Monday, August 15, 2016

Not Letting Go of the Rope

At last I am taking the time to do a full blog update! It has taken a while, as my last one was a month ago. Perhaps I should find someone to write my blog for me each week. Hmmmm…

For some time I have been fighting the continued expansion of this ministry. It has grown at a rate that frightens me and leaves me feeling not in control. But I guess that is true, as I have never been in control of anything. That has been, and always will be, God’s job. But with each expansion I have felt increasingly ill-equipped to lead. So, I have tried to slow things down and resist, and I have been very unsuccessful. 

Have you ever seen someone learning to water ski? It is usually an awkward experience that involves numerous falls. And sometimes when a newbie falls, they forget to let go of the tow rope. As a result, they are drug through the water face-first with water going in their mouths, up their nose and turning their eyelids inside-out. It is funny to watch, but not to experience.

As the ministry grows, that very much describes how I feel. I am holding on for dear life as God drags me ahead while I helplessly try to slow His 500 horsepower outboard engine with my face. Trust me when I say, that doesn’t work.

So, in July, our ministry expanded to another department. For some time I have been receiving calls and messages from a social worker in Jalapa asking us to come. Over and over I told her that we could not expand into another region, but that I would provide a few wheelchairs to some people during a one-time visit. Silly me. Before all was said and done, I found myself bringing six wheelchairs and a crew with me for a very long day.

We left at 4:30 in the morning and arrived around 8:00 am. If you have never been a part of a wheelchair delivery, I need to explain something. It usually does not go quickly. Each chair has to be adjusted to fit the individual, and that takes time to do correctly. I have never done more that three chairs in a day during a village trip, and just doing three amounts to a long day. As a result, we did not arrive back home until around 10:15 pm. And I was exhausted.

There is so much poverty in the department of Jalapa. As we visited, God softened my heart to the region and the needs. By the end of the day I had committed to visiting once a month and finding sponsors for families.

One of the cases was heart-breaking. Sherlyn is a teenage girls who suffers from Autism and cerebral palsy. She can be aggressive and often hurts herself. She will take her fingers and claw against concrete walls and floors until she bleeds. She is easily over-stimulated and gets agitated when she is. Her family does not understand her condition, and they have dealt with it the only way they know how…by putting her in a large box. I should note that it was clean and they had placed toys in with her, but it definitely was aggravating her condition.

We spent a lot of time talking with the family and educating them about autism. I showed them appropriate stimulation, and they saw her immediately relax as I did so. We provided her with a wheelchair and showed them how it was much healthier to sit outside in the chair than stay in the box. We will continue working with the family in the months ahead. Please pray for Sherlyn and her family.

I can talk about the poverty of the region, but there is no better example of that poverty than little Elvin and his family. Elvin is 5 years old and has cerebral palsy and a severe cleft lip and palate. His family lives in a small mud brick and mud floor home. There is no father in the family, so when they expanded the home by adding a small room, a 12 year old brother did all the work. A dim bulb lit the room as we provided him with a wheelchair and assessed his needs. We will be seeking a sponsor to provide him with food, diapers and therapy. We will also seek a sponsor to cover a medical assessment so we can get him on a waiting list to have his lip and palate repaired.

Carmen’s family is also very poor, but that doesn’t dim her smile. She seems to be happy all the time. But the family’s situation is getting critical. One of Carmen’s sisters has a little work, but she is due to have a baby any day. And she fears that she will lose her job if she misses work for childbirth. We will also be seeking a sponsor for food for Carmen and her family.

By the time we had delivered the six wheelchairs and visited three additional families, the hour was late. I returned home feeling overwhelmed and seeking God for how we could impact Jalapa and help in a significant way. We will be returning next week, and already there is a long list of families that are waiting to see us. One life at a time, we hope to bring glory to Jesus.

At the end of July we said goodbye to our daughter, Taryn. She is currently in Uganda to serve for the next year with our daughter, Carissa, who is opening a home for girls with special needs. This goodbye was hard for us. We have said goodbye so many times to those we love, and it just doesn’t get easier. She celebrated her 18th birthday just a few days after arriving in Uganda, and it was hard not being with her. 

But all these goodbyes are what we have prayed for since before our children were born, although we did not realize it at the time. We have always prayed that our children would grow to love Jesus and follow Him wherever he leads. We insisted that there be included in their infant dedication services a commitment to release them to and support them in full-time ministry if God were to so call them. And God has answered our prayers. As a result, we currently have two daughters serving in Uganda, one daughter serving in San Pablo La Laguna, Guatemala (three hours northwest of us), and another joining us in Guatemala this Saturday. (We have no idea in what region of Guatemala she and her new husband will serve.) And we also have Jeremiah, who is currently 15 and feeling God’s call. But we don’t know if he will serve in Guatemala, the United States, or on the other side of the world.

So, we say goodbyes, swallow the lumps in our throats, wipe the tears and pray a lot. And we rejoice that our children are following Jesus, even if it is on the other side of the globe.

We just finished our team season with two excellent groups over the last two weeks, and I had the opportunity to take a small representative of each team out with me to visit some villages and families. Two weeks ago we went to Las Palmas and provided a new wheelchair for Henri. Henri is one of the most difficult children to seat because he is very high-tone and his hips cannot bend to 90 degrees. So, he has a tendency to slide down in any chair we place him in. His old chair wore out, so as we were leaving I stopped by our rural village storage building and grabbed a chair that I prayed would work. And, praise God, it did! After about 1 1/2 hours of adjustments Henri was sitting up better than I had ever seen before. 

Last week we visited families in Tecpan with the group. I love that area, because the drive to the different families is beautiful. But I was also excited to see Dora and her family. They are one of my favorite families with whom we work, because the joy of the Lord is always present in their home.

When we arrived at their house we found Dora quite sick. She had a high fever, a bad headache and was vomiting. We were quickly able to get her fever down, and I realized she had a nasty case of pharyngitis. We started her on antibiotics, and she is now doing much better.

We were also able to deliver a portable oxygen concentrator to her. We are renting a home oxygen concentrator for her, but she can only use it in her house with electricity. She loves going to church, but when she goes without oxygen her lips turn blue and she gets sick. They also have power outages, and she has the same problem when this happens. With this unit that was donated to our ministry, she can now go to church as it can run quietly for hours on batteries. This can also serve as a back-up in case of power outages.

Providing oxygen is a growing part of our ministry. We rent two home oxygen concentrators for two different families. We provide a donated third concentrator to another family. We also provide portable oxygen tanks and regulators for those who need to be mobile for doctor appointments or emergency transportation. And we were just donated three of the portable concentrators to use with families such as Dora’s. 

Speaking of which, if you have connections to get us donations of oxygen tanks, we really need them. We currently have three that are operational, and we need a lot more..

You probably remember little Edy. He joined our home about two months ago. He came to us recovering from malnutrition. His mother had abandoned him, and his grandmother had done her best to care for him. But, due to poverty, she only had tortillas and coffer to feed him. He has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and is blind.

Two weeks ago we had a CAT scan done on him. The results were not good. The neurologist tells us that 80% of his brain is dead or damaged, including parts of his brain stem. He told us that he believes that Edy does not have long to live. He says that he will likely just stop breathing some day soon.

This news was difficult to hear. We knew that he had severe special needs, but did not realize until now that those needs were likely terminal. And our first thought was, “Lord, please not again!”

We have lost so many children that we love. Four have died in our home due to severe medical conditions, and many more have died in our rural village ministry. As I counted up recently, I realized that I have attended more funerals in the last 5 1/2 years than in my first 43 years of life. And all but one of those funerals were for children. The thought of losing little Edy feels overwhelming.

But we realize that this is a vital part of our ministry. We don’t know how long we have with Edy, but we know that we will love him deeply for as long as we do. And, when the day comes, we will lay him in the arms of Jesus and grieve for him. Every child deserves a family that will fight for him and grieve for him when the fight is over. Sometimes God uses us to save lives. Sometimes God calls us to carry them to Him.

And so, wherever God takes me, no matter how painful and no matter how fast, I won't let go of the rope.

Well, that is all for now. Blessings and love from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Exciting News to Share!

I have been trying to find time to write a full update, but my schedule has been very challenging recently. Long days come together to make long weeks, and I just have not been able to carve out a spot for writing. But I do have some big news to share, so I will do so now and try to do a full update later this week.

This week our Board of Directors approved that addition of Brad and Tiffany Jones to our Guatemalan team! Brad and Tiffany will be joined by their two children, Chloe and Currie, and will serve as the Directors of one of our departmental headquarters. At present, we are not sure in which department they will serve. Instead, they will come and serve alongside us, receiving training and learning Spanish for the first six to twelve months, and will then transition to the department that will later be determined.

Brad brings with him extensive management experience in the field of health and safety. He is currently working on his Masters of Theological Studies with an emphasis on missions. Tiffany has three years of credits toward a Bachelors Degree in Social Work with a minor in special education and has lots of experience in children's ministry. We believe they will be a great addition to our team.

Currently they are planning on joining us in Guatemala next summer or fall. Please pray for them in the coming year as they have much to do, including fundraising, selling their possessions and home, and saying goodbye.

On another exciting note, our daughter, Krishauna, and son-in-law, Andi, will be joining us here on August 20th! (That is only 10 days away, but who's counting?) Krishauna will be putting her degree in special education to good use with our ministry, while Andi opens a Guatemalan branch of Push the Rock, a ministry that makes and builds disciples through sports. Please be in prayer for their transition as well.

More updates coming soon! Please be patient!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why? Because! (Another post from another hospital room)

So, here I sit in a hospital room…again. Ruavis began struggling with uncontrolled seizures yesterday in the morning. We contacted our neurologist via phone, who adjusted his meds. But this morning it was difficult to wake him. They used cold wet cloths and a shower to get him going, and once he did wake up his seizures were nearly constant. 

We took him to the emergency room, and the doctor chose to admit him. The pediatrician just left the room, and he confirmed what I suspected and hoped. He has an infection that only showed itself through the blood work, and we believe that is what triggered the seizures. Hopefully, after that has been treated with antibiotics intravenously, his seizures will settle down again.

Meanwhile, we have been fighting an infection in little Edy. He came to us with an infection that has been treated with two types of antibiotics, but each time the symptoms will abate, only to return again in a few days. Yesterday the pediatrician started him on a third, more powerful antibiotic that we hope will get him healthy.

