Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Step Along the Way

Jennifer and I first read this poem on Dr. Stoughton's blog during his time in Zimbabwe.  It was initially attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero and more recently to Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw.

Not only does it seem appropriate for us during our time here in Guatemala but I think it speaks volumes to all of us where ever we may be on our journey with God.
During this Christmas season, when new beginnings are celebrated in the birth of Jesus, may we all find our "step along the way"

Peace and Love
Brent, Jennifer, Christopher, Elizabeth, Julianne and Nicholas


It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mission Together

This is the half way mark of our three year commitment and the time has really gone fast. Like so many times in life, some days seem to last forever but when looking back the weeks seem to pass by without realizing where they have gone.  We are excited for the coming year to continue our work at Hopsitalito, school for the children and strengthening our relationships with the people we've come to know and call friends here in Santiago. 
We also want to take this opportunity to thank our family and friends who support our mission here in so many ways.  Through your prayers, kind words, emails, letters, and financial support, we are able to continue to answer this call to serve.  We realize that this is not the Burket-Thoene Family Mission, but really our mission together.

Thank you.

Friday, November 11, 2011


We came back to Santiago just in time for Christopher, Elizabeth and Julianne to take their final exams for the school year as their school year runs from mid-January to mid-October.  The kids did very well and all will advance to the next grade level in January.
The school had a very nice Kindergarten graduation ceremony for Julianne.  Much to their dismay, they are all homeschooling over the break.

We had thought that maybe the transition back to Guatemala might be difficult for the kids after being in the US, but the kids haven't said anything.  Since we've been back, we've heard them ask a couple of relatives on Skype what they had eaten that day.  They certainly enjoyed the wide variety of food while we were on vacation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


We recently got back from a visit back home.  It was really nice to see family and friends and to catch up on everyone's lives.  Though Skype has been great, being home in the presence of loved ones is truly something special.  It was one of the best vacations we've had because we had more time to just be with people.

We thought that maybe the kids would be struck by things they saw in the US that were different from Guatemala, but we were surprised that they really didn't notice a lot. Christopher commented about a toy that we saw in a store, "Who would pay $300.00 for a toy?" Julianne wondered why there were so many cars.  Jennifer was struck by how good the infrastructure is in the US -- good roads, drains, sidewalks, fire hydrants.... things we take for granted in the US that just aren't present in other places.

It was interesting that when we were in the US and we would talk about Guatemala, we would say, "At home....," meaning "in Santiago" which means that we must now consider Santiago Atitlan home.

While we are very grateful for running water, an indoor toilet, and pretty reliable electricity in Santiago, upon our return we were reminded how much we miss hot running water, water pressure, and just how light everything is in the US.  However, after being back, we realize how good it feels to have the chance to use less resources just by the very fact that we are here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Conception and Cecilia

Concepcion came to Hospitalito at 8:30 AM.  She had noticed onset of strong contractions at 4 AM but could not come to the hospital until she was able to get a ride from her village, Cerro de Oro (about 20 minutes from Hospitalito).  When she arrived, at 8:30 AM, she was dilated to 5 cm and the baby was in a breech position. Concepcion also had a history of a previous Cesarean section in 2003.  She was only 29 weeks pregnant and too early to deliver at Hospitalito.  

Preparations were started to transfer to Guatemala City where there is a neonatal intensive care unit.  She was given medicines to protect the babies brain, slow down the labor and help develop the babies lungs.  After one hour she was 7 cm and it was felt it would be too risky to try to transport her for a 3 - 4 hour journey as she might deliver in the ambulance.  

We then had to decide rather to proceed with a repeat cesarian or deliver vaginally. A cesarean would be the least traumatic to the baby but a 29 week newborn would probably not survive while a vaginal delivery would be the safest for mom.  After consulting with a number of volunteer doctors and even a call to a good friend/obstetrician in the USA it was decided to proceed with a repeat Cesarean.

Brent performed the cesarean section with a visiting Obstetrician, Wayne Weber assisting and his son Nathan (an anesthesiologist) providing the spinal anesthesia.  Baby Cecilia was delivered without difficulty with initial apgars of 3 and 6.  Two other visiting doctors from Ventura, California, Drs. Lepore and Noah, helped to resuscitate Cecilia.  Cecilia then began to have problems breathing and Dr. Nathan intubated and preparations were made to transfer to Guatemala City.  Dr. Noah accompanied Cecelia for the 3 hour trip.
Cecelia returned to Hospitalito after 6 weeks on a ventilator and 2 months total in the Neonatal Intensive care unit in Guatemala City. She has a long ways to go but she already has come so far. She is gaining weight and developing well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rainy Season

The rainy season has begun.  It rains most afternoons and when it rains here it often pours for  hours and sometimes for days.  We went to church the other day in the afternoon, so the rain was in full force.  It was notable at church that most people did not have even a coat on, much less a raincoat, and it was chilly.  Most of the women had on flip flops or other open shoes.  We did not see anyone with boots.  Even though we had on raincoats and boots, after just walking a short distance, we were soaked.  God, help us to be thankful for simple things like boots and raincoats.

On Corpus Christi, there was a procession of the Body of Christ through town after the 8 am Mass.  The rain was unusually early that Sunday and it was raining hard when the procession started.  The procession was due to last 4 or 5 hours.  In the States, I think the procession would have been canceled, but the people here, without raincoats or boots, processed in numbers.  Some had umbrellas or a piece of plastic sheeting that they draped over their shoulders, but many had nothing.  Again, no boots and there was running water in the streets in many areas.  This was an impressive expression of faith.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quite the Honor

We received quite the honor a few weeks ago when Brent and Jennifer were asked to be the Godparents of Daniel Jonas Pablo Coche. 

Brent had performed the Cesarean section on Daniel's mother, Petronila, in March and Jennifer had taken care of mother and Daniel after wards.  

It was a really nice ceremony held after Mass.  There were about 15 babies baptized during the same ceremony.  Daniel received a beautiful white garment to celebrate the occasion.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Celebration of Family Day

Instead of celebrating Mother’s Day at the children’s school this year, they decided to celebrate Family Day since some of the children don’t have mothers.  Each class did a song or skit and there were some raffle prizes, although some of these came at the expense of really embarrassing the parents.  Then the teachers served a lunch of chicken, rice, vegetables, and sauce which they cooked themselves for over 300 people!  Jennifer wore the traditional women’s attire for the first time and managed to keep her skirt on without it falling off.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Christopher's Birthday

We celebrated Christopher's birthday recently with a party.  He invited the children from the local orphanage, neighborhood kids, and a few friends from school, in all about 30 children.  We had a great time with lunch, a treasure hunt, piñata, and cake.   Elmo (the piñata) was the only one who had a rough day!

At the end of the day when asked what the best part of the day was for each one, Christopher said, “Playing with all my friends,” Elizabeth and Julianne both said, “The food,” and Nicholas said, “The piñata.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Clean Cook Stoves for Better Health

At Hospitalito we see many patients who, at a relatively young age (40 years old), have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

In the US it is mostly due to smoking, but here in Santiago Atitlán it is caused by years of cooking over an open fire in an enclosed space.

The lady who makes tortillas for our neighborhood is about 45 years old. Brent delivered one of her grandchildren recently. We buy tortillas from her several times a week. We have also seen her in the hospital at times for her COPD. After visiting her one day and noticing her coughing with her child and grandchild in the same enclosed smoke-filled space, we wondered if there was something we could do.

We spoke with our social worker at the hospital and found that there is a program to get clean cook stoves into the houses of the local population. In Santiago Atitlán it is estimated that half of the households cook over an open fire, while 47% use an inefficient masonry stove with varying degrees of ventilation. It is also estimated that cooking over an open fire accounts for up to 30% of the families' expenses. Clean cook stoves are up to 60 -70 percent more efficient.

We were able to purchase and install a stove for about $50. The stove actually costs more, but is subsidized by a doctor who worked here in the past. The smoke is ventilated through the metal pipe so it is much less smokey. Since the stove is much more efficient, it uses less wood which means less expenditure for the family on wood and better for the environment.

You never know how anyone will react to changing the way they have done something for their whole life. In this case, the transition seems to be fine. The tortillas look and taste the same (Brent thinks better) and it is much better for their health and the environment.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Maria presented to Hospitalito Atitlan with a history of a previous cesarean section about 2 years ago.  She had received some prenatal care at the Central Salud (a government run clinic in town), but she knew that when she went into labor she should come to the hospital. 

When she presented to Hospitalito she was in early labor.  The fetal monitor showed that the baby's heart pattern was "not reassuring" and by Ultrasound the amniotic fluid was too low.  We did not have good dates regarding how many weeks pregnant she was but by a late US and unsure last menstrual period we felt she was somewhere between 36 - 38 weeks.  It was elected to proceed with a cesarean section.  The cesarean section was performed by 2 visiting Obstetricians from Hungary and anesthesia was provided by Brent. We also had a pediatric resident from the states, Kati, who was present to help with resuscitation of Mary's baby if needed.   

Mary's baby was born with an initial low apgar of 4 but the second apgar of 7 was more reassuring but over the next few hours the baby began to have more respiratory difficulty and the oxygen saturation was decreasing and the baby was becoming cyanotic (blue).  The team at Hospitalito worked together to place an endotracheal tube ( a tube in the child's lungs) so that we could breath for the child. The baby was then transferred to Guatemala City, to the government hospital Roosevelt.
Mary's baby spent the next 8 days on a respirator and 15 days total in the hospital, and returned to Santiago with mom.

Mary, baby and Kati, the pediatrician who helped with the resuscitation.


Thursday, February 17, 2011


As we have mentioned, in an earlier blog, we have found a number of organizations in Santiago Atitlan doing good things.

ADISA is doing GREAT things.   Asociacion de Padres y Amigos de Personas con Discapacidad de Santiago Atitlan (Association of Parents and Friends of People with Disabilities in Santiago Atitlan) was started in 1997 by parents of a child with hydrocephalus who subsequently died at the age of 9.  They saw first hand the lack of resources available to children with disablities. 

ADISA has a number of programs to help this population including education, health care, early stimulation, education of the community, physical therapy, vocational training and job placement. 

Our family has been blessed to know this exceptional organization, the staff and the people they serve.  We have also been able to help ADISA as Hospitalito has partnered with ADISA to help with some of their health care issues.

Their web site is excellent and gives more history as well as opportunities to support their work. www.adisagt.com
from there you can click on Conozca nuestros productos  and then click on  www.novica.com

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holy Family

The 26th of December was the Feast of the Holy Family.  It is always interesting to hear what the priest is going to say about the readings on this day.  

However, we were really surprised when the priest announced that there were going to be 23 marriages during Mass.  This was not a Las Vegas style group wedding.  Each couple took their vows individually, exchanged rings, and had their blessing and applause.  Needless to say, Mass was a little long that day (more than 3 hours!), but the kids did very well, despite not being able to see much.  The brides all wear their traditional dress and then a white veil. 

Many couples here are together, but not officially married, so the priest was very happy that so many couples were getting married.  His homily was excellent and he remarked that we should look to the Holy Family as our model for marriage.  The Holy Family did have to endure many trials in their life together from doubt over an immaculate conception to living in a foreign land to having a child that they had to let go of.  

Loving God, help us to look to the Holy Family as a source of inspiration for our own marriages.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas and New Years greetings to everyone!

Christmas crept up on our kids too.  We had been lighting a Christmas candle each day at mealtime that was counting down the days to Christmas and reading a little book every night that was also an ornament for our little tree.  Yet, when we were putting out cookies and milk for Santa, Elizabeth (who is almost 7) said, “You mean Santa is coming tonight!”  Then our kids who are 7 and younger slept until 6:45 on Christmas morning.  Quite amazing! 

We had a Christmas Day dinner with some of the other volunteers who are here over the holidays.  We did not make tamales which is the traditional food in Guatemala for this time of year.  We are going to learn how to make tamales this weekend, so maybe next year...