Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Life Change Stories~~New Life School Partnership

This is Us~~New Life Students and Staff

The partnership between Reason to Hope and New Life School began about six years ago.  New Life is a very special school for very special students located in the Mayan Village of Santa Maria de Jesus, on the side of the Agua Volcano.

Reason to Hope provides support services, educational resources and specialized training for the staff of the school.  In addition, we have worked directly with about thirty of the 100 children who come to the school.  I'd like to tell you about some of them

Griselda


Griselda in kindergarten
Griselda today

I first met Griselda when she was in kindergarten.  While her learning abilities are limited by Down Syndrome, this has not affected her personality or her ability to love.  Her home life is difficult and for Griselda New Life is not only a school but a safe place where she is wanted and accepted.


She has only begun to speak in the last two years, largely due to the volunteer services of Jennifer Giesemann, a speech therapist from Georgia who served with us.  Beginning with the use of pictures and symbols, Griselda could communicate her wants and needs for the first time in her life.  We worked with Gris to generalize this ability to communicate to settings outside of the speech therapy room.  

It has been a delight to see Griselda bloom with the ability to communicate orally.  This year Griselda was voted by her peers as "Nina de Deportes" (The Sport's Girl) representing the school in the Independence Day celebrations for Santa Maria.
We have worked with Griselda this past year to develop life skills to equip her to care for herself in the future, as well as social skills to enable her to participate in the life of her community.  We continue to work on survival skills in reading and math to prepare her for the future.
We are not sure what the future holds for Griselda.  She is one of the young people for whom Reason to Hope would like to develop an adult living day program.  She has taught us that the ability to serve and love is not determined by IQ but by the size of one's heart.



Josef



In August of 2013 my friend Donna Hultman came to visit us in Guatemala.  As a specialist in teaching the visually impaired she brought a skill set we were sorely lacking.  We called in a number of preschoolers who were known to have vision problems, and Donna evaluated then and recommended ways be could better meet their individual needs.



One of the children we brought in was Josef, who was three at the time.  Never having been to school, this was a somewhat strange experience for him, but we came away with ideas to help him when he began kindergarten the following January.

Well, we were in for quite a surprise when he finally came.  He was not used to being around other children, became easily frustrated and agitated.  If the other children got too close to him, he would become aggressive.  He was not toilet trained.  Clearly, he had more than a visual problem affecting his development.

It was quickly decided that he could not remain in the kindergarten class.  But requiring him to stay at home wasn't the answer either.  Why would we think he would improve his behavior if kept in the same environment which continually catered to him to keep him happy.


So, he joined my class for two hours, three days a week.  He needed close supervision and one-to-one attention and we did not have the staff to do this.  We solved this problem by recruiting one of our older students to work as his assistant. (You can read more about Ronald in this post.)  Given a high amount of structure and limited interaction, Josef progressed in his skills and abilities to complete tasks, but did not make much progress in getting along with other children.

The following year, after a brief trial in kindergarten, Josef again returned to my room.  Ronald, however, was no longer attending school, so we had to make significant changes.  Josef could now work alone to complete his tasks.  He tolerated progressively longer periods working near and with the other students.  He learned to accept "no" without tantruming, and would cooperate with "time out" when needed.  All of these were necessary pre-requisites to joining the kindergarten class.

After much discussion, his mother agreed to work on toilet training, after we told her Josef could not return to school in diapers.  Within a few weeks over the holiday break, he had this down.

This past January Josef was fully integrated into kindergarten with support from us and visiting Occupational Therapy practicum students. Francisco (you can read about him here) began working with him to compensate for his vision loss. Josef still has a long way to go, but now is ready to learn.

















Life Change through Casa de Esperanza

Casa de Esperanza, begun in 2014 has drastically changed the lives of our residents and staff.  These friends have changed my life, too.


Residents

These young men are technically residents, relationally, they are my sons.  Like my own children, they bring unique joys and challenges into my life.  Unlike my own adult children, they will need support and assistance for the rest of their lives.  For this reason they are central to the ministry of Reason to Hope.


Fidel has been my friend for more than ten years and was the reason we began Casa de Esperanza.  He has Cerebral Palsy and has lived 21 of his 32 years of life institutionalize.  Fidel has changed from being and angry "patient" watching the world go by into a delightful young man who has recently started his own small recycling business.  His dreams for the future are to expand his business and someday have his own home. If anyone can do it, Fidel will.





When I first met Osmi about five years ago, he was dying in a bed in Hermano Pedro Hospital.  Through the grace of God he has made a miraculous recovery, and three years ago came to live with us. Having developed a life threatening muscular disease at the age of 8, he spent many years hospitalized and unable to attend school.  With us he has completed primary school and is pursuing his secondary education at a local private school.  He is living a "normal" life in every sense of the word.  He even has a girlfriend.  His goals are to attend university and study drawing.


We met Roberto in July of 2015.  We were asked by a local pastor to visit a young man who was paralyzed and abandoned by his family.  While we had no intention of bringing Roberto home with us that day, that's exactly what we did.  The conditions he was living in were so deplorable we could not leave him there another night.  Roberto came to us with a number of medical problems including horrendous bedsores and malnutrition.  Over the past two years and a number of surgeries he is finally healthy.  Having been sent to work in the rubber plantations at age eight, he is now beginning to learn to read and write.

I have know Moises, who also grew up in Hermano Pedro Hospital, for the same amount of time as I have known Fidel--but Moy was only 9 years old when I met him.  I have watched him grow from a little boy into a sometimes challenging adolescent, and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.  The day after he turned 18 he called to ask to come to live with us.  Still facing the challenges of adolescence, Moy's goal right now is to finish junior high.  School is a challenge for him, so he studies in a special weekend program in Santa Maria de Jesus.

Staff

Again, while these people work for me, they are so much more than employees.  They are the heart of Casa de Esperanza and my friends and support team.  If not for them, Casa de Esperanza could not exist.  Here you can meet three of our seven staff members.

Brenda is the House Manager for Casa de Esperanza and one of my closest friends.  I can confide in her and receive her wise counsel in navigating the systems of Guatemala.  She is my strongest and ever present prayer-warrior.  She has had numerous health problems in the past, but for the year and a half she has been with us, she has been remarkably well.  She credits that to the love she has for her job and her "kids" (our guys).  Besides providing a regular income for her family, I'm not sure how we have changed Brenda's life, but I know she has changed mine.

Cesar is another long-time friend.  We sponsored his tuition to attend elementary school, and he even lived with us for one year of high school.  Now he is grown, married and has a family of his own.  We provided tuition assistance for his wife, Gema, to continue her university education and recently they both graduated as fully accredited physical education teachers.  Cesar is our anchor staff for weekends.




Mario, a young man from Santa Cruz Balanya, a village about two hours from our home, came to work with us at the recommendation of his pastor.  Mario's parents are divorced, and he was caring for his alcoholic father.  While not physically abandoned, he surely was alone, bearing burdens no twenty year old should have to face.  An excellent companion-caregiver to our guys, Mario lives with us four days a week and has found a family among the staff and residents of Casa de Esperanza.  We love him, too.



Monday, November 27, 2017

Life Change Stories

Meet some of the individuals who have been personally impacted by the ministry of Reason to Hope, Inc.


Casa de Esperanza

Resident Stories
(Click on the name to read their story)



Fidel

















Roberto
Moises











Staff Stories
(Click on the name to read their story)


Mario
Cesar, Gema & Baby Cesar














New Life School Partnership

In 2013 I wrote:  "I teach in a language foreign to me, in which I make many grammatical mistakes.  Spanish is actually a second language to many of my students who speak only the Mayan language of Kaqchikel at home.  I work mostly with home-made materials and supplies, and my methods are seen as strange, if not downright ridiculous to some of the teachers with whom I work." 

I am so happy to say that now, as we look to begin the 2018 school year, I still make many mistakes in speaking Spanish, and have not been able to learn even a little Kaqchikel.  Most of my materials are home-made or recycled, but I am happy to say that the teachers now learning how I teach. They have seen the results with some of our most difficult children, and want these same results in their classrooms.  This alone will change the lives of many children in Santa Maria.  Here are a few of them.


Josef
    

Griselda

















Family Support and Scholarships
  • Miledy
  • Carlitos

GUATEMALA #GIVING TUESDAY





Partner with us to empower the poor and disabled in Guatemala to achieve their potential through the ministry of REASON TO HOPE, INC.

To help you understand our specific needs we have developed a 


Christmas Catalog 
(Click this link)

to share with you our specific needs at this time.  The year 2017 has been a challenging one for us financially due to unexpected expenses and significant medical needs on the part of the residents of Casa de Esperanza. We need your help to continue and expand our services in 2018.

Will you partner with us to bring HOPE to these neglected and forgotten individuals?

Send your tax-deductible donations to:


Reason to Hope, Inc.
PO Box 284
Elkhorn, NE 68022

or donate on line at:



Reason to Hope, Inc. is a registered 502 (c) (3) charitable organization in the State of Nebraska.  All donations are tax-deductible.


Bring HOPE for the holidays

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Tuesday~~the First Place to Give


Thanksgiving is tomorrow. A day when we consider what we are grateful for, and maybe even why.  And that's good, but it doesn't go far enough.

We often give lip service to being grateful for our family, but do we think about what life would be like without them?  The greatest challenge for me on the mission field is being separated from family. I am one of the fortunate missionaries who live close enough to come to the States regularly to check in on family, but I still miss out on a lot.

You see, life moves on without us when we are away, and try as we might, it's hard to keep up.  Grandchildren grow and change, our children become adults who at times seem like strangers to us.  We come back to our "first family" and discover that they have restructured their lives without us.  And that's necessary.  Even good.  But it's also hard.

For the first time in eight Thanksgivings I will be eating dinner with my children and grandchildren tomorrow.  And it makes me a little teary thinking about the Thanksgivings, Christmas and birthdays I have missed. This doesn't even begin to address the hundreds (literally) of soccer games and school events that I have not been part of.  And I fear that sometimes the family thinks I care more about my "job" (I know, it's ministry, but to them it takes the place of a job in my life) than I care about them.

Not true.  Not even a little bit.  I do care about being obedient to where I believe God has called me and to what I believe He has called me to do.  I believe leaving them this legacy of obedience to God is more valuable than any event or activity I might miss.  But would I love it if I could magically transport all of them to live in Guatemala with me.  Absolutely!

You're probably wondering what all this has to do with #Giving Tuesday.  Well, I think it does.  Often this time of year we rush around making purchases and doing things with think are important to "make memories" for our families, and miss the most important memory: time spent together.

So, even if you get caught up in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday hysteria, step back and take time with your family and loved ones. Bake cookies, make ornaments, or watch a movie together and actually talk about it. Your presents under the Christmas tree will please them, but your presence in their lives will change them.

This year on Thanksgiving weekend, make a plan to give YOURSELF to those who love and need you the most, and be thankful for your family in action as well as in words.

My "first family" together in Omaha (my son Jon is in California and not pictured)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving together.  We will. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Tuesday: What do I have to give?



#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving which is annually celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Giving Tuesday launches the beginning of the charitable giving season.

Occurring immediately after two days focusing on self-gratification & consumerism, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday offers the opportunity to refocus on what is really important: fulfilling the Great Command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Often we think we don't have anything to give.  Our skills, talents, abilities, and resources seem so limited and we don't see that we have anything to offer which would benefit someone else.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

The Bible tells us that every member of the Body of Christ is uniquely designed and equipped to serve the entire Body. (1 Cor. 12) In fact, each member is needed for the Body to function effectively.  If you are a Christ-follower, you are a member of the Body of Christ and have a role to play in bringing about the kingdom of God on earth.  Each of us was created by a divine plan with a divine purpose.  Discovering and fulfilling this purpose is what gives meaning and joy to life.

So what do you have to give? 

Please take some time this weekend to not only be grateful for what you have been given, but to think about how God is calling you to share your gifts with others.  You will not regret it.






Friday, November 10, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~A Forever Home



Today, I thank God for gifting us with the ownership of Casa de Esperanza, and for all the people who made this possible.  While it is just a piece of property, it symbolizes so much more.  It reminds us of God's provision even when all seems lost.  It demonstrates to the residents that we are here for the long haul, and will not abandon them as so many have before.  It provides a sustainable base of operations for Reason to Hope far into the future.  Yes, it may be just a piece of property, but to our ministry it is home.


My prayer of thanksgiving

Father, today I praise you as Jehovah-Jireh--the God Who Provides.  I praise and thank you for allowing us to purchase the property which is now Casa de Esperanza.  I thank you for designing it to function so well for us with so few changes.  I thank you for bringing us to the community of San Pedro Las Huertas, for the friendships we have developed with the people there, and for the opportunity for us to be a light in the darkness that so often overshadows the pueblos in Guatemala.

I thank you, Father God, for all the people who contributed to the purchase of this house.  The ability to purchase it debt-free in a little over a year was truly miraculous.  Bless each person who donated or worked in any way to make the purchase of this house possible. 

You have used this house to forge us into a family.  May we use this house to bring glory to your name.  In Jesus' name I pray.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Our Partners

Today I thank our God and Father for every one of you who has partnered with us in some way.



Whether it be through prayer, financial contribution, personal encouragement, or time spent serving with us in Guatemala, I am grateful. If you have helped with one of our projects or events, or come to one of our dinners, I thank you, and thank God for your presence in my life and work.

I have often said that I get the fun of watching first hand what God is doing in Guatemala, and that's so true.  I would be able to do nothing, however, if it weren't for the backing provided by each one of you.  Even taking the time to read these posts offers me more encouragement than you'll ever know, as well as allowing us to spread the news of the wonders God has done and is doing in Guatemala. So today I thank God for you.





My prayer of thanksgiving

Father, I thank you in the name of Jesus for all those you have brought alongside of me as I have been on this journey to serve you in Guatemala.  On my own, I am an earthen vessel with little strength, but in you, I can do all things. I praise you and thank you for working through by brothers and sisters who support me to bring me strength, encouragement and stamina to carry out this ministry.  

My prayer warriors are my front line of defense as we serve in Guatemala.  We so desperately need the prayer covering they provide to carry out no only the physical works of this ministry, but to make your name known and glorified through what we do. Empower their prayer lives through your Holy Spirit.

I pray for those who encourage me, through emails, calls, notes, and by reading our posts and newsletters.  While I would like to walk completely in the spirit, I still live in the flesh, and these concrete reminders of friendship and support help to keep me going, especially when things are tough. Encourage them as they encourage me.

I thank you for those who support us financially.  It is a challenge at times to trust that you will provide all we need for what you ask us to do.  The partnership our donors have with our ministry makes this promise of your faithfulness a reality in our daily lives.  Finances are a reality of serving and I am so very grateful for those who support us, whether through regular monthly donations or periodically as you prompt them.  Bless them for their generosity and multiply their resources.

Finally, Father, I thank you for the very special people who have served with us.  I thank you for those who help with events and activities stateside.  They enable us to share what you are doing in Guatemala.  Multiply their efforts.

I thank you, too, Father for the individuals and groups you have sent to work alongside us in Guatemala.  I thank you for the teams who are willing to do relational ministry in place of physical work to advance your kingdom.  I thank you for the interns who have served with me over the years, and the energy and insight they bring to our ministry.  And I thank you for those who come to visit, whether for an hour, a day or a short time to see first-hand what we are doing.  They impact our ministry more than they know, and I am grateful. All these have made personal and financial sacrifices to be with us, and I ask you in the name of Jesus to repay them generously.

For all of these "human resources" you give us to support, encourage and sustain us, I thank you, Father.


Monday, November 6, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Reason to Hope, Inc. & the Frisinas


Today I thank God for our independent non-profit organization, Reason to Hope.  It may not be clear to everyone just how critical this is to the sustainability of our ministry.  Our agreement with the Josiah Foundation was with me, Pat Duff, personally.  They agreed to serve as my missionary sending organization and I was an independent contractor working through them.  They held no responsibility for our ministries in Guatemala.

When I came as an individual and only required personal missionary support, this was sufficient.  As our ministry has grown far beyond what I ever would have envisioned, we need an organization to oversee the ministry going far into the future.  Reason of Hope serves this purpose.


I could not thank God for Reason to Hope without also thanking him for Mike and Marty Frisina.  (Yes, they are Husker fans!) They not only have come alongside me, but actually were the driving forces in getting me going in forming our own non-profit.  We are only beginning to see the responsibilities they have taken on as our Stateside representatives, and I am so grateful for their concern for our ministry.  I am even more grateful for their friendship and personal support as I serve.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, today I thank you for allowing us to start our own organization to care for the ministries you have entrusted to us in Guatemala.  I thank you for the joys and challenges which have come with this change.  I pray your guidance and protection as we move forward in obedience to your call to serve the least of these.

I thank you for Mike and Marty, Lord God.  Bless them as they do the hard work of organizing and managing the business aspects of the organization.  Give them wisdom and discernment as they support and advise me, and give them stamina to fulfill the obligations they have so willingly taken on.  I pray this in the power of the Holy Spirit and through Jesus' name. Amen.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 10: The Companion-caregivers at Casa de Esperanza

It takes a special person to be willing to care for the most intimate needs of another man, and God has blessed us with a loving and gifted team to care for the spiritual and emotional, as well as physical needs of our four guys.  All are Christ-followers, who daily put the Great Command to love into action.  Most of them live with us 4 out of 7 days a week, and sacrifice time with their own families to be with us.  We thank God for them today.





Vincente is a father of three grown children who comes from Santa Maria de Jesus.  He is a leader in his church and brings a spiritual maturity and stability to our team.



Mario is a young man who works with us four days, studying in his spare time at the University to be a math teacher.  He is highly involved in the music ministry of his church.  Mario, because of his age, but also his maturity can often get the guys to do things they otherwise might resist (such as therapy).  The confidence our guys have in him is evident.

Cesar works weekends with the guys.  You might remember him as living with us to go to school when we first opened Casa de Esperanza.  Well, now he is married, and has a son who just turned one.  He and his wife Gema are both graduating University this month as PE teachers.  Cesar has been a long time friend of our guys and we so enjoy having him.


Nelson is Mario's brother.  He spent many days and nights with Roberto when he was in the hospital.  With schedule adjustments, we were excited to bring him on as a regular worker.  He is married, and leaves his wife an child in Balanya (about 1 1/2 hours away from us) to care for the guys.


Dilan just joined our team after graduating from high school.  He has been raised by his grandparents, and now is working to help support them.  He comes from Brenda's village of El Rodeo, also about an hour and a half from San Pedro where we live.





God has put together a great team with servants' hearts to share life with our guys and I am grateful.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, you know better than any of us the qualities needed to care for our young men in a way that reflects Christ's love to them.  I praise you and thank you for bringing together this unique group of men to serve with us.  Without them Casa de Esperanza could not function.  With them we are thriving and growing.  Thank you for their hearts which first of all love your Son, and then love and care for our guys so generously.  Bless them in the time they are away from their families, and guard and protect their families in their absence.  Help them to grow daily to become more like your Son as they reflect Him to our residents.  We thank you for bringing us these mighty men of God.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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