Final Thoughts on Guatemala

Final Thoughts on Guatemala

Early Saturday morning our flight leaves for Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As we prepare for the next step I want to reflect a little on this last one.

We’ve been in Antigua for just about a month. Those who have followed us on this blog and Facebook know this has been a season of adjustment for us. And there is no way around it, adjustment is hard. Change is hard. But through it all one thing we know, God is God and God is good. Each day as we have faced new challenges he has shown up with the grace we need for that day. Through this we have been learning just what it means to rely on Him.

FROG

Before we left, while we were moving out of our house and feeling the tremendous stress and pressure of it all, Trina was laying in bed feeling overwhelmed when she had this vision of a frog. Through that the Holy Spirit reminded her of an acronym using the letters F-R-O-G which stand for Fully Rely On God. She shared that with me and it has become a kind mantra for us. Often when we feel overwhelmed, stressed out, scared, and lonely we remember the frog and we remember we must Fully Rely On God. It isn’t easy but it is exciting. We feel incapable and unqualified for the work ahead but we know we are where God has called us and with each day we learn more and more what it means to rely on him who called us.

Where we are supposed to be

And how do we know this is where we are supposed to be? Believe me, we have both questioned our sanity and had many moments of serious doubts wondering if we had just made a colossal mistake. On the other side of those doubts God brings about moments of clarity. We see how God is moving in ways we could have never guessed. We hear stories on a weekly and sometimes daily basis of things God is doing back home as a result of us leaving. It seems weird and at times doesn’t make any sense but the fact is we had to leave to get out of God’s way. I’m not even sure this is making sense so I’ll say it this way, many times I hear a story of how God is working and I know in my heart that it would not have happened if we were still in Lynden. I’m reminded of I Corinthians 1:18-19 “For the message of the cross if foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” God likes to work in ways that don’t make sense to us so we know it is God and not us.

Dick’s Kids

One of the highlights of our time here in Guatemala was the Saturday we spent with Dick Rutgers. Trina wrote about our time in a previous post but I want to share a little different story. When we were at Hermano Pedro, the orphanage for children with disabilities, Dick brought along a few of the kids he calls “his kids”. These kids are mainly boys, although there are a couple of girls, that live near him who he has kind of adopted. In all I think there are around 12 of these teenage kids. Most of them come from pretty rough backgrounds. Most have been abused, their parents have died or abandoned them, or any number of hardships have fallen on them. But at Dick’s place they have a safe haven. And something truly remarkable is happening.

Chad with one of Dick's kids

These kids are a huge part of Dick’s ministry. By living among them and befriending them he has created a sort of family unit. He gets to share Jesus and speak into their lives in a way no one else can. He takes them to church on Sundays and to youth group during the week. But it isn’t that he is just ministering to them, they in turn are ministering to the children at Hermano Pedro and around Guatemala. Dick speaks very little Spanish so these kids have become his translators. And when they aren’t translating they are right there with Dick picking up the disabled children and playing with them. And that is what we got to witness. At Hermano Pedro these kids were pulling the children out of their beds and playing with them and loving them. These kids are the hands and feet of Christ.

There is a huge lesson to be learned in watching these kids. If anyone has a reason to be bitter and feeling sorry for themselves, it is them. But they aren’t and why aren’t they? Now I think our logical response would be to give Dick the credit and say that because he has loved them and valued them they have overcome their bitterness. And that might be partly right; however, I know bitter people who have a lot of loving family around them. No, the reason they are not bitter is because they have learned how to serve others – to love others. When we serve others we get outside of ourselves and we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and our bitterness goes away. Instead, the bitterness that accompanies self-pity is replaced by a joy so profound it is able to heal our deepest wounds and cover our most intense sorrow. And this is why we are so anxious to get to Honduras.

A Life Full of Joy

Our time in Guatemala has been good and necessary. We’ve learned a lot of Spanish and it has helped us in our transition to a new life. But the one thing that’s missing is service. Other than hanging out with Dick for that one afternoon we haven’t been connected to any ministry. Trina and I know the joy that comes with serving others. It is why we are here and why we can’t wait to get started. These next few weeks will bring about another transition and our lives will be tossed in the air once again. It won’t be easy. There will be days we wish we were back home. But this we know: God is God and God is good, we are where we have been called, and there is great joy in serving others.

Water

Water

Honestly, I’ve never thought a lot about water. Like you, I’ve heard all the statistics and have seen the pictures of children drinking from dirty mud puddles in third world countries. But I’ve always lived in an area with clean running water. I’ve never had to think about water other than wishing we had a little less of it in the Pacific Northwest. And while I know the statistics are astounding (and honestly statistics are boring so I’m not going to include any in this post) and I know it is sad that children are dieing because of illnesses they are contracting from contaminated water, I’ve never been in a position where it effected me or I could do something about it. Until now.

As I write this I’m sitting in the apartment in Guatemala that Trina and I have called home for the last 3 weeks. In this apartment we have running water but it isn’t safe to drink. You can use it to shower, flush the toilet, and wash your toothpaste spit down the drain but that is about it. Beyond that we have to boil it to wash dishes or to give our son Asher a bath (in case he swallows any of it). For Asher’s bottles, for drinking, and for cooking we have to buy 5 gallon bottles of purified water. Even those you have to be careful where you buy them because they may or may not actually be safe. As I look over my shoulder I see we have about 2 and a half gallons of water left. We go through a little under 10 gallons a week. Usually there are a couple of different water trucks that come by that I purchase the water from. For some reason this week I missed them both. That means in the next couple of days we’ll be out of water. I will have to walk about a mile into town to the grocery store where I believe I can buy some water and then hike it back the mile to our apartment.

We’re Sick From Our Water

Even then we aren’t safe. Right now my stomach hurts. Trina is laying on the couch missing class today and feeling very sick. Asher was up at 3AM this morning throwing up and has had bad diarrhea. We’ve been sick for close to 4 days and not really sure why. As I type I’m hoping my phone will ring to tell me we have an appointment to get Asher in to see a doctor. Chances are he has a parasite. Chances are we all have a parasite and we know now that the water we’ve been drinking is contaminated. I have spent most of my day sanitizing bottles and dishes and boiling what water we do have.

This is Life and Death

My issues with water are small – minuscule. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m comparing them in any way to the real life and death situation many face everyday when it comes to water. I only tell the story to help bring it a little closer to home. We personally have a little better understanding what it means to actually have to think about water on a daily basis – do I have enough of it, is it safe, how am I going to get more? In Honduras, where we will be living in just over a week, the issues with water are real. In the city you may have running water but it isn’t safe to drink. However, most of the poor people living in the hillside neighborhoods surrounding Tegucigalpa have no running water. Their water is delivered by a water truck. This water isn’t safe for you or I to drink but for these people they have no other choice. This unsafe water is expensive and even then not always available as the dirt roads on these hillsides become unusable when it rains.

Just as water caused Trina to miss class today, water is causing many children in these neighborhoods to miss class everyday. Some miss class because they are sick from the water. Others miss class because they need to work to help their families afford to buy water. This is devastating to the child’s chances to make a better life for himself or herself. Without education the chances of a good job are slim.

Our Solution

Manos Extendidas, the ministry we are working with in Honduras, operates 2 feeding centers in these neighborhoods. Over 150 kids receive a meal on a daily basis and over 300 on the weekends. There are veins of fresh, drinkable water running underground in these hillsides. It is possible to dig a well at our feeding centers that would provide fresh, safe, cheap water to children and families who desperately need it. We are currently working to raise the funds necessary to complete a well drilling project.

What if We Don’t?

False religions are growing in Honduras. The people are desperate for hope and are being fooled. We have an opportunity right now to dig these wells in the name of Jesus Christ before others do. If we don’t I fear that the cost may be eternal. We are still in the early stages of planning this project but if you would like to help and be a part of this life giving opportunity please contact us and we’ll get you the details on how you can help.

Follow Up

I’ve been working on this post for several days and since then some of the details of our story with water have changed. I decided not to change the post because what I said was real to us in that moment. The three of us are still sick. Yesterday we took Asher to the doctor and found out he does not have a parasite or bacteria infection and it is more than likely a virus. Our water was contaminated and I have had to do a lot of work to get things sanitary again; however, I can’t say with certainty that the virus came from the water. That is something I don’t know. And our need for water was solved with the help of a new friend we met here who drove me to the store to get more water.

A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember

Imagine This

You are a child with a disability, unable to walk, maybe even unable to see or hear as well. You are an orphan with no one to hug you, speak to you, and even love you. You lay in a bed in a room with 20 others just like you. You lay there for 20 hours a day. Your body is stiff and hard from being in the same position all day long. You were a very thick diaper that is maybe changed once a day. This is your life..all day, everyday.

Herman Pedro, located in La Antigua, Guatemala.

Hermano Pedro

Some of you may be in tears about now, I know I was when I witnessed this first hand on Saturday when we went to Hermano Pedro. This is an orphanage/hospital for the disabled children, youth, and adults in Guatemala. It is located in La Antigua and houses around 240 people.  Dick Rutgers, a second cousin to Trina and a Lyndenite himself, has lived here for 11 years. This is his home. He is the man that has given these people a wheelchair. And when they get the chance to be placed in one, they couldn’t be happier!

The Way They Live

This is Henry in his bed that he calls home. He is one of the few who is very coherent and is actually a very smart little boy.

You read earlier about the living conditions of the people that live in Hermano Pedro. This is literally how their lives are spent each day. Some do have family that visits them, but a majority are orphans who were “given up” because of their disability. Some parents, mainly single mothers, don’t necessarily want to give up their disabled child, but taking care of that one may mean that her other children will starve and not be taken care of. Some babies are even thrown away. I can’t write that last sentence without crying. I met a child who was literally found in a dump. He was probably thrown away because of his disability. I stood by his side and looked at him as the life in his eyes was gone. I reached my fingers in his little jail of a crib and wrapped them around his. I spoke to him but there was no response. My heart breaks for that little boy. In the crib next to him was another little boy. He too was lifeless when I passed by him. However, this time, when I wrapped my fingers around his, there was a response. He began to move around and even wimpered as he craved, what I believe, was a mother’s touch. I pray for God’s blessing upon these children.

Hungry Children

Chad and Dick holding both Jose's.

Next we went to the Malnutrition Center, located in the same building. These children are not disabled but come to Hermano Pedro because of severe malnutrition. They are literally starving. We were not able to go inside this ward because we had Asher with us; but Dick brought out a few children for us to visit with. We met two little boys, both named Jose. They were such sweet little angels that I wanted to take home with me! In the picture to the left is Chad and Dick with both Jose’s. The boy that Dick is holding is 4 years old and weighs 25 lbs. That is what my Asher weighs and he is three times younger! Dick also brought out a little girl who was 6 years old and weighed 16 lbs. I remember crying when I saw her ankles, for she had to have her socks taped on so they would not fall off. Praise God that these children were brought in to be taken care of and fed!

So Worth It

So as you can see, it was a difficult and heart wrenching day for us. However, it was also rewarding because we knew that this is definitely where God wants us to be. We won’t necessarily be working with disabled children, but we will be working with the starving and broken. Never have I felt so sure about the journey that God is leading us on. I am so thankful for the road that we are now traveling. And I will fully rely on HIM everyday, because I can’t, and will not do it without Him. To Him be the glory.

Mommyhood-Guatemalan Style

Mommyhood-Guatemalan Style

As many of you read in our last post, life in a different country has definitely been an adjustment. However, things are beginning to get a little easier as we figure things out, and time seems to be flying by. We are only in Guatemala for 2 more weeks and then off to our new home in Honduras. I thought I would share a little about life as a mommy in a different country; and how God has been speaking to me during this transition.

Talk About Change

I have discovered that being a mommy in Central America is going to be a lot different than being a mommy in America. There is a lot that I have to learn and I am continually seeking God’s wisdom in doing so. I feel weak at times and discouraged when I think of the difficulties of raising a child in a different country. But God reminded me just this morning in my devotions (Joshua 1) to “be strong and courageous.” That phrase was written 4 times in that chapter, so I think God is trying to tell me something.

Things Have Changed

Asher in his new highchair, which cost us about $28...but so worth it!

So many things are different here and a lot less convenient than back at home. For example, bath tubs are pretty rare here which left me wondering how I was going to give my baby a bath. I could give him a shower but I was afraid that the water would get in his mouth and he would swallow it…which would not be a good thing here. So Chad and I put our heads together and came up with a way. We boil a big pot of water, stick it in the freezer to cool it down a bit, strip Asher, stick him in the shower, and sponge bathe him with the boiled water. Definitely not as easy as back home, but it works and we are thankful that we can give our baby a bath! Also, for the first week and a half that we were here, meal times with Asher were a bit of a struggle. We had no highchair for him so we would just feed him on our laps, which you can just about imagine the struggle with that! I would almost be in tears every meal time because he would not sit still and would walk around with food in his mouth and spit it out. But praise God…we finally were able to find a highchair for him! We will have to sell it when we leave, but it has already been so worth it.

Peace and Quiet? I Think Not

As mommy’s, we all long for peace and quiet when our child is sleeping. Around here, that is just not possible. If it’s not a loud firecracker going off at 5:00am, it’s a chicken bus driving by and rattling our apartment walls. If it’s not cats giving a mating call outside your bedroom window, it’s a noisy neighbor down below (you can hear everything in these apartments).  And with every noise comes an anxious me, worried that my Asher will awake from his nap or his night sleep.  But once again, my worries are pointless because God continues to answer our, and your, prayers. Asher is still taking two 1 1/2 hour naps a day, which is much needed for all 3 of us to stay sane! And he has slept through the night the past three nights. He does wake up super early, which isn’t always fun. But we really have nothing to complain about.

A chicken bus is just a transportation bus. There are many here in Antigua.

Again, we thank you for your prayers and we covet them daily. We are so excited for this challenging road God has led us on and we look forward to all that He has in store for us!