Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jesus loves me, this I know.......

Last weekend our family attended a retreat for missionaries on the beach.  It. Was. Awesome.  A church from Michigan, people who I’d never met before, paid for our family (and about 40 or 50 other missionaries) to spend the night at a nice hotel at the beach. They also paid for all our food!!  The team ended up getting stuck in Brussels so they couldn’t do several of the programs that they’d planned to do, but let me tell you.  Just getting to rest and hang out with our kids and go swimming in a swimming pool……it was so amazing.  

Marie got to play with some other missionary kids that she hadn't seen in awhile!

The team arrived on Sunday morning and we had a little church service, including communion.  Several of the ladies were quick to offer to take the kiddos so the adults could have a chance to listen to the message.  Since we don’t’ have a nursery at our church, this was an awesome blessing!!

As we were sitting there listening to the pastor speak and singing songs that were so familiar but never sung in our church services here, I just started bawling.  (Shocking, I know).  It was just so strange to me.  Who spends thousands of dollars to come over here and minister to people (missionaries) that they’ve never met before and will probably never see again, this side of heaven.  Their hearts and attitudes were just so humble and servant like. “Here, let me hold her for you.”  “How are you doing?” “How can we be praying for you?”  As I was standing there worshipping with some close friends, and a lot of strangers, I just felt the Lord saying, “Emily, I did this because I love you.”  All of a sudden it wasn’t the generosity of the people that overwhelmed me, but the love of my God.  He loves me so much that He would send some of His people thousands of miles away from their home, ask them to sacrifice a lot of money to come, just to show us that we’re cared about.  I talked to one woman after it was over and she said, “You’re not an island.  It may feel like it sometimes, but you’re not.”  I may never forget that.
It's amazing how comforting it is to sing familiar worship songs!!

We got back from the retreat on Sunday afternoon and that night welcomed a team from my home church.  They came to do a VBS with our kiddos at Grace Village.  It was such a fun week!!!. They did four days of VBS with our kids and then on Saturday, did a VBS with about 50 kids in the village while the Grace Village kids had a “serve the community” day.  The older kids were trained all week by one of the team members in leadership and how to lead a VBS and then on Saturday they each took charge of their station (games, crafts, story, etc). It was fun to see those older kids challenged and really taking ownership of their roles as leaders.

Story time!
Duck, Duck, Goose was a hit!! They thought it was hilarious to add in other animals and call each other "goat" "cow" "sheep"
Making birdhouses for craft time. We didn't have enough hammers so we improvised and used rocks.
Counting out the snacks.....just to make sure. :)
Nicole and I gathered all the younger kids together and explained that we were so blessed to have had these visitors come serve us all week and now it was our turn to serve the community!  They were really excited.  Then I told them HOW we were going to go serve the community.  We were going to…….. GO PICK UP GARBAGE ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!!!  There was a little pause…and then they all started clapping and cheering.  I was shocked!  They had great attitudes the whole time!  ( I often use trash pickup around the home as a punishment when kids are naughty. They are not usually excited at that time). :)

I'm sure people thought we were crazy with 30+ kids walking along the side of the road with bags full of garbage :)
No complaining the whole time!

Proudly showing off their full bags of trash when we were done!!
I was a little nervous about the timing of the team coming, just because I’m in my third trimester of this pregnancy and wasn’t sure how I would be feeling.  But I must say, this team has been so incredible!!  They’ve helped with all the meals, dishes, crying kids and anything else they could think of to do to help.  The other day they had a couple hours between when they came home from Grace and when dinner was going to be served so they put on some gloves and went around the compound picking up trash.  Just such servants hearts! 

Several of the ladies went through my girls' clothes and pulled out all the stuff that was too small.  It had been on my list of things to do for months!! Thank you!!!
One team member brought a sewing machine for Marie that she's leaving here! She taught Marie to sew a skirt and Marie was thrilled!
The last few months have had quite a few unexpected events.  Surprise pregnancy.  Peter’s tourist visa renewal being denied when we thought it was going to be a slam dunk.  The decision to stay here to give birth instead of returning to the States.  A lot of these surprises have led to me feeling like my safety nets have been taken away.  The safety net of excellent medical care.  The safety net of knowing my husband could travel to the States with me if we had any issues here.  But in the last week, Jesus has used the Body of Christ in such incredible ways to love on me and encourage me that it serves as a powerful reminder of Who loves me even more.  I may feel vulnerable and even scared at times, but Jesus has reminded me once again that He’s there with me.  And that He really, really does care.  Thank you Jesus. And thank you to His many followers who have been His hands and feet!. So blessed.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now it's personal, Malaria.

Yesterday I was HOPPING mad!!   Last week I received a call from the man that cooks for Peter, Mr. J, letting me know he was going to be late because his grandson was taken to the hospital with seizures.  I started going after the possibilities in my head.  did he fall down, hit his head and start seizing?  Or does he have an underlying seizure disorder, start seizing and then fall down?  As it turns out, it was a febrile seizure.  I saw these a LOT when I was working in the hospital because malaria will make the kids’ temperatures go up so high that they started seizing. I breathed a sigh of relief because at least it was something that is treatable here, as opposed to some of the other options.

The kiddo was diagnosed with malaria and stayed in the hospital for a couple days.  Two days ago Mr. J came to the house and reported that his grandson was still having fevers and just wasn’t doing well.  I told him to bring me the medicine that they were giving him so I could make sure it was the correct one.  Instead, yesterday he brought the kiddo to the house.  The medicines he received from the “hospital” were a liquid vitamin and Tylenol.  NEITHER kill malaria parasites.  I keep a bunch of malaria tests in my house so I tested him and it immediately turned VERY positive for malaria.. When I told Mr. J. that his grandson had malaria but that the medicines he had wouldn’t treat it, we were both mad!! Mr. J told me that the problem is that if the "hospital" doesn't have the medicine, they’ll just sell you the ones that they have so they can still make a profit.  

Peter stopped at the pharmacy, got him the RIGHT medicine and we set him up on the couch to watch movies with Ben.  As I watched him, listlessly laying there with a vomit bucket by the couch because he didn’t feel good, I wondered if I needed to take him to the hospital to get his hemoglobin checked.  He'd been sick for a while and I've seen these things go badly. I decided to watch him for the day and ask Mr. J. how he was doing the next day.

That afternoon, I left Mr. J and his grandson at the house and went out to Grace Village. We have some visitors here right now and I took one of them out to do some activities with the kids while I saw any that were sick.  One of the teachers came to me and told me that he’d gone to the hospital a couple days before, after being sick for a week or so.  He was diagnosed with malaria and typhoid and given a drip of medication.  But he was still not feeling well. I asked him to show me the meds they’d given him and they were…..tylenol and amoxicillin.  NEITHER of which treat malaria OR typhoid.  I. Was. Hopping. Mad. Twice in one day I'd encountered either incompetence masquerading as competence in an effort to make a buck, or gross negligence.  Both at the expense of people's actual lives.

I was particularly upset about Mr. J's grandson because he's a child.  I was so mad that I thought about marching myself down there to give them a piece of my mind.  In the end I decided that I can't trust my big mouth enough not to say things I'd eventually regret, so I stayed home.  But I was still fuming every time I thought about it. 

Today my attitude changed a bit.  Early this morning Ben came into our room complaining of a “big owie” on his head and his foot.  When I picked him up, he was really hot.  I took his temp and it was 104.  He’d had a cold about a week ago but those symptoms were pretty much gone.  I’ve been treating him for a boil on his leg, but it was much better as well.  Two of our colleagues here had malaria last week so that, combined with his symptoms (headache and joint pain?) made me immediately start thinking malaria.

I took him out to the living room and pulled the malaria test kits out from under our coffee table where we keep them for easy access.  Since I basically test everyone in our family any time they get a fever, as soon as I pulled it out Ben started crying and saying “no owie!!” “no owie!!”  Peter came and held him while I poked and it didn’t take very long for the positive line to show up.  In fact, two positives showed up which means that he is infected with multiple strains of malaria.  The darker of the line was the Falciparum strain, which is the more dangerous one.

As I went and got his treatment and Tylenol ready, I started to choke back tears.  I’ve treated malaria hundreds of times.  I’ve had it myself multiple times.  I know that it is usually a very simple disease to treat, especially if it’s caught early.  But this is my own kiddo.  As much as I know the good things in my head, I also know the statistics of 1 in 4 children dying here before the age of five.  Ben's only 2.  I had the images of some of the kids around Ben’s age that I attempted to treat at the hospital…..but wasn’t successful.  I pictured the rooms they were in when they died. Some in the operating room which was the only room that had an oxygen tank. Some of them in the ward as I poked them over and over and over trying to get an IV.  Some of them didn’t even make it past the waiting room while they took their last breaths in their parents’ arms just moments after arriving.  The same parasite that killed those kids is now running through my son’s blood as well. 

I coaxed him into drinking his medicines and he settled down on the couch with Daddy while I cooked breakfast for our guests.  An hour later Mr. J came with his grandson.  His grandson who looked like a completely different kid from yesterday!  As the fever reducers kicked in, Ben perked up as well and immediately wanted to play with his friend.  You would never have known he was sick.  A few hours later the meds wore off and he was back to feeling puny, but this is how it goes with malaria.  We thank God SO much for Tylenol and Ibuprofen!!!

While Ben was taking a nap, I thought about the events of this morning and was just overwhelmed with gratefulness.  Because of the education I received (not even nursing education but just high school!) I can read directions, look on the internet and know how to easily treat my kiddo for this disease.  Because I don’t worry about where my next meal is going to come from, I can keep a $4 malaria treatment in my house and don’t have to debate about whether I should choose medicine or food that day. 

This morning as I was thinking about the possibilities, I briefly allowed my mind to go to the worst- case scenario.  I didn’t dwell there, as it was unbearable.  But as the thought crossed my mind of living without him here, it was quickly chased by a thought that quietly whispered, “this isn’t the end.  I AM with you. Even in that.” 
Mr. J's grandson left and as his fever started to creep up Ben just wanted Mommy.  

Malaria makes me mad.  Injustice makes me mad.  Greed makes me mad.  But as I go to sleep tonight with my son tucked into our bed, after treating another 104 temperature, I am also filled with gratefulness.  An overwhelming thankfulness for the innumerable blessings I’ve been given.  A renewed compassion to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the countless hurting people He brings into our lives.  And an urgency for people to know that this world isn’t the end.  This brokenness is infuriating and painful and at times utterly debilitating.  But it’s not the end.