Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Faces that Follow

Well, we are home again. The last two days have been filled with unpacking and catching up with my other life here in the States. But as I settle back in I find that there are some faces that follow me and come to mind often. I want to take a moment to introduce them to you and ask you to pray for them in the days ahead.

CRW_1968.CRW Delmi is one of the most ignored children in Hermano Pedro. From a human standard she is homely. Her large ears and bulbous nose are not exactly cover girl material for today’s magazines. Yet she is beautiful. She and I spent a large part of the day together on Monday of our trip. She went with us to the park and enjoyed a break from the prison of Hermano Pedro. At one point, I took off her socks and placed her twisted feet into the fountain and helped her splash the water. Her face lit up with a beautiful smile and she laid her head over against my chest. Delmi is precious and wonderful and she needs someone to show her that truth.

DSCF1306 Byron is an incredibly sharp young man with a wonderful sense of humor and a joy for life. This joy radiates from him despite the situation in which he lives. Dick Rutgers has fitted him with an electric wheelchair that he steers with his head because his arm control is not sufficient, and he spends every moment out of his crib speeding around the facilities of Hermano Pedro. It is so easy to see the twisted, disabled body on the outside and miss what wonderful intelligence and wit lies inside. He is such a fun person for those who take the time to know him. He needs someone to talk to him as a young man and see the sharp mind and humor that lies inside.


Louis is a little guy who capture the heart of my daughter, Krishauna, on our last Guatemala trip. He has also captured the hearts of Wanda and I. After long periods with little interaction he is slow to respond and even slower to smile. But with a few hours of attention from someone who loves him he will make noises attempting to talk, connect through strong eye contact, and is quick to smile and laugh. He has become our son and we love him deeply. Simply put, Louis needs a family (just as all the children do) to love him, encourage him, talk to him, and hold him.

CRW_1955.CRW Gloria is a beautiful eight year old girl whose smile can light up a room. Until this trip we believed, due to the staff and some volunteers, that she was deaf. However, during the time we spent with her we realized that she was startled by loud noises. She practices self stimulation by brushing her hand across her lips in a rapid manner. She too has become our child and we are head over heals in love with her. She needs a family who believes in her, advocates for her, and loves her with passion. Our arms feel especially empty without her in them.

I have highlighted four of the wonderful children from Hermano Pedro, but they are just a sampling of the hundreds of beautiful and incredible children, teens, and adults who fill their wards. I have grown to love and respect every one of them. That is why I struggle so much each time I leave them behind. When I am there I feel like a father to each of them, and when I am away I feel as if a part of me is missing.

Please join us for one of our trips to Guatemala where you can get to know these gifts from God as I have. To find more info or to sign-up go to http://www.hopeforhome.org/HfH_-_Trips.html. You’ll change lives…including your own.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Friday, July 24

CRW_1955.CRWFrom the moment a ministry trip is planned, this day is the day I dread…the last day in Guatemala. The reason is different than you might think. Unlike vacations when I can find myself hesitant to leave behind the relaxation and head back to the daily work schedule, the dread I face today is rooted in something entirely different. It centers on saying goodbye to children whom I have come to consider my own.

After another busy day that started out, once again, at Hermano Pedro and was followed by more work at Los Gozosos, I found myself back at HP with Gloria, Louis, Delmi, Big Melvin, Little Melvin, Hugo, Henry, Brenda, Diego, Moieses, Elmer, Minor, Roberto, Leonel, and a host of other precious children. And as the time approached for us to leave, my heart broke. How do I leave behind these children I love so much?

DSCF1452One by one I helped tuck them into their cribs and went to each of the 43 cribs in two wards to touch every child. I told them each “Te amo” (I love you) and gave them each a kiss. And as I walked out into the courtyard I found quiet place to weep.

As the day draws to an end I realize that many of these little ones will wake up tomorrow and look for me to return. But by the time they start their day I will be in the air in route to a different country. The same faces that lit up this week when I walked into their worlds each day will wonder why I didn’t return. And I confess that I am struggling at my deepest levels with that reality.

DSCF1456While I will return to the states to continue my life, their small world of stainless steel cribs and long hours of tedium and medication will continue. And I ask myself this, “What more can I do?”

The answer to that question remains to be found, but it will be. I will not rest until I find that answer and make a long term difference in the lives of these little ones and others like them.

Please join me in praying for the answer. And join me in desiring to be a part of that answer.

CRW_1972.CRW Jesus, please hold these children that I cannot.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anniversary in Antigua

Note: Due to a hectic schedule and unreliable internet I am behind in updating this blog. So, I am posting the dates of the original entries. More will follow soon

Thursday, July 23

Today Wanda and I celebrated 21 wonderful years of marriage and we did it in the best way imaginable. We spent the day loving the children of Guatemala, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

The day started early as we rushed to Hermano Pedro to be there when the doors opened. We helped to feed the children and had a great time playing with them. It was such a wonderful thing to see the kids light up when they saw us. It is good to know that we can brighten their lives, even if it is only temporary.

DSCF1369 We then rushed back to the hotel, grabbed a quick bite of breakfast, and caught the team’s van to Los Gozosos, an orphanage and school for special needs children. This is a wonderful place where the children are loved and well cared for. In addition, they learn about Jesus. However, they are underfunded and struggle to maintain their facilities. They need the support of Christians to continue their work and increase their abilities to care for more children. You can learn more at http://www.webwizardry.net/~losgozosos/Los%20Gozosos/Welcome.html.

DSCF1371 While at Los Gozosos our team worked in their courtyard removing bushes and vines and helping to prepare for a garden that will help them with their food costs. The work was hard, but it was good to help such a worthwhile ministry. We had lunch with the children and caregivers and it was a wonderful family-like atmosphere. I made an excellent friend in our translator, Santos, and we enjoyed hearing about his family.

We returned to Antigua where we rushed back to Hermano Pedro for the last hour before they closed their doors. It is always hard to say goodnight to the children and leave them there. As we laid little Louis in his crib and walked away he began to cry. It is a reminder that the children get as attached to us as we do to them.

DSCF1428 This evening Wanda and I dressed up (as much as you dress up in Antigua) and went out to eat at a beautiful open-air restaurant called Cafe Sky to celebrate our anniversary. Then we enjoyed a wonderful walk through the streets of Antigua. After 21 years I can honestly say that I love my girl more than ever. She is such an incredible wife and friend and a wonderful woman of God. And one of the things I love most about her is that she so willingly and joyfully spends our anniversary loving these precious children. I pray that everyone could know the kind of marriage that I have found with my Wanda. What a life and what a wife!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Worth Fighting For

Wednesday, July 22

DSCF1459Today was another wonderful yet frustrating day at Hermano Pedro. Anytime we get to spend time with the children there it is wonderful. But often the mindset of the staff can be infuriating.

Those frustrations began shortly after we arrived and were playing with the children in the courtyard. We were approached by nurses and told that we needed to take the children back into the wards because it was too cold for them. (The temperature was in the low 70’s and the children were dressed in several layers and were using blankets.) We were forced to take the children back into the same prison cells which they spend most of their lives. Gradually we began to once again liberate the children into the courtyard after an hour had passed and they allowed us to stay outside that time.

Once again, I want you to understand the typical child’s day at Hermano Pedro. They are awakened at around 6:00 am for baths followed by breakfast followed by a few short hours in wheelchairs, hopefully in the courtyard if the weather is warm enough. Then, it is time for lunch at noon. When they are done eating, the staff will place the kids back in their beds for the rest of the day.

This is particularly frustrating when you are there to love the kids and give them an alternative to their normal existence. As we were there holding and playing with the children the nurses began to come and insist that we put them to bed for “naps.” This nap is in addition to the 13 hours of sleep they receive from 5:00 pm until 6:00 am and the additional hours they sleep because they are sedated during the day. Further, they insist that we put the children down for these naps even if they are sleeping peacefully in our arms.

So, our team quietly rebelled. The children were placed in their beds and, one by one, we would slip into their cribs, quietly remove them, place them in their wheelchairs, and break them out of their prison. While we are here, we have decided to fight for their freedom in every way possible. This afternoon we enjoyed another four hours of freedom with about 15 children whom we liberated from their cages.

DSCF1309 There are a handful of faithful people who fight daily for these kids. Dick Rutgers, a man whom I am honored to now call my friend, fights constantly for the dignity of these precious children and their quality of life. The difference he makes is real and tangible and he needs your prayers. Please read more about his ministry at www.dickrutgers.com. And please keep praying for the children of Hermano Pedro.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something to Consider

Each time I return to Guatemala I think that I will not be impacted as strongly as before, but after another day at Hermano Pedro I find myself broken once again. And it was a simply, little insight that did it.

DSCF1331As you read this blog you will likely shift your position numerous times without thinking about it. A limb stiffens, so you stretch it. You notice a point of uncomfortable pressure on your leg, so you move it. You feel an itch, so you scratch it. And you do these things without noticing.

Now, imagine that you could not do those simple movements. Due to a mind trapped within a disabled body even the simple movements you depend on has become impossible. You rely on others completely for those simple actions.

That is the case for many of the children with which we work at Hermano Pedro. We placed them in their beds for the evening at 5:00 pm and they will not move again until someone moves them, most likely tomorrow morning. Imagine the prison like existence that this creates for them. Such a simple fact of life for us is an impossible task for them.

In a loving home these children would be tenderly shifted, moved, and positioned regularly to assure comfort. In an institution they are left unmoved. This awareness troubles me greatly and has left me with three troubling question:

  • What is the church’s responsibility for these children?
  • What can I do to change the lives of these children?
  • What am I willing to do to change their lives? (The most troubling question.)

DSCF1294 Today we took a group of eight children to Pollo Campero to eat lunch. They laughed, they played, and they reveled in the simple experience of a meal out with people who loved them. At the completion of the meal we took them to the park and splashed them with water DSCF1290 from the fountains. Some of them returned to the hospital soaked, but still glowing from the experience. What a privilege it is to call these little ones my friends. They have taught me more about life than I could ever teach them.

We have had our week rearranged as we have made the decision to cancel our scheduled day at Casa Jackson tomorrow. It has been determined that we are more needed at Hermano Pedro,  so the team will be working there again instead. Please pray for our time with them. Also pray for our team that is being deeply impacted by this experience. Pray that God will show each of them what He is calling them to do, and pray that they will have the courage to do it.

More coming tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers!

Monday, July 20, 2009

At Home in Guatemala

DSCF1187 I’m sorry it has taken  me so long to post an update on this blog. We arrived in Guatemala on Saturday after an uneventful trip only to discover that my luggage, along with another team mate’s luggage did not. That meant that most of my clothes, toiletries, and basic needs were left in Houston, along with the cord for my computer. I finally received my suitcase this afternoon, so I am able to communicate at last!

Most of our time has been spent at Hermano Pedro, a special needs hospital for children with Cerebral Palsy. That is where my greatest passion lies. And, as always, I find it to be a place of great joy and great pain. Each child there is a treasure and it fills me with joy to be with them. At the same time, their needs are great and often neglected, so it is painful to see those needs firsthand.

DSCF1226We spent the entire day today at Hermano Pedro and were able to take a group of younger children to the park where we ate, splashed them with water from the fountains, and allowed them to experience fresh air and sunshine. It is such a wonderful experience to see their faces light up and hear their laughter as they dangle their bare feet in the fountains. After spending 20 hours a day in a stainless steel crib a simple walk to the park can seem like heaven.

Our team of seven people are excellent with the children. They are working with children with very severe needs, but are not intimidated at all. They have rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work loving the kids. It is hard to tell who is experiencing greater joy, the kids or our team!

DSCF1230 Each afternoon at 5:00 pm we are forced to put the kids in their cribs and leave. They consider that bedtime. The kids are drugged to assure that they sleep, lights are turned out, and they wait for day to come again so the volunteers will be allowed to return. Tonight, I tucked-in several children, including Louis and Gloria who are very near to the hearts of Wanda and me. They are pictured here. Wanda and I choked up as we left these little ones behind for another long night. How we long to bring them back to the motel with us, or better yet, to take them home with us to the states and make them our own.

Please pray for the children of Hermano Pedro both now and in the future. As the church, we cannot allow these little ones to be forgotten. We must do something and we must do it now.

More will follow in the evenings ahead. Thank you for your prayers!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is it worth it?


In nine days Wanda and I will be leading another team back to Guatemala where we will be working with some of “the least of these” in hospitals and orphanages. I am excited to return, but also frustrated because I know how short our time there will be. And that has left me with a nagging question…“Is it worth it?”

After all, we will only be there for eight days. And when we leave, we will leave those children in the same beds and same institutions in which we found them. We can bring about no long term change to their situation, and we cannot bring a single child home with us. So, what’s the point?

But I am reminded of a simple truth, it is worthwhile because each moment matters to each child. Each moment that a child is held is a moment that they do not lie alone in a stainless steel cage. Each moment that a child is loved is a moment that they experience value instead of neglect. Each moment that a child is spoken to instead of spoken around is a moment that they realize that they are worth speaking to. And each moment in which we love a child in Jesus’ name is a moment that is important to Him.

But that is not the only reason that it is worth it. There is also the impact of the experience on those of us who go. Because each moment you spend there changes you. You come back with an awareness of the real problems that exist in your world instead of the ones we create in our prosperity. You come back less selfish and more of a servant. You come back with an awareness of your own prosperity and a desire to use that prosperity to change the world for the better.

DSCF0585 Just ask some of the team who went on our last trip. Zac, a pharmacist, came home seeking God for how God could use him and his skills to change the lives of the children of Guatemala in an ongoing basis. Dawn, a worker in a trucking company, returned home with a commitment to adopt an international orphan. Anita, a homemaker, returned home and rallied her family and is now spending the entire month of July in Antigua, Guatemala with her daughters loving the children in Hermano Pedro, Casa Jackson, and other ministries (and will be joined by her husband for the last week). And Krishauna, an upcoming college freshman, returned with a call to change the direction of her life, major in special education, and go to Guatemala full time after graduation. And that was just four people our of a team of nine who were forever changed and are now involved in making a long-term difference.

Is it worth it? Oh, yeah! And I can’t wait to go back and be used by God every precious moment we are there, no matter how long or how short!

Won’t you join us on one of our upcoming trips? To get more information go to http://hopeforhome.org/Trips.html.