Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018, Reason #1 to Suppport Reason to Hope--JUST DO IT! But only if God leads you to. . .



One of the most difficult parts of being a missionary, for me, is asking for financial support.  I have disliked it so much that my first plan was to wait until I reached retirement age and support our ministry using my retirement funds.  As you can see, that didn't work out so well, and eight plus years later I realize that was the height of arrogance and disobedience.  God has led me to be a faith-based missionary not because He needs for me to raise funds, but because I need to raise the funds for our ministry to remind myself, daily, that this is HIS ministry and we are literally and totally dependent on Him for our survival.

It is in this obedience and dependence that I am writing about Giving Tuesday.  For me, it is unfortunate that we need to designate one day of the year to remind us that we are responsible for more than our own happiness and survival. This should be part of our DNA as believers, and we have been told by no one other than Jesus Himself that what we do for the least of these we do for Him. The Bible often speaks of the responsibility of those who love God to love their neighbor, concretely and practically.

I am writing about giving not because we need money (though we do) but because, as believers, we need to be givers.  Where we invest our money and our time is a good indicator of what is important to our heart.  Giving is a concrete expression of our awareness that all we have is a gift from God.  No matter that we have worked hard to "earn" it--He has provided our jobs, our skills and our strength to be able to do so.  We need to give as much as the needy need to receive.

James 1: 27
So whenever (notice I didn't say "if" because I believe, for a Christ follower it is a given) God prompts you to share your riches--JUST DO IT!  You may not think of yourself as rich, but if you are reading this on a computer or smart phone, you are among the world's richest people.

It doesn't matter how much you give, it may not even matter to whom you give, but GIVE.  Give as He has given to you. Give as He directs you.  Don't be led by emotional appeals which pull on your heart strings, but be led by obedience to His prompting.

Don't be held back by the fear that if you give you will not have enough.  This is one of the ways we have been "contaminated by the world" which seeks to block His still small voice.

If He is moving your heart to give--


The foreigner, fatherless and widows are identified specifically as those in need. Widows and orphans were those who, in Jesus' time, were unable to provide for their own needs, and were dependent on others to survive.  Even in this day and age there are people such as these. I believe that the disabled, especially in poverty-stricken countries, are definitely included among those about whom the Bible speaks.

It is for this reason that I am inviting you to partner with Reason to Hope this year to care for those who, because of their disabilities and abandonment by their families, are not able to care for themselves.  These folks come to us believing we are their hope, and we lead them to find the true hope which comes from Christ alone, even as we provide for their physical, emotional, and psychological needs.

So I am asking you to stop, pray, and listen to God in this moment.  Is he stirring your heart to provide for the financial needs of the poor and disabled in Guatemala who are being served by Reason to Hope?  If you feel God moving in your heart to partner with our ministry--JUST DO IT!


If you feel God moving you to share your riches with another ministry--JUST DO IT!

Whatever God is telling you--JUST DO IT!

And, after you hear from our Father, and after you step out in obedience to His leading, I'd love to hear what you were led to do.  You can copy this image and email it to me.



I promise I will pray His abundant blessings over your donation to whatever ministry you support, and ask Him to bless you more abudantly than you can ask or imagine.

Now, go and JUST DO IT!





Monday, November 26, 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018--Reason #2 to Support Reason to Hope: The Women's Home is Coming in January

After many years of dreaming and anticipation, God has, without a doubt, opened the doors for us to begin a home for women with disabilities.

This is the house in which I am currently living.
The women's home will be located just to the left
of the driveway shown in the picture
and is similar in construction.
About a year ago, I moved out of Casa de Esperanza to enable it to become more self-sustaining and independent of my daily care.  It has been a good move, both for me (I love having my space after four plus years of living with Guatemalan young men) and for the guys themselves (who now actually know how to warm up dinner and wash dishes!

It had been the desire of my heart that when we started Casa de Esperanza we would accept both men and women, as is done in the L'Arche homes in the US.  Given the culture here in Guatemala, it soon became apparent that this model would not work here, and we restricted the home to men.  Serving women, however, never left my heart.

In the past year, it has become evident that two of the girls who have graduated from New Life School where I work needed to live away from their families for a number of serious reasons.  I held back, partly in financial caution, partly  in outright fear, but these two weighed heavily on my mind.  I daily prayed for guidance in how to proceed, and, God honored this prayer.

As He did when we started Casa de Esperanza, God has once again "dropped a house in my lap" for the women--and He graciously put it across the driveway in the small residential area where I am living!  I will be able to maintain my own living space, and still oversee the women's home on a daily basis.

Leah, a young woman missionary who works with Building Guate, has been living in the house we will rent, will continue to live with the women during the opening of the home.  She will be more of a house-mate than a caregiver, but will provide a sense of stability for the women as they transition to independent living. Oh, and it just so happens that Leah has her degree in special education, working with individuals with severe disabilities! Isn't that just like God?

Petronila at her high school graduation, 2016
Petronila, a young lady 26 years old who has graduated high school, will be our first resident.  She has spina bifida, but unlike our men, is completely independent in self-care, and will not require us to hire a companion-caregiver for her.  In fact, she will be training to manage the house, and has the personal and intellectual abilities to do so.  One of her goals is to sell Avon--yes, we have it here, as well as Tupperware--to earn her spending money.  As she grows in her responsibilities in the house, we will also begin to pay her a small stipend each month.

Griselda as a little girl
just starting at New Life School
Our second resident will be Griselda, who is 18 and graduated in October from New Life.  Griselda has Down Syndrome, and while needing supervision which Petronila will provide, is also very independent and will be taught more life skills while living in the home.  I have known Gris for 6+ years, and she is very near and dear to my heart.  It will be a challenging adjustment for her, but I think she will fit in.

Griselda at her graduation, 2018
A special confirmation came today as we talked with Griselda's mother.  In planning with Leah for what the house might look like, Leah asked if I thought Gris would be interested in coming with her once a week to work at the Building Guate childcare program which cares for infants while their mothers are in Bible Study.  Today, as we asked Gris's mom what her goals for Griselda would be, she said that Griselda loves to care for babies.  Neither Sandra, our psychologist, or I knew this, and it was as if God used this "God-incident" to confirm we were moving in the right direction.

So, we will open in January with our first two permanent residents and one companion. We don't have the budget for this, but we didn't have the funds available when we started Casa de Esperanza, and the monetary commitment for the men's home was much greater.  Once again, we are stepping out in obedience, relying on God to provide, confident that He will.

Out estimated budget for this home (which does not have a name yet; the women will help us name it) is about $1200 a month.  If you would like to help these two women begin their adult lives with us, you can donate here.  A one time donation of any amount, or regular monthly giving will support us as we move forward with this expansion of our community living program.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Giving Tuesday, 2018--Reason #3 to Support Reason to Hope

WE DO WHAT NO ONE ELSE DOES

With all the “worthy causes” competing for donations, especially at this time of year, it’s hard to know how to direct your giving where it will be used effectively and efficiently. 

I understand.  I, too, receive requests for donations almost daily.  The difference is, mine usually come from a person standing right in front of me, often with hopelessness in their hearts that is reflected in their eyes.  They come with a variety of needs which they believe they are unable to meet on their own.  Often they are my friends and neighbors.  These are the hardest to turn away.  I try to connect these folks with other ministries which are designed to serve them, but often all I can say is, “No.”  It hurts and I walk away sad because I can’t help everyone.


I know with certainty, however, that God has called me to care for a group of people that is often forgotten and frequently neglected or rejected.  Those with physical, emotional or cognitive limitations.  As an American, it is often difficult to understand the challenges and even abuse those who are different face in Guatemala.  The government provides no assistance to them or their families.  The churches don’t know how to respond to them.  Their neighbors wish they would live somewhere else.

 I could share story after story about my friends with disabilities that would break your heart and hopefully anger you.  The disturbing thing is that, for these friends of mine, this is their daily life living in a country where they truly are the “least of these.”  They are an unreached and unwanted people group in every sense of the word.  God has charged our ministry to reach them, value them, then go a step further and care for them.  To do this we need your help.

It's as simple as that.  

If you give to Reason to Hope, this chart shows how we are using your donations.


Will you join us in furthering the Kingdom of God by serving the least of these?





Saturday, November 24, 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018--Reason #4 to Support Reason to Hope

OUR STAFF
WE ENABLE SEVEN GUATEMALANS
TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES


The above picture shows our "extended family" at Thanksgiving Dinner.  It has become a tradition at Reason to Hope to invite all our staff and their families to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, to demonstrate how thankful we are for their hard work and presence in our lives.  This year was no different, and as November approaches the residents and staff begin asking what I will cook this year.  We serve a typical American style Thanksgiving dinner, highlighting roasted turkey, which is not how turkey is usually cooked here.  Do they enjoy it?  Well, this year we went through two 18+ pound turkeys, 10 pounds of camote (Guatemalan sweet potatoes), 10 pounds of marshmallow salad, and stuffing using 4 bags of croutons.  Not to mention the four pumpkin pies with whipped cream.  There was scarely a bite left when we were done, so I guess they liked the food.
It is no small feat to provide jobs for this many Guatemalans--we are actually one of the larger employers in our village if you don't count the sack factory next door.  This is a "hidden" aspect of our ministry, equipping and empowering Guatemalans to support their families and serve their countrymen, but a critical part of developing a sustainable ministry in this country.  Salaries make up the largest single part of our monthly budget, averaging between $1600 and $2000 each month.  In addition our workers are, by law, paid bonuses in June and December, both equal to one month's salary.  It adds up very quickly.

If you would like to help "sponsor" a worker, rather than a needy family, this is your chance.  Click here to make a one time gift or set up a monthly donation to offset the cost of their salaries.  The folks in the pictures below are depending on us.

Marcela, who helps with housekeeping, is one of the mothers
from our Mom"s Support Group in Santa Maria.
Brody, her son, has a seizure disorder, and graduated from New Life.

Vicente, one of our companion-caregivers, shown here with his family.
He is from Santa Maria de Jesus, and his son, Cristofer, graduated from New Life.
His wife, Juana, is also part of our Mom's Group.

Brenda, the manager of Casa de Esperanza, with her husband
and one of her two daughters.  She is the sole support of the family,
which is attempting to rebuild their life after losing everything
with the eruption of the Fuego Volcano last June.


Pastor Roberto with his wife Rosa, Brenda's parents.
Roberto has constructed the outreach center addition at
Casa de Esperanza, and is our general "handyman."
The young man seated to the right of Rosa is
one of the singers who performed at a benefit concert
for Reason to Hope in September, 2017.

Kevin is our newest staff member, who covers any open shift
and fills in wherever needed.  He is our "utility player."

You can barely see Cesar over Roberto's head, but he is truly family
to us.  He lived with us when we first started the home and he was still
in high school.  Now, he has graduated university as a physical education
teacher but still chooses to work for us on the weekends.
Somehow I managed to miss getting pictures of Mario and Dani.  If you knew them, you'd know I can't imagine how I missed them, given their strong personalities and even stronger sense of humor.

We will begin sending Mario to university
in January to begin his training as a
physical therapist.  He will work weekends
with the guys at the house.

Here Dani is preparing to take three of the guys to camp.
He only wishes he could drive our vehicle!


I never know what to expect from our staff, but I do know that I can depend on them to always go above and beyond to make Casa de Esperanza the best it can be!  We are blessed by each one of them.





Thursday, November 22, 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018--Reason #6 to Support Reason to Hope, Inc.

Education for our Residents


While I don't believe, as many do, that education is the "great equalizer" and will bring economic improvement to a country (where there are no jobs, it doesn't matter what degree you hold), I do believe that it benefits the development of the individual, and empowers him or her to live out their God given purpose more fully.  Besides teaching skills, education teaches one discipline, work ethic, and reasoning abilities.  All of these are critical to serving God.


Nowhere do I see this more than in the residents of Casa de Esperanza.  Roberto, who never had the opportunity to attend school, is greatly limited not only by his difficulties with reading and writing, but in the general breath of his experiences.  I have seen Fidel, Osmi and Moises all grow in responsibility, self-advocacy and determination as they have studied.


With Moy and Osmi graduating 9th grade this year, I had thought maybe we had come to the end of our schooling for the guys at the home.  Much to my surprise, last week Fidel asked if he could attend weekend classes at the Institute in Santa Maria de Jesus from which Moy graduated.  He wants to continue working on computer skills.  I had suspected Osmi wanted to do this, and Moises was encouraged by his housemates to continue his education also.  









To figure out how this might work, we invited "Profe Rey," the director of the school, to lunch today.  We discussed how this might work, what adaptations would need to be made for our guys' limited mobility and dexterity, and the cost of further training.

While at lunch, Rey asked Roberto if he would like to come to school with the guys.  Rey will be hiring a special teacher to work with Roberto to complete Primary School (through 6th Grade) and we are anxious to see how he progresses.  One of the major goals of Roberto attending school is to experience the structure and socialization which comes from being in a school environment.  All the students at Rey's Institute are adults, so Roberto's age will not factor in, even though he will just be learning to read.  This is more than we could have hoped for, and will allow both our companion-caregivers to go to school with the guys each Saturday.

With this blessing, however, comes increased cost.  It will run about $250 each month over our current budget to pay their tuition and transportation to Santa Maria.  


We are looking for 10 people to donated $25 a month for the next 12 months (less than one dinner in a restaurant) to enable these men to continue to grow and develop.

Could God be inviting you do be one of those supporting this aspect of our ministry?  If so,

DONATE NOW!


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018--Reason #7 to support Reason to Hope, Inc

Blankita



Blanca is an eight year old girl who lives San Miguel Duenas, a village about a mile and a half from our Outreach Center located at Casa de Esperanza.  She and her mother walk to and from their home once a week for Blanca to receive educational therapy to help prepare her to begin to attend school.  


We were introduced to Blanca through our friend, Megan Lewis, who is an occupational therapist and founder of GOT Ministries, which provides therapy to the students at New Life School. She had heard from one of Blanca's family members about a little girl who was completely out of control at home and never had been to school.


Blanca proved to be a delightful little girl who has a range of difficulties, including vision problems and very limited speech.  Not knowing how to handle a child with special needs, Mom was embarassed by her behavior and would immediately step in to give Blanca whatever she wanted to calm her down.

Mom and Blanca's younger sister sit in on each session.
We began working with Blanca last February, focusing on following directions, language development and fine motor skills.  While difficult at times, she quickly adapted to our routine, and has made significant progress in all areas.  We have worked with mom, too, to improve her behavior management skills and we are seeing growth in this area also.


An unexpected, but wonderful side-effect of holding therapy in Casa de Esperanza is the interest the men in the house have shown in the children coming to us.  Roberto, who has never been to school himself, delights in helping Blanca with her tasks, and he is developing his own skills in the process. 

Truly, only God could have orchestrated this!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Giving Tuesday, 2018--Reason #8 to support Reason to Hope, Inc.

GRANDMA MARGARITA 
AND HER FIVE GRANDDAUGHTERS


For Christmas 2018 Reason to Hope is partnering with Love Guatemala, Canada, to provide Christmas to a family whom we have come to love.  Margarita is caring for her five granddaughters after her own daughter died in childbirth with the last little girl, and their father disappeared for parts unknown.  Furthermore, we are hoping to help the oldest granddaughter, who recently graduated 9th grade, continue her studies to pursue her dream of becoming a chef.  This is not typically what our ministry does, but when God leads, we try to follow.  So here's the back-story:

A neighbor lady is helping to care for the baby
to give Margarita some support.

Last June, Westside Church in Omaha adopted our ministry as their mission's project for their Vacation Bible eXperience.  As part of the project, they wanted to build a house for a family in Guatemala.  While we aren't really in the house-building business, we wanted to honor their desires, and I immediately contacted my friend, Judy Bergen, who runs Love Guatemala Canada.  They build houses, but only as part of over-all, on-going ministry to the families they serve.  She knew just the family for us.

She took me to the poor village of San Luis Carretas, about 45 minutes from where we live, to meet Margarita.  About six months earlier, Margarita's daughter had died in childbirth, leaving behind five little girls.  Her husband, unable to withstand the loss and the pressure of raising his daughters, left for parts unknown.  That suddenly left Grandma Margarita to care for her five granddaughters, with the help of her married daughter Angel--who looks to be no more than a child herself.

Angel, the girls' aunt is helping to care for them.
Samuel, their uncle, leaves home at 4:30 am each day,
returning at 8 in the evening, to support five children
who are his only out of love.

They were living between two cement block houses, but their house was primarily made of corn stalks and black plastic.  Grandma has significant health problems, including vision loss due to her diabetes and high blood pressure.  Suddenly she was once again momma to five girls, ages newborn through 14.  And she assumed this responsibility without complaint. So, with the help of Westside Church's Children's Ministry, and the collaboration of Reason to Hope with Love Guatemala, this family received a clean, safe and secure new home.


Because of the relationship we have formed with the family in this process, we are continuing to partner with Love Guatemala and visiting this family and supporting them as best we can. When I visited most recently, the oldest girl, now 15, said she had given up her dream of becoming a chef because they could only afford to send her to the nearby public school for high school, and they did not offer this program.

The young lady on the right dreams of studying cooking
to one day be a chef and help support her sisters.

You have to understand, in Guatemala very few girls have dreams for their future.  As one put it, their future "decides itself" by what happens to them.  So to meet this bright young woman who continued to dream in spite of losing both her parents was unusual to say the least.  To have her dream die for lack of resources was heartbreaking, so we will, with Love Guatemala, be searching for a sponsor to pay for her education, and are investigating cooking schools in the area which she could attend.  We estimate the cost of her education will run about $100 per month, including transportation expenses.

Can you help this young lady find her dream?


Monday, November 19, 2018

Giving Tuesday 2018--Reason #9 to Support Reason to Hope, Inc.

Brenda Julisa Salazar 




Brenda joined our staff in February, 2015 as our housekeeper and cook.  She rapidly became part of the family, and her skills in managing not only the house but the boys and the staff quickly became apparent.  She has since grown into the role of House Manager of Casa de Esperanza, carrying the major responsibility for running the home and program, and assuring that our men are well cared for.

Brenda with her husband, Miguel Angel
She is the only member of her extended family with a steady job, and basically supports not only her husband and daughters, but her parents, grandmother and disabled uncle.  Your donations to Reason to Hope, Inc. pay her salary.



To the men living at the house, Brenda is more than an employee.  She is their second mother, their confidant, and at times their disciplinarian.  

Brenda celebrating Fidel's birthday with him
Brenda considers those at Casa de Esperanza to be part of her family. So much so that, last Christmas Eve, she and her husband and two daughters spent the night at the house, sleeping on the floor, just so they could be with the guys for this special night. 

When our men are ill, she refuses to leave them, even though other staff members are assigned to care for them.  This is especially true when one of them needs to be hospitalized.

Brenda and her family in a community shelter
after fleeing the lava flow from the volcanic eruption.
Her dedication to the ministry is so strong that, after her own village and home were destroyed by the Fuego volcano last June, her main concern was returning to work to make sure "her boys" were okay, though they were in no way threatened by the volcano.

When not working at Casa de Esperanza,
she joined members of her church
searching for and serving survivors of the disaster.
We don't know what we would do without Brenda in our home and in our lives.  I hope we will never have to find out.




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?