Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy New Year! (...A Little Late)

James and Ellie Carr
Hello Friends and Family!

Much has happened with our family since last October to update you on.  I will try to hit some of the highlights so as not to leave you with a novel to read.  I wrote a post yesterday that seemed to be a bit of a downer, but if you want to read some of my unedited feelings, they are in the previous post.  At least you've been warned.

Some of the biggest news that our family has from the past three months is that in November we moved out of Antigua, Guatemala, where our Spanish school was located, and into the Benaiah House, a home acquired by Engadi to become its first boys home.  We were grateful to find out that the home would be semi-furnished when we moved in, so that left very little for us to have to buy.  Praise God!  We spent a lot of November fixing up the house and making necessary changes to allow boys to move in.  Right now, with just our family there, it still seems very empty and is more than we need, but it is a wonderful design for a boys home, and we will need all the space we can get when they move in soon.

As of right now, it looks as though it will only be a couple more weeks until we open our doors to three boys from Paraíso.  We are so excited to be this close to what we feel God has called us to be doing, and at the same time we are also intimidated that in only a couple of weeks the number of mouths to cook for and bodies to clean up after will double.  Of course we have concerns with more than their physical well-being, as well.  Thankfully, another thing that we have had the privilege of being a part of was attending a class provided by Lifeline Children's Services called (Un)Adopted.  The course is geared toward preparing and equipping children's homes/orphanages to care for vulnerable children and children from troubled backgrounds.  The course was tremendously informative, and we hope to utilize many of the resources we learned in the coming weeks and years.

Over the past weeks, James has continued working with and building relationships with the boys in Paraíso.  It is great to see how much they look up to him and seek to have his approval in what they do.  As I've said before, the vast majority of them have no father-figure in their lives, and to see how they look up to and trust James is really rewarding.  This week, James is scheduled to help finish up the process of getting Juanes, one of the boys in Engadi's Derek Program, his birth certificate.  It will allow him to get a well paying job, start/finish school, and get married one day.  He is a teenager now, yet has never been to school and can't read or write due to not getting a birth certificate when he was born.  Through the process (and it has been quite a process) of getting Juanes' birth certificate, he and James have really bonded, and it's been really cool to hear about his ups and downs through the time spent together. We are really hoping that all goes well this week, and we can wrap up this birth certificate task.  Juanes has a bright future ahead of him.

So those are just a few of the highlights of the past few months.  We are anticipating having boys move into Engadi's Benaiah House soon, but must take care of a few details such as having internet hooked up first for their schooling.  We will keep you updated on the progress, as the date grows nearer to having boys join our family.  Thank you all for praying for us and supporting us through the ups and downs of ministry life.  It has really been an adventure, and we look forward to experiencing this next part together with you.

Riley with some of the boys of Engadi's Derek Program

Much love from Guatemala,
James, Ellie and Riley

Other things we have been involved with in the past few months include (but are not limited to)-
- Helping lead four week-long teams from the States who were working with Engadi (Oct, Nov, Dec, and Jan)
- Attending the week-long Synergy Leadership Summit in Guatemala City (Nov)
- Assisting moving the Engadi Ministries main office to the Benaiah Home (Dec)
- Took our first trip back to the States over Christmas/New Years (Dec, Jan)
- Supporting the enhancement of Engadi's social networking and outreach
- Creating meal schedules for feeding a larger family, and learning how to cook for larger numbers (Jan/Feb)
- Learned where/how to shop in bulk in anticipation for feeding larger numbers at one of Guatemala City's largest open-air markets (Feb)

Monday, February 8, 2016


James and Ellie Carr
I'm just going to say it.  These past couple of weeks have been rough.  Not in the normal sense of we are super busy, tired, and stressed.  Sure, life is still busy, and this lingering cough has been wearing me out physically, along with the teething, stomach bugs, and passing colds that Riley has been going through.  But I'm talking about something different.  Spiritually and emotionally, the past few weeks have tested us.

As many of you know, a friend and coworker has been in the hospital for almost two weeks now.  After being almost run off the road by a car while on his motorcycle, he ended up with both of the bones in his lower left leg shattered, and three or four broken bones in his left hand.  He was taken to the nearest public hospital, a fairly large hospital that is located just outside of Antigua, with his coworker who was riding on the motorcycle with him and also injured.

X-ray of Don Chepe's leg in need of surgery.

Now to give some background information on healthcare in Guatemala, there is currently a national crisis facing the healthcare system here.  Hospitals are lacking in even basic medications such as blood pressure medications and antibiotics to give to their patients.  They lack the funding from the government for basic needs such as food for patients and sufficient medical staff.

We have gone to the hospital to visit Don Chepe for the past two weekends while he was awaiting surgery on his shattered leg.  I can't give you all of the facts on the medical system here, but I can tell you what we experienced.  The five story hospital where he is admitted was filled with patients.  Don Chepe's room has six men in it who all appeared to have similar injuries.  There were patients on beds in the dim halls where the lights were turned off, I assume due to lack of money to pay for the electricity usage.  Fourth floor wing where Don Chepe is has around thirty patients total.  It is a men's surgery/trauma wing.  In both of the times we visited, there were only two nurses seen for the floor.

Public hospital in Antigua, Guatemala.

I only write this to give you a mental image, not to try to fix it, because it wouldn't be a simple solution.  I don't write it to compare to the luxuries and entitlements that I have seen and experienced working in a hospital where every patient expected to have cable television and private bathroom in their room (where they complained about having to eat green beans more than four times a week as a side dish).  That would be another whole book.

I've learned that the hospital here has trauma patients similar to Don Chepe who have been waiting since the first week of December to have surgery.  That is waiting eight weeks for a surgery that would be considered an emergency in the States.  One that would be completed the next day, at the latest.

Yet Don Chepe smiles each time we visit.  He smiles through the pain and wiggles his broken fingers to show us that he can still move them.  He says he is eager to start physical therapy.  He says God is with him comforting him through the pain.  He doesn't mention the exaggerated wait time, the lack of nursing staff, or the developing bedsores on his heels.  He tells us how God is going to heal him.  He says God will raise him back up on his feet and he will be walking soon.  He says when he closes his eyes he imagines being out of the hospital, but while he is still there, God is there with him.  It hurts me to see him hurting.  To see the breach in the care I expect and want him to get and the care he is getting.  "Is it not neglect?" I am asked.

Maybe so.  So is the scene we passed on the way to the hospital that first Sunday.  We were lost on some backroads, and as we maneuvered around an intoxicated man laying perpendicularly across the road, I looked out the window to notice another man passed out on the sidewalk.  Drool was dripping down his unkept beard from his chapped lips.  But seeing him was not what bothered me.  You see, there were three young boys there, presumably his sons, maybe stepsons.  The oldest, maybe eight years old, stood beside the man keeping watch over him.  The other two, maybe five or six years old, huddled in the doorway of the dark building that opened up to the sidewalk where the man lay.  There were no other adults nearby- just three young boys babysitting their drunken father on the street.

Passing through town on the way to the hospital, Sunday.

Where is the justice for them?  Where is the justice for those waiting months for their shattered bones to be repaired?  I want to fix it all, but it is impossible.  I haven't even mentioned the injustices we see every time we venture into Paradise, in the slums of Guatemala City, where we work.  It's not fair.  The system is broken.

But still God is just.  He is waiting as a refuge for those boys, for those patients, for me.  Don Chepe has found Him and clings to Him.  He commands us to do so:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I am burdened, but He is waiting for me.  I don't have all of the solutions, but He knows my problems, my hurts, and my heart.  He hears me, and hurts with me.  And with them.  All I need is the faith of a mustard seed- the faith of Don Chepe.  Without it, I am powerless to help anyone or make any change.  Lord, help me to have this faith in order to serve others, in order to make a difference.

Don Chepe awaiting surgery Saturday afternoon

Through some networking, we were able to get Don Chepe's surgery wait shortened.  He should be in surgery as I write this post.  Pray that the surgery goes well with no complications.  Pray for Don Chepe's pain and rehabilitation.  He faces a long road to recovery.

For more information on Guatemala's healthcare crisis, check out: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Guatemala-Hospitals-Face-Worst-Crisis-in-History--20160123-0010.html

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