Thursday, June 30, 2016

Death, Emergencies and Expansion

Today is Dia de Ejército (Army Day) in Guatemala, which means the staff has the day off. I decided that I would take some time off as well, with the stipulation that I really needed to update my blog. I thought it had been about three weeks since my last post, so I was quite surprised when I checked and realized it had been almost a month and a half. Time truly flies when you are overwhelmed.

So, here is another whirlwind tour of our life and ministry in Guatemala. Please keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, and do not distract the driver.

Wanda’s illness has continued to slowly pass. She is now back to about 90%, with very few attacks of fever or pain. When they do come, they are minor and she is able to continue functioning. Thank you so much for all your prayers for her! 

Last week we were able to do something we have not done in a long time. Wanda and I went out for a day of rural ministry with just the two of us. It is hard to explain how much that day meant to me as we served side-by-side. Wanda is incredible with all the kids we encounter, and she had a crowd of them around her in no time. As we traveled, we were able to talk about life and ministry, and God used that time to solidify future plans for both of us. 

One of the reasons I needed that time with my wife was due to another loss that we suffered. On June 10 Misael passed away, and I have been grieving him deeply. We had worked with him for about four years, and he had been doing very well. But about two weeks prior to his death we were contacted by his grandmother, Esperanza, who has raised him since he was an infant. She told us that he seemed to be having headaches and his seizures had come back. I suspected a failed shunt, so we took him to our neurologist, who ordered an MRI and sent us to a neurosurgeon. We were able to see  the neurosurgeon on the 9th, and he confirmed a failed shunt and recommended surgery, so we started the process of scheduling that.

That evening we received another call from his grandmother telling us that his eyes had turned blood red. This is usually a sign that the capillaries are bursting from pressure. So we called the surgeon’s cell phone to see if they could do emergency surgery the next morning. Unfortunately, he passed away before we could make that happen.

I arrived at his home about 20 minutes after he had passed away. Most of the family had not yet arrived, so his grandmother ran to me and clung to me while we wept together. She kept saying, “I did my best to take care of him, but it wasn’t enough.” So I just kept telling her what a wonderful grandmother/mother she had been to him. And that is so very true. In addition to hydrocephalus, he also had autism and cried loudly and frequently. She spent hours every day pushing his wheelchair in circles in their home to keep him calm and happy. She fed, changed and washed this boy, who was quite heavy, day after day. And she treated him with great love and respect. And, after 13 years of caring for him, her life feels very empty. Please pray for Esperanza. We are trying to arrange for her to come and help in our home so she can make good use of her skills while helping her find purpose again.

This week we received a new little one into our home. His name is Cesar, and if you are keeping track you know that the last three children that we have received has that name. So, we will be calling him by his second name, Eduardo, or Edy for short. Edy joins us with a lot of needs. He is two years of age and just reached 11 pounds. He comes to us from a malnutrition center that he entered weighing just over five pounds two months ago. He was abandoned by his parents, and his grandmother was trying to care for him. However, she is very poor and could only feed him tortillas and cheap coffee. 

In addition to his malnutrition, he is also blind and has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. We believe he is somewhat hearing impaired, but it is hard to know just how much at this point. He has a long road ahead, but at least he now has a family around him. He is already loved so very much, and has a lot of people fighting for him now. Please pray for Edy in the weeks and months ahead.
We have been dealing with so many medical emergencies in recent weeks. As our ministry grows, word is spreading. I am receiving calls from social workers and ministries all over Guatemala. Many of these situations are true emergencies that need immediate response. I am so thankful for our incredible staff that is so willing to cheerfully serve late into the evening or on the weekend to care for these children. Here are a few of these children that we are serving:

Dora is 14 years old and has severe scoliosis. The curve of her spine has left her so twisted that her rib cage is now infringing on her heart and lungs. As a result, her body is not getting enough oxygen. We investigated whether we could get her corrective surgery, but have been told it is too delicate to have it done here. She would need to go to the States for an extended period, and that just is not feasible. So, our ministry is currently providing oxygen for her in the form of an oxygen condenser machine. We are renting this from the city. We just want to make her comfortable and give her as much time as possible with her family.

