Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The two main holidays in the Christian world are Christmas and Easter. One because it celebrates Christ coming to be with us and the other because it celebrates the accomplishing of his mission.

This season, we celebrate the fulfillment of a promise. God had been promising his people for thousands of years that he would send a messiah. And in a tiny town in modern-day Israel, that promise was fulfilled.

It's a reminder that ALL of God's promises are fulfilled - in His time. That's why this is often called a season of hope. See, another one of God's promises was that Jesus will come back in the same way the disciples saw him leave. So, like the old testament Jews waited for Jesus to come the first time, we now wait for him to come back.

In the meantime, there is work to do.

Agape in Action is very excited about the next chapter of our story in Guatemala. Dr. Sherwood Pope and his wife Areli will be moving to Guatemala in a matter of days now. Please keep them in your prayers.

Also, since Agape in largely funded through investments in the oil and gas business, and you may have noticed that oil prices are dropping, please consider a financial gift to the ministry. Less money at the pump in our case means less money for missions. So maybe a bit of what you're saving could be put to good use???

Just a thought.

We pray you have a blessed Christmas and New Year!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was a pretty typical American Thanksgiving week for us. Busy, busy, busy!

Heidi, being junior faculty at the hospital, was blessed with a 24-on, 24-off schedule for the week. The trade-off is over a week off at Christmas, though, so no complaining here!

Matt played Wednesday-Saturday nights, so we spent a few nights at Heidi's Aunt Mary Ann's house to celebrate Thanksgiving with her and to have a place for Isaac to stay while Daddy was out playing "rockstar".

God continues to smile on our end of the ministry here in North Carolina. We have a very different role now, but we're still working for the kingdom. Heidi has been busy collecting "trash" from the hospital. Yes, it's hard to believe, but we Americans throw away a lot of stuff that can save lives in other parts of the world.

We are using the attic in our house as a storage facility for these donations and will start working on a plan to get these things into the hands of the hospital folks in Guatemala.

And to echo our last post, during this time of worry and fret here in the United States, please remember that we are still the richest country in the world. Our bounty is so ridiculous that the obesity epidemic is the most pronounced in our poor population. Not too many other countries in the world worry about how fat their poor people are.

Please, please, please, keep giving to missions, especially when times are tough here. If they're tough here, they're even tougher everywhere else. Just a few dollars a month can make a huge difference in the third world.

And if you're looking for a place to send money, Agape In Action sends 100% of all donated money directly to the mission field. NO administrative expenses are taken out - those are already covered from their business ventures. So you can know that every penny of the money the Lord has led you to give ends up in the hands of those who are spreading the gospel.

Also please keep Dr. Sherwood Pope and his wife, Areli, in your prayers. They are preparing to move to Guatemala to take over the medical mission there and do amazing things with it. They are young, energetic, and spirit-filled, so you can only imagine what God has in store for them. Please pray for an easy, uneventful move and for God's revelation to be clear to them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Guatemala Trip Scheduled

Ironically, sometimes things move a little slower here in the US.

It's taken us a little while to get our feet on the ground here in North Carolina and now we are ready to schedule our first round of return trips to Guatemala. It looks like it'll be the second week of the second month of each quarter in 2009. Our time will be spent in clinic and in surgery, God willing, along with bringing and delivering supplies to other missionaries in Guatemala.

And, of course, Isaac needs to visit his "big sisters", Abby and Grace, in Canilla. Now that he can walk, he might be able to defend himself a little better. But what are big sisters for, right?

With the tough economic times here in the US, sometimes it's hard to remember that we are still, far and away, the richest people in the world. If you get sick, you have almost immediate access to world-class health care. Gas costs way less than a day's wages per gallon. Meat costs less than a day's wages per pound. You are probably feeding fewer than 10 children on more than $15 a week.

Even if it means cutting back on "necessities" such as that extra package of channels on your satellite TV, eating out twice a week, or even buying brand name detergent, please remember the missionaries around the world in your weekly or monthly offerings.

We are hearing incredibly sad news that missionaries in Guatemala and around the world are suffering due to huge decreases in giving. Know that the work of God must continue. Souls are being saved in distant lands - places where the name of Jesus has never been proclaimed - through the work of missionaries. We understand that during tough economic times, sacrifices have to be made. But please sacrifice in your own life and not in the lives of those so much less fortunate than ourselves.

You can't out-give God. Give Him an opportunity to prove it to you. Please keep giving to missions, especially during these times.

Also, check out our new link on the right - to the Fickers!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Nueva Santa Catarina - And A New Doc!!!

Sorry again for the long delay in posting. Life in the US moves at a little different pace than life in Guatemala...

We got a call from Aaron and Katie last week around 8:30pm. They were on their way home from clinic in Nueva Santa Catarina. This was one of our "solo" clinics that they are covering for us now.

They had between 60-70 patients - about double the normal load there - but were able to see them all and get them taken care of.

Just a quick note to those of you who are still following.

We are so thankful to God that He has provided a replacement for Heidi and Matt. Many of you close to the mission already know, but Dr. Sherwood Pope and his wife Areli will be moving to Guatemala in January to take over the reins for Agape in Action.

Dr. Pope is from Michigan and his wife is from Mexico City. We prayed for them long before we knew who they were and we will continue to pray for them now.

Please check out their current website at http://www.missionarydoc.com and keep checking here for updates!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Safe and Well in Guatemala

We got news today that Don Allison and John Villanueva made it through to Guatemala.

Apparently, as usual, they had some adventures, but nothing too terribly scary.

They split up once they made it into Guatemala. Don went to Guatemala City to pick up his family at the airport and John went to Quiche to spend the night at the dorm. They should all arrive in Canilla later today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike Invades Houston

To anyone not familiar with Houston geography, all of our support team is directly in the path of Hurricane Ike. To the best of our knowledge, everyone is evacuated.

While Ike will not "make landfall" until the middle of the night tonight, Galveston and the surrounding areas started flooding this morning - more than 12 hours ahead of the full force of the storm.

Houston and all surrounding areas will be subject to severe flooding and crazy high winds. Almost everyone will take some type of damage.

Please keep the Shaws, the Leathermans, the Villanuevas, and the Allisons in your prayers, as well as the rest of the Houston metro area.

We'll post more details as we get them.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Slight Change in Plans

Matt flew to Atlanta this past weekend to attend the wedding of a friend he used to play with. It was beautiful! Many congratulations to Jared and Heather!

After the wedding, he flew to Houston to meet up with Don Allison and prepare for the drive through Mexico. There had been a slight paperwork mix-up, though, that generated a few problems.

Without getting into all the details, there is a waiting period of 72 hours from the time the US Customs Department receives your vehicle title until you can cross the border. Because of our mix-up, we won't be allowed to enter Mexico until Thursday.

It's about 28 hours of driving from the Texas-Mexico border to the Guatemala-Mexico border. If we crossed into Mexico by noon on Thursday, drove all night Thursday, and nothing went wrong (yeah, right), we would arrive at the Guatemala-Mexico border just as it was about to close for the weekend. Matt's flight out is set for Monday morning. There's virtually no way he could make that flight. So if the guys encountered more than a one hour delay in the entire trip, they would be forced to sit in a Mexican border town for two days, miss Matt's return flight home, and generally be miserable.

So we came up with Plan B. John Villanueva to the rescue (again).

John is vacationing in Chicago right now. He flies back on Wednesday. On Thursday, he and Don will drive to the Texas-Mexico border, fill out all of their paperwork on the US side, spend the night, then cross the border Friday morning. They have all weekend to make it to the Guatemala border (which means they'll get some nice time on the beaches of Tampico and Veracruz), then they can enter Guatemala on Monday. Matt will simply return to North Carolina tomorrow.