But right now, I find myself sitting in a hospital room with Ruavis trying to estimate how many nights I have spent is similar rooms next to sick children. And I have given up trying to count them. I have lost track of how many times I have slept to the rhythm of a respirator. How many times I have awoken to the alarm of an oxygen sat monitor. I don’t want to remember how many showers I have taken and tried to dry myself with those ridiculously thin, tiny towels the hospitals provide. And I cannot tell you how often I have wanted to slap a nurse who thinks a 2:00 am temperature check is an appropriate time to use her loud and obnoxiously cheerful wake-up voice. (But each of those nurses should be glad I don’t carry a weapon.)

And, as I recount those memories, I again ask myself the same old question. Why do I do this? Why does my family do this? Why does my wife put herself in a home setting where her sleep is frequently interrupted by sick and crying children? Why do our interns willing come and live in a home where the diaper changes are endless and often poop-filled? Why does our wonderful staff expose themselves to seizures and vomit and suffering that most people go out of their way to avoid? And why do all of us choose to love children that could be taken from us at any moment? Why?

The answer is simple. Because these little ones are worth it. And the benefit we gain in return is more than worth any sacrifice we make. There are moments filled with pain, fatigue and horrible grief, but there are other moments filled with unfiltered joy, hope and strength. And those moments make all the others worth it.

And that makes me think of Jesus. I cannot imagine the pain and grief of the cross. I am sure that there are moments when He remembers those six hours hanging on Calvary, as well as the pain and abuse leading up to that, and His brow must crease and His eyes water at the memory. But God’s Word tells us that He sees it all as worth it. Much as the memory of labor pains dims when a mother finally holds her child, the pain of Calvary dims when we crawl into His lap and He holds us close. It all becomes worth it.

Love is not cheap, and it certainly is not easy. It has a huge price. And loving children that are sick, frail and suffering seems to have an even higher price. But it is worth it. The hours are brutal, but the payoff comes when those children smile…and you feel God smile as well. There are no better benefits in the world.

So, goodnight from another hospital room. You are loved!

(I just read the news and saw another terrorist attack has occurred in Nice, France. Time is short, and hate is strong. And we only have one hope and one weapon against it. Let us love, boldly and fearlessly. Let us love Jesus Christ and love those around us, no matter the cost. Let us change the world, beginning with the life right next to us. We only have a little more time to do so, so let’s get to it!)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Death, Emergencies and Expansion

Today is Dia de Ejército (Army Day) in Guatemala, which means the staff has the day off. I decided that I would take some time off as well, with the stipulation that I really needed to update my blog. I thought it had been about three weeks since my last post, so I was quite surprised when I checked and realized it had been almost a month and a half. Time truly flies when you are overwhelmed.

So, here is another whirlwind tour of our life and ministry in Guatemala. Please keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, and do not distract the driver.

Wanda’s illness has continued to slowly pass. She is now back to about 90%, with very few attacks of fever or pain. When they do come, they are minor and she is able to continue functioning. Thank you so much for all your prayers for her! 

Last week we were able to do something we have not done in a long time. Wanda and I went out for a day of rural ministry with just the two of us. It is hard to explain how much that day meant to me as we served side-by-side. Wanda is incredible with all the kids we encounter, and she had a crowd of them around her in no time. As we traveled, we were able to talk about life and ministry, and God used that time to solidify future plans for both of us. 

One of the reasons I needed that time with my wife was due to another loss that we suffered. On June 10 Misael passed away, and I have been grieving him deeply. We had worked with him for about four years, and he had been doing very well. But about two weeks prior to his death we were contacted by his grandmother, Esperanza, who has raised him since he was an infant. She told us that he seemed to be having headaches and his seizures had come back. I suspected a failed shunt, so we took him to our neurologist, who ordered an MRI and sent us to a neurosurgeon. We were able to see  the neurosurgeon on the 9th, and he confirmed a failed shunt and recommended surgery, so we started the process of scheduling that.

That evening we received another call from his grandmother telling us that his eyes had turned blood red. This is usually a sign that the capillaries are bursting from pressure. So we called the surgeon’s cell phone to see if they could do emergency surgery the next morning. Unfortunately, he passed away before we could make that happen.

I arrived at his home about 20 minutes after he had passed away. Most of the family had not yet arrived, so his grandmother ran to me and clung to me while we wept together. She kept saying, “I did my best to take care of him, but it wasn’t enough.” So I just kept telling her what a wonderful grandmother/mother she had been to him. And that is so very true. In addition to hydrocephalus, he also had autism and cried loudly and frequently. She spent hours every day pushing his wheelchair in circles in their home to keep him calm and happy. She fed, changed and washed this boy, who was quite heavy, day after day. And she treated him with great love and respect. And, after 13 years of caring for him, her life feels very empty. Please pray for Esperanza. We are trying to arrange for her to come and help in our home so she can make good use of her skills while helping her find purpose again.

This week we received a new little one into our home. His name is Cesar, and if you are keeping track you know that the last three children that we have received has that name. So, we will be calling him by his second name, Eduardo, or Edy for short. Edy joins us with a lot of needs. He is two years of age and just reached 11 pounds. He comes to us from a malnutrition center that he entered weighing just over five pounds two months ago. He was abandoned by his parents, and his grandmother was trying to care for him. However, she is very poor and could only feed him tortillas and cheap coffee. 

In addition to his malnutrition, he is also blind and has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. We believe he is somewhat hearing impaired, but it is hard to know just how much at this point. He has a long road ahead, but at least he now has a family around him. He is already loved so very much, and has a lot of people fighting for him now. Please pray for Edy in the weeks and months ahead.
We have been dealing with so many medical emergencies in recent weeks. As our ministry grows, word is spreading. I am receiving calls from social workers and ministries all over Guatemala. Many of these situations are true emergencies that need immediate response. I am so thankful for our incredible staff that is so willing to cheerfully serve late into the evening or on the weekend to care for these children. Here are a few of these children that we are serving:

Dora is 14 years old and has severe scoliosis. The curve of her spine has left her so twisted that her rib cage is now infringing on her heart and lungs. As a result, her body is not getting enough oxygen. We investigated whether we could get her corrective surgery, but have been told it is too delicate to have it done here. She would need to go to the States for an extended period, and that just is not feasible. So, our ministry is currently providing oxygen for her in the form of an oxygen condenser machine. We are renting this from the city. We just want to make her comfortable and give her as much time as possible with her family.

Karli is now almost seven months old. She has Down Syndrome and a heart condition that requires that she use oxygen 24/7 until she can have heart surgery. So we are also renting an oxygen concentrator for her. She is beautiful and so fragile. She keeps getting respiratory infections, and we have had to rush her to the hospital using our emergency oxygen tanks on a couple of occasions. Please pray for her.

Sophia’s situation is almost identical to Karli’s. (Sorry that I don’t have a photo of her.) She is seven months old and has both Down Syndrome and a heart problem. She, too, requires oxygen to keep her alive until surgery, so we have another concentrator that was donated from the States that is waiting for her. However, she is in the hospital and is so sick that they cannot discharge her. We have been told numerous times that she was being released, so we were ready to transport her using our tanks, but each time she took a turn for the worse and the plans were cancelled. Please pray for Sophia.

About a week ago I received a call from Katherin’s family in Lo Gomera. She has severe cerebral palsy and struggles with frequent respiratory infections, and her family was calling to let me know that she was, once again, sick. Brad and Tiffany Jones, our friends from the States, were visiting, so they, Wanda and I all jumped in my truck and headed out for the two hour drive down. When we arrived, we found her very sick and struggling to breath. Her oxygen sats were in the mid 60’s and I was afraid we were going to lose her. So, we loaded her in my truck along with her mom and dad and headed to a private hospital in Santa Lucia, about an hour away.

After testing they determined that she had both a respiratory infection and Dengue Fever. They then gave her a prescription for two kinds of meds and told us we could take her back home. In spite of an argument between me and the doctor, they refused to admit her. I believe they were just unfamiliar with and afraid of the severe nature of her special needs. So, we took her home and prayed. Praise God she did recover.

Two days ago I received a message from a social worker in Jalapa. She told me that a seven year old boy named José David had injured his eye severely. What made the situation especially bad was that he has already lost his other eye in the past. As a result, he stood to be blind without intervention. The next morning the social worker transported him and his family to the national hospital in Guatemala City. That is the best national hospital in the country, and they have good specialists. They were able to do emergency surgery on him that day, and they believe that they were able to save his eye and his sight, but we will know more in a few days. Please pray for José David.

I have mentioned before that we are currently working in seven departments (states) in Guatemala. At the same time, we have social workers in seven other departments that have heard of our work and are asking us to come. I have had to say “no” so many times, and I am kind of sick of that word. So we recently decided to act aggressively so that we could say it a little less frequently.

Our Board of Directors voted this week to add another staff member to our team. Cristina Moran is the wife of Manuel, who has served with us for the last two years. She is bilingual and has extensive experience in working with struggling families and Christian ministries. And she and her family simply love Jesus. She will be a great addition as she helps us with medical appointments, hearings and visiting families. We have known and loved her for almost three years, and it will be great to have her serving with us.

In addition, we added a new vehicle to our fleet this week. We received a donation from Heaven’s Family for this purchase and were able to buy at 2014 Toyota Hilux with 4-wheel drive and turbo diesel. This will be converted into a mobile medical unit with pharmacy and transport capabilities. This brings our fleet size to five, including two vans and three 4-wheel drive vehicles.

In the weeks ahead, I am also hoping to add a motorcycle. Gerardo, who has worked with our ministry since late 2011, cannot drive a car, but can handle a motorcycle well. This motorcycle will increase his mobility and productivity considerably, with little expense.

With the increase in staff and vehicles, we should be able to expand our ministry to three new areas in the next several months. And I will have to say “no” a little less frequently.

Okay, that’s enough for now! God bless you all, and thank you for your prayers and support that makes this work possible! 

Daryl and the Crew

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wounds and Healing

I know what you are thinking. “I thought this guy was dead.” As long as it has been since my last blog update, your confusion is understandable. 

Life has been full. In fact, it continues to be full. I am typing this while Manuel drives and we bounce over rough roads. We are currently on the way to the city to deliver two wheelchairs and two walkers, and this was the only time I could find to write. (On a side note, it is very difficult to keep my fingers on the keys while jumping speed bumps and potholes, so you will have to forgive my typos.)

So much has happened in the last month that I am going to have a tough time remembering all that you should know. So we will just have to hit the highs and the lows.

One of the low points has been a nasty illness that Wanda contracted. It goes by many names, including Undulant Fever and Mediterranean Fever, but regardless of what you call it, it is nasty. It is contracted from tainted meat or milk, and begins with a fever that comes and goes. Soon joint and muscle pain set in, and it is severe. Wanda, who is not a wimp by any means, has been leveled with this illness. After almost three weeks she continues to have periods of severe pain, fever and fatigue. She is on one type of antibiotic to treat it, and we have been searching for a second antibiotic to prevent reoccurrence.  We finally found what she needs in a tuberculosis hospital in the city, and she will be going in to get it on Friday. 

This illness can last from a few weeks to several months, so we are praying that this case will be the former. Please pray with us.

After months of battling with CNA to get our reauthorization as an orphanage, we were finally granted the renewal in early May. This was supposed to be a simple and quick process, but due to the obstructionist nature of CNA it was anything but. They nitpicked every piece of paperwork, requested changes and were, pretty much, petty bullies. And apparently this was the case with lots of homes. Due to complaints by numerous orphanages, our new President of Guatemala got involved. He formed a commission to investigate, and they requested numerous documents from us to analyze the relationship of CNA to our home and others. The end result was numerous firings and an edict to work better with homes. Shortly afterwards our reauthorization was completed, praise God!

Two weeks ago we took another trip to Quiche. We continue to work closely with another ministry called Las Maripositas (The Little Butterflies) led by Greg and Helaine Walton. They are such a blessing to their community as they so effectively minister to people with special needs. They make our ministry much more efficient, as they set us up in their center and arrange for the families to be brought to us. As a result, we are able to squeeze 48 hours of ministry into 24. We are truly blessed by their work.

We were able to see so much progress in lives over the last month, thanks to the work of the Waltons and their staff. One of the greatest changes was in Wilson. You may remember that we met him last month when his mom and dad brought him in after his mother had a dream from God. He had horrible bedsores and was in a dilapidated old wheelchair. We connected him with a better chair, and Greg arranged for his pressure sores to be repacked twice a day. As a result, he is improving quickly with no signs of infections. He has healthy, granulated tissue growing quickly. We brought him air cushions for his bed and wheelchair to further assist the healing. We also brought him wrist braces and adapted utensils so that he can work on feeding himself for the first time since his accident..

While we were there, little Juana got her first wheelchair. Her mother has been carrying her on her back for years, and the smile on both of their faces were well worth the effort to get her seated. Each time I provide a chair I am reminded of how precious mobility is, both for the child and their parent. 

We were also able to do cane training with Mynor. He is 18 years old and suffered brain damage when his mom was pregnant with him and fell off a ladder, resulting in blindness. He picked up the training well and we will be working with him in future months to help him improve his skills and expand his territory.

Sometimes I convince myself that I have seen it all and nothing can break me anymore than I have already been broken. Then someone like Manuel will step into my life. He is 75 years old and lives alone. His neighbor brought him into the center to seek help, because he regularly finds him in the street and he does not have food to eat. He came in using a rickety walker and wearing three pairs of glasses that he had tied together to help him see. And all three of the pairs were so dirty that I could see nothing useful through them.

While some of the staff took his glasses apart and cleaned them, I sat and talked with him. He told me that he tried to go to church, but the last time he attempted it his old walker folded and collapsed under him and caused him to fall. At that point in his story, he broke down and began to cry. And since he was surrounded by people who cared, both from Las Maripositas and our ministry, he continued to cry and share his story for the next 40 minutes. 

Greg had a new walker at the center that we adjusted and gave to him. We made an appointment with a local eye doctor and agreed to pay for the proper glasses that he needs. We also provided him with some food that his neighbor agreed to cook for him. And, for the first time in a long while, Manuel knew he was not alone. 

Our ministry is officially for children with special needs, but I have not figured out how to say no to an older person just because they are not the right age. I guess we are all God’s children, so I am technically still working within our missions statement.

A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by a family in our town. They have a daughter who is almost six months old who has Down Syndrome named Karli. She is very malnourished, weighing under five pounds, and has been hospitalized with pneumonia. The problem is the national hospital did not have oxygen. (Yes, you read that right.) So, we made arrangements to rent an oxygen generator and took it to the hospital. They began to see immediate improvement in her as soon as they started the oxygen flow. I continue to be amazed at the lack of basic resources available. You would think I would be used to it by now.

Last week we were contacted by the family of Luis Angel. I wrote about him a few months ago when I first met him. He has hydrocephalus and has had seven surgeries to install shunts that keep failing. And all of this occurred before he turned two. This time we were contacted because he had a respiratory infection. His family had taken him to the IGGS hospital (the hospital for those who have social security benefits). This is supposed to be better than the national hospital, but after three days they sent him home in worse shape than when he arrived. The family called because they were desperate. They told us he was dying, and asked us to please help. 

We arranged for him to be hospitalized in a private hospital in Antigua, where he was quickly diagnosed with pneumonia.  Within 24 hours he had improved significantly, but then we received devastating news. We were told that they suspected that he had leukemia. For a child from a poor family in Guatemala, this is a death sentence. Private treatment for leukemia can run between $20,000 and $40,000 US, and our ministry cannot afford to pay this. So we began to make arrangements to have him discharged and seek treatment through the national system. And we prayed.

Suddenly the story changed on Sunday. The doctor told us he did NOT have leukemia, his lungs were clear and he would be discharged the next day. Praise God!

When we had him admitted, I prayed. To be honest, we just don’t have the money for another hospitalization. But what was I to do? Let a two year old die because of money? So, we signed the papers and trusted God. By late afternoon we had received $600 of unexpected donations, which I though would cover the entire bill. So, I smiled, shook my head and praised God again.

But his stay was lengthened by two days. When I went to pay the bill yesterday, it was over $1200 instead of the originally estimated $600. But I have been doing this long enough to know God had it covered. Then last night we received an unexpected donation of $1500. God is always faithful!

Yesterday was a hard day for us. Little Giovanni has been with us for over two years, and we have loved him as our own child. But Gio found his forever family and was adopted. With my signature and the signatures of his new parents, suddenly he was no longer ours. His new parents are awesome, and they love Jesus. The smaller family environment is just what he needs, and we know he will thrive there. We are happy for him, but it still hurts. We have said so many goodbyes, some due to death, others to adoption. And while we know that is just a part of our ministry, it still feels like a kick in the stomach.

But I have been thinking a lot about grief, especially in relation to Jesus and His call on our lives. Isaiah 53:4 tells us that “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…” In other words, He carried our grief to make our grief less. He shared the load of our pain. And that is our role as well. 

We have a cheap understanding of discipleship that tells us that if we are grieving, hurting or sad, we are doing it wrong. We simply need to “claim” happiness and denounce sadness as being from Satan. Because, of course, God wants us happy, healthy and wealthy, right?

And yet, we follow Jesus who grieved. And we are to grieve, as well. We are not just called to wade into the spiritual darkness and dirtiness of the world to love and redeem, but the emotional darkness and dirtiness too. We are to mourn with those who mourn, and thus make their mourning lighter. We are to love, and love deeply, the broken, the forgotten, the lost and the fatherless. And, in so doing, we guarantee grief for ourselves. But face it…if ministry is easy, we are not doing it right.

So, we grieve for ourselves as we rejoice for him. We pray that the love we have poured into him over the last years has brought healing and laid a foundation in his life, And we pray his new parents will continue to build on that. And that is why we are here. Not to seek the easy way, but the way of Jesus...the healing way. And if we must be wounded to bring healing, then God be glorified.

Well, that’s all for now. Blessings and love from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, April 11, 2016

Miracles, Tragedies and Spiritual Warfare

This is going to be a long one. However, if you care about this ministry I am asking you to take the time to read this. We truly need your prayers, and it is only through understanding the situation that you will best know how to pray.

The last week has been one of the most challenging and exhausting of my life. When it began I knew it would be full, but there was no way of anticipating how crazy it would be.

My friend, Oscar.
On Tuesday I traveled up to San Pablo La Laguna with my brother-in-law, Keith, his wife, Melanie, and their two children, Abigail and David. They were wanting to visit Brittney and Joel and see their place, and since I needed to visit to check and treat Oscar’s bedsores this was a good opportunity to do so. We arrived midday, enjoyed a quick lunch and then went to visit Oscar.

We found him struggling with an infection. With the help of Joel, Brittney and Keith, I cleaned his wounds, packed them, gave him an antibiotic and spoke firmly to him and his wife. I explained to them that if they did not follow our instructions regarding caring for the wounds and wheelchair and bed rotation he was going to die. I had no idea how accurate those words were when I spoke them. I told them to call us if he did not improve in the next two to three days and then left after praying with them.

Lucas with his new splint
From there we went to visit Lucas. He is a five year old boy who is a relative of Marta Delores, another child with whom we work in town. He had fallen from a tree the day before, and Brittney and Joel were concerned about him. When we arrived I found him laying in a bed with rags wrapped around his left arm. He would not move due to the pain, and when he heard that I was going to look at it he began to cry. I carefully unwrapped it and discovered that there was an obvious compound, displaced fracture of his left forearm. I explained this to the dad, and we made arrangements for Joel and Brittney to take him for x-rays and to an orthopedic surgeon the next morning. I was able to devise a makeshift splint and immobilize his arm with minimal pain. The dad explained that a “nurse” had been there the day before and had said he just had a dislocated elbow, which he “popped back in place.” I winced just thinking about the pain and the damage he likely caused.

Note: The next day Joel discovered that this was not a nurse, but a witch doctor from the community that his dad had called. Joel explained that witchcraft is from Satan, not God, and that we need to rely on God for healing and help. The father immediately repented and prayed with Joel. Later in the day, when the witch doctor returned, the dad sent him away and told him that we were helping them. He left in a rage. Keep this in mind as the rest of the story unfolds.

We returned home that evening tired, but grateful for a good day of ministry. I sensed that God was moving in San Pablo, and that we were experiencing some significant break-throughs in lives.

On Thursday morning, Gerardo, Kristin Beyer, Brittney, Joel and I headed to Canillà, Quichè to work with the ministry Las Maripositas (The Little Butterflies). You will remember from last month that we are partnering with this wonderful Christian ministry to advance the Gospel and help those with disabilities in that department. We were heading up to deliver three wheelchairs, some medicine and do training for their teams.

We arrived mid-day and hit the ground running. Praise God that the Director, Greg Walton, is an organizer, because we had a very tight schedule. He arranged for most of the families to visit the center and set me up in a room to meet with them. We arrived to find our first person waiting for us, and went straight to work.

Nancy in her new custom ride
We quickly had Nancy lying beautifully in her custom-made bed/wheelchair, and her mom was thrilled. We also provided her with a custom bath mattress because her mom has struggled with bathing her. She had no place to lay her that would not be damaged by water, so we gave her a vinyl covered cushion that would help.
We had no sooner finished than Darilyn showed up to get his chair. This took some extra work and special adaptations, but we soon had him sitting well. We also gave him his second month of medicines that have finally got him sleeping well at night for the first time in years. This, of course, is giving his parents their first decent nights of sleep in years.

Vilson, my new friend
He was heading out the door when I was informed that a man was being brought in who was in bad condition. That was when I met Vilson. He is 31 years old, and six months ago he fell out of a tree and broke his neck. While he has some slight movement in his arms and legs, he is, for all practical purposes, a quadriplegic. When I examined the surgery that was done to fuse his spine, I realized it was another example of national hospital butchery. He has chronic and severe nerve pain in his shoulders and arms, and is in misery.

He was brought in in an old wheelchair that had no footrests. He was slouched down awkwardly and in great pain, and someone had to walk in front of him and hold his feet up to keep them from dragging. We gently moved him to the therapy bed so that I could examine him. His elderly mother told me that he had pressure sores, so I needed to see them. I quickly saw that he had two sores, one on each hip that were not very severe. But then I rolled him to his side and discover two sores on his lower back that were 1 1/4 deep and badly infected. So the plans for the afternoon changed quickly.

Siverio now has a chair that
fits him properly.
While Kristin and Joel prepped my supplies and Vilson, I went out to meet with two other families that were waiting. I gave Silverio his new wheelchair and had him sitting properly very quickly. I also gave his daughter the medicines he needed, and she paid me for them. We discovered that they were paying high prices for the meds he needed in their area (over $300 USD) that we can buy for $130 in our area. So we made arrangements to purchase them and take them up each month and sell them to her at no profit. Silverio has a few children that are helping to care for him, so they can afford this amount.

I then scrubbed-up, gloved-up and spent the next 1 1/2 hours cleaning and packing Vilson’s sores, and training some local health workers how to do it. We gave him two types of antibiotics to treat the infection. I then realized that Nancy’s old wheelchair would work well for Vilson, so we seated him in that. When he left, he was feeling much better than when he arrived.

But here is the neat part of the story. Vilson’s mom is a Christ-follower, and she had been praying and fasting for nine days, asking God to help her son. She ended her fast the night before and went to bed. And she had a dream. In her dream, she said that people that she did not know were laying hands on her son to bring healing. She woke up and did not know what to do. Since she did not know the people in her dream, she did not know where to take her son. So she told her neighbor, who was Silverio’s daughter, who immediately exclaimed, “I know who they are!” She told her to get her son to Las Maripositas. 

When everything was done and we were saying goodbye to Vilson and his parents, his mom hugged me with tears in her eyes and said, “I dreamed about you last night!” I cannot describe how humbling that moment was. To know that our team was a part of this story that God had written, blew me away. Once again I was reminded that God does the work, we just get to walk beside Him as He does.

Kristin doing CPR training
Needless to say, that left us all on a high that followed us into the evening. Kristin led the bulk of the training that evening, teaching the Las Maripositas team CPR. I ended with a brief training on dealing with seizures. We then had a very late supper together and headed back to the Waltons for a good night’s sleep.

The next day we hit the ground running again. We had more families to meet and more training to do as Kristine lead a unit on choking and I finished with a separate unit on feeding and care to prevent choking in those with special needs. And Greg had arranged for me to meet with Duane. He is a missionary pilot, and he and his family are building a top-notch hospital in Canillà that will have excellent staff from the States that will train local doctors and nurses. We were meeting together to discuss his willingness to do medical evacuations for our ministry from all over Guatemala. I was blown away by his servant’s heart and his love and passion for Jesus. I foresee a long and wonderful partnership ahead with him and his family.

After that meeting we returned to the center where Vilson was back with his family. He was there for them to discuss long-term therapy plans, but while he was there I took the time to examine his sores and repack them. I was in the midst of that work when our plans changed suddenly.

Joel received a call from Oscar’s family in San Pablo telling us that he was suddenly unresponsive. I quickly wrapped up the work on Vilson, and our team packed up my truck and we headed to San Pablo instead of home.

Oscar near the end
We arrived very late afternoon to find Oscar with a fever of 105.6, wrapped in blankets. I found myself immediately angry, because we have talked repeatedly with his wife and family about how to treat fever. We immediately stripped off the blankets and began wiping him down with cold, wet rags. As we did so, I questioned his wife and father:
Me: When did his fever go up?
Them: Yesterday afternoon.
Me: When did he become unresponsive?
Them: This morning at around 9:30.
Me: Did he have a seizure right before?
Them: Yes.

Would it shock you to know that I nearly cursed? Sorry, but it almost came out. I was so frustrated because I realized that they had ignored my instructions, his fever had spiked, and he likely had permanent brain damaged.

When I checked his pupils they were not responsive, but I still worked to get his fever down, praying that he would begin to respond again, but knowing he likely would not. I conferred with a doctor and gave him two injections to lower his fever. It did come down, but still no response.

At this point, I decided there was nothing more I could do. Our entire team was exhausted from two very long days, and it was getting late. We decided to get a hotel in neighboring San Pedro and get some rest. We checked in, ate a late supper and returned to the hotel. It was then that we received word that Oscar had died.

There in that hotel I was nearly overcome by frustration and grief. My team and I have spent more than three years fighting for Oscar’s life. I have spent more hours than I could count kneeling by his bed, cleaning his sore and packing them. I have talked to him about Jesus so many times. We have prayed together. We have shared stories from our past. Oscar was my friend. And, now, he is gone. Why? For such an incredibly stupid reason as his family not listening to basic instructions that I had repeated time and time again! I was angry, and I was sad. And I am still some of each.

The next morning we headed back to San Pablo to offer condolences. We arrived to find the family gathered around his coffin in their home, and we joined them. In the midst of this, a drunk man wandered in from off the street. He was making a scene, yelling and pretending to cry. I put my arm around him and gently guided him up the steps to the street. As we walked I told him that I was his friend and we should take a walk together.

Juan's hand
As we walked, he told me his name was Juan and that he needed help, so I asked what kind. He told me that his hand was wounded. He then proceeded to unwrap a cloth from around his left hand. Underneath it all, I found that he had broken a bone in his hand that was jutting through the skin about 2 inches. Worse yet, he informed me that the injury occurred over a year ago. I realized that I could not do much to help him, as he needed surgery. But I truly just wanted to get him away from the grieving family. So I took him to my truck where I put on gloves, cleaned his hand, put on antibiotic ointment and bandaged it. I then told him he needed to go home and sleep to help his hand heal. He hugged me, cried, and turner and stagger away in the opposite direction of Oscar’s home.

Honestly, I took a moment to put away my medical supplies and lock my truck. I then walked back to Oscar’s house where I found the drunk man standing next to the casket crying again! How he somehow slipped passed me and into the home without me seeing must have required some mad ninja drunk skills, but he did. It took me talking to him two more times, each time more firmly than the last, to get him to go away and leave the family alone.

Juana and Michael
We paid our condolences to the family, prayed with them, and headed out of town. We made it through the series of cutbacks and were almost at the top of the mountain when my phone rang. It was Brittney telling me that one of our other children in town, Michael, was in crisis. He was running a high fever and was non responsive. So we turned around and headed back.

By the time we had arrived, Brittney and Joel had already succeeded in lowering his fever significantly, and he was beginning to respond. He gave me a high five, and we arranged for antibiotics for his infection. We then left town again.

When I finally made it home, I got another call from Brittney telling me that his fever had spiked again and they had taken him to the local health clinic. They started him on an IV and succeeded in getting his fever down again. They also administered IV antibiotics and allowed him to get better hydrated for a couple of hours before letting him return home.

Thinking the crisis had finally passed, I went to bed Saturday evening exhausted.

The next morning Brittney called again to explain that Michael’s mom was now running a high fever. They were doing what they needed to do to get it down, and I assumed she would be fine. However, a few hours later Brittney called again and told me that Juana’s fever was down, but she was not able to respond to them. Her eyes were open and her lips were moving, but she could not move or speak. They carried her to their car and took her to the health clinic. By the time they arrived, she was able to speak again and was soon able to sit up. The doctor attributed these symptoms to stress and said they were psychological, but I had my doubts.

Ruth during her
seizure-free days
And then, last night, we received another blow. Another child in town with whom we work, Ruth, suddenly began having severe and frequent seizures. Her seizures have been under control, but they suddenly returned worse than ever. Joel and Brittney drove her in to our neurologist this morning. He said that she has to be hospitalized. so they are now en route to Antigua where we will be admitting her. Please pray for her.

All of this has happened at once and has left us reeling. And I firmly believe this is spiritual warfare. On Wednesday the town witch doctor was angered, and that anger was directed at us. Since he has no power over our ministry, I believe he is attacking our families that are spiritually defenseless. Some of you may see my thinking as backward and foolish, but I firmly believe that Satan is real, and so is his power. I believe he is the power behind witchcraft, so I am not quick to write off those claiming to have occultic powers.

So, I am asking you to please pray for the families of San Pablo. Please pray for a spiritual hedge to surround them, especially those families that are being drawn to Christ, but as of yet, have no real relationship with Jesus to guard them spiritually. Pray for Joel and Brittney that they will be strong in Christ and recognize the enemy’s attacks. And please pray especially for God’s protections over the following people:
- Oscar’s family
- Juana and Michael
- Ruth and her family
- Lucas and his family

I want to leave you with a couple of photos of my friend, Oscar. These were actually taken back before I knew him...before the fall that took away the use of his legs...before the bedsores that brought us together. We had numerous talks about Jesus, and he made a profession of faith in Him, so I believe that he is once again back on his feet. And I believe I will see him again where no wheelchair will be necessary.

Oscar on his feet!

Oscar on a different set of wheels!

Thank you! May God bless you all for your support and prayers!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew