Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Portraits of Costa Rica #1"

"I remember one time when we were going through a difficult battle with the work here. Br. Orozco went into the church in the morning to pray over the situation, and didn't come out or have anything to eat all day. He stayed in there and continued to pray until 4:00 A.M. the following morning." That was one of the things that Sis. Carmen told me about the Orozcos, the Guatemalan missionaries serving in Costa Rica. My trip to Costa Rica really opened my eyes to the great workers that are serving down there. Both Br. Francisco and Sis. Aury Orozco, as well as Br. Rolando and Sis. Carmen Meneses (the young Costa Rican couple pastoring our main church), are wonderful couples doing an excellent job in their ministries. I had a couple of deep conversations with Rolando, and I can honestly say that I felt like I have a ways to go to reach his spiritual maturity. Please pray for both of these couples as they are ministering in Costa Rica.

The Orozcos

The Meneses

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Official Democratic Party campaign car designed exactly the way Obama lays out his campaign message.

You figure it out; I have a headache.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

Thank the Lord, I made it home safely from Costa Rica at 1:00 A.M. this morning. My trip accomplished the goals that I wanted to accomplish. I had several good meetings with different people, and for the first time had a chance to work with both the church in the capital as well as the Guatemalan missionaries serving in Costa Rica. Several things really encouraged me, while to be honest I was also concerned about several things. The trip was a real eye opener; I feel like a got a deeper look into mission work than I have ever had before, and in some senses it was overwhelming. However, God met with me in a very real and special way on Sunday afternoon, promising me that He would be with us in our ministry. I saw clearly that we will have to do our absolute best and then rely completely on Him. I'm still excited about working in Costa Rica, but there has been more of a sense of realism about the whole thing that has set in as well.
(Below are just a few of the many pictures that I took. Over the next little while I will be sharing some "Portraits of Costa Rica" with pictures and stories about those pictures).

Young members of the capital congregation pose for the camera.

Traditional dancers show off their colorful garb.

Carlos was my best friend when my family lived in Costa Rica.

The National Bank rises behind the post office.

The Ticos (Costa Ricans) know how to save gas.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Costa Rica

This is my second day in Costa Rica, and I am having a very enjoyable and profitable time. Today the Guatemalan missionaries, the national pastor and his wife, and I had a three-hour meeting to talk about the work. I came away very encourage; God is working in Costa Rica. In the last two days there were two new converts at the work in the capital.

I haven´t taken any pictures yet, but I will be over the next couple of days and will try to share them as soon as possible. In place of pictures I will share the last of my mother´s newsletters that she wrote the day before they left Honduras a couple of weeks ago. There have been about 10 different people who have told her that she needs to write a book, and I would agree with that comepletely.

I Want to Throw His Dirty Diaper on the Roof

She was just 15, still a child herself, yet she had given birth to her own child only a few hours before. Her baby’s father had bowed out of the picture months ago, and she would be raising this little one without his ever knowing the meaning of the words “my daddy.” I met her at the start of my night shift and knew I would have only a short time to try to help her learn the multitude of things she would need to know in order to bridge the nearly impossible gap between young carefree teenager and mature responsible mother.

Her baby was a fussy one, and she was impatient with his insistence on her attention when all she wanted was some sleep. Along about midnight, he refused her repeated snapped orders to shush up, and I went in to see what I could do to help her quiet his crying. The solution was a simple one: like any self-respecting fellow, he was not pleased to be lying in a soggy diaper. I figured a class in “Diaper Changing 101” was certainly in order and went to gather the needed study materials.

“Can you please give me his dirty diaper?” she requested. “I want it for a secret.” More than a little startled, I nevertheless managed to keep from sticking my finger with the pin I was easing through the cloth, and tried to be casual in my questioning. I had a hard time hiding my surprise at her shy confession. “I want to throw his diaper on the roof. That way, when someone comes by who wants to give him the evil eye and hurt him, they won’t be able to.” Years of superstitious training didn’t easily give sway to my gentle assurance that Jesus could protect her little one from harm, and she tucked the plastic bag with its soiled diaper deep into her scuffed backpack, quite sure that her trust in its effectiveness was valid.

My heart aches to think of the hopelessness of a life without knowledge of the One who came to dispel such fears, but at least that’s one belief that won’t physically harm her baby any more than it will help him. That wasn’t the case with the proposed remedy for her newborn’s colic that one mother asked about. “Do you think that it would be all right to bathe him in his father’s urine?” she wondered. “I’ve heard that works well, but I want to know if you agree.” I think I managed to convince her of the futility of such a practice – at least I sincerely hope so!

Then there was the twelve year old girl who arrived at our clinic the day before yesterday, clutching a bloody rag around her hand. I was puzzled at the strange appearance of the wound and quite curious about the bright green color of something peeping out from the bandage. Come to find out, her parents had liberally sprinkled cigar ashes in the deep, two inch gash and topped it with coffee leaves. Before any stitching could be done, all of that mess had to be cleaned out, a process which didn’t make the job any more comfortable for the girl!

And so it has gone, in the ten weeks that we have been here this summer. I’ve delivered ten babies, put dozens of stitches into various and sundry wounds, given close to a hundred injections, started many many IV’s, gone on 3 ambulance rides with 4 different patients, (the last one was with a critically wounded man and a woman pregnant with her 12th baby, who was having complications), held and comforted hurting parents, and shown God’s love to those He sent my way. It hardly seems possible that ten weeks have already flown by and that in a few short hours we are to board the plane that will take us back to family and friends in the states. We are happy at that prospect, but as always, there is a part of our hearts that we will leave behind! Many times I have been reminded anew of how blessed we are with the day to day comforts that we simply take for granted, which for too many people here would be unobtainable luxuries. I thank God especially that He allowed me to be born into a Christian family and to be raised with the knowledge of how infinite and all sufficient is the love of Christ. That same love in turn has granted me the privilege of ministering to those who are less fortunate than I, which has been an especially satisfying and rewarding means of sharing Him.

An extra special “handful on purpose” that God let fall my way was the opportunity to deliver two of my fellow missionary’s babies within this last week before our leaving.
Daniel and Tiffany Melton’s third son, 7 pound 15 ounce Kenton Daniel, arrived into “Auntie Hannah’s” welcoming hands at 6:03 Thursday morning. Zack and Sarah Robbert’s second daughter, 6 pound 5 ounce Eleyna Ruth, (the “Ruth” being chosen in part because it is “Grandma Hannah’s” middle name!) made her appearance at 4:25 Sunday afternoon. Both little ones were born in the clinic, which in itself made history, as they are the first missionary babies delivered there in the 29 years the clinic has been in operation. The town’s people are bursting their buttons with pride and commenting with approval that “los gringos” are common ordinary people after all. It’s been a wonderful means of bonding between them, and a great advertisement for the clinic.

Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for us. I know a lot of the news has been about clinic happenings, and Rex’s and Jeffrey’s activities have not gotten as much notice, but they have kept very busy with their responsibilities and have had an important ministry as well. We will be heading back to the start of school at Penn View next week, and I know Rex especially would appreciate your continued prayers, as he will have less than a week to prepare for his responsibilities there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Birthday Party

This past Saturday I had a party for Missy's 30th birthday. It was about a week and a half after her birthday, but I wanted to wait until my parents returned from Honduras. There were over 25 people that came to it, and we had a very nice time. Happy birthday again, Missy.

I will be leaving early tomorrow morning for a five-day trip to Costa Rica, and would appreciate your prayers. Look in about a week for pictures and news about the trip.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Flight of the Bumblebee

"Flight of the Bumblebee" has always been one of my favorite songs, and when I saw a post from a fellow blogger of a ten-year-old boy playing it on the piano, my curiosity was sparked. These were two of my favorite clips from different instrumental renditions of the song. I know, I know, most of us don't sit around listening to an accordion soloist, but this one is pretty amazing. And since I play the trumpet, I am a bit partial to brass music. (You will have to pause whatever song is playing from my playlist at the bottom of the blog before trying to listen to these, or else the results could be quite interesting).

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Thirteen Year Old Patient Weighed 800 Pounds (By Hannah McDowell)

This will no doubt be the last newsletter from my mother that I will be able to post. My parents and little brother Jeffrey will be flying home tomorrow from 10 weeks in Honduras. I'm sure that they would appreciate your prayers as they travel home and then try to recuperate from a jam-packed trip before jumping into the Penn View school year. Oh yes, my mother was able to deliver the Melton's baby and the Robberts' baby (both EFM missionaries serving in Honduras) in the last couple of days, which was an answer to prayer. The fact the two missionary ladies were willing to have their babies delivered in the little mission clinic in the mountains of Honduras has left a very positive impression with the community.

Br. Hight wrote: Eleyna was also born in our clinic, making two North American missionary babies to "come to light" in the clinic in less than a week. They tell us that the nationals are buzzing with the news, and are proud that these ladies are "humble" enough to have their babies where many little Hondurans have been born. It may have done more for public relations in the San Luis area than anything else since the actual opening of the clinic! Congratulations, Zack and Sarah. May Eleyna bring you great joy. Here's a picture of the two new MKs, courtesy of Zack Robberts. That's Kenton Daniel Melton on the left and Eleyna Ruth Robberts on the right.

And now for my mother's last newsletter...

The afternoon was another hot and humid one, and my head nodded in a brief doze more than once as Rex and I sat in the study, working on translating material for our upcoming marriage seminar. I barely heard the tentative knock on the door above the soft whirr of the fan by the desk. Glancing through the screen, we saw Edgar, one of the Bible Institute teachers, leaning against the door frame. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but could you please take the pickup truck and trailer to help me get Estella home?” he apologetically requested of Rex. “She’s terribly hurt and can’t walk. I think maybe her left leg is broken.” He grimaced as he shifted his weight, carefully easing his own left leg with its blood stained and torn trouser into a more comfortable position.

“I’m all right,” he assured me. “I banged up my knee pretty badly when we fell, but caught myself with one hand and kept from slamming my face into the gravel as we hit the ground. I’m worried a lot more about how she’s doing. We were running really fast uphill, and I still can’t figure out whether she tripped over something or what, but her face and knees are all torn up. Do you think you could stitch her up for me when we get back?” he anxiously inquired. I gulped. "I’ll do my best to help her," I promised, wondering what in the world I was getting myself into now!


Two hours later Rex slowly pulled the truck and trailer to a stop by our gate and I hurried out to get a good look at my patient: the thirteen year old, 800 pound, not-very-happy, Bible Institute horse whose work of carrying various students as well as staff to their respective country churches to hold services is invaluable. It was nearly 7:00 p.m. and dark by this time, so the inspection of her wounds had to be done by flashlight. Edgar had good reason to be concerned. Both front knees were torn open, but the left one was so badly pulverized it looked like raw, albeit very dirty hamburger. Peeping through the mangled flesh was the white glint of bone. I gulped again. “Well, Edgar, I know about suturing wounds on people, but I’ve never had to do it on a horse before. Let’s see what we can do.”

Understandably, Estella (“Star” in English) was not particularly enthusiastic about backing off of the rattling, noisy metal trailer, and it took many minutes of coaxing, cajoling, and tugging on her rope halter before Rex, Edgar, the Institute night guard and two students finally maneuvered her down to solid ground. Meanwhile, I’d gone to the clinic to collect my supplies. “Your guess is as good as mine on how much local anesthesia to give her,” the nurse on duty replied to my question. “I sewed up one of our chickens when she got caught on a wire and tore open her face and neck, but I didn’t numb it any.” Figuring it was better to be over rather than under prepared, I stuffed a plastic bag with a nearly full bottle of 2 % Rapacaine, a 20 cc syringe, sterile suture instruments and cloths, a large bottle of iodine, metal bowl, lots of gauze, disposable gloves, three packages of 0-0 gauge nylon suture, (the thickest the clinic has), and one package of absorbable catgut suture.

