Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Container (page 3)

Last one for tonight. Good night everybody!!!

Container (Page 2)

More pics...

It's Here!!!!

Our container arrived today after lots of legal wrangling, praying, waiting, paying, and only God knows what else. Lots and lots of thanks to everyone who made this possible.

Among the things on this container were a cement mixer for construction projects here, construction supplies, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 computers for schools here, literally tons of medical supplies, and lots of our personal possessions (among them, Matt's studio equipment - YAY!).

You'll see pictures below and in the next few posts, but there was an unbelievable amount of stuff on this container. Semi trucks are a lot bigger than they look!

Since we're in Quiche and not in Houston, there were no fork trucks to be had. The entire truck had to be unloaded manually. And today. The driver was due back in Guatemala City with the truck TONIGHT.

He rolled in about 11am. Jacob (the local schoolmaster/pastor/friend of our group) had to ride his motorcycle to Chichicastenango (30 minutes away) to get the truck through some construction. He happens to know the mayor (his son went to Jacob's school), pulled some strings, and got permission for the semi to drive through a construction zone (the workers had to clear all of their stuff out of the way first).

Jacob also supplied about 6-8 kids from his school for labor. Our friend David Deegan (an Irish missionary from just up the road) brought about 8 of his kids, too. A school they work with was also the beneficiary of a bunch of stuff (around 40 computers!)

Also, our friend Martin - a local mechanic - brought his flatbed truck over to get the cement mixer and the anesthesia machine out of the truck. We don't have loading docks here and we weren't about to lower a 700lb machine five feet to the ground with just our backs! Yes, we know the Egyptians built the pyramids without flatbed trucks, but only because they didn't have access!

Anyway, it only took about 9 hours from the time the truck pulled in until the time everybody went home. Our house is a disaster, but we're happy. Nothing appeared to be visibly broken, which is a miracle since most of the pallets stacked on top of each other had fallen in the process of transit and God knows how many inspections. The crew who packed the container was clearly staffed by geniuses who knew what could withstand stacking and what couldn't.

Anyway, enough of the blabbering. Pictures.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Por Fin! (esperamos)

Finally! (we hope)

We are told that our container left the port this morning on a truck bound for Santa Cruz (where we live). It's supposed to arrive during the night tonight (we'll probably receive a midnight phone call) and we'll unload in the morning.

Please continue to pray that nothing is destroyed. There were lots of inspections and repacks, we're sure.

In other news, Matt's parents flew in today for a week visit. They brought lots of goodies (stuff for their first grandson) and some meds, sunglasses (for patients), and donated over-the-counter items. They also brought some parts for Craig's motorcycle. Maybe they'll last longer than the 30 minutes or so the original parts did on the rough roads of Guatemala!

Anyway, it's bedtime - just thought we'd post an update. Pics tomorrow (assuming nothing weird happens overnight - always possible here)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Weekend With the Fickers

This was another wonderful weekend with the Fickers in Canilla and San Andres. We came in for clinic on Saturday morning, as usual, and saw a typical blend of patients. We did see a patient who had some bleeding of the variety that Heidi would be interested in (as a gynecologist). Apparently, her bleeding was sufficiently serious that she took two units of blood. Remember that there is not a "real" blood bank here (they can't freeze blood and very few people ever donate). Taking ANY blood, let alone two units, is pretty serious.

Heidi offered to spend some more time with her at the Hospital Buen Samaritano and to discuss what surgical options she might have. The lady is going to talk it over with her husband and they plan to pray about it before they decide. Pretty sensible, if you ask me.

In the afternoon, we all piled into the trucks and drove to San Andres to work on our NEW clinic room. In San Andres, we rent an apartment for around $40 a month and that's where we hold clinic. The problem is, with four stations, that room gets kinda small. Plus we have some student teams and several visitors coming this summer, so we've decided to expand. The room next door became available, so now we're renting them both for about $80 a month. The beauty is that we can leave some furniture, an ultrasound machine, some medicines, some exam tables, etc. in place and don't have to cart them all every week.

