Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Maintaining Traditions Part 2

In a previous post I wrote about Maintaining Traditions on the mission field.  Each family has it's own traditions.  What is important for you, may not be important for me.  What I celebrate or decorate for, you possibly decorate or celebrate different holidays.  What is important for one family on the mission field, is not important for another family, what is important for one parent to teach their children is not important to another parent to teach their children, etc.

Fall.  One of my most favorite seasons.  I have so many pictures in my computer of the trees changing colors - easy to do in Sacramento - the City of Trees.  In Honduras, Fall was a non-existent season.  And here, in Africa, it's no different.  The palm trees,  mangos, avocado trees, etc. don't lose their leaves and change colors - so it's hard to get a feeling of Fall.  Strangely enough I was able to find many Fall decorations in Honduras.  I don't know if it was all the "gringo" influence, or what - but there were always plenty of choices at one of the big department stores in town.

When I was in the States in August,  I took the opportunity to bring some Fall with me.  I purchased some things that I would be able to make some decorations when I returned to Africa - fabric, Fall fake leaves, Fall paper, etc.

This is one of the ways I make my home feel like a home.  I've said it before, but when Madison was here sh
e said to me - mom...your house is ugly...you need to decorate it...

So - one season at a time, I'll see what I can come up with.

Friday, September 16, 2016

HIV/AIDS and the Responsibility of the Church

That's the name of the class I will be teaching to the Seminary Students in Malabo.

I was asked if I would be interested in teaching a class like this - it hasn't been taught before, so that would require me to come up with the curriculum and structure of the class.  I'm in the last few quarters of my Masters Degree in Public Health, and part of the requirement for completion is to have a certain amount of hours doing some  form of Public Health.  As HIV/AIDS is the number one cause of death here, it seemed like this subject was perfect for fulfilling not only my Masters requirement, but my personal desire in health education and empowering people in their own health - a win-win if I've ever seen one.

Over the last month I have been pouring over reading materials, books, and other curriculum to come up with a curriculum that is going to work in my particular setting.  To this end I've started compiling my resources, some in English and some in Spanish.  I think between all I've read and collected I'll be able to make this happen.  In addition, I'll be starting regularly scheduled clinics with some of the pastors that are currently attending the seminary. Between the classes and the clinics I should easily be able to fulfill my hour requirement for my Masters, and my personal desire with ministry.

I do feel privileged to have my own personal ministry on the field, I know that is not the case with many women missionaries.  We each have our own role, and many are in very different seasons of life where their primary ministry is to their family.  I have always been able to have both ministry to my family and personal ministry, which I realize makes it a little different than others on the field.  This has always been a challenging position, and I have had this conversation with almost every woman who joined our team - what is your role? When women joined our team, there always seemed to be a one-on-one conversation as we discussed what the expectations were of the team and of each individual.  Without exception, we always understood and made it known that the primary responsibility of both the men and the women on the team was to their families.  Because of my season of life - where my daughter was in school, I was able to have a full-time ministry life, working at my clinic full-time, and it was a joy to be able to have my own ministry apart from my husbands.  It was a joy to see God grow the ministry of the clinic, where ultimately a brick-and-mortar clinic was built, and I hired a Honduran physician and nurse, and where, to this day, it continues on.

So now I will see where God will take me on this new journey.  As a teacher at a seminary, and as a medical provider at mobile clinics, I feel a huge weight of responsibility, but I know that God has prepared me and equipped me to be able to do this - and so I strive onward knowing that God will see me through.

FACT SHEET 2016
GLOBAL STATISTICS—2015
·       17 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy
·       36.7 million [34.0 million–39.8 million] people globally were living with HIV
·       2.1 million [1.8 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV
·       1.1 million [940 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses
·       78 million [69.5 million–87.6 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic
·       35 million [29.6 million–40.8 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic
People living with HIV
·       In 2015, there were 36.7 million [34.0 million–39.8 million] people living with HIV.
People living with HIV accessing antiretroviral therapy
·       As of December 2015, 17 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy, up from 15.8 million in June 2015 and 7.5 million in 2010.
o   46% [43–50%] of all adults living with HIV were accessing treatment in 2015, up from 23% [21–25%] in 2010.
o   49% [42–55%] of all children living with HIV were accessing treatment in 2015, up from 21% [18–23%] in 2010.
o   77% [69–86%] of pregnant women living with HIV had access to antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies in 2015.
New HIV infections
·       New HIV infections have fallen by 6% since 2010.
o   Worldwide, 2.1 million [1.8 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2015, down from 2.2 million [2 million–2.5 million] in 2010.
·       New HIV infections among children have declined by 50% since 2010.
o   Worldwide, 150 000 [110 000–190 000] children became newly infected with HIV in 2015, down from 290 000 [250 000–350 000] in 2010.
AIDS-related deaths
·       AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 45% since the peak in 2005.
o   In 2015, 1.1 million [940 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related causes worldwide, compared to 2 million [1.7 million–2.3 million] in 2005.
HIV/tuberculosis
·       Tuberculosis-related deaths among people living with HIV have fallen by 32% since 2004.
o   Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for around one in three AIDS-related deaths.
o   In 2014, the percentage of identified HIV-positive tuberculosis patients who started or continued on antiretroviral therapy reached 77%.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Trip to the US

I'm not going to lie - the trip to the States came at a very good place in my life.  Life in Africa is a bit challenging - from daily living, collecting water, camp showers, washing my clothes, grocery shopping, it was a good opportunity to take some time and enjoy the conveniences that life in America brings with it.  Fast internet, consistent electricity, washing machines and a nice hot, long shower brought a moment of stress-free living.  And, thanks to the generous folks who took care of me, I was gifted a dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, the Olive Garden, two trips to the movies, shopping spree at Lowe's, and time to unpack all the gifts that people purchased off of my Wish List.  So - THANK YOU!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I felt well loved for by folks I came in contact with, well loved by those whose homes I stayed in, and well loved by those who reigned gifts upon me.

In addition, I had my esophagus dilated, which I've needed to have done pretty much my entire life, but it seemed a bit daunting to me, but I figured with limited access to emergency medical care, I needed to have this done prior to my return.  I had another medical appointment, dropped my daughter off at college and got her settled in, visited Faith Presbyterian Church and had the privilege of sharing our ministry in Africa.  It was a great trip, a time of refreshment, and prepared me to return to Africa.

So - MANY thanks, once again, to ALL those who cared for me, gifted me, and loved on me.  It was definitely a challenge taking back all my goodies - 5 bags, plus my carry-on - but well worth the unpacking and locating of my new purchases in the house.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Moses and horns

When we visited the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain, I was  almost overwhelmed at the incredible Master painters I saw.  From Degas, the Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso and Bosch, Rembrandt, Dali, and the like...I was in heaven!

In my dream state of seeing artists I could only have imagined, I came across a particular painting by Bosch.  Bosch is most famous for his depiction of the Garden of Earthly Delights.  It shows the Fall with Adam and Eve on the left side, the middle frame depicts all the sin "delights" of life, and the right panel depicts Hell.  It is quite breath taking, and a bit disturbing.  

video
While we were at the museum, the Prado had put his masterpiece to film and audio.  The video is quite disturbing, but incredible at the same time.

While I was looking over his other pieces of work, I noticed one, and in the middle of it I saw this:

Moses has horns?!

What is going on here?!  So I showed it to Mike and he was totally intrigued!  So he did a little research...

The depiction of a horned Moses stems from the description of Moses' face as "cornuta" ("horned") in the Latin Vulgate translation of the passage from Exodus in which Moses returns to the people after receiving the commandments for the second time. The Douay-Rheims Bible translates the Vulgate as, "And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord." This was Jerome's effort to faithfully translate the difficult, original Hebrew Masoretic text, which uses the term, karan (based on the root, keren, which often means "horn"); the term is now interpreted to mean "shining" or "emitting rays" (somewhat like a horn). Although some historians believe that Jerome made an outright error, Jerome himself appears to have seenkeren as a metaphor for "glorified", based on other commentaries he wrote, including one on Ezekiel, where he wrote that Moses' face had "become 'glorified', or as it says in the Hebrew, 'horned'. "The Greek Septuagint, which Jerome also had available, translated the verse as "Moses knew not that the appearance of the skin of his face was glorified." In general medieval theologians and scholars understood that Jerome had intended to express a glorification of Moses' face, by his use of the Latin word for "horned."[6]:74–90 The understanding that the original Hebrew was difficult and was not likely to literally mean "horns" persisted into and through the Renaissance.

So the bottom line - it sounds like it was a BAD translation, but it persisted in art...one of the most famous is Michelangelo's statue:



And after I took the picture, then we did a little research, we found SO many versions of Moses with his "horns" or showing him being "radiant":


Who knew?!  Anyway - Bosche was incredible/amazing, and I was truly in awe of his incredible art...but still...Moses with horns?!  Hmmm...


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taking a Deep Breath

We've been in Africa almost 6 months...I know...hard to believe.  We turned over all our ministry in Honduras, closed out our time there.  We encountered very difficult things when we left both personally and in ministry, and yet another move. I'm still reeling a bit over the hateful/spiteful mail I received, but I'm putting it aside and have forgiven this person in my heart although they have washed their hands of me.

In the time in Africa we've tried to figure out how to live.  Our new team mates said to us, "This country chews up and spits out missionaries..."  It's extremely stressful, hard living, we don't have a car, lose electricity 8-12 hours everyday, haul up well-water for our wash, live under mosquito netting, cook with very limited supplies, the slowest internet we have ever had, live on the equator, make everything from scratch, our kid is SO far away, and we are still trying to figure out our ministry.  I've already had multiple mobile clinics in different parts of the interior of the country, and Mike and I are both going to start teaching classes in a few weeks.  My mother passed away 4 1/2 years ago, and my dad just over 5 months ago.  All of that adds up to living under a constant state of stress!  I've had more head aches in the last 5 months then I've had in a long time.  We live in sweat, in a little 900-square foot brick house.

So...it was time to take a deep breath.

Madison came to spend the summer with us in Africa, and I said to Mike, why don't we leave Africa early, and spend some time together as a family.  There are no direct flights to the U.S. from where we live - most of them fly through Europe - so - that's what we did.  We left Africa 10 days before Madison needed to be back to start up in her third year of college, spending time in Madrid, Spain, and in Lisbon, Portugal.  It's the first family vacation we have had in a very long time.

Some people have said to us - that it must be nice to be able to travel to Europe for a vacation.  Yes, it absolutely is!  We make enough money to live in Africa, and not much more, so vacations are something we plan for WAY in advance to save up to go.

I was talking to Madison on the way to Spain and I wanted to see how many countries she had been to in her 20 years.  We came up with 19 countries!  Before we were missionaries, we were already world travelers!  We took an annual family vacation, and that typically meant out of country.  That, along with our time as missionaries, she's been to a lot of countries!  So, I then started thinking about where I had been and came up with 34 countries:

United States
Germany
Mexico
Guatemala
Nicaragua
Belize
Panama
Costa Rica
Puerto Rico
Honduras
El Salvador
Peru
Germany
Netherlands
Denmark
Belgium
France
England
France
Scotland
Wales
Italy
Spain
Portugal
Austria
Haiti
Dominican Republic
Sri Lanka
Luxenberg
St. Thomas
St. Croix
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Philippines

Now, I'm not talking about lay-overs, I'm talking about spending a night, walking around, eating in a country...spending TIME in a country.  I've actually been to more countries then States in the United States.  My last passport had no space left in it, and I'm already half-way through this one, with new countries coming up including Ethiopia to add to my list.  So, I do live a stressful life, but I also have the opportunity to see some amazing places along the way.  I am grateful for this time to take a deep breath, take a hot shower, enjoy electricity 24/7, fast internet, and some amazing European food.  It gives me a chance to re-group and rejuvenate so I'm able to better do my ministry in Africa where all the stresses will come back as soon as I return.

In addition, I have some AMAZING supporters and friends who just want to love me and care for me.  I have so many gifts waiting for me when I get to the U.S. (Christmas in July!!!!!), gift cards to spoil myself, fun things to help me live life a little easier (frying pan, measuring spoons, etc), and some simply fun things - like movie gift cards to catch a movie (no movie theaters in the entire country of E.G.), and restaurants (Olive Garden) to eat a yummy steak and pampering (Ulta/Sephora).  In addition, I get to stay with some awesome friends who care for me and have a nice evening ride on a lake in my near future.

So taking a deep breath to allow me to continue on in a very difficult season of life, but where God has me to glorify Him and be His hands and feet.

 And...the last thing I want to think about, but know it's in my near future - I won't see Madison for a year and a half!  She won't be coming to see us until Christmas of 2017, and I won't be going to the U.S....this will be the longest time I've not seen her in her entire life...and we will be continents away...so - I'm just not going to think about that right now, while I continue to enjoy the last week with my girl :-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What is God teaching me in this?

About a month ago I received some "hate mail."  Well...I'm not sure you can actually call it that if it doesn't come in the mail - but who sends letters anymore (I LOVE letters by the way)?  But you get the idea...

It all started with a blog.

I blog for many reasons.  I'm actually excited that people actually read them!  My motive started when Mike and I were support raising to first come on to the field almost 11 years ago.  I wanted to guest blog on his blog and he said - "Why don't you start your own?"  Oh!  Now there's a thought.  It really was a way for me to chronicle my own journey.  Some times things happen that just need to be put down on "paper."  Emotional events that need to be spoken.  I've talked about sad things, happy things, crazy things, interesting things, and mundane things.  I like talking about what's going on in our lives.  I talk about what's happening in my ministry.  I talk about things that go on in my family.  I talk about things that are important to me, that I want to share with others.  I am not one to write something that is going to stir the pot.  I don't write political blogs, controversial topics, or anything to incite anyone.  I write them for my edification, God's glory, and to let folks know ways to pray for us and the ministry and to see how God is working.

That's what I thought this blog was...just talking about "stuff" really, nothing important.  Then I got some hate mail...about my blog...

I was stunned.  This came from a person who has known me for a long time, who knows my character, who knows ME.  It was unkind,  and I sat in shock reading the words that were coming my way.  I was called unkind, a slanderer, and that I attacked with my blog.  In the end, that other person ended our friendship - that was it - the end - final words from this person were, "goodbye."

So I sat on that message...re-reading it...for a long time.  Why did I get this message now?  I haven't seen this person in a fair amount of time, I was in Africa, and yet they still felt the need to reach out with this message.  So I looked for God in this...I looked to see what He wanted me to learn, to see how this would be used for His glory.  And then it occurred to me.

Guess what?!  I'm a sinner.  You are a sinner.  We are all sinners.  We work with sinners, we live with sinners.  We are going to sin, and be sinned against.  That's the reality of the Fallen world.  I get that - but this was up close and personal, and I had to look beyond the hateful words for what God wanted me to learn.  I prayed, I studied, I asked for wisdom from my pastor, from my former boss, a dear Christian counselor, and knew what I needed to do with this situation.  And so, I did what I do...I wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and now there will be an addition to my book - and that's all I'll say :-)  Guess you will just have to read it.

People say they hate conflict.  But the reality is - conflict is a way of life.  There is conflict in your family - between spouses, between parents and their children, between adults and other adults, between friends.  It can be a GOOD thing if handled well.  It can be a bad thing if handled poorly.  If you have known me long enough, you know that conflict is not something I pursue - but I'm not afraid to confront it when it comes my way.  The bible is riddled with conflict...and God's directions in how to deal with it.

I'm not sure when conflict became a dirty word?  If anything, in this last year we have seen what conflict has done to people's friendships.  On Facebook - I have seen people unfriend others because of their views on one political party over another.  I have seen people unfriend others because their views on which bathroom to use is different than what your neighbor thinks.  Because guess what...people are going to disagree with you (not possible), won't like you (GASP!?), and even have different opinions (say it isn't so?!).  Voice your opinion - that's the beauty of the world we live in.  By stating your view, and that it in fact may be different, is not being hateful!  I'm not sure when my personal opinion became politically incorrect?  When did my views become hateful because they didn't agree with your views? No one has been convinced to change their opinion about something fundamentally important to them by a Facebook post.  Seriously, people.  Don't give yourself that much credit.

How you choose to respond to this conflict is where things clash.  New denominations have been born because of conflict, directions of churches have changed because of conflict..it's not about the conflict...it's how we as Christians choose to deal with it, how we choose to respond.  We say, "can't we all just get along?!"  The reality is, no - we can't all just get along.  AND THAT's OKAY!  Strive for it?  Absolutely.  Pray to be that way...of course...desire it be one of your characteristics?  Definitely.  However, I am not going to be everyone's best friend...sorry...that title is preciously reserved for a select few.  Humans are passionate people - and I love how colorful our world is - if we all thought the same, did the same thing, were robots in this world, where would the beauty of God's creation be seen in the humans that He created?  It's why our mission agency focuses on the Myers-Briggs so much - understanding how people are so very different can help you work better with them.  I am a type-A, huge planner, meticulous, and focused.  I totally realize that I am going to work with people who are so NOT like me...and I love that...it makes us better...too many of the same type of people can lead to a stagnant ministry.  But understanding that we are all different, find different priorities, think differently is also hugely important.

We can choose to be kind to each other in the midst of not getting along.  We can choose to hold our tongue and not lash out during conflict.  Is it a fight worth fighting for or can it just be overlooked?  Will you want to pull back the words that spewed from your lips, or will you go to bed knowing that you did the best you could do?  

So, how will you, as a believer, confront conflict when it occurs?  Will you flee from it?  Will you confront it?  Will you attack over it?  Will you look for reconciliation, or be forced to shake the dust from your feet?  We don't always do things the right way, but looking at the heart, and for the motive is so important when addressing conflict...be kind...be filled with Grace...love one another in the midst of understanding that we are not all going to always get along...that's not only reality, but truth, and if you think otherwise, then perhaps you've not been in enough conflict.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The hard job of a jungle nurse

A sweet two year old girl was brought to me by her parents and I didn't even have to see much of her to know that much was wrong.


I was sitting under some palm trees, plantain plants, and surrounded by the sounds of the jungle.  We had come to a 2,000 person city to visit a local pastor we knew.  He had asked if I could bring some medical equipment and supplies to help out some of the local community.  Mike was  going to preach, and this is what I do after all.  In Honduras, I started just the same - with a box of medications and supplies, riding a bus an hour out to a small community and set up shop.  I've put on medical clinics on soccer fields, dirt floor houses, under trees, and walking house-to-house.  Eventually I constructed a permanent clinic in the community.  In the almost 8 years I had been in Honduras, I had seen over 10,000 patients.  My little clinic saw more than 2,000 patients a year alone.  So, doing things with little to nothing is nothing new to me.

I've taken out toenails on a kitchen floor, started IV's on dying patients in their hammock of their home, put  in more stitches in more circumstances I don't even remember them all. I can pack a whole lot of "stuff" in a little space.

So...I took a look at this little girl.  I talked sweetly to her and did those silly googly faces that parents just can't help  doing when you look at a little kiddo - come on - you know what I'm talking about :-).  Then I asked the parents for a history.  She had had a traumatic birth, and was born limp, not breathing, and the doctors thought she was not alive.  Bottom line - she had been deprived of oxygen for quite some time.  This little one had severe cerebral palsy.  When I assessed her,  her eyes rolled back in her head, she did not have any grip or muscle control at all, she drooled, and had difficulty with secretions.  She did not respond to voice.  The parents looked at me expectantly then asked me a very difficult question - "When was she going to be 'normal'" (their words).  I asked them what they had been told.  They said that the doctors told them that she would get better and one day be 'normal' (again - their words).  So, they were here,  expectantly waiting for me to tell them the good news.  My heart sank.  My heart beat fast.  What to say?!

I had worked in a pediatric oncology hospital for 13 years, so I was no stranger to difficult situations - being the nurse when the doctor told parents their child was not going to make it.  I've been the nurse of the child who doesn't survive our efforts from CPR, I've held the hand of dying people, and helped bring new life into the world.  One thing that this sweet family was holding on to was hope.  And I was going to be the one to tell them  that their sweet girl was about as good as she was going to get.

So I started with - All things are possible with God.  That they clearly loved her dearly.  That all life is precious.  Then I started with the hard things.  That their life was going to change - that they lived in a country that had zero resources, and they were going to be expected to do everything on their own with very little.  I advised some physical therapy and gave them some ideas of what to do.  I talked about ways to feed her, and to start thinking about a wheel chair so she wouldn't be confined to her house her entire life.  I looked into the faces of the parents...there was profound sadness, grief, and shock.  This was not what they were expecting, and the reality was settling in.  What could I offer?  A touch, comfort, and some love.  That was all I had...And then I prayed.

And then I saw my next patient.  I had many more people waiting for me.  My job is hard.  It's emotionally exhausting working in a country with limited to no resources, where children come to me starving and emaciated, where 1/3rd of the country has malaria, and children are orphaned from the consequences of AIDS.  But I am here to be hands and feet, and try and help just one person at a time in whatever way I can.