Pat & Roman

Roman is a cute “little” 13 year old boy who is learning first grade material.  Unlike many of our students, he does not have a discernable handicap, other then the environment in which he was grown up.  Dad works in the fields, Mom has some cognitive problems herself, and for some unknown reason, the family just never got around to sending him to school until last year, when he was 12.  At that age, he didn’t stand a chance in a public school, so was accepted at New Life.

During 2012, Roman was in a classroom with much younger children--appropriate to a first grade class.  He was such a behavior problem that the administration was considering asking him not to return to school in January (almost unheard of at Nueva Vida).

Judy Kerschner, the administrator, and Marisol, the director of the school and I discussed this, and we decided to see what would happen if Roman only came to school when I was there to work with him.  He would earn the privilege of coming for breakfast and going to recreo (recess) with the other kids.  Not an ideal  solution, but  surely better than not going to school at all.

We were uncertain how his family would respond to this plan, but they agreed.  In fact, Dad even brought him to school the first day and explained to me they would not have the money to buy his school supplies until the following week.  Could he come to school anyway? (Of course!)


Well, Roman has proven to be quite the math whiz, mastering both the concepts of addition and subtraction.  He is learning to read using both phonics and sight words, and is so proud of being able to read even simple sentences like the one he is showing off in the picture above.  (It translates:  “The strawberry is red.”) 

His behavior continues to be a challenge at times.  Given his small stature (even by Guatemalan standards), it’s sometimes hard to remember that he is thirteen.  I remember my own sons being somewhat a challenge at this age, and in some ways what he does is “typical” teenage limit testing.  Unfortunately, he still is in a school with much younger children who can be negatively impacted by his misbehavior.  Pray we can help him learn some self-regulations skills. 

I was very concerned about what would happen while I was in the States.  Brian Taylor, a young man from California who is volunteering at the school, is working individually with the kids while I am gone.  He struggles with Roman, though, and I wasn’t sure how things would go. (Not a criticism of Brian in any way—he just hasn’t developed the “mean teacher voice” I have cultivated over the years!)

RomanThe week before I left, Roman’s dad came to school.  Roman had been absent the previous week, and I had just talked to the director about sending someone out to check on him.  As it happened, Roman had to have his appendix removed, and would be out of school for about a month—returning about the same time I will.  Am I glad he had surgery?  Of course not.  But I am thankful that God timed his need for surgery as He did.  I look forward to having him back.  (I’ve always loved working with the “bad boys.”)

Please pray for his speedy healing, and especially that he will not contract any post-operative infections.  These are all too common in the unsanitary living conditions of the poor in Guatemala.

What does the future hold for Roman?  I don’t know.  I imagine he’ll work in the fields like most of the men from Santa Maria do.  But he will be able to read, write, and do basic math.  Hopefully this will prevent him from being taken advantage of by those who prey upon the limited skills of the rural people and exploit them financially.  Maybe this will help him learn to value education, so he will not wait until they are twelve to send his own children to school.

Most importantly, though, he is learning about a Father who created him deliberately and has a purpose for his life.  He is hearing of the Son who came to save him from himself, and the Holy Spirit who can empower him to be the kind of man he was created to be.  And he knows They love him, because he sees this love in action within the walls of the school each day.  If you ask me, that’s more than enough.

Domesticating Dick

Well, after our little sparring about the boys, I wanted to put on the record that at times Dick does actually listen to me.  On rare occasions, he even asks my opinion.

Last Friday was one of those days.  Dick decided, after months and months of talking about it, that it was time to finally replace his living room furniture.  He called and asked if I'd be willing to go to some town whose name he couldn't remember to look at furniture.  He promised that this was THE place to go for furniture, so we set off.

We ended up in San Pedro Sacatepequez, which is known for the manufacturing of quality furniture.  And look we did.  In the first store we went into, Dick found a couch he thought he liked, or at least could live with.  The price was not bad, but he wanted to keep looking.

This was Dick's first pick.
I kept asking the lady in the store if it came in other fabrics.
Dick kept saying, "I like the flowers.  It doesn't show when the kids spill stuff on it."

We were in and out of at least a dozen furniture stores, most of them very modern an elegant.  If you know Dick, you can imagine how much time he spent in these stores.  Most of them had very large living rooms sets, and we were looking for something relatively small.  The funniest was when the lady in one store offered to come out and measure Dick's living room and make some recommendations.  I would have taken her up on it just to see the look on her face when she walked into Dick's 3 room cement block house!

We finally came upon the store that Dick was looking for in the beginning.  Nothing more than a tin shed.  "This is my kind of store," he said as he pulled into the parking lot.

I was pleasantly surprised when I walked inside.  The building was nothing to look at, but the furniture was quite nice and reasonably priced.

We looked at a number of living room sets and Dick sort of liked one we found here.  I really liked it but was concerned that the legs were too weak to hold up to all the kids in his house.  When I liked it, Dick no longer was as interested in it.  "It looks like it belongs in my grandma's house."

Right around the corner from this set, there was a wooden and faux leather set.  Very manly, Dick said.  He said it reminded him of the couch his dad had in his office.  When he sat down in the chair, he looked totally at home.

So, this, friends, is his new couch (you can't see it to well under all the pillows) and chair.

We are slowly making progress--this picture proves that Dick actually went shopping without kicking and/or screaming.  Now if we can just get rid of the shower curtains he uses as living room drapes, we'll really be getting somewhere!

A (Somewhat) Typical Day Here in Guate. . .

Every time I’m in the US, folks ask me to describe my typical day.  While the overall rhythm of life here is the same, each day seems to hold its own challenges and treasures.  Now that I’ve been teaching three days a week and we have residents in the home, though, things are a little more routine.
I get up at about 5 and immediately head for the coffee pot! 



While it’s brewing, I put away the dishes from the night before, and begin purifying a 5 gal. bucket of water.  Used to be that this bucket would last me half a week.  Now with the boys in the house, we go through two a day!

When the coffee us ready, I take it back to my room and have a cup of coffee and visit with Jesus.  Long ago I gave up on “devotions” (I always hated how formal that sounded) and just try to spend some time chatting with him.  I like to do what my friend, Scott Hardee, describes a just enjoy Jesus.

DSC05487Then it’s time to turn on the shower, make my bed, put out my clothes, and wait for the hot water to make it back to my room from the on demand hot water heater in the laundry room.  This seems to take FOREVER when you’re waiting to shower.
When the boys start moving around in the kitchen, I know it’s time to go out and get them off to school.  They take care of their own breakfast, but there always seems to be last minute items them have failed to plan for the night before.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I head out the door shortly after them.  I have to admit that I enjoy the luxury of driving to Santa Maria, as previously I had to leave even earlier. 

On the days I don’t have school, I move a bit slower.  Flor, my housekeeper comes it about 7:30 and when I’m home we usually have a cup of coffee together and catch up and plan for the next few days.
Mondays and Saturdays, I set out for the market.  Again, with the car, my life is so much easier.  It used to be that I would have to make at least 2 trips each of these days to the market to manage to carry home enough to get us through to the next market day.  Now, I just have to make the trip to the parking lot!
images (2)
I love the variety of fruits and vegetables we have here—many I’ve been introduced to only since living here.

And, yes, I do buy my meat in the open air market.  I never thought I’d get used to this, but have manage to find a couple of vendors with good meat and sanitary practices.  It still seems strange to me that I can buy beef to grill for only 12 cents a pound more than ground beef, though I have to admit the ground beef is so lean that I have to put oil in the pan when I brown it.  More often, we buy chicken, which is less expensive, and once in a while some pork chops.  I’m starting to learn to “translate” what we call cuts of meat in the US into the terminology here. . .but I still find my meatman chuckling at me now and then as I try to explain what I want to cook.

When I get home from the market, we put our produce through a “clorox soak” and dry them out before putting them in the fridge.  By now it’s almost 1:00 and  Flor has lunch ready, Miguel and Fidel are waiting for me, and Fernando is just about coming in the door.  Cesar has a full day of school, and will eat when he gets home, sometime between 2 and 4 pm.

Monday and Friday are office days.  Monday planning for the week at school, and Friday doing the myriad of bookkeeping and record keeping for the ministry.  Friday is NOT my favorite day, but a necessary one.  Sometimes, when Dick is going out to a village for the day, I’ll play hooky and go with him.  Not the best for keeping current, but it helps keep my sanity.

