Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas in North Carolina

After Christmas Day in Cleveland, we met up with Heidi's brother, Daryl, whose in-laws are in Cleveland, too, and made a mini-caravan to North Carolina. Isaac got to meet three more cousins for the first time - Pandora, Boone, and Della Scott. Both sides of the family combined, Isaac has five (soon to be six) first cousins all within three years of each other. Something tells us there are lots of fun days ahead with all of those cousins! And if you count second cousins, he's got somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty. WEE!!!

We spent several days with Granddad and Gran in Salisbury, NC (and some aunts, uncles, and cousins) and just today drove over to Cary, NC to spend two nights with Heidi's Aunt Mary Ann. We'll be taking Isaac to his first North Carolina basketball game tonight. Yes, he has a little Tarheel outfit to wear.

Below are some pics - three from NC and two leftovers from Michigan/Ohio.

The first is from his baptism with his cousin, Isabella (and Aunt Catherine and Uncle Joe).

The second is with his cousin, Pandora.

Third is one we couldn't resist. It's Christmas time and mangers are running all amok. That's Cousin Sophia in the back.

Fourth is swinging on Granddad's porch, and last is Isaac working on his first Cheerwine (a soda bottled in Heidi's hometown of Salisbury) in Graddad's "Man Room".

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

We're writing this from Cleveland, Ohio - at Matt's sister's house. We had a fabulous celebration of the birth of our Savior. We had lots of family, some good food, and the making of many wonderful memories.

Presents? Isaac made out like a bandit. And his parents didn't do too badly, either. It's nice to be in the land of plenty, but a little weird, knowing that so many of our patients and friends have nothing.

Tomorrow morning, we meet Heidi's brother and sister-in-law here in Cleveland (where Erin's family is, too) and caravan to Salisbury, North Carolina for a week with her family there.

Isaac has grown like crazy since we got to the US. Since we came here three weeks ago, he has started to sit up by himself, he can now roll over, has started eating rice cereal, and has grown his little Buddha belly by at least 50%!

His temperament is still day-to-day, though. Today was not his best. He was basically a fuss-butt all day and it only took us about 2-3 hours to get him to go to sleep. Arrrggghhh!!! When we get back home to Guatemala, we'll need to start him on a little schedule - at least for bedtime.

Anyway, here are a couple pics from the week. The first is our new truck we're so excited about. The next few are of Isaac, and the last one is of the Bell family on Christmas day.

Well, gotta run. More later.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Truck!!

Many thanks to all of the very generous people who contributed to our truck fund, because we are now in a new (to us) vehicle. We prayed a lot about this vehicle, and have actually been looking for some time. God always closed doors, just when we thought we had the right one, and finally opened a door for us.

The vehicle is a 1999 Toyota 4Runner. It might sound a little long in the tooth, but it only has 50,000 miles on it and looks brand new. Toyota is the gold-standard in Guatemala, not just because it's a proven tough off-road vehicle (we see absolute rolling wrecks that are still climbing those mountains), but because parts are ubiquitous. Other brands may require a 4-7 hour trip to the capital for parts, but most Toyota parts are available in almost every little town.

Now we have a pick-up truck (the Mazda) and an SUV. This increases our flexibility for transportation and, hopefully, our reliability. Again, thank you so much to everyone who donated and helped make this happen. Special thanks to Matt's dad, who drove up to Detroit to check out the vehicle, negotiated a price, bought it, drove it home, cleaned it up, and went through a million gyrations to get all the paperwork done. We would have been in a big mess without that help.

And just one more indication that this was the vehicle God wanted us to have, when we went to go get the title, there were some... well... paperwork issues. We don't want to get anyone in trouble, but we'll just say that without divine intervention, we wouldn't have this truck titled in our name.

So, in January, Matt and John Villanueva will drive the truck down through Mexico into Guatemala. We'll be needing lots of prayer coverage on that trip and the two international border crossings, so please keep us on your prayer list.

In other news, we are now in Michigan/Ohio visiting Matt's family. We went to a Michigan State basketball game last night, leaving Isaac with his paternal grandparents for our first night out since he was born. WEEE!!!! Plus, it was a 40-point victory for the Spartans!

Sunday, Isaac will be baptised with his cousin Isabella. Family will be coming in from all over the place. All four of Isaac's paternal great-grandparents will be there, as well as Daddy's godparents, tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and some college friends we haven't seen in years. YAY!

The day after Christmas will see us meeting up with Heidi's brother and his family in Cleveland and caravaning to North Carolina for a week there with Heidi's family.

Also, please pray for God's wisdom and clarity with some other decisions we have to make. More details later.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


After three days of driving, we are now in Cleveland. (For some reason, it's more difficult traveling with a baby - we made this trip in one day last year!) We arrived ahead of all the weather that's supposed to come in today. Heidi and Matt's sister, Catherine, have gone shopping. Matt and Joe are home with the babies (Isaac and his cousin, Isabella). Three-year-old Sophia is at a Christmas party with her grandma.

Tomorrow we'll get to go see Alistair Begg, a pastor we listen to every day in Guatemala by the miracle of the internet. His church is here in Cleveland.

This week, we'll be splitting time between Michigan and Ohio. Next Sunday, Isaac and Isabella will be baptised together in a joint ceremony in Michigan.

Please pray for a good recovery for one of Dr. Hoak's patients he emailed us about this morning. Even as we're here on vacation, the work in Guatemala continues...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Northward Bound

We are writing this now from St. Louis, Missouri at Ken and Suzy's house. Some of you may remember the wedding we were in in April. Same Ken and Suzy.

Yesterday morning we left Dallas, after spending the night with Pavlos and Liz, two doctors we were very close friends with in Houston. They've since moved to Dallas and have a beautiful home there.

Isaac was a little trooper yesterday, enduring about 11 hours in the car. It wasn't always his favorite, but he did remarkably well, all things considered.

This morning, we'll visit Suzy's office for Isaac's 5-month check up. (She's a pediatrician), have lunch with Craig (previously from Guatemala, now back in St. Louis), then drive all evening and into the night to get to Matt's sister's house in Cleveland. Then we'll be in Ohio and Michigan through Christmas Day.

We heard from Paul and Lindsey, who are keeping an eye on our house in Guatemala and attending our clinics for us. They are doing well and were able to find a new home for themselves in Quetzaltenango, where they're attending medical school. Their landlord had informed them that their rent was about to double, so a househunting trip was in order. God always provides and this time was no different. Apparently, house hunting in Guatemala is not always as easy as it was for them this time.

Please keep the prayers coming for wisdom and clarity in all of the job search activities going on now. Our prayer is that God will open the doors He wants us to walk through, close the ones He doesn't, and that we'll have the sense not to fight Him!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Vacation - Week 1

It's been an eventful week! We arrived in the US last Monday night. We've been staying with Russ, Bethany, and Tye Leatherman. Little Tye just turned 1 year old this week and it's amazing to see how much he's grown since he was down in Guatemala a few months ago. It's hard to believe that Isaac will be doing all these things in just another 7 months!

We've had chances to see and talk to many old friends - both Heidi's and Matt's. It's so nice to be back in town and make contact again with people.

Today was our chance to go see some friends at The Woodlands Methodist Church. Many of the folks in the Sunday School class we visited are regular travelers to Guatemala. They usually stay at our house when they're down for mission trips. Lots of them prayed Isaac and Heidi all the way through the pregnancy. In fact, some of them were at the house when we went to the hospital to have the baby.

This class has been so amazingly supportive, financially and spiritually. We are very thankful for their devotion and support. It's so nice to be able to share some stories about our work with people who pray for us on a regular basis and have also been down to see where we live and what we do.

This week, we have a few more business items to take care of in Texas, then we head north. We have some people to see in Dallas and St. Louis on our way to Michigan and Ohio to spend time with Matt's family. Then it'll be down to North Carolina to see Heidi's family. Then we'll come back to Texas and return to Guatemala to meet up with the cleft palate kids in Antigua.

Oh, and Isaac likes America, too. Lots of stuff to look at and all kinds of toys to play with!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Safely in the United States

First, we'll say that we are safely in the U.S. now. Not "conveniently", but "safely". Continental has a long way to go to be "customer service oriented" in our book, but we'll just assume that they had a really, really bad week and let it go.

Update on yesterday's blog. On Leslie's way home from San Andres, she found the grandmother of Baby Juan waiting in the road for her. So they all went back to the house in Canilla together. Apparently, Grandma was sick, too, so she got the "knock out" treatment and slept from the time she got there until this morning. Leslie wasn't so lucky. She was up all night with a very sick baby.

By this morning, it was becoming apparent that the baby needs more than just feeding, so Duane and Aaron flew the grandmother and baby to Quiche. Jacob had offered to bring us to the Quiche airstrip to meet Duane for our flight to Guatemala City. Since he was there with his truck, we asked him to give this woman and her baby a ride to the Quiche hospital, which he gladly agreed to do.

Now, our luck with sick babies at the Quiche hospital isn't too good. We've watched at least three babies die who really should have lived. We will pray that this baby does better than the others.

In any case, Isaac was a little trooper today. He really likes flying with Duane. He slept through a good portion of our two hour delay in Guatemala City and was relatively quiet through most of the flight. However, being stranded on the tarmac in Houston for 30 minutes because another plane was at our gate was more than he could take and he had his first real melt-down of the day. We were both running out of patience ourselves and this didn't really help, but we finally got into the airport where we got to wait another 30 minutes or so for Continental to find everyone's luggage. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

Anyway, we are now at Russell and Bethany's house and cannot WAIT to see Tye in the morning. He will officially be 1 year old tomorrow. My, how time flies!!!

Please continue to pray for Baby Juan...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Friday through Sunday

Friday was Heidi's last clinic at the Hospital Buen Samaritano before we leave for Christmas. She had a full slate of 12 patients. A couple were prenatals, a couple were post-ops, a couple were not really gynecological, and one was a surgery she'll do in January. One patient showed up demanding her hysterectomy that day. Heidi tried to explain that this was not going to happen, as it was the first time they'd ever even spoken or met (we have no idea where this patient got the idea that you could get a "drive-through" hysterectomy). Upon being denied immediate elective surgery, she got angry and started calling the hospital director (who happened to be in the car with Dr. Hoak). Eventually, she got tired of waiting and left the hospital (in a very nice car, according to the girls at the front desk). Who expected THAT at a mission hospital???

On the way home, Heidi got a chance to stop by and see Sharon Harvey at ASELSI, who just returned from her first real vacation in over 10 years!!!! Sharon and John do such tremendous work here. We really missed them, but were so happy that they got to take an actual vacation.

Saturday was clinic in Canilla. Aaron and Matt spent a lot of time talking about how to make the drive from Texas to Guatemala, in case we are able to purchase a new (to us) vehicle there in December. Aaron and Katie just made the drive within the last month and had some very helpful tips. The group in Houston looked at a possible purchase this week. Please pray that God lets us know if this is the one for us or not.

In clinic, a couple brought in their 8 year old granddaughter who they say has been having three seizures a day for the last 2 1/2 years. This is the first time anyone has sought medical treatment for her. Her mom and dad are both in the United States and haven't tried to do anything for her. We asked if there is an open fire in the house (many families have an open fire in the house for cooking). Yes, there is, they answered. Heidi brought Martina in to show them what can happen to a little girl who seizes and falls face first into a fire. By this time, though, the grandparents were more interested in their consults - tylenol and vitamin variety complaints. Please pray for this little girl that God will protect her even when her own family does not.

Today was our last clinic before our trip. They only sold about 50-60 numbers (roughly 1/2 the normal number), as it's the last day of the town "Feria" and people simply don't seem to get sick when there is drinking and partying to be done. Weird, huh? The first patient of the day was a two week old, 4lb 4oz little boy who was brought in by his great-grandmother. Mom died during childbirth and Dad is either in the United States or at the coast, depending on when you ask. The family has been buying milk but not feeding him properly. They said he didn't eat at all yesterday but he was quite interested in the bottle Leslie gave him. She recognized that, left in the hands he's been in, he's going to die, so she offered to take him in for a few weeks to get him out of immediate danger.

The great-grandmother called the father to ask for permission for her to go stay with Leslie while they help this baby. He said no. Then it came out that he has blood in his stool. Leslie suggested that the best thing for them to do was to bring him here to the hospital in Quiche. The great-grandma then left to go home "to get some clothes" and never came back. Now we're in a quandry. Has the baby been abandoned? Or has great-grandma simply gotten distracted? We certainly don't want to be accused of kidnapping, but we can't just sit and wait for someone to come back who doesn't appear likely to do so. Eventually, we decided that Leslie will take the baby by the orphanage in San Andres and get the paperwork filled out to declare the child "abandoned". This will cover us, legally. Then she was going to try to drive into the village where the lady said she was from and try to find her (it's on her way back home to Canilla). You can see this little boy, named Juan, in the two pictures below.

In the meantime, a woman came in with a pretty nasty cut on her thumb from her machete and our favorite "drunk grandma" came in for her weekly visit and touch-up (she gets drunk and falls down at least once a week and comes in for us to clean up whatever wounds she has this week). This week, "Grandma" had a nasty scrape on her elbow, which she had self-treated by putting a piece of newspaper on it. It was thoroughly soaked and stuck into the wound, making a pretty nasty job of removing it. Her biceps, literally, are about half the size of Matt's wrists. At around 4'6", she probably weighs 70 lbs. Please pray for her, too, that a moment of clarity will help her discover her need for help.

Tomorrow, Paul and Lindsey will come by around 7:30 to get the truck and go to clinic. We will do some last minute things here at the house and go to meet Duane at the local airstrip at 10:30 or so. Then it's a 30 minute flight to Guatemala City and a 3 hour flight back to Houston. We have some business (and pleasure) to take care of there, then it's off to Dallas, St. Louis, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, then back to Texas before we come back to Guatemala. As always, we'll keep you posted!