Friday, May 17, 2013

Thousands of Words…In Pictures

Life is full, time is short, and often pictures are way better than my feeble words. So this week I will let pictures do most of the talking as I tell you about our week.

But first, if you have sent me an e-mail in the last several weeks to which you are awaiting a response, don’t count on it. On Monday our ministry transitioned to a new e-mail service provider to lower costs and increase efficiency. In the process of synchronizing my Outlook with the new service, all my old e-mails were obliterated. (I guess that is one way to clear out my inbox, eh?) So, if you are one of the many who wrote to me recently and have not received an answer, please resend your message. Thanks!


We rounded out last week with several visits to families in remote locations. One of which was Rufino and his father way up the mountain in San Mateo. We were pleased to find that his horrible skin condition is improving under the treatment of the dermatologist. His father was so grateful for help he is receiving.



On Monday, my good friend Jeff Stagnaro arrived with a team that he is leading from Ohio. On Tuesday we started their trip off right with time at Hermano Pedro and lunch with some of the guys and girls. We all had a great time, but it seemed that Elmer and Willie enjoyed it most of all.


On Wednesday morning the team did the weighing, sorting and packing of the food for our monthly distribution. This month we purchased over 1000 lbs of food for families.



The rest of the day was spent doing the local distribution in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, San Miguel, San Pedro Las Huertas and San Juan del Obispo. Because this job gets bigger each month, we have divided the work between two teams with April and Gerardo leading one and Daniel and me leading the other. This has lessened my load tremendously.



Yesterday was a long day with a lot of driving as Jeff and his son, Jamie, joined Daniel and me on a trip to three different villages. We started in Las Palmas, then traveled to Nueva Concepción where we delivered a new wheelchair to Jorge, and finally ended in La Gomera. We had a great day of ministry while the rest of the team worked at Hermano Pedro Refugio and the feeding program, Paso a Paso, in our town. (I have no photos of their experiences since I was not there.)


As we were driving into Nueva Concepción, we came upon a large crowd of people gathered around a yard. We wondered what was going on until we saw the crime scene tape surrounding the yard and the body covered by a sheet. I don’t know exactly what happened, but it was obviously violence of some kind. This kind of scene is not uncommon in Guatemala.


Speaking of crime…one of my partners in ministry, Daniel Lopez, was robbed at knife-point just up the street from our house on Wednesday night. He was walking home from our house when two guys on a motorcycle pulled up, pulled a knife and demanded his wallet. They told him that they also had a gun, but never showed it. He gave them his wallet and they drove away. Praise God that Daniel is okay! They ended up using his bank card to buy about Q1030 ($130) worth of stuff before the bank opened the next day and he cancelled his card. On the bright side, I just received a call from him 10 minutes ago telling me that he got his wallet back, minus the bank card, so he at least has his license and DPI card back.



This morning the team headed up to Santa Maria de Jesus to working in the feeding program there. Meanwhile, Daniel and I headed to Chixolis to deliver a wheelchair to Jessica. It was wonderful to get her out of the ratty old chair she was in and into one that will help her sit straight and more comfortably. Jessica was all smiles as she enjoyed her first ride. Special thanks to Todd and Amy Block and their ministry, Village of Hope, for introducing us to this wonderful family!


Meanwhile, back on the home front, Joshua and Kimmie recently received new braces. Thanks to a wonderful man, Marvin Gramajo, who does all the braces for our ministry at cost, we were able to get them for $193 a pair. This is a far better price than the $2000 we were charged in the states.

Well, that is enough pictures and words for now. Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Screw-ups and God’s Grace

When I mess-up, I tend to mess-up big. Case in point, in my last blog I wrote about moving Jan and his family to our town from Guastatoya so that his mom, Claudia, could work in our group home. Now, a mere nine days later, we are planning to move them back to Guastatoya. It only took a few days for us to figure out that she was not a good fit for the work we needed her to do. That, combined with a few other frustrations, has caused us to make the decision to end our working relationship with her and move her and her family back to Guastatoya. I will not go into the details why, out of respect for privacy, but will just say that we feel that there is no other option.

I can honestly say that I made the original decision with the best of intentions. We really wanted to help Claudia and her family out of a difficult situation. Working in our home would have freed her to be employed and bring Jan with her, thus providing a steady income for their family. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. However, I realize now that I made the decision too quickly without taking time to pray and seek God’s guidance. I should know better by now, but I blew it big time. And it has now blow-up in my face. I accept full responsibility for this.

money-down-the-drainYesterday, when I made the decision to let her go, I really struggled with the money that had been wasted on the entire process. When all is said and done, we will have spent nearly $600 on moving her down, getting her settled and then moving her back north again. As someone who works with families in incredible need, I cringe at the wasting of resources. In addition, I feel a personal responsibility to those who financially support this ministry. I take that responsibility seriously, knowing that many of you sacrifice each month to support this ministry. That is why Wanda and I have talked and decided that we will personally reimburse the ministry for these expenses. The decision was mine, so the consequences of that bad decision should rest on me, not on the financial supporters of this ministry.

SAM_1918On the bright side, we have contacted Aura who, until recently, worked for us one day each week doing cleaning. She left us because she was offered a full-time job in Guatemala City and needed to better provide for her family. However, this new job requires her to live in the city and only come home to be with her girls every other weekend. She had been a faithful and dependable worker for us who went above and beyond in doing any task we asked of her, and we were sad to see her go. So, when we realized that Claudia would not work out, we immediately contacted Aura and offered her full-time work. She will be heading back home to be with her daughters, praise God! She will begin working for us full time at the end of this week. We already know that she will be a good fit for our home, because she fit so well before. We are glad to have her as a part of our growing team.

The reason why staffing is so important is because we just received word yesterday that we should be receiving the licensing for our group home in the next two or three weeks!!! After two-and-a-half years of working toward this goal, it is about to become reality. Our social worker, Edy Tum, will be coming on staff on May 15 to meet the final requirement for opening our home. We will then be hosting a reception for Guatemalan judges who are responsible for placing children. We want them to see that we are a good facility that is a safe place for placing children with special needs. By mid-June we should be receiving children, praise God!

Please pray with us for God’s provision. As I have already mentioned, the operating expenses for our ministry will increase by nearly $1000 a month on the day we receive our license. We are confident of God’s provision, but we seek Him in prayer and ask you to do the same.

IMG_1142Meanwhile, our ministry to children outside our home continues. Yesterday we took Rufino to his appointment with a dermatologist in Guatemala City. You might recall that he is 23 years old and has a horrible skin condition that affects his entire body. He is also cognitively delayed and has twisted joints in his fingers and toes. I am very happy that we found an excellent doctor to treat him who is kind, patient and thorough. He is also a very accomplished doctor who leads seminars in the US. That made it all the more surprising when he announced that he had never encountered a syndrome like what Rufino has. He has asked for time to do some research and consult with other doctors. Meanwhile, he prescribed eye drops for a nasty eye infection along with a special cream to hydrate the skin.


He also told us that due to the rareness of the condition he could likely arrange for free treatment at a research hospital. He informed us, though, that he wants to proceed slowly to make sure that we do what is best for Rufino. He does not want to traumatize him with a hospital stay unless it is absolutely necessary.

Last week we were once again in San Pablo La Laguna. Each month our ministry there grows. We seem to be encountering a high percentage of seizure disorders in that region, and I have to wonder if there is some kind of environmental factor that is contributing to this high occurrence rate. We are arranging to have both Marta Delores (age 6) and Billy (age 14) come into Antigua for a neurological assessment. Unfortunately, the earliest we could arrange appointments were in July.


IMG_1108We also found a little guy name Michael. He is 3 years old and has Down Syndrome. His mother is 19 years old had has been abandoned by both Michael’s father and her parents. She lives alone and had no food in the house. The two of them sleep on the floor as they have no bed. She takes him for free physical therapy at a local school, but the chicken bus costs her Q100 each month to do so. Due to poverty, Michael is struggling with gaining weight as he should. He is currently unable to walk, but we hope to provide him with a walker to assist his development. We left them a box of Kids Against Hunger Food and promised more assistance by the end of this month. We need to find a sponsor to cover a food basket, and the cost of their chicken bus to and from therapy. The monthly cost would be $40 for all of this. We would also love to find a sponsor who would provide a bed and mattress for $100.00. If you feel led by God to help, please contact me at

I have more than my share of screw-ups and failures, but God’s grace continues to cover both this ministry and me. This simply shows that He is the source of all good things, not me. (Thank you, God!)  Because of that, I can breath a sigh of relief while shaking my head at my own mistakes.

That is all for now! Blessings from San Antonio Aguas Calientes!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Calls Keep Coming

IMG-20130429-00117On Monday we were up bright and early and headed to Guastatoya. It was moving day for Jan and his mom, Claudia, and his three sisters, Katy, Angie and Alison. We hired a truck and two helpers to assist with the move, and I am very glad we did.

IMG-20130429-00114When we arrived at their home we found three very excited little girls who greeted us with hugs and kisses. We then began the process of moving all their possession down a steep and perilous set of steps to the truck. Because of the excellent helpers we were able to finish the loading by noon and head for home by 1:30.

IMG-20130429-00119Of course, there are always snags, and there was that day as well. The landlord of their new house was supposed to be in town no later than 4:00, but we ended up waiting…and waiting… with a truck that needed to be unloaded. He finally showed up at 5:00 and we began the tiring process of moving them into their home. Unfortunately, the street they live on is narrow and steep and the truck was only able to make it about half way up. So, we had to carry everything about 100 yards up the hill. But we eventually got everything inside and beds set up. Our family then delivered supper to them so they would not have to worry about a meal.

Around that time, reality began to set in for Claudia. She suddenly realized that she was three hours from home in a strange community. To make matter worse, it began to rain (one of the first showers of rainy season) and the temperature was very cool. They went from a humid 90 degrees in the morning to a rainy 55 that evening. As a mother, she looked a little shell-shocked. We spent time visiting and encouraging her, and she seemed better by the time we left for the evening.

The next morning Gerardo met them at their home and walked them to Katy and Angie’s new school where they had a great first day. Their whole family came to our house last night for dinner and both of them were excitedly chattering about all their new friends.

Please pray for their family. We are trying to help them all make new friends and feel at home in the community. Claudia begins working full-time in our home on Monday.

Meanwhile, word of our ministry continues to spread. Since we are a unique ministry that serves the community of children with special needs we are receiving a lot of calls. Some are from friends who are missionaries who find families in need of assistance. Others are from strangers who have heard of our work. But, regardless of the source, the calls keep coming.

Yesterday we went to assess three new families. I expected it to be an easy day. After all, what’s so hard about visiting three families? However, it ended up being quite exhausting.

IMG_1060Our first stop was at the home of Jenifer. We had received a message from our friends, Todd and Amy Block, who have been ministering to her and her family. They wanted to know if we could assist with getting her a wheelchair. They live in the community of Chixolis (say that 5 times fast) and Jenifer has cerebral palsy.

The first thing you notice about Jenifer is not her disability, but her infectious smile. She lit up the courtyard as we entered and smiled through most of our visit. She is the kind of person that makes you feel good just by being next to you. I took measurements for a new chair and then took the time to install a seat belt on her beat-up old chair so she would not keep sliding down. The Blocks had already found a sponsor for her chair, so I hope to deliver it in the next couple of weeks.

IMG-20130430-00125The streets in Chixolis are unique. They have paving stones, so the roads are not rough, but they are very narrow with no place to park. The problem is lessened somewhat because it is a poor community and most do not have vehicles. But it does create some parking challenges. Sometimes you need a 4-wheel drive just to park in Guatemala.

From there Daniel took me to the community of San Mateo, which was another adventure. The roads leading up the mountain are steep and curvy, and I was once again thankful for my 4-Runner. About 1/4 of the way up, we pasIMG_1065sed an elderly man slowly walking up the mountain with a heavy load on his back. We stopped and offered him a ride and he gratefully accepted. When Daniel and I placed his load in the back of the truck we both looked at one another in astonishment. This 65 year old man was carrying a 75 pound load on a two mile journey up a mountain that would have exhausted me, even without the load.

When we finally arrived at our destination, I once again had to use my 4-wheel drive to park. We exited the vehicle and walked about another 1/4 mile up a narrow path. Thankfully, the people who live back the trail had done a good job of keeping the brush chopped back and the path maintained.

IMG_1062Finally we arrived at the home of Rufino. He is 23 years old and I believe he has Down Syndrome. However, it was hard to tell because he also has one of the worst skin conditions I have ever seen. The skin covering his entire body is hard and cracked, and I cannot imagine his suffering. But that does not keep him from being happy and affectionate. I barely had a chance to say hello before he had wrapped me in a warm hug. The entire time we were there he just wanted to be close to us.

IMG_1063Rufino’s mother had abandoned him as a baby when she discovered his disabilities, so his father has raised him alone. We spent time visiting with him and decided to come back later because his father was working in the fields. But as we were driving back down the mountain we passed his father riding their donkey back to their house. We stopped and visited for a while and arranged to come back on Monday. We need to find a dermatologist and arrange to transport them both to an appointment in the city for treatment.

The cost for a good dermatologist is Q300.00 (about $40) plus the cost of transportation (about $20). Would someone be willing to give a one-time gift of $60 to cover the cost of this appointment? If so, e-mail me at

Our last stop was to visit a little guy named Nelson. He and his mom live in Jocotenango, which is a town that borders Antigua. For this last stop, I anticipated good roads, but was wrong. I did not realize this, but Joco extends for a couple of miles out to the north to include some very rural areas. So, we once again found ourselves bouncing on bumpy dirt roads.

IMG_1072When we arrived at Nelson’s home we found an adorable little two year old with a great laugh. He has cerebral palsy and needs good physical therapy. His father is not involved in his life, but a judge has ordered that he needs to contribute to Nelson’s care. So he is providing insurance through his employment (a national program that large businesses provide). The insurance is not very good, so it only covers one 20-minute session each week in Guatemala City. His mother takes him on three different chicken buses for a journey that takes almost three hours round trip to receive those 20 minutes of therapy.

We can provide him with one hour of therapy each week in Antigua for only $23 a month. This will be done by a quality therapist who will also work with his mom to teach her to do therapy with him at home. I am confident that she will follow through because she has already displayed her commitment through her weekly trips to the city.

If there is someone who would be willing to sponsor Nelson each month for the cost of this therapy, please contact me at the e-mail address listed above.

In two hours I will once again be hitting the road for San Pablo La Laguna. Prayers for our traveling and ministry are appreciated as we have a full schedule over the next two days.

Blessings from Guatemala!