Have you ever heard the title statement before? It seems as if I’m working with “one arm tied behind my back?” Well, it has never come as alive for me as it did when we were traveling in Guatemala on our most recent trip.
It was a different kind of trip for us. Usually we go to Guatemala to present a conference. We fly in, we are driven to the location site, we speak, we minister, and we are taken back to our lodging place each day. We fly home. Actually pretty tidy. It’s not a bad thing. We meet a number of people and we do our best to teach what we believe Christ would have us teach. After all, it is what we are called to do and we love it.
So when we were given an opportunity to go to Guatemala with two colleagues from Wisconsin from different ministries, we were excited to see what God would call us to do. Even though we knew we would have occasions to promote our ministry, we were told that the mission of this trip was PRAYER. Nancy Comello and Karen Klemp both lead ministries, but foremost they are intercessors. So we were anticipating that prayer and listening to the people’s needs were the main objective.
Why do I say it was as though we had “one arm tied behind our backs?” Well, not because we felt constricted or restrained, but because of a profound story one of the ladies we met told us. Marianna Petersen is a doctor in the public hospital in Guatemala City. She is heavily burdened with the lack of sanitary care and medicine given to patients there, particularly women and their new born babies. She is also connected to a place in Guatemala where her sister is starting a birthing center. What a mighty woman for God! Marianna has lived with only one arm since she was 3 years old.
The day we came to pray with Dr. Marianna, her mother, Marina, happened to be visiting. She began to tell us that when her daughter’s arm was severed as a little girl, the physicians in Guatemala told her that she would never be able to lead a productive life and that her mother might as well put her in an institution. But Marina (the mother) would not consider this. So she tied one of her arms behind own her back. Day after day she lived her life with one arm literally tied behind her back. She said to us in her broken English, “I wanted to know what it was like for her…what she could and could not do!” The story speaks volumes. She literally entered in to her daughters suffering. Her daughter Marianna told us she would not have persevered in her life had it not been for her mother’s encouragement and strength of character.
We have been told over and over by those who live in this country, “Everything is harder in Guatemala.” We observe this to be a true statement after many “conference/counseling” trips there. Because of poverty, injustice, and government corruption, a majority of people in Guatemala lead very difficult lives. Let me share a bit more of our adventure with you.
Tita Evertsz: La Limonada, La Mandarino, Mi Casita
We visited the staff of two ministries that work with the people in a place called “The Dump.” It is literally what it says. A piece of ground 1 mile long and 1 and ½ miles wide with 60,000 people living there. Under boxes, in small huts of adobe, or maybe concrete buildings for the more privileged. The small “dump” is divided into 8 sectors, each having a violent gang in charge. There are 2 schools called La Limonada and La Mandarino. A safe house for women and children is also there called Mi Casita. The founder of these ministries is named Tita Evertsz. Although we went to her home, she was quite ill the day we visited so we were not allowed to actually go into the community where Guatemala’s poorest of the poor are living. Truly,very few people will even go in because of the danger. Our driver informed us he would park a distance outside and pray for us, but would not go in with us. It was too dangerous even for a young strong Guatemalan man. But we prayed over the staff and for Tita that day. Tita and her staff well know what the concept of restoration is all about. They are living it every day. Please pray and/or support us because we have been invited to go back in January 2012 to present Campus Crusade for Christ’s Magdalena: Through Her Eyes film and give our follow up conference, Returning to Joy When the Pain is Too Deep.
Denis and Elvira Rodas: Chiquimulilla Christian School
We met with a missionary couple who run a school for children in their home. They have very little financial resources to do this. They are not a big ministry, just two people who see a great need in their country. They are Denis and Elvira. We prayed with Elvira who is a strong intercessor in her own regard. She has been seriously ill for months now due to an infection that resulted from a poorly performed surgery that was done on her stomach/abdomen. Elvira is not expected to live unless there is a miracle.
Judy Kerschner: New Life School
Furthermore there was the New Life School! What a JOY! The school was started by an American woman from Texas who saw that there were literally NO education services for disabled children in Guatemala. Even if their disability was a lost limb or a physical disease that did not affect brain function, these children are seen as having no value to society by many Guatemalans. So she started a school. We prayed for one of the workers who is recovering from a great trauma. To our knowledge, Judy’s school is the only one of its kind in Guatemala.
Xela Birthing Center:
We prayed and visited with delightful mid-wives at the Xela birthing center and heard stories of some who had been mid-wives for 25 years in their villages. Several of them were only 12 or 13 years old when they assisted their family or village member in delivery. One midwife said that “..the birthing center has given her training, but God has given her the gift and knowledge.”
Wally Estrada: Christian School near Antigua
Oh valued friends, I could go on and on about our experiences and times of prayer for those we met. I will finish with the last story of a man named Wally in Guatemala City who started a Christian school. He became a first generation Christian from his village when a group called Youth with a Mission (YWAM) came to his community when he was a young child. He knew at 14 that he must leave his village and go to the city to get an education in order to serve God in some way. He told us he wore his first pair of shoes ever when he walked the long trail, crying all the way, to the highway that would go to the city. He said that he had never seen cars or trucks in traffic before and was so frightened that it took him 30 minutes to cross the busy road! With opportunities from the Lord, he earned his education and learned to speak English. He has founded and directs the largest Christian school in Guatemala. He plans to partner with the New Life School to help us present a conference to his staff and other ministries in Guatemala. We are hoping to do this in January of 2012 when we are in Guatemala.
After this delightful trip with so many opportunities to pray and share, why would we feel we were traveling with “one arm behind our backs?” Like our new friend, Marina, who tied her arm behind her back to know her daughter’s suffering AND potential, we too were allowed to enter in by listening to many stories and praying for the people we met. We came away knowing a bit of their struggle and great accomplishment as well. Thank you to those who prayed for us and who supplied the financial means for Bobbie, Corri and I to minister. It was a time we will never forget.
Please enjoy finding out more about some of the ministries/representatives that we visited by emailing your comments or questions or checking out their web sites.
- Nancy Comello: (our travelling buddy) Teaching women in Guatemala to be mid-wives and teaching prayer conferences. For more information you can email Nancy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Karen Klemp (our travelling buddy) Ministering to people in Guatemala and Tanzenia East Africa at www.bringinghope2others.com
- Tita Evertsz: La Escholita Limonada and Mandarino and Mi Casita. You can reach Tita at email@example.com. See a clip of the community where she ministers www.reparandomovie.com
- Denis and Elvira Rodas at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Judy Kerschner/New Life School at www.newlifeguatemala.com
- Wally Estrada/Christian School at www.missionimpact.com
- Campus Crusade for Christ at www.magdalenatoday.com