Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Faith That Matters

Most of the time when I blog I do so to share information with you, the reader. It is a way of giving you a glimpse into the work and ministry God has given us here and to keep you connected. However, there have been a few times, like today, that I write not because you need to read it, but because I need to write it. It is the equivalent of speaking a truth out-loud to remind yourself that it is true. So, bear with me.

down-market-graphToday started with me sitting down to manage the ministry finances. Emily Vance, our US office manager, does a fantastic job of managing our Stateside accounts, but I am responsible for managing our Guatemalan funds. As I finished making entries and generating reports I realized that Hogar de la Esperanza is out of money for the month. I know that there is only three more days in the month, but this is the first time that has happened since we moved to Guatemala. We have seen a steady erosion of our funds with the decreasing exchange rate and increasing gas prices, and we have had several additional expenses this month, including nearly $1000 in repairs to my 4-Runner. This all came together this month to wipe out our account. This was a sobering reality for me. (Note: Our sponsorship program account is healthy, so all children and families are receiving everything to which we committed.)

At the same time, I received the account reports of our US funds and realized that due to a recent decrease in giving and several large expenses, those accounts have been greatly diminished as well. It was a double whammy.

Upon seeing all of this, my mind immediately went into overdrive. I am a problem solver, so my first thought was about what we needed to cut. I went through our list of expenses to see what might be optional. I realized that there wasn’t much that IS optional. Rent, utilities, gas, salaries…none of these are negotiable. We are running on minimal staff (one full-time, two part-time, and one self-funded), so none can be cut. Everyone is serving a vital function. As far as utilities go, we are very controlling of the usage of lights and electricity and are careful with propane. With gas prices topping $5.00 a gallon, we are driving the bare minimum of miles.

So, my next thought was to wonder if I should start cutting back on our village ministry. With gas prices being so high, that would help.

IMG00604-20120328-1036As I was thinking about this, I was also in the process of driving to Las Palmas to pick-up Ponceano and his family to bring them to Hermano Pedro for an appointment. As God would have it, we arrived and immediately found out that Reina needed to come as well, so we rearranged the back cargo area so Gerardo could ride there and planned to head out immediately. But, it was not to be. Before I knew it, we were surrounded by people who were seeking assistance. Two under-nourished children, an elderly lady with very high blood-pressure and assorted others suddenly became a part of our schedule. And, as I met with each of them, my mind kept going back to our declining financial situation. I found myself seeing each person through the lens of how much it would cost to help them.

We left Las Palmas and headed to Siniquina, where Ponceano’s mother knew of a man in need of assistance. We had to stop and get directions at a church, and when we did the pastor asked us to also visit a lady from her church who was very sick. (Are you starting to see a pattern of how these trips grow and spread?) We visited the man, Luciano, first who has diabetes and has gone blind from it. He continues to deteriorate because he is not on insulin and believes it doesn’t help. We begged him and his wife to seek medical assistance immediately and get him on insulin.

IMG00606-20120328-1242From there we went to visit Elvia, a 37 year old lady who seems to be severely anemic, malnourished, and has a racing pulse and low oxygen saturation. The family is completely broke, with very little food, so we gave them money to get her to the doctor immediately.

We finally pulled into Antigua this afternoon, much later than I had planned. We got both Ponceano’s family and Reina settle in at Casa de Fe and scheduled to see doctors at 7:00 am tomorrow. Then we started our drive home.

Let’s pause for a second to allow you to guess what happened. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------That’s right, my 4-Runner overheated again.

Now, in the middle of all this I kept hearing God’s voice whispering to me persistently:

Do you trust me?

Of course I do, God! If not, I wouldn’t be here doing this!

Do you trust me?

Yes, God! I trust you! Just show me what I need to do to fix this!

Do you trust me?

Would you please stop asking me that?!? I trust you!

If you really trust me, then why are you considering cutting ministry in the face of this challenge? Since when does your bank account decide what I want you to do?

Man! I hate it when He does that! It was a woodshed moment of God’s loving discipline that hurt because I saw so clearly my own lack of true faith.

I suddenly realized that this is one of those moments when God is testing me to see what kind of faith I really have. Is it a faith that comes and goes with circumstances, or is it a faith that keeps me on course through the storms? Is it a faith made of wet cardboard or faith made of stainless steel? Is my faith insignificant or does my faith matter as more than just words?


  • The mechanic is on the way to our home to work on my 4-Runner…again. It is an essential tool of our ministry, so God will provide.
  • I will not make a single decision about who to help and who not to help based upon the finances we have (or do not have) in the bank. God is way bigger than that.
  • We will be frugal with our expenditures, but not cheap for God’s Kingdom.
  • We will do everything God asks us to do and trust Him for every penny we need.
  • And that is that.

Okay. I wrote-out these truths and now I feel better. Thanks for reading them. Feel free to hold me to each and every one.

