Saturday, February 18, 2017

Helping Special Needs Kids in Honduras

The Rotary Club of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, is partnering with the Rotaract Club of La Ceiba to equip a school for special needs kids in Honduras.  When finished, the school will serve more than 100 children.  Our financial goal is $3,500 before the end of March.  We are proud to work with Belinda Henriquez, a 2016 JBU College of Business graduate.  If you are interested in helping, you can contact me at

La Ceiba Rotaract

Existing equipment

Belinda Henriquez with children of La Ceiba

Existing classroom

Available classroom

Available classroom, currently abandoned

Available space, abandoned and in need of repair

Existing space and equipment

Friday, June 5, 2015

Miracle Child

This past December and January, we visited a place called Nuevo Santo Domingo with the intention of blessing the community with a Christmas food distribution. This community consists of refugees who lost their homes during Hurricane Mitch and Tropical Storm Agatha. Twenty years after the first refugees arrived, there is still no water, no sewer, and no paved streets.

While there, a young lady burst into our life and hearts. Marelyn and her brother Henry watched their father die from a gunshot and were almost murdered by their mother. They were abandoned and live with their grandmother, Marta Alicia. A couple of years ago, Marelyn's legs were crushed by a car, and a botched surgery in the government hospital left her disabled. Even so, she is a gracious young lady with unceasing joy and a humble, grateful heart. We have worked with her to get her scheduled for surgery in the Fundacion Pedriatica in Guatemala. The first surgery will be in July. Even though she probably has every reason to feel sorry for herself, she just smiles and embraces life with great enthusiasm. Marelyn is 10 and Henry is 9, and they have never been to school. We were able to get them started in first grade, where Marelyn is leading the class with a grade of 98%. Her teacher and the school director say she is uniquely gifted. She also loves to go to church, even if she goes by herself. She loves to raise her hands and praise God. And even though she does not read, she loves to look through her small Bible.

Today we visited Nuevo Santo Domingo to assess the possibility of a future water project there. Marelyn is doing well and is ready for her first surgery in July. When we found her, she and Henry both were badly malnourished, so we have been providing vitamins and basic food items for the family. It is amazing how these kids have responded to nutrition. Today I was again amazed how Marelyn and Henry are both reacting, how their faces have filled out, how they have more energy, and how their skin and hair have a shine now.  

We learned something new about Marelyn today. Marta Alicia, shared a story. When Marelyn was very young, she was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. Due to a mistake, she was given the wrong medicine and at one point was actually pronounced dead. Ever since then, her grandmother has believed that this was a miracle from God and that her life has a unique and special purpose from God. 

For the last couple of years, especially after the accident, Marta Alicia has felt very much isolated, alone, and forgotten. Through tears, she told us that she is beginning to understand God's purpose for Marelyn. It was through Marelyn that a group (i.e, us) found her family, began to show love and support, and reminded them that they are not alone. Marta Alicia believes that Marelyn has brought help and hope to her family...and that this is only the beginning of what this special little lady will do in life.

If you ever doubt that God is working miracles today, just look around and see people like Marelyn. God's people are blessing the world, and even though we get caught up in all of the things going wrong, we need to remember that people like Marelyn are near us. She is a testimony and an example to me. She is a miracle child, and I believe that the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Marelyn - An Update

WARNING:  This post contains some strong images.

Yesterday, I posted the story of Marelyn Zuleimy Salazar Miguel, a 10-year-old girl who lives in a place called Nuevo Santo Domingo in the department of El Progresso. I won't retell that story, but I can add a few details.

When Marelyn was very young, she was taken to the hospital with severe pneumonia, very close to death. Apparently the doctors caused damage to one of her legs as they were looking for veins to insert IVs. I don't have all of the details on that. I do know that when she was six, her legs were crushed by a car. The surgeries and skin grafts that followed were basically botched. She was abandoned by her mother, and her father was killed by a stray bullet in "La Terminal" in Guatemala City when a gunfight broke out. That was in December 2013.

When we left Nuevo Santo Domingo yesterday, Marta Alicia (grandmother of Marelyn and her brother, Henrry) promised to enroll them in school this morning and to begin working on their papers. Enrique, Cecy, and I drove back to Guatemala City to look for some shoes and socks for Marelyn and some parts to repair her crutches. We did that. We also picked up some groceries for the family. We found a neat "Real Madrid" cap for Henrry and also got them some other items, including underwear.

Today, we went back to Nuevo Santo Domingo. Marta Alicia WAS able to get both children enrolled in the public school in the area. We were able to meet with the family and share some time together. In fact, they were waiting for us.

When we arrived, Marelyn was walking doubled over, using her legs and arms. Although this works for her, I think it will cause a lot of damage over time. It is already causing some massive callouses on her hand. Her crutches are in good shape now, so she can use those more, and we are going to get a walker out to her.

Marelyn liked her shoes and socks, and Henrry liked his cap!


Both Henrry and Marelyn had a list of things they need to be able to attend school: uniforms, notebooks, pencils, glue, scissors, and so forth. We went to the local tienda and found everything we needed, including a brand new backpack for each one.

It was so special to spend time with the family today. Their situation and story are very, very difficult, but in the middle of all of that is Marelyn's smile. Please keep this family in your prayers as we continue to explore whether there is anything we can do for Marelyn. For now, she is going to live her dream of going to school. The family sends their greetings to everyone who is part of this story!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Marelyn - An Injustice

WARNING: This post contains some strong images.

Last week, a group of young people from St. Mary's Church in Siloam Springs spent a few days in Guatemala sharing love, food, and gifts in some areas where there is great need. I had the privilege of driving them around. During the planning process, we identified a place called Nuevo Santo Domingo, San Antonio La Paz, Sanarate, El Progresso, Guatemala. Trust me, the name is bigger than the place.  For nearly 20 years, this area has been populated by families who were resettled after tropical storms Mitch, Stan, and Agatha. There is no running water or sewage system. The place is forgotten. The group from St. Mary's fed 200 people and handed out clothing, toothbrushes, toys, and an unlimited number of hugs.

A young lady named Marelyn attended that event. For some reason that I can only attribute to God, Marelyn grabbed my heart. She was just a young girl who clearly had some physical problems. She used crutches to get around, supporting herself on one stiff leg while the other one dragged along very limp. Getting around was difficult, but she never stopped smiling. I have not been able to get her out of my mind and heart.

Today, we went back.

Meet Marelyn and Henrry. (Yes, that is how he spells it.)  They are brother and sister.

Marelyn is 10 and Henrry is 9. Their father is dead and their mother abandoned them. The children told us their story today. As Henrry shared it, his mother lived "la vida alegre" (or "the happy life"). She would have sex with many partners right in front of her young children. (That is a great way to train your daughter to be a prostitute.) Some time after Marelyn's accident (which I will share below), the mother locked the children in a room with no food, hoping they would die. They were rescued after a week and went to live with their grandmother (their dad's mom), Marta Alicia. Marta is a fine woman, but she is desperately poor and lives in this isolated village with the other resettled hurricane refugees. Here are some pictures of Marta, her home, and her neighborhood.

A few years ago, Marelyn's legs were crushed by a car. The mother waited several days before taking her to a doctor. I cannot imagine how this little girl suffered and how she keeps such a smile on her face today. In the government hospital in Guatemala City, Marelyn was the victim of several botched surgeries. They cut nerves and tendons, and they left Marelyn in the situation you will see below. Marelyn is able to walk on crutches...sort of. She can support herself on one leg while the other one simply drags. But in that way, she is able to get around just a little bit.

Sometimes we wonder why God puts things in our life. And sometimes when God puts something like this in our path, we have to ask ourselves what WE are going to do with it. This is one situation I cannot walk away from.

Here are some photos of Marelyn as of today. These are not pleasant pictures, so consider yourself warned. Also be warned that Marelyn's smile will touch your heart.

Bad family. Crushed legs, Botched surgeries. Orphaned and abandoned. Poverty-stricken village. Forgotten. Let's add one more injustice. Marelyn and Henrry are really smart kids who would love to go to school but were never able to do so. There is a free national school not too far away, but there are two problems. First, Henrry never had his papers filed with the government, and you can't get into school if you don't have your papers. Second, they would have to buy some school supplies. All of this together is probably under $100, but for this family, it might as well be a million dollars. Well, needless to say, we took care of that. Hopefully, they will be registered in school tomorrow (both starting first grade together) and papers are getting fixed. (We think the school will let Henrry start with papers pending, as long as we get it all done.)

School is one thing. Legs are another. There is a pediatric hospital in Guatemala that deals with cases like this, and there are hospitals in the US that help such children. At the moment, we are in the very early stages of helping, but by the grace of a loving God who promised that He will never leave or forsake us, we have to act.

You can email me at  For the moment, I am asking for prayers, but before this is over, I may be asking for a lot more.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...."  James 1:27

It is time for a little bit of good religion here.....