A Vision for Guatemala

My daughters and I had the privilege to travel to Guatemala with a team from OHP in July. My eldest, a 4 year Spanish student, had been given a special invitation earlier in the summer to travel with her high school Spanish teacher to Costa Rica. After prayer and discussion about that she had turned down that opportunity, feeling like she really wanted an experience where she could both serve the people and further her Spanish communication skills.

Thank God she has learned patience, because God had a much better opportunity on the horizon for all 3 of us. God cleared other obstacles in our path, such as job schedule for 2 of us, passports being delivered promptly at short notice and a supportive husband encouraging us to travel without him! In addition, I actually was very encouraged by my boss when I requested the time off! He thought that this would be a great, life-changing opportunity and was excited for me to travel to Guatemala! In fact, he is an Optometrist and said he would be glad to send along 110 pair of used prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses.

I thought, this is surely confirmation that I am supposed to be a part of this trip! I was most excited about some of the pairs of specialty eyeglasses that I was able to bring along that were specialty fitted for kids with severe eye problems such a crossed eyes. I am a Vision Therapist, and know the difference that these can make when a young child with this problem wears them regularly! They will gradually straighten their eyes, without surgery, improving both their quality of life and their vision for a lifetime of difference for that one individual. I was also very aware that these pairs were donated and also had specialty prescription lenses which would only work with the rare child that had that exact need. One afternoon, midweek, they told us that we had the chance to travel up the mountain to the Mayan Village. I was very excited to meet the beautiful people there. Our plan there was to distribute clothes and shoes and I knew that we did not have a long time to be there, as we had other service plans for the day.

Soon after arriving, we were holding kids and loving on the people, when I noticed sitting on the grassy hillside a little boy with esotropia or crossed eyes. Our plan was not to distribute glasses there. However, I knew that I may have just what he needed to help him with his vision needs. I couldn’t leave without trying. I set about handing out clothes to the older boys, while at the same time telling someone who had visited there before to find the boy’s mother to ask her if I could check his visual acuities and try some glasses on him that could help him. After handing out the clothes, someone brought his mother over to me. I don’t speak Spanish, but I knew she was very excited at the prospect of getting help for her little one! He was about 4 years old. I carefully communicated to her that if one of these lenses fit him, they would help straighten his eyes if he would faithfully wear them! She couldn’t stop smiling. I had 2 chances to try.

There were only 2 children’s glasses donated that would work for him for this condition, IF the prescription were correct. God is all-powerful, providing for  his dear children in creative ways as a good Father! The first pair provided nothing but very blurry or “boroso” vision to this little one. But I knew we had 1 more try. Of course, this pair had been donated especially for him with his special needs in mind! They were a perfect prescription and fit for him with the bi-nasal section of each lens made blurry on purpose to create the outward movement of his eyes! We were all beyond excited at this life-changing treasure to help this precious little child that God cares so deeply about!

That afternoon, his mother received her first glasses too to help her as she supports her family with the near vision needed to sew! It was a joy to see many other people line up outside the van that we were using as our traveling optometry office! I am not a doctor, but God used my willingness to love his people and bring glory to Him and provide life change and fresh vision to his people in Guatemala! You may not feel like you have much to give, but if you have used glasses or sunglasses lying in your drawers at home, you could donate them to provide vision to people who need your exact prescription!

Submitted by: Christy Reist

Grandpa’s Shoes

One special memory and experience on this trip was during our second home build day. We arrived at a hillside and saw the “goat path” trail that led up a steep hill with our building site at the top. This trail reminded us of Matthew 7:14. But the pathway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

This home was for a widowed mother, Estella, and her 3 children. Also at this home site were Estella’s parents in a small home. Ironically, I said it should be a light day with only 1 house build on the schedule. Boy was I wrong! The elevation and the grade both made for an exhausting start of the day. We proceeded to carry all the building materials up the steep grade to the top. It took many, many trips. I was preparing to carry my last load of five sheets of tin that I carried on my back. I was taking a minute to catch my breath before climbing when I heard an old man talking to me in Spanish. He was grabbing for a few sheets of my tin. I figured it was a local wanting to help out to make a few Quetzales. I was looking down when he spoke and the first thing I saw was his feet.

He was the father of Estella. He was so excited to help with the new home for his widowed daughter. He was probably 65, but looked 85 from the hard life he had led. His feet truly told the story. The project progressed quickly. Grandpa, as we referred to him, was so excited and happy to help in any way possible. At one point John gave him a pair of gloves. He accepted the gift happily, but it was almost comical. He had absolutely no idea how to put the gloves on. We realized he probably had never owned a pair of gloves. Wow! Once he had them on, he looked like he had won the lottery! I recall throughout the work, I kept looking at his feet. They were so weathered, in his makeshift flip flops. The shoes were several sizes too small for his feet. We broke for a lunch of ham sandwiches, chips and my favorite Guatemalan cookies…CHIKYS! (love those things!)

After lunch, I wanted a photo with Grandpa. We stood by the woodpile, a great backdrop. In typical Guatemalan fashion, Grandpa would not smile. I had my arm around him for additional photos. So as my wife took another photo, I tickled his ribs. He busted out laughing! I can probably guarantee you Abuelo had never had an American tickle him! The project wrapped up, we dedicated the new home and prayed for the family and we were preparing to leave.

God then laid it on us to get Grandpa some shoes but we realized that through the week we had given out all the shoes we had brought. Prior to the trip, my daughter Taylor had bought a new pair of tennis shoes with the intent of giving them away to someone. With this being near the end of the trip, Taylor had resigned herself to the fact that she was probably not going to find a girl who could fit into her size 9’s. But guess which team member’s shoes were the perfect fit for Grandpa Taylor’s! The look on Grandpa’s face was priceless when he tried them on and they fit perfectly! We then had Chris of BMI explain to Abuelo Noe that if he would follow us down the trail to the van, we would give him the shoes and Taylor would return to the hotel barefoot. He was happy to oblige. It was extremely touching to watch as Taylor removed her bright blue FILA shoes from her feet and stand in her socks on the road as she fit Grandpa with his new shoes. It was a beautiful gesture that I will never forget! It reminded me of the humble act of the washing of feet in the Bible!

Grandpa’s shoes were homemade. The soles were from an old pair of tennis shoes and the strap part of the flip-flops were made from car innertubes. Note in the photo the heels of the shoes… or lack thereof! There was a hole in both shoes that a golf ball could pass through! When asked, Grandpa said he had worn these shoes for 10 years! What a selfless guy. When he needed new shoes, he opted to just keep his old ones and use the money for food for the family!

Submitted by Rick Fulton

Our Daughter

Our daughter, Isabella, has eagerly anticipated her first trip back to Guatemala since we brought her home with us nearly 7 years ago. What made this trip even more special was for her to witness and be involved with the many acts of service during the time we were there. One of my favorite verses while we were waiting for the call from the adoption agency saying we could finally go get our daughter and bring her “home” was Hebrews 11:1– Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. I was reminded of that verse again while we were in Guatemala witnessing the poverty.

Oh how the poor there must long for heaven so they will suffer no longer! It makes me wonder if we here in America are longing for heaven just as much, or have we become too comfortable? Recently Isabella celebrated her 8th Birthday and was making a long list of plans of what her and her best friend were going to do for her birthday. She said, “You know what would be really awesome Mom?!?!?!” I was thinking she was going to say manicures, shopping, or something along those lines. She said, “if Jesus would come back and take us to heaven on my birthday!”

Submitted by: Jean Mitchell

Micaela and Maria

Micaela is in her eighties and had a stroke several years ago. Her daughter, Maria, is in her forties and has had polio since she was seven years old. While another daughter worked during the day to support the family, Micaela and Maria would crawl around on the dirt floor since they  did not have a wheelchair to help them get around.

The good news is both of the women got their first wheelchair on Friday, July 18th at the Bethel Ministries wheelchair distribution in Chimaltenango that we had the humble honor of being a part of. I will never forget the huge smile on Maria’s face as she crawled down the aisle when her number was called. I have said before and heard others also say that when you go on a mission trip you are often more blessed than the people you are helping.

This was never so evident than with Micaela and Maria. Even though I couldn’t understand what she was saying, Micaela was going on and on in Spanish and pointing up to the heavens. I asked Donna Mooney of Bethel Ministries to translate for me and she said Micaela is saying “God will take care of you because He has taken care of me. He is everything and we are nothing.” I say Amen to that and thank you for blessing us Micaela!

Submitted by: Jean Mitchell

A House for Estella

Estella and her two children have been living with her elderly parents since her husband passed away eight months ago and the house she was living in before was in very bad condition and made of scrap metal and wood. Estella and her son, Porfilio, work very hard harvesting vegetables to make a meager wage so that her daughter, Adalis, can attend school. It is very important to Estella that her daughter gets an education so she can have a better future than she does. Estella climbs up a mountain every day to work nine hours in the fields picking green onions. She makes .26 cents for every large basket of onions she picks. Each basket holds 64 bunches and on a good  day she is able to pick 5-6 baskets, earning an average of $1.50 per

day. Estella said that the owners of the fields will often hire women because they don’t have to pay them as much as the men and if they don’t think the onions are good enough she picked, they will simply refuse to pay her. Every family that has a house built for them has a

heart wrenching story but there is beauty amid the ashes and hope among the hopeless, as Estella and her mom prayed to accept Christ that day!

Submitted by: Jean Mitchell