Friday, January 29, 2016

Honored Guests

This has been a challenging week, both emotionally and physically. Angelita's death and the challenges that followed have left me feeling drained. But in the midst of that, God has lifted my spirit through a family member and a message she sent me last night. 

Wanda's sister-in-law, Melanie Musser, came to Guatemala to share in Brittney and Joel's wedding two weeks ago. She spent several days with us, and took time to share with me her observations from the wedding. What she expressed in her message is what we have prayed for our ministry for so long.  We want everyone to know that the children for which we care are honored guests, both in our lives and in the heart of God. And the same is true for everyone who chooses to accept His invitation.

But since she put it far more beautifully than I ever could, I will let a portion of her message speak for itself:
I am impressed greatly that my time in Guatemala has prompted me to view the world through a bigger lens and to see a glimpse into how God loves all his children.  One of my favorite moments of our trip was a moment at the wedding just before it began, as a whole troop of loving servants wheeled in the kids to the wedding, ready for the huge, all evening, "field trip" to the garden where their loving caregivers had packed a remarkable collection of equipment and medication and feedings and paraphernalia to be able to spend the evening out and to celebrate Brittney and Joel with the big crowd.  
Now, that is love.  Loving caregivers.  A caring Fulp family and Brittney and Joel who invited those kids like the honored guests that they were at this special event.  And a whole cavalcade of friends and helpers who lovingly pushed the kids into the wedding area and then attended them all evening long.  All sorts of love was oozing through that moment.  And it gripped me--in an eternal moment.  An eternal moment when time stood still and what bubbled so obviously to the surface was that this moment was all about love.  Pure, unselfish, self-sacrificing love.  Countless people had extended great effort to invite these kids to the grand party.  Getting them ready was a big deal.  Getting them
to the outdoor wedding and reception was a big deal.  Managing all of their needs, out and about on the town for the evening, took lots of effort.  And there they all were--honored guests at a grand party--integral participants at one of the pinnacle moments in Brittney and Joel's life together.  It all seems so natural and expected in the Fulp family.  That's part of what makes the picture of seeing 10 special needs kids coming in to the grand party with all of their attendants such a beautiful picture.  They did belong there.  They were valued as much as any of the guests.  In a society where children aren't always valued as full human beings, and in a society where
children with special needs are especially overlooked and viewed with little value.  This was a place where they were all obviously given great honor, valued highly, and loved very deeply.  They could have all stayed back home, but it was very important that they be there.  For they are all part of the family and they are all deeply loved.  Of course they're invited to the party.  So very biblical.  We're all invited to The Party, no matter who we are and no matter the degree of value that we have in the society around us.  In that eternal moment, I saw the Love of God embodied, and what a beautiful sight to behold.
Our greatest desire is that everyone know that they are honored guests at the party that God is throwing. The incredible children for which we care are a living parable to that truth. You are treasured by God and wanted at His party, no matter how you see yourself, and no matter how you think others see you. He sees you as His, and that is more than enough if you accept His invitation.

Thank you, Melanie, for taking time to write such encouraging words at a time when they were greatly needed! We love you!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Long Road Home

Late yesterday afternoon Manuel, Cristina, Gerardo, Katy, Jeremiah and I loaded Angelita's casket into our van and headed out on a 4 1/2 hour trip to Jutiapa. We were returning Angelita's body to her grandmother, who had raised her and her two younger siblings until she could not longer address Angelita's special needs. When we departed we had no idea what awaited us on the other end.

We hit rush hour traffic in Guatemala City, which cost us more than an hour of travel time. but we arrived in Jutiapa shortly after 9:00 pm. We thought that our journey was nearly at an end, but we were wrong. A relative of the grandmother met us on the main road, and we followed him on his motorcycle. And followed. And followed. And with each mile the roads got rougher, narrower and harder to negotiate. We wanted to send a good representation of people from our home to offer condolences and love, so we took the van instead of my truck. If I had know how rugged our journey would get, we would have left some behind and driven the 4-wheel drive.

The night was extremely dark, and I was concerned that my van was going to get stuck, but we continued until we could literally go no further. The final hill was too rocky and the dirt was too loose, so my tires were just spinning. It was decided that we would park and carry the casket the last quarter mile. We were also carrying some food and supplies for the family, so I was very glad that word reached the household and they sent some men down to help.

The last 50 yards were down a narrow foot path that took us into the grandmother's home. The casket was carried inside, and immediately people gathered around to look inside and weep. Wailing is a tradition here, so some of that was for show. But, as I looked around, I saw quite a few faces that seemed to be in genuine anguish, including her grandmother and little brother and sister. We had been swept into the room by the crowd of around 100 people, and we found ourselves behind and beside the casket.

