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