Monday, August 29, 2011

Grieving from A Distance

The Ecklebargers are settled in their new home. There is still a lot that needs to be done there, but they all have beds and their basic needs met. Now, for the first time in over a month, they are all living under their own roof together.

In the next week we hope to get them set up with NIT numbers and help them purchase a vehicle. Please pray that God will lead them to the right van and 4-wheel drive.

Currently, my Forerunner is getting some work done, so I am unable to get to the villages. I hope to get that back tomorrow. In the meantime, I find myself struggling with grief due to news we received from the States.

Occasionally, you receive news that turns your world upside down. On Sunday, that news came for me through a phone call. I found out that my cousin had walked into his bedroom, shot his sleeping wife, and then turned the gun on himself. I praise God that his wife is expected to recover after undergoing a long surgery, but my cousin was dead on the scene.

This is the kind of thing you read about in the paper or see on the local news. It doesn’t happen in your family. The cousin who lived across the road and served as your childhood playmate doesn’t do those kinds of things. Yet, on Sunday morning, those distant headlines became a very personal reality.

There are tons of emotions that accompany news like this. Anger. (What was he thinking?) Worry. (Will his wife be okay?) Guilt. (I should have seen it coming and done something to prevent it.) Helplessness. (It is now too late to do anything.) Grief. (I will never see him again.) Shame. (What will people think of our family?) Side note: Even writing this blog is scary wondering if my family and I will be judged by the actions of my cousin.

I can honestly say that over the last two days the States have never seemed so far away. To be here in Guatemala and know that your family is hurting and struggling through such devastation but you can’t be there to help is difficult. To wrestle with issues that involve extended family without having them close is hard. So, for the first time, I am experiencing the sacrifice of our move and ministry.

Up until now there have only been some minor struggles and problems that have accompanied our move. Nothing major. And, while we have all missed family and friends, we have been busy making more friends and throwing ourselves into ministry. This is the first time that I have felt the cost of missions. I knew there would be moments like this, and I tried to prepare myself for them. But, nothing really prepares you for a time like this. It has taken my breath away.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t regret our move to Guatemala. I know we are where we are supposed to be, and I want to be here. But, at this moment, my heart is torn between this country I love and a little town called Summerfield. For the sake of my mother, brother, sister, cousins, and uncle, I wish I could be there. But I now have to place them in the hands of Jesus and ask Him to be their Comforter and Healer. I know He does a far better job than I do anyway. And I need to be the listening ear (all be it from a distance) and a comforting response through a keyboard. Meanwhile, I have to take my own questions and grief to God and let Him be what I need.

Would you please pray for my extended family through this difficult time? Pray especially for my cousin’s wife that God would bring her the physical, emotional, and spiritual healing that she desperately needs. Also, please pray that all of us will get angry at the author of lies who brings about this kind of destruction of lives. We are at war…let us live like soldiers.

(Just a side note: I find it interesting that there seems to be an intentional and heretical push to convince the church that there is no Satan and no hell. Seems like the whole push is to get us to live as if there is no war and nothing important is at stake. As my cousin has demonstrated, in a catastrophic manner, everything is at stake. Let us fight for hearts, lives, and eternity.)

Thanks and good evening from San Antonio Aguas Calientes.

Daryl, Wanda, and the Family

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Houses, Vehicles, and Guatever

DSCF8002With the Ecklebargers’ arrival last Monday, our lives have been filled with helping them make their transition to their new country. Once they settled into their temporary living space upstairs, we quickly got to work helping them to find a home. In the meantime, though, we have had lots of fun having them here. The kids are getting along well and we have enjoyed some wonderful times of worship and devotions.

297289_1499338818895_1696912820_773013_8324880_nAll of the other tasks that they need to accomplish rests on finding a place to live. They cannot purchase a vehicle until they have a NIT number (a tax identification number) and they cannot obtain a NIT number until they have a signed lease showing their address. In addition, they cannot set up a bank account without an address. So, on Tuesday afternoon we met with a real estate agent who took them to see five different home. After a couple of days of prayerful consideration, they settled on a home in Pastores and will be signing a contract tomorrow.

While waiting for the contract to be drawn up, we have stayed busy helping them to purchase furniture, appliances, and necessities for their new place. We were blessed to find a furniture store in Chimaltenango that was having a sale, and they were able to meet most of those needs in that one store. Yesterday, we took them to Guatemala City where we helped them purchase memberships to Pricesmart (a wholesale club) and do some other shopping. The plan is for them to sign their lease tomorrow morning, followed by cleaning, basic repairs, setting up a bank accounts, and getting them signed up for telephone and other utilities. They hope to move into their new home on Friday or Saturday.

Please continue to pray for the Ecklebargers during this transition. It can be overwhelming moving to another country, trying to learn a new language, and adapting to an entirely different culture. There is still a long road ahead, and I am sure they would appreciate your prayers. You can follow their journey from their perspective through Ron’s blog at

DSCF8017Our ability to assist them with their move has been somewhat hampered by the absence of our van. You may recall that I had a run in with a Guatemalan traffic cone (a rock) over a month ago. Well, the repair shop has been holding it ransom for the last three weeks while doing repairs that will take eight days “mas o menus” (Spanish for “more or less”). So, for the last week we have been packing people into our Forerunner. (At one point, we had 12 of us sardined inside.)

On Friday afternoon, just before their shop closed for the weekend and too late for me to make it to Guatemala City to pick it up, they called to tell me it was ready. So, on Monday morning Wanda and I headed in to bring our precious and much needed vehicle home. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and realized that the van was repaired, but missing a part. The gentleman proceeded to tell me that they did not have the part in stock and it would arrive in 20 to 25 days, at which time I would need to bring my van back in for them to complete the repairs. At that point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did neither. That is usually a good choice since neither laughing or crying produces any results. However, we do have our van (for now) and it will be a big help in transporting our 22 current household members around and assisting with the move.

Some other exciting news to share is that we have our first student for our new Encarga pastor training program. Gerardo Hernandez is a friend of our family from here in town. He has quickly become a part of our family and we now consider him a son. He is a fine young man who loves Jesus and works hard as a tour guide in Antigua, but God has been calling him to ministry and has used us to confirm that call. On the night before the Ecklebargers landed to begin that ministry, he accepted the call and agreed to undergo training through Encarga. We hope that he will eventually assist with the expansion of the program into villages. It will be a wonderful asset to have a Guatemalan man of God working with us in this endeavor.

IMG00817-20110823-1426Today Wanda and I took some time to head out to Esquintla to check on Walter. He is the little guy who has bedsores on both feet that were caused by ill-fitting braces. We provided a wheelchair for him so that he could keep his braces off and allow the sores to heal. When we pulled up in front of his house we were thrilled to see him in his chair with no braces. His family has been doing just as we instructed and the healing is progressing more rapidly than I had hoped. He can now continue without bandages as both sores have healed closed with no cavity underneath. I am waiting for them to heal for three more weeks before beginning the process of getting him new braces. We praise God for this process and thank you for your prayers for Walter.

Well, that is all for now. Greetings and love from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda, and the Crew

Monday, August 15, 2011

Help Is On the Way

Another week has passed, and I find myself wondering where it went and how it is over in the blink of an eye. Life is busy, so every day tends to be a blur of activity that ends with our collapse into bed.


Last week was birthday week as both Carissa (18) and Taryn (13) celebrated their special days on Monday and Tuesday. In a two day period we added another adult and another teenager to our family. So, we had the normal cake and candles and a few modest gifts. As Taryn enters the teen years it means that she gets to have a Facebook account and start wearing make-up. Oh, boy. Pray for me.

IMG00795-20110808-1330Carissa decided that she wanted our family to celebrate her birthday by going to Hermano Pedro and taking out some of the older guys for ice cream at the park. We had a wonderful time with Juan, Max, David, and Elmer, enjoying the fresh air and wheelchair races in Central Park. It is so wonderful to know that these guys are some of our family’s closest friends.

Since we returned from Mexico, Wanda and I have been in the process of renewing our passports which expire in October. The US Embassy if very friendly and easy to work with, which is a refreshing change for the normal long lines and bureaucratic nightmares that we usually experience here. However, getting to the embassy is not so easy, particularly with our GPS (now named Cruella Deville) who has no awareness of one-way streets. And once we found the place, we spent another 20 minutes driving in circles looking for parking. But, eventually, we made it inside, filed the papers, paid our fees, and headed home again.

On Wednesday we returned to the Embassy to pick-up our passports. This time I had learned enough to ignore Cruella and take my own path, so we arrived and parked in about half the time. When we picked up the passports, it was determined that Wanda’s picture was too dark and the book needed to be remade. So, at the end of this week I will be heading back again. Yay.

On the bright side, life in Guatemala is teaching us patience. I find that many of the things that used to frustrate and irritate me so badly no longer fazes me at all. Traffic jams, long lines, and obnoxious chicken bus drivers hardly bother me any more. (Okay, the chicken bus drivers still get under my skin.) For years I prayed that God would help me to be more patient. I had no idea what would be required to make that a reality.

DSC04609 (3)Speaking of patience, I have had to exercise it even more in relation to the van work we are having done. If you recall, I hit a rock in the road about 4 weeks ago, requiring body work on the van. So, 13 days ago I dropped off the van with Nissan to have the repairs done. At that time, I was told it would be ready in eight days, more or less. Surprise, surprise…it’s more! On day 10 I received this photo of the progress they had made on the work, only to discover that they had only just begun. I am hoping to have it back by the end of this week, but we will see.

Thursday and Friday were filled with shopping for our monthly food and medicine distribution to children who are sponsored by US supporters. This process is taking more and more time as the number of families increases. But, we find ourselves able to stretch our money further as we are now able to buy most items in bulk. Sugar, rice, beans, and soup are now purchased in 20 to 50 pound quantities and divided up. This is wonderful seeing the amount of food going to families increase, but the time it takes to do this is increasing.

IMG00806-20110811-1456On Friday morning, Jeremiah and I finished sorting the food and made deliveries in San Andres, San Antonio, and Santa Catarina. This is always one of my favorite times of the month as we visit with families. I stand amazed at the things God has done to grow our ministry and influence in this area. We have truly become know as Hogar de la Esperanza (Home of the Hope).

DSCF7970This weekend we were able to spend some much needed time away together as a family due to the generous gift from Living Waters Church in Michigan. Games, swimming, pizza, and more were a part of our weekend, and everyone had a blast and returned refreshed. We took this time because the Ecklebarger family arrives today, and the next few weeks will be spent helping them to settle in and find their way around.

DSCF7996Speaking of which, we have many miracles to praise God for, with the greatest of which being that the Ecklebargers are finally here in Guatemala with us. When they checked-in at Chicago O’Hare airport at 3:30 am, they were told that they could not fly into Guatemala on a one-way ticket. The desk personnel told them they needed to show return flight plans in order to fly. There are hundred of people in Guatemala who live here and who flew down with one-way tickets, but that made no difference to Spirit Airlines. After a long discussion and numerous phone calls, they were finally allowed to board their first flight to Ft. Lauderdale with questions still being raised about whether they would be allowed to fly to Guatemala.

DSCF7999Meanwhile, their flight out of Chicago was delayed by over an hour, which meant they would not be able to make their connecting flight. When I saw their flight status, I told Wanda and we immediately began to pray. We praise God that their plane into Ft. Lauderdale was actually the same plane they would take into Guatemala. So, they couldn’t miss it. We also praise God that they were allowed to continue without question regarding their one-way tickets. So, we welcomed them to Guatemala and our home this afternoon.

Their addition to our team will be a huge blessing to us. If you read my blog regularly, you see how overworked and overwhelmed we have been. They will be providing assistance with everything from administrative duties to our 4-wheel drive ministry. Plus, it will be wonderful having these good friends here with us.

That is all for now. Love and blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda, and the Crew

Monday, August 8, 2011


It has been just over a week since my last blog update, but there is so much to share. We once again find ourselves overwhelmed by the goodness and provision of God, and I want to share those details with you.

DSCF7829When I last blogged, I shared with you about our trip to Esquintla, Las Palmas and La Gomera, where we were able to meet some needs and find some others. The last you had heard, we needed a wheelchair  and a sponsor for braces for Walter, about $105 for a medical scan for Jorge, and money for Ensure for Pilar. I praise God that every one of those needs have been met!

It actually started last Saturday evening after we returned from the villages. We had our family devotions together and I mentioned all these needs and we prayed together for God’s help. After we were done, I came to my office to check my e-mail and found a message from one of our faithful supporters asking if we had any financial needs right now. I shared these needs with him and realized God was on the move.

On Sunday morning, before church, I updated my blog, and by the time I had returned home I discovered two messages waiting telling me that they were willing to help, and more followed that evening and the next morning. So, to summarize, we have a sponsor for Walter’s wheelchair and braces, a sponsor for Jorge’s scan, another sponsor for Ensure for Pilar, and someone has graciously agreed to sponsor the next wheelchair we need.

IMG00767-20110804-1003Then, on Tuesday, we welcomed a team from Living Waters Church in Michigan. While this was not a regular Hope for Home team, my friend, Gary Newton, asked if I would be able to work with some of his team and expose them to some orphanages and educate them regarding the needs of orphans in Guatemala. I readily agreed, as I am always anxious to get people involved with those needs. So, I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday taking them to Hermano Pedro, Los Gozosos, and Amor del Niño. They were an excellent group with which to work! They were hard workers who did not complain. They were servants. And they were wonderful with all the kids they encountered.

IMG00780-20110804-1615Gary had told me that their team was bringing some water filters for us to distribute in the villages, but he didn’t tell me how many. I had told Wanda that I hoped they would donate 10 or 15, but would be happy with anything we could get. Imagine my surprise and joy when Gary told me that they had brought us 50! As we dumped those filters into the back of my truck, I was overcome with emotion, realizing the help and health those filters would provide to hundreds of people.

But Living Waters Church was not done. Gary placed his hand on my shoulder and told me how much they appreciated our work and that they wanted to see us stay here for a long time. As a result, he said they were concerned with burn-out. He told me that he wanted me to take time away with my family just to have fun and recharge our batteries, and he slipped money into my hands. It wasn’t until late that afternoon that I was able to count the money and realize that he had given us $2000.

As I shared this with my family, we struggled (and continue to struggle) with accepting that kind of money for ourselves. We deal with incredible needs everyday, and the thought of spending money for retreats and recreation is a little hard to swallow. At the same time, the entire family admitted that this summer has been hard on us all. Our home has been filled almost constantly, Wanda and I have been overworked, and the kids have had to assume many extra responsibilities. So, Gary’s cautions against burnout ring true. Our budget is tight, and we don’t have much money for even little things such as an occasional night out. Almost every penny is accounted for. So, we realized our need to simply accept their gift with gratitude and use it wisely and responsibly in the year ahead for the intent that it was given.

Thank you, Living Waters Church, for your service, the water filters, and the gift to our family! What a blessing you are to us, our ministry, and Guatemala!

IMG00784-20110805-1022On Friday, Wanda and I finally got a chance to get away for our anniversary (two weeks late). We headed out mid-morning and went straight to Esquintla to deliver a wheelchair to Walter. (I am deeply blessed to have the kind of wife who joyfully desires to start our time away by serving! She is a one-in-ten million kind of lady!) We arrived and found Walter playing outside his house. I was immediately frustrated when I realized that he was wearing his braces over the bedsores, but quickly realized that I had left his mother in an impossible situation. I had told her that he could not wear his braces, but without his braces he cannot walk and had no wheelchair. Unless they were willing to carry this six year old everywhere they went, he would need his braces. So, I fitted his chair for him, removed his braces, and discovered that he was developing an infection in his right foot. But I also found that his mother was treating the wound with saline and gauze, just as I had instructed her. I once again stressed that now that they have a wheelchair he must not wear his braces and they agreed.

IMG00782-20110805-1017The chair I found for him was a perfect fit after I made adjustments to the foot rests. As soon as everything was just right, I took him out to the street where he immediately began to wheel himself all around. His two cousins quickly joined in and were taking turns pushing his chair. As we said goodbye and received hugs and kisses, Wanda and I realized this was the perfect way to start our time away.

IMG00790-20110805-1417From there we headed back to Antigua where we did some birthday shopping for Carissa and Taryn (whose birthdays are today and tomorrow) and then checked into a motel that gives special rates to missionaries. The next 24 hours were spent simply enjoying one another’s company, recounting memories of our last 23 years, and eating some quiet meals together. I am blessed to have Wanda as a wife, yet another of the many gifts from God that I could never earn or deserve.

We praise God for His continued provision through people such as you. He is truly doing “exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think!”

Good morning from San Antonio Aguas Calientes!