Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas with Friends

I am taking a much needed break from the office this week, but wanted to take a moment to share our Christmas celebration with you. Since I don’t want to spend a lot of time in front of my computer, I will mainly let the pictures do the talking.

SAM_2086On Christmas Day we welcomed eight friends from Hermano Pedro into our home: Fidel, Angel, Juan, Francisco, Lionel, Carlitos, Julio and Delmi. In addition, Dick Rutgers, Pat Duff, Scott and Linda Hardee, Judy Kirshner and Daniel Lopez joined us, along with our unofficially adopted son, Gerardo Hernandez. Our house was full and so was our bellies by the end of the day. It was so nice to spend Christmas surrounded by people we love.

SAM_2082The task of transporting eight residents from Hermano Pedro to our home and back again was not easy, but Dick helped when he arranged to borrow Hope Haven’s van which has a wheelchair lift. Everything went smoothly and we had so much fun together. Christmases have never meant more to our family than they do now.







Thanks for everything you do to make this ministry possible! From our family to yours we wish you a very Happy New Year as you begin 2013!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guidance and Growth

One of our points of emphasis in this ministry has been to not attempt to grow it. We don’t go out looking for new families to help and needs to meet. If we did, we would stretch ourselves to the max in one day since Guatemala is filled with need. Instead, we have prayed that God would simply guide us to those to whom He wants us to minister. That has kept us more than busy.

In recent months, I have made a concerted effort to NOT expand our work into new communities because I feel that we are already stretched thin. However, in spite of that, we have still ended up adding three more villages to our work in the last four months. I finally drew a hard line in the sand and said, “No more!” That lasted until last Thursday and then went out the window.

Our friends, Scott and Linda Hardee are visiting from the States for three months. They have been coming to Guatemala for a number of years and have friends and ministries with which they work all over Guatemala. They stayed with us a couple of nights last week and mentioned that they wanted to go up and visit their friend, Pastor Antonio, who lives in the town San Pedro on Lake Atitlan and deliver some toys for their church to give out at Christmas. They wanted to know if I had any plans to head up that way. Well, a little guy named Toni had been waiting for months in Quetzaltenango for a wheelchair that I had not been able to find the time to take to him. I figured that this was just the push I needed since he was only about an hour-and-a-half away from their destination. So, on Thursday morning we packed up Toni’s chair, my tools and the toys and headed out.

SAM_1749We had a beautiful day and the traveling went smoothly to Quetzaltenango (a.k.a Xela). With a few stops to ask for directions, SAM_1757we finally found Toni’s house and went to work. Toni has low-tone cerebral palsy and has been using an old folding hospital chair with a soft back that causes him to slouch. It is way too big for him and just not a good situation at all. I had seen that when I met him at Hermano Pedro where his parents had brought him for an appointment. So, after talking with them I took measurements and promised to bring them a chair. Praise God, the chair was a good fit, and after an hour of adjustments and adding pads we had him sitting straight.

SAM_1760His family was so grateful and told us thanks over and over. They insisted on feeding us, so we sat down to a wonderful lunch that they prepared for us. When our stomachs were full, we prayed with them, gave them a Bible and hit the road for San Pedro.

SAM_1763The drive down to the lake is breathtaking. I believe it is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. I have seen it several times before, but it never ceases to take my breath away. However, in order to drive down the mountain to get to it you have to drive through what we call “the lower intestines”, a series of cutbacks that take you down a steep mountain. Of course, that is not the fun part. That comes later when you have to drive back up again.DSCF1153b

We drove through the town of San Pablo, where Pastor Antonio’s church is, and then continued to San Pedro. However, this is where we unknowingly had a God appointment scheduled. The road between the two towns had experienced a mud slide before and they are now working to repair it. For the time being only one lane that is passable, so they regularly shut down the road, work on it, then open traffic for one direction to come through, then open it for the other direction to pass, then close it again for more work. It was in one of the stoppages that we found ourselves waiting.


My legs were stiff, so I hopped out of the 4-Runner to stretch them and enjoy the view of the lake while we waited. As I stood there, a young man came walking by with his son. He stopped and began to talk to us and we found out that both he and his son were named Michel. As we chatted, he asked us what we were doing there, so we explained our ministry to him. Suddenly his eyes lit up. He proceeded to tell us that he knew a lot of kids in San Pablo who had special needs and were greatly in need of help. The next thing I knew, we were scheduled to meet in that town the next morning to visit some of those families. When the traffic started moving again I drove away deeply impressed by the love of God. He loves those kids so much that He arranged a traffic stoppage to connect them with our ministry. He is truly good and truly sovereign!

We made it to Pastor Antonio’s house at around 5:00 pm and I found a wonderful family who loves the Lord. That evening we sat around the table and they shared stories of God’s moving in their community. Miracle after miracle of God’s grace that had enabled them to see their church grow from non-existent to over 250 in just a few years, with most of them being new disciples. He also explained that he knew several families with children who have special needs that need assistance. We arranged to see two in his home that evening and told him we would come back in late January to visit the others.

After supper, a couple of the families came over and we spent time assessing them. One had a little girl who had a minor case of lazy eye. We explained how to patch the strong eye to force her to use the weak one and they went away happy, knowing that they could do something simple that would help their daughter.

SAM_1772The other family had a little girl named Ceci who has difficulty using her left hand and walks with a limp on her left side. The family explained that they had taken her to a doctor and he told them that it was cerebral palsy. (It should also be noted that he told them that the umbilical hernia she had was the reason she was coughing so much. Quack doctors are not hard to find here.) We found out that the doctor had done no tests or scans to make that determination. As I looked at her, I noticed her smile was slightly crooked. While I cannot be sure, I think she likely had a stroke at some point. But, whether it was a stroke or CP, the treatment is the same…therapy. After investigating we found out that there is no good places to receive therapy in either San Pedro or San Pablo. We were told that there is one place that offered it, but several parents had stopped going there because they were being harsh with the kids, yelling and handling them roughly. So, we spent time teaching her mom how to do PT and OT. We also plan on getting some blood tests to see if the has any kind of blood condition that makes her likely to have repeated strokes.SAM_1776

SAM_1787After a good night’s sleep, we got up and hit the road back to San Pablo where Pastor Antonio’s daughters gave us a tour of their church. This congregation has a real heart for Jesus and for touching its community in ways that matter. They started a school last year and had around 25 low-income students who could not otherwise afford an education. In January they will open for the new school year with 200 students!

SAM_1793We then connected with Michel and he took us to four different homes. Two of the families were not there, but we got to meet two beautiful young ladies. The first was Apolonia who is 13 and has severe CP. Her back is twisted badly and she needs a wheelchair, medicines and therapy. Because of the twist in her back, I am not comfortable doing her seating alone. So, I will be calling on the expertise of Dick Rutgers to lend a hand. (Dick, I am sure you are reading this, so please sit by the phone and await my call.) The family is extremely poor and need sponsorship, so if you are willing to sponsor her for $50 a month to provide food and medicine for Apolonia, please e-mail me at

From there we went 50 feet down the street to a tiny alley that cut back between houses. In the back we found a little two-room shack that houses Marta, age 20, and her dad. (Sorry, I don’t have a photo of her. In the busyness of the situation I forgot to pull out my camera.) Marta has CP and is suffering from seizures. The doctors had given them some medicines to stop the seizures, but they have not worked. She is suffering and does not sleep well. We found her father, who is nearly blind from untreated diabetes, laying in a hammock and lovingly holding her while she slept. Their living conditions were dismal and they have no income apart from some friends who assist them. We told them that we would pay for an appointment with a neurologist if they had someone who could take Marta. The closest decent doctor that we could find was back in Quetzaltenango, and one of their friends agreed to take her. So we gave them Q.500 to cover the chicken bus ride and the Q.350 neurologist consultation fee. We are hopeful that he will be able to treat her seizures with the proper medication. If anyone would like to bless our ministry with the cost of her doctor appointment and chicken bus ride (about $65) we would be grateful. But even more important is a monthly sponsor for Marta and her family. We don’t have a firm cost on the meds yet, but we expect the total cost of food and meds to be around $60 a month. If you are interested, you can write to the e-mail above.

By this time it was noon and we needed to hit the road to make it home. We told Michel that we would come back in January as he has another six families for us to visit. In addition, Pastor Antonio has another five families he wants us to see. So, by God’s direction, another community has been opened to us, in spite of my best efforts to avoid it. Seriously, I am so thankful to God for leading us to these people.

All of this has brought us to the point that we are stepping back a little and seeking God’s direction. In the last 20 months God has built our rural village ministry in ways that we never anticipated. We bought our 4-Runner through God’s miraculous provision in April of 2011, and since then have provided assistance to over 80 families. We are currently providing monthly assistance to 36 families in 15 different villages/communities. And that number will grow in January. Support for this ministry has continued to flow in and our budget is met each month.

SAM_1797Meanwhile, we feel God quickening our hearts to expand our ministry into some new areas. There is a large piece of property next door to us to which I am drawn. It is handicapped accessible, has lots of space, and lots of rooms. With a little work it could be used as a facility to host medical clinics and a school for children with special needs. It could also be used to house families who need to come to the Antigua area for doctor appointments. (There is a Catholic run place that does this in Antigua called Casa de Fe, but I have seen them treating the families who stay there harshly. I don’t like housing our families in a place that will not respect them and treat them with love.) We have also discussed running a feeding program and hosting children’s ministries there in the spacious courtyard. Every time I go up onto our roof and look at that property I feel my heart quicken. As I look at it, I feel like it is ours. Part of it is currently being rented by some metal workers, but I have tracked down the owner, who lives in Oregon. I have started to communicate with her regarding the possibility of renting it and making repairs and improvements. (The property has declined rapidly in the last year because the current tenants aren’t caring for it well.) Please pray for God’s guidance in this area.

At the same time, we are only about 2 months away from having a licensed group home. (We just passed our big inspection last week with only a few minor changes recommended.) However, the funding for this ministry has not come in as we had hoped and prayed. The moment we are licensed our operating expenses will increase by $800 a month as our social worker, psychologist and therapist comes on board. That cost does not include the hiring of any additional workers. So, we find ourselves wondering how to proceed. We know that God is calling us to take in children with special needs. But is He wanting us to simply adopt the children instead of opening a group home? (Most of our expenses to this point have been to make our home safer, more handicapped accessible and better able to accommodate more children, so to stop the licensing process would not be a big waste of money.) If we chose to simply adopt, as we are able to do once our residency in completed, we could forgo the expenses of the social worker, psychologist and therapist (but would hire counselors and therapists for the children as needed on a case-by-case basis). We have said we wanted our group home to be like a family, but is God saying, “Why make it LIKE a family when it could simply BE a family?” Our association paperwork is set up so that we could easily license other group homes with other house parents in the future if God so leads and provides. These are just a few of the things that we are placing before the Lord right now, so we ask for your prayers for guidance.

Wow! I just dumped a lot on you in this post! I appreciate your reading and prayers on our behalf. I also appreciate any guidance you have to offer us.

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl (Wanda and the Crew)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Greatest Challenge

This is a long blog entry, but I think it is the most important one I have ever written. Please take the time to read it and join us in prayer. We need your help.

I want to share something with you today that I consider our greatest challenge in our ministry here in Guatemala. But before I do, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to generalize any group of people or any faith. I have met many wonderful people of deep and person faith from both the evangelical and catholic communities, so I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush. However, I do want to let you know about our over-arching experiences to help you understand our need for prayer.

Rosary-BeadsOur greatest challenge (perhaps I should call it an adversary) is religion. You see, almost everyone here believes in Jesus. His name is everywhere, including on tuk tuks, chicken buses, and tiendas. According to Operation World, over 96% of the country considers itself Christian. The prevalent influence here is Catholicism (representing about 75% of the Christian community), and most towns and villages are built around the local Catholic church. And nowhere is that more true than in the Mayan communities, which is the case for our town, San Antonio Aguas Calientes. However, even when you are not in Mayan areas the influence of the Vatican is great. The processions in the streets, the prominence of the churches, and the frequent Catholic festivals all testify to this truth.

But in the midst of this are the evangelicals, representing the other 25% of professing believers. We often hear their preaching being amplified from churches or from street preachers on the corner. With a passion for God they seek to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers.

We have found that, for the most part, Catholics and evangelicals do not intermingle. In fact, the evangelical community works hard to distinguish themselves from the Catholics, renouncing many of their traditions lest others confuse them as being Catholic.

So, on both sides there are people who believe in Jesus. However, all too seldom is there evidence of true faith in either group outside of their religious traditions. Let me give you a couple of examples, beginning with the evangelicals:

street preacherThe majority of evangelical churches in Guatemala that I have experienced seem to lean toward legalism and are peppered with the “prosperity gospel”. For example, several of our local churches teach very strongly that playing card or dice games, going to movies, dancing, drinking any form of alcohol, decorating for Christmas or setting up a Nativity scene is sinful. At the same time, they teach people that if they will come to church, have faith in God, and give to the church that God will prosper them with material possessions. But in these same churches I know of several situations in which the Pastor or church leaders are involved in open sexual sin, cheating on their spouses or living with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage. (Talk about straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.) Stealing and lying is commonplace among their members, as is arguing, gossip and violence. But they view the Catholic church as liberal and will not, as a practice, associate with those of that faith or even reach out to them.

