The permanent facility for Casa de Esperanza was fully paid for in June, and I am finally taking time to tell the story. . .and I think it's a good one. Many of you have heard bits and pieces, but here is the big picture of what God has done in the last 18 months.
In March of 2015, our ministry had about $3000 saved to put toward the purchase of land on which to build a house.. It seemed to me that God was making it clear it was time to start looking. Due to the needs of our guys, there were some specifics the lot would have to meet. . .including being walking distance to a school and some type of stores, park, etc.
I was astonished to find out that, while I had been told I could purchase land for $30,000, this was only in very isolated areas, or for very small pieces of land. Any lot near a town would run between $65,000 and $70,000 for land, and to build the type of home our guys need, we would need at least 1.5 to 2 lots (lots are pretty small down here). I looked at some spots, but the price was overwhelming.
At the advice of our realtor, I began looking at existing homes. I saw some beautiful homes, but none that would serve well of our ministry. The prices were running more than $235,000, and I was in sticker-shock to say the least. Each night I would go back to God saying, "Really? Are you sure? Okay, HOW?" I was not discouraged, but only because I was so sure God was going to move, and was wishing He would hurry up and do so.
About three days before I was to come to the US in April, 2015, for our second fund-raising dinner, I received a call from Tere, my realtor. "I know you're busy, but we just listed this house and you have to see it. God built it for you!" We arranged to meet the next day.
As we pulled up to the condominium entrance (here gated communities are called condominiums.), Before I could say anything, Tere told me, "Don't yell at me! I know it's a condominium, but this house has a private entrance." (I had been very specific that I wanted a home where "normal" Guatemalans could easily come one go; condominiums here are designed to keep these people out!) As we walked across the beautiful ground, and around the club house and swimming pool, I was thinking, "Surely this is not the place for us. It's too "rich" for a ministry like ours."
When I walked through the door, though, God took my breath away. It was an open concept house, newly remodeled, and, Tere was right. It was perfect for wheelchairs. One floor and lots of outside level space. The bathrooms were small, but I figured we could make one large bathroom by knocking out the wall between two of the bathrooms, and make due with the one large one in the meantime. So this house had two things I had never encountered in Guatemala: a private entrance to a house in a condominium, and an open floor plan.
I held my breath as I asked the price. I thought I misheard when Tere said $170,000. In fact, I asked her to go back to the office and check the amount. Now, $170,000 was still a huge amount of money, but the land that this house was sitting on was 2+ lots, so I figured we had at least $120,000 just in land. There was no way I could build this type of house for only $50,000, so I figured she had to be wrong. Later that night I got a call. The price was $170,000 firm.
So I made an offer of $160,000 with $17,000 down and left for the US. Now remember, I had $3000 in hand at this time, but I was sure God was leading me this way. (Never, in being a single woman in ministry had I felt so alone and out on a limb all by myself. And never had I been so sure God was leading me to do something. Talk about blind faith. . .)
A few days before the our dinner, I received word that there were three other offers on the house, and ours was the lowest, so we, in all probability, would not get it. I was disappointed, but excited, too. Now I had a floorplan to use in designing our own house---someday.
We held our dinner, and God more than blew my socks off. In two weeks, we raised more than $50,000. I had never been responsible for that much money in my entire life. I returned to Guatemala anxious to begin looking for land once again. After seeing this floor plan, I knew we shouldn't settle for something that would not really serve our needs.
I made an appointment to meet with the realtor, and she surprised me when she explained that the owners still had not accepted any offer, and her boss thought we should make another offer for the full $170,000. (The night before I left to come back to Guatemala, an older couple who have been my faithful supporters since the beginning of this ministry had me to dinner. When I was leaving, the gentleman handed me an envelop saying, "Raise your offer." When I got home, I found a check for $10,000. This seemed a confirmation!) When she asked me if I could raise my down payment, she was amazed when I offered $40,000.
Our offer was accepted that same day, with a payment schedule over the next year. Our second payment of $13,000 was made, using the $10,000 from fundraising and the $3000 I had saved.
Our third payment of $117,000. I had no idea where this money would come from. As the due day approached, we had more and more unexpected expenses, and what I had been saving was rapidly used up. It was the most humbling experience to go to the owner's attorney and ask for an extension of 12 months. He was sure the owner would not accept this, and I was mentally preparing to start looking for a new place to live. (We would get 75% of what we had paid returned to us, but still. . .) We would meet again the following Tuesday to go over the owner's response.
I went home and wrote an email to our friends and supporters, asking them to pray with us over the next four days that the owner's heart would be moved to work with us. As I was writing the letter, I was praying and suddenly stopped, telling God, "I have done what I thought you wanted. It hasn't worked out. Now what are YOU going to do?" I got a clear answer of one word, "Watch." I finished the letter with renewed hope and a sense of expectancy, anxious to see just what He was going to do. I really had no idea if He meant He would find our a new house, give the owner a new heart, or what would happen.
On Sunday I received an email from a couple who had already heavily invested in our ministry. They explained that God had recently blessed them financially, and had even indicated that the funds were for me. Then they received my email. They were giving our ministry $100,000 toward paying off the house--only string attached was that they were to remain anonymous.
I could hardly breathe when I read their response. Then I cried. When God told me to "watch", he had already provided what I needed to these friends. He had even indicated it was for our ministry. He had it all in control.
When I returned to the attorney, saying I had $100,000 of the balance to give him, he didn't believe me. He actually thought that I had been holding out on them. I didn't know what to say except, "We prayed, God answered."
Needless to say, they accepted the $100,000 and would give us three more months to raise the rest. With fees and taxes we still needed about $20,000. Through donations God provided $10,000 and reminded me of a small retirement account I had from when I was changing jobs. There wasn't much in it, but, when I checked, if I cashed it in I would receive. . .you guessed it. . .$10,000. So I did and we paid off the house.
While I never had any problem donating the money (after all, if I asked others to invest in our ministry, why wouldn't I?), I sort of felt that perhaps I was taking things into my own hands and now trusting God. As I prayed this through, however, I realized that once again, ten years before I ever knew I would need it, God had led me to put aside funds that He would use to pay for a house in a country I had never seen for a ministry I had not even dreamed of.
It is rather scary buying property in Guatemala. There are no escrow accounts, holding money until the title is transferred, so much is done on "faith." It seems at every step in the process, another fee is required, but, once again, God has provided what has been needed. . .never ahead of time, but always on time.
So, how does God buy a house? By bringing us to our knees. . .and that's the best place to be.
Roberto, one of the permanent residents of Casa de Esperanza has been hospitalized for the past 11 days with a ruptured appendix. Our staff has been doing a tremendous job of covering the house and helping to stay with him in the hospital, but it’s still been quite a strain on all of us—especially Roberto. This has also been a tremendous strain on our limited budget. Because of the emergency nature of this illness, we chose to use a private hospital. While the cost is nowhere near what it would be in the US, we are anticipating the bill will run us about $7000, which is far beyond what we have in our emergency fund.
This has been my first time to deal first-hand with medical care here in Guatemala for something more serious than a cold. It has been a learning experience to say the least. There is a national hospital system which provides free care to patients—however accessing their services can be a challenge. You wait hours in the emergency room to see a doctor, and sometimes the skills of the physician you see leave quite a bit to be desired. You often must pay for extras, such as anesthesia and surgical supplies, so, in reality, this can still cost a significant amount. Private insurance is not available to persons with significant health care needs, such as our young men. So we did the best we could with what is available.
Since I feared Roberto might have an appendicitis, I opted for the more expensive option of a private hospital. The head doctor saw him immediately, and diagnosed him. The problem was, the surgeon on call comes from Guatemala City only in the evenings. In the meantime, his appendix ruptured.
The treatment plan then changed to treating him for six weeks with antibiotics, and then returning to remove the appendix. (For those of you who are concerned about this, I checked the Mayo Clinic website and this is the preferred course according to them. Who knew?)
|Roberto's veins were really a challenge for the nurses|
who needed to set up IV's. It often took numerous pokes
and more than a half hour to finally find a vein that wouldn't collapse.
After four days of IV antibiotics and a couple of pints of whole blood, the infection was not subsiding, and the doctors decided to operate. Surgery took place Saturday night, and lasted three hours. There were some complications—previous surgeries done after his original accident had “rearranged” his intestines, and part of his ruptured appendix was attached (?) to his bladder. The surgeon thought he had managed to clean out the infection sufficiently for him to recover more rapidly.
|Roberto's first time back in his wheelchair after surgery.|
It was tough.
After another week in the hospital he was finally ready to come home last Saturday. His previous malnutrition and physical condition have made his recovery a much slower process than normal. Please continue to pray for his recovery, and that he will cooperate fully in his care. Roberto can be a bit stubborn if he doesn’t feel like doing what he needs to do. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with at 12-year-old rather than someone who is 27. (This is understandable, given his history of neglect, but still challenging, and I find myself struggling often with frustration and impatience. Maybe you need to pray for me?)
Today we returned to the hospital to have his stitches removed, and he is progressing well. We are facing a new problem, however. If you remember Roberto, you might remember that he came to us with horrible bedsores. We have been working on them consistently, and he has been improving, except for one on his back. The treatment for his injury five years ago was to put a steel rod in his back to stabilize his broken spine. Over time, his spine has begun to curve forward, in part due to his poor posture. Before his recent hospitalization, the rod had begun to break through the skin. At first it was a small blister, which gradually increased to about a half inch opening, exposing the rod.
He was seen by a neurosurgeon in late December, and he recommended using a particular membrane which is often effective in treating wounds such as these. Unfortunately, it was not working, and we were making plans for Roberto to go to the orthopedic hospital in Guatemala City when his appendix acted up. This was obviously put on hold to treat a more life-threatening condition. After the time in the hospital, however, the opening has progress to be about 2 inches long, and very painful for him.
I have to admit this is all pretty overwhelming to me. I thought caring for his bedsores was difficult, but it pales in comparison to having to clean and bandage this wound on his back. I know I can only do this because of the strength God gives me to face it, but it scares me each time I bandage it. It breaks my heart knowing that, unlike his bedsores, he feels extreme pain every time I treat the wound. So, now that he is cleared to move on for further treatment, I sincerely ask you to pray for wisdom in deciding where to have this next surgery done.
The orthopedic hospital is part of the national hospital system, and I am very concerned about the quality of the care he will receive there. With the expense of his recent hospitalization, however, a private surgeon seems out of the question. Our neurosurgeon is recommending one of the orthopedic doctors who he believes to be competent, who works at the national hospital. We are trusting his opinion as we move forward. Over everything, though, I am trusting God to direct me in how to best care for this young man who already has suffered so much.
If you feel moved to help us with the cost of Roberto’s treatment, you can do so through the Josiah Foundation. You can contribute on line at www.josiahfoundation.com, using the link for Donations. Please look for the link for Mission Guatemala.
If you prefer to use a check, please designate your desire for the funds to be directed to our ministry by noting Mission Guatemala on the memo line of your check. You can send your donation to:
The Josiah Foundation
Attn. Mission Guatemala
2112 S. 163rd Circle
Omaha, NE 68130