Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Fire and Loss

I have been silent for the last month, and by now most of you know why. On Sunday, June 3rd, the volcano Fuego erupted more ferociously than it had in over 40 years, throwing this country and our lives into turmoil.

Every Sunday, we send about half our group to church, and the other half stays home to have worship and watch a teaching video. Wanda and I were at home that day when she came inside at around 12:30 pm and announced that it was raining rocks. Sure enough, small lava rocks that were about 1/8 inch in diameter were falling to the ground. And, over the next half hour, the intensity and size of those rocks increased. The largest of these were over 3/4 inches in diameter.

Meanwhile, our group in Antigua was encountering similar weather as they tried to drive home. Tiny rocks combined with an oily ash rain was falling. Eventually, due to low visibility and slick roads, they had to stop and wait it out.

We have had numerous eruptions that have resulted in ash fall over the last seven plus years, but nothing like this. Over the next two days we removed an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of rocks and ash from our two homes. But during all the previous eruptions there was no loss of life. We were soon to learn that this eruption was not like the others.

Lava flow combined with mud and was joined by pyroclastic flows (super-heated gases) that completely destroyed the community of Los Lotes and the majority of El Rodeo. Six people were killed in the nearby town of Alotenango. A major route to the department of Esquintla was covered in lava, and chaos ensued.

The official count is over 110 people dead and around 200 people missing. But most, including myself, do not believe these numbers to be correct. The total population of Los Lotes and El Rodeo was over 26,000. In spite of repeated warnings from the the National Seismic and Volcanic Institute that informed CONRED that they needed to evacuate, they did not begin until shortly before the eruption. For almost six hours they waited, choosing only to evacuate a wealth country club, but leaving the villages in place until only moments before the volcano blew. And those below were killed by the pyroclastic flow and covered by lava and ash. This eruption was very similar to Pompeii.

Recently they called off the recovery effort. They have led us to believe that only about 200 are left buried. But many believe the number is actually in the thousands.

On Monday morning, we loaded up the ambulance with medicine, medical supplies, and water and headed to Escuintla. Taryn, Jeremiah, Kevin, Katie, and Stephanie joined me. What was previously about a 50 minute drive is now over 2 hours, as a portion of route 14 is now covered by lava.

We went first to an emergency shelter and were sent from there to the main health center. We had a conversation with the doctor who was heading up the medical care, and he told us we were not allowed to go into the affected area. He explained that it was too dangerous. I watched with pride as my 17 year old son and 19 year old daughter explained to him that we knew the risks, but were willing to take them. Taryn told him, “If we die, we die. Our lives are in God’s hands.” Finally he shook his head and had us write down our names and phone numbers and told us we could go.

We took the back way in, driving through several rivers. When we were several miles deep in the back road, we were waved down by a lady in another vehicle. She told us about two villages up on the side of the mountain that were without electricity and water, and wanted to know if we could help. At this point, we had been told that we could not get into El Rodeo, so we decided to drive up the mountain to find them.
We arrived to find that we were not dealing with two small villages, but instead around 7,500 people. Their power was out, they had no water flowing, and they were collecting rain water. But the rain water was filled with ash, making it dangerous to drink. We were told that people were coughing due to the ash and that they needed water badly. Needless to say, we all felt overwhelmed.

Before we knew what was happening, a pastor had drug out a battery powered speaker and microphone and a crowd of several hundred had gathered around us. A microphone was shoved in my hand, and I was asked to address the crowd. I told them that we had some medicine and masks that we could distribute to the elderly. I told them that we would come back the next day and bring some water filters. And I told them we would pray for them. And we did.

As we left, I was calculating in my head. I had about 10 water filters, and I was figuring flow rate and how many people 10 filters could serve. And I came up far short of what we needed for 7,500 people. So, I prayed. And here is what happened...

Before I was off the mountain I had received a call from my friend, Brian Spence. He and his wife, April, had talked to their friend who owns the Ecofilter company and arranged a discount. They also had enough donations to purchase 100 Ecofilters, and had arranged with their friends, Paul and Bethany Hardison and Matt and Michelle Tumas, to provide trucks to carry them all in along with drinking water. So, plans were made to head back in the next day.

The next day, we decided to go in the front way. In order to do so, we needed to clear through two road blocks that had been set up and then drive through El Rodea. But when I explained what we were doing, they cleared us through. Right after we passed through the town, they shut the road down and evacuated the rest of the town because of additional eruptions that were expected.

We made it safely up the mountain and, as we were pulling into El Ceylan, we met a large truck leaving from CONRED. I waved them down and asked them if help was on the way to those communities. But they had actually only been there to warn the town of additional eruptions. So, when we arrived, we found a town full of terrified people who had been told that pyroclastic flows could come their way. (Please don’t ask me what benefit it was to tell them this, when CONRED had no plans or means to evacuate them.)

Over the next hour or so, a large crowd gathered around as we distributed 75 water filters and set them up as filtering stations in the town. Each church, the school, and the health center received five filters so that families could come and filter rain water. When we were done, the rest of the group headed back down the mountain, but our team from Ministerio de Esperanza hung around and visited for a while. While we recognized the danger of additional eruptions (there was another eruption while we were on the mountain) we also recognized the fear in the people. I kept wondering how I would have felt if I lived in that community and saw gringos coming to help but then fleeing quickly. How would I feel, knowing that I had no way to run and no place which to run?

So we visited for a while, distributing more medicines. We prayed with some people, and took photos with them. And when we left, there were smiles and laughter. Children lined up and waved as we pulled out of town.

We had been alerted that our way onto the mountain had been shut down while we were distributing filters, so we drove down and took the back way out, crossing three rivers as the rain began to fall. Unbeknownst to us, right after we crossed one of the rivers there was a flow of heated gas and mud that came through behind us, making the road impassable. We are thankful that we were not trapped on the mountain, and we are even more thankful that we were not caught in the river when the flow came.

Around that time, donations were flowing into the shelters from both Guatemalans and from international aid. When we visited the shelters, we saw mountains of bottled water, food, clothing and medicine. Meanwhile, we were hearing contradicting reports regarding needs. For example, some were saying that the shelters were needing medicine. Others were saying that they had more medicine than they could use.

At the same time, people began to see the relief work we were doing, and Hope for Home Ministries began receiving donations to help. Over $10,000 arrived in just a few days. And other missionaries began contacting me because they were receiving donations to help as well. They wanted my guidance because they did not know the best use for those gifts. In a two day period I received over 150 messages asking for guidance on how to use donations. So, I was working furiously to get solid answers.

We visited one of the largest shelters and spoke with a friend who is a doctor working in the shelters. We visited the distribution center for donations and went through the medicines to see what they had. We spoke with everyone who would speak to us, and a picture and plan began to form.

The shelters had plenty of food and clothing. And they had lots of medicine, but not all the right kinds. And we also began to see the other needs that people were overlooking. So, here is our current course of action regarding volcano relief:
  1. We are working with my doctor friend who is serving in the shelter to provide specific meds and supplies that are not being donated.
  2. Through that same doctor, we have provided dental supplies so that those in shelters can receive dental care.
  3. And, again, through that doctor we are providing medical imaging and lab work to those in the shelter as it is needed.
  4. We are working with health centers and nurses in communities affected by the volcano, but not evacuated, to provide medicine and supplies that are needed. These include antibiotics for respiratory and intestinal infections that have been caused by the ash.
  5. We are focusing on using these resources carefully, hoping to be able to help with rebuilding of homes when that begins.

In the midst of this chaos, I received the heartbreaking news that my dear friends, Guy and Amy Fraley, had lost their six year old son, Xander, very suddenly. The Fraley family has fostered and adopted several children with special needs and have opened their home and hearts to some very fragile children. They have a son, James, who has been very sick for quite a while, and he was in the ICU in Dayton at this time. But Xander went into respiratory distress at home very suddenly, and they were unable to save him. This family shares our heart, so when Guy asked me to come and officiate the service for Xander, I immediately said yes.

So, exactly one week after the eruption, Wanda and I found ourselves on a plane to the US. At this point I was dangerously sleep deprived and struggling to focus on simple tasks. So, when we arrived at our friends home after midnight, I fell into a coma-like sleep. (This is a special thank you to Jeff and Donna Kephart, who hosted us in their beautiful Oasis of a basement! You have no idea how badly we needed that refuge!)

Our time with the Fraley family was a sweet time of healing. It is always good to be around people who understand, and Wanda and I understand very well the pain and trauma of losing a child. At the same time, after the trauma of the past week we had experienced, it was good to be with our friends. I believe it was a healing time for all of us.

The memorial service for Xander was beautiful and gave glory to Jesus. Many lives were touched by his story. And, even as we grieved our loss, we celebrated his gain. As I looked at Xander’s wheelchair and braces at the front of the church, I wept tears of joy. Xander no longer needs them, and is running free!

We returned home to Guatemala on Friday evening and got right back to work. And the work continues.

In addition to our volcano relief work, our ministry continues to stay very busy. Here are just a few things that have happened:
Birthing Center - Escuintla
  1. We welcomed Emanuel Alvarez and his daughter, Millie, to Guatemala. His wife, Shannon, and other four children will join us in the next two weeks. They will be providing support to our group homes in preparation of opening our third group home soon.
  2. We added another Toyota Hilux pick-up truck to our rural village ministry fleet. Our Mitsubishi truck just has not been able to handle the abuse of the roads we drive, and was spending way too much time in the shop. So, it was time to replace it with something more durable.
  3. We received another child into our home. Little Ana came to us from another home yesterday. She is not quite three months old, and has a seizure disorder. But we quickly realized that she also has cerebral palsy and is not responding to stimuli as you would expect. We are not sure if this is due to congenital brain damage or due to severe abuse she experienced. But we are working hard to get her all the help available.
  4. Our birthing center is nearing completion. Meanwhile, Stephanie and Taryn have a growing prenatal care ministry in the area, as they have been invited by two other health centers to do prenatal exams in their towns.
  5. And there is lots more happening, but this post is already too long.

Please pray for the people of Guatemala as they continue to recover from this eruption. There is much work ahead and still grieving that needs to be done. I have met people that lost their homes and entire families on June 3rd. We need the healing of Jesus Christ to flow through this nation.

Blessings from Guate!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tender Fire

This one is a hard one to write. It requires me to first be very transparent about my own weakness. Then it requires me to be very transparent about the church. Neither of those are easy or popular. But this has been burning inside of me for a while now, and I no longer feel as if I have choice. So, here goes...

A couple of weeks ago I began meeting with a friend of mine, Drew Metcalf, who is an amazing Christian counselor. He works mainly with children in the orphanage setting, but he is also pretty incredible at helping broken missionaries like me. Drew had been encouraging me to get together with him to talk through the loss and trauma that I have experienced over the last seven years. And that really was a hard decision for me to make.

I grew up believing that real men suck it up and move on. We certainly don’t sit down and talk about our feelings and ask for help. But several things brought me to the point where I felt I had no choice. So, we sat down over lunch (twice) and chatted.

I spoke with him about the children we have lost. I told him of the guilt that I carry from a couple of those deaths. And I spilled my guts and told him the following:
  • I live with fear that I am going to lose another child and it will be my fault.
  • I sometimes jerk awake at night because I think a child has stopped breathing.
  • I have nightmares in which I relive the deaths over and over again.
  • I can’t walk past a sleeping child without stopping to check to make sure they are breathing.
  • My heart races when anyone speaks in an urgent tone.
  • I have flashbacks that are triggered by certain sounds and sites.

For most of my life, I knew that children sometimes die. But I always took comfort in knowing that it was rare and unlikely. But, over the last seven years, that perspective has changed. Now it seems likely that a child will die and rare that they survive. And that causes me to live with an ever-present fear. I know that is wrong and not from God. I have prayed about it and asked for healing. But the fear and guilt have remained.

Drew listened and nodded occasionally. And, when I was done, he explained that all of that was the result of trauma, and it was normal in light of my experiences. And then he explained that the only way to move past that trauma was to unpack it and address it with God’s help. We all have a tendency to run away from the things that hurt us, but the only path to healing was back through the pain.

So, that is what I have been doing. I have been unpacking and reliving the loss and trauma by talking about it with God. I have relived doing CPR and watching the life fade from children’s eyes. I have relived claiming my daughter’s body from the morgue that had been carelessly stuffed in a plastic garbage bag. I have relived the feelings of powerlessness and the overwhelming guilt of feeling responsible for death. I have told God how unable and unequipped I am to face any of it. And I have cried out to Him for the healing of my heart and mind.

And, slowly, it is coming. I am sleeping better, and I am feeling more peace. And the fear is less. And, as I continue this journey, I believe more healing will come. And that is important, because I know more wounds are on their way.

As this healing has begun, God has shown me broken areas of myself that I don’t like. And the biggest of those breaks has manifest itself in a harshness toward others that does not honor God or those He loves. It has caused me to be too condemning and to walk in the horrible sin of self-righteousness. And I was broken by that revelation.
Specifically, this broken part of me has led me to be too hard on those who do not know and understand the world in which we live. We live surrounded by death, suffering, and urgency, and I have been far too impatient with those who do live with the same.

This has caused me to say and write a lot of things that are true, but to do so with a heart of anger instead a heart of concern. That is wrong, and I am sorry.

There is an old story of a man who went to a barber shop for a haircut. The following conversation ensued:

Barber: I hear you got a new pastor at your church. What happened to the old one?
Man: Nobody liked him. He was always telling us that we are sinner on our way to hell. He kept telling us that we need to repent and know Jesus.
Barber: Well, do you like the new pastor?
Man: Oh, yeah! We love him! Great things are happening and lives are being changed!
Barber: Really? What does he preach?
Man: He preaches that we are sinners on our way to hell. He tells us that we need to repent and know Jesus.
Barber: But that sounds exactly like the old pastor!
Man: Ah, but this one says it with tears in his eyes!

God has shown me that I need to speak and write with more tears and less gritted teeth. And that is the challenge that I face. Somehow, I have to learn to share the truth of God without mixing Daryl in with it. I have to show the passion of God with love. I have to be a tender fire, while allowing others to be the same for me.

I have been asking God to show me what He would be like if He lived this life. What would He do? What would He say? What would He write on Facebook and a blog. I still don’t know what I would look like if I were truly like my Jesus, but I am sure trying to figure it out.

Let’s be honest here. I am neither a prophet or the son of one, but I know there are things that need to be said to the US church. I also know that there are far better people that could say those things. But the problem is, not many are saying them. And the message is burning in my heart as I see the culture robbing the heart of the church. So, even as I feel God asking me to speak, I am asking how to do so with His heart. And I will do my best while asking you to be patient and merciful toward me when I fall short.

Face it, if we were to strip away everything we have been shown and told the church is and then read scriptures without that filter...well, the church would look very, very different. The typical believer would look very, very different as well. Without realizing it, we have wrapped the culture around our faith and the church. And, in doing so, we have castrated our faith. The church has prostituted itself to the gods of man as we submerge ourselves in the politics of earthly kingdoms instead of surrendering ourselves to the eternal Kingdom. We have invested ourselves in the answers that men have to offer instead of investing ourselves in the only true Answer. And, in many cases, we are leading people to hell while convincing them that they are on their way to heaven.

And we wonder why we don’t see revival. We wonder why the Gospel isn’t transforming our communities, cities and nations. The answer is quite simple: We are not living the true Gospel in our lives and churches. We don’t live out God’s priorities and heart. And the world is dying, both physically and spiritually.

Francis Chan gives the following analogy regarding the modern church:

“I sometimes feel like we’re playing a game. I almost feel like it would be like walking onto an ice skating rink and seeing a bunch of people throwing fish at little hamsters that are running around. And you walk in and you go, ‘What are you guys doing?’ And they go, ‘We’re playing soccer.’ And you just go, ‘...Oh. Where do I start with this?’

“I feel like that in church sometimes! Especially Bible Belt church. I’m serious. I’m sorry, but at least in California, if we don’t believe in Jesus, we’ll say it. Here, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m a Christian. You know, we all get dressed up. We don’t swear a whole lot. We don’t drink a whole lot. We come read the Bible, sing some songs, and go home, and that’s church.’ And then I read the Word of God, I read the Bible, and I’m going, ‘I...I don’t even know where to start.’”

When I read Scripture, I see a group of people that were willing to die for their faith. They gave up homes, possessions, safety, security, and family businesses to follow Jesus. And many paid for that decision with their lives. They were beaten, imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered. Yet the church grew in record numbers and the world was transformed. Why? Because they lived out the heart of God. They lived out the heart of the Gospel. They were so in love with Jesus they didn’t care about the price, no matter how high.

Today we see quite the opposite. Security and safety have become the indication of “discipleship.” When someone steps out of the pack to radically follow Jesus, the church often seeks to hold them back and encourage them to be cautious and “sensible.” Christian financial counselors teach Christian families to have three months of salary in savings and retirement plans as a basic tenet for Christian stewardship, which directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus. (I am not saying that it is absolutely wrong to have those things, but it is wrong to teach it as the responsibility of those who are good stewards.)

The world is literally dying and entering a Christ-less eternity, but do our churches’ budgets and meetings reflect that urgent need? Or do we pat ourselves on the back because 10% of the church’s budget goes to missions? Our we urgent about reaching the lost, or just urgent to meet our budget?

All this, and more, is the struggle and tension that I face. At times, it feels as if there are millions of drowning people in the water, and we are doing our best to rescue as many as we can. There are precious too few lifeboats and rescue workers. And those workers are exhausted, even as they continue to pull people into boats. And they cry out for more helpers and boats, but they are not coming. We can see the cruise ship, overflowing with food, space and resources. So many could be saved, but those onboard refuse. “We are already sleeping two people per cabin, and we can’t crowd ourselves further. And we have our own problems. Some of the air conditioners are broken and we only have 10 working ice machines for all these people. And climbing out of this big safe ship into those small, dangerous boats just doesn’t seem smart and safe.”

And they fail to realize that the ship they are on was designed to be a life saving vessel. But, over time, it was gradually converted into a cruise ship and filled with those who feel entitled to comfort and safety.

We are averaging three calls a day, asking us to receive children into our homes. But our homes are completely full. And we are short staffed and overworked. So, we tell them no and those children are being sent away to government homes where neglect and abuse are rampant. And many of those children will die from a lack of proper care.

Several times a week I receive calls or messages from parts of Guatemala where we do not yet work. In each case, they tell me of children who need help, many of whom are dying. And they want us to come and help. But we don’t have the manpower or resources to go there yet.

We need more workers in Guatemala. We need more workers in Liberia. We need help. So many could be saved, and the fields are ripe. But over and over I see families called to come who turn away. They convince themselves they are not really called because it is risky. Because it is hard. Because it will cost them and their children a price. And they have bought the lie of cultural Christianity. So many could be saved, but they are dying instead.

I am not writing these things with gritted teeth. I am actually typing this in a public place with tears in my eyes. And I am not writing just because we need more workers or money. I am writing, primarily, because I know what believers are missing. I know why they don’t feel fulfilled. I know why churches are stagnant. I know why many church-goers go to bed at night wondering if their life matters. And I know why that man and woman continue struggling with the same sin that has plagued them for years or decades. And I want to see that change.

I want to see mothers, fathers, and families come alive! I want to see churches raising up living sacrifices that change the world! I want to see a radical generation of Christ-followers rise up in power! And, yes, I want to see lives saved and drawn to the Author of Life!

It can happen. Just start by forgetting everything you thought you knew about the church and Christianity. Jesus...and the world...are counting on you.

Meanwhile, I will keep fighting for lives while unpacking my pain with God. And I will believe that Jesus will use these scars for His glory.

Because of Him!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


I would like to ask you to imagine with me. I want us to take a trip in our minds and put ourselves inside some parents here in Guatemala. For just a moment, let us walk, not even a mile, but just a few steps in their shoes.

Little Sara’s parents noticed that things were not quite right immediately after she was born. Her head was too large for her tiny body. In short order, a doctor explained to them that she had hydrocephalus, an excess of cerebral fluid that was causing her head to grow rapidly and pressure on her brain to increase. While there was life saving surgery available at the national hospital, they would have to pay for the supplies and equipment, and the shunt they needed to install costs more than six months of their income. They don’t have the money, so day after day they watch their daughter’s head grow in size and wonder how long she will live. There is nowhere to turn. No one who can help. Their extended family and neighbors are just as poor as they are. Desperation.

This beautiful little girl, Fatima, was born, and early on her mom recognized significant delays. This struck fear in her heart, as Fatima’s older brother was born with special needs caused by a genetic condition. Her husband abandoned her shortly after Fatima entered the picture, and she found herself fighting to care for two children with special needs. And she watched their health decline. This December her son passed away. In spite of her fight on his behalf, she could not save him. And now she is wondering how much longer Fatima has. Her resources are spent, and she is tired and grieving for one child lost and another slipping away. Desperation.

Beautiful Adriana was born, and at six months of age she was diagnosed as having Lisencefalia. This is a genetic condition which causes the brain to not form with its normal ridges and can cause severe cognitive delays and seizures. And little Adriana has both. Her mom has a really good job as a teacher that pays her well. She earns over Q2500.00 a month (about $345 USD). But Adriana has severe allergies that require her to drink a special formula that is very expensive. This, plus her seizure meds and diapers cost more than Q2500.00 a month. Each week this single mom sees her little girl lose weight and feels her slipping away. Desperation.

I could keep going. I have a long list of children and their parents with similar stories. In fact, the three above and an addition five were all found in the last eight days. And you can add to that list a three year old boy that I was called about last night that is dying because his family does not have money for supplies for his treatment. There are times that life here feels like a war zone, but, instead of bombs and bullets, the damage is caused by indifference and corruption. So many people die needlessly. And every day, I see the desperation.

In the midst of this, our team is fighting hard to save and improve lives. Last week we expanded into our 11th department of Guatemala. (A department is like a state, and Guatemala has 22 of them.) We are currently working monthly with over 160 families, and this is possible through our sponsorship program in which many of you participate. And I am so grateful. We are fighting, but we are outnumbered and overwhelmed.

Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the work and the long days. But, more often, we are overwhelmed by the emotional toll of seeing desperate families like the ones above. And the emotional toll of seeing so many die, in spite of our best efforts.

Last night, Wanda and I went out for a date to spend some time talking. Wanda had recognized that both of us were struggling with fatigue and discouragement, and thought we should talk it through. I, being the typical man, did not want to talk about it. So, we compromised and talked about it (because I knew she was right).

The desperation that surrounds us can be soul crushing. And we came to the conclusion that the only cure is to more intimately connect with our Jesus, the Source of all we need. So, we are committed to praying more and leaning more on Him. That will not ease the battle around us, but it will ease the battle within us.

And we will continue to fight and pray for more soldiers to fight with us. If you are interested in fighting at our sides, here are some ways you can:

  1. Sponsor a child or two. We have a long list of children waiting for a sponsor, and it includes some of the ones listed above. You can see that list by visiting http://hopeforhome.org/get-involved/sponsorship.html. Remember, 100% of your sponsorship goes directly to help the child. None is taken for administration or delivery expenses.
  2. Come and serve. We need long-term workers who will help. We know that everyone is not called to this life and ministry, but some are. We simply ask that you take time to pray and ask God if you should come. And, if He says yes, have the courage to obey.
  3. Pray with us for the children and families we serve. And pray for us as we serve.

And, while I am writing about prayer, I would ask you to join us in praying for land for this ministry. God has placed it on my heart to pray fervently and boldly for the next 30 days, asking Him for the land we need to consolidate our homes and ministry onto one piece of land. This will be Comunidad de Esperanza (Community of Hope) and will have room for lots of additional homes and ministries. But the first step is to obtain the land. We are praying for at least five acres that we can obtain debt-free. 

Will you please join us in asking God for this miracle?

That should be enough for now. Back to the battle!

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Who Else Can Do It?

Recently, our lives seem to be a serious of hard and important decisions. I am not complaining about this. I am just stating the fact.

Here are just a few of those decisions:
  1. A few weeks ago we received call about a one year old boy in desperate need of a home. He was in the hospital due to neglect, abuse and malnutrition, and he needed a home. Because of the severity of his special needs, they had no where else to send him. No one else was equipped to deal with his needs, and everyone was full, including us. Our home is full and our family, interns and staff are stretched. But what happens to this little guy if we say no? That is a hard decision with life and death implications.
  2. About 15 minutes later, we received a call about a brother and sister in need of a home. The little brother has cerebral palsy. The big sister is severely under stimulated and very delayed. Both are malnourished. Can we please make room?
  3. Over the last three weeks we have received calls asking us to take 12 other children. All of them have special needs, and none of them have other options for a home.
  4. One of our rural village ministry teams visited one of our sponsored children two weeks ago. I received a call from the team leader asking me if we could take Paola into one of our homes. Her mother has given up and is broken. She is depressed and has stopped caring for her daughter. As a result, she has worsened significantly. She is malnourished and is fighting infection. She has become increasingly less alert. She is dying. After spending three days wrestling with the decision, Stevie and Carissa decided to take her into home 2, even though they are stretched as well. When we returned to the home to inform the mother of our decision, we find that she has changed her mind. She refuses to surrender Paola to the courts to be placed in one of our homes. What should we do? Should we report the case to PGN to have Paola forcibly removed? If we do, it could mean the end of our ministry in that community due to the possibly hostile response of her family and neighbors. We have never had a child removed before, but Paola’s life is hanging in the balance.
  5. In the past 15 days I have received calls from six new communities asking me to come and help children who are in severe or critical condition and in need of help. When do I say yes? When do I need to say no? How do I choose?

I confess, there have been a few days that these decisions have overwhelmed me. On two occasions, I retreated to my room, closed the door, and wept and cried out to God for guidance, help and strength. And there were two nights that I lay in bed awake and fretting over these decisions. And, one by one, we have made the decisions.

Answer key:
  1. We said yes, and little David is now safely in our home and arms and moving toward healing.
  2. Stevie and Carissa said yes, and little Dani and Roxy are safely under their care and improving rapidly.
  3. To each of these 12, we said no. We have 15 children in house 1 and 10 children in house 2. We simply have no more room.
  4. After wrestling hard with this decision, I chose to report them to PGN. She was removed from her mother last Thursday and brought to our home. Thankfully, PGN handled the situation beautifully and helped the family to see that we are with them, not against them, and they are not angry. But Paola arrived at our home in bad shape. She had a nasty lung infection, her O2 sats were very low, and she was unable to lift her head or arms. Our doctor came quickly, and we started her on antibiotic injections, oxygen, and breathing treatments. Praise God, she has turned the corner and is doing better. But I am not sure she would have lived much longer had we not intervened.
  5. I am still sorting through these requests and praying hard for answers. We have begun ministry in one area, but are still unsure about the other five. I know that where we choose to go, lives will be saved. Where we don’t choose to go, lives will be lost. 

Last week, as our home came together to pray before bed, I felt overcome, not with pressure, but with gratitude. As I prayed, I thanked God for putting us in the middle of hard situations filled with hard decisions. I thanked Him for the pressures we face, because that means what we do matters. For years, I prayed that Jesus would make my life matter for Him, not knowing what that prayer really meant. But I realize now that the only way we can ever make a real difference is by embracing the hard things of life.

Last week I visited with my friends, Todd and Amy Block. They have a wonderful home for children and teens that cares for the abused, abandoned and sexually molested. I was privileged to know them before their ministry opened, and I have seen it grow and blossom.

As I spoke with them, they told me how so many people told them to focus on the little children because they were “easier.” But God led them down a different path. As a result, they now have pregnant teens and teen mothers. They welcome children and adolescents with baggage and brokenness, and these often come through their door angry and defiant. And the Blocks  are seeing transformation in those that most everyone else rejects. 

And that is where the church is suppose to be…right in the middle of brokenness, making hard decisions and facing the pain of every loss. Why?  Because no one else can.

God created the church to do the things that others cannot and will not do. And He filled it with His Spirit to provide the necessary strength to do that work. We are His channel for doing the God-sized work the world desperately needs.

The dangerous, the heart-breaking, and the impossible should be the home field of God’s people, and historically it has been. Yet, over time, the church has gravitated toward the easy, the comfortable, and the mundane. And most of our time is spent doing things that anyone could do.

But the invitation remains. He invites us to trust and follow Him where others cannot and will not go. He calls us to risk our lives, our possessions, and our reputation to do the things that only God’s people can do through His power. And that is where we will find the life and significance we have always wanted. But we will never find it if we seek comfort.

That is one of the reasons why we have decided to avoid getting too close to the missions community here. We love and work with many members of it, but we don’t join their groups. Time and time again, we see people move down to Guatemala with a fresh fire in their hearts to give away their lives for the sake of the Gospel. But they plug in with various missionary groups here, and they begin to gradually change. They find themselves “needing” more and wanting more. Their willingness to sacrifice is drowned out by voices that tell them they need to “take care of themselves” and return to the States more often. “After all, God would not want you to (fill in the blank of sacrifice here).” And soon their willingness to sacrifice, bleed, and die for the Kingdom dissipates. 

Time and again, Wanda and I have been told by others that they cannot do what we do. The reasons are varied, but usually it comes down to one issue. “It would hurt me too much to do what you do.” And hidden within that statement is the lie of the enemy that says, “God wouldn’t want me to hurt that much.”

  • God wouldn’t want me to love a child and watch them die.
  • God wouldn’t want me to not be able to see my family back in the States.
  • God wouldn’t want me to be faced with impossible decisions with life and death consequences.
  • God wouldn’t want me to do anything that would cause my children pain or endanger them.
  • God would not want me to be exhausted because I poured myself out completely.

And so, we don’t. And the world dies around us while we convince ourselves that we are doing all we can do…all that He would expect us to do. And we spend our time doing what anyone can do instead of doing the things that only the children of the Living God can do.

But still, the invitation from Jesus awaits. He invites us out of the boat onto the waves of pain, poverty, desperation, and life-and-death decisions. He invites us out of the comfortable and into the unimaginable. He invites us to a life that matters, to both Him and to the world that needs Him.

But what will we choose? And if we, the church, say no, who else will say yes?

Blessings from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

And here are a couple of verses for meditation:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”
John 14:12 NLT

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT