Guatemala last Thursday and have hit the ground running.  While I was gone my friend Mari found a house about a block away from us which she thought would work for our group home .  She is friends with the lady who owns it, who unfortunately is going through an ugly divorce and needs to rent it to pay her own rent.  (Please pray for Sylvia and her 3 children;  her husband has gotten very violent and she is in constant fear for the safety of her youngest child (only one year old) who he has tried to kidnap twice.)

DSC04805Kitchen with lots of cabinets

DSC04806The dining room connects to the kitchen, with plenty of room for a big table and wheelchairs to get around.

I saw the house Saturday and it is more than perfect for what we need to get started.  The rent is significantly more than I am paying for my little house now, but it is under-priced by about $300 for anything comparable in Antigua, and many houses I've seen in the same price range have far less.  Sylvia knows this, and was asking more rent for it, but when she heard I was interested lowered the rent to only what she needed for her own family, because she wants to help out our ministry here.  This is an amazing blessing.  (Some of the houses I had looked at previously did not want us to use it for a group home, or did not want to rent to me because I was an evangelical missionary.)


Actually, saying the house is more than what we need is an understatement. When I thought about a house, I would sometimes think, "Oh, it would be great if the house we found had a ______________." Well, this house has everything I ever filled in the blank: a cistern, a hot water heater, adequate and accessible bathrooms, and four to five bedrooms all on one floor. It even has a bathtub (which wasn't on my list since I have only seen these in hotels in Guatemala!) and built in closets (which I have seldom seen here). This house being available to us is nothing short of a miracle, but I continue to ask your prayers as we move forward. We take possession of the house November 1.


DSC04812A wall full of closets in each of the bedrooms, and a modern bathroom with a tub and hot water.  Incredible!

I had no intention when I returned from the States to move this rapidly, but had thought I would look for a house at a leisurely pace and wait for God to show me one which would serve.  Instead, within hours of arriving in Guatemala, He literally dropped a perfect house into my lap.  I don’t know why, but I still get surprised when God answers my prayers so perfectly.  Maybe I’m learning to pray “in His name and in His will.”

Please pray for us as we take the next steps to officially open Casa de Esperanza (Hope House). Pray for the residents God will bring to the house, and the staff He will provide.  This is moving so much faster than I had planned, and it's a little overwhelming to think about all the changes happening so fast.  I am a little short of breath from how fast He seems to have moved, but am excited to go along for the ride with Him.
We are one step further ahead on the journey,

Time with My Family

Folks often say they would like to know a bit about how my family is doing with me working so far away, so I thought I’d give a snapshot of my time with them in  Omaha the beginning of this month.

I arrived in Omaha just in time to get to take Zachary (now 6 yrs. old and in first grade) and Nathan to the Family Fest hosted by my home church.  My brother had flown in from Chicago for the weekend, so we really had a family reunion while we enjoyed the beautiful fall weather and the autumn atmosphere.


If you know my kids, you know that Husker football is a huge part of the life for the Forster family in the fall.  All of us, except Jon who is still a Marine in California, could get together to watch the games.  I’m not too into watching football, but I loved watching my kids and grandkids watch the games.


(What the kids are doing now: Jeremy managing transportation and warehouses; Lin is a full-time mom for this season of her life; Mikayla is a personal banker for SAC Federal Credit Union; Jonathan, a sergeant in the Marine Corps; Joel works more hours than he should at Midwest Powder Coating in Omaha.)

On April 23rd Nathan turned three years old.  I love being with the boys for their birthdays. (The only safe way to have a lighted candle anywhere near Nate is to have it more than an arms length away from him!)


One weekend, Jeremy and Lin, my son and daughter-in-law, took off an left me to spend time alone with the kids.  It wasn’t as much fun for them as it sounds, since they only went to Kansas so Lin could have some dental work done by her uncle who practices there.


I loved the time I had alone with the boys, but have to admit I’m glad I’m out of the little kid stage.  I just don’t have the energy anymore.  I have to admit I did sleep well that weekend.


It’s so much fun to get to be a part of their daily life for a time each year.  I have to admit I miss my kids and grandkids, but am so pleased to know they continue to be “family” on their own.  I am so proud of the adults my children have grown into.  I am even more proud of how Jeremy and Lin are raising the next generations of Forsters.  I’ve said it before, and I continue to believe it.  My kids are living testimony to the faithfulness of God to answer our prayers!


Personal Glimpses



I got to celebrate my birthday in style this year.  Mari had invited me over for breakfast, and I was surprised to be greeted by none other than a mariachi band!  Since this is a significant birthday here from what Mari said (yep, the big 60) she wanted to make it memorable, and she did.

Church was next on the agenda, and I had a great time teaching the lesson for Children’s Church.  With all the other things I am doing, I don’t get to spend as much time working with the Children’s Ministry at Iglesia del Camino, but I love the time I do get to be with the kids.

After church, Dick and 9 of his boys took me out for lunch.  The neatest thing happened on our way there.  As we were walking down the street, a lady from church who was passing by in her car called out the window, “What a neat family!”  And I realized that, though none of us are biologically or legally related, we are just that, a family.  While these guys will never replace my kids and grandkids, they sure do make living away from them easier. 

 This is Miguel praying the blessing before we ate.  I can’t tell you how it touches my heart when these teenage boys un-self-consciously come to our Father in prayer.

A first for me this year was getting to “preach” in a Guatemalan church.  This was nothing planned, at least not by us.  Dick and I had been visiting up at Lake Atitlan, and  we decided to stop by and see Jessica’s family on our way home.  (Jessica had been in the malnutrition project at Hermano Pedro for almost a year, and we’ve become very close to her family.)

2012-07-14 16.31.02

When we arrived at their house a neighbor told us that the family was at church.  We were a little surprised by this, since it was late Saturday afternoon, but decided to go an join them for worship.  We walked into the small church this poor community had literally built with their own hands, and were immediately blessed by the beautiful simplicity of their worship.  No instruments, no speakers, no sound system, just loving hearts raised to honor our Father.

When the time of worship ended, Virginia, Jessica’s mom who had been leading the prayer time, went over and talked to another lady seated at the side.  They kept looking at me, and I thought maybe they would ask me to say a few words in greeting.

Imagine how surprised I was when Virginia came to me, saying that their pastor had not shown up this evening, and they believed God had sent me to speak to them.  Would I preach? 

2012-07-14 16.51.02

I looked at Dick, and he reminded me he did not speak Spanish.  I reminded him that I had translated for him before, and together we managed to piece together something of a sermon.  Frankly, I don’t remember much of what was said, but have to trust that God was able to make something out of our poor ramblings.  If I ever had any “delusions” of wanting to be a pastor, I think this took care of it.  And I have a much better understanding of the directive:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 
(1Peter 3:15a)

Stepping Into the Darkness to See the Light

The lights went out just as I was going to step into the shower.  Here, where the water is heated by an electric shower head,  that means no hot water, as well as total darkness in my windowless bathroom.  So I went to heat up my left-over coffee. . .oops, no microwave.  So I’ll iron my slacks to wear to church—no that won’t work. Well, I’ll check up on my email and facebook. . .ugh! no modem!  And I sit here realizing just how good I have it, even though I call myself a missionary.

While I was in the States the past few weeks, I was annoyed and pained by how those living in the US take for granted, as entitlements, things which the “majority world” lives without.  I also saw how easily I “reacculturate” (is that a word?) to living in the affluence of North America.  I’m not talking about backyard swimming pools or country club memberships, but ordinary things.  Electricity, clean water (every time I went to take a drink directly from the water faucet, I paused to think—and I know, more and more Americans are drinking only bottled water, but to be able to drink tap water without bacteria and parasites was a pleasure), water heaters, level sidewalks, convenience foods, possessions beyond what we would ever really need.  Even being able to “flush” the toilet paper rather than throw it in the trash.  Oh, what Americans take for granted.  What I started to take for granted in the short time I was in the States. . .

Today I realize just how well I live here, when people, even those down the street, live without running water and/or electricity. I have a roof that doesn’t leak, three rooms plus and indoor bathroom for only one person, a bed with an inner-spring mattress, a refrigerator, more clothes than I can wear in a month, and never have I gone to bed hungry, or wondering where my next meal would come from.   How I take for granted what God has blessed me with, even in a “Third World country.”  And I stand convicted. . .

There’s a question circulating on facebook that gives me reason to pause now and then. . .

If the only things you had today were the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you still have?

I’m afraid, for me, that would not be very much. . .

Father, forgive my ungrateful heart.  Forgive my sense of entitlement.  Open my eyes to the gifts around me in each moment of every day. . .and may I thank you for them as I receive them.

An Open Letter to Those Considering a Mission Trip

As I've been in the States this month, I've had a number of conversations with good friends who, while they respect my work with those with disabilities, have shared that it's not for them.  They often say they'd love to come on a mission trip to work with me, but cannot bring themselves to spend a full week at Hermano Pedro.  "It's not their gifting." "I would cry the whole time."  "I'm just not comfortable around the handicapped."

And it's gotten me thinking.  Are short term mission trips about being comfortable?  Are they about using the gifts we are certain we possess?  Should we expect to feel good about what we are doing?

Isn't the precise way God works most deeply in our lives by taking us outside of our comfort zone?  Doing things in and through us which we know we cannot do ourselves?  Breaking our hearts for what breaks the heart of our Father?  Why should a short-term mission trip be any different?

Don't think that I believe everyone must spend a week in a orphanage with severely disabled children.  I don't believe God calls everyone to that.  But I do believe He calls us to step outside of ourselves and risk doing things we have never done before.  Maybe to serve in areas outside our gifting, knowing we must depend on Him for our strength.  To learn what God can do in and through us when we ourselves have nothing to offer him but our willingness to obey.

What I guess I want to challenge is the idea that a short term mission trip is about us.  About doing what we are good at.  About showing God how much we can do for him.

Please know I learned this through experience.  For years I went to Nicaragua with a team from my home church to lead the Children's Church.  It was right up my alley. I knew how to do it.  I was even pretty confident that I was good at it.

One year, as I was preparing activities and materials for the next trip, I felt God was telling my heart to prepare in such a way that someone else could lead the children's program.  I can't explain it, but I had a strong conviction that I would not be doing what I thought I planned to do.  So I prepared, and I went, and we started Children's Church as usual.  So what was all that about?  Had I really heard God in this?

Early on the morning of the second day in the village, the team captain came to me and said he had a request.  One of the women working in the kitchen had hurt her ankle.  Would I consider moving to work in the kitchen this trip?

Somewhat disappointed at leaving that which was comfortable to me, I agreed.  Of all the jobs on the trip, the kitchen was the one I found least appealing.  But for the next five days I began helping prepare food before most were even out of their beds.  I worked with a good friend, and that brought some pleasure to the process, but the work in the kitchen was tedious at best. I cut fruit and vegetables, washed pots and pans, set up serving lines and did a variety of other  menial tasks necessary to feed the roughly 60 people on our team.  I seldom got out of the kitchen, rarely seeing the people who were coming to the services and clinics.  I, one of the few team members who spoke Spanish, spent my days for the most part with my English speaking team members.

Did I enjoy this trip?  Honestly, not so much.  Did I grow on this trip?  More than I had on any other.

I learned that I had nothing to give God that He really needed.  He could do all this without me.  It was His grace that let me be part of serving his people.   What He needed to teach me this trip, I could not have learned in Children's Church.  I need to learn to obey.  To go where there is a need, even if I don't feel equipped to meet the need (what did I know about feeding 60 people?) and even if I didn't really like what I would have to do to meet the need (does anyone like cutting up watermelon for hours at a time?).

And what did I "get" out of this trip?  I had my first extended experience in a typical home in Latin America, seeing first hand how some of the poorest of the poor lived (our kitchen was in the "kitchen" of one of the homes in the community).  I learned that even the simplest task becomes holy when done for the glory of God.  I learned to rejoice with my teammates at their stories of how God had used them that day.  I learned that it wasn't about me. . .

God knew (of course) exactly what I needed this trip.  I had previously "flirted" with going into mission work in Latin America full time.  During my hours in the kitchen, I had many long conversations with him about what it meant to serve in missions.  I learned that little of this service is glamorous or exciting; most of serving in missions is the tedious work of everyday life.  Realizing this, however, I returned home with the firm knowledge that He was inviting me to join His work in Latin America.

It was in doing the very things that I found unpleasant that confirmed my desire to follow Him wherever He might lead me.  I learned the blessing of obedience when to obey was to do something I didn't want to be doing.  I learned to trust Him, that if I obey, He would be there.  What more could I want?

Would I be in Guatemala if it weren't for the time I spent cooking in Nicaragua.  Probably so, for I don't think God is so easily thwarted.  I am grateful, though, for the lessons I learned in that hot, stuffy kitchen which have served me well as I try to honor Him in my daily life.  I know now that surrendering my wants, doing things I don't like, and being uncomfortable are the very pathways He uses to bring me to the "desires of my heart."

So what's my point?  I guess I'm just saying that if you're thinking about participating in a short-term mission trip, please don't decide based on your own feelings and desires.  Don't go to do something you enjoy or you're good at.  Go where there is an unmet need.

In considering at trip, the only question you need to ask is, "Father, do you want me to go?" Trust Him that if He says, "Go," He will have his best waiting for you.  Be willing and available to step out of yourself and meet Him in uncharted territory.  I can promise, He'll knock your socks off!

Walking Amidst Miracles


Yesterday, we Took a chair to Luis, who we just met just a little more than two weeks ago. He is a twelve year old with muscular dystrophy which is gradually causing the muscles of his body to become useless. He still has pretty good hand use, though, and lives close enough to his school that he could “drive” there independently in a power chair, so he was a good candidate to receive one.

When we met him back in August, Luis was very reserved, seldom smiled, and we were concerned that he was depressed. Just four years ago he was walking and running like any other child, before the MD started eating away at his muscles. That’s a lot for any young man to handle, being totally dependent on his mother for his care at a time when he would normally be breaking away from her to do more and more on his own. Dick had been hoping that the independence a power chair would cheer him up.


Today we met a slightly different Luis. While he wasn’t instantly excited at the news we had brought a power chair (as many kids are), he was cautiously curious. When Dick actually brought the chair in, he seemed to perk up. As the fitting process progressed, he became more and more open and spontaneous, especially when he was able to help with some of the “mechanic-ing.” He and his brother Jaime even learned to operate an electric drill under Dick’s watchful eye.

When he finally was able to sit in the chair, he became a little more animated. He carefully listened to Dick’s instructions on driving the chair, as well as its care. Then he was ready for a “test-drive.” He proved to be a bit timid about trying it out and somewhat nervous (of course, the four relatives “coaching” him didn’t help much!). Gradually he became more confident. He will need some practice, but I think once he has some time on his own, without an audience, he’ll quickly adapt to moving around independently.

He couldn’t wait to show off his new chair at school, so we decided to walk with him as he drove there, even though he did not have classes today. It was so touching when he drove in—all the teachers and students applauded for him, and he absolutely beamed.

All this would seem like any other wheelchair distribution, but a conversation with Luis’ grandmother showed us what a divine appointment we had kept, though we were unaware. Early in the visit, I shared with Luis, that this chair was a gift from God. This is something I frequently say to people receiving chairs, but today learned just how accurate this statement is.

According to Grandma, about a month ago, Luis’ grandfather saw, for the first time, a man using a power chair on the streets of Panajachel. He thought about how wonderful it would be for his grandson to have a chair like this, and the man even let Luis try it out. Grandpa began praying, saying something like this: “God you know my grandson and what he needs. He needs an electric powered wheelchair so he can move around by himself. If you are as powerful as you are supposed to be, please bring him one.”
We just so happened to stumble across Louis and his family eight days later, soon we were taking measurements for a power chair. Today, less than one month after Grandfather “challenged” God to provide a power chair for Luis, he received one. The entire family sees this as proof that God cares deeply for them, and hears their prayers. It is humbling to get to be part of an answer to prayer in this way.

Later we accompanied Karla, one of the special ed. teachers at the school, to visit Josue Efrain’s family. He is a fifteen year old in Luis’ class who also has muscular dystrophy. We had also met him last August, but he lives a great distance from the school, and we were not sure a power chair would really benefit him.

Karla, however, felt it would and agreed to help us find his house once again. He lives about 1 km. from the school (by Guatemalan measurements; by US standards, it seemed more like a couple of miles.)

The last few blocks are through an uneven alley, and a path along the side of a wash-out from previous flooding in the area. There was no way a power chair could safely pass through this area, and we explained this to Karla on the way in.

She continued to advocate for Josue, however, telling us how his mother would carry him the blocks we had just walked. Remember, he is 15 years old, and she is an average size Guatemalan middle aged woman (i.e. pretty tiny). She would then pay 10Q a day (about $1.25) to take him to school in a tuk-tuk (a motorcycle taxi).

If this lady had such determination to help her son, we would have to see what we could do. Arriving to the house, the use of a power chair seemed even more impossible. They live at the bottom of a steep stairway—if you can call the rocks and cement blocks stacked on top of one another a stairway.

There was absolutely no way a power chair could get into this home. In fact, it was too unstable to even safely carry up a standard therapeutic wheelchair.

Our only hope was to find someone who lived up near the road, who would be willing to store and charge Josue’s power chair each night. Not a total solution, since mom would still have to get him to the road, but it would at least save her the tuk-tuk fare.

Unknown to us until last night, It just so happens, that Karla, the teacher, lives off the alley, near where it meets the road. It also just so happens that she has a nice, secure cement block garage, with a ramp leading up to it. Finally, it just so happens that she was more than willing to house and charge the chair. (Finding someone willing to pay for the few cents of electricity this uses is usually quite a challenge, even if we can find someone to house the chair.) This was no small Godincident, and without this arrangement, there is no way Josue would have a chair.

So this morning we met Josue and his mother at Karla’s house, and Dick set about fitting the chair. After about 45 min. of work, it was ready for Josue to test-drive.

Josue took to driving this chair like a duck to water. He steered errorlessly out of the living room and into the hallway, not even touching any of the surrounding furniture. Dick said he was the fastest learner he had ever seen. So we decided to try the street.

It was only about a block to the street through the alley, but this was not without challenges. Two metal grates with holes large enough to trap the front wheels, and another two steep ramps had to be conquered. These were somewhat crudely problem solved, and Josue was able to practice driving on the road he would take to school. He attracted quite a bit of attention going down the street, and it was very cool to see the number of his neighbors who were celebrating his independence.

The final miracle of these chairs was that we should not have even had them available for these boys who we had not met until August. Many months ago, Rob, an expert in power chairs, had shipped these chairs from Canada to use in teaching some of the guys a Bethel’s wheel chair shop in Chimaltenango more about power chairs. As things often go here, the container did not arrive in time; if it had, these chairs would probably have been given out long ago. In fact, they only arrived recently, so the chairs were available when Dick requested two power chairs for these young men in August.
Here’s what I think is the neatest part. We always say that God knows our needs and is already preparing a way to provide for us before we even ask. Well, think about it. When these chairs were sent from Canada, Luis’ grandfather did not even know about power chairs. The chairs were shipped before they were asked for, but held in port until they would be needed by these two young men. God had planned to meet Luis’ and Josue’s need before they knew about it, before we knew about it. This give a human face and experience to the words we so often claim but I think seldom really understand:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever, and ever, Amen.   Eph. 3: 20-21

Wheelchairs and (Past) Wedding Bells


What do wedding bells have to do with wheelchairs?  Not much, unless you’re Brad and Amelia Ferguson.  This couple chose to spend their (I think, 25th) anniversary not on a cruise, but serving God through the disabled in Guatemala.  Leaving their two children behind in Louisiana, they came to work with Hope Haven International.  They, with the help of their church family, raised enough funds to provide chairs for two wheelchair distributions.  Dick and I had the privilege of spending these two days with them while they were here.

320290_10151415114347977_791244342_nBrad and Amelia with one of the ladies at the distribution at the Hope Haven factory.  This woman was delighted with the Spanish New Testament she received from the Fergusons, and didn’t stop reading it the whole time she was waiting for her ride.


We met a number of wonderful families these days. The first day we were at the Hope Haven factory just outside of Antigua.   One of these was Yoselin’s family.  She is 10 years old and has severe cerebral palsy.  She has never received physical therapy because the $30 a month it would cost is more than her parents can afford, even with both of them working.  If you would like to help her receive the treatment she so desperately needs, please email me for more information.

DSC04128Often at Hope Haven distributions I meet children who need communication systems.  Usually I can give the parents a generic system and teach them quickly how to use it with their child.  Sometimes, though, there is the child who you know has so much he wants to say that he needs a special system.  Jhony is one of these.  I have promised his family that I would construct a special system for him, using information which they provided for me.  When I return from the States, this is at the top of my agenda.

Our second day with the Fergusons took us to a distribution arranged by the “First Lady” of Villa Nueva (the mayor’s wife).  Ordinarily Dick and I hate these politically based gatherings, and we were dreading getting caught in a lot of self-serving hoopla.

Boy, were we wrong.  Yes, there was a gathering with speeches, but the speeches were primarily to introduce the Fergusons and the Hope Haven workers who had come to the distribution.  Each of these people was asked to say a few words.  The mayor, who spoke fluent English, was there to welcome the team, and thank them for their service.  The social workers from Villa Nueva (one of the most dangerous and violent “suburbs” of Guatemala City) were so gracious, and we could see the love they had for the people they served.  And the mayor’s wife was a delight to be with.  She stayed for the entire distribution, visiting with the families and loving on the patients waiting for chairs.  I was never so happy to have misjudged a situation.

DSC04402Dick measuring one of the young boys who had come for a wheelchair, while the mayor’s wife (sitting near the speaker at the rear of the picture) looks on.


Distributions which take place outside the factory are often tough when someone comes who is not on the list. They are especially difficult when it is a child with a severe physical handicap who needs a specially constructed chair.  This is where Dick’s expertise and natural “MacGuyver” skills are so valuable.  At first we thought we would have to return another day with a chair for the young man shown above with Dick.  However, after many minutes of talking to himself about how there was nothing appropriate at this distribution for the boy, Dick went over and found an adult chair and with Brad’s help (and God’s guidance) made it not just work, but created the perfect chair for this boy.


Brad and Amelia had come not just to pass out wheelchairs, but to pass along the Good News of Jesus to the people who came to the distribution.  When working on wheelchairs it is sometimes a challenge to do both.  Today we were blessed by Francisco, one of the pastors of our church who works with Celebrate Recovery, being with us (since we were going to visit another family after the distribution).  Francisco spent the day visiting with the families, counseling and praying with them.  He even helped one dear woman turn her life over to Christ.

DSC04415Francisco and our new sister in Christ

Thank you, Brad and Amelia, for making these two days possible through your generosity.  Never under-estimate the power of two when it is surrendered to God.  Come back and see us soon.


Folks often ask me how our kids come to live at Hermano Pedro when they have families.  I’m borrowing this from Dick’s journal to share with you a bit about Reuben, one of our newest residents, and his family.

Reuben is 19 years old and has CP. Even when mom was alive the family had a hard time caring for Ruben, and ever since she died things have gotten even worse. Reuben's father is a likeable person but after his wife died he started drinking and much of what little money he was ever able to earn is now spent on alcohol. Last year Ruben's 12 year old sister dropped out of school to care for him but this year she has returned to school and Ruben is left sitting in his wheelchair all day. A few month ago I dropped in unexpectedly and Rubin was filthy. It appeared that no one had taken him to the bathroom or changed him in several days. Today on our way to a water filter distribution we saw father walking down the road towards Rabinal carrying a bundle of fire wood.  Evidently when Father saw us today he must have figured that we would likely stop by later so he turned back towards home because when we arrived at Ruben's home after the distribution we found father at home and Ruben was cleaned up.

I know that spending what little you have on alcohol cannot be justified but I also know that this father loves his children. Losing his wife and never being able to have enough food to feed and clothe his family has simply brought him to the end of his rope. Last year he asked me if there was any way to get Ruben into the orphanage. He said that he loved his son but also knew that if any of the children were to stay home to take care of him they would have to drop out of school and if he were to stay home he would not be able to cut fire wood or grow any crops. At that time I had promised him that I would look into it but told him that finding a place for a disabled 19 year old would be difficult. A few days after that I met with some of the staff of Hermano Pedro orphanage in Antigua but they told me that their teen section was full. On this visit father once again asked me if I could do anything. I told him that I would try but that I was pretty sure that the orphanage was full and that they had a long waiting list.

Last Wednesday I went in to Hermano Pedro to take some of the orphanage kids to lunch. After lunch I decided to go over to Xiomora's office and ask her if there were any openings in the teen section of the orphanage. Xiomora told me that Luis, one of the teen age boys, had died that morning. Luis was one of the few residents of the orphanage that could actually walk. He was a tall boy who was kept in a cage so that he would not wonder off or hurt an of the other kids. Luis never responded much to other people so not many of the volunteers really got to know him.

About a week ago he got very sick and may have even suffered a stroke. He was taken to the hospital but had gotten somewhat better so he was returned to the orphanage a few days later. Xiomora then told me that Luis suddenly took a turn for the worse and had died earlier that morning. Xiomora said that since this was just a few hours ago she was sure that no one had done anything about the vacancy. She said that if I could get Reuben into Hermano Pedro for an evaluation within the next day or 2 she would do her best to keep the spot open for Ruben.

(Xiomara is the volunteer director who works closely with us.  It is not her responsibility to place kids in the orphanage, and she really has no authority.  BUT, she is a generous and loving young woman who cares more about the kids than you can imagine.  This is only one of the many, many times she has helped us by advocating for a child with the powers-that-be at Hermano Pedro.  She is a great blessing both to the residents and the volunteers.~~Pat)

At 4:30 the next morning Calin, Elder and I were on our way to pick up Reuben and his father. This was not an easy feat because I had to make sure that Father would have all of the necessary paper work ready by the time.  It was not until after midnight that I got things worked out so that Calin could miss school to come along.  (Dick would not allow me to come along on this trip, since he thought the hike in and out—see the pictures below—would do me in. I hate the fact that he is way older than I am and can manage it without breaking a sweat.  Still haven’t figured out if he was really concerned about my heart, or worried about his if he’d have to pack me out!~~Pat)

The road was open (there had been a landslide there the week before) and we made it there in less than 5 hours. the last hour and a half made us wonder if it was worth it though because the dirt road was very narrow, muddy and bumpy. The hike up to Reuben's house only took us about 10 minutes but we knew that it would take much longer coming out. Reuben, and his wheelchair would have to be carried down the mountain to my car.

Only Reuben and one of his brothers were at home when we arrived. Reuben's brother told us that his father had gone down to Rabinal to get the necessary paper work but that he should be back at any time now. Any time here in Guatemala can mean exactly that, only with out the word now behind it. I must admit that I was a bit worried that once dad got into town he may decide that moonshine was more important than paper work and I was really relieved when less than an hour later I saw him walking up the trail to their home.

Father and brother took Ruben into the house to clean him up but he came out looking much the same. I suggested to father that he take a few extra sets of clothes along for himself and for Reuben, but he told me that what they were wearing were all that they owned. After looking into the bedroom I think that he may have been telling me the truth. Papa then hoisted Reuben onto his back and we started out hike down the mountain.

When we got to my Land Cruiser I could see that father had been crying. Reuben also had tears in his eyes. I told them that this had to be their decision and that I would not be angry if they changed their minds but they both reassured me that they felt that this was the right thing to do.

A little over 5 hours later we were in Antigua. I stopped off at Hermano Pedro to get some paper work so we could put them up at Casa de Fe for the night and also went in and talked to Ximara to let her know that we had made it. She told us that she had already made an appointment for us to see the doctor at 8:00 the following morning. After dropping them off  I headed for home quite exhausted. I had an hour and a half to rest before I had to go over to a birthday party that was being held for Calin's 74 year old grandmother. I was suppose to go and watch several of my boys play Soccer after the party but it lasted much longer than expected so the game finished before the birthday party did.

From there on I can remember nothing until my alarm went off at 6:20 the next morning. It would have been easy for me to turn over and go back to sleep but I knew that Hermano Pedro was going out of their way to see if we could get Reuben admitted into the orphanage. Before picking up Reuben and his dad I stopped off at Marie's and had breakfast with Pat. Pat had several other things scheduled for the day but graciously canceled them all so that she could help me try and get Reuben admitted into the orphanage.

Our visit with the doctor went well. The doctor gave us some paper work and told us that we had to see the neurologist and then go to social work. It was then that we ran into a major hurtle. Not only was the neurologist not in but he would not be in until Tuesday of next week. As Pat and I were discussing where we would have Ruben and his father stay for 5 days the receptionist told us that not only was he booked up for Tuesday but unless there was a cancellation he would have no openings for the next few months.

We then went back to the doctor and asked if there was another neurologist that we could see. She told us that normally that would be OK but that this was the only one who had authorization to recommend that Ruben be admitted into Hermano Pedro. We then went and talked to social work and also to Xiomora. They both told us that it was policy that the neurologist had to OK things before we could go any further but that they would see if anything could be done. 

All I can say is if I ever said anything bad about Hermano Pedro in the past that I take it all back. In the next few hours everyone was scrambling to figure out how to make it possible for Ruben to become a resident of Hermano Pedro. Social work agreed to have an interview with Reuben and his father and Xiomora went to work on seeing to it that if he was accepted into Hermano Pedro that he could see the neurologist after he got admitted instead of before. Pat and I went in to talk to Social work first and they listened carefully to what we told them. Then it was Reubin and his father's turn.

Pat and I both knew that this meeting could take well over an hour and that simply waiting out for a decision would drive us both crazy. (OK I fess up it would drive me crazy) We decided that we would be better off doing something so we decided to take 2 of the orphanage kids out to lunch.

Just as we were about to leave we saw a lady who had a little boy with her. The little boy had CP and was in a wheelchair that was twice his size. We were both already on overwhelm but we could not help but ask his mother if this was his wheelchair. She told us that it was the hospital's and that she was only borrowing it for the day. She said that he had no wheelchair at home and that she had to carry him wherever he went. She went on to tell us that she was a widow with 5 children and that she had adopted this little boy after his parents had abandon him. We quickly filled out a wheelchair application and assured her that we would soon be getting a wheelchair for the little boy.

