Sunday, March 28, 2010

my little chapin

chapin is what guatemalans call themselves.

lately i have been amazed watching my kids live and interact so comfortably in the guatemalan culture. on friday they received their grades for their first semester of exams and they were all in the top three in their entire grade levels! normally this wouldn't be so incredible, but considering they are in a local, fully spanish speaking school i think it is pretty amazing.

yesterday jake was invited to a movie in guatemala city with a bunch of his classmates. as they ran around in the play area outside the theater, i was so proud as i watched him interact with his buddies. the way he has picked up the language (including slang!) is crazy. the picture attached is of jake arm-wrestling a buddy on his soccer team...

the only downside is that he is losing a bit of his english. he had just turned 7 when we arrived in guatemala (he is about to turn 9) i have to remember he really didn't have any advanced english grammer in his brain when we got here!

for example, today he said "i am going to go remember Eli and Isaac about the game." in spanish, the same word (recordar) is used for "remind" and "remember." when i brought it to his attention he genuinely did not understand the english explanation. he had forgotten the meaning of the word "remind."

another one... the other day he said "don't worry, i'll cuidar for the ball!" he didn't even realize he threw a spanish word in the sentence. when i asked him about it, he thought for a second (and laughed with me), then said "but dad, i really don't know how to say 'cuidar' in english."

not long ago, someone asked jake what state he was from in the US and he answered "jacksonville." when kerrie said, "jake, he asked what state are you from", jake said sarcastically, "i know, and i said jaackksoonviille" in a long drawn out voice that implied kerrie was the dummy! we laughed so hard...

while there is a part of us that wants to make sure he learns his english, american history, geography, etc... we are so very thankful that he is embracing the guatemalan language and culture, and thriving in his new environment.

my girls are too... but i'll write about how proud i am of them in another blog!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

lunch at lazaro's

if you are unfamiliar with lazaro, you can watch a short video about him and his family here.

we have had some great times hanging out with lazaro's family recently. kerrie and the kids have really been connecting with their girls and helping with reading and writing the last few times we've stopped by. last week we were able to deliver them 2 sets of bunkbeds that a friend donated (they have 9 kids). the kids were giddy and carmen commented "i don't understand all of this blessing."

last week they invited us to come to their house for lunch today. they were so happy to host all 11 of us (our family and the schmidts). they were literally chuckling with joy as they served the food.

when it was time to leave, lazaro said something that i'll never forget. "we're sad that you have to leave. our house lights up with happiness when you're here." kerrie and i fought back tears...

lazaro doesn't claim to be christian or catholic (basically everyone here is one or the other), which probably means he has in some way been burned by both.

as we continue to build this friendship, my prayer is that he and his family will come to know that - while He may be using many of us - it is Jesus who is blessing them, and lighting up their home when we come.

Monday, March 22, 2010

kerrie saved his life

the doctor said if he had gone to bed that night without medical attention, he wouldn't have woken up.

for a few days before this, kerrie (my wife) had been saying she wanted to get esbin to the doctor. she said he was acting different, breathing strangely, and she felt like something serious was wrong. by saturday, kerrie was determined to get him seen. i saw esbin's mom that morning and asked how he was. "much better", she said. "he has been resting and is feeling ok."

good enough for me. no need to make doctor office runs on this already very busy day. but kerrie insisted, so we picked him up and took him to the doctor.

one of his lungs had shut down, and more mucus had to be drained from his lungs than you can possibly imagine. doctor carlos couldn't believe it, and once he was finished draining his lungs he began antibiotics through IV fluids for 3-4 consecutive days.

ever since all of this went down i have been thanking God for my wife's determination and willingness to trust fully what she felt the Holy Spirit telling her. despite being told by esbin's own mother that he was fine, kerrie insisted that what she was feeling was strong and that she was going to act on it.

when doc told us that esbin would have not made it through the night (he said, quote: "i am certain, certain, certain"), i felt like my heart was going to stop. this is the kid that so many people have prayed for, donated money to, and loved on. this is the kid that we have taken to the dentist the last 10 monday mornings, to therapy, to specialists, etc, etc. i was so thankful that he was still with us.

God is not finished with esbin. the Holy Spirit is real. my wife is my hero.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


what does it mean when the bible says "speak for the poor when they cannot speak for themselves"? why would they not be able to speak for themselves? they can speak up just like anyone else, right?

the last couple days, as we have been navigating Milagros and her husband through the necessary steps (consultations, clinics, lab work, tests, and finally today's surgery) i was able to get a better feel for that what that passage means. Milagros and her husband, at each stop along the way, were faced with questions and paperwork.

but neither one of them can write their own name, much less read through and fill out medical forms.

without people speaking up for them, how could have ever been possible? first, they needed more money than they have ever seen in their lives in order to pay for the operation. but beyond that, they had never been out of their village and surrounding area, much less to the "nice side" of guatemala city. it was total culture shock. they were brighter-eyed than a 3 year old stumbling into FAO Schwarz! as forms were slid in front of them, they looked at us the same way every time, as if to say in desperation, "please help."

update and today's surgery

within 24 hours from sending out the story of Milagros needing surgery, we had over $1,800 more donated - to equal over 2,800 total. this covers all expenses, including medication and follow up appointments!

this morning, mark and i picked up Milagros, along with her husband and sister (pictured above) at 4:30am. surgery was at 7:30 and everything was finished at 9:00. it went wonderfully and the doctor said she's going to feel like new within days. even the painful recovery after a hysterectomy will be a comfortable relief compared to how she has felt the last 2+ years.

in spanish, Milagros' name means miracle. i believe that it is nothing short of a miracle that she had a surgery today that - to quote her husband - "no matter how long we worked we would never be able to pay for this". we are talking about a family that, with steady work for the husband at about $4.50 per day, will earn around $1,000 this year.

so in 24 hours, God, using many of you, provided approximately 3 years of salary for Milagros' family in order to have the operation that she needed to make her well. if you asked her, do you think she would say that's a miracle?

thank you to all who have donated and prayed to make this happen.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

series of short updates

  • MILAGROS: yesterday was an incredible day. mark and i (along with Kelly, Holly, and Roxanne who were here visiting) picked up Milagros and her sister Gerada from their village of Tablon. after dropping off the ladies at the airport, we headed to a private hospital in guatemala city. Milagros is a 37 year old woman that we met a few weeks ago. she's been suffering from abdominal pain for over 2 years. already a mother of 3, she describes it "as if i am giving birth every day of my life". she had been to a hospital over two years ago, but since she didn't have the money to pay for her follow up visit, she has been suffering ever since. anyway... we are on a mission to make her well. instead of telling the story all over again, CLICK HERE for mark's blog. if you want to help (we are still $1,375 short from what we need), you can let me know or follow the link on mark's blog.
  • BERTER & ANABELA: after celebrating their key ceremony (they recently received a new home through the 12x12 Love Project) some of our friends who were here visiting felt the need to get their baby Andre to the doctor. along with his mom, Anabela, we were in the clinic the next morning. Andre has a skin disease (scabies) so severe that the bugs are living in his bloodstream, completely draining his energy. we purchased medicine to kill the bugs and begin treatment to his skin. however, the doctor gave mom a complete exam as well, and determined an even greater problem. her and her husband are carrying serious sexually transmitted diseases that without treatment and hygiene care, are not going to go away. sadly, the doc explained the "taboo" nature of these diseases within the context of the poor villages and indigeneous culture. he said it is considered bad/wrong to talk about these things (sex, female issues, cleanliness, etc) and therefore the STD's, etc, continue to spread without ever being treated. while the doctor was frank and honest with Anabela, our fear was that her husband may not support the recommended changes to their lifestyle. so... mark and i decided we needed to talk with dad. knowing the cultural issues, this was chancy... but we prayed for God's help and trusted it would work out. before long, we were in a closed door meeting with Berter and Anabela. we did not mince words. we assured him that this was not Anabela's fault and to not hold it against her. we went over the procedures necessary to improve their health. we told him we love him, that we are his friends, and that he can trust us. i pray that a couple weeks from now little Andre is acting like a normal 2 yr old, and mom and dad are all cleaned up and good to go.
  • ESBIN: kerrie knew something was wrong. esbin was not himself. when we got him to a doctor, we were told he has pneumonia. had we waited another 24-48 hours, he said he would have had to be rushed to an emergency room. right now esbin is home, being treated with IV fluids, and using a ventilator to help him breath and drain mucus. he is going to be ok, but as many of you know he has a long road ahead of him. based on several doctor's opinions, i am beginning to doubt if his mom & dad are doing to the daily rehabilitative exercises that they should be doing in order for him to get well. he should be improving more than he is. please pray with us as we continue to support esbin and try to get him healthy again.
  • TABLON: about a 45 minute hike below Buena Vista, visiting the village of Tablon is always an emotional experience. a few weeks ago when we we went, we were told by the locals that they had never seen white people ("gringos") in their entire life and certainly ever in their village. last weekend, with our friends, Roxanne, Kelli, and Holly visiting, we walked through the village visiting families. the first place we stopped had recently had their kitchen collapse from the strong winds in the mountains. the second place we visited was an 82 year old lady whose home had recently collapsed during the last earthquake. standing in her filthy soot covered tin shack, she cried and explained that she had no one who cared for her. each story after that had a similar story, and similar feel of hopelessness. i told mark as we walked away from one of the homes, "every time we visit here i leave depressed." Tablon is a sad and isolated village, far from anything civilized. i always leave feeling like people are sick and unhappy. i don't know what this means for us as we continue to live and work here. but i know that we are here to show love and bring hope - and that the people of Tablon desperately need both. so... it sure feels like this is the beginning of something.