Thursday, December 29, 2016

Death, Hope and Christmas

In my last blog I wrote about our little Margareth (Maggy). And now I must write that she is with Jesus. 

We were able to bring her home from the hospital on the morning of Christmas Eve. I spoke with the doctor and explained the set-up of our home. I told him that we were well equipped to administer her meds through her IV port and that we had all the equipment we needed. So, he allowed her to come home for Christmas.

We arrived back home mid-morning and got her settled in our own hospital ward right next to the Christmas tree. We had the oxygen concentrator ready, along with a suction pump and nebulizer. She settled in and was breathing well, with her oxygen sats in the mid 90’s. She actually seemed stronger and better than we had seen her to that point.

Because of the extensive amount of care she required, we had to establish a printed schedule of feeding, oral meds, IV meds and nebulizations. I spent much of the afternoon making that schedule and administering meds.

Our normal Christmas Eve tradition is to eat snacks and watch the movie, The Nativity Story. We had just settled in and pressed play at around 8:55, when Wanda said, “Daryl, she’s not breathing!”

For the next 35 minutes, Katie Riley, our staff nurse, and I did CPR. Let me just say that I could not have had a better partner than Katie. She was professional, composed and very methodical and precise. We worked together well with me doing respirations while she did compressions until I was exhausted. Then we switched without missing a beat.

Twice Maggy began breathing again, but her breaths were shallow and did not continue for more than a few cycles before she stopped again. At times she had a heartbeat, so we stopped compressions. But her heart would gradually slow, get weaker and then stop, so we would resume compressions. 

But at 9:30 she had no heartbeat and we could not get her to breath. In my heart, I knew she was gone, so we stopped CPR.

I have found myself in similar situations to this numerous times in the last six years. When you are in the midst of the crisis, adrenaline carries you. You go into a machine like mode of breathing and compressions. You focus on what you have to do. And then, when it is over, you are suddenly overwhelmed as the emotions that were put on hold suddenly come flooding in all at once. And that is exactly what happened. 

We hugged and wept together. We all loved little Maggy, and we had hoped that she could survive until she got stronger and received heart surgery. So we grieved and grieved deeply. And, after a while, I slipped away to be alone.

I walked to the far side of our outside steps, sat on the floor and laid my head on one of the steps. And I sobbed. I cried so hard I could barely breath. Because, in addition to grieving the loss of a precious baby, I also had a huge weight of guilt. If I had not talked the doctor into sending her home for Christmas, Maggy might still be alive.

Wanda found me like that. And as she tried to comfort me, I unloaded all that guilt on her. And, at one point, I told her, “I don’t know if I can spring back from this. I don’t think I can keep doing this.” And I really was not sure that I could. 

The next few hours are a blur of visitors, telephone calls, a casket delivery and arrangements discussed. I called our social worker, who told us how to proceed. Maggy’s body was prepared and placed in the casket next to our Christmas tree. And, in the middle of it all, we comforted one another.

At about 1:00 am on Christmas morning I walked over to our doctor’s home with Maggy’s file that he needed to complete her death certificate. Dr. Augusto had never met or examined Maggy, because she came to us late in the evening and was hospitalized the next morning. And when she was discharged he was away visiting family for Christmas Eve. So this was his first chance to see her records.

He spent a few minutes reading her medical file and then looked at me. He told me, “Daryl, she was a very sick little girl who was not going to live. You know that don’t you? There was nothing you could do to save her.” When I began to cry he said, “It was good she died in your home with your family instead of in the hospital.”

As I walked back to our house, I felt that God had given me what I needed to make it until morning. I finally laid down to a fitful sleep at around 2:00 am.

The next morning at 7:00 am, Jeremiah, Joel, Andi, Stevie and I walked to the graveyard and dug her grave. Dale showed up and lent a hand as well. We then returned to the house, cleaned up and had a brief service for Maggy. I read of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2 and spoke about how the birth of one baby gave us hope during the death of another. In reality, the only reason that we have any hope at all is because of that one baby that was born in Bethlehem, and because if his death 33 years later. A couple of other spoke as well, then we said our goodbyes. 

We had a small procession of people who walked to the graveside, and some of our neighbors saw and joined us. I said a few words and prayed, and we lowered her tiny casket and filled in the grave. And then we returned home.

I knew that we needed to salvage what was left of Christmas for the kids, so when I arrived back home I loudly announced, “The funeral is over! It is time for Christmas!” We signed in with our daughters, Carissa and Taryn via Skype, and they participated from Uganda. I shared the story of Simeon with the kids, and we then opened presents.

In spite of our grief, we had a good time together. The children loved their presents, and there was laughter, photos, and hugs. We then enjoyed a huge lunch together. I believe that the children will have pleasant memories of the day, even in the midst of the painful goodbye.During this time, I have felt God’s presence, even during the darkest moments. I don’t know what to call it, except His smile. I know this is the life to which He has called us. I know that He loves these children, including Maddy, far more than we ever could. And I also know that He is pleased when we love them, as well. So, we keep moving forward.

I have struggled somewhat since Christmas Eve. Call it a general sadness. In addition, whenever someone speaks in a urgent voice my heart rate escalates quickly in a panic. When falling to sleep, I often jerk awake suddenly, thinking that Maggy is still with us but she has stopped breathing. And I struggle with paranoia regarding the children’s health. I guess you might call it a mild case of PTSD. 

Last night we made the decision to receive a three year old girl named Genesis into our home and family. She has severe cerebral palsy and cognitive delays that were caused, we believe, by meningitis.

I am truly proud of my family, which includes our interns, that is willing to step up again so soon after the very painful loss of little Maggy. Every one of them understands the importance of grieving, but they also understand it is important to keep serving and reaching in the midst of our pain. Each day they continue to humble and amaze me.

The courts will not be open to order the move until January 3rd. It will likely take a few days after that, due to the backlog of cases that will be waiting. She is currently in an orphanage that is not equipped to care for special needs, but, thankfully, I know it to be a safe place that cares well for its children. Please pray for little Genesis and for our family and team during the transition that lies ahead.

I wish I could tell you I have the answers to all our huge questions. I wish I could tell you that I am strong and stable. I wish I could say I do not continue to struggle with my own fears and pain. But I cannot. I am experiencing what I believe to be slight depression with lots of accompanying fatigue. I have not struggled like this since Thania’s very traumatic and sudden death in July 2013. 

But I can tell you this: God is good, and He is my Sustainer. In my weakness, He is strong. So, for now, I will be weak and allow Him to be strong. And, together, we will advance and not retreat.

Happy New Year from Guate!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Close Calls & Christmas

Let me describe our week with one word. WHEW!

It all started on Monday when we received a call from the courts in Guatemala City. They told us they had a three month old little girl with microcephaly and wondered if we would take her. Our home is full, but we also know that we specialize in brain damage cases. So, we agreed.

Little Margareth arrived on Monday evening at around 8:30, and the first thing I noticed was that she was not microcephalic. The second thing I noticed was that she was very malnourished. When I questioned the social worker who brought her, she told us that she, instead, suffered from a severe seizure disorder and had spent her entire life in the national hospital Roosevelt. She also told us that she was being treated for a cough and we simply needed to follow the treatment plan established by the hospital.

She showed signs of severe low-tone cerebral palsy. She was unable to support her head at all, and her arms hung limply at her sides. She was very unresponsive. The problem with this situation is that we have never seen her before this moment. We have no baseline against which we can measure her current status. Is this “normal” and a result of brain damage? Or is there a problem that needs to be addressed.

And this is where I made a nearly fatal mistake. I trusted the hospital. Roosevelt is the nation’s largest and best national hospital. They have the best doctors and equipment. And they usually provide semi-decent care. The hour was late by the time the paperwork was completed, and I decided that, since she had just been discharged a few hours earlier, she must be stable. So I decided to wait until the following morning to have our doctor come and check her. That decision nearly killed a precious little girl, and I have kicked myself repeatedly.

She slept in a porta-crib in our bedroom so that we could monitor her closely. She coughed during the night, and Wanda got up with her early to take her downstairs and hold her while she slept. I eventually got up and started getting ready for the day.

Suddenly Wanda burst into the bathroom where I was and said, “Something is wrong! Is she breathing? I don’t think she is breathing!” I grabbed her, took her to our bed, and checked her breathing and pulse. She had, indeed, stopped breathing, so I started CPR.

After a moment, I realized that she had phlegm that was blocking her airway, so I ran downstairs to our changing room where we keep a suction machine. I attempted to suction her, but the machine was malfunctioning (even though I inspect it regularly to assure that it is working well). I cleared her mouth and continued CPR while Stevie worked on the machine and got it working. 

This continued for around 5 to 7 minutes. I will be honest, I thought we had lost her. I would do several courses of compressions and breathing, and would then do an abdominal thrust to help clear phlegm. I could feel air flowing into her lungs and felt I was getting good compressions, so I kept going. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I blew air into her lungs and she coughed, bringing up a large wad of phlegm…and started breathing again! Shortly after, she began to cry, and what a beautiful sound that was!

Meanwhile, we had been trying to reach the rescue squad, but their phone was not on. (Yes, you read that right.) So I ran upstairs to finish getting dressed (I was wearing boxers and a t-shirt for this ordeal.) and we started grabbing items to take to the hospital. At the same time, Stevie had gotten the suction machine working and was able to suction out additional mucous. So Wanda and I headed to the hospital via a breath-taking ride in our new ambulance with Margareth. We were seen quickly and she was immediately admitted.

And this was when I collapsed in exhaustion. And, as more info came back to us, I moved from fatigue to anger. Little Margareth had a severe case of pneumonia, which means she had pneumonia 16 hours before when she was discharged from Roosevelt. And, as more info came to us, I got angrier. She also had severe anemia, which may require a transfusion. And a lung infection. And a heart defect. All of these were undiagnosed and untreated when she was discharged the day before, in spite of over three months in that hospital. And this negligence and incompetence nearly killed her.

And then I got angry with myself. I should have called the doctor and had him come the night before. I should know better than to ever trust any national hospital. I should always verify the health of a child immediately. And I did not. And I nearly killed her as a result.

Finally, I settled on something besides angry and guilt…gratitude. She was still alive. God had orchestrated details in such a way as to save her life. Katie, our nurse, was away in Guastatoya on a village trip. I had been scheduled to leave early that morning and head to the far side of Guatemala City, but at 5:30 am I received a message from my friend telling me that power lines were down across his driveway due to high winds, so we could not meet. As a result, I slept in a little longer and was home when the crisis hit. Praise God for His orchestration of power lines and schedules to save His children!

Our little girl has a huge battle ahead. I am typing this blog from her hospital room while this very sick little princess lies beside me for the night. We have to get her past this current crisis, help her gain weight and get stronger, and likely have heart surgery. Lots of work lies ahead as do lots of  expenses, because I guarantee you that the national hospital will not touch this little girl again if I have anything to say about it. Please pray for her.

After the immediate crisis passed, I realized some important plans we had made were in jeopardy. As a part of our Christmas present to our kids and interns, we had made arrangements to rent a home in Antigua for a night away as a retreat. All the Fulps and interns were to spend that time together while some of our nannies spend the night in the home to care for the other kids. We have faced some serious challenges and losses in the last year, and we really needed the time together. But, with Margareth’s hospitalization, I did not see how we could follow through. At least one of us would have to stay at the hospital with her at all times.

But the Beyer family came to the rescue! Dale, Anita, Kristin, Kathlyn and Alyssa took turns with shifts so we could all go away together! Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are for them!

So, yesterday morning we all headed out for a wonderful time together. We swam, played games, laughed and talked for hours. I have not felt so relaxed in a long time.

Then today we left the home and headed out highway CA-1 toward Lake Atitlan. Every year during the month of December children come out and stand by the highway and wave at passing cars. Some cars throw out candy and snacks as a part of the Christmas season. So our whole family, including interns, took candy, but that’s not all. We also took coats, shoes, warm hats, toothbrushes, toothpaste and small toys. Instead of tossing candy, we stopped and were swarmed by children and families as we passed out the items.

This is a poor region, and many of the kids were without decent shoes, coats or hats. The region is almost 9000 feet above sea level, so it is chilly most of the time and cold the rest of the time. Many of the children were dirty and poorly clothed. They lined up and we gave away almost everything we had.

One powerful moment came when a lady with special needs approached us. She was barefooted and needed shoes. But we only had shoes in children’s sizes, so I thought we would have to send her away with nothing. However, I watched as my wife gave her her own flip flops. And I fell in love with Wanda all over again.

I have struggled this year with finding my “Christmas Spirit.” Life is busy, and we have been dealing with some very sick children in our home. I have just been overwhelmed and a little nostalgic for an “old fashioned North Carolina or Ohio Christmas.” It just has not felt like Christmas.

But today I found what I was looking for. As we stood surrounded by a crush of children, I was reminded of what Christmas really is. It is not about family. It is not about cold weather. It is not about the smells and memories of my childhood holidays. It is not a feeling or emotion.

It is hope, joy, and love that we only have because Jesus came to be God with us. In the most astounding event in human history, God became one of us so that He could be with us in every moment. And through this, we have what the entire world longs for, even if they do not realize it. And due to this incredible event called Christmas, we have the incredible privilege of taking hope, joy and love to the world every day and in every interaction. Today, on the side of a highway, surrounded by a crowd of children, I found Christmas.

If you are struggling to find Christmas this year, it is because you are looking in the wrong place. You won’t find it in traditions, decorations, cookies, gifts or parties. You will find it among the hurt and the broken who are looking for what you have. Go find your Christmas today.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Five Words A Christ-follower Should Never Utter

It appears we are losing another one…

Edy joined our home right after his second birthday, but you would never have guessed his age. Due to severe malnutrition, he was, and still is, tiny for his age. His mother abandoned him, and his grandmother did the best she could. But the coffee and tortillas that were all she could afford were just not sufficient for an infant.

It is unclear if his brain damage was due to the malnutrition, if it was from complications in  pregnancy or birth, or if both were contributing factors. But the results were devastating. Our neurologist informed us that 80% of his brain was damaged or dead, including his brainstem, which controls his autonomous functions such as heartbeat, breathing and body temperature. He also told us that he likely doesn’t have long to live.

He is blind and severely cognitively and physically impaired. Yet his smile and laugh can light up a room. His laugh is the most contagious I have ever encountered. You cannot hear it without laughing yourself.

Yet he seems to be slipping away. Due to the brain damage he suffers from apnea. He simply stops breathing. He exhales and doesn’t inhale again. And these instances are terrifying. 

We have different levels of intervention to get him breathing again, and until recently they have worked well. In some instances, a loud noise such as clapped hands will startle him and restart his breathing. At other times it requires a sudden pat on the back or chest. If these don’t work, we mist his face and chest with cold water, which has always worked.

But as time passes, the frequency and severity of these episodes are worsening. The loud noises and pats seldom work now. The cold water occasionally does. But we have recently had to resort to giving resuscitation breaths. We pinch his nose, seal our mouths around his, and forcibly blow air into his lungs, just like we would while performing CPR. And, to this point, this intervention has restarted his breathing. But it seems his time is running out, and I find myself wondering when this final step will stop working.

Last night, after a particularly scary episode in which I administered the resuscitation breath, I prayed a one sentence prayer that was more of a statement…

“God, I can’t do this again!”

In the last three years we have buried four of the children from our home. These were children that we loved like our own. Esperanza, Thania, Micah and Angelita all came into our home, captured our hearts, and then left us…taking a part of us with them. The grief has been deep, powerful and, at times, devastating. And the thought of facing that again terrifies me. So, maybe you can understand that prayer I prayed last night.

“God, I can’t do this again!”

Yet, even as I said the words, I know that I can and will. We will likely lose Edy, and we will grieve. Oh, how we will grieve. And it won’t be the last time. There will be more children, likely some who are currently in our home, who will begin to decline and slip away. They will leave our arms and go straight into the arms of Jesus. And there will likely be others whom we have not yet met.

The call will come. We will be told of a sick child that needs a home. We will be told that they are very severe. We will be told that they may not live long. And we will say “Yes,” against every piece of common sense that tells us to guard our hearts and our sanity. And we will do it all over again. Because if we don’t, who will?

Over my adult lifetime, I have often heard believers utter words that should never come out of a Christ-follower’s mouth. This sentence usually follows a conversation in which they hear of people serving in a way that sounds extreme to them. They open their mouths and the words come out…

“I could never do that!”

These words are quickly followed by their reasoning for why they should never be expected to do such a thing.

In response to foster parenting: “I could never do that! I would love the children too much!” (If you have ever uttered that to a foster family, please go find them and beg their forgiveness.)

In response to the mission field: “I could never do that! I wouldn’t want to uproot my children!”

In response to caring for dying children: “I could never do that! It would break my heart!”

In response to going to dangerous parts of the world to minister: “I could never do that! It would put my family at risk!”

As Jesus followers, the words “I could never do that” should be stricken from our vocabulary. They should be taboo in our household. I need to stop allowing it to pass my mind, even in the heat of crisis. These are spiritual profanity.

What’s the big deal? Why are these words so forbidden? Here’s why…

  1. If we cannot do it, who can? If we have the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead living within us (Romans 8:11), how can we believe any work that would bring glory to Jesus Christ is beyond what we can do emotionally, physically or spiritually? If we, the church of Jesus, cannot do something, then who can?
  2. They deny God’s power and rely on our abilities. We speak to the world about the greatness and majesty of God, yet deny His ability to accomplish His work through us. It makes our faith appear foolish a weak, because it is, at least if we think this way.
  3. They place a limit on our level of obedience. Do we really want to tell our God who left His throne and hung on a cross that there are things we are unwilling and unable to do for Him? What can He ask of us that He is not worthy to receive?
  4. They slam the door on God’s calling in our lives. This is important! The things that most break our hearts are likely the things with which God wants us most involved. What most stirs your heart? What makes you shed the most tears? What injustice keeps you awake at night? These are the areas in which God is moving in your life. But if we shy away from these areas of brokenness because they are hard to face or contemplate, we will miss our calling.

This life we are living is both hard and wonderful. There are moments that the beauty and privilege of this ministry and calling take my breath away. There are other moments in which I am brought to my knees in brokenness and grief. And, through it all, I feel God’s smile.

Almost everyone we encounter loves the ministry we do. They love the IDEA of children with special needs being cared for and loved. They love the IDEA of children who are dying being surrounded by a loving family. They love the IDEA of ministering to the broken and poverty stricken. But very few love the idea of actually doing it.

I occasionally am told, “I would love to do what you do!” And my response is always the same. “Great! Then do it! I will help you!” And that is where the back-peddling begins. And that is where those five stinking, lousy, good-for-nothing words rear their ugly head.

What breaks your heart? What is the one thing to which you find yourself saying, “I could never do that”? I am begging you…please stop saying it. Instead, hit your knees before the Savior who went to the cross for us. And ask him...

 “Jesus, do you want me to do that?”

If you can find the courage to do so with an open and obedient heart, it will likely transform your life and take you to places you have never imagined. Who knows? You might even find yourself loving a dying child…and feeling God’s smile raining down on you. And He will give you what you need to do what you never thought you could.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Facebook Update from Guatemala November 17, 2016 at 03:38PM

Today we began working in a new village called El Zapote in Esquintla. My friend, Rolando Monteroso, took me there to measure four people for wheelchairs. We visited Berta, Carlos, Gregorio and Maria to determine the style and size of chairs needed.


We thought we were done when a lady from the local health center asked us to visit one more man. Alfonzo was run over by a tractor six years ago, and the national hospital did surgery to repair his right leg. But afterwards, his circulation to his lower leg and foot was greatly diminished. Then he received a small cut to his shin three years ago that will not heal. It has spread to encompass almost all of his shin and calf. We found it severely infected and oozing puss. (I cannot share a photo or Facebook would shut down my account.) We have begun treating the infection and hope to address the circulation issues when I return next week. Please pray for Alfonzo, as his condition is quite serious. This type of wound is difficult to heal and dangerous to the person.

Then, on the way home, we had to dodge cattle while driving through a stream. Just another typical day in Guatemala.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Facebook Update from Guatemala November 16, 2016 at 09:29AM

Hope for Home Ministries  We are now connecting the Hope for Home Facebook Page directly to the blog. Now you can see more regular updates posted here, so follow closely!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Baseball, the Cubs…and Other Things That Don’t Matter

If you are my friend on Facebook, you know I love baseball. You also know that I love the Chicago Cubs and have been a fan of them since I was five years old. 

It is rather odd that I, a North Carolina boy, would be a fan of the Lovable Losers.  My dad was a Yankees fan (insert shudder here), so you would assume that I would follow in his steps. But at age five on a late spring Saturday afternoon I saw a Cubs game broadcast through a local station. I remember the green of the ivy in Wrigley Field. I remember they were playing the Cincinnati Reds. I remember the Cubs winning. And I was hooked!

And that has led to 45 years of disappointment and hope…
I believe!
I want to believe…
Hopes raised, then dashed.  
Not again!
That’s it! I’m done! (Not really.) 
Next year!
New season! Let’s go, Cubbies!

And, to make matters worse, I have passed this affliction on to my wife and children. They, too, now cheer and suffer alongside me. And, after the difficult losses, when I see the disappointment in their eyes, I feel that I have been abusive to them by passing on my Cubs addiction. After all, before this season the Cubs went 71 years without making it to the World Series and 108 years without winning one. That is the longest championship drought in US sports history.

But this year has been different. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the Cubs are in the World Series for the first time in 71 years. In fact, tonight they will face off against the Cleveland Indians in the winner-take-all game 7 to determine the 2016 World Champions. And, needless to say, our family is kind of excited!

Every game of the playoffs has included our family and friends filling our living room to watch, adorned with Cubs shirts, jerseys and hats. Our two daughters, Carissa and Taryn, are living in Uganda, so they are nine hours ahead of us. They are waking up at 3:00 am and watching the games on computer while doing group chat with us on Facebook. My daughter in San Pablo La Laguna is watching as well and doing the same. The cheers are loud, as are the groans. High fives and hugs are the norm. And, of course, I have been posting my excitement on Facebook. 

If you go back through my postings for the last eight months, you see regular comments and shared stories about the Cubs and their amazing season (103 wins during the regular season). And, as playoffs got closer and began, you see an increase in these posts. And during the last nine days of the World Series, I have likely become intolerable to everyone who is not a baseball fan in general and a Cubs fan specifically. And these posts have created a dichotomy on my Facebook page.

In other words, you can read through my posts and see me write about something that is really important, such as a child that is sick and dying, or a good mother having to fight for the custody of her child. Then, a couple of hours later, I might write about a Cubs player hitting a home run. It is the very important and life-and-death situations scattered with baseball. And this has cause some confusion and concern in some people.

I tend to be a very practical person in most areas of life. I am almost always cutting through the distractions to focus on the important things. For example, I have been very vocal in my belief that the outcome of the current election is not near as important as how the church will represent Jesus through it. So, as I have seen believers arguing, hand-wringing, and endorsing their candidates, I have sought to challenge believers to be more focused on loving others, sharing Jesus and trusting God. In many respects, I believe the church has elevated democracy and patriotism to the level of idol worship, and I want to help tear down those false gods.

So, here I am telling people to focus on the things that are really important while also posting about baseball. Am I just a hypocrite?

Over the last two years, I have had a couple of people write to me about my love for baseball. And both messages were remarkably similar and went something like this: “Daryl, you deal with life and death situations on a regular basis. You see extreme poverty and illness and are surrounded by deep and profound suffering. In light of that, do you really think baseball is important?”

And here is my answer:
Of course not!

“Then why do you watch it?”
Because it is not important!

My family and I have been surrounded by death, sickness and suffering for almost six years now. My children have watched other children die in our home. We have had four children lie in caskets in our living room while people enter to pay their respects. Since we moved to Guatemala, my children have experience death and grief to a level that many adult will never know. Our lives are frequently overwhelmed with the important things of life.

So, you would not believe how wonderful it is for our family to come together and celebrate and cheer together! Even as I type this, I have tears in my eyes from just thinking about the family times we have enjoyed in recent weeks watching the Cubs. From the youngest up, we have laughed, high-fived, wore rally caps, yelled, jumped up and down and fist pumped repeatedly. We have had so much fun focusing for a few hours in the evenings on something that just doesn’t matter. And I am hopeful that, in years to come, the pain of the losses that my children experienced will be softened by the joy of these kinds of moments together.

And, at the end of the day, while I really want my Cubs to win it all tonight, I know that it is not really important. No one’s life or health is hanging in the balance (unless the Cubs cause me to have a heart attack). And that is good.

While Christ calls us to dedicate our lives to things that really matter, that does not mean that we should not occasionally escape and enjoy down time. I want to do this ministry for a long time, but I will burn-out unless I have some time for the unimportant. But the wonderful part is when I can combine something really important (my family) with the unimportant joys (baseball). 

As a result, no matter who wins the game tonight, my family and I win big!

Blessings from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Cubs Crew
Go, Cubbies!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Important Meeting (But what's really important?)

I haven’t shared about it here, but a little over a month ago we were contacted by Bienestar Social (Social Wellness - a department of the Guatemalan Government) and asked to be a part of a new foster family program they want to start. They were asking us to help recruit and train families who are willing to take in a child, and then provide supervision to them once a child was placed. This is a brand new program, and the government is approaching it in an intelligent manner, asking successful homes who provide high quality care for orphans to lead the way. 

For me, this was a no-brainer. Through this new program, we have the potential to multiply the number of children that we can keep out of orphanages and provide a loving, family environment for each of them. We immediately agreed and had a face-to-face meeting with the director of the program the following week.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Contrasts (Grief and Miracles)

As I look back over the last month since my last post, I am struck by the contrasts we have experienced in this ministry. We have seen deep grief as well as great miracles of provision and guidance. We have seen obstacles and open doors, sometimes in the very same moments. And, through it all, we continue to see how very good God is.

First, the grief and obstacles…

Monday, August 15, 2016

Not Letting Go of the Rope

At last I am taking the time to do a full blog update! It has taken a while, as my last one was a month ago. Perhaps I should find someone to write my blog for me each week. Hmmmm…

For some time I have been fighting the continued expansion of this ministry. It has grown at a rate that frightens me and leaves me feeling not in control. But I guess that is true, as I have never been in control of anything. That has been, and always will be, God’s job. But with each expansion I have felt increasingly ill-equipped to lead. So, I have tried to slow things down and resist, and I have been very unsuccessful. 

Have you ever seen someone learning to water ski? It is usually an awkward experience that involves numerous falls. And sometimes when a newbie falls, they forget to let go of the tow rope. As a result, they are drug through the water face-first with water going in their mouths, up their nose and turning their eyelids inside-out. It is funny to watch, but not to experience.

As the ministry grows, that very much describes how I feel. I am holding on for dear life as God drags me ahead while I helplessly try to slow His 500 horsepower outboard engine with my face. Trust me when I say, that doesn’t work.

So, in July, our ministry expanded to another department. For some time I have been receiving calls and messages from a social worker in Jalapa asking us to come. Over and over I told her that we could not expand into another region, but that I would provide a few wheelchairs to some people during a one-time visit. Silly me. Before all was said and done, I found myself bringing six wheelchairs and a crew with me for a very long day.

We left at 4:30 in the morning and arrived around 8:00 am. If you have never been a part of a wheelchair delivery, I need to explain something. It usually does not go quickly. Each chair has to be adjusted to fit the individual, and that takes time to do correctly. I have never done more that three chairs in a day during a village trip, and just doing three amounts to a long day. As a result, we did not arrive back home until around 10:15 pm. And I was exhausted.

There is so much poverty in the department of Jalapa. As we visited, God softened my heart to the region and the needs. By the end of the day I had committed to visiting once a month and finding sponsors for families.

One of the cases was heart-breaking. Sherlyn is a teenage girls who suffers from Autism and cerebral palsy. She can be aggressive and often hurts herself. She will take her fingers and claw against concrete walls and floors until she bleeds. She is easily over-stimulated and gets agitated when she is. Her family does not understand her condition, and they have dealt with it the only way they know how…by putting her in a large box. I should note that it was clean and they had placed toys in with her, but it definitely was aggravating her condition.

We spent a lot of time talking with the family and educating them about autism. I showed them appropriate stimulation, and they saw her immediately relax as I did so. We provided her with a wheelchair and showed them how it was much healthier to sit outside in the chair than stay in the box. We will continue working with the family in the months ahead. Please pray for Sherlyn and her family.

I can talk about the poverty of the region, but there is no better example of that poverty than little Elvin and his family. Elvin is 5 years old and has cerebral palsy and a severe cleft lip and palate. His family lives in a small mud brick and mud floor home. There is no father in the family, so when they expanded the home by adding a small room, a 12 year old brother did all the work. A dim bulb lit the room as we provided him with a wheelchair and assessed his needs. We will be seeking a sponsor to provide him with food, diapers and therapy. We will also seek a sponsor to cover a medical assessment so we can get him on a waiting list to have his lip and palate repaired.

Carmen’s family is also very poor, but that doesn’t dim her smile. She seems to be happy all the time. But the family’s situation is getting critical. One of Carmen’s sisters has a little work, but she is due to have a baby any day. And she fears that she will lose her job if she misses work for childbirth. We will also be seeking a sponsor for food for Carmen and her family.

By the time we had delivered the six wheelchairs and visited three additional families, the hour was late. I returned home feeling overwhelmed and seeking God for how we could impact Jalapa and help in a significant way. We will be returning next week, and already there is a long list of families that are waiting to see us. One life at a time, we hope to bring glory to Jesus.

At the end of July we said goodbye to our daughter, Taryn. She is currently in Uganda to serve for the next year with our daughter, Carissa, who is opening a home for girls with special needs. This goodbye was hard for us. We have said goodbye so many times to those we love, and it just doesn’t get easier. She celebrated her 18th birthday just a few days after arriving in Uganda, and it was hard not being with her. 

But all these goodbyes are what we have prayed for since before our children were born, although we did not realize it at the time. We have always prayed that our children would grow to love Jesus and follow Him wherever he leads. We insisted that there be included in their infant dedication services a commitment to release them to and support them in full-time ministry if God were to so call them. And God has answered our prayers. As a result, we currently have two daughters serving in Uganda, one daughter serving in San Pablo La Laguna, Guatemala (three hours northwest of us), and another joining us in Guatemala this Saturday. (We have no idea in what region of Guatemala she and her new husband will serve.) And we also have Jeremiah, who is currently 15 and feeling God’s call. But we don’t know if he will serve in Guatemala, the United States, or on the other side of the world.

So, we say goodbyes, swallow the lumps in our throats, wipe the tears and pray a lot. And we rejoice that our children are following Jesus, even if it is on the other side of the globe.

We just finished our team season with two excellent groups over the last two weeks, and I had the opportunity to take a small representative of each team out with me to visit some villages and families. Two weeks ago we went to Las Palmas and provided a new wheelchair for Henri. Henri is one of the most difficult children to seat because he is very high-tone and his hips cannot bend to 90 degrees. So, he has a tendency to slide down in any chair we place him in. His old chair wore out, so as we were leaving I stopped by our rural village storage building and grabbed a chair that I prayed would work. And, praise God, it did! After about 1 1/2 hours of adjustments Henri was sitting up better than I had ever seen before. 

Last week we visited families in Tecpan with the group. I love that area, because the drive to the different families is beautiful. But I was also excited to see Dora and her family. They are one of my favorite families with whom we work, because the joy of the Lord is always present in their home.

When we arrived at their house we found Dora quite sick. She had a high fever, a bad headache and was vomiting. We were quickly able to get her fever down, and I realized she had a nasty case of pharyngitis. We started her on antibiotics, and she is now doing much better.

We were also able to deliver a portable oxygen concentrator to her. We are renting a home oxygen concentrator for her, but she can only use it in her house with electricity. She loves going to church, but when she goes without oxygen her lips turn blue and she gets sick. They also have power outages, and she has the same problem when this happens. With this unit that was donated to our ministry, she can now go to church as it can run quietly for hours on batteries. This can also serve as a back-up in case of power outages.

Providing oxygen is a growing part of our ministry. We rent two home oxygen concentrators for two different families. We provide a donated third concentrator to another family. We also provide portable oxygen tanks and regulators for those who need to be mobile for doctor appointments or emergency transportation. And we were just donated three of the portable concentrators to use with families such as Dora’s. 

Speaking of which, if you have connections to get us donations of oxygen tanks, we really need them. We currently have three that are operational, and we need a lot more..

You probably remember little Edy. He joined our home about two months ago. He came to us recovering from malnutrition. His mother had abandoned him, and his grandmother had done her best to care for him. But, due to poverty, she only had tortillas and coffer to feed him. He has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and is blind.

Two weeks ago we had a CAT scan done on him. The results were not good. The neurologist tells us that 80% of his brain is dead or damaged, including parts of his brain stem. He told us that he believes that Edy does not have long to live. He says that he will likely just stop breathing some day soon.

This news was difficult to hear. We knew that he had severe special needs, but did not realize until now that those needs were likely terminal. And our first thought was, “Lord, please not again!”

We have lost so many children that we love. Four have died in our home due to severe medical conditions, and many more have died in our rural village ministry. As I counted up recently, I realized that I have attended more funerals in the last 5 1/2 years than in my first 43 years of life. And all but one of those funerals were for children. The thought of losing little Edy feels overwhelming.

But we realize that this is a vital part of our ministry. We don’t know how long we have with Edy, but we know that we will love him deeply for as long as we do. And, when the day comes, we will lay him in the arms of Jesus and grieve for him. Every child deserves a family that will fight for him and grieve for him when the fight is over. Sometimes God uses us to save lives. Sometimes God calls us to carry them to Him.

And so, wherever God takes me, no matter how painful and no matter how fast, I won't let go of the rope.

Well, that is all for now. Blessings and love from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew