It is hot and dry...so much like April here at the height of the dry season. With September usually come the torrential rains. Not so this year. The corn is dried and much of it died before ears were formed. This will be a difficult year.
Here in this culture, corn is the main staple. Those who are prosperous have dried corn stacked neatly against the adobe wall in their bedroom. It is taken out as needed, ground into meal and made into tortillas. A healthy man can eat 10-12 tortillas with each meal. A woman recently told me that her family of seven will eat 10 pounds of corn in 3 days. A hundred pound bag of corn costs about $20 - often more than a week's wages IF a man is working. When we are trying to assess the level of need in the clinic, asking if they are buying their corn is a defining question. Growing corn is a loosing proposition. Because it is so important to their diet, corn is planted year after year in the same field with seed from the last year's poor harvest. Corn will not grow without fertilizer now and that costs nearly $30/bag. So each year people actually loose money by growing corn...not as much as they loose however if they have to buy it.
In the last month, the price of a bag of corn has risen Q60 ($7.50). We have added 7-8 children to our nutrition program each week for the last 2 months. Last week we added three infants less than 3 months of age. All of their moms had very little milk because they were not eating. When mom is not eating, neither are the other children in the house. So in addition to formula for the babies, we are giving large bags of beans, rice, oatmeal, and sugar to entire families. I am concerned - this is only the beginning of a year that may prove very difficult for many families. Today, President Colom declared Guatemala in a state of emergency due to the large number of chronically malnourished. Sadly, we have the highest rate of malnutrition in Central America and fourth highest in the world. And rural areas like ours are the hardest hit.
Duane and the boys are looking into getting a container of corn shipped down from Illinois. We are not sure how it will work with government regulations and such, but we are doing some investigation. We rest in the fact that God is our provision, that He is faithful and that He is a just God. We trust that He will open doors and that He will give us creative ideas to provide all that we need to serve these people whom we have grown to love so much.
Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things: you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."