Monday, August 27, 2012

the important things

sitting before me in a beautiful black huipil (shirt) with handsewn embroidery around the neckline, i look at this thin little girl in front of me as my mind travels to what her life most likely entails on a daily basis. although she has not told me any of this, i know that a few years ago, she would have left her father, mother, and siblings to move in with her husbands' parents and any siblings that are still at home (the custom here for all families). and as a young girl in love, i am sure that she had dreams and hopes of the life that she and her husband would lead as she knew she would follow him anywhere... even to a bedroom in her in-laws' home. and as i notice the weariness in her slumped shoulders, i am led to see more... she is not worried about her washing machine breaking - as all of her clothes are hand washed - and she has never heard of a dryer. she is not worried about her "second home" having a two car garage or a beautiful array of kitchen cabinets - she does not even have a first home. she is not worried about whether her children will make it into the "elite" preschool and go on to be doctors or lawyers - she is happy if they make it past their fifth birthday. and i am sure that she has long ago forgotten those dreams that were so set in her heart as she ran away into this night with the man that was to be her husband. i see the exhaustion set in the lines on her face, and i know that at the young age of 19, she has already aged well beyond her years. and i know that a few years and two kids later, the sacrifices she has made for her marriage and children are already great...

and so, she emphatically shakes her head "no" as i repeat the question "are you sure you aren't pregnant?"... although even i catch the small tremor of fear pass through her face as she turns to her husband, her eyes begging him for agreement. and as he looks at her with a shrug of his shoulders that says, "how am i supposed to know?" my mind goes to the fears that he also has tucked away in the recesses...

she and her husband are from a village (cruz chich) that we also work in on a monthly basis - a very large, gorgeous village set up high in the mountains. the primary source of "employment" (as is true in all of the villages that surround our area) is agriculture (corn for sure and beans if they are wealthy enough to buy and plant them), and in this particular village, the corn is all planted by hand on extremely steep mountainsides... mountainsides that often wash away with the torrent of rains that drench the ground this time of year, washing away all the hope of a harvest along with the soaked earth. although we have witnessed personally how extremely family-oriented cruz chich is (a seemingly rare characteristic in our area), i know that despite their high regard for their children and their beyond willingness to help each other out, a third child will not only add to their work load, but also add to the many mouths already in this household that will need to be fed... that a pregnancy will mean that the mom will not be able to do all the work that she normally does as her level of exhaustion and belly continue to grow... that this young man's mind must be already turning back to the baby girl sitting on his lap - 1 yr old and 15 pounds; she is the real reason they came in today... to see if there was anything we could do for her swollen little belly and diarrhea.

and so, as i place the ultrasound probe on this thin mom's abdomen after much persuasion on my part, my heart already starts to go out to them as i find a very much alive little 8 week baby inside.

as i watch shock and confusion and then a resigned overwhelmedness register on their faces, i sit down next to them, praying that God moves me aside and speaks His words of hope at this time, especially as i am aware of the "coat hanger" methods that, in desperation, they use for abortion here. i start with how i KNOW how much work kids are... to which they both emphatically shake their heads up and down, eye wide with understanding! but, then i remind them also what a joy they can be, that they will not be this young forever, that they will not be this much work forever, that this is a season of work - and a work worth doing. they quietly listen, nodding their heads every now and then. i continue on, asking them if they know Jesus. the husband actually smiles and gets a teasing twinkle in his eye as he says, "when we go to church... which is rarely." glad for even a small smile as an open door, i smile back and talk to them about how great our God is and how much love He has for them... how when we are at our weakest (and really, how often are we more weak than when we are exhausted from having been up 63 consecutive nights feeding a baby every few hours with one or more active toddlers in tow along with housework and normal life functions? ha), His strength is that much stronger.... how He is longing to reach them through a relationship with His son jesus... how His Spirit will give them the power and strength to get through each moment of each day. while i know that the wife, who speaks primarily quiche only, was not understanding all of this, i was somewhat amazed as i watched the husband focus on the words and process what was being said. i implored them that when they go home and think and talk through all of this, if their thoughts turn to abortion, to please come back and talk to us, as we know many families who long for a baby of their own and would love to adopt. and then i asked them if they had a bible. the husband was quick to say no, and i asked them if they would read it if i gave them one. the husband answered yes, and accepted the bible i handed them more readily than i would have expected.

