Today was a true encouragement to my heart. Most days have highs and lows. While there was much pain, suffering and difficulty in the lives of those we worked with, each situation encouraged my heart.
Our first stove install was at the home of Elza Carmalina. She is a 27-year old woman who lives with her husband and 4 children. Her smile was contagious. Her husband was working in the fields when we arrived. While she spoke of difficulties in her daily life, nothing but joy came from her heart. Her 8-year old son Jorge is in second grade. He loves school and does well. I asked him if he asks anyone for help. He smiled and said he didn’t need any help. His mom confirmed that he does very well in school. Her husband tries to find work as often as he can clearing fields preparing them for strawberry planting. But, they don’t make a lot. In addition, they are sending two children to school. I asked her how they do it? Do they have debt? She looked at us and said, “Why would I take out a loan? We have needs so we try to earn what we need. If I took a loan, that would put us in a very difficult position!” I could almost hear Dave Ramsey saying “Amen!” Her husband came home after working in the fields. The second he walked in, it was obvious how good of a man he was. He sat down next to his wife and it was easy to see they loved each other. We asked how they met. He said, “We first met at a crossroads in town. The minute I met her I saw how beautiful she was and knew I wanted to see her again. It took me many weeks to find where she lived. I finally did and visited her house. We fell in love and are together.” Elza was blushing and laughing. They touched each other’s arms many times and we could see these two young people are still in love. I told him how proud I was of the fact he is being faithful to his family. He seemed very proud of his wife and children. Tom asked if it was love at first sight? We aren’t sure if that is a common phrase in Guatemala. But, the way they looked at each other, I’m pretty sure it was…at least for the husband!
As we were talking with Elza and her husband, I was sitting on a plastic chair that is very common in Guatemala. I began to feel the chair give way. It all happened in slow motion, but the chair began to break under my weight. Now, I have been eating very well since we have been here, but not that much! I told everyone it must have been the extra weight from the iPhone in my back pocket! No one believed me. Rick went over to the dad and offered some money to cover the cost of the chair. The family would not take to money. This couple kept impressing me. We discussed trying to get sponsorship for one of their kids, but decided against it. They seem to be doing things very well. Why mess it up! We gave them a lot of clothes and warm winter blankets. What a special family. Truly a pleasure to meet them.
Next, we went to the home of Juaquina. She is a 45-year old woman that has 7 kids. Her oldest is a girl named Joseline. She is 18-years old and weaves clothes for a living. She will spend 3-months sewing a pattern into an outfit. She will then receive 600Q ($77) for the three months work. She will look at a pattern in a magazine and then sew half the outfit by memory. She then sews the other half just by looking at the first half. We spoke to Joseline about her relationship with God. She mentioned that there are a few local people who approached them about witchcraft, but she knows that’s wrong. I told her that while experiencing God’s blessings on earth is good, our ultimate goal is to be with Him forever in Heaven. I asked her how she thought you got to Heaven? She said that she guesses it is by the good things she does. I asked her what she thought the Bible said? She said she did not know. I then walked her through the Gospel, what Jesus did for us and how to receive the free gift of eternal life. As we were about to leave, we told her that we wanted to buy the half of the shirt she was making, but at full price. As we gave her the money, she said that was too much. She would take less. “How could anyone give so much for so little?” I told her that is exactly what God’s love and sacrifice is for us. How much more generous He is towards us who are not worth very much at all. I hope that example stuck with her. Ben encouraged her to read the Bible, and compare what we told her to what they Bible says. We may never know what her true decision was today. I pray I see her in Heaven.
We then went to the house of 27-year old Elvira. She has two children, one girl named Crystal who is 7 and a son named Carlos who is 1.5 years old. Her husband left her many years ago, but he is suing her to get custody of their daughter (I always wonder why not both kids). In the legal battle, she now has 2,000Q in debt paying for legal fees. She is desperately fighting to keep her daughter. It is amazing to see the love the mom and daughter have for each other. She makes very little cleaning houses. Her parents help her with food, but she pays the rest. She owes 150Q a week to a Loan Shark. She is current on all their debt for now, but it is getting more difficult. As with one of the other moms, her smile said everything. She was overflowing with joy in her life, despite her difficulties. I can only imagine someone trying to take your baby away. There is a piece of land that she may be able to have a house built in the future. We are praying about that idea
On our way to our last house, we saw Thor’s original hammer. It was a single piece of wood. Very cool. Rick was able to pick it up which shows he really does have superhero strength!
Our final visit was with Elma. She has one child named Hugo. He is 7-years old and has Cerebral Palsy. She works and lives with her mom who essentially is her sole support.
Hugo was having 40-60 seizures every day. She needed help as he was not sleeping at night. It took the doctors 9-months to discover that Hugo also had microcephaly. They prescribed 5 medicines to help him. Now that he takes the medicine, he only has 5-6 seizures a week. He is still not sleeping well. Elma truly relies on her mom for help. The grandmother’s name is Teresa. Hugo’s wheelchair is not a good fit for him. He doesn’t have head control so he needs a headrest, and it is not the correct size for his tiny body. Rick asked if we could give him a wheelchair tomorrow at the distribution in Chimal? Ben said he would look into it. After making a few calls, Ben was able to arrange for Hugo to get a great wheelchair tomorrow hopefully at our event. The medicine costs the mom 430Q every month. This is a crushing amount of money. We gave her the money to cover the next month’s medicine.
As we were about to pray, God broke my heart for this mom and grandmother. She loves Hugo so much. She kissed his head many times. She spoke gently into his ear describing things to him. She loved her son unconditionally. She did not look at him as a burden. It seems that so many times people look at children like Hugo and assume they cannot understand what is going on around them. As she spoke of eating pizza and dancing, a beautiful smile came across his face. Those are his favorite words and he clearly understands. The father abandoned them after he was born, leaving her to fend for herself. I told her that oftentimes in America, when we speak of God entrusting us with riches, we often think of money. We are called to be wise stewards of those gifts. But, she was entrusted with such a greater gift than any amount of money. She was entrusted with Hugo. I told her that God sees how much she loves her son and sacrifices her own time and life to care for him and that one day in Heaven she will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant. You were faithful with what I have entrusted to you”. I could not hold back the tears. As they prayed, I had to step outside. God humbled my heart. Here was this woman who has given her entire life to care for her son. The grandmother is not sleeping either while helping her daughter. On top of that, the grandmother has been having tremendous headaches every day, probably due to stress and lack of sleep. But, they do all of it without complaining. They are loving unconditionally. I thanked God for her sacrifice, and also her witness of strength and faith in Christ.
We ended the evening by going to the men’s Bible study at Pastor Juan’s church. The men grilled chicken and chorizo, along with tortillas and sweet bread. We put Jeff to the test with a blind Pepsi/Coke taste challenge. Would he be up for the challenge? I am happy to say he barely passed, but he was able to distinguish Coke from Pepsi. We shared a lot of laughs with the men from Guatemala. We sang songs and listened to a man sing and play his guitar. Jeff shared a lesson on sharing the knowledge of Christ with those around us. He used the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from the Book of Acts. How Philip was faithful to listen to the Spirit and help the man understand what Scripture said about Jesus and the way to Heaven. Well done Jeff! It was so nice being with the men again. They encourage our faith and bless us with their company.
We continue to be blown away by Brian’s photography skills. What a blessing he has been on this trip. He has captured so many amazing memories. God has truly gifted him with an eye for photography.
I want to thank my daughter Mia for giving me the idea of bringing a little photo printer to Guatemala. She received one for a gift and when I saw how wonderful a gift a picture could be, I knew I had to bring one with me. So, Brian and Ben have been taking pictures of each family, printing them and then giving them as gifts to each family. They will be treasured pictures hanging on walls for years to come.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Guatemala. We will be hosting the wheelchair distribution where 50 people will be receiving the gift of mobility. It’s always a day full of blessings.