Another Godincident was that Flori, a social worker friend of ours who also lives in Santa Rosa, just happened to be in the hospital. Flori lives in the same town, 3 hours away and will stay in contact with her.  We were sure glad that we were not to busy to stop and talk to this lady.

We still managed to take Byron and Julio to lunch and they were both so good that we actually relaxed a bit. That is until I got a call from Xiomora.  She told us that social work had agreed to accept Ruben but that they needed his birth certificate before they could do any paper work or allow him to stay. Birth certificate? Wow! I had told papa to bring all kinds of paper work but had failed to mention a birth certificate. I asked Xiomora if she could delay going to lunch for 5 minutes while we ran back to Hermano Pedro to see what could be done. We made a fast exit from Camperos and headed back towards Hermano Pedro as fast as we could.

When I finally got to the orphanage Xiomora was still waiting for me. I apologized for causing her to miss most of her lunch break but she told me "No problem." She confirmed what I thought she had told me over the phone. We had all green lights except for the birth certificate that was back in Rabinal. Papa could not go back on the buss because the orphanage could not admit Reuben until he had a birth certificate and there was no one that could look after Reuben if papa went back home. If they both went back I would have to take them so it looked like all 3 of us would have to go. All of this would have to be done by Monday because the neurologist had been contacted by social work and had agreed to squeeze Ruben into his already full schedule.

Another little problem was that RENAP where the birth certificate was at was not open on Saturday or Sunday. Don't take me wrong I like Rabinal but 3 trips in 2 weeks is a bit much. I made a quick phone call to Julia my friend in Rabinal and she agreed to go in to RENAP and get the birth certificate for us. She would have to hurry though because it was nearly 3:00 and RENAP closes at 4:00 PM. Social work agreed to let Father and Reubin stay at Casa de Fe until Monday and if they had the birth certificate by then he could then move into Hermano Pedro.

One little catch though. I would have to be the one to go and get the Birth Certificate. Not exactly my idea of a restful week end but if it meant getting Reuben into the orphanage I was willing to do it. Suddenly one of the social workers came up with a brain storm. If the RENAP in Rabinal had record of Reuben's birth certificate on their computer, why would it not be on the computer at the Antigua RENAP that was located across town?

It was now 3:00 PM. We had a half hour. At 3:10 we arrive at RENAP there is a line up of about 6 people but it moves quite fast and we see someone at 3:15. The man at the computer immediately found the right file and printed it up. We are told that we must pay 11 Q or roughly $1.40. No problem, I would rather pay $100 then have to spend the week end going back and forth to Rabinal again.

Problem! the 11 Q had to be paid at a bank that was several blocks away. Evidently they can not trust government workers with big amounts of money like $1.40. It is now 3:22 PM and the guard at the door reminds Pat and me that he will be locking the door at 4:00 PM.

We decide to go on foot. If one of us does not have a heart attack we should be able to make it. I do not know what time it was when we arrived at the bank because we were both to exhausted to look at our watches.

What we did look at though was the long line of people in front of us. There was no way that we could pay the 11 Q and make it back to RENAP by 4:00 PM but we decide that we just as well pay for the paper work since we were there anyway. At 4:08 we finally get our receipt. I thought about taking a leisurely walk back with Pat but that just maybe they would stay open a little longer for us. Besides that if I did not die from a heart attack on the way to the bank perhaps I was in better shape than I thought so I grabbed the paper from Pat and told her to take her time. There was no way that I could do CPR on Pat as tired as I was and as much as I put Pat through today I doubt that she would even attempt to do it on me if she were with me.

As I rounded the corner I could see that the door to RENAP was locked and what seemed to be the last of the workers were heading for home. I headed to my car where I assumed Reubin and his father would be waiting for me but they were not there. I walked back to RENAP and noticed a doorbell next to the door. Even though everything appeared to be locked up tight I figured that it would not hurt to try it. Less than a minute later the same Guard that had told us that they closed at 4:00 PM opened the door and pointed to Reuben and his Father who were patiently sitting there waiting for me. By the time Pat arrived we had Reubin's birth certificate in hand.
Rubin and his father are spending the weekend in Casa de Fe. Pat is doing laundry and resting up at her house. I thought about resting up today but instead I ended up writing this long winded journal.

Faith can move mountains,
but don't be surprised if God hands you a shovel.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

                                  Matthew 6:34 (The Message)