So, it looks like God knew what he was doing when he had John ride down with Matt in January. John will get one more trip added to his "experience list" and Don will get the help he needs. Additionally, the Fickers will get the 4-wheeler they've been waiting on for a couple of years.

About that 4-wheeler. In the area of Guatemala where the Fickers live, the "roads" are often impassible by car. So a 4-wheeler or dirt bike is needed. They have a couple of small 4-wheelers and several dirt bikes, but to really haul any medical equipment or accomplish a medical evacuation, a larger 4-wheeler is needed.

They have a big Honda Foreman 4-wheeler but it has almost 20,000 miles on it (and not easy miles, either!) It's becoming a bit inconvenient to keep it running as all of the parts have to be imported from the US. This 4-wheeler we're bringing down to them is a nearly new Foreman that has 4 wheel drive. So it'll be even better than the one they already have. Now they'll be able to get supplies and people to even more places than before!

It's important to remember that even when things do not seem to be working out the way you're hoping they will that God is always in charge. He will never close a door without opening a window....

If you're not watching the news, there is a hurricane drawing a bead on Houston as we speak. All of the fundraising staff here and their familes will probably have to evacuate. This includes John's wife and two kids (while he's on a trip to Guatemala). So please include all of them in your prayers.

We'll ask for prayers for the following:
* A safe, expedient, hassle-free and uneventful trip to Guatemala for John and Don
* A safe and easy evacuation for the Leathermans, Shaws and Villanuevas
* No damage or major inconvenience from the hurricane
* A safe trip back to North Carolina for Matt

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Guatemala News and Trip

Sorry it's been awhile, but we've been busy here in the United States.

Heidi officially started work this week. She has a new office, phone, pager, schedule, etc. Matt's mom and dad are in town for a few weeks to help out with Isaac because Matt leaves in the morning for Guatemala (with one side trip).

We heard back from Aaron and Katie. They went to Chicabracan on Monday to cover our clinic there. It's so nice to know that our patients have not been abandoned, but are in outstanding hands. Katie took the first two pics below (of patients of ours) so we could see how they're doing! Thanks so much, guys!!!!

We also got an email from the group in Houston with a funny story about how they managed to squeeze a 4-wheeler (and a big one at that) in the back of the 4Runner. It involved planks, trees, and a few concrete blocks. You don't want to know the rest. The other three pics below are of the legal portions of that process.

Anyway, Matt flies to Atlanta tomorrow for a friend's wedding, then to Houston on Sunday. He'll meet up with Don Allison, pick up the 4Runner (with a 4-wheeler inside it) and drive to the Texas-Mexico border. They'll spend the night there and hit the border first thing Monday morning.

If all goes well (and it never does), they'll arrive in Guatemala on Wednesday. Matt will hang out a few days, then fly out of Guatemala City on Monday, arriving in Houston that afternoon. Then he flies back to North Carolina on Tuesday.

We'll try to post some stories from the road once he gets to Guatemala. Hopefully, the trip will be so uneventful that there will be nothing to tell.... But probably not.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Mexico - Then North Carolina Again

Wow. A lot has happened in the last two weeks.

We went to Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit Matt's cousin Michelle and her family -including her son, Luke, who turned 2 while we were there. Isaac and Luke got along GREAT!

Here's a video of Isaac and Luke playing with Luke's new tractor.

Then Heidi and Isaac came back to North Carolina to get the house ready for move-in. Matt went to Michigan and came drove back to North Carolina with a new car, courtesy of Matt's mom and dad.

Matt stopped off in Salisbury at Heidi's dad's house and picked up all the stuff we left there - some from Houston a few weeks ago and some we left there before we went to Guatemala. Many thanks to Heidi's dad for storing all that stuff and for helping us get it all to Greenville (our new home).

We moved all of the UHaul stuff in on Monday and Tuesday, the moving van came on Thursday, and by Friday we were "functionally" moved in. Decorating will still take some time.

Saturday was the annual Luau at Heidi and Todd Durham's house - and we got to have lunch with our new landlord. We found the house we're renting on the internet (imagine that) and had never met Chris, other than by email.

And in ACTUAL news, Isaac is now walking. He also learned how to clap this week...

Here's a video of him walking.

This coming week is more "move-in" stuff, then Matt starts his journey back to Guatemala (via Atlanta where a friend is getting married).

If you'd like to know more about the trip back to Guatemala, please read the Allison family blog at: www.allisonfamilyinguat.blogspot.com

Okay, gotta run! Isaac's walking now so he's a lot faster than he used to be!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

North Carolina

We're back from Beach Week and on our own computer now, so here are just a few of the many pics we took.

Isaac took his first steps on 8/8/08 - while Daddy was running an errand. He hasn't really walked since - he still prefers to crawl - but "the step" has been taken.

We're in Durham, NC with "the other Heidi" for a few days, then we head to New Mexico to visit Matt's cousin Michelle and her family.

Then Heidi and Isaac return to NC and Matt goes to Michigan for a few days.

We take possession of our new rental house on August 18.

Then on September 8, Matt and Don Allison begin their drive through Mexico to Guatemala. Matt will fly back a week later - assuming they've made it there by then.

Pics 1-3 are of the beach - duh. And the last one is of Isaac at a Durham Bulls game - his first baseball game. He loved it... er... we mean that he loved the ice cream...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Beach Week!

As you can tell, our posting will probably be a little less frequent for a bit now.

Matt and Martin spent a few days in Houston, each taking care of some personal business. Martin actually spent a day working on the 4Runner, changing out some things that we knew were ready for that.

Thank God he suggested that we change our water pump and timing belt. Even though the truck only has about 67,000 miles, the timing belt was not going to last much longer! But there's a new one on there now and we're good to go.

Wednesday evening, we loaded up a Penske truck with Matt and Heidi's stuff and a bit of Natalie Shaw's stuff and headed out. We got as far as Baton Rouge and spent the night. In the morning, we resumed our drive. By dinner time we were in Greenville, SC to drop Natalie's stuff. By 10pm we were in Salisbury at Heidi's dad's house.

The next morning, we grabbed some breakfast, unloaded, returned the truck, then got Martin to the airport for his flight to Providence where he's picking up a truck and a couple dirt bikes.

Then he's driving to Cincinnati to pick up another truck, then to St. Louis to get another dirtbike, then it's to Guatemala again (via Houston). He's got a grandbaby on the way, so he's interested in getting home.

Update: please keep Martin in your prayers. We got a call from someone this morning saying that they found his cell phone in a BP station in Ohio. Martin now has no way to get in touch with anyone, as most of his numbers are in that phone. He doesn't really speak much English and really hesitates to impose on anyone, so we're a little afraid he's just going to skip a necessary part of his trip to get back to Houston as to avoid asking for any help.

Anyway, we're now at the beach - at Heidi's aunt's beach house (the same one where we got married) in Atlantic Beach, NC - for the whole week.... Isaac is playing with about 10 or so of his cousins and having a ball!

We don't have our computer with us, so we can't post pictures, but we'll try to do that this weekend....

Also keep the Fickers in your prayers as Leslie and Hannah are probably alone in clinic in San Andres this morning with well over 100 patients outside the door...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Houston, Texas!

Matt here -

My previous record for iron-man driving was from Houston to north of Boston. Just over 30 hours. Broke that this week.

We left Quiche at 4:00am on Friday. We arrived at our hotel at 12:30am on Sunday. With the exception of some silliness at the borders, all of that was driving. Martin and I each got maybe a total of an hour of sleep - most of it in 2-3 minute chunks. Amazingly, we never had a driver who was tired to the point of considering a stop.

And, (those of you who know me will not be surprised by this), I handed over the wheel from 10pm to 2am on Friday night and from 6am to 8am on Saturday morning. The rest of the trip was all mine. The 10-2 stretch was some of the most difficult driving, though. In Mexico, when it's dark, it's DARK! It was on bad, pothole-filled, windy, mountain roads and it was raining pretty hard. Good job, Martin! Not an easy task.

Anyway, the silliness at the Guatemala-Mexico border started thirty minutes into Mexico on our first attempt to enter. We crossed the border itself in about 20 minutes and started driving. At the first checkpoint, though, they told us that the truck did not have permission to be in Mexico. It's titled to John Villanueva from our support group and the notarized letter he sent (in English AND Spanish) was not good enough for them.

So we had to drive back to Guatemala. Martin went to an attorney friend in the border town to get some type of official seal on the title itself with a note on it (and an expertly forged signature) giving us permission to drive through. The attorney in the border town wouldn't touch it. So he took a taxi to the next town up the road - 30 minutes up the road - and found an attorney there who said he would, but he wanted a copy of John's passport.

So we called Houston and got a copy faxed down. We have John's wife to thank. She drove home from her job, got John's passport, then faxed a copy to him, which he faxed to Guatemala (John lives a long way from work - especially in Houston traffic.)

With the copy and about three phone calls, the attorney had all the info he needed. Then he decided not to put his seal on it. Luckily for the attorney, one of the commandments specifically prohibits what Martin WANTED to do.

Figuring that the law of averages had to eventually go our way, especially with two honest attorneys in a row, he tried a third. BINGO! Signed, sealed, and delivered, we were on our way again.

From the time we left the checkpoint the first time until the time they let us through the second time, we lost six hours. The kicker was that they put a sticker on our windshield that basically serves as the vehicle's visa. The sticker has to be removed by a certain office in Mexico to show that the vehicle has been in Mexico for less than the 30 days it's allowed. This office has hours and they do not include any hours on Sunday. So if we don't make it to Texas by Saturday afternoon, we're stuck in Mexico until Monday morning - which isn't the end of the world, but it ain't exactly heaven on earth, either.

So we drove.

And drove.

And drove.

Martin has been through Mexico more times than he can count. He knows a good way to go. One with hotels and restaurants all along the road. But Aaron Ficker had given us some notes to come down with and Martin hadn't been that particular way for many years. Hoping it would be better than his way, we tried it.

Aaron, the next time you see Martin, duck. Something might come flying at your head kinda fast. ;)

Not one hotel, not one restaurant. And by the time Aaron's route joined back up with Martin's, it was after midnight. At this point, let's just keep driving. Besides, we're faced with the knowledge that if we stop, we're stuck here until Monday. So we either push through or we completely hang back.

As a side note, the 8-9 Mexican police and military checkpoints are more than just a little annoying. The truck was immaculately packed as to avoid bumping, banging, clacking, smacking, chattering, annoying noises, and damage. At least it was until the first checkpoint when an 80 pound dog jumped into the truck, climbing all over my instruments and studio gear. In subsequent checkpoints, nearly every item we loaded was removed, opened, inspected, and put back in a place other than the one it came out of. At least the soldiers and police were friendly. Helpful, no. Friendly, yes.

Finally, we arrived at the Texas-Mexico border. Five minutes after the office closed to take off our visa sticker. And no help from the guy in the office, either, other than the advice to drive to Matamoros, an hour away, for the use of the 24 hour desk there (which might have been useful information the day before).

So we drove to Matamoros, eventually found the place we needed to be (an adventure on its own) and got permission to leave Mexico. We sat in a really slow and long line to get to the Texas side of the border, then were told to leave the vehicle until Martin could get his permission slip to enter the US.

Just in case you're wondering why people sneak into the US instead of securing visas, read on. Let's skip the part about how hard it is to get a visa. Martin has a visa. He also has a 28 year history of passing in and out of the US. He has never had a ticket here. He has never violated his visa, not even by one day. But every time he arrives at the US border, even with his visa in his hand, they reserve the right to refuse him entry to the country for any reason or no reason at all.

We witnessed a very nicely dressed (and obviously quite wealthy) Costa Rican family get denied entry to the country with basically no explanation. Dad was furious, Mom was bawling, and the kids were just confused. One look tells you that these people, arriving in their Ford Excursion, are not interested in picking tomatoes for $5 a day. But denied they were, and headed back to Costa Rica. If you don't know how stinking far that is, allow me to tell you that no amount of money you'll ever have in your possession will ever convince me to make that trip. And I LIKE to drive.

Anyway, after three hours of waiting, Martin was granted passage into the US. Then the truck was granted access (keep in mind that we could have made the entire trip, both been given permission to enter, and been told that we'd have to go the rest of the way on foot).

By now, it was after 9pm. We had been awake and either driving or waiting on border officals for 40 hours (counting the time change). Then we find out that the hurricane that just came through knocked out a bunch of peoples' power and that there isn't a hotel room to be found in Brownsville, Harlingen, or anywhere within two hours. And there MIGHT not be one after that.

So we drove. There's one more checkpoint inside the US - an hour or so inside the border. We passed through there without incident and arrived in Kingville around midnight. 43 hours after starting. There were two rooms available in the whole town (we checked) and they were both at the Quality Inn.

I asked how much it would be for a room and was given the "fijese" look. (In Spanish, "fijese" basically means, "you're not going to like this, but...") The guy behind the counter told me that because they only had two rooms left, it was going to be.... $68.88. After making sure it wasn't $568.88, we took the room.

Did we want two rooms? Duh. And at that price, it was tempting, but you don't want to take the last room in town, knowing that some poor soul might be just as tired as you and only five minutes behind you on the road.

On that note, a very special thanks to Quality Inn for not ripping off two obviously very tired and desperate guys, one of whom doesn't speak English. And with all that, the price on the back of the door (the one that's the maximum they're allowed to charge) was $145. Good citizens, those. That's the Quality Inn in Kingsville, Texas. If you ever get a chance, give them your business.

Nine and half hours of sleep later, we got on the road again, enjoyed a really nice breakfast at Denny's (except for the part when the waitress dumped my entire Diet Coke in Martin's lap) and got to Houston just in time to eat a really nice lunch at Olive Garden with Martin's two sisters.

Right now, I'm upstairs at Russell and Bethany Leatherman's house. My sleep schedule is a little goofy right now, so I'm not even really tired, but here's my anticipated schedule this week.

Monday - Martin comes to the Agape In Action offices in Porter to meet the crew. Pending approval from John, he'll take the 4Runner and do some scheduled and preventative maintenance on it. I'll introduce him to Chik-Fil-A for lunch, and then try to find all of our stuff here in Houston. That way I'll know what size moving van to rent.

Tuesday - Drive to Louisiana and hang out with Trip. After Trip adds all the parts we need to the songs I recorded, we'll do a final mixdown. Then he'll get the semi-finished product and can master it at his leisure. We'll pass out and I'll head back to Houston on Wednesday.

Wednesday - I'll rent a moving van, load it, and, with any luck, Martin and I will head to North Carolina.

Martin got introduced to Cajun music on our trip (it's a long trip) and fell in love with it. Since we have to drive through Louisiana anyway, we'll see if he likes crawfish, too.

We'll drive all night and hopefully arrive in Salisbury, North Carolina on Thursday. We'll sleep, then get him on a train or a bus to Providence, Rhode Island where there's a truck and three motorcycles waiting for him to drive them back to Guatemala. Please pray for him during his travels. He's away from his wife and daughter (who is about to have his first grandchild). Oh, and the drive through Mexico really stinks. It's manageable, but it's not the kind of thing you do because you're bored.

Heidi and Isaac fly to North Carolina tomorrow. It's an all day affair, what with the plane changes, layovers, and what-not. Pray for them to have safe and easy travels, with a well behaved little boy and a complete lack of stories to tell. I have enough for both of us.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mexican Progress?

Just a quick update for tonight... and a plea for continued prayers for Matt and Martin as they drive the 4Runner up through Mexico. They had an adventurous day today... which is really not quite what you're hoping for when driving through two underdeveloped countries to get home! Many thanks to John Villanueva and his wife for getting a copy of his passport faxed expediently to Guatemala... long story.

Long story short though, they lost about 6 or 7 hours running around trying to get a lawyer here to do enough paperwork for them to appease some Mexican officials-- It is very frustrating to deal with Mexican officials, who abide by no rules and with whom we as American citizens truly have no rights. Now is not a time for a political rant about the treatment they demand for their citizens who are illegally in our country, but suffice it to say that driving through a place where you truly have NO rights is quite frustrating and scary. Feel free to take this opportunity to thank a Vet in your general vicinity for your rights and your freedom...

Anyway, we have not heard from Matt and Martin since around 1:30 this afternoon, so we are hoping and assuming that "no news is good news" and that they are well on their way through Mexico. It is difficult to call from there, so "no news is good news" was the agreement. As we said before, continuing prayers are appreciated.

On the Guatemalan front, Heidi and Isaac continue preparations for the trip north. Help from several members of the Savior's Sons team (from The Woodlands United Methodist Church) is, as always, greatly appreciated. A few of them stayed behind to help with Roy's addition on the house, but have also spent countless hours now on home improvement projects here as well as helping Isaac and Heidi get the house ready for their prolonged absence! God is truly The Great Provider, as He has proven yet again with His provisions for our move home.

Thank you all again and again for your prayers and support over the last two years. Please be aware that we all serve a truly awesome God! Blessings to all... and good night!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Last Day for Matt

Today is Matt's last day in Guatemala.

Yesterday, we spent a good part of the day packing. Matt went to Martin's with the 4Runner to get new brakes put on the front and to adjust the ones on the back. We're hoping not to use them too much, as we'd like to make good time through Mexico, but since Martin said he couldn't make the horn any louder, we worked on the brakes.

David, Craig, and Juan are still here working on Roy's roof. And Roy and a few of the guys are coming over this morning to help some more.

Then tonight, the rest of the team comes in. It was a bit of a surprise visit, brought on by some other circumstances, but we're always happy to have them!

At 3:45am, Matt will roll out of bed and meet Martin at 4:00 to head towards the border. We're hoping to be there about the time it opens, cross in around an hour, then make it to Veracruz, Mexico to sleep.

With any luck, we won't run into too much hurricane devastation near Brownsville. We cross the border about 20 miles inland, so we're hoping for smooth sailing... Well, maybe a water analogy isn't what we're looking for here.

In all seriousness, we pray for all the people in that area. We know firsthand what it's like to deal with hurricanes and to come home to find your possessions soaked and destroyed. No fun. So while it may be a minor inconvenience for us, for some, it's all they have.

Also, with any luck, Matt will be in Houston in time to go to church at the Woodlands Methodist Church on Sunday. Then it'll be some errands in Houston, some studio time with Trip during the week, then rent a UHaul and head to North Carolina.

Heidi and Isaac will ride down to Guatemala City with Roy on Sunday and fly out Monday morning - to North Carolina. Her dad will meet them at the airport and they'll have a week at his house, then head to Atlantic Beach for a family week there. We're hoping Matt will arrive in time to ride down with them.

After a week on the beach, we fly to New Mexico to visit Michael, Michelle, and Luke - Matt's cousins.

Then Heidi and Isaac fly back to North Carolina and Matt flies to Detroit to supervise the packing of our stuff there. A moving van will take it all down to Winterville, North Carolina, where we'll be renting a house for a bit.

Around September 1st, Matt's parents will come down to hang out with us for a few weeks. On September 4th, Matt flies to Atlanta for a friend's wedding, from Atlanta to Houston to meet Don Allison, and then they drive back through Mexico to Guatemala.

Don and his family are moving to Canilla to work with the orphanage in San Andres and with the Fickers. Don's never been through Mexico and Matt will be a third timer by then.

After all that, it'll be time to try to settle into a new life. (Did we mention that Heidi starts work at East Carolina University on Sept 2?)

Heidi did her undergrad work at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She then worked for a year as a pharmacist at ECU, then went to medical school there. After four years in Houston and two in Guatemala, she's heading home to be on faculty at ECU.

God has provided a wonderful job for us in a beautiful town, much closer to family and friends and we are very thankful for it. While we will miss Guatemala every day, we will stay in touch - often through our quarterly visits here with Heidi's job. (It's nice to negotiate things like that, isn't it???)

This will probably be the last post for a little while, as we'll be scattered all over for a few days. Thanks to all of you for your readership, your interest, your support, and MOSTLY your prayers. This has been a life changing experience for us and we urge you to follow God's call for you in your life, too. It is ALWAYS better than anything you could come up with on your own!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last Clinic in Guatemala

Unless God has something completely unexpected up his sleeve, we did our last clinic in Guatemala (at least on this go-round) today. We were in our solo clinic in Chicabracan. The next time anyone is there will be on September 1 (thanks Katie!!!).

Two of our patients actually broke down and cried. Isaac cried, too, but for different reasons. It's a good thing, for him, that we're leaving at this point. He's pretty much "all done" with clinic.

Luckily, there weren't too many SICK (read: contagious) people there today, so Matt took Isaac outside for a little while and let him play with some of the patients. They love his blue eyes and his waving good-bye and his game where you tell him to say "mama" and he says "papa", then cracks up laughing. We can see that...

Meanwhile, Duane, Aaron, David, Craig, Joe, and Juan all came over to the house to work on the roof on the addition. It's nice to still be able to see them, and to be able to return a meal. We've eaten so many meals at their house that it's a privilege to serve them every now and then. David, Craig, Joe, and Juan are spending the night tonight and will be back to work in the morning. The goal is to have the house dried in by Friday so Roy and his guys can start running heater duct.

After lunch, we drove to Nueva Santa Catarina to meet with the Savior's Sons team, then to their hotel in Totonicapan for dinner. Thanks for dinner, guys!

After dinner, they prayed for us and for our trip back to the US (which they are helping to answer their own prayer by carting a bunch of our stuff back for us).

One very special member of that team is Dr. Street. It was SO nice to be able to see him and we got a really neat pic with him and Roy...

Tomorrow we'll be here at the house, helping the boys, and starting to pack some.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Last Weekend in Canilla

Of course we mean that it was the previous weekend in Canilla, but, unfortunately, we also mean our final weekend with the Fickers in Canilla. Very sad.

It's been two years, which means we've spent somewhere around 100 weekends there. If you count extended visits (planned or otherwise) and the times we've spent together during the weeks, we've spent nearly half of our two years here with them. Certainly enough to really feel like family. So it's hard to leave.

We did get a minor adventure on the way out, though. It was mostly smooth sailing all the way through San Andres. The roads are a long way from good, but since there was less rain than usual during the week this past week, they were at least passable. After the 3/4 point, though, we came up on a line of cars that were not moving. A short inspection showed that a big truck was buried all the way up to the frame in mud on one side of the road and the people who were trying to get past it on the other side of the road were not having much success.

Matt parked and walked up to see if he could help. What he found was that all the way on the right hand side of the road, it was muddy but more or less solid. In the middle, it was over a foot deep of just slime. The problem was many-pronged.

First, there was a crowd of Mayans standing around - most of whom do not own cars and have no idea how to drive - who were offering advice.

Second, the pickups that were trying to get through were not four wheel drive. Guatemalans, for some reason, really hate running their trucks in 4x4 mode. They feel like they're wasting gas or something. Yes, we're paying about $5.50 a gallon here, but tires are expensive, too. And when you have to rev like crazy and smoke your tires to climb a rocky hill, you might have saved a dollar on the trip up to that point, but you just spent $10 by refusing to lock in. But we digress.

Third, again, mostly for fear of breaking something, most Guatemalans, when presented with a muddy patch of road, will inch into it as slowly as possible and as soon as they start to bog down, they shut the whole engine off. This leads to a lot of stuck Guatemalans.

Matt watched for a little while and helped shovel some loose dirt into the muck, but mostly observed while a few people tried to get through - all unsuccessfully - and had to be pulled out by a crowd of 30 or so people and ropes.

After one particularly pushy Latin guy cut in line in front of us (in a Nissan, 2 wheel drive, automatic) and remained stuck for about 40 minutes, all the while shouting instructions to the Mayans on how to pull him out, Matt offered a better suggestion.

Why doesn't everyone get out of our way, let us drive through (which we're pretty sure we can), then we'll help pull the rest of the cars through when they get stuck? So that's what we did. Turns out you just need 4-wheel drive, good tires, some technique, and some guts. Below are four videos Heidi shot while Matt was pulling cars through. Yes, the last one is a LandCruiser, which had no business being stuck, but apparently nuns aren't the gutsiest drivers in the world. Plus, if you look closely, you'll notice that they're not even in 4x4 mode!

Anyway, our trip to Canilla took about 3 1/2 hours, instead of the normal 2, but we got some good movies for our trouble!

Clinic was relatively routine. We got to meet John and Alex, a father and son from St. Louis who were down to help out. Also, our friend Adrienne was here for her yearly visit. Martin and Gloria surprised us by driving out to share lunch with us and to say good-bye (even though Matt and Martin will get plenty of quality time later this week as they drive through Mexico together).

We also got to go down to the river for our last sand volleyball games together. Driving through the river was less challenging than last week (it rained less this week). Last week, even on the big 4-wheeler, your butt got wet riding through... Yeah, pretty deep!

We had a really nice worship service last night (thanks, Craig and everyone else) and got up this morning for breakfast and more clinic.

Heidi had a pretty funny patient today - perhaps her funniest of our entire time here. A 40-something-year-old man came in complaining of a problem with his hip or rear. He pulled a wilted plant out of his man-purse and handed it to Heidi. Eventually, the story came out that he had used a plant like this, well... like toilet paper about a year ago. It gave him a wicked rash. He came to clinic, we gave him some cream, and it went away. Just last week, the rash "came back". Knowing how much Heidi likes patients like this (there's a reason she's a gynecologist), she asked Katie to help her with the physical exam - after discarding the plant and washing her hands VERY thoroughly!

The end is a little anti-climactic. It probably wasn't another plant rash - maybe just some dry skin or something - but how great is it to HAND your doctor the plant that gave you some butt-rash last year? Leslie picked a bad time a few minutes later to ask Heidi if she was sure she wanted to leave...

Anyway, tomorrow is our last clinic here in Guatemala (as far as we know). We'll be out in Chicabracan. Then we'll drive to Totonicapan to have dinner with the Savior's Sons group. They were here at the house last night and we missed them (we were busy playing volleyball - all work and no play.... you know)

So please enjoy our videos and pictures... Oh, one picture that probably deserves explanation. You'll guess which one. That thing is part of one of Heidi's favorite trajes (traditional dress for women). The girls went to market in that village and bought one for Heidi as a going away present...

P.S. Okay, the videos embedded, but in low-quality. If you want to see the higher quality videos, go to youtube.com and search for "Pulling out trucks in guatemala" or something like that...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Busy Week

WOW! Is it possible that Matt drives out a week from today??? Time is flying. And we still have so much to do...

David, Craig, and Juan came over on Monday to start the welding work for the ceiling and roof on the addition. They stayed and worked here for four straight days. The ceiling joists are completely done on Roy's side and the roof joists are about half done on that side. A few more days ought to finish it. See pics 1&2...

We had clinic in Chujuyub on Monday morning. Our friend there with the key was over an hour late showing up. We had a ton of stuff to do back in Quiche in the afternoon, the roads were horrible (we barely made it to clinic - lots of trucks, even 4x4s, were turning around and going back or getting stuck) and it was raining like crazy, making us wonder if we could even get home. So we set up outside the building and started doing clinic out there. See pic 3.

Somehow, the roads managed to IMPROVE with all the rain. We actually had less trouble getting home than we did getting to clinic. Go figure.

Tuesday, we had the wonderful privelege of visiting Vina Studios in Solola. John Henderer, one of the guys working there, had called Matt a few months ago and we started talking about trying to get together. Unfortunately, between our schedules, we didn't get a chance until this week. They are doing some absolutely awesome work over there. One of their main projects is a series of videos mostly done with finger puppets called Deditos (little fingers) portraying various Bible stories. The idea is to produce audio tracks in various Mayan languages. Most people around here can't read, so getting the word of God into their hands is a little tricky.

Lots of people are working on translating the Bible into Mayan languages, but if the target audience is illiterate, the next step is to get these translations recorded and distributed. Vina is doing that work.

Please check out John's blog at http://www.sololagracia.com/ He put a really nice write up in there about us this week.

Also check out Vina's website at http://vinyastudios.org

See pic 4 for a shot of Heidi doing some voice work for one of the videos (they're being produced in English, too, for promotional purposes in the US).

Yesterday was Heidi's last day at ASELSI. They had a really nice going away party for us and had some very kind words and generous gifts. We are really going to miss all those folks. We're looking forward to visiting as often as possible, but it's never going to be the same as living here...

In the "closure" department, one of the workers at ASELSI asked us to come to his house a year and half or so ago to check out his wife. He was pretty upset and was relatively sure she was in the process of miscarrying. So we drove out into the middle of nowhere with our ultrasound machine to check her out. The drive included about a 20 yard section where we were squeezing between a house and a fence so closely that we were touching on both sides... then there was nowhere to turn around, so we had to BACK out the same way!!!

Anyway, when we got to their house, we unfortunately confirmed his fears, that she had miscarried. We prayed with them and assured them that there was nothing that they had done to cause this - it just happens sometimes.

Well, shortly after, they conceived again and yesterday Mom came in with her new baby!!! (Their other daughter's name is Heidi, so that made an even better connection!) See pic 5 for a shot of the happy family (minus Dad, who was working...)

Today, Heidi is at the Hospital Buen Samaritano for her last clinic there. We'll clean and prepare for the arrival of the Savior's Sons team tomorrow. We won't be here - we have clinic in Canilla - but since Dr. Street is on the team and he built the house, we figure they've pretty much got it under control. Also, this team is the team that was coming in to Quiche the day that Isaac came home from the hospital. They got to meet him when he was only 3 days old.

So we're planning on driving over to Totonicapan, where they're staying, maybe on Monday afternoon to have dinner with them and share a little bit. They helped us get many of our personal possessions down here two years ago and they're helping us get some of them back home again... What would we do without those guys???

Well, we hope to have some pics from this weekend. It'll be our last time in Canilla, which should prove to be pretty difficult. We've grown so attached to the Fickers during our time here that they're pretty much family to us. Well, the less we think about it right now the better....

Also, Roy and his grandson Cameron have been here for the last two weeks and they're heading down to Guatemala City tomorrow morning to pick up the Savior's Sons team. We're doing a fair amount of turnover with Roy as far as handing over the managing of the construction of his house...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend Notes

Saturday morning, all of us piled into two trucks and headed to Canilla.

All of us, you ask? Yes, the three Leathermans, the three Bells, Roy, and his grandson, Cameron. The roads were, well, pretty bad. Luckily, both trucks are Toyota 4x4s with good mud tires on them. And we needed them.

Anyway, clinic was relatively routine, then we had lunch and the Leathermans flew down to Guatemala City to meet back up with John Hull and the team. Then the rest of us went down to the river to play volleyball. The river we have to cross was about the highest we've seen it in quite a while. We sure could have shot a Honda commercial - the ATVs and dirt bikes all forded about a 3 foot river without any problems. Pics 1-3 are of the game...

This morning, Roy and Cameron drove to Quiche, picked up Jacob, then went to the jobsite in Nueva Santa Catarina. Things there are not going exactly as planned, but with a little direction and a whole lot of prayer, things will turn out okay.

In San Andres, Heidi had a pretty interesting day. Remember about a year and a half ago when we tried our best to rescue a malnourished little baby but got turned around by a raging river we couldn't go through? The next day, the mom and baby got to the hospital by chicken bus and the hospital tried to save the baby but couldn't.

Anyway, the mom showed up in clinic today. She wasn't too big the last time we saw her. One of the reasons the baby was so malnourished was because Mom was half-starving herself - somewhere around 80 lbs. Today she was closer to 60 lbs. And based on her symptoms and the results of our HIV test, she's got full-blown AIDS. Her mother had come with her and explained that her husband runs around on her alot with women in Guatemala City.

Rosa (the patient) is a Christian. Her soul we are not all worried about. Her husband, on the other hand, grew up in the church but fell in with a bad crowd and got himself kicked out of the church. We prayed for him after diagnosing Rosa with AIDS and in less than an hour, he showed up outside clinic. After the unsurprising results of his own test came back, we explained his situation to him and that he is deadly contagious. We also explained that he's probably going to meet his maker sooner rather than later and that this would be an excellent time to get back into the church (around the time their baby died, he told us he was thinking about coming back).

Anyway, please pray for Rosa and her husband. For her that she stay strong in her faith and have a relatively easy go of it. For him that he find his way back home before it's too late.

Tomorrow is clinic in Chujuyub. Our last one there. Again, very mixed emotions...

Tuesday, Matt and Roy will go to Guatemala City to do some shopping. Wednesday, we probably have a quick trip to Solola to meet with a missionary there who is doing some fantastic work - we'll write more about it then.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Feliz Cumpleanos Isaacito

Today is Isaac's first birthday. In some ways, it's hard to believe that it's already been a year. In other ways, it's hard to believe it's ONLY been a year.

Anyway, the same team that was here to send us to the hospital last year was here to celebrate Isaac's birthday. Gencha, our caterer, came over and decorated the tables and chairs. She also had two beautiful tres leches cakes made - one with his picture on it.

We had a pinata, too.

The team left this morning for Antigua. Russell, Bethany, and Tye are still here to spend another day with us - then they'll go to Canilla with us tomorrow and fly to Guatemala City with Duane.

Also arriving today was Roy and his grandson Cameron. So we went from a full house to a medium-full house. But it's a whole lot quieter with five guests instead of twenty. It has been a real pleasure to have the team here and we hope that maybe we'll be here next year operating the same week they're here again...

Anyway, here are some self-explanatory pics...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Woodlands Team/Surgery

Today was Day 3 of the Woodlands Methodist Team. They're helping with construction work at the school in San Pedro in the mornings, then doing Vacation Bible School in the afternoons. For the second straight day, they had 188 kids - way more than they anticipated. So that's a great thing!

Also today, Heidi had two surgeries at the Hospital Buen Samaritano. Katie Ficker came in to help out with those and Russell Leatherman's dad, Gary, went down to watch. One was just a small vaginal repair and the other was the removal of a fairly good sized mass in the abdomen of a woman that the team knows. She is the mother of a couple of students they're sponsoring at the Utatlan School and she has also been taken in by Pastor Eliseo.

We were very happy to get the call from Heidi that her mass was safely out and that it did not appear cancerous - just a simple fibroid tumor in her uterus.

Tomorrow Heidi is at ASELSI. Matt will do some more work on the recording project (he was very glad to have Russell's help this week - Russ is a guitar and bass player.)

The first two pics are of Heidi with Katie and Gary. The next one is of Tye and his mom, Bethany Leatherman. And the last one is Isaac sharing his thoughts on the whole thing...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Monday with the Team

It has truly been enjoyable having this team here. The teams from the Woodlands Methodist church are always so fun. They pretty much take care of themselves and we have such a great time hanging out with them.

This morning, we had our clinic in Chicabracan. We may have mentioned before that Isaac is pretty much "over" the whole clinic experience. So Matt and Bethany stayed home with Isaac and Tye while Heidi and Russell went to clinic. Matt got the builders re-started on the addition (after the weekend) and then got Isaac down for his nap. Then Bethany was nice enough to stay with both of the boys while Matt went to relieve Russell in clinic.

Bethany, Russell, Tye, and Isaac then spent the rest of the morning together while Matt and Heidi finished clinic. We saw about 40 patients and got home just before 2pm so the Leathermans could go up to the school in San Pedro and do Vacation Bible School with over 100 kids.

This evening, after dinner, we helped blow up around 300 balloons for an activity the kids will do tomorrow. Then the team reflected on the day, we shot the breeze for a while, and now, around 9:30 local time, pretty much everyone is in bed.

The pics are pretty self explanatory. The first two are from clinic and the last three are from the dorm tonight...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wild Weekend

We picked up our friends Sherwood and Areli at the airport on Wednesday and drove back up the mountain to get home.

Thursday we went to ASELSI. It wasn't our day to do clinic there, but it was a chance for us to visit and hang out with a team a little bit without having to see a whole room full of patients. Plus, there's always the market in Chichi.

Friday, Russell, Bethany, and Tye came in with a truckload of groceries for the team.

Friday night we drove over some pretty bad roads to get to Canilla. We hadn't been there too long when one of the Fickers' worker's wife came in pregnant, in labor, and pushing. Sherwood actually did the delivery and Areli got to watch him in action for the first time.

Then we got a call that a chicken bus was stuck on the road between Canilla and San Andres. So we took a tractor out there and spent almost four hours digging and pulling and finally got it out. After having been under a chicken bus and seeing how they're... um... maintained - my advice is to walk.

Saturday morning, Sherwood and Areli flew back to Guatemala City, the girls did clinic, the guys pulled another chicken bus out (lots of rain = lots of mud = lots of stuck people), and Duane dealt with some airplane paperwork issues in Guatemala City.

Saturday night, we had worship in Canilla (thanks, Craig) and the Woodlands Methodist Church team arrived at the dorm.

Sunday was clinic for the girls. Luckily, Craig drove them to clinic because somewhere in the slippery, muddy, rocky roads, they slid sideways into a big rock and ripped a sidewall out of a tire. Craig basically laid in a river of mud to change the tire. Fun, huh?

Tomorrow is our clinic in Chicabracan. Luckily, Russell is going to go to clinic with Heidi, so Matt and Bethany can stay home with Isaac and Tye. Isaac is getting to the age where he wants to be out and about, so being penned up in a pack-n-play for 4-6 hours during clinic isn't his idea of a good time.

Anyway, tons going on tonight (hence the terse entry) and we hope to have more time to write later...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Guatemala City

Monday was our last clinic in Nueva Santa Catarina. It was a little weird to know that we're not going back. Well, Matt will probably go back to help with the construction work, but no more clinic there.

We've given all of our chronic patients enough meds to last until the end of September, at which point we hope to have someone to go out again and see them. We're working on that.

The "shortcut" road there, which runs through Totonicapan, was absolutely brutal. Yes, the Toyota is practically indestructible, but WE'RE not! After about 30 minutes on the road, we decided to take the long way around on the way back, construction delays or not. Knowing that this could add hours to an already long day did not matter. You can only get beat up for so long!

We left home at 6am, arriving in Nueva Santa Catarina just before 8am. There were about two patients there. So we spent a little time loading in and talking about the construction project. Patients began to trickle in. We don't control the numbers there, so we have no idea how many patients we saw, but we left around noon.

Usually, when we have an extraordinarily long day ahead and we know that it would be helpful to be out of clinic by a certain time, it lasts about three hours longer than that. So we had hoped to be out by noon, but knew in our hearts it would be more like 3pm. So noon was pretty exciting!

We took the long way home, driving all the way down to Los Encuentros, then up through Chichi. But miracle of miracles, there were NO construction delays and it took us just over 2 hours to make the trip - only about 20-30 minutes more than the "shortcut" and not nearly as abusive. Oh well.

At this point, Isaac had spent four hours in the car and four hours in his pack-n-play. His ideal is zero for each one. Yet, he was being pretty tolerant. Good thing, too, because we had another four hours in the car to go!

We drove two vehicles down to Guatemala City, in order to leave one for Russell, Bethany, and Tye, who fly in on Thursday. The downside of this is that with Heidi in the Toyota with Isaac, she had no help with him and had to just keep handing animal crackers, toys, and sippy cups back to him for four entire hours!

In the continuing saga of fighting mechanical problems, the Mazda has developed a seal leak where the drive shaft connects to the rear differential. We stopped in Los Encuentros to see if a mechanic there could check our rear differential and fill it, if necessary (the nut was on there too tightly to get it off with the tools we had). 20 minutes, Q20 for labor and Q20 for oil later (about $5 total), we were on our way with a full differential. Guess we'll call our go-to-guy, Martin, when we get home.

Yesterday was full of doctors' appointments and lab tests (all routine stuff, no worries) and getting copies of all of our medical records from here in Guatemala. Then we went to Dr. Hoak's house in San Cristobal for dinner. We are really going to miss them!!!

Today we'll run up to the Hospital San Juan de Dios to try to find Ramiro, our little spina bifida baby, and get his parents a little more walking around town money. They've been here three weeks now on less than $100.

Then we'll go pick up some friends from the airport and head back up the mountain.

The pic below is of the first stage of the construction at Nueva Santa Catarina. Many thanks to Roy Simmons and the Savior's Sons group for funding this project!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Almost a week already?

Holy cow! It's already been nearly a week since our last post. Sorry about that. We have perfectly good excuses, though. Like we said last time, it's amazing how fast time is flying right now and how many things we still have to do before we go.

Since we last posted, Matt drove out to Nueva Santa Catarina to help the builders get started on digging the foundation for a new church there. Our regular readers know how badly they are in need of a new church. Roy Simmons and his group, Savior's Sons, are helping with money, materials, time and labor. They're paying for the foundation to be dug and poured (hopefully before they come down in a few weeks) and will start laying block when they get here at that time. We just needed a bit of a North American perspective on exactly where everything should be placed.

Later that same afternoon, Heidi went down to the hospital to do a follow-up clinic for all of the surgical patients that the Women's Team operated on a few weeks ago. All but one were doing extremely well and that one just needed a wee bit of extra attention and now she's doing extremely well. All of the surgeries seem to have been successful, there were just a few routine post-op issues. No big deal. Everyone was very thankful for their surgeries and Heidi even ended up with a couple of gifts from grateful patients.

The next day (Wednesday), Matt went down to the church he's been recording at and spent 8 1/2 solid hours behind the console. No break for lunch or anything - which is a pretty big deal if you know Matt! But at the end of it all, we thought we had everything we needed on tape to finish the project. We knew that Matt was going to have to record a few things himself (and the list has grown a bit on review), but for the most part, recording was done. On further review, though, it appears that we may need one more day of lead vocal work. Pretty routine stuff - the lead vocal is the most important track and the one we're the pickiest about - so nothing unexpected from Matt's end, but the singer may be a bit surprised! As soon as we have an open day, we'll try to arrange that.

Thursday, Heidi was in clinic at ASESLI and Matt was with the builders here at the house. Isaac was, of course, assisting Matt. Mostly waving to the workers while Matt was talking. ASELSI has a new Physician's Assistant named Cathy. She and Heidi have been working together the last few weeks with Heidi teaching some prenatal care items, especially ultrasound techniques, which Cathy is doing a great job of picking up. Also, our translator, Cecy, is still in nursing school and doing great!

Friday was Heidi's OB/GYN clinic at the Hospital Buen Samaritano. She's scheduling a few more patients for surgery, hopefully in about a week and a half.

Saturday was our clinic in Canilla with Leslie and Katie. This week's clinic was a little weird. They basically thought they were done at 11am or so. That's weird because they don't usually finish until 1 or 2pm. But they looked outside and there were no more patients. So they came in to get started making lunch. Naturally, a dozen or so more patients came straggling in later, but it's weird to think you're done so early!

Today was clinic in San Andres. Heidi's first patient was a woman she's been witnessing to for a few months now. The woman attends a Catholic church here but has not accepted Christ. She has been saying that she wants to but that her daughter doesn't want her to. On the health side, she has a heart condition that we really can't treat but she doesn't really have access to anyone who can (the closest cardiologist is in Guatemala City and she can't even afford the trip, let alone the treatment. Plus, even if we paid for everything, she almost certainly wouldn't go.) So the best thing we can do for her is get her prepared for her meeting with her creator.

Our translators' dad is a wonderful evangelist (and K'iche speaker) and he has been very diligent and patient in working with this woman - praying with her and reading her scriptures - but she is still reluctant to commit. All we can do is keep praying for her and with her and hope that God changes her heart - both literally and figuratively!

Heidi's second patient was a prenatal patient about four or five months along who said that she stopped feeling her baby move a little while back. Unfortunately, there's a good reason for that. So some counseling was in order for her.

It can make for a very long day when you have nearly 100 patients to see and the first two are very time consuming, but that's the biz, as they say.

Also, today, a woman brought her baby in with a very severe case of spina bifida. Given the extremely poor level of care here in Guatemala for babies with spina bifida, there is quite a bit of internal debate about what to even do for her. Leslie has had experiences with spina bifida babies here who have been operated on, just to fight and eventually succumb to infection (the baby's behind is pretty close to a wide open spinal column - get it?)

Meanwhile, Isaac found out what it's like to be an 11-month-old missionary. Sometimes the job of serving others is less than glamorous. We had to make a run from Canilla to Chichicastenango (about two hours, about half of it off road - always fun during the rainy season), then another 30 minutes to Quiche, grab a quick bite to eat, then an hour and half, also off road, out to San Andres to get Mommy from clinic, then an hour and a half home. So Isaac spent 5 1/2 hours in his carseat today. He fussed for about 10 minutes, total, during that whole time. What a little trooper!!!

Anyway, in one town we came into, we were intending to make a shortcut that would trip about 30 minutes off our trip. We bumped into Geronimo, one of Martin's helpers, who moonlights as a Tuk-tuk driver (three-wheeled taxi). Geronimo asked where we were headed. We told him and he got this concerned look on his face. He said that the road ahead was pretty bad. We've driven on worse, and we've got this awesome Toyota that's one of the best off-road vehicles in the country. He said, yeah, the road's bad that way, too, but what he was more concerned about were the number of people he'd talked to so far in the day who had been robbed on that road. It was market day in Chiche and there was a band of robbers just hanging out on that road (which is pretty narrow with cliffs on either side - nowhere to run) waiting for people with money to come through.

So we skipped the shortcut on Geronimo's advice, probably missing out on an opportunity for a cool story and a great blog entry. But sometimes the point of life is to miss out on good stories. So instead of an exciting testimony of how we fended off a band of machete wielding robbers using only a Pooh-bear and a can of Diet Pepsi, you're stuck with what you just read. Sorry.

Tomorrow we drive two hours off-road back out to Nueva Santa Catarina, hold what's sure to be a VERY long clinic (the last time we were there the weather was so bad we only had a handful of patients), then drive two hours home, unpack, repack, then drive two trucks to Guatemala City. We have a few doctors' appointments on Tuesday, we need to visit Dr. Hoak, we need to visit a patient in the hospital in Guatemala City, we have some shopping to do, and then we'll pick up a friend from the airport on Wednesday. We'll leave the Mazda in airport parking for Russell, Bethany, and Tye, who are coming in on Thursday to prepare for the team from The Woodlands United Methodist Church, which arrives on Saturday.

Two pics. One of the road we drove on today. Another of Isaac being cute.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Our time here is really winding down and we're starting to feel that. Today was our bi-weekly clinic in Chicabracan. We will only be at this clinic two more times before we leave. Because we have not identified our replacements yet, we are going to be referring our chronic patients to a nearby village where our friends at Health Talents have a clinic. You can read more about their adventures at their blog, which is linked on the right hand side of this page under "The Dunhams".

Replacements not identified, you ask? Yes, we thought we had worked all that out, but a last minute change of plans left us looking again. We are in the process of working with some folks to make that happen and we ask for lots of prayers for guidance, wisdom, and clarity - not just for us but for everyone involved.

So clinic this morning was a combination gynecology, obstetrics, pediatrics, and dermatology test. Luckily, Heidi's pretty well trained for the first two. The other two we've learned a lot about since we've been here, but we still ask for help every now and then.

We have an American dermatologist we consult with by email and will be sending some pics that way very shortly. See the first two here for a preview of that.

Also, it seems like Isaac wasn't the only kid in this area to have had diarrhea in the last week. So we treated a bunch of that. Isaac's seems to have passed (no pun intended) so he's in a little better mood now. We can only hope that all the other kids have similar luck.

And there were the standard pre-natal patients and several with some questions about their periods. Women here tend not to know terribly much about periods for a couple of reasons. One is that there are a lot of cultural misconceptions about periods that are pretty persistent. There is the belief that if you do not have your period for a few months and you're not pregnant, it'll start coming out of your nose.

Another reason women don't know too much about periods is that they don't have many in their lives compared to American women. It's usually not too long after a girls starts getting her period that she gets married and pregnant. Then, after giving birth, women usually breastfeed for two years, thus suppressing more periods. Shortly after they start up again, there's another baby on the way. This more or less continues through their reproductive lives until a fairly early menopause - again, at least by American standards.

So we get a lot of questions. Again, Heidi's pretty well qualified to answer these and Matt's becoming a lot more knowledgeable about this stuff than he ever wanted to be - at least in Spanish. Who knows what he knows about this stuff in English?!

The third pic is of a really cute kid we just happened to take a picture of. Hard to resist, huh?

This afternoon we played with Isaac a lot (since he was more or less ignored during clinic this morning - thank God for Baby Einstein DVDs and laptop computers) and answered a bunch of emails. Oh, and Matt spent some more time with the builders on the expansion project.

Matt is already planning a short return trip to Guatemala in September to help another missionary family get set-up here. Read about THEIR adventures here:

Tomorrow, Matt will make an early morning run to Nueva Santa Catarina to supervise the initial digging on the foundation for the new church there. Roy's group, Savior's Sons, is planning to start laying block for the walls when they come down in less than a month. So we've got a lot of work to do before then! Matt will try to make sure we're at least digging in the right spot.

Tomorrow afternoon, Heidi has a clinic in the hospital here next door. This is pretty unusual, since we don't work there, but it's a follow-up clinic for the patients the Women's Team operated on a few weeks ago. Most of the patients went home with catheters, so we hope that those are all cleared up now.

Wednesday morning, Matt will be recording with the church group near Los Encuentros. Thursday is ASELSI and Friday is Heidi's OB/GYN clinic in Chichi. Then it's back out to Canilla again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Clinic

Friday was relatively routine (in the jungle). Today was a little less so.

Remember the friend who was robbed at gunpoint in her house a few weeks ago? Well, her male help needed to leave for a week or so and she is going to be there "alone" with another girl and 11 kids.

So David and Craig hopped on their motorcycles and rode down there this morning to help out for a few days.

Also, the plane is out of commission for a week or so now. It's time for the annual inspection and Aaron is tearing it apart for that. It's weird - we don't have any flights scheduled - but it feels a little unusual to know in the back of your mind that that option is not available.

In clinic today, we had a pretty sick and dehydrated woman come in who needed an IV. Katie's the best stick we have and even she took two tries to find a vein she could use. After a liter or so of fluids, the patient hopped up and headed home. The stuff works, apparently.

Shortly after that, a woman came in in labor. A little while later, Heidi, Katie, Felicia, and Leslie delivered a healthy baby boy. 5lbs 15oz. (Picture 1 is Mom and Baby).

Isaac is not only getting a new top tooth, but he's also suffering from a bout with diarrhea and his poor little butt is paying the price. Diaper changes are accompanied by lots of crying now. It LOOKS like it hurts! He's being a good little trooper, though. He's a lot cuddlier than usual but is more or less in decent spirits. He even felt good enough to pose for Daddy on the hood of the Mack dump truck. (Picture 2)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zona Reyna Clinic

Last night we drove out to Canilla to spend the night and be ready for a possible early flight to Zona Reyna. This is the same village we've been to a few times before - there is no road that goes there, so it's a Cessna flight into a runway only about 8 feet wider than the airplane.

There is only one little spot in the village where anyone can get phone reception and since it's in a completely different climate (though it's only about 20 miles away by air) we have no idea what the weather is doing there until someone walks to the top of a hill and calls us.

Well, at 6am the phone rang and they said the sky was open. So two flights later, clinic was in full swing. Leslie, Katie, Heidi, Craig, Felicia, and, of course, Duane (the pilot) spent the day there seeing a few hundred patients.

We're still struggling to evangelize there - there basically are no Christians in this village - and since we don't speak K'ekchi, we depend on translators who aren't Christians, either. We keep praying for a breakthrough - which hasn't happened yet - but God hasn't given up on us so we won't give up on these people.

The skies here in Canilla were starting to look pretty dark and we have no way to contact the group in Zona Reyna to tell them this, so we were a little nervous that they were going to have to spend the night out there. Then, almost out of nowhere, the plane appeared with the first load. Duane went back for Craig and Leslie and the skies here in Canilla started closing fast. They made it back in with minutes to spare. God is good!

Anyway, we're all safe back on the ground here in Canilla. Don't worry, though, if anything had gone wrong, we'd have sent Isaac out to take care of things. He's been working out...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No News is Good News...

There's not much new to report today except on the construction front, but we wanted to touch base since we will gone for the weekend. David Ficker, Craig, and Juan came in yesterday from Canilla and have been working hard with Matt on the construction project. They had some electrical wiring to finish up and are now working on getting the gate installed.

Otherwise, the last two days have been spent planning and working on some administrative things. Heidi and Isaac have a one-way ticket back to the U.S. now booked, which is very bittersweet. It made us realize in a more tangible way that we really are "short-timers" down here now. There's a lot of loose ends to tie up for patients before we leave, so we've been working hard on that. Please continue to pray for our replacement to be found soon!

Today Heidi had clinic at ASELSI, which went very smoothly. It was the first time in a long time that we've gotten in and out of ASELSI without seeing at least one patient who required a lot of time and follow-up (Think new cleft palates, new hydrocephalus, six-year olds who aren't talking yet, etc...) We did have one lady who we referred to the hospital today with classic symptoms of appendicitis, though. Please pray that she does well and is taken good care of.

Sorry no pictures from clinic today-- saw lots of very cute kids, but unfortunately we forgot the camera! So the first one is of the boys working on putting the gate up. You can see that things are getting greener here with the start of the rainy season. The next one is of Isaac supervising the work... It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right? The last one Craig and Juan have yet to come up with a plausible explanation for...