Karli is now almost seven months old. She has Down Syndrome and a heart condition that requires that she use oxygen 24/7 until she can have heart surgery. So we are also renting an oxygen concentrator for her. She is beautiful and so fragile. She keeps getting respiratory infections, and we have had to rush her to the hospital using our emergency oxygen tanks on a couple of occasions. Please pray for her.

Sophia’s situation is almost identical to Karli’s. (Sorry that I don’t have a photo of her.) She is seven months old and has both Down Syndrome and a heart problem. She, too, requires oxygen to keep her alive until surgery, so we have another concentrator that was donated from the States that is waiting for her. However, she is in the hospital and is so sick that they cannot discharge her. We have been told numerous times that she was being released, so we were ready to transport her using our tanks, but each time she took a turn for the worse and the plans were cancelled. Please pray for Sophia.

About a week ago I received a call from Katherin’s family in Lo Gomera. She has severe cerebral palsy and struggles with frequent respiratory infections, and her family was calling to let me know that she was, once again, sick. Brad and Tiffany Jones, our friends from the States, were visiting, so they, Wanda and I all jumped in my truck and headed out for the two hour drive down. When we arrived, we found her very sick and struggling to breath. Her oxygen sats were in the mid 60’s and I was afraid we were going to lose her. So, we loaded her in my truck along with her mom and dad and headed to a private hospital in Santa Lucia, about an hour away.

After testing they determined that she had both a respiratory infection and Dengue Fever. They then gave her a prescription for two kinds of meds and told us we could take her back home. In spite of an argument between me and the doctor, they refused to admit her. I believe they were just unfamiliar with and afraid of the severe nature of her special needs. So, we took her home and prayed. Praise God she did recover.

Two days ago I received a message from a social worker in Jalapa. She told me that a seven year old boy named José David had injured his eye severely. What made the situation especially bad was that he has already lost his other eye in the past. As a result, he stood to be blind without intervention. The next morning the social worker transported him and his family to the national hospital in Guatemala City. That is the best national hospital in the country, and they have good specialists. They were able to do emergency surgery on him that day, and they believe that they were able to save his eye and his sight, but we will know more in a few days. Please pray for José David.

I have mentioned before that we are currently working in seven departments (states) in Guatemala. At the same time, we have social workers in seven other departments that have heard of our work and are asking us to come. I have had to say “no” so many times, and I am kind of sick of that word. So we recently decided to act aggressively so that we could say it a little less frequently.

Our Board of Directors voted this week to add another staff member to our team. Cristina Moran is the wife of Manuel, who has served with us for the last two years. She is bilingual and has extensive experience in working with struggling families and Christian ministries. And she and her family simply love Jesus. She will be a great addition as she helps us with medical appointments, hearings and visiting families. We have known and loved her for almost three years, and it will be great to have her serving with us.

In addition, we added a new vehicle to our fleet this week. We received a donation from Heaven’s Family for this purchase and were able to buy at 2014 Toyota Hilux with 4-wheel drive and turbo diesel. This will be converted into a mobile medical unit with pharmacy and transport capabilities. This brings our fleet size to five, including two vans and three 4-wheel drive vehicles.

In the weeks ahead, I am also hoping to add a motorcycle. Gerardo, who has worked with our ministry since late 2011, cannot drive a car, but can handle a motorcycle well. This motorcycle will increase his mobility and productivity considerably, with little expense.

With the increase in staff and vehicles, we should be able to expand our ministry to three new areas in the next several months. And I will have to say “no” a little less frequently.

Okay, that’s enough for now! God bless you all, and thank you for your prayers and support that makes this work possible! 

Daryl and the Crew