At this point, I addressed the crowd and told them of our love for Angelita and the care we provided for her. I explained that we did everything we could for her, but the Lord decided to take her home and heal her perfectly. I then shared the Gospel with them and encouraged them to know Jesus so they would one day join Angelita. At the end, Manuel addressed the children and encouraged them to know Jesus as well and explained that they could give their lives to Him.

We then stepped outside with the grandmother and spoke with her individually. We gave her money for funeral expenses and hugs were exchanged. And then we started our long trip back home.

We once again walked the narrow paths and rutted road, and found that my van was being guarded by a drunk man. I then had to back the van down the same rutted road in reverse, while the crew walked and helped direct me. At last, we were finally able to turn around and drive the rough road forward instead of in reverse. And 15 minutes later, when we finally reached some paved roads, I gave a prayer of thanks to God.

As I drove home last night, I thought about Angelita's story. I thought about how God took that special little girl from a rural and obscure village, and brought her to us. All along, God was taking her home to be with Him, but He did it on a road that took her right through our hearts and lives. Had He not done so, she would have died in obscurity, with no one but a few neighbors knowing her and her journey. But because of the long road that he took her on, her life and her story is now known by many.

Some of you have met and held Angelita. Some of you saw her smile and rocked her. Some of you cried when you said goodbye. Others of you never had the privilege to know her, but you have followed her story and feel like you do. You have prayed for her and cheered her progress. You have wept for every setback and hoped for the best. And all that happened because God blessed us by letting Angelita's long road home pass by each of us.

I am so grateful to God that He allowed me to be part of her journey. I had one of the greatest privileges of all...I got to be her dad during the final years of her trip. And I am so much richer for it.

This morning, we said yes to receive another child. Actually, we have now agreed to take three additional children into our home and lives. A 1 1/2 year old girl with severe cognitive and physical delays...a 9 year old boy with delays...a 12 year old boy with cerebral palsy...all of them are coming into our lives and family as a part of their long journey home. And I don't want to miss the significance of that. I don't want to miss the joy and beauty of their journey in the midst of the challenges of their road.

All of us are on a long journey home, and we have the privilege of walking it together. For some, that will be a life-long journey at our side. For others, we will cross paths briefly and continue on our way. For still others, we will walk with them for a season and then go our separate ways. But I don't want to miss the significance of any of those people that God allows me to walk beside, whether for a moment of for decades.

Angelita has shown me that every person has an important story, and it needs to be told. But the question is, will I take the time to listen and share their stories? Or will I pass them by, failing to notice and care?

It's a long road home, and we need to walk it together. And, while I miss her deeply, I am so glad that Angelita is now safely home.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Our Little Angelita Is With Jesus

Last night our little Angelita left our arms and ran into the arms of Jesus. She is now free of feeding tubes, wheelchairs, pain and sickness. And, even as we grieve deeply for ourselves, we celebrate for her.

She had her surgery to place a G-tube last Thursday. We had been wanting to do that surgery for some time, but had waited for her to stabilize. We finally received the approval from the neurologist and, shortly after, the judge, and proceeded with the surgery. She has had lots of problems with breathing, and we hoped that by removing the NG tube and placing the G-tube it would help her breath better. The surgery was a success, she returned home the next day, and she seemed to be breathing much better.

Yesterday I was on the road almost all day. I took my daughter, Carissa, and my parents-in law to the airport early morning (Carissa is returning to Uganda) and returned home for about an hour before heading to San Pablo La Laguna. We were transporting a refrigerator for my daughter, Brittney, and her new husband, Joel, and helping them get settled into their new home. 

At around 7:15 pm we were on our way home when I received a call from Stevie telling me that Angelita was crying a lot and that he, Katie and Kara believed her to be in great pain. The pain meds did not seem to help, and they were concerned. I immediately called our doctor who agreed to come as soon as he finished with a couple of patients. We arrive home about 45 minutes later, and the doctor came about 10 minutes after that.

He listened to her lungs and determined that she needed to be admitted to the hospital. Someone began packing a bag for her, and I went upstairs to pack an overnight bag for myself. 

And now it when I share a public confession. I was angry at God, and I told Him so. I was tired after more than 11 hours on the road and only 3 1/2 hours of sleep the night before.. I was tired of doctors and hospitals and short nights of sleep. And I was tired of seeing Angelita suffer. So, I yelled at God and told Him so. This was a selfish and angry prayer that was rooted as much in my own fatigue as in my concern for her. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but it was something along the lines of, “God, will you give us a break? Either help her get better or take her! One or the other!” And then I grabbed my bag and stomped down the stairs.

I was making a call to arrange some details while we were getting her ready to leave, when Katy carried Angelita out to me and told me that she had stopped breathing. I did a finger sweep into her mouth and then tried two resuscitation breaths. I realized that her lungs were full of fluid and made the decision to not pursue further attempts at CPR. I honestly felt that to try to prolong her life at that point would be cruel. She slipped away quickly and was gone.

I cannot describe how difficult this was. There have been many times in the last six months that I prayed that God would take her home so she could know complete healing. Yet, as I realized she was truly gone, I struggled deeply. Guilt for my earlier selfishness and desire to somehow bring her back overwhelmed me. How could she slip away so quickly? And we all mourned.

The doctor returned a few minutes later to fill out her death certificate. The casket was ordered, and we prepared her body. She remained in our home overnight while we attempted to contact her biological grandmother and make arrangements. Guests came to offer condolences and remained until almost midnight. We were unable to reach her grandmother until 11:00 am this morning. She wishes for us to return the body to Jutiapa for interment, so plans for that trip began.

We held a brief memorial service at 2:30 this afternoon in our home. Those who loved and cared for her gathered to remember her and celebrate her home going. It was a beautiful service as many shared memories and stories from Angelita’s life. There were tears and smiles, hard moments and fun moments. I think both Angelita and Jesus were pleased.

Gerardo and Manuel quickly worked together to get the necessary paperwork to allow us to transport the body, and I am typing and posting this while traveling to Jutiapa. It is about a 4 1/2 hour trip one way, so we will not return home until around 2 am. Please pray that we are well received and not met with hostility. Also pray that we can minister to her grandmother and extended family and that Jesus is glorified.

Her grandmother is extremely poor, and is concerned about the burial expenses. She asked us if we could help her with sugar and coffee, as the family of the deceased is expected to serve coffee and sweetbread to visitors who come to mourn. We will be providing those things, along with a food basket and Q.1500.00 to help with other expenses, including a grave stone.

Please pray for our family and extended family of workers and volunteers who loved and gave such excellent care to Angelita. All of them are grieving deeply, even as they rejoice that she is now whole and free.

And please pray for me. This entire episode has exposed some ugly and selfish parts of me. So much of me is still unlike my Jesus, and I am struggling with my own uglyness. Pray that I will never again place my own fatigue and self-interest above others, especially a precious child who is suffering. Pray that I will learn to love like Jesus.  And pray that I will learn to fully trust my Lord. I am still so unlike Him.

Thank you for each of you who have prayed for Angelita, given for her care, encouraged us with your words and, now, grieve her loss. You are more valuable than you realize, and your impact is felt in very tangible ways.

Blessings and love from Guatemala!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Second Group Home Coming Soon!

After years of praying, we are excited to announce that plans are in the works to open our second group home for children with special needs here in Guatemala! As you know, the eventual goal is to have ten such homes, and this is the next step to make that a reality.

Michael and KellyGross and their family will be joining us from Paducah, KY, along with two of their four
children, Madison (age 14) and Joshua (age9).  Their two adult children, Hannah and Kortney, will remain in the States, but will hopefully be frequent visitors. Michael and Kelly will serve as Directors and parents in the new home. Michael will also be assisting us with our rural village work.
Please pray for them in the months ahead as they go through the process of selling possessions, raising funds and dealing with the mountain of logistics involved with moving your family to a new country. We also ask you to prayerfully consider talking to your Pastor and church leaders about having them come and share their vision with your congregation.
If you would like to follow their journey, you can do so through their blog at They covet your prayers, encouragement and support as they make this transition. And, on this end, we look forward to welcoming them and seeing God use them for great things!
Blessings from the Fulp Crew and Ministerio de Esperanzo!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Wedding, A Funeral, and Desperate Needs

As I type this, we are at the beginning of a marathon week. Brittney and Joel’s wedding is this Saturday, and the week is filled with airport trips to pick-up family and friends, special events, and time with those who are visiting. At the same time, ministry continues while trying to juggle vehicles.
Actually, Brittney and Joel are already married, at least legally. In Guatemala things are different than in the United States. Pastors and priests are not allowed to solemnize marriages, so there is normally as civil ceremony with a lawyer that precedes the public and religious ceremony. On Saturday an attorney, who is a friend of Joel, came to our home and presided over the civil ceremony. I will officiate the public wedding in a garden her in San Antonio Aguas Calientes this Saturday. These are good times as I see my daughter marrying a man of God with a holy character.
The civil ceremony on Saturday was shadowed somewhat by a funeral. Aura passed away on Friday evening, leaving her husband and children in deep grief. You may remember that her husband came to my home a couple of months ago seeking help for treatment for his wife’s uterin cancer. Some of you sent in funds to assist with that treatment. However, prior to starting radiation treatment the doctor determined that she was severely anemic and too weak to begin the radiation. We were helping them to treat her anemia, but the cancer was just too advance. So the remaining funds were used to pay for her funeral that was on Saturday afternoon. Because of the civil ceremony, I was unable to attend. Please pray for Jose and his children as they grieve.
In the midst of wedding preparation, ministry continues thanks to our incredible staff. On Friday, Manuel and I visited a family whose needs are quite desperate. Ana has three children with special needs. Katarin is 14 and has severe cerebral palsy and cognitive delays. Darian is 12 and has microcephalus and severe cognitive delays. Osbin is 4 and has both physical and cognitive delays. Ana is working hard to provide for herself and her children. She has been living and working in a home where she cleans and cooks, and that has been a huge blessing to her. She is able to keep her children with her as she works. However, that job is ending this week, and she has to leave. She has no one with whom she can leave her children while she goes to work. She has no idea where she can go or what she can do.
Our ministry is praying and seeking God for what we can do to help. We are arranging doctor appointments for both Katarin and Darian, providing a wheelchair for Katarin, and seeking sponsors to help pay for medicine that both of the girls need. But none of that will prevent their homelessness. Could you please pray for them?
Along with Katarin and Darian, we have several other children who are awaiting sponsors right now. Here they are. You can click on the names below to see photos and more info:
Carlos Manuel - Carlos is 11 years old and has hydrocephalus, which has caused severe cognitive and physical delays. It also makes him aggressive, and he cries a lot when he does not have his medicine. His father works, but only makes about $130 a month to provide for his eight children. Carlos needs a one time sponsor to pay for an evaluation with a neurologist, as well as a sponsor that can provide funds for a monthly food basket and medicine.
Darian - Darian is 12 years old, and lives with her mother and two siblings in Antigua.  She is microcephalic and has severe cognitive delays. Her mother,Ana, is a single parent, struggling to care for her three special needs children. We have already arranged an appointment with a Neurologist, but we need a sponsor for her medicine which will cost around $25 per month.
Dora Amarilis - Dora Amarilis is 14 years old, and she suffers from severe scoliosis that has infringed upon her lungs and causes severe muscle pain. Her father works in Guatemala as a waiter, but does not make much money (less than $200 a month), and he spends a lot of that to pay for his two and a half hour bus ride to the city. She needs medicine to help with her muscle pain and a special formula that provides nutrients for her bones. The total cost for sponsoring these needs is $25 a month.
Elva Floridalma - Elva lives in Tecpan with her family; she has a seizure disorder and cerebral palsy. She needs medicine to control her seizures and formula, as she cannot eat solid foods.  Her father works in the fields and makes very little money, providing less than $100 a month for his family of six.   Their situation is desperate, because they cannot afford her formula or medicines. Our ministry is supplying these items until we can find a sponsor, but we cannot afford to do so long term. The cost of sponsorship of her medicine and formula is $50 a month.
Katerin - Katerin is 14 and has severe cerebral palsy and cognitive delays.  She lives with her mother and her two other special needs siblings. She doesn't have a wheelchair, so her mom is using an old baby stroller.  We have arranged a visit with a Neurologist, but we need a sponsor that can provide funds for medicine and formula.
Katerin Estefania - Katerin Estefania is nine years old and has a severe seizure disorder. Her mother is a widow and works hard, but is struggling to provide for their family of four and pay for her medicine. When they cannot afford to purchase the meds, she suffers severe and frequent seizures. The monthly cost for these medicines is $25.
Manuel - Manuel is 14 and lives in La Gomera. He has cerebral palsy and lives with his grandmother. Both his mother and father abandoned him, so she is caring for him. They are now a family of four, and the grandmother is the only provider. She makes just over $200 a month. He needs medicine for spasms and seizures. The cost per month to sponsor his medicines is $20.
Marvin - Marvin had meningitis when he was younger, and as a result, he now has a seizure disorder which causes him to have convulsions several times a week.  He needs a medicine, but it is very costly, and his family cannot afford to pay for it.  His father and brother work in the fields, but they only earn about $100 per month together and must use this to provide for their family of 8.  His medicine costs about $80 per month, and we desperately need a sponsor to cover that cost.
All of these needs are great, so anything you can do to help would be appreciated. Remember, 100% of your gift goes to assist the children. Not one penny is taken for administration or other expenses.
Well, back to work. Blessings from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew