My heart’s cry so often is… Break my heart for what breaks yours…

I am burdened.


In a different way.  But I have recognized it as a heart burden.  A grieving.

It is easy to be in an area of need and be burdened.  But being in the states for a longer period of time and then being in the city has given me three different perspectives of the world in a short period of time.  And to each place, there are adjustments to be made.  Yet, there is a fresh way of seeing life here as well.  Being away gave me perspective.  Turned my eyes from the focus here to the focus there.  Being away reminded me of changes in the world and changes in myself.  A perspective that isn’t developed in a short trip back to the states.

And so, to step back into life in the valley here, in a way is to see it again afresh.  Many things were forgotten and my senses take it in again.  I see the burden.  I feel the burden.  I feel the difference.

Burdened.  There is something here.  Burdened for the older generation.  As they lived through a war and are on the other side.  As development happens, yet they cling to their old ways. Burdened as technology passes them up and I see the structure of family changing.  They are saddened.  They are struggling to understand the change.  I pass an old man a few times a week along the side of the mountain.  He is in his field with his hoe in hand.  Barefoot.  Trying to plant a crop of corn so that he can continue to eat.  Yet he barely has the strength to raise his hoe.

Burdened for the middle generation as they seek to work.  As they look for jobs and to provide for their families.  As they have hope now for change and as the Western influence comes.  Burdened because there are more materialistic things for them to desire, yet in this valley, the opportunities for jobs are scarce.  If they have an education and want to stay here, they find themselves in a corrupt system to struggle for a job.  You must be the right political party or family or associated with the right people.  Burdened because they want to provide a better life than their childhood produced.  Many of this generation has left leaving mothers to raise their children alone or aunts or grandmothers who now have the burden of raising children left behind by immigration.

And the burden grows. For the younger generation.  As I have listened to conversations and dialogues, I hear a change in the way that young people are talking.  Here in this valley.  They want out.  They want something different.  They hope for something that they have not had.  They want an education.  They want a change to dream.  They want the things they see in movies.  Many of them are looking to the states as an answer to that.  They know that there are opportunities out there, and yet they are ill equipped to embrace them.  They have pint-sized practice at decision making.  And yet, they are making decisions that completely effect their path for the rest of their lives.

And so as I listen to the youth here talk about their futures.  As I talk with students who have left to study.  As I talk with those from the mountains that have come to town, the general consensus is that they are searching.  Many go to the bigger cities.  Many go to the states.  They are searching for something that would satisfy.  Something that will help them make a better life for themselves than the previous generation had.

I had a flashback as I was thinking.  That much of what is happening here is not much different from what I have seen in my hometown.  Or in the small towns around me in Western Pennsylvania.  They were mining towns.  Oil towns.  Boom towns.  The economy was built on what was around them.  Over time the people left, the industries were not able to keep up with the change.  There were no jobs.  There was nothing to entice young families to stay.  Adolescents graduated, went away to college and settled elsewhere where there were opportunities and promises and a better job market.

I have a soft heart.  I am often burdened.  But this burden is real. I am constantly thinking of how to break that cycle.  How to provide hope.  How to create jobs that will keep the educated here, within their communities.  Bettering the town.  To have role models to point to.  And above all, for God’s mercy to shine in this country.

Desperate Days




The third suicide in a month.

The words keep playing in my mind. How desolate is an area where there are three suicides in one month. An area as small as ours. Lives of young people. Young people that had a future. And on top of that, I think about all of the attempted suicides that occurred.  It is talked about as commonplace.  It is sad that the word suicide is used among young people here as even an option.

The signs are everywhere. Pictures in facebook or as personal imagines on messaging accounts. In the faces of those on the streets. In the way that kids talk about suicide, being a bother to others and their futures. The number of young folks that are leaving illegally to the states – weekly. There is a lack of work. A lack of options for the future. A lack of hope.

Without Jesus.

And yet we fight this battle daily here. The upside of hope. Trying to instill a life with Jesus. A life of hope. A life that shows something different. A way to provide for families.

I fight. My heart fights. I listen. I remind kids of hope.

With Jesus.

Because the desperation is real. Because the darkness around suicide often clouds a teen’s thinking so that they can’t see a life any other way. And they can’t comprehend a different life with Jesus either.  I asked some students this week why they think this is happening so common here and they talked about how you can make the decision so quickly – without even thinking.  And also about the lack of help here.  The lack of those willing to support struggling kids.  The combination of the two has not given this area a reprieve.

I cling to a message that I heard from a youngster this year. He had the courage to get up in front of his peers and talk about how he turned his back on God. How he walked away from what he was taught and what he knew. How he was living a different life. And yet Jesus pursued him and he realized that there was really only one way. He gave up all that he was caught up in and pursued Jesus back. And to me it was encouraging to see his courage to speak to his peers – and to speak out against the drugs and alcohol and suicide in this area. To look at his peers and say that there is hope.  To look to his peers and ask for forgiveness for going against God’s ways and not being who God intended for him to be.

Because there is hope. When we allow Jesus to pursue us.

And so this is my prayer for this area – that hearts would turn away from the cry of desperation and turn towards pursuing truth. Would you pray for this area. Would you pray for the youth. Would you pray for the women that have been left with their children.  Would you pray for healing within families.  That all could ee something different for their futures. That the  young people could see the hope that lies in their generation.


He has Risen

Every year I am sure that I have written about Holy Week – Semana Santa.  And yet every year it has not changed.  There is this darkness, this oppression, this heaviness that comes with this time of year.  I spent the weekend before Holy Week traveling and was in Antigua on Palm Sunday.  This is the day that Jesus came into Jerusalem.  It ushers in the Easter celebration.  For Christians around the world, Easter represents hope.  And yet even as I traveled, even as Holy Week came and went here, there was a heaviness that evaded us.  It is a mixture of many cultures, many traditions here and many gods.  As one of my friends who endured much festivity for days directly in front of her house of darkness put it…. it is more like unholy week here than holy week.  As the time for Easter approached, I decided that I wanted to try and gain an understanding of what was on the minds of those around me.  And so the question I asked to many of the Guatemalans that I interact with on a daily basis was…. Which day of the most important day of Holy Week?  Or which day should we celebrate the most?  Most of them said Friday is the most important day.  Some of them said no day.  But none of them said Sunday.  And when I explained to them the significance of the resurrection, I still am not sure that they understood why Christians celebrate the resurrection.

And even as Easter came to pass here, it was so weird.  It was as if they missed the celebration.  During the week there was definitely an air of happening in town.  As Friday approached the stores shut down, there were less people in town and the celebration was happening.  But Saturday came and they cleaned up the streets and resumed normal life.  As we celebrated Easter on Sunday, I went into town and had an eerie feeling.  I was celebrating a day that didn’t exist to those in town.  The shops were open again and life had resumed.

As I write this, Easter has passed, but let us not forget that we have reason to celebrate Easter – the Resurrection – each day.  I am thankful for the community of believers that are here.  That we can still celebrate together and that we live in a country with the freedom to celebrate when and how we want.  Christ is risen.  He has risen indeed.  Les we not forget that we are all on this journey – and each day counts!




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Traveling with friends over Holy Week.

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Antigua is known for their carpets that they lay throughout the streets as they have processions daily.  A lot of work for a short period of time…. but definitely something to appreciate.  There are pagan roots and the Easter Story isn’t quite reflected correctly, but I have an appreciation for the art.


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Our sunrise service – the highlight of Easter for me each year since I was little… imagining I was Mary walking to that tomb…. and realizing that He was the Messiah and has Risen!  What excitement!




Traditions.  22 kids.  All in one place.  And only a few tears.




I dreamt of rain last night. And each day it is impossible to not hear conversation about rain. Right now the valley is covered by a heavy haze from burning fields along with gusts of dust from then the wind picks up every speck of dust and blows it across the land. It is hot. It is dry. It hurts to go barefoot as the ground is mostly thorns and crunchy grass. Sweat is inevitable.  Just sitting.

Yet I remind myself daily that many others areas of the world are more desolate than this. At least we have trees and mountains. At least there is a breeze. At least we have sunshine. And an occasional cloud. I find myself searching more for the things to be thankful for than not thankful about. I want a heart of gratitude.  Even when it seems like the land is parched and I am parched of life.  I want that grateful heart that sees the good.

Often we find ourselves parched, or at least I have. Where I want to have that drop of rain, or drop of the Spirit, or drop of peace where I would feel not as dry. Thankfully these times are not constant. Thankfully when we call upon God and ask for rain, he brings it. Not in physical form, but in spiritual form. And with the first drop of rain, we find ourselves desperate for the next one and the next one. There is nothing greater than a shower of God to remind us of His faithfulness and refreshment.

Last night I dreamt of rain.  And today I felt a raindrop.  And saw the trace of precipitation on the ground.  The rains will return.  The freshness will return. Just as God brings refreshment to the ground.  He brings it to all of us… and so… we press on.  With the hope of what is to come.  Day by day.  Parched or full of life.

Hebrews 6:7

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God.


Here is a contrast in the difference in the grass.   The green area received water from the canal for an hour and immediately was green the next day.  The brown grass is what it looked like the day before.  This brown patch was elevated too much and the canal water never touched it.  Soon we will turn all brown areas green.


Who do you live with?  This is a common question that I am asked, and one that is forever changing.  There are the families and individuals that are here permanently, but as 2016 rings in, we have had over 60 visitors already that have come through our doors, for three days, a week, two weeks, six weeks.  Each group comes from a different chunk of time.  And each person leaves their footprint here.  Sometimes it is difficult to keep track of all the coming and going and where everyone is…. but these individuals and families pour into our ministry and visit.  It is our hope always for those that come that they would be touched by what God is doing as well as to see the people for who they are.  Here are just a collage of those who have been here in the first two months of the year.


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The Epperly family with their enthusiasm and joy!  They were here for 6 weeks with other family members helping in the clinics and at the hospital.


Sherwood, Areli and Rebecca were here for a month to help in clinics and join in the community.


A group of young people came from Spain and spoke in the schools and encouraged the young people from the area.



Arlen came and helped facilitate conversations between the medical team leading up to the opening of the hospital


A team from Chicago came and helped build cabinets and serve within the ministry.

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Sharing community time around the bonfire.

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Heidi Bell was here with residents to introduce them to Guatemala and Pastor Phil brought his friend Stephen to check in and encourage us.


Ryan Korpral made a quick visit and the Lifegate group was back.




As well as friends of Katie and Ryan to help wherever they could.


Life here is much different than it was three years ago – and the amount of visitors are constant and there is always change.  But it also helps us connect with life outside of Guatemala.  This understaking is something that God is pulling together, little by little and we trust that He has a purpose for each person that comes thorugh our ministry.  I don’t have pictures of all the people that have come through the front house…. but looking over who has come and gone just in two months, helps put things all in perspective.  Be blessed today and walk with the King!

Market View

I wanted to show you that we really do have all we need here.  There are plenty of “thrift tarps” that contain jeans and shirts right in between the fruit stands, pharmacy table and toiletries.  Corn to grind for tortillas, the local fruit that is in season, chickens and a tuk tuk to take you home after your arms are full with purchases.





As the holiday season comes and goes, the word that I’ve had on my heart more than thankful, is grateful.  I spent much time around Thanksgiving explaining to the Guatemalans what this holiday means to us…. And then in personal reflection over things that I was thankful for this month.


There are many changes that living in a third world country has brought about to me – in changing my perspective. When you grow up surrounded by safe, or relatively safe, there are many things that we often do not consider. But as I see suffering all around me. As I spend time questioning customs or beliefs or ways of doing things… I realize that I have been beyond blessed. I have suffered minimally. I do not know injustice. I have not had to truly live without. In everything that I have done I have had a banquet before me – I have had options. What activities do I want to participate in? Where do I want to go to college? What do I want to study? Where do I want to live? What kind of house do I want? What car will I drive? What will I eat today?


And so grateful is the word that I focus on. It is easy here as there are few things to compare to. Few things to actually want. And the life in the states is shut off in your mind. Then there are those days that are hard. There are those days when what should have taken an hour took the entire morning. There are those days where the sun is setting and you think, I was just beginning. I often find myself wondering, why is it so hard here. It is emotionally draining. It is spiritually draining. It is time draining. If I didn’t have a clock here, I would think that the days were 18 hour days here and not 24 hour days. But in the midst of living through the hard, I think about the people around me – often. They do not know the difference. They do not think about a life that could be different. Because they do not know different. They do not know that not everyone in the world prepares all of their food from scratch , or that to me it is odd to eat the same thing, every day. They have never seen a closet stocked with clothes arranged by color or seen a grocery store where you can buy food already prepared for you. They do not know what it is like to travel on a super highway to multitask. Likewise though, they do not know what it is like to not be cold, to have plenty of food and more clothes than you can imagine. They do not know what it is to have a house large enough that each person has their own room and can make it whatever temperature they want. Or to be able to choose whether they want ham, turkey, bacon or chicken on their sub sandwich. Or that hot water is an expectation along with carpet on floors. And so I am grateful. I am grateful to know the difference and to have lived with conveniences most of my life. I am grateful to have another perspective and to have seen beyond this tiny town here. Yes it is hard to be stripped of the conveniences that we often as Americans think are our rights…. But there is freedom as well in having little, living on what you have and not having to make choices – because there is not other option.

Grateful. That is what I am this holiday season. Even though I live simpler than I lived while I was in the states. Even if my skirt has a hole in it or my sweatshirt is faded. I am grateful. When I am slowed down by this culture. When something takes all day that in the states would have taken a minute. I remind myself to be grateful. I have come into a different culture. And I need to live by the cultural guidelines that are here…. And I am grateful to have known something different.


Yes…. I tell myself all of these things today because I am about to do a cultural hop again and be in the states for Christmas… and so I mentally prepare for the culture shock of convenience.



Heading to work….. and the most “convenient” way to get good beef around here….

Tour of Canilla by Air

One of the questions that people always ask is “Is the hospital and school on the same property?  How far away from the school do you live?”  I am going to give you a tour in pictures.




This is the hospital property on the right and then the housing for mostly everyone on the left.  It is a two minute walk from one property to the next and we do not own the property in between.

As for the houses, in the front there are two red roofs that make a sort of L shape.  I currently live in the one that is parallel to the road with short term visitors and Luis and Naomi and their family.


This is an updated view of the hospital property.  Each day it changes.  They have been working on the roof and will soon have the prayer room enclosed.


This is a view of the town of Canilla from the north.  As you look out of town, the road turns into a “V”.  As you follow this road, at the very top corner there is a patch of trees on the right and left side of the road.  The school property is the patch of trees on the right side of the road.


Here is a better shot of the school property.  There are many trees on the property which cover over the school, but the property if found in the middle of the photo


And here is a picture showing the distance from the school to the hospital.  The hospital is found in the upper right corner and you can hopefully identify the school in the middle of this photo – about half a mile apart.





Luchando      – this is one word that I use often.  There are some words that don’t smoothly translate to English.  This is one of those words.  It means to fight, even when the fight is against yourself or more than you bargained for.



Our San Pablo students have begun their practicals on the weekends.  This means that most of our students are working 8 hours a day at a job to pay for school, attending classes from 5:30-8:30  Monday through Friday and then leaving on Friday after class for a normally 2.5 hour bus ride to Quiche where they are working for their clinical – two 12 hour shifts.  That means for five weeks straight they have continued this pattern without one day of rest.  This is a lucha!  Add to that the road conditions.  This last week the students left the school at approximately 3:00 and encountered a road of mud along the way.  Each time the bus got stuck, they unloaded the bus, the girls walked up the slippery slope on foot, and the guys put rocks and wood in the road to make is strong enough for the bus to pass.  And then they pushed the bus through the mud.  Needless to say, everyone needed a bath when they arrived 6 hours later.  If the students did not have a lucha within them, I am sure they would not have boarded that bus!


The bus they boarded in the afternoon.


The road they encountered in the first part of their trip.


Surprisingly though, the clinics have rejuvenated the students as they get to experience first hand what it will be like to be a nurse.  They have come back with stories about their patients – from crying over a patient that had lost so much weight they were about to die.  Pushing old people in wheelchairs and bathing patients.  And even greater stories of praying with patients and relying on God as they learn medicine.  This of course is our greatest desire for these students… that they understand and trust God as the ultimate healer.  One student told me a story this week about her patient – a mentally ill woman who is/ was married to a doctor – and now cannot even feed or bathe herself.  On her charts, the diagnosis was “abandoned”.  I wonder how many more stories there are of the same level.  Our student told us that all she could do is to pray for her and hope that she can place her hope in Jesus.


We are mid-semester with these students and praying about a future.  Do we open registration for a new class to enter?  To we wait a year?  Do we open a new type of class?  Do we continue with what we have and grow it?  We have begun to have students coming by from surrounding villages to begin the registration process – each wanting to continue their own lucha for hope for a future.  And so we continue to lay it before God.  We continue to watch what God is doing.  And we continue on with our own lucha here, as servants towards what only God can do.






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There are days when I forget that I am living in a foreign country, and days where I cannot feel like anything around me is home.  Differences often make things feel foreign, and there are so many of them between my country here and my home country.  Some differences I notice daily, and others are so subtle that I don’t notice until I go back to the states.  Differences are not always bad.  They often mold us and cause us to grow in areas that we would not have done without being forced to do so.

One of the differences I am reminded of daily is that my culture raised me to always be in a hurry – and now I live in a culture that is not time sensitive.  I am often on my motorcycle driving and I pass cars and other motorcists in the street and think – am I driving fast?  The truth is that I am actually driving at a slow speed, but there is not hurry or rush to anyone’s lives.  This is seen when I am at a corner store buying a water or waiting on something.  In the states the goal is customer service and speed.  Here both are defined very differently.  I have adjusted to some of the speed of the culture, yet there are other days that I am not sure if I will every adjust to this speed.


Friendliness and Hospitality are two parts to this culture that I really enjoy.  Although Guatemalans are not extremely emotional, they do greet each other when they walk into a room, or a store, or on the street to pass each other in a car.  I am a person that lies to go unnoticed, but I have learned that if I walk into or out of a room without greeting everyone, that it is considered disrespectful.  I also really like the willingness to help out – whenever and whomever.  If I am stopped in the road, people will stop and ask if I need help.  If I am asking about directions to someone’s house, I often get an escort there to make sure I find the right place.  Often it is out of my comfort zone, but the difference is one that I will embrace.


Leisure activities.  Often we say that there are none here.  Because it is different.  There are no malls.  There are no movie theaters or restraunts or parks to visit.  Travel is slow and the process can be painful.  And so simple is usually what happens.  A motorcycle ride around the same roads that I always travel.  A walk up the mountain.  An ice cream cone.  Or a trip to the river.

Community.  In the states there were places that you could disappear.  You could disappear in your own house for a day and no one would notice.  If you were gone 24 hours, most people would not ask where you were.  Community has possibly been the most difficult adjustment that I have had since I have lived on my own for many years and am an independent person.  Sharing a house, and a room and a car.  Sharing meals, and responsibilities and decisions.  Sharing frustrations, and trials and answers to pray.  My life has changed from one where I made decisions on my own and didn’t have to answer to many other people in my life, to sharing everything that is done.  At times it is suffocating.  At times it gives me a head ache.  But most of the time, I have embraced it as there is nothing I have to do alone.  The greatest support comes from the community that is experiencing the very same trials and joys.

There are so many differences that give my life here a feel that I am out of my culture, out of my norm.  The longer I am here, the more people I recognize though.  The more people I know.  The more conversations I have in the streets and the more brown I become… the most Guatemalan I become.