as we finished getting the wife's vital signs and her little one year old set up on our nutrition program, i watched as her husband took the bible outside, opening it up to some of the books i had tagged as good ones to start with.

as i have prayed and thought of them since then, God has also reminded me of so much... how much sacrifice and work the important things in life take! how the key to life is giving more and more and more, and in the irony of this faith we live, it is through this process that He fills us, blesses us, takes care of us, comforts us, and shows Himself the greatest. that at that point where we are absolutely sure that we cannot possibly give anymore - that we cannot possibly have this third or tenth child or we cannot possibly continue to pour out to those around us without the help of a spouse or cannot possibly daily juggle work, family, and all the financial responsibilities on our plate - that at that moment - when we turn to Him - we discover that we are just starting to understand how to truly live... that when everything is taken out of our control, we are finally starting to see who we really are and who He really is... that we are able to see how blessed we really are and that even though it may still be hard, how GOOD our God really is!

"the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; i have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!" john 10:10

Thursday, August 16, 2012

dorms, schools, 24 hour care centers... and kids

Things continue to move along in our usual "ever changing," yet "always seemingly the same" way... I think this is mostly due to the fact that projects are always in the works - just at Guatemalan speed :)

Jacinto, or "Chinto," and Angel continue to plug along on the well and wall that will need to be in place by the time the dorm structure itself will be started. The front of the property where the house sits has already had a block wall base with a chain link fencing in between the cement posts, but the back half, which has all been just pasture up until now, has only had a barbed wire low lying fence around it to keep our animals in and other animals out. Now, with the prospect of people living back there, we are continuing the block wall so as to provide more safety for future construction and inhabitants of the dorm. With already a couple teams in the works for helping with the building construction, we continue to move forward one day at a time.

We have also been able to monitor a couple pregnancy patients with the fetal monitor that we were given; while this will be extremely useful during a labor/delivery process, we have been able to use it to monitor heart accelerations and decelerations with movement or contractions in a couple concerned/post-term patients, which was very helpful in determining whether these patients needed to be referred or not. We have also started a more formal physical therapy program, which we were able to structure with a good friend and physical therapist who came to visit a couple months ago. With some new generalized paper charting forms and a couple physical therapists interested in creating a rotation schedule for visiting here, we are hoping that this will continue to grow into a program that will be able to train up any interested Guatemalans with a focus on teaching the parents how to continue the exercises in the home, as well as provide a source of encouragement to the families that care so diligently for these children day in and day out without a break or resources for help. As most of these children are already on the nutrition program, they continue to be at risk for many of the illnesses that we hope to be able to serve with the 24 hour acute care center; with the public department hospital (2 1/2 hours from us) now serving a population of over 1 million people (due to the lack of resources available in the other public hospitals), we feel more and more the urgency to get a place up and running where we can offer these services and help monitor patients that the hospital physically cannot take.

Things are also falling into place for the nursing school to open! While it will not be ready to open in January of 2013, the paperwork is almost completely in order (a pure miracle and completely due to the help of our friend Victor's wife, who has worked hours upon hours getting our proposal set)! We are still in prayer for a director and teachers, two positions that the government mandates must be filled with a doctor or professional nurse (master's level) that has their Guatemalan license; our prayer is to find personnel that will have a heart for God and His people here who see this school as another mission field, not just a job. There are a few different ways that we can move forward with this, especially as we have had such a difficult time finding people willing to serve in these capacities; we greatly appreciate any and all of your prayers in this area!

And our family continues to thrive here in Guatemala as well. The biggest cause for crying and temper tantrums is when Anna and Ethan are forced to stay inside for any period of time, and I marvel at how much they cherish the Guatemalan farm life we have here. Anna's morning routine includes "coffee" with mom and dad and then out to milk the cow, with sometimes a mid-morning dip in the cow trough on hot days. Ethan shows signs of following in his father's footsteps, as he loves to be in the hanger with the planes, hammer (or really anything big) in hand, pounding on whatever surface we allow him to... or out with the cows :) I am beginning to wonder if this "cow loving" trait is imbedded in the DNA, as both of our kids seem to love to be with them as much as their father does! Aaron just finished up an annual inspection on the Cessna, as well as continuing work on the Aztec during the rainy season. We also continue to produce various dairy products with the milk our Jersey provides, hoping to continue to introduce the area here to products such as yogurt and different types of cheese. We have also added two new monthly clinics to the schedule, doing three clinics one week and four the next. It has been a privilege to continue to serve in this capacity, and I am so blessed and thankful for a husband who helps with the kids on the days that I go off to clinic!

Below are some pics that show a little better some of the happenings lately...

Here is the new wall being put up; this is the beginning stages when they
were still setting the concrete posts

Here is a little boy that was helped through the nutrition program;
a few months ago, he was severely malnourished, but with just
a little bit of beans and protein supplement, he improved greatly!

One of our good friends "meaching" Ethan
(this works as well as a car ride for putting him to sleep :) )

Rachel got a shot of Anna on a walk on one of our favorite paths

Friday, August 10, 2012

a simplehearted faith

i see it every now and then... glimpses of it in anna and sometimes even ethan... and it hits me. that's what it looks like.... that's what jesus is talking about.... that is what i am called to...

a childlike faith.

God continues to open and close doors, confirming each step of the way that He is moving and growing us! and yet, while especially the thought of getting to be a part of opening a nursing school here is something that should have me wrapped up in excitement, i find myself often nervous, apprehensive, leery of what this change will bring, and mostly scared that i will somehow mess up what God is doing. God has taught me and continues to teach me many things through this whole process - a lot of "His ways are higher than our ways" stuff! - but the other day, i read this scripture and one phrase in particular stuck with me...

"The LORD protects the simplehearted {"those of childlike faith" in the New Living translation}; when I was in great need, he saved me." Psalm 116:6

simplehearted. how often i come to God with all my worries and the pieces of this puzzle that i have been trying to figure out... i do my christian thing and lay them all before Him, only to pick them up as my prayer time ends and carry them with me as i head on my way.

yet, again, i watch my daughter. she laughs and plays, exploring the world around her daily as if the cares of the world are far from anything she will ever have to worry about. she comes to aaron and i daily, full of questions, eager to learn... not because she is scared she is going to fail a test we have for her at the end of the day or week or year, but because she wants to be a part of the world around her... because to her it is still a great adventure, a world of treasure waiting to be discovered. and because we are the people - her mother and father - who God has placed before her to help her navigate, to help her discover, to help guide her, holding her back with discipline when necessary and excitedly showing her the wonder before her when there is something she should dive into.

i know we are adults, parents, people with jobs and responsibilities. the projects that God is opening before us are going to take a lot of work, a lot of perseverance, a lot of grace, a lot of communication, a lot of planning and creativity, and a lot of just "doing what needs to be done whether we feel like it or not!" but we are also children.... right?

and as anna - who with childlike faith wakes up every morning excited to be a part of something bigger than herself, looking for her place to fit in and help out, aware that she is not going to do this all on her own (although, her independent streak and strong toddler will does often challenge this aspect!), excitedly asking questions, watching the world around her with wonder, and learning to listen to our voices as her guide on this journey - i too hope to approach my own Father and life this way... choosing to let the worries and the pieces of the puzzle stay at jesus' feet beyond just my daily prayer times and instead coming to God with a childlike wonder, asking Him questions about what is on His heart and what He is doing, and seeking to learn better how to hear His voice in place of my own.

there are lots of pieces still missing in all these doors that God is opening - a 24 hour acute care center, a nursing school, a dorm... as well as the aspects of ministry life that are already in place - medical, aviation and agricultural work. and there are lot's of different ways to get involved. if you are interested in learning more about any of the things that God is doing here and how you can plug in, please feel free to contact me in any of the following ways: leave a comment here, email me at, and/or Facebook (Katie Eleiott Ficker).

may God bless you richly, and may you too carry out the tasks that He has placed before you with a childlike faith and wonder a little bit today :)