Friday, March 8, 2019

Reaching Out Beyond Our Doors

The therapy addition is complete, unfortunately I don't have a picture!
Here Pastor Roberto, who is also a "maestro de obra" (contractor)
is finishing the outside cement.  (He is also Brenda's dad!)

When Westside Church's Children's Ministry approached me about sponsoring a project in Guatemala, the first thing that popped into my mind was a way to reach the larger community of people with disabilities, especially those who lived in our area.  I had in my mind what this would look like, and still hope to complete this vision.

Moving in!
I dream of a center in Casa de Esperanza where people can come for therapy and encouragement, as well as learn about the Ultimate Healer, Jesus.  We are already known in our town of San Pedro, as the "wheelchair house" and many, many people in town know the guys living there.  Slowly the mental image of someone with a disability has changed from pity and total dependence, to seeing them as individuals, similar to themselves, who face a unique set of challenges to reach the same goals they pursue.

Offering physical and occupational therapy has been a complicate process, which we are still navigating.  We have met an excellent physical therapist who works at a children's home about ten blocks from us.  We are looking at ways to hire her to come in one day a week and do out-patient therapy.  Our biggest obstacle is raising her salary which would come to about $400 each month.  But, in time, God will provide.  We may start out with her just coming to work with the guys in the home, and see where it leads.

Finding occupational therapy is even more difficult.  In the US, you must now have a Doctorate to get your degree in Physical Therapy, and a minimum of a Masters Degree to be an Occupational Therapist.  Here in Guatemala the training program in our area is a three year undergraduate program in combined PT/OT.  There is no way you get the same level of competence in three years that you do in Graduate School. (Apologies to the "education doesn't matter" group, but it does!)

Mario sharing Christmas dinner with me.
He sacrificed his own Christmas to make sure
all our guys got to visit their friends and family for the day.
Mario, one of our companion-caregivers, expressed an interest in studying Physical Therapy, so we are providing a scholarship for him to pursue this three year degree.  This is on the condition that he is willing to receive further training from visiting therapists from the US who have more education and experience.  It also requires that he will work for us one year after his graduation (with pay, of course) for each year we sponsor him.  We are "growing our own" so to speak.

We also are now able to offer assistance to non-verbal children to help them communicate their wants and needs, thanks to the generous donations of the Communication Team from Illinois, and Mary Tieken, who was the instigator behind this project.

My first thought was to offer physical therapy because I thought that was the greatest need of those with disabilities in our town.  While that may be true among the adults, I have discovered that among the children their greatest need is education.  While there is a school for children with special needs about ten blocks from our home, gossip has that it is not a good place.

Bryan and Melanie, our two
San Pedro students

From what I have seen, it is not the best school ever, but they do treat the children well.  I know parents who send their children there. What I do know is that the staff do not pull any punches in dealing with the kids.  They treat them like typical children their age, and, in a country where children with disabilities are either rejected or coddled, this doesn't go over very well. (By the way, this school is completely Guatemalan run.)

So parents have come to me, asking if I would teach their children who either have been told they can no longer attend public school, or sit in classes with students their age, but learn nothing.  This has been a hard decision for me, because I want to support the special school in our area, but know I can't force parents to send their children there.

Running an individualize education program requires
as much in materials as it does in time.  
I have agreed to work with these children once a week.  They will not learn a lot of academics in a couple of hours, but I am hoping to forge a relationship with the parents so that they are at least willing to talk to some parents I know whose children are in the special school, and maybe even go with me to visit.  Should they decide to enroll their children, it will still be a challenge, because these families live about ten blocks in the opposite direction from our home, and will need to ride a bus to take and pick up their kids.  Nothing, it seems, is simple in Guatemala.  But, if we get to the point where they want to enroll, we'll figure out something.  God always shows us how to do what He asks of us.

In addition, we have begun an outreach to the village of Santa Lucia Milpas Altas, about 12 miles from Antigua.  We received a call from the Mayor's office asking if we could help and we agreed to go one time with the Communication Team from Illinois.  Of course, we didn't stop at one, but meet each week on Thursday afternoon with these children.

Education here is under the Federal Government, so the Mayor has no control over what goes on in the school.  Actually, the municipal psychologist, Gloria, is the disability champion for this project.  Our goal here is to convince the principal of the local public school to provide us with a classroom and desks, free of charge.  We would then hire a teacher to teach these children in their local school, using techniques and materials we would provide.  This is probably years in the making, but I think well worth the effort. Would you please make this a prayer priority?

We are reaching out, a little differently than we thought we might, but God knew and prepared the way to get us where He needed us to be.  We are excited to see what he does next.

To learn more about our educational outreach, read the article about our tutoring program.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

It Feels Like I've Come Full Circle

Some of you who have been with me since the beginning of Reason to Hope (as Guatemala Grandma) might remember that my first plan was to come to Guatemala and provide communication systems for children in Hermano Pedro Hospital.  Looking back, that showed my naiveté not only about Guatemalan systems but about institutional living.  I soon discovered that providing a way for non-verbal children to communicate when no one was listening was more than ineffective, it was frustrating and cruel to the child.

(Side note:  I believe much has changed at Hermano Pedro since I began there 8+ years ago.  I also still maintain they are by far the best institution I have been in, and that includes those located in the US.  Institutions, by their nature, are rigid.)

So, over the years I would periodically get to work with communication systems at a wheelchair distribution, and at times at New Life School in Santa Maria, but it really took a back seat to other parts of our ministry.

Last year, Andrew Lewis brought a communication devise to Fidel which had been donated by the Tobii-Dynavox company, for which he is a sales rep.  It was wonderful to see Fidel being more understandable to those who don't know him (Fidel speaks but because of Cerebral Palsy it is difficult and his articulation is poor).  Through Fidel, I have learned a lot about the challenges of using a communication devise, particularly in Guatemala, but still believe they are valuable.

My experience with communication systems has pretty much been with lo-tech systems using laminated cards and velcro strips.  Electronic devises are costly and fragile, and did not seem a realistic option for Guatemala.

Then, Mary Tieken who has worked with Mark Richard of Beeline Wheelchairs got the communication system bug.  Darly, a little girl connected with Mark, was bright and alert, but could not speak.  Mary was on a mission to help her find a way to communicate!

Early using her communication devise for the first time.

She contacted Tobii-Dyanvox and it just so happened that Justine Thole answered the phone.  Justine is not only a sales-rep for the company, but a licensed Speech Pathologist.  Furthermore, she is a Christ-follower.  Through Mary's call, Justine heard God call her to Guatemala, and she obeyed.  She immediately set out looking for used devises which could be donated for use in Guatemala and began making plans to accompany Mary's daughter, Carrie, on a trip to Guatemala in January.

Mary contacted me, though I only knew her through mutual friends.  She knew of my interest in alternative and augmentative communication, so invited me to join their team.

On January 5th when Carrie, Justine, and Theresa Schroeder arrived in Guatemala, they came bearing gifts.  In fact, they had a number of footlockers full of communication equipment, with various levels of sophistication.

We set off visiting children I knew who would benefit, as well as come kids which Beeline contacted.  The next week was spend in Xenaco, Santa Maria de Jesus, Santa Lucia, Antigua, San Antonio Aguas Calientes, and other towns visiting projects and children's homes where these devices might be helpful.   These ladies got to see parts of Guatemala not usually shown to tourists, and were gracious and resilient through it all.

We gave out everything from single switch communicators, where you hit a button for one message, to highly sophisticated equipment which children could control through eye-gaze (selecting items by where they looked).  It was exciting to see the possibilities become reality in many places.

I have always felt insecure doing communication, since speech therapy is not my field.  My justification for do it was I was more qualified that those who weren't doing anything!

Justine spent hours patiently training me and encouraging me in my ability to manage this project.  I discovered that much of what I had researched and figured out was, in fact, best practice, and when they left January 12, I was left with two footlockers still full of devices.

I have not devoted as much time to this project as I had hoped due to expanded responsibilities at New Life School until April.  Then, however, I hope to jump in with both feet and really hone my skills in this area.  Programming and changing some of the devises from English to Spanish are my greatest challenges, but Justine is just a Skype call away, and left me with a wealth of resources to help me get started.  Looking forward to seeing where this leads.

A side story too good not to tell:

At this same time I became acquainted with DIGNA, a program in Antigua that teaching job readiness skills to adults with special needs.  Unknown to me, the founder, Amanda Blackwell, is a Speech Pathologist working on her doctorate (focusing on assistive technology) who lives in Antigua.  God provides resources beyond what I could ask or imagine.

I also found out at this time that the daughter of the care-takers for my house, Rosario, is a Guatemalan speech therapist.  Though this project, I was able to connect her with Hope for Home ministries, who hired her to work with them on the spot.  And, I have a speech therapist living next door.  Who but God could arrange all this?

If we can't come to the church, the church has come to us. . .

I think I may have written about the home church group meeting each Monday at Casa de Esperanza, but I want to share the impact it is having on the lives our the men who live in our home.

Last August (I think) Matt Smeltzer asked if the church he felt led to start could meet in our men's home.  While God has shifted the direction of Matt's ministry (Matt is now the chaplain at a homeless shelter in Rochester, NY), he used Matt intentionally to reach our guys.

None of the churches in San Pedro are accessible to wheelchairs, or they are down long dirt paths which the chairs can't handle. And, frankly, the experience of the men in the church we attended in Antigua left them less than engaged.  It was hard to know what to do, since transporting them to an accessible church seemed an overwhelming task.

Enter Matt.  Matt was the perfect candidate to reach our guys, since he had known Fidel and Moises for years through the Bethel/Hope Haven camp each November.  They knew and trusted him through their long time relationship.  So Matt was the catalyst.  And shortly after Matt planted the seed with us, God moved him back to the US.  Could it be possible that God brought him all they way to Guatemala just  for this?  Humbling thought.

Matt's departure, however, did not signal the end of the church.  As all good leaders do, he had brought others alongside him to lead.  Derrick and Brittany Burden, and their children Zack and Zoe, have been faithful in teaching and mentoring our guys since Matt's departure.

I have chosen not to be part of the home church on a regular basis, since the guys had heard the Good News from me more than enough times.  They needed to hear it from others, without my influence. (Two of them who had previously been highly engaged in the Catholic Church had told me they only did this to please the people caring for them.  I did not want this to happen in our home.)

Derrick "messing with" the guys.  They love him.

From my position as a somewhat outsider, I think I can more clearly see how the men are growing in their faith through the ministry of the Burden Family.  Each week they meet not only for praise and worship, but share Bible teaching in a discussion setting in which the guys can raise questions and express their thoughts.  This has made a huge impact on our men.  Furthermore, they follow the Acts model of sharing a meal and fellowship at each of their gatherings, and I think this has impacted the guys as much as the teaching.  They see Derrick, Brittany and their kids living out the gospel in front of them.  And they are blessed.

Once a month Pastor Harold Salvador comes from Chimaltenango to share with the guys and give them a connection with the larger church.  His regular ministry is a Camp Canan, where he works with young people in a retreat setting.  Again, this brings a much needed piece of the puzzle to the church, both with his skills and by the fact that he is a national Guatemalan pastor.

So Matt's legacy lives on, the Burdens bless us through their faithfulness, God brings other brothers and sisters to expand our horizons, and God is glorified.  Isn't that what church is all about.

For more insight into the home church movement, I encourage you to read Letters to the Church,  by Francis Chan.  No matter what size the community in which you worship, he has much to teach us.

What's New at New Life

After many years of working directly with students my role at New Life continues to evolve. One of my main tasks, now that Judy Kerschner is directing the ministry from the US, is to serve as go-fer for the school.  With so many needs there is always something to pick up.

Cesar, one of our companion-caregivers
helping me unload school supplies.

This year I am filling in for the principal who is doing a practicum to complete her university studies.  While I don't deal with any of the government or legal requirements for the school, I am available to help teachers with discipline and curriculum issues.  It requires me to be at the school daily, which is "cramping my style" a bit, and reminding me that I am over retirement age!  I love the kids, and I love the teachers, though, so it's worth it.  And she finishes in April!

I continue to work on teacher training.  This year our focus is on helping the teachers continue to improve their methods of discipline and to use evaluations to help them know what a child has learned and what he/she needs to learn next.  The best part of this teacher training is seeing the staff at the school take more responsibility for training their peers as they develop their own skills through further education.

Manuel, our 5th grade teacher, and Sandra, our psychologist,
training our teachers on Zone of Regulation,
to help students better manage their emotions.

We also have implemented an Intervention Team to evaluate and assist students who are not making the progress we would like to see.  This team includes our psychologist, Sandra, our Occupational Therapy intern, Sarahi, and myself.  Megan Lewis, who started GOT ministries and is a licensed OT in Kansas, even joins us by Skype when she is available.  You've gotta love technology.

Our accommodations are not only for our students.
Here, Sandra and Nisza translate what is going on in training
into Guatemalan Sign Language for Paquita, our teacher who is deaf.

Meeting monthly we hope to improve the instruction and educational experiences for all students at New Life, by focusing on their abilities as well as accommodating their disabilities.  While it's a challenge, it's exciting, too.

We still have our men. . .

With all I post about the new women's home, I don't want to forget to update you on the men at Casa de Esperanza.

All four travel every Saturday up the volcano to Santa Maria de Jesus to continue their studies.  This is quite an expense, but one well worth it.  It is quite the process to get them all up there, requiring a taxi and a pick up truck, but our workers do it diligently, arising at 4 am to start the process of preparing the guys and getting them breakfast.

Moises and Osmi both graduated 9th grade and are working on a Bachelerato en Sciencias y Letras, the equivalent of a high school diploma.  They both seem academically prepared for the challenges they face and I am very proud of them.

In addition to working on school, Moises is practicing walking with the help of a companion for balance.  Carrie Cook, a physical therapist who visited with the communication team, assured us he was ready for this, and I can see steady improvement.  He still prefers his wheelchair because it is faster and easier to "shuffle around sitting" but is encouraged to do his therapy by the promise of Coca-cola.  (Moy will do almost anything for a Coke.)

After his serious illness when his appendix rupture, Osmi is recovering quite well.  His relationship with Jesus has never been better, and while I hate what he went through with the illness, I rejoice that it drew him closer to Him.  It also seems to have further cemented his friendship with Ali, a young lady who is quite fond of him.  They are such a cute couple, she is a good woman, and I'm watching to see what God does with their friendship.  Please pray for them.

Osmi and Kevin, one of our companion caregivers, also have the idea to start a small business selling mugs customized with photos.  They had put of a sign and had not gotten any takers.  When I get back, they will receive a "small business loan" to make some sample mugs with generic photos of Antigua.  I think people will buy these, as well as the samples will demonstrate the quality of their work.  There's a lot to do to develop this idea, but I'm proud of them for coming up with it and hope I can coach them well.

Fidel surprised, no, astonished me when he asked if he could go to school on Saturdays too.  If you have followed us through the years, you might remember what a struggle it was to get Fidel to finish 9th grade. He maintains his interest in computers and design, and the director of the school, Pastor Rey, developed a plan where he can just work on is computer skills.  He will not receive a diploma, but at 33 years old I am pleased he still wants to learn more.  I hope to be able to get him a good computer with video and graphic abilities so he can really put to good use his talent.  And he can do PR for our ministry!

Fidel's reycling business is an example of many ministries working together.
Bethel Ministries provided the power chair.
Dick Rutgers has kept him in batteries.
Beeline wheelchairs make his cart.
And the barrels he uses are part of a donation for Cross Ministries in Iowa.
I love when the Body of Christ works together.

Fidel also continues to run his recycling business.  It is painful how little money he receives for so much work, but he is content to have work.  What really saddens me is the number of Guatemalas I know who subsist with recycling as their only source of income.

Finally, Roberto is working on basic academics on Saturdays with a private tutor.  He continues to struggle, especially with remembering letters, numbers and symbols, and I believe this is due to damage he received in the fall that left him paralyzed.  Our goal for him, however, is to socialize with typical adults his age and develop his social skills.  We also are blessed to have a psychology student doing a practicum with us, and she is working to help us better understand Roberto's intellectual abilities and his neurological limitations.

No, Roberto isn't doing hard time on the rock pile.  
He's voluntarily breaking up some of the concrete chunks
that were removed 
when we built the addition to the house.
Now they can be disposed of properly.

Both Moy and Roberto continue to help with household chores.  Roberto's attitude has so greatly improved about doing this that he sometimes receives "bonuses" to his monthly allowance for going above and beyond.  Moy does it because he has to, but, after all, that's why I clean my house, too!

I can't praise the staff God has given us enough.  To Him really is the glory for assembling such a team of remarkable people who serve Him by serving our guys, and I thank him daily for each of them. They love the men and the men love them.  They truly are Jesus with skin on to us.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Coincidence in timing? I think not. . .

Just after I learned that a speech therapist, a physical therapist, and a nurse would be coming to work with us on the Communication Systems project, I was contacted by a mom in San Pedro (where the boys' house is located) asking me to work with her daughter Melany.  She was ten years old and had been in the preschool class at the local public school for 6 years.  This year the principal had decided that she was too old to attend.  Could I help?

While our Outreach Center is not ready to open, the guys are all gone from their house on Saturday mornings, so we are meeting there each week to work on basic number and reading skills.  After the first week, her mom asked if her friend's son could come.  He, too, has a developmental disability, and while only 8, had also been told he could not continue in the local public school.

So, each Saturday Bryan and Melanie meet me at ten o'clock for two hours of school, and appear to love it.  They both come with their older sisters (the mom's work at a local home "factory" weaving baskets) and are learning basic concepts such as shapes as colors, to read their names, and recognize numbers to 10.  How I wish it would be possible to work with them daily, but the time for that is "not yet."

The psychologist, Gloria, and the head social worker
for the community formally greeting the team
to thank them for coming.
About the same time, I received a call from the psychologist who works for the mayor's office in a nearby town.  They had some children with special needs there, and heard I could help.  Would I?  As much as my mind wanted to resist, my heart wouldn't let me, and I promised to bring the team from Illinois who were coming to work on communication with me to see their students.  One time.  Yep, only once.

The "Awesome Threesome" whose visit encouraged me
to say "yes" when asked to help in this community.
Well, of course, it has grown into more than once.  The children captured my heart immediately.  All attend the local public school, and all basically are ignored in their classrooms.  From what I understand, the principal of this school is a caring woman, but they have no idea how to teach children with developmental disabilities.  I'm not sure they even believe they CAN learn, but at least these children are treated kindly at school, which I can't say about most places.

Eli and Dani working with José Raul
But God has not left me alone to deal with this.  Through my connection with the psychologist, I now have a student who is doing her field work in psychology working with me.  Eli is amazing.  She works in the men's and women's homes, as well as helping at the center in Santa Lucia each Thursday afternoon.  Juli, from our women's home, would like to study occupational therapy in the future, and is happy to come with to work with the kids each week.  Finally Dani, who is a companion-caregiver for our men, donates one of his days off to come and volunteer with this project.  He's trained as a preschool teacher, but wants to learn better ways to teach kids with special needs.

Juli helping Heyner use a communication device.
We had been told he was unable to speak.
We have learned he was just afraid to,
because he does not pronounce words well and was picked on.
So, between the two centers, we are serving about ten families and their special children.  I'm not sure that the academics we work on are why God has brought us here.  I believe the impact we are making is in demonstrating to the families and kids that the children have value, and that they are important to the God who created them.  He has a plan and a purpose for their lives.  They are not accidents of nature.

Our "theme song" is "God has seen your need and brought us to you.  You matter.  He cares."

The first time I worked with Heyner, he put his head down on the table
and refused to look at me.  Here he is proudly displaying the square he had colored
as part of my evaluation. (Look at that smile!)
In 40+ years of teaching, I've never seen a child color the square as a rainbow.
 I can't wait to see the artist in him emerge.
Isn't that what it means to love one another?

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.