Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A National Emergency

I have a backlog of blogs I am waiting to publish, so as to not overwhelm you. I need to update you regarding the status of Lucia. (She is home now, but we don’t know how long she will live). I also want to share with you some hard lessons I have been learning. However, I need to put these blogs off a little longer to alert you regarding a crisis in Guatemala and ask for your help.

For some time now I have been telling you of the crisis in the Guatemalan healthcare system. The national hospital system has been woefully lacking in basic supplies for months. (By basic supplies I mean things like acetaminophen, pain killers, bandages, vaccines, anesthesia and more.) Today we learned that things have reached a crisis point.

Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City, which is the largest and best national hospital in the country, may be suspending patient services tomorrow due to a lack of these basis supplies. This means more than a thousand patients will be without care. Even if they are able to keep the doors open and doctors and nurses on staff to treat patients, they will not have what they need to care for them.

In other national hospitals conditions are the same or worse. This morning I was told of a lady who was in labor in Antigua and she needed a C-section. The hospital did not have the supplies they needed, so they sent her out to buy them. She was in labor and out on the street begging for money so she could buy the supplies.

Last week there were 18 women lined up awaiting C-sections in that same hospital, but they did not have the supplies to do them. Their families were out begging, borrowing and purchasing the supplies they needed. I wonder how many of those children will have special needs as a result of stress caused by delayed birth.

In another hospital near Huehuetenango, they are using old sheets and towels to bandage wounds. Yesterday a group of doctors from the area was out begging for money for medical supplies. And things are going to get much worse before they get better.

So what does this mean for us? This crisis hits families with children who have special needs more than most. Many of them are frail and prone to infections and respiratory illnesses. And now they have no where else to turn but us. Further, this crisis will result in an increase in special needs due to effective intervention during childbirth. And it means that burden for medical care will increase significantly on our ministry as our families have no other option for assistance. Almost daily people are seeking us out for medical care, some via phone, while others are knocking at my gate. I am having trouble keeping my medical bag sufficiently stocked.

[IMG_1728%255B1%255D%255B3%255D.jpg]We are seeing a steady rise in medical emergencies in our families. So, I am asking for your help.

I do not fundraise for this ministry. We do not ask for money to pay salaries, rent, gas, maintenance or other ministry expenses, and I will not start now. God always provides for those things as we trust in Him. However, I will ask for money to go to specific needs of families, and that is what I am asking now.

Would you pray about donating to our Emergency Medical Fund? If you do, not one penny will be spent on administration or ministry expenses, but it will all go directly to providing doctors and medicine to those in desperate need. Please hear that again…every cent of your gift will go directly to those in need of emergency medical care.

[IMG_1734%255B1%255D%255B5%255D.jpg]We need this fund to increase significantly to meet this current need. So, if you feel led by God to respond, please visit to learn how you can give. And please note that your gift is for the Emergency Medical Fund. If you are unable to do so at this time, then please commit to pray for this ministry and those we serve. And pray for Guatemala. There are dark days ahead for this country, but they give us an opportunity to shine the light of Jesus more brightly!

Thanks, and God bless you!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

For This One

It is going to be difficult for me to describe this past Saturday in a way that is orderly and makes sense. But I really need to try, because it was one of the most challenging and impacting days of my life in Guatemala. Please stay with me as I try.

IMG_1720[1]For the last three weeks we have been in back and forth communication with Lucia’s family. They live in San Pablo La Laguna, about 20 meters from where my daughter, Brittney, lives. Lucia has severe Cerebral Palsy, and we have been working with her for almost three years. She developed a respirator infection that turned into pneumonia, and they hospitalized her in the national hospital in Xela (Quetzaltenango). (That is about 1 1/2 hours away from San Pablo by car and three hours by bus.)

We were very concerned when we learned this because, as you have read in this blog many times before, most national hospitals are nightmares. When she had not improved after a week there, we began to investigate other hospitals. Brittney took the bus to Xela to visit Lucia and her mother, Maria. While she was there, she also visited several private hospitals to arrange for her to be transferred. However, most hospitals said they could not accommodate her because they do not have the facilities to accommodate the intensive care that she needs. She did find one hospital that agreed to take her, but they told us it would cost Q.33,000 a day (about $4350.00). While that seems normal by US standards, that is an astronomical price by Guatemalan standards. However, she was told by the administrator of one private hospital that the Intensive Care Unit in the national hospital in Xela was very complete and that it would be best for her to stay there. So, we dropped it.

This past Friday, however, I received a call from Brittney. She informed by that Lucia was continuing to decline. Further, Brittney’s home was filled with family and neighbors who were concerned about both Lucia and her mother. At this point they had been in the hospital for 18 days. They were in a communal room with other patients, and the only place her mother could sleep was in a straight-backed chair beside her bed. She was exhausted. And, to make matters worse, the hospital had accused her of being a bad mother and called in Derechos Humanos (Human Rights) to investigate. (They had based this accusation on two situations: 1) Lucia was malnourished. This was not due to a lack of attention and provision, but due to the difficulty of giving enough nutrients to a child with severe Cerebral Palsy who struggles to swallow. 2) Maria’s unwillingness to allow them to surgically install a G tube. She felt her daughter was too weak to tolerate the surgery. She also felt it was unnecessary because her daughter was eating. She was right on the first issue and only needed someone to explain the second issue to her in a way that she could understand.)

As a result of these accusations, they were threatening to remove Lucia from her mother’s care. Her friends and family gathered at Brittney’s home begging for our ministry to intercede. They stayed there until almost 10:00 pm seeking Brittney’s counsel and help. So, we jumped into high gear.

We spoke with the national hospital to find out what was required to remove her from the hospital. They told us we needed two things, an ambulance to transport her and a letter from the receiving hospital stating that they would take her. By this time, the hour was late, so we had to put everything on hold until the follow morning.

Saturday morning, one of our faithful workers in San Pablo communicated with the Bomberos to arrange for an ambulance to transfer Lucia from Xela to Antigua, which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive with sirens and lights. Meanwhile, Joel and I headed into Hospital Hermano Pedro Privado (not to be confused with Hermano Pedro Obras Sociales, the special needs hospital in which we work) to get a letter. This proved to be far easier than I expected because I know the hospital director, having worked with him several times before. We left 30 minutes after we arrived with letter in hand and an ambulance preparing to meet us at the hospital.

IMG_1725[1]We arrived three hours later at around 2:30 pm. When we entered the room we found Maria exhausted and Lucia with an estimated fever of between 102 and 103. The previous 19 days had taken their toll on both of them, and I wanted to get them to a better place quickly. We gave our letter to the doctor and informed her that the ambulance was waiting. She left and then returned soon after to inform us that they could not release her. Because they were under investigation by Human Rights, they needed them to provide the okay to leave. Unfortunately, no one was answering the phones in their office. Of course, they had not informed us of any of this when they told us what we needed to get her released. Thus began a three hour wait.

IMG_1728[1]Finally, they agreed to release her to us if I would sign a form assuming all responsibility for Lucia’s care and supervision. In essence, I became her guardian, responsible to protect her. And then we were freed to leave.

Just a note: As we were leaving the room I asked for a list of medicines that Lucia had been given. When I looked at the list I noticed their was nothing for fever control. So I asked the head nurse if they had given her anything for fever. To which the nurse replied, “She doesn’t have a fever.” I insisted that she did, and her mom confirmed that she had had one all day long. The nurse again insisted that she did not, and stepped over to prove us wrong. As soon as her hand touched Lucia’s face, her expression changed from annoyance to embarrassment. She looked down and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t have anything to give her for that.” Understand the significance of that story. Lucia had been in INTENSIVE CARE, running a fever all day, yet none of the staff had checked her closely enough to notice.

I am now going to step away from Lucia’s story to tell you about events that unfolded during our wait for that release. You see, it did not take long for the word to spread that there was a gringo in the intensive care ward that was helping a family. So, soon I was overwhelmed by needs.

IMG_1736[1]It started with a man who approached me with tears in his eyes. His eight year old son, Adolfo, has had eight surgeries on a brain tumor. His previously healthy and happy child at age six is now in a coma and on a respirator. He needed medicine and the hospital informed his dad that he needed to buy it, but he had no money. Before I walked away, I had given him Q.200.00 (about $26.00 USD).

IMG_1734[1]The next thing I knew I had a crying mother leading me by the hand to show me her three month old daughter, Dafry. She, too, is in a coma and on a respirator due to complications from pneumonia. She wept as she begged me for help for the medicine and blood tests that the hospital told her she needs to pay for. When I returned home, we transferred money to help with those costs.

IMG_1731[1]Then it was the mother of another three month old, Jessica, that was leading me to a bedside. They believe her daughter has leukemia, but they need more blood tests to be sure. She and her husband do not have the money for those tests.

And the stories continued. I prayed with each one, and made arrangements to help when I could. When we finally left the ward at around 5:30 there were people lining the hallway on both sides. As I was pushing Lucia’s bed with one hand and carrying an oxygen tank in the other, there were people reaching out and touching me as I passed. I only heard snippets of their pleas as we moved down the passageway.

“My daughter is sick…”

“My son needs surgery…”

“We need money for a test…”

“My baby is dying…”

When we finally made it inside the elevator, away from the begging, I put down the oxygen tank and wiped my tears. I realized that this one little girl that we were helping was not even a drop in the ocean of need. At that moment, everything felt completely hopeless. We could work a million years and spend tens of millions of dollars, and we would only scratch the surface.

IMG_1726[1]I have never known or experienced such hopelessness as I did in that dismal hospital ward. For most of those families, they saw me as their only hope. And I just wanted to scream at them and explained how misplaced their hope was. I am one man. We are one ministry with very limited resources.

When we got off the elevator I simply told myself, “You can’t save them all. You can’t care for every child. But you can make a difference for this one.” And so I focused on the child in front of me and keeping her alive for the next 2.5 hour hospital ride.

I rode in the ambulance as sirens blared and lights blazed to get us through the city traffic. Joel drove my truck and detoured to San Pablo to pick up Brittney.  I was concerned about the toll the ride was taking on Lucia, as she would regularly begin to cry. We administered medicine through her IV every 20 minutes, and she arrived very weak at her new hospital.

IMG_1737[1]As soon as the doctor saw us enter, he rushed us to a room in the emergency ward. Within three minutes, he and three nurses were working on her. Once they had her stabilized they transferred her to a room, and when I left her she was sleeping peacefully in her new bed.

The cost difference between a semi-private room and a private room was only $6.50 a night. So we decided to splurge so this exhausted mother could have a comfortable reclining chair in which to sleep and some privacy.

Yesterday afternoon I visited her and her mom. She was still battling with a fever, so I spoke with the doctor. He explained that her infection is very severe and he is not sure if she is going to make it or not. I expressed my concern about her fever, so he decided to add a second medicine to help control it.

Please pray for her in the days ahead. Her life is truly hanging in the balance.

Today I received a contact from some people who live in the Department of Retalhuleu. They are begging us to expand our ministry into their area of Guatemala. It is a very poor region, and the crisis for those with special needs is great. They have offered to help us set up a headquarters and even provide us with a psychologist to assist families. Meanwhile we have people waiting in Santa Rosa and Chiquimula for us to expand to those departments. The needs are so incredibly great.

I have committed to never ask for money for our ministry, and I am not breaking that commitment now. (We do seek sponsors for children, but we never fundraise for our ministry expenses.) But I do want use this opportunity to make the following vow to our supporters:

If you feel led to give to our work, we will use every penny you give wisely and for the glory of God. And we will save Every. Single. Life. Possible. while proclaiming the glory of Jesus Christ. And I, personally, will invest everything I have in order to do so.

This, you can count on.

I can do more. We can do more. We will do more. And we will make His name famous!

Thanks for every prayer, every dollar and every encouraging word! Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Political Tidal Wave…So What?

Unless you have been completely disconnected from all news sources for the last five months, you are likely aware of the uprising that has occurred among the people here in Guatemala. This groundswell movement against corruption has led to the resignations and arrests of both the Vice-president and President. In case you have missed it, allow me to fill you in on events.

Back in April the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala released its findings of an investigation that had been going on for nearly two years. Hundreds of wire tapped conversations and documents exposed a bribery scheme called “La Linea” (The Line). In this scheme, government officials and their accomplices were receiving bribes in return for lowering import taxes on businesses. For example, a business might owe a Q.50,000 import tax on goods being brought into the country. But officials would arrange a secret deal that would allow the business to lower their taxes to Q.25,000 if they would make a discreet payment of Q10,000 to a certain representative. Through this scam, millions of dollars was pocketed by corrupt officials, and many millions more were denied to the nation of Guatemala. And arrests began to happen.

Such corruption is rather commonplace in Guatemala. It happens all the time. But a few things made this instance different:

  1. The size and scope of the theft. As already stated, millions of dollars were stolen and over 100 people are being investigated as being a part of La Linea.
  2. The scam was exposed at a particularly difficult time in Guatemala. For months the national hospitals have been without basic medications (vaccines, Tylenol, amoxicillin, bandages, etc.), teachers have gone unpaid and police departments have not had money to buy gas for their vehicles. And during this time the government has simply stated, “Sorry, we don’t have the money.” Suddenly Guatemalans knew that a lot of that money was in the pockets of corrupt officials.
  3. The levels to which the corruption rose. By the time all of the evidence was presented, it was clear that both the Vice-president and President were involved.

Upon the release of these findings, the Guatemalan people began to protest in a unified manner. Fueled by social media, they assembled peacefully around the seat of power in Guatemala City. They blocked roads throughout Guatemala. And they kept doing it. There is a general awareness of corruption in government here, and it is usually assumed that nothing can be done about it. Powerful people protect other powerful people and visa versa. Many times they had seen justice subverted. But this time they stood firm. And they began to see results.

In May congress voted to remove the immunity of the Vice-president, Roxana Baldetti. This meant she could be arrested and prosecuted like any other citizen. Shortly after this move, she resigned. Her passport was confiscated, along with her helicopter, to assure she could not flee the country. In addition, her bank accounts were seized while the investigation continued. The people saw their first victory, and it made them hungry for more. So, the protests continued and grew as they demanded the arrest of the Vice-president and the removal of immunity for the President.

Throughout May, June, July and August the President, Otto Perez Molina, insisted that he was innocent and would not resign. Meanwhile, as congress tried on a couple of instances to remove his immunity, the President’s party (Patriota), combined with the Lider Party, to defeat the measure each time. So the protests continued to grow.

On August 21st the Vice-President was arrested and, while the people celebrated this victory, they were not satisfied. They wanted to see Otto Perez out of office and prosecuted as well. This culminated on August 28 with a nationwide protest. Hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans protested throughout the country, and many businesses closed in a strike. And they made it clear that the protests would continue.

Finally, on Tuesday, September 1st, congress voted to remove the President’s immunity. On Wednesday evening an arrest warrant was issued for Otto Perez, and he resigned shortly thereafter. On Thursday morning his arraignment began, and the country celebrated.

All of this unfolded leading up to Guatemala’s national election on Sunday, September 6 (yesterday). And this scandal has changed the landscape of politics. Prior to these events, the Lider candidate, Manuel Baldizon, was the heavy favorite to win. In fact, only six months ago it was predicted by some that he would win without a run-off. (In Guatemala, you cannot be elected president without 50.1% of the vote. Since there were 16 candidates running in this election, the odds of a candidate getting that majority are slim.This results in a run-off between the top two candidates.) However, because of the Lider Party’s role in protecting the President, a political outsider, Jimmy Morales, is now in first place with almost 24% of the vote, and Baldizon is in third place as the votes continue to be counted. (There is only a .02% gap between him and the second place candidate, Sandra Torres.) All polls show Jimmy Morales winning the run-off, regardless of which candidate he faces.

So, what does this mean for Guatemala? That is a good question. In the last four months we have seen people rise up in peaceful but firm opposition against corruption. And they have won. That is a very positive step for a country that has been abused and oppressed for so long. For the first time in recent memory, the people feel that they are not powerless, but can actually influence change. And those in power are shaken as a result. Suddenly they are realizing that they may not be as untouchable as they once believed.

And all of that is good. But there are a few questions that only time will answer:

  1. Will this last? Or will this be a temporary withdrawal of evil within the government, waiting for people to once again become complacent and distracted. That is the likely outcome. As Macbeth said, “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We can only pray that those in power will realize that their power is not so absolute.
  2. Will the people place their trust in politics instead of the things that really matter? Don’t misunderstand me. I am happy that people are exercising their right to vote and demonstrate. There is nothing wrong with that. It is estimated that nearly 80% of the Guatemalan people voted yesterday, and that was a record turn-out. And I am thrilled to see so many people who want to have their voices heard. But politics is never a long-term solution. That is a lesson that the church in American seems to have forgotten. Often politics become a distraction from the most important things…knowing and loving Jesus, loving our neighbors, and proclaiming God’s glory to the world.
  3. What have I/we learned? Guatemala is different today because hundreds of thousands of people stood up and said “No!” to corruption and oppression. But, face it, most battles for justice do not take the form of a national revolution. Most of those battles are fought daily in hundreds of smaller situations. And often you and I are the only ones there to fight. The widow is cheated. The child is abandoned. The teen is bullied. The single mother is left to fend for herself and her child. And, in those moments, we have a choice. Will we place ourselves between the oppressor and the oppressed? Will we absorb injustice to shield the innocent? Or will we shrug it off and convince ourselves that it is not our problem? After all, that’s just the way things are, and we will never change it. Or will we be inspired to rise up and fight for justice? Time will tell.

Now that the protests are behind us, this ministry becomes a little easier. We have battled closed roads and worked to avoid protests for months. Just last week we were unable to get a child in for medical care because the route was blocked. So I am breathing a little easier these days.

Allow me to close with two prayer requests:

IMG_1580First, Lucia from San Pablo La Laguna is in critical condition in the national hospital in Xela. She has pneumonia, and the doctor is uncertain of her recovery. She has severe cerebral palsy, which make recovery more difficult. Please pray for her.

FullSizeRender (2)Second, Angelita continues to struggle. A few days ago she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection. In addition, she continues to cry much of the time, especially when she is being moved. We suspect head pain, but cannot know for sure because she is unable to speak. She is not eating, so we had to insert an NG tube to feed her and dispense her medications. We will be getting new tomography of her brain in the next day or two. Please pray for her healing.

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew