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

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