Click on any picture to enlarge
Pat has once again joined me for a road trip to Huehuetenango. This week we agreed to share in doing the journaling. I did not mean for it to happen but due to my e-mail program crashing and nearly loosing everything that was stored in it, Pat ended up doing most of the journaling. Actually she did about 99%. My 1% is this paragraph. Funny thing is I recovered my e-mail and got my e-mil working just about the time that Pat finished up on the journaling. I do plan on doing the pictures though Unless of coarse Pat beets me to it.I think that you will enjoy what Pat wrote.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Traveling to Huehuetenango,
Writen by Pat DuffAfter seeing off Katheryn when her shuttle left for the airport, Dick and I set out for Huehue. When I returned from the States in April, I brought back a prosthetic leg for a Rudy, a little boy who lives near Huehue. More than 2 years ago I brought down Rudy's first artificial leg (LINK) which he’s now outgrown, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
The trip down was absolutely beautiful. Dick took a route I’ve never traveled before, and I think we passed through some of the most beautiful parts of Guatemala on our way up here.
I also saw some of the largest landslides I’ve seen here, but thankfully, all the roads had at least one lane open. More than once, we’d come around a blind curve to suddenly find one lane of the road unexpectedly blocked, and a car coming towards us in the other lane. . .I have to admit, though, I was glad Dick was the one doing the driving.
When we arrived in Huehue, we stopped at the shopping mall to buy shoes to take with us to Rudy. Dick talked me into taking the prosthetic leg with us into Payless to find a shoe to fit it. It was very interesting walking through a mall in Guatemala carrying a child’s leg. (There are rumors in this part of the country about North Americans kidnapping kids for body parts—and here I was walking around carrying a “leg.” You gotta laugh.) The interesting thing was, no one seemed to pay any attention to what I was carrying!
The man working at Payless was very nice and understood our dilemma trying to figure out if the shoes we were buying would fit Rudy’s real foot. He told us we could buy a couple of pairs and return the ones that didn’t work. It was really funny watching Dick try on the shoe on the foot we had with us!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 Visiting With Old Friends,
We had planned to go to Rudy’s today, but, after seeing how much rain fell last night, Dick thought maybe we should try to go up to La Libertad to take a wheelchair to Samuel, who we had met more than two years ago. I love traveling to the area around La Libertad, though the roads there are some of the most difficult we drive. I was a little concerned setting off up the mountain since we had not been able to contact anyone up there to let them know we were coming. We decided to chance it anyway, trusting that we would find someone who could help us find Samuel.
I also was hoping we would have enough time to stop in and visit the Perez family. I had met this family in January of 2009 when we brought them and their daughter Lisvi into see a doctor at Hermano Pedro. Lisvi was the first child with malnutrition I had seen with my own eyes and held in my arms, and she changed me greatly in the few days we spent together. She died a few months after we met, and I felt like seeing her parents would provide some closure for me, even years later.
More than two years ago I had written about her:
As Dick was measuring Noe, I walked over to a lady with a “baby” on her back. I hesitantly asked if it would be okay for me to hold the “baby.” Mom gently placed her in my arms. This was my introduction to Lisvi Escalante Perez, and her mother Francisca. Lisvi, however, is not a baby, but a marvelous little girl of SIX who could not have weighed over fifteen pounds. I thought I was familiar with starvation, but as I held this precious little one in my arms, my heart sank to my feet, and tears welled in my eyes. Lisvi will forever “haunt” me. This was not some abstract, starving child in an ad, but a flesh and blood little girl God had permitted me to hold.
The trip up to La Libertad was fairly easy, though we still had to travel some muddy, rutty roads. It was only sprinkling, and the new car was holding the road well so we kept on. When we reached the turn off from La Libertad to go to the aldea (village) where Samuel and the Perez family lived, we had to stop for a pick-up truck/”bus” that was loading passengers. When I looked up, I thought I saw Sr. Perez, Lisvi’s dad, getting into the back of the truck. Surely, I was wrong, but I couldn’t help but look again, and asked Dick, “Is that Lisvi’s dad?” By this time, though, the truck had started moving, and I thought we’d missed our chance to find out if it was him.
A minute later, though, the pick-up stopped, and Dick was able to pull along side. He rolled down his window, and I asked the man in the truck, “Do you know this man (Dick)?” After a minute of confusion, Sr. Perez recognized Dick and immediately jumped from the truck. We pulled over and had a great reunion on the side of the road. I just about burst into tears when I asked him if he remembered me, and he said, “Yes, you’re Sra. Patricia.” I know he probably has not spent too much time with North American women but I was totally honored that he remembered my name.
Another gentleman also walked up to us from further down the street, telling us he also knew Dick, since he had given his son a wheelchair on a previous visit. It felt like old home week in the mountains. When Sr. Perez asked where we were going, and I told him, “to your house,” he was very excited. So, the three of us piled into the front seat of Dick’s truck (the back was completely full of wheelchairs) and we were off.
"This picture was taken from inside of the Land-Cruiser.
We were thankful that Lisvi's father ran down the hill and
opened the gate because I am not sure that we could have stopped."
After once again traveling these steep and winding roads, this time in the rain, Dick grew in his appreciation of his new vehicle, and I grew in my appreciation of his driving. (Today, though, was the first time I’ve known Dick to break his word. The last time we were up here, he told me he would never drive into this area if there was even a drop of rain. Today there was much more than a drop, but he skillfully managed the roads without incident.)
When we got to the Perez home, Francesca, Lisvi’s mom, came out to see who was driving into her yard. I got out of the car, and she came over and hugged me for the longest time, neither of us saying a word, but both of us dissolving into tears, remembering the last time we had seen each other, shortly before Lisvi died (LINK). After warmly greeting Dick, the Perez’s took great pleasure introducing us to two of their grandchildren.
Inviting us into the house, Francesca began cooking up a storm. Of course she would feed us. This always amazes me here in Guatemala. No matter how poor the family, or how little food they have, they almost always feed us a meal of some sort when we visit. It feels somewhat uncomfortable to us, sort of like we’re crashing their dinner, but we have learned to accept this gift with due appreciation. Today we had the Huehuetenango version of pepian, a rich chicken stew which is typical of Guatemalan food.
While she was cooking, and later while we were eating, we caught up on developments with their family since the last time we were here. They now had 3 grandchildren, and the activity that filled the house seemed to be a healing element for them in their loss of Lisvi. Sr. Perez had bought the two older children twinkie like cakes and they were devouring them as they waited for lunch. It was so sweet to see him with his grandchildren. He adores them, and it was obvious they feel the same about him.
Beside our visit, today was a landmark day for the family. Their son has been in the US working for the last 7 months, and was, in fact, returning today to the Guatemala City airport. They were very excited to have him home again.
After lunch, Sr. Perez offered to go with us to Samuel’s home to show us the way. This was not as simple as it sounds on the surface. To find the exact location of the house, he had to scale a very steep, muddy hill, and returned telling us he had found a way we could drive almost completely to the house. This took us over more mud and fields, and involved him jumping out of the truck a couple of times to open and close gates for us. He did this all enthusiastically, enjoying the fact that he was able to help us out.
At the house, Dick discovered that he had already brought Samuel a chair and walker quite a while ago! He takes so many chairs to so many people in so many places, I can easily understand this minor lapse. The family was over-joyed by our visit, and we discovered that one of the footrests on Samuel’s chair had broken. Sr. Perez jumped right into helping Dick repair the chair, and in short order the chair was once again in working order.
It started to rain rather hard, and Dick decided we better head out before we could not get out. We did find out from Sr. Perez that there was a better way out than the way we had come in. Since Dick had never driven this road, he insisted on accompanying us part way to make sure we found it okay. We tried to encourage him to return home out of the rain, but he wouldn’t give in. After we were on our way on the right road, we were able to drop him off right above his house. I’m sure his trip down the mountain on foot was no picnic in the rain, but we could not help but be grateful for his enthusiastic help.
As we drove back to Huehue, Dick and I discussed the Godincident of running into Sr. Perez in La Libertad. If we had been five minutes earlier or later, we would have missed him. We only went today because Dick had a strong feeling that we should postpone visiting Rudy and head up the mountain before there was more rain. This morning I had prayed for God to arrange divine appointments for us today, but in no way did I expect to see His hand so clearly. I’m sure He knew how much we would be blessed by our time with the Perez family. I pray now that they were blessed by our time with them.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Surrounded by Miracles, and Coke Bottles,
Today we set off up the mountain, stopping at Maria Garcia’s to pick up her daughter Blanca Rose, who would serve as our interpreter today. Since most of the families we would be visiting today spoke only Mam (a Mayan language), her help would be indispensable today.
On our way to take Rudy his new leg, we stopped to visit a family who lived just up the hill from his house. This single mom has two children who are in wheelchairs, as well as a couple of other boys she has taken in because they have nowhere else to go. One of the wheelchairs needs a new footrest, and we will have to return with this part at a later time. Dick was able to adjust the brakes, however, and as we watched the young man walk about the area hugging the wall for balance, we discussed the possibility of bringing him forearm crutches to help him balance. When asked if he would like these, he became very excited. He manages to get around quite a bit despite his inability to walk alone, and we hope these will give him a further level of independence.
We hiked down the steep hillside to Rudy’s and Dick wisely suggested that we go inside to fit his new leg. A group of children from the area had followed us down the hill, probably to see what the North Americans were up to. Removing and replacing a prosthetic leg demands some level of privacy, so we went into the dimly lit house.
As Dick unpacked the new leg, it was immediately apparent that it had been made too long. Things became even more complicated when Dick went to try on the leg, and discovered that the leg cup was way too small for Rudy’s leg. We’re not quite sure how all this happened, since Dick had sent specific measurements as well as a plaster cast of the leg to which the prosthesis was to be fit to the specialist making the leg. Whatever the reason, we were faced with an impossible situation—there seemed to be no way to make the leg work for Rudy, and his old one was too small to use without damaging his back and hip
I can’t tell you how many times I heard Dick say, “Come on, Dick, THINK!” He stared at both legs, mentally matching pieces that just would not quite go together. We talked about the possibility of finding a hacksaw and shortening the tube on the new leg, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of the too small leg cup. We both were praying, unknown to the other, that somehow God would intervene. We had to do something for this precious little guy. Finally Dick took the risk of removing the foot from Rudy’s old leg to see if somehow that leg cup could be used with the new leg bottom.
It was immediately obvious that the pieces would not fit together. Dick cobbled and MacGuyver-ed as best as he could, but nothing worked. I know he worked more than an hour without any apparent progress. It looked hopeless. We talked about putting some kind of “lift” on the shoe of the old prosthetic leg, but ruled that out since shoes wear out too quickly in this rough terrain for that to be a practical solution. We were soon just out of ideas. . .
Rudy’s mom thanked us for our efforts, but saw the new leg would not work. Here she was, trying to make us feel better about the fact that the leg wouldn’t work. She even sent one of the children out to buy us each a Coke—our first of the day. We were stumped and Dick was ready to admit defeat.
As he started to pack up his tools, Dick glanced down one last time at the old foot. What would happen if he took the connector out of that foot, and tried to use it to fit the new foot to the old leg with the two fasteners? This would give the needed added length if it could just work.
After taking out the piece, Dick discovered that the coupler would not fit inside the fastener. There was a square piece of metal on the top, preventing it from going into the tube. How could we get it off?
After asking if there was any type of machine shop nearby which might have a hacksaw we could use, we thought we had struck out once again. Maybe there was a metal file in Dick’s tool bag. . .What he found was a detached hacksaw blade, which he managed to put in a vice grips pliers—and suddenly we had a make-shift hacksaw. Now, would it cut the metal.
Dick painstakingly sawed at the metal piece, with the help of Rudy’s brother and mother securing the foot and the stool. It was hard work, and Dick was out of breath and sweating, but finally he was able to break off the offending piece. We all just about burst into tears when the pieces came together. This was an engineering task far beyond even Dick’s abilities. We knew that we had experienced divine intervention on behalf of this little guy. Our first miracle of the day.
Everyone got into the act of making the final adjustments—even Rudy took his turn wielding a wrench!
As we were preparing to leave, I asked Rudy’s mom whether or not the boys (Rudy, age 7, and his brother, age 13) were attending school. Neither were, due to lack of funds. Mom explained that the older son would be in 6th grade, and that Rudy was always asking if she could find someone to teach him to write. I promised I would try to find sponsors so they could both attend school.
If anyone is interested in sponsoring one or both of these wonderful young men, please email me and I’ll send you the details. The cost would be approximately $35/month for one, or $70/month to enable both of the boys to get the education they both so desperately desire.
Next we set off further down the road to meet Alvarado, who Dick had been told needed new wheels on his wheelchair. Since he lived quite a way up the mountain, his family had packed both him and his chair down to the road so we could work with him there.
When we arrived, we discovered that the wheels were, in fact, falling apart. We also discovered that they were an unusual type of wheel, and, as Dick said, it would be another miracle if any of the wheels he had brought would fit this chair. We were looking at a couple hours of work at the least. Dick tried each of the wheels he had brought, and each would not fit. At about the same moment, both Dick and I thought about the Hope Haven chair we had brought with. Would those wheels somehow work? Dick tried them, and the holes were the right size, but the connecting bolt too long. The wheels would wobble.
If only we had some washers to take up the slack, but after looking through his tool bag, Dick came up empty handed. The wobbly wheels would have to do. As he started to pick up his tools once again, Dick discovered that, in a bag of bolts he had picked up at the shop a few days earlier, there just so happened to be a handful of spacers—and these would work perfectly. Our second miracle of the day. And our second bottle of Coke, once again provided by Alvarado’s grateful parents.
Our last stop of the day was to visit Rolando. Rolando is a twenty-three year old young man who Bethel Ministries had been providing a tutor for. A few months ago, Rolando had become so weak that it was decided to use the funds to provided extra food for him. It was obvious this had been a good decision—Rolando actually looked a bit robust today. And a bit discouraged—they had been looking for a teacher for him for a while now, and none can be found. We promised that we would ask for prayers that someone would step up to work with him, so I am asking you to join us in praying for a teacher for this ambitious young man.
After a quick glance at his wheelchair, it was apparent he was desperately in need of the new one we had brought him. The one we had fit him perfectly, and he was soon seated comfortably in a solid, safe wheelchair. As Dick worked on seating Rolando, one of his sisters brought us each a can of apple juice, a wonderful change from all the Coke we had been drinking. Rolando’s mom also insisted that she wanted to make us lunch. We gratefully accepted her invitation—it was after two o’clock, and we had not eaten since breakfast.
She prepared a rich egg dish with a fresh tomato sauce that was delicious, along with some of the tastiest tortillas we have eaten in Guatemala. As we were each given another bottle of Coke, Dick and I looked at each other somewhat hopelessly. Just how much Coke can one person drink in a few hours without exploding? Today we would find out, as we drank our last Coke of the day.
After visiting for a while, it was all too soon time to leave. We needed to be on our way back to Huehue before dark, and we still had to take Blanca and her son Everett back home.
As we drove back to Huehue, Dick and I talked about the Godincidents we had seen today, and joked about all the Coke we had drunk. God had blessed us with being able to accomplish things we could not have done in our own power. The families we had come to serve had blessed us with their gratitude and with Coke. A small thing to us, a bottle of pop. But to these families living in deep poverty, a bottle of Coke costs a lot, and is a tangible way they show us their appreciation. I’ve never known drinking Coke to be such a humbling experience.
We didn’t know it when we got back to the hotel, but God had one more “miracle” for us yet today. Dick was working on answering email, and suddenly, his computer just shut down on its own. When he restarted it, he discovered that his I-Mail account had somehow disappeared. All his email was gone until he could somehow repair this glitch. He worked on it without success, and finally we decided to go to dinner. We both continued to pray that somehow Dick would find a way to reconnect to his email server. Within a few minutes of returning from supper, our prayers were answered when he discovered the “missing link” that enabled him to connect. Thank you, God, for answered prayer. And thank you, Father, even more, that all his files were still intact in the server and he was able to access them.
Were these really “miracles” we had experienced today? I think so. . .in fact I think we walk among miracles all the time, and fail to recognize God’s hand in helping us on a daily basis. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d rather err on the side of thanking God than ignoring His gifts to us—natural or supernatural.
"Could it be that a coincidence is
when God performs a miracle,
but decides to remain anonymous."
Yours in Christ, Dick