Papa Peeve

One of the many blessings of living with a bunch of cute and precious children is the greetings we get when we come back home. Any daddy who has preschoolers and even primary grade children at home might relate. Our children have developed a routine of saying my name until I say theirs back. Sometimes it is hard to unravel the voices I am wrapped with upon entry and it takes some time to identify and respond to each exuberant greeter, and it is a wonderful, riotous way to arrive home.

As I played and spoke with the children in our front hall one day, I kept hearing my name, as if someone was calling me from another room, or maybe the stairs. My attention was presumptively focused on the children who communicate (loudly and happily and continuously) and so it took time to realize that it was Tania, standing right in front of me, who was calling my name.

Thania came to us from a home that closed down last year. She at first seemed as she had been described, completely non communicative, and autistic. But bit by bit she has surprised us with her awareness and interaction. She loves flower print dresses, and will watch one’s mouth and mimic the words when we sing songs. She enjoys giving hugs and loves to be thrown up into the air.

But that day, she was saying my name…well, what the kids call me. Collectively and individually shout “Papa Steve!!” when I arrive. With a far away voice, but a good mimic of the exuberant inflection of the other kid’s greetings, she was looking right at me, saying “Papa Peeve!” There is something special about the steps of development we have seen with her, and I hope we can move to better levels of communication with her. Incidentally she started structured learning times in our home with Ana, a special ed teacher, and Ana said she will do what she is asked to do, but only when the teacher looks away. Pray for Thania! This is her, with Katerin and their teacher, Ana.


Prayer Works!!!

Please, before you read this, stop and pray for Herlinda’s health. She is in the hospital, and has a few bacterial infections, and now has a fever and if I understand correctly, is a bit swollen. Also, Pablo is again in the hospital, and it could be pneumonia. Josh said it is being treated as something pretty contagious. Thanks!

When you read the title, some of you may say “duh”, but others might be more like me. I do the “I coulda had a V8” smack to the forehead when I am reminded of this fact that I know to be true, but just do not act upon. It’s not even faith any more, as Faith is evidence of things not seen, and I have seen again and again, that PRAYER WORKS!!!

Case in point: We were really stuck, as we needed more space, but did not have the cash flow to make adding a second rent a wise choice. Having no option, we, along with our prayer partners prayed and waited. Not too long after, the owner of one of the houses we wished we could rent called, and said they would like us to use their house rent free.

No sooner had I recovered from that shock of prayer working, than I started changing my plans to travel. Of course, I had to be there to get things going, and make things happen to be able to move our children into the new house. After a month of spinning my wheels in that effort, we decided I should go anyway, and meet commitments I had made to present our development plans to folks in the states.

I remember so clearly feeling like I was abandoning Shyrel and the move effort. I said that which is more whine than prayer: “Lord, if you don’t do something, it’s not going to happen”. I then added to a prayer e-mail that folks would pray “that all would be well in the house while I am gone”…because I did not want to admit to my prayer partners that I had abandoned ship during a critical time with lots of things left to do…but I sort of explained to God, when they pray about “ things being well” he would know what I had meant.

Well, of course, this week, a group of high schoolers, from a Catholic school in our town are planning to make working on the house their class project, and our friends at ORI bought the paint that a group from the states then used to paint the house on Tuesday, and then another group ( I think with ORI) who had not thought they would be able to come will be there Wednesday and maybe Thursday, and then our friends Jerry Tomlin and Mike Smith will come Friday to finish whatever didn’t get done by the other groups, and help the children who will move over there do so.

I can’t get Shyrel on the phone much, as you can imagine she is a little busy, but our short conversations have sure made it sound like she is doing well.

I wonder if I don’t pray and ask for prayer, because I want the credit. Nah. I couldn’t be that shallow and self centered….

I remain grateful for your prayers, and for God’s sense of humor, and amazing grace

I will learn soon how to add links, but in the meantime, you can read an encouragement to pray in the context of partnering at



To be sick and poor

I feel like I saw the face of Jesus in another new way there at the Guatemala general hospital. I saw Him in the faces of the people gathered around the entrances, seeking help. I think I am witness to something closer to the milieu of Jesus' time and miracles. It helps me understand better the mercy involved, the compassion.

I read in the gospels today the accounts in Mark of Jesus healing the sick. I have a better sense of the stir it caused. And he caused riotous situations through most of this Gospel. People who are both poor and sick would be a lot more desperate to track down a healer. Remember the people who waited by the pool? Some of them had been there for years. There is that same lengthy wait for a miracle there At the National Hospital also.

I was reading about Jesus’ times in the waiting room in the emergency room of Guatemala’s general hospital, surrounded by poor people with significant sicknesses. Their behavior when the Physician looks at them reveals a whole culture that is pretty foreign to me as an American. Fear of the disease, of the inability to afford the cure, of the socioeconomic canyon separating them from help is plain on their faces. There is a desperation here that even the poorest Americans do not experience in such a comprehensive and oppressive way. Sure we worry about diseases, and know that some things even the best science cannot help. But when the concern about the disease is combined with so much lack, it is…hopeless.

An example of the hopelessness is this sign.
It has been conveniently written in Spanish, and a Mayan language.
But the people who only speak this language
And do not speak Spanish also are illiterate. They can't read Mayan either.

As I have witnessed healing services in the US I have sometimes wondered if the point of the prayer was simply asking for a miracle so that the person would not have to fork over the HMO co-pay. That may be crass of me, but when the cure is ordinarily available, it makes a request for a miracle seem somewhat tawdry…along the lines of the people Jesus chastised for seeking signs. As if we are more looking for a validation of ourselves, our faith, our significance. You may have heard of people standing on faith instead of availing themselves of the medical healing within their means. That seems so wrong when I look around at the emergency room here.

This desperation of people who have been disenfranchised economically and then struck with physical calamity can explain better the passages about the throngs that attended Jesus. I get a better understanding of the inability of the healed ones to heed Jesus request and remain silent. In one session, absolute calamity had been removed. Jesus was not touching lives that had another option. He was moved by the desperation. Moved to action. Lord, help us understand that he saw us…even us Americans…desperately needing his intervention

Compassion brought him to earth.


Only in Guatemala

One of the things I love about Guatemala is the quirky way that the cultural grace shows up.

While Shyrel was caring for watching Victoria, something that I don’t think we would ever see in the states has played our in the ward.

Apparently a woman came in for an emergency childbirth. 3 children came in with her. They stayed there, one the ward, for 3 days. Willy and Elvis, and (I didn’t catch the name of their sister) not only lived, but thrived in the ward. This was an almost intensive care ward for very sick children. But what do you do with three healthy kids that have no where else to go?
So the nurses fed and clothed, and bathed, and cared for these kids. That’s so cool, and so Guatemalan.

And the moms caring for their own sick children seemed to welcome and enjoy their presence.
Poor people are often gracious beyond my comprehension.

Of course, Shyrel was feeding them too.


Protocols and Principles

The Office of the President announced a new Adoption Protocol last week that they would like to take effect here in Guatemala. I read the English translation provided by an adoption advocate who was admittedly against the proposal. I haven’t been able to get a direct copy of the edict. ( I have been a bit busy with conferences and medical missions hosting) You may have heard small whisperings that the adoptions of cute children from this country are not without their dark side. The President and his wife have tried to get some regulations put into effect for the last few years without much effect. They have tried to get the legislature to write laws in conformance with the Hague Treaty. This treaty was recently ratified by the U.S. and will soon have a direct affect on adoptions from Guatemala, regardless of Guatemala’s actions. It’s implementation in other countries has practically stopped international adoptions. Failing that they have now tried to claim that existing laws allow for the formation of a “Protocol” that doesn’t make a new law, but explains how the various parts of the government should behave concerning adoptions.

Needless to say, the Adoption advocates are up in arms. Well, not all of them. Shyrel and I believe the best possible option for a child who has lost the possibility of living with his or her birth family is adoption into a loving, Christ centered family. But we are not ready to say that this protocol is a bad thing. It’s just not that simple here.

My initial sense is that the government, and those opposed to this new Protocol are both right.

The Government’s case: Unregulated Adoptions are a source of shame here. We personally see and feel the negative reputation that adoptions, and children’s homes who do them have. We hear the comments, like the Lawyer who told us a couple of years ago: “ I don’t defend drug traffickers and don’t handle adoptions”. Guatemala is a free market economy. We Americans have good feelings about free market, and bad feelings about restrictions and government interference. But in the states, that freedom is tempered by a cultural foundation of …I don’t know what it is, but you can sense it fairly quickly. So, here, free market means everything is negotiable. From the policeman who will let you go for a small compensation, to the municipal airfield controller who takes their informal tax from the Colombian cocaine plains, to the coyotes who promise to take illegals through Mexico and to the states for $5,000, everything is business. If there is a profit to be made, someone here will figure out a way to make it. Obviously, there must be something other than the profit motive to regulate a human society. Prostitution and slavery come to mind as extreme examples. So here is the problem: what separates the proper placement of a needy child with a loving family from the sale of a child to a potentially dangerous situation? How do you know? Trust of the lawyer who you have paid thousands of dollars because he said “trust me?” The joke in New York City is you can tell a mob guy by asking about organized crime. If he responds by saying “there is no Mafia” you have found your made man. In Guatemalan Adoptions, I am beginning to think the only people who “Adoptions are sure and clean” are in the Cartel. The U.S. Embassy is the strongest “filter mechanism” to ensure against nefarious adoptions. I hope their filters are better than the DEA’s or the INS. The Guatemalan President and his wife, Wendy, rightly so, feel they should bear more of the responsibility for protecting children born in this country.

The opponents to this Protocol: Their claim is that historically, the most corrupt and money grabbing part of Guatemalan society has been the government. I have been really impressed with Oscar Berger’s attempts to clean up the government, in many ways that he will never be acknowledged for. But the previous President is said to have stolen 40% of the Gross National Product for each of the 4 years he was in office. Several heads of the National Police were put in Jail last week. It has been said that we do not have the best politicians that money can buy, but they can be bought. Foxes guarding chicken coops comes to mind.

What’s the answer? Someone said that Money is the root of all sorts of evils. Maybe he had a point. When the actual costs associated with a baby becoming a U.S. citizen are approximately $8,000, including airfare for the parent’s 2 visits to Guatemala, and Parents spending upwards of $30,000 there is a lot of profit to be had. Two things happen in that atmosphere: People whose only motive is profit are drawn to it, and people whose original motive was altruistic start thinking about all the good things they can do with that money, and soon are dependent on that “profit”, making decisions that are no longer purely based on what is best for the child and the new parents. Even Christian Agencies and their “clients” seem to become very adversarial very quickly.

What if we made the precious, eternal transference of a child to a family a non-economic issue? What if churches facilitated adoptions, like they facilitate Sunday school? What if the home study person in the states was paid a fee to evaluate the family, regardless of acceptance? What if Missionaries or agencies were not funded by parents, but completely apart, so that decisions were not encumbered with paying the rent? There would be a lot of problems beyond the purely economic. But it might be a start.