Sunday, April 26

Before we moved to Guatemala, I had been a runner, but I'd only done a 5K race and a couple of 10k Turkey Trots. That all changed when I started running with what we affectionately call the "IDC Running Club" (Iglesia Del Camino). There is just nothing like running here...we have experienced puffing volcanoes, attacking bees, dead animals on the road (from huge pigs, to snakes of every size, to a bat, and everything in between), rain, speeding chicken buses, and more. 
We have seen the mountains from every angle, in every light, cloud-topped or clear, sun-dappled or hazy. We have passed people walking or riding their bikes to the market, to work, to their villages, and when we see some of those people walking without shoes, it is a reminder of how blessed we are, and how much more there is to do here.
We have pushed our bodies to their limits and experienced the highs of meeting new goals, crossing new finish lines.
But today was the best run I've ever had, because it was the first time Nate and I got to run in his first race together. He'd been asking for months if he could do a race, and today was his day to take part in a 5K in Guatemala City. I can't even express how proud I am of him. He ran his first race in a foreign country, on a course that was fairly hot and hilly, and he was amazing! He didn't complain, and when he started to get worn out and I gave him the good ol' "Mom peptalk," he listened, and then I could hear him telling himself, "I can do this. I can do this."
We sprinted over the finish line together....I hope there are many more finish lines to come.
Oh yeah---and even though the course was mismeasured (happens all the time here!), so that the 3 miles was actually almost 4, he finished the race in 35:54, having only done ONE training run. I'm gonna have to step it up!
Thanks, Nate, for a wonderful day!

Wednesday, April 15

Day with Dick

Nate and I spent the day riding with Dick Rutgers.  For all of the time I have spent leading teams in and around the Antigua area, it was very refreshing to spend the day with someone well acquainted with the local villages and the children impacted by severe disabilities and poverty. 
Click on the photos to get a closer look.  We packed into the front seat of the 4WD and left the valley which surrounds Antigua, and went south and west towards the Pacific Coast.  Within minutes we dropped from 5,000 feet to less than 100, and the scenery changed from volcanos to sugar cane fields.   We saw miles and miles of the fields, where men earn $10 daily (only 3-4 months during season), working 12 hour shifts in extreme heat and dangerous conditions (threshing machines regularly maim or kill workers).  Several fields burned as they were prepared for harvesting.
The villages we passed were crude block or bamboo covered in tin, and the barefoot children ran in the streets.  Mosquito nets are a requirement here in rainy season (lasting 6 months), but most cannot afford them.  Kitchens are outside (pictured at left towards the bottom center).

We picked up a nurse in a town which has a relationship with the 3 families we visited.  In all cases, families of 5-7 children was the norm.  Of these, at least one had a severe handicap, and in the cruel world of extreme poverty, they are the first to die.  Dick checked on a boy with cerebral palsy, who has spent most of his 7 years in a hammock (upper left) waiting to die.  Sponsors in the States have given Dick the opportunity to buy food for him, and while thin, he looks much better than 3 months ago.  We visited another family (affected by multiple sclerosis), and Dick looked at report cards and rewarded the kids with a trip to the local fast food restaurant (packing 13 into his 4WD)...we let the kids go on the rides, and Nate played tag with the healthy kids later at their house.  

What impacted me about poverty was how "normal" kids are regardless of culture or economics.  They want to be held (even by a stranger), played with, and rewarded for being good.

The parents have a resolve to survive, and a peace and simplicity that is hard to put into words.  They have nothing, yet invite any stranger into their homes.  They love their kids.  

Days like today come once in a lifetime, and I got to spend this special day with my son Nate, who impressed me with his love for other kids, and how he hung on every word Dick shared with us.  

Sunday, April 5

Life and Death

I hope I never get numb to seeing hurting people, to seeing pain. It's easy to do, living here, because there is pain, poverty, hurt, need everywhere. I walk down the street with my kids, and I pass so many people sitting with a bowl, begging for money. I see people so drunk that they literally pass out and sleep on the sidewalk. There are homeless people sleeping in the grass. There are children who walk around the town with no shoes on their little feet.
It's easy to get hardened, to get "used" to seeing these sights. But this week brought a reminder again of why we are here. God wants us to bring His good news of healing and hope, restoration and freedom. We can't just "preach" to people without showing them first that God loves them. One way we do this is by meeting their very real physical needs, and one of the biggest ways we've been able to do that this year is through taking teams to the Malnutrition Center. This is a place for children whose parents cannot even feed them properly, or for children who, for one reason or another, simply are not thriving physically.
This has been a beautiful ministry for our family to be involved in. We've all gone there, and Nate and Shelby get so excited to play with the kids, to love on the babies, and just to help in whatever way they can. But this week, while Steve and a team were ministering there, a 7 year-old child named Benito (who weighed only 25 pounds when he was brought in), passed away.
It was devastating for my children, even though they understood that Benito is not hungry anymore, is not in pain, is playing and eating whatever he wants right now.
And it was a powerful reminder that this is why we are here, that this is no game but serious business, helping to save lives both physically and spiritually.
Matthew 19:14-15 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.