A mess of thoughts from a messy life….

WOW. Do I love to feel sorry for myself or what? I am a mess as usual. People always ask, “How are you? Really?” , “How are things going in Guatemala?”  And then, “What can I do to help?”…. Well, be careful what you ask. Thats all I am going to say haha.

Let me begin by saying that our trip/furlough was a mess. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time and loved being ‘home’ but it was, in the words of our ever knowledgeable 19 year old son Zack, an epic sh*t show (sorry, no other way to describe it). It was VERY busy and honestly not much of the rest we had hoped for and so desperately needed.  The biggest surprise however was the emotional impact.  Before I even left, a dear friend told me to “Guard my heart”. I had no idea what she meant at the time. I had been ‘home’ before. I knew this time would be different due to the fact that Canada is no longer ‘home’. but I truly was clueless. We have no house, nor possessions there anymore… We call Guatemala HOME now. Well, let me tell you I learned in a heartbeat exactly what she meant and I was totally unprepared for my reactions.

We spent just over 3 weeks in Canada and the USA visiting friends & family. My heart broke so much I was beginning to be concerned that the damage was going to be beyond repair. We couldn’t see all the people we wanted to see…. those we did had too short visits. Suffice it to say, when we left on that Saturday morning I was still crying when we hit the border. I wore sunglasses into the duty free shop where we stopped to buy ‘dulces’ (maple sugar candy) for some friends here in Guate. By the time we hit the border I think the man at the booth thought perhaps I was being held against my will as the tears still flowed down my face in a steady stream as I answered his questions. All my boys, including Geoff were quiet and let me just cry as they knew I just needed it. Every time the tears would begin to stop, Geoff would touch me in the reassuring way he does and that would open the flood gates yet again. He quickly learned to stop being reassuring, to keep both hands on the wheel and just drive the car.

Enjoying a week of rest in Florida with some of our 'family' <3

Enjoying a week of rest in Florida with some of our ‘family’.  The Davis’s ❤


I read a short time before our trip, a blog by another missionary that talked about how some of the the ‘sacrifice’ of missionaries actually occurs on the side of those they leave behind. I saw and experienced that first hand this time. My life has a lot going on and so my mind races at times and I am kept too busy to really feel things. Those back ‘home’ have birthdays, babies, weddings, celebrations, illnesses and just normal times, but now they all occur without us to share them with. I know that sounds like we are full of ourselves but that is not the case. We realized that we are a big part of some lives and when we cannot be there to share the ups and downs in our little community, it hurts those we love and those that love us back. I never really had looked at it that way before. I was too caught up in my own ‘self pity’ to see things from their side. This time I saw it… and my heart broke again. To those I love back home… those I saw this trip and those I didn’t…. I love you…. I miss you…. I think of you every day…. and Im sorry I left you. But I am always with you, as cliche as that sounds, in spirit.

Coming home to Guatemala renewed my insane sense of self pity all over again. Three weeks with friends and family was amazing…. Three weeks with Geoff and my boys was beyond description. Our family had not been alone here in Guatemala since arrival last October, with the exception of 9 days. 9 DAYS as a family in 7 months is NOT enough. We know now we have to change the schedule of things here in order for our family to survive and we have made changes accordingly. We have learned lessons this year and will continue to learn and ‘tweak’ things according to our needs as well as the needs of others. But we will, in this instance, put our needs above those visiting. We need to be a family or all this simply falls apart. We have come too far to allow that to happen. Mama tiger will protect her family! Thus we have decided to host people 2 weeks out of every month. The other 2 will be spent working, prepping for new teams to arrive AND doing the family thing! YAY, we finally, after 5 years, get that part! Go Us! But I am getting off topic here…..

Planting crops in the fields can be very difficult due to rain.

Planting crops in the fields can be very difficult due to rain.


So what did we come back home to in Guate? Well, things here are status quo… we share some successes in our mission and some failures. The Hospital is doing great and admissions are a bit less than last year…. Salitrillo (our Village Empowerment Project) is thriving, Our chia plants and seeds are getting planted. Our chaya plants are not thriving at all and we need to figure this out, construction on our first school partnered with Miracles in Action continues on schedule, our donation numbers are way down, and its raining.. constantly. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate rain. Rain gives me the blues so to speak. I always have disliked the dreary weather and the depression that goes along with it. I know in my heart, rain brings life. Rain is necessary. Part of the reason malnutrition occurs in our region so rampantly is the lack of rain for 6 entire months. My brain KNOWS these things… but my heart hates the rain. And it rains…. oh my does it rain… relentless downpours that ground life here to a halt. Everything we own is damp…. cleaning the floors is an hourly procedure…. working in the fields, planting crops like chia make just walking a huge chore as the sticky mud cakes on your boots turning them into 20-30 pound weights, the house leaks as no house can put up with this much water…. drying clothing is impossible so laundry piles up into an unmanageable state…. the dogs refuse to do their thing in the rain so they soil the tile floor under our roof…. IT SUCKS and I am hosting my own personal pity party daily. I miss my easy life back in Canada at these times. But then I see the people I am here to serve. The mud huts collapsing under the rain… flood waters forcing them from their homes and ruining what little belongings they have…. mudslides claiming life after life…. And I am ashamed. Why do we, those born in the more affluent areas of the worlds, possess such a sense of entitlement? I don’t have the answer…. I just know that I am doing my best to change my attitude and suck it up so to speak. I am darn lucky to have what I have and to be where I am and to be surrounded by family that loves me. The end.

A picture is worth a thousand words… this photo sums up how we all feel when we are with those that have become 'family' here.

A picture is worth a thousand words… this photo sums up how we all feel when we are with those that have become ‘family’ here.


And so here I am again…. feeling better and lucky to be here. How am I really doing? I am good. Honestly. I have moments… I miss those I love…. I am learning lessons on dealing and making the most of what I have…. I am evolving so to speak. Growing up. And learning to ask for help and not feel ashamed….

When people now say the last part of the question I quoted in the beginning of this blog, “And what can I do to help? I am no longer afraid or too timid to answer. As I said above, we came home to some startling news that donation numbers are way down. So, How can you help? Donate. Plain and simple. I can deal with everything else but the lack of funds. Without funding we can do nothing and things are going so well and we are just beginning to see the fruits of our labours so to speak. Don’t play into the old “out of sight, out of mind” trap so many missionaries feel.

You see, when people first go onto the field to work, everyone is excited to send them… to pray for them… to write them for updates and to FUND them. But as time passes, things change. They are gone for long stretches and the connection people feel with them and to them lessens. Let me tell you, nothing changes on our end. We are STILL here… we STILL have needs…. we STILL have so many to help…. nothing stops for us. We need to live, to eat, to survive, to fund hospitals, to fund ministry, to fund projects. It never lessens. As a matter of fact, the longer we are here, things keep spinning and the need grows more every day. The sad truth is, the longer we are gone the donations go down steadily. The opposite should be true. The longer we are here, the more we do, the more need, with your help, we satisfy, the donations should be growing. Up and to the right is where we want to be just like in the corporate world.

One thing that was extremely difficult this visit back to what was once home was seeing the excess. Visiting Florida and other parts of the USA and Canada can be a difficult transition from one day sitting in a mud hut eating chicken soup with a family as a goodbye gift knowing full well they won’t eat chicken for a month now because they fed it to us, to visiting places where people throw out more food in one day than these people see in all month. Need looks very different and while we cannot compare the two because as I learned its like comparing apples to oranges which only share one common trait… they are both sort of round. The bottom line is we are all human beings and depending on where we were born is what dictates our ‘needs’. Its a tough pill to swallow when you are immersed in it though.

So help us…. take the burden of worry about finances off of our shoulders. Partner with us and help us help those who are in desperate need to simply live. We can work so much better… be so much more of a hand up to people who have nothing IF we do not have the burden of worry over finances hanging over us like a dark menacing cloud. We have enough of those dark clouds hovering this rainy season and beyond to worry about as it is.

So I have a challenge for you…. And I hope you will accept it….. Please, find it in your heart to redefine your “need” and do with one less thing each month… just one less thing of your choice and donate the amount monthly or one time to allow us to continue the privilege of serving people who have nothing. Visit www.thedoppenbergs.com and click on the “Donate Now” button. Choose either a one time donation or a monthly partnership… every little bit helps so help us bring hope to the hopeless and help those who have needs way beyond our own. BE THE CHANGE!


About ritadoppenberg

I am a wife, mom, missionary.... generally a human being who along with God, my family, friends and Commission to Every Nation (CTEN) Canada, seek to "Be The Change"...

Posted on June 6, 2014, in Guatemala Missionary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. absolutely love this. you are so honest, and REAL with your writing! You are making some very needed changes…including having Family Time! Wonderful! Love you all so much. we Pray for you!

  2. Miss you and Love you all ❤

  3. Your words spoke to my heart and I am praying for you. My son Dale was blessed to spend time with your family in March and the experience change my son for the better. God is amazing!
    I wanted also to donate but the link to the donation http://www.thedoppenbergs.com is not available. I will try again but if it doesn’t work is there another way?
    With love in Christ, Terri Ulley

    • Greetings Terri! So sorry the website was down for a bit but is back up and running now. You son Dale was an absolute pleasure and we loved having him! We hope to see him here again someday, perhaps with the whole family? Blessings! Rita

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