Monday, September 11, 2017

Tough Choices

I try to be very transparent, both in this blog and on Facebook. I really don’t like it when people project some kind of supreme wisdom or courage to others, because I know the reality. Even the strongest leaders wrestle with fear, uncertainty and their own inadequacies. And, if they don’t, they are dangerous people.

We are in the midst of something incredible as God unfolds His plan for this ministry. But people often confuse what God is doing as being equated to great leadership from me. Jesus is moving in great ways, so Daryl must be wise, courageous, a great leader, or other such nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, I am a weak and self-conscious person who feels I am in way over my head. On a regular basis I find myself completely overwhelmed by decisions that are way above my pay grade. And I often make those decisions with fear and trembling. Usually it is not until weeks, months or years later that I know the correctness or incorrectness of those decisions, if at all.

Here are just a few decisions we have faced over the last two weeks:

Will we give a baby boy a home?

Two weeks ago I received a request to take a little guy into our home. As always, I requested medical information on the child, which they sent the next day. As I read through the info, I realized that this was a very sick little guy. His list of medical needs was long and dire, and he was fighting for his life. And I realized that, if we said no, he would likely die in any other home.

Often when we share publicly about decisions such as this, we receive encouragement to “have faith” and “trust God” and, therefore, “say yes!” But most people do not realize that faith and trust have little to do with our decision. We do have faith, and we do trust God. Otherwise we would not be doing what we are doing where we do it. We do not make these kinds of decisions regarding money at all. But there is so much that we have to weigh, including the following:
  • We started this household to be a family-based home for children, not an institution. If we receive too many children and hire too many staff, we become less personal and more overwhelmed. We become an institution. When does saying yes to a child push us to the point of defeating our vision?
  • We already have lots of children with profound special needs. Three of those children are expected to die in coming months. We have G-tubes, NG-tubes, breathing treatments, therapy, doctor appointments, and much more. At what point does another yes sacrifice the care we provide to the other children?
  • As already mentioned, we have three children who are dying and more who have profound medical and care needs. We have to maintain a balance in our home in order to assure the morale of our family, interns and staff. We need to have a mixture of children with less severe needs who are more interactive with those who are more profound in their needs. Without that balance, the atmosphere of the home suffers. Will this child throw us toward an unhealthy balance?
  • Do we have enough space? Right now, our boys’ room is full, but we have space for another girl. Yes, we could probably find a way to squeeze in another boy, but we have to be careful because overcrowding could jeopardize our license.

It is important to note that we do not make these decisions lightly, but we have to make a decision. In this case, we told them that that we could not receive him into our home. Yes, you read that correctly. We said no. As I stated above, we knew that we were his best chance of survival, but we still said no.

Some of you may read that and be shocked and disappointed. I understand. I once sat in the States and read blogs like this one. I did not understand how anyone could ever say no to a child in need. I get where you are coming from, and I know that we must seem pretty horrible. But I have learned that we cannot save everyone. I want to…desperately. But we cannot.

So, I laid in bed that night and wiped tears. And I grieved for a little guy who would likely die because we said no.

Will we give a little girl a home?

Last week we received a message about a little girl they are calling Esther. She has an estimated age of three, and they don’t know her real name because she was found abandoned. The email messages were filled with her pictures and lots of medical reports. Severe cognitive and physical delays…colpocephalia…seizures…more.

She was placed in a regular home in late August, and they are not equipped to care for her. So they asked us to please receive her.

We talked it through and prayed it through. In the end, most of us were on the fence. But one of our children felt a special draw and burden for her that I believed to be from God. So, we said yes. She will be joining us once the courts process the paperwork.

Will Yasmin get surgery?

Little Yasmin celebrated her half-birthday yesterday. We chose to celebrate because she will likely not live until her first birthday. She came to us three months ago in horrible shape. Her hair had lost most of its color and was falling out from malnutrition. She was filthy and wrapped in dirty blankets. Her poor body was covered with a raw rash caused by mites and filth. She cried almost constantly.

Today her skin is beautiful and blemish free. She is mostly content and greatly loved. But she is dying because she was born without most of her brain. In its place is a growing sac of fluid that is increasing in pressure daily. In the last month, her head grew 10 centimeters in diameter.

We took her to our neurologist and to our neurosurgeon. Both of them said that a shunt to relieve pressure was likely not a good option for her. But we took her for a third opinion with another neurosurgeon, and he recommended the surgery. He told us that the surgery might kill her, or she could die shortly after, but he wanted to do it to reduce the size of her head. He said that if she survived, it could extend her life by a few months. The cost of the surgery would be Q.20,000 (about $2,800 USD).

We wrestled with that decision for days. She recently began taking meds that has her happy and comfortable. She is loved and well cared for, but she cannot see and will never crawl, learn to walk or talk, or pass developmental milestones. And, even if the surgery is successful, she still will likely not live beyond a year. Do we want to try to prolong her life instead of allowing her to go to Jesus and the perfect healing he offers? Do we want her remaining time to be spent in surgery, hospitals and recovery?

Last night we made the decision. We have chosen to love her well, do what we need to keep her comfortable, and carry her to Jesus when the time comes. Is that the right decision? I pray it is. But I likely will not know for sure on this side of heaven.

Will we give another little boy a home?

Last week I was contacted by a friend about another boy with special needs who needs a home. Currently hospitalized, he has severe medical needs, a G-tube, and a tracheotomy. Could we take him?

I received his medical reports yesterday afternoon, and I spent a lot of time going through them. I felt like my family had been through enough tough decisions in recent days, so I determined not to add this one to their burden. I would make it on my own.

Again, I weighed the space available, his needs, our equipment, the balance of our home and our current help. And I said no.

I have just given you a glimpse into four decisions we have made in recent weeks. These are just a few drops of the lake of decisions we must make each year. And I honestly cannot tell you if any one of these were the right choice. I can tell you that we did our best to follow the guidance of Jesus, and…I think we did. I pray we did. Because I know the consequences of making the wrong choice in any one of these situations.

But what weighs on me is the reality that all of these four situations are not really choices. They are lives. And that threatens to overwhelm me/us at times. The decisions we make can cost or save lives. The decisions we make can improve or worsen lives. And that keeps me awake some nights.

So, I ask you to please pray for us. We need wisdom and guidance far above who we are. We need to hear from the One who sees both the past and the future and controls both. Without Him, we will do more harm than good.

But I want to remind you that the decisions you make are just as important, but their importance may not be as obvious. Today you likely won't make an important decision regarding a child’s surgery or life, but you will make choices that will have eternal implications.

  • Will you keep your head down and your mind distracted while going through the check-out line, or will you connect and reach out to the cashier?
  • Will you really speak to and listen to your coworkers, or will you just survive until quitting time?
  • Will you love and invest in your spouse today, or will you keep your mind far away on other priorities?
  • Will you spend time with and build the hearts of your children, or will you just be anxious to get them to bed so you can have some peace?
  • Will you find the courage to finally talk to your friend and neighbor about Jesus as God has been prompting you to do, or will you just stick with the safe small talk?

These and dozens more decisions you make today are so important. Connect with God, and choose wisely. And we will do the same.

Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Floors, Crowds and Hard Roads

It is hard to sum up the last few weeks in a few pages, but I will try to do my best. Hang on for the ride…

We are in the midst of getting our second house fully licensed. We have been operating under special allowance due to the crisis that Guatemala was experiencing after the fire in Hogar Seguro. But, in order to operate long-term, we have to complete all the process of upgrades, inspections and paperwork. We thought we were coming down the home stretch, but then we had a visit from the health department.

As they walked through the home, they were impressed with everything…except the floors. We were told that the concrete floors were too rough and could not be properly cleaned, so they would not pass us until the floors were finished. (I still stand amazed that the same government that was running a hell-hole place like Hogar Seguros would refuse us a health license because our floors do not meet their standards.)

So, we were left with two options: 1) Tile all the floors or 2) Do a skim coat of colored concrete. Since the second option was quicker and cheaper, we chose that.

So, we moved all of the caregivers from house 2 into house 1 while the work was being done. That meant that we had 31 people living in this house, plus staff that came during the day. It was CROWDED! But we survived like that for 10 days, due to the great attitude and hard work of our family, staff and interns. Yesterday afternoon, the kids and caregivers were able to return to house 2 and order has been (mostly) restored. The final bill topped Q10,000 (about $1,400). We hope to receive health department approval in the next day or two.

Meanwhile, I was finally able to fulfill a commitment I made almost a year ago to begin ministry in Zona Reyna. We had planned to do so early this year, but the murder of Manuel and the opening of house 2 delayed that considerably. But last week, Wanda, Jeremiah and I made the trip and the work began.

The region of Zona Reyna is very unique because of how it was settled. The region is made up almost entirely of refugees from Guatemala’s armed conflict that ended in 1996. This was a civil war between communists and capitalists, with the US backing the capitalists. This long and bloody conflict devastated the country, and many of the rural Mayans were caught in the middle.

Communist forces would enter a Mayan village and demand that they be fed. Because they had machine guns, the villagers would comply. Later, capitalist forces would come through, accuse them of being communist sympathizers because they fed the opposition, and would kill entire villages, including women and children. And the opposite would also happen, with capitalists being fed and communists doing the killing. It was, literally, a no win situation.

So entire communities made the decision to leave their villages and hide in the mountains to avoid the soldiers. They lived in fear for the duration of the war, which lasted 36 years.

When the war finally ended, a part of the negotiated peace deal with the United Nations was to relocate these displaced people. So, they used helicopters to transport these families to the completely undeveloped region of Zona Reyna. They were dropped off and each family was given two pieces of metal lamina, a bag of maseca, and a bag of beans. And they were left in a place with no roads, no hospitals, no anything. And they survived and created a new community.

Our good friends, Greg and Helaine Walton, moved to that area in 2001. There they worked to start a school and agricultural program, and the success of that work is astounding to see. It is one of the best schools in Guatemala, and almost all of the teachers there are graduates of the program. As a part of the curriculum, the kids are taught agriculture and raise peppers which they sell to pay for their education and give each student an income. The property is self-sufficient, with a well and solar power. It is truly impressive to see the difference that is being made in the name of Jesus.

About six years ago they finally cut in a road to the area. As of last year they also have a cell tower that can provide intermittent coverage and internet. And this was the area we drove to last week.

 And speaking of driving, it was quite the drive. I have driven rough and dangerous roads often since living in Guatemala, but these were among the worst. The total drive took us 11 hours, and the last 58 miles were six of those hours. Rough roads, shear cliffs and narrow bridges were among the challenges. At one point, we saw a horse in front of us lose its footing and plummet off the cliff to his death. But the view the entire way was breathtakingly beautiful.


 


We arrived safely last Wednesday night, and we were exhausted from the drive and long day. A quick bite to eat and we were in bed.

The next morning we set up in the school where we saw those with special needs. I was afraid we would be overwhelmed by numbers, but Greg explained that the people of the area are not used to receiving help from outsiders. Many are distrustful and it will take time for us to build trust. But we saw around 12 people with a variety of needs. A teenage girl with leg deformities. A boy born without an arm and leg. A little guy with Down Syndrome. A stroke victim. Most of them without any resources.


In the afternoon, we drove out to visit two people who could not come to the school. The first was an elderly man with undiagnosed diabetes. His blood sugar was at 585, and he has gone nearly blind and can no longer walk. Through telephone consultation with our ministry doctor, we were able to get him started on insulin to get his diabetes under control.

The second was a man with a brain tumor. They had CAT scans which showed the tumor to be large and pressing down on his brain stem. It is inoperable. His pain is tremendous and he has now gone blind. We gave him some strong pain killers and prayed with him. There is simply nothing more that we can do.

The next day, we made the long drive back out again, and arrived home that evening thoroughly wiped. I have spent a lot of time since our return reflecting on this new area of ministry and praying for God’s direction. I will be returning next month to deliver wheelchairs and do follow-ups with the people I saw. Please pray for us as we move forward.


Earlier this month, we hosted Scott and Christina Hoffman for a few days. Christina is the Director of His Safe Haven, which works with children with special needs in Liberia, Africa. Hope for Home’s Liberian Director, Don Riley, connected with them and has been providing help on that end. We have been considering long-term partnership with them to open a village for children with special needs there, and we needed some time together to sort it all out.

From the first moment, we felt a real connection with Scott and Christina, and God did some great things in our time together. It would appear that the partnership will be proceeding, and we are excited about what lies ahead.

And, speaking of Liberia, our daughter, Carissa, will be serving as the on-site Director of this new village. And her soon-to-be new husband, Steven Chapin, with joining her in that work. Carissa and Steven (Stevie) were recently engaged, so we have a wedding approaching on November 3rd. We are excited about their relationship and what God has ahead for them both. Stevie is already like a son to us, to it will be great to make his part in our family official.

This afternoon I am meeting with representatives for a ministry called Hope to Walk. They produce low cost prosthetic legs using simple design and inexpensive materials. They currently do not work in Guatemala, but we are hoping to partner with them to change that. They will train us to measure, make molds and manufacture prosthetic legs, so we can produce them right from our own warehouse here in town. This will be a huge blessing to our ministry and the people we serve.

Finally, this morning I heard the testimony of a young lady who works in our ministry. Her relationship with God was not good when she began working with us, and her entire family was struggling. But God has been moving in her life through the Holy Spirit and the example and love of our team. Her relationship with Jesus is growing daily, and God is bringing healing to her family. Addictions are being defeated and they are praying together. Her story is a beautiful reminder that Jesus truly does transform lives!

Okay, that is enough for now. God is moving, and we are excited, even though we are also tired. In our weakness, He is strong!

Blessings and love from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

When God Shouts

Sometimes God whispers, sometimes He shouts. Stick with me for a few minutes, and I will explain how He recently shouted.

Last week we hosted a medical missions team from Project Re:3 and Element Church in North Carolina. I can tell you that it was a great and exhausting week as we held three medical clinics in the Department of Esquintla. I should also mention that this week was made even sweeter because my sister, Kathy, and brother-in-law, Bob, was a part of the team.

On Monday we were in the town of Las Palmas, and we were swamped. We arrived to see a line of people waiting to be seen. Our clinic opened with prayer at 9:00 am, and we saw our last patient at 6:00 pm. And in between we treated an estimated 250 people. Between the heat and the very long day, our entire team was wiped out. But the day was also filled with so much joy. 

Las Palmas is a remote village, and there is a lot of poverty there. Imagine having a family and knowing that, if one of you gets sick, you have no resources for treatment. That desperation drove many to wait from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm to see our group for treatment. We take so much for granted.

On Wednesday and Friday we did clinics on the edge of the dump in Esquintla. And, as poor as Las Palmas is, this region is poorer. There is so much malnutrition among children and adults, and many die from a lack of medical care. We did our clinics in cooperation with a ministry called Building Guate, a wonderful Christ-following organization that serves families surrounding the dump. They provide lunches each day and an after school program. They have also recently built a medical clinic, in which we were working.

At one point on Wednesday I took a break and was praying as I looked over the property and saw families walking through the dump looking for food and items they could use or sell. And I felt the Lord speak and tell me that this was the region in which we were supposed to begin our Maternity Care Ministry.

As many of you know, Stephanie Konrad will be joining us soon as a midwife. Her role will be to train midwives and establish birthing centers in communities. Through these centers we will provide care to pregnant women, safe and clean birthing areas, trained midwives, and education and resources to new moms. This will greatly reduce the infant mortality rate of the region as well as reducing the rate of special needs. It seemed apparent that the area around the dump was the perfect region to begin this work.

So, I spoke with the Director of Building Guate, Oscar Palencia, about the possibility. Immediately he lit up and told me that it aligned perfectly with their vision. He offered me the use of their clinic as a birthing center or, if I preferred, the use of phase two of their construction, which already has footers laid. He told us we could build to our specifications there.

As I left that day, I felt a strong sense that this direction was from the Lord, but committed myself to pray about it more. Little did I know that the answer I was seeking would come quickly and through a shout.

Now, flashback to about six months ago. I had a dream in which I was in a van with a team from the US. We were going to visit families in a rural village that I did not recognized, and I had to pull over and park, because the road was too rough for the van. I parked on the left side of the road, grabbed my medical bag, and began to walk with the team. 

We had only gone a few steps when a man emerged from a home on the right side of the road, yelling. He told me that his wife was in labor and asked me to help. I ran inside and began delivering the baby. Then I woke up. I was struck immediately with how vivid and detailed the dream was, and told several people about it. But I quickly moved on and forgot about it…until Friday.

On Friday we returned to Building Guate for another day of clinics. Again, we were busy, but the day was going smoothly. Then late morning a lady came to the clinic who had been there on Wednesday with her husband. She was concerned about him and asked us to come to her house to check on him. She only lived about 200 meters away, so I grabbed my medical bag and Taryn and I walked with her. 

We went out the gates of the ministry and turned left, something I had never done before. Prior to this, we always arrived at the ministry from the right and then left the same way we came. I had never been on the road to the left. But we had only walked a short distance when I suddenly realized that I had been there before. Everything was familiar…every detail. Yet I knew I had never gone that way before.

And suddenly, it hit me. This was the road from my dream! Every single detail! Every home, the rise of the road, the large rock in the ditch to the left, the trench someone had dug to lay pipes…everything! This was the very place from my dream where I had begun to deliver a baby! And, in that moment, God shouted, and everything came into focus.

So, our Board of Directors just approved this vision. We hope to begin construction in October or early November. This is a step of faith for us, as is everything we do. We are trusting God for funds and staffing, and are confident of His provision. After all, it is His idea.

Already there are four women who are interested in being trained as midwives, and we expect that number to grow. And, as I see the number of pregnant ladies in the region, I realize that this region needs this ministry sooner rather that later.

Please pray with us as we walk in obedience. Pray for Stephanie as she makes her move from Canada on October 12th. Pray for provision for this new area of ministry. Pray for wisdom and effective partnership for both Building Guate and Ministerio de Esperanza. And pray that God will be glorified as lives are saved.

Thanks and blessings from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew


Friday, June 16, 2017

Updates and Earthquakes

I have been negligent in giving you updates regarding our new home, and for that I apologize. I am trying to tame my schedule and do a better job of updating my blog and keeping our faithful supporters and prayer partners informed. 

Our second home is up and running, and we continue to work out the kinks. You would think that it would be easy to just expand our existing program and receive more children, but a new household creates its own dynamics and requires a different approach. Wanda manages the schedule for both homes, and her hands are very full as our staff and ministry has grown.

After weeks of being stonewalled by the government, the children began to arrive. At present, we have six children in the second home, and we have decided to put a hold on receiving more for now. There are a couple of reasons for this, which I will explain.

First, we have decided to not license the second house as its own home with a separate license. This is to help save money and time. Instead, we are applying to expand our current license to allow us to care for more children. This is a much faster process and is far less costly. 

For now, we are technically licensed to receive ten children. Yet we now have 13 children in this house and six in the second house. That means we are operating at 190% of capacity. (Understand, we have more than adequate space and staff for these children, it is just our additional space and staff are not yet “official.”) So, at the recommendation of our social worker, we are not accepting more children until our expansion is approved. We hope to have this completed by the end of July.

The second reason is due to some of the new children we have received. Of the six children who have joined our second home, three of them are in very critical condition, with two of them being terminal. We have two very little girls, both under four months, who have hidranencefalia. While this looks a lot like hydrocephalus, it is actually different in that both of them have very little brain. Instead, they have a brainstem and a small piece of brain attached, and the rest of their cranium is filled with cerebral fluid. And that fluid is building pressure.

With hydrocephalus, a shunt is installed to drain off excess fluid and reduce that pressure. But with hidranencefalia, this will not work. Our neurosurgeon has informed us that the surgery will be expensive, and they would both likely die within a few days of surgery. So, we have decided to love them well and pray for them until such time that Jesus either heals them in this life or the next. 

But their care is rather extensive. They cry a lot and need to be held and rocked much of the time to comfort them. They don’t sleep well at night, which means those that are caring for them don’t sleep much either.

Then, around the same time, we received a young man who is 14 years old. He has severe cerebral palsy and has a G-tube for feeding. He had been in Hogar Seguro, but after the fire, the courts sent him back to his mother, who has neither the resources nor knowledge to care for him. Over the almost three months he was back in his home, he suffered from three very serious infections that nearly killed him. And he came to us in very bad shape.

(Just a side note: The conditions of some of these children when they come to us is heartbreaking. One of the babies came to us at 3 1/2 months old, and we are pretty sure she had never had a bath. She was covered in a horrible rash that we soon found out was caused by a horrible mite infestation. She had the worst case of cradle cap we have ever seen, requiring days of gentle soaking and washing to clear. And the young man came to us horribly malnourished without any way for us to feed him through his feeding tube. We had to rush around to scramble together what we needed. Thankfully, a therapy team from Xavier University had come the previous week and left us just what we needed to do the job!)
So, suffice it to say, the second household has its hands full in caring for these three. Plus, some of  the other three children they have are a handful. So, until things are a little more stable with the health of those children, we have decided it is best not to add others.

In order to prepare the second household for inspection, we have had to do a lot of work. The majority of that has fallen on Dale Beyer and Michael Gross, with Joel, Cesar and Calin assisting. And they have done fantastic work. A changing room had to be built, a special bathing tub was designed and built, ramps were poured to the patio, a ramp built to one bathroom, a second bathroom had to be finished, a fence to separate the parking area was built, and much more. But the final touches are being added now, and we are ready for inspection. I don’t know what I would do without our incredible team that is so faithful and so good at what they do!


And, as I give this update, I need to not neglect filling you in on Wanda’s health. About two weeks ago, she came down with what we thought was the stomach flu. I was in Jutiapa at the time with the therapy team from Xavier, but I checked in with her regularly. By the time I arrived Friday evening, she was very sick. She could keep nothing in her system at all. So we called our doctor, who came and arranged for an IV to be started to rehydrate her. But we had no sooner got that  started than she took a severe turn. So, I rushed her to the hospital where she was hospitalized to get her hydrated and address her illness.

It is now almost two weeks later, and she is still not back to full strength. It was determined that she had amoebas, and they were a pretty robust and aggressive strain. She continues treatment and is gradually improving and gaining strength. Thanks to all of you who prayed for her.

And finally, two nights ago Guatemala had an earthquake. It was 1:30 am and I was sleeping peacefully, when I was suddenly jarred awake by the lurching of the bed. The initial surge moved our bed to the right, and me with it. I felt myself grabbing the mattress, trying to stay on the bed. 

When I realized what was happening, I jumped out of bed and tried to make decisions in my sleep clouded mind. Was this just a tremor like we often have? (No, this is stronger than I have ever felt.) Should I run and start grabbing kids from their beds, or is it passing? (If feels like the waves are lessening. I think we are okay.) Is there damage occurring in the home? (I don’t think so. I don’t hear cracking concrete or falling objects.) And, by the time I had sorted through that process, it  was over.

When all was said and done, there had been a 6.9 earthquake about 93 miles to our west in San Marcos, Guatemala. As of last night, the death toll stood at five, with lots of buildings down and damaged. It is quite miraculous that only five were killed, since it occurred at night while everyone was in bed.

But this whole event has left me thinking a lot about control. Because nothing strips away the illusion of control like an earthquake. When it strikes, you are powerless to stop it or control it in any way. The only thing you can do is pray that it stops…and soon.

We live in a world that tells you that you can be in control. You can control your health. You can control your safety. You can control your finances and retirement. You can be in control, as long as you are responsible and careful. But that is truly a laughable notion.

You eat right and exercise religiously. But the call can still come from the doctor that changes everything. You can purchase the vehicle with the highest crash rating and strap your children into a five-point restraint system. But a drunk driver can cross the center line and take the lives of those you hold dearest. You can work hard and save carefully for the future. But a recession can cost you your job and a bad day in the markets can wipe out your retirement. And you will be completely in control…until you are not.

Since our family made the decision to move to Guatemala, we have experienced a lot of criticism. And most of that criticism focuses on safety, security and responsibility. How could we, as loving parents, move our children to a developing country where healthcare is poor and crime is high? How could we give up our health insurance? What? We don’t have a retirement plan?!? Surely God wants us to be safe and secure, doesn’t He?

But all of those criticisms are rooted in a lie. And that lie is that we can be in control of our safety and security. Regardless of what we think, where we live and what we do, we are NOT in control. Events can happen in the blink of an eye that show us how out-of-control we really are. Life…and death…happens, regardless of how careful we think we are.

Recently a friend told me about a relative that died while watching TV in their living room. A boulder from the mountain behind their home came loose, rolled down the mountain, and right through his house. And he was killed instantly. How much safer can you be that resting in your own home?

One of my favorite quotes from Shakespeare came from my readings in tenth grade. I can’t tell you which play it is from. (I wasn’t the best student in those days, especially when it came to Shakespeare.) But the quote stuck with me, and I have never forgotten it:

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave die but once.”

And, as a tenth grader, I realized an important truth. I could not live my life fearing death. If I did, I would never really live. I had to go live life to the full, and trust God with that life and my eventual death.

And when I do die, I would much rather die doing something that matters than simply trying to stay safe. Our goal is not to simply stay alive, it is to live and love and give and serve…the way Jesus did those things.

One of my other favorite quotes is by Thomas Aquinas:


"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, 
he would keep it in port forever." 

What is our goal? It is to preserve the ship of our lives and our families? If so, keep it all in port and don’t do anything. Never take chances. Never take risks. And don’t worry, you will blend right in with the world around you as you stay behind your picket fence. Just don’t be surprise when a boulder comes crashing through your perfect world.

But, if our goal is to make a difference and change this broken and dying world, that approach will not do. We must go where others won’t go and do what other won't do. We must take huge risks that defy the odds and threatens our safety and security. Safe is never world-changing.

But here is the thing: The earthquakes will come, either way. Our world will be shaken, and lives will be lost, including our own. And those shakes will come whether you are playing it safe and comfortably or are taking risks for Jesus. The only question is…when the world shakes and the end comes, will we be doing something worth doing?

I pray that I will be, and that you will as well!

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thursday, June 8, 2017

When You Hold a Dying Child

Today I held a dying child in my arms. I wish I could say that is an unusual occurrence, but it is not. In fact, it happens almost every day.

We currently have three such children in our home. The neurologist has told us that two of them, Edy and Analia, have no chance apart from a miracle. There is simply nothing we can do except to love them while we wait for Jesus to take them home. The third child, Yasmin, had a neurology appointment today. We have been told that a shunt might extend her life, but we will find out more after the appointment with the neurosurgeon tomorrow. Regardless, this will extend her life, but not save it.

We have had five children die in our home in the last four years. That is one the challenges of having a home for children with special needs. They often come to us frail and weak, with their lives already slipping away. We fight for them, but sometimes they just cannot be saved.

And these dying children that I hold are not just in our home. On Sunday I sat next to my friend, Rodney, after being called to his bedside early that morning. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was dying, and there was nothing I could do. So, I sat next to him as he took his final breaths in this life and watched him slip away to Jesus.

So today, as I held little Analia in my arms, death was very close on all sides. I am not trying to be morbid, I am just being real. We are surrounded by death, and that can be so very hard to face. But it is also a wonderful reality check that helps us to know what is important. And I need that. We all need that.

We live in a sound chamber of noise as this world tries to scream at us. It tries to convince us of what matters…what is important. And it does a good job of convincing us. The noise frequently drowns out the still small voice that gently leads us to real meaning and importance. It happens to me regularly. And, unless I am mistaken, it happens to you as well.

The news blares about hearings in Washington DC and how our country hangs in the balance. Financial advisors warn us of the importance of our retirement accounts. Commercials tell us how important our insurance coverage is. We are pounded from every side with how important the safety and security of our families really are. Plus, we all really need to have the newest phone and car. And our homes are kind of crowded with all the possessions we own. And the noise continues.

But there is something about holding a dying child that quiets that noise. As I held little Analia in my arms this morning, the noise faded. And I remembered anew how little in this life is really important. Certainly none of the above really matters.

In that moment, I was reminded how insignificant politics is. Because our elected officials do not care about the life and death battle of children in a distance place like Guatemala. The politicians in Guatemala don’t even care. Nothing that happens in DC or Guatemala City will ever really make a difference in the lives of the truly hurt and broken.

I was reminded how insignificant theology is. So much time spent studying, debating and arguing who God is and what He is really like. I find myself chuckling at the idea of finite men with finite minds claiming to understand our infinite God, when in reality they haven’t even scratched the surface of one of His toenails. And in the microscopic examination and word studies, we often miss His heart and passion for the broken world around us. Meanwhile, He invites us to come and know and love Him, not study Him.

I was reminded of how insignificant every possession I own is. I would trade them all if it could save Analia or Yasmin or Edy or Rodney. It is all a pile of rubbish compared to a single life that is created in the image of our God.

I was reminded of how insignificant so much of what we call “the church” is. The buildings and services and programs and budgets…so very often it all just a disguise of faith wrapped around tradition. And so very often it embraces those things while ignoring the priorities of Jesus Himself. We embrace the trappings while ignoring the poor, the widows, the orphans and the broken. We welcome the clean middle class to our carpeted sanctuaries while rejecting the sinners and disenfranchised beyond the door. And that “church” become insignificant, to both God and the world around us.

I was reminded that there is very little in this life that is true and really matters. It could likely all be counted on one hand. But those few things are so very real and true and important. Those few things are worth living and dying for.

So, as I held that dying child, I was also reminded of how good our God is. I felt His grief for our broken world and personal states. I felt His goodness contrasted with the ugliness and brokenness of this world. And I know, more than ever, how very good He is, even in the midst of suffering.

(Last week I received a message from a genuine skeptic. He has lots of doubts, but he is open and willing to address his doubts by seeking answers. He asked me, “Daryl, you are surrounded by suffering and death. Has that affected your belief in the goodness of God?” My answer was simple. “Yes, it has made me even more convinced than ever that God is good and that He is love!”)

I was reminded of the depth of His great love, for both Analia and me. I recognized, even as I was overcome by profound love for her, that His love is far greater. And, in that moment, His great love surrounded us both.

I was reminded how important the true church is in this world. We are the hope of this world to know the Answer. And the true church is still out there as a remnant…and it is growing. And I knew that, as I held her in my arms, the church was holding us both. Because of God’s work through the church, I was holding her in my arms in a safe place. The true church is out there, giving, praying, serving, loving, encouraging and moving forward. And I believe in that true church more every day.

I was reminded of how wonderfully insignificant and significant I really am. This one is a hard one to explain, but I will try. I am insignificant in that my life really doesn’t matter in comparison to the Gospel and God’s heart for the world. I am expendable as God sees fits, and He can take my health, wealth and life in order to accomplish His heart and mission for the world. I don’t really matter. And yet, when I surrender myself to Him and His mission, I matter. In fact, that is the only way that any of us truly can ever know true meaning and significance. And, as I held Analia in my arms, I knew how much both of us matter to Him.

And I was reminded how wonderful and precious life is, no matter how short or long it may be. And, even as I hold dying children on a daily basis, I dare not forget to celebrate and live to the max this life I have been given for as long as I have it to live.

There is so little that is truly important in this world. But the things that are, are really important. And we all need to be reminded of that. So it would probably be good for all of us to occasionally hold and love a dying child.

I invite you to come and do that with us. Hold a dying child and learn to really celebrate and live life. We are just a short flight away.

Blessings!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew