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Sharing a friend’s account of ‘first responding’ at the Vulcan Fuego eruption


Below is an article by Dr. Jose Amezquita in the Magazine of the Quetzaltenango Medical Association.  Dr. Jose uses Vine services.  He called on our help early in response to Fuego Volcano eruption.  Read and see a man’s heart.


“The Giant Awoke

The Story of a Tragedy

Dr José Amézquita

For the Magazine of the Quetzaltenango Medical Association


To begin such a sad story breaks my heart, but with each piece of my heart gathered in my hands, I tell you this. It was a normal June 3; I was on duty in the Totonicapan Hospital, we had treated two serious vehicle collision cases two hours previous, and it was time for lunch when I turned on the TV in the doctors’ lounge and all the channels transmitted the same thing: “The Fuego Volcano has erupted.” The first shocking images of a tragedy having been announced by all, the bustle of an emergency room turned into the silence of a cemetery – my shift boss sees me and says something that stops my breathing: “Amézquita, you’re not going to go help? Go! I’ve got you covered here.”

I immediately got a call, and when I looked at the screen on my phone it said “EMERGENCY/FIRE DEPARTMENT.” When I answered, I heard “Official! This is a national emergency and doctors are needed. Issue orders.” With a knot in my voice, I immediately ordered Totonicapan’s Fire Department paramedics to prepare their equipment to leave and help. Alotenango Sacatepequez was our blind fate. On the way to my mother’s house, where we have the Family of Christ Foundation free health clinic sponsored by Vine International, I called colleagues who collaborate with the Foundation. The first answer I received was that of Dr. Eddy Batz, traumatologist, who said “Hey – did you see what happened in Alotenango? I’m going with you.” I told him, “My friend, the ambulance is ready – for my two paramedics, and you and I.”

We left Totonicapan at 2:05 PM. Our company, in addition to Jesus Christ, who never left us alone, was the sorrowful sound of an ambulance siren, and that anxiety of not knowing what we were going to find.  At 4:00we arrived at the detour that would take us from Antigua to Alotenango; in the initial darkness of the afternoon, we looked up and could see only a formerly sleeping giant, now spitting fire. That orange color at the summit of the volcano, and ambulance after ambulance that passed us by.  The first thing that really impacted me was to see, inside one of the ambulances that passed us at full speed, the driver – a fireman, crying and screaming while the sirens hid his cries of pain and anguish. There was one phrase in my mind: “Dear God! Please help us to arrive soon!”

We got to the entrance of Alotenango, and soldiers stopped our ambulance. We identified ourselves as doctors and two paramedics. We arrived at the park, and the cries of the burned and battered – that smell of ash and sulfur – I just thought, “have mercy, Lord.”

The screams that a thousand words would not describe – “My daddy’s gone!”, “My mommy died!” – words that I’ll never be able to erase from my mind – “My children were left buried!”

We arrived and the first thing we did was to take care of the wounded, which I count in the dozens in the steps of the park, on the ground, in the street. We had sheets and cardboard for stretchers. The local firemen, being without supplies, came up to me and said, “Doctor. Help us – we have wounded with very serious burns, and we don’t have anything.” God touched my heart in a supernatural way, and material things became nothing. I took my medical kit with all my diagnostic equipment and I told them to please use it – it’s a gift. I felt a thousand hugs around me and my people, saying “thank you!” The firefighters and rescue workers embraced us, with their uniforms full of ash and their eyes full of held-back tears.

It was 4:00 Monday morning when I saw a scene that reminded me why God commanded us to love our neighbor as our selves. The very wounded, burned, and homeless people brought us a cup of coffee and piece of bread that was intended for them. There was never an act of love so beautiful. Meanwhile, the volcano was still rumbling.

The firefighters called us to rest for a moment and listen how, in the safety of an armchair in the Alotenango station house, firefighter after firefighter cried, and lifted their prayers to God, each according to his beliefs. Two of their companions were trapped in the volcano’s pyroclastic flow. The station chief cried disconsolately, and shouted with everything he had in heartbreaking pain. “They called me and just said, ‘Boss, the volcano came up over us,’ and the phone didn’t make another sound.”

The need to ask for help started less than 12 hours after the emergency, as by then we had nothing. And I mean nothing! I immediately wrote Dennis McCutcheon, the coordinator of Vine International in Guatemala, and his coworkers in the US – men of God that Christ moved to do the work of Vine. The first beautiful answer, which I knew came from God’s hand, was: “José, make a list of everything you need, and we’ll get it to you.” Rescue equipment and medicines were the most urgent, and to my people and I, Dennis and Vine were like angels that God sent. Since that blessed day, they answered us and here we are, in the middle of the fight, because God says and commands: “Love your neighbor as yourself and as I have loved you.” From Vine International we received rescue equipment which, because of the high cost the firefighters couldn’t afford, but the need of which still persists today: that the firefighters would find their companions.

I write these lines with my eyes full of tears because I know that God loves us and that he placed in my hands a white coat in order to serve my people for the glory and honor of my Heavenly Father. And the feeling He gave me, He will give thousands more, because there aren’t enough helping hands.  Colleagues and friends: the volcano emergency isn’t over, and it’s not yesterday’s news. On the contrary, this is the moment when we’re needed most – let’s take our teams and go to the volcano!

Tomorrow we don’t know what God has for us. But as doctors, we ought to know this: when we wake up telling God “Here I am Father – wherever you want me to go, I’ll go.”

Thank you for reading these humble lines.

Dr José Amézquita, over and out.  ”


Cindy and I recognize so many people support us and Vine International.  This particular event taught us new ways to respond.  We saw the depth of need not just from the immediate tragedy but the chronic need of the bomberos (volunteer firefighters) and the doctor’s who first respond.  Dr. Amezquita said that everything they took with them was used up in less than two hours.  Other ministries we serve responded around the base of Fuego.  We are in the midst of ‘restocking’ a relatively empty warehouse.

I checked last week and there are about five funerals a day being done.  There are ministries still going up on the mountain to families and villages that remain.  The rains started again yesterday.  Some of these villages will be isolated until the dry season.  We have two ministries that want to set up standing clinics.  More as we see their plans gel.

The US Marines have built temporary housing.  In Guatemala temporary housing will become permanent for some.  It is good to see them in the field.  Saw my first Navy Lt. Cmdr. In uniform since 1976 and almost forgot I was civilian.  Very tempting to salute the youngster!  Ha!

Speaking about young people, Peggy our daughter and friends, Jess McElreath, Nick and Corinne Slagle from New Hope Church in Swannanoa went to ‘Ground Zero’ and met the bomberos mentioned above.  This team noticed the Alotenango bomberos did not have binoculars to help look for the missing men.  Binoculars were found in Antigua and they purchased three pairs.  Nick and a friend of ours David jumped up at 5:00 next morning and delivered them to huge smiles.

Others in our circle Dr. Estrada, Dr. Castillo, our local bomberos, have served sacrificially.  Because of your material and financial support we were able to stand with these and be Hur and Aaron to Moses – that is to hold up their arms as they served.   There are others who we know who served without the need to tap into Vine at this time such as Daryl Fulp, family and teams, and Ministerio Senderos De Luz Guatemala – Hilmar Avila.  These two ministries were ALL OVER that mountain, feeding, providing water and medical care acutely.  Our friends at Orphan Resources International were burning up the highway getting into the children’s homes they serve that were under the ash cloud.

AAHHHhhhh I need to close.  There are many stories that remain to be told.  Stay tuned.  Your support helps us to serve in so many ways.  The Vine family is grateful.

In Christ, Dennis and Cindy

Update on Vine International and Vulcan Fuego


For us the work has quieted down for a brief time.  In the US however the Vine International family is scrambling to replenish the warehouse here and that takes a lot of work.  Material and financial support must be gathered, accurate list of what is to be loaded for the governments of the USA and Guatemala to peruse and approve.  Scheduling container for loading, get help for Bruce White to load a container in two hours are part of the lengthy logistics.  (If you are close to Knoxville, Bruce is loading on Wednesday 20th usually in the afternoon – if you think you can help, )  This will be followed as quickly as possible by a second container.

Dr. Estrada said he wanted a standing stool the next time!

Cindy and I will in prepping here, talk to the electric company as they have without notice laid a pole across our loading dock.  That needs cleared out.  Just shake my head sometimes.  But we will take a day or two and clear out pallets that are empty, get recyclables out of the front bay and do a general cleanup.

We were blessed to be able to meet Dr. Erik Estrada (a bundle of dynamite) at a discount pharmacy warehouse in Guatemala City and put over $1,000 worth of antibiotics, burn cream, IV fluids, and from our warehouse insulin syringes, 3 and 5 ml syringes with needles and dust masks in his vehicle.  While his team spent all week on the volcano, they were unable to cross the river and are praying that the water goes down so they can get to the villages today (Monday 18 June, 2018).  On Friday a local lady stopped them at the ford and said, “Yes we need you and your medicines, but please don’t cross here today.  Wait until the river goes down!”  They turned away and passed a bus, who didn’t get that advice, apparently, and it floated down stream – video is on my facebook site.   No I don’t know the final results, did they make it or not?  Trying to find out.

It is reported that the area has been declared uninhabitable.  It is unclear whether the area is closed to recovery operations.  We had a 5.6 -5.8 earthquake last night centered a couple miles south of the volcano’s center point and very deep.  I see no reports of damages but am sure this will increase local alarm for future eruptions.

Peggy and friends are coming the following week on the 28th.  She and the crew will be using their veterinarian skills in our local community treating dogs and cats for parasites and rabies injections.  Hopefully we will also get to Hospitalito Espiritu Santo to treat their animals. There are other things in the schedule as well.  They will help us feed a discipleship group we help with.  We are expecting a good week.

This is a brief update.  We had a good Lord’s Day of rest and are looking forward to what the LORD would have us do this coming week.  Deeply covet your prayers for this opportunity to minister here in Guatemala.

In Christ,  Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

Vulcan Fuego or Fire Volcano


There are so many sights, stories and works what do I leave out?

One of many small eruptions. The scar to the left is the major area of destruction and deaths.

Sunday 3 June we had finished our fellowship and ordered pizza when a 2 year old asked his mother, “Do I have to go to

bed?”  It was then we noticed how dark it had become.  No thunder or lightening.  We all went outside and started checking news on our cell phones.  Vulcan Fuego had erupted with a column of gases, super-heated ash were shot over 30,000 one report of 50,000 feet in the air, casting a 33 mile shadow.  When that column collapsed, pyroclastic flows shot down the side of the volcano following the valleys at 1300 F and flow rate of 400 mph.  No flesh in the direct path survives.  Two bomberos trained to use and the vehicle that held their climbing gear simply disappeared in one of these events.  They are still searching for them.  And they know exactly where they were when this blast picked them up vehicle and all.  The numbers — much conflict in how they are recorded and how accurate they are: over 100 confirmed dead, 190 missing, 5,000 displaced according to government officials.  Local school teachers report seems to defy those numbers as they report 10,000 students without class rooms now.  One teacher anecdotally reported they are looking for over 300 students.  Bomberos believe the number of people buried in the ash may be greater than 1,000.

Second load. Thanks DeRoyal, Oscar Garcia and Orphan Resources International

Vine International quickly moved all appropriate aid into the hands of the bomberos working at ground zero.  That included dressing material, tape, and burn dressings from a donation from DeRoyal in Knoxville TN.  We were blessed with a financial donation from Jacob Budow family and went to work being as specific in our response.  In Vine’s over 100 groups several responded immediately.  One doctor was turned away and has met continued resistance to his offers to help.  We have linked him to a ‘back door’, just this morning.  Another offer by Dr. Estrada and crew was accepted.   Still another from 4 hours away was there ahead of the government and they couldn’t make him leave.  Dr. Jose Amezquita is a force to be reckoned with.   He was one of three doctors actively treating patients, triaging and providing appropriate medical aid in the central square of Alotenango on the skirt of the volcano that first afternoon.  Bomberos/firefighters (volunteers mostly) came from all over the country.  One lady bombero (hired by her city) refusing to return to her paid job was fired.  The call went out, another city hired her immediately and told her to stay and work the volcano.  We purchased baby food, bottles, and diapers, medicines specific to the acute need, hard hats, work gloves, back packs, basic climbing gear and ropes.

Honduras helping out.

Other help came from Japan, Israel, I saw a team from Honduras arrive with Ice Cream (now that is impressive).  There was a climbing team of Mexican bomberos that raced to the site, from Chiapas before the government closed the border early in the week to aid.  I understand it is now open.  Cuba sent medical help.  Shriners Hospital in Texas received some of our burned children. (You Tube search words Shriners, Galveston, Guatemala and there are multiple videos).

We went last Saturday and delivered to the bomberos.  They asked us to take the baby food and other children’s things to a church just off the corner of Parque Central, Alotenango.  We were stopped at the door by the pastor who quickly called another pastor in San Miguel.  The first pastor would not take the donation.  Government had taken control of all that was given for local support and was using his space for storage… dispersal was inefficient shall we say.  Around the mountain we went and got it into hands that would get it to point of need.

Juan Bajxac and Antonio Castillo the two missing volunteer firemen

The climbing gear was received with emotion.  At last check yesterday the two missing bomberos have not been found.  Dr. Jose took some of the financial donation we gave him for his transportation and instead bought Kevlar gloves and asbestos reinforced protective sleeves.  Even one week after the original event the ash two feet down was burning the arms of the bomberos as they worked to retrieve bodies.  The bomberos estimate the ash depth in the ravines at 7 meters/21feet in places.  It will take weeks, possibly months for that mass to cool.

Vine is doing at least three things.  One is to keep our ear to the ground and respond by purchasing in Guatemala and answering specific medical needs in our partnering ministries.  Second is to replenish our bodega and continue to respond to urgent need/help partnering ministries to replenish their needs.  In that light we have a container due for loading within the next week.  And plan to send a second one by end of month.  In these we want to help some of the bombero crews with back boards, dressing supplies, ace wraps, orthopedic splints, IV supplies, stethoscopes, B/P cuffs,  E-tanks for oxygen therapy and transport, several people are sending nebulizers.  Exam and surgical gloves, we have dust masks but will be out of these in the next three/four weeks.  Will need surgical masks, suture material (3-0, 4-0 nylon, absorbable suture), betadine, tons of needs.  Samaritan’s Purse and MAP are working with us.  This paragraph alone could be book length.  Then the third thing is that we are planning to cache materials to be able to respond with immediacy at next event.  Guatemalans over 40 are pointing out that the last major Fuego eruption preceded by two years one of the worse earthquakes in the country’s history.  Over 20,000 people died in Guatemala City then.  We do medical relief in the name of Christ and we would like to be ready, whatever comes.

Vine International also put together buckets with cleaning supplies, broom and the towel thing is a Guatemalan mop, much better/cleaner than the USA rag mop.  These we sent through Orphan Resource International and they are being used in needy homes in the region under the ash cloud.  It took four days to deliver them as the area was closed to travel.

More to come.

Thank you for your support, In Christ, Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

Horace Alvin Marlowe


Horace Marlowe’s physical tent was taken down on June 3.  He is a friend.  He is a huge contributor to our being in Guatemala.  Horace and Bob Harris led short term building teams.  Brother Jessup who was older than dirt but MAN could he preach would go with us on occasions.  Horace’s teams built 70 churches, parsonages, clinics, Christian schools on at least three continents.  I would love to be in the church to listen to his families stories.  He is one of the quiet heroes our nation produces that has a positive effect on the world.  He was a marine in Chosen Reservoir.  Purple Heart and other medals for which he was too humble to mention.  But the thing he would brag about is Jesus.

While I can’t be there to participate in his eulogy, let me tell this story on my old friend.  I received a phone call from a physician’s assistant in the VA Hospital in Asheville.  “Dennis, I have this old vet that says he knows you”.  He tells me its Horace and explains that it is Horace’s opinion that I can take care of him should he have another cardiac even while on the next mission trip coming up in as I recall less than two weeks.  I told me friend I would be there at 4:30 pm and talk him out of going.  Horace has several cardiac events, multiple stints and was probably at one of the best VA hospitals for that disease.  So with every intention to do what all the medical staff believed the wisest and talk this wise man out of his decision I entered his room.  He was alone.  We chatted.  Then I ‘addressed the ball’.  Horace you have good teams, good leaders you should set this trip out.  Horace says, “I already told them I was going and that you could take care of anything that happened.”  My reply, “Horace this is your HEART and I have worked in orthopedics for 18 years.”  We gently argued until he finally asked what is the worst that could happen?  My blunt reply was, “You could die!”  Long pause, tilt of the head, eyeball to eyeball contact, heart to heart Horace discipled me in that moment.  “Think about that Dennis”.  Another pause.  “Serving Jesus, sharing the gospel, building a church in a foreign land and DIE.  What a blessing!” 

Death, what a blessing.  I so wish I had a recording of that conversation – it runs in my head on occasion.  It brings tears to my eyes in this moment.  I told him I couldn’t argue with that.  I will stick with you and I guess I can put plaster on your old heart if there is trouble – he laughed out loud.  I went.  No health problems.  Another church in Paraguay.  Thank you Horace for your discipleship on this and other occasions.

OK we can’t do one story only.  Horace is too big a man for that.  We were in Honduras and one of the young men was pontificating how make up was from Satan, on and on and on he spewed.  Horace and Bob were sitting across the room not participating in the conversation.  The kid was not being well received by those of the feminine persuasion.  He made the mistake of asking Horace to support his opinion.  Here is the Horace Marlowe quote, “If an old barn needs paint, paint it.”  A couple of the girls including my wife said in a female quartet of voices, “HORACE!”  But the kid shut up.  Horace didn’t say anything else.  It is an example of economy of words.  Point made.  Argument won.  Back to work.

Back to work, which is where we need to go.  Fuego Volcano erupted the day Horace died and we are in the midst of responding.  So wish I could be in two places at once.  I know my brother would say to continue the work, he is fine.

Salute Horace, fair winds and following seas a sailor would say.  Jesus’ words will be fairer still, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Don’t have time to proof read so forgive any errors.

In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon









Some sights in Guatemala


Just a brief note with a few photos.  We have been very busy cleaning the warehouse, receiving containers mostly designated materials in the last month or so.  May I suggest investing in Motrin as Cindy and I use it often during these times.  But we are done today.  Caught up.  Getting ready to go celebrate a baby soon to be born to some awesome young friends, Shane and Brooke.  Oscar Garcia and I are going to do a coin toss to see who they name him after.  (evil grin).

Let me share a few photos and thoughts.  This is eclectic flavor of Guatemala.

this is a poinsettia outside our front gate.  Some of you have seen photos of it before.  I am over six feet tall and I am taking this photo standing and looking up.  How many poinsettias have my family killed over the years before they get 2 feet tall.  They always bloom in the dry season before Christmas.  It is really pretty.






Please look close.  I deleted the video on this shot.  The van is a hired bus in rural Guatemala.  It is full with two young men holding onto the roof rack and half a foot clawing onto the floor board.  I had started filming because the driver was all over the road.  In this curve he was more than half way in the other lane.  I thought the two guys on the door were going to bale but then the driver moved into our lane.  The driver of the truck was concerned too.  You can see he has laid over to the ditch about as much as he can and he was on his brakes.

Unfortunately here this is almost a daily scene.  Usually I am driving and cannot take photos of such events.





One can make a functional pick up truck out of anything.  We scavenge plywood from crates and from the wheelchair containers.  In this case the very valuable sheets of plywood are going to this brother in the LORD.  He will make a room in a small “house” for his sisters to have some privacy.
We have made gallenero’s (chicken coop) for Cindy and for neighbor.  Outbuilding for a pastor and many other things over the years.  We try to waste as little as possible.




                     I smile at this one every time I see it.  The wheelbarrow portion apparently had rusted off sometime ago.  But then it became a plaything.  The girl’s smile was huge.  Reminds me of my childhood days on the farm in West Virginia.  Almost anything could be come a game.  Jumping out of the hayloft playing Super Man with the Fitzwaters was not the safest game.  It’s OK mom, we survived.


Hope you enjoy your today as much as these kids enjoyed theirs.

In Christ,

Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

Wheelchair fitting in the bodega


Many of you have seen the few photos posted by Cindy, Daryl Fulp, Dick Rutgers and myself about a wheelchair fitting done in our bodega/warehouse late last week.  There is so much to this story.  It takes more than a Facebook post to tell it.

Years ago, even  before Dennis and Doris Rice were officially part of Vine International, Woody befriended staff from Joni and Friends.  I am not sure the facts of those beginnings but I think for Vine, Woody met the Rices at one of those joint events.  Joni and Friends (J&F)are wonderful to work with.   After a few trips the staff of J&F started doing their own teams; worked with Bethel, Hope Haven, and Wheels of Hope… Vine went back to our calling and provided shipping services.

Back to the future – today.  J&F receives donated wheelchairs from all over the USA.  They refurbish these in prisons.  These chairs are sent worldwide.  J&F has blessed Guatemala for years.  We receive donated chairs to disburse throughout the over 100 medical ministries that Vine International serves.  So many stories – on one container the chairs were restored to such a high quality the customs agents accused us of acquiring new chairs with the intent of selling them (no one would give away chairs that looked so good, apparently).  It took several days to document the course of those chairs from beginning to end.  I can imagine the convicts smiling with pride when that story got back to them.  While on the ‘convict’ subject when this container was unloaded our team had two former convicts, now brothers in the Lord.

Domingo is 75 y/o grounds keeper for our complex of bodegas.  He helps us unload and knows our ministry.  When unpacking this wheelchair container Domingo asked about taking a chair for a 14 y/o girl, friends of his family, but he didn’t know what was wrong with her.  He demonstrated with his arms that she had contractures.  The short version of our wheelchair philosophy, ill fitting chairs in children can shorten lives by causing pressure necrosis, restricting breathing and blood flow.  When wheelchair containers arrive at the bodega, Cindy and I quickly separate pediatric chairs from the standard adult chairs.  We insist they seek professional advice for child fittings and adults with special needs.  Daryl Fulp AND family, Hope for Home Ministry , and Dick Rutgers get our pediatric chairs because they can fit kids very professionally.  They were coming Friday, I emailed and asked if they would see Domingo’s little friend.  This family was at our warehouse over an hour ahead of time.  Dick and Daryl came in the same vehicle.  ( I would pay for the recording of that conversation coming and going from our warehouse – these guys do better comedy than recent professionals in the news).  Cindy and I padded a cart to use as a bed.  Dick measured.  Everyone was looking for a chair for Maria Jose.  We pulled out about three and started loading the rest.  “This is a perfect chair for Maria”, Dick said.  And then the work began.  We kept one of the other two chairs because of specialty pads we spied.  The rest were loaded and that truck sent on its way.  Dick and Daryl worked for three hours maybe a little longer.  Jeremiah Fulp, Daryl’s son, stirred the pot some, salvaged the specialty pads and did some of the floor work.  Our friends David and Nacho, assisted, adjusting pads, go-fered for saw and contact cement.  We were getting close.  The DOLE container arrived and David and I got pulled away…

I had to stop ( it is unsafe to drive a forklift with tears in your eyes) when I saw Dick, Daryl, and Nacho holding the crying parents by the hand over their daughter and praying.   These are good parents.  Services available in USA are not available here.  This dad carries his daughter wherever they go.  They probably don’t go a lot of places because… well because of a lot of things.

Earlier my big strong tough friend, Nacho wasn’t to be found.  I spotted him against the far wall, back to us, head down.  Unusual.  I got to where I could pull away from Dick and Daryl and went over.  One could tell he was emotional.  I asked what’s going on?  He said “I can’t look at that!” (interpretation ”my heart is broken for that family”).  And then he said, “Brother, where is the church?”  Right arm around his neck, I got in his face and pointed the fingers of my left hand at his heart, “right here” I said and then pointed to Dick, Daryl, Jeremiah and the parents/Maria Jose and “there, Nacho”…  it is not large buildings, monoliths of man’s faith in man.  Church IS what is happening right now.  It is the Loving One Another going on over there.  I asked Nacho because he has the language skills, the compassion of Christ, the desire to obey Christ’s command – love God, love your neighbor, to go and serve that family.  He did and did so well.

Two chairs put together for one 14 y/o child… Mom forgive this run on sentence, but I want y’all to see the hundred little actions that brought a family in Guatemala a small miracle.  There were two families in the USA with children with special needs that outgrew their chairs, who donated them to J&F, someone or more than one, collected and got the chairs into one of the many facilities J&F uses, a team of prisoners, inspected, cleaned, polished, may have changed a tire, did some repairs, plastic wrapped, collated these two ‘perfect’ chairs into almost 200 other chairs, along with walkers, canes, crutches, a driver picked up an empty DOLE container may have had pineapples/papaya, bananas from Guatemala, took it through the gates of that prison, signed all the paper work, waited until loaded, sealed the container and drove to Gulf Port, Mississippi or Mobile Alabama, the container was lifted off the carrier and swung into place on a cargo ship, ships crew crossed the Gulf of Mexico, the smaller Gulf of Honduras, off loaded, another driver cued it in line for the customs officer to inspect, a random greenlight/redlight (more thorough inspection),  another driver with an armed security guard brings container to Villa Nueva, next day another driver with an armed security guard brings it to us, Domingo, David, (Cindy can’t help for another few weeks – she is so frustrated) Nacho, myself unload in about one hour, sort the chairs, Domingo dares to ask for help for a friend, Daryl and Dick have been called already, on Friday the above story happens, 8 – 9 man hours of labor, a mom and dad entrust their precious daughter to men they don’t know… The hugs and tears of a mother and a father, the smile of a 14 y/o cerebral palsy affected young lady now comfortable in a fitted chair.  How many hands, hearts, involved?  How much is that chair worth?  I can’t answer either question…I know what I saw in that dad’s face and I KNOW what deep passion I felt in his hug… I just KNOW it is right and righteous.  I know the folks involved on this end and know they will tell you if Jesus were not real, they would not be here loving one another… Thank You Jesus, Amen.


Prison ministry in Guatemala


I have been in a couple of prisons in Guatemala.  It is an experience, so different than the USA.  Due in part to prison ministry I became an ordained pastor at Calvary Chapel of Asheville, NC in order to be able to minister to a young man and his family.   The two families are very close for several years now.  Ordination allowed better opportunity to counsel and disciple.  For Cindy and I this was strong evidence of God’s hand on the rudder of our lives.

Recently I went to Pavon Prison with Ernesto and Philemon to visit family and to teach.   Philemon goes weekly to preach.  Ernesto is considering active discipling ministry for believers.  So here is the routine. No pocket knife.  For a West Virginia country boy that is a naked feeling.  No belts.  With recent weight loss this was a problem, causing mirth with my pastor friends.  We found a small plastic bag (see photo) and tied a couple of belt loops together.  No shoestrings – easier process than the belt issue. I would here note that the men we visited had belts and shoestrings, but who am I to complain.  No wedding band. There were multiple searches, front gate.  Stamps on forearm times three.  Then there are multiple divisions inside Pavon each with additional searches.  The high security section has an xray unit to scan all bags.  Bibles, Mike Wells books and food we took with us were all xrayed.  Passport scanned and kept until we left.  We walked close to a mile by the time we left the parking lot and got to the section we were going to.  I got a bit of a tour.  I would be very claustrophobic if I had to stay there.

Pavon Prison has a terrible history of violence.  You can look it up on the internet.  But I saw some interesting things.  There are multiple churches ministering most every day.  As we were walking to the end of the line of men, we heard Ernesto’s name called.  A man with a huge smile said  “Do you remember me?”  It took a moment.  Ernesto remembered, he had preached in a prison to this brother.  They had a time of reminiscence (their hair had changed significantly).  Then the brother said, I am an example of fruit coming late and now I am here doing what you did for me.  I am grateful for your faithfulness to share the Good News.  That gives a lift to a pastors heart!

The prisoners themselves/with the guards have further isolated the imprisoned gang members to reduce the violence.  This is hard to understand in the USA, but the discussion was whether to kill the gang members or to isolate them.  The leaders of the prisoners and the guards discussed it and the prisoners asked for isolation instead of murder.  I asked where did that desire come from?  Without delay one of the prison section leaders said, “The grace of God.”  We had a small group teaching.  Both Philemon and I had opportunity to share from the Word.  We ate prison ‘farm raised duck’ offered by one of the leaders – a great honor in this situation.  Awesome meal, a blessing from our Father, duck, rice, and a dish of pickled vegetables ( cabbage, onions, carrots, JALEPENOS) table, chairs under the shade of a tree, while watching the inner workings of prison life.

We discussed doing intentional discipleship for some of the brothers.  There is an expressed desire to dig deeper in the Scripture, to bore into the transformed obedient life.  Briefly we are looking at making a frame with open sides and laminate overhead to protect us from the soon coming rains.  Between teaching times the space might be used to dry clothes, build hammocks out of the rain.  It will take approval from multiple levels of prison bureaucracy.  Also finances for the frame and laminate, details to be worked out by Pastor Ernesto and his team.  We see this as an opportunity to obey our Redeemer’s command to care for the hungry, naked and prisoner.  As part of the ongoing ministry Ernesto will collect clothes and food to take with us.  If the LORD lays it on your heart to give to this project please contact me.  It won’t take much for the building materials.  I suspect the labor will be ‘free’ in a manner of speaking.

Vine International will stay in touch and give a couple of wheelchairs, and provide some medicine and dressing materials over time.

Oh yes reverse the process for exiting… it took almost an hour to leave.  They were x-raying frozen chicken for supper, so we waited.

Meantime I need new pants.

Cindy is doing well.  She likes her surgeon.  Our dear friend Andrea helped on last doctor’s visit with translation so Cindy was certain about a few details.  Andrea injected into the translation that Cindy was to be off coffee for two weeks…. I heard the laughter in the waiting room.  They got Cindy good on that one.  High five Andrea!  We are so grateful for the many that have supported us financially and with prayer and kind notes.  May God return every blessing many fold.

In Christ,

Cindy and Dennis