Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wounds and Healing

I know what you are thinking. “I thought this guy was dead.” As long as it has been since my last blog update, your confusion is understandable. 

Life has been full. In fact, it continues to be full. I am typing this while Manuel drives and we bounce over rough roads. We are currently on the way to the city to deliver two wheelchairs and two walkers, and this was the only time I could find to write. (On a side note, it is very difficult to keep my fingers on the keys while jumping speed bumps and potholes, so you will have to forgive my typos.)

So much has happened in the last month that I am going to have a tough time remembering all that you should know. So we will just have to hit the highs and the lows.

One of the low points has been a nasty illness that Wanda contracted. It goes by many names, including Undulant Fever and Mediterranean Fever, but regardless of what you call it, it is nasty. It is contracted from tainted meat or milk, and begins with a fever that comes and goes. Soon joint and muscle pain set in, and it is severe. Wanda, who is not a wimp by any means, has been leveled with this illness. After almost three weeks she continues to have periods of severe pain, fever and fatigue. She is on one type of antibiotic to treat it, and we have been searching for a second antibiotic to prevent reoccurrence.  We finally found what she needs in a tuberculosis hospital in the city, and she will be going in to get it on Friday. 

This illness can last from a few weeks to several months, so we are praying that this case will be the former. Please pray with us.

After months of battling with CNA to get our reauthorization as an orphanage, we were finally granted the renewal in early May. This was supposed to be a simple and quick process, but due to the obstructionist nature of CNA it was anything but. They nitpicked every piece of paperwork, requested changes and were, pretty much, petty bullies. And apparently this was the case with lots of homes. Due to complaints by numerous orphanages, our new President of Guatemala got involved. He formed a commission to investigate, and they requested numerous documents from us to analyze the relationship of CNA to our home and others. The end result was numerous firings and an edict to work better with homes. Shortly afterwards our reauthorization was completed, praise God!

Two weeks ago we took another trip to Quiche. We continue to work closely with another ministry called Las Maripositas (The Little Butterflies) led by Greg and Helaine Walton. They are such a blessing to their community as they so effectively minister to people with special needs. They make our ministry much more efficient, as they set us up in their center and arrange for the families to be brought to us. As a result, we are able to squeeze 48 hours of ministry into 24. We are truly blessed by their work.

We were able to see so much progress in lives over the last month, thanks to the work of the Waltons and their staff. One of the greatest changes was in Wilson. You may remember that we met him last month when his mom and dad brought him in after his mother had a dream from God. He had horrible bedsores and was in a dilapidated old wheelchair. We connected him with a better chair, and Greg arranged for his pressure sores to be repacked twice a day. As a result, he is improving quickly with no signs of infections. He has healthy, granulated tissue growing quickly. We brought him air cushions for his bed and wheelchair to further assist the healing. We also brought him wrist braces and adapted utensils so that he can work on feeding himself for the first time since his accident..

While we were there, little Juana got her first wheelchair. Her mother has been carrying her on her back for years, and the smile on both of their faces were well worth the effort to get her seated. Each time I provide a chair I am reminded of how precious mobility is, both for the child and their parent. 

We were also able to do cane training with Mynor. He is 18 years old and suffered brain damage when his mom was pregnant with him and fell off a ladder, resulting in blindness. He picked up the training well and we will be working with him in future months to help him improve his skills and expand his territory.

Sometimes I convince myself that I have seen it all and nothing can break me anymore than I have already been broken. Then someone like Manuel will step into my life. He is 75 years old and lives alone. His neighbor brought him into the center to seek help, because he regularly finds him in the street and he does not have food to eat. He came in using a rickety walker and wearing three pairs of glasses that he had tied together to help him see. And all three of the pairs were so dirty that I could see nothing useful through them.

While some of the staff took his glasses apart and cleaned them, I sat and talked with him. He told me that he tried to go to church, but the last time he attempted it his old walker folded and collapsed under him and caused him to fall. At that point in his story, he broke down and began to cry. And since he was surrounded by people who cared, both from Las Maripositas and our ministry, he continued to cry and share his story for the next 40 minutes. 

Greg had a new walker at the center that we adjusted and gave to him. We made an appointment with a local eye doctor and agreed to pay for the proper glasses that he needs. We also provided him with some food that his neighbor agreed to cook for him. And, for the first time in a long while, Manuel knew he was not alone. 

Our ministry is officially for children with special needs, but I have not figured out how to say no to an older person just because they are not the right age. I guess we are all God’s children, so I am technically still working within our missions statement.

A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by a family in our town. They have a daughter who is almost six months old who has Down Syndrome named Karli. She is very malnourished, weighing under five pounds, and has been hospitalized with pneumonia. The problem is the national hospital did not have oxygen. (Yes, you read that right.) So, we made arrangements to rent an oxygen generator and took it to the hospital. They began to see immediate improvement in her as soon as they started the oxygen flow. I continue to be amazed at the lack of basic resources available. You would think I would be used to it by now.

Last week we were contacted by the family of Luis Angel. I wrote about him a few months ago when I first met him. He has hydrocephalus and has had seven surgeries to install shunts that keep failing. And all of this occurred before he turned two. This time we were contacted because he had a respiratory infection. His family had taken him to the IGGS hospital (the hospital for those who have social security benefits). This is supposed to be better than the national hospital, but after three days they sent him home in worse shape than when he arrived. The family called because they were desperate. They told us he was dying, and asked us to please help. 

We arranged for him to be hospitalized in a private hospital in Antigua, where he was quickly diagnosed with pneumonia.  Within 24 hours he had improved significantly, but then we received devastating news. We were told that they suspected that he had leukemia. For a child from a poor family in Guatemala, this is a death sentence. Private treatment for leukemia can run between $20,000 and $40,000 US, and our ministry cannot afford to pay this. So we began to make arrangements to have him discharged and seek treatment through the national system. And we prayed.

Suddenly the story changed on Sunday. The doctor told us he did NOT have leukemia, his lungs were clear and he would be discharged the next day. Praise God!

When we had him admitted, I prayed. To be honest, we just don’t have the money for another hospitalization. But what was I to do? Let a two year old die because of money? So, we signed the papers and trusted God. By late afternoon we had received $600 of unexpected donations, which I though would cover the entire bill. So, I smiled, shook my head and praised God again.

But his stay was lengthened by two days. When I went to pay the bill yesterday, it was over $1200 instead of the originally estimated $600. But I have been doing this long enough to know God had it covered. Then last night we received an unexpected donation of $1500. God is always faithful!

Yesterday was a hard day for us. Little Giovanni has been with us for over two years, and we have loved him as our own child. But Gio found his forever family and was adopted. With my signature and the signatures of his new parents, suddenly he was no longer ours. His new parents are awesome, and they love Jesus. The smaller family environment is just what he needs, and we know he will thrive there. We are happy for him, but it still hurts. We have said so many goodbyes, some due to death, others to adoption. And while we know that is just a part of our ministry, it still feels like a kick in the stomach.

But I have been thinking a lot about grief, especially in relation to Jesus and His call on our lives. Isaiah 53:4 tells us that “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…” In other words, He carried our grief to make our grief less. He shared the load of our pain. And that is our role as well. 

We have a cheap understanding of discipleship that tells us that if we are grieving, hurting or sad, we are doing it wrong. We simply need to “claim” happiness and denounce sadness as being from Satan. Because, of course, God wants us happy, healthy and wealthy, right?

And yet, we follow Jesus who grieved. And we are to grieve, as well. We are not just called to wade into the spiritual darkness and dirtiness of the world to love and redeem, but the emotional darkness and dirtiness too. We are to mourn with those who mourn, and thus make their mourning lighter. We are to love, and love deeply, the broken, the forgotten, the lost and the fatherless. And, in so doing, we guarantee grief for ourselves. But face it…if ministry is easy, we are not doing it right.

So, we grieve for ourselves as we rejoice for him. We pray that the love we have poured into him over the last years has brought healing and laid a foundation in his life, And we pray his new parents will continue to build on that. And that is why we are here. Not to seek the easy way, but the way of Jesus...the healing way. And if we must be wounded to bring healing, then God be glorified.

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

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew