More Info

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

From end to end : take 2

This blog was previously published in October of 2017, but due to technical difficulties, was lost in the WorldWideWeb, and is being republished here:
In the begining

South Dakota
We have returned home after a little over a month of American travel.
Montana Snow
We were able to cover many miles with very little damage to our marriage. We started bout strong (all smiles) but towards the end we were weary travelers.
Before it was over, we went north for a stint, nearing the Missouri river in Montana, some 100 miles from Canada. I haven’t been that far north in a while. We were welcomed by friendly faces and a few inches of fresh snow. I still love the snow, but as much as I was reminded of my longing for winter, I was also reminded of Ryan’s detest for cold weather and snow.

South Dakota
We all thoroughly enjoyed our time with dear friends and as we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary, it was fun to reminisce of the roll those friends had in helping me hook Ryan, way back then.

We enjoyed a Sunday in New Hampton, Iowa with our DOCs family and all who were able to join us for Pizza in the Park. This has become a fun event for our family, and I have been looking forward to Casey’s Taco Pizza since last year!
A big thank you for all who made it, and for the (Taco) pizza!

Were not in Kansas anymore
Norther moonlight
As we left Guatemala mid September, we were on the verge of our three year milestone. I didn’t feel like we could claim that small victory of obedience until we returned back. As we returned to Guatemala City on Friday evening, and back to Canilla the following day, I felt a sense of relief.  We had made it! Practically veterans of the field! Ha! I know right, its like nothing, a small splash in a sea of relentless obedience that surrounds me in the family I married into. I know you are expecting a ‘blog’ where I talk all about me, but the  (original) Ficker family is nearing their 20 year mark of mission-hood in Guatemala.  That’s no small feat. I guess I should celebrate quietly…
Maybe they have first prize, grand champion, but I’ll take my ‘honorable mention’ yellow ribbon, and look to the hills…. Deep breath….. I’m a tough missionary…. I’m a tough missionary…
It makes we look into the future, the near future. Last time, we hung up our boots at 18 months. I remember reminiscing before we left just a few short months ago, about bagels and Dr.Pepper, and grocery shopping alone, going out to eat, and enjoying the cool crisp autumn air.
Wouldn’t you know it, we had a week of mid 90s weather, and the Dr.Pepper and bagels weren’t quite what I had remembered.  I missed my home, my ‘family’ and my bed! We were literally gone for one tenth of the year! And what’s worse, I spent the last 11 or so months preceding the trip longing for it. I would remind myself, “Its all about the journey, ” or “enjoy the journey.”  I didn’t think I was holding ‘the states’ on a pedestal anymore, because I was aware of my tendency to do so, but I was.  I spent 90% of my life, over the past three years, mostly looking forward to the other 10%. What a waste. It’s as though I was looking through the glass of my past, and seeing my life as it was, through rose colored glasses. And then when we were there, doing the same for my life here in Guatemala.  How awful right!
What does the bible say about doing that?  What does our culture say? What does this culture say? Whose truth really matters? So many questions!!!!! Sheww.

What I am supposed to do now, going forward. I don’t want to look back, and say wow, I really enjoyed that 10% of my life, or Decembers were nice!  I do that very thing all the time. I cant wait till bed time, or maybe when my kids are out of diapers, or the when I have a better job, or when I find a man… Were a mess aren’t we, unless you’ve have decided to unassociate yourself with me, than its just me that’s a mess, and unashamed to admit it, quietly in small letters, in a small, Podunk, unpromoted public-ish blog…

No filter
Still no filter
My little brother Kevin’s death has me still working trough grief and coming to terms with his death. It will be just a year come November 1st. The most painful part for me, is thinking through his regrets. What he wished he might have done differently. If he had one more day with two strong legs, and lungs that were up to it, what would he do? Where would he have gone? And with whom?  You see, the days after Kevin’s death, I had my ear pierced, in his memoryNo. Its sounds dumb, I know. I wanted a reminder, to live each day to its fullest, and I wanted that reminder to be a little annoying, and persistent. I think Kevin would have liked that part… How do I carry on, living enough life for the two of us? Believe it or not, sitting here with you makes me feel like a rock star, and every morning when I walk out the door, I feel like I should have to pay for my private view of the mountains around me.
My 'home' in Illinois
How do I keep that rose colored filter with me, every moment of every day?
I don’t really know.
I know that my attitude has the most influence on the success of my outlook, and my outlook has a tremendous effect on my attitude. It’s a great cycle…

How many times do we miss the real beauty in life. Do we get stuck on the imperfections, or do we pick and choose which details to remember.
Is it the perception that rules the reality? Or is it the deception of our outlook that takes the beauty away?
Guatemala City street
I know that the breeze feels just as wonderful here in Guatemala as it did back in Illinois, and that I am still enjoying the rustle of the leaves. Things I felt like I would loose as we returned back down south. Little gifts to me that ring loudly in my soul. How do I not forget them?

And now we are back.
 Almost in a daze.
But as I emerge from the fog that is my state of mind, we still get back to normal life.

Runway in sight

It took me an unrealistically long time to make an extremely simple meal after a little over a month of fast food, peanut butter and social dining. So now what... I keep asking. Like its some new beginning after you come back. I can’t remember what was keeping me up at night before left town, so I made up a new list to worry about, and to keep me from playing Mary Poppins…
The hospital is still here. My kids still need to be edumacated. And they all want to be fed, what seems like constantly!
So for now, priorities are fresh, and determination is mediocre. Recipe for success, right!
I better go make something edible for lunch.
Maybe my family can use a rose colored outlook on my cooking, wouldn’t that be helpful!

Thanks again for bearing with me, if you made it this far down.
My 'home'

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Not too strong to fall

August is upon us again. Typical August for us here with decent rains and warm days, plenty of company and commotion.
Waiding throught the rubble of the bridge under contruction after being washed out.
The summer is dwindling away for most of us. I, myself, am always glad at the idea of an approaching fall. Is this new stage of our lives, the fall holds added allure.  We will, once again head back to the US for a brief visit this fall.

In a way, our trip back feels somewhat like a reset for the next 12 months, and in other ways like a set-up for the next 12 months.

It always make me think of what we have done since our last trip home.  The ministry has seen an expansion of our weekly clinics, additions to the nursing staff, hospital staff, and letting go of several people on the construction crew.

We have a newer airplane we are in process of purchasing, that will provide us with the ability to fly 3 times as many passengers as the Cessna 182, with little to no need for a paved runway. The new (to us) plane will also allow us to haul stretchers and a portable incubator, where the 182 will accommodate neither.
Monte Oitker, Ryan and Duane

The X ray install was rapid and successful thanks to Monte Oitker, with Samaritan’s Purse. The Air Conditioning system in the Operating Rooms is running smoothly, and was an important part of the surgical outreach that was held here on Saturday.  The procedures went well, the facility was very appropriate and the entire day went smoothly. This first surgical day was very much a group effort.
Dr Greg Miller, Leslie, Dr Heather Sample

Dr. Don, Ryan Korporal, Mr Clint, Dr Miller, Dr Hoak 

The house
We are now moved into our house. We are almost unpacked, now after two months of living here. The list of things left to complete are long, but we are just enjoying the home for now, and picking away at things as we can.

We all find the new setting very accommodating  and comfortable. We were glad to pass on our previous home to The Harms’ and all successive DOC's families.  The dog was confused at first, but he knows ‘home’ now.
Into the courtyard

As the medical facility is getting closer and closer to completion, we find ourselves being “worked out of a job.” One of my boys asked me if we had to move back up to the US now that they didn’t need us anymore to build the ‘hospital’.  We are finding that our roles here are changing, and are trying to stay open to His plans for our future here, and any other ways that we can help. One of those is helping with day to day operations of the new facility and all that goes with it.   For now, we are trying to wrap up loose ends before we head out of town for a few weeks.
The men at the end of the day, almost back in time

If you find yourself with a few empty seats next to you at church, or a need for some fresh air, let us know how we can connect with you during our time back.
We hope to make a trek north again to Iowa, in-between time on the farm in Marine.  You can look for us the first two weeks in October, this fall. (Correction: Last two weeks of September)

Thank you again for all you have done to help make our time here fruitful and standing by us for another year and all it has held.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

An induction introduction

I have not been looking forward to this event. But now that it is over, I wonder why I had made such a fuss of it in the first place.
April showers have always been exciting for me as a Midwesterner. Early spring hail storms, tornado sirens and lightning.
As a child I remember being frightened by the danger, but I think there has always been a part of me that enjoyed the idea of it, but none of me that enjoyed the 'thrill' of it.
After our long term move down to Guatemala, I have had to trade 'April Showers' for hopefully some rain in May or at least by June. We have been grateful to get about 4 inches of rain over the last two weeks, and the stifling heat has taken a back seat to stifling heat and humidity. The grass is growing again, and the bugs are hatching. We haven't had 'swarming termite season' yet, and that's a real doosey. 

Progress on the house has continued this month with focus on the roof and subsequently, the ceiling. Since it has been raining a little,  as I mentioned, this was a great accomplishment.  We have been building doors, and with those hung, we will be able to begin installing bathroom fixtures, and a slightly functional kitchen. We will still have all light fixtures and the entire second story floor at some point... but we are getting closer.
Another evening without power. 

With the prospect of rain in the near future, the rush to cultivate and plant the local crops is in full swing. It is common for a family to work together to prepare their fields by hand, with a hoe or pic. Some families will use a team of oxen, or hire someone else to  use their own team. As a ministry, we are able to provide people in the surrounding area the option of having their ground worked by tractor.. John Deere 4020 style.  Regardless of the method or the means, we all share the same optimism for the coming growing season. 
Late April also brings about another seasonal change for me. For the last few years I have dreaded its coming and also its lasting effects.
Me,as an infant
I reached 31 years old this year, and though you probably didn't have to guess it, this has made me more contemplative than normal.  I have been thinking of what it may be like to enter into my '30s', where my mother was in life when she entered her 30s, and if I am half the woman she was at my age.  I think of my little brother and how he never had grey hairs like the ones I complain about, or the sun/age spots I fight to keep away. I think about breast cancer screenings, and how i am no 'spring chicken' with all my aches and pains, and osteoporosis... just kidding on that last one. I am not loosing sleep over any of these things, but I have definitely caught myself staring off, longer than normal, looking for something.
My mother 
I think in general it just makes me look into my past. Unfortunately, memories of my brother or some resemblance of my mother or typically some of the paths my mind will travel down. Memory lane? Maybe. I guess if I don't find it, I will keep looking. What is it that makes me yearn for vivid memories of her? Is it a testament to her lasting impact on me as daughter? Or just my normalcy?  I often forget that Kevin is gone, only for an instant, only to be jolted back to reality, merciless reality. Leave it to me to take a celebration of life, ones birthday, and turn it into a part of the continual grieving process. I guess in a way, what better way to appreciate life for what it is, and the promises that it holds then to look at what it once was, and the fragility of it. And yet, inside of all that, the resilience with which we can all live on, in who we leave behind, and ultimately, where we dwell eternally.
Typically, we try to ignore our own mortality, but being here in Guatemala, where we live neighboring to the hospital, this is impossible. We have seen newborns rushed off by airplane only to succumb to their fragile weakness. We have had elderly patients brought to us, from villages hours away, our only offering, the suggestion to go home and embrace, best they can with family, the end of their life. We cant possibly fix the cycle of life here, or anywhere. But we continue to show love to all who we come into contact with, in hopes of showing some glimpse into the affection and waiting embrace of a loving creator.
I am a missionary, mostly by marriage, but a large part of me hopes, and at times believes, I have a calling here on my own.  I know we are shaped by our experiences, and our reactions to those experiences. I am a little spellbound by how my journey and survival thus far is supposed to help others.
I guess its not really up to me to have a 'plan for attack' when it comes to mission-hood. 

The backup generator

For now, most of my energy is consumed by those inside my gene pool. The minutes between I spend emailing, cooking for guests, fulfilling random requests from the construction crew or hospital staff and even emergency triage.
We continue to work on the hospital as needed, and on the house when we can. I have been helping laboring mothers in my, unofficial, Douala apprenticeship. I really enjoy being involved but I don]t like the stress and worry that comes with it.

We have another full calendar this month. We will work towards getting the X Ray machine up and running as a Bio med Engineer will be joining us from Samaritans purse. We also have a nurse anesthetist coming for a week, who will look at our realistic abilities in regards to anesthesia. 
We thank you for your continued interest, prayers and support as we continue to push through each day of 'mission-hood'. We couldn't do any of the things we do without your help.
To learn more about Adonai in Guatemala or how to get involved, you can check out
and to make donations easily via PayPal, you can follow this link.

Donations made on a monthly basis help us budget and plan to make the most of all resources.  Anything and everything is appreciated.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A drop in the bucket

Wow, it is hot. I know we are spoiled with our weather, but I do miss me a good snow, we reached our hottest  this year, today. 101 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun has been brutal and the rain nonexistent. 

My daughter has resorted to swimming in the bano, or small water trough while I work nearby on our house.  It is coming along. We have the remainder of the insulation now, and can install the roof. 

We are still working the floor boards for the second story, but with the roof in place, we will be able to start laying the floor. 

We still have no doors, which, as you can see, allows all the "neighbors" to come and GO as they please.

The drywall on the main floor has been hung, and after a little touch up mudding, will be ready for paint. We look forward to the move, and try our best to make use of the time we have, but unfortunately, we are likely a solid month- two months out of being able to move in.

 We are hopefully near the end of purchasing supplies for the house. It has been wonderful to have the truck for all the supplies, and the runs back and forth to Quiche or the city.

We try to work as a family whenever we can, but this typically means I have more help than I can handle, and we may get distracted from time to time....

 We continue to balance family/ministry/ community in our lives, though not always well. The kids are all doing well at school, and I am enjoying the new set up, of not using the kitchen table. The kids have their own desks now, and they cant pester each other as much, but they still keep me hopping.

 The construction zone is still the kids playground, and they still hate having their pictures taken...

 We enjoyed a few days away at the beach last month. It was very hot there, and we were submerged in Guatemala culture. Yes that includes a stop at McDonald's!

 All things Hospital are still moving along full swing. We have local clinics three days a week, with walk ins almost every other day. We remain closed to admittance and surgeries for the time being. We are still missing a few large key pieces to progress to the next stage. The OR suite is ready, but we are missing an anesthesia option for surgeries, and still working out the kinks on the AC unit. X Ray capability is a big hole for us moving forward, but second to anesthesia and continued funding.

 We have been able to successfully host three deliveries so far this year.  A big thanks to Dr Heidi Bell, Dr. Shea Epperly and Dr. John Epperly for their willingness to help with our first few births, and for letting me sit/stand in. I even got to cut the cord for one.

While three deliveries is good, we are looking forward to more, but not until we can perform any necessary cesarean section deliveries. As you can see in this short clip, we have the brick and mortar ready. We will continue to patiently wait, but not without action, for God to open the doors and make a path for the OR doors to be open and in full service.

In the mean time, life will carry on. We have a steady stream of visitors this summer, but always room for more. Especially if you can 'swing a hammer'!

Thanks fro reading, and continuing to stick by us through this journey. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

When searing is no fun.

I can remember it like it was yesterday.  There was a chill in the air, and I was relieved to have my mom back home.  Patrick and I had spent a few days with both sets of Grandparents.  I however, was homesick. It was the first time we saw each other. What I remember the most was how quiet he was, bundled up tightly, eyes closed, and cheeks rosy. Sure, I finally had my mom back, but this was more exciting then being latched onto her leg. I was nearly four at the time. Undoubtedly stubborn, strong willed and feisty already. This would be about as civil and laid-back he and Is relationship would ever be, and he was still non-opinionated and defenseless...

It has nearly another 5 months since my last entry. I have been wanting to make the time to write of all that has been happening, but its more the fact that I have had too much to say, than nothing at all. Our new home out back is getting closer to having a roof, and doors, but moving day is still a ways off in the distance.  Life here will continue at a whirlwind pace, and as the visitors will begin to come more frequently,  it will get a little crazy at times.

Last year as we began to prepare for our annual trip back to the states, I began receiving concerning reports of my brothers health. After purchasing the most expensive one way air fare of my life at the ticket counter in Guatemala City, I traveled back to St. Louis alone, with my husband and children to follow 10 days later. That first night was a tremendous shock for me, as I sat in the ICU with my brother. I hadn't seen him for almost a year, and back then he was driving, going to school and practically living by himself.  That night, I walked into his room in the ICU, a pillow and suitcase in tow, to find him delirious, irritated and afraid.

Earlier that day, he had received the second of two very aggressive surgeries to remove infected tissue and bone. Before going under the anesthesia, he was walking, and making his own decisions. Now, he was bed ridden, afraid of the hospital staff, confused and in extreme pain. Much to my relief, he knew exactly who I was and was actually glad to see me. I spent the next eight hours reassuring him, talking him back down from aggression and reading to him. At one point I was able to feed him ice. The nurses discouraged it, but he loved it. To have something succumb to the force of his jaw, and wash over the painful ulcers in his moth, he was distracted temporarily, and actually enjoyed it. It brought me to tears. I tried desperately to hide this from him, but much like the failing state of his health, my resilience was fading, and it was obvious to him, that this was more than I could hold in.

Our trip to the sates as a family, began in Dallas, Texas, then heading to Abilene, and a brief stop in Wichita, Kansas before pushing on to St. Louis, MO.
We spent a little over a month trying to cram 12 months worth of missed family time, dinner engagements, and down time.
We returned back to Guatemala in mid October, with many things just as we left them. The new medical facility was continuing to support more and more outpatient care, and our new house was getting closer, but not necessarily going to be ready for Christmas.

We had just begin the adjustment back to Canilla life, when I received another call that Kevin was not doing well again, and was in a comma like state, yet somewhat responsive, I began making arrangements to head back to St.Louis, alone. Two days later, we began to make arrangements to bury my little brother, Kevin, next to my mother.

 I could not shake the memory of the last time I saw him. We both new that 'good bye' could really be good bye, yet I had a cold and Kevin asked me to keep my distance. There we stood, misty eyed, and all too aware of the future that lay ahead, and the changes that would unfold.  I told him not to worry, that it was all okay, and to take care of himself, mostly out of habit. Now I know that this was a failed attempt to not be caught without words to fill the space between what I was showing and what I was feeling, but didn't want to expose.

The weeks that followed have become a blur in my mind. But now, after almost three months, I can relive some of the more beautiful moments for what they were, and remind myself that the other excruciating memories will never be able to replace them. From the first to the last time we were together, and all the times in-between, we were really good at irritating each other, and ganging up on our father. We survived adolescence in north county, the death of our mother, and Y2K. Now, its just me, or so it feels...

Here we are starting a new year here in Guatemala. My oldest son will turn 10 this calendar year, and my youngest, for now, keeps reminding me that she is growing up fast. Its hard for me to believe that I have kept them alive this long... and remained some what gathered. I pray they will learn to cling to one-another in life, and become friends as adults. We continue to make new memories and new 'firsts' in our lives here in Guatemala. getting the old white Ford running, the first birth in the new facility, and hopefully moving into the new house in the next 3 months.

We look forward to meeting all the people who will make the trip down, and we ask that you would continue to hold our family closely in prayer as we continue to serve here in Canilla.