Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Malnutrition and Medicine

Note: Recently I have been doing a lot of writing about our group home, Hogar de la Esperanza. Obviously, that has been where a lot of my focus has been over the last two months. That may leave the impression that nothing has been happening in our rural village ministry, but nothing could be further from the truth. Dale Beyer has been gradually assuming more responsibilities in that area of ministry to enable me to focus on our growing home. You will be seeing me share his updates regarding that ministry in the near future, and your prayers and support of that ministry is still very much needed.

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity in our home. About 10 days ago we received a call from a judge in Jalapa asking if we would take three children, a brother and sister and another little girl who all have cerebral palsy. After discussion it was decided that we would accept the brother and sister and, given a couple of weeks for adjustment, would accept the other little girl as well. Last Tuesday the judge called back and asked if we would take the sister and the other little girl because she felt the were both in the worst condition. We agreed, so on Wednesday morning we headed out bright and early to pick them up.

In my last blog I told you about the corruption in the judicial system and a couple of very bad judges we encountered. I am very pleased to say that this judge has been wonderful and has worked great with us. She knew we were driving a long distance, so she arranged for workers to transport the children two hours toward us and meet us in the town of Comapa. We were pleased to find the children and the proper paperwork waiting for us when we arrived.

Unfortunately, what we found were two little girls who were in trouble. Let me introduce you to them:

SAM_4580Thania (pronounced Tanya) is 13 years old. Due to malnutrition she is the height of a normal three year old and only weighs 19 pounds. Her teeth are rotting and she has regular seizures. We also quickly realized that she has hip dysplasia (both hips pop completely out of joint when her legs are straightened). Our son, Joshua, had this condition, though not as severe, and he required two major surgeries and eight weeks in a spica cast to correct it.

All of this, and more, cause her to be a very fussy and needy child, requiring a lot of care. One of the challenges is getting her to eat. Because of her long-term malnutrition, she has very little appetite, and we have to work hard to coax her to eat. She tolerates very little food in a sitting, so she has to be fed frequently. And we have found that she is very difficult to comfort.

Our doctor has seen her and ordered quite a few tests. Today our Neurologist examined her and ordered more tests. We anticipate that the total costs of appointments and tests will top $400.00 US, and that does not include treatment an surgeries. Please pray for God’s provision and for this precious little girl.

SAM_4737The other little girl that was added to our home that day is Angelita (little angel). She is seven years old, but due to malnutrition the size 18 month clothes we are dressing her in are too big. When we picked her up we were told that she did not suffer from seizures. We quickly determined how incorrect that was as we realized that she was in an almost constant state of seizuring. She, too, is struggling to eat and we are working hard to get nutritional food and formula into her.

She has now been seen by both our doctor and neurologist and has been placed on anti-seizure medication. We are already seeing an improvement, but she still has a long road ahead. Once she is gaining weight and seems to be stable, we will need to get her to the dentist. All of her teeth have rotted away to the roots.

I confess, this is one of those times that I feel overwhelmed. The road to recovery for both of these little girls will be both long and expensive. And it would be easy to fall into despair regarding both their condition and our finances. But God keeps reminding me of something important. He loves them both, far more than I ever could, and He is with them. He also reminds me that the money we are spending is not on big TV’s, expensive clothes or luxury items. We are spending money providing care and attention to His children. Do I really think that God will not give us what we need to take care of them? Of course He will.

One of my favorite quotes is by Hudson Taylor who said this:

“God’s work done in God’s way never lacks God’s supply.”

We are relying heavily on this scripture-based truth these days.

SAM_4769On a much lighter note, Friday was a big event for our home. We loaded up our vehicles and transported the childre to the Zoo in Guatemala City for a special day out together. Thanks to a big discount given by the Zoo to homes such as ours, we were able to get admission for the children for only Q.5 each (about 62 cents). We met Krishauna there, and she had the 13 boys from Casa Samuel (the house she work in at Casa Bernabe) along with the house parents and volunteers. This brought us to a grand total of 25 children and 9 adults who enjoyed the day together. (We were pushing 6 wheelchairs and 2 strollers as a part of the procession.)SAM_4825

What a great day we had enjoying the animals and one another. Almost all the kids were well behaved and had a wonderful time. And, I will admit, every adult was exhausted by day’s end.

