Sunday, November 18, 2018

Giving Tuesday, 2018--Reason #10 to support Reason to Hope, Inc.

PANFILO FIDEL HERNANDEZ ALVAREZ



Fidel was our first resident at the men's home, Casa de Esperanza, and the "seed" from whom our community living program grew.

Fidel in his first wheelchair while living in an orphanage
in Quetzeltenango.  Thank you Mark Richard for sharing
this precious picture--and for providing his chair.
Fidel had spent most of his life institutionalized, having been abandoned by his family at an early age.  Fidel met Pat Duff, founder of Reason to Hope, in 2006, when he was living at Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua.

Fidel in 2010 at Hermano Pedro Hospital
 It was immediately apparent that Fidel was a highly talented young man in spite of his severe cerebral palsy.  It was just as apparent that he was very discontent living in an institution, especially having been sent out to study English and computers, thanks to another ministry.

Fidel uses his feet not only to operate his computer
but to text on his phone.
Fidel and Pat started dreaming and praying, and Casa de Esperanza was born in August, 2013 when Fidel became our first permanent resident.

Fidel on the day he permanently moved in
with his companion-caregiver Miguel,
and his house-mate Fernando

Since that time, Fidel finished 9th grade, received certificates in graphic design, and started his own small recycling business.

Fidel was the "banderado" at his graduation
from graphic design class--because he received
the highest grades in his class.



Fidel returning from collecting recycling
in the town of San Pedro






























Now, after a three year hiatus, Fidel would like to continue his education and complete high school, focusing on continuing to improve his computer skills.  Here is Fidel's request in his own words (translated from Spanish):

Hello, everyone.  I want to tell you all that I am interested in studying this next school year (beginning in January) and I would be so very grateful if someone would help me with the cost of studying.  I want to study and receive my diploma in computers.  This isn't just to get a diploma, but to improve my computer skills.  Maybe I will never get a better job, but I am very interested in technology and would like to learn more about it.  I hope you are happy to hear about my decision to continue studying, and perhaps someone will be able to help me.  I am grateful to you all.

Fidel with his home teacher who helped him through 9th Grade.
Profe Rey now runs the school in Santa Maria de Jesus
which Fidel would like to attend.
Fidel has significant communication and mobility issues, but has proven time and again that he can overcome almost any challenge if given the proper support.  It will cost about $90 a month for Fidel to study.  This will cover the cost not only of his tuition, but special transportation and the assistance of a companion-caregiver to help him at school.


Can you help this remarkable young man pursue his dream?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can You Believe It?

This October will go down as a milestone in the history of Casa de Esperanza.  Both Moises and Osmi have graduated from Basico (9th grade) in a country where many able-bodied people never study past sixth grade.  To top it off, they both completed the regular Basico curriculum in school settings designed for students without physical challenges.


It is times like this when I look back in awe at what God has done in the lives of our young men during the eight years Reason to Hope has been in Guatemala.  And I have a front row seat to see what He is doing.

Moises and Osmi on their first day of Basico
January, 2015

Osmi studied in San Pedro at Liceo Antigueno, one of the oldest private schools in the area which prides itself on providing a strenuous course of study.  He attended five days a week for three years to receive a regular education diploma.  He would like to continue studying graphic design or architecture.  Click here to see more pictures of Osmi over the years, and hear his thoughts about graduating and his future plans.

Osmi with his teachers and graduating class


Moises completed his Basico in an Institute for adult education in Santa Maria de Jesus. He and one of the companion-caregivers would travel to Santa Maria each Saturday for the past two years, often taking the chicken bus, to allow him to study in a program which best met his needs. This program is run by Reynaldo Raxjal, who is a pastor and educator.  Rey served as our in-home teacher at the beginning of Casa de Esperanza, allowing Fidel to graduate Basico and Osmi to graduate sixth grade.  We are so grateful for the support he has been to us over the years.  Click here to see pictures of Moy growing up (I have known him since he was eight!) and learn what he thinks about completing his education.

Moy receiving his diploma
from Profe Rey

Of course, such a momentous event requires a celebration, so after Osmi's graduation ceremony the graduates and some of our staff, along with Dick Rutgers, went to Pollo Campero (where else?) to celebrate.



Moises is alway overjoyed by a good meal!

We were happy to have Ali, Osmi's "friend" join us to celebrate.
Don't worry.  We didn't forget about our other guys.  They were excited to get take-out chicken and Coca-Cola when we all got home.


Fidel returning home after collecting recycling from the community

Roberto enjoying a game of Jenga with our friend Olivia
as Mario, Fidel, and Moises look on.
I am so proud of these young men and enjoy watching them grow and develop with the support Reason to Hope is able to provide.  Thanks for being part of their lives.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lester's New Wheels




Lester is a six year old from Santa Maria de Jesus who was born with an irreparable heart defect and often appears blue from lack of oxygen.  When I met him more than three years ago he was not expect to live much longer, and we helped get him a wheelchair so he could enjoy the freedom to move around.

Today, Lester has grown and weighs much more than he did three years ago. While his health has deteriorated and he has contracted Hepatitis he continues to thrive emotionally under the loving care of his mother Brenda.  Doctors have told her he does not have much longer to live, but she is doing her best to make each day count.

With his added weight his wheelchair is now too heavy for his mother to push up the steep mountain side to their home.  She came asking for help to find a stroller which would be lighter and more flexible to use on the rough terrain.  After seeing where they are living (from the village for Mom decided the hike up would be too strenuous and even dangerous for me) and visiting with Lester at his grandmother's house along with Sandra, our school psychologist, we came up with an idea.

A three wheeled jogging stroller would be the best solution for them.  I describe this to Sandra, asking her where we could get one in Guatemala, and knowing one would be quite expensive if we found one.  She had heard of these but only seen pictures of this type of stroller.  We would have to investigate further and told Mom we could not make any promises but would do our best to find something that would suit her needs.

A little after a week had passed since our visit, I was praying for Lester.  I felt God was going to teach me something through our involvement with this family, but frankly wasn't looking forward to what I would learn.  Usually these situations teach me to submit to God's sovereignty in the life of each individual and often these lessons are painful.  I had accepted that there was nothing we could or should do to prolong his life, but I wanted him to have the best life he could for as long as God chose to leave him with us.


Somewhat in frustration I finally prayed, "God, you know what I need for Lester.  Now find it.  I don't know where to look."  After I finished praying I went to my computer and turned on Facebook.  The first posting I saw, literally the first thing on my screen, was a woman in a neighboring village who was selling the PERFECT jogging stroller.  I could not believe it.  I contacted her immediately, hoping we could find the funds to purchase it.  After discussing the situation with her, she agreed to sell it to us for 1000 quetzales, roughly $135 dollars.  I could squeeze this out of our limited budget and a deal was struck.  She even delivered it to me, bringing it on the back of a motorcycle.

Last week I was able to take this up to Santa Maria and deliver it to Lester and his mom.  It fit him perfectly, and he could sit up with stability in the stroller, but it would also recline to allow him to
sleep in it if he wanted to.


After we had him sitting pretty, Mom clung to me sobbing that she didn't think she would ever have anything quite so grand for her son to enjoy.  It was with great pleasure I related the story of God's special provision of this chair for her boy.  I asked her to remember each time she looked at the stroller that God was with her as she walks this difficult path with Lester.  He provided the stroller she needed and she could trust Him to provide what she would need in the future to care for him.  We talked about how God would be with her until He took Lester home.


This was not an easy conversation to have.  It was doubly challenging to have in a different language with a woman from a different culture and background.  It is far too easy to give out platitudes about God's will in a situation where a child is dying.  It is much harder to admit that I don't know why Lester was born with this condition, but that I knew beyond a doubt He was cherished by the God who created him, and would be welcomed into the arms of Jesus when he finally went home to the Father.  I could give her this stroller as concrete proof that God not only sees but cares for Lester.

So what did God teach me?  Once again, to respond in obedience to His direction in how to serve each person who comes to me, trusting that He can and will provide what I need.  It was so easy to see this with the stroller.  He also taught me, though, that He would give me the right words to speak to comfort a mother's aching heart if I was only willing to step into her pain with her.  I have a feeling Lester and his mom are not done teaching me yet.

Challenge to the Churches

One in five persons in the United States has a disability which affects how they are able to live their lives.  Think about that. Twenty percent of Americans are challenged by a physical, mental, psychological or medical limitation.  Do we see this reflected in our churches on Sunday morning?  If not, why not?

Response to Fuego Eruption: Why Bibles?


I know some are wondering why, with all the needs arising from the destruction of the villages of El Rodeo following the eruption of the Fuego volcano, we have decided to focus on providing Bibles to those who have lost everything.

The answer is easy.  After much prayer and consultation, I believe this is what God would have us do.

Many organizations and mission groups are providing for the material needs of those affected by the volcano.  Missionaries are encouraging and praying with survivors as they bring aid to them.  There are many ministries better equipped to provide humanitarian relief than we are. So I asked God what our niche would be in relief efforts.

A few days after the eruption, I received this video from our house manager Brenda. (Sorry it's sideways.  That's how I received it.) She and her family were among those in a shelter in Esquintla, having lost everything to the ash and lava covering her village of La Reina.


Her mother, my friend Rosa, worked with the local civil defense agency, and was helping to manage this shelter.



Her father, Roberto, pastored a church in La Reina and continues to try to pastor those in the shelter.

My heart broke watching this video.  Having worshiped with some of these folks in the past at there church in La Reina, I knew most of them would have had Bibles in their hands if they had them.  I thought about what it would be like to lose my favorite Bible.  My heart hurt.

As I continued to pray for my friends and acquaintances in this area (this church sponsored a concert to benefit our ministry less than a year ago), God placed in my heart a desire to replace a bit of what they had lost.  The answer I got was, "Give them Bibles."

So that is what we are doing.  Working with Pastor Roberto and the missionaries who are taking humanitarian relief to the area, we will supply them with Bibles.  We will focus primarily on the shelter in Esquintla which Rosa is helping to oversee, because we have access to the people living there, more than 600 men, women and children.  As these Bibles are given, we hope to discover other, perhaps more tangible needs, which we will try to meet on an individual basis as funds are available.

We have begun conversations with various ministries about beginning small group Bible studies developed by the American Bible Society focused on Trauma Healing. (It was no coincidence that I was in Omaha begin trained to facilitate these groups the week following the eruption.)  We will help more with the process of rebuilding than with the immediate relief efforts.

I believe this fits our ministry's and my unique gifting, focusing on restoration and healing:  Our mission:  To improve the lives of the poor and disabled, now and for eternity.

It allows us to utilize our strengths to meet a unique need--reminding these survivors that God has not abandoned him, and using this window of suffering to draw people to Jesus who may not have known him in the past. These Bibles are our first step.