Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Miracles and Puny Faith

10476340_10204356435538694_7185888496500595857_oLast night, after around six weeks of waiting for the courts to do their job, we finally received little Ruavis (pronounced Roo-ah-bi) into our home. I have come to expect delays when dealing with the courts, but this time it really bothered me. From the first day we saw his picture and read his story I have felt an urgency to get him into our home. So when they called yesterday morning to tell us they were bringing him, I was overjoyed. And when they called backed later to tell us that they could not bring him due to problems with scheduling, I quickly made arrangements for Manuel and Gerardo to go take care of the paperwork and bring him home.

The moment I saw him I understood the urgency I had been feeling for the last month-and-a-half. Ruavis was in a nearly constant state of seizing with his eyes rolled completely back in his head. In addition, he was suffering from full-body muscle spasms that would bend his head and shoulders extremely far backward. And each time he would spasm he would cry out in pain.

RuavisWe quickly discovered that he was also covered with lice, so we prepped him to shave his head and give a lice treatment while I consulted the few medical notes that came with him. Almost immediately I realized that he was way under-medicated for child of his age (13 months) and weight. However, our neurologist was not available as it was evening hours. So, after praying for wisdom and consulting dosage guides, I made the decision to double his seizure medication. I still felt this was not enough, but wanted to be conservative to assure that we did not over-medicate him.

Shortly after giving him the increased dosage his seizures stopped and his spasms lessened. Then the exhausted little guy fell asleep. He slept peacefully until around 2:30 am when he awoke with spasms again.

In the midst of caring for Ruavis last night I was overwhelmed with a very foolish fear. Seeing the severe neurological needs of this little boy, I began to realize how much his care was going to cost. (Relax, this is not a plea for money. We don’t do that.) I began to total up the cost of the neurologist, MRI, EEG and general anesthetic that will be required for testing and I was overwhelmed with fear. The total quickly reached over $400.00 without including the incidentals of travel expenses for the appointments and test. And this was only for neurological assessments. And I felt afraid. (Please don’t write to tell me how foolish I am or how small my faith is. It is not necessary. I already know.)

I then went to my computer to send out a prayer request for Ruavis via Facebook. But as I sat down at my computer I heard a ding telling me that I had received an e-mail. So, I clicked on Outlook and saw that we had received a donation via Paypal. The amount was (care to guess?) $462.00. And I heard God whisper, “Daryl, when will you ever learn to trust me?” I cried tears of joy and repentance.

This morning we called our neurologist as soon as his office was open. We could not get in for an appointment until tomorrow, but the doctor listened to the situation and the current medicines and doses, and he immediately ordered us to increase the dosage to more than double my doubled dosage. He also added another type of anti-seizure med. Since we administered these increased meds, he has been sleeping peacefully. I praise God that this little exhausted guy has finally gotten some relief and much needed sleep.

SAM_3014Last night, in the midst of the chaos, Brittney and I were working together with Ruavis. She suddenly looked up at me and said, “I am so glad that we decided to take him!” And when she did, my heart swelled with pride for her. Here we were, dealing with a seizing child that was arching backward and screaming, and she was happy that he was with us. Many people would regret the decision to accept him into our home instead of rejoicing that we did. But Brittney understands a basic truth of ministry…it is not about us. It is not about seeking the easy path or a comfortable resting place. It is about Jesus Christ and His love for the world that He died to save. She was glad that we accepted Ruavis, not because it was easy, but because he needed us…and our comfort was not important.

Last night was about God’s love for Ruavis and the role we are allowed to play in that love story. Face it, the hardest times in life are usually the most significant ones in God’s story. So, from 3:30 am until almost 8:00 am Brittney held and comforted this precious little focus of God’s love. Tonight I will take that responsibility and privilege.

Once again we are feeling God fill us with love overflowing for another little one. And I stand in awe and humility that He allows us to play a role in this incredible story that He is writing.

Likely we will be receiving another little guy into our home next week. We have said yes to little Humberto from the malnutrition center Casa Jackson. With his addition we will have 12 children, six boys and six girls, and our home will be full. We just have no more room and no more man hours to give. We are stretched to the max. But that will not make it any easier to turn away children. I am so glad for the 14 children that we have said yes to (two are now with Jesus), but I ache knowing there are so many more Ruavis, Humbertos, Alejandros, Yenifers, Christians, etc. out there that need a home and love.

So let me get real direct here. I need your help in one of two ways. Please, please, please read these and take them seriously:

  1. If you love children with special needs and are feeling called to work with them, please contact me and pray about joining us here in Guatemala. We are praying and trusting God for nine more homes based on this model, but we need the people who will be parents and leaders within these homes. Does this scare you? Good. It scared me to death when I began to hear God’s call to come here and do this work. I can’t promise you it will be easy, because it won’t. But I can promise you that we will walk with you through it all and help you every step of the way. And I can promise you that God is faithful to those who follow His calling.
  2. If you are sure that God is not calling you, then please pray that He will raise up others. I mean this. I beg you. Please pray frequently and fervently that God will call people and give a kick to those who have been called but are not responding. Pray that God will give us workers. Please. I write this with tears in my eyes out of desperation to see more homes opened and more children loved with the arms of Jesus.

This morning I dropped Wanda off at the airport. She is flying to the States until Sunday to be home for our daughter, Teisha’s, wedding. I will follow her on Thursday and fly back with her on Sunday as well. Please pray for our home over the next five days as others step up to fill the huge gap that Wanda leaves and then the gap I will leave. This is especially true of our older children, Brittney, Krishauna, Taryn and Jeremiah. Please pray for strength and wisdom for them. Also pray for health in the home during our absence.

Thanks! Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hardest Decisions

I know I have written about this before, but since writing provides cathartic release for me I am doing so again. Please bear with me as I do so.

When we moved to Guatemala to do this ministry I was prepared for a lot of things. I was prepared for struggles with language and culture. I was prepared for long hours and short nights. I was prepared for pee, poop and drool and long battles with Guatemalan bureaucracy (which feels and smells a lot like pee, poop and drool). I was prepared for traffic jams and crowded stores. I was even, to some degree, prepared for death, because I knew we would have to face it eventually. But there is one thing that caught me totally be surprise and, as I look back now, I wonder how I could have missed preparing for it. Yet I was totally blindsided by…


On a daily basis I am faced with so many decisions. A call comes in requesting help with medicine, doctor, formula, food, etc. Should we help or not? A child in our home has a cough. Do we call the doctor or wait and see? A child’s brace is broken. Do we try to repair it or is it time to cast him for new ones? A family is not doing their part to care for a child while asking us to do more. Do we continue support, increase support or threaten to cut if off? (Knowing, of course, that it is the child that will suffer.)

So many decisions have to be made every day. And, for the most part, I have adjusted to making them and do so with prayer and semi-confidence. But occasionally I am faced with a decision that leaves me overwhelmed and paralyzed. Two days ago I found myself faced with such a decision and I still have not been able to choose. It kept me awake last night.

IMG_0059Four staff members from Casa Jackson (a malnutrition center in San Felipe de Jesus) showed up at our door on Wednesday afternoon. They had brought with them a little guy named Humberto (pronounced Oom-BARE-tow). He is almost three years old, has cerebral palsy, physical and cognitive delays and a seizure disorder. He came to them malnourished 11 months ago, but quickly gained weight and was ready for release. However, there is no place for him to go. So, he has been living in Casa Jackson for months, even though he is no longer malnourished.

This was actually not the first time that I had met Humberto. Little Olimpia came to us from Casa Jackson, and while we were there picking her up they asked if I would come meet another child. They took me upstairs and introduced me to him and asked if we could take him. At that point we were full, so I told them no. On Wednesday they came to ask us again.

Whenever I post these kinds of stories I usually receive a barrage of well-meaning advise telling me to take the child. They tell me to trust God and receive him or her into our loving family. And I understand their point. But it is not that easy. Whenever we are making a decision regarding accepting a child, we are faced with several considerations:

Financial – The average initial cost of bringing a child into our home is around $800.00. The initial appointments with specialists, blood work, EEG, MRI and X-rays add up quickly. Plus, we are impacted on a monthly basis as well with the cost of more diapers, formula, medicine, therapy, food, etc. While we work hard to not allow finances to play a large role in our decisions, they have to play some role. The children we already have need ongoing care and we cannot jeopardize them.

Staffing – Each additional child requires an increase in man hours. Feeding, changing, providing stretches and exercises, stimulation and the simple providing of one-on-one love requires time. Can we provide all that for another child while continuing to provide it for the existing children?

Family Environment – The way our home operates now is we have staff in our home to assist with the care of the children from 8 am until 5 pm on Monday through Friday. But the Fulp family assumes full responsibility for caring for the children in the evening and weekends. We do that because we want the children to be a part of a family, not a number in an institution. Can we add another child while still providing the family atmosphere?

Space – God has blessed us with a large home, but all of the handicapped accessible areas are almost completely filled. Can we squeeze in another crib/bed?

Numbers – Since opening our home in August 2013 we have said yes to 13 children. (Two are now with Jesus and one is still waiting for a very slow court system to transfer him to our home.) During that same period we have said no to around 120 children. Why? Because we cannot say yes to them all. Otherwise we simply become another overcrowded institution instead of a loving family. The needs of Guatemala are overwhelming and we cannot meet them all. That is just a reality of this life and ministry.

Which brings me back to Humberto who was sitting in my home on Wednesday in desperate need of a family. Casa Jackson is feeding, bathing and clothing him, but they do not have the staff or means to provide him with the attention, stimulation and therapy he desperately needs. Can we say yes and increase our home to 12 children without hurting the 11 that are already here? Is that Jesus in the form of a child that we are considering sending away? What do we say? Yes or no?

And the answer is this: I am a foolish and fallen man who does not know. So, last night I lay in bed thinking, fretting and praying. And today I continue to think, fret and pray.

IMG_0060But there is one thing I do know…this is the part of this ministry that I hate. I wish others could make the decisions and my family and I could just care for and love the kids. But I guess that would be heaven, and that is still to come.

So, for now, would you pray for us and for little Humberto? Please pray that God would make it clear whether he is to be our child or not. Thanks.

Also, please pray for others to join us and open additional homes like this one. Our goal is to one day have 10 such homes, but that can only become reality if we have more people and resources. Are you passionate for children with special needs? Prayerfully consider joining us.

Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Identity and Family

20140721_190212[1]Back in July we welcomed little Milton Geovanni into our home. This little guy has been a handful of energy and mischievousness that has kept us on our toes. He suffers from microcephaly and is delayed in his development, but he is gradually making progress in both his behavior and the passing of milestones.

But when he arrived in our home, he faced a much greater crisis than any physical or developmental disability. He faced a crisis of identity. When he showed up at our door, he had no last name, no birthdate, no birth certificate, no health records. He came to us as cute little boy with no discernable past. And that deeply troubled me.

1600998_718694704822282_67387288_nHe is not the first to come with us with an identity crisis. When our little Esperanza came last year she had no name as well. As a result, we were given the privilege of choosing her name. And so we did…Ruth Esperanza. And while she was given the legal last name of her birth mom,  we chose to place our last name on her tombstone when she left us. Why? Because a name is not just a name. It is a part of your identity. And Esperanza’s identity was, in part, being a member of our family. We were the ones who loved her and grieved deeply over her passing, so she was a Fulp.

Now we are currently working on behalf of Geovanni to help establish his identity. We took him to a forensic doctor in Guatemala City for exams and testing and they determined his approximate age. As a result, he was given the birthdate of January 23, 2013. The judge also randomly assigned him a last name. And, as I type this, my friend and ministry partner, Manuel, is on his way to Guatemala City to pick up a legal birth certificate for him. So, at last, Geovanni will have a full name, birthday and birth certificate.

But that is not all that is involved in giving him an identity. In fact, that is just a small part. In fact, every child who has entered Hogar de la Esperanza has done so with an identity crisis, even if they had their name and birth certificate. Because identity goes to our very heart and souls, and all of them came with missing or damaged vital parts. And this has broken my heart repeatedly.

OlimpiaSome of our kids came to us abused, and some still carry the physical scars of that violence. For others, the bruised have faded, but the emotional scars remain. It is painful to attempt to hug a child and see them wince because they are expecting a blow. Others were abandoned or neglected before finding our home. Some were cared for, but treated like objects. How do these backgrounds affect a child’s identity? Many arrive feeling worthless and unimportant. They believe their identity has been written, and that identity is unwanted.


That is why our home and all future homes we open will be family-based. A family is a crucial component for instilling identity. Something happens when…

…a child is hugged instead of slapped or punched.

…a child is talked TO instead of ABOUT.

…a child realizes they are important instead of discarded.

…a child is heard and seen instead of ignored.

They begin to realize who God made them to be.

I see it all the time when I look a child in the eye and tell them I love them. I see it when they make someone smile or laugh, not at them but with them. I see it around the dinner table as we laugh and joke and talk, and for the first time a child is a part of it all. It is through family that they learn that they are important, loved and valuable. It is through family that they learn that they have something worthwhile to offer. It is through family that they, and us, really learn to live.


But it does not end there, because there is a spiritual component to identity that is often overlooked. In fact, it is more than a component, it is the core of all we are and all these children are. And our primary role is to help them see who God is and who they are to Him. But we cannot address the spiritual core without first addressing their need for a family.

Face it, it is very difficult to learn to trust a heavenly Father if they have never had a trustworthy earthly one. In fact, it is very difficult to even understand the concept of love without a family who demonstrates it.

So, we have the privilege of being a family built on Jesus Christ who, in turn, provides a foundation on which children can come to know and love God and realize He loves them. The final step is when each of these children realize that they are not only valued by us, but by the God Who created and knows them intimately, and that He is worth following.

Hot potatoSo, as Geovanni receives his birth certificate today, he is also receiving so much more. This little guys is loved…deeply and passionately. He is learning that he is important. And I pray, one day soon, he will realized that Jesus is the Author of his identity and is worthy to be followed. That is the prayer I pray for each of the children in our home, whether they be biological, adopted or one of the incredible ones that God has brought to our group home.

But this is not just an issue for children with special needs in Guatemala. It is an issue for you and I as well. Do we know who we are? Do we know we are loved by the One who made us? Do we know whom God created us to be? I pray so.

But as I write this, I am overcome with gratitude. Because, while we are the ones who get the privilege of loving and caring for these children, many of you are the reason we are able to do so. Your prayers, encouragement and support are what continue to make this home and ministry a reality. It is because of the faithfulness of God’s people, such as you, who has moved Hogar de la Esperanza from being a dream in our hearts to a reality at work. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Today may you know your identity in Jesus Christ and live for His glory!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew