Saturday, January 20, 2024

2023 in Focus


Two of our young men went back to school after a number of years of not studying.  We are grateful to the sponsor whose donation enabled us to send them to a Christ-centered adult education program.

Jose began working to complete his high school diploma.

Layo began Basico, the Guatemalan equivalent of junior high.

We also welcomed our first volunteer of the year, Vonnie Hepner, from Virginia.  A mutual friend in Iowa, Hank, had connected us. Vonnie's gardening, cooking and musical abilities were put to good use with our students as well as residents. She came planning to stay one month and stayed three.  She seemed to like it here.


We had a rather surprise visit from one of our ministry partners.  I invited a physician friend of ours to come visit us when he's next in Guatemala, and it just so happened he was in Antigua!  He had he had heard about our homes but never seen them.  He graciously treated our ladies to lunch at one of the fanciest restaurants in Antigua!

We began our school year with our English speaking students.  Our numbers had increased enough that we moved our classroom to the larger room on the second floor of Pat's house.

While most of our friends in Canada and the US were still struggling through the cold, the temperatures in Guatemala were warm enough for us to resume physical therapy using the pool in the condominium where the men live.


With the beginning of Lent, we started a new Bible study at our men's home.  One of our guys commented that he really didn't know much about what kind of person Jesus was, so it was hard to follow him.  We began studying the name Yahweh gave Moses--"I AM"  and have tied this into the "I AM" statements of Jesus in the book of John.  

"Yo soy is Spanish for 'I am.'''
I love how it can be made into a circle, 
without beginning or end.

We also worked with the Antigua Green School to help their students understand how difficult it is to get around in our area if you are in a wheelchair.  

They both spent time with our men walking around Antigua, as well as got to experience first hand the challenges of wheelchair travel.


In our study of the events leading up to Easter, we celebrated a simplified Christ-centered Sedar similar to what Jesus would have done with the disciples at the Last Supper.  A couple of our guys were surprised to realize that Jesus was Jewish and celebrated the Jewish festivals.

Of course we had a grand dinner to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.  Pat had planned on serving ham but the guys voted for fish!  It was a challenge to prepare fish for so many people, but we figured it out. 

In April we took on some Spanish speaking children in our education program.  The young man below lives in a children's home near here and struggled with attending a regular school.  Given our structure and the individual attention we provide, he is excelling.


Thanks to the generosity of our partners and supporters, work on the interior damage from the last hurricane began in earnest.  We had a setback when Gustavo, our maintenance magician, suffered a broken arm and was out of commission for 2 months.  You may not be able to tell, but here he is scraping the plaster down to the cement foundation--USING ONE HAND!

Our friendship with the local police force continues, and we were honored to supply a snack for the wives of our local officers to celebrate Mother's Day.  Police here work ten days straight, usually a great distance from where their families live.  We appreciate the sacrifices these women make to enable their husbands to serve Guatemala.

May seems to kick-off the time when we have visitors to our ministry.  Kayla, a special education trained teacher from Houston has been with us before.  This time she came back to study Spanish and brought her family with her for a weekend.  The ladies love guests and enjoyed their visit.


We were blessed by a visit this month from a physician friend from Kansas who came to Guatemala on a medical mission but squeezed in time to visit us.  

A physical therapist who was with her team spent an afternoon at Casa de Esperanza  training our staff and even provided therapy to help Gustavo's arm heal correctly!

One afternoon may not seem like a lot, but when our staff is trained and can continue using what they learn it makes a huge difference.


Hank, our friend and advocate from Iowa, brought a team to Guatemala to work in Huehuetenango. This group was from River Church in Seattle, Washington. We were honored that they took a day to spend with our men and women.

They brought and played table games with our men, and worked with our ladies to make necklaces and bracelets.  This may not seem like much, but our residents love guests.  The time and energy this team took to be with our folks helps them feel loved, valued and included.  No small gift to our people who are so often ignored and rejected by their society.

Pastor Josh even got "schooled" in how to make lemonade Guatemala style.

The pleasure our guys took in teaching a visitor to do something they were good at was priceless.  The team did a marvelous job of recognizing and calling forth the gifts of our residents.


The beginning of the month we celebrated Pat's birthday.  This year she is 71 years young and God continues to bless her with the strength and energy to stay at the helm of Reason to Hope in Guatemala.

Chepa, one of the residents of Hijas del Rey, gave us quite a scare when she needed to be hospitalized in August.  She had a series of convulsions and began acting very strangely after them.  Four days in the hospital, and she was getting back to normal with her seizure medication readjusted.  We are so grateful to those of you who enable us to provide private medical care through your financial support.  


September 15th is Independence Day in Guatemala.  Torches, symbolizing freedom, are carried down major highways from the capital city to all parts of Guatemala.  Flags are everywhere and parades are a must.  Our ladies enjoyed this celebration.

 Front row seats waiting for the parade in Ciudad Vieja


This month found Pat visiting supporters in the Midwest.  While there is never enough time to see everyone we would like to thank, this year she was able to meet a couple of faithful supporters who we had not known personally.  This was a definite high point of her trip to the States.  As a perk, she got to see her family too!

October also saw some of the greatest political challenges since Reason to Hope has been in Guatemala.  The controlling politicians had been surprised that a long shot candidate had won the August presidential election.  The Attorney General was challenging the legitimacy of  the winner's political party, and the vote tallies were seized by her office, though the outcome had been validated.  In response, many in the Mayan community staged protests, closing major streets and highways throughout the country for days at a time.  Things had calmed by the end of the month, but the political climate continues to be precarious.


This month brought the long awaited completion of the interior repairs to Casa de Esperanza.  It took months of work by Gustavo, but the house has never looked this good.  It's better than new!

Work was finished just in time to host our annual Thanksgiving feast.  While Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Guatemala, our residents would never miss the chance to eat a US style dinner of turkey and all the fixings.  We invite the families of all of our team members to celebrate with us, to express our gratitude for the care our staff provides year round for our residents.  Each year the number seems to grow, and in 2023 we squeezed almost 50 guests into Casa de Esperanza!

We had another reason to celebrate the end of November.  José graduated with this high school diploma and we were invited to accompany him to the ceremony.  This is a privilege usually reserved for parents, and Dani and Pat were honored to fill this role for him.


Continuing with our recognition of the Jewish festivals, we participated in the celebration of the Festival of the Lights or Hanukkah.  While not one of the high holidays of Judaism, it was in the temple courtyard that Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Light of the World during his trip to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival.  We were gifted with this menorrah by a lovely Jewish woman living in Antigua.

We tied this celebration in with the more traditional Advent wreath practice of contemporary Christ-followers. 

Our yearly cookie decorating day is always a big hit!

A Christmas dinner combining both homes and their staff members was held at Casa de Esperanza on Christmas Day.  Here in Guatemala Chistmas Eve (Noche Buena) is actually a bigger deal than Christmas Day, but we never miss a chance to have what they term a "feast" of recipes from the US.  This year two of our friends from the police force as well as some neighbors who operate an organic farm joined our table.  (Do you notice how the on-going theme seems to be food?!?)

In return our friends from the police force brought members of an Antigua based church to spend time with the guys during the week between Christmas and New Years.

As we look back on 2023 we realize we did not do this on our own.  Those of you who support us in friendship, encouragement, prayer and finances are an important part of what we are able to do.  You partnership with us makes a difference in the lives of many with disabilities in Guatemala.  We are so grateful.

We are eagerly anticipating what 2024 will bring.  
We invite you to join us on this journey.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Hijas del Rey is 5 years old!~~A Story only God could write

It seems absolutely incredible to think that we began our women's home, Hijas del Rey (Daughters of the King), five years ago this month.  As we reflect back, this is a story only God could have written, and we are privileged to be a part of this story and the lives of the women who live with us.

In 2019 Pat Duff was living in a house near Antigua which was located in a small compound with three other homes.  The missionaries who were living across the driveway from her were moving back to the US, at the same time that one of her students from Santa Maria would be aging out of the program at New Life School.  We were concerned about what would become of Griselda when she no longer had the school to look after her.  This seemed the perfect time and perfect location to start a home for women.

It was already October when we became aware the house would be available.  School was closing for the year and Gris would soon be on her own most of the time.  She was turning 18 the end of December, and would be able to come into our program, with the approval of her family, of course.  Could we pull off beginning a whole new home in such a short time?  We hadn't budgeted for this huge expense, but if God was opening the door, He had the resources already available.  We stepped out in faith. and God was faithful.

We received a sizable donation from a friend who lived in the United Kingdom.  The daughter of the lady who was then the housekeeper at Casa de Esperanza came to us and said that God told her she was to serve with us for a year as a volunteer.  She was willing to live in the home with the women 5 days a week.  The house was semi-furnished so equipping the home would not be a major expense.  

Pat could literally look out her kitchen window and see what would be going on at the home, and help out as needed.  The pieces came together inspite of our lack of preparation.  God had this!

Griselda's family was hesitant, but since they had known Pat for years, they agreed to try it out.  Another young women from Santa Maria, Petronila, who had graduated from the school also wanted to try community living.  Both of these women had families who cared about them, but the ability of each family to provide for their daughter was limited.  (Pictured at left is Griselda in kindergarten!)

So on January 20, 2019 Julie and Petronila moved into the house.  

Griselda joined them a few days later.  Hijas del Rey home had begun.

In March,  we were approached by another ministry, asking if Debra, a deaf young woman, could come to live with us, at least for a short period of time. She was divorced and had a young son, but was severely depressed.  Her family was greatly worried about her, and did not know how to help her.

Debra's transition to living with two obviously disabled women was a difficult one.  She had spent her whole life living with her family and/or ex-husband.  She did not consider her deafness a disability.  She also denied that she played any part in the events leading up to her depression, and refused to cooperate with any therapy. Eventually she resented living with Petris and Gris.  She would communicate to me in sign that she was "not like them." She even went so far as to lie to her family about how we treated her.

We learned a lot from this experience.  We discovered that we needed not only to evaluate whether or not the person was well suited for our house, but if our home and the other residents would be honored and respected by the individual.  I wish I could say we can reach everyone who comes to us, but that's just not the case. It became clear after a few weeks that our home was not a good fit for Debra, and she returned to her family.

A short time later, Pat was visiting friends who had been missionaries at a children's home in Guatemala.  Would we have room for a lady who had grown up in the home, and was still living there with little children?

We went to visit Chepa, and she and Griselda became fast friends.  When we talked about her coming to visit, she responded with an emphatic, "No!"  "I'm going home to live with Griselda forever!" And so it was.  In April, 2019 Chepa became our third resident of Hijas del Rey.  

About this time villages were gearing up for the presidential election.  On her visits to her family, Petronila had gotten involved with a new political party made up of mostly young people from Mayan areas.  She was strongly committed to seeing change in Guatemala, and decided to live at home once again so she could be involved in campaining.  While it was disappointing to say good-bye to her, we realized one of our goals for the home had been met.  She had not only discovered a purpose, but had found her voice to say where and how she wanted to live.  She found a way to belong and contribute to her community.  We are happy for the life she has made for herself, though we miss her still.

Shortly after Petris moved home, we received an email asking us to accept a young woman who was developmentally delayed and living in a children's home in Jalapa.  The director of this home, another missionary, had lovingly cared for Caty but knew it was time for her to live with other adults.  After a number of failed attempts at placing Caty with families, we were their last resort. We were the only home they could find for adult women with disabilities in all of Guatemala. Could she live with us?

It was decided that Caty would come for a visit with a caregiver from the children's home.  She intially was very shy and had little contact with the other ladies.  Over the course of the week she responded to their consistent, patient attempts to befriend her.  She began to participate in activities, and even learned simple household chores.  At the end of the week, Caty moved in permanently.  Once again there were three ladies in the home.

The proximity to Pat's house gave the ladies a lot of opportunity to hang out with her.  Coming over to watch movies was a favorite.  Expecting more women to come in the future, it became clear that our current two-story house was not approrpriate.  It had been a good place to start, but we needed our rooms to be all on one floor.  

A house was located in a village about 30 minutes outside of Antigua.  In November, 2019 we moved our three ladies and Juli to live in Santa Lucia.  This was home to Hijas del Rey during the lock-down with Covid.  

Since this home had a large yard, it proved to be a special blessing when the women could not leave home for months at a time. Once again God met our needs before we knew what they were!

After our move to Santa Lucia, we received and email from a man asking if we would consider caring for his sister-in-law who was blind and developmentally delayed.  His wife, who had been caring for Francies, was dying of cancer.  He felt Francies deserved more opportunities than what he was able to give her.  So, now we were four.  With another woman, the extra room was appreciated.

We we happy in Santa Lucia and intended to settle there permanently.  Then God shook our world. 

I received a call in January, 2021 from some missionaries with whom I was aquainted.  Shawn and Brad Johnson were selling a mission house with five bedrooms in the town next to where our men lived.  They had been trying to sell it for quite a while without success.  Then, one day in prayer, God told them to "ask Pat."

Now God had not told Pat anything about this.  Pat was comfortable with things as they were.  Why change?  They asked if she would at least come to look at the home, and she agreed.

To say she fell in love with it was an understatement.  Everywhere she looked she saw possibilities for our ministry.  

We were, however, reluctant to once again begin the process of buying property in Guatemala.  Shawn and Brad had a plan.  How about if we would rent it for one year at a minimal price, to see how it worked for us?  After talking with the US Board, we decided to take a chance.

The house worked out well, and was much closer to San Pedro, where the men and Pat lived.  It gave more breathing space, and the kitchen was a much better design which allowed our women to help with food preparation.  There was space for a washing machine, and an incredible terrace with a 360 degree view of the mountains surrounding us.  

After much prayer, we decided to begin fund-raising to see if we could come up with a down payement on the home. Brad and Shawn were selling it to us at an incredible price, but we had no money.  God did, though, and through many friends of Reason to Hope, by the end of 2021 we had enough for a sizeable downpayment.

Papers were signed January, 2022, giving us two years to pay off the balance.  We would make monthly payments at a very low interest rate, and continue to fund raise.  And we have.

Once again our number increased when Araceli came to live with us.  We were contacted by friends who operated a center for those with additional needs at Lake Atitlan.  One of their young women was living in deplorable conditions with an aunt. She was verbally and possibly physically abused by her cousins.  Could she come to live with us?

While not in our plans, it was in God's that we would grow once again.  The size of our current home and Araceli's ability to walk made it possible for her to join us.  In August, 2022, the family at Hijas del Rey became complete (at least for now!).

It is incredible to me, but within the next month, we will be paying off the loan on the forever home of Hijas del Rey.  

We consistently receive calls and emails asking us to take in more adults who need the care only we provide.  With 8 men and 5 women I feel we are full.  But who knows what God has in store for us in the years to come!  I imagine he will continue to surprise us!