With Heidi being pregnant, she wasn't allowed in the room while we were painting (water based paints here are kinda crappy and don't work too well). She got to employ her organizational skills instead and worked on medicines. The only problem is, now that the new room is freshly painted, it makes the old one look like it needs a new paint job, too. Hmmm.... students coming... paint needed... what to do? Anyway...

Today we did clinic in San Andres (with our new two-room set-up). We miss having each other all in the same room, but it is MUCH more peaceful and we feel like we can communicate with our patients better. We have some follow-up information on several of our previous patients there.

We brought a woman here to Quiche a few weeks ago whom we'd been following through her pregnancy and she had developed pre-eclampsia. They delivered her baby here at the hospital and she is healthy and happy.

Heidi did a vaginal hysterectomy at the Hospital Buen Samaritano on a patient from this clinic three weeks ago. She came in today and is feeling great and is very grateful for the surgery.

We met a girl at this clinic last week who has a mass in her knee. It's not too large, but it affects the way she walks. Her family has been given the "Guatemalan runaround" at every hospital they've been to. They've even been to Guatemala City to try to get her knee looked at. They've paid money, they've spent nights in the hospital, they've even had family members donate blood (a common requirement since no one does it willingly), but no surgery. We took her papers to Dr. Hoak in Chichicastenango and he's willing to try to do her surgery. Great news for them!

In additional news, Katie has managed to raise the support she needs to continue her work here in Guatemala for the next year. We are VERY excited to hear that! We were pretty bummed about the possibility that she would have to move back to the US after her initial support ended.

We promised pictures of the plane back in Canilla, so here they are. Note that the wings are still mounted on a truck and the engines are now on stands. You'll also see a new nose that the guys picked up in the US in January. We're still missing the new propellers ($25,000 worth), but we're much closer to being able to fly on our next trip to the Ixcan.
Tomorrow we're in Chicabracan and Tuesday we pick up Matt's parents from the airport in Guatemala City. Still no news on the container. Please keep praying for that to go smoothly!!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Stairway to Heaven

This blog is usually more like a journal than a diary. We write a little bit about what we're up to and what we're doing, but very seldom about what we're thinking or feeling. That's okay, there are other forums for the "diary" stuff. But I read an article yesterday that really made me think and I think that my thoughts and feelings on this topic are appropriate here. So here goes...



Remember Physics class? Remember how, while sometimes the math was hard, that the concepts were never tricky? Somehow in your mind, you always knew that when you dropped something, it fell faster and faster until it hit the ground. You always knew that the strength of a collision was a factor of how big and how fast the objects in the collision were. You always knew that you could push things easier across a smooth surface than a rough one. You just didn't always have the words or the math to prove it.

Well, now we have a study that has the same impact on the spiritual realm.

You see, it turns out that we are not that compassionate. We get no more emotional "tug" from the death of 88 people than we do from 87 (to use an example from the article).

I'm a missionary. I live and work in Guatemala, a very poor country. If I were a compassionate person, I would lay awake at night worrying about the thousands of people within a few miles of my house who are hurting and wonder how I could help them. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I sleep just fine.

At the end of a clinic week, when I'm tired, a patient could come in with a story that SHOULD bring me to tears and sometimes the only thing I can think about is how fast I can get to my hot shower and my comfortable bed.

This is really no surprise to Christians. We know we're not that compassionate. We know we're not that patient. We know we're not that kind. We have someone to compare ourselves to. Jesus DEFINED compassion, patience, and kindness. We have nothing more than mere shadows of such virtues.

Those of you out there who think you're going to heaven because you're such a good person better think again. Do you think you're REALLY compassionate? Do you think you're REALLY kind? Do you think you're REALLY good? There IS a stairway to heaven but none of us are man enough to climb it. You actually CAN earn your way to heaven, in theory. All you have to do is to be perfect. Read the article. If you admit that it's true, and you really have to, you'll see how far we are from true perfection.

