Friday, February 26, 2016

A knock on the door

It is not unusual for our family to hear the first knocks on our door around 6:00am. When we first moved here I can tell you that it was definitely shocking for me. But then again at that point and time I was just also being introduced to the town announcements at 5:30am. Needless to say I have gotten used to both of them and now expect each to happen right on schedule.

The knock on our door at 6:00am February 11th was much different. This time it was from our little nine year old neighbor Stiven. Stiven has been a staple at our house since we moved to Caspizapa. Stiven, Erick, and Jhordan were the first boys that made friends with Malachi. They have become a part of our family.

That morning Stiven was very upset. He was speaking so quickly about his mom and the baby. All I could make out was my mom and the baby are bad. We knew Keisy was pregnant. We were very excited when she shared the news with us. She is a beautiful pregnant woman. Her growing belly and joy for the life growing inside her was present when you looked at her. Something had to have happened because she was still a month out from the due date.

I walked over to Stiven's house to speak with his grandmother. Obviously something was wrong and Stiven was begging for help. Neddy shared that Keisy had to go to the hospital early to have a c-section. There was a complication and now both her and her little son were not doing well. The hospital was an hour and a half away and she wanted to know if we could go and visit with her. She wanted to see if we could find out more about her little grandson and if he was going to survive. Visiting hours are from 2-4 only and now all we could do was wait. Those next hours seemed to drag on forever.

We arrived at the hospital at 3. Only I was allowed in. Taylor waited patiently outside with all of the kids. Praise God for some quick thinking- a bag full of snacks to help keep everyone at bay. I was ushered in down the hall where I found Keisy waiting on a bench. She was waiting to see her son Ascencio and to talk with the doctor about his case.

As we waited for the doctor I listened to what had happened. Keisy went into preeclampsia. She was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. She said she was in so much pain that she thought both of them were going to die on the way to the hospital. She described needing the emergency c-section and the look in her eyes was heartbreaking when she said Ascencio was purple when he was born. She thought he had died. I encouraged her to take comfort in the Lord because both of them had life. God saved her through the c-section and now we need to trust in the Lord for Ascencio's care. Visiting hours were completed at 4. The security guards were starting to usher everyone out. We had just been informed that Ascencio needed more tests and he was having a very difficult time breathing. I reassured Keisy to trust in the Lord and promised I would return tomorrow.

Friday was Anthony's 4th birthday! We celebrated bright and early. What four year old can wait for everyone to wake up? Not this one. Birthday cake and presents. Can you think of a better way to celebrate your birthday? Anthony couldn't!

I spent the morning prepping lunch, dinner, and snacks for Taylor. I was going to Tarapoto without the rest of the family. It was the first time for me to go out all day as a missionary without my family. Needless to say I was absolutely terrified by the thought but my excitement was building.

I hitched a ride into Picota on a moto before finding a taxi heading to Tarapoto. We made a quick stop off in Pucacaca to pick up Faith and away we went. Faith and I arrived at the hospital just as the doctor was finishing his morning rounds. Keisy was being moved from the room she shared with four other women where she had a bed to the lactation room. This room is where women stay when their babies need to be in the NICU. Here they had three beds and three mattresses laid on the floor. Keisy was moved to a mattress on the floor two three days after having a c-section. This room was not filled with the joy you expect to see with new mothers. All of these women were here together because their baby was fighting for life. The worst part was that if your baby was too weak or unable to nurse you expressed your milk and passed it through a window hoping to catch a glimpse of your child.

We learned that Ascencio was not eating. He was still having a hard time breathing. But his color had improved. He was no longer purple. His cheeks were now red. Praise God! The doctor gave us the list of medical supplies needed to treat Ascencio and away we went to purchase them. We also purchased Keisy some pain medication since she was no longer being treated at this time and she was obviously in a lot of pain. When we returned later that afternoon we learned that Ascencio had started coughing up blood. As you can imagine this brought many scary thoughts to the family. The doctor also said that there was a murmur and he needed to see a specialist ASAP.

Mom mode kicked in. What happens next? How do we get to the specialist and when? We headed to the clinic to schedule the appointment. We paid for the consultation and the appointment was only two hours away. Praise God! Next we headed back to the hospital to start working on the arrangements to bring Ascencio to the clinic. At this point we learned that we would not be able to use the ambulance to transport Ascencio. We would be taking a moto from the hospital to the clinic. Yep that's right a moto. The nurse had this precious baby boy wrapped in her arms as we drove across town on a moto. Something I never expected to ever see but will not be surprised if I ever see it again.The specialist spent the next half an hour examining little Ascencio. At the end of the appointment he said that his heart was perfect. Praise You Jesus!

God granted me another day to visit with Keisy and Ascencio. On Saturday Andrea went with me to visit. When we arrived we received more good news. Ascencio had stopped vomiting blood. He still needed medications to help with his breathing but they were going to try to offer him some milk. As Andrea and I left to purchase the IV bags and medicine we were singing praises to the Lord. We also purchased some items for Keisy to clean her incision. Some things I completely forgot to purchase for her the day before.

During these three days I fell more in love with God. I was able to witness Him in so many of His hurting children. He blessed me with many opportunities to comfort Him and pray with Him in ways I had never expected. I am humbled that God called me to do this and I look forward to being with Him again soon where He is sometimes forgotten.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Into the Woods...well the Jungle (Part 3)

Praise you Lord Jesus for how You care for Your creatures. In every way you provided for us especially with a night of restful sleep. Waking up at the foot of the cross is one of the most amazing ways to start your morning! Who better to first glance at than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

The generosity in Almirante Grau continued. Unbeknownst to Taylor and I, we each had agreed to eat breakfast at someone's house without mentioning it to the other. I have come to enjoy the simple breakfasts and good conversations. Coffee and bread with a lot of Christ. What could be better? I always learn so much from God during these moments to sit and listen. To hear how God is stirring in the hearts of those around us and their desire to know Him more. Slowly as we listen God guides the conversations and joy is radiating from the small room by the end. God's love and joy permeates through everything. And the best part is when someone notices God permeating they come searching for Him too!

Our last stop for this trip was to the pueblo Nuevo Control. This pueblo is the first pueblo in the Valley of Bombonajillo. Nuevo Control was created as the home for all of the security guards who patrol the road. Taylor met them in December and promised we would be stopping out to celebrate a Liturgy of the Word Service for them since they have never had one before. We were excited to share Christ with them.

We met with Raphael and his wife Exilda in their home. Raphael is a carpenter. We spent the next few hours listening to their desires for Nuevo Control. They want to receive the sacraments and how they desire to have mass. But they shared the desire to have a church was most important to them.

We shared with them our experience of first building Christ in our hearts before a church in stone. How without Christ in our hearts we are empty. Christ doesn't need a physical building in which to dwell He just needs us and our desire to be with Him. We give Him this when we welcome Him into our hearts and build Him a temple there.

Taylor took this time to talk to Raphael directly through his carpentry. When Taylor asked how a bed is made Raphael explained all the detail that is put into it. Taylor then explained that in the same way you would go about building a bed for a person you should also be building your heart for the Lord. It was in that moment that he understood. The moment when the reality of building something by hand is the same way he should be building his relationship with the Lord. And then almost in the exact same moment Raphael realized that he shares the same trade that Our Lord and Savior did. The joy on his face was breathtaking.

We were so blessed to be able to give the gift of God's Word to each of the people we met with their very first Bible. A special thanks for Peace United Church of Christ in Brillion WI for donating the funds to purchase all of the Bibles. Your generous donation has now put God Word into the hands of people who had never had the opportunity to read it before.

Please pray for these communities. We are excited that God has called our family to help minister to them. We are humbled by this opportunity and pray that God will continue to provide all that He is asking us to do. Please especially pray for our family as we prepare to head back next weekend!

Taylor visited the communities that we were unable to visit this time around on Jan 29-31. A blog dedicated to this special visit will follow in the next few weeks.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Into the Woods... well the Jungle (Part 2)

We arrived to Almirante Grau right on schedule for Liturgy of the Word. We were so blessed to share in the service. Taylor shared our testimony for the community. Ramón, one of the animadores, asked us to do a short teaching after the service. After the short teaching the community asked us to prepare to give another teaching at 7:00 that night. This was something we were not planning for but were excited to help the people since the priests only have the opportunity to visit the community twice a year.

Ramón and his family were so generous to have prepared lunch for our family. It was such a delicious meal of chicken, rice, and potatoes. As we ate lunch we asked about the communities past Almirante Grau. We were informed that some of the communities were without a church presence at all. We asked how far away all of the communities were. They responded by telling us that the communities are a half an hour and an hour and a half walk from where we are. All I could think was you have got to be kidding me. Taylor responded that we have six kids and it is not physically possible for all of them to walk that far in the heat of the day. They pointed us in the right direction and wished us luck.

The drive to the next pueblo was more beautiful than the drive to Almirante Grau. We have learned that photos just can't show the true beauty of the country. The road was bumpy and the ruts were large but we made it to Nuevo Esperanza. When we first arrived in town we were told that no one was Catholic in the community. Taylor felt the Holy Spirit leading us to one house. We pulled up to a couple sitting outside of their house. When we explained that we were catholic missionaries they were so excited that we came. We sat down and shared our testimony as our sister in Christ held Faustina. We felt the Spirit leading us to share on the Gospel reading for the day. We shared how to choose living for Christ and what it looks like in our daily lives. We encouraged them to strive to follow Christ and explained that it happens by choosing Him in all that we do. I also shared how that it doesn't happen overnight but that through choosing Christ and through perseverance it happens. We were so blessed to give them their first Bible. We encouraged them to read the Bible every day together. At this point my sister shared that she could not read. Her husband quickly said that he will read her the Bible every day. It was so beautiful to hear those words come from his mouth. The joy on her face was breath taking. As we were preparing to leave some more Catholics came to us and we were able to give Bibles to them as well. We asked them to join together in reading the Word daily. We promised that we would return in February as we drove away.

Our next stop was Santa Rosa. The road to Santa Rosa was much worse than anything we have seen here yet. At one point the kids started praying to our guardian angels to wrap their wings around our car. It was so beautiful to hear them invoke our guardian angels. Just to set everyone at ease the road had huge ruts and we had to cross a stream. Nothing dangerous just nothing the kids have ever seen before. The stream was twelve feet wide and only four inches deep. 

We arrived in Santa Rosa to a community without a church. Once we tracked down the animador we were informed that Padre says mass in the municipality building twice a year. We asked if there was something we could help them with. They desperately want a church built in their community. We listened to them explain that if they had a church the people would come. We then shared that it is the opposite. We first need to prepare a place in our hearts and then we can have a building because the church is not a building. They then asked if we could help prepare them for sacraments since most people do not have them. We were excited and quickly agreed to return on February 27 to meet with the whole community to get a tally on everyone that wants sacraments. We left Santa Rosa with the anticipation of making it to Primavera. This is a town that isn't on any maps. Our hopes were high and our excitement in the Lord was even higher!

The views again with even more beautiful than the last. The same thing goes for the road except that instead of it being beautiful it was much worse as we traveled. Then as we rounded a corner we came to the end of our journey. The road was no longer passable for Groot. 

At the edge of a stream our journey ended to Primavera and the pueblos further in. We were saddened by this but we were thankful for the opportunity to play in the stream. The cool water refreshed and rejuvenated us. It was a brief moment to be with God in all of His amazing glory.

After our brief stop to play we headed back to Almirante Grau for a quick nap in the church and to prepare for our evening sharing. It was so beautiful to lay before the Lord on the Cross. 

The evening was filled with good conversations, laughter, and love. We were blessed to have many opportunities to share our testimony but we were blessed with more opportunities to listen to the testimonies of those we had just met. It is beautiful to see God working in the hearts of the people even when they do not know it yet!

That evening when our sharing was complete we were completely and utterly exhausted! It is one of the most beautiful things I feel anyone can ever experience. Complete and utter exhaustion for the Lord! Our heads could no longer process any Spanish and it was so hard for us to keep our eyes open but yet the Lord was still working. Gentle knocks came on the door to the chapel and with those knocks came a few extra blankets to sleep on. God taking care of His weary soldiers. Just as we could no longer bear the heat anymore a gentle rain followed by a cool wind blew through the windows. Silence at the foot of the cross leading us to sleep in Him.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Into the Woods... well the jungle (Part 1)

What an exciting adventure! We were blessed with an opportunity to visit some new communities. The first of these communities is about an hour and a half drive southeast of Caspizapa. We were excited for this journey because we were going to see a new part of the jungle and it was our first overnight adventure.

Taylor first visited with the animador in Alminrate Grau last month. This was a visit guided by the Holy Spirit. One day he was heading to Picota to talk with Padre Paco and four hours later he returned to tell me that we will be visiting some new communities on January 10th. After some more probing I was told that these communities only have the opportunity to receive mass once or twice a year. There was also one community that Taylor visited who had never been visited by the church. Taylor promised the people in Nuevo Control that we would also stop by to visit with them on our return home on January 11th.

Preparing for an overnight visit is never easy for a family of eight. Especially when you have to pack enough water for two days. For communities further into the jungle drinking water is very precious. They buy the water in Picota and then drive it to their communities. In most pueblos along the Huallaga you can buy drinking water but in the communities we were preparing to visit you can not. Three camel baks and nine nalgene bottles later our water was packed into Groot, our missionary machine, aka our car. Not knowing what the people in these communities had we packed everything that we thought they might need. Two cases of Bibles; check, one giant bag of rosaries; check, prayer cards; check, catechesis books; check, Theology of the Body books; check, and song books; check.

Next it was time to pack for us. One pack and play with a mosquito net for the girls, a wool blanket for a mattress, a couple of blankets, a mosquito net, swimming suits to bath in the river, a change of clothes for each of us and we were packed. Oh and FOOD! A bag full of food is necessary when traveling anywhere. It keeps everyone from getting hangry, hungry and angry, and it is always good to have food just in case you take an unexpected detour guided by the Holy Spirit. I have learned that this is a normal thing in our missionary life so I just assume that it is going to happen.

After cramming the eight of us into Groot we were off to Picota to top off our gas tank before heading to Alminrate Grau. We almost ran into a pickle in Picota. We pulled into the gas station to find out that they were out. Praise the Lord there is a second smaller gas station in town. We were able to top off the tank and away we went. The drive to Alminrate Grau was breathtaking. I am in constant awe of how beautiful this country is. With each new community we visit God's design is ever more beautiful than the last.