As we were preparing to leave that morning I suddenly realized something important. Most of the children who are in our group home have never had an outing like this. Almost all of them come from extreme poverty and have not seen life outside of their own little towns until now. It was exciting to see their faces as they took in the sights throughout the day, and I feel so humbled and amazed that God lets me be a part of things like this.

So, I will end with a few pictures below of our special day. Thanks so much for you prayers and support of this ministry! We could not do it without you!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew




Monday, October 21, 2013

Corruption and Arrest Warrants

When we moved to Guatemala to open this ministry and group home for children with special needs we knew we would face corruption in both the government agencies and courts. We thought we were prepared for it, but nothing could have prepared us for what we have faced in the last week.

SAM_4440Two weeks ago we received a call seeking to place a 10 year old boy with cognitive delays. When we questioned them further, we realized that the needs of this child were not severe, so we told them no. We have been trying to save space in our home for those who are hardest to place. Then, last week, we received another call for a 10 year old boy who had cerebral palsy and cognitive delays. We told them we would take him. About an hour later they called back and told us that he had three younger siblings without special needs and they wanted to keep them all together. While we did not want to see them split up, we told them that we could not accept them all because we could not fill up our home with children who do not have special needs. After a lot of back and forth, they told us they would just send the 10 year old.

SAM_4444Later that evening Brayan arrived in our home. The first thing I realized was that he did not have cerebral palsy. The second realization came when I discovered that he was the same child they had called us about the week before. The courts had lied to us, knowing that we would not accept him otherwise. Finally, I discovered that he had no little siblings. The court was just lying, trying to find a placement for three other children. Having said that, we have welcomed Brayan into our home and love him dearly. We believe that God uses even the wickedness of men to accomplish His purposes and has done so with Brayan.

SAM_4322The next day we went to the city with Alejandra for her first audience before the courts since her placement. We had gone last month, but had been turned away because the judge did not come in to work. Apparently it was her birthday. We had a wonderful meeting with the judge who raved about the care we were giving Alejandra. She told us, with tears in her eyes, that she had already progressed beyond what she believed was possible. The court psychologist also praised the care we are providing, telling us that she usually has a long list of recommendations to give, but we were doing everything we needed to do and more. We went away feeling really good about our home and the work we are doing.

Later that afternoon we received a call from another court in Guatemala City. They had three siblings (supposedly) that all had special needs, and they wanted to know if we would take them. All of the children were older than our profile, and we were concerned about bringing them into our home all at once. The court would not provide additional information on their needs, so we told them we could not accept them. (We have a couple of very fragile children in our home, and we were especially concerned about one of the children that we feared would endanger them.) A little while later the judge called Daniel and asked him if we would accept them for three or four days. I know how that works…they place the children in our home with no plans of moving them. Once that happens, they will be here long term, regardless of the promises made in advance. So, we told them no.

angry-frustrated-businessman-with-exploding-headAt this point, the judge became angry and began yelling at Daniel. I understand the pressure that they are under to place children, so I allow them understanding. But this judge cursed at Daniel, said bad things about us and our home, and threatened to issue an arrest warrant on me. Needless to say, by the time the conversation was over Daniel was stressed and frustrated.

This is the frustration we face in dealing with many of the judges. We moved here, opened this home at great expense, jumping through all of their hoops and meeting every requirement. We receive no government funds for our home, paying for every expense through the faithfulness of our supporters. Yet we are often treated like trash by those who depend on us.

I wish I could say that this is an isolated incident, but it is not. Just today we received calls seeking placement for four children, a brother and sister, a little girl, and a little boy. We received a call about three of the children and we agreed to take them all. (We hope to receive one of them this week and the other two in another two weeks.) It was right after that the call came from Guatemala City for the fourth child. Because we had just agreed to accept the other three, we originally told them no. But, after further consideration, we decided to call them back and tell them we would accept the child. The lady became angry at Daniel, yelling at him and saying horrible things about our home and hung up on him. This left us scratching our head. Why are we treated badly for deciding to stretch ourselves in order to assist them?