I have to admit that many afternoons I take a nap.  I just seem to run out of steam about 2 o’clock.  I don’t like feeling like I’m slowing down, but the sad truth is, I am in my sixth decade of life and am trying to respect the needs of my body.  I at least settle down in my comfy chair and read or watch CSI, Criminal Minds, or NCIS and zone out a bit.

By 4 o’clock, I’m starting supper. (Flor leaves at 2.) We won’t eat until 7, but when everything is cooked from scratch it takes a lot longer.  I’ve developed the Guatemalan habit, too, of cooking the food early, and then sitting down with a cup of coffee about 5, and waiting for my second wind.  Sometimes, if we’re both free, I’ll have coffee with Mari.  About 6:30 I’m heating up what I’ve cooked previously, and by 7 we’re all sitting down to eat. 

Eating supper with four guys, ages 16-28, is anything but quiet, but I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in my life.  Miguel, especially, has quite the comebacks.  One night I jokingly said, “I can’t take this anymore.  Jesus take me home.”  Without missing a beat, Miguel looks me straight in the eye and says, “Yep, you’re gonna die of happiness!”  He gets me like this all the time.  Most nights the boys chatter on and forget I’m there, and there are many nights I am grateful for having raised 3 sons when I need to redirect the course of the conversation. I often feel like the housemother in a frat house!

The boys clean up after dinner, and by 8 I’m in my room and ready to call it a night.  I usually check Facebook, answer emails, and if I’m not too tired, get on Pinterest for a few minutes.  Then it’s lights out for me (the boys will go to be between 10 and 11), to get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
As you can see, while there are some distinct differences from life in the US, much of my time here is spent just doing the ordinary tasks of daily living.  Some of them, like paying bills, take a lot longer than in the States.  We have to pay our utilities either at the bank or the utility company, and this often means waiting in line for at least a half hour.  There are no SuperWalmarts in Antigua, though there are 3 in Guatemala City, so there’s no one stop shopping.  Meat and produce at the market, bread at the bakery, meds from the farmacia, school supplies from the libreria.  We hang out clothes out to dry rather than using the dryer (though I do use the washer rather than wash clothes by hand in the pila—cement sink.)  All this eats up time, and sure doesn’t feel like doing ministry.  Just a lot of running around. I’ve learned, however, that part of my ministry is to take Jesus into these places where ordinary life is lived out daily.

I think how relatively easy we have it here in Antigua, really in most of Guatemala.  And I remember the “jungle missionaries” who live so isolated from the lives they knew in the US.  We have running water, electricity, enclosed houses.  I often say that if you can’t make it as a missionary here in Guatemala, you’ll never make it anywhere else.  I’m glad I seem to be making it!

A Friendly Divorce???--From the Marriage that Never Was!

I posted this, and Dick, of course, had to respond.  His responses are in red.  While he thinks he's right, I am posting this mostly to prove he always has the last word!  Enjoy your morning chuckle at our expense. . .

Dick starts out saying: Pat  added a few comments to what I just published and even though what I wrote was truthful and absolutely correct I will publish what she wrote solely for your amusement. 

For all of you who continue to wonder what, exactly, is my relationship with Dick Rutger's, I thought you might enjoy reading his (tongue in cheek) take on it.

In his journal today, Dick wrote:

Pat and I often kid each other about our friendship being somewhat like a friendly divorce. (Only a confirmed bachelor would joke about a friendly divorce---Pat) (At least in a divorce you don't have to  invite all of your relatives and get all dressed up.  Dick)

-Pat gets the kids during the week and I get them on the weekends.  (Except like some dads, he only takes some of the kids.    I still haven't gotten him into taking Fidel so I have have the weekends alone--Pat)  (Not until she takes the ones that hang out here all week. Dick)

-We each take credit for all of there good traits and and claim that the other is to blame for the bad ones.  (Now wait a minute--it surely wasn't me who taught them to leave the toilet seat up--Pat)  (At least you have a toilet seat.   Dick)

-When ever one of the boys ask for money Pat tells them to ask talk to me and I tell them to talk to Pat.  (I think the try to get $$$ out of both of us, myself--Pat)  (This is a sure sight that we are not married.  We both agree on something! Dick)

