Transition. Transition. Transition. I feel like just when we think, “Whew. Ok, we’re through that. Now we can get a little break and back to a routine.” And that’s when more change and transition happens. Our family definitely doesn’t know what boring is. We just closed the mission house that we had used for teams, taking in kids who needed a safe place, youth group, kids’ club, and hosting 35 people for our wedding. We transformed that house from not livable to a place we called home. Many laughs, tears, and everything in between happened in that house. Now, we are preparing the house that Peter and I have since being married to welcome the kids (and dogs). In the process of moving (never knew we had so much stuff in that mission house!), we have had to change some things up to accommodate having kids’ club, youth, and clinics. Thankfully, Peter has some awesome family who have let us use their space to do clinic. And we have had youth group in some of the kids’ houses (tin shack) each week. This whole transition and move has been a trying time, causing us to feel downright exhausted. A lot of hard work, emotionally draining as well. But people say, “It takes a village.” Well, I witnessed that firsthand how the youth kids came and helped to tear down the showers, carry concrete, clean up, take this transition in stride and had fun doing it. This community is amazing. The people and kids we work with definitely have our backs. All because of relationships. Relationships are so important in this life. God didn’t have us go through it by ourselves. Our ministry is BOOMING and GROWING...FAST! And a lot of it has to do with the relationships we have with people, people God put in our paths on purpose. The clinics we have: we don’t just find a complaint, give meds, and shove them out the door. We listen. We care. We pray with them and find any way we can help them. We even have patients coming from all over the country because of word of mouth. Kids’ club and youth group: again, relationships. Getting to know them personally, giving them a safe place to come if they need to talk, cry, get a break from whatever issues/abuse they are going through. We have had numerous kids who have lost a parent recently and we try to be there for them and show we love and care about them. Recently, we have started a soccer team and they are quickly becoming family as well. We do our best to show them the love of Jesus. We are so grateful for the relationships God has provided for us through this ministry. When I decided to move, I never dreamed of majority of the things that have happened, or the relationships that have been made, and not just the relationships we have formed here in Guatemala, but also with our supporters in the States. I have received emails from people I have never met before who want to help, want to visit, want to bring a team, want to send an encouraging message and pray for us. We have received donations from people we have never met before. We are so so so so grateful for each and every one of you!
The night we went as a family with some of the youth kids to the Hillsong concert, I had mentioned that it changed a lot of the kids’ lives. Really spoke to them and helped them to heal. And bonded us as a family. And of course, it was a fun night out to forget about all the issues this life brings for each of us. But that concert changed me as well. The words spoken, the songs were all ones that I needed to hear then and still have them going through my head. We play those songs constantly while in the car and just when fear, anxiety, how are we going to pay for ____, the what if’s come into my head, the words spoken that night, the lyrics of the songs pop into my head and peace sets in, right where it belongs. God used that night, those songs, and words spoken to speak to me and is still using them to get me through this uncertainty, this transition period, this time of adjusting for our family and this ministry. Songs about how Jesus is the keeper of peace and anxiety will fall away. No matter if we are in a high or low point of our lives, God will be right beside us and He’s too good to let us go. Joy is a choice. Sometimes we have to fight for it, but we have that choice to choose joy, no matter what our circumstances are. God is always faithful. He’s proven it again and again, so we can trust him with what comes next. And every little thing is going to be all right. Everything. He knows everything about us, more than we know ourselves. So we just need to surrender and give him total control. Easier said than done....but I’m trying to work on it.
This past week, we had the honor having an awesome former co-worker and friend here. We shared lots of laughs, tears, and many life changing memories made. Every time we host visitors, I just love the relationships that are strengthened and to see their view of our every day life: clinic, kids, youth, what these kids experience and deal with on a daily basis, the conditions they live in, how these kids just need someone to love them and be there for them, how the patients are so grateful for even the smallest things. This past week, we told someone who had tons of tests done prior to meeting us and is losing function quickly that he has multiple sclerosis (MS) and that there is no cure and will only get worse. You know what they did? They thanked us. Thanked us for being nice, giving medications for pain, for explaining what was going on and why he was losing function, for finally giving them an answer (many hospitals even if they have the diagnosis from the tests won’t tell the patient what it is and just send them home. Or they will say the diagnosis, but won’t explain anything about it and what the patient is to do to care for themselves. And we have had many who were given a false diagnosis and/or wrong medications, harming the patient).
A lot of healing happened this week for our visitor and for us. It left us with renewed joy, hope, life, and energy to tackle each day. Lots of changes. Lots of transitions. But God provided us with the relationships to help pull us through each day, and ultimately God is our strength to deal with whatever comes our way.
I’m new at this whole dealing with emotions thing. I’m 31 years old and you would think I have it figured it out by now. That’s a big, fat, NOPE. Not even close. I grew up farming, working like crazy. Work before school, go to school, softball practice, game, or football game for band, work, do homework, eat, sleep, repeat. Went to college and didn’t realize how many hours were in a day! But worked my tail off through nursing school. Started working in the hospital setting and had worked 7 amazing, yet HARD years in the busiest emergency department in PA. I learned how to shut of my emotions and get the job done with just enough compassion that the patient needed, but not to let it get to me while at work. I had plenty of days on my way home from work where I lost it. Bawled. Was angry at that parent that beat the crap out of their child and/or sexual abused them, especially when it came to young children and babies. I would end up at a friend’s house if I had off work that night to spend time not thinking about it, and then spilling my guts out at 2 am, processing it, but only to the point that I could go back to my job the next night and do it all over again. I learned how to function with shutting my emotions off and on, but only on for a little bit so it didn’t become too much to bear since I had to work and face another couple hundred patients the next night. I’m talking terrible, gruesome accidents, child/baby abuse, children and babies dying, parents completely losing it, stabbings, gunshots, suicide attempts, drunk patients throwing urine at you, people screaming at you constantly, people with addictions, cancer, people at their worst, with a touch of humorous moments to get you through. We went from doing CPR on a baby to helping an elderly confused patient walk to the bathroom, to getting screamed at because you didn’t get that box of tissues in less than 2 minutes, and triaging more people than you can count with a line still going out the door to be seen. It’s so much to deal with that you just have to learn how to have “tough skin,” put up a barrier and not let anyone in. Do I regret those years, growing up on a farm and working in the ED? ABSOLUTLEY NOT! It has taught me so much, helped to get me where I am today and I use what I have learned from all of those years daily while living in Guatemala. I am truly grateful and thankful for those experiences!
Since moving, I have started to let those walls down and starting to FEEL again. It’s a scary and vulnerable process to be honest. I have lost my crap so many times from feeling so much at once and not knowing what to do with it. Peter’s said it’s like peeling back an onion with so many layers. Sometimes I feel like the layers are coming off a bit too fast and I’m like CRAP....not ready for that! But God knows best on how to heal my heart and soul completely, and allowing me to feel and experience things I never would have in the States. It’s allowing me to understand the people we help in this ministry better. To an extent, some of the situations are the same: homelessness, unemployment, trying to figure out how to provide for your family, abuse, and alcohol issues. But it’s different here for many reasons. The resources here aren’t as available as they are for many in the States. At least for the population that we are working with, the education is terrible, if they even go to school. Many don’t have an education or at least enough of one to get a semi decent job. There is hunger, living in a tin shack is fairly common with the community we are helping, and eating a tortilla and maybe an egg for the day is “normal” for a lot of families. Hearing and experiencing a small part of what these patients, kids, and families we help are going through, it’s easy to just put those walls back up. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to “go back to that.” I also can’t allow myself be a giant puddle and end up not being able to help anyone. These people come looking for hope. Hope that God can use us to help them in whatever situation they are in. It’s a fine balance between putting up a wall, not allowing myself to feel anything, and feeling too much that I can’t think clear enough to figure out how we can possibly help those who come to us.
There is way more need out there than we can only attempt to help. The longer you are here, the more you see and hear and feel like there hasn’t even been a dent made in the giant heap of problems that there are. But I’m frequently reminded to look directly in front of me, right at what God has put in front of us. Not all the other issues as well. Here’s some stories just from this past week:
Most of you know we have some kids with us who don’t have anywhere to go. One has cerebral palsy, is 16 years old, but only had completed kindergarten a long time ago. She’s now too old for any school to accept her at this point. I have been homeschooling her in my broken Spanish (homeschooling her has been helping me to learn more) and she just wasn’t getting subtraction at all. I was about ready to lose my marbles over it. Some other youth kids, Peter, and her brother tried to help her to understand it. It just wasn’t getting any better. Finally, one day, for whatever reason, it clicked. She did really well. She was so happy. I was so proud and happy for her! This kid went from basically living on the streets, begging for food, to now putting on some weight from eating properly, having a bed, shelter, and surrounded by people who love her like a family, and she’s learning. Miracle. Seems simple, but this is huge for her.
Another child has been doing well in school and his teacher spoke to Peter and thanked us for taking the time to invest in this child and she is noticing a huge change in this child and the potential he has. A few days ago, this child also randomly thanked Peter and I for everything we have done for him and how we love him as our own family. This coming from the kid who demanded eggs, beans, and coffee for every meal and if he didn’t get what he wanted would sit in the middle of the aisle at the store when he first came to us.
Another who was much like me and not open to talking about emotions and just being like, “Everything’s fine. It’s fine” is starting to be more open and process what all he’s dealing with. These kids don’t have easy lives at all. And I’m talking about a lot deeper issues on top of normal teen “drama” and issues.
There is another teen who comes to our house frequently to hang out who had started coming because he wanted to change. He was sick of the way he was living and how his mom was sometimes nice and other times would literally beat him. He has made some amazing changes and has noticed a huge change in his mother in return.
All the kids we took to the concert (including us and Peter’s mom) were deeply moved and filled with joy from it. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do and the opportunity finally came up. The songs and message were perfect for each of us. It was so awesome to be a part of watching these kids attempt to dance (even though we were crammed like sardines), clap, sing (even making up words when the songs were in English), and some of us moved to tears. These kids were able to experience something fun, and impacting, when they easily could have been out on the street not making the best choices. It was one of the kids’ birthdays the day before the concert. Until we got back the following day, the entire extended family that came to celebrate this child’s birthday had left. We felt bad about that since we didn’t know that his family was going to be at his house. But the kid said he didn’t mind missing it. He had walked into the house full of beer cans. His family denied that they had all basically gotten drunk, but he smelled it. So instead of getting drunk, or at least surrounded by a bunch of family who were getting drunk, he went to a concert that impacted him so much in a positive way, and was surrounded by his second family who loves him very much. Another kid had just lost his dad and this allowed him to get a break from his life, be impacted, and surrounded by people who loves him as well. God is saving so many towards his Kingdom and it’s amazing to be a small part of it and witness God at work.
Patients. The patients. Most people here are super thankful for Tylenol, ibuprofen, and/or vitamins. Yeah, sometimes, I’m still getting used to getting hugs and kisses over that. The patients with these leg wounds...they come week after week to check the progression of their healing and get so emotional when saying thank you and how they pray for us and thank God for us daily. We have had people literally cry because we gave them insulin and supplies, a little cooler for the insulin, a nebulizer, IV fluids, etc. Even people who are beyond what we can do or got a diagnosis that they don’t want to hear are still thankful for our help, kindness, and compassion. Personally, I think those are harder for me. These people are dying, aren’t going to get better, or beyond what we can afford to help and they are still thankful. I want to be like please don’t thank me. I can’t even help you! But it’s not me or us, it’s God who deserves all the glory and he’s just using us as his instruments. Technically, I can’t help anyone. It’s God who is doing it and He is using the skills that I have learned from school and work to attempt to help those who God put in front of us.
All of these are reminders that God knows what he’s doing and has me where he wants me, even in the moments of feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, not qualified, have never had experience running a ministry before, living off of donations and not having a “real job,” raising teens, homeschooling...in Spanish, and the list goes on. I just need to TRUST him and SURRENDER EVERYTHING to him. “Just.” Yeah, like it’s that simple. It’s not. Working in the ED, I never knew what was coming through the door. BUT whatever came through the door, I knew what to do. Yeah, it’s not like that anymore and God is teaching me how to now let go of everything and trust Him fully. And allow myself to be blessed as well by these kids, the families, and patients He puts in our paths. So when you are feeling overwhelmed, look directly in front of you and see what small or big blessings are there. God is at work.
I’m going to be raw and completely honest here. Missions isn’t all “fame and glory.” Yes, there are amazing days, miracles seen, huge breakthroughs with “tough” teens, heart feels full seeing people’s lives changed. But it’s also hard. It’s draining. It sucks every bit of energy out of you. The spiritual warfare is very REAL and INTENSE. There are days I seriously struggle to have the energy to get out of bed or check my phone to see more messages of others’ needs. And when you try to take a day or 2 “break,” others may judge you and say, “I did not send money to you to go on a vacation!” Or “Seriously, they act like they work hard. I do 12 hour shifts.” Missions isn’t a “normal job.” We don’t have set hours. It’s a 24/7 LIFE. It’s not a job. It’s a way of life, a calling. We don’t get vacation times or breaks. Even when we try to go away for a day or a few days, ministry stuff comes up. A patient calls and needs medications. Someone needs an ultrasound and doesn’t have the money for it. A kid knocks on our door or calls that they can’t go home right now because it’s unsafe. A family member comes for a patient who is in terrible pain and wants the “doctor” to come and see them. A baby is really sick and hasn’t had any milk for days. And the list goes on. But for the brief moments that we do get to “breathe” and spend time alone, allowing God to refresh us, it’s precious and amazing. I don’t want you to think that I’m complaining about missions or anything. Trust me, through all the tears, fears, and frustrations I may experience, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I thank God (and at times wonder why He would trust me enough to do this for Him) for putting me where He has today.
Most of you know my story of how I got here. How I hit rock bottom about 3 years ago after multiple friends had died in a short period of time. How I came to Guatemala for 3 months, and one day woke up and said, “That’s it. I quit. I’m going to quit my job and move to Guatemala as a full time missionary.” I thought I was insane. Many of you thought so too. Others fully supported me and said my heart was clearly there and to just GO. Meanwhile, during those 3 months in Guatemala, I met my husband (who was scared to death of my grumpy cat face at first and prayed he wouldn’t have to talk to me or sit by me during the whole medical trip we were on together). Last year, I moved. Ministry blew up in our faces and TOOK OFF! Medical clinics. Kids coming who needed a safe place. Youth group. Kids club. Really sick, complicated patients. I went back to the States for a few months for our last family dairy show and then to sell the family herd. When I returned, Peter and I discussed the future and decided to take the next step, and started planning our wedding. All the craziness leading up to the wedding, during, and after the wedding (we don’t seem to do anything as easily or as planned. There’s always a huge backstory of crazy events). And everything that continues in our lives and with this ministry. It’s insane. A roller coaster. You seriously can’t make this crap up. We used to say that in the ED all the time. But it’s true with missions too. I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through those years of pain, heartbreak, falling apart, not always handling it well, and not on purpose, emotionally hurt some people around me. I regret it. I’ve asked for forgiveness, and I’ve apologized many times. We all screw up at some points in our lives. It’s in the past. All we can do is learn from it, ask for forgiveness, and move on, even if the other person won’t accept. And in all the brokenness, God can use that. He used all the crap that happened in my life to get me here. To have met my husband in God’s timing. To quit working in the ED and move when He wanted me to, not when I wanted to. If I hadn’t experienced all of that, I would still be working at Reading in the ED and not even thought about moving to Guatemala and doing what all we have been doing this past year and a half.
Past couple of days, I have been struggling. I’m tired. Pretty worn down. Not sleeping well. Stomach issues off and on. Family drama that seems completely unnecessary. Finances aren’t were they need to be. The kids come home from school and need new shoes or supplies for projects for school. Patients call and need money for ultrasounds that a specialist ordered. Patient comes and needs medications...and by the way, need money for light bills, and rent, or else they will get kicked out of their “house” aka tin shack, haven’t had food all week. And the list goes on. After a while, it does drain you and you need to turn off your phone to give your mind a break. I’m trying to take some moments each day to just breathe. We can’t fix everyone’s problems. Actually, WE can’t do anything at all. It’s all God. We can only be used by Him to help those He places in our path to help. I wish we could pay for everyone’s medical needs. I wish we could build a proper house for everyone who lost literally EVERYTHING when Fuego erupted. I wish we could feed everyone who is hungry. But we can’t. We live in a fallen world. The more you look, the more brokenness you seem to find. But if you look closely, you can see such huge blessings and miracles.
Yesterday afternoon, we went to Palin (where the mission house is), and there was a 7 year old boy at the house. I took some time to play basketball with him. And we practiced counting while bouncing the ball. This kid no longer goes to school because in his words, “The teacher said I’m not learning anything anymore. So, I must be stupid. So my mom pulled me out of school.” This kid is NOT stupid! He’s dyslexic. He needs some serious one on one time. But the public schools here can’t handle that. So this kid now believes that he’s stupid, when really he’s super gifted in music. Then, we went down to the family with the baby missing most of her brain (Dulce). If you don’t believe in God, just take one look at this baby. She is now a year and 7 months old and was told originally that she wouldn’t live past 7 weeks old. Then was told that if she lives past a year, she’s a miracle. Well, she’s a miracle. She’s gained so much weight and has 2 little teeth showing in the front. She follows you with her eyes as you walk in a room and turns her head if someone talks. The parents were told in testing at 4 months of age, when we first met them, that she couldn’t see or hear. Last night, the parents literally cried when we arrived. The mom said that she had been praying and telling God how she is at the end of her rope, doesn’t know what to do. They don’t have money for food, rent, let alone medications for Dulce now that she has a fever again. So something as simple as us showing up last night with ibuprofen, cough medicine, and medicine for a cold, we were an answer to her prayers.
We’ve been in situations where money is super tight. And it’s still something that I’m not completely used to since I used to have a set income when I worked in the States. But God has been teaching me to try to let go of everything, give it all to Him, and He will provide exactly what we need, when we need it. Is it hard for me to do that? Yes, absolutely. It’s not something that one day I struggle with and the next day, everything is peachy and I don’t stress out about it. I’m trying. It hasn’t been easy. But I think I’m getting there, slowly. He is our provider. He has Peter and I on this crazy journey with this ministry and all we can do is what we are called to do and allow Him to do the rest, to work through us and to provide everything we need, when we need it. It’s not our money. It’s His. And life isn’t all about money. Yes, we need it to pay for things that we need for the ministry: meds, tests for patients, rent, food, youth, kids’ club, etc. But it’s about the relationships we are forming and helping others to see that God is the answer. People come to us and ask for money for their rent, light bills, food, etc. But they also need someone to listen to them, to talk to, to pray with them that God would provide those things. Everyone has struggles, no matter where you live, whether you live in the States, 3rd world country, or Europe, or anywhere. Everyone experiences heartache, some more than others. Some people can’t seem to catch a break no matter how hard they try. Others have it pretty good. No matter where you are, look around you and I can guarantee that you will find at least one blessing. If you start to train your brain to think that way more, more positive, looking for the blessings in this life, you will realize that you begin to see the good in this life and not be as negative, no matter what life throws your way.
So time escaped me and it’s April...what in the world!? Here’s a quick rundown of what all has happened since August...
September: Last cow show for our family after our family has shown for 27 years. My little sister showed for her last time. It was great to be together with family for our last show. Bittersweet for sure.
October: Last minute prep and then selling the cows. Really hard day. Seemed like it went way too fast for how much work was put into getting prepared for that day. Really hard to see them all go and to be left with an empty barn. Girl who needed hernia surgery got it done and looks amazing! Dulce (baby missing most of her brain) was in the hospital for 2 weeks and super sick, but is doing well now too!
Mid October: Came back to Guatemala and after some talk and a lot of prayer, Peter and I decided the next step in our lives was to start to plan our wedding! Had a team down of amazing coworkers! We treated over 100 patients in the course of 3 clinics. Next team was from California working with the local coffee farmers to get fair trade for their coffee and to work more efficiently to help with profit.
November: Continued clinics, kids’ club, and youth group. Had a huge Thanksgiving meal with my Guatemalan family.
December: Officially engaged! Continued the same schedule and had Christmas and New Year’s with my Guatemalan family. First time doing fireworks (besides sparklers). Car died...a lot....
January: Hosted 2 teams. 1st one was a group of high school seniors. They did an amazing job doing some projects around the house and leading a Bible school with our kids’ club group, teaching them about Noah’s ark and how Christ died for our sins so that we can have eternal life and that he loves us so much. 2nd team was some people we met from Haiti last year. They did teachings about walking on water and getting out of the boat to follow Jesus, and about David and Goliath. They handed out kitchen kits to some of the moms who live by the railroad tracks and we had 2 clinics and treated over 70 patients.
February: Focused on 2 really complicated patients (check out the details in the latest newsletter, which is posted in the newsletter tab of this website), continued holding clinics, kids’ club, and youth group. Cramming to get ready for the wedding.
March: Continued our crazy schedule and working with the 2 complicated patients, kids’ club, and youth group. And WEDDING DAY! We can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has supported us, helped in any way, the donations, gifts, videos, messages, and to those who were able to come to our special day. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
And now it’s April: We are adjusting to married life, settling into our home. Kids are back in school after having off the week for Semana Santa (Holy week leading up to Easter). We will be starting clinics back up, continuing to focus more time into the 2 complicated patients we have, and have been continuing with kids’ club and youth group. We just had a swimming party with the kids on Saturday for Semana Santa and we had a packed house this past Thursday for youth group with over 30 kids! Some of them just received Bibles that my parents bought for youth group for those who didn’t have one and we received a message from one saying that he was so thankful for his new Bible and a chance to read it. We continue to have 4 children living with us and supporting 7 in school.
Thank you to everyone who has been supportive, flexible, encouraging, and by our side through everything that has been going on. It’s been a crazy ride, with a lot of ups and downs, and I’m sure that will continue and we couldn’t do it without everyone’s support and prayers! Please spread the word about our ministry and how people can donate and be of support to us! For anyone wanting to make a tax deductible donation, you can do so by clicking on the donate tab and it will redirect you to the appropriate site. And if anyone wants to come down and join the fun sometime, please let us know! We would love to have you!
While I type this, I’m currently in Pennsylvania, visiting family and friends, and going around to different churches sharing what is going on with our ministry in Guatemala. And yet, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I’m here in the States while the rest of my Guatemalan family are down there continuing to work and having to do it without some extra help. Guilty that I’m up here, constantly going out to eat and hanging out with friends to reconnect. Guilty that I’m “getting a break” and they don’t get one. Guilty that because of family life events that I’m here until October. Yes, it’s great to reconnect with family and friends who I haven’t seen since January. And yes, I know that I need to be here in Pennsylvania during this time. But man…I miss them all in Guatemala so bad! It’s hard to be honest. You’re always saying goodbye as a missionary. You say goodbye to everyone in Guatemala to go to the States to visit. And then you are saying goodbye to everyone in the States to head back down to where you now live. But with that being said, I know that I’m doing what God has called me to do.
We still have some construction going on. This house is a legit fixer upper. The roof has been completed. 2 of my amazing cousins came down and worked on finishing our bathrooms by making cabinets for the sinks. They were able to make some bunk beds as well. Laura continued working after Matt returned to PA and made a massive bookshelf. I’m in love with it and since she finished it after I came to the States, I can’t wait to actually see it in person! Currently, we are in the process of building more showers to use for when we have teams visiting. We now have connected the 2 houses so we don’t have to go outside of our gated property to go between houses. That makes it nice especially at night when it’s not the safest to be outside.
We have been crazy busy with clinics and house calls! I was 45 minutes late leaving for the airport since we had a line of people wanting me to do house calls on the day I was heading back to the States. Pretty much daily, I have house calls and patients to follow up on. The baby who is missing most of her brain has been doing pretty well. She has been gaining weight now that we found a bottle that she can drink out of rather than being syringe fed. She had struggled with pneumonia and diarrhea, but has recovered well. She is now 7 months old. Her parents were originally told that she wouldn’t live past 7 days old. Her grandmother has been pretty sick recently, receiving iron transfusions, has a low hemoglobin and really could use a blood transfusion, and the most recent issue has been congestive heart failure. She was so short of breath, completely filled with fluid up to her neck with pitting edema, vomiting, sweating profusely, and ridiculously pale one night. We told her that she needed to go to the hospital. I have Lasix pills to help with the fluid retention, but that wouldn’t kick in fast enough and really she needed a hospital now. She just wanted nausea meds and to go to sleep that night. We told her that there was a good chance that she might not make it through the night if she didn’t go to the hospital. But she and family insisted that she didn’t want to go and they would try to take her another day. When they finally did go to the hospital, they did not receive the care that she needed. So she came home and still struggled with all of the same health problems.
There is a 4 year old girl who came to clinic one day because after she eats “her belly button sticks out,” according to her mother. This happened after she fell down the steps. We took her to get an ultrasound and found that she does indeed have an umbilical hernia and needs surgery. We are currently in contact with a group who hosts teams from the States who perform hernia surgeries. One of the boys who spends a lot of time at our house became really sick in July and it was looking like an appendicitis. I started an IV, gave pain and nausea meds and some IV fluids, and we took him to a hospital. The doctor agreed that it was an appendicitis and he had surgery done that night. We have had a number of patients recently who have needed specialists or more testing done. Because these patients come from very poor areas and are just trying to have enough money for some food, we provide the funds for these tests and take them to get them done and whatever follow up care or appointments are required. As you know, we live strictly off of donations and none of this would be possible without your support. Honestly, so many patients would not have been able to receive care, medications, treatment, surgery, or the help they needed without you. And every little bit helps. No amount is too small to be able to greatly impact these patients. Because of you, so many lives have literally been saved. Thank you for being a part of it. I wish you all could come down, witness the miracles, see exactly where your money is going, and experience how grateful they are for your help. We are open for teams to come and help and any of you are welcome to come! But I know it’s not possible for many of you to come. But please know that you are just as important to this ministry and to these families we work with and they need your continued support and prayers!
We continue to have kids club on Saturdays and youth group on Thursday evenings. Both are going well. We had received a donation to buy sports equipment from Canoe Creek BIC church. We loaded up 50 kids in a bus and went to the park to play with all of the new gear. These kids had such a blast playing new sports they never had the opportunity to play before. Thank you so much for providing that opportunity! They keep asking me when we are going to start a legit baseball team and practice. The youth group is currently studying the book of Job. Each one of these kids have been through so much already, can relate, and find hope from Job’s experiences. Please continue to pray for each kid that we work with. They are/have gone through so much crap, need to work on processing all of it, and begin the healing process. It’s not easy by any means for these kids and just pray we can figure out the best way to continue helping these kids. We have seen a huge change in these kids over the past year especially. But they still have a long way to go in the healing process. Thank you again for all of your support, donations, and prayers. We couldn’t do any of this without you all!
Where should I begin? There has been so much going on, so much that happened, I’m not sure I can even keep up with it all. There are times I feel like I’m catching up for the month that dengue fever had me down and out. Well, I’m just going to start somewhere and go from there: Construction. As you know, we have been replacing the roof of the mission house. It is coming along well and looks amazing! Huge difference! We also have to redo the walls outside the whole house. But since it’s rainy season, the guy who is doing that part wants to wait so that it can be done properly. Conveniently, we had been talking about how we need a bathroom for our clinic patients ASAP. Since he is unable to do the walls of the house and he had vacation time, he has been able to build a whole bathroom in basically a week. Just a few more finishing touches and a door need to be added and then it is complete! We are also redoing both bathrooms in the mission house. They were a hot mess to say the least! By the time more teams begin to come down, they should be complete and ready to go! One of our youth kids is coming to the house a couple times a week and working on making cabinets, bunkbeds, and shelves. So we are slowly getting around to getting both houses (Mom’s and the mission house) back in order. I’m so excited!
Camp: oh my word. Camp was just absolutely amazing!! The theme this year was about the power of prayer. My friend Dorothy was here from PA and led the main sessions teaching kids how to pray and talk to God. She gave each kid and youth a prayer pillow that she had made. We had taken the kids to a house down by the beach and for most of the kids, it was the first time seeing the ocean. It was so great playing with them, seeing their reactions, and connecting more personally with each kid. I really feel like our relationship with each kid is so much stronger from that weekend together. Huge, huge shoutout to our whole team who got this camp to run so smoothly! Lauren, Yelsi, Peter, Estela, Dorothy, Edwin, Brayan, Micah and the boys: you guys rock! And special thank you to all of you for your support! We couldn’t have done this camp without your support and prayers! Lots of kids’ lives were changed that weekend and you were a huge part of it!
Clinics: Man, clinics have been keeping us busy! I love it! The past few weeks especially we have had really sick patients…one right after the other. It’s been a lot of really long days and nights, caring for patients and doing house calls. It has been no where near dull around here. Some of our patients and families are showing their gratitude by giving me a rose, Peter and I receiving 2 live chickens, and 1 already skinned. The family with the baby who is sick frequently with pneumonia even invited us to their son's 1st birthday party. Recently, we got a call one night about a baby. We were told that she had hydrocephaly. Once we got there, we found out that she has microcephaly, probably caused by zika. Mom said she had gotten sick when she was 3 months pregnant with this baby girl. They had an ultrasound done at 6 months and were never told that anything was wrong until this baby was born. They attempted a CT scan soon after birth, but it was blurry and they were told to repeat it, but it would cost the parents. They didn’t have the money. Meanwhile, this baby ended up in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) and was basically unresponsive. Soon after that occurred, we found out about this baby. Since then, we have been attempting to control her sugars, taught the parents how to use a glucometer that we bought for them, bought them formula and seizure medications, and have gotten an MRI and hearing and visual testing done. The MRI showed what I basically thought it would. This baby is missing most of her brain. So at this point, we are keeping her comfortable, managing her sugars and seizures, and just loving her as much as possible while she is here on earth. Explaining that to the parents is by far the toughest part in our “jobs.” But honestly, as most of you know…especially my former co-workers from Reading, I wouldn’t have it any other way than to be right there beside this family and their baby as they go through the toughest time in their lives. Many of you have poured your heart and soul into this baby and her family and even scrounged together money to help pay for these tests, glucometer, medications, and formula. And I am honestly so humbled and truly, truly grateful! Dorothy had the privilege of giving this family prayer pillows while she was visiting as well. So thank you all, for the prayers, spreading the word about this girl and her family, support, and financial support. We seriously couldn’t do it without all of you.
Great needs: Along with the baby and her family, there is another family who we visited this past week who is struggling. They literally live on a cliff and fear that every time it rains that their house is going to disappear in a landslide. They already have a tree that split in half because it fell during rainy season. 8 adults live in this tiny house, sharing 2 beds. There are medical and school needs that need to be addressed. I feel like the more that I'm here, the more dire situations you find. I have known about villages and the struggles, abuse, rape, malnutrition, not having food, no clean water, really sad living conditions, and I could just keep going on. But as you help one family, they know of so many others who are in a similar situation, or even worse and asking for help as well. They don't know where to turn. Some literally have nothing. So I know that I probably sound like a broken record, but prayers and donations are huge. Honestly, we can't do any of this without you all giving your support any way you can. We can honestly feel the power of prayer from you all and are witnessing miracles with it daily. Anyone wanting to make a financial contribution can do it by clicking on the donate button on the donate tab or on the homepage of this website and it will redirect you to the appropriate site. And please feel free to keep spreading the word! Honestly, any amount is huge and helps so many people!
Visitors: We have been loving our visitors recently and my cousin Laura is on her way to us now! Lauren, Dorothy, Ana, Heidy, Xander, Anne: it’s been so awesome to hang out with you all and have you help this ministry! It’s been a huge blessing…more than you even know! If any of you want to visit, you are more than welcome to! Just let me know when and we’ll work out the details!
New grandsons: As most of you know, I became a grandmother last year…and our family tree is continuing to grow! If you are thoroughly confused, it’s ok. I totally understand. I have trouble keeping it straight most of the time. Short story from last year, I was helping with a kid living in our home who was 13 years old. He started calling me mom…then grandma. Said that I don’t look like him, but this way, we are still related. Then Lauren’s brother, Conner (kid I went to Uganda with) started to call me grandma. Now, 3 boys from youth who frequently come to the house now call me grandma. Let’s just say we have a crazy life. But, I feel so at peace about it and even when I feel like it’s a hot mess, I know God has it under control and is changing these kids’ lives…and ours.
Officially Moved In:
Peter kept telling me time and time again that I wouldn’t have to worry about being bored while down here and he wasn’t kidding…at all. I’ve been officially moved down here for over 2 months, and I’m not entirely sure how we have accomplished as much as we have already in those quick weeks! We went from recovering from the world tour, 52 hours of straight travel from Uganda to Guatemala, to working with the kids on Thursday and Saturday, to starting clinics twice a week so far, to having 2 kids live with us. Yup, that’s right, I’m called Mama Donna. There are a bunch of people I consider a mom to me and even 2 people in my life who are called Mama…Elaine and Ruth. But now I’m considered a mama. These kids came to breakfast one morning and gained 2 moms and a dad by that evening. They had been coming to the house frequently, especially once their grandmother who takes care of them ended up in the hospital with a broken knee and these 2 kids were on their own. Their lives have never been easy by any means. In fact, they can’t really catch a break. They have been through so much abuse and hardships, one right after the other. It just breaks my heart as they continue to talk about their past and what all they have been through. We had discussed the possibility of having them live with us temporarily, but it never seemed like the right time. But the morning they came for breakfast and said about what might happen to them soon, we decided in that moment was the right time to try to take them in. We talked to their grandmother, aunt, and father and got the go ahead to have them move in with us. The following day, we took them to the autosafari. They had a great time seeing the animals and swimming. It has been an adjustment for all of us to have 2 kids with us, and that’s probably a big understatement. But, it was a God thing how it all fell into place. It happened fast, but there was no way to say no.
In the midst of all the craziness, I swear I did take some time to chill…ish. Whether it was Satan not happy with the work we were doing or about to do, or God’s way of saying, “Dude, slow it down a bit,” I have had my share of illnesses since arriving. I had gotten sick in Uganda and was pretty out of it for a few days while there. My GI tract hadn’t been right since then and finally just downright revolted. After some antibiotics, I felt back to my normal self. But then our son, Manuel, got a cold, shared with the rest of us, which turned into an ear infection for me. Again, antibiotics and back to normal. The latest issue has been because a blasted little mosquito. Who knew those little turds could make you so sick! For those of you who haven’t heard, I got dengue fever. And it has officially whipped my keister. It has been 2 weeks now since getting sick from it, and I am slowly getting better. But even just the littlest things totally wipe me out, make me dizzy, or cause a headache. But can honestly say, I have the most amazing friends. They have been by my side the entire time taking care of me, putting in IVs, giving me meds, getting anything I need, praying with me, basically carrying me when I can’t even walk, and doing everything for me. They have been so patient as I have really been struggling with this whole thing. And they certainly know me well and how to put their feet down to make me do what I know deep down that I really need to do, but pretty much suck at: resting.
So far, we have 2 clinics established. We have it worked out that I evaluate and treat about 25-30 patients each clinic day. Some days, I end up seeing more patients as they sneak in or want to be seen along with their child. We see anything from a cough, to a UTI, to diarrhea, to vomiting nonstop, to being a bit more complicated and needing to be sent for further labs or tests. We have had a number of really sick kids with pneumonia or RSV who normally would be a slam dunk admit if they were in the States. But instead of going to the hospital since that's not really a feasible option for most here, I’m giving neb treatments, cough meds, antibiotics, and telling them to come back the following day for a recheck or at any point if the child gets sicker. Thankfully, they have been making a big turnaround. I even had to put an IV in a pretty sick 4 year old a few weeks ago. First pediatric IV I had done since leaving Reading, so it felt a little weird. But all went well, and he perked up after some fluids and nausea meds. Poor kid was whiter than me before all of that. Ha. And I just saw him this Saturday at kids club. Thankfully, he forgives quickly and doesn’t hate me for having to poke him with an IV. He was back to his chatty self. Quite a few weeks in a row, we diagnosed some people with new onset of diabetes. Thankfully, we have IV supplies and could give them some fluids to help bring their sugars down to at least below 600 for the glucometer to be able to read. Obviously, it’s a pretty big shock to them to find out they are diabetic when the reason they came to clinic was because they thought they had a urine infection or they were having trouble seeing and were tired.
We have done quite a few house calls…at all hours. There was a nasty GI bug/flu/dizziness virus going around and hitting everyone pretty hard. What was tough was when you couple that virus with someone who is diabetic. One person was heading towards DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) and would have been admitted if in the States. He had already vomited over 30 times, kept vomiting while I was putting in his IV and giving him his first liter of fluid. Finally, the nausea meds kicked in and by that evening, he was ready to try to eat something. By the next morning, he was able to sit up and looked so much better.
On Thursdays, we have the youth come to the house and have a Bible study. During Holy Week (week before Easter), we gave Bibles to the youth. It was great to see their reaction. They were so thankful and humbled. Each one wrote their name in it and when they received it. Now we have them read the passage for the following week ahead of time and they are working on learning the books of the Bible. On Saturdays, we have kids club outside in our backyard. We do a Bible story, singing, activities, and games. Before Easter, we had a water day with the kids. We filled up 2 pools, filled over 120 water balloons, had an Easter egg hunt, and played water games. It was fun to see these kids just be kids and not have to be responsible for their whole family in that moment. A lot of these kids come from pretty rough experiences. It’s not easy by any means for these kids. But when they come, they can just be kids and learn about Jesus in the process. No matter what happens to them, we just pray they can take away what we have been teaching them and apply it to their lives no matter where they end up.
We have some big projects happening! We have jumped right in as far as fixing up things…but they were long overdue. We are getting a whole new roof for our mission house. Hopefully soon, we won’t need buckets to catch water and the termites will no longer have a party every day with the beams! We need to make another bathroom at mom’s house for patients to use when they come for clinic. We are in the process of buying wood to start building shelves for Mayra’s clothes, make bookshelves, and bunkbeds. We are gearing up for groups to be coming…as soon as next week! Anyone is welcome to come down and help and visit. Just let me know when you would like to come and we will work out all of the details!
Huge thank you to those of you are supporters, have supported us in the past, helped in any way, and especially for those of you who are praying! Thank you doesn’t even seem like it’s even close to being adequate enough. Honestly, we are so humbled. We couldn’t be doing this without you guys being partnered with us! You guys are making a huge difference in so many lives! We are always open for more supporters or any way you can help! If you would like to donate, just click on the donate tab on this website and it will redirect you to the appropriate site to be able to give your tax deductible donation. If there is another way you would like to help…including fundraising, just contact me and we can work it out! If you want to visit, like I said before, just let me know! We would love to have you and we’re so excited for those who have committed to coming already! So come join the fun!
Uganda, eh! Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to go to Africa. It always felt like a dream that would never become reality. Meanwhile, I had been traveling to Guatemala…more and more frequently. My friend, Yelsi from Guatemala, said about feeling like God was telling her to go to Africa. I thought, “Oh that would be so awesome! But, there is no way that I can do that while working at Reading hospital. I can’t get off that long.” Yelsi and I continued to talk about it. She wasn’t sure she wanted to travel alone and really wanted me to come along. Well, one thing led to another and I think most of you know how 2015 went for me, which led to the 3 month leave of absence from work, which led to me saying, “That’s it! I’m moving to Guatemala!” So, Yelsi and I continued to talk about Africa and Conner said, “Hey! I want to come!” I told Yelsi to figure out when this trip would work for her to go; I will make sure I’m done with work beforehand and then we can go to Africa together and straight to Guatemala from there. We had a connection with a children’s home in Uganda. However, that fell through. But then, a friend from Guatemala gave us another connection, who took a chance on having us come for 3 weeks and stay with them. Well, God totally put everything in line for us and we had an amazing time!
We arrived late at night after over 30 hours of travel. We were met by our amazing Ugandan driver, Brian. That poor guy. He was all ready to talk and get to know us and we were practically dead asleep or all but asleep during the drive to the house. After we got some rest and attempted to adjust to being 8 hours ahead of PA time, we jumped right in and started helping with the DOORS ministry. DOORS had made their start by taking in some street boys. They now have grown to helping in numerous areas. Yelsi, Conner, and I helped with the kids in the village of Katwe on Mondays and Wednesdays and then with a women’s Bible study and house visits in Namuwongo on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We had such an amazing time with them! We took public transportation to get to these places and definitely had some entertaining moments while riding the taxis and “bodas” (mini motorcycle/dirt bikes).
Tuesday nights, we had Bible study with women in Namuwongo. Many were pregnant and single mothers. A lot of the woman are HIV positive and their husbands leave after they find out she is positive, even if they got it from them. There was a nurse there who took blood pressures of the pregnant women and talked to them about their health. After that, we gave out Mama Kits to the women who were close to their due date. These kits provided them with supplies that the hospital would need to safely deliver their baby. If they did not have the kit, the hospital would either turn them away or just use whatever supplies they could scrounge together. As we handed out these kits, we prayed with each woman. To me, that really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I never was a huge fan of praying out loud in a group. But this pushed me to do it. I could really feel God’s presence while we prayed for each woman.
After that, we had a time of singing and Bible study with the women and their children. Our friend, Jen, decided to have us act out the story on the last Tuesday that we were there. We were talking about being ready for Jesus’ second coming. I had to beg to Yelsi to share some of her oil for my lamp. So I did a running slide across the stage…and skinned my knee in the process. At another point, I was to come running down the aisle, late. As I came running down, a toddler was backing up from the bench that he was sitting on and ended up right in my path. I did a spin move at the last moment and mostly avoided the collision. But the kid was so startled that he fell forward. The women were cheering, laughing, and clapping the whole time. (Side note, the kid was fine. No injuries). Afterwards, Jen said some people asked how long we practiced the skit. Jen said, “Oh, they just found out about it 5 minutes before we started and didn’t practice at all.” She also said that she has never seen the women clap or laugh before. That was really special to be a part of them opening up and being really engaged in the story. At the end of the service, we had a time where the women could come up and be prayed for if they wanted. Many came up to us in tears, asking for us to pray for health for them and their babies. A lot of the ones that I prayed for were HIV positive and they were just praying that their babies would be HIV negative at their next appointment. After the service was over, anyone who wanted us to come on a house visit on Thursdays could come up and request that through the woman leading our group.
During house visits, we split up into groups to go to different houses to talk with the family and pray with them. We always had a Ugandan with us to help with translating when needed and for us to follow their lead. We talked with so many women who were struggling with their husbands leaving them; they are trying to single parent these children, don’t have food and don’t know when they will get their next meal, children are malnourished, praying that their child will get school fees paid for so they can receive an education, don’t have enough money for rent, being chased out of the house, and unsure where they will live, trying to start a business to provide for their family, and the list goes on. We shed some tears and poured our hearts out to one another in those tiny 1 room houses.
In Uganda when someone greets you, they say, “Hello. How are you?” and the response is always, “I’m fine,” even if you aren’t fine. When we visited one woman, we asked her how she was. She said, “I’m fine.” Then she shook her head and said, “No. I’m not fine. I’m not fine.” She then began to explain that her brother had died suddenly a week ago after having a massive headache and died the following day. He was never sick a day in his life according to this woman. She then explained that her mother-in-law died and numerous other family members within the last few months. She was just sad and really worried for her mother who just lost her son. My heart just broke for this woman. She is normally smiling and was trying to smile that day. I felt God pushing me to share about my experience from the past year. I shared with her the loss my friends and I had experienced and how even through that downright terrible time, God’s glory shined. He never left our sides. He pulled us through, turned people to Him, and restored us to even better than what we were before that happened. He is our provider, our healer, and even in the darkest times, He can use something for His glory. He knows the big picture. We may not understand why something is happening, but He is in total control. Yelsi also shared how hard it was losing 2 of her brothers, but how God is faithful. We all shed some tears with her, but she left feeling encouraged that she can get through this time in her life.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, we went to Katwe to help with the kids. (For those of you who have not seen the Disney movie Queen of Katwe….go watch it! You can see where I have been, experience some of the culture, and watch a really good movie. Main actress is awesome in person!). We did a Bible story and singing with the kids and then played games. Those kids are just awesome! Love to play, get hugs, and certainly loved being in pictures. It was funny though how they would ask for us to take a picture, then stand there and stare at the camera. But when you would show them the picture, they would break out in a huge smile, laugh, and cover their mouths. We did house visits on one of the days that we were there and the moms thanked us for having this program for their kids to learn about God and have somewhere safe to be, rather than roaming around on the streets of the slums where it isn’t the safest place to be.
On 2 days, we went to the Acholi quarters. The Acholi people are from northern Uganda and are now in this area after seeking refuge. Kony led a children army, kidnapped children and forced them to become children soldiers. Many were forced to kill their own family members or witness them being killed. So many families were torn apart and many never found out if their loved ones were alive, even years later. (Another movie to watch: War Dance. It is a really well done movie that follows a couple of children as they prepare for a school competition, but also explains their past and what happened to them during the years of Kony’s reign). These children soldiers are now adults and have children. On the first day we were there, we sang some songs and did a lesson about the verse talking about tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. We did a demonstration where they had to try cookies that didn’t look very appealing. But once they tasted it, they realized they were good.
On the second day, we went to do medical care for those who needed it. We were set up in a one room house and our translator was a woman who looked like she could tear you apart, but really was the sweetest woman ever. She witnessed her father and brother being killed as Kony and his men invaded their area when she was much younger. While we were there, women kept filing in and explaining their medical issues. At one point, a woman crawled into the room and sat in the corner. She explained that she had a leg wound. I cleaned it and changed the dressing. While I was talking to another woman, the previous woman spoke up and asked why we couldn’t just cut off her leg. She would rather crawl around than drag this leg around. We explained to her that it would be worse for her to amputate her leg at this point than to keep it. We also shared with her about going through hard times and how God is our provider and healer and no matter what we are going through, He will be right there. I shared with her the lyrics from the song, “I have this hope” by Tenth Avenue North. After we prayed, she led us in a worship song in Luganda, WALKED out of the house with us, and followed while we went on a house visit down a really steep hill.
Another day, we went to the area where street boys stay. Most of the boys were high from huffing petroleum, which helped them with their feeling of hunger. I cleaned wounds and did a teaching about the effects of huffing and substance abuse. Conner brought them a soccer ball and explained the salvation story with the colors on the ball. Marjorie taught them about listening to the Holy Spirit and how to have a personal relationship with God. It was eye opening for me to see where these boys were at in their lives. Many left home because it was that bad at home: abusive situations, alcoholic parents, etc. They came to the city in hope of a better life and money. They are out on the streets and in dirt areas. When it rains, it’s a terrible situation for them. They have nowhere to go and it’s just a muddy mess. Later that night, we went to worship night with DOORS. The awesome thing was watching the teen boys who were leading worship night. DOORS started by taking in street boys, just like the ones we worked with earlier that day, who were high and living on the street. And now, these boys are leading worship, giving their whole hearts and lives to God and working hard to finish school. It was one of the most amazing things to witness and realize just how far these guys have come. Absolutely amazing.
It’s time for the safari…While we were in Uganda, we were blessed with the opportunity to go on a safari and to the zoo. We traveled about 12 hours to get there and 17 hours to return. Our driver, Brian, was amazing. It was so great to get to know him and some of his friends more as we traveled. We saw a ton of water buffalo, hippos, elephants, water bucks, warthogs, birds, and some other animals. Unfortunately, Conner got a GI bug and then later shared with Yelsi and myself. But otherwise, we had a great time. One thing that really stuck out to me was when we were sharing our testimonies. Brian had mentioned that he was involved with ministry, but there was a point where he wasn’t and had time to himself. He wasn’t quite sure what to do. He poured his heart out to God and realized that you have to take care of yourself first before you can pour yourself into ministry. Once you are filled up, what is extra and overflowing, is what you can pour into ministry. That really stuck with me. I have a tendency to dump it all out there and then I get to the point that I’m worn out, but I keep pushing along. I feel like growing up as a farm kid and being an ED nurse has that engrained into me. But, I found out the hard way last year that I need to take care of myself before I can take care of others. It took a long time and is still a work in progress to get back from the place that I was in last year. So, Brian, thank you for that reminder! On the way home, Conner was feeling like crap. I was starting to get sore. But we made the best of it: blasted the music and sang the whole way home! I was losing my voice from singing so loudly. We had an awesome time! We even got Brian hooked onto My Lighthouse by Rend Collective Experiment. On another day, Brian, Conner, and I went to the zoo. We definitely laughed a lot, especially when the baboon walked right up to the fence and pointed to his butt. I pretty much lost it! Brian and I also reached through the fence and touched a cheetah. It was my idea...don't want to get him in trouble with his wife!
I just can’t say thank you enough to those of you who helped make this trip possible and just downright awesome! You guys in Uganda are amazing and we had a life changing experience! Marjorie, Glenn, Annalise, Brian, everyone with DOORS, Hank, and Mary, especially thank you! I am so thankful for this opportunity and we hope to see you all again in the future! All are welcome to visit us here in Guatemala too!
So this Haiti trip…clearly it was a God thing that it even happened. It was not on my radar at all…and the more I talked to the people in our group, the more I realized it wasn’t on their radars either. But like someone in our group had shared, she loves to see how God puts these groups together. They always turn out perfectly. Our group rocked. I may be a bit biased. But seriously, I laughed so hard that I cried pretty much on a daily basis. We shared our testimonies and hearts with one another. Even though I had just met many of the people in our group, I felt at ease to share how the past few years have seriously kicked my butt. But how God used it all, healed me to even better than I was before, and helped to prepare me for what is to come: Guatemala! And to quote a person from our group: who’d a thunk it?
Let’s just start with the hot mess of traveling to Haiti. So I was crazy and got 45 minutes of sleep prior to leaving for Haiti…so you all know where this is going: I was loopy. Everything was amusing. And the group quickly found out that I can sleep about anywhere. Once we arrived to Fort Lauderdale and had boarded our connecting flight, they realized that there was a crack in the windshield. They announced, “We need to get something to measure the crack in the windshield from a store or from another airline.” So, back off the plane we went and couple hours and many laughs later, we boarded yet another plane that had to come from Miami. We finally arrived to Haiti, hopped on the back of a truck, and drove 3 hours north to the children’s home where we would be serving for the week.
It was a beautiful drive up into the mountains. Just fresh air and the stars. The following morning, we were ready to dig right in. All throughout the week, we worked on painting 2 bathrooms and 2 bedrooms, pulling nails out of boards, mixing concrete, washing clothes, cleaning up trash, and visited people in prison. On Tuesday night, the neighborhood kids came to the church and we sang, did a Bible story with them, and then fed them. 55 lbs of rice later, over 250 kids were fed. It was amazing to sing with all of them and be a part of that awesome night! Those kids have so little compared to what is available in the States, but they have such joy and a hunger to learn more. In the evenings, we just fellowshipped with one another, played games, talked, had a certain someone believing that Leah was in the witness protection program, and played with the kids who came to hang out. During our last breakfast we together at the home, something happened that was absolutely hysterical (oh my word…I will spare them from sharing what totally happened. But it was hysterical and we laughed so hard. You just have to trust me on that). We also played some soccer and volleyball, 2 of the girls loved to braid our hair, and some very competitive games of dutch blitz, memory, and bananagrams happened. On the final night, we went to the beach. Leah, Peter, and I went snorkeling…and again, I will spare the details since I value their friendship…but again, laughed hysterically and I can only imagine what the boat driver went home to tell his friends! Let’s just say, he had a smirk on his face and at one point, tried to jerk the boat to see if I would fall in the water since I was laughing so hard already.
The one evening, we walked up the mountain to see how the water project was going where they were going to build a dam. We started out with our group and ended up with way more than double our group following. We had to get back fairly quickly since there was a brush fire that was spreading rapidly, plus we didn’t want to be walking back in the dark. But we were able to still take time to do some balloon rockets for the kids. At one point, the horse way up on the mountain came barreling down the hill, neighing, wanting to join in the fun of running around with the kids. There is a lot of voodoo, especially up in the mountains. Every night we could hear chanting, drums, and at times, they would go into a “frenzy.” In some of the houses we walked past in the mountains, we noticed the setup where they did their voodoo each night.
“As I went down to the river to pray, studying about that good old way…” That is what we sang every time we went down to the “river”…aka stream to wash paint supplies and/or clothes. It’s also the hot spot where people get baths. So it is not uncommon to have someone getting a bath right beside you while you are washing clothes. Some of the most entertaining moments came from being down at that river. Oh my word. So, there a concrete dam under the bridge and that is where we would stand to clean out the paint supplies. Well, the algae got the best of us at times. One woman went face down into the river water. By the time Leah, Peter, and I had arrived, everyone down at the river was laughing and there was a growing crowd of kids watching the “blans” laugh hysterically. Once they explained what had happened to Carol, we all were laughing. Jean described it as “Carol was prostrate before the Lord.” Which of course that made me think of Tim Hawkins, “I’m just going to lie here prostate. Prostrate…I don’t know! That R is so important!” It got to the point that Peter was lying on the ground laughing hysterically, the rest of us were about dying, and a few almost fell in the river.
