Saturday, November 30, 2019

A good investment

Last Saturday one of our residents, Osmi Alcántara, graduated with honors from high school.  I was not able to be there, since the school had only recently changed the date of graduation to be when I would be in the US, but our ministry and his family were well represented on this occasion.

Osmi with his parents (on the left), Brenda and Dylan, two of our staff members (center back)
and his brothers, sisters, and niece.

To adequately appreciate the significance of this event, you need a little context and background.

The context is Guatemala, where many, if not most, do not attend school past sixth grade.  Poverty is part of the reason for this, but even moreso, education is not valued as it is in the US.  Sadly, a higher degree of education does NOT help one get a job in a country where there are not jobs to be had.  So many have no desire to study.

This is not Osmi, however, who graduated as the "abandorado" for his class.  This means that out of the group of young people pictured above, Osmi consistently received the best grades in his class.  This is similar to being the valedictorian of a high school graduating class in the US.  One of the privileges of this achievement is to carry the Guatemalan flag into the graduation ceremony, which is a honor taken quite seriously in this country.

While I would love to take credit for his achievements, Osmi did this on his own.  Yes, we paid the bills, but all the work, effort, and stick-to-itive-ness was his.  Proud does not begin to express what I feel when I look at the accomplishments of this young man.

While the context makes this achievement impressive, his background makes it clear that this could have been done only by the power of God in his life.  

Osmi was a "normal" child until the age of 8, when he began to fall down and be so weak that he could not get out of bed most days.  This ended his school career and began a steady decline which led him to be hospitalized in a national hospital in Guatemala at around the age of 16.  Osmi relates that he told his parents that he just wanted to stay at home and die, but they would not let him.

Osmi spent 18 months in two national hospitals, progressively worsening.  In August of 2012 he was moved to Hermano Pedro in Antigua to die.  His arms were "frozen" in a bended position and he could only move his right arm a few inches.  I remember watching him use a back scratcher as he lay in bed on his right side.  He was unable to eat and was fed through a tube.  I am ashamed to say that I told God I did not want to get to know him, because I did not want to watch another young person die.  Of course, God had other plans.

Miguel, our companion-caregiver for Fidel, became friends with Osmi as he trained at Hermano Pedro to work with Fidel.  This brought Osmi into our family circle, and I got to know him.  His spirit is exemplified in an incident that occurred shortly after I got to know him.  Remember, he was on a feeding tube at this time.  It pained me to see how restricted his life was and how depressed he was becoming so I asked him what I could bring him that he would enjoy.  "Cookies" was his unhesitating answer.

Thanks to the cooperation of one of the nurses, I brought him cookies, and they would break off small pieces and let them dissolve in his mouth.  After all, as they told me, "he's dying anyway."  As people took interest in him, his depression lifted, and the gift of a power chair  (more of a cot on wheels) from Dick Rutgers drastically changed his life.
What no one can account for, however, is his progressive recovery.  I was able to get an accurate diagnosis from a visiting team from the US who explained Osmi had FOP or "Stone man syndrome" in which muscles turn to bone.  This affects about one in 2 million individuals, and there is no treatment.   The doctor explained the normal course of the disease, and how he would get progressively worse.

What the doctor could not explain, almost didn't believe until I showed him earlier pictures of Osmi, was that his condition had, in fact, drastically improved.  The doctor maintained that, while he believed his diagnosis was correct, this simply did not occur without divine intervention.  

I believe this is exactly what has happened for Osmi--a miracle.  He sometimes still struggles as to why, if God could partially heal him, He did not heal him completely.  I have shared with Osmi my firm belief that him being in a wheelchair is central to God's plan and purpose for his life.  

Recently, due to the inadequacies of the healthcare system here, Osmi's appendix ruptured. Once again we say the healing hand of the Father evidenced in Osmi's life by his rapid recovery from what is often a lethal situation here in Guatemala.

Will you join with us in praising God for what He has done in the life of Osmi, and celebrate Osmi's accomplishments with him.  (If you'd care to email him your encouragement, you can send it to my email address and I'll share it with him.  Osmi has learned quite a bit of English, so reading emails would be good practice for him!)

I can't wait to see what the future holds for this remarkable young man.,

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