For His Kingdom!


Update: We just received a call telling us that Elvia has full-blown AIDS. Please pray for her and her family as there is nothing we can do.

Thursday, March 22, 2012



“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”      

Revelation 22:20                       

Yesterday I sat in the home of Mauricio. He is a husband and father who had been in a motorcycle accident. His sister, Alba, is our friend and Spanish teacher, and since we were traveling up to his town, Guastatoya, to visit families she asked if we could visit him as well.

crazy doctorHe was returning from Guatemala City when he took a nasty spill on his motorcycle. The bike fell on his leg and he slid some distance. He was taken by ambulance to the national hospital in GC where they told him that they couldn’t X-ray or examine him because his leg was too swollen. (Are you kidding me?) So, he was sent home and told to return in three weeks when the swelling was down. (This has to be a joke, right? Sorry, but it’s not.) I walked in the room and took one look at his severely swollen leg and knew he had trouble. I placed my hand gently on it and he winced in pain as I felt the heat radiating off his leg.

After talking it over with his family, we decided to pay for him to go to a local private hospital for X-rays and an exam. Alba was with us, so she arranged for she and her parents to take him for the exam while we visited other families. They did so, and a little while later I received a text message from Alba explaining that he had a severe infection in his leg and needed to be hospitalized for two days so they could administer intravenous antibiotics. The cost? Q.2000.00 (about $265) plus an additional Q.500.00 ($66.00) for medicine. His entire family works hard and is struggling to survive. No one had that kind of money. Further, I didn’t have that much available to me, which meant I would need to make the three hour trip back on Friday and bring funds with me. (I had withdrawn Q.2000 from a cash machine to take care of the sponsored needs in the town. That is my daily ATM limit, so I could not withdraw more and my bank didn’t have a branch anywhere near the town.) In addition, this is not a budgeted expense, so we just don’t have the funds for it.

I sat and struggled with all these thoughts, along with others. When I thought about the necessary return to town two days later I was reminded of the Good Samaritan who cared for his neighbor, getting him help, and then coming back later to pay the balance, and I realized that we needed to do what was necessary to help.

So, we arranged for him to be admitted. Praise God, Ron and Melanie Ecklebarger were traveling with me and they were able to withdraw and loan me the money for the hospital (along with the assistance and support of Ron’s dad, Bob, back home in Pastores), saving us another expensive trip on Friday. I have since received word that the antibiotics are working and he is improving already.

I keep thinking, what if he had followed the instructions of the doctor at the national hospital? If he had waited, he would have suffered greatly and possibly faced an amputation. Of course, if left unchecked, it could have been fatal. I shake my head often at the medical system here. So many people die and suffer needlessly. A combination of incompetence in some doctors and a flood of needs that overwhelm the good doctors has created an ugly and very dangerous situation.

IMG00297-20120111-1157After that, we visited Carmen and her two daughters, Manuela and Marsela. When we arrived, we saw a lock on the outside of the metal hut. My first thought was the the landlord had evicted them since she is over a year behind on her rent. (She pays a king’s ransom of $45 a month for a tiny metal oven. A rip-off by Guatemalan standards and an unobtainable total for this single mom who has to stay at home to care for her two daughters with special needs.) However, we found out from a neighbor that she had just gone to gather firewood and had locked one of the daughters inside to keep her from wandering away. My heart broke as I thought of this young lady locked inside the metal shack on a 90 degree plus day. She spoke to us through a crack between the door and the wall and stuck her fingers through so we could touch her.

Please don’t jump to conclusions and assume this is an abusive and neglectful mom. She is not. She cares for her daughters and is doing her best. But imagine that you are an elderly mother and have to walk two kilometers for firewood that you need for cooking. You have two daughters that cannot be left alone outside because they might wander off. One of those daughters is difficult to control without having a hand free to hold her hand. How do you do it? How do you carry a heavy load of firewood while keeping her from wandering away or stepping out into the street in front of a car? I can honestly say that I don’t know how I would do it as a healthy, reasonably strong man. I certainly don’t know how a sickly 65 year old could do it.

And so, she did the only thing she knew to do. She locked her daughter in to keep her as safe as possible and hurried away to gather firewood as fast as possible. She isn’t a monster, she is a mother in the worst of circumstances.

Soon she and her daughters will be evicted. She owes $630 in back rent plus the $45 a month rent just to keep up. She can’t work because she has to care for her daughters. Soon, if her health continues to decline, she will die and leave Manuela and Marsela alone. If they are fortunate, they will be sent to a state-run institution (as opposed to being left alone to die). But if that happens, you and I do not want to see their future.

As I contemplated all of this, I was overwhelmed with sadness and desperation. I honestly don’t know what to do to help them. And, as I shed some tears, I said a simple prayer. “Lord Jesus, come quickly!”

