Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Five Words A Christ-follower Should Never Utter

It appears we are losing another one…

Edy joined our home right after his second birthday, but you would never have guessed his age. Due to severe malnutrition, he was, and still is, tiny for his age. His mother abandoned him, and his grandmother did the best she could. But the coffee and tortillas that were all she could afford were just not sufficient for an infant.

It is unclear if his brain damage was due to the malnutrition, if it was from complications in  pregnancy or birth, or if both were contributing factors. But the results were devastating. Our neurologist informed us that 80% of his brain was damaged or dead, including his brainstem, which controls his autonomous functions such as heartbeat, breathing and body temperature. He also told us that he likely doesn’t have long to live.

He is blind and severely cognitively and physically impaired. Yet his smile and laugh can light up a room. His laugh is the most contagious I have ever encountered. You cannot hear it without laughing yourself.

Yet he seems to be slipping away. Due to the brain damage he suffers from apnea. He simply stops breathing. He exhales and doesn’t inhale again. And these instances are terrifying. 

We have different levels of intervention to get him breathing again, and until recently they have worked well. In some instances, a loud noise such as clapped hands will startle him and restart his breathing. At other times it requires a sudden pat on the back or chest. If these don’t work, we mist his face and chest with cold water, which has always worked.

But as time passes, the frequency and severity of these episodes are worsening. The loud noises and pats seldom work now. The cold water occasionally does. But we have recently had to resort to giving resuscitation breaths. We pinch his nose, seal our mouths around his, and forcibly blow air into his lungs, just like we would while performing CPR. And, to this point, this intervention has restarted his breathing. But it seems his time is running out, and I find myself wondering when this final step will stop working.

Last night, after a particularly scary episode in which I administered the resuscitation breath, I prayed a one sentence prayer that was more of a statement…

“God, I can’t do this again!”

In the last three years we have buried four of the children from our home. These were children that we loved like our own. Esperanza, Thania, Micah and Angelita all came into our home, captured our hearts, and then left us…taking a part of us with them. The grief has been deep, powerful and, at times, devastating. And the thought of facing that again terrifies me. So, maybe you can understand that prayer I prayed last night.

“God, I can’t do this again!”

Yet, even as I said the words, I know that I can and will. We will likely lose Edy, and we will grieve. Oh, how we will grieve. And it won’t be the last time. There will be more children, likely some who are currently in our home, who will begin to decline and slip away. They will leave our arms and go straight into the arms of Jesus. And there will likely be others whom we have not yet met.

The call will come. We will be told of a sick child that needs a home. We will be told that they are very severe. We will be told that they may not live long. And we will say “Yes,” against every piece of common sense that tells us to guard our hearts and our sanity. And we will do it all over again. Because if we don’t, who will?

Over my adult lifetime, I have often heard believers utter words that should never come out of a Christ-follower’s mouth. This sentence usually follows a conversation in which they hear of people serving in a way that sounds extreme to them. They open their mouths and the words come out…

“I could never do that!”

These words are quickly followed by their reasoning for why they should never be expected to do such a thing.

In response to foster parenting: “I could never do that! I would love the children too much!” (If you have ever uttered that to a foster family, please go find them and beg their forgiveness.)

In response to the mission field: “I could never do that! I wouldn’t want to uproot my children!”

In response to caring for dying children: “I could never do that! It would break my heart!”

In response to going to dangerous parts of the world to minister: “I could never do that! It would put my family at risk!”

As Jesus followers, the words “I could never do that” should be stricken from our vocabulary. They should be taboo in our household. I need to stop allowing it to pass my mind, even in the heat of crisis. These are spiritual profanity.

What’s the big deal? Why are these words so forbidden? Here’s why…

  1. If we cannot do it, who can? If we have the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead living within us (Romans 8:11), how can we believe any work that would bring glory to Jesus Christ is beyond what we can do emotionally, physically or spiritually? If we, the church of Jesus, cannot do something, then who can?
  2. They deny God’s power and rely on our abilities. We speak to the world about the greatness and majesty of God, yet deny His ability to accomplish His work through us. It makes our faith appear foolish a weak, because it is, at least if we think this way.
  3. They place a limit on our level of obedience. Do we really want to tell our God who left His throne and hung on a cross that there are things we are unwilling and unable to do for Him? What can He ask of us that He is not worthy to receive?
  4. They slam the door on God’s calling in our lives. This is important! The things that most break our hearts are likely the things with which God wants us most involved. What most stirs your heart? What makes you shed the most tears? What injustice keeps you awake at night? These are the areas in which God is moving in your life. But if we shy away from these areas of brokenness because they are hard to face or contemplate, we will miss our calling.

This life we are living is both hard and wonderful. There are moments that the beauty and privilege of this ministry and calling take my breath away. There are other moments in which I am brought to my knees in brokenness and grief. And, through it all, I feel God’s smile.

Almost everyone we encounter loves the ministry we do. They love the IDEA of children with special needs being cared for and loved. They love the IDEA of children who are dying being surrounded by a loving family. They love the IDEA of ministering to the broken and poverty stricken. But very few love the idea of actually doing it.

I occasionally am told, “I would love to do what you do!” And my response is always the same. “Great! Then do it! I will help you!” And that is where the back-peddling begins. And that is where those five stinking, lousy, good-for-nothing words rear their ugly head.

What breaks your heart? What is the one thing to which you find yourself saying, “I could never do that”? I am begging you…please stop saying it. Instead, hit your knees before the Savior who went to the cross for us. And ask him...

 “Jesus, do you want me to do that?”

If you can find the courage to do so with an open and obedient heart, it will likely transform your life and take you to places you have never imagined. Who knows? You might even find yourself loving a dying child…and feeling God’s smile raining down on you. And He will give you what you need to do what you never thought you could.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Facebook Update from Guatemala November 17, 2016 at 03:38PM

Today we began working in a new village called El Zapote in Esquintla. My friend, Rolando Monteroso, took me there to measure four people for wheelchairs. We visited Berta, Carlos, Gregorio and Maria to determine the style and size of chairs needed.


We thought we were done when a lady from the local health center asked us to visit one more man. Alfonzo was run over by a tractor six years ago, and the national hospital did surgery to repair his right leg. But afterwards, his circulation to his lower leg and foot was greatly diminished. Then he received a small cut to his shin three years ago that will not heal. It has spread to encompass almost all of his shin and calf. We found it severely infected and oozing puss. (I cannot share a photo or Facebook would shut down my account.) We have begun treating the infection and hope to address the circulation issues when I return next week. Please pray for Alfonzo, as his condition is quite serious. This type of wound is difficult to heal and dangerous to the person.

Then, on the way home, we had to dodge cattle while driving through a stream. Just another typical day in Guatemala.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Facebook Update from Guatemala November 16, 2016 at 09:29AM

Hope for Home Ministries  We are now connecting the Hope for Home Facebook Page directly to the blog. Now you can see more regular updates posted here, so follow closely!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Baseball, the Cubs…and Other Things That Don’t Matter

If you are my friend on Facebook, you know I love baseball. You also know that I love the Chicago Cubs and have been a fan of them since I was five years old. 

It is rather odd that I, a North Carolina boy, would be a fan of the Lovable Losers.  My dad was a Yankees fan (insert shudder here), so you would assume that I would follow in his steps. But at age five on a late spring Saturday afternoon I saw a Cubs game broadcast through a local station. I remember the green of the ivy in Wrigley Field. I remember they were playing the Cincinnati Reds. I remember the Cubs winning. And I was hooked!

And that has led to 45 years of disappointment and hope…
I believe!
I want to believe…
Hopes raised, then dashed.  
Not again!
That’s it! I’m done! (Not really.) 
Next year!
New season! Let’s go, Cubbies!

And, to make matters worse, I have passed this affliction on to my wife and children. They, too, now cheer and suffer alongside me. And, after the difficult losses, when I see the disappointment in their eyes, I feel that I have been abusive to them by passing on my Cubs addiction. After all, before this season the Cubs went 71 years without making it to the World Series and 108 years without winning one. That is the longest championship drought in US sports history.

But this year has been different. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Cubs are in the World Series for the first time in 71 years. In fact, tonight they will face off against the Cleveland Indians in the winner-take-all game 7 to determine the 2016 World Champions. And, needless to say, our family is kind of excited!

Every game of the playoffs has included our family and friends filling our living room to watch, adorned with Cubs shirts, jerseys and hats. Our two daughters, Carissa and Taryn, are living in Uganda, so they are nine hours ahead of us. They are waking up at 3:00 am and watching the games on computer while doing group chat with us on Facebook. My daughter in San Pablo La Laguna is watching as well and doing the same. The cheers are loud, as are the groans. High fives and hugs are the norm. And, of course, I have been posting my excitement on Facebook. 

If you go back through my postings for the last eight months, you see regular comments and shared stories about the Cubs and their amazing season (103 wins during the regular season). And, as playoffs got closer and began, you see an increase in these posts. And during the last nine days of the World Series, I have likely become intolerable to everyone who is not a baseball fan in general and a Cubs fan specifically. And these posts have created a dichotomy on my Facebook page.

In other words, you can read through my posts and see me write about something that is really important, such as a child that is sick and dying, or a good mother having to fight for the custody of her child. Then, a couple of hours later, I might write about a Cubs player hitting a home run. It is the very important and life-and-death situations scattered with baseball. And this has cause some confusion and concern in some people.

I tend to be a very practical person in most areas of life. I am almost always cutting through the distractions to focus on the important things. For example, I have been very vocal in my belief that the outcome of the current election is not near as important as how the church will represent Jesus through it. So, as I have seen believers arguing, hand-wringing, and endorsing their candidates, I have sought to challenge believers to be more focused on loving others, sharing Jesus and trusting God. In many respects, I believe the church has elevated democracy and patriotism to the level of idol worship, and I want to help tear down those false gods.

So, here I am telling people to focus on the things that are really important while also posting about baseball. Am I just a hypocrite?

Over the last two years, I have had a couple of people write to me about my love for baseball. And both messages were remarkably similar and went something like this: “Daryl, you deal with life and death situations on a regular basis. You see extreme poverty and illness and are surrounded by deep and profound suffering. In light of that, do you really think baseball is important?”

And here is my answer:
Of course not!

“Then why do you watch it?”
Because it is not important!

My family and I have been surrounded by death, sickness and suffering for almost six years now. My children have watched other children die in our home. We have had four children lie in caskets in our living room while people enter to pay their respects. Since we moved to Guatemala, my children have experience death and grief to a level that many adult will never know. Our lives are frequently overwhelmed with the important things of life.

So, you would not believe how wonderful it is for our family to come together and celebrate and cheer together! Even as I type this, I have tears in my eyes from just thinking about the family times we have enjoyed in recent weeks watching the Cubs. From the youngest up, we have laughed, high-fived, wore rally caps, yelled, jumped up and down and fist pumped repeatedly. We have had so much fun focusing for a few hours in the evenings on something that just doesn’t matter. And I am hopeful that, in years to come, the pain of the losses that my children experienced will be softened by the joy of these kinds of moments together.

And, at the end of the day, while I really want my Cubs to win it all tonight, I know that it is not really important. No one’s life or health is hanging in the balance (unless the Cubs cause me to have a heart attack). And that is good.

While Christ calls us to dedicate our lives to things that really matter, that does not mean that we should not occasionally escape and enjoy down time. I want to do this ministry for a long time, but I will burn-out unless I have some time for the unimportant. But the wonderful part is when I can combine something really important (my family) with the unimportant joys (baseball). 

As a result, no matter who wins the game tonight, my family and I win big!

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Cubs Crew
Go, Cubbies!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Important Meeting (But what's really important?)

I haven’t shared about it here, but a little over a month ago we were contacted by Bienestar Social (Social Wellness - a department of the Guatemalan Government) and asked to be a part of a new foster family program they want to start. They were asking us to help recruit and train families who are willing to take in a child, and then provide supervision to them once a child was placed. This is a brand new program, and the government is approaching it in an intelligent manner, asking successful homes who provide high quality care for orphans to lead the way. 

For me, this was a no-brainer. Through this new program, we have the potential to multiply the number of children that we can keep out of orphanages and provide a loving, family environment for each of them. We immediately agreed and had a face-to-face meeting with the director of the program the following week.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Contrasts (Grief and Miracles)

As I look back over the last month since my last post, I am struck by the contrasts we have experienced in this ministry. We have seen deep grief as well as great miracles of provision and guidance. We have seen obstacles and open doors, sometimes in the very same moments. And, through it all, we continue to see how very good God is.

First, the grief and obstacles…

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