Friday, May 30, 2008

Back in the Saddle

First things first. Happy Birthday to Heidi! Much like me, she quit counting years ago, so she's twenty something-teen years old. If you didn't follow that, then you're too young to worry about how old people are anyway.

Yesterday, Heidi was at ASELSI. Poor Isaac had been traveling for about a week and was as schedule-confused as he could be. So he and Daddy stayed home to try to get a schedule re-established. It also gave Matt some time to work on a preliminary mixdown of the stuff he recorded at the church in Los Encuentros before we left.

Heidi had a busy day in clinic. She saw some pretty interesting patients, including a newborn baby with a golf-ball-sized mass on his arm. Also an 8-year-old with some type of mental problem. He has been kicked out of school for being disruptive. It's possible that he's autistic or something like that.

Fredy, our little imperforate anus patient, showed up with a prolapse of his colostomy. If you don't know what any of that is, just keep reading and don't worry about it. It's pretty gross.

She had a 4-year-old who doesn't talk. He seems to be more or less normal, physically, but his verbal and comprehension skills just are not where they should be.

Anyway, that's just a sample. She didn't get home until nearly 3pm. That's pretty late for ASELSI. Most of their workers are Mayan women whose husbands allow them to work with the understanding that it's a half day and that they'll be home in time to fix lunch (the main meal of the day for Guatemalans).

Today, she was in her clinic at the Hospital Buen Samaritano seeing a post-op patient, a couple of pre-op patients for the team that's coming in about 10 days, and a boy. (Yes, it's her gynecology clinic - don't ask.)

Some pics... First is of our translator, Cecy, with the stethoscope Heidi gave her for her nursing school. Second is the pancake breakfast Matt made for Heidi for her birthday this morning. Plum pancakes - yummy!

Next is a picture of Isaac's hands after attacking Jake yesterday. Apparently, Jake is shedding. He also seems to have missed us when we were gone. He let Isaac tug on his mercilessly for a total of about an hour yesterday. With all the hair Isaac pulled out, it's a wonder Jake's not bald.

The last pic is Isaac's first time on a school bus. Our mechanic friend Martin recently made a trip to the US to get a semi, a pickup, and a bus. Part of the way he makes his living is by buying discount vehicles in the US, bringing them here, fixing them up, and selling them. Well, the semi and the pickup deals both fell through and he only ended up with the bus. But Roy managed to fill it nearly full with furniture and construction equipment for the addition to the dorm.

Martin showed up at the house this morning with the whole load of stuff. Then we took it down to the Utatlan School to put it all in storage until the addition is done. Roy, it all made it here unbroken and undamaged. That mattress already had tons of stuffing coming out of it when it left the US, right? Just kidding.

Anyway, Isaac got to ride in the bus with Daddy and he loved it. Maybe that's a good sign for a few years down the road????

This afternoon, Malachi (Katie's friend) comes back to the house from Xela where he's in language school, and rides out to Canilla with us in the morning.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back Home

We are back home here in Quiche. We flew back in from Detroit yesterday and then crashed in a hotel in Guatemala City. We probably could have driven back, as we landed in Guate around noon but we had gotten up at about 1am Guatemala Time to drive to the Detroit airport, took two flights, and waited about an hour for our luggage to arrive. We were tired!

Isaac fell asleep at around 3pm in the hotel room and slept for four hours. Then came the dilemma of whether to wake him or not. His nighttime sleep is usually around 12 hours. We didn't really want to wake up at 3am with him.

We woke him up, he was completely useless, then we put him back to sleep. He woke up at about 4am and thought he was up for the day. Luckily, we got him back down until around 6am. His body is completely confused with the 2 hour time change. Matt will probably stay home from ASELSI with him tomorrow to try to get him back on Guatemala Time and to get some music work done.

Friday, May 23, 2008

US of A

We're back in the United States for just a few short days, resetting our 90 day visas and spending Memorial Day weekend with Matt's family in Michigan.

It's amazing what things you really forget about here - like that the people are so big (tall and... well... big). And how few dogs there are. And how few bombs. And how clean it is. And how many lights there are at night.

Anyway, probably some more later. Nothing really too exciting to report.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quiet Days - Part II

This is part II of our blog for the day. The title of the first part doesn't really fit this part, but we'll go with it.

This afternoon, Matt took his recording equipment down to a little church outside Los Encuentros. They had asked him to record them about a year ago. He went down to listen to them and they were NOWHERE NEAR ready to record. He spent some time discussing basic musical concepts with them and they agreed to practice.

Also, in the meantime, one of the guys' brothers got involved in drugs and owed someone somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. That is an amazingly high amount of money here. Well, the guys in the band decided to all pitch in and help him pay it in return for his promise to get out of that line of work and get back in the church. Brotherhood is pretty amazing. However, instead of having time to practice, for about a year, they were all working extra jobs.

In all that, though, they apparently found time to practice some, because when Matt showed up today (with pretty low expectations), they were a completely different band. We recorded nine songs in about three hours, which is almost unheard of. Now the vocals will all have to be redone (long story but it involves insufficient monitors and rain on a tin roof) but most of the instrumental work is done.

Matt will mix down what he has so far and get back with them in two weeks to re-do the vocals. He'll also try to add some things that need to be added and maybe do a few edits himself. It's just easier, quicker, and better. But for the most part, these guys were ready.

Anyway, here are some pics of the session.

Quiet Days

Clinic on Monday was our last one for a little while, since tomorrow we fly to Detroit for 4 days. Our visas need to be renewed one last time, so we are taking a chance on a cheap Spirit Air flight that we found.

The last two days have been just running errands, catching up on paperwork, squaring some things away for the team that is coming to operate in June, and packing. It's always nice for Isaac to have a few days at home to get back on schedule a little.

We've been interrupted only by a few drop-ins and phone calls for help-- the most notable being a little baby who we diagnosed with hydrocephalus at ASELSI last week. We sent her to the hospital here to begin the process of getting her surgery and promised to help cover expenses. They came by to get reimbursed for the CT scan that had been done, which confirmed our clinical impression. Less than 500 quetzales (about 80 bucks)!

Please pray for this little baby and her mother, who does not have a husband in the picture. (He used to beat her, so she moved out, which is quite rare and gutsy here for a woman... Now she's got a disabled kid all on her own, though, which is more difficult than we can even imagine)

Other than that, we will simply be praying for safe travels and for all of the other missionaries that we are deserting over the weekend to not have anything too crazy come in to clinic! We will be back next Tuesday.

Slow days pretty much bring on the posting of more gratuitous pictures of our son, so here's the latest installment-- Those of you who knew Matt in his marching band days might appreciate these...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday in Chujuyub

Today started rather early. Katie's friend Malachi spent the night here last night after doing clinic with us on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. His plan was to catch the 3am chicken bus to Xela to be there in time for his morning class. So Matt got up and took him to get his bus. Waking up at 2:30am is never fun, but a lot easier when you consider how early we go to bed here (we don't have TV).

Today was our third time in Chujuyub, the small village where our friend Regina lives. Since Isaac has started crawling, he's less interested in being penned up in his pack-and-play, so it's awfully nice to have help in clinic. Katie and Hannah drove over from Canilla to give us that help. Three clinicians can move about twice as fast as one (because we actually like each other and spend a wee bit of time chatting amongst ourselves) and it allowed us to not have to turn away patients. We had around 50 today. There's no way Heidi could have seen that many by herself with Isaac in the room.

This afternoon, we're working on some last minute details for the Women's Team who is coming in in June. Proving that there's no possible way to make a system... well... Guatemala proof, Heidi went down to the hospital to talk to them just a few minutes ago and the hospital director had no idea the team was coming (in three weeks). We have a letter that we've distributed to all of the key hospital personnel that we made them sign to prove that they've seen it (typically, when a team comes in, at least one key person will swear up and down that they didn't know the team was coming, even when we KNOW we gave that person the letter two months before).

This time, though, we had given the letter to Dr. Patty's secretary, who is usually one of the most dependable people around. She didn't give it to Dr. Patty, which was surprising to everyone, including Dr. Patty.

Anyway, we'll spend most of tomorrow filing paperwork with the government to obtain permission for the team to operate here. And we think that Duane, David, Ryan, and Joe may be flying in to do the rough electrical work on the addition to the dorm. (We say "we think" because we found out that they had to make an emergency medical flight this morning which pretty much messed up their plans for today and may push a few of those plans into tomorrow, which may push the electrical work out a day, too.) Those medical patients sure are inconvenient, aren't they?

Wednesday will be a bit more paperwork, a recording session in the evening at a local church (please pray a whole lot for this, it has all the makings of a sonic disaster), and then we get up early Thursday morning for a flight to the US to reset our visas. Our 90 days will be up early next week and Guatemala doesn't take as kindly to illegal aliens as the US does.

In pictures, the first is a pic of the three girls all seeing patients. The second is of Heidi teaching Katie how to drain a cyst. The third is of a few of the patients in the waiting area - sitting in front of the two 4Runners. The fourth is one of two twins who came in today. Mom and Dad were hoping we would give them some free milk. The good news is that the babies are growing great. Yes, it's a bit of work for Mom to breastfeed twins, but it's so much better (and safer in a country that doesn't have access to clean water to wash bottles) for her to breastfeed. We weighed them and told them to come back next month and we'll look at them again. If they're still growing well, it's more breastmilk. If things start turning south, we'll see what we can do to help them out.

And the last pic is of Heidi, Katie, Hannah, and Isaac.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Long Weekend

We are just getting back tonight from a series of long (but fun!) clinic days with the Fickers. We drove out there Thursday night to get an early start on Friday, flying up in to the jungle. Some of you will recall a small village we went to a few months ago called San Pedro-- A place where there are no roads in or out, no electricity, and only one protestant church, with just a few families.

Leslie, Katie, Hannah Ficker, our evangelist friend Armando, Katie's medical student friend Malachi, and Heidi were all flown up by Duane on Friday morning. The village people were faithfully waiting for us, and had several hundred patients lined up! Our best guess is that we saw around 250 patients in about 6 hours, since we had to fly out before dark.

Luckily, most of the patients had pretty basic problems that were easily helped or treated. That meant that we had time to let Armando preach for a while, and the people truly seemed interested in his message. Time will tell, but we feel like hearts are beginning to soften there in that area and that God will continue to open doors.

We all got back to the house safely, but tired and sweaty and smelly! Everyone tried to get a good night's sleep before clinic in Canilla on Saturday. That clinic was not terribly bad with all of the help that we had. It was great to have some time in the afternoon for another beach volleyball match at the river. What great fun to have the entire Ficker clan in town at the same time!

Today's clinic was a little more challenging... We started out early with a one-year-old baby with pneumonia, for whom we recommended a trip to the hospital. The family refused to take her there, and essentially asked what was behind door number two-- So we gave her some IV fluids and some oral antibiotics, and hope that you will continue to pray with us for her recovery.

Another tiny baby came in, seven days old and unable to eat because of such bad fungal infection in her mouth. She was also bleeding quite a bit in her mouth, and Leslie gave her a shot of Vitamin K which we hope will help. (This is pretty standard procedure for most babies in the U.S., but few receive it here) We will also continue to pray for this baby's recovery and growth-- she only weighed 5 pounds 3 ounces today.

There was a prenatal patient who came in today for the first time in several months. Unfortunately, we found her baby to be dead on ultrasound, at about 5 months of pregnancy. She was there with her husband, who was very interested in doing what is best for his wife and will hopefully bring her in to the hospital sometime this week. He was also interested in hearing more about Christ, who he did not know much about before today. Katie, Heidi, and a local evangelist were glad to share with both of them what they could, and we will pray that He continues to seek the Lord and finds a good Church in his community.

Tomorrow is clinic in Chujuyub, the third time we will be visiting that village. This will be the last in a long string of long clinic days. We will spend Tuesday and Wednesday packing and catching up on other things, and Thursday we leave for Detroit for a few days. We'll get some R and R, grandparent time for Isaac, and visa renewal all in one!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day at Home

This morning started out with a nice gift from Heidi to Matt. Isaac woke up around 6:30 but Heidi took him out to the living room and gave Matt another hour and a half to sleep. NICE!

Even nicer was the fact that Heidi and Isaac went to market while Matt was still out. A surprise find was Reese's Pieces, which Matt made into some pancakes when he woke up. Try it, you'll love it!

The only real business item today was a meeting with the builder.

Oh, and Isaac's ten month birthday was on Sunday, so we took his 10 month pics today. He hasn't been much of a ham for the camera in the last week or so, so below are two that we got.

Tomorrow is clinic at ASELSI, Matt has a meeting with a church group that wants him to record them, and we're meeting a friend of Katie's who is coming in from language school in Xela. We'll leave as soon as he gets here to head to Canilla. Duane will make two flights up to Zona Reyna for clinic on Friday (weather permitting).

It looks like the clinicians will be Leslie, Heidi, Katie, Hannah, and Katie's friend (a third year med student).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wheelchair Jornada

Jornada is the word we use here for a team. So a wheelchair jornada is a wheelchair team. There is a group based out of Chimaltenango, Guatemala that imports broken and damaged wheelchairs, rehabilitates them, and then distributes them to those in need. They came to Chichicastenango today (at ASELSI).

Duane flew in this morning with Martina, the little girl they're taking care of, and a girl named Clara and her mom. Both girls are profoundly retarded and wheelchair bound. Neither of them had a wheelchair until very recently when the Fickers turned up an adult sized wheelchair for Martina. Martina is 9 (more or less) so while the adult wheelchair was better than nothing, it still wasn't exactly optimum.

Neither girl could have tolerated the three hour drive from Canilla, so a 12 minute flight was infinitely better. Add this to the list of times that the airplane has been such an amazing blessing to us and the people of this area.

Matt picked up the group at the Quiche airstrip and drove them to Chichi (there is no airstrip in Chichi).

A team from the United States had come in to help out and it included a couple of physical therapists who were very helpful with Martina. They said that it really looked like she had gotten some very loving treatment, as evidenced by the soft condition of her burn scars. Without countless hours of massage and therapy, her type of scars usually contract so badly that movement is nearly impossible.

They said that it's really important that we get Martina on her feet, though, as the lack of weight bearing can cause a weakening of her bones and will eventually make them very brittle. They have a standing machine at their shop in Chimaltenango that they hope they'll be able to fit to Martina. Since she doesn't really travel very well, we're hoping that a few phone calls and some measurements will get her a machine that'll help.

In addition to a wheelchair for Martina and another for Clara, they presented Duane with another wheelchair, two walkers, some crutches, and a cane to be given out to those in need. It shouldn't take us long to unload those! There is a huge demand here for those things that we often take for granted in the U.S.

Below are some pics from the day.

The first is the group gathering to pray before the day started. The second show some people waiting patiently for their turn to be fitted. The desks are where people sign for their wheelchairs, get their pictures taken, and receive their free hygiene kits (many families here don't have washclothes, bath soap, or toothpaste).

The third and fourth pics are of Martina with the team of people who worked to get her fitted into her wheelchair. Some of you might recognize our translator at ASELSI, Cecy, who was with Martina all day, too.

The last picture is of Duane loading Clara into the airplane.

Tomorrow is another day off. Matt will meet with the builder to do some planning for the next steps in construction and Heidi will get ready for ASELSI on Thursday, Zona Reyna on Friday, and our normal weekend clinics.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Mondays are never fun. Unless they're also Fridays. In which case they're still often not fun. See, because of our weird week, Monday is really Friday. When it says "Monday" on your calendar, that's the last day of our work week, which makes it like a Friday. But Fate seems to not want to let us off that easy.

This morning, Isaac woke up between 5:00 and 5:30. And he had no interest in going back to sleep. It was Matt's turn to get up with him, so he did. Shortly after, though, Heidi's cell phone rang. Keep in mind that it is still WELL before 6:00am. It was our friend Regina. Matt asked her if there was a clock where she was - kind of a stupid question since she can't tell time - and told her that, no, she could not speak to Dr. Heidi because she was still sleeping. Well, the phone had woken Heidi up anyway, so we eventually put her on. We will admit that this is the first time that Regina has called us with something ridiculous.

Her call was for a friend who was "bien malo" (really bad). He had a cold. We told her that if he was truly "bien malo", they needed to go to the emergency room. She said that they could do that, but would just be given a "mountain of prescriptions", which is completely true. We told them that we would be home in the afternoon after clinic and would help fill those prescriptions if that's what they needed.

Clinic today was in Chicabracan. This was our last time to go with our evangelist, Juan Diego. He will be moving to Honduras next month to continue his studies in theology. He promised to recommend a friend to us and since we've been so impressed with him, we have no doubts that his friend will be great, too.

We normally see around 30-35 patients in Chicabracan. Today was around 50. Several were prenatals and all of them are doing pretty well, except one. She says she's 39, which would make Heidi and Matt about 13. She came in about 8 months ago with some early symptoms of menopause. Today, she and her husband came in with some rather suspicious complaints. We asked if she was pregnant. They said that the midwife had told them after the last baby that that one was their last one, so they couldn't really be pregnant. Not only is she pregnant (for the 12th time), it's with twins. Not exactly the news they were looking for. So, yes, it's still possible to get pregnant when you're starting menopause.

Through all of this, Isaac, who has recently learned to crawl and pull up, was not too excited about being penned up in his pack-n-play. Suzy will gripe at us for this (our pediatrician friend who just visited last week), but you'll be glad to know that a piece of black licorice can keep a 10 month old happy and quiet for nearly an hour. Messy, but quiet and happy. We were also smart (or crazy) enough to bring our laptop, which has a DVD player. We put it behind some boxes where our patients couldn't see it, but Isaac could. Baby Einstein videos are like magic, too. All things considered, he did great with the whole 6 hour incarceration thing. Luckily, there aren't too many of these left.

When we got home from clinic, exhausted, there were two more patients waiting for us at our front door. Matilde, the pastor from Nueva Santa Catarina, was here with the sister of a patient we've told you about before. The patient was one of our prenatals there who we diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and recommended a trip to the hospital. She ignored us and delivered in her house. Two weeks later, she quit talking and couldn't walk (we're thinking maybe a stroke???). They called us and asked us what they should do. We sent them to the hospital where they prescribed some blood pressure meds, which her husband went out and bought. Matilde and the patient's sister came all the way here today (two hours each way) for some ibuprofen and vitamins. We'll hopefully see her in our clinic out there in a few weeks and help with some more meds.

Also waiting were Regina and her sick friend. He may not be too terribly sick, but he's not too terribly young, either. He apparently had an infection of some type, because he had prescriptions for some antibiotics and some cough meds, which we gave him.

Tomorrow, Duane flies in in the morning with some patients who need wheelchairs. There is a team coming up to ASELSI who will be giving out wheelchairs and we have a couple reserved for these patients. Either Heidi or Matt (whoever wins the coin toss) will ride down with them and help out while the loser of the coin toss stays home with Isaac and chases him all around the house. (Just kidding about the loser of the coin toss - as far as you know!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Early Saturday morning, we loaded up and headed for Canilla. Ken had ridden from Canilla to Antigua with Matt earlier in the week, so it was his second time there (and his second time on some pretty typical Guatemalan roads) but it was Suzy's first visit to Canilla and her first view of the roads we drive every week. She mentioned that the whole head-slamming-off-the-car-roof thing wasn't really her favorite. Go figure.

The girls took care of clinic while the guys worked to finish a new room on the front of the clinic building (laying tile, hanging a door, some minor woodwork, etc.). Suzy was a big help. Since we see tons of sick kids, it was nice to have a pediatrician around.

After lunch, we all hopped on 4-wheelers and motorcycles and rode down to the river to play some 6 on 6 sand volleyball. Does it sound like there's not normally that many people there? That's because Ryan, Katie, Jacob, and Hannah all came in. They'll be here for a couple weeks which means that all of the Fickers were here for Mothers' Day! (That's also why we were working to finish the new room. Jacob has to have someplace to sleep!)

Today was clinic in San Andres. It went faster than usual because we had Hannah's help. She's really learning a lot in PA school.

Matt and Isaac went over to the Torre Fuerte Church to help hook up their new sound system. Matt had gone over a few months ago to hook things up correctly (it was a little Guatemalan-ized) but a new sound console came in. Of course, they had undone all of the work that Matt did last time, sucking out all of the power he unlocked that time, but we'll see how this iteration goes.

Anyway, in clinic, we saw a set of twins last week - a boy and a girl. The boy is doing okay, but the girl is basically being starved by the family. The dad more or less demanded milk last week. We weighed the kids and told them to come back in two weeks and we'd take a look at it. Well, they came back after one week and the boy has gained some weight but the girl hasn't. He was sleeping, contentedly, and his sister was screaming because she was hungry. Which is hard to understand, since she had a whole bottle full of coffee to drink! Anyway, that puts us in a really bad position. We decided to give them milk, but there's a very good chance that all of the milk will go to the brother, but what can you do?

We also had a very difficult case in a woman who delivered a pre-term baby two years ago and hasn't had a period since. She tried birth control pills, which can generally force a period, but still with no luck. Most likely, something went wrong that cost her her fertility. She's young and has no living children. Unfortunately, we don't really have very good news for her. Yes, even in a country where it seems like everyone is hyper-fertile, there are still those who struggle with infertility.

Another woman we've been trying to help for a few weeks came in. She has four kids and home and is about to deliver her fifth. Unfortunately, her husband has told her that she's being turned out of the house. He no longer has any interest in her. So we wanted to give her 100 lbs of corn to help out a little. She lives a two hour bus ride plus a one hour walk from clinic, her biggest child weighs about 30 lbs, and she was starting to have contractions today in clinic, so we couldn't really expect her to carry any of the corn home. Our translator remembered that the local church has a truck that's to be used for situations like this, so our friend Juanito came over and drove her, her kids, and her newly acquired corn back to her house. Juan confirms that she's in a pretty bad spot. It's not much of a house that they live in and she's about to have even less than that, plus a new baby, so we feel like helping her with some food is really the right thing to do.

All that, a broken arm, and about 70 more patients makes a full clinic day.

Now for pictures. The first pic is of Ken and Suzy in the airplane on their way to Guatemala City. Ken has been in a lot of small planes before, as he has a friend who is a charter pilot. He also wants to go to flight school, so Duane gave him Lesson 1 today and helped him fly to the City. We're told that Ken has some potential!

The next pic is of Ryan holding Jacob and Matt holding Isaac in the chicken yard collecting some eggs for breakfast. When you only have one hand each to work with, teamwork helps a bit.

Third is a shot of Isaac and Jacob. Isaac turned 10 months old today and Jacob is nearly five months old.

Next is a shot of the facial expression of the week for Isaac. Why, we have no idea. That's just his favorite face to make this week.

And lastly is Isaac playing in the grass outside the house inspecting some microscopic thing he managed to get between his thumb and forefinger.

Tomorrow is clinic in Chicabracan. It's our first time there in quite a while without any help. Isaac can now crawl and pull up on things, so it's likely to be... er... interesting. Wish us luck.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tikal Pics

Here are some pics from the Tikal trip...

Heidi, Ken, and Suzy are still in Chichi after clinic today. Matt and Isaac came home. (Today is market day in Chichi.)

Suzy and Heidi saw around 30 patients this morning, most of them children in the milk program who are really failing to take off the way we were hoping they would. Suzy had some very helpful insights on these kids. It was great to have her expertise here!

Tomorrow is Heidi's OB/GYN clinic at Buen Samaritano. Most likely, everyone else will run down to Lake Atitlan for the morning.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


You haven't heard from us in a few days. That's because we were in Canilla on Saturday - the same day that Ken and Suzy flew in to Guatemala City. The next morning, they flew up to Tikal on a commercial flight. Duane and Joe flew us up to meet them after Heidi had helped out a bit with clinic in San Andres.

We had the opportunity to explore a bit around the ruins at Tikal and spend some fun time with Ken and Suzy. Then Matt and Ken flew back to Canilla with Duane and Joe so they could drive to Antigua. Heidi, Isaac, and Suzy flew to Guatemala City on a commercial flight and caught a shuttle to Antigua where we all spent the night and got a chance to say good-bye to Toby and Britney.

This morning, we got to explore Antigua a little bit and drive back home where we're enjoying some call-out pizza right now.

In the morning, we'll go do clinic at ASELSI (Suzy is a pediatrician).

We'll try to post some pics tomorrow, maybe. Isaac managed to throw our camera in the pool at the hotel, so we don't have as many pics as we wanted, but we have some.

Okay, the pizza's here. Gotta run.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


We've had a relatively quiet few days here, except for all the stuff going on.

Matt took his parents to Guatemala City on Tuesday morning for their flight back to the US. Continental gave them a nice reminder to not get too emotionally attached to any luggage you're going to check. One of their four pieces made it to Detroit when they did - with a leg missing from the suitcase. The other three pieces came in only four hours later than they promised (the next day) - also all damaged. You'd have hoped the damage on the first one was from them trying to hurry it along. Not so much. This is not very encouraging news to the family (us) who will be sending almost all of their earthly belongings back to the US via suitcases on airplanes in the next few months.

Yes, you read that right. For those of you who don't already know, our commitment here was for two years. Well, those two years have flown by and now we have some other things to do with our lives (like get Heidi board certified in OB/GYN). We (well, it's not really "we" anymore as much as it's "she") have accepted a faculty position at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. It's where Heidi went to med school and she is very excited about working there. Her main focus in medicine has always been in teaching and ECU is a TEACHING facility.

Dr. Louis de Pena and his wife Victoria will be coming down from the US in June to do some turnover with us and will be in full control here by the end of July when we return. Louis was raised here in Guatemala, went to medical school here, and worked in the Guatemalan health care system. His command of the language, understanding of the culture, and connections within the system far exceed our own and we are very excited to see where Agape heads from here.

Like Dr. Street told us when he left, if this is our mission, then there's no point in continuing it, but if it's God's mission, He will point it in the direction He wants it to go.

Anyway, when Matt went to Guate on Tuesday, our friend Toby rode along. He had some business to take care of in Antigua and after the drop-off at the airport, so did Matt. Then they rode home together.

Wednesday, we got several phone calls from patients who had some concerns we could help deal with. Also, we got a knock on the door from the husband of Laura Hernandez, the first woman we diagnosed with a molar pregnancy here. Remember that she got the COMPLETE Guatemalan Runaround with her situation, spending a week and a half in the hospital for a ten minute procedure. We had told you all that she was pregnant again - this time a viable pregnancy. Well, she came to the hospital for her c-section yesterday. We took her down a gift bag, but she was a little late getting out of surgery and we didn't get to see her. We'll go visit today.

Also today, we have a meeting with some folks in town who are really good at bringing in patients for teams that come in. We've worked with them in the past on other things, but this is the first time we've gone directly to them to help get out the word on a medical team of ours. We told them that the last two times we depended on the hospital to get the word out, no one came. They told us that they know that the people don't have any confidence in the hospital, but they do have confidence in the church. So they send volunteers out to churches in small villages to let them know about medical care that's available. The hope is that about half the world shows up for the Women's Team coming in from Houston in June. Then they can pick and choose the best cases to work on.

Tomorrow, Roy Simmons will come up to the house in the morning, then head over to Nueva Santa Catarina for a meeting with Matilde, the pastor there, and several of his parishoners about building them a new church. You may remember that this is, by far, the most... er... rustic facility that we work in. It has a dirt floor, clapboard walls, and plastic sheeting inside to keep the wind from whipping through. And it's at 10,000 ft altitude, so that wind is usually pretty cold! Matt will go along to help translate, then when Roy goes to Xela to look for lodging for his team for this summer, Matt will drive over to Rudy's house to check on him.

This weekend will start out more or less normal, then on Sunday afternoon, Duane will fly us up to Tikal to meet our friends Ken and Suzy for a few days of R&R up there, looking at the most famous Mayan ruins in the world. Then we'll fly/drive back to Antigua for a day there, come back to do a clinic in Chichi (Suzy is a pediatrician), then head back out to Canilla for another clinic there. It'll be a whirlwind week, but that's what we're used to!

This week they are finishing up the floors in the addition to the dorm. Next week will see them pouring some tie-in beams and then go up another level on the walls. We still don't have a firm estimated completion date, but we're making good progress. Remember that we've only been working for 79 days now and we have a wider, deeper driveway, a huge fence, foundations, half walls, and now floors. Most likely, within another two months we'll be all but done.