Friday, October 30, 2015

Celebrations & Amputations

It has been some time since you have heard from me. The reason is simple. Life has been busy…very busy…ridiculously busy.

One of the main reasons for our busyness has been the wedding of our daughter, Krishauna. She because Mrs. Andi Brubaker this past Saturday in a beautiful ceremony at a garden here in our town. The weather cooperated, friends and family joined in, and we could not have asked for a better day to add another incredible son to our family.

I cannot share most of the photos of that special event yet, as they will be doing a second wedding in the states next Saturday, November 7th, so they want to keep those under wraps so as not to ruin the surprise for their US friends. Wanda and I will be in the States from November 4 – 9 to share in that event, so please keep the ministry here in your prayers during our absence.

We are excited about the future ahead for Andi and Krishauna. They will be in the US fundraising until next summer when they plan to join us here in Guatemala. Krishauna will be working with children who have special needs under Ministerio de Esperanza, while Andi will be serving with the sports ministry, Push the Rock, to open a Guatemalan branch of that ministry. I believe God has great things in store for them as a couple.

Once we get the Stateside wedding behind us, we can then start focusing on another wedding. Our daughter, Brittney, will be marrying Joel Caal on January 16, and we could not be happier about it. Joel is serving as the Director of our Solola headquarters in San Pablo La Laguna, the town where Brittney lives and serves. He has rented a home there, moved in and is beginning work to improve it so that after their wedding he and Brittney can share it. It will also serve as a ministry center for their work together. Please be praying for them in the months ahead.

I wish all the reasons for our busyness could be as happy as these, but they are not. We are facing so many medical hardships as the national healthcare system continues to collapse. Every day we receive calls requesting help, and many are desperate.

IMG_1143Sometimes these situations are extremely frustrating because they were preventable. One such call came on Monday as I was contacted by Jorge’s sister because he was in crisis. We have worked with Jorge, who has spina bifida since 2011, when we were introduced to him by Dick Rutgers. At that time he was struggling with a pressure sore on his right foot, and we assumed responsibility for making monthly visits with his family and helping to treat his foot. As Dick had done before us, we explained to his mother how to treat the sore and how important it was that they take good care of it. Pressure sores can be difficult to heal, and very few people here understand how to treat them.

One of the problems with these types of sores is that they tunnel deep into the flesh. Usually people bandage the tops of them, and the skin grows over the top. However, the wound is still there and growing under the surface. They believe the sore is healed until one day it ruptures open. In their mind, the sore came overnight, but it was there all along.

For this reason, you have to pack the wound with gauze wetted with saline solution. You then leave the gauze sticking out of the hole and place dry gauze over the top. These bandages must be changed at least once a day. This enables the wound to heal from the inside out.

In spite of these instructions, his family did not take the wound seriously. By 2013 the wound had gotten worse and he suffered from repeated infections that had eaten away his heal bone. So we arranged for a surgery team from the US to perform a Syme’s amputation in which they removed his heal bone and saved his heal pad. After this procedure he was sore free…for about two months. He then developed another because they did not follow our instructions again.

IMG_6076So, for the last two years, we have been treating this sore. Each time we visited I would debride the wound (cut away dead tissue around the edges), pack it and make sure the family knew how to do it. This became more difficult when his family moved from La Gomera, one of our regular ministry towns, to Nueva Concepción, which is farther out and an area in which we do not minister currently. At that point, my visits dropped from monthly to quarterly. There would be periods where we would see improvement, and I could tell they were following our instructions. Then there would be other periods during which the wound would worsen and I could tell they were not.

When I last visited the wound has worsened again. I spent time caring for it and, once again, stressed that they needed to do the same every day. I told him he needed to keep pressure off the wound, and he promised he would.

Then the call came Monday, and his sister was frantic. He was running a fever, and she said his foot was in horrible shape. She sent me a photo of the wound, and I could tell it had gangrene. And I knew it would have to be amputated. And just between you, me and God, I was angry. I was angry because I knew it could have been prevented.

The next day, Katie, Gerardo and I drove all the way down to Nueva Conception. When we entered the room I could smell the infection. We unwrapped the foot and realized that it was even worse than the picture showed. (If you are squeamish, you might want to skip the next paragraph.)

IMG_1939 2There was black, rotting flesh that ran through the wound. When I lifted his foot, I realized that the sore had tunneled all the way through his bones and out the other side. If I pushed on one side of his foot, puss would squirt out the other. His foot was eaten away with infection. I also noticed that there was angry red swelling up to mid-tibia on his leg, indicating that the infection was working its way up his leg. I knew then that they would likely take his leg at the knee.

When I confronted his mother, she said they had been treating the wound like I told them to. She insisted that two weeks before the wound was healed, but it came back suddenly. That just showed that they had not treated the wound properly, and I told her so. At this point, I had to bite my tongue and not say anything more out of fear of saying something I would regret later.

Resources are short these days, so we could not afford a private hospital. We decided to drive him from his town to Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City. It was a three hour drive, but that is the best national hospital in the country. They have competent doctors, but lack basic supplies such as antibiotics and fever relievers. We decided that the best use of resources was to take him there and offer to pay for the supplies.

I won’t take you through the long ordeal to get him hospitalized. Let’s just say it involved a nasty nurse who would not listen and Gerardo getting kicked out of the room because he was trying to explain the issues and the nurse would not hear what he had to say. But, at the end of the day, he was admitted and the doctor agreed that his leg needed to come off just above the knee.

We arrived home late, and shortly after received a call that they were doing emergency surgery to remove his leg. When the doctor went in, he discovered infection in his knee and decided that he needed to amputate at mid-femur. This has left Jorge depressed, as he thought he would only lose his foot.

This situation has taught me a lesson. From this point forward I will be carrying photos of severe and infected pressure sores on my phone. When I find someone with these sores in early stages, I will show them the photos and explain this is what happens if you don’t care properly for the wounds. Hopefully I can scare them into obedience.

Please pray for Jorge. This is a hard lesson in responsibility for him and his mother. His road to recovery will be a long one, and his life will be changing significantly.

And we ask that you also please pray for this ministry. Our expenses have increased significantly in the last six months, as has the demand for the work we do. I don’t believe we are in a financial crisis, because we can never be in such a state when God is our provider. One of my favorite quotes is by Hudson Taylor and says this:

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

I believe we are doing God’s work and, to the best of our abilities, are doing it God’s way. So we trust. But we do ask you to join us in praying for God’s continued provision, especially for our group home, which is the area that is needing God’s intervention most.

Thanks! Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Walls That Grief Built

It’s confession time, and this confession may cost me. But I have always tried to be transparent in this blog, and I want that to continue.

For the last eight to twelve months I have struggled to feel God’s presence and hear His voice. And that has been scary for me. What has frightened me so much was that I had no idea why.

In the past I have gone through periods of spiritual silence, but in each case I knew the cause. There was an issue I needed to confront in my life…a sin I needed to address…a call from God that I was ignoring. And I knew what I needed to do to end the silence.

For the last year I struggled more and more to hear God’s voice and feel His hand, even as I felt them slip away. And I did not know the reason.

What I did not realize was that the intimacy with my wife, Wanda, was also slipping away. We have always been close, sharing laughter and tears through whatever we faced. Through our 27 years of marriage I would have described our life together as  fun, adventurous and intimate. In recent months she has shared a feeling of increasing distance from me, but being the typical, thick-headed guy, I wrote off her concerns as “oversensitivity” or just a phase due to my busyness. But a few weeks she looked me in the eyes and told me that she felt alone. And that shook me.

So the next morning I sent the staff off on their respective assignments and cleared my schedule to spend some time alone with God and get to the bottom of both the spiritual silence and my wife’s feeling of isolation.

I hit my knees and prayed. And………nothing. I felt alone. I felt as if I was praying to a wall. No feeling of His presence. No correcting words. No epiphanies. Nothing.

After about 45 minutes of silence, I reached over and picked up my iPad, planning to read the Bible. But as I did, I felt the urge to read a new book I had just downloaded instead. The name of the book is The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken, and had been recommended to me by a friend from my childhood. So, I began to read.

This book tells the story of a man and his family who were missionaries in Somalia during the civil war. It is a challenging, heartbreaking and inspiring story, and it gripped me right away. And as I read the story of death, suffering, poverty, oppression and abuse they saw there, I found myself crying. I’m not talking about sniffles and slow tears flowing down my face. I am talking about can’t-breathe-snot-flowing-gut-wrenching sobbing.

But here’s the thing…I wasn’t crying about the suffering and death in Somalia in 1992. I was crying about the death and suffering that I have seen here in Guatemala. It was as if four-and-a-half years of grief came out of my body in an explosive release. And then I felt God hand on my shoulder once again. And I heard His voice for the first time in a while.

Daryl, you have been shoving down grief so long that you have gone numb. Why don’t you bring that grief to me instead? Let’s face it together.

So, I did. I sat and began going through the ones I had lost over the last four years. And it hurt…badly.

DSCF7298bGabby, who died of an allergic reaction to new seizure medication. (I was the one who spotted her petit mal seizures and encouraged the Director of her group home to take her to the neurologist for the same medicine that killed her.)


DSCF7869bPilar, an elderly woman who died from an obstructed bowel after we told the family that we could not pay for her surgery.



Fam50My mom, who died from injuries received in a car accident. A few days ago we passed the third anniversary of her death. This one really hurt when I confronted my grief.


IMG_2334Maria Jose, a precious little girl from Sipacate with cerebral palsy who was taken one night due to complications from a respiratory infection.



Our three year old neighbor, Jose, who stepped in front of a chicken bus and died from head injuries he sustained.


EsperanzaOur little Esperanza, who taught us more about God’s love than any sermon ever could. She filled our home and hearts with that love.



10014695_10203741857972921_853329514_nOur little Thania, who died in my arms in spite of my frantic attempts to save her with CPR. I watched the light go out in her eyes and was helpless to stop it.


SAM_5936Our little Micah, who came to our home and died eight days later. He suffered greatly during his short life, but it was still hard to see him go.


Brandon, who died last month when he and his mother were hit by a car as she carried him to the physical therapy our ministry provided.



[IMG_1720%255B1%255D%255B4%255D.jpg]Lucia, for whose life we have been fighting. She is currently in her home with her mom, expected to pass away soon.



And I could go on, but I won’t. This lists does not include all the deaths of precious children we have known, and it does not include the suffering we see every day.

I have attended so many funerals. I have consoled so many grieving parents. I have helped dig graves and I have helped fill them with dirt once the casket has been lowered. So much pain. So much loss.

Each time we lost another one, I would cry and grieve for a brief period. But I would tell myself that there is work to be done (true) so I needed to get over it and move on (false). I would shove the pain down deep and get back to work.

If this had happened once or twice, I could have likely moved on without noticeable consequences. But the grief piled up, one after another. And I believe my shut-down came shortly after Thania died. The trauma of that day, the flash backs, the guilt of not being able to save her…it was the emotional straw that broke this camel’s back. So, I shut down and withdrew. It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t even realized I had done it until my sobbing break-down three weeks ago.

And so, over recent days I have grieved anew. And through this period I have learned how healing it is to really grieve. All my life I have heard that you need to take time to grieve after a loss. And I have always given an intellectual nod to the sentiment. But until I faced the consequences of not grieving, I never really understood why.

Each day I feel more of God’s presence and hear His voice more clearly again. Wanda and I are laughing together and taking more time to just talk and love. I am more emotionally available to my family again. I can feel the walls coming down, and it feels good.

I am under no illusion that my grief has been dealt with and things are fine now. I know that there is still grieving to be done. And while I continue to grieve, there will likely be new reasons for grief that will arise. What I am learning is to face it and bask in the pain of loss while allowing Jesus to grieve with me. While grief unaddressed builds walls, grieving tears them down and enables us to find laughter on the other side. And it helps us stay connected to both God and those that we love.

I pray that in my weakness and my hard-learned lesson some of you will find help and healing for your own pain. Face it, feel it, allow the tears to flow, because the alternative is a life lived in numbness. And that’s not worth living.

Blessings from Guatemala!