On Sunday, we attended church that meets in a pavilion that has some legit leaning pillars. The group had found out that I played trumpet because I had told one of the kids who came to help paint the day before. So all of a sudden, the pastor knows, and I’m scrambling through hymnals to find something to play on a whim at church. Well, I played Great is Thy Faithfulness and everyone sang along. It was a little shaky playing with the hymnal on a music stand on uneven dirt ground, playing something that I haven’t practiced, and the hymnal and stand started to fall at one point. But all was well, they caught it; I kept playing. Once again, while worshipping with them, I was hit by how they have so little, but they are so joyful, praising God, and I loved watching the little kids just go right up with everyone else and do their little dancing shuffle. There is definitely something about living simply and having more focus on God. A friend from Guatemala has said many times, “Being a missionary really grows your faith. You HAVE to trust Him for absolutely everything.” There is so much that we take for granted that it’s going to be there. But these families, don’t even know if they are going to have food for the day, but they still take the time to praise God.
Listening to everyone’s testimonies and stories, both from Haiti, and those who were a part of group really helped all of us to see that all of us have baggage, have had crappy parts to life. But, God can use us to help others and it helps to heal ourselves. The way we all ended up in Haiti was totally different. Some have been coming for years. Some came after family members had died. Some of us were retired and wanted to help serve. Leah had heard it while attending their church one Sunday, had served in Haiti for a year 14 years ago, and told me about it. I said, “Pretty sure I am crazy, but I’m going to say yes.” 2 weeks later, Peter had mentioned that it would awesome to be able to join a mission trip in another country and got the go ahead to purchase tickets. Well, like I mentioned before, this group was put together by God. Most of us had really rough weeks before, doubts about going, and a rough trip down. We just knew that God had big plans for our trip. The one night, most of us stayed up and sang songs. Mama Ruth told us the next morning that she thought she was in heaven when she heard the singing, “but the more I listened, I knew I wasn’t in heaven!” Man, did we laugh at that comment! I was told that when I’m in my 70’s, I will be like Mama Ruth. Probably a fairly accurate statement. But I just pray that I can be even half as amazing as she is. She’s awesome. The comments she would make, the random slap while talking to you…yeah…that is like me and my grammy. She, along with everyone in our group, has quite the testimony. Not only were we blessed by serving in Haiti, but we blessed each other. And now, a lot of our group want to come next year to visit in Guatemala. Who’d a thunk it
And then there were 5--that's how many shifts of work I have left. So hard to believe. I don't think it's truly hit...but I think I am starting to get there. I am at the point where I am saying goodbye to amazing friends and coworkers who I will no longer be working side by side with every night like I have for the past 7 years. So weird to think about. I am ridiculously excited for what's to come, that's for sure! But saying goodbye and knowing that I will no longer be working there every night just seems so final. Any other time, even on my 3 month leave of absence, I knew I was returning. And of course, I will come back for visits and stay in touch thanks to WhatsApp and Facebook. But it will definitely be different. I just want to take a timeout to say thank you, thank you, thank you to my coworkers...and honestly, that doesn't seem adequate at all for how grateful I am of you guys! You guys are truly amazing. Not only because of what we deal with and experience every day and night, but for the friendships that have occurred from there, whether it was from something that happened at work that just shook us to our cores, something that we can only shake our heads at, or something in our personal lives. We've definitely experienced and endured a lot, but have come so close because of it. I am truly grateful for all of you and can say I have worked with some of the best teammates, friends, and family ever. Thank you especially for all of those nights where you helped with my crazy trainwrecks, got me to laugh when I was about ready to lose my crap, and stuck by my side through my toughest year of my life, even if it was just to push a piece of chocolate my way, give me a hug, make me laugh, or let me talk, vent, cry, or step away for a hot second. You guys are just absolutely amazing! Thank you for the encouragement for all these years when I would go to Guatemala "yet again," for pushing me to take the leave of absence that I desperately needed and didn't realize how bad of shape I was in until I got there, and for being so supportive of my move to Guatemala even though I know a ton of you are either dreading this or in denial. I will definitely miss working with you all, doing the challenging IVs, getting that trainwreck of a hot mess patient, and the many laughs we have together despite a difficult night. (So you all need to stay in touch often...and come visit often! Not even kidding!!) But I know that this move is the right call at this point in my life. The details are falling into place way better than I could have planned it. Clearly, God is all over this!
So as most of you know, January 3rd is my last night at work...and yes, it's a "princess" shift (Night before is a 12...if that makes any of you feel better). And then I need to hardcore focus on this "little" thing called packing. I have one box mostly packed and some more to go. I keep telling myself that I can get it all done once am done with work. Well, that time is quickly approaching and filling up with things to get accomplished. But one way or another, it is getting done before this little trip to Haiti...and then Uganda...and then final stop in Guatemala. I just spent this past weekend at my parents' for Christmas and we had a great time. I stopped in at Martinsburg Mennonite Church one final time before I leave and was able to say goodbye and thank you so much for your continued love, prayers, and support! Thank you to all of my donors and people willing to give so that I can do what God has called me to do....and He's pulling you guys into it...partnering along side and making a huge impact on so many people because of your donations and support! You guys are making a huge difference in so many lives! Honestly, so no need to say this is all me doing the work...it's not at all. It's all God and He's using all of us to do this...so again, thank you!!
Many of you donated for food for kids and their families this Christmas and because of the amazing donations from you guys, they were able to receive not only food, but helped to buy school supplies for the kids, Bibles for patients and kids at clinic who don't have one, activities/crafts/decorations for Christmas parties, and the food for the party. Huge, huge THANK YOU! I about cried happy tears on more than one occasion at work when you guys were giving. I think Peter and his mom were a bit shocked at how much you guys were able to provide for. It's so humbling and amazing to see it! I had faith that you all would provide...something about Christmas time and my coworkers...they love to give! We certainly have a history of that :) (I still see kids running around down there with their fleeces that were given a few years ago). I have also received some blankets to give to families who live in tin shacks, sleeping on either one bed or no bed on a mud floor and lately it's been getting into the 40's at night in that area. So these families will be able to stay warm at night because of these blankets. So again, thank you!
And last but not least....my website is done! Conner, my grandson (see previous posts about how I have 2 grandsons if you have no clue what I am talking about), has finished it and I have to say, it's pretty awesome! Here's the link, save it, and spread the word about it: 1lifeatatime.com
There are 2 videos on there: one explaining what I will be doing in Guatemala and the other is the blooper reel. There is a tab with pictures from the previous medical team that we had this past October with Reading Hospital's very own Mark and Deb, and pictures from my 3 month leave of absence when I was volunteering at some clinics, and when we had camp with the kids (same kids who received the food this Christmas). My blog will now be posted on this website...just to keep everything on one site and that way you don't have to bounce around to different sites and try to keep them all straight. And the last tab has a button to click and will take you to where to donate (It will redirect you to the same website that you have been using to donate: cten.org/donnadelp). Again, I will not be getting paid in Guatemala and am relying strictly on support from you guys. So please, spread the word! You can give monthly and/or as a one time donation. It is tax deductible. So honestly, any amount is a huge help and blessing. Thank you to those who have donated and those who are considering and for those of you who are praying and have been a major support and encouragement! Love you guys! And MERRY CHRISTMAS! Enjoy the pictures below of the Christmas party and the kids who received the food and gifts from your donations that were given specifically for that! You guys are awesome!!
“Cutting it close, Delpinator.” That’s the text I received when I wasn’t even home from work yet…but Mark had arrived at my house, ready for Dorothy to come and drive us to the airport. I was pulling my typical MO: work the same night that we need to head to the airport. And of course I still needed to stop to get a few last minute items to pack. I just laughed when I got that text and said, “I’m on my way home. We have time.” I finished my last minute packing, while Mark was pacing in my house. It was quite amusing to see how excited he was to go to Guatemala for the first time…getting his first stamp in his passport period. That was hilarious at immigration in Guatemala to be honest. I thought for sure he was going to try to crawl over the counter to watch the guy put a stamp in his passport. We arrived to Guatemala to be greeted by Deb and Peter. Everyone was exhausted, but so relieved and excited to be there. Once we arrived to Palin, we visited an elderly woman who was short of breath, had a distended abdomen, was dizzy, and was nauseated. We went to the pharmacy and got her some medications to try to help her. That night, we had the youth kids come for the evening. We were beyond exhausted by that point. I found everything amusing and Mark was in his hyper-tired mode. While playing beach volleyball, the ball kept getting caught in the tree. Mark used his awesome Spanish skills, took off his shoe, and yelled, “ZAPATO!!!!” and then would throw his shoe in the tree to try to knock the ball down. I was losing my crap at this point. Laughing so hard, I was crying. The kids thought it was absolutely hysterical and started calling Mark “zapato.” At one point, this one kid took Mark’s shoe and threw it straight up in the tree…but it was dark by this point and he didn’t see the shoe until the last second as it was coming straight for his face. That kid hit the ground so fast in an attempt to get out of the way! That whole scenario started the #teamzapato. Later that night, we played apples to apples the Spanish version. Mark won that easily. Nailed it! Lo clavaste! (The day Mark yelled ‘nailed it’ in Spanish, Peter’s mom laughed so hard. It was hysterical). I had warned Peter before we came that I didn’t think he knew what he was getting into with Deb and I together and then throw Mark in the mix….whew, buddy. I think he figured it out quickly on night one of us being there.
The next days were a blur of events. So much happened. We bought meds for our clinics, sorted everything out that we had all brought down for clinics (honestly, it was like Christmas! Especially for everything Deb brought down!!! ), serenaded by Mark playing the guitar…and singing for Frank the gecko, went to Antigua, picked up Yelsi to help translate, ran 2 clinics, got clotheslined by a tiny bag on a string like a kite (that kid screamed, thinking I killed her kite. Peter and I laughed so hard the whole way back to the house), taught Peter how to put in an IV (I volunteered to be poked and Deb volunteered to let me put an 18g in her to show him how to do it…but apparently I went too fast. No one at Reading would be surprised by that comment), played games, did activities with the neighborhood kids who live on the railroad tracks, and made amazing food (and Deb wore Mark’s sneakers just to walk to the other house and Peter’s mom laughed so hard once she found out that Deb…who wears like a size 6 shoe was wearing about a size 14 shoe), and had a birthday party for our October birthdays. And we all laughed…a lot! The random one liners that were said…absolutely hysterical. I think Deb won with having the most on the quote sheet we had.
We set up clinics in churches in 2 different villages closer to the sugarcane fields where it was pretty humid. We put out coloring pages and crayons for the kids and set up everything on tables or pews depending on what was available. It’s funny. Before we went, we had bought meds for it. Went down the list of meds that seemed pretty popular especially for the 3 months that I was there: meds for pneumonia, diarrhea, and fever. Those were the main things that pretty much every patient needed. So we bought plenty of meds to cover that. We came home and realized that we didn’t buy cough medicine. Later, Peter remembered they had meds left over at his mom’s house from previous medical teams/clinics. I went over and sorted through them: mostly cough medicine, liquid antibiotics, diabetic, gastritis, and allergy meds. We packed it, along with the meds we just bought. Both clinics: we went through that cough, diabetic, gastritis, and allergy medicine like crazy. God provides! I remember when I was working at the dump and resources were pretty limited and just when I was certain I was out of a medicine that I needed, I would find some more and would have just the right amount by the end of the day. I also bought a special ear wash thing and brought it down with me since Reyna was the queen of ear washes the whole time we did our medical team in March. We did a few ear washes this trip and since Reyna wasn’t here…I became the ear wash queen. Deb and Mark did awesome at adjusting to limited resources compared to the States, seeing different ailments than we do in the States, and banging them out. Reading taught us well how to keep it moving! At the end of the first clinic day, Mark took a picture of the empting out church as Deb and I finished up with the last patients. His comment: Deb and Donna cleaning out the waiting room like old times! Peter and Yelsi are amazing translators and sure know how to kick butt with medical teams! We just need to clone them. End of story.
There were a couple patients who really stuck out to me. Deb may have more to add to this…she was so self-sufficient as usual; she didn’t really need me to help get meds or assist with any triages. She was all over it as usual! This is why she could run the ED pretty much herself. (Miss working with you, FYI!!). We had a 12 ish yr old boy who had fever, RUQ pain, chest pain, vomiting, and just looked like crap. We gave him some meds and followed up with him a few days later to set up an appointment for an ultrasound if needed and he was feeling better. We had quite a few kids who saw us for the usual: fever, cough, some with diarrhea. This one kid was screaming bloody murder for Mark. It was amusing since when I came over, she stopped crying immediately. Mark was like, “Oh. Of course. Stops for Delp.” There were quite a few patients who came and were newly diagnosed with diabetes or didn’t have the correct medication to keep it controlled. So we provided them with some meds and diabetic teaching. After the first clinic, we went to the house of a family who had mentioned that the brother-in-law was urinating blood and couldn’t get out of bed because of having a stroke recently and really weak on one side. When we arrived, he’s in the hammock, unable to get up, has been urinating blood and having burning with urination. We provided him with antibiotics for a urine infection and then prayed with him. That was a special moment praying with him and his family. Peter’s mom prayed and most of us were teary by the end of it. He was so grateful for our help and being willing to come and see him.
There was a woman in her 30’s. Married and has 3 daughters. She had come to us because she had pain in her throat, short of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and looked like crap. She was pale, diaphoretic (sweaty). Heart rate was 120’s. We thankfully had some IV supplies with us and a liter of fluid. So we took her in the back room where there was a bed and conveniently a nail in the wall to hold up the bottle of fluids. I put in an 18g in her arm and we ran the fluids in as a bolus. It helped her heart rate greatly and she was down in the 70-80’s, but irregular and she was still really short of breath. She was telling me about how her husband had be laid off from work recently, didn’t have a source of income, has been to the doctor recently for this and given some anti-anxiety meds and a heart medication, but none of which were helping and she felt like she was just getting worse. We took her to a local public hospital, which we were warned wasn’t exactly the best. But it was the best we could do at that time. The previous night, Mark had showed us a TED talk about healthcare and how within the first 14 seconds on average, a patient will be cut off from what they are trying to say. Well, we arrived at this hospital and she went back to talk to a medic. She still had the IV in her arm and within 3 seconds of her and/or her husband trying to speak, the medic cut her off and didn’t let her explain why she was there/what was going on. Meanwhile, I’m standing there super annoyed at this point and then they put her out in the waiting room…IV still in arm…no vital signs taken…just to hang out and wait while she is continuing to struggle to breathe. We gave the husband some money to use for the tests since you have to pay up front to get anything done and we had to go back to where we had clinic set up. While trying to find where our driver went, Mark insisted on buying chicken that was made along the street. That boy sure loves his chicken! Meanwhile, Peter’s mom, Yelsi, and Deb had it all under control at clinic. They had cleaned house. Although, when I walked in, Deb shot me a look and I knew exactly what was going on. I know Deb’s facial expressions. She was trying to wrap it up with this one mother and she kept adding ailments for her son who wasn’t really complaining of anything. We finished up and debriefed about the medical system in Guatemala. That woman didn’t really get any medical treatment while at the hospital. Since we came back to the States, she has had labs, ultrasounds, and a chest xray done. She’s still really sick, short of breath, diaphoretic, now possibly has a fever intermittently, has been vomiting and unable to keep anything down for days, and is pretty weak. Continue to pray for her and her family. For those of you who have donated and been praying for her, thank you so much! Thank you doesn’t even seem like enough. But please know that you are making a huge impact in their lives and it’s greatly appreciated!! You are helping to pay for her medical bills so that she can have the labs and imaging done, paying for food for her and her family, and paying for her medications that we have been buying for her. So thank you so much!!
On Saturday, between clinic days, we had the kids from the railroad tracks at the house for Sunday school. We played games, sang songs, talked about a Bible story and did a craft with them making fish out of plates and letting them decorate them. It was so great to work with them again! They are great kids! So many have a pretty tough life. But that day and when we walked down to the tracks where they live and you can see for yourself where they live, you can see how poor of a community it is, but the kids are resilient and can have fun no matter what they have or don’t have. We watched some of the kids play marbles in the dirt and Mark made a comment, “Now that is how kids are supposed to play. Not with 8000 electronics in hand 24/7.” Plus, on the days we do activities with them, for many, it is their only time they can be just what they are: a KID. They don’t have to take care of their family while their parents are working or whatever else they are responsible for. But instead, can be a kid, take a break from their hard lives, and learn about how they are so loved by God.
On our last day together before Deb and Mark had to go back to the States, we hiked Pacaya, an active volcano. Peter was a beast and walked the whole thing. The rest of us were getting over our lovely coughs and had some help by going up majority of the way on horseback. Even though it was a cloudy day, it was still an amazing view. Most of us wore shorts and t-shirts. By the time we reached as high as we’re allowed to go, we could see our breath. Deb was so excited to finally be in Alaska spring weather! There was a shop near the top with jewelry made from lava and the guys there were awesome. They explained everything about Pacaya and then were really interested in our medical team and what all we had been doing on this trip. There were 2 dogs that live up there in a cave and one mother just had 8 puppies. We walked the rest of the way, on top of rock that was over lava. We were able to roast marshmallows in some of the holes that had steam coming up from the lava. We picked up some of the lava rocks to warm up our hands too since it was windy up there. That night, a girl who I helped while I was there on my 3 month trip came to the house to color and eat some food. She is such a sweet kid. She has been handed the raw end of the deal of life, but can still smile. Love that girl! I of course snuck her a piece of the no bake brownies we had made earlier in the week.
This is just the start of everything. Peter and I have discussed having medical teams come down and it finally happened! Huge thank you to Deb and Mark for being the guinea pigs and being the first ones to come down for our own clinics!! Thank you to those who have put so much time, effort, money, and prayers into this so far! If you would like to donate to help pay for meds, stuff to keep doing activities for the kids, food for people who don’t have any, etc….the list goes on honestly, click on the donate tab in the top right corner of this page and it will direct you to the correct website to donate funds. All donations are tax deductible. You guys truly are making a huge difference and we couldn’t do this without your help. Honestly. Thanks to Conner for giving us the idea for this hashtag…Mark for making the push to actually do it, and Deb for being the first one to use it officially: #helpdelp.