Did I mention that our friend (and neighbor and coworker) Rachael is AMAZING?
Dec. 26 she went to the vet to visit Ellie and besides giving her a little comfort was also able to help us get a better picture of what was going on. Yesterday she went to check on her again (still at the vet). I knew Ellie was darn lucky to have us, but I had no idea what awesome friends she had :-)
Rachael says Ellie is a different dog now. It sounds like she's somewhat back to normal-- drooling all over the place, wagging her tail, wandering around the vet's office. Apparently she follows the vet everywhere, and in order to get some work done, the vet has to lock her up every once in a while. You can't keep a good dog down. She's still on IVs (antibiotics and nutrition) but recovering quite well.
Despite Ellie's reluctance to see Rachael go (she kept pawing at her), it sounds like she is becoming quite attached to the vet and is getting plenty of love in return. Good news.
I'm treasuring Rachael's email like a love letter, rereading it and laughing out loud again (both because Ellie is hilarious and because Rachael's tone in writing is so darn funny). I'm so grateful to her but also to God when I remember that He brought us these beautiful friends in Pucallpa to help us adjust and settle in but also to help us heal from all of the tough times we've been through in the last two years. He knows just what I need and is taking care of me in sometimes surprising but always perfect ways.
PS Rachael also went and coaxed Taza out to play the other day. Apparently she was very reluctant but enjoyed herself plenty once she got going. I think she must feel pretty deserted without Ellie or us!
Here's Ellie the day before we left (Dec. 19) as I was trying to take Christmas cheer photos. Not very cheery. She threw up a minute later. I thought she had gotten a bad batch of chicken.
As it turned out, things weren't that simple. By Christmas Eve she was really sick, and on Christmas morning our amazing friend and dog/house-sitter Jackson took her into the vet (no easy feat). She spent Christmas on an IV and antibiotics with a fever of 104 F. Since all the labs were closed, the vet had to wait until Dec. 26 to do an X-ray and blood analysis.
Sweet Rachael Powell went to visit Ellie at the vet and only got one tail wag, a serious mark of sickness since Rachael is the only person Ellie has ever jumped up on (LOVES her). Although I was somewhat of a wreck down here in Uruguay, having Rachael involved gave me a huge amount of peace, both because she could give Ellie a little love and because her nursing background means she could explain to me a little better what the heck was going on.
After two X-rays (the first was sub-par) and blood work, they determined that she had an intestinal twisting or blockage or something and went in for surgery. There was a chance that the problem would have spread too far, and we had to make the call to put her down if that was the case. Yuck.
Four hours later we got the news that she made it out just fine! The vet found a mango pit in Ellie's intestine, which had caused some lesions and bleeding as well. She feels confident that the problem is taken care of, and now we're just waiting for Ellie to heal up. I expect she will do that quickly. She's tough.
Asunción is a hot, muggy, run-down jungle city on the river without a lot to do or see. Hmmm, sounds remarkably like somewhere else I know....
In lieu of the $220-450 tour in private car, we tried to explore the surrounding villages today via public bus. It was HOT and crowded, but we managed to do most of the day as planned (with a few taxi rides thrown in there for recovery).
My favorite part of the day was seeing the random villages outside of Asunción from the car and getting a better picture of what life in Paraguay is like. My second favorite part was buying this nyanduti (spider web) table runner. It's a traditional Paraguayan craft and I think will add some nice spice to my house in Charlotte some day!
That kind of rhymes if you say it with the correct Spanish pronunciation!
We're finishing up our South American travel over this Christmas/ New Years with 3 days in Paraguay, 4 days in Uruguay, and 5 days in Buenos Aires (just maybe our favorite place in the world). It turns out Paraguay and Uruguay aren't much for tourism, but we're excited to see some new places anyway.
Getting to Paraguay involved yet another visa adventure (you may recall another visa adventure last month in Bolivia). Our embassy friend mentioned last weekend that visas are required for Paraguay. Surprise! Should have looked that up before we planned this trip. Often you can get your visas at the border or airport, but we found out during our layover in Buenos Aires that that is not the case with Paraguay. Oh boy.
Calling the Paraguayan consulate, we discovered that it is indeed possible to get a Paraguayan visa in one day in Buenos Aires, and we rushed out to get our photos taken, pick up some cash, and start the application. Just as I was beginning to think that we weren't going to make it to Paraguay after all, our passports were ready. Wow! We were back in the airport with plenty of time to spare before our next flight. Good thing, too, because one of our bags hadn't made it on the previous flight and we were waiting for it!
We got into Asunción around midnight and are comfortably settled into our hotel. We'll be spending Christmas Eve here and then heading on to Montevideo (Uruguay) on Christmas Day, so I brought along some Pucallpa-flavored Christmas decorations to celebrate Jesus. What do you think?
My grandfather was in the Boston Globe on Saturday, a human interest story about the fact that he was recently "reunited" with a war buddy living in the same assisted living place. Better yet is the video from the web. I really hope I'm this funny in 65 years!
Together in war, and now in old age
WWII captain, corporal end up in same adult home
By Erica Noonan, Globe Staff | December 20, 2009
NATICK - It was a 68-year-old photo on a nursing home bulletin board salute to Veterans Day that caught John Kelley’s eye as he maneuvered his wheelchair through the reception area of his nursing home.
In the upper right-hand corner of the poster was a black-and-white portrait taken in 1941 of Army Captain Robert Fulton.
Kelley, himself a World War II vet, took a closer look.
Then, nearly shaking in disbelief, the 87-year-old called over a staffer to share his incredible news: The man in the photo had been his commanding officer for more than a year in the South Pacific.
"I thought, ‘He’s alive!’ I really thought I was the only one left," recalled Kelley, who was a Cambridge boy from a family of a dozen children sent to fight in New Caledonia, a key Allied base in the battle against the Japanese in the wake of their attack on Pearl Harbor.
"They said, ‘Yes. He’s upstairs."’
Robert Fulton was indeed alive. At 93, he is partially deaf and walks slowly with a cane. But his memory is good, and he was stunned to learn another member of the 221st Field Artillery Battalion was living in the same complex.
Kelley’s daughter, visiting from her home in Hyannis, asked Whitney Place receptionist Ellen Goodman whether a reunion could be arranged. "She said, ‘Dad really, really wants to see Mr. Fulton,’ " said Goodman.
A day later, Fulton gingerly made his way downstairs from his assisted living apartment to Room 203 in the facility’s intensive-care nursing unit to visit the man he commanded a lifetime ago.
Since that first meeting two weeks ago, the men are slowly reaching across the decades and the distinctions of rank to form a late-in-life friendship.
"He just wanted to get together so he could call me names," joked Fulton during his second visit with Kelley last week.
The two now swap memories of early-morning rev eille, mosquitoes "the size of bombers," the threat of malaria, scarlet and dengue fever, powdered food in their K-rations, long-dead comrades from their battalion, and the terror of the frequent Japanese raids on their outpost.
"We used to say, "Charlie’s coming," said Fulton. "You’d wait, listen for the [sound of a whistle]. Everything shakes, and then you’d get covered in dirt if you were in a hole."
"Anyone who didn’t think there was a God certainly thought about it differently while that was going on," said Fulton, a Belmont native who attended Harvard University on the ROTC program, then was starting law school at Boston University when he was called up to serve in 1940.
The two men were on the same slow boat from New York, via Fiji and Bougainville Island, including a slow passage through the Panama Canal, where, Kelley recalled, monkeys jumped onto the ship’s deck.
They built watchtowers in the giant palm trees of New Caledonia, a former French colony off the coast of Australia, and waited for the US government, still scrambling to prepare for a world war, to outfit them with proper gear and firearms.
As an officer and an enlisted man, Fulton and Kelley didn’t mix much socially during the war.
In fact, Fulton heard for the first time last week about Kelley’s hijinks trying to procure liquor on their tiny tropical island, nearly seven decades after it happened.
"It was mostly ‘Good morning, sir,’ ‘Good morning, corporal,’ " said Kelley, who left high school to sign up for the military at age 17. "He was quiet and fair," he said of Fulton. "But when he said no, he meant no."
As for Kelley’s wartime behavior, Fulton said: "He kept his nose out of trouble."
"I got three good conduct medals," Kelley, who was eventually promoted to staff sergeant, told his former captain.
"How did you get those?" Fulton joked.
Kelley came home on a break and married his childhood sweetheart, Catherine, in their home parish, St. Mary’s in Cambridge.
He returned to Camp Edwards for duty, but became ill for several months and was later discharged from the service.
He became a jeweler at E.B. Horn in Downtown Crossing, and then manager of the jewelry department at Jordan Marsh across the street. He and Catherine raised four children and later moved to Framingham.
Fulton remained in the service and was sent to Leyte in the Philippines, where the war was reaching a feverish pitch.
He was discharged in 1944, just 10 days before his unit would make a dangerous foray into the Philippines province of Cebu to seize the region from Japanese control.
He met his future wife, Mary Carraher, another Belmont native, at a USO dance in downtown Boston, and they married in 1947.
He worked as a judge advocate general and a lawyer in private practice for many years, and the couple raised four children in Wellesley.
In 2004, his wife was hospitalized at Whitney Place, and eventually died in the second-floor room next door to where Kelley now lives.
Fulton, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, said he found the staff so kind during his wife’s six-month-long decline that he decided to spend his later years at the facility as well.
His youngest son, 52-year-old Bob Fulton Jr. of Natick, said last week that he had enjoyed his father’s war stories growing up. "I’m very proud to be his son," said the younger Fulton. And very glad he made it home"
Although they both worked most of their lives in downtown Boston, the men’s paths crossed again only tangentially after the war; Kelley recalls running into Fulton once at Jordan Marsh, and another time with their families on Nantasket Beach, a half-century ago.
"Chances are 1 in 10 million that the two of us would wind up in the same place," said Kelley.
The notion of reconnecting with a war buddy in the assisted living center never even occurred to Fulton. "I didn’t think there were any of us left," he said.
Of the approximately 160 men from their battalion, most of them Boston-area natives, neither Kelley nor Fulton has seen any others in the past 25 years, nor do they know of any others still alive.
The numbers of World War II-era soldiers are indeed rapidly dwindling. In a study conducted last year, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimated they were dying at a rate of approximately 1,000 per day.
Just 2 million of the 16 million American men and women who served during the war are still alive, the agency estimated.
John Kelley came to live permanently in the nursing home unit at Whitney Place about 16 months ago. His wife died in 2005, and he has suffered a series of strokes and heart attacks.
His health has improved recently, however, and he can proudly still recite his Army serial number, as well as his brother Eddie’s number, from memory. "Sometimes it’s easier to remember the old stuff than what you had for breakfast," Kelley said.
"We," he said, nodding with affection in Fulton’s direction, "are just a couple of old boys."
I've seen the Nutcracker about 15 times in Winston-Salem, once in Charlotte, and now once in Lima. Tonight was my first Nutcracker in flip-flops.
Unfortunately we got mixed up about the time and arrived half an hour late. It seems like this version was abbreviated somehow, because half an hour late equaled the very end of the first act. Honestly? I almost cried. I was so looking forward to seeing the ballet, and we missed the entire plot. Somehow I pulled myself together.
Beyond the tardiness, I'd say Cascanueces was a great experience, a first little bit of Christmas to kick off our vacation. The dancing, the sets, and the costumes were all pretty great, and the theater was an attraction in and of itself.
Christmas takes more work down here. In Charlotte I can feed off the energy of Starbucks Christmas mugs, Providence Road backed up for a mile, Deck the Halls ringtones, and Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes. Sure there are a few Santa hats here and there in Pucallpa, but mostly, it seems like we have to make Christmas.
Maybe that's a good thing. I kind of miss the laziness of relying on capitalism to provide Christmas for me, but then again, I'm not sure I like the kind of Christmas it provides.
While I'm grateful for carols with neighbors and tonight's school Christmas play, most of my Christmas inspiration this year is coming from the internet it seems. Even from 3,000 miles away, you Americans are spreading your Christmas cheer! It started with Facebook and all your Christmas-y status updates. Next came Lindsey's thought-provoking blog about Christmas. And then today I discovered the Advent Conspiracy website. Interesting.
Except for 2 Advent calendars and 3 ornaments on the door, you wouldn't know it was Christmas (or Advent) at our house. Without much input from Harris Teeter and WFAE, I have the space to celebrate in a way that's meaningful to me. And the responsibility, because honestly I could just let it pass by without much notice (particularly since we'll be in the Uruguay airport on Dec. 25).
What will I do with this space? Will I throw the baby out with the hay and bathwater, or will I find a way to honor Jesus and His incarnation even without Nutcracker-shaped Snickers bars and spray-on snow? While many people in more developed countries are trying to find ways to slow down, step back, and simplify the season, I'm blessed to have all that room to breathe. Now I just need to use it as an opportunity to figure out how you celebrate the coming of Christ anyway.
Christmas so far in our house has meant secret kiss cookies, lots of singing and music, sending each other emails of things we would have bought if we had an unlimited budget (and weren't going on vacation), Christmas lesson plans, Advent calendars, and Ethel's ham biscuits (which my mom brought a month ago). Tasty and fun, but not super special so far and not necessarily inspiring.
What is your family doing to celebrate Jesus this December?
On Sunday night, our friend/neighbor/coworker Rachael invited us over for an evening of carols and dessert. Besides some delicious pumpkin pie, stollen, and other Christmas classics (Rachael is a top rate cook!), we really enjoyed the music. Tim and I brought along our instruments, and the others provided flute, piano, and cello. It was a delight.
Since our neighborhood kids love music, Tim and I mentioned to them that it might be fun to sing carols this afternoon. About an hour ago we heard two little voices outside our door. "Timoteo! Hannah!" The twins (2.5 yrs old) had come with paper crowns and a whole assortment of kid-sized instruments. Despite the fact that no one really knew the words to the carols, we had a great time. Those little faces make just about anything worthwhile.
Christmas for two can be a bit lonely, so I'm super grateful for neighbors of all ages and talents this year.
A week ago I started my first course toward a Masters in Biblical Studies through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. I'm taking Church History to the Reformation via Semlink, their online program. Of the 20 or so courses I need for my degree, I can take up to 6 online. That's a big blessing for me, since it allows me to get started now even though I'm far far away.
So far Church History is keeping me plenty busy. I lucked out in finding the two textbooks-- one at the SAM Academy library and the other through a membership (fee)- based online library, Questia. The second one I have to read online, but for $9.95/month I have access to any of their online books in the Religious Studies section. Besides saving a little money, it made the book instantly accessible to me, which is a big deal since mail is somewhat precarious around here.
Anyway, I'm doing a lot of reading and learning more than I ever imagined. In all my studies of the Bible, I guess I had never thought about what Judaism and Christianity looked like in the context of World History. I find myself surprised again and again by new tidbits and perspectives. Tim is getting to take the course vicariously I think because of all the information I'm sharing with him, whether he likes it or not!
I'm grateful for the opportunity and definitely energized by the academic challenge. As Tim told Ellie this morning, "With great power comes great responsibility." :-) I want to take seriously the responsibility that comes along with a mind that enjoys and excels in learning and not let my brain go to waste. While I'm not sure that I'll ever use this degree for a career, I'm confident that learning more about the Bible and Christian thought will make me a better wife, mother, teacher, friend, daughter, sister, etc. And I'm excited about that.
Last night I met with a couple of women for an English conversation group. I had met once before with one neighbor, but she couldn't come this time. Another neighbor and a friend/ fellow (Peruvian) missionary came along this time. We met up at a tasty juice shop, where I tried my first guanábana juice. I'm sold.
I was super relieved to have my friend there, because to be honest, I was a little intimidated by the neighbor that came. Until this week, the only exposure I've had to her is hearing a piercing high-volume voice from next door (no glass in the windows = no secrets), but at our neighborhood BBQ on Tuesday, she mentioned that she wanted to practice her English. Since I already had a date scheduled for the group, I threw out the invitation, in no way expecting that she'd actually come.
Surprise! She came and was perfectly lovely. I really enjoyed talking with the two women, and their English was pretty darn good. I think that the three I've met with so far are at about the same level and will fit together well.
I'm glad to have a place to get to know my neighbors (and my other friend!) better. While I have plenty of interaction with Peruvians at the market, the gym, and church, I haven't had (made?) lots of chances to make friends. I hope this will become a weekly time I will enjoy and that it will be a springboard for my relationships with the three women.
Also, I'm always eager for opportunities to share what Jesus has meant and means in my life, so it's exciting to have a group that's mixed in that sense, two of us who are devoted to life in Christ and two who have a different take on life. Last night while we were introducing ourselves, my neighbor had lots of questions about what it is that my friend and I do here, what it means to be a missionary, etc. I would love to see those questions move more into what we believe and love and what she thinks about the same topics. We'll see.
Today I went for another check up on my ear. The doctor said my eardrum has healed up nicely but then concluded that the bottom of my trumpet is clogged and prescribed me some decongestants (I'll let you figure out what that means, because I really have no idea).
Unfortunately, after visiting 9 pharmacies I couldn't find the prescribed pills. Finally the last one told me the pills I was looking for (Cetiler-D) only comes in a syrup or drops and that Cetiler (no D) is the pill form. However the doctor was very specific that I get Cetiler-D and not the plain one. Oh well, I guess that means another trip to the doctor tomorrow. Hopefully he won't charge me, but no guarantee.
I thought you all might enjoy a photo of my doctor's office, and yes it is that dingy.
