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     Wow, Balcones 1 and 2 de Palin Escuintla, so many memories. 

     Hurricane mitch was the first disaster that I remember. The hurricane hit Guatemala October 1998, although it weakened when it hit Honduras, It caused rain for nine long days here in Guatemala. Small earthquakes, loose soil made the perfect storm and caused landslides and flooding throughout the region. Entire homes washed away in middle of the night. People awakened to scream, "get out", "get out" for some it was too late for others they left with the clothes on their back. No FEMA, without insurance, or help of any kind they were constantly moved from building to building. Sleeping on cardboard on cold cement floors without hope of any kind. 

     Our good friends Greg and Anita Giagnocavo had purchased a small bus that they turned into a mini medical mobile assist center. They befriended a couple, honest, hardworking, spokesperson for the small community of displaced people, and funneled their effort through them, their names are Daniel and Doña Amparo. This couple was no stranger to hardship and pain before the hurricane. To date 4 of their 5 children were lost to violent deaths, but they were strong in the community. 


     People were given a pole and tin and dumped out on the side of the hill and told to make a new life. It was like a scene from Grapes of wrath, where people piled out of pickups loaded with everything they had, lumber on the bottom, kids, dogs, towels with their belonging, furniture in such sad shape, plastic totes that contained their kitchen, dropped off on the side of a hill without electric, sewer, or water. The closest water was a trickle from an artesian well on the side of a hill one mile in the forest. Many deaths the first year, we helped bury children that died of starvation, some died from fires from candles that swept through their wooden shacks like kindling. Soon skin diseases, infections were killing people at alarming rates, Kidney failure and dehydration. Fights, gangs, black market swallowing up what little help that arrived, drugs, and prostitution. 

     There was no line forming to help these people, the task was too great. People only arrived to take pictures, play with the children while another took fotos to plea for donations from open hearts back home, then they returned to their nice houses in the city and never returned. We saw film crews from the United nations, and news channels arrive, but help never came to over these seven thousand people and growing. When help could not be found we learned to rely on the Lord. Daily visits, taking water in a large cistern in the back of our pickup. People would pour out of their tin houses with pots and pans to get water as our truck drove over rocks and boulders, and trough the open sewers. We promised the people the Lord would give them water and a school, but we didn't have hardly a dime to help. 

     I remember the culture shock was almost too great to handle, one early morning I was in Balcones the evening standing in a huge church where the pastor was boasting of its cost being over seven million dollars. Later that trip, a cold winters night I was talking at my parents cabin at their home in Kansas. Some how the conversation turned to where we grew up, the hills of southern Indiana. I looked at my mother and said, Mom, I think we should go there, in an incredible moment we all had a peace that we should drive the 11 hours to get there to speak at the church. Arraignments were made and we were off. We encountered ice and blinding snow along the way, spent the night at a hotel but arrived the next day. There were just a few people in the service, and I have to admit I questioned what in the world the Lord was doing, but an offering was taken. Over $15,000.00 dollars was take up that trip which allowed us to purchase the dome classrooms for our school. Teams came from all across the U.S. and so many friendships remain to this day. Ukiah California, Sapulpa Oklahoma, Bedford Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Kansas, Colorada, and My cousin Gordon from Texas, I've included his story here, how the Lord brought us together. 

     More and more children were suffering for lack of water, many deaths of young and old could of been avoided, when it was unbearable the community blocked the highway with burning tires, machetes, and signs to demand change. Meetings with mayors and persons in charge only brought promises, but no water. How much is a well, how deep is the water table. It was a real learning curve, but the cost would be close to $100,000.00 and the water table was 700 feet. Pipes, pumps, Generators, technicians.....and we were some of the poorest missionaries there. Greg instructed me how to do a newsletter, colors to use, font, and printers to use. Before I even sent it in the mail someone called and asked if I had a project that could use $10,000.00 the felt that they should make a donation, another person called. Before the first letter was sent we already had over $25,000.00 for the project. Friends in California that the Lord really used for this well project were Greg and Lisa Lebovitz. He called me and said, "Jon, continue with your fundraising, but whatever you need after it is finished I will cover". Wow, what confidence this gave me to push on. One, I knew the Lord had provided by placing his faithful children in this project, and two I was hoping that Greg would not have to pitch in any funds for this project. When it was completed we were short $3000.00 ( I think I remember correctly this amount....it was not much). The well was drilled and produced over 200 gallons per minute. Just as the project came to a close was when Balcones was without water for over 14 days. We rigged pipe over roads, fields to their water take and filled their tank in 3 hours. Just as it was almost to the top everyone ran to their houses, I yelled, "where are you going", "to our homes to take showers", they said. 

     We saw many miracles and we also saw many hardships. Although we like to see the miracles the hardest part of a persons life is always five minutes before the miracle. I remember I received news that the presidents wife was in Balcones giving desks and money for a new school, the pastor asked if I could come down, but this was the same day that my wife lay in a bed in San Lucas breathing her last from a 15 year battle with cancer. Later after the school was built and the water project completed. The funds for Balcones stopped. The project was sold at a fraction of the investment to another missionary who also with great struggle continued. It continues to this day as a school, The pump had to be replaced, but is providing water. The Generator was destroyed from children robbing parts from it, and has been replaced by an electric station. There were many struggles along the way, but we decided that the price was worth the investment in the lives. The effort gave hope to so many. Gordon Kane and so many others were instrumental in opening up this harsh ground so many people could be saved and rescued. We built over 22 new simple tin homes, gave out many 55 gallon barrels of food, medical clinics, dental clinics, pre-natal care, buried many people by hand. During this journey Daniel and Doña Amparo lost all their children to sickness or assassinations. Fearing for their lives money was raised and they were purchased a property in another town where they serve as pastor and pastors wife. I could not begin to make a list of churches, groups and friends that helped this project. Please continue to life up the ministry that is currently there. It is owned and operated by Mike Parker, his ministry is Club House Guatemala
Daniel
Doña Ampara
Public School for over 70 students
Their water system