Are you ready to talk Tuesday? Isn’t that how they always tell people to keep going … one day at a time? I mean, I don’t want to rush it or anything. To be honest, I kind of love that this takes forever because every time I get to write about Guatemala again, my heart starts to swell and I feel super happy. But I also realize that we’re aging. So, I’ll get right to it.
I woke up Tuesday morning still questioning how one pillow could be so heavy, but ready to say ‘yes’ to whatever the day would include. I grabbed my coffee, my journal and my favorite spot up on the roof. Whether on a mission trip or a ‘normal’ vacation, I don’t think anyone could argue that having that extra time in the morning makes a colossal world of difference in how you approach your day. Vacation for everyone!
We were met with another delicious breakfast from our Beyer family before Dale led us to Hogar de la Esparanza to meet Daryl and Wanda Fulp. I almost felt like I was about to meet a couple of celebrities. We’d heard so much about their ministry and how much of an impact their family has made so far in Guat that I almost felt like I should have grabbed some more makeup from home. I mean, a little bronzing powder and mascara can do wonders but that was all I had. And I was on my way to meet the Fulp’s for crying out loud!
But, I felt at ease as we pulled up to the entrance. It was gated so seeing inside wasn’t an option and although the gate was quite large, it wasn’t made of gold or anything. I will say though, as soon as it opened I was absolutely stunned at what lay in front of us … a 6,000-ish square foot group home, a beautiful courtyard with flowering trees and fountains and kids. Kids everywhere (except in this one unique photo, of course).
Daryl and Wanda gave us a brief introduction and I quickly realized it’s impossible not to like these two. Daryl has a personality larger than all of Guatemala and Wanda, well, she lets Daryl talk. But, she’s one of those women that emanates a strength and grace I can only hope to mimic in my relationships. She’s amazing.
I won’t lie. It’s extremely difficult to comprehend the work this family has done/is doing. They moved to Guatemala from Ohio. They have ten children of their own (5 biological, 5 adopted), they’ve fostered 23 and now care for 12 or 13 more in their home (I lost count!) … all with pretty significant special needs. But, like Daryl said, they are two people (a family) who were crazy (or stupid) enough to say ‘yes’ to the Lord. And amen.
We’d already determined half of our group would take off with Daryl for the day to participate in another ministry they operate, known as 4WD (four-wheel drive for city folks). The other half would stay to hang out with the kids and do a work project. My team was to stay so Wanda was kind enough to introduce us to the live-in interns, physical therapist, volunteers and each child. To say I’m bad with names is an understatement so today, well, I just straight-up gave up.
I gravitated towards Umberto, a young man with cerebral palsy (quite common in terms of the spectrum of special needs in Guat). I wheeled him outside and held him for a bit in the sun. Handling him was a bit scary for me at first. He was quite heavy, but I also didn’t want to hurt the little bugger either. Until he bit my shoulder. All bets were off then. Just kidding! But he did think it was funny.
I was thankful to have my camera, of course. Almost more than interacting with the kids, I loved seeing the team hold and love on them. Mike with those kids? I die. And my buddy Paul … well, watching him hold Edy (a terminal little one who suffers from apnea, seizures and brain loss) was beautiful. Daryl and Wanda have been a blessing to five young children now who were able to feel loved until they breathed their last. What a precious gift.
I had the opportunity to spend more time talking with Wanda and she shared some of the challenges of not having all of her children nearby. One of ‘the original 10’ lives in the States and even though Daryl and Wanda would seem like they know exactly that this is where God has placed them, it isn’t without heartache. Life is hard regardless. And likely more so when you say ‘yes’ to the Lord.
Our team completed a fairly painless work project in the afternoon. Isn’t it funny how mission projects typically go? You have far too many people doing just a little bit of work and in ten minutes everyone’s like, ‘ok, what’s next?’ It wasn’t exactly like that, but close. I will say, though, Dale is a slave driver who requires precision. I appreciate him for his work ethic.
As that project wrapped, Michael and Kelly Gross arrived (I’m pretty sure Dale asked them to check our work). And if you ever want to assume something awesome, think about how a family from Kentucky comes to Guatemala to be missionaries and how their new-found Spanish might sound. So.Cute. I really felt a connection with Michael and Kelly and was glad to meet another couple that just loves the crap out of Jesus and decided to say ‘yes.’ Together.
They offered to take a few of us on a school run so Jill, Kellie and I jumped at the chance and the promise of a (very quick) shower before dinner. One of my favorite memories from the trip was the school run. We picked up eight kids from a school in Antigua that focuses on special needs education. I walked towards the back with Michael and we grabbed Julio first. Julio, a little guy celebrating Down’s Syndrome, stole almost every ounce of my heart when he gave me a five and then offered up knuckles. I was literally done for and wasn’t going to let him out of my sight until I recalled the government requires I leave him in his country. I assumed his mom may also want to challenge my request. I mean, who wouldn’t? We dropped kids in a number of places and then headed back to Hogar de la Esperanza to bring Daryl and Wanda’s kiddos back as well. The whole experience was a level of humbling I can’t describe, but my heart was also warmed by the fact that Michael and Kelly felt like this trip affirmed their decision to come here; that it made it feel like they were home.
After we’d dropped the kids off, we took the short walk over to the Beyer’s. Thankfully, Anita was beginning to feel better. What an amazing woman! Her joy is contagious and she is such a gracious host. But she is also so very wise and insightful. We are so blessed to have had the chance to know Anita. We ate and chatted and were then surprised to learn that it was apparently our night to share. I call foul. So much foul. Mike found some scripture and I told him I didn’t want to talk. Which never works. He wound up reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, a word on comfort. He shared of the dark places we’ve been and how God has comforted us which in turn, allowed us to know how to take care of each other and of course it was so perfectly stated. And then, of course, I had to ruin everything and blather on about how we became ‘we.’ I really don’t remember much of what I said but I do recall I couldn’t look at anyone, I cried a lot and I talked for probably forever. Sorry, everyone. The good news is, no one voted us off the island that night.
Arriving back at the hotel, we practiced for VBS the next day and Mike (acting as David) had to act according to my ad-libbed script. I may have talked about how devilishly handsome and muscular David was (or something like that). But he played the role perfectly (as did Dennis, our Goliath).
Dana thanked me for sharing as we were collapsing into bed that night. She said she was proud of me and it touched my heart in a big way. This road has NOT been easy. But, in a small way, I feel like I’ve been saying ‘yes’ more frequently and with less fear over what might happen next. And although it isn’t a ‘yes’ that I may see as similar in scale to Daryl and Wanda’s, Dale and Anita’s and Michael and Kelly’s, wouldn’t you know that the Lord still honors the crap out of it. That sounds terrible, but as I like to frequently say, ‘I mean it in the nicest way.’