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).