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Friday, July 16, 2021

HARD RICE

I parked the truck between the tree and the old white van with four flat tires. Two “red can kids” (Muslim boy street beggars sometimes as young as four or five) sat a few feet in front of the truck at the edge of the sewer ditch between us and the road.  Janet exited the passenger seat and trod the dusty path to the small alimentation” or grocery store to grab a few items.  I waited for one of the young boys to walk up to the truck and to point to his mouth with bunched fingertips—the common sign for “hungry.”

There he was, maybe 13-years old, definitely underfed, pointing fingers to his mouth with his other palm pressed against the window.  I reached into the box normally filled with small sacks of peanuts that we keep between the seats and found only one.  I leaned over and half rolled down the window, smiled and handed him the peanuts as I said “Tu dois partager,” (“You must share.”)  He half smiled and walked towards his friend. I watched as they divided the sack between them and devoured the contents.

The other boy turned to look back at me, likely hoping for more peanuts.  I looked in the box and all that remained was one of our sacks of rice and beans that we give to mothers with children who beg along the road.  The begging women can cook the contents where the red can kids cannot.  The boys are routinely underfed by Muslim overseers who collect whatever money they garner from passing motorists.  The beckoning face at the window was too much.  I gave him what I had, the sack of rice and beans.  Perhaps he knew someone who would cook it for him.

Janet climbed into the truck with her bag of groceries.  I started the truck and as I prepared to shift into reverse I glanced over to where the two boys were sitting.  I paused.  They had opened the sack and were warily testing the uncooked rice.  Their experiment didn’t last long and they closed the sack.  I continued backing out from the tight space between the tree and the white van with four flat tires and slowly drove along the narrow road. I slowed even more as we passed the small, road-side mosque where the collection of sandals outside revealed it was the Muslim sunset prayer, the Salat al-Maghrib.

Even after eight years of sharing food with the hungry of Burkina, the image of the boys testing the hard rice lingered before me as we bounced down the rutted road towards home. This is another unmet need among so many.  Now to find something a bit more substantial than peanuts.

God is always good.

Monday, April 5, 2021

GOOD SIGNS

 


Meet Isaiah.  

I encountered him while I was cleaning trash from the street in front of our home.  He is deaf.  He began helping me to pick up trash.  He tried to say something to me but I could not understand him.  His friend standing next to him gestured with her hands. They shared a manual patois. She turned to me and told me his name and that he wanted to help.

I turned to Isaiah and made the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for “deaf” and pointed to myself.  I am significantly hard of hearing and rely on hearing aids to communicate.  He smiled when I showed him my hearing aids.  I thanked him in sign language for his help as he waved and skipped away.

A few days later Isaiah again appeared as I was flushing out the fuel tank from our generator.  He again joined me in my project.  I tapped him on his elbow to get his attention. I finger spelled his name and pointed to him.  I then gave him a paper with the ASL finger spelling alphabet.  I helped him to spell his name.  The photo is Isaiah practicing his name.  Later I finger spelled my name and pointed to myself.  He nodded excitedly for we now shared something unique.

Later that day as Janet and I were backing the truck out our hangar, I saw Isaiah picking up litter in front of our home.  As I was about to drive off, Isaiah caught our attention.  He smiled, signed my name, and waved as we drove off.

God is good.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

CRAWLING MAN

There he was again, sliding his way along the dusty road pushing his crossed legs before him. ‘Flip-flop” sandals protected his hands from the abrasive red soil. I had seen him once before. I slowed then but did not stop. I promised myself I would the next time I saw him.

I pulled over to the right side of the road in front of a sand-blasted block wall. Faded, hand-painted letters testified that an auto mechanic once worked within. A middle-aged Burkinabe sitting in a bent metal chair propped against the wall, chewed on a sprig of wood and watched us with drowsy interest.

As I got out of the truck, I glimpsed two older (about my age) Muslim men in white robes sipping tea in a small café across the road. They noted me with squinting curiosity. They turned away in unison as a blast of dust blew in on the seasonal Harmattan wind.

I walked back as the crawling man rounded the rear of my pick-up. He stopped a meter or so away so as to not to need to crane his neck. I squatted onto a knee and offered my hand. I asked his name. He spoke with a crackling voice as dry as the dust in which he sat, “Kareem” he replied. “Je m’appelle Don,” I offered.

I told Kareem that I had seen him on the road once before. I thought that he might be able to use one of the hand-powered wheelchairs commonly seen in Burkina. Kareem told me that he was almost completely blind and can only see where he is going while on the ground. That pretty much ruled out crutches as well.

He took hold of my hand and pulled himself to his feet. His stick-like legs wobbled and he held my hand to steady himself. He peered into my face. He smiled, shook my hand with both of his, and sat back down in the swirling red dust.

I gave Kareem a few sachets of roasted peanuts that I carry in the truck and use as calling cards for the beggars, street vendors, shopkeepers, and children who I encounter each day. Kareem thanked me again. I bid him a “bonne journée,” as he put his flip-flops on his hands and returned to his shuffling journey down the ruddy road.

I watched the crawling man fade into the dust. I became aware that the dozen or so observers of our conversation were now looking at me standing alone in the road. I got back in my truck and drove away. Kareem waved a flip-flopped hand as I slowed to drive by.

I realized that Kareem was happy. He was accustomed to his circumstances. There was no purpose in me planting an unfelt need in Kareem. This could be one of those times when helping would hurt.

I will look for Kareem whenever I drive down that road. When I see him, I will stop and greet him. I will give him some peanuts and water and ask how he is doing. And if the day comes when I no longer see Kareem shuffling through the swirling dust I will remember him.

And I will smile.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Going Viral

 

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;

Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.”

Psalm 13:3 ESV

 

After being dogged by an unidentified illness for the better part of a month or more my symptoms grew more severe—fatigue, weakness, brain fog, but most oddly no fever. In celebration of the new year, I completely lost my senses of smell and taste.  Dear friends almost dragged me to the clinic where I was diagnosed with Malaria and, as a kicker, a dose of the “maladie de la année,” Covid-19. My symptoms continued to grow more acute.

 

One dark night the following week I sat in bed anticipating meeting Jesus. I had never felt so ill as the “sleep of death.” While it would be my joy, not fear that would mark our meeting, I remain uncomfortable with the review of my life that will follow.  Christ bore my sin burden and freed me from the torment of hell, but as King David observed, “my sin is ever before me.”  God has forgiven me more than I have myself.  I was sure that night would be my last.

 

I embraced Psalm 51 in prayer.  I acknowledged that all my sins were against God. I grasped at his steadfast love and abundant mercy. I begged of Him a clean heart and a right spirit. He opened my lips to declare his praise.  I then dozed only to be awakened sometime later by novel sensations at the base of my chest, something like warmth, but not temperature, something like vibration without movement. I dozed some more.

 

That morning I awoke after a peaceful sleep.  I felt renewed as if it were a Saturday morning in spring filled with breeze and birds.  I felt surprisingly better. I savored the first moments of wakefulness and bid God good morning. There was an air of peace and calm in the room.  There was a palpable sense of the numinous—a feeling of the presence of the divine.

 

Each day since then I have felt better.  I still experience a bit of fatigue and some weakness, but the dark night has been replaced by a warm sunrise.  The abundant prayers of so many in the form of the merciful, healing hand of God are obvious.  I owe much to those who have and continue to pray like persistent widows on my behalf and to my wife Janet who has encouraged me and asked for prayers for my healing.  On that very dark night I could feel the effect of your prayers.   I am surprised at the pace of my healing.  The doctors and nurses have expressed pleasure at my vitals such as a pulseox level of 98%-to 99% and total lack of a fever from Malaria or Covid.

 

I am not sure why I have been graced with such an uneventful recovery from two potentially serious illnesses.  I can only think to attribute it to the abundance of prayers of my wife Janet, our many friends, acquaintances, and colleagues and the response of a God who loves me in spite of my very abundant and profound human failings.  Thank you all so very much.

 

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love,

My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Psalm 13:5,6 ESV

Thursday, December 24, 2020

NEVER NORMAL


Working in one of the poorest sub-Saharan countries of the world, there are things that you get used to like frequent power failures, water cuts, and myriad diseases waiting for the opportunity to knock us or one of our staff members down for days or weeks. There are other things that you want to get used to like the collisions between your home culture and the new culture. 

Then, there are the thing that you never want to get used to, like the 24-ounce, month-old baby staring into your eyes as you try to comfort screams pouring from an empty stomach.  You never want to get used to the one that arrived too late for even the most intensive medical intervention but whose fading, agonized cries echo in your heart.  You never want to get used to that.  Never.

More than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been chased from their farms, villages, and lives by Islamic terrorists, a history of poverty and malnutrition, rains disrupted by climate change, and a global pandemic forcing the world-wide reallocation of already insufficient resources. Bug-eyed babies arrive at the Oasis of Hope ready to fall from the knife’s edge of existence.  You never want to get used to that.  Never.

We are encountering an increasing number of profoundly malnourished babies and distraught mamas at the Oasis.  There are nearly 80-babies currently in our feeding program and the number continues to grow, now because of twins and a record number of triplets that will force an underfed, nursing mother to make a heartbreaking decision.  Our resources and reserves run low.  We do everything we can to cut expenses to continue to buy costly formula.  We are horrified at the prospect of asking Social Service or the hospitals to not send any more babies to the Oasis.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Him who came that “man no more may die,” we hold each of these blanket-wrapped, tiny bundles and pray over them.  We have no adorned tree, twinkling lights, or colorful papers.  Each family goes home with cans of formula, rice and beans, mosquito repellant, mosquito netting, perhaps a soccer ball for an older child, maybe small bags of roasted peanuts, and a good deal more hope than when they arrived.

“Born to raise the sons of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark the herald angels sing,

‘Glory to the newborn King.’”

 

We pray that each of you will enjoy a most meaningful Christmas and a blessed year filled with renewed hope.

 

“Let all within us Praise His Holy name
Christ is the Lord, O praise His name forever!

His power and glory evermore proclaim.’”

Saturday, November 14, 2020

 Waiting for (the) Queen

She was somewhere between limp and dead with eye slits focused on nothing.  Nine years old looking like six, wrought with fever yet cold and clammy, staring eternity in the face and just hours or even minutes from going to be with God.  We rushed mom and her small charge into our truck with dad following on his bicycle. The heavily pock-marked roads lit only by the truck’s headlights forced me to drive painfully slow-- just over walking speed to the local hospital.  Once there, we waited as time crawled by before “Reine” (Queen) was admitted.  And then we waited even more. 

We are spoiled by western triage and urgent care.  Here it’s mostly first come, first served.  One learns to wait with prayer if not with grace.  Culturally short-circuited frustration is always lurking in hospital waiting rooms.  It’s too easy to imagine the worst when it is the worst that you most often encounter.  We waited and waited some more.  Drenched in sweat, I began to wonder when someone would turn on the fans that dotted the steaming hospital hallway lined with benches of those waiting to be seen and the anguished faces who waited with them.

We filled Reine’s prescriptions at the hospital pharmacy.  The shotgun shell of medications is normal when tests take longer than the patient may have to live. Often multiple IV antibiotics, saline solution or Ringer’s lactate, calcium and vitamins begin to stir life.  The next morning with more targeted treatment, Reine could almost sit up with her back against the hospital wall and her mom cradling her head.  She had dodged eternity and survived an especially severe case of malaria,* for now.  She will likely make the same dance many times throughout her life.

Days earlier, Janet and I were still moving to our smaller home located between the local garbage dump and the nearby “nonlotit” (unofficial) warren of one-room, tin-roofed homes of brick and blocks made with cement and the local red dirt.  We need to cut our expenses to pay for increasingly larger orders of imported baby formula. As we prepared to bring another load of belongings into our smaller home we encountered Reine’s father.  We knew him from months before when he and his wife brought twins, one suffering from acute protein malnutrition called Kwashiorkor--a ruddy, bloated boy who cried his way through a couple of weeks in a local hospital before a gracious and loving God called him home. The family was now our neighbor living only a couple of hundred meters away and with a limp, unblinking daughter who was close to joining her brother.

We returned to the hospital two days later to visit the family and to pay their hospital bills.  Reine was standing and walking albeit shakily.  Her parents thanked us repeatedly as we walked to the truck to bring them to the home they shared with at least four other families. Reine was greeted by the others, hugging her like a local celebrity.  They thanked us in at least four languages.  We told them that all that was done for Reine was a gift from God.  Now whenever we drive past their home, someone sitting beneath the sprawling acacia tree is sure to smile and offer a wave and a warm greeting.

Last week, Rein and mom knocked on our door to share their joy with us.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a child’s smile is worth billions.

We encountered God between a garbage dump and a hovel where the ubiquitous plastic bags fly about and inhabit the sparse trees, goat-chewn cartons blow in the smoky breeze, and hope can be as rare as rain.

And that’s exactly why He sent us here.

Dieu est grand tout le temps. (God is great all the time.)

*We have started a new program to distribute insect repellant, mosquito nets, fumigant, and Malaria medications free of charge.  If you would like to support this unbudgeted project, please go to the Sheltering Wings website at: sheltering-wings.org.  On the home page, scroll down to “Be the Hands” and click on “Donate Today.”  In the “Donation Center” go to “Don and Janet Guizzetti West Africa Projects” and click on “Donate.”  Scroll down to “Emergency Medical Fund” to make your most needed and appreciated donation to help with the most urgent, life-threatening needs.  Thank you and may God bless you abundantly.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Urgent Medical Appeal


Hundreds of children, many with critical medical needs have passed through our baby feeding program.  We have used individual appeals for the funds to provide critical surgeries  This slows vital medical treatment.  Jihadist warfare has displaced hundreds of thousands and has disrupted and overburdened services.  We now have a Critical Needs fund with which to provide immediate treatment.


A tiny baby girl just returned from open heart surgery in Kenya to close a large hole between the ventricles of her heart.  She would have certainly died otherwise.


Two babies are awaiting surgery.  One baby boy entangled with his twin had both legs broken during delivery—he weighed less than two pounds. At five months he contracted meningitis.  He recovered but then developed hydrocephaly.  Emergency surgery has drained some fluid from his brain, but a shunt is needed to continuously drain fluid from his brain.


A baby boy had a blocked urethra that keeps his bladder from emptying.  Emergency surgery made a temporary drain from his bladder through the wall of the abdomen.  Constant contact with urine burns his skin and results in frequent urinary infections.


Critical surgeries range from a few hundred dollars to more than $5,000.  Please consider contributing to Sheltering Wings/ Guizzetti Emergency Medical Fund.  Anything helps.  Thank you.







If you would like to become a ministry partner, tax-deductible donations may be made online at:  
http://sheltering-wings.org/our-missionaries/#don

Or you can make checks payable to Sheltering Wings and attach a note that it is for "Guizzetti" and mail to:
Sheltering Wings, 5104 Old 66, Leasburg, MO  65535.  (314) 635-6316.


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