Grab some coffee. This one is a long one. You’ve been warned.
It was 9:30 Wednesday night. I was finishing up some last minute individual updates with partners in the States. And as I was getting ready to sign off, I got a reply thanking me for the update. And then they asked, “How are YOU? How is GEORGE?”
I replied, “I’m okay. On a totally honest level. I’m a little burned out. You asked. Haha. Taking over the academy has been a HUGE responsibility. I’m learning to say “no” to some good things and trying to focus on what G-d is calling us to do. Saying “no” can be hard.”
I’m not sharing this with you for pity or to dump on you. I’m sharing this with you to be transparent. We all post the best of our lives on Facebook don’t we? And although we feel privileged to do what we do, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies.
In January of this year Vonda and I sat down over a hot cup of Guatemalan coffee and reviewed 2015. What went well? What didn’t go well? Where did we need to improve and what did we need to cut? As missionaries, Vonda and I are CONSTANTLY analyzing. We’re constantly praying. In this country and as missionaries, you can quickly get away from “The main thing.”
For us, the main thing is serving Jesus and leading people to search after and know Him. You can do a lot of good things in a developing country and still not do “The main thing.”
“Vonda, I don’t know what’s going on but I feel like there’s a tidal wave coming to our ministry.” I was so sure about it that I called a good friend in the States and told him the same thing. “Something’s coming…I don’t know what it is, but remember that I told you about it.”
At the end of March we flew to Colorado to visit our granddaughter Cora! We also visited with Cecilia’s doctors and they all said she was doing amazing! She’s a miracle.
When we got back to Guatemala, Vonda and I took over the boys academy. For 3 years we had been running the academy with another missionary couple. I was teaching 3rd and 4th graders and they were teaching 5th and 6th.
On April 5th Vonda and I stepped up to raise $18,000 to pay off construction. We moved into our new building and I began teaching all 76 boys. And that’s when the tidal wave hit. Doors began to open that we didn’t even know existed. If we were moving at a level 10 in our ministry we were now at level 100.
Even though we had just raised $45,000 for construction we miraculously raised the final $18,000 in 10 days so we could move in. A new academy also came with fresh new expenses.
The first construction phase of the academy was complete and now we needed to raise the funds to run it. Forty-three boys have been sponsored so far! Full sponsorship pays for Elvira our full time cook, single moms Maria and Francisca who are part time kitchen helpers, Adalis our full time teacher, Liseth our full time tutor and Glendy who cleans the academy. It also pays for electric, water and food for about 30 boys every day.
The first waves come crashing down.
The boys at the academy stood tall with their brother last month. One of our 6th graders, Cleverson, lost his father in a car accident just up from his house. Our hearts were broken. We closed the academy and supported his family as they dealt with their loss.
On the day of the burial I got a call from Liseth, our full time tutor. I’ve known Liseth for almost 2 years and she was a perfect fit for the academy. She started working with us on the day we opened the new building. Liseth has had a fragile heart since she was a little girl. I don’t know exactly what it was, except that every six months she had to go to the doctor to see if her body could handle the surgery she needed.
Over the last 6 months a tumor began to grow in the area of her abdomen. The tumor was not cancerous but it was growing FAST. Liseth was now regularly getting tested in hopes of figuring out what could be done. The tumor needed to be removed but doctors were worried her heart couldn’t handle the operation.
When Liseth called me, she was letting me know that the operation had been scheduled for later that day. She was in good spirits and hopeful to have the tumor removed.
Late that night I got a call from Liseth’s sister and mom. They were crying and I could barely make out what they were saying. “George. She’s gone. My sister is gone.” Liseth made it through surgery but died a few hours into recovery.
Man, it’s hard for me to write this, even now.
Vonda and I drove to Guatemala City to be with her family through the night. We got home at 3am and we buried Liseth the next day. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve grieved yet. As soon as my mind goes there, I look away. I’m heartbroken. We’re all heartbroken.
The tidal waves continue.
Guatemalan non-profit – Now that we have land and a building we’ve been advised by multiple missionary friends to become an official Guatemalan non-profit. This will protect us from the government coming in, seizing the property and deporting us. We are in process right now and expect to be official in the next 30-60 days.
US non-profit 501c3 – The time has come for us to become a non-profit in the States as well. We’re currently under the umbrella of our home church but it will be important for us going forward to be on our own. We’ll begin the process SOON! Please pray about that.
Private middle school.
Okay. THIS IS HUGE. Kids in El Rosario don’t have a chance of getting out of their current circumstances without a good education. There are kids who are desperate to learn but don’t have the financial opportunity. Vonda and I have established a private middle school and will be offering 15 scholarships to study with us. The doors open in January 2017. We’ll begin with 6 boys and will add 4-5 boys every year. I’ll be posting more about this in future updates. Let me just say, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.
We’re currently working with 2 diabetics and 4 malnourished kids in El Rosario along with a whole host of other less urgent medical needs. Thank G-d we’re also working with an emergency room nurse from the States who is currently visiting us every three months. She’s helping us get set up to eventually realize our dream of having a clinic that will be open once a week with a Guatemalan doctor.
Final buildout phase.
As doors have opened to start a private middle school and because the medical ministry has grown so fast, we are now super focused on raising support for the final building phase. Here are some of the raw numbers.
$145,000 will include a middle school and library on the main level. It will include a team house for up to 6 people. It will include our apartment style home on the 2nd level so we can finally move to El Rosario. This is so important on so many levels.
$40,000 will build the 2nd level of the first building. We can then move the middle school over and make the lower level a clinic.
$15,000 to purchase another acre of land for future growth. We see the potential of a high school as well as more educational opportunities for girls in El Rosario. THIS IS HUGE.
On October 21st and 22nd I’ll be in Colorado for two fundraisers. We’ll be sending more information soon. I’ll be sharing the vision of our ministry and I’ll be laying out how we can all make this happen.
If you add everything up you’ll see we need to raise $200,000. I absolutely believe we can do that before the end of the year. What do YOU think???
The waves don’t let up.
Our construction ministry is a little backed up right now. We just completed 2 block houses, 3 new kitchen/stoves and a new business for a single mom raising a boy who was abandoned when he was a baby. Look for Julia’s update SOON!
We’re currently working with six girls who are on scholarship to attend a private middle school. Their lives are changing. If you would like to sponsor a girl, reply to this email and I can tell you a little more about it. Currently, we need sponsors for two girls.
Part of the tidal wave of 2016 has been the opportunity to build relationships with a half dozen men in El Rosario. Building on those relationships is something I’m really looking forward to when we finally live there! Next Saturday I’m picking up 4 men, 2 with sons, and taking them to a breakfast/mini conference where they’ll have an opportunity to give their lives to Jesus…to plant seeds…to learn to lead their families under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS! Please write a note to pray on August 20th at 7am. Pray for Gabriel, Melvin, Wilson, Demetrio, Antonio and Edgar.
A peek into our personal and home life.
THIS MORNING we submitted paperwork to adopt! WHAT THE WHAT? Yes! Even though adoptions are closed in Guatemala, as residents of this beautiful country we have the very unique opportunity to give someone a home that they will never have to leave. This is not something new to our hearts. Vonda and I talked about adopting before we even considered becoming missionaries. G-d has been preparing us and the time is now. Our hope is to adopt siblings 2-6 years old. We were told we’re “too old” to adopt babies. Haha. That’s okay though. Have you seen photos of my granddaughter? She’s all the “baby” I can handle anyway!
The timing to adopt is perfect. Please pray through this with us. Without going into detail yet, we’re looking for a miracle adoption. Now that the paperwork is submitted it could take 9 months to a year until we have to buy more beds. We have psychologists to see, meetings with social services and a lot of waiting. We’re ready!
Vonda is busy homeschooling our three teens and helping at two different orphanages. Four days a week she picks up a little girl and helps with therapy for her new Colchlear implant! One day a week she drives her into the city to see a therapist! I’m so proud of her. She is determined to help this little girl learn to hear.
Each of our kids goes to El Rosario once a week to help at the academy. Until we live there, this is their opportunity to serve and stay connected with the ministry. They love it and THEY ARE AMAZING. I’m so proud! It gives me a chance to spend an entire day with them. It’s a chance for them to see the mighty hand of G-d save, heal and love.
You can’t replace someone like Liseth at the academy. How on earth will I find someone who the boys will adore? How will I find someone who will adore the boys right back? It would have to be someone who is head over heals in love with Jesus just like Liseth was. They’ll have to have the most kind and tender heart.
I found her. Look for that update VERY soon.
Three years ago we bought a 1998 Jeep with a million miles on it. I’m not kidding. ONE MILLION MILES! It has run like a champ but…in the last 4 months I think I’ve driven it 10 times. It’s been in the shop almost every day for 120 days. As soon as “it’s fixed” or as soon as someone from the States brings us a new part, it’s something else. It’s been more than a little frustrating.
Many of you have asked us to let you know if we ever have a personal need. It’s so humbling to put this out there and although this is also a ministry need, I realize it’s personal. Ugggh. I feel like we’re always asking for money. Money to build the academy, money to sponsor 76 boys, money for medical needs in the village, money to feed families, money for water filters. The list goes on. But I don’t have time to wait on this Jeep anymore. I don’t have time to mess with it. I don’t have time to THINK about it. My plate is full.
We have a few thousand dollars set aside and one of our partners JUST SENT $2,000 THIS MORNING to use where we need it. A newer truck will cost around $13,000. That is SO MUCH MONEY. I’m really sorry to ask, but will you pray about helping us with this? If we can raise another $9,000 I think we can get the truck we need. If you would like to help please click HERE and write “Truck” in the memo.
Vonda and I are doing amazing. Sometimes we feel like we’re ships passing in the night but we’re madly in love. It’s been one of G-d’s great blessings. He’s given us patience and stability in our relationship. Sometimes we literally run by each other with just enough time to high five and shout “I’ll call you from the road.” That being said, would you pray for us? Specifically that we would make the time to get away with each other. That we would make time to rest.
In the end.
One of the things I love most about our lives as missionaries is sharing it with YOU. I LOVE to post photos on our ministry Facebook page. I love to send journal entries and updates. My hope is that it encourages you in your walk with Jesus. I hope it encourages you to serve Him right where you are. I know I haven’t sent an update in a while. I’m sorry about that. We’ve just been so busy. I want you to know that it’s not a burden for me. I love it. And I appreciate that you have read this entire newsletter! (Not everyone will make it this far. Haha. Send me a quick note if you did!)
Vonda and I love hearing from you. Let us know what’s going on in your life. It connects us to our roots. It connects us to YOU. It reminds us that we’re not alone. And that means a lot to us. We love you. May you be covered in His dust.
George and Vonda