Monthly Archives: March 2011

Peace be with you….

Here I am again… I am home and its time to write the rest of my blog. I sincerely wish that I could bring each and every person who takes the time to read my thoughts down to Guatemala…. words simply don’t do any of it justice… but for now this will have to do.

I have a question… What does the word 200 mean to you? Is it a large number? A small one? In our North American society 200 isn’t necessarily a large number especially in terms of money, or people. If I were to say I’d give you $200.00, it really wouldn’t mean much…. What is that, a dinner at the Keg? If I said that there were 200 people at an event that number would seem kinda small…. But how about if I were to tell you that the Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro rehabilitated 200 children last year? Children that would have otherwise died…. that number takes on a whole new meaning doesn’t it?! Want to know something else… if they had more money they could have helped more. Many, many more… Children have died because they simply did not have the money to help… How’s that for perspective?

To give you some background here on Hermana Mercedes and the Hospital that we found out during our 3 hour meeting with them…. I feel its necessary for you to know….

Sister Hermana Mercedes is from Nicaragua. She studied medicine in Spain. Padre Pedro Martinez Cano wrote her a letter 28 years ago during her time in Spain asking her if she would come to Guatemala to aid him in helping children that were dying from Malnutrition in rapid numbers during the civil war in Guatemala in the early 80’s. After much prayer Hermana Mercedes decided to come but by the time she arrived in Guatemala Padre Pedro was dead. Someone did something to the car he was driving and he died in a crash. He was murdered by the very nation he devoted his life to helping. Radicals simply did not want certain Guatemalteco’s to live and multiply. Hermana Mercedes decided to carry on the Padre’s work. Someone donated the land that now houses the Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro to Hermana Mercedes to set up. At first it was just her and people began dropping children off in startling numbers. Imagine you, JUST YOU, looking after 40 dying children. What would that look like? Sleep was not an option and she tirelessly worked to save lives.

A few days after our meeting we met and drove with the sisters from the Hospital to the mountains of Jutiapa. It was a trecherous drive uphill that took just under 1 hour. Hermana Mercedes explained that back in the first days she would walk that distance several times a week (she could not afford a car nor a horse) to visit and nurse the people up there that were too sick to make the trip themselves. We were all stunned because I can only imagine making that walk. It must have taken her most of the day and she had much work to do after that exhausting walk! We were tired and worn out just from the last bit of the trip that we had to climb on foot once the road became impassable by car!!! After some time of doing this, word got out and gradually other sisters came to help and her new Order was formed. They are lead by her and she trains them. Hermana Mercedes has a Masters of Medicine and is filled with a spirit that I can only stand back from afar and admire with all my heart and soul.

Our trip up that mountain was amazing. We met the first family that Hermana Mercedes met 28 years ago on her walks up there. They were such a wonderful family. We presented the eldest woman there, the Abuela (grandmother) with a blanket and some hats that Geoff’s mom made. They were so thankful. Then it was off to visit a family that Hermana Mercedes hoped we could help. Up we climbed with little barefoot children following us. We could hear them giggling from the trees that lined our path. One look at this family and their home and Geoff and I began talking. Within a few minutes of talking with this family and Hermana Mercedes Geoff was digging in his pockets to give money to help. We paid for the bricks to finish building an adobe home that the man had begun to house him, his wife and their 7 children. If this home is not completed before the rains come all his hard work will be simply washed away in the mud. We also promised to return later that day with the lamina roofing he needed. The house must have a roof asap because an earthquake earlier in the week (we did not feel it but they are common almost daily occurances in Guate) already bowed the walls terribly. It was an incredible trip… Upon walking further down the path to visit some others we heard yelling behind us. It was the family running toward us holding a big pot, cups and a bag. They had made us coffee and brought us sweetbreads. It was such a touching moment standing on that path drinking with them and eating knowing the effort it took them to climb and run to us and the fact that they were sharing with us something that is life to them. They sell the coffee and it is their only means of money. I normally do not drink coffee but I will tell you I did drink this and it was the best thing I have ever had because I knew the love and respect that went into making it for us. Being here was such an honour.

