Monday, February 18, 2013

Risk Assessment


Risk Assessement – the process of evaluating the risks of a proposed activity and weighing them against the potential benefits to determine if said action should be taken.

Recently the denomination in which I am ordained as a pastor covered a story in their monthly magazine. This story detailed the abduction and robbery of a pastor and five church members who were in Guatemala City on a short-term ministry trip. I have not seen or read the article and have only heard about it second-hand. What I have read is several messages written to me by concerned church leaders. The basic content of each of these messages is as follows:

“Have you seen this article and were you aware of the incident?”

“I am concerned, knowing that you host teams in Guatemala.”

“Is it safe to bring groups to Guatemala? Should you continue hosting teams?”

murderI have taken the time to respond to each of these messages respectfully and patiently. I have explained that the robbery occurred within a red zone (an area of Guatemala that is known for high gang and crime activity) and that, while we minister in some of those zones, we do not take teams unless all the members are adults who understand the risks and still want to go. I also explained that we take precautions to do all that we can to assure team safety. And, finally, I explain that no matter what we do, there are still risks involved. If a team comes to Guatemala there is a possibility of accidents, robbery, assault, abduction and even murder.

Of course, those same risks exist in the US on a trip to the local Wal-Mart. Granted, the risks are increased somewhat on a trip to Guatemala, but the reality is that our lives are in God’s hands. That is true whether we are serving Jesus in a foreign country or sitting on our sofa watching television. Right?

hungryWhen did Jesus’ call to lay down our lives and go and make disciples get distorted into the mindset that God wants us to be comfortable and safe? How does that reconcile with the Word of God and a world that is dying apart from Christ? Are those that live in high-risk areas less deserving of the opportunity to hear the Gospel? Perhaps we should just tell them to go to hell because God wants us to stay safe and would never ask us to put ourselves at risk.

I grew up going to church. I remember hearing over and over about great heroes of the faith who gave their lives to advance the Gospel. How is it that we somehow feel exempt from the same sacrifice?

I hear some who say, “Well, I am willing to put myself at risk, but not my family. As a father, God wants me to keep them safe.” Really? Do we really think that a God Who established our salvation through the sacrifice of His only Son would tell us that we should place our own family’s safety above the importance of taking that salvation to a dying world?

One of my favorite books is The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus. In it, he shares the following conversation with his son:

THE_BARBARIAN_WAYNot long ago Aaron asked me, “Dad, would you purposely put us in danger?”

“Yes,” I answered, “of course.”

Without blinking an eye his response was simply, “That’s what I thought. I was just making sure.”

Any good, Christ-following parent is willing to put his or her child in danger in order to do the will of God. Why? Because our highest call as parents is not to keep our children safe, but to teach them to follow Jesus wherever He leads, regardless of the risks. If we keep them safely cocooned but they enter adulthood following the safest path instead of God’s path, we have failed.

These risks that Christ calls us to extends beyond physical dangers into financial ones as well. There are numerous Christian financial counselors out there now that teach us to play things safe.

  • savings-piggybank- Make sure you have three months salary in savings in case you lose your job.
  • - Make sure you are investing wisely for retirement.
  • - Never make a purchase or commitment unless you have the money in advance. -

You get the idea. I am not saying that doing any of these things are wrong, in and of themselves. However, they can be. At times God calls us to step out in faith and trust Him for what we need. After all, that is what the spotless lamb as a sacrifice was all about. We are to give God our first and best, the sire of next years flock, and trust God to provide for the future. This does not mean that we run out and buy that big screen TV on credit or take out a loan for that boat we have been wanting, it means that we follow God’s call even when the money isn’t there.

Every month I find myself doing ministry that we cannot afford. Our regular giving just does not total enough for us to pay the bills. However, we lean on the promise of God that if we do what He asks us to do He will provide. And each month he does. But each month we realize that if God does not come through we will go under. We have invested almost everything we have in this ministry and have no safety net except God. No retirement. No health insurance. No property of our own. Our only insurance is Jesus, and He is enough.

Fulp8Meanwhile, on a regular basis my oldest daughters (ages 14-22) load up in a van and go do ministry on their own in Guatemala. Brittney and Krishauna are both preparing to move to a remote region of Guatemala to do special education. My daughter, Carissa, is currently living and ministering in Uganda as a single lady. Teisha is beginning school to prepare for her move to Guatemala to do the same. My family and I live as high-profile targets in a high-crime country. Risky? Sure, from the world’s perspective. Our non-Christian friends think we are crazy.

But there is another side to all of this…the benefits that make the risks worthwhile. The benefit of being in the center of God’s will and feeling that assurance every day. The benefit of seeing our pathetic little skills being amplified by God to do so much more than we could imagine. The benefit of seeing changed hearts and lives. The benefit of seeing God do the miraculous on a daily basis. All of these and so much more make the risks seem minor and insignificant.

I believe that fear is the greatest weapon of the enemy against Christ-followers. He stirs up fear in our hearts to make the risks seem greater than the benefits when the opposite is true. He causes us to fear the step of faith in order to keep our faith from growing when we see how God catches us and causes us to fly. Jesus sets us free while Satan seeks to ensnare us with fear.

stepAre you being called to the risky and dangerous? I would be willing to bet you are. That is just how God works. The real question is whether you will allow fear to keep you from all that God has for you. Are you afraid? If so, take heart…you are not alone. You stand with a lot of great God-followers who wrestled with their own demon of fear. Think about Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Nathan, Samuel, Peter, and a whole list of others who had to face their fears to see God move. And as you look at their stories ask yourself this question:

What would they have missed if they had allowed their fears to win?

Then ask:

What will I miss if I play it safe?

Just a few thoughts from someone who has to battle his own fears every day. Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl (Wanda and the Crew)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In an Instant

Last week I received an e-mail message from Pat Reynolds, a fellow missionary serving in Guatemala. She was looking for a wheelchair for a gentleman who lives in Panabajal Comalapa. I quickly responded and told her that I would be happy to go with her to meet him and measure him for a chair. So on Monday Gerardo, April and I met her and her husband Charlie in Tecpan and headed out to visit him.

IMG_0265We arrived and met Dionisio and his beautiful family. As we visited, he told us his story. A little over a year ago he went into Chimaltenango to do some banking. As he was leaving the bank, he was approached by two gunmen who demanded his wallet. He immediately complied, but once they had his wallet one of them said, “We think it is better if we just kill you.” They then shot him twice. One bullet went through his left lung, the other damaged his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

In an instant, his life and the lives of his wife and eight children were changed. His oldest son, age 14, has taken over his father’s work in the fields. He makes about Q.35 each day (about $4.50) and is the sole provider for his family. Dionisio is working hard at physical therapy, hoping to regain the use of his legs, but the prognosis is not good.

IMG_0266I have a sponsor for a wheelchair for him, but when I checked with both Hope Haven and Bethel I found that they were both out of the type of chair he needs. He is currently in a wheelchair that was provided by the Reynolds, but it has taken a beating over the last six months and needs to be replaced. Both Bethel and Hope Haven do not expect their next shipment for over a month.

Meanwhile, he is in need of catheter tubes and bags each month. These cost them Q.90 a month (almost $12). I would also like to provide a food basket for his family which will cost of $29 each month (our food costs have increased from the previous $25 expense). So if you would like to sponsor either or both of these needs, please write to me at

IMG_0268But sometimes one instance can make a huge difference for the better. On Monday evening we visited Ever Elisio and his family in Santa Isabel. Ever has autism and has been thrown out of several schools because of his hitting, kicking and biting. The teachers all thought he was just undisciplined and a "bad child”, but we recognized the signs right away. Thanks to a generous sponsor, we were able to arrange for him to start attending Los Gozosos’ school for children with special needs in Chimaltenango. He started in January. They agreed to accept him on a trial basis, so we were visiting to see how thing were going.

We were sitting in their home when Ever came bursting into the room. He had heard that the gringo was there and he wanted to show Gerardo and I his notebook from school. He sat down between us and laid his head on my shoulder as we told him how wonderful his work was. He beamed as I took his picture and told us repeatedly how much he liked school, his teachers and his homework.

IMG_0269This was so different from the Ever Elisio we had seen before. In the past, he shunned hugs and touches and seldom smiled or talked. His mother and father confirmed the tremendous improvements they have seen in him since he started at Los Gozosos. The joy in their eyes made my day.

This is the perfect time for me to take a moment to thank every one of you who sponsor one or more children. The difference you make in lives is incredible. I wish I could take each one of you to visit your child and see your impact first-hand. But since that is usually not possible, please accept my gratitude and the gratitude of the family you help as a poor substitute.

SAM_1918Another family that is being impacted by the body of Christ is Aura and her seven children. We have a sponsoring family that is providing food and diapers for her daughter, Katerine, each month. In addition, we recently hired Aura to clean one day a week for us and found some friends who hired her to do the same at their ministry. We also found a sponsor to pay for her oldest three daughters to go to Kairos Christian Schools special program for children who are behind in their education. They have been unable to attend school for years, so they have quite a bit of catching-up to do. Aura, thanks to the work she has, is now able to put her younger children back in the local public school, and a sponsor is going to provide their school supplies. In addition, our daughters are now picking up her four oldest daughters and taking them to youth group every Friday evening.

This family, who was abandoned by their husband and father in December, is having their hope restored thanks to the intervention of God’s people. Thank you so much to all of you who make this ministry possible and who are willing to follow God’s call to care for the least of these!

IMG_0235As I write this, little Lucia and her mother and uncle have come down from San Pablo to get neurological testing for her. I mentioned her last week because she is being racked by severe seizures and spasms that bends her spine backwards and make her unable to sit or even lie flat. She is in almost constant pain and is unable to sleep for more than brief periods. They stayed with us last night and we arranged for her to see the pediatrician this morning at Hermano Pedro because they need to get a referral from him for the neurologist. We are pulling every string to have them seen by the neurologist this afternoon, but are not sure he will be able to do so. If he can’t, we will have to send them back home and bring them back again in a couple of weeks.

Please pray that Lucia is able to see the neurologist this afternoon and that he will be able to provide relief for her.

That’s all for now. Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blowouts; Tires and Brains

Last Thursday, Gerardo and I along with my beautiful bride, Wanda, and my lovely daughters, Brittney and Krishauna, loaded up and headed up to the communities of San Pedro and San Pablo. We had actually started this journey the week before but turned around due to a leaking radiator and overheating (the 4-Runner, not me). My mechanic got it repaired, so we were heading out again.

DSCN6701The trip went uneventfully until we were starting to head down the mountain to the lake. Our windows were down and we were enjoying a cool breeze when I heard the disturbing sound of a blowout in my left rear tire. We pulled over to the side and Gerardo laid a branch in the road (the Guatemalan equivalent of a traffic cone) and we started to work.

DSCN6717I carry a tire plug kit and a battery powered compressor, but quickly determined that this tire could not be patched. There was a one-inch hole in the tread, and no plug would fill it. So we quickly set to work putting on the spare. Once we got the tire from underneath the vehicle, Gerardo noticed it was low on air, but I assured him we had the compressor and would inflate it once it was on the vehicle. So, we put it on and I started inflating the tire. After 15 minutes of trying I realized that I could not get it above 23 psi and wondered what the problem was. When I attempted to remove the compressor from the valve stem I found out. The entire metal valve assembly came out of the valve stem and air started spewing. My immediate response was to shove the valve back in and make the profound statement, “Well, that’s not good.” To which Gerardo responded in an equally profound manner, “No, it’s not.”

After some head scratching and thinking, I decided to shove the valve into the stem as far as it would go and hold it in place with pliers while re-inflating the tire to the maximum 23 psi. I then carefully used Gorilla Tape (duct tape on steroids) to tape the valve to the valve stem. We then drove gently (as gently as Guatemalan roads and potholes allow) until we found a pinchazo (tire repair shop) where they replaced the valve stem and inflated the tire to the proper psi. Whew! Four new tires are in the near future.

clip_image001We rolled into San Pedro much later than expected and settle in at Pastor Antonio’s house for the night. After quick supper and a refreshing shower to wash off the dust and grime from our tire adventure, we headed to bed.

The next morning we headed back over to San Pablo where we met up with Dick Rutgers and two of his boys. After my last trip to the lake I had contacted him clip_image001[4]about seating a teenager girl, Apolonia, in a wheelchair. When we met her I saw how twisted her back was and I quickly decided that this was a job for Dick. Her chair required carving out a special foam back and my skills and knowledge wasn’t nearly sufficient. So, we all went to her home, picked up Apolonia and her sister, and took them over to Pastor Antonio’s church where they would have room to work.

Dick spent a couple of hours getting just the right fit for her. She still requires a few adjustments and some added parts, so Dick will be visiting again in a month, but for now she is sitting pretty. Thanks, Dick, for getting her this chair and doing such a great job of seating her! (It’s much easier to be complimentary of Dick when I am driving my own vehicle and not subject to his death-defying driving.)

While Dick was seating Apolonia, we started visiting families with a young man named Michel. Through a God appointment we met him during our last trip to the area and found out that he knows almost everyone in San Pablo. He also knows a lot of families who have children with special needs. So, he had nine families he wanted us to visit and evaluate.

We got off to a rough start at the first two homes we visited, and the reason was the same for both families. Apparently there had been a few groups of Americans who had come through and visited them, promising them long term help. And, in each case, no help ever came. As a result, both families told us that they weren’t sure we were really going to help. The mother of one little girl who needs a wheelchair and has been on the receiving end of several such broken promises told us, “If you are really here to help, God bless you. If you are not, God forgive you.”

I have always known it is important that we keep our word, but that was driven home in a very real way during this trip. We represent a God of truth who always keeps His promises. As a result, we must always speak the truth and keep our promises. That means being careful what we promise and following-through when we do.

After we got past their initial concerns and explained that we were there to help, they began to open up to us. It helped when we explained to them that Wanda and I have two children with special needs. That seems to instantly create a bond of trust and camaraderie. But even as they became more open, communication was still difficult because most of the people in that area speak Tz’utujil, not Spanish. And, since my Spanish is still weak, I would speak…Gerardo would translate to Spanish…Michel would translate to Tz’utujil…the family would speak…Michel would translate back to Spanish… and (if I did not understand the Spanish) Gerardo would translate it to English. Whew! That lengthened our visits considerably.

IMG_0226First we visited with Mariano, a 14 year old with learning disabilities. Their story was heartbreaking. Last month their seven month old daughter died for lack of medical care. She had a heart condition, so they took her to a clinic that specializes in hearts and works with low-income families. Unfortunately, someone who does not like their family told the clinic that they were rich and could afford to pay for the treatment, so the clinic would not treat her. She died soon after. They told us this story with tears in their eyes as we sat in their home made of mud bricks and bamboo with a mud floor. The father makes a total of Q.500 ($64) a month that he uses to support his household of 10 people. And because of this, combined with oppression and lies, their daughter died.

IMG_0228Mariano’s family was interested in arranging special education for him because he had not been doing well in regular schools, but as we talked we discovered some greater concerns. On a regular basis he has vision problems in which his sight “goes dark” and he is unable to see. These episodes are almost always accompanied by severe headaches behind his one eye and extending up to his forehead. These can be signs of serious neurological issues, so we decided that we needed to arrange for him to see a neurologist. We gave them money for bus fare and arranged for them to come to Antigua to see the neurologist in Hermano Pedro.

They arrived in Chimaltenango yesterday and we picked them up and took them to the home of friends in Antigua. They provided meals and lodging for them last night and this morning and picked them up at 6:30 am to take them to HP. My friend, Xiamara, who works in Hermano Pedro arranged to have a number waiting for us so that they did not have to wait a long time to see the pediatrician, from which they had to get a referral. After seeing the doctor they were referred to the neurologist, so they went to his office and waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually the receptionist told them that he had left early and they would need to make an appointment for another day. Sigh. We had brought Mariano all the way down to Antigua because they assured us that he attended patients on Monday through Thursday, but we had to return them home without seeing the neurologist because he decided to leave early. I wish I could tell you that this is rare here, but it is not. We now have an appointment for him on February 19, and we will repeat the whole process again.

IMG_0231The next home we visited had a beautiful little girl named Maria. This nine year old has cerebral palsy, club feet, and an infectious smile and laugh that stole our hearts right away. Once we got past the initial trust issues, her mother, Concepción, warmed up and opened up. Their struggles have been severe over the years, but she loves her daughter deeply. Her greatest desire and need is for a wheelchair for Maria, but is unable to afford one. I mentioned earlier that we are careful in what we promise, but this is a promise that I made…we will get Maria a wheelchair and deliver it by the first week in March, whether we find a sponsor or not. I would also like to provide their family with a monthly food basket and diapers. If you would be willing to sponsor Maria for the cost of a custom chair ($200) or for the monthly food and diapers ($35 a month) please e-mail me at

IMG_0234Next we visited Pablo, a 10 year old boy who suffers from seizures and cognitive delays and is deaf. His seizures have been worsening in the last few months and, as a result, he is regressing in development. His story, along with the next two families, highlight the incredible lack of healthcare for the typical Guatemalan family. In the US, when a person is diagnosed with a seizure disorders they are scheduled for regular neurological appointments to assure that their seizures remain under control. Through regular EEG’s, seizure activity is often diagnosed before it is observed and medication is changed or increased. In Guatemala, most families cannot afford that kind of follow-up or testing. Even when the seizures get severe families cannot afford to pay for a neurologist appointment and EEG, so they are powerless to stop them.

So, once again, we arranged for another person to come to Antigua for neurological evaluation. His dad is planning to bring him next week.

IMG_0235The next situation was another heart-breaking one. Little Lucia is seven and has severe CP. Until three months ago she could sit and lie down peacefully, but that all changed when she had a series of very severe seizures that left her muscle tone extremely high. As a result, her back is now arched backwards and she can no longer even lie flat on a bed. She is in pain and does not sleep well as her muscles are constantly seizing. Her mother kept crying as she talked to us. Like Pablo, the lack of neurological care had brought her to this state.

And you know the rest of the story. We arranged for her to come to Antigua to see the doctor at HP and hopefully receive treatment to ease her suffering.

IMG_0236The last person we visited was Ana, a 28 year old with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Until 10 months ago, she could walk and talk. We found her curled in a ball and unresponsive on a hammock. Her muscles were seized tightly and she would occasionally cry out in pain. Like the previous children, she suffered a series of severe seizures last year that left her in this state. Her family felt powerless to stop the them and help her suffering.

So, yet again, we arranged for her brother and mother to bring her to HP to see the neurologist. Are you seeing a pattern here?

By this time we were all wiped out and the five visits had taken far longer than we had planned. As a result, we told Michel that we would visit the other four families next month and we loaded up and headed for home.

As I drove, I had time to think, which is usually a bad thing. And here is what I thought:

Confused Man in Front of Math Formula Written on a ChalkboardEach time we made arrangements for a trip to HP we provided them with Q.100 to cover the bus fare to Chimaltenango. To make it easier on the families, we drive there and meet them, drive them back to Antigua and take them to the family that lodges and feeds them. For a one night stay we give the family Q.150 for two people or Q.200 for three people. We then pay for their doctor’s visit and neurological visit, provide them with lunch, and then pay for their tests which usually run Q.300-1000, depending on the tests that are ordered. Then we give them money for the return trip on the bus. So, as I was arranging for these visits, my mind was keeping a running tab. The average cost per family is Q1200.00 ($154.00) times 4 families equals Q.4800.00 ($616.00). (Okay, I don’t do math real well in my head, so what I actually thought was, “Four families times a lot equals a whole lot!”) And I felt worry began to creep in as we drove back home.

When I returned home I found messages from PayPal notifying me of three unexpected donations. Their combined total was $900.00. And God playfully slapped me on the back of my head and said, “Dude, I’ve got your back!” (Okay, I elaborated a little with the use of the word “dude” and the California surfer accent. But He did, indeed, let me know that my back was covered.)

And so, this toddler continues to learn more and more about the faithfulness of God and the resources of heaven. Please join me in praying for each of these families and asking Him to help us to faithfully keep our promises.

Blessings from San Antonio Aguas Calientes!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew