Monday, March 20, 2017

A Plea to the Church

Occasionally a message will burn so strongly in my heart that I cannot rest until I get it out. It feels that my chest will explode if I cannot find a way to share what is in my heart. This is one of those times. But, before I do, I want you to understand my tone.

Writing can be dangerous for a passionate guy like me. As you read these words on this page, you cannot see my face and decipher my tone as easily as you decipher these letters. So something that is written with tears in my eyes can easily be construed as being written with furrowed brow and scowl. I want you to know that as these words flow from my heart there are tears in my eyes and not a trace of anger. There is no judgement. This is just a heartfelt plea to God’s people. With that in mind, please continue reading.

Twelve days ago, a riot broke out in the Guatemalan government-run home, Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción. The resulting fire ended in the deaths of 40 adolescent girls and injuries to others and served to expose the abuse and neglect that had occurred in that nightmare of a home for years. Over 750 children and teens were housed in a place meant for 400. As I hear more of the testimonies from the children who were in there, my heart breaks at moments, only to be consumed with rage moments later. And the cycle continues to repeat.

What make this story especially sad is that it should never have happened. When I say that, you probably think, “Of course not! No one should ever treat a child like that!” And you would be right. What was done to those children is inexcusable. But that is not what I am talking about.

The abuse, neglect and deaths that occurred should never have happened, because Hogar Seguro (ironically the name means “Safe Home”) should never have existed. And it should not have existed because the government should not have been caring for orphans. That has always been, and always will be, the church’s responsibility.

Go to your Bible on your phone, pad or computer. Do a search in scripture for the words “orphan” and “fatherless.” What do you see? You see God repeatedly instructing His people to care for them. To feed them, clothe them and take them in. Old Testament…New Testament…doesn’t matter. They are completely in harmony on the topic. As God’s people, the orphan crisis in Guatemala and around the globe is OUR PROBLEM. And it is our responsibility to put an end to the crisis. In fact, according to James 1:27, resolving this crisis is at the heart of true and pure religion.

Right now there are around 650 children that have been thrust out of their orphanage and who need placement. Of that number, 43 of them had pronounced special needs. All of these have been placed into the same home in Guatemala City. They are crowded together into two big, open rooms where they live until another spot can be found. They are being fed and changed, but little else. This is not because the people caring for them are bad, but because they are overwhelmed. It is taking all that have to give to provide these basics. And the church has to do something.

There are two reasons why the church needs to be involved in caring for these 650 children, as well as the other children who are still in government homes. The first reason is obvious, because these orphans need the church…desperately. They need the body of Christ to care, and give, and go, and love them. Without the intervention of the church, many of these children will end up in gangs. Without the church, many will turn to prostitution. Without the church, many will go to jail. And, without the church, many will die. Each of these children need us desperately.

But there is a second reason that we often miss. THE CHURCH NEEDS THEM! 

Go ahead and read that again, just to make sure you didn’t misread it the first time. Yep, you read it right. The church needs the orphans. The church needs the displaced, the poor, the refugee, the broken. We need them, because without them we will never truly know Jesus.

I have known Jesus for over 34 years. During those years I have had one consistent prayer on my lips that has followed me from church to church and ministry to ministry. That prayer is this: "Jesus, let me know You as you really are without the filter of tradition, culture, or preconceived ideas." But it wasn't until I truly began to walk among the broken and taste their suffering that the layers of facade were stripped away and His face began to be revealed. And, now that I have experienced that, I can never go back.

I have learned that sharing in His suffering and the suffering of those He loves is necessary to know Him as He truly is. But that element is missing from most of the US church, and the church is suffering as a result.

Likely, some of you reading this right now are feeling an emptiness. You came to Christ and you are trying to follow Him. You go to church. You give. You try to show others Jesus in the way you live. But, somehow, there is still an emptiness. You can’t escape the awareness that you are missing something. You want your life to really matter for Jesus, but you wonder deep down if it really does. You want to feel God’s presence and hear His voice, but it is seldom that you actually do.

There is a false theology that has snared the church, and it is robbing us of the rich fellowship of Jesus Christ. It is the theology of comfort and security. We have been told that the responsible act is the godly act. Good parenting means keeping our children safe and sheltered. Good stewardship means savings accounts, retirement plans and never doing anything unless we have the money in-hand. Good discipleship means cautiousness. Keep your hands clean and your circle tight. And US Christianity proclaims “America First” and shuns risks.

But in the midst of the world’s suffering, out where things are dangerous and uncertain, is where we find Jesus. The Friend of sinners walks among the broken, poor, homeless and fatherless. And we will never truly know Him until we do the same.

We need the orphans as much as they need us. And, until we know that truth, we will consistently miss Jesus.

I write these words with tears in my eyes and pleading in my heart. Fellow believer, if you want revival in your life and in your church, step out in faith and walk with the poor, broken and orphaned. Please. It is the only hope for both the church and for the world.

That is finally off my chest, and I feel better. Now, let me share with you what our ministry is doing in response to the current crisis.

——————————————————

We want to take in more children, but we do not have the space. So, we have spoken with CNA and that have agreed to allow us to rent a second house close by and receive children under our current license. This is special permission to allow us to help them with the current crisis. Once the crisis has passed, we will either have to have that home licensed or close it down.

So, here we go. We are currently trying to rent a home just down the road from us. It is all on one level and is handicapped accessible. We will need to install a better bathroom, but it will otherwise be good to go. We are going to hire additional staff and receive ten more children with special needs.

Our daughters, Carissa and Taryn, are returning from Uganda. God has made it clear that the doors to open a group home there have been closed firmly by the government for now. In addition, the ministries with which Taryn had volunteered to serve have all cancelled on her. The only explanation for these events is that God is closing the doors there to send them elsewhere. Carissa has long-term plans that we will share soon, but in the short-term both of them are returning quickly to Guatemala to help us with this second house.

This is a huge step of faith for us in every way. This will increase our budget significantly. It will stretch Wanda and I and our staff in numerous ways. It is downright scary on almost every level. But God is never the source of fear, so we press on.

For right now, here is what we need:
  • Financial provision - We will have to hire at least three additional staff, purchase equipment and furnishings, install a bathroom, and increase our purchasing of food and supplies.
  • People to help - We need volunteers to come and serve. We especially need interns to serve from two months to a year. But we also need long-term workers to open additional homes and serve as support to the homes.
  • Prayer partners - We need people who are really interceding on behalf of our ministry and these children.
  • People to spread the word and share the needs - Could you share the first portion of this blog (down to the dotted line) with your congregation or small group? Could you talk to others and let them know about the crisis this country is facing? Then direct them to ways they can help. (Note: We are not suggesting that you funnel financial support to us. You can instead direct them to Orphan Resources International who is helping all the homes that are receiving children.)
  • In other words, we need you.

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Whenever there is a crisis, you would assume that most people would jump in to help. But most do not. It is not that they don’t care, but that they make a false assumption. Namely, they assume that there are others who are more qualified and better equipped who will step up to help.

Through years of experiencing this phenomenon, I now have a very different assumption. I assume that no one else will step up, so it is up to me. 

Might I make the recommendation that the church make that same assumption with me? What would happen if every believer and every church assumed that it was up to them? I sometimes like to sit and imagine that. And then I pray that God will make it reality.

So, here we go again, stepping off a cliff and praying that God will catch us as we catch these children. So, what do you think? Wanna take a leap?


Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Murder, Fires and Hope

On Wednesday evening, March 8th, our ministry’s Director of Operation and my very dear friend, Manuel Moran, was gunned down in the street close to his home in Jocotenango. He was on his motorcycle and stopped at an intersection when two young men road up, opened fire and drove away. He was declared dead at the scene.

I was at home that evening when my phone rang. His wife, Cristina, our Home Coordinator, was on the other end sobbing. It took some time for me to understand her words. “Manuel is dead!” When I realized what she was saying, I was left in complete shock.

I had said goodbye to him ninety minutes before, after discussing the following day’s schedule. We hugged, he left, and now he was gone.

Wanda and I rushed to the national hospital together. On the way we discussed what could have happened. A motorcycle accident? A health problem? Three months before he had complained of headaches and dizziness. Could it have been a brain tumor like the one that claimed his 12 year old daughter nine years ago? But in all the scenarios we discussed through tears, cold-blooded murder was never considered.

When we arrived, we found Cristina sitting outside the hospital. We only had to follow the sounds of her crying to find her. I knelt in front of her, hugged her and asked what happened. 

“They shot him! They shot him right in the heart!”

I thought that I had seen first-hand everything this country had to throw at us. But I was wrong. We have grieved death caused by accident, illness, neglect and incompetence, but now we were seeing evil up close and personal. And it took my breath away.

How do you begin to process and grieve the loss of someone you love who was taken from you by an intentional act? Someone decided that they had the right to snuff out a life of a husband, father, brother, son and friend. Someone intentionally chose to kill a minister of the Gospel and a faithful partner in our ministry. With a few twitches of the finger, they ended the earthly life that had been created, loved and nurtured for 41 years. And I did not know what to do with that.

I have always known that this evil exists. I see it in the news every day. I read it or hear it and my brow furrows and my head shakes. But for the first time, we were the direct recipients of the pain it brings. And the pain was overwhelming.

Manuel was one of the finest men that I have ever had the opportunity to know. He was selfless and loving. He was funny and quite the practical joker. He always made you laugh. But he was also so very tender and gentle. I have seen him hold a sick and fragile child while wiping tears over their suffering. He was a great friend, but he was more than a friend. He was my brother. And I loved him. And I cannot describe how much I miss him.

Since his death, almost daily I reach for my phone to call him, only to remember that I cannot. Yesterday morning was hard, as it was our first staff meeting since his death. I kept looking toward the door expecting him to enter with his sunglasses and typical smile, but he did not. 

He was a crucial part of our ministry. He got things done, even if it meant early morning and late nights. He connected us with resources and put people at ease. He shared the Gospel boldly but without a trace of judgement. And I don’t know what we will do without him.

The days following his death were a blur of grief and confusion. Arrangements were made. Appointments and trips were cancelled. I met with the detectives who interviewed me as a part of the investigation. And, somehow, we made it to the funeral on Friday afternoon.

The service was nice as many came to share their condolences. But the treasure came as our procession followed the casket to the cemetery. The route we took walked us right past the special needs school that several of the children in our home attend. As we got close, I heard clapping and looked ahead. The students and teachers of the school had come out and lined both sides of the street, and as we passed, they clapped. I held it together pretty well until that point, but most everyone lost it then. I am not sure I have ever seen a more touching and fitting tribute than those beautiful children with special needs paying their respects in that manner. They were ministers that day.

We arrived at the grave and there were words spoken by Manuel’s sons, Daniel and Christian, and Cristina. At the end, Cristina called our entire Ministerio de Esperanza team forward to thank us for our support and to pray for us. Yes, you read that right. She prayed for us.

Many people have asked how they can support Cristina. I want to let you know that our ministry takes seriously the responsibility to care for both orphans and widows, and we are committed to making sure her needs are met. It is not appropriate for me to detail everything we are doing, but I do want you to know that the funeral is paid for and she is cared for. If any of you wish to give to assist our ministry in meeting these expenses, you are welcome to do so. But trust me when I tell you that we will not allow her to struggle.

On Sunday evening, almost our entire Guatemala ministry team came together in our home to worship, pray and look to the Word of God together. Around 45 of us were there, including Cristina and her sons, and God was present in a mighty way. That evening we were reminded that the enemy is defeated, death is powerless, and we would proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ more powerfully and boldly than ever. I truly felt healing flow over us. God is truly good and strong, and never more so than when we are weak.

We are still not sure how we will proceed. Manuel was such an important part of our ministry. His hands and influence were in all areas of our ministry. In a word, he is irreplaceable, both as an employee and a friend. For that reason, I would not allow myself to begin thinking about it until yesterday morning. I needed at least that long to mourn and pray and remember Manuel. And, even now, when I talk about finding a replacement I feel physically ill. We cannot replace Manuel. 

But we will move forward. We will find someone different with their own strengths, personalities and vision. I know we will love them as well and they will become family. And God will use them to take us forward to new areas. But they will be their own man or woman of God. But Manuel will remain in our hearts and our ministry.

As I write this, the motive for his murder is still unclear. It is obvious that they were not robbers, as nothing was stolen. That leaves two options. First, he could have been the victim of a gang initiation. Most gangs require a murder as an admission pass. I could be that Manuel was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Second, it could have been a contract hit. With gang members all around, you can arrange a murder for about $50. So even minor misunderstanding or disagreements can result in an assassination. We honestly don’t know the motive.

Ministerio Publico, the investigative branch of the police, seem to be taking the investigation seriously. They interviewed me on Friday morning seeking leads. They have asked me for a follow-up meeting that should happen this week. They seem to be pursuing every lead, and I am so grateful. We have forgiven his killers, but that does not mean that we do not want there to be justice. We don’t want these young man taking other lives. And Guatemala needs to see some examples of justice these days. Please pray for the salvation of Manuel’s killers, and please pray for justice.

We are facing many challenges right now. And one of those challenges erupted earlier the same day that Manuel was murdered. In the early hours of that same day, a riot in the state run orphanage in San Jose Pinula resulted in a fire that, at last count, had killed 40 teenage girls. More are hospitalize, and five have been transferred to the US for treatment.

As more and more details emerge, we are learning of horrible abuses that took place. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, rotten food, and physical restraints are just a few of the conditions that have been exposed. They now believe that all of the dead were locked together in a room, and their cries were ignored when the fire broke out. 

This orphanage was designed and equipped to care for 400 children. At the time of the fire, they were housing over 750.

In essence, these children were removed from homes and placed in this orphanage. They went from the frying pan into the fire. And it is now becoming clear that these children and teens were living a government sponsored nightmare.

Three people who were in oversight positions in the system have now been arrested. More arrests will likely follow.

The guilty home, Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción, has been ordered closed. This means that nearly 700 children are being thrust into an already full system. Many private homes, including ours, are being asked to receive survivors. We have agreed to receive two boys, and we are still waiting for them. The problem is, the children have all been scattered to a lot of different places, and they cannot find our boys. They have no papers indicating where each child was placed. The entire system is in chaos.

I plan to write more about this broken system soon, but for now we simply need your prayers. Pray for those girls that were burned and who are fighting for their lives. Pray for justice for those that have died, been injured or suffered abuse or neglect. Pray for the many private homes that are stepping up to care for these children, especially for provision and grace. And pray for Guatemala.

The bright spot in all of this ugliness is the church. I am seeing it alive and well as it comes together here in Guatemala. Following the fire, many ministries that serve orphans have come together to meet the needs. In addition, other ministries have reached out to us in the wake of Manuel’s death. Here are a few things I am seeing:
  • I see other ministries reaching out to us to offer their help to fill the gap that Manuel's death has left in our ministry. They are offering this help without desire for notice or credit, and they do so with no strings attached.
  • I see ministries directing donations away from themselves to other ministries to maximize the impact of the dollars on the current crisis following the orphanage fire and closure.
  • I see thousands of Christ-followers laying aside differences to pray together, cry together and work together.

In other words, I see the church being the church. And it is so good to see.

Please pray for our ministry, particularly Cristina and her boys in the days ahead. Pray for the children injured in the fire and the families of those lost. Pray for healing in the hearts and minds of those who were abused at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them. And pray for Guatemala, which can only know healing through the power of Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Growing Pains, Midwives and New Life

Christmas came a little late for me this year, with one of the best gifts I have ever received. Early in the new year I received a call from my friend, Dennis McCutcheon, who is the Director of Vine International Guatemala. He had received a shipment of wheelchairs and was offering me first pick. So, on January 16 Dale, Michael, Gerardo, Jeremiah, Manuel, Christine and I took four vehicles to their warehouse in San Jose Pinula and loaded them full of wheelchairs.

For around six months we had been needing folding institutional chairs, but they were unavailable. Many shipments were held up at the ports due to worker strikes, so we were getting desperate. So I cannot tell you how much joy this shipment gave me. We were able to bring 70 chairs back to our bodega, where they were sorted and stored. And the deliveries began that same week. 

Praise God, Dale had done lots of work at our warehouse to create more storage for us. So, we were able to fit all the chairs in in a manner that we can easily find the chair we need.

However, around the same time we also learned that a wonderful man in Washington State was preparing a shipment of between 240 and 270 children specialty chairs for us and Dick Rutgers. These specialty chairs will not fold, so each chair will take about 2.5 to 3 times the storage space of a folding chair. We suddenly realized that we would need more space very quickly, as the chairs are slated to arrive on March 2nd.

We thought we had found the perfect solution to our storage space issue. The property behind our home is available for rent, and it would be close to perfect for us. It has sat vacant for 15 years, so it needs a lot of work. But it is big and cheap. In fact, it is large enough that we could house our bodega, the second group home that the Gross family will be opening, and house our teams. And the income from the teams that we would no longer be paying to the hotel would pay the rent on the property. Everything looked great, and Joel drew up plans for the work we wanted to do to have them approved by the owner before signing the lease.

And that is when we realized that we had a problem. It seems that the owner is a radical environmentalist. She insisted that we were not allowed to cut down any of the trees on the property. And, since there were a few trees located exactly where we needed to place structures, that killed the deal. We were disappointed, but we also trust God’s plans. That must mean that this property was not the best spot for us.

However, that does mean we are facing a time crunch, as we now have 23 days until the container is supposed to arrive, and we don’t have storage for the chairs. So today our staff was working hard looking for property that can be used to store all our medicine, medical equipment, diapers, wheelchairs and wheelchair parts. We also need parking for more vehicles and an adequate work area. I estimate that we need around 3500 square feet in the warehouse. Please pray that we will find the right spot soon.

But, in the midst of this search for property, we are also giving praise. What a wonderful problem to have! So many wheelchairs that will give mobility to so many people! Thank you, Father, for placing such a awesome challenge in front of us!

Another piece of great news is that we have a midwife who will be joining our ministry soon! You may not know this, but for years we have wanted to begin a midwife training program. So many of the special needs that we encounter here in Guatemala are preventable. And a large part of preventing them is having people who are equipped to provide prenatal care and supervise births. Our desire it to train midwives in rural communities and establish birthing centers that will be properly equipped. But that vision has been delayed due to not having a trained midwife to lead the program.

But God has answered our prayers and brought us Stephanie Konrad! Stephanie is a RN from Thornton, Ontario with extensive midwife training and experience. So, in addition to her midwife skills, she also brings nursing knowledge that will assist our medical work. She recently completed a six month program working in a birthing center here in Guatemala to develop her birthing skills in a developing country.

She will be joining our team in late summer or early fall, and we cannot wait to have her. She will get to work quickly, developing relationships in some key rural villages in which we hope to develop  midwife programs. Please pray for her as she raises support and makes this transition.

Last week we were blessed to have our dear friends, Sam and Deb Silvers visiting us. I had the privilege of being their pastor, and Sam served on my leadership team during our Crosspoint Church years. It was a real treat to have them come and share in our lives and ministry here.

Then, on their second night with us, we drove to the city to pick up a real surprise for the family…Carissa and Taryn! When they flew to Uganda six months ago they were required to have six month return tickets in order to be issued a visa. Our plans were to change them as the six months approached. But when Wanda went to make the changes she found out that it was going to cost $1150 to change each ticket. Since a round trip ticket to Uganda was only $850, and since Brittney’s baby was almost due, we decided to let them return on their original ticket and just book new tickets. In the process, we would end up saving over $300 each.

The great part was that we were able to keep this a secret from the family. So almost everyone was surprised. I wish you could have seen the looks, tears and excitement on all the faces. It did my battered and bruised heart lots of good.

The day after they arrived, we all loaded up and took a trip up to San Pablo La Laguna to help Brittney and Joel move to their new home. They just signed a lease on a property that is right on the lake. It has a lot more room, both inside and out, that will allow it to serve as a true ministry center. There is room for vehicle parking, a huge yard, and sufficient space to have medical and therapy clinics. We had a great day of helping them move together. And then, a few days later, Joel and Brittney came to join us for the birth of their baby. Since medical care is not good close to them, they decided to have the baby in a private hospital in Antigua. Not wanting to be three hours away from the hospital, they decided it was best to come here two weeks before the due date and sit tight, waiting for the birth.

And, it’s good that they did, because the baby came 10 days early! So Wanda and I have another grandchild! And, for the first time, we actually have a grandchild in the same country as us! On Friday, February 3, Brittney gave birth to an extremely handsome little guy. Christopher Caleb Caal Fulp weighed in at 7 lbs 14 oz and is healthy and happy. For the first time, Wanda and I were able to visit a grandchild at the hospital and hold him when he was only 90 minutes old. (Our two other grandchildren, Tristan and Allison, were born in the States while we were here. So, we missed that honor with both of them.)

We experience so much sickness, suffering and death here. It has been such a joy to have a chance to experience new life for a change. When I held Christopher for the first time, I wept tears of joy. And as I prayed with Joel, Brittney and Christopher a few minutes later, I wept again. God’s creative power in bringing life into the world is awesome, beautiful and humbling!

Well, that is enough for now! Thanks for your prayers, support and encouragement! We appreciate you all!


Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Death, Hope and Christmas

In my last blog I wrote about our little Margareth (Maggy). And now I must write that she is with Jesus. 

We were able to bring her home from the hospital on the morning of Christmas Eve. I spoke with the doctor and explained the set-up of our home. I told him that we were well equipped to administer her meds through her IV port and that we had all the equipment we needed. So, he allowed her to come home for Christmas.

We arrived back home mid-morning and got her settled in our own hospital ward right next to the Christmas tree. We had the oxygen concentrator ready, along with a suction pump and nebulizer. She settled in and was breathing well, with her oxygen sats in the mid 90’s. She actually seemed stronger and better than we had seen her to that point.

Because of the extensive amount of care she required, we had to establish a printed schedule of feeding, oral meds, IV meds and nebulizations. I spent much of the afternoon making that schedule and administering meds.

Our normal Christmas Eve tradition is to eat snacks and watch the movie, The Nativity Story. We had just settled in and pressed play at around 8:55, when Wanda said, “Daryl, she’s not breathing!”

For the next 35 minutes, Katie Riley, our staff nurse, and I did CPR. Let me just say that I could not have had a better partner than Katie. She was professional, composed and very methodical and precise. We worked together well with me doing respirations while she did compressions until I was exhausted. Then we switched without missing a beat.

Twice Maggy began breathing again, but her breaths were shallow and did not continue for more than a few cycles before she stopped again. At times she had a heartbeat, so we stopped compressions. But her heart would gradually slow, get weaker and then stop, so we would resume compressions. 

But at 9:30 she had no heartbeat and we could not get her to breath. In my heart, I knew she was gone, so we stopped CPR.

I have found myself in similar situations to this numerous times in the last six years. When you are in the midst of the crisis, adrenaline carries you. You go into a machine like mode of breathing and compressions. You focus on what you have to do. And then, when it is over, you are suddenly overwhelmed as the emotions that were put on hold suddenly come flooding in all at once. And that is exactly what happened. 

We hugged and wept together. We all loved little Maggy, and we had hoped that she could survive until she got stronger and received heart surgery. So we grieved and grieved deeply. And, after a while, I slipped away to be alone.

I walked to the far side of our outside steps, sat on the floor and laid my head on one of the steps. And I sobbed. I cried so hard I could barely breath. Because, in addition to grieving the loss of a precious baby, I also had a huge weight of guilt. If I had not talked the doctor into sending her home for Christmas, Maggy might still be alive.

Wanda found me like that. And as she tried to comfort me, I unloaded all that guilt on her. And, at one point, I told her, “I don’t know if I can spring back from this. I don’t think I can keep doing this.” And I really was not sure that I could. 

The next few hours are a blur of visitors, telephone calls, a casket delivery and arrangements discussed. I called our social worker, who told us how to proceed. Maggy’s body was prepared and placed in the casket next to our Christmas tree. And, in the middle of it all, we comforted one another.

At about 1:00 am on Christmas morning I walked over to our doctor’s home with Maggy’s file that he needed to complete her death certificate. Dr. Augusto had never met or examined Maggy, because she came to us late in the evening and was hospitalized the next morning. And when she was discharged he was away visiting family for Christmas Eve. So this was his first chance to see her records.

He spent a few minutes reading her medical file and then looked at me. He told me, “Daryl, she was a very sick little girl who was not going to live. You know that don’t you? There was nothing you could do to save her.” When I began to cry he said, “It was good she died in your home with your family instead of in the hospital.”

As I walked back to our house, I felt that God had given me what I needed to make it until morning. I finally laid down to a fitful sleep at around 2:00 am.

The next morning at 7:00 am, Jeremiah, Joel, Andi, Stevie and I walked to the graveyard and dug her grave. Dale showed up and lent a hand as well. We then returned to the house, cleaned up and had a brief service for Maggy. I read of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2 and spoke about how the birth of one baby gave us hope during the death of another. In reality, the only reason that we have any hope at all is because of that one baby that was born in Bethlehem, and because if his death 33 years later. A couple of other spoke as well, then we said our goodbyes. 

We had a small procession of people who walked to the graveside, and some of our neighbors saw and joined us. I said a few words and prayed, and we lowered her tiny casket and filled in the grave. And then we returned home.


I knew that we needed to salvage what was left of Christmas for the kids, so when I arrived back home I loudly announced, “The funeral is over! It is time for Christmas!” We signed in with our daughters, Carissa and Taryn via Skype, and they participated from Uganda. I shared the story of Simeon with the kids, and we then opened presents.



In spite of our grief, we had a good time together. The children loved their presents, and there was laughter, photos, and hugs. We then enjoyed a huge lunch together. I believe that the children will have pleasant memories of the day, even in the midst of the painful goodbye.During this time, I have felt God’s presence, even during the darkest moments. I don’t know what to call it, except His smile. I know this is the life to which He has called us. I know that He loves these children, including Maddy, far more than we ever could. And I also know that He is pleased when we love them, as well. So, we keep moving forward.

I have struggled somewhat since Christmas Eve. Call it a general sadness. In addition, whenever someone speaks in a urgent voice my heart rate escalates quickly in a panic. When falling to sleep, I often jerk awake suddenly, thinking that Maggy is still with us but she has stopped breathing. And I struggle with paranoia regarding the children’s health. I guess you might call it a mild case of PTSD. 

Last night we made the decision to receive a three year old girl named Genesis into our home and family. She has severe cerebral palsy and cognitive delays that were caused, we believe, by meningitis.

I am truly proud of my family, which includes our interns, that is willing to step up again so soon after the very painful loss of little Maggy. Every one of them understands the importance of grieving, but they also understand it is important to keep serving and reaching in the midst of our pain. Each day they continue to humble and amaze me.

The courts will not be open to order the move until January 3rd. It will likely take a few days after that, due to the backlog of cases that will be waiting. She is currently in an orphanage that is not equipped to care for special needs, but, thankfully, I know it to be a safe place that cares well for its children. Please pray for little Genesis and for our family and team during the transition that lies ahead.

I wish I could tell you I have the answers to all our huge questions. I wish I could tell you that I am strong and stable. I wish I could say I do not continue to struggle with my own fears and pain. But I cannot. I am experiencing what I believe to be slight depression with lots of accompanying fatigue. I have not struggled like this since Thania’s very traumatic and sudden death in July 2013. 

But I can tell you this: God is good, and He is my Sustainer. In my weakness, He is strong. So, for now, I will be weak and allow Him to be strong. And, together, we will advance and not retreat.

Happy New Year from Guate!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



Close Calls & Christmas

Let me describe our week with one word. WHEW!

It all started on Monday when we received a call from the courts in Guatemala City. They told us they had a three month old little girl with microcephaly and wondered if we would take her. Our home is full, but we also know that we specialize in brain damage cases. So, we agreed.

Little Margareth arrived on Monday evening at around 8:30, and the first thing I noticed was that she was not microcephalic. The second thing I noticed was that she was very malnourished. When I questioned the social worker who brought her, she told us that she, instead, suffered from a severe seizure disorder and had spent her entire life in the national hospital Roosevelt. She also told us that she was being treated for a cough and we simply needed to follow the treatment plan established by the hospital.

She showed signs of severe low-tone cerebral palsy. She was unable to support her head at all, and her arms hung limply at her sides. She was very unresponsive. The problem with this situation is that we have never seen her before this moment. We have no baseline against which we can measure her current status. Is this “normal” and a result of brain damage? Or is there a problem that needs to be addressed.

And this is where I made a nearly fatal mistake. I trusted the hospital. Roosevelt is the nation’s largest and best national hospital. They have the best doctors and equipment. And they usually provide semi-decent care. The hour was late by the time the paperwork was completed, and I decided that, since she had just been discharged a few hours earlier, she must be stable. So I decided to wait until the following morning to have our doctor come and check her. That decision nearly killed a precious little girl, and I have kicked myself repeatedly.

She slept in a porta-crib in our bedroom so that we could monitor her closely. She coughed during the night, and Wanda got up with her early to take her downstairs and hold her while she slept. I eventually got up and started getting ready for the day.

Suddenly Wanda burst into the bathroom where I was and said, “Something is wrong! Is she breathing? I don’t think she is breathing!” I grabbed her, took her to our bed, and checked her breathing and pulse. She had, indeed, stopped breathing, so I started CPR.

After a moment, I realized that she had phlegm that was blocking her airway, so I ran downstairs to our changing room where we keep a suction machine. I attempted to suction her, but the machine was malfunctioning (even though I inspect it regularly to assure that it is working well). I cleared her mouth and continued CPR while Stevie worked on the machine and got it working. 

This continued for around 5 to 7 minutes. I will be honest, I thought we had lost her. I would do several courses of compressions and breathing, and would then do an abdominal thrust to help clear phlegm. I could feel air flowing into her lungs and felt I was getting good compressions, so I kept going. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I blew air into her lungs and she coughed, bringing up a large wad of phlegm…and started breathing again! Shortly after, she began to cry, and what a beautiful sound that was!

Meanwhile, we had been trying to reach the rescue squad, but their phone was not on. (Yes, you read that right.) So I ran upstairs to finish getting dressed (I was wearing boxers and a t-shirt for this ordeal.) and we started grabbing items to take to the hospital. At the same time, Stevie had gotten the suction machine working and was able to suction out additional mucous. So Wanda and I headed to the hospital via a breath-taking ride in our new ambulance with Margareth. We were seen quickly and she was immediately admitted.

And this was when I collapsed in exhaustion. And, as more info came back to us, I moved from fatigue to anger. Little Margareth had a severe case of pneumonia, which means she had pneumonia 16 hours before when she was discharged from Roosevelt. And, as more info came to us, I got angrier. She also had severe anemia, which may require a transfusion. And a lung infection. And a heart defect. All of these were undiagnosed and untreated when she was discharged the day before, in spite of over three months in that hospital. And this negligence and incompetence nearly killed her.

And then I got angry with myself. I should have called the doctor and had him come the night before. I should know better than to ever trust any national hospital. I should always verify the health of a child immediately. And I did not. And I nearly killed her as a result.

Finally, I settled on something besides angry and guilt…gratitude. She was still alive. God had orchestrated details in such a way as to save her life. Katie, our nurse, was away in Guastatoya on a village trip. I had been scheduled to leave early that morning and head to the far side of Guatemala City, but at 5:30 am I received a message from my friend telling me that power lines were down across his driveway due to high winds, so we could not meet. As a result, I slept in a little longer and was home when the crisis hit. Praise God for His orchestration of power lines and schedules to save His children!

Our little girl has a huge battle ahead. I am typing this blog from her hospital room while this very sick little princess lies beside me for the night. We have to get her past this current crisis, help her gain weight and get stronger, and likely have heart surgery. Lots of work lies ahead as do lots of  expenses, because I guarantee you that the national hospital will not touch this little girl again if I have anything to say about it. Please pray for her.

After the immediate crisis passed, I realized some important plans we had made were in jeopardy. As a part of our Christmas present to our kids and interns, we had made arrangements to rent a home in Antigua for a night away as a retreat. All the Fulps and interns were to spend that time together while some of our nannies spend the night in the home to care for the other kids. We have faced some serious challenges and losses in the last year, and we really needed the time together. But, with Margareth’s hospitalization, I did not see how we could follow through. At least one of us would have to stay at the hospital with her at all times.

But the Beyer family came to the rescue! Dale, Anita, Kristin, Kathlyn and Alyssa took turns with shifts so we could all go away together! Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are for them!

So, yesterday morning we all headed out for a wonderful time together. We swam, played games, laughed and talked for hours. I have not felt so relaxed in a long time.

Then today we left the home and headed out highway CA-1 toward Lake Atitlan. Every year during the month of December children come out and stand by the highway and wave at passing cars. Some cars throw out candy and snacks as a part of the Christmas season. So our whole family, including interns, took candy, but that’s not all. We also took coats, shoes, warm hats, toothbrushes, toothpaste and small toys. Instead of tossing candy, we stopped and were swarmed by children and families as we passed out the items.

This is a poor region, and many of the kids were without decent shoes, coats or hats. The region is almost 9000 feet above sea level, so it is chilly most of the time and cold the rest of the time. Many of the children were dirty and poorly clothed. They lined up and we gave away almost everything we had.

One powerful moment came when a lady with special needs approached us. She was barefooted and needed shoes. But we only had shoes in children’s sizes, so I thought we would have to send her away with nothing. However, I watched as my wife gave her her own flip flops. And I fell in love with Wanda all over again.

I have struggled this year with finding my “Christmas Spirit.” Life is busy, and we have been dealing with some very sick children in our home. I have just been overwhelmed and a little nostalgic for an “old fashioned North Carolina or Ohio Christmas.” It just has not felt like Christmas.

But today I found what I was looking for. As we stood surrounded by a crush of children, I was reminded of what Christmas really is. It is not about family. It is not about cold weather. It is not about the smells and memories of my childhood holidays. It is not a feeling or emotion.

It is hope, joy, and love that we only have because Jesus came to be God with us. In the most astounding event in human history, God became one of us so that He could be with us in every moment. And through this, we have what the entire world longs for, even if they do not realize it. And due to this incredible event called Christmas, we have the incredible privilege of taking hope, joy and love to the world every day and in every interaction. Today, on the side of a highway, surrounded by a crowd of children, I found Christmas.

If you are struggling to find Christmas this year, it is because you are looking in the wrong place. You won’t find it in traditions, decorations, cookies, gifts or parties. You will find it among the hurt and the broken who are looking for what you have. Go find your Christmas today.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew