No Wheels, No Water

The year 2018 is only 28 days old, and it's been a challenge already.  Last November I wrote a post on the challenge to be content.  Little did I know at the time that  I was daring myself to live up to these words.   I think I'm succeeding, but it's not easy.  The goal of every Christian, as articulated by my friend and mentor Judy Kerschner is "to live each day in peace and joy with justice."  And I'm trying.

That last part, "in justice" is important.  It helps me to focus on whether the challenges I face are "just."  The only way I can do this is to consider the lives of those around me.  Is God asking me to face any more than the people with whom I live are facing?  Almost always the answer is, "No." So how can I not respond with peace and joy?

God has helped me see this clearly by the difficulties we have faced as individuals and a ministry just since the new year began.  You know how you see posts like these on Facebook:

God is teaching me this expanded attitude of gratitude and contentment in ever new was though the events that occur.  To really be grateful, not just give it lip service.  When I'm not grateful in the midst of a difficulty, to consider those around me, who often face greater disasters than the inconveniences face.  (These are listed below)

So here's the latest:

First, our town of San Pedro is undergoing a "facelift" to our water and sewer system.  The city notifies us when the water will be turned off.  The difficulty is, it never comes back on when it is supposed to, and we have been without water in our town for the past three weekends. 

We can fill large barrels of water at the local "pila" (think and on street water faucet" and carry it back to the house where the guys live.  Thanks to the trailer which attaches to Fidel's power chair, this has been a much easier task. (Thank you, again, Mark Richard and Hope Haven). They also have a swimming pool in front of the house from which they can draw water, so flushing the toilet is taken care of, at least until the water runs out in the pool.

Last week the mayor of Antigua came out
to review the work.
It seems to be going slower since her visit!

The first weekend I would stop at one of these faucets and fill water jugs to take back to the apartment with me.  The biggest problem was filtering water to drink, because our filter attaches to the outdoor faucet at our house. . .no water, no way to filter it.  Not too difficult.  I could drive into a nearby town and buy 3 gallon bottles of water when we could not purify it ourselves.  Inconvenient, but not impossible.

Women carrying water from the public faucets
Then another difficulty arose last weekend.  On Friday I was on my way to pick up Ken Exner, a friend from Omaha who was "stopping by" on his way home from Nicaragua.  Just outside San Lucas, a city at the top of a LARGE hill, the car started making a small noise.  Within about 200 feet, the noise grew to a loud banging.  I prayed I could at least get somewhere safe and off the highway.  God answered that prayer when I came to a Shell gas station and pulled into the driveway.  As soon as I hit the parking lot the engine completely died and would not start again.

After trying a number of fixes and waiting for the engine to cool, it was apparent I wasn't going anywhere in this car.  The guard at the station gave me permission to leave the car there, and called me a taxi driver he knew to take me to the airport and bring Ken and me back to see if the car would start after it had sat for a while.

The driver who came was actually a Christ follower who attempted to teach me a song about Jesus in Quiche, a Mayan language.  I did not do well, but it helped to pass the time to the airport and we picked up Ken only a few minutes late. We then headed back to the gas station, tried to start the car, and again had no luck.

The friendly guard called a tow for us, and we road with the driver back into Antigua taking the van to my favorite mechanic.  Chalk up another first experience in Guatemala!

Maynor, my friendly car repair man, just shook his head as he tried to start the car.  It didn't sound good.  We would know more when he had a chance to look at it Monday.  In spite of this, and thanks to the buses and the chauffeur services of Dick, we had a lovely weekend in spite of this.  Every time that ugly anxiety of  "what are we going to do without a car" would raise it's head, I would verbally tell Jesus, "This is your problem and you will provide."  Miraculously, I was able to let it go.

By Tuesday Maynor called with an estimate.  It would cost about $1500 to replace the water pump and head gasket, and adjust the head.  This was actually good news.  The car was repairable and to fix it would cost much less than I would have to spend to buy another car.  So I made my deposit, and they are working on it.  Who knows how long it will take, but we will have a car again.

In the mean time, I am riding buses and enjoying the time to sight see which is impossible when I'm driving.  I enjoy talking with the children on the buses, and hearing where they are going.  I am fondly remembering the first years I lived here when I had no car and the buses and tuktuks were my only source of transportation.  It's harder than driving, to be sure, but it is doable.

While I am on the buses, I see the dozens of people walking up the steep mountainside as we go to Santa Maria.  Most of them are walking because they cannot afford the roughly 50 cents bus fare.  And I am blessed to pay this without a second thought.

Fidel goes to Complete Speech for therapy, and we have to pay a pick up truck to come for him and Mario since I can't take him.  We are blessed, however.  He is receiving free speech therapy thanks to a sponsor and we can pay the pick up to take him there.  This is only a dream to many with speech impediments in this country.

Brenda, our house manager, has to take the bus to the market and a tuktuk home.  Again, we are blessed.  We have the funds to buy more food for the house than she can carry on the bus, and we can afford the $3-5 a tuktuk charges her to bring her out to San Pedro.

All of these are added expenses which were not in our budget.  The emergency fund we were starting to build again will not be enough to even cover the car repairs.  If God would put it on your heart to help us with this financial need, please go to our website, www.reasontohope,org where you will find directions as to how you can make a contribution to offset these expenses.

But then I come to the water!!!  Without a car it is almost impossible for me to carry much water from the local faucets, and today I have used up just about all the water jugs I was able to fill the last time we had water.  I was grumbling to God about how hard it was to not be able to flush the toilet.  I was grumbling about how the dirty dishes were stacking up.  How I couldn't do my usual weekend cooking for the week because I needed to save the water for essentials.

I got on the city Facebook page to see if there was any news about when we would get water again. 

And I was convicted.  One of the first comments I read was from a nurse in town who had a patient who was on continual peritoneal dialysis.  She was concerned because without accessible water, he could be facing serious infection, illness, and even death.  I felt I had been kicked in the gut. 

Suddenly my unflushed toilet and dirty dishes were seen in a new light.  My selfishness stuck in my throat as I read her comment.  And I know we need to reach out to this situation and do whatever we can to help.  At the very least we can help this man store water when it comes back on, because the water is sure to be turned off again.  We can share what we have with those who need it more than we do.  We will survive with water shortages, this man will not.

And suddenly, I am content.  And my peace and joy will return when we are able to help him.  We can't fix this water problem for everyone, but we can for him.  As Andy Stanley says we will "Do for the one what you would do for all."

I'm STILL Not Comfortable

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how uncomfortable I am in many of the situations I find myself, as a Christ-follower and a missionary.  I needed to process some recent events and I had hoped writing would make facing these difficult situations easier.

I was wrong. . .

Dick and Ken helping me buy food at the market.

Our market lady weighing out bag after
bag of food for us.

Last Saturday I set off with Dick, Marcos and Ken Exner, who was visiting from Omaha, to take our regular food donations to the widows we serve in Tecpan.  I always look forward to this trip because it encourages me to see these friends.  This trip proved very different.

When we arrived in the village, it was silent.  Usually there are many people working in their yards and children come running as soon as we pull in.  Today we were greeted by no movement or sound.  It was eerie.  Dick commented that there was probably a funeral.  My heart sank, fearing it was the grandmother in one of the homes we would be visiting.

We went to that home first, and a few of the children came running out.  They were excited to see us, and it blessed my heart as they called out, "Patty."  They seemed a bit less enthusiastic than usual, but were happy to see us.   As we walked toward the home, Samuel's mother came out, and collapsed sobbing into my arms.  I had no idea what had actually happened, and could do nothing but stand there and hold her and wait for her to calm. I fought back my own tears. While I had no idea what was wrong, I did know my friend was profoundly hurting, and there was nothing I could do but pray.  So I did.

I AM NOT COMFORTABLE praying aloud in Spanish.  I am self-conscious enough doing so in English.  But, I knew I had to.  So I surrendered my pride and comfort and trusted the Holy Spirit to give me words.  In truth, I don't know what I prayed, the feelings overwhelming me were so strong.

As she calmed a bit, she told me her nephew had died the night before. Since many of the people in this village are related, most had gone into Chimaltenango to comfort the nephew's family.  She had remained home with grandma (who was looking good, considering) and the children.

What made this even sadder was that the nephew was murdered.  He was shot and killed near the market in Chimal, along with another man.  A woman was injured and in the hospital.  This was one of the many senseless murders that occur in this city. Often the motive is never discovered.  Even more rare is it for the murderers to be caught.  No one talks, even if they have information about the attack, for fear of retribution.  The gangs are strong in this town when Dick lives.

This violence is nothing new. but to be confronted with family affected by this most recent incident was painful.  I hurt for my friend.  Her nephew was only 32 years old, and left behind a widow and three children. She, herself a widow, knew only too well what the future held for this family.  I hurt for her and for them, without even knowing them, knowing how hard their lives would become.

Keily and her four year old sister
As we were talking a young girl entered.  She was the daughter of the man who had been killed.  Her aunt told her I was a missionary, and she immediately fell into my arms, sobbing.  A thirteen year old girl, I had never seen before in my life, was looking to me, an aged foreigner, for comfort and support.

Over the years I have comforted many families in my role as a Care Ministry Director and missionary.  But this was different.  I had known these families.  If they were not friends, they were at least acquaintances.  Many were North Americans.  I had some idea how to respond.  This was way out of my comfort zone.  Once again, I stood and held Keily, and prayed. I could no longer hold back my own tears as her sobs wracked her body.  She clung to me as if her life depended on it.

Then it became clear to me.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE being called to be Jesus with skin on in these situations.  I have not learned how to do confront pain without feeling it myself.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE when these people with whom I live look to me to speak the words of comfort Jesus would in these situations, just because of a role they have given me.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE when they think I have wisdom beyond what they would have.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE that the only thing I can do is invite Jesus into the situation. Ask Jesus to give me the words to speak and the actions to take to bring peace into the midst of suffering.

As I reflect on this, I better understand the Jesus whom I follow.  His life was not comfortable.  He was almost always right in the center of suffering, whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical.  He never shied away from those hurting and in need to preserve His own comfort.

If I would follow Him, neither can I.  This is part of what it means to take up my cross daily.  To feel with the sick, disabled, wounded and broken hearted.  To forsake my comfort to bring His comfort into the hardest situations.  And it seems the more I respond in obedience to do this, the more He asks me to do it.

I often fail at this, giving myself excuses which seem all too valid to avoid NOT BEING COMFORTABLE,  but believe it is my call.  I believe it is the call of every Christ-follower.

How is our God and Father asking you to bring Jesus into the world in a way that makes you NOT COMFORTABLE?  How will you respond?

I'm just not comfortable. . .Part Two

"Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2a

This blog has been in my mind and heart for a long time.  I have avoided it for a number of reasons, but primary among these is I don't want to offend my friends who have said this to me. (I'll explain later.)  More and more, especially through Scripture and reading the books written by Francis Chan, I have realized that being comfortable can be, and usually is, the enemy of being holy--more Christ-like.

Please know that I am not writing this from a position of judgment.  I struggle on a daily basis with my desire to be comfortable rather than obedient.  I even wrote a recent journal about it.
 "And my comfort is NOT important.  I have a decision to make.  Will I follow my feelings, or will I follow the Holy Spirit's lead?  We are not called to be comfortable but to be Jesus to those around us."

One of the biggest struggles I have in sharing our ministry with those in the US, yes, even my friends, is that I am often met with the reaction, "I'd love to serve with you but I AM JUST NOT COMFORTABLE around people with disabilities." Sometimes they even say "people like that." This breaks my heart, and if I can be so bold as to suggest it, I believe it breaks the heart of the Father, and of the Son who came precisely for "people like that."

Think about it.  How many of the miracles Jesus performed were aimed at those with special needs?  To perform these miracles He and His disciples had to be around "people like that."  Can you just image the reactions of fishermen and tax-collectors when confronted face-to-face by ten lepers?  Do you really think they were comfortable? 

No, we may not be able bring physical healing to most of  people with physical limitations, though I do believe that God still heals and have seen Him do so in this country. We can, however, bring Jesus to them.  And I believed many of us are being called to do just that but our COMFORT is drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit as he beckons us to come.

I recently listened to a short sermon by Francis Chan on Hebrew 13:12-13:
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 

Chan goes on to explain that the garbage was put outside the city gate, along with those people who were found to be unacceptable, often including the ill and disabled.  So that's were we can find Jesus--outside our city gate--outside of our comfort zone.  I think this is the greatest benefit of good mission trips which challenge our comfort, and even security. (Security is, after all, an illusion, but that's for another post). 

I believe in 2018, God is directing much of my ministry effort toward the American Churches, while continuing to serve the "least of these" in Guatemala.  There are many churches that feel they are meeting the needs of those with special needs, but few which really are.  The questions to ponder are these:

What is my church doing to DISCIPLE the those with special needs?

What is my church doing to involve the them fully in the life of the church through SERVING OTHERS?

How does this discipleship model for the disabled fit in with the rest of the discipleship done by your church? 

Is it considered enough for your church members to be pew sitters on Sunday morning?

Is it enough for your church members to sit passively in Sunday School classes, and pretty much be ignored by those around them?

Is it enough for your church members to be served, but never invited to serve?

This is the experience of many of those with disabilities who I know.  And they attend what we would consider to be good churches.

This year I will be exploring and challenging you with these questions.  Besides talking with churches, I will be sharing with you as individuals much of what I am learning through my exploration.  

You see, I believe the solution lies not with church programs for those with special needs, but for individuals who are willing to be uncomfortable, and go outside the city gates to come along an individual with disabilities and learn how to disciple and engage them.

I will be sharing stories of individual Christians who have done just that. . .out-reach to a person who may be sitting right near you in church.

Don't know how?  We'll help you.  My biggest suggestion is just talk to them.  

Are they non-verbal?  So are animals and we feel perfectly comfortable talking with them!


I AM NOT COMFORTABLE because I fear I have offended you.

Have I offended you?  I'm not sorry.  The gospel is offensive, and I believe Jesus sent us into the WHOLE world and that includes the world of those with special needs.

I'm just not comfortable. . .

Through recent events, God has helped me articulate the fact that my life is not comfortable.  It is rich and full and joyful, but not really comfortable.  In fact, when I am comfortable, I have learned to see it as a gift from God--a small respite because He is renewing me and recharging me to once more step out of my comfort-zone, often out of my talents and capabilities, and follow where He leads.

Reflecting on a recent experience made me realize this.  Dick had taken me and my young friend Mary Ann on a short road trip.  I don't get to do many of these anymore, and I do enjoy it (though I have to admit traveling here can wear me out).

A lot of food. . .and my van cannot make it
into the village where the widows live, so Dick
kindly takes us.
We were going to take the food sponsored by a friend in the States to some widows who live in Tecpan, about 2 hours from Antigua.  I love visiting these women, and had not been out there since before my trip to the US.

On the way Dick wanted to drop off food at the home of another family for whom he has a sponsor.  After doing that we passed by the home of Maria, a young woman with a disability who lived on our way to our next stop. Dick wanted to stop in.

Maria has been being cared for by an elderly grandmother.  Grandma had also cared for Maria's two older siblings who had the same condition and died from in.  We know Maria will die from this one day, but the last time I had seen her she was happy  and chatty, sitting in her wheelchair outside of  her simple adobe house.

As I approached the house, I heard someone wailing.  Not whimpering, but the kind of crying associated with the death of a loved one here.  I wanted to turn and run, afraid that we were walking in on the wake of either Maria or her grandmother.

I WAS NOT COMFORTABLE stepping into that grief, whatever it was.  Only by the grace of the Holy Spirit could I move forward.

What I found inside was worse than death.  Maria was lying on a hard, cotton mattress on the dirt floor of her home, screaming as if in terrible pain.  Once again, I wanted to turn and run with every fiber of my being.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE  confronting so much suffering.  I am not a nurse or a doctor, and I AM NOT COMFORTABLE filling in for one, even though none are available in this area.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE looking debilitating illness in the face as it swallows a person whole on their way to death.

I didn't know what to do.  How could Dick or I possibly help in this apparently hopeless situation?  I knew certainty, though, that God had led us here, though we had not intention of seeing Maria when we left home.  So, if He brought us here, He wanted us here.  I WAS NOT COMFORTABLE here, but I had to TRUST that He would lead me in what to do next.

So I knelt down on the floor beside her bed (I WAS NOT COMFORTABLE doing this since increasing I have trouble getting up from the floor--gotta love getting older.)  And I prayed and prayed, and she screamed and screamed.  As I was praying God did not give me any revelation, nor did He miraculously stop her suffering as I would have liked Him to do.

No, the prompting I got was much simpler: put her in her wheelchair.  I have no idea why she was not in her chair.  Her family who had come in with our arrival were all there, and capable of putting her in the chair, but they insisted that she did not like it.  We persisted, and as soon as she was in the chair, her wailing ceased.

We learned that Grandma herself is not doing well and cannot get out of bed.  This requires Maria's siblings to come and care for her.  While what they said would indicate that they cared for her well, what we encountered said otherwise.  No one had been with Grandma and Maria when we came, and you had to wonder if anyone would be there after we left.

The family told me that Maria could not eat, but she was clutching an apple.  I asked if she was hungry and her face lit up.  So Dick set off to look for a pharmacy that might have Ensure, and to get something like ibuprofen to relieve her joint pain.  (The family sad that she was not able to sleep at night because of the pain.)

While they were gone I took the apple, cut it open and began showing her sister how to scrape it with a spoon to get something resembling baby food.  As I was feeding this to Maria, it became obvious she could chew soft food and swallow it easily.  I began giving here bigger and bigger pieces which she chewed an swallowed without difficulty.

When Dick returned with a banana, she was able to hold it ant eat it herself.  She ate as someone would who had not been fed in a while.  Maria can no longer speak, so we have to infer things from her behavior.  I was feeling very uncomfortable distrusting the family until Mary Ann, the young Guatemalan woman who was with us, also voiced her concerns about the truthfulness of the family. 

Dick had bought Ensure, and Maria gulped down half a glass of it.  She was indeed hungry.  This was one need we could meet.  Dick now has a sponsor and will be bringing in Encaparina (a common drink loaded with nutrition) and fruit and other nutrition food that does not require a lot of preparation.  We made it very clear this would was just for Maria and her grandmother, and Dick will be following up on that.

We also decided that Maria needed something softer than that dirty, hard cotton mattress to lay on, and since there was no one to take her to the bathroom at night, diapers to help her stay more comfortable in the night. We will be providing her with diapers and if anyone feels led to sponsor her diapers for one month, they will run about $40 a month and you can make a donation at Reason to Hope, Inc.  Even a donation for a one month supply will help us a lot.  Just email me at to let me know your donation is for Maria.

I had an egg crate mattress and a large piece of memory foam a friend had given me (everyone wonders why I save this stuff for which I have no immediate use!) and Dick took that back to her a few days after our visit.  This seems to have made her much more comfortable lying down.

This whole situation made me UNCOMFORTABLE and continues to do so.  We have no real way of knowing how well the family is caring for her.  I left determined to contact the social worker for the area and ask her to check on Maria and her grandmother.

However, I failed to get Maria's full name, and there are no addresses here to send out a social worker.  The social work system here is complicated and I'm still trying to located one for this area.

If anyone in Guatemala knows where the nearest Social Workers would be located, please let me know.

I AM NOT COMFORTABLE involving the government in this situation, but know Dick and I cannot follow up often enough ourselves due to the distance.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE realizing that the only way a social worker will find Maria is if we take him or her in there ourselves.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE facing the reaction of the family when we do so, though I will present it as an attempt to help all of them care for Maria.  I AM NOT COMFORTABLE with this whole situation.

And my comfort is NOT important.  I have a decision to make.  Will I follow my feelings, or will I follow the Holy Spirit's lead.  We are not called to be comfortable but to be Jesus to those around us.

Please pray with me that I will be faithful to be Jesus in this situation, no matter how uncomfortable I might be. (Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He talked about dying to self.)