Yesterday's Alpha breakfast turned out quite well. Although only 10 people confirmed, 24 came representing 8 different churches. I was very pleased with the turnout, although I wish a few more pastors would have been there. Everyone seemed interested in Alpha and I expect a decent turnout for the conference in January. Hopefully I'll be able to meet with and get a few more pastors on board prior to the conference.
I had placed a little old lady in charge of preparing the food and she did a great job. She's been helping to cook for families and groups with SAM since 1966 and brought her own bowl and mixer to ensure that the pancakes came out perfectly. We ended up having more pancakes than needed, but everyone was more than happy to take the extras home.
This was my first time doing a presentation like this (in any language). After a week of planning, recording and listening to myself give the presentation half a dozen times, I felt pretty well prepared and I think I did a decent job on focusing on the main points I wanted to make and giving everyone a good idea of the strategy of Alpha.
Now begins the preparation for the two 8 hour long days of the conference, please be praying for me during this time. I want to spend about a 1/3 of the time of the conference as more of a workshop where people can brainstorm together and also have the opportunity to practice leading the small groups. I also am looking into a different meeting place that can handle the setup and food so that it will be less stress on myself. I want to get the cost down to $3-5 per person.
Tomorrow morning I have a breakfast meeting for several pastors in Pucallpa presenting the Alpha course and as an introduction to an Alpha conference I'm going to have in January. For the last month I've been promoting and preparing for this breakfast and I'm really excited to see it happen. I'm a bit nervous about being able to communicate clearly, so please be praying for me.
I'm quite curious to see how many people end up coming. I have 10 confirmed attendees (they called to confirm this afternoon) and then there is a group of 16 pastors that I'm pretty sure will be there. I suspect there will be at least 25 and I'm a bit concerned that 10-20 more might come and if that happens, the food will be running a bit short. Please pray as well that the right number of people will come and that there will be plenty of food for those who do come.
The breakfast is from 8am to 11am tomorrow. I'll make sure to let you know how it goes.
The Bolivia-Peru crossing at Desaguadero is my 5th experience in land border crossings, but I think it was the first one in a remote area. Now that I am safely back in Peru, heres what Ive learned (obviously I havent learned how to find the apostrophe on an international keyboard yet)...
To start with, just dont cross at Desaguadero or anywhere else that sketchy. Your best bet. Stick to nice touristy areas.
Apparently youre not required to go to the Peruvian police station on your way out of the country. If you dont refuse when they ask you to step inside, you could be in for a scam. I read this after our trip of course. Luckily we didnt have US dollars on us, but its been reported that the police will search your luggage for dollars and then confiscate them for being fake (regardless of whether they are or not).
Take beautiful dollars with you that dont have any tears or scratches or anything. Then when they tell you theyre fake, put on a good performance holding them up to the light and assuring them that you know about counterfeit currency and this isnt it. That was my route to success at least. Confidence.
Leave plenty of time. We left 9 hrs between La Paz and Tims flight from Juliaca (a 5 to 6 hr trip). Good thing. The power was out at the border crossing and all the immigrations stuff was being done by hand. We stood outside in the rain (with glimpses of snow) for 2 hrs waiting to get into the office. Tims blond hair didnt even get us a break.
An adventure for sure. At 28 Im still up for it, but I was especially impressed that my mom didnt mind or start questioning why in the world I thought it would be a good idea to drag her through all this! Shes a trouper. Of course a few of you might know that this was only her 2nd sketchiest border crossing, but I wont reveal all her secrets.
Tim is on the plane to Pucallpa, and Mom and I are resting safely and warmly in a great hotel in Puno. After some fairly lousy food in Bolivia, we just finished a delicious Peruvian meal (did I really say that?!) of alpaca steak in wine sauce with mashed apples and a rocoto relleno (stuffed hot pepper). Yay Peru!
Still no luck getting my photos on here, but I´m busy taking them anyway! We´re leaving today for Peru, Tim back to Pucallpa and Mom and I to Suasi Island on Lake Titicaca for a few days before she goes home. Here´s what we did in Bolivia...
ate quite a bit of mediocre food
hiked around a super hilly city
learned about Aymara religious traditions
saw a whole lot of Evo Morales propoganda
bought Cuban cigars
did a bunch of shopping at fair trade stores with beautiful alpaca and wool goods
had some trouble with breathing and altitude sickness
Or lowlights, depending on your perspective. Let´s just call it an adventure.
1. We left Pucallpa at 9 last night, arrived in Lima and slept 4 hours before returning to the airport at 5 am the next morning.
2. We took a taxi from Juliaca, on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, to Desaguadero, the nearest town on the Peru-Bolivia border.
3. Desaguadero! What an adventure! I´ve rarely seen anything that seemed so authentic. No tourists in sight and lots of tricked out bicycle rickshaws. We made it out of Peru fine, but...
4. Bolivia. Turns out you have to pay your Bolivian visas ($135) in cash, but the nearest place to get cash is 2 hrs away. Somehow we forgot to stock up and only had enough for 2 people. That didn´t leave us with many good options. PLUS the immigrations experience entering Bolivia was the sketchiest I´ve seen yet. I´m pretty sure they were trying to get a bribe from us. I resisted. They basically claimed that all of our US bills were false.
5. We decided to drive to La Paz (2 hrs), get cash, and come back for Tim (then go back to La Paz again' 6 hrs). By God´s grace, we had a strange and wonderful turn of events when we got in the taxi. The taxi driver agreed to loan us strangers $100 (1 month´s salary) until we got to La Paz. With that cash, Tim was able to buy his visa.
6. We made it! We´re in a super hotel with lots of character, drinking our mate de coca for the altitude sickness, and resting up for the next 2 days of sightseeing. Yay!
In case you´re wondering how many forms of transportation it takes to get from Pucallpa to La Paz...
1 ride from a friend to the airport
2 airport shuttles
1 walk across a bridge
And 22 hours. It´s a trek. Be sure to bring lots of cash and your best skills for maneuvering through sketchy third world immigrations offices.
Last week we had a mini-crisis when we realized we couldn't leave the country without our Peruvian ID cards, which were stolen earlier in the month in my backpack. That's a problem since we're schedule to leave for La Paz, Bolivia tomorrow night.
We made some phone calls, considered the options, and decided to risk running the paperwork through the Immigrations office here in Pucallpa rather than taking a day of my mom's visit to fly to Lima. There was definitely a chance the IDs wouldn't arrive in time and we'd be left with a couple of bad options.
Yesterday we got a phone call that the IDs had arrived! It took three business days-- record time. Praise God! I'll attribute it to Him and also to the 20 ripe and delicious chico rico mangoes I gave the immigrations guy. A little gift never hurts.
The first Alpha course in Pucallpa will finish this Thursday and I've learned a lot about training others to lead Alpha through it. I hope I'm able to apply what I've learned to the Alpha Training Conference I hope to have in January.
Although the course wasn't run the I would have liked and it didn't have the outcome I was hoping for, the pastor has been encouraged greatly by it and this week is beginning an Alpha course for the youth of his church. The pastor has become a friend of mine and he told me the other day one of the biggest impacts Alpha has made on him is that he's been challenged to invest more into the adults of his church, a huge encouragement me since I feel like that's a great need here in Pucallpa.
For the past week or so I've been inviting local pastors to an informational breakfast about implementing Alpha in their churches. Currently it looks like there's about 20 or so coming and hopefully I'll be able to get 5-10 more before the breakfast (December 5th). I hope this breakfast will create some excitement about the Training Conference in January and will help the pastors to better determine which leaders from there churches should attend the conference.
I'm really excited because about 16 of them are part of the same church organization. If the lead pastor, who is planning to come, gets excited about Alpha, I imagine Alpha could be implemented across all of their churches. Tonight I'm meeting with the pastor, a tiny older gentleman with a mustache about 5'1" tall, in order to get to know each other prior to the meeting.
I feel like a salesman for Alpha but it's a bit odd. I'm not actually selling anything and I don't receive any benefit personally if someone decides to use Alpha.
1. Yesterday someone told me that if you give a female dog raw meat to eat (which we do), she will eat her litters. Good thing Ellie is spayed! But I wonder... how do all the babies of carnivorous animals in the wild survive? Anyway, I've heard a variety of objections to raw food diets for dogs, but this was a first.
2. I saw flavored crackers at the grocery store yesterday. Cheese is obvious, right? But what about pizza, ham, or... HAMBURGER? Yes, that's right. You can buy hamburger- flavored crackers in Pucallpa. Gross.
3. Taza went to the doggie spa for a bath today and returned with red (painted) toenails. Honest. How am I supposed to take these people seriously?
4. My mom is en route to Pucallpa and will arrive tomorrow morning at 5 am. I'm excited about her visit!
Two new-ish doors for relationships with my neighbors have opened recently that I am super excited about.
First, a 19-year-old down the street wants help with English conversation. She says she's at an intermediate level with reading and writing (good enough to read novels) but too shy to talk. I'm inviting her and a few of her friends over this Saturday morning to chat in English for a while. A couple of other women I know might come too. We'll see where it goes, but I'm particularly interested since it's a door she opened herself.
Second, our awesome neighbors with the two precious twin 2.5-yr-olds. You may recall that the basis for our relationship is a mutual love for good cheese (not necessarily accessible here). They're a Chilean-German couple working with an NGO teaching tribal communities about sustainable ways to harvest jungle wood.
Anyway, for some reason we haven't gotten to hang out with them tons (I'll blame Ellie and the fear factor), but in the last two months we've gone out to lunch twice and Tim has played chess with M a few times. Tonight they invited us over to their house (all four steps away) for a Saturday night of dinner and cards!
I'm excited on a number of levels and realizing too that this is the kind of community I want around me wherever we live. I don't know that I've ever had close neighbors who were also friends. I hope I can make that happen again when we come back to Charlotte.
I was 500 pages into Truman when someone so rudely stole it from me on the highway. Until my mom brings a replacement copy next week, I'm working on The Brothers Karamazov and pleasantly surprised by its style. Here's a section I read by the pool today that hit home pretty hard.
"It's just the same story a doctor once told me," observed the elder. "He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as freely as you, though in sarcasm, in bitter sarcasm. 'I love humanity,' he said, 'but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams,' he said, 'I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men; one because he's too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.'"
Story of my life. Why can't I just be a nicer person? I'm so glad God's not done with me yet.
On a similar line, I did have an interesting realization last week in the audio lab. Truthfully I was surprised and happy with my ability to connect with the patients and make them feel comfortable. So why am I so awkward at parties and most other social encounters? I think it's something about finding comfort in structure. It makes me relieved to know that I'm not completely inept at relating to others, and pushes to me to consider more how I can 1) find places to use the skills I do have and 2) grow in areas of weakness.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go.
He's the one who will keep you on track.
I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own;
It is not for man to direct his steps.
In his heart a man plans his course,
But the Lord determines his steps.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come when the time comes. Matthew 6:34
I was up at 4 am today, thoughts of resumes and job possibilities chasing off any hope of sleep. I hope this isn't an indication of what the next six months will be like as we prepare to return to Charlotte and begin the next chapter in our lives. I finally got up and opened my Bible. It always seems to have the right answers for me in the middle of the night.
I have so many dreams and plans about what the next few years will look like, but at the end of the day (or in this case, the beginning), my life is not my own. I've been bought with a price. My future is in His hands and not my own. The only peace I'll find is trusting Him with it.
Indeed, that is a peace that passes understanding. He has a plan for my life, each day designed for His glory and my joy. I can trust Him to give me everything I need and more good than I could imagine.
We sang this song at church this morning (in Spanish, of course) and I felt struck by the simple promise of it. One of the best parts was seeing other people singing it with deep conviction and knowing that the song echoed some experience they'd been through. No matter what, He never lets go.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know You are near
And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?
Oh no, You never let go Through the calm and through the storm Oh no, You never let go In every high and every low Oh no, You never let go Lord, You never let go of me
And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth
Yesterday was the last day for the visiting ENT team. It's been an exhausting week but a blessed one.
One family from Trujillo (a city north of Lima on the coast) found out about the team and immediately flew to Pucallpa Thursday. That kind of money doesn't come easily around here. They got to the hospital at 4 am on Friday morning, but there were no spots left for the daughter, a 10-year-old who is nearly deaf, to be seen. The dad decided to stay and try to convince the doctors to see her.
Along came an elderly man who had an appointment to be seen. He noticed that the dad and daughter looked like they weren't from here, and they got into a conversation about her condition. Finally, the older man said, "You know, I'm already old. Let her take my place." So the older man gave up his spot until next November, and the girl got to be seen.
When she got to the audiology lab, Allen didn't think he could do anything for her. He was pretty moved by her story and discouraged that after all their traveling, they would go home empty handed. He decided to try one type of hearing aid on the girl but was very doubtful that it would do her any good.
Well it did. Not a lot, maybe, but she could hear a little more. In fact, she asked us to turn down her hearing aid! The dad was sitting next to her and called her name. As she turned her head to answer, he literally jumped out of his chair, so excited to see his daughter hear his voice. I think it was about then that the rest of us broke down into tears.
I'm so grateful that I had the chance to see these amazing stories this week and to be a part of them in a little way. I feel a little sad writing about them because I know I don't have the words to make them real for you. They're the same feel-good stories you read about in a magazine, maybe, and appreciate in a distant way. Here on the ground, it's not so distant. We've eaten in their homes and counseled them through tough situations, played with their children and run into them in the market. To see them hear for the first time is more than a feel-good story. It makes all my exhaustion and frustration nothing in comparison to the gifts I receive being here.
Looking good, don’t you think? Tim had his tympanoplasty this afternoon and is recovering quite well. It seems that he’s had this hole in his eardrum since he was 10 years old! I’m glad we found out about it just around the time that this amazing (and free) medical team came to Pucallpa. What a blessing.
As exciting as the tympanoplasty is, I think the bigger blessing for me has been getting to translate in the audiometry lab. Allen tests hearing and fits hearing aids, but I get to meet new people, hear their stories, and watch them transformed by the gift of hearing for the first time in a while. Sometimes the first time ever.
Today I translated from 8 am to 5 pm without lunch, and now I’m home taking care of Tim and baking 100 cookies for tomorrow. Where do I find the energy, you ask? I’m as surprised as anyone. I think it must be joy.
Two stories from today, both about tears.
First, Zeus. I have to tell you his name because it’s so awesome. His mom brought him in because at 6, he still isn’t talking. She wanted to see if it was related to his hearing. The kid was scared to death, and it didn’t seem like his mom could communicate with him any better than I could. We determined that he was completely deaf and would probably never be able to hear. When we told the mom, she broke down into tears. They’re already learning sign language, but she hadn’t given up hope that her son would have a more normal life than that. Her eyes were filled with anguish, and all we could do was pray together. I know Zeus can have a full life as a deaf child and adult. I hope God can give her that confidence, too, and comfort her tonight as she grieves this news.
Second, A. Remember him from yesterday? He hasn’t heard in a year. Today we fitted him with one hearing aid (we don’t have enough to give anyone two), and the doctor said he’s never seen someone react so dramatically. He was literally jumping, crying, and shouting, “Praise God!” all over the hospital. Our other patients were talking for the rest of the day. I hope I never forget his tears of joy and his gratitude for something I take for granted.
Translating for the visiting ENT medical team this morning was so fun. You know, I once wanted to be a medical missionary, so I probably should have known I would enjoy this. It makes me wonder if I would like to work in hospital translation in Charlotte. Anyone have a lead for me?
I'm energized, happy, and ready to go back tomorrow for more. Here are my three most touching moments from today.
1. A is a middle-aged guy who hasn't been able to hear for a year (since he fell on a construction job). Although he can still speak fine, he doesn't know sign language or lip-reading and only "hears" through writing. As he was leaving from his hearing test, he looked at me with the most earnest eyes and asked, "Am I going to be able to hear again?" The audiologist says he isn't sure. I wish I had been able to say yes. He wants it so badly. While he was waiting, I prayed with him and his sister, who had brought him to the hospital. A didn't hear any of it, but Jesus did.
2. C is six years old and has never been able to hear. When he heard the "beep, beep" of the hearing test machine, his entire face came alive. I wonder if he's ever heard a sound before. His eyes lit up and a smile stretched across his eager little face. His mother, a sweet woman probably in her early to mid 20s, teared up to see his reaction. She told me it was the emotion of seeing her own son hear. He's coming back tomorrow for hearing aids. I hope they can help.
3. One sad story. H is nineteen and has lived in the countryside his whole life, raising cattle with his grandmother. His aunt brought him in to see if his failure to pronounce words well had anything to do with his hearing. Pronunciation? I couldn't make out a word he said. He's never gone to school or learned to read and write but now wants to study to be a motorcycle mechanic. He'll need to hear and speak for that. During his hearing test, he kept indicating that he heard when there was no sound. We gave him the instructions again, but he kept doing it. "Is he crazy?" I asked the audiologist. "No," he told me, "he just wants to hear that badly." The test was useless; the kid probably couldn't hear a thing. We told his aunt that she should take him to learn sign language, that it was his best chance at being able to communicate and engage in the world around him. It wasn't the answer they wanted to hear.
What a day, and what a blessing. I'm so glad to be a part of this offering.
Thanks to you too for all your encouragement and prayers regarding the robbery. I don't know whether it was those or the translating that turned the tide for me, but I'm grateful for both.
It was a low month for dog photos really, but these five (out of the six I submitted) made it as honorable mentions in the dog photo contest. While I'm not feeling super honored, I do like these photos of Ellie a lot.
Ironic that two of Taza's first three winners were photos you guys didn't pick in last month's poll!
There will of course be no photo submissions for November. I do have a little point-and-shoot but it's not worth using for this kind of thing.