Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Visit of Hellen's Brothers

It is not often in life that you can be part of an event that is the highlight on some one's life. Almost a year ago, Brian Dennett and I had the privilege of being part of an event like this which ended up not only being the highlight in the lives of two elderly men, but also was a highlight in our lives.
I wrote the following article for a magazine last year...... (For those who don't know the history of the work in Cubulco see my posts from November, 2013 that give a more complete picture).

In early January of this year (2017) I received an email from Mary Shaw informing me that the two youngest brothers of Helen Neuenswander would be coming to Guatemala in March for a brief visit and would like to go to Cubulco. Mary and Helen were the women that started the work in Cubulco back in the 1950’s when they came to translate the New Testament into Cubulco Achi. Helen was the one who had the vision for a hospital and she was the one responsible for the development of health care in that region. Although Helen died in 1990, Mary is still alive and well at the ripe old age of 96. Helen came from a family of 10 children and the two brothers that were coming, Bill and Dan, were number 9 and 10. Both were not young men anymore as they were 80 and 79 years old. 
I immediately contacted the two brothers and made arrangements with them to visit Cubulco. I also contacted Julio, the hospital administrator to see what kind of special event could be arranged to recognize the work that Helen’s family did by supporting the work of Helen and Mary. The Neuenswander family were very supportive of the work in Cubulco when Helen and Mary were there. Since their trip to Guatemala was very short and because they had other commitments, they only had time to visit Cubulco for one day. On the day of the trip, Brian Dennett and I picked them up from their hotel in Antigua at around 5:00AM and drove via some back roads to Cubulco. Although this drive was over winding and unpaved roads it saved us hours in travel time. The brothers told us that they appreciated the unpaved roads as it helped put things somewhat in context for them as Helen and Mary would have had to travel on dirt roads back in the day. On the drive to Cubulco they shared many stories of Helen and Mary and it came as a surprise to us that they had never visited Cubulco. This made the trip all the more special since these men were coming to see a town, people, context, and work that they had only heard about but had never seen with their own eyes.
We made good time in our drive to Cubulco and arrived earlier than planned. Julio (hospital administrator) had told me that we could not arrive before 9:00 because they had a special event planned. Since we had time to kill, I decided to take the men to see the translation work that FRMI is doing. They met with the translators and promoters and also saw the materials that the translation team had produced over the years. Both brothers were very emotional and surprised that the translation work had continued on. They had assumed that after their sister passed away and Mary left the work had stopped. They were overjoyed to see that the work had not only continued on but had multiplied over the years. They took a number of the materials produced by the translation team with them to show to family back home.

After a brief visit with the translation team we drove to the hospital. I had made arrangements with the hospital to do some sort of ceremony to make the visit special. However, the hospital staff went above and beyond what I had envisioned. When we drove up the street to the hospital, it was lined with students from the local high school who were clapping and cheering their arrival. The local media was present filming and taking photos and the hospital staff and Cubulco dignitaries lined the front of the hospital. Both brothers were speechless and deeply moved by the reception they received. Afterward we held a brief ceremony in front of the hospital together with the hospital staff, people from Cubulco, local media, and students. In this ceremony, I narrated briefly the history of the work in Cubulco so that those present (especially the youth) would understand how things were many decades ago and how the hospital started. Next the hospital staff shared about the work that they do, followed by Bill and Dan who shared from their hearts about Helen and Mary and the work that they had done. From there we gave them a tour of the facilities and showed them how the work has not only continued but has grown. Once again the brothers were amazed by this. Throughout the day, people who had known their sister came by to thank them for the work that she had done. Several of these people shared how they had either worked with her or had been treated by her.     
After eating lunch and doing a few interviews with the local media we departed Cubulco at around 2PM and drove back to Antigua to drop the men off at their hotel. All of us were exhausted because of the long and emotional day, but were grateful for this wonderful time together. Before we parted ways, both Bill and Dan tearfully expressed what an amazing and emotional experience this had been for them. They thanked us profusely and said “thank you for giving these old men the most amazing and impactful experience of our lives”. As Brian and I were driving home afterward we reflected on the day and how special it was for us to have been a part of this and to have been able to make a dream come true for these two “old” men.
In the weeks and months following the visit Brian and I have stayed in contact with Bill and Dan. Throughout the trip together we encouraged them to keep the legacy that their sister started in Cubulco going by sharing with their family and friends about their visit and the work that continues on. Recently, at the Neuenswander’s annual family reunion close to 300 family members showed up and heard about the experiences that Bill and Dan had. At the end they held a collection and raised more than $14,000 for the hospital. What a testimony and legacy this family has and we hope and pray that they will continue to prayerfully and financially support the hospital and the work that is on going in Cubulco and that they will be able to pass this on to their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.