Huehuetenango Through Fresh Eyes

In January, I was fortunate to have a week free to go with Dick visit my friends in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala.  This trip was even more special because Anita and Gary Senesac, two good friends and fellow missionaries, were able to accompany us.  This was Anita's first trip to this part of the country, and I am sharing her journal entry because it was good for me to see this area once again through fresh eyes.
Anita writes:

Have you ever waited for something for a really long time? I mean thought about, prayed about, almost begged for something? 
That has been me for the past 5.5 years....

And this week this dream came true! You see I have wanted to visit Huehue- tenango for a very long time.It is in northwest Guatemala. 

Our family started sponsoring a boy named Freddy about 6 years ago for medicine and diapers each month. I had also met little Lionel at Hermano Pedro as well. His family also lives out there! So 2 boys and their families that I wanted to meet. Finally Dick asked Gary and I to travel together to meet both families and soooooo many more.

Anita visiting with Maria Garcia, our good friend who cares
for so many of the folks in this area, as well as serves as
our translator.  Most families here speak only Mam, a Mayan dialect.
It is hard for me to put into words how touching these days have been. To see the kids and families that Dick visits every month or so, to put a name with a face, to see the wife of the mayor reaching out to her, it gets you down deep in your heart.....

Meeting the family of my buddy Lionel was so special. I was teary just driving up there! And it is up there on the side of a mountain! We meet mama, 2 little sisters, 1 of the 2 brothers, and his older sister, Jessica. We saw great report cards and got to know them. We showed them current photos of Lionel on Christmas day...there was a mix of emotions from the family. Mama was grateful but saddened by the photos. Jessica wanted to hear all about it....and asked so many questions. She wants to know and remember her brother. You see, she has only seen Lionel once or twice in 6 years. She called me friend. She loved hearing how he laughed that he is feeling better...but how she knows he can't come home because they just can't care for him but she loves him so. She asked for my number to be able to call and talk to him. It will be an honor to have her call and let the family speak to him. So much love for this little guy. And they can let him know. Please join me in praying that Jessica will get to journey to Antigua (about 5 hrs by car) to see him. It only costs about $19.00 round trip. That seems like nothing to us, but for 6 years it has held them back from visiting. Papa comes and loves on him when he can...but only him because of money. Think on that....

Then we meet Freddy. The sponsored child for 4 years. He is 13 and looks 7 or so....but what a character!! His smile lit up the room. We did piggy back rides around their land and just enjoyed getting to know each other for a bit. Got to pray over him and also with mama. Special times. He is a special kid and I am blessed to know him.

We have seen so many....and help a few along the way. Today was special because we went with a special lady Clara almost to the border of Mexico to distribute wheelchairs with Dick and the boys, but also the mayor of the was awesome! But sad too. God put us in the right places at the right time. A brother and sister both with severe special needs. The little girl is wasting away to bones. She is so skinny and malnurished....Dick bought her mom a can of ensure to try to beef her up. It is just a start. She needs a doctor and special care....Lord, why does this happen?

Because the mom doesn't love her? NO!! Because the mom is struggling to make ends meet with 2 disabled kids and no money.... Poverty....I hate it! So many are doing without the most basic necessities of life while others have so much excess... It is easier to overlook them or worse yet, judge them. You can do something!! We need sponsors for at least 2 kids we meet today. They are slowly dying just because they are poor.$30-50 a month to help them survive...just survive.

God has opened our eyes once again to another beautiful part of Guatemala....but a very poor side. If you look, it's all around us.... One difference is poverty paired with disabilities in children. La k of education....lack of opportunities.

But you know what? You can be content with what you have for sure! That was Gods message to me through Miss Kenya. We hiked up, up, up to her rocky, uneven yard to deliver her wheelchair. She is a picture of contentment. Her smile touched the edge of heaven and lifted our hearts. She is content and now she has a wheelchair to sit outside in. This child will probably never leave her perch up on the side of the mountain....but she is content.

I need to learn to be content even in the valleys. Smile like I am on the mountain top. Appeciate God's goodness and sacrifice for us. These people may not have much, but they have joy unspeakable in their hearts. I prayed and cried with the moms of these kids. Reminding them that God doesn't make mistakes. Their child is wonderful. That they are good moms. Even great because they are fighting incredible odds to help their children live, not just survive. Please join us in praying.
This world is packed with problems and needs. Do what you can when you can, as often as you can. Make someone smile. Let an outcast child feel loved. Bless someone with food just because. Make a monthly pledge to change the life of a child and their family. Let go of stuff. Live more simple. Help someone. Don't turn away from the homeless or unloved just because it is too hard. Do something.
Be blessed and be the blessing! Enjoy the pictures to follow! To God be the glory!

Views from the Mountain Tops

I couldn't help but share a few of the pictures I took while up in Huehuetenango in January with Dick Rutgers and Gary and Anita Senesac.  They speak more eloquently about this experience than I ever could.

Our first stop was to see Maria Garcia, a long-time friend who I met on my first trip to this area a number of years ago.  She does whatever she can to help her neighbors in the very poor area, in spite of her many health problems.  She and her daughters are our faithful translators, since many of the people we visit in this area speak only the Mayan dialect of Mam.

One way this family supports itself is through the weaving done by Maria's daughters.  Their work is precise and very beautiful.  They would like to begin selling their textiles in the US and asked me if I could help them set up an internet business.  I'm pretty well lost when it comes to this, but I said I'd look for people who knew what they were doing in this area.  Anyone have suggestions?

Our next stop was to see Rudy, a young man who uses a prosthesis to walk since he was born with the lower part of his left leg missing.  Rudy was who first brought me to Huehuetenango years ago when I delivered his first artificial leg.  He's growing so fast that he's on his third prosthesis, since there are limits on how much Dick can extend these to fit his height.

Dave Black arrived from Canada while we were up here and joined us for a few days.  You can see how seriously he takes these home visits. And people wonder why some of the children here are so afraid of gringos!  Just joking, Dave.  He and his wife sponsor a number of children in this area enabling them to continue their education.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Gary Senesac and Calin manage to find a sling-shot, and Gary was demonstrating his skill at "killing trees."

This was Anita's first trip to this part of Guatemala, though her family had been involved in this area by sponsoring medicine for a child in this area.  You can see how delighted she was to finally meet him.  (To read Anita's thoughts on this experience, click here.)

While we were here, Dick took the opportunity to fix a couple of power chairs for kids in this remote area.

Christopher no longer attends school, but uses his power chair to accompany his mother to the market where she sells vegetables.  He thoroughly enjoys the freedom this gives him, though I worry about his mother who has to carry him a great distance to get to the chair.  The stairway pictured at the beginning of this entry is only the first part of here trek to a house "down below" where his chair is stored.

Sweet little Gema is always a joy to visit, and her family makes us feel like we are one of them.  She is going to school and needed new batteries for her chair.  The old ones were useless since the chair had not been charged at all during the school vacation.  She, too, lives on the side of a mountain and must be carried down to the school where her chair is stored.  Fortunately for her mother, she is still a pretty light load to carry.

The family from this region with whom I have the closest friendship belongs to darling Silsa and her mother Silvestra.  I met them, too, on my first trip here, and our friendship has deepened over time.  I have not been able to travel as much since we opened Casa de Esperanza, and I was brought to tears when Mom told me that the family had thought I was mad at them since I had not seen them in over a year.  It is easy to forget how important visits are to these families, until someone like Silvestra reminds me.  

We made a quick stop to say hello to José, a very determined young man who has not let his inability to walk interfere with his goals for his life.  He is studying to be an electrician, and, though he has a power chair he uses at home, he rides a four wheeler to get from his house to his school and his job.  The rough mountain roads proved to be too much for a normal chair to withstand!

In every trip there seems to be one moment which stands out, and Yenny was this moment for me on this trip.  Gema's mother had asked us to go to see a young girl who had cerebral palsy.  Yenny had a wheelchair, but it didn't fit her properly, and with her condition really needed more support.  Dick took measurements, while I sat down to visit with Yenny. 

 As I spoke with her, her mother told me not to bother, since she didn't talk.  The picture below shows Yenny's reaction when I said to her, "You might not talk, but you sure understand what I'm saying, don't you?"

I'm so glad I got to have this conversation with her, and to share with her mother that Yenny DOES understand.  The really interesting thing here is that, while her mother speaks only Mam, Yenny has learned to understand Spanish by watching TV all day.  It makes me sad to think of the potential this young lady has which has never been tapped.

While there are many Godincient moments in our work, we had a special one on our way back from visiting Yenny.  We hadn't eaten all day, and drove past a "cantina" along the road.  Dick was hungry so turned around (which I don't think I have ever seen him do) to go back to get something to eat.  When I was walking to the restaurant after using the restroom, a young woman asked me what I was doing in this remote area.  I explained our ministries, and she asked if we could go to see her cousin Heidi who couldn't walk.  When we arrived, we found a very bright but extremely shy teenager.  We're not quite sure what her diagnosis is, but she desperately wanted a wheelchair to be able to accompany her family to church.  On our next trip up north, she will have one!  And to think, this wouldn't have happened if Dick hadn't been hungry enough to turn around!