IMG00353-20110415-1617On the other side are the Catholics who tend to be very religious in their services, practices and traditions. They take these things seriously and pray the rosary, participate in the festivals and processions and give faithfully. Yet alcoholism and sexual sin is rampant in their community. As in the evangelical community, stealing, lying and gossip is commonplace. The desire for discipleship and obedience is often not present at all, so teenage pregnancy, cohabitation, lying and stealing are often regular occurrences, even among the faithful. One Catholic-run barber shop I visited once has a very nice picture of Jesus on the wall surrounded by very skimpily dressed models wearing bikinis and lingerie. You will often ride in a chicken bus that will have images of Mary and Jesus but also have profane music playing through the stereo.

On both sides it seems, all too often, that there is belief without practice, theology without love, religion without relationship. Once again, to be clear, let me say that this is not the case for all Catholics or all evangelicals. However, it is a prominent condition within both groups.

SAM_1464And in between both groups sits our family and Hogar de la Esperanza. We just don’t seem to fit in either group. We play card and dice games (having a particular affinity for SkipBo, Uno, Farkle and Yatzee). We decorate for Christmas and set up a Nativity scene. We will go to the very occasional movie. We think drunkenness is a sin, but not drinking alcohol. And I have even been know to bust an awesome move (and my back) on the dance floor with my wife or daughters. And, worst of all, we are willing to hang out with the Catholics and even help them. So, many of the evangelicals don’t believe we are really Christians.

At the same time, we avoid processions like the plague, don’t go or give to the Catholic church, and never burn incense in our courtyard. So, the Catholics know that we aren’t one of them. So, as we come to their door in order to help their children with special needs, they don’t know what to think about us or our faith.

You should know by now that our number one focus is not wheelchairs, food, medicine or therapy. Our focus is on glorifying Jesus Christ and bringing people to a real and personal relationship with Him. But, as we talk to people from both sides we find them simply nodding their heads and saying, “Yes, I believe in Jesus!” They have their religion and so they are confident in their salvation, even if there is no evidence in their life as is necessary according to James 2:26 (“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”) and 1 John 1:6 (“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth”). There seems to be a wall of religion that exists around most people’s hearts, and breaking through that wall is very, very difficult.

SAM_1720On Friday, Gerardo, Brittney, Teisha, Taryn and I were in Las Palmas visiting with families. This month, we are taking Christmas cookies to all of the families with which we work along with a Bible. We went to visit Reina in her house and gave her our gifts. She and her family are evangelicals, and when I handed her the Bible she lit up and told me how thankful she was because they did not have a Bible. She then looked over and saw the Bible and cookies we had carried in for her neighbors who lived across the street from them. She asked us who they were for, and I told her that we were taking them to Pedro and Victoria. When she heard this, she said, “Bah, the won’t read that Bible! They are Catholic. They believe in witchcraft!” She then went on to explain that some time ago they believed that they had an evil spirit in their home, so they called some people from the Catholic church to come and cast out the demons. The people came and told them that they needed to take their possessions and cleanse them and bring them back later. They never brought those things back. Reina wanted to know why we would help people who believe such bad and foolish things.

I spent time explaining that I used to believe bad and foolish things myself. I told her that I did a lot of bad things that dishonored God because I did not know Him. I then explained that some Christians who loved Jesus also loved me and patiently showed me who God really was. I shared scripture with her that shows that Jesus was a friend of sinners because he came to reach and save them. And, as I spoke with her I could tell she had never heard those things before. I ended by asking her if she would be willing to help me reach her neighbors and help them know Jesus. She gave me a very hesitant, “Yes.”

SAM_1433We then went across the street and greeted Pedro and Victoria. When I handed Pedro the Bible he carefully opened it and paged through it. He then closed it and clutched it to his chest, where he held it the entire time. And, as always, we ender our visit with a time of prayer. This sweet, elderly couple is alone and scared. They don’t know what they believe, but they need answers. They have religion in their lives, but they don’t seem to really know Jesus. I truly want to tear down the religious wall that traps them and so many others and show them freedom in Christ. 

Recently, as I was praying about this issue, God showed me clearly that we cannot break through this wall by our own strength. This is not an issue of our approach or finding the right words to say to them. Only God can bring down this wall. And that makes me think of the story of Jericho from the book of Joshua. Those walls did not fall due to the strategy of Joshua and his men, but by the power of God and the faith of God’s people. The same is true of the walls we are facing. So, I am asking for your help.

castle-wall-pictureWill you please pray that God will shatter the wall of religion that surrounds people’s hearts? Would even a handful of you commit to pray daily with us that Jesus will use us and our ministry or events in lives to show people that they are broken, sinful and need a savior and that religion will not suffice? We desperately need your help in this matter.

There is so much more that I would like to share with you, but I will save it for another blog, so as not to dilute the message of this one. I pray you and your family are having a wonderful Christmas season!

Daryl (Wanda and the Crew)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A God Schedule (aka. A Crucial Need)

SAM_1636This week I had one of those times in which God interrupted my schedule in order to accomplish His plans. I have come to love these moments and see them not as intrusions, but welcomed course corrections to my day and life. That was the case yesterday when God led us to a little guy named, Jan. But before I share the story with you I should take a few moment to set the stage so you understand the significance.

It was Wednesday morning and the week had already wiped me out. Due to a series of events last week, I had been forced to delay our monthly food distribution until Tuesday. So, Monday was filled with preparations as food was weighed, bagged and sorted to prepare. At the same time I have been dealing with an ongoing war with our bank where our new ministry account has been established. Long story short…for the last three weeks we have been trying to gain on-line access to our account so that we could transact some much needed business, but we were unable to do so because someone at the bank had entered my e-mail address incorrectly. We kept explaining this to them via telephone, but they could not seem to grasp the concept. Finally, on Monday in the midst of food sorting and medicine prep, I found myself having to drive to Chimaltenango and explain the problem in person and watch them correct the issue. Finally, the problem was solved after taking a total of about six hours over a three week period because someone entered my e-mail as

SAM_1562Between frustrating conversations with the bank, I decided to get a jump on the food distribution and make deliveries to some of the families in San Pedro las Huertas and San Juan del Obispo. We were able to deliver water filters to Vinancio and Katerin’s families as they have been carrying their water up from a water source 200-300 yards away from their shacks and dumping it into an old, metal 55-gallon barrel. We realized that both families were struggling with stomach issues, thus the delivery of the filters.

I returned home to find a family waiting for me who had a daughter with special needs. We agreed to come to their home the next day and meet her and do an assessment while we were doing the food distribution.

SAM_1595Tuesday morning came earlier than usual (or so it seemed to me) and we were off to do the distribution. I always love this day because it give me a great opportunity to visit with families. Late morning we stopped in at the family’s home and met Nirma, a 20-year old young lady. Her mother explained to us that she was perfectly normal until she was 13, but she then fell into depression and “lost her mind.” After further discussion we determined that she has good days when her mom says she acts almost normal. Then there are other days in which she is afraid to go outside and cannot concentrate. As we talked I realized that she was doing needlepoint and I asked her if I could see it. She held it up and you could see the truth of what her mom had been telling us. Parts of the needlepoint were beautiful and precise. Other parts were random scatterings of stitches.

I am not a psychiatrist, but I believed that we might be dealing with a chemical imbalance within her brain that could be helped with medication. We arranged for her to visit our doctor and asked her family to stop by and tell us what he said.

SAM_1615We finished the distribution and I returned home in time to eat quickly and then prepare for a meeting with a local group of citizens that works with children who have special needs. We helped to sponsor a Christmas party last year and they were meeting with us so that we could work together again this year. The meeting was productive and I was exhausted by the end.

It was 9:30 and I was heading to the shower when the bell at our front gate rang and I found myself face-to-face with Nirma and her mom and grandmother who were coming to report on their doctor’s visit. As I suspected, Dr. Augusto had referred them to a psychiatrist in Guatemala City, so I spent time with them explaining the next steps.

This brings us back to Wednesday morning as Gerardo, Brittney, Carissa, Jonathan and I were heading out to Guastatoya to make deliveries and visit with our sponsored families. As I stated earlier, I was tired. The thought of the three hour plus drive followed by a long day in a hot area and then another three hour trip back through Guatemala City traffic was not appealing…especially the day after our distribution. But there were families waiting, so we headed out.

Our second stop was at the home of Marian and Jorge. While visiting with these wonderful families, Marian’s mom mentioned a single mom with a little boy with severe special needs. She wanted to know if we would go with her to visit and see if we could help. As soon as she mentioned it I sensed that this was from God and, even though we were running late because of traffic and road construction and I was feeling so tired, I should allow God to keep us on His schedule. So we loaded up and headed out.

SAM_1637What we found was a little boy named Jan who stole my heart from my first glance of him. He is seven years old, has severe cerebral palsy and is very malnourished, but he is beautiful. His mother, Claudia, handed him to me and I spoke to him as he smiled up at me. His mother explained that she was struggling as a single mother of four children and was unable to afford his seizure medication or formula. She makes just a few quetzales each week selling used clothing, but cannot pay her rent.


DSCF3284She then mentioned that Jan had suffered from a cough for the last month, but she could not afford a doctor for him. Then he developed a fever eight days before. I grabbed my medical bag and thought I heard pneumonia in his right lung, so we immediately provided money for them to take him to the doctor and buy medicine. We then asked them to call us after seeing the doctor to let us know what he said.

As we were preparing to pray before leaving his mother broke down sobbing. When we asked her what was wrong, she told us how grateful she was for our help and didn’t want to ask for more. After prodding, she explained that she was completely out of money and could not afford to buy the formula that Jan needed (he cannot eat solid foods). We then realized that she was completely out of food and could not wait for our return the week before Christmas. After kicking myself for being so blind, we immediately provided the money she needed to buy his formula until our next visit.

Last week God took me to the woodshed about the way I work with families like Jan’s. Until that time, when we found a family with a real need we would provide emergency help and then explain that we would try to find a sponsor to help with their ongoing needs. We always told them that we could not make promises, but would do our best to help. God showed me that if we find a real need that we need to commit to help and trust Him to provide for us as we do. So, I told his mother that we would provide the following for him:

Medicine – Q.150

Formula – Q. 130

Diapers – Q. 20

Food basket – Q. 190

In US dollars this breaks down to around $60 a month. We will be providing this assistance to him and his family, regardless of whether we find a sponsor. We will trust God to provide it in some manner. However, we would love to have one or more of you sponsor him. If you do, we will provide you with regular updates and photos of him and will share any photos or messages you wish to send with him and his family. If you are interested, please e-mail me at

Update: Last night we received a call from his mom telling us that Jan does have pneumonia.  This morning we sent more funds up to them to cover the cost of additional medications. Please pray for his recovery.

By the time we left his home it was 2:00 pm and we had only visited two of our scheduled families. But I didn’t mind at all. Somehow I left their home less tired than when I entered and we finished the day and the trip strong. My days always get better when I let God control the schedule.

That’s all for now. Blessing from San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving that Matters

Tomorrow is the US day of Thanksgiving. I have always loved that holiday, but it has taken on special significance over the last two years. Since I came to know Jesus Christ it has been a day that has caused me to focus on being thankful for the thousands of blessing which God has showered on me, but the work we are doing here has changed my perspective on what I should be thankful for.

I will come back to that thought in a minute as I want to share a story that has unfolded over the last few weeks…

About three weeks ago I was contacted by a friend for mine, Joe Bedford, a missionary serving in Ciudad Vieja. An elderly man at his church had a stroke about four months before and was bedridden and being cared for by his elderly wife. He wanted to know if there was anything we could do. So Gerardo and I met him the following Monday to visit with the family.

SAM_1400They live in San Pedro las Huertas in a settlement partially up the side of the Volcano Aguas. There is a large field there that is owned by the municipality and they have given small pieces of land to poor families on which they can build. The result is a large area about three football fields in size on which shacks have been built. Most of them have been erected using tree branches, cornstalks, plastic and cast off corrugated metal. Over 100 families live there without running water or electricity.

SAM_1397We found Vinancio lying on a single bed in their home, which was a single room about 10’x6’ in size. Since his stroke his left arm and leg had retracted severely and he was unable to straighten either of them. We did an assessment and decided to provide him with a wheelchair and two months of physical therapy. We arranged to come back the following week with the wheelchair.

As we were leaving I spotted a young girl next door that I suspected to have special needs. I spoke to her, but she did not talk at all. I decided to follow-up with the family when we returned the following week. Meanwhile, Gerardo got to work finding a therapist who would go to their home for therapy, as transporting him was simply not practical.IMG00085-20121116-1315

We returned the following Friday with a wheelchair for Vinancio and he and his wife were thrilled. For the first time since his stroke he was able to go outdoors and sit in the sun. By this time Gerardo had located an excellent therapist and we made arrangements to return the following Tuesday with him so he could do an assessment and begin therapy.

IMG00088-20121120-1625As we were leaving their home we went next door and found the little girl outdoors playing. As we started talking to her her mom came out and joined us. We found out that her name is Katerin, she is 10 years old and she is severely cognitively delayed. She does not speak, has no bowel or bladder control and no concept of fear. As a result, she often falls from high places because she simple walks off the edge. She will also hurt herself because she will crawl off her bed and land face-first on their dirt floor.

As we talked with her mom, Aura, we realized that they were in great need. So we told them we would be back with some diapers for Katerin on Tuesday and we would do an assessment then.

On Tuesday we met the therapist and took him to Vinancio’s home where he began the therapy. The therapist, Luis, told us that he felt that he could help him over time. (On a side note, Luis is considering becoming our physical therapist for our group home, Hogar de la Esperanza. Please pray for God’s guidance in this matter.)

IMG00089-20121120-1630While Luis was working with Vinancio, Gerardo and I went next door to do a complete assessment on Katerin. This was the first time we had entered their house, and what we found was heartbreaking. A family of nine was living in a one-room shack that was about 10’x12’. There were two double beds wedged in and the roof was composed of cast-off corrugated steel that was filled with holes. There was not enough metal to cover the entire room, so the last two feet of their home was uncovered. Their water is carried about 300 yards up the hill from a community supply and there is no electricity. In this small place a father, mother and seven daughters live. (The ages of the children seemed to be from about 14 down to about 6.) The father works as a construction assistant, and his income is dismal.

We didn’t get far into out time with them until we knew that they needed help desperately. We are arranging to provide them with diapers for Katerin and monthly food deliveries. We are also going to provide them with a couple of sheets of corrugated steel so their dad can properly cover their house. All of this means we need a sponsor for Katerin for $30 a month. If you would be willing to be that sponsor, please write to me at

SAM_1400As we drove away from their home yesterday and went past row after row of similar shacks, my heart broke. An entire ministry could be dedicated to just those three football fields of houses. A feeding program could be established along with children and adult ministries. A church could be planted. A job training and skills program could be started. These are people hungry for hope, and that field is ripe for the harvest. And I see it all so clearly as I sit here overworked, overwhelmed and understaffed.

So, all this brings me back to Thanksgiving. Why has this experience, and countless others like it, changed my view of this holiday? To put it simply, it has changed both what I am thankful for and how I express that thanks.

SAM_1432You see, these experiences have sharpened my senses to the little things. The running water that comes from my faucet is huge, even though it is not safe to drink. Opening a drawer and finding freshly washed clothes are a gift that is no longer taken for granted. A bathroom with a flushing toilet is an honor that I seldom noticed in the past. My education that enables me to read and write are now truly appreciated. Real, sweep-able floors instead of just dirt are a Godsend. These and a thousand more little gifts are now big gifts to me. I am overwhelmed by these floods of blessing that I never noticed in the past.

100_0533It has also changed how I express my thanks. In the past, my gratitude to God was expressed through quiet times with Him where I poured out my prayers of thanksgiving. While I still do that, my gratitude has become so much more. I have come to understand that thanks is expressed much better through actions than through words. I, one of the most blessed men on planet earth, have the opportunity and privilege to allow that gratefulness to flow out of me and into the lives of others in such a way as to help them find gratitude to God as well. I am still learning how to do this, and will likely be learning it for the rest of my life. But, as I do it more and more and better and better, I am convinced that my Jesus receives what I have wanted to give Him all along…true thanks.

I trust and pray that you and your family will have a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving as you focus on the One who is the source of every true blessing. He is so good and so worthy of our thanks and praise!

Because of Him!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Friday, November 9, 2012

Water Filters and Living Water

Disclaimer: Knowing that the world famous blog thief, Dick Rutgers, will likely copy and paste this entry into his own and add his own distortions of the truth, the author of this blog wishes you to know that he is not responsible for Dick’s added fictional addendums and fantasies.

I just returned last night from an overnight road trip with Dick Rutgers to Rabinal, Guatemala. My daughters, Brittney and Krishauna, and two of Dicks boys, Alex and Brayan, came along as we headed up Tuesday morning to do a water filter distribution to about 25 families. When I travel with Dick it is always an adventure, and this time was no exception.

DSCF9817You see, most people think Dick is a level-headed missionary with maturity and restraint. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is especially bad when he is off his meds, as was apparently the case and demonstrated quite clearly by the accompanying picture. Imagine an 11 hour round trip with him as both navigator and driver and you can picture the terror.

DSCF9967I have come to realize that Dick is an evangelistic driver. If someone doesn’t know Jesus before they leave on a trip with him driving, they will by the time they return.  (Assuming they don’t see Him face-to-face.) Nothing will bring you closer to God than riding in a car on a single lane dirt road around blind curves doing 40 miles an hour. My prayer life bumped into high gear.

IMG00065-20121106-1658We arrived in Rabinal and checked into our motel. Motel is a kind description unless you put the word “roach” in front of it. Our first priority upon entering our rooms was to clean the mouse turds and cockroaches off our beds. Some of the rooms had water and one even had hot water. Mine had neither, but it was just as well since the shower was dirtier than I was. Motels in Guatemala have become a source for much laughter and amusement in our home and ministry as you never know just what you are going to get. On the bright side, we only had to pay Q. 60 a person (about $7.70), so it is worth the occasional bug and mouse dropping.

We were told upon check-in that we could not have keys to our room. Apparently they only had one key to each room and did not want to risk losing them. But they assured us that an elderly caretaker would be available to open our doors when we returned from supper.  He also assured us that he would sit in a chair outside our rooms and make sure our rooms were well protected. So, we packed up our computers and took them with us as we headed for supper.

stupid-criminals1We actually found a decent place to eat supper and had a good meal. Then we returned to our motel to discover that the caretaker was nowhere to be found and neither was the wireless modem that Dick had left sitting on his window ledge. We knew it was an inside job as his window that had been open (with a wire leading through it from the room to the modem) was now closed and latched from the inside. (We found all this after another lady from the hotel opened our doors for us.) After some frustrating moments Dick was struck by an idea. The modem has a battery back-up and we could trace it by its signal if they had just unplugged it without turning it off. Sure enough, he still had a signal that got very strong right outside the caretaker’s door. So, we called Julia, a wonderful lady in the area who had helped us arrange the distribution, and she and her husband, Luis, came over.

We all gathered around the caretakers room while they pounded on his door until he got out of bed and opened it. She explained that there was a chip inside the modem that allowed us (and the police) to track the modem and it showed that it was in his room. He mumbled that he didn’t take it but that his kids had brought something into his room earlier. He brought it to us wrapped in a plastic bag with the modem lights still shining through the plastic.

We saw him again the next morning as we headed out, but he would not speak to us or make eye contact. Interestingly, he was outside sweeping the dirt parking lot as we left. I considered telling him that he might want to think about doing some cleaning INSIDE the rooms, but decided to leave well enough alone.

DSCF9859We had a decent breakfast and met with Julia to head out for the first of two stops where distributions were planned. Most of the filters we gave out were provided by Living Waters Church in Hastings, MI. They provided 50 of these wonderful filters to Hope for Home almost a year and a half ago, and I have been giving them out sparingly, knowing that this area needed them so badly. Finally, after working for months to coordinate Dick’s, Julia’s and my schedule we were able to make it work. Dick also brought along five or six filters that were donated by a Rotary Club from Washington.

DSCF9882We did two distributions in the area and gave out 28 filters. At each location Dick demonstrated how to use and clean the filters and then set me up to share the Gospel. I then proceeded to explain that we were happy to give them the gift of clean water, but after drinking it they would become thirsty again. Then I shared the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well and invited them to receive the gift of Living Water that He offers after which they would never know spiritual thirst again. We then passed out Spanish Bibles along with the water filters.

I was truly blessed by the way we worked together as a team. Dick demonstrating the filters, me sharing the gospel, Alex, Brittney and Krishauna assembling filters and passing them out with the Bibles, and Brayan translating made everything flow smoothly. It was an incredible day of ministry.


I don’t know if anyone made a decision to follow Jesus that day. We do not do an invitation because we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to respond in return for the water filters. We did give them an opportunity to pray, but did not ask for them to indicate to us if they did so. However, there were three moments that touched my heart:

1) At one site, after distributing the filters and Bibles, I spotted a group of three ladies standing together reading and pointing out different things to one another in the Scriptures. I could not hear everything they were saying, but distinctly heard one woman excitedly say, “I’ve heard this story before!”

2) An elderly lady approached us and told us that she could not read but wanted to know if she could have a Bible anyway. She told us that her children could read it to her. Of course, we were more than thrilled to give it to her knowing that both she and her children would be exposed to God’s Word.

3) In another instance, we were driving out after the last distribution and passed a lady walking back to her home. She had her baby strapped on her back and her filter under one of her arms, and as she was walking she was reading her new Bible. That hunger for scripture stirred and humbled me.

I joke a lot and tease about Dick’s driving and bad motels, but I just want to get serious for a moment. I love what we do. I would gladly and joyfully stay in a thousand dumpy hotels and bounce a million miles of rutted roads to do this ministry. I am humbled and honored to work alongside people such as Dick, Brayan, Alex and two of my incredible daughters, Brittney and Krishauna. And I continue to be amazed that God gives me the privilege of sharing Him, as inadequately as I do. A flea ridden motel becomes a luxurious hotel when you are staying there for Him. Shoot, even Dick’s driving isn’t so bad as long as my Jesus rides with us!

Actually, even as I joke about Dicks driving, I should let you know how difficult it is to drive here. Lousy roads, narrow streets, buses, trucks, tuk tuks, and all kinds of traffic. And sometimes the traffic isn’t cars as demonstrated by this picture:


Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew