Friday, August 31, 2007


Yesterday was the anniversary of the day of my birth.
A few other historical things happened on August 30th...Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein was born. So was Molly Ivins, famed Texan and humorist. And here's something else that happened: (quoted from The Writer's Almanac)
It was on this day in 1904 that Henry James visited the United States after living for most of his adult life in Europe. He had gone to live in Europe as a young man and hadn't seen the United States in more than 25 years. He sailed into New York Harbor on this day in 1904, and he was amazed at how modern the city had become. When he'd last seen New York, the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge had been the highest points of the city. Since then, the invention of the elevator had made it feasible to construct extraordinarily tall buildings. James wrote, "The multitudinous sky-scrapers [were] like extravagant pins in a cushion already overplanted.

But he found that the city was so different from the one he remembered that he almost didn't recognize it. When he went to find the house where he'd grown up, it was gone, having been demolished by the expanding New York University. He remembered a church being built near his house when he was a kid, but that church was gone too. New buildings were being constructed all over the city, and it seemed to James that all the new buildings were uglier than the old buildings. He began to think of America as a place where all the glorious traditions of the past were being destroyed in favor of the new. A few years later, he wrote to his sister-in-law, "Dearest Alice, I could come back to America (could be carried on a stretcher) to die — but never, never to live."

I relate with Mr. James....see, I love rock n roll, baseball, college football and corn dogs, yet sometimes I think I could do without them. Its this time of year again, when I think of living in France, and watching rugby and soccer and other things America doesn't care about.

But all that glitters and speaks French is not Gold. The quandary is as it will always be...I seem to have discovered a unique community here in this America that would be near impossible to duplicate amidst statues and pillars. Even if, as Rufus Wainwright sings, 'All the lights of Paris, play inside your iris'...sometimes the lights of Paris are unable to sustain your soul like relationship does.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Guatemala Journals 4

After all that tiredness, learning, etc....when I wanted to pass out and rest...God had something else in mind - another home visit. We went to visit Erik's family.

Before relating what we encountered, I should give you background on Erik, one of the Hope 4 Guatemala students. Here is an excerpt from a recent H4G Newsletter:
13 year old Erik is one of 12 children in his family. Now Erik has been diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the Liver and was hospitalized with liver failure the 2nd week of July. He is dire need of a liver transplant.

Doctors are asking us to help them find a hospital to perform his transplant. We have made many calls in the US and Mexico without success, though we continue to seek the Lord for direction and open doors. Please pray with us for the Lord's healing for Erik, for a hospital to perform the transplant surgery, the necessary resources and peace for his family.

We went that day to bring Erik's family some food and encouragement. We showed up unannounced and the "man" of the house, Moises, greeted us at the door. He is 13, though he appears to be about 10 with his small stature and moppy head of black hair. As the oldest son, Moises is in charge of the home for much of the day while his parents work, or stay with Erik at the hospital. With a slight smile, a firm jaw and an air of pride, he led us into his home. One by one we ducked through the rusted metal door frame and into the dark, dirt-floor abode.

His other siblings were inside. The youngest was held by a small girl, about 5 years of age. The baby in her tiny arms appeared to be a newborn. Actually, the baby, named Katarina is 4 months old. She cried from hunger, unable to be fed until their mother returned from work.

In another area of the house, a girl, about 6, went about changing the diaper of a toddler: they smiled as Jose (H4G's leader) joked with them. Where can they find such joy when they have so little?

This family, while appearing to be in the depth of pain and squalor, inspires hope in Jose. They are one of the few families involved with the ministry where there is a father present. He has not fled to prostitutes or alcoholism; rather, he loves and works hard for his family. Jose was encouraged after our visit because he saw the progress that has been made on their home. Yes, progress. The condition was worse on his last visit. Their masonry-skilled father is steadily working, as funds are available, to make their place a livable, multi-level home fit for their group of 14. The work has been slow...Erik's father is deaf and mute so he is not very hire-able. Hope 4 Guatemala has provided him with some work, and given him references for other jobs, which he so desperately needs to provide for the family, and slowly but surely work toward his dream of a "real" house.

We set their crate of food on a rickety table, unpacking its contents to show Moises: beans, sugar, coffee, fortified meal for the children and some fruits and veggies. Around the home we saw the wood plank loft level where the two oldest, Moises and Erik have slept (pictured). We saw the concrete slab, draped with a blanket where several more of the children sleep. Outside of the main walls was a barrel with charcoal for cooking - typically tortillas and beans. Chickens roamed amidst piles of trash and laundry, and around the corner was a dull red curtain. I looked behind it for only for a moment, guessing that it must be the bathroom. With no running water or sewage and a family of 14 it was a pretty drastic picture.

I had a feeling not unlike that which I experienced several years ago at the wake of a friend who committed suicide. I was angry, confused by how unfair it all seemed and all I could do was grit my teeth and clench my fist, as if gripping to hold on to my emotions. Yet, unlike that funeral wake, there was life in this dark room in Zone 18, Guatemala City. There were smiles of children who are loved, who have that unflappable joy only kids seem to have. There was hope: that their home will one day see completion, that they will grow in wisdom and stature from the instruction and hearty meals they receive at Hope 4 Guatemala, that their father will continue to find work and stay with his family...and of course we all have hope, tempered with utter dependence on God, that Erik will live.

Before we left, I had the un-enviable, yet joyous task of praying for this family. With my clenched teeth and my arm around one of the girls, I knew that controlling my emotion while speaking understandable Spanish was too lofty a goal. I asked Jose to translate, and I prayed something that I don't now recall. And I choked back tears.
Please continue to remember Erik's family in your prayers.