We're truly broken inside, even if it doesn't always feel that way. We need Jesus, even if we won't always admit it. We know it to be true, we just don't always have the words or the math to go with it. Kinda like gravity.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Some happy, some sad...

Today we were back at Aselsi, which you will recall is a wonderfully run clinic started by John and Sharon Harvey in Chichicastenango. Maria, Carolina, and Otto came for their post-op checks, and everyone is healing up great! The pictures are of Maria (you can always tell her by her fat cheeks... her parents had one baby die of prematurity/malnutrition at 4 pounds, and they're not ABOUT to let that happen again!) and Carolina, who we had to wake up for the photo op... The really cool thing about these babies is that the same team that did their lip surgeries will be back next January, and they hope to do the palates then. That's not bad continuity of care for being a few thousand miles away, right?

Anyway, we also have good news to report on the two inguinal hernia kids from Chinique. They were both looking great post-operatively and were released from the hospital today. It is comforting to know that their pastor and our friend, Roy Espinosa, will be checking in on them over the next few days.

We saw over 30 patients today, and most were routine prenatal care patients or people with minor ailments. Two notable exceptions are the 50 year old man with findings on his lung exam and chest X-ray that Heidi can't interpret well (We'll ask Tom Hoak for help tomorrow), and a lady who brought in her paperwork today saying that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she had a 32-pound tumor removed in 2002! She has had no follow-up care since then, and the fact that she's still alive at this point means she has already beaten many odds with ovarian cancer. We are doing some tests to see if the cancer is returning (she's having some suspicious symptoms), but pray that things work out well for her.

Our little "single" pregnant lady came back in, too. She's the one who is pregnant by her (ex-) husband, who has been living with another woman for several years! We found out today that while her mom and pastor are being very supportive, her brothers are now considering kicking her out of the house because of the illegitimate pregnancy. She has no idea where she will go if this happens, has no money, no skills, and does not speak Spanish. Please pray that her family's hearts will soften more to her over the next few weeks. The baby is due April 5th.

We did have some good news to give her today, though... It's a BOY. (just like Baby Bell for those of you who haven't figured it out yet!) This will improve her chances of being allowed to stay in the house, as her brothers would be much less inclined to look favorably upon a baby girl. It is a sad state of affairs here-- Not quite as bad as you hear about it being in China, since people have many more kids/attempts at a boy here-- but still a girl is seen as much less "useful" to the family than a boy is.

Still no word on when the container might or might not get here. We are trying hard to focus on the huge blessing that the items packed in it will be to so many people here, but we must admit it's hard to continue waiting!

Tomorrow Heidi is off to the Hospital Buen Samaritano again, hoping to see more than one or two patients this time. Matt will be here either starting to unload the container (hopefully...) or practicing his music.
Oh, and while we're thinking about it, don't forget to look at Rachel Ficker's new blog. There's a link on the right hand side of our page. It's FANTASTIC!!! We read it every day. You should, too. (Maybe Katie will get off her hiney and write once in a while, too.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Patience and Patients

We are still (not so) patiently waiting for our container. Yesterday's visit to Guatemala City has not rescued it just yet. Today's emergency was the "urgent" need for three more pages of the inventory translated into Spanish. The exact same three pages were sent over a week ago, but we sent them again today. Keep smiling! There's obviously a reason this thing hasn't come yet, we just don't know what it is.

Monday in clinic, we met a woman with two kids who both had inguinal hernias. If you really want to know, you can look it up, but don't be suprised when you see the pictures. One of her kids is 5 and the other is 2. She speaks very little Spanish, but we learned from Roy (the pastor there in Chinique) that she is a relatively recent widow. She has five kids, but just these two have the hernias. She didn't have the $0.75 for the clinic visit, so we obviously waived that.

The boys need surgery to correct their hernias, so we told her about Dr. Hoak at the Hospital Buen Samaritano. She told us she couldn't afford the $1.50 for bus fare or the $1.30 consult fee at the hospital. So Pastor Roy brought her and her kids to our house this morning and Heidi gave them a ride to Chichicastenango. Dr. Hoak did their surgeries today. They'll be released tomorrow and since we'll already be in Chichicastenango for clinic at ASELSI, we'll probably give them a ride back to Quiché and Roy will bring them back to Chinique.

The Bible very clearly tells us that we have a responsibility to care for widows and orphans and this lady and her kids obviously qualify for some extra assistance. The total cost for the surgeries will run over $1000 and we will take every dime out of our indigent assistance fund. (Normally we ask patients to contribute what they can afford to contribute and we cover the rest.)

We are now having difficulty reaching our breast cancer patient, Maria Suy Chan. Cell phones change hands rather quickly here sometimes and when we tried to call her today, someone else answered the phone and didn't know who she was. Please continue to pray for her and her unborn baby.

We got a confusing pathology report back on the lady whose uterus Heidi took out last week. She came in for surgery with two tests indicating early cervical cancer, but the pathology on the uterus itself was "non-cancerous". Hmmm.... Sometimes pathology is wrong. Now you wonder which way this particular one is wrong. Either the last one was wrong or the first two were. What to do? In any case, she is no longer in any danger of dying from cervical or uterine cancer. We just have to figure out whether or not she is in need of further treatment.

Also please remember to pray for our patient in San Andrés who is 18 weeks pregnant but broke her water two weeks ago. Her baby's heart was still beating on Sunday and her infection was getting better, but she is a long way from being out of the woods.

Tomorrow, we should see all of our cleft lip patients again. They will be about six weeks post surgery and we should get a very good idea what the final outcome of their surgeries will be. Ricardo, our double cleft patient, received his surgery this week through Dr. Lisa Dunham and her organization, Health Talents. Dr. Dunham and her husband live and work in Chichicastenango and had access to a pediatric anesthesiologist and a plastics team in Mazatenango and that's where Ricardo got his surgery. As you may recall, Ricardo was a twin who was abandoned by his mother. The lady pictured with him there is not even a relative. She simply told the mother not to let him die, that she would take him. You'll see in the last pic that they didn't do much for his hair, but his lip looks a whole lot better!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trip to Guatemala City

We left home this morning at 6:00am to get to Guatemala City for our monthly OB appointment. We had to leave Ernest and Connie Braren behind (they didn't want to leave at the same ungodly hour we did!) They've been with us for the past five days and have been fantastic! We got to spend some nice time with them, as well as meet several of their gringo friends here in town. Who knew there were so many gringos around!? Our network will grow considerably in the next month or so, we hope!

We have been having some very exciting things happen with the container this week. Unfortunately, none of them include IT ARRIVING HERE! We received notice yesterday that all that was lacking for release was just over $1000. Is that all? Well, let's look between the couch cushions.

Apparently, the container arrived here in Guatemala on February 3rd. We're being charged rent for the time it has been sitting in the port (waiting on the government to do paperwork on its own sweet time - sound familiar?) Also, there are some fees and taxes and other fun stuff that all governments feel like they need to assess on each and every thing they get their hands on.

Also in keeping with typical governmental ease of operation, these bills have to be paid in person in Guatemala City. Luckily, we were going to go for our doctor visit anyway. (I say "luckily" - the truth is that God is looking out for us, as usual - read on.) One building we needed to go to was only a few blocks from our doctor's office, which is great because Guatemala City is unbelievably difficult to navigate. Almost every street is one way and many do not have street signs. Fun.

Anyway, we were planning to pay with a check, which they told us we could. This is good news because Guatemala is still experiencing a cash shortage due to the government not printing enough money last year. Sometimes we can get cash, sometimes we can't. When we can, we stock up. They told Heidi (Matt was sitting in the truck because as hard as it is to drive in Guatemala City, it's even harder to park!) that she had to pay Q4000 in cash. She had Q4100 on her because we had just stocked up last week. Then God led us to a cash machine where we were able to find cash to replace what we had just spent! They were gracious enough to let us pay an additional $450 by check for some other fee or tax or something - because it was in dollars, not Quetzales.

Then we had to drive across town and pay another Q1600 by depositing it in some guy's bank account at Banco Quetzal (and not every building that has a Banco Quetzal sign is a Banco Quetzal - we learned that today, too!) Yes, it's all a little scary, but we're told it'll work.

Anyway, supposedly, all of those gyrations should release our container tomorrow so it can arrive before the weekend. Pray for all that to work!

So on the medical side (the original purpose for our trip), we got Heidi's labs drawn, which required her to be fasting - never pleasant, but even less so for a pregnant lady. Then we had our visit with Dr. Ruata. We had another ultrasound and everything looks great with the baby. All of the anatomical markers look to be in the right places and are the right sizes and shapes, including the one that tells us what our baby is.

Because we're a little mean, we'll give you the word in K'iche. If you're resourceful, you'll figure it out. For those of you who are not as resourceful, we'll post it in English in a few days. Yes, games are fun.

Our baby is "ala". That's opposed to "ali". Happy hunting.

Oh, and here's a pic. You can see the baby's face on the right hand side. The eyes, nose, and mouth are clearly visible... Matt thinks the baby looks like Heidi in this shot...

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Okay, some people have asked, so we'll answer. We've talked a lot about the "container" that's coming. Those of you who don't have international shipping experience in your jobs might not know that the way things are normally sent by water from one place to another is in shipping containers. These are the large boxes you see on the backs of semi trucks and stacked up next to ports.

They come in various sizes. Ours is a 40' container. It was loaded full of stuff, put on the back of a semi truck, driven to the Port of Houston, shipped by oceanliner to Guatemala, and is currently in one of the port storage facilities waiting to get all of its papers cleared by the myriad agencies who have their fingers in this type of thing.

On this container are many of our personal things. All of Heidi's medical books, her microscope, Matt's recording equipment, some kitchen stuff, and various other things we thought we'd need here when we started packing last spring. (Having not lived here before when we were packing, there should be some pretty hilarious stuff on the container! We just KNEW we needed tupperware?!?!)

A 40' container holds A LOT of stuff, though, so it's not just our things on the container. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 computers which were donated for local schools, an anesthesia machine, a cement mixer, and lots of medical supplies are also on board.

So when this thing clears customs and whatever else it has to clear, it'll come by semi here to Quiché and we'll have Christmas all over again. The latest estimate is...well...we don't have a latest estimate. It COULD still be another week, but let's pray not.

Anyway, here are some pictures just to help with the visualization.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Outside Pics

The first few pics are of the movie screen that we showed the "Jesus" video on. The third pic is of the back of the clinic building and the movie screen next to it (made from nine queen sized sheets). And the last pic is of Camp Ficker next to the plane...

Oh, in the third pic, you'll notice the gas generator. No, we didn't have power - no one does. The generator powered the three small tube lights in the clinic and the ultrasound. The Fickers also have a work truck that was donated that you can see in some of the airplane pics. It has a small gas generator on it, too. That was all the power we had, so we were very happy to get home to a hot shower!

Today is a "catch-up" day. We're not sure when the container is going to come in - we are now clarifying a few translations on the paperwork and we hope it doesn't result in a long hold-up....

Airplane Pics 2

Airplane Pics

The basic goal for the plane is to lift it up on a frame, pull the engines, remove the wings, and bring it back to Canilla in pieces. The Fickers are going to bring the wings and engines back and our friend Martin is going to bring the body of the plane back on his flatbed. Here are some pictures from that adventure.

Clinic Pics 3

Clinic Pics 2

Saquixpec Clinic Pics

Page 1 of clinic pics.