Sunday, October 29, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 9: A Concert of Praise

As I am frantically getting ready to go to the States for a month (have not packed a single thing!) I had to stop and share what we experienced last night in the small village of Las Palmas about an hour and a half (in good weather) from here. This wasn't what I had "scheduled" to thank God for today, but could do nothing else but share this marvelous night with you.

We had been invited to come by a group of churches in the area which wanted to support our ministry through a benefit concert.  What you need to realize is this town is one of the poorest in the area, and many of the people barely make it.  When there is no sugar cane to be harvested, many have no work.  And they were concerned about Casa de Esperanza.

We had been promised a concert, and experienced so much more.  It was a concert of praise to our Father, in which every singer performed for an audience of One.  For me, it was a taste of what it will be like when we all praise our God and King for eternity.

I had met Pastor Gonzales at a Quincinera of a friend's daughter last May.  All our guys had been invited and he got to meet them.  He is connected with a group of churches in Esquintla, one of which is pastored by Brenda's (our house manager) dad, Roberto.  So there are natural Guatemalan connections which brought about this amazing night.

I had no idea that two of the singers would come from so far away.

German (pronounced Herman) came from Champerico, leaving home at 3 am to get to Las Palmas in time for the concert.

Eliseo came all the way from the department of San Marcos, which is up near the Mexican border.

Both these young men paid their own transportation, and Pastor Gonzales provided housing for them.

The entire concert was shot through with prayer and the Word of God.  Really, it was a prayer meeting.

Toward the end of the concert, those in attendance were invited to give an offering of food to be used at Casa de Esperanza.  I sobbed as I watched these folks who have so little share what they did have with us.  I wondered what their families would be going without so that they could bless us.  I have never felt so humbled as I was by this outpouring of agape (Christian love).

I couldn't help but be convicted as I remembered the widow's mite.  How often have I given of my excess and felt righteous and generous.  These people were giving from their own resources without a second thought.  I have often said that it is the poor who are the most generous.  Once again I have seen this first hand, and have been broken by the experience.

This is how many traveled, on a rainy night,
to come to bless Casa de Esperanza

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, I come to you broken and humbled by the experience of last night.  I can't begin to thank you for the many blessings we received.  First, thank you for the willingness of the Guatemalan churches, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to love on our guys and partner with our ministry.  I have long desired to find a way to make this ministry more "national" and less North American, and I praise you and thank you for doing this, as only you could.  May our partnership glorify your name and reflect even more the love of Jesus and the presence of your Holy Spirit among the Christ-followers in this country.

Father, I thank you and humbly ask you to bless each of the people involved in the concert last night, from those who arranged for the hall, who brought the sound equipment, who sang, who prayed, who gave you glory.  Let their light sign even more strongly in the darkest places of this nation.

Finally, I ask you to bless those who have so little and yet brought what they could to support and bless our ministry.  I was humbled to see the Body of Christ being just that, your tangible presence here on earth.  Thank you for these generous people, multiply the little they have to sustain them and their families.  

Thank you for once again for once again allowing me to experience your presence in your people, and the hundredfold you have promised  in Matt. 19:29 to those who have left home and family and friends to follow where you lead.  Thank you for this life you have given me.  In Jesus name, Amen

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 8: Brenda Salazar

Today I thank God for Brenda Salazar, and her love and commitment to the programs we are supporting in Guatemala through Reason to Hope, Inc.  Brenda serves as the House Manager of Casa de Esperanza.  She has the concern for the guys at the forefront, but also understands the business side of running a house such as ours.  I had prayed for three years for a Guatemalan national to come on staff who could assume the leadership of the house, and Brenda has done so.  She is responsible for overseeing all housekeeping, cooking, purchasing, scheduling and staffing of Casa de Esperanza; this is no small task. She does this all with the wisdom and grace which comes from her close relationship with Jesus Christ.

Brenda is so much more than an employee to me.  She is a friend and confidant.  Her ability to navigate the "systems" of Guatemalan society has been invaluable to the ministry, especially during times of difficulty, such as Roberto's illness at the beginning of the year.  I truly don't know what I would do without her, and am thankful that by the grace of God I don't have to find out.
My prayer of thanksgiving

Thank you, Father, for bringing Brenda into our lives and hearts.  Her faith in you and desire to follow you daily in obedience bring a spirit of peace and joy to our home.  She loves the guys like her own children, and cares for me as a sister.  Her dedicated work for the ministry is so valuable, but the relationships of each one of us with her is beyond measure.

Bless her, her family, her church and her community.  Give her strength and health to continue serving you many years into the future.  Send the Holy Spirit to guide her steps and guard her path.  I pray this in the strong and mighty name of Jesus.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 7: The Guys

I have already specifically thanked God for Fidel, and his role in the development of our ministry. Today I would like to ask you in joining me in thanking the Father for the four guys He has brought to live here, and for the work He is doing in their hearts and lives.

Fidel as a patient in Hermano Pedro
Fidel going out with our friend David in his convertible
Fidel, of course was my first housemate moving in permanently in August, 2013. His desire for a better life planted the seed which became Casa de Esperanza.  It has been a joy to watch him grow from being a patient to a self-determining adult who is moving closer to God each day.

From 2013--It is hard for me to believe that this is the same Osmi
living with us today!
Osmi is truly a miracle.  When I met him in August of 2013, we believed he was dying. Over the next year, God would bring him to renewed vigor (though he still struggles with osteoporosis and and a degenerative muscle disease which currently is in remission).  Osmi is our scholar and skeptic.  He brings a sense of responsibility to our home which the other guys sometimes lack.  He came to us at the request of Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro (a small miracle in itself) in December, 2014.

This picture reflects Osmi's formal personality so well.

Roberto the day he came
Roberto was abandoned by his family after an accident which left him paralyzed from the waste down. His addition to the house came as a surprise to us (but not God).  Roberto was brought to our attention in July of 2015 by a church in the village of Patzicia, and immediately he captured our hearts. He came home with us the same day we met him! It has been marvelous to see him grow into a healthy young man who takes his responsibilities seriously (most of the time!). While he is not much of a scholar, he loves to help with projects around the house.

Moy as a little boy
Finally, Moises rounds out the family.  I have known Moy for more than ten years, and have gotten to watch him grow from a happy-go-lucky child, through the stage of rebellious adolescence, and emerging adulthood.  Moy brings laughter and energy into our family as no one else can.  He joined us in November, 2016.

Yep, Moy is starting to walk!
Here is is practicing with Cesar.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Our Father, today I thank you for the lives of the four young men you have brought to live with us.  I know you have a plan and purpose for each of them, and it is a joy to watch this unfolding as the grow and develop as young adults.

I thank you for Fidel, and the sense of drive and determination he brings into our house.  I thank you for Osmi, and the sense of responsibility he brings to us.  I thank you for Roberto, and the desire he has to be of service to others.  Finally, I thank you for Moises and the joy he brings to our family.

It is not by accident that they live with us, but by your providence.  I am grateful that you allow me to be part of this plan for each of them, now and in the future.  l pray I am faithful to hear your voice in how to show your great love for each of them in a way that will draw them to you, not me.  Thank you for entrusting this responsibility to me.

Finally, thank you for molding us into family, not just housemates.  In the name of Jesus, I pray in gratitude. Amen

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 6: Casa de Esperanza

Five years ago this month, we moved into the first location of Casa de Esperanza, not knowing how to "do" life together with men with physical limitations, but desiring to obey God and learn in the process.  I thank God for all that He has done during this time: for the four young men He has brought to live with us; the staff, caregivers and volunteers who have come to serve with us; the progress we have made in developing community in the house; providing a permanent facility for the home; the improving programs for the disabled made available though the home. The journey hasn't always been smooth, but it has always been exciting. Only God could have done the things we have experienced, and I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this.

The first "overnight" trial run group
My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, today I give you thanks for the ministry of Casa de Esperanza.  Let our home be a light in the darkness of the world of those living with disabilities here in Guatemala.  I thank you for the hope in the future it has given our four young men.  I praise and thank you for all the things you have done to bring us to this point in ministry--many are only explained by your direct intervention.  Thank you for the staff you have brought us, who have become part of the family.  I thank you for the community of San Pedro Las Huertas, and their growing love for our guys.  You are the God who does not break the bruised reed of lives challenged by limitations.  You are the God of restoration, and I thank you for the restoration of lives through the ministry of Casa de Esperanza.  I am humbled to be part of what you are doing in and through this house.  In the name of Jesus, I bless and thank your Holy Name. Amen.

The four permanent residents of Casa de Esperanza
(Roberto, Osmi, Moises, and Fidel)
with our House Manager, Brenda Salazar

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 5: Fidel Heranadez

Today I want to thank our God (Diosito as Fidel affectionately calls him) for a very special man in my life.  Fidel has been my friend for over ten years now, and while our friendship has not always been easy, it has been fruitful.  Fidel has taught me more about the struggles of living with a physical disability than any book or class ever could have.  In the time I have known him, he has changed, by the grace of God, from an angry, depressed young man who was difficult to love at times, to a caring person who it is a delight to do life with. His anger and depression were the seeds which planted Casa de Esperanza in our hearts. I love how I continue to see God drawing Fidel to Himself through the events of daily life.  My desire is that Fidel will come to more fully realize the great love our Father has for him, and respond in faith.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Diosito, today I thank you for Fidel and the work you are doing in his heart and in his life to bring him closer to you.  I thank you for the drive, energy and determination which are part of his character.  I thank you for the leadership role he is increasingly assuming with the guys in the house, and his growing desire to be of service to others.  What a joy it is to watch him as he dreams of the future.

I thank you for Fidel's friendship.  He is so much more than an resident in the home to me; he is one of my closest friends and part of my family.  I have grown to trust you more as I have had to surrender him and his future to your plan and purpose for him, and have watched as you draw him to Yourself.  His friendship and desire for a better life were the tools you used to plant Casa de Esperanza and for this I am grateful. Finally, I thank you for all you will do in Fidel's future, and am excited to be a small part of this.  In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 4: New Life School and Staff

I am so grateful for the partnership our ministry has with New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus, and for my friendship with Judy Kerschner, its founder.

Much of what I know about running a ministry here I have learned by watching how Judy and Marisol, the principal, run the school and their ministry.  I have avoided many mistakes through their example--though I've managed to make enough of my own.

The teachers at the school are some of the best that I have found in Guatemala,and I so appreciate their friendship and openness to learn new techniques to better teach the students.  The students in the school are very precious to me, and I could write volumes about each of them.  We say New Life is the school of "last resort" for our students.  Without the school, most of them would never receive an education.

Please join me in thanking our Father for our partnership with New Life, its staff and its students.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, I'm not sure I have words to thank you enough for making New Life School, its staff and its students part of my life and ministry.  Santa Maria de Jesus was the first village you brought me to, years before I even thought of moving here.  The house of Mirna, one of New Life's students at the time, was the first home I ever visited.  From this moment on, I knew Santa Maria would always have a special place in my heart.  I never dreamed it would also become part of my daily life an ministry.

Thank you, Father, for giving Judy the vision to start a school for those children no one else wanted and the perseverance to keep it going for 18 years.  Thank you for the hundreds of times you have miraculously "showed up" to grow and develop the school.  Thank you for teachers who love you, love the children and love learning.  Thank you for these friendships which challenge me daily to grow as a person, a professional and a believer.

Most of all, thank you for the precious children and young adults you have brought into my life though the school. The complexity and breath of their needs has stretched me beyond what I would have thought possible.  They have taught me that when I reach the end of my abilities, I can count on you to step in and fill what I am lacking.  For New Life School and the New Life it brings to all who come in contact with it, I give you thanks. Thank you in the name of Jesus, Amen.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 3: Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro

This morning I ask you to join me in thanking God for the role that Hermano Pedro Orphanage/Hospital has played in forming our ministry here in Guatemala.  I originally came to Antigua, Guatemala thinking I would work part-time with the 125 children who reside at the institution.  Little did I know that God had much greater plans ahead.  It was here at Hermano Pedro I first met Fidel and Moises, and later Osmi.

Hermano Pedro does an excellent job in providing custodial care for those with the most severe handicaps, and I praise God that there is such a place to care for these folks. God used these encounters, however,  to show there was a gap in serving those whose bodies limited them, but their minds did not.  Many of the staff encouraged us to start a new kind of residence for these people, and the idea for Casa de Esperanza was born.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father, I thank you first for the ministry Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro is doing in Guatemala.  They are caring for those that no one else can or wants to care for, and I praise you for that.  i thank you for using their ministry to show me the need for more living options for those with disabilities, and for bringing me Fidel, Osmi and Moises through them.  I praise and thank you for the friendships you have given me both with staff and with residents of the institution.  Finally, I thank you for the connections I have made because of this ministry.  Continue to bless their ministry even as you bless ours.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 2: The Josiah Foundation

Today, please join me in giving thanks for the partnership our ministry has had with the Josiah Foundation.  For the past seven years, they have received funds on our behalf, and have completely supported our ministry in Guatemala through these donations.  Serving as Pat Duff's sending organization, the Board of the foundation has provided encouragement, feedback and wise counsel in the direction of our ministry.  The Josiah Foundation gave us our start in ministry in Guatemala and will always be close to our hearts.

My prayer of thanksgiving

Father God, in the name of Jesus I give you thanks for the partnership you provided for us with the Josiah Foundation to help me get started in ministry here in Guatemala.  When I was disheartened by the complexity of fund-raising and non-profit ministry, you brought them along side of me and allowed me to work through them, and for this I am grateful.  I thank you for Dave Penner and Mike Wenig who took a risk on an un-proven missionary, and have worked consistently over the years to get the needed funds here to Guatemala to enable us to grow into the ministry we are today. Bless them for their efforts, and bless the Josiah Foundation in its ministries and projects now and far into the future.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

21 Days of Prayer~~Day 1: The call

Please join me today in thanking God for calling me, Pat Duff, to Guatemala and entrusting me with this ministry to the least of these. Thank Him for all He has done to move me along and encourage me on this journey. Give Him thanks for the ways in which He has orchestrated my life to prepare me to join Him in this work. There is nowhere I'd rather be.

My prayer of thanksgiving:
Father God, in the name of Jesus, today I give you thanks for looking at me, with all my weaknesses, defects and brokenness, and still calling me to serve your people in Guatemala.

I thank you for the ways in which you have prepared me for this stage in my life. I thank you for the training i have received professionally, the experiences I have had in education and mental health, and for all who have contributed to my knowledge and skills in the area of Special Education.

Even more, I thank you for the life experiences--joyful and painful--that have molded me personally and spiritually to be used to further your plan and purpose for Guatemala.

You knew from the beginning that I would be here. Thank you for making it clear to me to join you in what you are doing in Guatemala. Amen.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Will you pray with us for the next 21 days?

Nothing significant happens apart from prayer.
~~Pastor Tony Lambert

We are about 21 days away from our annual dinner, A Taste of Guatemala, and our silent auction.  In planning for this event, God has sent us in a slightly different direction this year.

While the past years have focused on fund-raising (and we will be happy to accept donations at the event), this year we want to give THANKS.  Thanks for all God has accomplished in seven short years though our efforts, sometimes stumbling, to be obedient to His leading.  It is no coincidence to me that for the first time we will have our dinner in November, a time when we reflect on thanksgiving.

To do this well, we need to prepare not just the dinner but our hearts to GIVE THANKS. The best preparation I know of is through prayer.  So, I am asking you to consider joining me in prayer for the next 21 days--praying that this dinner will bring glory to God as never before by celebrating His seven years of faithfulness to the poor and disabled in Guatemala.

If you are willing to pray with us, I would like to email you each day a particular aspect of our ministry for which we are grateful and for which we would ask you to join us in praising God.  Will you partner with us in prayer for 21 days?

If so, please email me at and wait to receive your first prayer point tomorrow morning.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Going out with the gang

Going out as a family is quite a challenge. 

Recently we were all invited to the "quincinera" (15th birthday party) for Michelle, the daughter of our house manager, Brenda Salazar.  The trick is, they live about an hour away from San Pedro, so it took a lot of planning to move four guys, two workers, and four wheelchairs, along with myself, to the village of El Rodeo for the celebration.

First, you hire a pick-up truck to haul the wheel chairs.  Then, one by one, you load all our guys into my van.

Then you somehow manage to load all the chairs into it, including two very heavy power chairs.

When everyone is loaded up, you start the hour drive, "shortened" to an hour and a half when the sign for the turn into El Rodeo has been removed and you miss the cut-off!  Then, the loading process is reversed to get everyone out of the vehicle and back into their chairs. (Of course, you'll do this all over again to go home--minus the detour for the missed turn.)

It seems like a lot of hassle to go to a party, but the smile on Fidel's face makes it well worth it! Someday maybe we'll have a wheelchair van, but for now, we are grateful God gave us a minivan and friends with pick-up trucks.
After all, Michelle is part of the family!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thanks, Hope Haven for sharing your innovations with us

One day not too long ago, I received a call to come to the house. . .a team was there from Hope Haven, International, and had brought the guys a surprise.

A few weeks earlier, I had been at a workshop at Hope Haven's workshop in Santo Domingo Xenaco, and Mark Richard had shown me a new design in wheelchairs, the Beeline, and a harness to a bicycle to enable an able-bodied rider to tow along a friend in a wheelchair.  Well, a team from Illinois and Mark decided that it was time for the guys at Casa de Esperanza to have one!

Since Fidel and Osmi have power chairs, and Moy has a chair with large front wheels that enable him to pass over the cobblestones (often he "catches a tow" by hooking his feet under Fidel's or Osmi's power chair and letting them pull him down the street), Roberto is the major beneficiary of the chair.

I had been problem solving for quite a while how we could get a chair, or perhaps and electric scooter, which would enable Roberto to have more access to the community, now that his health has improved.  Well, this is our answer.  The chair is stable enough that he can self-propel over the cobble-stone street, and, when going longer distances, one of the workers or one of his friends can tow him with the bike.

Jonathan, the youth pastor from Roberto's church often comes and takes him for a ride,
even going as far as into Antigua!

This has opened up a whole new part of the world to Roberto.

We are so grateful to Mark Richard, Hope Haven Guatemala, the Illinois team, and everyone who has worked to design this gift of mobility and freedom to our house.