Tuesday, March 5, 2019

If you build it they WILL come. . .

Hijas del Rey (Daughters of the King) Home
San Pedro Panorama, Antigua, Guatemala
We took possession of the house across the driveway from my house on January 1.  Little by little we began purchasing furniture and supplies to equip it, and on Jan. 7, (Marilyn) Juli Salazar begin serving our ministry as our first Guatemalan volunteer.

We spent a lot of time bargain hunting for furniture, and
we able to even find "delivery service" to Antigua.
Juli has previously worked in a good friend's home for children with special needs, but had left hoping to find a job as a bookkeeper, her area of study.  After numerous promises of employment which never materialized, she began praying about what she should do next.  On Christmas Eve, Juli surprised me by saying that she believed God had told her to volunteer with us Monday through Friday to help run the new women's house.  Since I had assumed I would be largely responsible for overseeing the new home, this was a huge blessing.  She has been invaluable for her maturity, wisdom and spiritual discernment.  In fact, it was she and her mother Brenda (who just so happens to run our men's home) who named the home Hijas del Rey.

Petronila and her family on their first visit to the home.
Petronila was the first young woman to come to live with us.  She is from Santa Maria de Jesus, graduated from New Life School, and has completed high school. Born with Spina Bifida, she needs a wheelchair to help her get around, but that does not slow her down.  She continues to amaze me by independently doing things I anticipate she will need help with, and does so joyously.

There are few job opportunities for her in Santa Maria and she was looking to "spread her wings" and hopefully find a job.  What beautiful wings they have proven to be.  She is very interested in hair dressing and fashion, and one of the local schools offers training in this.  It just so happens that a non-profit we are partnering with, DIGNA, provides job training for individuals with special needs through this same school.  We hope that in the future we can work something out so she can study there.  We realize there will need to be physical modifications, but after watching "Petris" live with us I don't believe they will stop her.

We really need to get a swing at the home.
This is one of Griselda's favorite pastimes.
Petronila has also proven to be a great companion for our second lady, Griselda, who is 18 years old and has Down syndrome.  Griselda aged-out of New Life this year, and if she had stayed home she would have been left alone unsupervised all day.  While we have discovered that she is well able to take care of herself, a young developmentally disabled woman alone all day in the village is definitely at a risk for being abused in many ways.  So, Monday through Friday, Griselda she lives at Hijas del Rey and is continuing her education through tutoring.  She has excellent daily living skills, and cheerfully helps with housework.  I can't wait to see what skills she is able to develop with time and attention.

The group that went to lunch to welcome Deborah.
Our friend, Mark, is the one with the (grey) beard.
Just a few weeks ago I received a call from a friend, Mark Richard, who runs Beeline Wheelchairs.  Mark told me about a mutual friend, Debora, a 38 year old woman who is deaf.  She had been married but her husband was not a good man and abandoned her and her three year old son. Debora was understandably despondent and depressed.  Did I have any idea who could help?

Debora with her son Luis
I have known Debora and her mother, Dona Mari since before moving to Guatemala and this news broke my heart.  Of course, I said, "Bring her to us," and then sat wondering what I had gotten myself into.  The next Sunday Debora,  her son Luis, Doña Mari, and Debora's dad, Noe, came for what I thought would be a visit.  I was a bit taken aback when she appeared with suitcase in hand, but again knew God had a plan.

Doña Mari, Noe and Luis
Doña Mari would care for Luis in Mazatenango (about 2 hours from Antigua) and Debora would stay with us.  When she heard I was in the home, she decided she didn't need to check it out because she knew me.  She just wanted to come.  Seeing her wretched my heart.  She had been a vibrant, beautiful young woman the last time I had seen her, and the terrible experiences she has lived through have aged her.  But still, there was a spark of life and determination in her eyes.

Debora with Paquita, the teacher of the deaf at New Life
Paquita teased me that she saw me sign more in one day
than she had in weeks at the school.  
I had been told that Debora had never been to school and did not know sign language.  While she has not had an academic education, she has learned a significant amount of Guatemalan sign and, because she has lived her whole life among hearing people, reads lips very efficiently.  She and the other women have developed their own style of communication, as she teaches them sign, and they get along well.  My sign is not good at all, but we manage, and she was excited that I knew any sign.

The most touching experience with Debora was after she went to church with me the first Sunday.  Though we have less than 200 members in our church, we have a lady who is a sign interpreter who comes out from Guatemala City each week.  She is only too happy to translate the service for Debora and a deaf couple in our congregation.  After the service that week, Debora was beaming.  She shared with me that this was the first time in her life that she really understood what was happening in church and she was so very excited to be included.

God is teaching me much about the healing power of Christian community as I watch Debora slowly heal and come back to her old self.  While she misses her son terribly, she is recovering her sense of identity and knows she is valued by us and her Creator.

Living with women has been very different from my experiences with the men. For one thing, while it took three years for there to be three residents in the men's home, it only took about three weeks for the ladies to all arrive.  Evidently God has had this in the works for a while.  These women are caring and creative, and always seem busy with something.  They regularly come across the drive to check in with me, and even make sure I eat healthy meals!  It is so sweet and I am enjoying female companionship after years with only men.

Please hold our women up in prayer.  While we are on a honeymoon now, I know challenges will come.  With the help of God we will be prepared to meet them, and we depend on your prayers as we do.

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