Thursday, August 31, 2017

Crazy accident and subsequent issues, problems, frustrations and lessons!

Yikes, it's been so long since I've posted anything in my blog!  Since it's been so long, I'll start off with a nice long story about the past month . . . well, only one part of what has been happening this past month, sometimes things just get so crazy!!!

One beautiful Saturday after a morning hike up Volcano Pacaya, I headed back to the city with a short term TEAM intern and a friend in my car.  We were headed to drop off my friend and then back to my place.  There was so much traffic that day, normally the drive from the Volcano to the city would be 60-90 minutes, but this day it was over 3 hours!

After finally dropping off my friend, we started back to my house, still in traffic!  We came up an incline and stopped at a stoplight behind 3 other cars.  We were just sitting there waiting for the light to change, when all of the sudden there was a a huge noise, we were jolted and I looked over to the passenger side window to see a mini van speeding by my car in a space that was not meant for a car.  It was in my lane between my car and some cement posts on the sidewalk.  The car continued forward at a high speed, side swiped 2 more cars before speeding through a 4 lane intersection and then hitting 2 more cars on the next block before slamming into a cement light post.  It all happened so fast and was all such a shock.  I got out of the car to see if anybody saw where the car went because I was afraid that he had just driven away, until I saw that he had crashed up ahead.  Sadly the driver was badly injured, but I never found out his outcome or what was the real cause of the accident.

Then began the whirlwind of activity.  What do I do now?
So I asked another driver and they said to call my insurance, so I did.  While waiting the police came and took down my name and took my important documents that I have to carry whenever I drive.  The insurance mobile office arrived quickly and I had to give them a statement about what happened.  Then they told me that the police were requiring everybody to go to the hospital.  I was fine, and my passenger was fine, so there was no need to go to the hospital.  After a while, the insurance finally said that I didn't need to go to the hospital, but they still called an ambulance and I did have to be checked out at the scene.

After a few more confusing discussions with the insurance, I sat in the ambulance.  I was fine like I told them, except for a sky-high blood pressure - but completely with reason!!!  Gratefully, more for  my passenger than for me, the medic spoke English!  So, finally my poor passenger could understand a bit of what was going on!  She was fine, but confused and I didn't always have time to translate!  I had tried to call a few people and nobody was able to answer their phones, so I didn't have anybody to come to the scene and help me figure things out.  After trying a few people, I decided that I was fine and I could just handle everything without extra help.

waiting in the ambulance
While sitting in the ambulance waiting for my blood pressure to start going down, the insurance rep came to me and told me that the situation was this: because the driver was taken to the hospital, the legal proceedings with the accident would be delayed.  The police would need to take my car into custody and then I would be taken into police custody, i.e. jail, until the driver was able to stand trial and I would have to testify.  WHAT???  exactly what I asked!!!  WHAT???  JAIL???  Makes NO sense whatsoever, but the medic and the insurance company assured me that this is normal here.  At that point I made another phone call to teammates and asked them to come asap!  Besides needing their moral support at that point, I would also need a ride home.  However, the worse part was that my alternative to going to jail was to pay off the police.  Paying off the police is a common practice here in Guatemala, but I hate the idea of it and disagree with the practice of it.  However, faced with the choice of having my car taken by the police (possibly never to be seen again) and going to jail, a pay off seemed reasonable to be able to give my car to the insurance company to begin repairs and be able to leave the scene and go home!  So, regardless of my great dislike for paying off the police, and being uncomfortable with that whole situation, it is what myself and my teammates decided was the wisest decision!  It sounded like the other Guatemalan drivers were also faced with the same situation and were also paying off the police so they could leave the scene as well.

Now what, no car, and looking at a minimum of 6 weeks before getting it back!
Thankfully, the next 2 weeks I didn't have trouble getting around without my car thanks to getting rides from others, or the one week I was traveling with a group to a rural clinic.  After those 2 weeks is when things started getting trickier.  My mechanic was able to lend me a car, but it was a stick shift.  Now, I've been driving a stick shift van around the city a couple times a month for the past few months, but it was different driving one everywhere!  It also caused a few adventures - I had a flat tire about 5 minutes after driving it for the first time - not my fault, just bad tires.  Then that same day I got stuck stopping on an incline and could not make the car go forward without first rolling back so far I got scared I was going to hit the other car and stalled the car - many times!  Finally the cars moved around me and I was able to get going, but after quite a few very stressful minutes!!!
The only thing I really wasn't able to do during those weeks was to drive to the rural clinic about 1 hour outside of the city as well as drive to the same place on Saturdays to help teach in the nursing school.

Then, last week I received a call from the insurance company that said I could come pick up my car, however, I would have to return it at the end of September because they are waiting for a part to come.  But, it's safe to drive if I want.

Yes please!!!

I go to the shop to pick up my car.  First I noticed that they fixed the back half of the car - the part most damaged in the accident, but not the front that was also scraped up from the accident!  I was shocked, but they told me that there was no approval of fixing the front part by the insurance.  Then there was all this confusion because the insurance company told me not to pay the deductible until the car was completely fixed in September, but the people at the shop insisted that I pay the deductible before being able to drive the car away that day.  Lets just say that I left the shop very frustrated, but I did get to leave with my car and didn't pay the deductible!!!

All seemed fine that Friday afternoon driving my car away, and I was very, very happy to have my car back - even if it would only be for a few weeks without having it go back to the shop.

I got up early Saturday morning excited to be able to go to nursing school for the first time in weeks!
I started driving and after about 10 minutes noticed that the car was driving a little funny, maybe like it was out of alignment.  Then I got frustrated because I thought, why wasn't the car aligned, or what if the shop is going to blame me for damaging the car when they didn't do something they were suppose to.  While mulling over all this, as time went on, little by little, I noticed that it was driving even stranger and it was starting to make a noise.  I was concerned about the back tire that was in the area affected by the accident.  I found a gas station and stopped to look at what was going on, but everything seemed fine and the tire wasn't flat and I kicked it and it didn't move.

I thought about turning around and heading back to the city, but I really wanted to get to the nursing school and so I continued thinking that it wasn't an immediate problem.  I kept driving and around 40 minutes from the city, still another 25-ish minutes from the clinic, the was a definite noise that sounded like something was hitting something else, and it was getting louder and louder.  I wanted to make it to the next gas station, which was less that 5 minutes up the road, but I became too scared to keep driving.  I saw a place to pull off the road where there were other cars parking, and hoped it would be a safe place.  Got out of the car, looked at the tire, it looked fine and I see nothing else that looked abnormal.  So, not knowing what to do I called my supervisor, who suggested me calling somebody else to figure out the problem over the phone, but that person wasn't available.

At that point, there were tears shed.  I was so overwhelmed at that point and now stuck in the middle of nowhere far from both the city and the clinic.  Finally I got myself together and got out to jack up my car and see if I could find something wrong with the tire once it was lifted up.  A security guard, the ones carrying around large riffles, was walking around.  He didn't offer to help, but I was reassured of my safety with him standing nearby!  Then his supervisor came by and actually offered to help.  He finished getting the tire lifted off the ground and when he did, he touched the tire and it was extremely wobbly with every one of the lug nuts very loose.  The tire was obviously not tightened on well when I left the shop the day before and then it was loosening up little by little as I was driving that day.

The whole situation gave me quite a scare, but thankfully I was safe, and the security guy not only tightened up the lug nuts on that tire, he checked the others to make sure they were safe.  I drove off relieved that it was an easy fix, but by then I couldn't go to nursing school and had to turn around and drive home.

I still don't know what is happening with the remaining damage from my car that should have been repaired, but I think it will be fixed when I take it back in here in a few weeks.
Oh the confusion and frustration of dealing with all of this!!!

No fun, but I have realized a few things because of it!  One, I'm so thankful for a car that is overall safe and in great condition, and I have not had to drive around with the stress of wondering whether or not I would be broken down on the side of the road.  Two, I'm very dependent on my car for the ministries that I'm involved on here and being without a car is very difficult!!!

I have realized that in these past few weeks (over a month now), that it is easy to become independence and miss what God is doing in the moments when I have no choice except to be completely dependent on HIM!  In those times these past few weeks, I've seen the generosity of others willingly come to my aid when needed, I've seen the Lord protect from what could have been a very dangerous accident, I've seen the Lord provide places to stop for problems with tires and strangers willingly to help while remaining completely safe and not in danger, and have had a car to borrow.  I would be happy to never repeat a month like this past month, but I also wouldn't trade these moments of seeing God's protection and faithfulness for anything!    

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sara and the Palin clinic

Last year the doctor at the Palin clinic shared with me that support for the clinic has dropped and he was worried about how to continue running things at the clinic.  Then, I heard that the nurses salaries were cut to help compensate.  I was worried that some of the nurses would leave and go somewhere else, so I offered to use some of my donations to help supplement salaries at the clinic until the end of the year.  (Which I've been able to continue into this year as well!) 
I didn't think much about exactly how the money was being used, but all the staff stayed the same, so I was just thankful for that and didn't think much more about it.  And since it was suppose to be anonymous, I didn't ask any of the staff about their salaries.
Then, one day I was giving our physical therapist, Sara, a ride to the capital, and she told me how thankful she was that I was at the clinic.  Then, I looked over and she had tears in her eyes.  I paused and waited for her to say more because I wasn't sure why she was crying.  She told me that she was going to be let go because of the money shortage, but since I was able to help out the clinic financially, those donations ended up paying her salary, and she has been able to stay working at the clinic! 
I was so humbled and amazed!!!  It's not my money, I am just trying to be the best steward that I can be!  So, the Lord impressed on me to help out the clinic, and I did, having no idea why until she told me that!  

I'm really grateful for Sara!  She loves the Lord and loves her patients!!!  She is a huge blessing to have on staff and the clinic wouldn't be the same without her!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

clinic, commute, and daily life near the garbage dump

Guatemala City has one of the largest garbage dumps in Central America.  And, there are thousands of people living in communities around the garbage dump who try to make ends meet off of things that come out of the garbage dump.  Whether it's by going into the dump to sort through the trash, or helping sort garbage, or using the garbage to sell or use in some way to sustain their life.  
There are things that I get use to seeing, but every time I drive to the clinic it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells.  This is normal life for so many, but there are many things that feel so completely abnormal.  Life goes on as usual, kids playing, women cooking, clothes hanging out to dry, and neighbors gathering in the streets.  And then there are other "normal" everyday things, kids sniffing glue on the corner, a drunk father stumbling around the streets before passing out on the sidewalk, children dressed in filthy rags playing with garbage, piles of garbage lining the streets, and malnourished street dogs everywhere.

As I serve at a clinic, called "Corazon de Amor", in one of the communities surrounding the garbage dump, I'm regularly overwhelmed by smiles that can often cover up so much hopelessness and despair.  Many patients carry heavy burdens when they enter our clinic.  There is no medicine that will help them, except for the healing love of Jesus.  And while I feel like there is so little that I can do,  it's been a privilege to be there, offer a listening ear, pray with patients and share Christ's love with them, and just treat them with respect and offer them my time.  One patient in particular, we'll call her Maria, came very depressed, dealing with the recent death of a family member, and had given up taking care of her health and managing some chronic diseases.  We talked about some ways to deal with the depression and got her signed up for our upcoming Diabetes Class.  She was very willing to come and listen, but struggling all the same.  Each week we could see her smile and joy returning, and her health improving.  Even though she had to do some traveling, she made the class a priority and came every week.  Why did Maria make that class a priority?  Only partly because she wanted to learn more about diabetes.  Mostly because we made time for her, and it made her feel important.  It was only 2 hours once a week, but that was enough to make her feel loved and cared for.
This family has crossed my paths many times over the past 2 years.  Not too long ago little baby Julia was in my constant prayers as the mother talked about selling her.  After visiting the family in their home, it felt even more concerning.  It's just hard to imagine a newborn living in a dirt house surround by filth and even chickens running around, and the chaos of a family trying to just survive moment by moment.  Thankfully, this little one is currently healthy, growing, and seemingly loved by her family.
I only live about 5 blocks from the clinic, but I can easily get discouraged before the day even starts as I travel those 5 blocks.  I pull out of my garage wondering if a car will be blocking me in or a drunk man passed out on the sidewalk.  At the first corner I get to, it's a very difficult and dangerous street to cross.  There are cars, buses, and motos zooming in front of me across 3 lanes, and then cars, motos, or garbage trucks attempting to also turn onto the same busy street meaning I often have to dodge them while dodge the other cars.  AHHHHH . . . here's a little video of the intersection:

Then I have to cross another busy street that is not quite so difficult, unless there are cars parked on the corner blocking my view - then it's near impossible.  After crossing that street, the next two intersections are easy, but that's when my heart and mind begin taking in the overwhelming sights of life around the garbage dump.  Just as I begin to process it all, I have to turn onto a side street that has metal poles at both entrances and I have to drive through them always hoping I don't scrape the side of my car.

I usually have to wait for dogs to move out of the way or wait behind a street kid who is high and stumbling down the middle of the street.  Once I arrive to the large blue gate, I get out of my car to ring the doorbell.  This should be an easy step, but it's one of the hardest for me.  Once I step out of the car there is a horrible smell and flys everywhere.  I watch my step to make sure I'm not stepping on a place the dogs have used for a bathroom, glass, garbage, or dead rats to reach over piles of garbage and ring the doorbell.  I wait for somebody to come open the gate while occasionally having to move my car which is blocking others from going down the street.  Then, i'm in the gate, a sigh of relief as I drive into the courtyard/parking area.

Sometimes I have a hard time releasing the stress from getting there and switching gears to loving and caring for the waiting room full of patients.  I always want to be grateful for the opportunity that I have to enter the lives of others, even for a short time and serve them - it's a privilege given to me by the Lord!!!  And, my short trip there gives me a glimpse into the daily stressors that those living there face all the time.  I get to leave at the end of the day, but they don't.  


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Needs in Guatemala

There have been a few things on my mind that we could use here in Guatemala at the clinics where I work!  So, I wanted to let you know in case you are interested and able to help us reach our goals in meeting those needs.

Ways that you can be part of helping: 
1.  PRAY
3.  Talk to somebody else who might be interested and able to help!!!

Corazón de Amor clinic in Zone 3, Guatemala City
*Volunteer Nurses, Doctors, and Dentists to come help us provide health care
*Medical supplies: ask about specific needs, this changes from time to time.  
*Handheld portable doppler

Salud Que Transforma in Palin
*Volunteer Nurses, Doctors, and Dentists to come help us provide health care
*Donations for staff salaries
*Help with fundraising or advise on how to seek funding for the clinic

Nursing School in Palin and Iztapa
*Projector to help with teaching classes and provide quality education materials
*Scholarships for nursing students
*Stethoscopes for nursing students
*Expired medical supplies for teaching purposes

Let me know if your interested in being a part of supplying one of these needs!!!
Donations can be made directly to my TEAM account, just let me know how you want me to direct the funds!!!  Just click on the link below!!!

Checking vital signs during a clinic day
Filling meds in the pharmacy

teaching in the nursing school!
this day we were roleplaying
how NOT to give a community health teaching :) 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Behind the beauty of Guatemala

Violence and Extortion in Guatemala

I've hesitated to focus too much on the amount of crime that happens here in Guatemala.  However, since it has recently come closer to home and touched ministry partners that I know personally, I wanted to share a little more so that we can be praying together!

A little background . . .
The country of Guatemala is about the size of the state of Tennessee.
It's has a population of around 16 million people, with about 1 million living in the capital of Guatemala City.
Indianapolis has a population of 853,000 and Chicago about 2.7 million.
Last year, there were 144 murders in Indianapolis, 468 murders in Chicago,
and in Guatemala over 4,000 (in 2014 there was an average of 96 murders per week)
Last year there were over 8,000 reports of extortion, however, not all of the cases of extortion are reported.

Here is a little excerpt from the OSAC website:
"Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Central America. Violent crime is a serious concern due to endemic poverty, an abundance of weapons, a legacy of societal violence, and weak law enforcement and judicial systems. 

Extortion calls are commonplace, and many times originate within prisons. In recent years, the number of extortions has risen dramatically. In most cases, changing the phone number and not responding to the threats will resolve the matter. However, cases involving gang members must be taken seriously, as they will not hesitate to back up their threats with violence. 

However, Guatemala’s homicide rate is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.  Guatemala’s worrisome murder rate appears driven by four key factors: narco-trafficking activity, gang-related violence, a heavily-armed population (upwards of 60 percent possess a firearm) and a police/judicial system that remains either unable/unwilling/both to hold many criminals accountable. Well-armed criminals know there is little chance they will be caught or punished." 

I've never felt in danger here, but I am aware of the danger and make sure that I'm cautious and take extra precautions.  And, I know that the Lord is in control and trust that completely!

What is hard, is to see the effects of the violence here.  Orphans, mothers weeping for their children who have been murdered, fear caused by death threats, and a general devaluing of human life.
The situation of orphans and orphanages here is a whole other story.  Due to the effects of poverty and violence and closure of the international adoptions due to corruption, UNICEF estimates that there are over 370,000 orphans in Guatemala.  There are horrifying statistics reporting the number of physical abuse and sexual abuse suffered by children in this country.

Pray with me for Guatemala!  Pray with me for Lord to work in the hearts of the people here, and for those committing these violent crimes to realize their need for a Savior!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Just another days work

One thing that I have learned over the past year is that Guatemalans work very, very hard!  They are willing to work long hard days over and over again to earn just a few pennies, but they do it in order to sustain their families.  Of course there are a wide variety of jobs here in Guatemala.  There are the doctors and lawyers and bankers.  But, the majority of people have to be very creative with how the earn money.  Here are just a few examples of the types of jobs that are commonly seen!

Making beautiful fabrics!

And then selling the fabrics and other handicrafts in markets and on the streets!

Agriculture is a huge part of how Guatemalans make a living
Trucks are often seen carrying large amount of foods, flowers, or other things to sell at market!
or people sell just a few things near their homes
roasting corn alongside the street
various staples like beans and rice and herbs sold in the market 
even children have to help out their families by working
cutting up onions for the day 
or cutting up meat
making tortillas - something most Guatemalans think you can't live without!
walking goats around the streets and selling fresh goat milk!
goats here have to learn to cross the street and can even be seen walking up stairs!
bus drivers
garbage truck drivers . . . and people scavenging through the garbage
Pinchazos - they fix tires!
walking the streets selling cotton candy.
or it could be coconuts or juice or car chargers or flowers or various other things!
Guatemalan coffee is wonderful, and it is a huge part of what people do to earn money here!
each bean is hand picked, and then after it is processed, hand sorted and then roasted. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Adventures with "Killi La Kia"

The last few months have been busy and fun and full of all sorts of various adventures!
I finally decided on a name for my car, Killiana.  Killian apparently use to be the name for a female warrior, but has more recently become a boys name.  So, I decided that adding an "a" at the end and making sure that it was a known girl's name, and of course she has to have a nickname which is, "Killi the Kia".

My mom and I spent time in Coban which she was here visiting.
We joined a group from New Mexico and went on a week long medical trip up in the mountains.  It was great, we loved it!!!  I really enjoyed having my mom along on one of my trips and getting to spend the time in ministry together!!!
My car Killiana did great and had no problems.

Mom working hard in the pharmacy!!!
Doing home visits to check on mom and newborn baby!!!

Then my friend Jackie and I went to Belize.  I had to leave the country for my visa, but it was an awesome excuse to enjoy a few days on the beach!!!  We traveled by car, boat, bus, and foot to get to and from our destination!  It was quite the adventure, but it all went surprisingly well!!!  We got to spend my birthday on a private island in the middle of the ocean surrounded by crystal clear water - it was amazing!!!!!

We picked up my car in one of the port cities of Guatemala at the end of our trip and drove the 6 hours back to my apartment.  We had no problems and everything was great!  We pulled into my garage and Jackie noticed that the front passenger tire was mostly flat.  No idea why or how.  So, we jump back in the car and drive just a couple blocks to a Pinchazo - or tire guy.  He had taken a nail out of my tire before so I figured it would be on ok person to go back to.  He checked the tire and couldn't find anything wrong, so just filled the tire up with air and we went back to my house.  When I turned off the car there was still a strange noise, which we realized was air leaking out of my tire!  We promptly began to change the tire to put on the spare, however, we couldn't get all of the lugnuts off.

Jackie working at getting most of the lugnuts off!
I tried to call a friend to see if her husband could come help, but he was out of town.  But she was able to send another guy over to help us.  However, he also had a hard time.  The jack that came with my car bent a little bit and he had to go borrow another one.  It was quite the ordeal.  The next day I took the car to a mechanic that changed the messed up lugnut and took the tire somewhere to get fixed.  When I picked up the car I was just slightly worried about the way the valve was on the tire because it looked like it would be hard to put air in the tire.  I asked a few times and was assured that it was fine.  I drove the car back to the house.  The next day Jackie and I ran a short errand in the morning and then the car was parked back in my garage until evening when we were going to run to the store.  When we walked down to the garage, the same tire was flat again.  I wanted to cry, Jackie couldn't stop laughing.  My friend's husband was in town this time and came to help us - because I no longer had a reliable jack to prop the car up to change the spare.  

And the second tire change, thankful for the help!
The tire was easier to change this time, but he realized that the whole part of the valve had come off, so there was just a hole left in the tire.  My plan was that the next day I would drive to a nearby Pinchazo, except that I didn't really know where to go.  In the morning I stopped by the downstairs neighbor/landlords apartment to ask if he had a recommendation since he has lived in this area for around 50 years.   He told me to just stay here and he walked town the street to a Pinchazo that he knows and he asked the guy to come to the house and look at the tire there.  Ends up that I really just needed to get a new tire because it was too complicated and uncertain to just try to fix it.  Then he was rotating the tires on that side and noticed that there was a nail in the other tire.  So, he took that tire on his moto and went back to his shop, repaired it, and then brought the tire back on his moto.  Excellent service!!!

A few short days later, our team along with a visiting group, went to Panajachel for a few days.  It was a 3 hour drive, but thankfully, no more tire troubles!!!

My car really has been such a blessing from just being able to drive where I need to go, to driving for clinic days, to taking people to church with me.  The other Sunday after church we had a celebration and then I brought home a family and 2 students - there were 7 of us piled into my car!!!  Even thought there have been some minor problems and little adventures, I super thankful for the Lord providing "Killi La Kia" for me to drive!!!