Thus armed, I returned with some trepidation to the mare. “God, please guide my hands and help me to do this right,” I silently pleaded. Holding aloft a borrowed flashlight, I examined more closely the gaping wounds on Estrella’s knees, hind leg, nose, and above her eye as she stood trembling, refusing to put weight on her obviously extremely painful left front leg. “I don’t think I’d better try to do anything to her while she’s standing up,” I decided. “Do you think you can get her to lie down?” Estrella was not as convinced of the necessity of that plan of action as I was, but with four men with ropes pulling her back legs out from under her, she didn’t have much choice. I winced as she dropped to the grass with a thud, and the watching crowd of students and fellow missionaries drew back slightly while she tossed her head and struggled to get back up. There was no lack of manpower to help hold her down, but I was still pretty nervous as I gingerly hitched my step stool close to her and drew up a full syringe of the local anesthetic. Edgar crouched beside her, his own injured leg held out stiffly at an awkward angle, and caressed her neck while keeping up a steady stream of reassuring words while I firmly grasped her left front leg and began slowly injecting the medication that I hoped would give her enough relief from her pain to allow me to thoroughly clean the worst of her wounds.

30 cc’s of local anesthetic later, Estrella lay quietly as I washed her knee with copious amounts of diluted iodine, and strained to see well enough by the flashlight's beam to painstakingly pick out the grass and embedded bits of dirt and gravel. To everyone’s profound thankfulness, my probing fingers did not discover any bone fragments or obvious fracture. I carefully maneuvered the large sterile drape under her leg, spread out my instruments, and reached up for the pack of suture that one of my helpers dropped out of its envelope into my gloved hand. The first suture, deep into the lacerated muscle, went in smoothly, and I started to tie it off. At that moment, Estrella decided she wasn’t comfortable with her restricted position, and lashed out violently with her hind leg, in spite of the ropes that were tied to it and held by two students. She connected solidly with Edgar’s stomach, sending him flying several feet backwards onto the ground. In my haste to jump up from my footstool and scramble out of range of her iron clad hooves, I caught my heel in the hem of my skirt and ended up flat on my back in the grass as well. The frightened mare surged up and limped a few steps away, suture and needle dangling from her knee, as I felt around through the tall grass for my scissors and needle holder.

And thus it went throughout the remainder of the job. I would kneel in the grass, put in a couple of stitches, then jump back out of the way as she persisted in heaving herself up and moving to a different spot. She didn’t seem to be in pain from the suturing so much as she was jittery from having her head sat on and her feet pulled out from under her. I can’t say as I really blame her, can you? At one point, she opened her mouth, grabbed the by-now-no-longer-even-remotely-sterile drape in her teeth, and began vigorously chewing away, once more scattering all my instruments onto the ground!

Not only was she the most uncooperative patient I’ve ever had, she had the TOUGHEST hide I have ever had the misfortune to try to stick a needle through. Her skin was split open on the left knee from one side to the other, with only a small intact portion in the back, necessitating sewing first one side and then the other closed from back to front. I would take a “bite” of hide with the needle, putting all the force of strength from not only my hand and arm, but my whole upper body as well, into muscling the needle holder with its cargo through the incredibly resistant skin on one side of the wound and out through the equally tough hide on the other side. Rex did a great job of directing the flashlight beam where I needed it most, and a time or two added his superior strength to the task of piercing the needle through. Twice I had to pause to bend the needle back into its normal “C” curve, rather than the fish hook shape it assumed after a particularly tough insertion. As an extra precaution, I tied off each stitch five times, rather than the normal three. I was incredulous that the stitches were staying intact, in spite of the repeated times she had convulsively kicked with that leg in her attempts to get back on her feet.

Her right knee was not nearly as badly mutilated as the left, and I felt like a good cleaning, in addition to the heavy duty antibiotic injection I had given her part way through the evening, would be all that needed to be done for that injury, as well as for the cut on her hind leg and nose. When I finally got to the repair of the deep hole on her forehead, she rolled both eyes alarmingly and nickered fearfully as I oh-so-carefully injected the local anesthetic, being extremely cautious not to prick the too-close-for-comfort eyeball itself. But by this time, nearly three hours had passed, and she had had enough. After only receiving three of the needed six stitches, (thankfully the ones that were most urgently necessary to close the worst of the wound) she once again scrambled to her feet, and this time no amount of coaxing could convince her to let me finish the job.

Somewhere around 15 spectators had been closely following the proceedings, some of them helping hold the horse, others the flashlight, and even one of the girls giving my by now aching back a good firm massage part way through the job. We collectively had prayer for Estrella’s healing, asking the Lord if it could please Him to take over where human attempts could not continue, and heal the terrible wounds so she could continue to be of service to His work. My very large patient limped away and began tugging off and chewing up mouthfuls of grass, the neat bandage on her knee gleaming white in the darkness.

Wearily, I gathered my equipment from the various spots on the ground where it had been scattered, and trudged back to the clinic to clean up the instruments. I also pulled off and smashed the three ticks that had taken advantage of my kneeling position on the grass, and thirstily fastened themselves to my arm. Once more back in our house, a long, hot shower and hair wash had never before felt so good, and I tumbled into bed for a few hours of rest before my next clinic shift.

Where, I ask you, but on a mission field, can a nurse midwife care for an 800 pound equine patient one night, and after four hours of sleep, deliver an 8 pound, 2 ounce beautiful baby boy the next morning? I’m having a wonderful time, when I’m not too exhausted to realize it!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Go Ahead And Say It

Boy, did I ever pull a dumb one. I was outside mowing a little while ago, and went to pick up a rock. Instead of stopping the mower and getting off, I simply pushed the clutch in and leaned over to get the rock (blades still running). Well, I was wearing flip-flops and my foot slipped off the clutch. Considering the fact that I was at the edge of our pond, I promptly went down over the bank. With a great bang my blades were buried in landscaping rocks, and the mower got stuck. After a moment of shock, it dawned on me that I had better turn the blades off. I was too far over the bank to back up, so I had to drive down into the pond (thankfully the water is down about two feet and there was a small patch of muddy ground right there). I was able to put down a pallet and drive back out, and amazingly the mower and the blades don't seem to be too much the worse for wear. I'm just glad that I went over where I did instead of six inches to the left, where I would have very possibly flipped off of a large concrete slab.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday was Missy's birthday. When I sat down to write in her birthday card, I was struck by the real reason as to why I love her. There are many things about my wife that I love, but the bottom line is that Missy is Missy and Missy is my wife. And in my mind, there are no two greater reasons for me to love her. Thank you, Missy, for being you and for being such a wonderful wife. I love you!

(This is probably my favorite picture from our wedding. Missy had it enlarged and gave it to me for Christmas last year. I took a picture of a picture so it isn't quite as clear as it could be, but I think you can see why I love this picture.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Moving Up In The World

Costa Rica is moving up in the world.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Please Pray

My parents and Jeffrey could really use your prayers right now. Jeffrey came down with a bad kidney infection, and the doctors in Honduras don't know what is causing it. He has been in a lot of pain and is not allowed to do anything active. My dad is traveling up to Guatemala today to give a week-long intensive study course. Due to his spending a lot of time with Jeffrey last week (including two days in the hospital), he is both very tired and not prepared for the class like he would like to be.

Catch Up

More time has passed since my last post than I would have liked. I could give you all sorts of reasons as to why, but I will spare you the details. Here is a brief recap of what has transpired in the last week.

- We spent Monday through Thursday morning in Petersburg, Michigan and had a Wednesday night service. While there, we were able to fellowship with different former inmates whom they are reaching through a jail ministry.

- Thursday morning we drove to Marion, OH and had the afternoon and night services at the Bethel Holiness Camp. In the evening service I felt led to share my personal testimony, and a young man got saved at the close of the service!

- We left for home after the service on Thursday night at 10:00 P.M., getting in at 4:00 A.M. on Friday.

- On Friday we and a number of our church people helped our new pastor's family, the Fred Bennetts, move into the parsonage.

- I went calling with a group from the Sunbury God's Missionary Church on Saturday, finishing my requirements for a ministerial internship. My partner and I knocked on 98 doors and had some very good contacts.

- Yesterday we enjoyed two very good services at the Penns Creek God's Missionary Camp.

I promised to post some pictures from this last deputation trip; these are from the petting zoo that we visited our first week out. They had all sorts of animals there, including wallabies, a zebra, reindeer, emus, goats, cows, horses, rabbits, ducks, peacocks, llamas, chickens, and probably a few more that I am forgetting.