-None of them look like either of us but most are closer to Pat's height than mine.  (Come on, they all have my brown eyes and what used to be brown hair--Pat) (Come to think of it they all resemble me to,  2 eyes, 2 ears, one nose and one mouth.  Dick)

-Academic wise most of them take after me, but Pat is working on that. (She hired a teacher to come in and work with them.)  (Now if I can find a Spanish tutor for Dick--Pat) (You just have to give me a little more time and I will be able to understand everyone in Guatemala.  I already have most of my neighborhood speaking English.  Dick)

-They are all strong willed and always right.  The vote is still out on that one.  (No you can not vote for 2 candidates)  (This is an easy one--Dick is stubborn and I'm persistent.  And I'm right about this one!--Pat) (See what I mean? Dick)

One thing for certain though we bouth love them and could not be prouder of them even though they can drive us crazy at times.  (Okay, on this one I actually agree with Dick.  He's right for once!--Pat) (I think that Pat meant to say as usual.  Dick)

I have been praying for years about what the boys in my home would do once they got older.  For at least six of them God has answered that prayer through the new group home that Pat has started.  Granted for now only Miguel is working full time for Pat but Cessar and Fernando are living there 5 days a week and are attending School in Antigua.  Esbin, Marcos and Kevin are working for Pat on the weekends and who know what will happen once more people move into Pat's home.

Still at Hermano Pedro

A side benefit to me of the whole long process of Fidel being released from Hermano Pedro was getting to know the young men in the men's mental health ward.  I knew a few of them who had moved up from the children's area during the years I've been here, but many I knew only by sight, if that.  Now, when I walk in they get so excited they can't wait for me to greet each one.  And, believe me, I don't get away without talking to each one of them individually.  

Gaspar shed a lot of tears as Fidel prepared to leave

The reactions of the other patients to Fidel leaving have been varied.  A few definitely want to come and live with us and make this known in no uncertain terms.  Even one who is non-verbal gets his point across well when he drags me to the door and gestures to indicate he wants to come with, too.  It breaks my heart to leave him each time.  In getting to know the young men I realize that there are at least ten of them who would be appropriate for a house such as this.  Many need much less care than Fidel, and it's tempting to just jump in and take a whole bunch right away.  

Edgar is Fidel's best friend

Through much prayer and discernment, however, we believe we are to move slowly.  This is such a new concept in Guatemala that we have no one to look to for direction, and daily are having to figure out new bumps in the road such as paying for expensive medications,  fixing broken down wheelchairs, defining staff roles and finding coverage for sick staff.  It is prudent to iron out these issues while we have the flexibility of only one resident with disabilities.  But believe me, my mother's heart wants to take them all right now.

Willi always makes me laugh
And seldom do I see David without his trademark smile

One very special new resident is Osmin.  While he is 18 years old, I doubt he weighs 50 lbs.  He was been at Hermano Pedro only a few weeks.  I have to admit that the first time I saw him lying in bed with a feeding tube, I assumed he was cognitively as well as physically disabled. Man, was I wrong.  

Though he is pretty much immobile, the nurses are taking wonderful care of him and are managing to prevent bedsores. But lying in bed all day was really wearing on him, and coupled with his homesickness, Osmin was becoming quite depressed.  Dick had talked with him about the possibility of a power wheelchair, and he brightened substantially.  Dick then asked me to get to know him, too.

I have found Osmin to be a bright, alert, young man, who is desperately lonely.   In spite of his disability, he has completed fourth grade of primary school.  He misses his home and family in Quiche desperately.  He talks about returning home, despite the fact that his family cannot adequately care for his significant needs and this could mean his death. How I wish I could find something he would like to do, given his limited mobility.  I asked about reading, and he looked at me as if I was crazy.  (By the way, this is a pretty normal reaction from an 18 year old Guatemalan.  I get it from my boys all the time when I mention reading for fun).  I'd love to find some kind of tablet he could us, but there is no wireless in Hermano Pedro, so its usefulness would be limited, but I think still worth the effort.  If anyone has an old iPad or tablet laying around that they would like to gift to this young man, please email me.

The other day Dick managed to put him in a power chair which had been specially constructed for Osmin by Bethel Ministries.  The batteries were purchased by a donation from Carlos, a regular volunteer from El Salvador who has taken a special interest in Osmin.  And Dick and his boys did the final seating and taught him to drive it.  A great example of collaboration to get the work done!

Osmin took to driving his chair like a fish to water.  He was immediately traveling all over Hermano Pedro, explaining his chair and demonstrating its special features to all who would listen.  In fact, he over did it a little, and was in bed in the afternoon from a headache, probably from all the unaccustomed to movement!

Miguel visiting with Osmin as he recovers from his
morning of moving around independently for the fist time in years.
Please remember Osmin in your prayers.  Pray for his continued improvement (he is now off a feeding tube) and increased strength.  And pray that we can find some meaningful activities which he will enjoy to keep his mind busy and his heart happy.

You can see, I've gotten quite attached to this group of young men. I hope to visit them more often, so they know we remember them. I hope we can bring a few at a time over for lunch periodically, and to watch a movie.  There are a couple of wonderful male volunteers who frequently come to the unit, as well as the ever-faithful visits from Dick.  It seems, though, that as a woman I bring something unique to the unit.  I feel like "Momma" to so many of them who no longer have their own mothers.  

Casa de Esperanza Update

With Fidel moving in permanently, a lot of things have changed, including an increased staff.  I never thought of myself as managing a staff, and I'm not sure I'm very good at it, but I'm trying.  We are all learning together.  Click here to meet our staff members.

Fernando and Cesar are working hard to finish up the school year.  It's been quite an adjustment and a bit of a struggle for them to adjust to going to school here in Antigua.

Fernando's grades have picked up greatly, in large part due to a kind "heart to heart" we had with the director of his school.  Carlos has had a bit impact on Fernando, and it's worth all the tuition it costs just to have him in Fernando's life.

Cesar is still struggling with math, but hanging in there, thanks to Profe. Julio.  Profe comes three afternoons a week to provide private tutoring in math, and so much more.  I love to listen in on their sessions (they work in the dining room while I am cooking dinner in the kitchen)--Profe has become more of a mentor than a tutor, and I'm grateful for his positive influence on Cesar's future.  Since Cesar hopes to teach one day, Profe has a lot of insights to share with him beyond academics.  Profe also is Fernando's computer teacher, so we are twice blessed with him.

I knew sooner or later it would happen.  With so many walls made out of glass, I knew sooner or later we'd break one.  I had expected it to be with a forbidden soccer ball, but Fidel took the honors.  His work table was in front of the window, and he accidentally pushed his chair forward and into the window.

Is it my imagination, or does he look just a little bit proud of himself?

People keep asking how Fidel has adjusted to living in the house.  Well, it seems like he's always been here.  It's a little different for him, though, to realize that he's part of the family now, and not an "honored guest."  He's learning the meaning of "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  Not that he would throw a fit when he doesn't get his way, but he can sure throw a pout.  He gets over it quickly.  He's learning what it means to be a PART of a family, not the center of the family.  It's hard, sometimes, but he still says he loves being here.

He's enjoying make some of his own decisions--like wanting to grow a goatee. He says he wants one like Brian (a volunteer serving at the house for two months).  Only thing is, I think Brian has more of a beard to work with.

Fidel is still taking computer classes, but right now they are on hold.  He has a flat tire on his wheelchair which Dick has not been able to get over to fix, so traveling on the street is pretty much out of the question.

There are no replacement tires in the shop, so we're praying Dick can fix this one.  Fidel does have a manual wheelchair, but refuses to use it. Please pray we get this fixed soon, before he ruins the tire. I have debated and debated with myself whether to take away the power chair until it's fixed, but, eventually we will be able to find a tire--even if I have to bring it back from the States.  I think this might be a good time to help him learn about natural consequences.  It will kill him (and the rest of us) if he has to go without his power chair, but he also needs to learn what a huge blessing it is to have one and how to better care for it.  And to take wise counsel.

It seems like we've had a whole bunch of birthdays recently.  We always are looking for a reason to have a party here--especially when it includes cake and ice cream.

Fidel's birthday was the end of June, and we celebrated in style.

Then, there were Sonya, Henry, and my birthdays the beginning of August.

Finally Fernando's the end of August.

When I get back in October, it will be time to celebrate Cesar and Miguel's birthdays.  They have asked for a "family" trip to the beach, and want to included the guys in the house and their mom.  Dick and I are trying to figure out how to make this happen.

A final, unexpected blessing of Casa de Esperanza is that we have been able to welcome visitors in wheelchairs, whether to watch a movie, work on the computer, or have lunch with us.  Again, God knew this would happen before we did, but it's really nice to be able to bring some of the kids from Hermano Pedro into a family environment, even if only for a few hours a week.

Cesar helping Henry use the computer
What I thought was a large living room sure
fills up fast when your guests use wheelchairs!

God also had plans to help a family with a child with Cerebral Palsy through our house.  Flor and her husband Henry have two sons, Carlos and Jose.  Carlos is 9 and has CP.  Jose is healthy.  Shortly before I began looking for a housekeeper, Henry lost his job.  Flor had been looking for work, but needed to work around when Carlos was in a day care program.  And when there was no daycare, she needed the flexibility to care for him.

Flor hanging out with Fidel
Though Nineth, the Bethel teacher at Hermano Pedro, I met Flor and immediately fell in love with her.  She only works mornings for us, when Carlos is in daycare, and when the need arises, we can give her the flexibility she needs to care for him.  When there is no daycare, she still comes to work, he just comes with her!  He has become the little brother of the family, and has, like the rest of the boys, developed an addiction to the computer.  She fits in with the boys like a big sister, and they give her as much grief as they do each other.

Carlitos, our hermanito (little brother)
This has been a win-win for both of us, but I think more of a blessing for me than for anyone else.  It's nice to have another woman in the house, and she keeps house better than I ever did.  I can be gone from the house and know that she will make sure things don't become a frat house while I'm gone.  I love how God had this all figured out!

And Too Little. . .

It is still the morning of Sept. 11, 2013, and it seems I am very reflective today.  (It could have something to do with having laryngitis, and being sequestered in my room to keep me from talking.  It's given me a lot of time to think things over with the Lord.)

While I bemoaned the "too much" Americans have in my last post, I am currently thinking about the other half of the coin.  Those things in which we have too little. . .

The first that comes to mind is patriotism.  Not blind loyalty to a government or those in office, but a real love for our homeland.  When was the last time that you said the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and meant it?  What about singing the National Anthem as anything more than something that needs to be gotten over with so we can get to the real entertainment, the baseball game?  Do you have a love for the land of your birth?  Do you recognize where it is comes from (history)?  Do you care where it is going (more than just how it just affects you personally)?

I have no idea how America should address all the concerns of the world today.  Should we go into war in Syria?  Who knows?  Surely not the American people with the filtered information we are receiving.  But God does.  Rather than arguing politics, why not pray that His will for America be carried out?  Do you think this is impossible?  Do you not believe that God is more powerful than the intellect and will of national leaders (whatever country)?  

This promise of God from 2Chron. 7:15  is as good today as it was in Biblical times.  We quote this often.  But do we really do it.  You see, God does not just say to pray. 

Too little humility. . .

He calls me to humble myself.  I don't know what that means to you, but to me it means to quit thinking of myself more highly than I deserve.  And to especially to quit thinking of myself more highly than anyone else (including the worlds worst sinner, or the most committed Islamic terrorist).  It means I must be willing to serve all--even those for whom I feel no love; even those who have harmed me and who threaten me.  How does this fit in with my political stance?  Do I harbor hatred for the opposite political party or its leaders?  Or do I pray regularly for government officials, even those I believe don't have a clue who Jesus is?  

Too little hunger for God. . .

I need to seek his face.  Not a perfunctory half-hour quiet time, but to really seek His face.  In every moment of my day.  To seek his face in every way. To seek his will in every situation, even when it goes against my will. Do I really want God's will for America, or do I want what I think God's will should be for America.  (Remember, the church is thriving in China, where it is under intense persecution.  Could it be God's will that American Christians suffer a bit of persecution to draw others to Him?  Just asking. . .

Too little repentance. . .

I need to turn from my wicked ways.  Me, wicked?  I'm a missionary for crying out loud.  But yes, there are still parts of my heart that cling to wickedness.  Not the overt murder, pornography, stealing kind of wickedness, but wickedness nonetheless.  Like the secret pleasure I feel when I hear someone has received what I consider their "just desserts."   Or my inclination to share a piece of juicy gossip with "just one person."  My wickedness. . . it is not the sinfulness of others that needs to be brought to repentance. . .it is MY wickedness.  (Click here to read an article by Mark Driscoll on counterfeit repentance.  Convicting and thought provoking.)

THEN, God will heal our land.  

While I support many other forms of patriotism, including service in the military (my son just completed serving 8 years in the Marines), I believe that our patriotism needs to begin in our hearts and minds, not in our actions.  If every believer (this was written to the people who are called by "His" name) who was at a Fourth of July parade would take up the challenges God gives us in this passage, I believe, based on His word, that we will see a change in America.  Let's do less criticizing and complaining, and more praying.

The Curse of Too Much. . .

Please know I write this not out of condemnation, but out of conviction at my own limited worldview, and my own complacency and sense of entitlement as an American.  Until I moved to Guatemala, I also thought I never had enough. Some days I still do. God reminds me daily of how blessed I am, and how I merit none of it.

It is the morning of September 11, 2013.  And my heart is heavy for the US today.  Trouble is brewing in Syria, we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yet I constantly see debate on the US new programs about whether we "should be" at war.  Wake up, America.  We are at war, whether we fight back or not.  We are at war for the survival not only of our country but of our souls. It is not a war to be fought by our military.  Each American who wants to preserve their freedom must take up the battle.

If you think I am writing about being anti-Islamic, you're wrong.  Paul tells us in Ephesians that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood."  He goes on to explain that the enemy is a spiritual enemy, THE enemy and those who follow him, knowingly or unwittingly or carelessly.  And I don't disagree a bit.

But, I am afraid that many of us who say we are Christians are also being influenced by this enemy of our souls.  American Christianity, from my perspective as an ex-patriot (that's the secular term for life-time missionaries) is suffering from the same malady as the rest of the country--too much.

I'm not talking about money here.  I'm talking about the way in which EVERYTHING in America seems to be overboard.  (I catch the irony of EVERYTHING being written in capitals!)  We are affluent beyond the comprehension of the rest of the world, yet I continually hear talk of how bad the economy is.  Really?  In comparison to what?  In comparison to where?  

I see families in which each driver has his or her own car--yet they are constantly complaining about the price of gas.  (It is interesting to me that studies are showing that when gas prices go up, people do NOT drive less.)  I see families who say they can't make it on what they earn, yet continue to spend on items such as the latest HD television systems.  I hear how people cannot afford to take a missions trip, yet read on Facebook about their fantastic family vacations.  And the hardest of all, I see luxurious churches with coffee shops which cannot afford to help their brothers who are meeting under tents (if that) and sitting in the mud to come to worship the Lord.

Please hear me.  I am NOT opposed to cars, TV's or vacations or nice churches and houses.  I struggle with the attitude of people who are able to do these things and yet feel, if not verbalize, that they don't have enough.  I am opposed to those who feel entitled to these good things and fail to thank the God who provides these things.  (Even if you work for it, who gives you the strength, knowledge and ability to work?)  I struggle with those who fail to recognize their responsibility to share these gifts with those who literally have nothing.

There is a sense of entitlement that Americans deserve the good life, and more of it.  Where does that come from?  Seems to me we are still living in the a revised sense of Manifest Destiny--somehow believing that God has specifically chosen the United States as his prize to lavishly bless.  I don't see how that holds up.  Where is the Biblical support for this?

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Why does the US merit more blessings than other countries?  Because they are more moral?  Surely not.  Because the citizens work harder than those in other countries?  Only those who have not traveled to majority world countries could possibly believe that.  Because they are God's chosen people?  Where in the Bible does it indicate that?

Because we were a Christian country in the past?  By whose criteria?  I wonder if God ever considered us a Christian country.  Sure, we had prayer in schools, mangers in the city square, the Ten Commandments on our courthouses.  But is that what makes a country Christian?  

My mind goes to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21: 
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘LordLord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven

Has American ever really been concerned with doing the will of the Father?  Or have we been concerned with seeking comfort and doing what is right in our own eyes? (See Judges 17:6; 21:5)  We have charted our own course and dared to dignify it with God's name.  (See Manifest Destiny above for an example)

Do I grieve for a nation who is so far from Biblical truth? Of course.  But I don't grieve any more for the US than I do Syria--both nations need to acknowledge the one true God.  But, you see, countries do not merit salvation;  countries cannot come to Christ.  Only individual people can do this.  

And this is the battle--for individuals.  Do we fight this well by condemning and focusing on how bad non-believers are?  Of course they're bad--they're NON-believers.  Do you as a believer really think there would be anything good in you if it weren't for the Holy Spirit's presence in you?  I sure don't believe that about me!  Do you really think posting on Facebook about how terribly immoral "they" are will call them to repentance?  If not, why post it?  To feel superior?  I pray not. 

So how do we fight this?  I believe by loving each individual so well that they are drawn to the God who loves them more than we do.  Remember, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.  (Romans 2:4)

We are at war.  But it is a war for our hearts.  Even as Christ-followers, while our salvation is sure, our sanctification is not.  Peter reminds the early church that we must be watchful, because the enemy seeks to devour us.  (1Peter 5:8)  We can never assume a posture of superiority over those who do not know Christ as we do.  We didn't earn this relationship, we don't deserve it, but we are gifted with it. We must cooperate daily with the Holy Spirit as He transforms us into who He would have us be.

We must fight for the hearts of those who do not yet know Jesus and all he has to offer.  Do those who don't know Jesus see anything in us, in our lives and in our hearts, that would make them want to know him?

How does all this tie in with having "too much?"  Well, I think we've had too much comfort and freedom in our ability to follow Jesus.  It's been easy to be a Christian in the US.  It still is. Our safety and security has never been threatened.

Even if we have to pay more taxes (as I see is the big concern on Facebook the past few days), so what?  WE HAVE JESUS.  We are not yet persecuted, but I have to wonder how American Christianity will fare when Christ followers are asked to suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. (Matt. 5:10)  If we fear when we are threatening to lose money because of our faith, how will we stand when we could lose our very lives?  Is this a possibility?  Surely it is.  Jesus told us to take up our cross, not our couch.

I'll end with a Facebook posting from my dear friend, Tara Rye.  She is the one who started me on this meditation with her words, and I encourage you to contemplate them, too.

What if we were interviewed for an entire week for a reality tv show and nothing was hidden. The reality show title: ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? What would they uncover in a week? Would our faith be evident? What might they observe? 

There IS a doctor in the house. . .


Mari’s son officially became DR. Juan Pablo Hernandez Hernandez on September 6.  Many of you who have been down here know him, or at least his mom and dad, Leo, and I thought you might like to see some of the pictures from his graduation.

Medical school graduation is very different here.  Students graduate individually, or in his case, with a co-author to his thesis.  The whole graduation takes about 30 minutes and is intensely personal.  Though I was fighting a bad cold, I managed to make it to the ceremony itself and was very glad I did.




Each new doctor enters with his/her madrina/padrino.  This is an individual who has greatly helped and encouraged the student through their education.




DSC06451Pablo with this research partner





They are seated on the platform with a panel of professors who will publically review and approve their research. Here, in Guatemala, even medical doctorates have to write and publish a dissertation.   Each student presents his findings, and answers questions from the board, which then accepts their research. 






Each student then has a few minutes speech in which to thank God, his family and friends, his professors, and anyone else who has played an important role in helping him reach his goal.















After swearing the oath taken by all medical doctors in Guatemala, he new doctor then signs the official registry of the doctors of Guatemala.  This is still a paper ledger, and there is something poignant about signing a document signed by every doctor who has graduated in your country.


The madrina/patrino then invests the doctor in the robes officially worn by medical doctors in this country.  The professors “cap” each person, and they are then presented to the audience for the first time as “Doctor.”



Quick, to the point, but very touching.  Pablo actually changed the date of his graduation so that I could be there with him (it was originally set for Sept. 21, two days after I will be in the US!).  I’m so glad he did.