I have heard lots of stories of orphanages that just shut down. The directors closed the doors and walked away out of frustration with the system. Seeing the system from the inside, I understand why that happens. The carnal side of me wants to lash out and tell the system to take a long walk on a very short pier. But then God reminds me of three key points:

  1. We do what we do for Him, not for the courts. He is who we really serve. So, even when we are treated badly we need to be humble servants, doing our best to bring glory to Him.
  2. We are here for the children, not the judges. If we walk away in protest of the corrupt system the judges don’t suffer but the children do. So we take the arrows to spare them the pain, standing between them and the oppressors who seek to harm.
  3. I really shouldn’t complain to Jesus about being hurt by those we seek to help. He really knows that story in a much deeper and profound way than I ever could. And, considering I am one of the ones who has caused Him pain…

So, we continue. But we need your prayers. Already we are making friends, but we are also making enemies who are in powerful positions. Many of these folks have no problem using their authority to do harm to others, and we may quickly find ourselves in their crosshairs. Please pray for God’s protection from those that seek to harm. Also pray that God will remove these oppressors and replace them with those who will do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.

That’s all for now! Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Dream and a Prayer

SAM_3705At present, everyone in our home is healthy. Praise God! We have had weeks of respiratory illness that resulted in the hospitalization of both Esperanza and Yenifer and lots of coughing in everyone else. I believe we set a record for the number of tissues used in a household in a seven day period.

Likewise, we seem to have settled into a good rhythm in our home. Our staff, volunteers and family are working well together and everything is well-organized. It is actually quite entertaining to see all of the diaper-changing, medicine-dispensing, bath-giving, meal-feeding, etc. Little Christian is sleeping much better these days, which really helps us to get more rest. Esperanza, however, has good nights and bad nights. The bad ones result in very little sleep for whoever is on duty.

SAM_3771We believe that God has been in control of the children who have entered our home. We grew from 0 to 3 children quickly and then experienced a pause that enabled us to develop our caregiving systems and schedule. Then we added children 4 and 5 quickly, Esperanza and Christian, who have required the greatest adjustments and time commitments. Now, after that lull, I believe we will see more children coming. On Thursday we will be meeting another child, age 5, who may be joining our home, and ever day more calls come. I suspect our home will be full in another month.

One of the hard issues I have had to face is the number of children that we have turned away. Over the last two weeks we have received calls asking us to take 42 children. We turned all of them away. The reason for this is that none of them had special needs (although the courts worked hard to manufacture special needs so we would accept them). As difficult as it is to find homes for these children, it is more difficult to find a place for a child with special needs. That is our calling, and we are sticking to it. But that doesn’t make it easier to turn away a child. Many of these will end up in state-run institutions that are filled with neglect and abuse. If I spend too much time thinking about these children I will lose my mind. I have to choose to focus on the ones that God has given us and the ones that are to come.

SAM_4218Our vision for the family-based group home is not limited to Hogar de la Esperanza. Our dream is to have other families join us here to open additional homes. One day I would love to see 10 homes caring for 10 to 12 children, each operating under this ministry. But for that dream to become reality we need people to hear God’s call and join us.

If you and your family have a passion for children with special needs and are drawn to join us, then please contact us to discuss it. We can arrange a Skype session to talk, answer questions and to better help us understand one another’s hearts. If you choose to join us, we will walk with you through the move and entire process, and your home will be licensed under our association. Each subsequent licensing process should be easier as we have already completed much of the required paperwork. In other words, you will not be alone.

If you are not among those called to join us, will you please pray that God will raise up others? I am looking around at the harvest and considering the consequences of not having workers. Quite frankly, it breaks my heart and breaks the heart of God. So, please pray with me.

Also, please pray for the church. One of the reasons we have such a shortage of workers is because of a me-centered theology that has invaded and replaced the Jesus-centered theology. We have come to believe that Jesus died to save us and make us comfortable instead of to save us and make us living sacrifices. As a result, very few ever consider leaving the comfort of their own little world to serve the God who died for them. Meanwhile, the world is literally dying apart from Christ. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will move in the church to bring us to true repentance so that we will be willing to pick-up our crosses and follow Jesus…wherever He leads.

A while back I posted a blog on this topic. If you have time, you might want to read it again. It was actually written by Amy Carmichael and is quite powerful. If you are interested, click here.

That’s all for now. Greetings and love from Guate!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God's Economy

I finally have the time to update my blog. Unfortunately it is because I am once again sitting in another hospital room with another child. This time it is Yeni, who has come down with a nasty respiratory infection. She has struggled with a sore throat and slight cough for the last two days, but this morning she took a sudden turn for the worse. Suddenly her fever spiked to 104 and her heart and respiration rate skyrocketed. When I checked her oxygen saturation I became truly concerned and we brought her to the emergency room. The doctor admitted her immediately and started her on IV antibiotics and breathing treatments. I expect she will be here from 24 to 36 hours while the medicine does its work.

Over the last few weeks my appreciation for the Beyer family has increased significantly. (I appreciated them greatly before, but still it has increased.) They have been such a blessing and asset to our ministry as they are getting more up-to-speed and assuming more ministry responsibilities. Two of their daughters, Kristin and Kathlyn, have become key members of our group home, serving as nannies. They have also agreed to each take a night shift each week, caring for Esperanza and Cristian, who do not sleep well and require special care. This enables us to get some much needed sleep. Even now, Kristen is here at the hospital for another hour or two, helping care for Yeni.

Meanwhile, back at home Dale and Anita are coming down to help Wanda with the rest of the kids tonight. Bedtime is a huge deal in our home that requires feedings, diaper changes, lots of medicine, teeth brushing and more. Their help will allow our older children to attend a special youth event this evening.

Dale has also begun to assume more responsibilities with our rural village ministry. With my vehicle out of commission for so long I was concerned about how I was going to catch-up. Thanks to Dale we are back on track. He played a significant role in our local distribution and then led a trip up to El Progreso. Unfortunately, his vehicle is still out of commission, but another friend of ours who recently moved to Guatemala, Steve Eldred, came along and drove. So, we only had three more villages to visit to complete the rounds. So, last Thursday Dale, his son, Jacob, Gerardo and I headed out for the department of Esquintla to visit those final three communities.

Our first destination was Sipacate where our first stop was at the home of little Dorcas. This little girl, age 7, desperately needed a wheelchair. Her mother has been carrying her everywhere until now and Dorcas is getting big. So they were thrilled when we pulled up with a chair for her.

The process of fitting a chair is usually not a quick one. We begin by checking the child's measurements and adjusting the chair to the approximate position. We then place them into the chair to check the fit and then remove them for further adjustment. It is not uncommon to place them in and out of a chair two or three times until we get things just right. Unfortunately, Dorcas was so excited to have her chair that she got upset every time we took her out again. By the end of the process, when the chair was just right, I could no longer get a smile out of her. I think she was expecting me to take her chair away again!

While we were at Dorcas' house we received a call from one of the social workers at the local health center. We have formed a good relationship with the folks who work there, and they have been a good resource to us while we have tried to be the same to them. They were calling because they knew of a little girl who desperately needed a wheelchair and wanted to know if we would go with them to visit her. We agreed, of course, so they met us at Dorcas' house and we left with them as soon as her chair was fitted.

When we arrived at the home my heart broke. We found Evelyn, age 9, lying back in a baby stroller with her legs draped over the forward bar. They could not afford a wheelchair so they were using the only thing they could find, a second-hand stroller from family members. In spite of her uncomfortable seating arrangement, Evelyn is a beautiful and happy child. As I showed her parents stretches they could do on her and gave them care tips she kept smiling and laughing at me and my weak Spanish. We did an assessment and assured them that we would bring them a wheelchair next month. So, we could use a sponsor for her chair. The cost for a custom chair will be $250.00, so if you would like to help with that, please e-mail me at daryl@hopeforhome.org.

While we were at Evelyn's house, an elderly lady pedaled across the street to meet us. Gregoria is 74 years old and her only means of transportation is a hand pedaled cart. In spite of these carts' favorable gearing ratio, they are not easy to use and require good upper body strength to propel. As a result, she arrived a little out of breath. Dale lubricated the chain and wheels, but we knew that was not enough. So, we took measurements and told her we will deliver a chair next month. She does not require a fitted chair, so the cost will only be $150.00. Once again, if you are willing to help please e-mail me at the address above.

After numerous other visits we left Sipacate and headed up to La Gomera where a motel room was waiting for us. We arrived in good time and decided to cover a couple of families before we checked in for the night. One of those visits included Jeferson and his family. He is 3 years old and has a foot that turns over as he stands on it. As a result, he walks on the side of his foot. There are no ortheopedic problems in his bones, so we believe that he just started standing and walking on it wrong when he was little. Now the outside tendons are stretched badly and his foot turns in. We have had him in to Hermano Pedro and paid for a brace for his foot. Unfortunately, he doesn't like to wear it and takes it off, while his mother seems to think she is powerless to stop him. We need to have him fitted for twister cables to correct the inward twist of his foot, but I was not willing to do so until I was assured that she would make him wear both the brace and the cables. I do not want to spend the money on something that will sit in the corner of their home. So, we had a heart-to-heart talk.

I don't like these kinds of talks. I much prefer a friendly visit that ends with hugs. But we explained to Jeferson's mom that if she doesn't make him wear his brace he will likely be crippled for life. We also told her that she is his mom, she is bigger than him, and she needs to lovingly discipline him because it was what was best for him. I felt like we were not making progress with her until I mentioned that I have two children who wear AFO's (Ankle and Foot Orthodics) and they don't like them either. But, as their dad, I love them enough to make them wear them. That seemed to break through to her and she promised that she would make him wear his brace. So, we are proceeding with the next appointment to fit the twister cables.

We arrived back at the hotel just in time for a downpour that was harder than any I have ever seen. A 10 foot dash to the hotel overhangleft us looking as if we had just left a shower. But we had a bunch of supplies and equipment in the back of my truck with only a thin tarp covering it (I am still waiting for my truck cap to be completed), so we re-entered the downpour to move the items from the back to the cab. Before we were done we were all thouroughly drenched, along with most of the items in my overnight bag. Of course, three minutes after we finished this job it stopped raining.

We got a decent night's sleep and headed out the next morning for more visits. One of the children I was most concerned about was Katerin. This young lady is malnourished and depends upon the formula we provide. She also needs the medicine we bring each month to control her seizures. Because of our vehicle problems it had been 7 weeks since we last saw her, so I was anxious about what we might find. I was thrilled when we found her doing well, but her parents were greatly relieved to see us again.

That afternoon we headed home via Las Palmas (where we visited six families) and pulled into our courtyard in time for supper.

Recently I was asked by someone why we do what we do. He just could not wrap his mind around why we would want to invest in children and people with special needs. It was an alien concept to him. And, sitting here in a hospital room for which I don't know how I will pay, I can understand his confusion. Why would we choose to surround ourselves with hospital rooms, wheelchairs, braces, medicine, therapy, etc.? In some ways, it would be nice to embrace Dave Ramsey's concept of stewardship that includes savings accounts, investments, retirement and thorough planning for all eventuality.

But God has a different economy. His economy tells us not to worry about things like food, drink and clothing, but instead focus on seeking God's kingdom and righteousness. In so doing, let Him take care of those other things.

Not only that, the least of these, such as the ones that surround us, have great value in God's economy. That is why His Word tells us repeatedly to care for them. And, in so doing, we care for Jesus.

In addition, by caring for these priceless ones, I better understand a profound truth...I, too, have special needs. Mine may be easier to hide, as they do not manifest through wheelchair, braces and severe cognitive needs (although many may question that last one). But they are no less profound and they are ugly. They show up in my pride, selfishness and anger. And my special needs wound others. As I care for these children I better realize my disabilitiesand my desperate need for grace.

But, you know what? I do what I do for a much more selfish reason. I love these children and these people. They are, quite frankly, some of the most awesome folks I have ever met. They have joy, peace and unconditional love that makes me want to be like them. They are some of the best friends I could ever have. And they make all the hospital rooms, bills, wheelchairs, braces, medicines and appointments more than worth it.

Blessings from Guate!