Thursday, September 24, 2009

Home Again…For A While

As I type these words we are at approximately 36,000 feet on a Delta MD88 headed from Atlanta to Washington Dulles. As always at this point, Wanda and I are experiencing mixed emotions. We cannot wait to see our kids who are waiting for us in Pennsylvania, so we are anxious to get there. But, having said goodbye to our children at Hermano Pedro this morning, we are also hurting.

DSCF2146a Over the last several days we have visited some wonderful ministries and had key meetings that have refined our vision and provided us with some much needed guidance. We also had the privilege of checking Gloria and Louis out of HP and spending our last afternoon in Antigua with them in the park. What a wonderful time we had with them putting their feet in the fountain, eating ice cream, and simply holding them without nurses looking over our shoulders! (Louis and Gloria are two of our 40 or 50 favorites!)

One thing that makes our departure from Guatemala easier is that it is taking us one step closer to getting there full-time. When we return home our lives will be filled with activity as we sell off our possessions, make home repairs, and put our house on the market.
And as we complete this checklist we do so with clearer direction as a result of this trip.

DSCF2093a As I stated in an earlier post, this trip has answered some questions while also providing us with additional ones. However, we realize that these new questions are just a part of our journey to Guatemala.

As we jump whole-heartedly into preparations for our move I would ask you to please pray for us in the following ways:

  • DSCF2034a We are prayerfully considering a partnership with an existing orphan ministry in Guatemala. This partnership would enable us to function under their association as a licensed care-giver for children and avoid lots of red-tape. Please pray for God’s guidance on both us and the ministry.
  • Please pray for God’s continued provision for our family during this transition. We will have to make at least one more trip (likely two) to Guatemala to meet with a ministry board and secure our housing. In addition, there are necessary expenditures in preparing our home to sell. Finally, there are lots of cost involved in the actual move. Please pray that God will meet each of these needs at just the right moment.
  • We will be attempting to sell our home without the assistance of an agent. Due to the current state of the housing market we have lost much of the equity in our home and we need the 6.5% fee for our move. Please pray that God provides a buyer at just the right time.
  • Hope for Home Ministries’ Board of Directors continues their search for my replacement. Please pray that God will lead us to the right person for the job.
  • Also, please pray for the children of Guatemala. Under the current international adoption shutdown special needs children are suffering the most. In addition, Guatemala is now experiencing drought conditions that have driven up the cost of food. This means that the country’s poor are struggling more than ever. And in a country that has huge numbers of malnourished children, this is catastrophic.
  • And, as always, please pray that the church of Jesus Christ will rise up and truly be the Church in the midst of a dying world.

More to come! Thanks for following and praying!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Bubbles, Squirt Guns & Guidance

God is apparently teaching me patience and preparing me for life in Guatemala. This is my fifth attempt to post this blog but I have been unable to do so for the last three days due to unreliable internet access, so there is a lot to cover!

The last several days at Hermano Pedro have been some of the most rewarding times of ministry we have ever experienced. We have seen major breakthroughs with several of the kids through the use of bubbles and squirt guns. (Yes, you did read that correctly…bubbles and squirt guns!)

DSCF1825 On Thursday we brought a few bottles of bubbles to blow with the children only to find that it was a big hit with one of the older residents, Miriam. She is a normally sad young lady who seldom smiles or laughs unless her family is visiting. So we were greatly surprised when we blew bubbles all around her and she broke into unrestrained laughter. From that point forward Miriam opened up to us and began to smile whenever we entered the room. It is so wonderful to see the happiness in her eyes!

Those same 99 cent bubbles also brought Lionel out of his shell following a series of seizures that left him mostly unresponsive. As soon as the bubbles began to fly, so did his breathless laughter!

DSCF1948 Another great idea we had was to bring in squirt guns. It nearly got us into trouble with the nurses, though, when Maynor grabbed one and wheeled into the wards to shoot the other kids still in their cribs! We laughed as we heard the happy squeals from those rooms and the voice of a nurse chasing him out! Isn’t it great when kids get to be kids? All of the older kids turned their guns on me soon after, so I donned a plastic poncho and took them all on. I don’t think I have ever heard that much laughter in the halls of HP. Thank you, God, for such incredible times with these incredible children!

The last few days have also been filled with numerous meetings. On Friday we met with Donnie Hernandez, one of the directors of Casa Bernabe. This wonderful family-based orphanage cares for and educates 160 orphans in the name of Jesus, and they have expressed interest in a possible partnership with us to establish a home for children with special-needs. We had a wonderful time together as we shared our hearts and visions with one another. At first glance Casa Bernabe seems to be a good fit for us and us for them. However we need to hear from God before proceeding. So we are taking time to pray and seek God for His will. On Monday we will be traveling to Casa Bernabe to see their ministry in action. Please pray for God’s guidance for us and them.

Saturday we met with Dick Rutgers ( to seek his wisdom as someone who has been on the ground in Guatemala for ten years ministering to children. It was a great time together as Dick challenged us with good questions and great advise. I thank God for his example and the lives he touches with Christ’s love.

DSCF1892 Saturday afternoon Dick dropped us off at Casa Jackson, a home for malnourished children in Jocotenango. We spent time holding children and enjoying their presence. Leaving was hard, though. When we laid them back in their cribs and waved goodbye many of them began to cry, leaving us wondering if we did more damage than good.

DSCF1919 From Casa Jackson we hired a Tuk Tuk to drive us back to Antigua. (A Tuk Tuk is a three wheeled motorcycle that is enclosed.) It was a bumpy ride that involved several near accidents, at least from an American perspective. We will get to enjoy this experience again on Tuesday when we travel to the Scheel Center via the same mode of transportation.

In the midst of all of this we also found time to meet with a realtor and view several homes that are for rent. In that process we found a nearly perfect one for our future ministry and were very excited about it. However, after some time to think and pray about it we realize that it is not God’s direction for us.

One thing that God has shown us during this trip is how little we need to know in advance. God seldom gives a road map for His call. Instead, He prefers to keep us close by his side and show us where to place out foot next. And that is a good place to be. In fact, as we face this major transition for our family and ministry it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the unanswered questions. Yet we can lie down and sleep peacefully tonight knowing that the One who planned the journey is holding tightly to our hands.

Goodnight from La Antigua, Guatemala!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Front of People

DSCF1777 Today was the 25th Anniversary of Hermano Pedro. The normally drab place was decorated with balloons and streamers. A mariachi band was hired to play music early and a series of bands are scheduled throughout the day. The children were dressed in the finest clothes available and none were left in their cribs.

We were there early and then had to leave as we had an appointment in Godinez, so we missed the middle portion of the celebration.  But while we were there we saw plenty of officials and dignitaries stopping in for their moment in front of the cameras. I assure you that most of them have seldom graced the halls of the wards and do not know a single child by name.

DSCF1779 The upside of today is that the children were treated much better than the typical day. They were not sentenced to their cribs at noon and the meals they ate were better than the usual fare. They even had cake and candy. And yet I found myself gritting my teeth and desiring to “cleanse the temple” and expose their hypocrisy.

I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:1:

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (ISV)

If only these officials and dignitaries could understand the joy and satisfaction of simply loving these wonderful children for who they are. If only the nurses could see the need to keep these little ones out of their cribs for more than a few hours every day. If only these people could love these children simply because God loves them, whether the cameras are present or not.

DSCF1786Tomorrow will come and the typical schedule will resume. No music. No decorations. Just the mind numbing drugs and long hours in cribs.

Dear God, please raise up an army of your followers who will love these precious ones when the party is over and the cameras are off.

In the midst of our day we spent four hours driving to and from a ministry called Safe Homes for Children. Our trip there and back was filled with mountains, twists and turns, and steep drop-offs that kept us praying much of the way. But the journey was worthwhile as we felt God’s hand upon it and experienced some very clear direction for our coming move and ministry.

Please keep the remainder of our trip in your prayers as we continue to seek God’s definite direction.

Coming Home Again

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DSCF1659  Wanda and I are back home in Guatemala . We have flown in for 10 days in order to make preparations for our coming move here and to determine ministry direction. The next week or so will be filled with meetings with real estate agents and ministry leaders. And every free moment will be spent with our wonderful little ones at Hermano Pedro.

We arrived yesterday afternoon, settled into our motel, and immediately headed to HP to see the kids. It was so wonderful to see the recognition and excitement in their eyes when they saw us. We realized anew God’s call to this place. The only thing that would make it perfect is having the rest of our kids here with us. But that day is coming!

We were exhausted after a long day (we were up at 3:30 am to catch our flight out of DC) and went to bed early. We felt like new people when we awoke this morning and headed back to HP for a wonderful morning with the kids.

DSCF1652 This afternoon was spent meeting with the realtor and exploring parts of Antigua that we had not yet discovered. We stumbled upon a soccer game played on gravel (Ouch!) as well as some market places that are not frequented by tourists. It was a wonderful back door tour of this very old city.

Please be in prayer for us over this time. We have numerous meetings scheduled that will be instrumental in helping us to determine specific directions for our move and ministry here. Please pray that God guides these meetings. In addition, pray that God leads us to divine appointments that are not scheduled by us but are planned by Him.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finding Our Home In Guatemala

DSCF1210 If you have followed this journal for a while, you have seen my growing heart for the special-needs children of Guatemala. God has continued to break me with their needs and fill me with a passion to touch their lives. What you have been unable to see is that God has been doing the same thing in my wife, Wanda. This journey has been challenging yet wonderful as God has allowed us to see the world, at least in part, through His eyes.

As a part of this journey we have also seen the American church in a new light. Living as the most prosperous group of believers that the world has ever seen, it has done very little to save a dying world in the last 50 years. But as we have gained this perspective and found ourselves angered by the lack of love shown by the church, God has been quick to convict us that we have spent 20 years in the leadership of local churches and have done very little to change things. In other words, He has told us to get the log out of our own eye first.

And so, after months of brokenness and insight from the Spirit, this journey has led us to begin a new journey together.

God has called us to move our family to Guatemala and open a group home for children with special needs. Our desire is to create a setting in which children are raised and cared for in a family atmosphere instead of an institution. Each household unit will have a husband and wife who care for children with support staff to assist. They will eat, play, and grow as a family. There is much more included in this vision, but this sums up the heart of it.

CRW_1953.CRW On September 15-24 Wanda and I will be flying back to Guatemala to meet with a realtor and a couple of ministries that have expressed interest in partnering with us in this endeavor. Please pray that God will guide these meetings and that we will all clearly hear God’s voice. In addition, please pray that God will lead us into meetings that were unplanned by us but orchestrated by Him.

In addition, we have begun the overwhelming task of selling most of our possessions, preparing our house and vehicles to be put on the market, and figuring out how to get the few possessions we choose to keep to Guatemala. We would appreciate your prayers for us through this process.

As we have begun to share this direction with our friends we have, at times, been disappointed with the responses. These disappointing responses have fallen into two main categories:

  1. You are crazy! – You must be out of your mind to move your large family to a third world country! God would never expect you to do something like that for Him!
  2. You are heroes! – Wow! It is so cool that you are willing to give up everything and care for those children! You are so noble!

In reality, it is neither crazy or heroic. (Okay, on some days we may border on the crazy side, but not because of this decision.) It is discipleship. And the fact that this kind of response to a dying world by a believers is so rare only serves to show how far the western church has strayed from biblical faith. We have honestly reached the point that we believe that Jesus gave everything to save a dying world yet believe we don’t need to give anything. So we spend out time on church-growth programs and surveys instead of loving the world around us sacrificially. Instead of becoming living sacrifices to God we have become self-absorbed brats demanding God’s blessings and stomping our feet if we don’t get them.

For that selfishness and near-sightedness my family and I have had to repent. And if American churches don’t experience that same brokenness and change their direction they will have the blood of a dying world on their hands. God does not love our buildings, our budgets, or our committee meetings. God loves the world so much He died for it. Don’t you think it is time that those who bear His name live out those same priorities?

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

- Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Another Message from the Front

image I want to use this blog entry to introduce you to a remarkable lady named Katie Davis. She is a young lady who dropped out of college at age 19, moved to Uganda, took in 13 little girls, and started a wonderful organization called Amazima Ministries International. I am copying and pasting one of her recent blog entries to help you understand the needs and challenges faced by children around the world and the call by Jesus Christ to do something about those needs.

Please take time to visit Amazima Ministries’ Web site at

Also, please add her blog to your favorites folder and read her life changing insights on a regular basis:

And as you read, please pray this prayer: “Lord, please awaken the church and break our hearts with the things that break your heart!”

Her entry reads as follows:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

*be warned: I always re-read things before I post them. I didn't re-read this one, it is liable to be messy...

I am processing so many emotions right now; I'm just going to go ahead and let you know that this post will not be eloquent or well written. It will not be a beautifully worded story, but just the ramblings of a mom who is tired today. It will just be, and it will be good enough.

On Thursday of last week,I went to check on Michael, a sweet little boy from the Karamajong village that we took care of a few weeks ago. I found him with open sores all over his body. As a result of severe malnutrition, Michael weighs just ten kilos at 6 years old. He is no taller than Jane (my two and a half year old). His skin is breaking and unable to repair itself because his immune system is so weak. His hair is white as snow and his skin is yellow and splotchy and his smile and little bug out eyes can melt your heart and light up the room. Michael is fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of my Savior.

I have warned myself over and over that I must NOT start bringing home children from the Karamajong village. We feed them lunch and supper every day and twice a week I drive my van, the trunk loaded with a mini pharmacy, into the middle of their village and treat anything I can. And I told myself and told myself that I would not bring them home for treatment, that twice a week visits were all I could handle right now. I wanted so badly to guard my heart because here's the thing: once you take one, you may end up with 13. I knew that once I had taken one sick child from this village home for rehab, there would be no stopping point because these children are ALL ALWAYS sick.

But as I looked at Michael, I saw no alternative. He needed to be bathed in warm water every day. He needed milk and eggs and ORS and multivitamins and fresh fruits and vegetables and there was no way I could get him all those things regularly where he was. Even if I did, there was no guarantee that his parents would not sell these things and continue only feeding him posho (corn flour). So he came home. He tested negative for HIV, TB and typhoid and we began a pretty rigid deworming routine as well as a highly caloric, protein packed diet. In the last 5 days he has gained 2.5 pounds (that's a lot if you only weigh 20!) but he has gained more than that. I have watched him transform from a lifeless, expressionless little boy who slept all day and was unresponsive to a over-the-top cheerful, sometimes down right ornery little boy who hardly ever stops smiling and loves playing games with other children. The transformation has been remarkable.

I will keep him for about another week as I begin counseling his father and step mother (this is the biggest issue, often second wives do not want to care for their husband's other children and sometimes even write them off as cursed or not worthy of food and provision...) about the most nutritious foods for him, frequent meals, bathing, etc. My heart will break to take him back and yet I will know that it is what is best for him and his family.

Wednesday as I met with the Karamjong children for Bible study a woman walked up to me and handed me a baby that I presumed to be dead. And then she breathed.

The mother told me that she was quite positive that she (the mother) had HIV and therefore was not breastfeeding her 10 pound, 9 month old little girl. I asked, quite obviously, what she had been feeding her then? And this was the response that awaited me, "Nothing. We have no food." Um. NO wonder the baby looked dead. She almost was. I pleaded the mother to let me take her with me, to be tested for HIV and be fed. The mother instantly agreed but first wanted to show me her house.

I think I have seen it all. And then this happens. Their house was made of cardboard and was smaller than the bed I sleep in at night. On the floor lay filthy old rags on which they slept and a pile of charcoal which they cooked on (when they did have food, I guess). I almost dropped on my knees right there. It was one of those I-just-don't-have-a-clue-what-to-do-next moments. So I did the only thing that comes naturally to me. I scooped her up. I prayed for her mother and the 6 other children living in the house/box and promised to return. I drove as fast as I safely could to the nearest semi-good hospital and then to get some high energy formula.
For the first 24 hours, I could hardly stand to look at sweet baby Patricia (her parents had not named her for fear she would die, and I could think of no one better to name her after than my precious Mommy). The hurt and the hunger in her lifeless little eyes was simply unbearable. Every time I changed her diaper, more big fat worms (we are talking really large, earth worm sized) had come out. I cried for the things this child has had to endure for so long. And I cried to know that though I de-worm her now, the minute I take her back to her mother, the worms will return. Her HIV test came back negative and I am praising Jesus for that. She was diagnosed with severe pneumonia and malnutrition. She can hardly sleep at night for coughing so much.

Friends, I ask for prayer. For these children and for my heart. I have fallen in love with Michael and Patricia. Their sweet faces that are Jesus. The tears stream down as I write this and have to think about taking them back to their parents, who I will try to help as much as possible, but still have such fear in my heart about. I look at their surroundings and simply wonder how children survive in this harsh world.

I am sad and I am angry. Between no sleep and a million doctors appointments (imagine that in Uganda you wait even LONGER in the hospital than you do in the US...) and Bible club on Thursday and Saturday program tomorrow and trying to raise 13 children and spend enough time with each of them, maybe you will write my sadness and anger of as the rantings of an exhausted mother and maybe they are, but this is my blog and I am going to say what I feel like. I am MAD. I have been sad and broken for these children for so long and it has finally turned into a hardened anger. I am angry that this culture so lies to women that Michael's stepmother believes that she does not have to care for this child who is not biologically hers, though she has ample means to. I am angry that in the "Pearl of Africa" and the most fertile region of it at that, a mother has literally NO food to feed her baby, not to mention herself or 6 other kids. I am angry that the result of this is that these sweet ones suffer in their innocence. I have said it before and it still holds true: I DO NOT BELIEVE that the God of the universe created too many children in His image and not enough love or food or care to go around. In fact I believe that He created the Body of Christ for just that, to help these little ones, the least of these. And I believe that except for a handful, the Body of Christ is failing. And its not just me who thinks this. When I'm angry, I like to research so that I can at least feel a bit justified in my rage ;) According to several different resources, there are an average of 147 million orphaned children in the world today (this statistic includes children who have lost only one parent as well), 11 million children starve to death each year or die from preventable, treatable illness. 8.5 million children work as child slaves, prostitutes, or in other horrific conditions (making things like that cute baby Gap dress Jane wore today...) 2.3 million children world wide are living with HIV.

That is 168.8 million needy children like Michael and Patricia. Seems like a big number, huh? It shouldn't, because there are 2.1 BILLION people on this earth who profess to be Christians. Jesus followers. Servants. Gospel live-ers. And if only 8 percent of those Christians would care for just ONE of these needy children, they would all be taken care of.

And now I'm just sad again. And I want to take care of all 169 million. But as I look into Patricia's eyes, that since just 48 hours ago have turned bright and smiley, as I smell her hair freshly washed with baby shampoo and snuggle her into her new footie pajamas (side note: is their ANYTHING cuter than a baby in soft cotton footie pajamas?!) God tells me that this one is enough. That He will hold the others while they wait for someone to come along and hold them tight and give them their milk and their medicine. That He doesn't ask me to take them all but to stop for the ONE because that one is Jesus, His son. Stop for the little boy with white hair and scabs covering his body, stop for the baby with feces covering her dress, so weak she can't hold up her head. Stop and take the ones right in front of me and trust Him with the rest. He whispers that it will be ok and that I can smile because tonight 2 less children are hungry and that is good for today.

My anger is gone and I am just a mom who is tired and going to make another bottle and tuck her children into bed and love them the best that I can, as we as a family love the ones God has entrusted us with. Tomorrow I will brainstorm and pray and come up with the best way to take Michael and Patricia back to their homes, possibly find their parents jobs, or supply them with food and medicine. Tomorrow I will remember that they were never mine to begin with, that they are HIS and He will go with them where I cannot. But tonight I will just be. I will just sit with my Father in my sadness and brokenness and anger and ask Him why His innocent children must suffer and beg Him to move people to action and let Him hold me as I hold the baby He has blessed me with for today.