Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lester's New Wheels

Lester is a six year old from Santa Maria de Jesus who was born with an irreparable heart defect and often appears blue from lack of oxygen.  When I met him more than three years ago he was not expect to live much longer, and we helped get him a wheelchair so he could enjoy the freedom to move around.

Today, Lester has grown and weighs much more than he did three years ago. While his health has deteriorated and he has contracted Hepatitis he continues to thrive emotionally under the loving care of his mother Brenda.  Doctors have told her he does not have much longer to live, but she is doing her best to make each day count.

With his added weight his wheelchair is now too heavy for his mother to push up the steep mountain side to their home.  She came asking for help to find a stroller which would be lighter and more flexible to use on the rough terrain.  After seeing where they are living (from the village for Mom decided the hike up would be too strenuous and even dangerous for me) and visiting with Lester at his grandmother's house along with Sandra, our school psychologist, we came up with an idea.

A three wheeled jogging stroller would be the best solution for them.  I describe this to Sandra, asking her where we could get one in Guatemala, and knowing one would be quite expensive if we found one.  She had heard of these but only seen pictures of this type of stroller.  We would have to investigate further and told Mom we could not make any promises but would do our best to find something that would suit her needs.

A little after a week had passed since our visit, I was praying for Lester.  I felt God was going to teach me something through our involvement with this family, but frankly wasn't looking forward to what I would learn.  Usually these situations teach me to submit to God's sovereignty in the life of each individual and often these lessons are painful.  I had accepted that there was nothing we could or should do to prolong his life, but I wanted him to have the best life he could for as long as God chose to leave him with us.

Somewhat in frustration I finally prayed, "God, you know what I need for Lester.  Now find it.  I don't know where to look."  After I finished praying I went to my computer and turned on Facebook.  The first posting I saw, literally the first thing on my screen, was a woman in a neighboring village who was selling the PERFECT jogging stroller.  I could not believe it.  I contacted her immediately, hoping we could find the funds to purchase it.  After discussing the situation with her, she agreed to sell it to us for 1000 quetzales, roughly $135 dollars.  I could squeeze this out of our limited budget and a deal was struck.  She even delivered it to me, bringing it on the back of a motorcycle.

Last week I was able to take this up to Santa Maria and deliver it to Lester and his mom.  It fit him perfectly, and he could sit up with stability in the stroller, but it would also recline to allow him to
sleep in it if he wanted to.

After we had him sitting pretty, Mom clung to me sobbing that she didn't think she would ever have anything quite so grand for her son to enjoy.  It was with great pleasure I related the story of God's special provision of this chair for her boy.  I asked her to remember each time she looked at the stroller that God was with her as she walks this difficult path with Lester.  He provided the stroller she needed and she could trust Him to provide what she would need in the future to care for him.  We talked about how God would be with her until He took Lester home.

This was not an easy conversation to have.  It was doubly challenging to have in a different language with a woman from a different culture and background.  It is far too easy to give out platitudes about God's will in a situation where a child is dying.  It is much harder to admit that I don't know why Lester was born with this condition, but that I knew beyond a doubt He was cherished by the God who created him, and would be welcomed into the arms of Jesus when he finally went home to the Father.  I could give her this stroller as concrete proof that God not only sees but cares for Lester.

So what did God teach me?  Once again, to respond in obedience to His direction in how to serve each person who comes to me, trusting that He can and will provide what I need.  It was so easy to see this with the stroller.  He also taught me, though, that He would give me the right words to speak to comfort a mother's aching heart if I was only willing to step into her pain with her.  I have a feeling Lester and his mom are not done teaching me yet.

Challenge to the Churches

One in five persons in the United States has a disability which affects how they are able to live their lives.  Think about that. Twenty percent of Americans are challenged by a physical, mental, psychological or medical limitation.  Do we see this reflected in our churches on Sunday morning?  If not, why not?

Response to Fuego Eruption: Why Bibles?

I know some are wondering why, with all the needs arising from the destruction of the villages of El Rodeo following the eruption of the Fuego volcano, we have decided to focus on providing Bibles to those who have lost everything.

The answer is easy.  After much prayer and consultation, I believe this is what God would have us do.

Many organizations and mission groups are providing for the material needs of those affected by the volcano.  Missionaries are encouraging and praying with survivors as they bring aid to them.  There are many ministries better equipped to provide humanitarian relief than we are. So I asked God what our niche would be in relief efforts.

A few days after the eruption, I received this video from our house manager Brenda. (Sorry it's sideways.  That's how I received it.) She and her family were among those in a shelter in Esquintla, having lost everything to the ash and lava covering her village of La Reina.

Her mother, my friend Rosa, worked with the local civil defense agency, and was helping to manage this shelter.

Her father, Roberto, pastored a church in La Reina and continues to try to pastor those in the shelter.

My heart broke watching this video.  Having worshiped with some of these folks in the past at there church in La Reina, I knew most of them would have had Bibles in their hands if they had them.  I thought about what it would be like to lose my favorite Bible.  My heart hurt.

As I continued to pray for my friends and acquaintances in this area (this church sponsored a concert to benefit our ministry less than a year ago), God placed in my heart a desire to replace a bit of what they had lost.  The answer I got was, "Give them Bibles."

So that is what we are doing.  Working with Pastor Roberto and the missionaries who are taking humanitarian relief to the area, we will supply them with Bibles.  We will focus primarily on the shelter in Esquintla which Rosa is helping to oversee, because we have access to the people living there, more than 600 men, women and children.  As these Bibles are given, we hope to discover other, perhaps more tangible needs, which we will try to meet on an individual basis as funds are available.

We have begun conversations with various ministries about beginning small group Bible studies developed by the American Bible Society focused on Trauma Healing. (It was no coincidence that I was in Omaha begin trained to facilitate these groups the week following the eruption.)  We will help more with the process of rebuilding than with the immediate relief efforts.

I believe this fits our ministry's and my unique gifting, focusing on restoration and healing:  Our mission:  To improve the lives of the poor and disabled, now and for eternity.

It allows us to utilize our strengths to meet a unique need--reminding these survivors that God has not abandoned him, and using this window of suffering to draw people to Jesus who may not have known him in the past. These Bibles are our first step.