Wednesday, December 4, 2013

eMi Team to Cubulco

The last few posts have been on the how a hospital "Senorita Elena" came out of Bible translation work. Initially, Helen Neuenswander and Mary Shaw were seeing and treating patients out of their home using their own medicine. This turned into a vision of providing the people of Cubulco (especially the indigenous) with more affordable and accessible health care. This vision led them to initially build and start a clinic and eventually a 25 bed hospital with surgical rooms, laboratory, nutrition center, etc, evolved out of this vision. Although Helen has passed away, Mary Shaw left Cubulco over 20 years ago, and AMG took over in 1990, the vision for the hospital continues to grow. Times have changed since the 90's and because of that we are looking at changes in the hospital and expanding the services offered in order to make it more self sustaining. However, before making these changes a number of things need to happen first.
One of the things that needed to happen was for someone to come and look at our current hospital and make an assessment of it. What is it like structurally, how can the space be optimized better, etc. In October, God provided not only one person but a team of professionals who donated their time and resources to come to Cubulco from all over the world and do the assessment. This team of engineers, surveyors, and architects came to us from Engineering Ministries International (eMi*). This ministry helps Christian organizations and churches all over the world by designing building projects and infrastructure for them. Their dedication and work is a huge blessing to Christian organizations and churches as the cost for hosting them is minimal and their work invaluable. If one would have to pay an engineering firm to do the same work eMi does, one would be out a lot of money. 
Lunch with pastors and community leaders.
The eMi team spent close to a week in Cubulco and worked from early morning till late at night. The team of eight men consisted of 5 Americans, 1 Korean from Brazil, 1 Guatemalan, and 1 Australian. Although they did not know each other before the trip, it was amazing to see how well they worked together and gelled. Even the engineers and the architects got along!...... albeit with some jabbing and trash talking! It was neat to be a part of the experience and share with them the history of the hospital which Mary Shaw had sent me only weeks prior to the visit, and our vision for the hospital and the community of Cubulco. It is amazing how God works and orchestrates everything!
At the end of the week, we had a meeting with officials from Cubulco, local pastors and leaders, and eMi presented us all with a visual rendering of what the hospital could possibly look like in the near future. There was an audible "ooh" of wonder when people saw the 3D rendering. It was impressive! EMi hopes to send a second team in February of 2014 to proceed with phase 2 of the planning. Please pray for this ministry and their support of other ministries.     

*(In the Jonkman's recent Newsletter (Winter 2013 edition) they mention eMi as well, as they also had a team from this ministry visit them this past September).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meet Mary Shaw!

Mary Shaw was kind enough to send me this write up that she used at a recent women's retreat. She said that after reading it, that she hoped we could still be friends. My response was that I am honored to be her friend. I think her testimony shows how God uses ordinary people with their flaws and weaknesses to do extraordinary things in order that we will be amazed by Him. Time to meet Mary Shaw!

A recent photo of Mary Shaw


                           “You want to be a success?  Know what you want to accomplish!”
                                           “Keep your eye on it! Don’t get off track!” 
                                       (That’s what they tell us; but nobody told me!) 

            I was born and ‘growed’ in Pittsburg, Kansas… did my ‘growing up’ during the Depression Years… went through elementary school… high school… had no great expectations, just supposed I’d work awhile… get married… raise a family.  No romantic ideas about it.   Life was all right, and I was happy just ambling along.  Pittsburg, Kansas, suited me just fine, and I expected to spend the rest of my life right there.
            I went to church from the time I was born.  I loved church… the singing… the nice people… the love… the social life….  It was comfortable, and I was happy just to be a part of it.  When I was about nineteen, we had a special speaker: Dr. Vincent Bennett, a Bible teacher from John Brown University.  He was a little Englishman with a delightful personality and a British accent that was fun to listen to---so I paid attention.   By the time he finished, I was thinking seriously about what Jesus had done.  God loved me… I knew that.  But He wanted to be a vital part of my life….  That night, I asked Him to make me the person that He wanted me to be.
            Dr. Bennett suggested that I ‘come to John Brown University.’  What?!  Out of the question!  I was working!  I had to work!   I had an important war-time job… sputter, sputter.  None of my siblings had gone to college… and… and… and on and on….   The real reason was that I was afraid to go to college.   I hadn’t taken college preparatory courses… didn’t think I was smart enough.  Besides, I was afraid to leave Pittsburg, Kansas. 
So, Dr. Bennett left town, and I continued helping Montgomery Ward customers apply for war-time-rationed plumbing and heating appliances.  That went on for two or three years, but every time Dr. Bennett came through town he’d call and urge me to reconsider.  In late July of 1944, he called and said: “Great news, Mary!  Mr. and Mrs. Huff said they’ll pay your way for a year if you’ll go to JBU!”  I groaned and muttered to myself, “Why don’t people let me alone!”  I didn’t want to go, but how could I refuse?   I struggled for weeks: yes – no-- yes – no – yes – no – well... okay. 
Huffs were to drive me to JBU on Sunday, one day before registration for the ’44 fall semester.  The Saturday night before, I couldn’t sleep.  My bags were mostly packed, but I was miserable… I felt I was being shoved around against my will.   The next morning, I went to church, faced the Huffs, and told them I was not going to go.  I took my place in the choir, at peace with myself and the world.  Just before the sermon, the selected hymn was “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord; I’ll be what you want me to be.”  Ouch!  I slipped out the side door of the choir loft, went home, finished packing and got back to church as the service was closing.  I stood in the back of the church, tears in my eyes, and told the Huffs I’d go.  I had my last Sunday dinner at home, and they drove me to Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
 John Brown University was a little bitty Christian college… just right for me!  Everyone was gracious, and I felt right at home.  Because it was war time, enrollment was low, especially among male students, but I scarcely noticed.  To keep expenses down, all students had to contribute three or four hours a day in a service assignment… what would mine be?  Good friend Dr. Bennett went to bat for me, and they assigned me to KUOA, the 5,000 watt commercial radio station on campus.  I loved it.  I also loved the Bible courses and the Christian atmosphere…  they were just what I needed to grow spiritually.  I went for a year—and stayed four.  Because I had worked for six years after high school, I knew how to work and how to study.  That helped me win scholarships for the next year… and the next, and the next.  During the summers, I was hired by the radio station, earning cash toward my following year’s expenses.
By May of 1948, I had earned a bachelor’s degree in English, a natural follow-up from my high school major, English.  I still had a little debt, but the Lord fixed that for me—the school needed an interim registrar for part of the summer, and I was named to fill the slot.  Fun!  After the new registrar arrived, there was a void in the English department and…guess what?  the head of the department said, “Put Miss Shaw in… she can do it.”  So I taught Freshman English that year.   I loved that too.  It went well enough that they told me I could have the job permanently if I wanted, but would have to get something more than a Bachelor’s degree.
Years before, I had been afraid to go to college in my own home town.  Now, since I was ‘experienced,’ I marched right up and enrolled in State Teachers’ College---in Pittsburg, Kansas!  I enrolled in the Language and Literature Department, and by May of 1951, I had earned a master’s degree: “I’m an English teacher!”
Just then, I got a letter from a former JBU friend who was in Peru with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  She was having a great time in Peru and said, “Mary, you ought to take that course at the University of Oklahoma, the ‘Summer Institute of Linguistics.’  It’s run by Wycliffe Bible Translators, but you don’t have to be a missionary!”  Why such a remark?  She knew I had always avoided any possible urge to be a missionary….   However, ‘Descriptive Linguistics’ was a standard graduate course offered by the university, and in my career as an English teacher, that credit would look good on my resume.  I had the money, and the time… “I might as well go!”  I didn’t notice at the time, but I was being shoved around!
At the Summer Institute of Linguistics, we ate, slept, and breathed linguistics---for eleven weeks.  For me, it was hard work.  I just wasn’t made for all that theoretical stuff!  But I liked those Wycliffe people, and their goals.  It made sense to provide the Bible for people who always had to rely on somebody else to tell them what it said.  Oral transmission of God’s Word was often warped, or intentionally biased.  Not fair.  They should be able to read it for themselves.  At the end of the summer, some of those people I admired were saying, “Mary, I wish you’d join Wycliffe!”  Me?  I’m not spiritual enough.  Not smart enough.  Not brave enough.  I’d have to submit a statement of faith… they’d never accept me… but I probably should apply….  I did apply, halfway hoping I’d be refused.  I wasn’t... I was in!
I spent another full summer in linguistics, and learning the principles of Bible translation.  After that, it was time for jungle training camp.  What?!  I’d never been an outdoors person… never even gone camping.  But I was supposed to learn how to live in an environment I’d never known before… how to meet problems I didn’t expect… how to survive if I should ever be lost in a jungle!  The training camp was in the southernmost tip of Mexico, a good place to learn skills I had never cared to pursue.  I loved it.  We had a wonderful Wycliffe staff who knew how hard to push us, and when to pamper us.  After twelve weeks they (and we) knew whether we should forget about being Bible translators.  Surprise…they didn’t tell me to ‘forget it.’
The Lord provided me with a great buddy through all my Wycliffe training (if He hadn’t, I doubt that I’d have made it).  Helen Neuenswander was a registered nurse, another Kansan, and also a graduate of JBU.  We almost automatically formed a team, and in July, 1953, we were sent to the Achí (ah-CHEE) people, Mayan descendants in Guatemala.  We moved into Cubulco, a little rural town that was ‘half Indian and half Ladino’ (about half of the inhabitants  spoke Achí; the other half were ‘Latinized’ and spoke Spanish).  But the mountains around town were full of Achí speakers.   What was that line in The Wizard of Oz? … “We’re not in Kansas anymore!”  
Our aim was to live among the Indian people, but the only place was in a Ladino house on Main Street.  We moved into two rooms, and found an Achí girl to come and help us learn the language.  Though Helen was a nurse, we kept that a secret--- we were there to translate, not medicate!  Surprise our landlady ‘forgot’ to keep it a secret….  That became clear when one ‘visitor’ after another came “to see the nurse.”  Those visits soon were taking all our time… not the way it was supposed to be.  (Shoved around again!)   But it wasn’t all bad.  We made friends and learned two languages.  Our Spanish was muy poquito… and our Achí was starting from scratch… (or itch, or colds, or tummy aches…  you learn a lot of anatomical terms when all your visitors are sick.)  For instance: we learned that in Achí, you can’t say ‘head’… or ‘hand’, or ‘foot’… it has to be ‘my head’, ‘your head’, ‘his head’…. body parts have to belong to someone! So do many personal items… clothing, homes, relatives.  ‘Husband’ is literally ‘my man,’ ‘wife’ is ‘my woman’… so if anyone gets married, he must be ‘possessed’!  (Joke!)   But, weren’t we thrilled when we found out that same rule-of-possession applied to ‘Lord’… one has to say ‘my Lord / your Lord / our Lord’….   Beautiful!
            We found other ‘treasures’ in the Achí language… ‘my heart hurts for you’ is the way to say ‘I love you’… ‘I lost it out of my heart’ means ‘I forgive you’   ‘my heart sits down in you’
This picture was taken around 1957. Mary Shaw is playing a recording of a Christian message in Cubulco Achi and the women are amazed to hear a machine speaking their language. While many things have changed in Cubulco the people look pretty much the same as their dress has not changed much.
is the way to say ‘I have confidence in you; I believe in you.’   God gave us that one when one of Helen’s patients told her: “I don’t understand, but I’ll take the medicine the way you say, because my heart sits down in you.”   With those treasures, here is the way John 3:16 comes out: God’s heart hurt so much for the people on earth that he sent his son this way, so that anyone who sets his heart down in him would not be destroyed, but would have a life that never ends.”  I didn’t really like ‘linguistics’… but I loved translation… what a joy to work full time with Achí speakers putting God’s Word into their language!    
            Thirty years later, we published the New Testament.  We had a big celebration in the city hall, with participation by state and city officials, the Catholic priest, and pastors of the two
Protestant churches.  When it was over, Helen said, “Now we can build that hospital.”   What hospital?!  The one she’d had on her heart for years… one to serve the local people in Cubulco…
one in which the Achí language would be spoken and understood.  “Helen, that’s crazy… we don’t have the funds… we don’t have the personnel… we’d never get legal permission … and., and…” I don’t think she heard me… and besides, she had God on her side.   
            They say, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’!  In November, 1984, we began to build.  The work went on sporadically (as we had help) through ’85, ’86, ‘87, ’88, ’89.  Helen was fighting Hodgkin’s disease, a losing battle, and she died January 9, 1990.   The hospital wasn’t quite finished, and I thought, “Lord, it’s not fair!  I didn’t want this hospital in the first place!”  But I didn’t say it.  If I had, He’d have said, “Mary, there’s no way I’m going to let you try to run this hospital!”  He already had someone waiting in the wings.   Helen had previously talked to Bob McRae, the Guatemala director of “Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel.”  Director McRae and his staff stepped in, finished the hospital, and put it in operation.  It was beautiful!  And I was as proud as if I had thought of it myself.  Today, it’s still a lighthouse in Cubulco, as the “Centro Medico Christiano, La Señorita Elena” --- Helen’s vision, and God’s fulfillment.   
Yes, I’ve been shoved around, but isn’t that what I asked for when I was nineteen?   The Achí have the New Testament in their language, churches are flourishing, and the Old Testament (by native translators) is almost ready to publish.   It’s been a satisfying life. But, what would it have amounted to, if the Lord hadn’t shoved me around?!                   
                                                                                       (Mary Shaw, September 15, 2013)

Meet Helen Neuenswander!

My previous posts have been on the history of the translation work and hospital in Cubulco which was started by two ordinary women: Helen Neuenswander and Mary Shaw. Below you can read a little bit more about these ordinary women who were called to fulfill an extraordinary task in Cubulco. Enjoy the read!
Helen Heuenswander (left) and Mary Shaw (right). Picture taken in 1998 during the construction of the hospital. Helen's cancer had returned and was going to start chemotherapy again so this picture was taken before she lost her hair.

Helen Neuenswander:
Helen was the daughter of a Methodist minister (later:'Evangelical Methodist').
Born in Willis, Kansas.... Nov. 30, 1926      (Farming community)
Fifth child, (3 girls, then Paul, then Helen)  11 children in all.
Standard schooling through High School, then entered 'Cadet Nurses' training.
Nearly through that training when War ended, but finished and became a professional registered nurse.
Worked professionally in Bethany Hospital, Kansas City, KS until 1949 when she enrolled in (interdenominational) John Brown University so she could TEACH nursing arts.  Earned Bachelor's degree.      Felt called to mission service.
Summers of 1951 & 1952 studied at  Summer Institute of Linguistics at University of Oklahoma.  Became member of Wycliffe Bible Translators (1952)
Assigned to Guatemala...   arrived there in July 1953.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Part 3: From Bible Translation to Hospital

     In New Jersey, we lived for a month with Helen's sister Jean and her husband, Dr. Paul Bubna (senior pastor of Long Hill Chapel, a Christian Missionary Alliance church in Chatham, NJ).  They had arranged for two top-notch doctors in their church to check on Helen: an internist and an oncologist.  She was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkins disease that needed months of aggressive treatment... but what about the hospital a-building in Cubulco?  Two stalwart Associates stayed in our home there and did multitudinous jobs (like hanging and finishing dozens of doors in the patient units of the "little Indian hospital" Helen had first talked about!)  Meanwhile, Helen and I basked in the luxury of a lovely apartment provided by two dear members of Long Hill Chapel.
     In late September, Helen's cancer was pronounced in remission, and we drove back to Guatemala in the new Jeep Cherokee Helen's brother Dan had located for us.  We arrived safely back in Guatemala City exactly a year after we had left.  The joyous welcome we received there was repeated with 'trimmings' in Cubulco: the added touch of an early morning Latino-style serenade!  Furthermore, five more Associates were on site, preparing a water system for the hospital... deep well, pump, tower---the works.  Our absence had not stalled God's project!
     The New Jersey doctors insisted that Helen have regular blood tests, and we found an excellent oncologist in Guatemala City.  He took her case and advised her not to 'overdo.'  In January, 1988, we interviewed a Guatemala City Christian doctor about taking over the new hospital.  He said he'd like to see it, but would go only if we drove him to Cubulco and back in one day.  So we did!  His decision was that the hospital was nice, but the town was too remote and the roads too bad for him to consider the opportunity.  Two days later, Helen came down with a bad case of shingles, "not unusual after chemotherapy"... and stress...and exertion.
     That began days of seeing her writhe in 'shingles pain,' so the oncologist found us a pain specialist.  Unfortunately, injections for pain not only failed to help, they also caused a staph infection.  On March 1, she went into intensive care with meningitis.  CAT scans showed an abscess around one vertebra, so a surgeon went in and cleaned it out; in the process, two small emboli formed and paralyzed her left side.  After six weeks of treatment. she improved enough to come home, and began serious unrelenting physiotherapy---the Neuenswander biennial family reunion was coming up in two months (June 23, 1989) and she was determined to be there.  We did it.  We flew to Kansas and back in less than a week, but it was an exhilarating celebration for Helen!  Six weeks later, she was hospitalized with pneumonia, and a biopsy showed that cancer had metastasized to her lungs.  She opted for no more chemotherapy and we settled down to a 'normal' life in Guatemala City, surrounded by our loving Wycliffe family.
     All the time, she was praying for the Lord's direction for the future of the hospital.  We were well acquainted  with Bob and Wanda McRae, director and 'right arm' of AMG, a vigorous Christian relief mission in Central America.  We were impressed with their goals, their drive, and their compassion... but they were already loaded with projects all over the area.  Even so, Helen had the temerity to ask Bob if he wouldn't be willing to take over the hospital, finish it up, and put it in operation!  I'm sure his first reaction was "No way!"  But he did not say that.  He said he would pray about it.  I don't know exactly what went on in heaven, but eternal forces were at work, and before long, the McRaes said they would take it on.     Helen was at peace during the final weeks of 1989, confident that her vision for Cubulco was being fulfilled.  AMG officially took over the hospital on January 1, 1990; Helen went to be with the Lord on January 9.     The hospital still was far from ready to function.  AMG had taken on a big task, but they had strong, God-sent support from "Word and Deed," a Christian relief organization in The Netherlands.  With funds now available, Wanda McRae went to Michigan to 'shop' at the International Aid warehouse in Grand Rapids.  After she finished. they shipped down four forty-foot containers of medical equipment!  Bob McRae was a hard-nosed administrator who made sure that all paper work and any not-quite-finished corners were properly taken care of.  In late March, we held the dedication and grand opening of the sparkling new "Centro Medico Christiano, La Señorita Elena."  As to that name, it was the McRaes' choice, with my heart-felt approval... the whole medical ministry had come into being out of Helen's heart and life.  She was forever the beloved "Señorita Elena" of Cubulco.     Even as the formal opening was taking place, Engineer Bob was planning and constructing other buildings needed for administration, supplies, and guest accommodation.  Visiting teams would be coming great distances to offer medical and spiritual help; and they would need to be fed and housed.  Since we had found no full time Christian doctor willing to live in such a remote region, AMG set up a system being used in other parts of the country.  The plan would have four Guatemalan doctors rotating turns of 'three weeks on and one week off,' so there would always be three doctors on site.  'Right-Arm Wanda' had the job of interviewing and hiring doctors, mostly by running ads in Guatemala newspapers.  Sadly, there was frequent turnover of doctors as they would find easier positions somewhere else.  (In 1989, I had felt sure I could find an American doctor who would feel "called to be a medical missionary in Guatemala."  I failed.  Times had changed.  It wasn't like the early 50's when Helen and I were called.)
                                                            *     *     *     *
    Nico, there is much more to say about all the hard work and God-work it took to make the hospital a reality.  You only asked me about the origin... where does 'origin' stop?....John and Connie Otten and Gary and Martha DeSterke had come earlier from the Free Reformed Church of Canada to help in the Cubulco ministry (Ottens in the hospital, and DeSterkes in Bible translation).  There was even a time when both couples lived in our unoccupied house along with an older couple from North Dakota who were there to build cabinets for the hospital.  Ask John about it!    Transportation by land for those 'rotating doctors' was daunting and wearying, so Pilot Bob negotiated for a piece of land where an airstrip could be built.  As a result, a six-hour commute  was reduced to twenty minutes.  Later, John Otten also became a pilot and did much of the ferrying. The land purchased for the airstrip was large enough to also accommodate a teaching farm, a practical project to go hand-in-hand with the nutrition program that uses our former clinic.
    Nico, my account has grown long, but it should give the background you requested for your upcoming twenty-fifth anniversary celebration.  To me, it's all a miracle---a blessing God wanted for the Aj Kubul Winaq, (the Cubulco People).  May He give it long life and usefulness!
Sincerely, Mary Shaw, 
Austin, Texas, September 21, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Part 2: From Bible Translation to Hospital

     Prior to 1984, political unrest made it inadvisable for us to try to build a hospital.  The six-year 'civil war' resulted in much death and destruction, and even our full-time presence in Cubulco was not safe.  We used our 'time in exile' to complete the translation of the New Testament, and to check it thoroughly with native speakers who came to Guatemala City.  Back in Cubulco, a young local man had just completed his medical degree, and we hired Dr. Coronado Alvarado to work in the clinic in our absence!  
      In May, 1984, 'all Cubulco' helped us celebrate our newly printed New Testament.  By that time, civic violence had settled down somewhat, and Helen started 'talking hospital.'   Soon, that talking became action, and enthusiastic townspeople overwhelmed us with all kinds of cooperation.  They eventually provided us with over 800 man-days of labor, and more than $2,000 in cash, supplies, trucking, and even 'ox-carting.'  The new mayor and his assistant were probably our most ardent supporters, and persuaded National Public  Works to grant us 2,000 bags of cement at half price!  The community was behind us all the way.
      Another big boost came from our Union Church friend, Mr. Bernard Rorem, an engineer who had been in business in Guatemala for forty years,  His age, eighty-six, did not hinder his coming and giving us his services as designer and overseer of construction of the main building.  He further provided, at cost, his unique construction block that was in high demand for earthquake- resistant buildings throughout the country.
     Just as we finished laying the foundation, twenty-three pairs of willing hands arrived from Kansas to help us. They were a dedicated construction crew with the slogan "Reach Out for Christ"; they spent Christmas week laying block, sewer lines, electrical conduit, and water pipes.  The ladies of the crew not only did the cooking, but helped align the 'interlacing' of that unique block, and carried soil to fill the building up to floor level.  A sweet Christmas present!
     When the walls reached roof height, we needed to pour a seamless roof to ensure a sterile environment below.  Equipment for pouring concrete was unavailable at that time and place, and we had only manual laborers.  That meant they would have to lay hundreds of feet of roof a little bit at a time... and that would leak like a sieve!  About that time, our activity caught the interest of a big-hearted business man, Sr. Arturo Matheu, who owned a barite mine nearby.  He came and offered to send his mine crew over to work with our men overnight.  Wow!  With a double crew, they could mix, carry, and spread cement non-stop, until the whole roof was done.  'Overnight' it had to be, since the tropical sun would make some sections of the new roof dry too fast. 
     At sundown, the blended crews were ready to begin.  Four or five men mixed cement in a clearing on the ground; runners carried buckets of the mix and handed them up to men standing on a make-shift scaffold; these handed them to the next two, a few feet higher.  Finally, two standing on the roof received them and ran the buckets to the men spreading the sections.  Enough workers were on hand to spell one another, so no one collapsed.  By eight o'clock the next morning the entire roof was spread and covered with wet sacks to slow the 'curing' process.  Whew!
     Generous Sr. Matheu also furnished us with tile floors, louvered aluminum windows, termite-proof cedar doors, and tile walls for key rooms.  Many other friends contributed toward electric lights, sink cabinets, files, examining tables... and that was just the main building; besides that, Helen's vision included four separate units in which patients and their families could stay.  An interview with the Project Director for Wycliffe Associates resulted in plans for a construction team to come to Guatemala in the summer of 1986... but we needed to have "about $50,000 on hand" to buy supplies before they arrived.  The Lord provided that too, through many, many loving Christians... too many to count, and too dear to forget.      The summer of 1986 is a blurry memory of consecutive groups of volunteers (ninety-six souls) who came and worked for periods of about ten days.  (We gladly made frequent trips to the Guatemala City airport, sending off one group and picking up another.)  Blessedly, Wycliffe Associates provided some steady staff people: a cook, a coordinator, and master builders, all professionals who were summer-long servants of the Lord.     Their vital provision HAD to be of the Lord.  Helen was quietly battling undiagnosed Hodgkins disease, suffering from fevers, aches, and weariness, but she absolutely would not allow her illness to hinder the realization of her dream..  The time was right; the funds and the hands were available---NOW was the hour.  She barely made it through the summer, and in October, a dear friend drove us to New Jersey for diagnosis and treatment.  Thanks to a succession of miracles, before we left Cubulco, four separate units for patients and their families were standing alongside the main building.  Physically ill Helen had a happy heart.

Written by Mary Shaw, September 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Part 1: From Bible Translation to Hospital

     Helen Neuenswander and I went to Guatemala in July of 1953 to begin analysis of the Cubulco Achí language.  We had completed two summers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma, and completed the Wycliffe Jungle Training Camp in Chiapas, Mexico.  Wycliffe Bible Translators had begun work in Guatemala just the year before, and the Nazarene Mission in that section of the country asked Wycliffe if they could send someone to Cubulco to reach the Indians there.                     
      I had been an English teacher, and Helen was a registered nurse, but she did not plan to do medical work when we went.  Helen loved analytical linguistics, and her goal (as well as mine) was the eventual translation of the Scriptures into the local Mayan language. 
     We rented a room on Main Street, and began our analytical study.  Unfortunately, our landlady could not keep quiet about Helen's being a nurse, and hopeful patients were soon knocking on our door.   We couldn't refuse to help.  There was no doctor in town, no clinic... no medical help except for a small pharmacy.  We shared with patients from the few medications we'd brought for our own use, then began making trips to Guatemala City to buy more supplies.  We had no vehicle.  Those trips were made in a vintage semi-weekly bus, usually taking ten to twelve hours for the eighty-five miles... and the stops along the way.
      At first, Helen confined her medical services to four hours a day so she could have time for linguistic study, but the patient load steadily increased, and her study time shrank in proportion.
We had to rent an adjoining room to accommodate our visitors, and 'Linguist Helen' was soon spending most of her time treating patients.  In 1957 we began building our own house ... away from Main Street, opposite a nice quiet cow pasture!  By that time, Helen was training local girls as assistants, so we set up three small rooms of the new house for clinic use.
     During the 1960's, we were assigned to teach linguistics on alternating years at the University of North Dakota, so our Cubulco ministry was routinely interrupted.  In the 1970's, we requested release from that assignment, and built a new clinic just down the street from our house.  The new clinic boasted a large waiting room, two examining rooms, a simple laboratory, a maternity unit, and an x-ray!  Our source of electricity was a generator donated by The Union Church of Guatemala City, and the x-ray machine was a refurbished unit donated and delivered to us by members of Wycliffe Associates in the States.  Other volunteers from Wycliffe Associates came to do much of the labor, and many U.S. Christian friends provided funds for the building.
     When "the big earthquake" hit us in 1976, local officials asked Helen to serve on the Cubulco Reconstruction Committee, and the Lord enabled us to get good financial help from the U.S. and England.  Four years later, when the reconstruction project was complete, the project manager moved to buy some land adjacent to the clinic, so we could build the hospital Helen had long dreamed of. 
    "Cubulco people need more than just an out-patient clinic," she declared. 
    "Achí patients who need hospitalization have to decide whether to die at home...
or be hauled for two hours in the back of a truck to the hospital in Salamá, hoping they'll be received.  And even if they do get in, nobody there understands their language or their ways!" 
      That was her heart's passion... that Cubulco have a good hospital, staffed by people who cared enough to speak Achí.   
Written by Mary Shaw, September, 2013  

Introduction: From Bible Translation to Hospital

History was a subject that I enjoyed and excelled at in school. Even today I enjoy reading history books and watching documentaries. Perhaps because of my interest in history, I have been thinking for some years now about the history of mission work in Cubulco, particularly the history of the translation of the Bible and the hospital. However, the question was who knows the history well enough to be able to write it. The work in Cubulco was started back in the 1950's by two women (Helen Neuenswander and Mary Shaw) who came down with Wycliffe to translate the New Testament into Cubulco Achi. Helen had passed away in 1990 and the last time Mary Shaw had come to Cubulco in 2002, she was already in her eighties. 10 years later I assumed that she had passed away as well. I did some searching on the internet to see if there was any contact information of Mary Shaw, but I came up empty. Months passed, but the desire to have a written history of the beginnings of mission work in Cubulco stayed with me.
Now we know that "the Lord moves in mysterious and wonderful ways", and this is what happened. (While trying to find where this is found in the Bible, I learned that it is NOT a text in the Bible, but the words of a hymn by William Cowper. Romans 11:33 comes close when it says,  "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!" God's ways are truly fathomless.) In a post in January of this year I wrote of the passing of one of our translators Victoriano. Well, around 6 weeks after his passing, to my surprise I received an email from Mary Shaw with whom Victoriano had worked for several years translating the NT. She was very much alive and as sharp as could be. She had gotten my email address through the McRae's who had been the ones who started AMG in Guatemala after the devastating 1976 earthquake.  In order to honour Victoriano for his years of service, Mary wanted to help the family out and needed me to facilitate this process. After carrying out Mary's wishes with helping the family, I took the opportunity to ask her to give a brief history of the work in Cubulco. She agreed, but said she needed some time so I told her that there was no hurry, although I was thinking to myself...... she is 92!
Five months later, after returning from our furlough in Canada I received the first of 3 parts of the history of the hospital. The history came in handy as we had the consultant from Mexico visiting Cubulco and she was interested in how the work started. Then we had an engineering team (EMI) come down to look at the hospital and do some design work. They were also interested in the history. Again God moved and provided at the right time. He deserves all the praise and glory.
I will be posting the 3 parts of the history individually as well as some personal information on two wonderful women Helen Neuenswander (after whom the hospital was named) and Mary Shaw who served the community of Cubulco with dedications and determination for many years. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day!

Wreaths laid by various countries
Ambassador of Canada
Yesterday when we arrived at church (Union Church of Guatemala) we realized that some thing was different. The parking lot was full of blacked out, bullet proof SUV's. Also the parking lot and entrance way of the church were full of body guards. We were not sure why that was until we entered the sanctuary. The church was full of important dignitaries (ambassadors and government representatives) and flower wreaths. After seeing all that we realized that the service was to remember the wars that have been fought and those who have fallen. Apparently Union Church has this service every year and each year the different embassies send their representatives to participate and bring a wreath. The service was beautiful and touching as each country present participated by reading portions of Scripture and reading poems (Flanders Field) and epitaphs related to the war.  Among the countries represented were Germany and Italy which was interesting to see. The other countries present were Britain, Canada, USA, France, Italy, and Russia. Although these countries fought each other during the World Wars it was neat to see them stand together to remember those who had fallen on both sides and seeing some of the ambassadors who are not believers reading the Scriptures. Our hope is that through the reading of Scripture some of them will begin to seek after God. 
The message was on peace and reconciliation and Pastor John Conner did not water it down in order to appease these important dignitaries. He focused on the character of God who reconciled us to Himself even though we had gravely offended and sinned against Him. He mentioned how Christianity is unique from all other religions in that sense, because "the offended" God took the initiative and that it is only through His Son that we can be reconciled to Him and as a result of that be able to reconcile our broken relationships with each other. 
After the closing prayer and benediction a Bagpiper finished the service by playing "Amazing Grace". Our kids were quite impacted by what they experienced as Remembrance Day is not some thing that is commemorated in Guatemalan society. It is good that we remember the sacrifice people have made for our country, freedom, and peace. However, this sacrifice is nothing compared to the sacrifice the Father made when He sent His only Son to die in order that we might be reconciled with God and receive the "peace that surpasses all understanding". 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013


A lot has happened since the last time I posted an entry. I have been meaning to write, but either not had the time or the energy to do so I will try and update all of you over the next few weeks as to some of the things that have been going on. Things have been very busy for us; from school starting and getting back into the swing of things, to many work related events that took a lot of energy and time. Then throw in a good bout of the flu and before you know it several months have gone by with out posting an entry on the blog. 
As a family we are doing quite well at the moment. We were all home one day when a powerful earthquake hit in the beginning of September. As it intensified we ran outside until it stopped. This was the most powerful earthquake we have experienced in Guatemala. Although the quakes caused some damage, only one person died. A week later we were all hit by a hefty strain of the flu. Although I am usually the last one to get sick, this time it started with me and I was quite sick for over a week and spent most of that time in bed with a severe sore throat, aches, and fever. The kids then got sick one by one starting with Tristan, Jesse, Ellen, and lastly Nico. After a few days Ellen and Jesse recovered fairly quickly and Tristan was sick a little longer. However, Nico who bragged when his siblings got sick of a superior immune system, ended up getting the sickest of all of us and we had to see a doctor several times because he was not getting better and the lymph nodes in his neck were very swollen. After 4-5 weeks the swelling in the lymph nodes finally disappeared. Thankfully, Lia did not get sick until I was on the mend. She was not sick for very long, although she had a cough that lingered for close to a month. Being sick and bedridden puts life back in perspective and reminds us of the fact that we are dying and that this life is fleeting. It also makes one thankful when one is healthy.
As I mentioned before we will be sharing different stories with you over the next few weeks about some of the things that have been going on here in Guatemala.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wycliffe and "the Guatemalan Connection"

As I promised in my previous post here is an article that will show you the Guatemalan Connection to Wycliffe.

William Cameron Townsend

By Claude Hickman

"The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner." - William Cameron Townsend
William Cameron Townsend was one of the three most influential missions leaders in the last two centuries. This was the statement that Ralph Winter made after hearing that Townsend had passed away in 1982. 'Cameron' was born in California in 1896 into a time of poverty for the country. He was raised in the Presbyterian Church and decided to stay in California, enrolling in Occidental College in Los Angeles.
The influence of the Student Volunteer Movement, though in its early beginnings, had gained enough momentum to reach from the East coast to Cameron in the West. During Townsend's junior year, the movement's lead visionary, John R. Mott, visited Occidental and challenged students to give their lives to the evangelization of the world in this generation. Cameron met with Mott and joined the SVM, committing his life to the Great Commission. He had joined the National Guard in 1917, and was prepared to serve his country in the war, when he was challenged by a missionary on furlough to obey his SVM commitment and go to the mission field instead of the battlefield. He applied for a discharge in order to become a missionary to Guatemala and was surprised to get it approved by his commanding officer.
Cam left for Guatemala in August 1917, with a Bible association that sold Spanish Bibles there. He was serving a one year commitment in Guatemala, and almost finished when, on one day, something radically changed his perspective and eventually the course of missions history. One afternoon, one of the Cakchiquel Indians that Cameron had been living among last few months, approached his table and looked curiously at the Spanish Bible, asking what it was. Townsend explained to him that it was the words of God, the creator of all mankind. The man replied, sarcastically to Cameron, "If your God is so smart, why doesn't he speak my language?" Cameron was stunned to find that this man, though he lived in Guatemala, was one of the 200,000 Cakchiquel people and spoke zero Spanish.
The cutting remark left Cameron with a scar that he would never get rid of. It began to burden him that there were thousands of individuals, and hundred of other tribes, without one page of scripture in their language. Townsend would not return from his one year missions trip. In fact, he dedicated the next 13 years of his life to Cakchiquel Indians, translating the Bible into their language in an incredible 10 years. Cameron allowed the gospel to interrupt the course of his life. He began an organization known as Wycliffe Bible Translators, named after the Reformation hero who first translated the Bible into English.
Concerned about other minority language groups, Townsend opened Camp Wycliffe in Arkansas in the summer of l934. The camp was designed to train young people in basic linguistics and translation methods. Two students enrolled. The following year, after a training session with five men in attendance, Townsend took the five to Mexico to begin field work. From this small beginning has grown the worldwide ministry of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Wycliffe Associates. No cultural group is considered too small, no language too difficult. Pioneering continues as several thousand workers break new ground in many parts of the world. The highest standards of linguistics and anthropological orientation are upheld. Service is stressed. All field work is done in cooperation with host governments, universities and philanthropic groups. Portions of the Christian Scriptures are translated for people in their mother tongue, the language of their hearts.
"Uncle Cam" as he is known by Wycliffe staff was also credited for beginning the final missions era that we are living in today. It is an era that focuses not on just reaching continents and inland countries, but on every distinct ethnic group, or people group in the world. This people group focus, taken from the original meaning of the word 'nations' (ethnos) as it was used in the New Testament and in the Great Commission, is the commitment to pioneer into every ethno-linguistic group. Cameron truly was one of the greatest missionary pioneers of our time. Today Wycliffe has the goal of translating the Bible into every language on the earth. Currently, there are over 3,000 languages without scripture, but 4,000 have at least portions in their dialect, all because Cameron stumbled on the idea of People Groups.

Visit of the Consultant

In November of 2012, I wrote about the agreement that I signed with the Guatemalan Bible Society. I mentioned that one of the major contributions the Bible Society could make to us, was providing us with a consultant to check and approve the translation that we are working on. Initially we planned for the consultant to come some time in March, but due to a number of reasons this did not happen. However, I am excited to say that the consultant finally came. 
While on furlough in Canada, I received word from the Guatemala Bible Society that they had finalized the agreement with the consultant and that she would be able to travel to Cubulco from August 5-9. This worked out good for me as we would be back from our furlough and would be able to go to Cubulco and meet the consultant. I was able to spend three days with the consultant, the translation team, and some members of the Bible Society. After some brief introductions and talking about the history of the translation work, we spent several days delving into several portions of the translated word of God into Kubultzij (Cubulco Achi). The consultant chose different texts from the Old and New Testament each with different genres. It was immediately apparent the value of this step in the translation process as the consultant asked pointed questions about how words, ideas, and concepts were being translated. The first text we tackled was Mark 1 and the first issue we ran into was how "repentance" was being translated. The New Testament had been previously translated by two Wycliffe missionary women, but one of our previous translators had done a revision and made some changes. One of the changes was with regards to this text and he had translated the word repentance as "washing away of sin" instead of asking for forgiveness. The original Wycliffe translators had translated the idea correctly, but the former translator in his "zeal" (or arrogance) to better the translation made it worse. It could perhaps also be a problem with doctrine as many evangelicals in places like Cubulco mistakenly believe that repentance includes being baptized in a river since the river will wash away one's sins. The consultant picked up on that instantly as she did on other things and I am sure she will find many more things that will need to be changed.
As you can see the work of the consultant is crucial to ensure a faithful translation. I am grateful for the consultant. She is very qualified for the work and a good fit for our translation team. Her name is Isela and she is from Mexico. She is Presbyterian and therefore holds to the Reformed faith and has a high view of Scripture. She has a doctorate's degree and various other degrees in anthropology, Biblical sciences and languages. She has been involved with Bible translation work and has experience with Mayan languages. 
Translation work is a challenge as there are words, ideas, and concepts that are not found in the language of the receptor. Some languages do not have words for "repentance, forgiveness, atonement, etc". Often literal translations are done to overcome some of these problems, but at times this can cause the receptor to misunderstand the Word of God. For instance in Cubulco Achi a literal translation of "hardness of heart" means "bravery" instead of "stubbornness" "unwilling to submit or repent" or "rejection of God's grace". Therefore an idiomatic translation is important so that the term "hardness of heart" can be translated in such a way that the receptor will understand what it means.
Please pray for the consultant Isela, the translation team, and the Guatemalan Bible Society. Please pray for the translation of the Bible being done all over the world through organizations like the Bible Society and Wycliffe. Pray for the missionaries and nationals who do the work as well as for those missionaries who support them from behind the scenes like our good friends from the Chilliwack FRC, Jaco and Andrea Devisser who are being prepared to work full time with Wycliffe and provide vital IT support for missionaries and nationals. While they might be in the background and not on the front lines, their expertise and contributions are crucial and a huge help to translators. (If you want to know more about Jaco and Andrea Devisser you can check out their blog ‎
PS. I have mentioned Wycliffe several times in this post. Did you know that there is a "Guatemalan Connection" to Wycliffe? If interested read the next post!