Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Remember When...

Remember when God promised good days and bad days? We've had lots of good ones. Today is shaping up to be the other kind.

Heidi was up all night last night sick. She probably got a total of an hour of sleep. So when the alarm went off for clinic this morning, it wasn't extremely welcome.

Matt loaded up the truck for clinic and went to start it and... well, there really was no "and". It didn't start. So he cheerfully unloaded it and repacked everything in the other truck. (Maybe "cheerfully" is a bit generous, but I'm writing this entry and I'll use whatever adjectives I want!)

Paul and Lindsey came to ride with us to clinic today and Paul is having another migraine. So we have two clinicians who feel like dirt and one who is just in a bad mood thinking about how we're going to fix this truck.

Even on dark days, however, God sees fit to give us a little light. At the Texaco station, we picked up our new friend, Juan Diego Lux. He is going to work with us at this clinic in Chicabracan to help evangelize and get to know patients on a little more personal and spiritual level. He is a SUPER neat guy and a real follower of Jesus. We believe that he is going to really make this clinic into something we feel much better about.

Most of our other clinics are organized through churches or pastors. This is the only one (or "was" the only one) that has no pastoral support. We felt very strongly that simply having a medical clinic was not what we were sent here to do. So Juan Diego is going to help fill that very large hole. He speaks Spanish, K'iche, and even a little bit of English, so we will be able to really communicate much better with our patients and serve them in a much more meaningful way.

Also a bright spot, considering our collective conditions today, there were only about a dozen patients, as opposed to around 40 on a normal clinic day there. And the patients we had were mostly chronic patients who need to be keeping up on their meds. Paul and Lindsey will be attending this clinic once in December and once in early January before we resume our normal schedule later in January.

We got home and checked our email and found some more bad news. Duane Ficker was going to fly up to the Ixcan and check out the landing strip there for a possible weekend trip this coming weekend. Well, he flew up, but on landing, his nose gear collapsed and the plane took quite a bit of damage. It is not flyable and had to stay up there in the middle of nowhere. He and Aaron had to hitch rides back home and are really, really bummed right now. Thank God that no one was hurt, but they are really searching for God's will right now. We were positive that God wanted us to work up there but He seems to be testing us to see how badly we want to do this. One little nose gear isn't going to deter us, but it will delay things a bit. Please pray for a good solution for the plane and for lots of guidance for all of us.

Anyway, today is not one of the best days we've had. We're hoping to improve our batting average a little with a visit to the hospital to check on baby Lesly later this afternoon. Hopefully things will be better with her.

We'll never give up (God certainly had his chances to give up on us and never did) but today is a little bit down. Pray for Heidi to feel better and for lots of good news in the coming days!


Postscript (added a few minutes after finishing the original entry): We see now that Sly Stallone has been born again. We've also recently seen some awesome writings by Chuck Norris on (also born again). Apparently, God is gaining traction on the over-60 tough guy crowd in Hollywood! Clint Eastwood, you're next...


Another postscript (added a few hours after the original): It's that kind of day. Baby Lesly has been moved to intensive care. Only one person is allowed in with her at any given time and right now it's her dad. Mom says she won't eat at all and has been told that the situation is very grave.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Day in the Life

Today was fairly calm, all things considered... We went out to clinic in Nueva Santa Catarina (the one with the wooden Church and cardboard walls, remember?!), and had a very slow clinic there. Apparently, we're already in the time of year when people start not showing up for clinic much, but that's okay since most of our chronic patients there made it. We were able to give them meds to last them until we get back out there in mid-January. Unless you're one of those crazy Internists or FP's that really gets a kick out of treating diabetes, there was nothing terribly interesting there today. (No offense to the FP's and Internist friends out there... I'm sure you find what Heidi does as an OB/Gyn to be generally disgusting!;-))

We did make it back in time to go see little baby Lesly in the hospital. (She's the 5-month old Down's Syndrome baby we've been writing about) Frankly, she looks terrible. The family is frustrated that she is not gaining any weight and not eating (the hospital took the feeding tube out over the weekend, for whatever reason...), and they are thinking about just taking her home. We prayed with them for wisdom in that decision and for God's will in little Lesly's life, and they did decide to stay for now. We'll keep you posted, but we're really afraid that this will be a case of "too little, too late..." She looks sick enough that she may not make it through tonight, so please pray for her family.

One thing that we are trying to do to make a better difference in little lives like these is to encourage moms to bring their babies in for "well-baby exams" after they are born. This is not a concept that has taken hold here. (Remember, most moms don't receive pre-natal care, either... Doctors are only for when you are sick for the most part!) A little bit of education could go a long way towards preventing situations as grave as Lesly's. The problem is, basically, if breastfeeding doesn't work to provide nutrition for a baby here (mom doesn't have a good milk supply for various reasons, or baby doesn't have the strength to suck well because of cleft palate issues or muscle tone issues like with Down's syndrome, for example...), the families just do NOT know what to do! There are no pediatricians involved, and all the women they can turn to for advice all breastfed! So there is no knowledge about formula feeding, essentially.

We in America can not really comprehend the fact that they don't understand that they need to feed a baby formula essentially as often as they would breastfeed (We've often heard of them feeding a newborn just 3 times a day, when they eat their meals!)-- But remember, THAT is the depth of the lack of education problem that we are dealing with. So please pray that we can meet some success in encouraging moms to bring their babies in early for evaluation and education.

Tomorrow Heidi will go operate with Dr. Hoak, and Matt will probably hang out here and field phone calls and knocks on the door... As well as work around the house, which we haven't had much time for lately. Hopefully this next attempt at going our separate ways for the day won't be quite as "adventurous" as the last one... ;-)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Good Weekend

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. We certainly did. As you can see from our previous post, we had a very eventful Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Of course, we didn't have to brave any of the malls or post-holiday sales, which we are TRULY thankful for!

We commented on how Friday started in our previous post, but after we wrote, we had time to go down to the hospital to check on a few patients. Lesly, the Down's Sydrome baby we brought in with severe malnutrition is now on a feeding tube. Normally, that would not be considered good news, but we have been told that that is very uncommon here and it's probably her best chance for survival. She's too weak to eat, so "direct deposit" of nutrition in her little belly is great news.

After checking in on Lesly and her mom (who was in much better spirits than before), we stopped by to see Manuela Ordonez, the woman who we brought in with the suspected molar pregnancy (that turned out to be a spontaneous abortion). Praise God, she had received her surgery and gone home! A previous patient waited a week and a half for her surgery and Manuela was in and out in two days!!

While we were in maternity, however, we decided to ask about the woman we referred from ASELSI whose baby had not grown in six weeks. She had checked in that morning and was there with her husband, waiting for an assessment by the local doctors. YAY for patients listening to our advice and coming to get help!!!

Saturday morning, we got up early (it was hard - the temperature in our bedroom was in the mid-40s!) and drove to Canilla for clinic with Leslie and Katie. The Fickers were helping to pack up the houseguests they had from the U.S. for Thanksgiving and were getting ready to fly them back to Guatemala City for their flight home. So Katie and Heidi handled most of the clinic to help Leslie. It was a relatively quiet clinic, since there was a "Feria" (fair) in town. The good news was that on our way to Canilla, we picked up some riders (very typical) and one of them was the Cotton Candy man. We never accept money for the rides we offer, but he paid us with a bag of cotton candy. That was a first - and yummy, too!

Saturday afternoon, after helping Duane land and park the plane at the hangar (after dropping off their family friends, he went grocery shopping and then picked up a local family from the airport and brought them back to Canilla), we got a call from Lydia's family that her mother was very sick in childbirth.

As you may have read, the Fickers took in a little girl named Martina who is mentally disabled and had been burned very badly when she seized and fell into a fire. Lydia is the 16-year-old girl who they hired to be Martina's full-time caretaker. Her mother lives about a 15 minute drive and another 15 minute walk up into the mountains.

So we jumped into the truck and raced into the mountains. Unfortunately, as they were calling us, the baby was being born, arm first, and died before the mid-wife could get her out. So we arrived at the house to see them cleaning up a dead baby. We checked on Mom, who was exhausted (mid-wives often have moms start pushing the minute they go into labor, so they are BEAT by the time the baby is born). We were no more than 50 yards back up the mountain on our way out before they started yelling for us to come back. Mom was seizing.

Unfortunately, the house they live in has no electricity and practically no natural light, and Mom was in a back corner where we couldn't see at all. We had them move her to where we could see a little better and when they got her off the bed, she collapsed. Matt scooped her up and carried her to another bed where there was more light. When he stood up, he was covered in blood. Not good.

Apparently, Mom had not eaten in about two days, was exhausted, and was bleeding. Heidi did whatever it is that doctors do when they don't have much for medicine (you can tell Matt is writing this!) and when we left, Mom was drinking some sugar water and eating some egg soup, which seemed like a drastic improvement from 20 minutes before. We told Lydia to call us if she needed more help. The phone never rang, so we can assume Mom did better after that!

Today was an average day in clinic in San Andres. Our translators' great-grandmother came in with what appears to be a surgical gall bladder, so we will refer her to Dr. Hoak (if you're still thinking about donating money to his fund, this is the type of thing that his presence allows us to do - without him in Chichicastenango, we would have very few options for this woman.)

Tomorrow we are back in Nueva Santa Catarina. It'll probably be quite cold there, since it's at 10,000 feet altitude and it's been pretty cold here (at only 6700 feet). Also, please pray for clear weather in the Zona Reina region. Duane is hoping to fly there tomorrow and scout out locations for us to land to do a two-day clinic on Friday-Saturday of this week. The people there are even poorer than the people here and have ZERO access to medical care. It can take more than a day to get there (assuming you can get there at all) across some very tough mountains unless you have a plane. Then it's about 18 minutes. Luckily, God has provided a plane. So off we go. Please, God, clear weather!!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dia de Pavo (Turkey Day!)

As we mentioned before, Thanksgiving is not exactly a holiday here in Guatemala. So we were in clinic. But, since there are lots of gringos around, we decided to celebrate anyway. And we have plenty to be thankful for!

Clinic was interesting, again. Our lady with the unintended pregnancy (she's not married) came in and we had a chance to minister to her some.

We had a six month old who is having seizures. Thank goodness we know a good Family Practice doctor (Lisa Dunham) who has a clinic in this baby's village. We're referring the family to her. (Dad has epilepsy and is occasionally medicated for it.)

We saw our possible breast cancer patient again and have scheduled her for a visit with Dr. Hoak on Monday and a mastectomy on Tuesday if the pathology comes back indicating that she needs one. Heidi will be doing a hysterectomy that day already, so it should be easy to schedule, if needed.

We also saw a woman whose baby has not grown in utero in about six weeks. It still has a heartbeat, but is not growing. Add to that that another doctor who saw her at ASELSI thought he spotted a cleft lip on ultrasound. The patient told us that she was going to come to the hospital today. We'll go check on her in a few minutes.

And, since these things tend to come in bunches, we had another woman come in with a breast mass. Thank God it looks like hers is just an abscess and not a tumor, but we'll check her again next week and see what else we need to do for her.

Also, we got to see one of our cleft palate babies again. Osni is still not gaining weight. Mom says she's feeding him more, but still not as much as the hospital in Antigua suggested. We are giving her the entire amount of milk she needs (normally, milk program babies only get a portion and the families have to buy the rest). We're not entirely sure that Mom is feeding him correctly, so we had a lesson (the first pic is of Sharon Harvey feeding a VERY hungry Osni).

If he hasn't picked up any weight by next week, we're going to suggest that she bring him to the hospital here in Quiche to try to fatten him up some.

Anyway, after clinic, Heidi went shopping at the local market and Matt went to Shawn and Bob's house (other missionaries) where they have satellite TV and we could watch football.

Later in the day, lots more missionaries showed up and we had a wonderful turkey dinner. (See picture #2).

This morning, we got up and went on a housecall with Pastor Eliseo from San Pedro. One of his church members has been struck with Bell's Palsy. We drove about 30 minutes off-road and then walked another 15 or so straight up a mountain. She is in her 30s and single, which is very hard for women here. Her house is made of logs and planks she's gathered and has about a 5'6" ceiling (between the beams). Therefore, Matt got to stand outside.

We gave her some meds and prayed with her and assured her that this does not mean she's dying or that there's anything life threatening here. She's still trying to carry on with her life - when we got there, we had to wait a few minutes because she had climbed the mountain to fetch water from somewhere.

After that, we went out and checked on the school that NBRI (our funding group) is helping to build. Lots more work going on there. They are in the step now known as "repello", which involves slinging mortar onto the ceiling and smoothing it out, giving it a finished look. It takes four men about a week to do each room.

Oh, and when we got home, a green truck was in our driveway. OUR green truck! We had left it with a mechanic friend, Martin, a few days ago and it magically arrived back and fixed! The starter needed a bit of work and the battery cables were pretty well shot. So he cleaned up the starter, replaced the battery cables, and installed a better bracket to keep the battery from bouncing around on these roads. Total bill: $8.

And, since this is how things work here, our friend Pastor Roy Espinosa called and said that he had a teenage girl from his church who was badly burned yesterday when a pot of boiling milk spilled on her face. So he brought her over and he was right. The entire left side of her face is black and burned. Luckily, it doesn't look extremely deep, but we gave her some cream to keep on it, some meds for pain, and the advice not to pick at the scabs. Hopefully things will heal up nicely (and before her school starts again in January - she's at the age where a facial burn would not be beneficial to her social life!)

