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)