After our visit up the mountain we had a quick lunch that the Hermana’s prepared for us. Then it was back up the mountain to deliver the lamina roofing. This day was truly incredible for my family and it simply solidified our feeling that we are being called to the El Progresso/ Jutiapa area even more. The help they need both on that mountain and at the Nutrition Hospital is so evident to us. Things here have fallen so in to place that I truly believe this is where we are supposed to be. To put it into perspective…. Some of the nuns work, cooking and cleaning outside the hospital and the money they make gets put back into the Order for the running of the hospital. But it is not much money. El Progreso hosts a run annually… similar to the Terry Fox run that happens here. Last year they raised $11,000.00 Quetzals… That is just over $1000.00 dollars…. Local boys bring $500.00 Q every month…. Monsignor Julio from Jalapa has provided $25,000.00 Q twice in the last 8 years for milk… These amounts are quite frankly insane they are so low. They saved the lives of 200 children last year and the cost for this is staggering. Medicines, food, and other provisions cost money and they have none! Children like little Marcos Cruz Cruz that are there right now, wait for operations that require large sums of money… One look at the precious faces of these children and you cannot help but cry for them. Things should be easier… they should be automatic… If Marcos needs an operation for cleft palate it should be done, period! Unfortunately that is not how the world works and the Hermana’s accept that and wait patiently and pray. They are severely in debt and we feel that we need to help. Put simply if the Order had more money they could save more children…. I personally want to help get that number of 200 raised much, much higher and my family and I are making it our mission in life to do so! Wouldn’t it be something to read this blog next year and see that number higher? Into the thousands some day perhaps?

We left that meeting with the Hermana’s with a list. A very long list of things that they desperately need. Things like a 4×4 SUV to get them up into the remote mountain areas to transport the sick & dying children back to the hospital…. Building renovations… roofing… food…. medicine…. money for operations for children that need it…. Its a huge list and quite frankly a bit overwhelming…. The Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro has other costs as well….many of the costs were things we never thought of. Some of the children who are rehabilitated decide to join the Order… also some new nuns come simply because they want to be a part of this incredible thing. These nuns need to study. It costs $500.00 each for the nuns to study the necessary theology. Also they have several nuns studying medicine. As Hermana Mercedes puts it, this is necessary if they want to continue once she is gone. They need additonal Hermana’s to be able to practice medicine! Leaving it all up to Hermana Mercedes with her other duties is simply not possible anymore as she gets older. Plus they are hoping to treat more children. Just like anywhere else in the world the study of Medicine is VERY expensive…. Right now like everyone else who studies the Hermana’s are running on loans. Loans are a common thing here…. loans for study, loans for food, loans for medicines, loans for refrigerators, loans for everything. Sometimes there simply aren’t any more loans… so there is no food…. so the kids eat but the Hermana’s do not. How is that ok? Imagine yourself under the care of a doctor that hasn’t eaten nor slept in 3 days? Would you be getting the best care? Would this concern you at all. You better believe it would! Not acceptable. There is so much about this that is not acceptable it shakes me to my core.

Hermana Mercedes explains through a grin that sometimes she has bought things with no idea how she would pay for them… she would simply pray as she walked into a store… She laughs as she tells of a time she walked out of a store with no idea how she would pay for the new fridge that was being loaded into her truck so she just smiled and continued to pray (FYI she still owes that store $16,000 Quetzals). Just a few months ago she said she was praying because the situation was becoming desperate…. then we walked through the gates. In her heart, she believes God sent us to her. Real people, bringing real hope. She said she and the other Hermana’s thank God every day for the people of Canada who gave money so that our team could come and help them. It never fails to amaze me how much the people of Guatemala feel for us. I come home and I feel terrible that I cannot do more… I am so humbled by this experience. It has changed me to my core so much for the better. It has changed who I am as a wife… as a mother… as a human being. I think the people around me sense it… see it.. and truly sometimes I think some people avoid me because of it for some unknown reason. But for me, words cannot describe how thankful I am for them and what they have done for ME and for my FAMILY!

Things stand in our way… politics, money, school, work and other obligations are at times less than accomodating to the work we wish to do in Guatemala. We have decided that nothing is going to stand in our way. We have pledged our support to the Hermana’s for many years to come and we have no intention on going back on that promise. To us Doppenberg’s a promise is something that can never be undone. We talked on the way home as a family about this promise and our entire family agrees that this is something that we MUST do. We will fundraise and continue to sacrifice ourselves to make that number of 200 grow each and every year. All I can ask is that you who are reading this help us… if not financially then through prayer and support. There is strength in numbers, that is for sure… Guatemalteco’s live by that… and it works beautifully… and I know it can for us as well. I know that God brought us to Ted and Wells of Hope so through him we could be brought to this place… I know that God put Fernando and his amazing family in our path so our work in a different area than Jalapa would be possible…. I know that God put the feeling into the hearts of each and every person that prayed, donated or accompanied us on our trip to help… I know that God will continue to help us in our future endeavours in Guatemala. As one of my favorite songs says: “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us… and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?…..” I know this in my heart and it gives me peace…. May Peace be with you as well….

Until next time….Dios le bendiga… (God bless you all).

Many chapters already written and yet just the beginning….

Well here we are again…. Guatemala for the fourth time in 14 months. I am beginning to get the feeling that we like it here haha… This trip is not for work and for that I am thankful. We have spent so much time in this country and have seen very little of it and have not had the opportunity to be immersed in the culture at all. Last time we were here we spent most of our time in the town of El Progreso working at the Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro and we had the fortunate blessing of meeting Fernando. Fernando speaks english and welcomed us to his family home to meet his parents Senor Chico and Senora Vilma.

This time we checked into a hotel in El Progreso and went straight to Fernando’s family home. They welcomed us with open arms and hearts and this was the beginning of one of the best weeks of my life. Fernando took the entire week off work in order to be our escort and help us with the language barrier and to show us Guatemala and its culture. The purpose of this trip for us was multi-faceted…. Firstly we wanted to meet with Hermana Mercedes at the Hospital and get information on the hospital, how it runs and what urgent needs they have so we can begin our fundraising effort back home for our visit next year. Secondly we wanted to look at property so we can build a home here. The camp in Jalapa is simply too far away to suit our needs now since we feel called to serve here in El Progreso & Jutiapa. Thirdly we simply wanted to see some of Guatemala and as I said the culture here. Staying at camp in Jalapa still retains a “Canadian” feel to it and we really wanted to live as Guatemalteco’s (Guatemalan’s) for a while.

Throughout these 8 days we managed to realize all 3 of our goals and so much more!

Upon arriving at Fernando’s home we were treated to a traditional meal that was delicious! Senora Vilma made so many efforts to keep us safe in regards to food and her cooking. Her efforts paid off, and for that we are extremely grateful! In the entire week, no one got sick! And believe me, based on some of the ‘traditional’ things we ate this is nothing short of a miracle! Some of what we ate I can honestly say, I cannot believe we ate it hahahaha… some of which we liked, some of which made us almost gag but we tried our best to muddle through the tough times and eat it. Overall it was fantastic food and we felt so honoured that they welcomed us to share meals with them. We spent a great deal of time at Senor Chico’s home and ate many, many meals there. In Guatemalateco culture it is quite rare to be invited to someones home, especially for meals and it is an honour to be invited at all. Words cannot express the gratitude my family felt for being so included in this community. And they truly live as a community. If someone has a good day fishing, everyone partakes… if someone kills a cow, everyone partakes… Everyone helps, and everyone eats. If someone is ill, everyone prays and helps…. if someone’s roof leaks, everyone cleans the mess and helps fix the roof…. Get the picture? We have so much to learn from this culture… we need to return back to basic’s like this and take care of each other 1/2 as well as they do!!!

Our first day, Fernando told us that in the morning he was going to butcher a cow and a chicken so we could eat and then his family would sell the meat at very low prices to help feed his village. We had no idea what was in store for us in the morning.

We arrived at Fernando’s and off we went to pick up the cow in a nearby village. We had to walk the many mountainous acres looking for the grazing cow. A local ‘cowboy’ came with us because he is an expert in roping a cow. It took nearly no time at all and we were on our way back with the cow in the back of the man’s truck. After arriving back at Fernando’s there was a crowd of people there… within minutes they had the cow tied and the town butcher had the cow dead, right there on the front lawn…. To say we were shocked by this whole process would be quite the understatement. Next thing we knew they were skinning… cutting… etc etc etc… The women were wrapping the meat that was to be for sale. They waste nothing… and I mean nothing… even the stomach contents are emptied and taken away for fertilizer… hooves are put on the fire to burn away the outside and then boiled for soup…. Its truly the grossest (if thats even a word) and yet so incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The entire process took under 3 hours and the cow was simply gone… every single piece of it! They cut off the horns and put some kind of curing salt/calcium on the fleshy top and put it on the roof to dry… it is a gift meant for us and will be ready for us to take home next time we come. It was an honour to witness this and be included… and the gift of the horns is a sign of their love and respect for us.

Our kids were then invited to kill a chicken for us to eat for lunch…. Thus ensued the most crazy thing I have ever seen… I watched my 10 year old son kill a chicken with Senora Vilma’s help (no one else was willing to try haha). To actually understand how much these animals mean to this family… being their only source of food… its quite humbling…. As I said, Fernando’s family uses everything they have to help the poor in their village… they sell things for what people can afford to pay and if they cannot afford to pay then they are given what they need and someday they know those people will repay them at times they themselves are in need.

Throughout the week we tried to help Senoa Vilma cook, clean etc, as much as we could but she basically would not let us lift a finger. She served us as though we were royalty. This simply is the Guatemalteco way. To help her is insulting to her in this culture. The only time she ever let me do anything was to help her make the day’s tortilla’s that are eaten at every meal. Zack, Luke and Gabe helped her too. We stood in the kitchen and laughed until we cried because what would take her 3 seconds took us a minute and she still had to fix them and make them right. It was so much fun and I have to tell you, Senora Vilma loves to laugh. She laughs all the time and her joy is so contagious… I love her and it has made my desire to learn Spanish better all the stronger so I can communicate with her without Fernando always having to translate. In that matter I do have to say that I have learned more Spanish in my 8 days here than I have in my past 6 months of school. Fernando is so patient, as is everyone and they are teaching me the most useful Spanish I would learn no where else but here!

Later in the week Fernando and Senora Vilma took us to Esquipulas. It is a beautiful city about a 2 hour drive through some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever witnessed in my many travels around the world. There is a 400+ year old Basillica of the black Christ. The statue of the black Christ was carved from a type of black wood and brought here from Spain over 400 years ago. People come from all over Latin America and the world to light a candle and say a prayer at the foot of the statue. When you have finished your prayer you walk backwards away from the statue as a sign of respect that Christ never turns His back on man so man should never turn his back on Christ. Its such a beautiful tradition and we all felt the solemn honour to have participated in this with the countless others that were there to pay respect. On the walkway leading to the statue there are these huge beautiful pieces of art, almost like mosaic’s made with tiny gold charms… each charm represents something that someone has received as a miracle after visiting the Basillica. There are hundreds of thousands of these charms… feet, hands, bodies, people’s loved ones coming to Christ etc etc etc.. the list goes on. We were all fascinated by these mosaics… humbled by the sheer multitude of miracles that these people have received. Perhaps in order to receive a miracle, one must simply have the faith that Christ can do anything…. Perhaps that is something that we sometimes tend to miss in our culture…. Are we too busy to see the miracles that happen every day? hmmmmmm……

Fernando also took us to look at property back in his village later in the week and after an exhausting day I will tell you that we do have one in mind now. It is about a 10 minute drive from Fernando’s house through a narrow road that is cobblestone in places and just a mess in others hahaha. Four wheel drive would be a bonus in most places here. The property itself sits up on a hillside/cliff of sorts and is quite beautiful with palm trees and a huge mango tree just down the cliff. On one side is a breathtaking view of the main mountain in El Progreso. This mountain is huge and it is widely believed here that by looking at it you can predict the weather. If the mountain has a cloud on top that does not move, it hovers, then the winds will come. Trust me when I tell you, we’ve spent enough time here to tell you that is 100% accurate! Our family has spent much time staring at this mountain and we all think it is one of the most beautiful things we have ever seen…. On the other side of the property there is a view of the valley and mountains on the horizon. The view is breathtaking and we could certainly see us enjoying living there while we serve. We have taken many pictures of this property and will take them home and think and pray. If God wants it to be, then it will be. We will begin saving money and if it is still available once we have enough saved then I believe it will happen… We shall see….

It’s strange, I feel that our story of Guatemala already has so many chapters and yet in so many ways it is just beginning…..So much more has happened on this trip… the most important being our meeting with Hermana Mercedes and the other sisters at the Hospital and our visit to the mountain villages of Jutiapa with them, but I am out of time and space so I shall say…..To be continued very soon, there is much more to tell….. stay tuned!