Well, that's it for now. We are reminded every day how thankful we are to be for the blessings God has sent us.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Day Off - Sort of

Today started out in the most wonderful way. An alarm didn't go off. Yes, we enjoy our simple pleasures! Our favorite part about a day off is the conspicuous absence of an alarm.

Of course, there was a knock on the door, but it was after we were already up. Manuela, the woman we feared had the molar pregnancy actually DID show back up at the hospital. They admitted her and when we went to go check on her during visiting hours, her husband was still here and had actually been sent to the store to get a towel and some toilet paper (they don't supply those here at the hospital).

We went and picked up her lab results at 4pm and the good news is that she doesn't have a molar pregnancy. The bad news is that she had a spontaneous abortion a few months back and will probably need a minor surgery to clean out her uterus. More good news, though. We met Dr. Maria Perez, a Mayan (dressed in traje under her lab coat) OB/GYN who will be taking care of her. We did not know about Dr. Perez and were very excited to meet her!

Also during visiting hours (really, we should say visiting HOUR - it's only from 2pm-3pm), we checked on baby Lesly. She has been moved from the nutrition area to the pediatric "intensive care" area and put on an IV for nutrition. She is still not eating well, is still losing weight, and still has diarrhea. The outlook is not good. (See her picture below.)

On the positive side, though, she had five family members here to see her, including an uncle who speaks excellent Spanish. He practically begged us to go ask the doctors what else they can do for her. He said that the doctors will never listen to him, but they would listen to us. We explained that it looked like they were doing everything they could. We even told him that Matt had seen one of the doctors in the gym yesterday and talked to him about Lesly there. We told him that we are praying for her and that their family should, too. He said they were and will continue to. Our "regalito" (little gift) for her today was some disposable diapers. The hospital provides cloth diapers for the moms, but her mom really did want some disposable ones (remember, she has diarrhea - not so fun for Mom).

We also had a chance to talk to Ceritas (the local nuns) today about some things we're working on together, with Eliseo (the pastor in San Pedro) about a woman in his community with Bell's Palsy (who we'll probably go visit on Friday), with Dr. Hoak about a woman with some "female" problems, and with Sharon at ASELSI about our Thanksgiving plans for tomorrow!

One last story for you before we say goodnight. Last night, we were hanging out on the couch, enjoying the heat from our portable heater (it's been in the 40s here at night - ouch!) and Heidi spotted a mouse walking - not running - walking across our floor. We woke Jake up and literally threw him at the mouse, which he finally took care of, after playing with it for a few minutes. What a life HE has!

Tomorrow is clinic at ASELSI, then Thanksgiving dinner in Chichicastenango with some other missionary families. Thanksgiving is not a holiday here. They didn't call their gringos "pilgrims", they called them "conquistadors". Subtle yet important difference.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Busy, but...

Yes, today was busy, but different than we expected. We were at the Centro de Salud in San Bartolome today - an area with one of the highest fetal and maternal mortality rates in the country - or so we were told before. The last time we went, we saw about 30 or 40 pre-natal patients and everything was peaceful ("tranquilo" is the word they use here).

This time, we arrived and apparently caught them off guard. The nurse, Heidy, our contact there, had forgotten to tell everyone we were coming. And she was on a call. Just before we got there, a local midwife had called and told them they had a mom in a bit of trouble, so off went Heidy in the ambulance. She returned shortly after we arrived to say that the baby had been born before they got there but didn't make it. We should have known that today wasn't going to be good.

We only had four patients to start, not really a problem for us - short days are nice. But Heidi gets the very first patient on the table, starts the ultrasound, and says "You've got to be kidding me!" Another mole - maybe. It's either a mole or a miscarriage, but looks more like a mole. If it is, that's three in four months. DANG! Dad was actually there with Mom, another instance of a caring dad (way to go, guys!), but even Dad doesn't speak a tremendous amount of Spanish.

So we explained to them, through an interpreter, what is going on and that they'll have to go to the hospital in Quiche for evaluation, blood tests, etc., then probably a surgery to fix the problem. It's very difficult to explain to people who've been pregnant ten times that this particular pregnancy is different - it's not a baby in there, but a tumor. Most have never heard of this problem and it's sometimes hard to convince them, but they did great. They went home to pack some things and waited for us on the road back to Quiche. We brought them here to the hospital and helped them get their labs done in town. More on that in a minute.

The second mom's baby was fine. However, the last time she had a baby, her uterus ruptured and they had to do a C-section. That means she needs a C-section this time, too, at least that's her best option here in Guatemala. (Dr. Yeomans could probably deliver her, but he doesn't work here!) The problem is that she didn't get any good dating early in her pregnancy and once you get close, the American measurements we have aren't quite as accurate as they are early. (American babies are normally much bigger...) So this lady lives at least an hour's drive from a hospital and she can't exactly schedule a C-section because her dating isn't too good. (If they take the baby and it's too early, its chances aren't the same here as they are in the U.S.) But she promised to head to the hospital as soon as her labor starts. Pray that everything works out okay there.

The third mom's baby was not fine. The first thing you look for on ultrasound is a head, which is normally shaped like, well, a head. This one looked more like a squished spaghetti-o. And the spine was bent up like a staple. And by measuring the femur, it was only about 15 week size. Mom has been pregnant for seven months. In other words, we're going to need a surgery here to take the baby out (it's been dead for some time). So she was going to go home, get her husband and return for a ride to the hospital. She never showed back up. So please pray for her, too, that she decides to come here. Luckily, before she left, we counselled her that that's what she needed to do. Hopefully all she missed was a ride, not the point of the conversation.

Baby number four was fine, thank God, and it was early in her pregnancy, too, so she should be able to get excellent pre-natal care at the Centro de Salud. We've been so impressed with the folks out there. They don't have a lot of equipment, but they really do care and they work very hard to provide the best health care they can, which is a whole lot better than was there a year ago!

As we were waiting for Mom #3 to return, three more moms came in and we checked them out, too. Fortunately, all was well with them. One thing we noticed, though, was that these moms do tend to have lost more kids than moms we see in other places. When we first started here, we expected to see lots of G10 P5's (G is how many times you've been pregnant, P is how many living children you have.) However, for the most part, it's pretty unusual for a mom to have lost more than one, and it's actually more common for all of a woman's kids to be alive. Sick, maybe. Malnourished, maybe. But alive.

In San Bartolome, however, at least based on our small sample size today, the average was more like two kids lost per mom. Very sad. Our hope is that we can help, even if it's just a little tiny bit, the great folks that are working there to improve those numbers.

Okay, more on Mom #1. We picked them up on the side of the road on our way back to Quiche and brought them here to the hospital and got their labs taken. We said all that, right? The labs won't be back until tomorrow afternoon, but apparently the doctor on call agreed with Heidi's assessment and wanted Mom to stay. The problem is that she already has a half dozen or so kids at home - and is nursing. Mom and Dad came to our door this afternoon and said that they have to go home and take care of their kids tonight, but that they'll be back in the morning. Pray for that to go okay, too. If it's a molar pregnancy, she really needs to be in a hospital.

When we got home, we had no electricity. So Matt went down to the hospital to work on that while Heidi was taking the family to the lab. When we've split up in the past, things haven't gone so well, but there's a first time for everything. Today, surprisingly, was it. Everything went fine - we got the power on and the labs taken. Gracias a Dios!

We also got a chance to go check on Lesly, the Down's Syndrome girl we told you about last week that we brought here because she was so malnourished. Bad news. She looks even worse now. She has lost even more weight and her eyes are so sunken into her head that she barely looks like a baby. Skin is just hanging around her entire body - her neck, her wrists, her legs, her arms. It's very sad. The nurse told us that she has diarrhea and is on antibiotics. She also said she's seen them look this bad and make it, but I doubt that Las Vegas would put very good odds on her. Please pray for her, too.

We did get to go open a new bank account tonight with Jacob. Remember that our other bank folded. The new account is good news, I think. Normally things are very difficult here, but we were only there for about ten minutes and probably five of that was just shooting the breeze with Jacob.

Oh, and we got the green truck to Martin, our mechanic friend here in town. (Remember that it died on Heidi last week.) Hopefully it'll be something very simple (and cheap) and we'll have it back in time for Paul and Lindsey to use it while we're in the U.S. over Christmas. It seems weird to ask for prayers for a truck after all this other stuff, but while you're praying, toss in our truck, too, if you would!

Tomorrow is supposed to be a bonifide day off. We'll let you know how that goes!

Oh, pictures. These two girls here are the daughters of the cleaning lady at the Centro de Salud. They were SO cute and friendly, we just had to play with them and take their picture. And, of course, one with Mom, too. (Note the toddler she's carrying on her back while she's working! Sometimes he plays with the two girls, sometimes Mom has him.)

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Yes, Two in One Day

So sorry to post twice in one day, but somehow we feel that you'll forgive us. ;)

We just got back from an awesome meeting in Chichicastenango with many of the American missionary health care providers. Sharon Harvey (with ASELSI) hosted. She is a nurse and runs the clinic there. Besides clinic one day a week, they also do feeding programs for malnourished kids, a physical therapy program for injured or disabled kids, and they do lots of work with helping to provide surgery for people who are in desperate circumstances.

Leslie Ficker and Katie Elleiott are both nurses that we work with in Canillá and San Andrés. They also do a clinic in Chiminicijuan and are going to start doing some work in Ixcan and Zona Reina (with their new plane).

Lisa Dunham is a family practice doctor, also based in Chichicastenango. She and her husband do a lot of rural clincs, just like the two of us, but their setup is slightly different. Most of their clinics are only once a month and their organization is hiring lots of local doctors and dentists to start building some more permanent clinics in very underserved areas. They are also helping to train local volunteer health promoters, but shared with us that that is exceedingly challenging!

Tom Hoak is a general surgeon in Chichicastenango and is where most of the missionary doctors/nurses refer their surgical patients. Heidi has done some surgeries with him and there is probably going to be a need for a missionary OB/GYN at his hospital very soon. The hospital he works at is a missionary hospital and thus has a very low cost, but still has to charge patients. He has a fund that supplements what patients cannot pay. The average surgery costs $500-$700 and the average patient can contribute between $10-$50. (The people here really are poor!) He is in a bit of a tough spot financially right now and there is way more need than there is money.

You may remember the man with the back tumor that Heidi assisted on the surgery and the woman with the breast tumor that needed a biopsy. He also has a woman there whose uterus is literally between her knees. With the government hospitals being closed for non-emergency surgeries, there is a greater need now than ever. He never turns away anyone who truly needs the help but is in a bit of a funding crisis. Anyone who feels led to help some of the desperate people here can make a world of difference with just a few hundred dollars. Please let us know if you want to help.

Also very exciting is the fact that we (the American missionaries) are working very hard to ensure that we all know who has teams coming down and when. With this information, we can refer patients to each other's teams. We also have a bit of a network so if resources or services are being offered, we have a wider base of interest and need to ensure that those resources and services are being used where they are most needed.

And finally, we are in the med sharing business now, too. We have been sharing meds and equipment amongst ourselves and now have a formal way to let each other know when we have a glut of something or a need for something. Once resources are donated, they belong to God, not to us, so we don't particularly care which doctor or nurse hands them out. We will be sharing some of the diabetes strips we just received (and the response to that information was thunderous - those things are hard for everybody to get and they are desperately needed). Sharon singlehandedly restocked our pharmacy with about a dozen different meds we were running out of and she doesn't need. Leslie went home with about four armloads of stuff she needs, too. And the hospital here in Quiché will receive and entire pickup truck bed worth of stuff on Wednesday that was brought in by everybody to be shared.

Tomorrow, we are headed to San Bartolomé for another day of prenatal screening in the Centro de Salud (Center of Health) there. You may recall that this area has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the nation. The local docs and nurses are doing a fantastic job in their new Centro and they are using our ultrasound machine as a way to draw people in so they can see what is available to them. (Acceptance of new ideas comes a little slow in some places.) With any luck, all of our patients tomorrow will be perfectly healthy, but if not, we'll do what we can to help!

God is Good

This weekend was a wonderful reminder of just that... starting with the drive out to Canilla on Saturday morning. These pictures are from the road, and don't really even do the scene justice! Had to share them anyway...

What you are looking at is taken from the side of a mountain ridge, looking down in to the valley, with another ridge off in the distance. The clouds are almost completely covering the valley, except for where the mountain peaks poke through in the distance and the bottom left-hand corner where the clouds look like they are literally just pouring in to the one little town.

In real life, it almost looked like a waterfall in the foreground, with a "city in the clouds" in the distance. When we have the privilege of witnessing such marvels of nature, we are left to wonder how anyone can truly believe this all happens by accident.

Anyway, clinics this weekend also went fairly well. Prayer requests go out for the young lady in San Andres with the anencephalic infant, Isabela Mateo. We are much more sure of the diagnosis now after a second ultrasound. The plan was to discuss it with her and her family this week, but she again showed up alone to clinic. Her husband left two days ago to go do seasonal work on the Coast (harvesting sugarcane or coffee on the plantations...), and her mother-in-law was busy.

It's hard to imagine how alone this young mother must feel holding the information that her baby will not live for more than a few hours at best. She knows nothing of the love of our God, either. She has never been witnessed to in any way by any Christian. Again, we cannot imagine how alone THAT must feel! We spoke with her briefly and prayed with/for her in clinic, but it is hard to know how much that seed can grow in the midst of all of the other information she received that day. Leslie does know a local pastor that can go out and see her this week, and we will continue to work hard to build a relationship with her and care for her during this pregnancy. Please pray for wisdom and guidance and for this young lady to receive Christ's love and salvation in her heart, perhaps through this experience.

This young lady's story, along with a beautiful worship service Saturday night at the Fickers, served again as excellent reminders of the primary reason that we are here. It is so easy to get caught up in "practicing a trade" (as Matt prayed on Sunday) with these patients when you have spent so much of your life just learning how to do that.

With 60 people waiting to see you to talk about the same four or five health problems, for the most part, over and over again for the day, it is also very easy to forget that the medicine should really be the smallest part of what we do for them. The education about their problems and how to avoid them in the future is, of course, even more important. But the most important thing, of course, is to show them a tangible example of God's love for His world and His people. Please pray that this continues to weigh heavy on our hearts and remain always our primary focus in our mission here.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Well, it's not like we're not scheduled to be in clinic all weekend or anything, but at least we CAN thank God that today is essentially over! It's been another interesting one...

Today started out with Matt's very generous offer to go and do the clinic in Chinique with Paul and Lindsey in order to free up Heidi to go to Chichicastenango and be with Maria Suy Chan as she got her breast biopsy. This gave Paul and Lindsey a chance to get back in the swing of things with the clinic, spend more time learning our computer record-keeping system, and overall preparing to run the clinics while we're gone in December. Matt also had a chance to practice a lot more Spanish, AND got invited to go sit in with Paul's friends as they get together to play some music tonight. The tough part was that we saw about 50% more patients than we usually do there today! Ooops... Sorry Matt, Paul, and Lindsey! They did a really fantastic job, by all accounts.

Meanwhile, Heidi was having her own (mis-) adventures on her way to Chichi... It seems that the truck didn't QUITE want to make it all the way there, so it stopped in the middle of the road instead! God is good, though, and his angels were really looking out for us today. The truck died literally right in front of the biggest, cleanest, nicest gas station we know of... AND on the straightest stretch of road between here and Chichi where visibility from both sides is good and no one was going to blindly stumble upon a truck parked in the middle of the road... AND, literally, right between two "tumulos" (speed-bumps) to further decrease the risk of at least a high-speed collision. The boys at the gas station were a huge help, and it wasn't long before Heidi was on her way again to the hospital. (We're pretty sure we need to check/repair/replace the alternator, but that's no big deal considering how much worse that could have been!)

Dr. Hoak was nice enough to see Maria and add her on to his already very busy surgical schedule for today. We did her biopsy late this afternoon, and will both be very, very surprised if the pathologist tells us anything other than that she has cancer. (The first part of her story was posted yesterday, if you're reading these out of order, by the way...) We will follow-up on the results, of course, and continue to work to help her and her family in any way that we can. Please pray for her! This one hits Heidi especially close to home, as many of you know. Tomorrow it will be 23 years since her mother passed away from metastatic breast cancer at age 38.

Also on a more personal note, we're happy to report how we realize daily that we make a very good team. God really knew what He was doing when He got the two of us together to come down here! (We know, He's pretty much well-known for being on top of these things... but it's nice to stop and really think about them every once in a while) Matt has learned so much Spanish and Medicine that he was really able to "step up" today so that Heidi could be with the breast cancer patient and continue to build that relationship... AND he could diagnose the truck's problem over the phone in between patients! Heidi, unfortunately, has NOT picked up any of Matt's musical skills (still pretty tone-deaf...), but couldn't even begin to imagine trying to do anything at all down here without Matt's help and support.

"Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. If one falls, the other can help his friend get up... Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken." --Ecclesiastes 4:9,10,12

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lots of Prayer Requests

Today was a busier than average day at ASELSI. Normally, clinic there takes about four hours. Today was about six and a half and we weren't even close to done with our day yet. Not only were there a lot of patients, but the ones we had needed a lot of help. I guess we'll just start at the top.

The first was a return patient named Francisca Morales. She is 35 years old, is in her eighth pregnancy and has only had four live births. She lost the other three while she was pregnant due to beatings she took from her husband. We told you about her about a month ago after her first visit. Well, she left her husband yesterday and took her kids. That's a pretty big deal here. We asked her if she had moved in with family and she said that, no, she is renting an apartment. Rent is about $26 a month. She makes tortillas and sells them to pay the bills. We're not exactly sure just yet how we're going to help her, but we're definitely going to help her. Please pray for her and her family.

The second is Maria Suy Chan. We also told you about her about a month ago. She is 22 weeks into her 11th pregnancy and is only 35 years old. She has what we believe to be inflamatory breast cancer. If we're right, she's in a bit of trouble. It's a particularly rare and particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. When we first saw her, we suggested that she go to Guatemala City and get a mammogram, which she did (which is no small feat - it's about a four hour drive to The City and quite a pain once you get there). Her husband came in with her today and is a very caring and loving husband - she's quite lucky. We referred her to Dr. Hoak who is going to perform a biopsy tomorrow between hernia surgeries. Please pray that we're wrong on our initial diagnosis and, if not, that we can somehow help her with this condition.

The third is Jose. Jose originally came to ASELSI as a diabetes patient. He is a professional driver but due to his diabetes, couldn't see well enough to drive. Sharon got his sugar under control and he started driving again. Soon after, though, he was involved in a pretty serious accident in which he broke his arm quite badly. We referred him to Dr. Edgar, a Guatemalan Orthopedic Surgeon who is a friend of ours, who is helping with his broken arm. However, it appears that Jose's personal demon is alcohol. He got drunk this past weekend, fell on his broken arm, and additionally, has an abscess in his mouth. Not a good week for Jose. He is a Christian, but continues to struggle with his addiction. Please pray for his injuries and for his continuing battle.

The fourth is Lesly Andreina Xon Ixtuc. She was born on June 15, 2006 (making her about five months old) at about ten pounds, according to the midwife. His mom brought her in to ASELSI today because she has a cough. On exam, we found that she was frighteningly malnourished (later found to be 3 lbs 13 oz). We sent Mom home to talk to Dad with the thought that she would need to come to the hospital with the baby to be admitted to the in-patient nutrition program. Thus, we met our second supportive dad of the day. His name is Juan Xon. He and the baby's mom waited for us outside our clinic door for over an hour while we saw other patients, then rode with us to the Hospital Buen Samaritano, where Heidi had to see another patient - one whose uterus is literally hanging between her legs. Then they rode with us here to Quiche.

On the way, they told us that when Lesly was born, the midwife told them that she thought there was another baby still inside and they had to come to the hospital here. They did but were told that there was no twin. Mom was still bleeding quite heavily but they kept her from eating for two days (because she needed a D&C - a quick surgery to clean out the uterus and stop the bleeding). She got hungry and left the hospital AMA (against medical advice). Thank God the bleeding stopped and she didn't die. The baby, however, wasn't breast feeding well, so they started feeding her hot water. This continued for a month before they decided to buy formula for her. We may have mentioned before that health education is somewhat lacking here. These are very well-intentioned parents, they just don't know any better.

Did we mention that this baby is about as white as we are, has crossed eyes, and is apparently a Down's Syndrome baby? None of this really helps her condition.

Well, we got them to the hospital this afternoon and waited for about two hours for a doctor to come examine her. Once they finally showed up, they were very nice and helpful, and a nurse actually spoke K'iche to the mother (it's quite rare for educated people to admit that they can speak K'iche). Mom and baby have been admitted to the hospital and we will check on them as often as we can to help keep Mom fed and see what we can do to help cover lab costs.

Oh, and one more little tidbit on the day. Okay, maybe two. We had a woman come in (with a supportive husband - it was a good day for that) who had been to the hospital because she was having pain in an area that would cause concern for a pregnant woman. They told her that the pain might have something to do with her baby and that she should get an ultrasound. No kidding? Well, the hospital HAS an ultrasound. But they referred her to a private lab she couldn't afford, so she simply waited until today and came to our clinic. Everything looked fine, thank God.

Another patient (with a supportive husband, too - like we said, a good day for that) said she couldn't feel her baby moving and had a note from some type of health center that said they couldn't detect any fetal heart tones either. So with some dread, we fired up the ultrasound and found.... a healthy baby! After Heidi showed the mother that the baby was moving on the screen, she admitted that she could feel it moving now, but only on one side. We'll take that.

Oh, and the record for today was a 35 year old patient in her 14th pregnancy!!! Guess that's what happens when televisions are too expensive for most to afford...

Below is a picture of little Lesly. Please pray for her and her mother (who does not speak Spanish and is now staying here at the hospital where very few people speak K'iche). Dad works in the fields and only makes $4 a day, so he won't be able to come very often to visit. We'll do what we can, but our K'iche is a little lacking, just yet.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Clinic Today and Assorted Randomness

Today was our clinic in Chicabracan. Nothing terribly exciting, except for a few diabetic patients who are continuing to control their diabetes well. It's not exactly front page news, but it means that they're enjoying a higher quality of life, and hopefully a longer one, than they would have had without the help that has come from all of you who support this mission.

Also, we received the news today that our fundraising efforts for the cleft palate kids we're working with have been amazingly successful. Thank you SO much to all of you who have donated. We tackled this challenge with the trust that God would provide and He has - in a big way!

And, having very little else to write about today, we'll throw in some more pics from Matt's parents' visit. The first is a picture of a fairly typical house in this part of the world.

The second is one of Matt and Heidi in clinic in San Andres. (We don't get too many pictures of us together, so here's one!)

The third is of our kitchen with the very exciting new curtains there. (Maybe not exciting to you, but exciting to us and it's our blog - so HA!)

And the last one is of Paul and Lindsey in clinic with us today. They are a husband and wife and are Guatemalan medical students who are supported by Agape In Action. They are off between school years in November and December and they will be covering clinics for us while we're back in the US over Christmas.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We Post Pictures When We Have Nothing to Say!

Nothing much new to report tonight... We spent most of the day today driving Matt's parents to their return flight out of Guatemala City. It was sad to see them go, but we're so happy and thankful that they were able to share this life here with us for the last 12 days! Can't wait for the rest of y'all to come down for the "grand tour"...

Since they are better shutterbugs than us, here are three of our favorite pictures from their visit. The first is the four of us at Lake Atitlan, a beautiful resort town which we have written about before (The same hotel where we stayed for our anniversary). The three peaks you see in the background are all volcanoes.

What a spectacular view!

The second shot is from last week's trip to Antigua with the cleft palate families... This boy's name is Fredy, and we just couldn't resist his smile the whole time we were with him. He and his parents were probably the poorest of the poor on this trip, but yet among the happiest.

The last one is a panoramic shot from Dad Bell's camera of the view just outside our front door. The large building is the Hospital, with the Pepsi signs on the cafeteria right beside it. We have not been brave enough to date to sample their wares. You can also see the soccer field in our front yard and the guarded gate at the end of the driveway. The ER is at the end of the hospital closest to our front door, which really helps with noise control, of course!

Tomorrow we are off to clinic again at Chicabracan, which should be pretty busy since we missed last time for the All Saints Day/"Day of the Dead" holiday. Wish us luck. We should have more stories to tell by then...
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Clinic and Fun Around the House

Today we took a break from home improvement to go and do a clinic! Many, many thanks to Mom and Dad Bell for HOURS of hard work put in to get these projects done. Hopefully the fountain will be done tomorrow afternoon, and up and running (read: picture-ready) by the end of the week... It's all about remembering to get excited about each and every small victory around here.

Today in clinic we saw about fifty patients between us and Leslie. Please pray for a friend of ours who we are seeing weekly now to treat a bad venous stasis ulcer and help control her diabetes. She seems to be improving slowly, but this will be a long process and we pray that she will not lose hope or patience with us before she gets better. Also on the prayer list, two pregnant ladies with very sad complications... One was informed this week that her 4- to 5- month fetus was dead inside her uterus, and the other is likely facing a diagnosis of anencephaly (a rare, uniformly fatal malformation where, basically, the brain and skull never form in the baby) We have very little besides prayer to offer these ladies, but will continue to do what we can. An 81 year old man with an inguinal hernia is also praying for guidance about whether or not to pursue surgical correction.

After clinic was a little more exciting, and the source of most of today's pictures. Heidi's "korte" (skirt, in the traditional hand-woven pattern of this area of the country) was finally ready! The last picture below is of Rosa, the young lady that translates for us and whose father made the korte, helping teach Heidi how to put on the skirt. (It's harder than it looks!) You'll all see the complete finished product with the top over Christmas, I hope.

The other pictures, from top to bottom, are: One more of little Carolina Perez that we just couldn't resist blogging. She's the little girl whose mom stayed with us the night before the trip down to Antigua (See "One Brave Little Lady" entry below...) Her smile is simply infectious.

Then there's this shot of our "new and improved" entryway. You can see just a little bit of the bench that we bought to match the table there, and more importantly, the curtain which divides it off from the rest of the house. This helps a lot with privacy when all those knocks on the door come, and gives patients a place to sit while we find them meds, bring them food or supplies, or perform minor surgical procedures... whatever!

This last one is another silly shot of Heidi practicing "being Guatemalan". You've seen plenty of pictures of Guatemalan women carrying their babies on their backs in this sort of a sling... so we figured we'd try it with OUR baby! Surprisingly enough, it did last long enough to at least get a picture... and Heidi's back will heal quickly from the scratches. We hope.
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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Work Days

Yesterday and today were work days around the house. Matt's parents are here for a few more days, so we put them to work!

NEW in the house are: a bench in the entryway (purchased in Los Encuentros), a curtain separating the entryway from the rest of the house, curtains on both windows in ALL of the dorm rooms, curtains as cupboard doors in the kitchen, a wardrobe in our bedroom (also purchased in Los Encuentros), and a nearly completed fountain in the courtyard!

LOTS of thanks to whoever made the curtains for the dorm rooms and purchased the PVC, springs, and hangars to make that job possible. They are wonderful!

ALSO, lots of thanks to whoever made the curtains for the cupboards in the kitchen. We had to do a little work to the concrete countertops to make the velcro stick, but it's all up and looks relatively permanent.

ALSO, lots of thanks to Jacob, for setting us up with the two guys that have been working out here to convert the concrete sculpture in the garden into a fountain. Just a few more hours of work and it'll be done - at least from their side. We still have to run electricity to it, but that should be a relatively simple job, too.

And on top of that, we had time to run out to the Mayan ruins just outside town. Very cool. This place has been a functioning city for nearly 1,000 years. It was here for a long time before the Spaniards showed up in the early 1500s and after they defeated the K'iche Indians, they converted it from the K'iche capital (called Gumarkaah) to the city we live in now.

Of course, we had a few knocks on the door - pretty standard practice around here - and we received some wonderful gifts from our friend, Dr. Hoak, in Chichicastenango. He found THOUSANDS of dollars worth of orthopedic supplies in his storage closet that he can't use. We will work with Dr. Edgar (a Guatemalan orthopedic surgeon we know - and a SUPER guy) to see that they end up being used for people who really need them.

Not bad for a few "days off", huh?

Thursday, November 09, 2006


We just got home from our Cleft Palate Screening / Mini-vacation with Matt's parents. It was a wonderful time. We literally took over 100 pictures. Okay, most were of volcanos and such, but we got a few of the families we travelled with, too.

The first pic is of most of the families in the restaurant on the way to Antigua.

The second is everyone lined up in front of the bus. (The guy kneeling is Miguel, our driver / interpreter / evangelist.)

The third is of three of the moms with their babies, waiting to be seen.

And the last is of us at Pollo Campero. Four pics, two of us eating. That's about right, I think!

Anyway, we stopped in Los Encuentros on our way home from Lake Atitlan and bought some furniture for the house. Now we actually have a dresser instead of Jaffa Blocks! Yes, we know, it's all very exciting. We got the handmade bureau and a handmade bench for the entryway for less than $150 combined. Try THAT in the U.S.!

And when we got home, we had a message on our machine from some folks who know what we were up to and apparently we have two more cleft palate kids to add to our list. Obviously, God has a plan for us, at least for the moment. Thanks SO, SO, much to all of you who have donated to help these kids. We will certainly be sending you some pictures from this weekend. God has been very faithful and has caused lots of hearts (and wallets) to open and has started a veritable flood of help. (He only promised not to flood the world again - I think floods of love are still okay!)

Well, we have two "days off" coming up with some home improvement work to do. (And only three or four patients scheduled to come see us...)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One From the Road

This is being posted from a hotel on a Spanish language keyboard, so if there are typos, please forgive us!!

Our trip to Antigua with the families was an unmitigated success!!! Plus, we hear from our team in Houston that the support has been phenomenal!!! Thank you all so much.

After our last posting, where we described one of the mothers, we left for Chichicastenango, where we met Miguel, our van driver, and the rest of the families. There were six babies in total on this trip.

Miguel has been working with ASELSI for seven years now and has a wonderful heart for his work and his people. He can read and write, as well as speak K'iche, which makes him quite a blessing for the members of the group who have a limited command of Spanish.

At ASELSI, we had gift bags for each of the families, including diapers and wipes (none of the babies normally wear diapers - they´re too expensive), some bottles of water, vitamins for the moms, and a toy for each baby. We taught the moms how to diaper the babies with disposable diapers, loaded the van, prayed over the families and the vehicles (I think anyway - the prayer was all in K'iche) and headed out.

In Tecpan, we stopped for lunch - a very unique experience for the families (the lunch for each parent cost about a day's wages - $5). They were all very appreciative and sweet. In the van, on the way, Miguel had had a chance to explain what they were going to do, as well as evangalize some. Even though the families were completely out of their comfort zones, they were all such a pleasure to be around. Each one ordered a large chicken or steak dinner (at Miguel's suggestion) and some soup. As we were leaving, we noticed that there wasn't a single scrap of food left on any of the plates. We know it was such an inconvenience for them to leave their families, we at least know that their stomachs were well paid!!!

When we arrived at the Hospital Hermano Pedro, we secured lodging for each family at the Casa de Fe (House of Faith), a beautiful mission facility, and got each of the kids registered. The people at Hermano Pedro were so helpful and friendly, it really made us feel like they wanted us there and didn´t see us as a hassle or a burden. Definitely a positive experience!

After that, the families all went to Casa de Fe for the night, where they were served dinner and slept. The next morning, they all looked like they´d had the best night of sleep they´d had in forever! We passed around a couple loaves of bread from the Doña Luisa Xecotencatl (anyone who´s been here knows how wonderful that is!) for breakfast. Again, not one crumb left. YEA!

Heidi spent the entire morning with the families and the pediatrician. He, like everyone else there, was very kind and helpful. Of the six babies, none were found to have any complicating conditions, other than the expected malnutricion. Four will almost definitely get their surgeries in January, one more is a probable, and the last (one who only weighs 5 lbs 5 oz) will probably have to wait until we can get some weight on him.

We found out, during the morning, that one of the moms is either 47 or 49, depending on who´s asking, has 13 children and 30 grandchildren, including the infant son with the cleft palate. We also learned that Regina (who we wrote about last time and ALWAYS has a smile, by the way), out of seven children, has THREE with cleft palates. We may be doing some more work with her and her family soon - we'll keep you posted on that.

Anyway, all of the kids were seen in the morning, all received return appointments (a major accomplishment), and we were off to Pollo Campero (think KFC). Only one of the parents had ever eaten there before and they were all very excited. (Pollo Campero is about as popular as McDonald's in the US, but a sandwhich costs more than the average daily wage of a field hand - imagine $100 Happy Meals!) Oh, and don´t forget the ice cream cones!!!

So that was that. Miguel took the families back to Chichicastenango. We´ll help them all secure the tests that they need before January, and then we´re back to Antigua again on January 7th.

Heidi and I, along with my parents, spent another day in Antigua shopping and sightseeing, and are now at Hotel Atitlan in Panajachel. We´ll spend one night here, then go back to Quiche for a few days of working around the house.

That´s it from here. We´ll post pictures when we get home tomorrow night. Please keep those families in your prayers. They are all very special. We wish you could meet them yourselves!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

One Brave Little Lady

This past weekend, we went to Canilla for our regular weekend outing with the Ficker family. Except this time, Matt's parents went with us! We made one minor error by not calling ahead to check the condition of the road between Zacualpa and Canilla, though. It had been in decent shape last week, but we neglected to factor in four days of rain. Oh well. We made it (barely!).

Today was our clinic in San Andres, and it was pretty normal, too, except for a woman who is at term in her 7th pregnancy who came in with headaches and a blood pressure of 160/100. It was her first prenatal visit, so we don't really have a history with her, but the data point we do have tells us she should be in the hospital. Oh, did we mention the baby was breech? Her husband had just bought a cow in the market, though, and needed to get it home, so instead of riding back to Quiche with us, he promised to bring her in the morning. Pray that all of that turns out okay!

Tomorrow we leave for our little adventure to Antigua with six cleft palate kids. One mom showed up at our door this afternoon because it would be pretty hard to get here by the time we need to leave in the morning. No problem. But she brought, along with her cleft lip/palate baby, her 4-year-old son and a 15 year old friend to take care of him. That actually is a problem, since we can only bring the patient and their two parents, at most.

No, she said, it's okay, her son has a cleft palate, too! His lip actually has a scar down the middle, which she says he's had since he was born, but his palate is definitely open. So do we have six patients or seven? We decided to give it a whirl. The hospital knows that six are coming, and we told her that there's no promise that they'll see the seventh, but we'll try.

Heidi asked to see the birth certificates for both kids, since the hospital requires those, and she produced two birth certificates. The problem was that one of them was for her husband, not the 4-year-old. Mom can't read and had grabbed the wrong one!

So we tossed around some potential solutions and decided that the best bet was for Matt to drive the family back home to look for the other birth certificate. It's just over an hour drive, then a 30 minute walk to their house and it was starting to get dark as we were debating the relative merits of that decision.

Mom called her neighbor and asked if someone could go to her house, grab her bag that has all of the family papers in it and walk it to the road to meet us. They said they could. So we drove just over an hour to a house in the middle of nowhere (way after dark now) and there he was with the bag! (The 4 year old cried almost half the way there because he'd never been in a truck before and was scared.) The bummer was that the bag had a dozen or so papers in it - but no birth certificate for Otto. So Mom asked us if we could wait for her while she "ran" back home to look. (She really did promise to run!) So the 15 year old and the 4 year old waited with us in the truck while Mom and the baby went home.

About an hour later, they came back with another friend and the sad news that they couldn't find the papers. We told them that there was nothing we could do tomorrow without them, but that we know of at least two other teams that are coming that we will try to help them with. She was satisfied with that, thanked us for our efforts, sent the 15 year old and the 4 year old home, and got back in the truck with us.

We finally got home after 9pm. The baby had started crying just before we got back and Mom said she had some formula and could make a bottle but needed some water and a stove. That we can help with.

During the time she was warming the formula (which she dutifully boiled for 20 minutes - she's not used to having potable water available), she told us that when she was 1 month pregnant with the baby, her husband was killed in an accident at work. She has seven children and no job. We asked her how she eats. She quoted Luke 12:24 and told us that God takes care of her just like the little birds.

In case you were wondering who this special little child is, her name is Carolina Marcelina Benito Perez. Mom's name is Regina Perez. Please keep the both of them (and the rest of her family, who is without her for two days now) in your prayers this week. As we're writing this, we've only had just a few hours with her, but we are already SO impressed. We can't wait to write on Thursday when we get home with some more pics and stories!!!!

Below are two pics - one of Regina holding Carolina (in our kitchen!) and the other is just Carolina.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Gifts from Los Estados Unidos!

Matt's mom and dad arrived in Guatemala yesterday from Michigan for a 12 day visit and brought lots of goodies! We like goodies!!!

First, they brought an order from, a wonderful organization that serves medical missionaries all over the world by providing bulk medicines at very low cost.

Second, they brought tons of over-the-counter meds collected by their church family in Temperance, Michigan. We're hoping to visit there in December when we're back in the States for Christmas. Included in that delivery was over 1600 diabetes test strips, which are not only difficult to get here, they are frighteningly expensive. Oh, and lots of hotel goodies, such as moisturizing cream, which is also very expensive here and very much needed in some of our more remote locations.

And, of course, being parents, they brought other goodies, too. We were in need of a drill and some assorted home improvement tools and, since Halloween just passed, candy. You can't find peanut M&Ms here...

Anyway, the next few pics are of us opening presents and happily restocking our pharmacy. And you can see that all of the excitement wore Jake COMPLETELY out. Poor thing!

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reformation Day... er... Halloween

We don't want you to think that this Missionary gig is all work and no fun. It's a whole lot of work, for sure, but occasionally, we get to have fun.

Yesterday, Halloween, we had a "day off". That means we didn't have a clinic. The day started with a visit to the hospital to check on a patient we've been following. She has been transported to Guatemala City and we don't have much new information on her. Then we got with the hospital administration and completed the process of transferring a bunch of donated stuff to them. We also got the chance to touch base with the head nurse, the folks in the Consulta Externa, and the social workers.

Then we spent some phone time with Ceritas, the local nuns who do a bunch of great work, cleaned up a few more details around our trip to Antigua with the cleft palate kids, answered two or three knocks on the door, and went to town for a few essentials.

Then came the fun part - we got to make Halloween costumes. Yes, there are a half dozen or so American missionary families in Chichicastenango and we were invited to their Halloween party. We only had about 24 hours notice, so we had to get a little creative. Both of our costumes were biblically based and only slightly tacky. Heidi was Lot's wife (post-mortem), and Matt was John the Baptist (also post-mortem). See, only a little tacky. But what's Halloween for if you can't skirt the edge of tastefulness?

Anyway, here in Guatemala, today is the big holiday. November 1 is the Day of the Dead. The festivities started yesterday with (of course) fireworks and parades. Today, they'll all be out at the cemeteries, decorating graves, writing prayers to the dead on kites and flying them up into the sky, and basically following some pretty creepy, occult practices. It's very interesting to watch except for the part about being completely at odds with Christianity.

We're quite aware that some Christians completely eschew the celebration of Halloween due to its occultic roots. However, you can, with a clean heart, dress up like a cowboy and go bobbing for apples. I asked my pastor one time during confirmation class what makes our faith any different than the other faiths in the world that people believe in just as much as we believe in ours. He asked me where Mohammed is buried, where the founder of Buddhism is buried, where the founder of Hindu-ism is buried, and where Jesus is buried. Of course, the first three are buried SOMEWHERE, it doesn't really matter where. Jesus, however, isn't buried at all. He's alive. And THAT'S the difference.You can celebrate Halloween - or at least the costume and candy part - if you want. You just have to know that we don't worship someone who's dead. And thank God for that. Our God is alive and well and wants to have a relationship with us. How sad it must be to have to send prayers on kites to those who cannot hear and even more, cannot answer.

The first pic is of Heidi and Matt with their crazy costumes on.

The second is of some of the missionary kids in their costumes.

The third is Matt (our host) and Jana (Dr. Hoak's wife).

And the fourth picture is some more of the missionary kids bobbing for apples (which had, of course, been bleached to ensure that no one gets infected with amoebas!)

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