There will come a day when suffering and oppression will end. Selfishness and materialism will be obliterated and replaced with love. There will be no need for doctors and crappy hospitals. There will be no more single moms struggling to care for their children. No more metal shacks on a hot sunny day with a young lady locked inside. No more disabilities. No more death. No more pain. No more oppression.

And so, this is my prayer:

Jesus, I really want that day to come soon! In fact, yesterday would be a great day for it to happen! But until that day, please help me be a little taste of Your Kingdom. Let me be Your love. Let me be Your justice. Let me be Your hope. Let me be Your healing and peace and mercy and hands and feet and so much more. And, please, let me do it in such a way that points to You and gives You all the glory. Because, after all, You are the King and it is Your Kingdom!

Amen and blessings from San Antonio Aguas Calientes.

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, March 19, 2012

Prayers Needed for Jorge

IMG00390-20120214-1540If you have followed my blog, you have read several times about Jorge from La Gomera. He is 14 years old and has Spina Bifida that has caused paralysis of his legs from mid-tibia down. He has also struggled with two severe bed sores, one on his buttocks and the other on his right foot. While the one on his buttocks has improved, we have not been able to make headway on the one that is on his heel. So we arranged for him to come to Hermano Pedro yesterday to be evaluated by a Faith in Practice team from the States that is doing surgeries this week.

Mid-afternoon we received a call from his mother who was sobbing. She explained that the doctor had recommended an amputation of his foot, and she had to make a decision within the hour. I asked to speak with the doctor who explained that his heel bone was almost completely eaten away and that the foot was actually holding Jorge back. He believes that if they amputate his foot and then provide him with a prosthesis and an AFO (ankle and foot orthotic/leg brace) for his his other foot that he could learn to walk. We spoke with his mother again, and she asked us to come in and help make the decision.

So we drove into Antigua where we fought the crowds caused by still another Easter procession. We arrived and found both Jorge and his mom in tears. We counseled them both to proceed with the surgery as we truly believe this will be best for Jorge in the long-term. His mother was ready to agree, but Jorge adamantly refused. He told us that if we forced him to do it he would kill himself. After further consultation with the doctor, we decided that it would be best to wait on the surgery. Jorge needs to own the decision and understand it better before the amputation. We explained to Jorge that it would have to be done sometime in the next year, so he needed to get ready for it, but we also let him know that he could have some time to prepare.

symes amputationThe surgery that the doctor wants to do it called a Syme’s Amutation. It involves removal of the foot and ankle joint and suturing the heel pad back underneath to provide cushion. This allows a prosthetic foot to be placed over the end, enabling him to wear normal shoes and, hopefully, develop a normal gate when walking.

The saddest part of the day is when his mother looked at me and said that I was the closest thing to a father that Jorge has. I love him and this broke my heart to hear. To think that I (a guy who visits once a month, delivers food, spends a half-hour with him and struggles to speak his language) am the strongest male presence in his life grieves me deeply. To see him struggling with the challenges of his disability and such a huge decision without a dad to walk with him makes me a combination of sad, angry and determined.

Please pray for Jorge and his mom. Please pray that God will give them courage and wisdom to make this important decision. And pray for peace for their family.

Thanks for caring about Jorge and the others we serve.

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Help Wanted

“He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” – Luke 10:2

First, I want to take a moment to apologize. Over the last couple of months this blog has suffered from a lack of care. My intent is to give weekly reports regarding the work we are doing and, in so doing, to make you feel a part of what is going on. Over the last eight weeks it has instead consisted of short spurts of information regarding a few specific situations instead of a comprehensive view of our work.

The reality is that days are long and the work-load is overwhelming. By the time my days are drawing to a close I just do not have a lot of energy left over for communication. And what I do have I feel the need to apply to my family. I have been realizing that I have neglected my wife and kids recently, and that needs to change. At the same time, your faithful prayers and support are important to us, and you deserve to know what is going on in our ministry and lives. So, please forgive my neglect.

DSCF6899There is a lot going on now. The Schwind family from Celina is working with us this week, and they have been a wonderful blessing. They have loved the kids at Hermano Pedro and Amor del Niño and have assisted us with our monthly food distribution and a trip to Las Palmas and La Gomera. On a couple of days I think we ran them ragged, yet I didn’t hear anything but positive attitudes coming from Tom and Beth and their three sons, Michael, Andrew and Wesley.

IMG00537-20120314-1207On our trip to Las Palmas and La Gomera we were once again overwhelmed by needs. The mother of an under-nourished girl sought our help along with the mother of a sick teenager. We were also asked for assistance in providing a wheelchair to an elderly stroke victim. Meanwhile, we spent time with all our normal families with which we work.

IMG00542-20120314-1524I was truly touched as we visited family after family that day. As we see them giving thanks to God for the assistance He has provided, I realized how blessed I am that He allows me to be a part of this work. Little Alicia and Alejandro are thriving now after both being in serious trouble for lack of medication. Reina is her bouncy and bubbly self after being near death with pneumonia and anemia. Jorge is doing wonderfully as his bed sores improve, and will soon be able to go without diapers due to medicine and catheter procedures that the urologist is providing. And the list goes on. In each case I realize that God led us to the person in need, provided wisdom and then provided the resources to help. All glory goes to Jesus Christ because it was all done in spite of us, not because of us.

IMG00428-20110511-1128We are also seeing steady improvement in Ponceano, and he is ready for the next step, which is tendon lengthening surgery on his legs. He was left handicapped after a high fever five years ago. Gradually he has lost range of motion in his legs. We have trained his parents to do stretches, but he still cannot fully straighten his legs. On Wednesday we will be driving back to his house to pick him up and take him to Hermano Pedro for evaluation. We are hoping that he will be put on a waiting list to see one of the Faith in Practice teams that come through from the States. We will then return him to his house on Thursday. Please pray for him.

As I share about the wonderful things God is doing, I am also feeling a strong burden. There are four people in four different villages that have requested our help, and I cannot find the time to go see them. I know that as soon as we start ministering to them in these new places we will be inundated with others from their towns who will want help. Currently we are not at the place where we can provide it. We simply do not have the manpower required.

IMG00343-20120127-1433I understand that not everyone is called to a foreign country to serve. The US is a mission field that needs to be reached as well, and some need to remain there in order to reach that culture. Others need to support and pray for those who do go to foreign fields. At the same time, as I look at the needs that surround us on a daily basis, I do believe there are many who God is calling that are not going. I see exhausted missionaries giving their all day-after-day and are still overwhelmed by the physical and spiritual needs around them. I do not believe that is the will of God.

IMG00295-20120111-1108I have talked to many who tell me that they would love to come and do what we do. I am always free to ask them, “Then why don’t you?” The answer is always something along the line of, “Well, I just can’t leave behind my life, career and home.” Really? So followers of a faith that is built on God leaving his heavenly home to come and redeem us would believe that they cannot leave their life in one country to serve that same God in another place? One of my other favorite excuses is, “But we couldn’t uproot our children. That would just be too hard on them.” Really? Do I even need to comment on that? We now have salvation because God allowed His only Son to be nailed to a cross, but he wouldn’t expect us to “uproot our kids?” (Of course, if God is calling and we follow we do not uproot our children, we give them roots that stretch into eternity.

great-commissionSo, I am asking you to pray with us as Jesus instructed us to pray in Luke 10:2. Ask Him to please send out workers to the harvest field, including Guatemala. And ask Him to open people’s ears and hearts so that they will hear the call and lay aside excuses that keep them away. There are an awful lot of lives depending on it, and an awful lot of souls standing on the brink of eternity and hanging in the balance.

That is all for now. Have a great weekend!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

PS – For more on this topic, visit one of my old blog posts by clicking here. But be prepared to be convicted as I have been every time I have read it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Special Praise

DSCF5466My 4-Runner is back in its loving home once again! After dealing with three mechanics who could not fix the problem, we have found one who could. In fact, workers number 2 and 3 returned the vehicle to me in worse shape than when it was brought to them.

Finally, Bob Ecklebarger told me about a mechanic that had been recommended to him who worked on their X-Terra. They were pleased, so we gave him a call. Jauquin came to our house, picked up the vehicle, did all the work, and returning it this afternoon. After five days of labor he charged me a total of Q.850 (about $110), including parts.

What also impressed me was that he returned the vehicle and explained everything that he had done. He also showed me several repairs that needed to be done soon and explained why the repairs were necessary. (I had asked my old mechanic to do the same thing two months ago, and he had told me everything was fine, even though these problems had been developing for some time.) So, I have an appointment to take it back on Thursday to have the rest of the repairs done.

I know that from an American perspective this may not seem like a big deal. However, as someone who relies heavily on a well-running vehicle in rough conditions, finding a mechanic that I can trust and depend upon is a huge praise.

Foto0334I also want to praise God that Luis Fernando’s mother, Ilda, safely delivered her baby boy. On Wednesday morning I woke up feeling a pressing concern for her and the baby, so I sent Gerardo up to check on her. He returned and told me that she was in a lot of pain and had been for 24 hours. Since she was one month early, we arranged for an appointment and drove her to an obstetrician in Antigua for an exam. He checked her, did a sonogram, and sent her straight to the hospital. Her son was born safely about 3 hours later, and he and mom are doing fine. I praise God for his prompting that led us to check on her and for the safe delivery in the hospital instead of in her home.

That is all for now. On Sunday evening we welcome another team from the States, so I still have a lot of work to do to prepare. Thanks for all your prayers and support!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew