A Walk in the Dark

The glow of a candle illuminates the inside of Leslie’s family home while a solar lamp lights up the porch while Chrisi chatted with the family.

It was just getting dark as we left our yard with our four kids in tow.  We walked about five blocks chatting with each other as Leslie guided us off the main road down a dusty two-track and then through a narrow pathway that led to the adobe and wood structures she calls home.
As we arrived, it was dark…really dark. The house was lit by only a tiny flame from a stick of a candle perched on a small shelf above an old mattress.

This is where Leslie and her family live.

Leslie is about 10 years old. She comes regularly to our weekly Bible study. She is a happy girl with a shy smile. She enjoys crafts and helping out with puppets or swinging on the rope swing in our yard. She’s part of a gaggle of girls who play together and screech as only pre-teen girls can when a boy tries to chase them into a game of tag.

We’ve known Leslie for a while, but we didn’t really know what life is like for her until we visited her home.

It had taken us two weeks of asking to convince Leslie to show us where her house is, but she finally led us to her home.

Image of Leslie

Leslie (at right) colors a maze during the “Little Disciples” Bible Study.

As we stood outside the house, Leslie’s mom, grandmother, and an aunt along with two younger cousins greeted us. They ushered us into a few seats they set out for us as they told us their stories.

Her aunt has bad headaches and can’t work. Her mom has a job helping clean a house but the money isn’t enough to feed everyone. Her grandmother keeps the home. Her parents separated when Leslie was little. The difficulties faced by this family are daunting.

This tight band of women rely on the little money Leslie’s mom makes and the charity of friends who drop by with food items to share. They have no running water or electricity at their home. They only have each other, their faith in Jesus Christ, and the ground upon which their homes are built.

We had brought a solar chargeable lantern with us. So, Michael hung that up to shed light on the conversation. It lit up the porch and one of the women kept mentioning how much she liked our lantern.

Chatting with them made us realize that connecting with the kids at the Bible study in our yard isn’t enough. We need to connect with them and get to know their families in their own home setting too.

There in Leslie’s yard, we learned about the real situation these women face every day. We delivered food to help the family, and prayed with them–especially the aunt with her debilitating headaches. To help this family and let them know we care about their situation, we gave them a Bible, a large bag of food,  and two solar lamps to help this family be able to see their world a little better during the dark evenings and cold nights.

By visiting families of the kids in our Bible Study with a packet of food, we are able to connect with their whole family, listen to their stories, understand their physical needs, as well as see, first hand, what their home life is like when they’re not in school or at the Bible Study.

Visiting the homes of the neighbor kids and seeing the  poverty, candle-lit darkness, lack of running water, and other challenges help us understand more of what life is like for these kids and their families.

We stay in touch with Leslie and check up on how her family is doing. Now we’re working to visit the families of all the children who come to the Bible study so we can care for their needs, their hearts and their families more like Christ.

Our hope is that as we connect with these kids and their families, that God will open their hearts to connect more with Him.

We hope that as these kids grow in their understanding of God at the Bible Study, these home visits will show them how Christ isn’t just at the Bible study waiting for them to come to Him. Jesus also walks the dim paths and lights up the darkness with His love for each person in their family right in their home here in Guatemala.


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Helping babies grow: Azuceny

Baby Azuceny with her sister Irma.

Baby Azuceny with her sister Irma.

Azuceny Graciela is four months old.
She came to the milk program at ASELSI — the ministry we work with here in Guatemala — 4 months ago still weighing only 6 pounds.

When Azuceny was born, the doctors did a C-section but found that baby Azuceny’s mother had cancerous tumors in her stomach. Things were to far advanced and she died 15 days after giving birth to her daughter.

In his grief, Azuceny’s father abandoned his daughter and says he wants nothing to do with her.
Now her aunt, Manuela (a single 35 year old) is raising her and her 8 year old sister, Irma (in pink shirt) helps as much as she can.

The Milk Program at ASELSI is providing the regular 2 cans of formula each month but that’s not enough for Azuceny since her aunt isn’t able to purchase the additional formula needed. So she’s been receiving watered down formula to make it last to the end of each month. Now ASELSI is helping by providing an extra can of formula to help Azuceny grow. Since last month Azuceny gained an entire pound! She’s now at 9 pounds and growing!

Please pray for Azuceny and other babies like her who are in desperate need for nutrition so they can grow and thrive in the middle of very hard situations.
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Your prayers and financial gifts help us continue reaching out to people like Azuceny and her family as we live and minister here in the highlands of Guatemala.
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The toys we hold tightly.

toysMToday, I called my youngest daughter to go outside with me. I heard her scamper up to the door with her hands full of toys. She was ready to go. But, I didn’t want to have those toys spread over the lawn, so I told her to leave the toys and come with me. I could see she was torn. She wanted the toys and she wanted to go with her daddy. She fumbled with the toys, whined a bit and finally chose to stay inside with her toys. I said, “Ok. I’ll come back for you later.”

I realized that we often do this with God. We hold too tightly to the “toys” we fill our hands with and we miss the fellowship of our Father.

A life lost, A new life found

Yesterday was a day of contrasts.

I left home at 4:30 a.m. to get to the Guatemalan capital in time to pickup up supplies, run errands, get a new pair of much needed tires and still make it back to Chichicastenango at a decent hour. With all the vehicles on the road these days, the three hour one-way trip can be extended for hours when the traffic is bad — which is pretty often. So I left early.

On the way into the capital I came around a bend in the road and saw police trucks blocking the right lane their lights flashing. As I slowed and moved over to the other lane, I saw a body. There on the cement road, legs and arms where hanging out from underneath a hastily thrown scrap of nylon that covered a dead man’s face.

I was reminded of the fragility of life here — where one misstep can place you in front of a speeding bus and where each decision we make leads us on a path to somewhere that has consequences.

I don’t know the dead man’s story, whether he was drunk fromt he night before and stepped onto the highway at the wrong moment, if he fell from a bus, or was just not watching the traffic when tragedy struck. I hope he knew Christ before he stepped onto that highway.

Later that day, I was at a mechanic’s shop getting a noise checked out on our van. They told me to drive around with one of the young technicians to see if he could hear the rattle I was describing. We hoped in and I introduced myself. He was about 18 and his name was José.

As I drove around with him, we talked about his dream to start his own mechanics shop some day and how he is learning from the older mechanics now to get himself ready. We talked for a while, then I asked him about his relationship with Christ. He said he would like to accept Christ, but he wasn’t sure that Christ would accept him.

We made it back to the garage and parked. There in a cement parking garage, I had the privilege of explaining the Gospel to José and leading him in prayer to accept Christ. I left him with a tract and encouraged him to read the book of John from the Bible he has at home.

It was a day of contrasts. I saw one life that was lost to this world and another that was won for eternity.

Please pray for José; that he will grow in his new faith, connect with a Bible-teaching body of believers, and truly live for Christ.

Remember there are thousands of lives around each of us that are stepping toward eternity every day. Talk to them about Christ. Your voice just might be the one that they listen to before they take their last step.

~ Michael

Computers for Coordinators

The coordinators with their computers.

Thanks to donations through Victory Life Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, these eleven ASELSI coordinators for Bible school extensions across Guatemala and Mexico received laptop computers to help them continue ministering, teaching and developing leaders who understand and apply God’s word in their communities.

Baby Hilda: Keeping Babies Healthy

Hilda with her parents

Hilda with her parents

Hilda was brought into the ASELSI clinic as a 23-day-old baby.

Hilda has a cleft lip and palate. As I got to asking Hilda’s parents questions, I was very surprised to find out that they have another daughter who also had a cleft lip and palate. They told me that she was in the ASELSI milk program for about 4 years and has had both surgeries and now is a healthy 6 year old.

I asked if they had any other children and they said no, just their 2 daughters. When I asked about prenatal care they told me that Manuela never took prenatal vitamins with her first daughter and that she started taking them around 5 months of pregnancy with her second daughter when she came to ASELSI and was put into our pregnancy program where we give free vitamins, do basic blood tests, and do free ultrasounds for woman who are pregnant. With both of their daughters, they were not aware of their birth defects until after they were born. [Read more…]

The Day Diego Nearly Died (and when he really came to life).

Diego was loaded into an ambulance after drinking himself into an unresponsive stupor.

In 2013 Diego was loaded into an ambulance after drinking himself into an unresponsive stupor.

 

In the Spring of 2013 I was visiting a medical outreach where the doctors and a group of residents and medical students from the USA were busy seeing sick patients at a temporary clinic set up in a church in Xepacol — a village of about 400 familes located about 25 minutes outside of our home base in Chichicastenango.

We saw patients with basic skin rashes, colds and sniffles and then we got an urgent request for a doctor from a neighbor who lived across the dirt road from the church. We walked into a packed dirt courtyard inside the adobe home and found a man lying on a pile of blankets. His name was Diego.

Diego had drunk himself into a stupor and when he wandered home; he fell into a sort of unresponsive coma. His family hadn’t been able to wake him and they were worried. They knew full well that, in this culture where addiction to alcohol has cost the lives of many young men, those who binge drink for days and weeks on end like Diego did are never sure of living to see another day.

After a doctor examined him, ASELSI, the minstry I serve with, sent for an ambulance and paid to have him taken to the National Hospital nearly an hour and a half away.

That was the last time I saw Diego…being loaded up in the ambulance and carried to the hospital…until a few weeks ago.

I was back in Xepacol again with a team of short term missionaries from a youth group in Battle Creek, Michigan. We were staying at that same church in the village of Xepacol. The team of 25 people and our Guatemalan leaders slept in storage rooms and Sunday School classrooms and during the day, we went out to build on project sites to help poor families start a sustainable income. We also did evangelism and children’s ministry at the church.

On the second night we were there, I was walking around the side of the church building when a man I didn’t recognize stopped in front of me and greeted me by name. Being a pale faced “gringo” living among the Mayan villagers, it’s not unusual for people to recognize me in a crowd. So I greeted him back and we stood to chat. He said his name was Diego. [Read more…]

Jorge: The Survivor AN UPDATE

Two-year-old Jorge Mario with his mother Lucia

Two-year-old Jorge with his mother Lucia

Jorge is the 11th of 11 children born to his mother, Lucia. She is around 38 years old and had almost given up hope for her little boy.

Jorge entered the ASELSI Milk Program when he was 1 year and 3 months old. He only weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces – that’s what a one month old baby should weigh.  Read more on how Jorge has survived here.

Now he is 2 years old and weighs 17 pounds 4 ounces. While he looks like a chunky little baby, Jorge is still very malnourished for his age and not even touching the growth chart.

He has been steadily gaining and we are hoping to see him up to the required weight soon so that we can send him to get cleft palate surgery that will help make feeding easier and help him grow.

We praise the Lord for this little survivor who has overcome the statistics that say that in this region of Guatemala 6% of babies die before reaching the age of 5. Thanks to God’s hand on this little boy’s life and the help of the ASELSI Milk Program where I help teach mothers how to care for their babies every week, Jorge  is alive today.

~ Chrisi

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Back To School

(Clockwise from upper left) Marisol, Lupita, Luis, Yuri, Jose Mario, Esmerlda, BROTHERS, Yacalyn, & Victor

(Clockwise from upper left) Scholarship kids: Marisol, Lupita, Luis, Yuri, Jose Mario, Esmeralda, the Ajanel Brothers (Elmer, Emilio, Tomas, & Kevin), Yacalyn, & Victor are back in school with the help of scholarship funds provided by friends from the Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, MI.

These kids and (about a dozen others) are back in school thanks to scholarship funds that were provided by a group of kids and adults who rode their bikes at a Ride for Refuge* event in West Michigan.

Carolina at her 6th grade graduation.

Carolina at her 6th grade graduation.

Some families needed help with the cost of school supplies to outfit their children for the school year, others had fallen on hard times and didn’t see how their child would attend school this year because of the financial expense. Others, like Carolina’s family, had never expected their daughter to keep passing her grade level each year. They planned for her to stop when she didn’t pass a grade, but that never happened and this young scholar has a desire to learn.

Last year, 12-year-old Carolina (at right) graduated from sixth grade. Through the scholarship we were able to send Carolina to school this year as she started 7th grade in middle school. This is a pretty big deal since Carolina’s own mother has has never been past 2nd grade.  Like Carolina these other scholarship kids are back in school this year. We provided scholarships to more than 25 children in 11 different schools from four different communities. The kids class levels range from Kindergarten to 7th grade.

Many of these children have absentee or un-involved fathers that leave the moms struggling to keep their family fed and with a roof over their heads so school is not always a priority. By helping these families with a scholarship, these kids get a chance to get an education that is vital for having a better opportunity at life here in Guatemala.
As part of this scholarship we ask these students to come meet with us, so we can build relationship with them, encourage them in their walk with Christ, check up on grades, and help teach them more about Christ.

Thank you for helping make this program possible.

*Some of the Ride For Refuge funds also went to help build a kitchen for a Bible teaching and feeding program for poor children that a church in our community does every Friday.

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(Left to right) Juan Carlos, Elias, Rosa, Sara, Yesica, Silvia, and Carolina are back in school this year thanks to help from the scholarship program.

 

Homes for Christmas

We took a "family" photo with Jose Mario's family even though not everyone was there. Jose Mario arrived later after working late.

We took a “family” photo with Jose Mario’s family even though not everyone was there. Jose Mario arrived later after working late.

For Christmas we went home…not to the USA, but the homes of four Guatemalan families with whom we’ve become friends or have been building relationships for some time.

As a family, we took a few gifts for the children, bags of food, and shared with them about the reason we celebrate Christmas and how Christ loves them. At the home of Tomasa Saquic two of her sons accepted Christ and prayed with us. We’re very excited to see that even on a short visit, lives are coming to the Lord.


Jose Mario’s Family

There was Jose Mario’s home with his widowed mother and eight siblings who now live in a wooden house complete with a cement floor thanks to construction work done by a team from Oral Roberts University and Faith Christian Center (Fort Scott, KS) earlier this year. You can read more of Jose Mario’s story here. It was great to catch up with Jose Mario’s family and see how much they are using the small house that was built for them and to pray with them. Tomasa is Catholic, but several of her children are part of an evangelical church nearby. We left them with bags of rice, beans, oatmeal and other food items to help them.  As a family their income is normally about $11 a week, so the extra food helps them get a jump on the expenses for the end of the year.

Jubilee got a closeup visit with a cow.

Jubilee got a closeup visit with a cow.


 

Juana’s Family

We also visited our friend and helper, Juana’s home that is perched high above the town of Chichicastenango. Our kids love walking down the trail through the corn fields every time we visit her family. Hudson & Jubilee especially like visiting the cow, turkeys and sheep that are there. Over the past two years we’ve built a close friendship with this family visiting new babies born into the family, praying for them and spending special time with them like a second family.

 


Spending time with Rosa and her family.

Spending time with Rosa and her family.

Rosa’s Family

We also visited the home of Rosa, the girl who had surgery on her foot several years ago.  While Rosa and her seven siblings played with Hudson and Jubilee and showed them their pig, we talked with her parents Carlos & Juana. We were disappointed to hear she did poorly in school this past year, but we are planning a way to encourage in her to keep up on her studies for next year. You can read more of Rosa’s story here.

 

 


Tomasa’s Family

Chrisi praying with the boys who accepted Christ.

Chrisi praying with the boys who accepted Christ.

The highlight of these visits was when we visited Tomasa Saquic, a widow and her five young sons. (There had been some confusion before about how many kids she had since we had visited before and only some of them were home…but we confirmed that she does have five boys.) Chrisi and I chatted with her and took a quick tour of her home — a wooden plank kitchen, two bedrooms, some storage space, and chicken coop with a packed dirt courtyard. With us was Tomasa’s pastor who translated for us from Spanish into the K’iché language. While Tomasa has accepted the Lord, we shared the Gospel with her sons and the two oldest accepted Christ! Pastor Carlos said his church can provide follow up discipleship and baptism for them as they grow in their faith.

After praying with them, we walked down a narrow dirt trail with Tomasa to the water hole where they go three times a day to collect four gallons of water for use in their kitchen and household needs.  She has no faucet in her home, but we’ve been working with a local ministry and a local water project to get a faucet of running water run to her home thanks to the generous gift from friends of ours in the USA.

We love the people of Guatemala and enjoyed spending time in the homes of these families as we encouraged them and shared the Gospel.

Tomasa walking down the trail with her water jugs.

Tomasa walking down the trail with her water jugs.

To help us continue reaching out to these families and others, please pray for and support us financially!To help us help families like these, consider giving a financial gift or supporting us monthly.

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