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We had a record year in deliveries to Guatemala…

27/12/2017

But the ladies below out do us every year.  This is our executive directors most recent newsletter about a small maternity clinic.  I was first introduced to them about 12-14 years ago by Dennis and Doris Rice.  I think Todd Poor and I looked at some of their equipment.  But as we were winding down a lady came in that shortened the goodbyes.  We loaded up and headed down the hill before we crossed the bridge out of Olintepeque, Dennis Rice’s phone rang.  In five minutes they had delivered a healthy baby boy.  Brady Green’s newsletter captures their work pretty well.  This is what Vine does.  We serve some of the LORD’s most precious servants like these.  Thank you for your support.      In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

For one thing, the doctors don’t speak K’iche’, Mam, or Tz’utujil.
For another thing, a lot of them are men. And then on top of that you’d have to go into their office, which will cost real money. If you’re 30 and this is your seventh baby, you don’t have the money. If you’re 15 and this is your first, not only do you not have the money, but the staff speaks a foreign language, and you may not be ready to acknowledge that you’re pregnant in the first place.

But: the women in Olintepeque will see you now.

They dress like normal people (hand-woven huipil and corte), they talk like normal people (Take your pick: K’iche’, Mam – even Spanish), and they can help. They’ll welcome you like family, they will tell you what’s going on inside your body, and when the time comes, they’ll deliver that baby.

In 1999, Aniseta Bate and her daughters saw how bad it was
for pregnant women where they lived, and they felt like God was calling them to do something about it. The mayor of Olintepeque gave them temporary use of a vacant property near the town square. Aniseta’s husband built a little building before he died. Somehow, the women heard about Vine. They called Dennis and Doris Rice, who were then responsible for our relationships with medical providers and for the distribution of supplies. If you were part of Vine in the last 17 years, you gave these women their first exam table. Then another one when the clinic grew, and another two after that. They’re all still in use. You helped stock their pharmacy. For a few years around 2008, some friends of Vine paid for a production run of vitamins, and Aniseta and her daughters were able to distribute them. In an area where there is not enough food, and not enough nutrition in what food there is, vitamins decrease the incidents of birth defects.

Aniseta still comes to the clinic every day, welcoming and helping and getting things done. Her daughter Rebeca is trained and certified as a midwife, and as an midwife instructor. Astrid and Johana help, they see patients, and they run the pharmacy.

Mothers come from all over, down from the mountains and into town. They take the bus, most of them, after they’ve walked to the road. A few come on the back of a motorcycle, or in a family member’s car, or on a work truck. A consult costs 85 cents; a delivery is $6. Every other Friday, a gynecologist comes up from the city to see the complex cases. She charges as little as she can, so it’s only a few dollars, and she’s really volunteering.

I asked Doña Aniseta the name of the clinic, and she grabbed my arm. “Everybody knows what we do! Why would we need a name?” Rebeca laughed when she heard her mother’s answer.

“Oh, we have a name. We had to make one up years ago for the health department, and to be a legal nonprofit. Nobody uses it except on official documents.”

Doña Aniseta at the women’s clinic
The maternal mortality rate
in this part of the world is outrageous. Girls become mothers too early; they don’t have enough to eat; an education is hard to come by; most won’t see a healthcare professional.  Too many die. I was afraid to ask Rebeca about their outcomes, knowing how difficult things are. But she was proud to answer:

How many babies do you deliver in a month?

Thirty, forty. Sometimes fifty or more. 

How do you handle emergencies? I’m sure you see your share.

We send them to the hospital down in the city. 

I know there’s no ambulance – how do you get them there?

We chase down whatever car happens to be close by. Sometimes a taxi will take them. Sometimes we just beg someone to do it. 

You’ve been working for 17 years. That adds up to something like 10,000 deliveries, right?

That’s probably right.

How do you deal with losing a mother?

Rebeca smiles. That’s never happened.

These women aren’t making any money. I’m not sure how they make a living. They’re just trying to take care of their fellow mothers, as they were called by God to do. They found Dennis and Doris all those years ago. The Rices represented Vine, and Vine represented you. Now Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon live near Guatemala city and keep up with the little maternity clinic in Olintepeque, along with more than a hundred other medical providers serving people in poverty.

All the medical equipment they have, they got from you through Vine. They don’t have a website, they don’t know people with money, and they don’t want to expand and start clinics all over Guatemala. They want to keep taking care of the women who come to them.

The Vine community has supplied them and encouraged them for a long time. (And if you are interested in restarting our vitamin production, let’s talk!) I would call it great luck to get to work with women like this, but I know it has more to do with a quiet calling from God, just like it has for them.

So thank you! Doña Aniseta, Rebeca, Johana, Astrid, and the staff of AMUPEDI (there’s that official name) all thank you. Dennis and Cindy in Guatemala thank you, Bruce White and I thank you. Woody, our founder, is so busy coordinating the year’s last shipments that he couldn’t get a word in. But he thanks you too.

Brady Greene

Executive Director

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Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo

23/12/2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year or Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo for our Guatemalan friends.  This will be brief.

It is a most joyous time of year for many of us.  But not all.  We am getting the blessing of seeing our children (five of them) and our granddaughters (three of them).  We will hear them sing tomorrow.  It will be easy for me to find joy this Christmas.  But for some there is an empty seat at the table.  A loved one in the military, or prison, or has passed away leaves a hole in family fellowship.  For some a new baby to celebrate with, kiss rosy cheeks and pass around to new grandparents and gleaming smiles.  For others that child did not come as expected and where I find joy there is woe.

I think of our pastors in this time too.   We are so guilty of NOT sharing our joy filled moments with our pastors but we sure expect them to meet us at the hospital on short notice.  He gets to share the stories of the holes at the family table, those burdens of the hearts… his heart sighs with ours.  I am grateful for my pastor (s).    Thank you brothers for responding to the call of God and spilling your life into ours and may our Father in Heaven fill your hearts with rejoicing in this season.  May He also give you strength, wisdom and words of peace to speak into the empty spaces in the lives of those He has given you to minister to.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep… Paul tells us in Romans 12.  Please may you have much to rejoice about, but can I ask you to be intentional and look for opportunities to share the compassion of Christ to your neighbor.  Your pastor, if he has the heart my pastor does, will want to share the burden with you.  BUT frankly there are times believing friend we are to shoulder the load.  May you be a peace maker this Christmas season.  In Jesus name amen.

In Christ, Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

Follow Me,

16/09/2017

No storm, waves quietly caressing the shore, breakfast made by the Master was done.  Walking by the Galilean Sea with the Risen Christ, hanging on every word still not rid of all the guilt of abandoning this great Friend, Peter hears Jesus say “Follow Me!”

Joh 21:19  Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (ASV)

Men, aren’t you glad for Peter?  I am.  The ups and downs of his life are recorded for us in God’s Word.  One of Jesus’s closest friends, a good student, got out of the boat on a dark stormy night in the middle of the lake he is now walking the shore with Jesus… denied this One… that knot in your throat kind of grief and shame, he can’t even speak the question, “How can You ever forgive me?”  Jesus looks at him knowingly smiles as He is so far beyond forgiveness, “Follow Me.”

I find it fascinating that the last recorded thing said is a repeat of the first command of Jesus to Peter.

Mar 1:17  And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 

Mar 1:18  And straightway they left the nets, and followed him. (ASV)

How simple!  “Follow Me” parenthetically encloses successes, high points, failures and deep heart breaking disappointment of Peter’s last three years.  Left his nets and job for this rabbi; saw and participated in miracles of healing; cast out demons; taught by Christ and oh those days seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah and how Peter’s heart must have pounded when he stepped over the gunnel of that storm tossed boat and found water as hard as rocks under his feet, until he took his eyes off Jesus.  “Follow Me.”  How simple.

Jesus is leaving earth to return to His Father’s right hand.  Is this not the time to leave these His chosen men with ‘the plan’, those great words of wisdom in HOW to DO this thing called Christianity?  One would think He would write a Book!  That’s the plan?  “Follow Me?”

I am blessed to teach twice a week (Revelation and Philippians right now).  Here is one experience from a couple years ago.  I do not remember what I was teaching but had used some passages from the Old Testament.  A lady in the study asked me “where do you get your information, I have never heard that?”  I opened the Bible and took her to the quotes.  “Oh, I don’t read the Old Testament!”

Obviously I asked, “Why not?”  She had been sent 70 years before to a convent school in Cuba where the nuns told her to only read the New Testament as the Old Testament would confuse her.  Eighty years old and 2/3rds of God’s Word was tragically closed to her.  The discussion continued… was she confused by anything said? … well no!… we got to teach her how God is not a God of confusion.  And she started following and reading more of the Bible.

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Mark Twain.

The simplicity of this walk of faith is found in “Follow Me.”  We are in a country where Catholicism is 60-70% and most everything else is listed as evangelicals (they are NOT).  Protestants now have something like 9000 denominations.  We have made an idol of our traditions and heresies.  We believers are weak because we don’t read the Word He gave us.  We are sinners in need of a Savior.  God provided His Son.  These men on the shore of Galilee turned the world upside down by simply teaching Jesus crucified and resurrected for sinful man.  They followed Jesus.

What does “Follow Me” mean to you?  While simple, it is not easy.  Peter followed Jesus to his own cross.

Thank you for your continued support for Vine International.  We are on track for a record or close to record year.  We continue to work with several expanding ministries here.  There have been no nibbles on our request for help so we continue to muddle on.  We are hiring some local help, so financial support need rises.  Lots to do.  We are always humbled and grateful for your continued financial and prayer support.  Now to listen to WVU Mountaineers beat Delaware State Hornets (which means 80% chance that something will come up to interfere with my day!).

In Christ, Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

We think of those who support us and those who receive… and are humbled.

09/06/2017

It is now three months after the death of 41 young ladies…. It took less than a week for the story to drop out of the international news; in Guatemala a little longer.  The blog post “Where’s the Church?” went around the world well over 2,000 hits over 30 countries.  That particular post continues to get hits.  Three families were challenged to adopt.  I pray for many more than that.  May Christ’s Bride take back the responsibility to care for the orphan and widow.

Not sure where I left off on our work here.  We had three containers come in three days to the bodega.  Two of those were MAP (www.map.org) medicine containers.  Those are fairly easy to get into order and start dispersing.  We have had over 50 visits from our clients so far.  That equates to a lot of lifting… the third container is a designated container of water filters we have about half of those out the door.   The MAP containers were sponsored and Brady ‘Chepe’ Green came down about two weeks after container arrival to do follow-up story.  He and I went to interview some of the recipients.  Cindy stayed and received the scheduled clients (this is a good place to mention that we are looking for a couple to come and take Vine International on as their mission).   Brady videoed interviews with some delightful brothers and sisters in the LORD – you will have to wait for the editing to be completed.

It is a joy working with our national and ex-pat ministry partners as they toil to save and comfort lives here in Guatemala.  Cindy and I are ever grateful for the financial and prayer support that keeps us here.  Vine International is expanding.  We strive to improve service and quality of donated medical supplies.  Brady has likely opened some new doors for material donations. There is a whole community both behind and in front of us. 

Behind us – you who give, pray, and collect material donations, other ministries (MAP, Samaritan’s Purse, International Aid, Evangel Worship Center, Joe McCutcheon, TECH) Christian business leaders (Midmark, Metropolitan Medical in Asheville).  Forgive me the ones left off a list like this.  If you knew how small Vine International is, you would be awed at how it all gets done… I know I am.  Logistically it would collapse, faster than Cindy and I do after a week in the bodega, except for you that stand behind us.

In front of us – It would take a book to give proper credit to the ministries that use the goods and designated shipping services of Vine International.  On the dump, in the country side, the inner city, the many Mayan regions we have brothers and sisters sacrificially giving time and talent to people that God has given these ministries to serve.  A few of our ministry partners reach into Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.  Souls are saved, infant and maternal mortality rates are improved, health and nutrition, material, medicine and equipment needs to expand numbers and quality of these ministries because Vine International is a pipeline from you to them.

It is humbling.  We are grateful.

In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

PURE Plagiarism

24/05/2017

This is pure plagiarism.  Both Cindy and I have been ill and with sore backs.  But we must deal with three containers that have arrived – two medicine containers that we desire strongly to get into the hands of our medical ministry partners.  So it has been long hours.  A couple of friends David and Alan helped greatly to get the loads organized for dispersal – we are grateful for their help.  This is a note from Brady Green our newest Vine International family member.   And since we don’t have the time right now to write up something for the blog I am with out apology using Brady “Chepe” Green’s letter.  (shades of Dick Rutgers – hahaha)

Oh yes, for perspective we put Isaura in front to make her look taller (grin).  She is a fireball when it comes to helping her people.

In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

A thank you note from folks you’ve helped.
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The children’s amoxicillin is what caught my attention
when I saw the packing list. With medicine like that, it’s easy to imagine who will be tilting their head back to get the weird-tasting stuff down, and who’s got the plastic measuring spoon in their hands, hoping it will work. If you’re like me and you have memories of kids with late-night fevers, you can imagine that parents in rural Guatemala will be glad for a little bottle of what can end the infection. I could pick it up at the pharmacy; these parents can’t.
[Isaura Escobar picks up supplies as Cindy McCutcheon helps. Isaura directs the Roca de Ayuda Medical Association, which works in poor communities all over Guatemala.]

 

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon oversee Vine’s warehouse outside Guatemala City, and last week they unloaded two containers full of medicine and supplies. I find it easy to be grateful for all that children’s amoxicillin, but there’s a lot more on those containers that’s useful to the men and women who work with Guatemala’s poorest communities. Every bottle in every case on every pallet is in the middle of a great and urgent story, and you’re a part of those stories: we don’t ship anything that you didn’t help pay for. And each of those stories is just about to get really good: cases will be broken up, prescriptions written, and bottles given to parents of kids who need it. I think about that and I’m so glad we all get to do this together. The nurses, doctors, dentists, and helpers who will drive away from the warehouse with cars full of medicine – they know about you, and they always tell us to thank you. Thank you!
We will listen for some of the stories as these supplies make their way out to the people who need them. But today, as Dennis and Cindy are sorting boxes and coordinating visits, I am grateful for you who made it possible. None of us can do this on our own: not you or me, not medical professionals, not missionaries, not anybody. It’s only all of us, together, that can live out the love of Christ for the world. It’s good to partner with you.
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dry season and droughts and the soul…

31/03/2017

Isa 58:11  And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

We are struggling a bit with our water supply.  We are blessed with the most awesome hand dug/bricked well I have seen in my life.  It is about 120 feet deep.  Our neighbors wells, two of them hand dug also but only 60 feet deep are very nearly dry.  He has quit irrigating and it selectively watering plants he wants to thrive.  I was encouraged seeing the depth of our well, but after replacing the deep well pump, the old one failing after 15 years of service we pumped the well dry in a few minutes.  Don’t worry mom, we will get by.  But it will take some manipulating of filling the cistern, reducing our usage.  We are blessed.

Guatemala has about six months of rain and six months of dry season.  But recent years the rainy season has not been as wet as usual and this past year there was little rain for us in October, when usually there are a couple weeks of heavy rain signaling the close of the rainy season.  Here weddings are scheduled often in November, weather still warm, sunny skies and plants look fresh at the beginning of dry season.  Now in end of March with one more month without rain almost guaranteed, there is dust on everything.  The grass has long ago gone dormant, one can imagine the plants and trees crying out they are thirsty.  Sometimes the fog comes in at night and the trees rake the air for moisture and the condensate drops on the plants below for a small respite.  But the sun the next morning quickly sucks up that which has not been absorbed… so much for the refreshing moment!  Some areas of Guatemala have been hard hit, enough to drop production of black beans, rice and corn, the staples Guatemalan mothers feed their children.

I know of no brother or sister in the LORD who has been around several years who has not had a ‘dry season of the soul’.  When events don’t happen as we plan, when delays seem interminable, when tragedies occur around us and like Peter our eyes go to the storm.  We sink in despair.  That arid question of our soul, “where are You LORD” grows from a drought of faith.  Dry faith is a brittle weed.  The ferns here have lost their leaves, the stems are blackened and break easily in your hand.  This land can do nothing but wait.  Wait on the promised rains to come.  Wait for the soils to sponge up heavens blessing to then release them slowly through the next dry season.  Christian, it is the same for our souls.  God’s promises never fail, no matter what the eye sees, the heart feels.  Never allow our human emotion to get the upper hand.  The prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer_17:9)” My eye sees an empty well and being a pastor and missionary I am not free to tell you what my heart said!  But about that moment is when the neighbor said, ‘we need to pray for the rains from heaven’ while casting her eyes and hands clasped in prayer to the One who promises rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

One of my brother’s in the LORD not knowing any of the above sent a couple verses this morning.  It is his habit.  They are in Spanish so Cindy and I both go find the references in English.  Thanks Nacho.  This morning it was the two verses PRECEDING Jer. 17:9.  Fascinating.  The timing.  The lesson and blessing from my LORD.   —  “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”  (Jer 17:7-8)

My trust is in the LORD and notice the intimacy of hope.  The LORD is…. my hope.  Again, the promise of God will never fail, therefore I have no care, no worry in drought.  He has planted us where we are and promises we will bear fruit for the glory of the LORD and His Son Jesus.

Please pray for an early start to the rainy season for Guatemala.

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

Visiting Orphanages

17/03/2017

Cindy and I were blessed to ride along with Shane and Brooke Burkholder, directors of Orphan Resources International (ORI) in Guatemala.  They are trying to meet the demands of the several orphanages receiving children from the Hogar Seguro tragedy.   See last blog post “Where’s the Church” for details.  I have a positive correction to last blog.  There are 40 girls dead not 41 as reported over the weekend.  They found that last ‘fatality’ had been moved to the USA for treatment.  We heard today there are now 9 being treated in the USA.  I leave much unsaid but this has triggered an overdue criminal investigation.

The Burkholders looked a little tired as the work piles on.  Neil and Oscar also on staff are hustling too.  New beds are being ordered, food supplies reassessed, bed, linens, being quick to partner with so many ( Our Guatemala, Nuevo Reto, others) trying to help.  ORI provides beans, rice, sugar, salt, and share donations that come from Price Mart.  They got about a ton of avocados from another donor last week.  I carried one of those 120 pound bags up the hill at one orphanage…. about did me in.  Shane got to carry the rest!  I start working and forget to take photos.  Here are a few from that day.   No photos of children from that orphanage to not offend the children or the government in the midst of this chaos.

We visited Los Gozosos Joy Filled Home.  This home specializes in special needs children.  I have heard there were 100 – 150 children in the special need wing of this now closed facility.  Homes we are familiar with are at capacity.  Los Gozosos have been assigned six – one arrived so far.  Extra staff is hired at the homes expense NOT the government, food, diapers, etc.  Canada, USA and GUATEMALA are opening up and giving.  Some Guatemalan friends dear to Vine International have given and collected from friends, even encouraged volunteering at Los Gozosos.  Bunk beds made by a youth ministry in Antigua area and high chairs, and cribs were donated.  We filled every free space in the truck with donated diapers and other needed items.  With tears, there are NOT enough homes.  Not enough beds.  All the special needs children not taken by the available homes have been placed in Cadanino, another government facility in the city… also over capacity and the numbers are staggering.  Personal presence, volunteering will mean more to some of these ministries than anything else that can be done.

I continue to encourage the opening of international adoptions.  It will NOT take care of this situation but in time may help to decompress some of the overcrowding.  When international adoptions were stopped 8 or 9 years ago and increased regulations were brought to bear there were about 300 private children’s homes in Guatemala.  These are estimates.  I admit the numbers could be off a bit.  In that first year almost 100 homes folded their tents.  They could not afford compliance with all the regulations.  In the intervening years the number of homes are down to 130.  Some are phasing out, keeping their kids until they ‘age out’ at 18 then will change their mission or go home.  The dynamics looking forward are that care of orphans will be in turmoil.  If you are supporting homes in Guatemala, talk them up.  They are doing battle for those God gives them.  Inspectors/agents for the government seem to always find something wrong.  It justifies their job. Need to fix your screens, put up emergency exit signs, buy more fire extinguishers, don’t let them call you mommy and daddy, get your paper work in order requiring multiple trips to the capital city to multiple departments to be told you need this form from still another department….. fuel, time loss, quetzals/dollars going to BURROcracy instead of stretched food budget and medical bills.  I am not sure of the percentage of homes that have received formal recognition/licensing but suspect it is very low.  It takes a very special type of person to care for and love on these kids while battling this beast, but they are here and more than ever need your support.

I worked with a pastor Thursday that is receiving 8 of the teenagers, added to 16 they were caring for before this tragedy.  El Bario Para Cristo needs a two washing machines, propane dryer and a freezer.  It will take 2,000 US dollars to purchase and INSTALL the machines.  If you are called to work on a project like this, please think it through to the end.  As an example, your church buys the freezer – does the home have adequate electricity, safety against machine being accidentally unplugged, generator backup etc?  Invariably someone is going suggest industrial strength washers and dryer.  I did.  Good idea.  They don’t have the space/they rent the building/landlord won’t allow changes/probably won’t allow upgrading electricity to 220v and the list goes on.  Please communicate with the people you are supporting.

By the way we have $250 toward that $2,000 already available thanks to some old Vine family Dennis and Doris Rice.  (Old – grin)… Orphan Resources has enough on their plate.  The Vine family would like to ask that our supporters take on this project.   If you desire to give send a note with check earmarking the donation for El Bario Para Cristo we will follow thru on this end.  Pay Pal is an option on our website and the mail address is Vine International, P.O. Box 52086, Knoxville, TN 37950.

Pray for Cindy and I please.  We have helped feed and played Santa Claus to these kids and this loss is personal and upsetting.  We thank you ahead of time for any and all help.

Just a note about the last blog.  It is the largest response to a blog post in the 8 years with over 2,000 hits (about 1600 viewers as some of those hits are people coming back a second time) in 25 to 30 countries.  May God bring beauty from ashes as His word promises – Amen.

In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon