Friday, March 2, 2018

Whirlwind (aka The Silence Is Broken)

News flash: I am not dead! I have just been too overwhelmed to blog in quite a while. Hopefully after reading this post, you will understand why.

Back in January, my beautiful Wanda and I took a cruise to the Caribbean. We celebrate 30 years of marriage this year, and we wanted to do something really special. So, we used an inheritance we received when my mother passed away in 2012 and booked a 10 day cruise. 

I have to tell you, it was awesome! During our time away we acted like newlywed. We swam, laid by the pool and on the beaches, slept, ate a ton, laughed, kissed a lot, and enjoyed one another in a way that we haven’t in a long time. And I fell more in love with my wife than ever before.

I am so thankful that God allowed us that time away together. The last seven years have taken their toll on both Wanda and I. We would not trade these years for anything, but we needed a time of renewal for both our relationship and ourselves. And we returned rested, tanned and ready to tackle ministry once again.

The only hard part of our trip was little Analia’s death. We had just arrived on the cruise ship when we received a message that she had passed away. For a moment I wondered if we should get off the boat and fly back, but I realized by the time we returned the funeral would be over. So, we checked to make sure that all the details were covered, hugged one another, wept, and then proceeded with our time away.

The crew here did a fantastic job of covering both her death and funeral. All the legal issues were covered, the grave was dug, and a beautiful service was held. Everyone worked together and everything flowed smoothly. I am so grateful to each of them.

When we returned it was difficult. This little girl who had been such a part of our lives and house 2 was no longer here. But Wanda and I never had a chance to say goodbye or attend her funeral. When we left, she was here. When we returned, she wasn’t. There was no closure and no opportunity to grieve properly. And yet we know that we will see her again some day. And we long for that day.

I returned to find construction on our new birthing center in Escuintla underway. But it was proceeding slowly. We originally had a foreman working on the site that came highly recommended. But we began to see that there were some major problems. He was costing us money and time, and seemed very incompetent. So, we let him go and hired Joel’s father to serve as the contractor. 

Immediately things began to progress under our new foreman. He corrected mistakes, pointed out material problems, and got the crew running smoothly. I visited the site yesterday, and they have finally begun concrete work on footers and rebar is rising from the site.

Meanwhile, our Maternity Care Director, Stephanie Konrad, and my daughter, Taryn, have begun maternity check-ups down at the site. Once a week they are seeing pregnant and nursing women for check-ups on them and their babies. They are doing a fantastic job, and we are anxious to see this ministry grow and mature.

Meanwhile, my son, Jeremiah, has been working hard to develop our prosthetics and orthotics program. In February we traveled to Guatemala City where Hope to Walk was doing a prosthetics clinic and got to see, firsthand, their process that we will soon be implementing in our ministry. The founder, Phil Johnson, walked us through the technique and explained how we would be able to produce their below the knee prosthetic for around $60.

This process is revolutionary and will enable us to carry the parts into a remote region, cast a person’s stump, produce a socket and assemble the leg onsite in one visit. We can find a person in need of a leg and give it to them on the same day. And, we can employ some of our families who have children with special needs to produce the components we need!

Below the knee prosthetics have cost us from $2000 to $4000 up until now. This will make legs affordable and enable us to give them away in large numbers. Hope to Walk will be returning to Guatemala in June and training our team fully to produce these legs, and we can hardly wait!

At the same time we are pursuing this area of ministry, Jeremiah has also been working on 3D printing of orthotics and braces. Near the end of 2017 we purchased an inexpensive but highly rated 3D printer. The goal is for us to be able to scan hands and feet to produce 3D models that can be edited to produce the braces we need at a fraction of the cost. We expect each pair of AFO (ankle and foot orthotics) to cost us around $30 to produce. At present, we pay around $208 a pair. We will also be able to produce hand and wrist braces for around $8. These will be custom printed for each child and will be durable and breathable. In fact, they will be a higher quality than we are currently purchasing. Imagine the possibilities! 

As most of you know, our desire is to eventually expand our rural village ministry to children with special needs to all 22 departments of Guatemala. Currently we work in ten departments in the southern portion of the country, and there is a lot of territory up north that we need to reach. Last week we began the process necessary to expand and open a headquarters up in Petén that will put us in a strategic location to saturate the northern part of Guatemala.

Kevin & Katie Harms accompanied Jeremiah and me on a trip to Petén last week. The goal was to scout out the area and determine a good spot for a headquarters. We also wanted to connect with people who are serving in the region and establish strategic partnerships. And God accomplished more than we ever anticipated.

Our drive up was long and exhausting. With traffic and road construction, the total drive was 14 hours, so we arrived exhausted. But we were welcomed by Barbara Stoltzfus, her daughter, Anita, and her son-in-law, Edgar. They allowed us to stay in their home that night, and the next morning Barbara went with us to San Benito and introduced us to key people.

Barbara has been a missionary in Guatemala for 46 years, and she has pretty much seen it all. She and her family were burned out of their home by guerrillas during the civil war, and had to live in tents. Anita, who is a nurse and midwife who runs a birthing center, delivered her first baby when she was 18 years old in one of those tents.

Their family has so much to teach me about Jesus, service, and missions. And I look forward to learning from them.

That first evening we toured the birthing center. Then I collapsed hard into a bed, surrounded by the warm hospitality.

The next morning we loaded up and headed out to San Benito. But before we even started, God redirected our plans. A missionary in the region, Jimmy Dinsmore, learned we were in the area and contacted me. We decided to meet up on our way to San Benito, and I am so glad we did!

Jimmy Runs a Bible Institute for pastor from the Q’eq’chi tribe. And it is hard to describe how amazing this school is. They are truly raising up men and women who will change the face of Guatemala with the Gospel. And they are sending them back to their villages, not only with knowledge, but with skills and a trade that will support them and also revitalize their communities. 

As a part of our discussion, Jimmy invited us to come to their school and teach their students how to care for those with special needs. Through that, we will be able to touch those with disabilities in even the most remote places in Guatemala.

And speaking of reach villages, Jimmy told us something that was shocking. He explained that in that region of Guatemala there were over 1100 villages that had never heard the Gospel! Many of these are hostile to outsiders who enter, and many have been killed who tried. He is planning to begin a program of dropping gifts from airplanes to make contact and establish communication, with the goal of eventually taking the Gospel to these remote communities.

We left there amazed at what God was doing and continued our journey to San Benito. There, we stopped in at a prosthetics clinic run by a ministry called Lifenabled. They have still a different process for producing prosthetics at a low cost, and we were deeply touched by their ministry. But what was truly helpful to us was their work with 3D printing.

They showed us what they are producing with 3D printing technology, and we were amazed. They also spent time showing us how to take our 3D scanning and printing to the next level. We are so grateful for the time they spent with us and their commitment to continue to walk beside us as we develop this ministry.

From there we visited Hospital Shalom, where the founder, Tim Spurrier, gave us a tour. When we met and he learned of our ministry and plans to begin work in their region, Tim shook my hand and said, “I have prayed for you to come for 20 years!” At that moment, I realized that we were all a part of something that is way bigger than any of us.

Hospital Shalom is an incredible facility, filled with quality staff. It provides excellent medical services at a low cost to people from the region. Tim agreed to partner with us to help with people we find who need hospitalization. He also agree to help us purchase medicine at a low cost. In return, we will assist individuals that he finds with special needs. (He already has a long list.) This promises to be a very strategic partnership in years to come.

The next day we connected with Harry Divido. He and his family serve in Poptún, Peten and have a ministry center there. We explained our ministry, and he invited Kevin and Katie to join him there for a few days to see his ministry and meet some families with children who have special needs. They readily agreed.

So, early the next morning, Jeremiah and I headed home while Kevin and Katie headed to Poptún. They are still in that region, seeking God’s direction for our ministry.

And that brings us to this week, which has been very eventful. And Wednesday was the climax of the eventfulness. Within a three hour period, the following happened:
  1. I received a call from the courts in Jutiapa. They had a brother and sister, both with special needs, and wanted to know if we could take them. The sister is 2 1/2 and is deaf and very delayed due to a lack of stimulation. The brother is 1 1/2 and has cerebral palsy and malnutrition. Both have been abandoned. Stevie and Carissa agreed to receive them into Hogar de la Esperanza 2.
  2. While we were discussing the case above, we received a call from another court regarding a little boy who is 2. We were told he had paralysis in half his body and they needed a home for him quickly. His condition was caused by a botched abortion. Wanda and I agreed to welcome him into Hogar de la Esperanza 1.
  3. We received a message about an 11 year old girl and her 8 year old brother who are living alone. A friend who knows them and has been trying to help them wrote me. Their mom died, and their father is an alcoholic who abandoned them. Their older sister, age 16, has left as well, and we have been told that she is prostituting at a local bar. I spent the afternoon trying to find a good private home that can take them. We have no space for older children in our homes, and we do not want to involve the police unless we have a good home for them, as they will otherwise likely be placed in a government run home. So, for now, they will be coming to our home each day to eat while we try to make other arrangements.
So, on Wednesday evening, little Jaret joined our home. And yesterday Roxana and Danilla joined Stevie and Carissa in house 2. That brings our total up to 23 children in the two homes. The adjustments of these new children are challenging, so please pray for them and our staff, interns and family.

Then yesterday I traveled down to Escuintla to visit the birthing center site and check in on a family that Stephanie and Taryn had met early this week. It was another heart-breaking visit, as we had to explain to little Sayli’s mother that the reason why she was not yet walking or talking was that she has cerebral palsy. She wept as we tried to talk her through the prognosis. But we quickly moved on to explaining that we were going to walk with them.

Sayli is malnourished, so we had brought along formula for her. But we quickly realized that her mom, grandmother, and four year old uncle were all malnourished as well. We are going to be providing them with formula and a food basket each month. In fact, as soon as I am done with this blog I will be driving back down to take them their first delivery of food. I had trouble sleeping last night, knowing they did not have food in the house. We will also be taking Sayli to our neurologist for a complete assessment. Please pray for Sayli and her family.

Well, that is it for now. And that is why I have not had time to blog. Please forgive my lack of updates.

And now…forward! God bless you as you go make a difference for Him!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

No Heroes (Revisited)

This blog is a reposted from 2014. Why am I reposting it now? Because God has placed a vision in front of me that is bigger than I could ever accomplish. We need people to come and serve, but we don't need heroes. We just need real people with real strengths and real weaknesses who believe and trust in a very real God. Let's stop waiting for heroes to step up, and step up ourselves.

On a regular basis I encounter people who ask me how I ended up in Guatemala doing this kind of ministry. It is a good question, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about the answer. It is easy to throw out a quick response of “God called us.” But the actual answer goes even deeper than that.
How did I end up here? The real answer is that I discovered a secret that completely rocked my world. It was a revolutionary truth that had remained hidden for most of my life, but when I discovered it, it forever changed me and my family.
If you are interested, I will share it with you. Lean close into your screen and I will digitally whisper it to you. Ready? Here you go…

There are no heroes.

Did you catch that? It is an amazing truth! 
hero1For most of my life I assumed there were heroes. Through the first half of my Christian walk I would encounter people that just seemed better, brighter and more filled with faith than me, and I would put them on a pedestal. They were the missionaries. They were those who would begin ministries that would thrive and touch the world. They were the ones that I saw making a real difference for the kingdom. And I labeled them heroes.

They had it all figured out. They didn’t wrestle with doubts and fears. They knew just what to do. They never fell into discouragement. They never screwed up. They never wondered if they were doing the right thing. They heard God’s voice clearly and followed Him boldly.

And, of course, I did not place myself among them. I could never fit in with such a group. I could never be used in those ways. Sure, I could be faithful in a few little things, and God would probably bless some of them. But I could never be a hero. (And I was right.)

In my mind there were the heroes of the faith…and then there was the rest of us. Those who do great things for God and those of us who somehow survive intact. I knew, in my heart, that I would always be a part of the latter.

When I was about 10 years old my father, in a moment of anger and frustration, pointed his finger at me and spoke words that I will never forget. They scarred me so deeply that I still feel them 37 years later. They have governed the way I see myself and the way I have approached the world for much of my life. What did he say? 

“You will never amount to anything!”

I know some of you are wincing and thinking what a horrible dad I must have had. But he was not a bad father. He truly loved me, and I know it would have shattered him if he had understood the impact those words would have on my life and heart. I forgave him long ago, and understand that he was simply spreading the pain that had been heaped on him in the same way I have unintentionally splattered my own children with some of my residual pain. In fact, considering his background, I had a good dad who went a long way toward breaking the cycle of sin and ugliness that he could have continued.

FailureBut those words have deeply impacted my life. That comment sits in the back of my mind, waiting to rear its ugly head. In my heart I have always known that I would never amount to anything. So, as I watched this parade of heroes pass through my life, I knew that I could never be one of them. I could love my wife, love my children, do a decent job as a husband, father and minister, but I would never do great things for the God I love and serve. And every time things would go badly I would hear those words again... “See, you will never amount to anything.”

But then, like a bolt of lightning, it hit me one day. There are no heroes. The people that God uses to do great things wrestle with fear and doubt. They wonder, at times, are the doing the right thing. They stumble and fall and rely on God’s grace to be new every morning. They are not heroes.

These people are simply people who have decided to trust God, believe His Word and follow. They are broken and scarred, just like me. They face discouragement and failure, just like me. They have their own harsh words that play in their minds at times, just like me. They know the grip of fear, just like me. There are no heroes, just people who believe and follow, one step at a time.

And suddenly I realized that the world would not be saved by heroes, because there were none. If the world would ever be saved it would be saved by sinners who have been saved by grace, just like me. So I started believing more and following with greater boldness, knowing that I didn’t need to be a hero. I just needed to be His.

And since that day life has been an adventure. But I have never been, nor will I ever be, a hero. That is why it bothers me so much when I sense people are beginning to see me as I used to see those others, as somehow set apart or special. I am not special (except that I am God’s child), and I am not a hero. I am not some incredible man of God. I stumble and fall. I get discouraged and broken. I let others down and wound them with far too frequent regularity. And I still hear my father’s voice on the down days and, at times, I believe it.

Recently, one of my friends told me about his doubts he had about me when we first moved to Guatemala. He told me that when he met me I had just moved here, could not speak Spanish and did not know what I was doing. He heard me speak about our dream of a group home for children with special needs and seriously wondered if it would ever become reality. I laughed when he told me that, because I had the same doubts. Now, seven years later, I still struggle with Spanish and still don’t know what I am doing. Yet, somehow, God is accomplishing His purposes. He does that, not because of who I am, but because of who He is. And that is true for every missionary I know that is building God’s kingdom. 

20140522_114007So, that is my secret. There are no heroes. There is just you, me and the wonderful grace of God. If you are waiting for your doubts and fears to go away and for you to become a hero before you do your part to change the world, good luck with that. It is not going to happen. You and I are not heroes, but we don’t need to be. We just need to believe and follow one step at a time. 

The dying world around us is waiting, not for heroes, but for real people like you and I who love and serve a very real Jesus Christ. And, by the way, we WILL amount to something when God is finished, because His math is perfect and we are multiplied by His goodness.

Because of Him,

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dream With Me

Recently I had some friends visit our homes here. As I was introducing them to children and showing them our two homes, I casually mentioned my personal dream for this ministry. They are good friends, so I assumed that they were already aware of this vision, and I was surprised when they seemed clueless as I spoke.

That led me to stop and think. Have I shared this dream with anyone beyond my immediate friends, family and ministry team? And the answer was, surprisingly, no. It has been such a part of my thinking for so long that is seems like it is a part of me. But, as I look back through my blog and Facebook posts, I realized that I have never shared it publicly. So, that needs to change today.

So, come and dream with me…

Currently, our ministry is comprised of two group homes for children with special needs and our growing rural village ministry. (There is also our new birthing center in Escuintla, but that does not play into this particular dream.) In order to house this work, we are currently leasing three properties here in San Antonio Aguas Calientes:

  • Our main home, which is 6000 square foot and serves as our largest group home and offices for me, our social worker, our accountant, our psychologist, and our therapist. (Rent Q.8900 - $1240 USD)
  • Our second group home, which is around 2500 square foot. (Rent Q.3500 - $485 USD)
  • Our warehouse, which is 5000 square foot and serves as storage and work area for vehicles, food, wheelchairs, medicine and medical supplies for our rural village. (Rent Q4000 - $555 USD)

While each of these facilities are excellent for our purposes, this means that we are paying approximately $2280 USD a month in rent. And that is a huge hit on our budget.

These facilities are also spread out. House 2 is about 100 meters down the road from house 1, and our warehouse is over a kilometer away in the main town. While this is functional, it does create logistic issues. And, as we add additional homes, these logistical issues will increase.

And that is where my dream comes in. Imagine all of these ministry sites and more on one piece of property that we own. I can see it now in my mind, and it is beautiful!

I envision a large piece of property that is ours. Twenty or thirty acres that is a paradise for children with special needs. Every building and piece of equipment is built with them in mind, and it all exists for the glory of Jesus Christ.

The Homes:

There would be ten homes built that would serve as family-based group homes for children with special needs. Wide doorways and hallways, spacious bedrooms, a centralized bathing and changing station, handicapped accessible bathrooms, and a large family room where there is room for every wheelchair and person.

And each of these homes would be built around a large central building that includes the following:
  • A commercial kitchen, where nutritious meals will be cooked for all the homes and staff
  • A well equipped therapy center, where each of the children will receive top quality therapy and where therapists will be trained to be the best in Guatemala.
  • A school where children can receive special education and teachers can be trained to be the best.
  • A medical clinic with a full-time doctor providing care for the children.
  • Offices for our entire team.
  • A large multi-purpose room that will be used for special events and for a church on Sundays, where everyone is welcome to worship.
  • A beautiful outdoor playground that is equipped to accommodate every special need.
  • And connecting it all are beautiful handicapped accessible walkways with flowers and shade trees.

The Independent Living Section:

As children grow to adulthood, what happens? Once the courts release their cases, do we simply send them to an institution? Of course not. They need to have a place where they can continue to grow and receive care in community. 

So, I envision accessible apartments where those who are more independent can live. There will be staff to assist them where needed, but they will also be able to do all that they can on their own. Those that can work will have jobs within the ministry, and will receive pay and be taught to budget and spend responsibly. They will even pay a modest rent and help with their expenses. 

The more-abled will help the less-abled. And they will live in Christ-centered community.

The Rural Village Ministry Section:

There would be a large warehouse that will serve as storage for vehicles, wheelchairs, medicine, medical supplies, food, and equipment. Within that warehouse will be workshops for woodworking, metal work, and general repair. There will be a prosthetic shop, where braces and artificial legs and arms will be constructed. And there will be a garage area, where our fleet will be maintained and repaired. Within these workshops, teens from the homes who are able will receive training in these skills and will be employed when possible.

The Farm Section:

There would be a barn and riding area where there will be a therapeutic equestrian program, with horses and adaptive saddles. Children who cannot walk will find freedom and mobility on the backs of horses. Children with emotional needs can find comfort and companionship with animals. I can see a large grazing area and chicken enclosures, where animals will be raised to provide meat, eggs and milk for the homes. I can see a vegetable farm. And I can see children and teens learning to grow and raise the food that sustains them while learning valuable life skills.

And I can see the doors swinging open each day to the community. I can see families coming for therapy, medical treatment, therapeutic riding, counseling and education. I can see them coming to worship with us. And I can see families who were previously alone, finding love and support in the body of Christ.

I know. This is a huge and seemingly impossible vision. How on earth will we find the money to purchase that much land in Guatemala? How will we fund those facilities? What about the staff? How will any of this become reality?

I can honestly say that I don’t know. But I can also say that it is a good vision. It is a vision that maximized resources and enables us to accomplish all that God has called us to do for the least amount of money.

I am not a Name-It-And-Claim-It believer. God is not my genie that serves my desire. I am His slave, and I serve at His pleasure. But I believe that God wants to be the Author of our dreams, and I believe He is the Author of this one. So, we are praying and doing all that we can to pursue this dream.

And I am asking for you to join with us in dreaming this dream and praying to make it a reality. This is a God-sized dream, so only He can accomplish it. 

So, will you dream with me?

Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Friday, December 15, 2017

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Thanks to your many prayers and faithful support, in 2017...

22 children had a Christ-centered home and 
lots of love in one of our group homes!

Over 100 children received support and improved care 
in their homes, helping them to stay with their families!

Approximately 110 people received wheelchairs!

Nearly 500 people received medical care who 
would not have otherwise received it!

Countless people heard the Gospel and saw it in action!

May God receive all the glory, and may we touch more lives than every before in 2018! God bless each of you this holy season!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

To Fight Or Not To Fight

What do you do when you face pure suffering? That is a question I recently faced.

We have been working in the town of Magdalena Milpas Altas for several months now. Although it is a high population area with a decent infrastructure, there is so much poverty in the town and surrounding area. There is a high concentration of people with special needs, and very few resources for them. So, I wasn’t surprised by the message I received one evening.

The text came from my friend, Juan, who has been our contact in the area, and it was accompanied by pictures that would produce nausea and vomiting in most people. The first was a picture of an emaciated young man seated on a bed. His face reflected the pain and misery he was experiencing. But the following two photos showed severe pressure sores on his buttocks and back that were horribly infected. Juan was asking me if I could visit him when I came to town the next day.

I immediately replied and told him that this young man would die soon without medical help, so he wrote and told me that they would take him to the hospital. Knowing that they would take him to the national hospital, I quickly told hm that they would kill him there and that we would arrive as soon as possible the next day.

The next day was Burn the Devil Day in Guatemala, so traffic was horrible. A local town was shut down for festivities, causing horrible jams all around them. We had to take a very circuitous route that added an hour to our journey, but finally made it at almost 2:00 pm. And we arrived to find a young man suffering worse than anyone I have ever met.

Jose is 19 years old. Five months ago he was working for the power company when he accidentally grabbed a live wire. For ten seconds, current passed through his body until he fell five meters to the street below. We do not know if it was the fall that caused his chronic pain or the electricity cooking his spinal cord. What we do know is that even the smallest movement in his arms, legs, or back produces excruciating pain down his spine. And for the last five months he has been in Roosevelt, the national hospital in Guatemala City. And that is where he developed those bedsores.

We talked with his mom and asked her what the doctor said about his sores. They told her that they would heal up in a month or so. And the more I learned of Jose’s story and the care that he received, the angrier I got. I honestly believe that if the doctor would have been present at that point I would have broken his nose. (Sorry for that glimpse into my carnal side.)

I had Katie Harms with me (a nurse from Canada), her husband, Kevin, and Susan McLay. The three of them are all serving in our home as interns now, and they came along to provide assistance. 

We inserted a catheter to keep urine off his wounds. Then we started cleaning and debriding his sores. This is a long process of cutting away the dead tissue to expose the healthy tissue. Then we showed his mother how to pack the wound. And, throughout our work, Jose would regularly cry out in pain.

During this process, as I was leaning over his bed and working on his wounds, Kevin asked me if I thought he would be okay. I blinked back tears and simply shook my head.

Both Katie and I attempted to start an IV, but he was so dehydrated that we could not hit a vein. We gave him an injection of antibiotics to begin to treat his infection, but were later told later that he had been on that same antibiotic for five days with no affect. So, I took a swab of his wound for a culture and told them I would return when the result were back. Meanwhile, we told them to push oral fluids.

As we were ready to leave, another gringo arrived. He was the director of a Christian ministry that was trying to help the family. He explained that he had found a doctor who would operate on the sores and treat him. The cost would be $10,000 USD, but he thought he could raise the funds.

I spoke with him at length about the situation. I explained that the bedsores were a symptom of the real issue, the damage to his spine. I said they could do the surgery, but most of his suffering would remain. Both he and his mom had recently prayed to receive Jesus into their lives, so I asked him to prayerfully seek the Lord to discern whether they should use those resources to prolong the life of a young man who was suffering so profoundly, or whether we should let him go be healed with Jesus.

He told me that he would consider my words and pray about it. When I spoke to him the next morning, he said that they felt the Lord was telling them to proceed with the surgery. (I am not saying that decision was wrong. I honestly don’t know. I can only trust and pray that it was correct.)

But that day Jose began vomiting and suffering from severe diarrhea. He was septic, so the other ministry leader transported him to a private hospital where they began treatment and quickly did surgery on his sores. He is currently hospitalized and recovering.

This entire situation has left me asking some hard questions about myself. And, at the top of that list, is this question:

Have I become so used to death that I surrender to it too easily?

As I worked on Jose’s wounds that afternoon, I decided that we would continue to visit and treat his sores and infections and make him comfortable. But I also decided that we would not take any heroic measures to save his life. Knowing that he had a relationship with Jesus, I believed that it was best to let him go. And I prayed he would go soon. But I committed myself to walking with them until the end, loving them all the way.

Then arrived a man with passion in his eyes, ready to fight for his life. Ready to raise $10,000 to get the surgery. Not at all ready to surrender to death. And I wondered if I was wrong.

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if Jose will ever be free of his excruciating pain in this life. I don’t know if he will live to see Christmas or if he has a long life ahead. I know so little. 

In fact, after almost seven years of living in Guatemala and doing this ministry, I am sure of one thing. I know less now than I did seven years ago. At least it seems that way. I have learned so much. But with each truth I learn, I become aware of two or three things I have yet to learn. 

I have seen so much suffering and death. It has become a way of life. And it still brings tears to my eyes. But maybe it has become too familiar. I know that I don’t fight against death as hard as I once did, because death doesn’t seem so scary.

Back in the States, death appeared to be such a huge step…a massive transition to a place far away. But not anymore. I have had the privilege of being with so many as they have taken their last breath. And I have come to see it as a simple step through a doorway. My children and friends who have gone on to be with Jesus no longer seem so far away. They are just on the other side of a doorway. And, some days, I can press my ear to the door and hear their laughter on the other side.

I believe life is precious and valuable, and that goes for everyone from the unborn to the senior citizen. It is not that I now value this life less, it’s just that I value the life to come more. And I want everyone to experience it one day.

I recently shared on Facebook my vision of heaven. I don’t know if it is correct or not, but I like to think it is. The Bible tells us that the last will be first and the first will be last in the Kingdom to come, and I know that is referring to being humble and a servant to others. But I would like to think it applies to other areas as well.

I envision one day arriving in heaven and, after seeing my Jesus, being surrounded by all the ones to whom we ministered here. Adults and children who were twisted, suffering and bound to wheelchairs, braces and crutches here will be unfettered there. And we will have a big race. We will line up on the starting line, and Jesus Himself will start the race. 

“Ready! Set! Go!!!!!!”

And we will run and run in a place where no one gets tired or weak. And when we cross the finish line, we will all collapse together in a pile of laughter. And why are we laughing? Because I came in last!

I cannot imagine a better day than that. So, I long for heaven. I long for an end to the suffering that I see here. And, when I see suffering such as Jose is experiencing, I long for eternal healing.

And that is the balance I must find. Somehow, I have to fight for precious life here while understanding the life that awaits is far better. I have to know when to fight, and when to stop. Please pray that our team and I can find that balance and fight well until it is time to stop. And pray that we do it for the glory of the Author of both this life and the life to come.

Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, December 4, 2017

Voices, Words and Transparency

Some people have told me that I am too transparent in my blogs. But, in my opinion, a lack of transparency is the same as hypocrisy. I am a human with far too many weaknesses to conceal, so why would I try?

So, prepare yourself for some transparency.
Far too often I do not like myself. I could give you a long list of reasons why that is true, but at the core of all of them are some words spoken to me when I was around ten years old. My dad, in a moment of anger and frustration, uttered six words that have impacted me far more than any ever spoken…

“You will never amount to anything.”

My dad was not a bad man. I know that he loved me. I know that, in light of the disfunction of his childhood, he was a remarkable father. I have forgiven him for those words and many others that cut me deeply. But that does not mean that I have escaped their impact. I can still hear them spoken and see the expression on his face and his pointing finger. And, all too often, I believe him.

As I came to Christ in my teen years, the voice lessened. And, as I have grown in my relationship with Jesus, there are times when it is nothing more than a very distant whisper that gets drowned out by my heavenly Father’s voice. But there are other times that it shouts loudly.

I have spent much of my life trying to find approval, believing that the voice would be silenced forever if I could make people proud of me. Even worse, I have wasted much too much of my relationship with Jesus trying to earn His approval and make Him proud. My dad died in August of 1996, and I knew that I would never hear the healing words I had prayed for, so the voice got much louder for a while. But then it got quieter again.

Now, fast forward to 2017. Most days the voice is quiet and I am at peace with who I am. I know God’s love and the love of my wife and children. I am walking in God’s calling, and I can feel His smile. Most days.

But occasionally, that is not true. Occasionally I feel the pointing finger and hear those words again. And they are devastating. This mainly happens with things go wrong in the ministry. Like last week…

We have been facing a growing crisis within the ministry, but I have been brushing it off. But last week I was confronted with the magnitude of it, up close and personal. And, for the first time in a long time… my faith shrunk, my fear swelled, my self-loathing surged, and that old voice shouted.

“See! You are a failure! Everything you do will eventually fail! You will never amount to anything!”

I could see the expression. I could see the pointing finger. And I could hear the words as clearly as ever. Only this time, it was not my dad saying them in my mind…it was God.

I know, I know. God was not really saying them. It was the enemy using this very hard moment and my very great weakness to attack. But it was devastating and left me in a useless daze. I prayed. I cried out to God. But I felt unheard and alone.

On Wednesday morning I packed up the truck and headed up to Canillá, Quiché for two days of ministry with Jeremiah, Kevin and Katie. I believed it would do me good to get away and minister, as that always puts things in perspective. The trip up was uneventful, and we had a good afternoon as we served. But I will confess that I wasn’t all there. My mind was immeshed in the battle with the voice, and I was very mechanical in the ministry I did.

Then that night I had a horrible night. I slept poorly, and in the midst of it, I had a dream. A really bad dream. Often when I face The Voice, these kinds of dreams come. They are of the emasculating variety that cause me to awaken in a cloud of inferiority. And this one did exactly that.

The other ministry with which we work in Canillá, Las Maripositas, has group devotionals each morning, and I normally take part when I am there. But this morning I knew I needed to do something different. So I retreated to my pick-up with tinted windows to pour out my heart to God. And pour out my heart is exactly what I did. Out loud and with many tears, I begged Him to come and heal my heart. I knew that, without His touch, I would not be able to minister at all. But He answered, and we ministered.

That morning we had two divine appointments in which God moved…

The first was with a woman named Ana. The day before, when I was loading up extra wheelchairs to take with me, I accidentally had loaded up a chair with specialty footrests. When we arrived Wednesday and unwrapped the chair, I realized my mistake. But I told the rest of the crew that, whenever something like that happens, someone always shows up who needs it. So, when Thursday morning came and we were told that the last person was arriving in need of the chair, I wondered if she would be the one who needed it. And, of course, she was.

Ana’s family had brought her a long distance from a remote village in hopes of getting her a wheelchair. She has severed arthritis and cannot walk or straighten her legs. She is in constant pain, and even cried out when I lifted her from the pick-up in which she arrived. My heart broke when the full magnitude of her suffering came to light.

But it was beautiful when I placed her in the chair and made a few adjustments. When I was done, I knelt down and asked her how it felt. And, for the first time, I saw her smile. She was so relaxed and comfortable, and her whole body showed it. She told me that if felt “So very good!” And I gave thanks to God who saw her need when I was in our bodega, loading the “wrong” chair.

As soon as they had left, we loaded up the truck and headed out to another remote community. The roads were rough and steep, and I discovered along the way that my 4-wheel drive low has stopped working. But with 4-wheel drive high and some momentum, we were able to get through.

We were visiting a lady named Isidria, whom I had measured for a wheelchair on my last visit. She had suffered a stroke years before, and we found her in a horrible wheelchair. Her husband had found an old folding wheelchair and placed her in it. But, because her head and body tilted to the left, her spouse had tied a blanket around the right handle and placed it around her head to keep her upright. She has spent each day in that chair  in that position for years.

We brought a custom chair for her with head rest and tilt, and we were able to quickly adjust it and get her seated comfortably. The headrest was a difficult adjustment, because her head and neck were so twisted. I made the adjustment, put her on a tilt, and watched over the next few minutes as her neck relaxed and moved into a more normal position. So, I moved it further over and back, and watched it happen again. So, still another adjustment. On my next visit, I will move her headrest back and over further. I hope that she will eventually relax to the point of normal posture.

Isdria cannot speak at all. But I leaned down close to her and asked her how her chair felt. And, for the first time ever, I saw her smile. And a single tear flowed down her right cheek.

It had been a rough week in which I felt pounded, both emotionally and spiritually. It had been a horrible night, with little sleep and a troubling dream. And it had been a long drive over rough roads to get to her. But, at that moment,  I knew that I would do it over and over again to see a smile like that.

So, as we drove home that evening, my spirit was brighter and I felt better equipped to face the challenge that awaited me. And I was praising God for those experiences to quiet the voices.

But then He spoke and asked me some questions:
“What if I had not blessed and guided your morning? What if the wheelchairs were not what they needed? What if the morning had been filled with frustration and disappointment? What then? Why do you allow what you do to influence your identity so much, while who I am and what I say influences you so little?”
Ouch! Good questions. And convicting questions.

Why do I allow hard times and failures to tell me who I am instead of allowing Jesus to tell me? Why am I so influenced by what I can and cannot do instead of Whose I am? Why can’t I love myself simply because God does? There are some days that I do. But there are far too many that I don’t.

When will I learn that I don’t have to make God love me, because He already does? All I have to do is to learn how to fully love Him back. When will I learn to trust His words more than my earthly fathers’s. I want to, but I have so far to go.

But I have learned something important. I am not alone. In fact, there are far more people in the church who struggle with this issue than those who don’t. Likely, you are a member of this broken community. The words might be different than the words I hear, but they are just as damaging, painful and destructive. Some days they are quiet and distant, others they blare loudly in your mind. And, while your mind tells you that your are loved and valued by God, those words echo in your heart.

I just want you to know that you are not alone.

I have no pat answers to offer here. But if you have a magic cure, let me know. All I can do is to invite you to join me in learning to believe the truth of God instead of those heart-breaking and life-breaking words you have heard from others:

 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:16-19

For this moment, I choose to rest in that love. I pray you will as well.

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew