Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Time marches on...

They say home is where the heart is. The longer I am away from home and everything that I am sure of, the less I agree with the idea behind this saying. I suppose it is supposed to mean where your heart is, that is your physical heart, but I am more convinced every day that my heart is where it has always been, at home with my family. My heart of hearts is at home where even when things are terrible, they are wonderful. Where when things are tough, they are enjoyable. Where Jeopardy and The Today Show are comfortable. This is where my heart of hearts is. With my people. With those that understand little things like daily courtesies and why we say things like “I’m fixin’ to go to the store.” This is where I will always fit in. Where I will always know the cultural norms and daily ins and outs of everyday life. If living abroad has taught me anything thus far it is not that God has called me to move my heart, but rather I feel as though he is growing another. Almost as if instead of the Grinch growing a bigger heart, I have grown a completely separate heart. A heart unsure of most everything in life, but open and accepting of a the existence of this second heart.

My new heart is here. Breaking for these that surround me every day with their rosaries and mass. Their statues and ritualistic prayers. Their parades and festivals worshipping a Jesus they haven’t fully known. Yes, they know the answers to all of my questions. They know the Easter story better than I do. But have they sat at the feet of my Jesus and talked with him? Have they encountered the God of David whom he spoke of in the 73rd Psalm when he said, “Nevertheless I am continually with you; You have taken hold of my right hand. With your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in Heaven but you? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Have they met this God. This guide. This leader. This friend. This stronghold. The provider. The one to be desired, not ritualized. To be comforted by not worked for. The best friend, not unreachable idol. Have they heard of this God.

My new heart has even received a new language. My new language brings challenges daily. Even in simple things like “Did I just say I will wash my clothes yesterday? Or I lost my shoes while swimming in a quilt instead of cave? Will the hotel have lawyers, not pillows?” You have to laugh the mistakes away and learn from them. But more than that, how do you begin to comprehend the challenge of introducing God Almighty in a language you can barely use? I feel more and more every day like Moses when he spoke to God about difficulties that I am relating to more than I ever thought possible. Until now my southern accent has been my closest relation to this conversation. Ha! The conversation goes like this in Exodus 4, “Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please Lord I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in the past, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, The Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to say.”” – Could I be so bold to trust the one who made my mouth, who has ordained my path, and has given the land into my hands, as in the time of Joshua? Could I trust that I would be leading them to the rock that is higher than I?

On a side note: I have less than 40 days left here in Guatemala. I am still in the middle of processing my visa for Colombia and will hopefully be meeting with the Colombian consulate within the next week or so. My family is coming to visit this weekend and I am more excited than you could know to see them. I got a kitten since I last blogged. Her name is Misha which means kitten in my indigenous language here in my village. I will not be taking her to Colombia with me, but she brings small joys to my life every day. It’s amazing to me what a blessing a pet can be when you are away from home. I have been sick a few times since my surgery, but have been able to battle them off with antibiotics successfully. I am still always concerned about sickness here, but I am learning to be more than thankful for every healthy day that I am given. I have changed teachers because we are required to change every four weeks. It took me more than a week to get used to this teacher. I was pretty miserable for a good week, but we are beginning to get along better and my Spanish seems to be coming along pretty well, with daily comical mistakes. We have traveled a bit within Guatemala and hope to travel and bit more before our time here is done. Guatemala is a beautiful place and I could be here for a year and I think eventually see all of the things that I would like to see here. My family and I are really feeling more and more like a family every day. I cannot believe I am going to have to leave them in a just a few weeks! As excited as I am to finally reach Colombia after all of this time, I will be equally sad to say goodbye to my family here. I have become quite a hoarder of the movies they sell at the market and today even sat down and watched the Hannah Montana movie which was very entertaining. I also purchased a Colombian-made movie that was completely in Spanish, but had English subtitles and I caught myself preferring to listen rather than read the English and I was very excited! That has to be a good sign, right? It seems like every time I check facebook, which is not very often at all, people are having babies, getting engaged, starting school, moving to college, getting married, graduating, and on and on. As much as I would like it to stop, it seems as though life is going on without me in the states, and quite successfully it seems. Life is certainly moving along here in Guatemala. My tan difference in my arms and my legs is growing more distinct every day as my arms are receiving more and more sun and my legs and still quite pasty with it being more culturally accepted to have everything above the ankle covered here. I’ll definitely be working on that in Colombia. Haha! Other than that, there’s not much to say.

God is good. All the Time.

Hasta Luego,
Psalm 73

Prayer Requests:
1. Language learning
2. Continued Health concerns
3. Ortunities to share with my current teacher the truth of the cross.
4. That God would continue to prepare hearts and friends there for me in Colombia.
5. That God would strengthen my team in Colombia.
6. That God would bless my future roommates in Colombia, Heather and Kendall.
7. That God’s provision would be over my visa process and that I would receive my visa quickly and easily.
8. That God would make my transition to leave Guatemala a great and happy time despite crazy mixed emotions.
9. That God would bless my time spent with my real family as they come to visit me here and that it would be a time completely filled with joy despite having to say goodbye at the end of their trip.
10. That God would continue to be with all of my friends from Orientation who are around the world serving Him.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The loss of a not-so-vital organ....

Searing pain every 30 minutes. I laid in my bedroom alone trying to convince myself that the fan blowing on my was just like air conditioner as I sweated out the little bit of liquid that I had been able to hold down since Friday afternoon when the pain had first begun. It was Sunday morning. I hadn’t been able to keep down a drop of any food or drink in 2 days. I decided to call the missionaries here to see what they recommended, embarrassed to report that I was, once again, sick. I lay in bed in disbelief that I was still sick. I’ve only been here 3 weeks. How could I have been sick this entire time? I’m even using bottled water to brush my teeth. Embarrassed, but fairly desperate, I called. They were in Honduras, but advised that I visit the private hospital in Antigua in case of dehydration and for some blood work. I waited for Amber to come over and asked her if she would go along. It’s now around 9:30 on Sunday morning. We always take the bus into town, but today I decided to call a taxi. I didn’t think I could deal with searing pain AND a bus load of crowded, hot people. The taxi didn’t answer. Great! Could this get any better? I would have to take the bus. We slowly walked to the bus after I had managed to slip on some sweatpants and a t-shirt and throw my bed head into a ponytail. The bus was PACKED! We were also told that it had been sitting for over 40 minutes (they usually leave every 10-15 minutes). Something was obviously wrong, but I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what was to come.
Luckily, the bus departed after just a few short minutes as a struggled to stay on the edge of a seat. Things were looking up. I was on the way to the doctor. Just as I thought “I think I might make it through this day.” The bus stopped. Completely stopped. In the middle of the main road. I looked up to see a huge traffic jam and thought, “Great! What a great day for a major wreck! Someone better be dead or someone in this bus will be dead soon and by someone I mean me!” We sat. and we sat. And then slowly people started exiting the bus. “Great. I’m going to die. Right here in this bus. On the Sabbath nonetheless.” I looked back at Amber and said, “We’re going to have to get off this bus and see if we can find someone that can get through the traffic. I can’t sit here anymore.” We exited the bus. After we had already paid and slowly began making our way up the road. We were too far from Antigua to walk and way too far from home to return. We made our way past people sitting on the curbs and motorcycles now completely turned off and at a standstill. A wreck? No. A marathon. They had completely shut down the entire main road for a marathon. Just as I thought about death again, a 70 something Guatemalan man jogged by wearing nothing but pink hot shorts that could have fit a small 12 year old girl and I was certain that would be my last mental image. A sweaty old man in pink mini shorts. The sun was draining me of any energy I had left. We sat on the curb as I tried not to cry. Amber finally found a policeman who informed us that at the end of the runners there would be an ambulance, but that he would try to find someone to help me. I knew I wouldn’t last long in the near noon heat. I stood up to throw up on the side of the road as another round of pain came over me and I hit the pavement. I came to in the ambulance as they banged on my collar bone and tried to ask me my name. I couldn’t focus my eyes. I was totally spent. I just closed my eyes and tried to keep breathing.
We made it to the hospital. Thankful for the lack of energy so I wouldn’t notice the cobblestone streets, I laid on a cot that was probably 1 foot wide. I was moved to a room and an IV was started. No relief from the pain so I just lay there writhing. Finally, some fellow IMB missionaries showed up to check on me. I was so relieved to be able to speak in English and have help translating “I NEED PAIN MEDICATION NOW!” that’s really all I was trying to say! Later that evening, the missionaries returned from Honduras and decided to transfer me to the hospital in the capital city. The hospital I was already familiar with. We headed there around 8 and began the worst week of my life.
Once admitted I struggled again to find someone to relieve my pain to no avail. They had given me enemas in the emergency room after finding out that I hadn’t used the bathroom in 2 weeks. We were sure that was the problem. They took me to a semi-private room and I was put in the bed farthest from the bathroom. They realized in 2 seconds the dilemma. I was moved to a private room. I spent the first night in horrible pain, but at least I wasn’t dragging my IV across the room of a sick Guatemalan to get to the restroom every five seconds. I slept for 15 minutes at a time.
The next day the insurance sent a letter and I was moved again. Back to a semiprivate room. Once there I was scheduled for an Ultrasound and CAT scan. Nothing. Healthy. Still in unbearable pain. Healthy? “I’m dying! Someone is going to die if I don’t get some pain medication.” Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling very missionary-like as nurse after nurse announced that she was giving me medicine for dolor (pain) when I knew it was probably an anti-inflammatory or something! I was so discouraged and beyond exhausted from the half hour writhing sessions.
The next morning an Endoscopy was scheduled and I was so thankful to have a good 15 minutes of Anesthesia! Painless sleep! I hadn’t experienced that in days! Small tears were found in my stomach, but Dr Garcia, the G.I. didn’t think this was the cause of my pain. Finally after days of pain I was offered a narcotic. A Demerol injection every 6 hours. I was finally able to sleep. Although I could still feel the pain, it was bearable. Still, no diagnosis. I was beginning to imagine that only Dr. House could solve my problems. Even still, God was faithful to provide the pleasures of having a TV with some channels in English. I was even able to watch some shows like Dr. Phil and Jeopardy that made me feel at home in a very foreign environment. It seemed just as I would get so discouraged, God would send a simple thing like Dr. Phil to remind me that although my mother wasn’t with me, He was with me through it all and He knew I needed to feel my mother’s presence so I watched Jeopardy and smiled and thanked a very personal God.
Without a diagnosis a surgeon was sent to test for Appendicitis. No luck. I could bend my legs at every angle and the pain remained the same. By Tuesday afternoon my IV hand had tripled in size and it was obvious that the IV was leaking. I couldn’t even bend my fingers. It looked like I had blown into a plastic glove and tied it off like a balloon. The IV had to be moved on Wednesday morning. I was scheduled for a nuclear contrast test of my intestinal system at 10. At 9 they came to change the IV. An hour and a half later, 11 puncture wounds later, 5 different DOCTORS later, my IV had been not-so-successfully moved to the fold of my right arm. It was now 10:30 and I had to be taken by ambulance to the testing center. We had missed my appointment. At 4:30 pm after laying on a cot in a waiting room for hours they were finally ready for the test. The doctor injected the contrast only to discover that the IV had of course broken in my arm. It would have to be moved. I knew the debacle that lay ahead. He opted to inject the contrast straight into my veins and within 10 more minutes the test was finally underway. 30 minutes later it was very clear that my gallbladder was not functioning at all. Praise the Lord for a diagnosis. I returned IV-less and dreading the torture of another round of punctures, but so thankful to have found the problem.
Relieved I informed the missionary who had been staying in the hospital and the surgeon came in shortly after I returned to my hospital room and eagerly reported that removal of my gallbladder was the cure! “Great! Let’s get this thing out of here now!” I thought. And then suddenly the news came that I may have to return to the states for the surgery and that would mean the end of my service. I would lose my job. After a year of application, 9 weeks of training, and 3 weeks of language it would all be over. All I could do was pray. No words came to mind except “You are still on your throne. You are not surprised by this. Praise the One who is never caught off guard. If it be your will that I would have come all the way to the top of the mountain with my son Isaac and then you send me home, so be it.” I could only praise the One who sits on the throne. I wouldn’t have an answer from the board until in the morning. It would be a long restless night of wondering until I would hear something. News came early and I would be allowed to stay. Still parentless to face my first major surgery alone, but I would be able to stay and continue with my call to the nations. Surgery was scheduled for 2pm on Thursday.
By the time 2pm came I was a nervous wreck. They came right on time and wheeled me away. We reached the surgery hall and I started crying. God had provided me with the most amazing anesthetist and surgeon and they both came out and as soon as they saw my tears my surgeon grabbed my hand and told me not to be worried that God was with me and that he would hold my hand until I fell asleep. And he did. They wheeled me into a crowded room (not at all sterile like in Grey’s anatomy which made me even more nervous) and Dr. Abed, my surgeon, held my hand and made jokes about Americans until I fell asleep. I fell asleep with Dr. Abed holding one hand and my Father holding the other with a smile on my face laughing about how they put all the American organs in a museum somewhere in Guatemala City. Talk about a personal God. Little did I know, or did Dr. Abed who is a strong believer and follower of our king know, that my mom was praying that the Lord would send someone to hold my hand. A simple prayer. A sincere, heartfelt prayer from a mother thousands of miles away from her baby girl having major surgery and He heard her plea. He heard her and provided. Not in a metaphorical way of protection and care. No, he literally provided a 6ft 4in Palestinian man named Fredy Abed to hold my hand and tell me not to be afraid. My father provided someone to hold my hand and distract me with smiles and jokes. What a mighty God we serve. What a faithful God we serve.
I woke up in the worst pain of my life, 3 days of a Demerol drip and lots of TV later I left the hospital minus one organ. I started school 2 days later and have been building back an appetite all week. Once staples are removed I will only have time to allow the small incisions to heal completely and my eating habits to get back to normal.
I learned lots of things while in the hospital. I learned that God will provide brothers and sisters in Christ when we need them the most. I learned that pain medication is truly a gift from above, as is medication in general. I learned a tiny bit about how difficult it must have been for God to watch Jesus suffer and not be able to go to him and help, as my parents were thousands of miles away, knowing I was suffering and were unable to get to me and help. How horrible it must have been for god to watch his precious son suffer because of my sins. How badly he must have wanted to rush down and stop the entire thing. I learned loads of Spanish medical vocabulary. I learned that God will even provide cute doctors just to brighten my day in the midst of tough situations. I learned that watching House is kind of creepy when you are in the hospital. I learned that we serve a God who hears our prayers. He understands our silent, heartfelt wishes and that He is faithful in the midst of our unbelief. I learned that when we can do nothing but cry out of fear and anxiety, God will provide a Fredy Abed to remind us that we are not alone and God will provide someone to hold our hand until the storm passes by.
Life is no different without a Gallbladder, but life is very different after that week. The power of prayer is real. The faithfulness of my Father is real. And the blessings of modern medicine are appreciated more than ever.
Thank you for your prayers and for your kind emails and thoughtful words to my family during this time. Know that I felt every prayer even in small ways that you cannot imagine. Thank you for your support and for your love. I hope in the future I can return the blessings of your friendship.
Because He first loved me,

· Pray for continued health and a quick recovery as I incorporate foods back into my diet.
· Pray for language learning and that I would be able to use my language for His glory daily.
· Pray for friends that I have made here that I would be able to begin to share the gospel with them and that God would do amazing works in their lives.
· Pray that God would break down the walls of cultural Christianity found in Catholicism here among the indigenous peoples.
· Pray that God would be preparing hearts in Colombia.
· Pray for my team in Colombia, that they would grow together and that their ministries would be fruitful even now before my arrival.
· Pray that I would be a “Barnabus” to everyone I meet along the way.