Monday, November 1, 2010

Baby Miguel

By all accounts, baby Miguel looked to be a hopeless case.  Nine days old and septic (from pneumonia), his parents had walked some five hours down the from the mountain community of Nueva Esperanza to bring their child in to Hospital Loma de Luz.  Missionary Pediatrician Dr. Sharon Yount told us that this was one of the sickest babies that she had ever seen and prepared the family for the worst almost from the outset.    Being believers in Christ, these simple mountain parents seemed able to put their trust in Christ (the concept of a person or a situation being “in God’s Hands” is an important one here and a phrase that is often used in conversation and in prayer).   By yet another miracle of God’s timing, there were several visiting North American nurses here that were able to fashion out a sort of rural infant ICU for Baby Miguel.  Because I’d had experience as an EMT in the past and due to our desperate need for help in caring for Baby Miguel, I was allowed to help a bit with his medical care.  His condition seemed to go from grave to far worse…. with intense difficulty breathing and “gurgling” breath sounds, it really only seemed a matter of time before Miguel would go on to be with the Lord.  At one point, his breathing was so labored that the decision was made to intubate him.  For those of you with any medical experience, you must be saying – “why hadn’t you done that earlier?” Well, you see – we do not have a respirator here at Hospital Loma de Luz and so the decision to intubate comes with it the awesome responsibility of “breathing” for the baby by bag valve mask – every breath – around 80 times per minute, every minute of every hour of every day until he gets better or until God takes him home.  And so the very weighty decision was made and a small team of nurses and doctors “bagged” baby Miguel for a period of over two days as we watched for any sign of improvement.    

One thing that can definitely be said for Baby Miguel is that he is a fighter.  In fact, he seemed to fight the tube that had been placed in his lungs constantly.  The nurses lovingly put mittens around his hands and tried to constrain his flailing arms so that he wouldn’t pull out any of the many tubes that were coming from his poor little body.  Unfortunately,  through his efforts, he was able to extubate himself (remove the breathing tube) and the decision was made at that time to “put him in God’s hands” and pray that God would heal him.  It seemed that we had done all that we could with our limited resources.  He was placed into his parent’s arms with the hope of a miracle, but with the grim realization that he would most likely die.  But he didn’t die.  In his father’s arms, he started to get better.  In fact he got so much better that Dr. Sharon began to try and formulate a new treatment plan based on the reality of the seeming miraculous turn around.  She began to talk about the possibility of transporting the child to a facility with a respirator – an easy task in the States – but almost impossible here.  As the days progressed after this miraculous turn around, Miguel started going downhill again.  Eventually, Miguel had to be intubated again and we had to reinstate the round the clock breathing program.  This time, everyone involved was so tired that we began to feel like we were running out of options.

It was my privilege to watch caring Christian doctors with some pretty strong differences of opinion in how they should proceed with treatment – whether or not to transfer, for example – talk through their options.  One of the things that they talked about during this time was that Baby Miguel was more than a little body, he was also a soul.  Although his body seemed very insecure indeed, we knew that his soul was secure in “God’s hands”.  They agreed that sending these simple mountain folk into one of the biggest cities in Honduras to try and fend for themselves and their baby in the midst of a very complicated Honduran medical system would have been difficult at best and probably only lead to the death of their child in an unfamiliar place very far from home with no resources to get back home and care for the rest of their family.  Hence, the very difficult decision was made to, once again, put Baby Miguel in “God’s hands” and pray for a miracle.  I am told that the doctors met to consider, one last time, transporting Baby Miguel and started to pray for wisdom and for a clear indication from God as to which way to go.  At almost that exact same moment Baby Miguel stopped breathing.  Wow, it seemed that God’s will at that time was to take Baby Miguel home to be with Himself.  Miguel was revived and did continue to breathe, albeit very very poorly.  Dr. Sharon met with the parents and all agreed that it seemed time to discontinue our life saving efforts and allow God’s will to be done.  I happened to be the one that was “breathing” for Baby Miguel using a bag valve mask when this decision was made.  I took the little body (and soul) and placed them, for the second time now, into the father’s arms.  I prayed with him at that moment that God’s will be done.  We “put Him in God’s hands” for about the one thousandth time in prayer to the Father and began to watch the pulse oximeter to indicate what seemed to be the conclusion of this beautiful baby’s time here on earth with us. 

As we prayed, and watched, Baby Miguel didn’t die, in fact he slowly got a little bit better……. and then he slowly got yet a little bit better.  His oxygen saturations went up without an ET tube and once we stopped breathing for him, an obvious contradiction – and an obvious miracle.  Instead of taking Baby Miguel home to be with Himself, God seemed to want to show us Himself through this process.  He seemed to want to remind us that we are all “in His hands” at every moment of every day and that even with the combined wisdom of some very wise doctors and nurses, His wisdom is supreme.  We watched in awe as Baby Miguel seemed to stabilize a bit.  As there were many care givers around, I decided to walk away for a bit and try and clear my head and get some fresh air.  I came back maybe thirty minutes later and Baby Miguel was nursing!  His mother had lovingly put him to breast, trying to squeeze one more moment of intimacy out of this miracle before her baby died and he responded by nursing.  Thus began Baby Miguel’s recovery.  I stand here now, several weeks later, still shaking my head at what we witnessed and still in awe of the God ‘s providence throughout the whole situation. 

Baby Miguel’s soul is still with his body, as far as we know, and he and his parents left the hospital some two weeks later and began the long walk back up to their mountain village.  Several of the nurses have made a pact to return one year from now and go visit Miguel at his home and celebrate his birthday with him.   While I don’t know if that will actually come to pass and I don’t know how Miguel is doing  today, I do know this:  Baby Miguel is in God’s hands.  All of our prayers didn’t place him any more in God’s hands than he already was, we were simply acknowledging the reality that we could observe about how much this was in fact true.  I know something else now more clearly than ever.  I too am in God’s hands and so are you.  We live and breathe only by His grace and He can show himself miraculously at any time.  Are we living each day in the reality of being in His hands, or do we deny this simple truth by our words, or deeds?  My prayer today is that you and I would live in the simple truth that we are in God’s hands.  Thank you Lord for miraculously saving Baby Miguel and thank you for the privilege of being present as it happened.  Amen.

Note,  here are a few more places that you can read about baby Miguel:

Taking a patient to Hospital Atlántida in La Ceiba

Note, the names of the victim and his wife in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

As Brad and I pulled into the ER at Hospital Atlántida with Fernando lying across the back seat, head in his wife, Maria’s lap, I breathed a quick sigh of relief and a prayer for what we would find inside.  I hoped for the best, but would soon find out that we were to get something much less than that.  I walked into the ER with my transfer papers and presented them to the medical attendant sitting at the desk in the middle of the sea of chaos that is the ER at Hospital Atlántida.  I explained that I had a gunshot victim in the back seat of my truck, to which the very unimpressed attendant answered, “We have three other gunshot victims over there.  He’ll need to wait with them.”  My mind drifted back to the events of the evening that had brought me to this very surreal moment as I surveyed the line of three gunshot victims lying in a row and contemplated our chances of seeing a surgeon this night.

About four hours earlier a relatively peaceful Sunday night had been interrupted by the news that there was a gunshot victim down at the hospital.   This, in and of itself, was not entirely shocking news as we are a rural hospital in a very violent country.  I was asked to go to Balfate, a village a few miles down the road and retrieve Tomas, our X-ray tech so that he could come in and take X-rays of our somewhat stable gsw (gunshot wound) victim.  Further, someone had told me that this was Fernando, Maria’s husband.  The couple is known by us and known very well by our good friends the Aldens.  They attend church at a local church that many of us were connected to and Maria frequently works as a part time housekeeper for several of the missionary families.  In short, she is well known to all here and to hear that her husband had been shot gave us all more than a little extra anxiety.  As I raced out of the gate to get Thomas from Balfate a call came for me on our local Ham radio.  The ER doctor – Dr. Abby – had asked that I return to the ER and told me that someone else was going to go get Tomas.  Further, I was asked to get my firearm and return to the hospital to act as security.  We came to learn that the person who had shot Fernando was still at large and it seemed good to have someone around who was armed. All of my time in the states at the shooting range and my love of handguns has meant that I am one of the missionaries here at the hospital who is armed in times of security concerns.  Ok, I headed back to my house and retrieved my handgun and headed down to the hospital to hang out with Dr. Abby and see how I could help. 

I was saddened to see our dear friend Maria so distraught after having been through such a difficult time, but gladdened to see Fernando lying on the bed in the ER – mostly stable.  The bullet had entered into his back midway down on the left side and amazingly at that time – didn’t seem to have hit the spinal column or the lungs.  Ultrasound seemed to reveal some internal bleeding.  Dr. Jeff showed up about that time and reviewed the case with Dr. Abby.  Dr. Jeff – our leader and surgeon – was put in the unenviable task of having to make a tough decision about sending Fernando into La Ceiba for surgery due to lack of resources here at the hospital.  The next time you find yourself praying for Hospital Loma de Luz, please pray for a full time anesthetist for without one, we can (and do) have a very talented surgeon that can’t perform his duties and often has to send patients in to La Ceiba when we could otherwise treat them.  Dr. Jeff made the difficult, but obvious, decision that we could not operate on Fernando with the limited resources that we had at the hospital at that time and the decision was made to transfer him. 

While this assessment and decision was being made, I was able to spend some time praying with Maria.  I prayed that God would give her peace and we prayed together that God would touch her husband and heal him.  I was aware that another one of our missionaries (It is truly amazing how our little group of missionaries acts as a team when a critical case arrives) had gone to Balfate to get the police.  In our rural area, we do have police, sometimes, but they don’t have a car.  So if you need them, you have to go and get them.  We had done just that and on this Sunday evening, John had found our local constable enjoying a cool one at the local bar.  He brought the young man (couldn’t have been more than 20 yrs old) from the bar, out of uniform and smelling a little bit like beer, directly to the hospital.  Remember that I had told you that there was a little bit of concern that the shooter was still at large.  Well, the little bit of concern turned into a bigger amount of concern when a young man arrived at the hospital in street clothes, smelling a little bit like beer, claiming to be a cop and wanting to see the patient.  Penny, our dear friend and nurse, was ready to pummel the poor young lad right there in the hallway.  My role as guardian and protector quickly became one of protecting the young policeman from Penny as she was quite concerned that he was indeed the shooter, come back to finish the job.  Penny was raised in a Catholic school and let me tell you – the Sisters would have been proud of her.  I explained our policy that only uniformed police were allowed to be armed there at the hospital and asked the young officer to please surrender his weapon to me to hold  - for the comfort of “the nurse.”  He was only too happy to give me his firearm as long as it meant that Penny would stand down. 

Hearing that the decision had been made to transport Fernando to La Ceiba, I asked if I could be permitted to take him into town in my vehicle.  I knew that the local Red Cross ambulance ride would be really hard on Fernando and I wanted to give him a more comfortable and secure ride into town.  I also wanted to try and be there at the hospital for he and Maria to try and help them secure the best care available.  And so the request was granted and we loaded Fernando into the back of my truck, lying on his side with his head on his wife’s lap.  He groaned loudly in obvious pain as I went over each bump (20 miles of hard, rough dirt road and then 40 miles of pavement with potholes the size of small ponds) and through each pothole on the hour and half trip to Hospital Atlántida in La Ceiba.        
And so here I find myself in the ER, being told to wait behind three other g.s.w. victims and worried sick about Fernando.  I was standing in the middle of an ER that simply defies explanation to anyone who is used to an American Emergency Room, clean and orderly.  There aren’t enough nurses to go around, so the family members become the primary care takers of the person in the ER.  To my left, an elderly mother tries to comfort a young man who has been shot in the chest and undoubtedly has a sucking chest wound.  He seems to be literally bleeding out in front of me.  Farther over to my left a very large woman (easily 300 lbs) is following some strange rhythm of scream, cry, vomit, repeat.  Occasionally adding brief pauses for emphasis, she doggedly sticks to her routine in a desperate attempt to get some attention.    An old man looks like he is dying.  A young girl looks scared and quiet.  There are no beds.  Fernando is still in my truck and I’m not really getting anywhere.  I say there are no beds, but there is one bed – off in the corner – broken and stuck in a 45 degree “reverse Trendelenberg” position with the head up and feet down.  Brad and I try and fix the bed in the corner, hoping to be able to straighten it out.  As we are working on it, I realize that there is a terrible smell in that corcer of the ER and look down to find that I am standing in a pool of blood and urine.  I give up trying to fix the bed and realize that I’m not about to put Fernando with internal bleeding into such a position (head up – feet down), so I complain to the nurses who walk by with a blank expression that gave up trying to explain their situation long ago.  I’m told that I can have the mobile bed (one with wheels) that the sucking chest wound is currently on as he is about to be shipped up for surgery.  I breathe a sigh of relief that he (sucking chest wound) will not die right there in front of me and that we will soon have a bed.  An orderly – (about 14 years old in appearance) rolls another bed into the room and the orderly and the elderly mother move sucking chest wound from the rolling gurney onto the other rolling bed and begin to wheel him out of the room.  Problem: sucking chest wound left about an inch deep pool of blood on the gurney that we are now supposed to use to get Fernando out of the truck with.  I look around in vain for someone to clean the gurney.  I ask the nurse where the cleaning supplies are and she points vaguely off to our left.  I wander around, looking on the shelves and find a likely looking bottle.  One sniff confirms that this is indeed bleach – perfect.  Now for some towels.  The best I can do is a pile of what I hope and pray (but doubt) is clean sheets.  I use one to soak up the one inch pool and then use the second one to put as much of the bleach as possible all over the bed and get it as clean as possible before wheeling it out to my truck.      Brad is a rock during all of this and dutifully hauls Fernando out of the truck and onto the bed.  We wheel him into the ER where we find a spot near the broken bed but far enough away as to be out of the pool of blood and urine.   We’re told to leave him there and that the surgeon will see him just as soon as he is out of surgery.  We pray with Maria, who is back in shock now given all that has happened since we arrived.   We leave feeling like we were leaving our friends in an impossible situation.  As we get into the truck Brad sums it up perfectly and says, “Well, if Atlántida doesn’t kill him, I think he’ll be ok”.  

We spoke with Maria the next day to find out that they still hadn’t seen a surgeon.  We started making plans to go back and get Fernando, not sure what we would do – but knowing that we had to do something.  Not too long after that, we heard that he was indeed being taken into surgery.  We later found that they had operated on Fernando and while in a considerable amount of pain, he seemed to be stable.  Several days later he was released and spent the next several weeks recuperating at home.  He is up and moving around now – well, mostly.  They are fearful that the man that they surprised down in the ditch alongside the road that night will come back.  They are afraid of the senseless, meaningless violence that almost ruined their lives.  The policeman all but told them that night that there wasn’t anything he could do and he was most probably right.  There won’t be any justice, this side of Heaven it seems; for Fernando – only gratitude that it all didn’t end that night for him and that Maria doesn’t have to try and raise their kids alone.  I wish I could tell you that everything is ok for them.  I know that it isn’t.  I know that they face unimaginable challenges amidst their fear and their poverty.  I’m told that Fernando is back at church and that he is speaking up and participating in ways that he wouldn’t have done before.  I’m hoping and praying that his close call brings him closer with God and that he heals emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Catching up: post 4 of 4 - Missions and Ministry

Note:  please see post 1 - Intro, post 2 - Family, post 3 - Work, and post 4 Mission and Ministry

Missions and ministry – Having just completed my “catching up” blog post #3 about work,   I realize how silly it is to differentiate between “work” and “missions and ministry”.  If we’re really following Christ, it is all missions and ministry and it is mostly work, right? Nevertheless, I need some way to break this up into functional groups and this is the best I can do for now.   My work here at the hospital really falls into two categories:   I.T. work and everything else.  
The I.T. work is made up of keeping things running and making them better.  Many of you know that the hospital has gone through a significant financial crisis over this last summer, so we’ve been doing a lot of “keeping things running” and just a little bit of “making it better”.  We continue to repair old routers, laptops, and other types of equipment and piece them together from spares.  The lesson here is to never throw anything away as it can be used for parts later on.  We have had tons of problems with our internet provider – making life difficult for all of us.  We are so connected to the internet here – it is truly our only lifeline back to all of you.  I have learned so much in trying to communicate with the company here in Honduras that provides us our internet.  I’ve learned about communicating in Spanish in a technical and professional business environment.  I’ve learned about communicating as a representative of a Christian organization, demanding service and resolution to problems (an incredibly difficult concept here in Honduras) and yet striving always to do so in a way that maintains the integrity of our ministry here at Loma de Luz.  Did I mention that I was doing this in another language??? Wow, what a challenge and what an opportunity for growth.

Under the category of “Making things better” I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a new ministry called Missions I.T.  I’m starting this, I believe, at the leading of the Lord.  This new ministry will seek donations of money, IT equipment, and IT assistance in order to support the technical ministry here at Hospital Loma de Luz.  We will seek to fund the Internet Connectivity here as well as provide salaries for local (indigenous) I.T jobs, as well as provide funding for equipment and infrastructure upgrades (i.e buy laptops and routers and such).    I’m really excited about this and will write more about it soon in a separate introductory newsletter. 

Having covered I.T. work in the last two paragraphs, I now come to the “everything else” part of our ministry here at Loma de Luz.  John Lennon said that “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”  Well, life here is often what happens during the “everything else” phase of our ministry here.  This usually translates into helping with some part of medical care of the patients here in the hospital and occasionally helping out with rides or whatever is needed.  God continues to allow me to rediscover my passion for helping out with the medical side here at the hospital and it is this part of my life that has been the most challenging, the most profound, and the most rewarding.  Dr Sharon was very kindly thanked me for helping out with a sick child recently and I had to thank her for allowing me to help.  “That’s my passion”, I told her pointing to the little baby lying on the hospital bed - that is what I really love.  I.T. work is needed here and makes my time here useful – but it is helping with the patients that I love above everything else. 

In the last few months I’ve helped deliver a still born baby, helped many times with “coding” patients – patients who aren’t breathing and or do not have a pulse.  I’ve transported several patients in to the hospital in La Ceiba, including a gunshot victim and pregnant patients who were having trouble with their delivery.  I’ve helped clean up and dress babies who had died and presented them to their parents for them to “say goodbye”.  I’ve placed a baby in its parent arms whom we thought was going to die any minute and watched God spare his life and allow him to continue to live, seemingly against all odds.  In short, I’ve been involved in the living and dying here at the hospital as we strive to give the best possible medical care in some of the toughest possible situations with as much of God’s love as we can possible give at any given moment.  I’ve seen God move over and over again. Sometimes it feels like I’m in the book of Acts and sometimes it feels that God is very far away indeed.   I’m learning to achieve some semblance of emotional stability in the midst of incredibly emotional days.  Sometimes, I run from a telephone business meeting in the states off to a dying patient and then go right back into the meeting when I’m done helping.  It seems strange, crazy, and incredible – all at the same time – But I want you to know this:  I know that I am right where God wants me to be.  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.   Please pray that God would continue to use me in this way here at Loma de Luz and that he would give me wisdom about priorities, compassion, and helping in the most loving way possible.  In the next few weeks, I’ll post the stories of little Miguel, Jose and others whose life God has touched and in most cases spared by His grace.  Stay tuned.

Catching up: post 3 of 4 - Work

Note:  please see post 1 - Intro, post 2 - Family, post 3 - Work, and post 4 Mission and Ministry

Work  ­- I often don’t talk about my “day job” or my business when I’m blogging.   I find it hard to talk about working for a “living” when all of the other missionaries I know work in their ministry full time.  I sometimes feel awkward because of this and, to be very honest, sometimes I feel like I don’t do either of them well because of the pull between the two priorities.  I’m so thankful to have been blessed with great clients who are infinitely patient with me as I try and find the right balance between these two areas of my life.   The last few months have been so busy with work that I really can’t ignore it when telling folks about how I’ve been doing and what I’ve been doing.   I’ve been working on a project for a client in Salt Lake City that turned out to be much bigger than I thought it would be.   While I’ve been working on the project for about a year now – these last two-three months have just been really, really busy with this project.  One aspect of this is that I’ve had to travel back to the states much more than I’d like to.   I’ve made six trips in the last 12 months.  This is really hard on the family and, to a lesser extent, on those that I serve with here at Loma de Luz.  The good side of this is that it has been a real challenge for me and I’ve grown personally and professionally through tackling a project much bigger than anything I’ve tackled before.  The best part of all is that it has been a huge blessing financially and relieved much of the financial stress of some slow months prior to starting the project.  I am still working on it and in some ways, busier than ever.  We are in the middle of implementing the project now and it is finally actually starting take flight.  I hope to be winding down with this particular project in October but, thanks be to God, this same client has approached me about two more big projects for next year.  It seems as if God clearly wants me to pursue this “bi-vocational” or “tent-making” type of missionary service.  The prayer request here is that I would remain faithful to the way God wants to support us here at Loma de Luz – and work hard to do the work that he has given me.  Please pray that I would be a blessing to my clients and that I would be responsible with deadlines and commitments.  Lastly, please pray that I would find and maintain a good balance between the often competing priorities of missions and ministry, family, and my work.  

Catching up: post 2 of 4 - Family

Note:  please see post 1 - Intro, post 2 - Family, post 3 - Work, and post 4 Mission and Ministry

Family – I put this first (before work and ministry updates) because I want you to think that this is always my first priority.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  All too often in these last months my family has had to wait patiently while dad has been away on work trips or down at the hospital helping with patients or otherwise engaged.  My constant conviction is that I need to more available to my dear family.  So, I start with this prayer request: please Lord, give me wisdom about how much to commit to and give me the conviction to be a father and a husband first.  Amen.  Mariah and Benny are growing up so quickly.  All in all, I think that Honduras is the best thing that has ever happened to them.  I can almost hear their minds expanding as we encounter different situations here that they would never encounter in The States and as they learn to express themselves in a new language.   

Mariah was bored a bit this summer – with many of her friends gone over the summer break, but she had the chance to connect in a very deep way with one friend that visited from the US.  She is always worried about how everyone else is doing and worries about her daddy.  I’ve been learning how to communicate with her as a parent of a teenager.  Wow, what a difference God makes in the midst of this!  We have the wonderful shared common ground of God and His Word to base our relationship on and it is such a blessing.  We talk about boys more than she’d like to and she thinks about boys more than I’d like her to.  She likes to disappear into her room (I call it the teenage disappearing act) and in my busyness; I let her do it a little too often.  She is a good kid, serious about school and too grown up for her age.  She is beautiful.  She owns me, and she knows it. 

Benny is also homeschooled full time now and is reading like a machine. His eight year old mind is actively engaged in ways to get out of doing school work and playing jokes on his sister.  He is beginning to be the smartest kid I know.  He does things on the computer that absolutely amaze me.  He has a real aptitude for figuring things out quickly and a quick engaging smile.  Visitors who come here each year quickly ask me “how’s Benny” as soon as they see me.  They may not remember me, but they remember Benny.  He is full of life and always engaged in some imaginary battle.  He is a clown and can get us all laughing at even the most serious family moments.  My challenge with him is learning to parent a kid that often tries to outsmart me and loves the verbal jousting.  When the chips are down, Benny is right there by my side – my trusted amigo, but he also loves to “push my buttons”. 

Marinajo is in a real growth spurt spiritually. Every time I turn around, she is buried in this Bible study or that Chapter in the Bible.  She is helping to teach a sexual purity class (based on the Bible) in the local schools and hosts a weekly Bible study for a couple of girls from a neighboring village.  All indications are that she is having an eternal impact here as she continues to turn her life over to Christ.  She continues to amaze me in the depth and ways that she loves me.  I remember saying to myself early on in our relationship some 23 years ago, that this is a woman who loves deeply.  I am still amazed by this.  We celebrate 20 years of marriage this year.  I’ve promised to take her on a fabulous Caribbean vacation for our twentieth, but she gives me this sideways look (I call it the fish eye) of suspicion, because we already live on the Caribbean and I think that she is afraid that I’ll take over to the next village for supper or something. 

Catching up: post 1 of 4 - Intro

Communication:  it is so critical to what we are doing and yet truly one of the hardest parts of being on the mission field.  If I work as hard as I think God wants me to work here (hard), then there is very little time to really sit down and write about what we are doing.  If I throw myself into all of the opportunities that I believe God is putting before us here in this place (many), then it becomes very hard to effectively communicate in the little bit of time that I do take to sit down and write. Lastly, the pace is so fast and the experiences are so new, so dramatic, and so confusing that it becomes triply hard to distill them into coherent sentences.  And yet, writing helps us to do three things in a way that almost nothing else does.  A) It communicates to our family, friends, and supporters how we are doing and what we are doing down here at Hospital Loma de Luz.  B) It serves to record the very dramatic and sometimes the mundane that happens to us.  I want to record these things for my family and for me to reflect on later – so that we can remember these times.  C) Maybe this one is the most important – it serves to clarify the experiences and shows me (and others) what God is doing in the midst of life that just seems so busy that I just can’t keep up.  Warren Buffett said that “there is nothing like writing to force you to think and to get your thoughts straight”.  Ultimately, when I’m not writing it is because I can’t get my thoughts straight.
My goal with this series of posts is to “catch up” on the last three to four months.  As I look at my blog, I see that I did an ok job of keeping up in May, writing four or five “posts”.  Since then, I’ve written a couple of stories of the big events – but really haven’t done a good job of keeping up.  I’ll try and break things down in the following three posts:  Family, Work, Mission and Ministry.  I’ll post the first one (family) tonight and hope to get the other two partially written ones posted in the next few days.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

An urgent financial need at Hospital Loma de Luz

Dear Friends and Family, 

Hello from Honduras!  We pray that this note finds each of you well.  Our family is well.  We are enjoying a bit of a respite from the hottest times of the summer and yet sweating away in the heat and humidity that seems to always be here!  Mariah and Benny are enjoying their summer break from school and are already looking forward (though not always with eager anticipation) to returning to the routine of school next month.  :) 

Marinajo and I wanted to let you know about an urgent need for funds here at Hospital Loma de Luz.  The financial needs described in this email are not directly for our family, rather they are for the missionary hospital at which we serve.  We ask that you please read the brief financial synopsis below and please prayerfully consider how you might help in this time of need.  We know that God is able to meet every need and we know of the many, many times that He has shown Himself faithful to this ministry over the years.  We look forward to recounting this time in later years as yet another moment when the Lord heard us and He answered our prayers!   

It costs about $40,000 US per month to operate the hospital. This includes a payroll for Honduran workers of $20,000 per month and about $5,000 per month for electricity (electricity in Honduras is extraordinarily expensive!). This includes the Children's Center, which currently houses 19 children. Honduran workers are trained to staff the Children's Center and work in the hospital in various capacities as well as workers on the property to maintain the grounds and equipment.  While $40,000 per month might sound like a lot of money (and it is!), remember that this is the total required for the operation of the entire hospital inpatient and outpatient services, as well as many ancillary ministries.  We see about 200 patients per week in the clinic, and have an in-patient average of about 6 patients.  The average cost for the hospitalization of a single complex patient in the USA might be that same $40,000, so we are using money and resources very carefully.  

This week Lisa, our hospital administrator, came to the medical staff meeting to give the financial status report as follows:

At best, we operate with a cushion of only 2 or at the most, 3 months of operating expenses in the bank.  Currently, however, the donations are down to a bare minimum, and the hospital has had to lay off workers. Lisa reported that we have roughly $15,000 of operating expenses remaining, $10,000 of which was to pay 2 weeks of payroll and the other for electricity.  

There is a container full in the Gulf which Dr. Jeff wants shipped in the next month which will cost about another $5,000. Among other items in the shipment is a fluoroscope machine (x-ray) for the hospital.  

Patient fees account for only about 10% of the total operating budget.  The other 90% comes from donations, mostly from the USA.  We have no large financial supporters for the ministry.  All donations come from small churches and individual donors.  So we have been asked to pray and to get the word out to supporters on the current financial status of the hospital so they can pray also.

Dear friends, if you are able to help financially, please contact;

Hospital Loma de Luz 
Cornerstone Foundation
Kathleen Jones
18384 West Lake Drive
Saucier, MS 39574

We pray for God's richest blessings for each of you.  Thank you! 

Dave and Marinajo Fields
Mariah and Benny

Monday, June 21, 2010

God's Protection

My friend Terry and I were finishing up a long Saturday in La Ceiba.  We were fueling the truck just before leaving town for the hour and a quarter ride home to Loma de Luz.  We always fill up last because we want the fullest tank possible as we cross over the plancha (dry river bed) and into the campo (the country).  

We’ve known that we live in a very dangerous place here in Honduras.  I’ve often said that the murder rate here is one of the highest in the world.  It is one thing to know this fact in your head – it is quite another thing to see this horrible statistic played out in front of you.  Today, as Terry and I were finishing up fueling at the Texaco station a motorcycle pulled up to the next row of gas pumps and the driver of the motorcycle pulled out a pistol and murdered one of the gas station employees.  In less time than it took for you to read that last sentence, shots were fired, a man was killed, and Terry and I both came under God’s incredible protection.

You realize that it is happening after it has already happened.  I heard the shots, saw the victim fall, saw the whole thing.  In only a second or two – after my reactions kicked in – the man in front of me was already dead.  A man on a motorcycle had pulled up, pulled a gun out, and killed him brutally and thoroughly.  Even as it was happening, my mind told me “this is not a hold up – this is an assassination.” Multiple gunshots into the man as he lay on the ground told me that a point was being made here.  This poor fellow had made the wrong person mad.  After that, the killer shot four or five times out into the crowd – aimlessly – just trying to scare everyone away.  I was in the truck waiting for Terry to finish paying.  He was even closer than I was when it happened.  I looked over to see where Terry was and saw him crouched down behind some good solid steel and yet – very close to the killer.  The killer was walking / running right towards my truck.  I didn’t want to leave Terry – but felt like I had to move.  Something inside of me – very calm – said “He’s not trying to hurt you; he’s just trying to get away.  Get out of his way and let him get out of here.” I moved the truck a little ways ahead and watched him walk right behind my truck in my rear view mirror.  45 cal semi auto my mind told me as I saw the gun in his hand.  Not good.  I leaned over and laid down on the seats until he had passed by – rose up again in time to see Terry running for cover.  I opened the door and yelled to Terry “get in!” and Terry ran to the truck.  As I watched, the killer ran on towards the Congrejal bridge and then Terry was in the truck next to me.  I whipped the truck around and we drove a ways down the street – in the opposite direction of the killer.  Terry was running his hands all over his body, checking for leaks, and so I gave him a quick pat down with the hand that wasn’t on the wheel and assured him that he appeared to be completely intact.  After we had gone a few hundred yards, we realized that it was over and that the killer was gone.  I presumed that he had jumped over the bridge and down onto the river bank below.  We knew that we were out of danger and unharmed.  I asked Terry what he wanted to do and he said “I didn’t get my change from that guy – he still owes me 300 lemps!  I said “are you sure it is worth it?” To which he replied “heck yes, it’s worth it – turn around.”  So I turned around and we went back to the gas station!

I need to pause here and say that this type of thing happens all the time here in Honduras.  The newspapers show headlines (and often gruesome pictures) of the most recent assassinations/ killings almost every day. Somewhere in Honduras - this is always happening.  Given this, it is absolutely astounding how quickly things get back to normal after something like this happens.  It couldn’t have been five minutes after the murder when we got back to the gas pumps.  A huge crowd had gathered   around the body and cars were already maneuvering for space at the gas pumps.  It was absolutely amazing the sense of normalcy that pervaded the atmosphere. I checked the victim to see if there was anything I could do for the poor man (the firefighter in me demanded that I at least check on him) and there most clearly wasn’t anything anyone could do for him.  Terry was discussing basic math with the poor gas attendant who was trying to make change but just couldn’t seem to get the math right.  No one was crying.  People were crowding around the victim and many were taking pictures with their cell phones.  There was a sense of excitement about it all – but not a sense of shock or a sense of tragedy at all.  I’ve been around lots of tragedies in the states just after they happened – when I was in the Fire Service – and the common factor in all of them is a profound sense of shock.  Not here.  There was no shock – it was business as usual inside of 10 minutes. 

Terry and I left just as the police showed up.  As we drove off Terry told me that someone had said that the killer was picked up by another man on a motorcycle on the bridge and that they sped off.   As we drove onward, we just kept looking at each other and saying, “My God that was close!”  We kept telling each other the story – over and over again, each of us getting clarity from the other’s perspective.  We both realized how incredibly close we had been to this thing and we were so thankful that neither was hurt.  I told  Terry how terrible I felt for leaving him and pulling away in the truck when I did and he told me how much he thought I did exactly the right thing and how thankful he was that as he ran away I was still close enough to call to him to get in the truck.  I replayed the scene a thousand times in my mind and with Terry trying to think if there was something that I could have done differently – or better.  We both knew that the first 5 shots were meant for the victim alone and that we could have been standing right next to the victim and never really been in danger from those first shots.  There were about four or five other shots though, a second round of shots that we knew could have killed us.  The killer seemed to fire them randomly as if he were just trying to scare everyone off – which he did with great effectiveness.  Everyone ran – I pulled my truck ahead and watched him run around behind my truck and then Terry and all of the crew from the gas pumps ran parallel to me.  It seemed like a miracle to us that no one else was hurt from that second round of four or five shots.  We wouldn't know just how much of a miracle it was until later. 

For me, the drive home was a study in what happens when the adrenaline runs out of you.  Not five minutes later, my phone started ringing and it was Marinajo calling me.  Should I answer it? Should I tell her?  No, don’t tell her yet, it is too fresh and she’ll just worry and fret all the time we’re driving home.  What if she heard about it and is calling to check on me (the absurdity of this particular argument didn’t’ hit me until later)?  Ok, answer it.  HihoneyYeahwerefineWe’rejustleavingandwe’llbehomesoonTalktoyoulaterbye. Click.  No room for any questions.  Perfect. Now pull yourself together and you can tell her when you get home, in person. The realization quickly hit me that essentially every time I have made this trip to La CeibaMarinajo and Benny were with me and that even today, the plan had been to take Benny with me.  Oh God, thank you that my family wasn’t in the car with me!  Thank you that Benny didn’t have to see that, to hear that, to experience that!   I sighed these deep deep sighs over and over again as the adrenaline left and the reality sunk it.  I prayed thank you over and over again – thank you Lord that you protected us and thank you that my family wasn’t there. 

When we got home, we agreed that we wouldn’t speak of it right away – but that we would each take time to tell our wives in the most comforting way possible and then later – we would speak of it in their presence.  I had managed to compose myself pretty well until I walked around the truck.  There, staring at me from the right rear fender, just behind the door to the fuel cap, was a nice big bullet hole.  Wow, I knew it was close, but I didn’t know it was that close!  I called Terry over and we just stood there and stared at it.  Upon further inspection, two things became very clear 1) the angle of entry was such that    the bullet was heading very much in my direction and 2) that there was no exit – the right rear fender of the truck had stopped that bullet.  To me, this seems miraculous.  The fender on my truck is very light sheet metal and doesn’t have any business stopping any bullets.  It might slow them down, but shouldn’t stop them.  The reality of it sunk in anew, and deeper.  Oh God, thank you!  Thank you for your protection! 

Later, after the groceries were unloaded and I sat down quietly with Marinajo to “break the news to here”, she quickly grabbed my hands and immediately started praying.  “God, thank you that you are who you say you are”, she prayed.  “Thank you that you cover us with your hands and that you protect us.”  Amen.  I realized that just last night, I had been discussing with Suzanne Rumbaugh that “we are all terminal” as we spoke of her mother’s cancer and that none of us here on Earth knows the number of days that we will live.  Dear reader, do you know the number of days that you will live?  If it was you in the car at the gas station when the gunman opened fire, would you be ready to die and meet God?  Here is Suzanne’s reflection on her mother’s cancer:

I am so glad to know that our Lord God is sovereign over this universe, yet intimate with our deepest thoughts and need. My mom's prognosis is not stellar by worldly standards, yet The Great Physician holds the trump card in any deck. And we're all terminal, are we not? Most of us just deny it. Let's live like we know it!
"Every day ordained for me was written in your book before one of them came to be." -Psalm 139:16

Tonight, as I contemplate my own mortality, I am absolutely certain that God holds me in His hands and that nothing can take me from Him.  The Bible tells me that neither death nor life can separate me from His love for me in Christ Jesus.  I’m ready.  I don’t want to go yet, but I’m ready.  How about you friend?  Is today the day to get right with God and be “ready”?  I offer this in complete humility – not wishing to sound pious or proud.  I just pray that you would hear God’s voice today and know that you are “ready.” And that if you are “ready” – that we would all live like we know it, every day.  Thanks for reading and thanks for your prayers for protection in this dangerous place that we live.

1As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.2For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you,  and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.  
2nd Corinthians chapter 6

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My sissy.

Just a few days after Bairon’s vacation, it was off to San Pedro Sula to pick up my sister, Kathy, at the airport.  We spent Friday night with our friends the Hoffs in San Pedro before picking Kathy up at the airport on Saturday.  Kathy arrived more or less on time to one of the busiest days that we’ve seen at the SPS airport in a long time.  She came out of the immigration area just long enough to tell us that she was missing a suitcase and that she would be back once she was done filling out the paperwork related to the missing suitcase.  Oh boy.  Can you believe it, the suitcase came in later than night and the airlines (Continental) delivered it all the way out to the hospital the next day?? That is about four hours away!  I was just amazed (and thankful) that we didn’t have to spend an extra night in SPS to wait for the lost suitcase.  If there are any “old-timers” from Loma de Luz reading this, they must be shaking their heads at how easy we have it these days – having lost bags delivered to the hospital.  Wow.

Our drive back with Kathy was a great time to get caught up.  It was also neat to see her get re-acquainted with Honduras.  You see, she had been here four times previously for medical missions trips (she is an RN) to the southern part of the country prior to our ever thinking about coming to Honduras.  She loved the country and the people before God put a call in our hearts to be here.  Isn’t that neat?  I need to mention again how fortunate we are to have so much support from our family as we serve here at Loma de Luz.  In less than two years, we’ve already been visited by Marinajo’s mom, Mary, and my Dad and Stepmom, Dennis and Julie, and now my sister, Kathy, was here with us for a visit.  Understand that we serve alongside people who may have never had that much family visit them.  We are just so fortunate and blessed for this and we thank our family for all of their support.

The week with Kathy went by quickly.  Here are a few highlights: 

Kathy was able to spend some time with John Alden at a remote health clinic and with Penny Alden doing some home visit / dressing changes on a patient who had recently had surgery. 

Kathy was able to meet many of the folks that we serve with here at Loma de Luz.  It was kind of like introducing family to family. 

Kathy’s daughter and son-in law called while she was here to tell us that he had passed his FBI interview and would most likely be heading to Quantico for FBI academy.  That was some big news! 

An important businesswoman was kidnapped in La Ceiba (about an hour away) and then brought to a town very close to here (3-4 miles away) and held hostage for five days. Read more about this here.

Thursday afternoon a two-year old boy came into the hospital –in very grave condition – with and accidental iron overdose/poisoning.  Read more about this here

Friday went to a hotel about 45 minutes away and swam and had a wonderful lunch together.  It was such a relaxing way to end her time with us.    

Instead of driving all the way back to San Pedro – we put her on a plane in La Ceiba early Saturday morning and after a long day of travel, she arrived home safely late Saturday. 

As I reflect on Kathy’s visit – I’m struck by how much like our mom she is.  Mom died back in 1995 and as hard as it is for me to admit it, I really don’t think of her that often.  I tend to forget Mom's mannerisms and way of speaking for example.  Kathy is so much like Mom in those little mannerisms that it brought all of those memories of Mom flooding back in.  It made me miss Mom and also made me thankful she lives on, in some sense, through my sister.  Kathy has such a soft and giving heart.  She brought all kinds of things down for us in her suitcase that we had asked her for and then wouldn't let us pay for any of it.  Her visit and her love are such a comfort to us here.   It was a wonderful time to  renew our love for one another and to renew our friendship.   Lastly, I’m so thankful to the time that the kids were able to spend with her.  One of the biggest regrets that we have in living down here out of the country is missed time with family.  Thank you Lord for this time well spent with my sister!    

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Iron overdose / poisoning.

Thursday afternoon a two year old boy came into the hospital after having eaten "a package" of his mom’s iron pills.  It didn’t take long for me to realize what a grave emergency an iron overdose is for a young child (or for anyone for that manner). It seemed as if the young boy (from the information that his mom gave us) had taken as much as six times the lethal dose of iron for his body weight and size.  Wow.  The doctors felt that we needed to get him to a place that would have special medicine needed to counteract the effects of the iron overdose.  The decision was made to send him into to the hospital in La Ceiba via ambulance with the hopes that he would be able to receive the very important medicine - which we did not have.  Our hospital does not have an ambulance, so we call for the Red Cross Ambulance (about thirty minutes away) to transport patients in these cases.  We sent two nurses in the ambulance with him and I followed the ambulance in to La Ceiba in order to bring them back home.

 In a country full of crazy drivers and close calls,  this ride to La Ceiba will remain in my memory as the craziest ride ever.  It is simply a miracle of God that no one died because of the Red Cross Ambulance driver.  Sure in the US folks get over to the right when they see an ambulance coming (most of the time), but this place is not the US and drivers often don't yield the right away to the ambulance.  This didn't faze our driver.  As I followed him in and prayed for the safety of the two nurses (Penny and Joelle) I saw him take unimaginable risks - pulling directly out into oncoming traffic in order to pass cars in our lane.  At one point he literally drove an oncoming semi into the ditch in order to get around some cars.  Several times we were doing over 150 kph in busy two lane traffic and if you can believe it - in the middle of a very intense thunderstorm.  The ladies in the ambulance told me that his front window was completely fogged over from the rain and it didn't seem like he could see anything.  I believe it!  
We arrived in La Ceiba safely (thank God) and took the boy into the ER.  A very capable sounding pediatrician met us right away and began to examine the patient and taking a report from Nurse Penny.  We were terribly disappointed when the doctor told us that the special medicine that we were hoping for couldn't be found anywhere in Central America.   It seemed at the time that there was no hope for the boy.  

We now know that they boy did survive those first few days in the hospital and that he was sent home after about four days in the hospital.  We hope/pray/want to believe that this is a miraculous answer to prayer and that God chose to spare this young boy's life.  We are still concerned about the possible long term effects of the poisoning and fear that he may not be out of the woods. And so we continue to pray for him - that God would indeed spare his life and heal him.  I'll be sure to add more details later if we hear about them.   

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In a scene that is all too familiar here in Central America,  an important businesswoman was kidnapped in La Ceiba (about an hour away) and then brought to San Luis, a town very close to here (3-4 miles away) and held hostage for five days.

The story is that this lady would often go to the windows of the house where she was being held hostage and try and alert someone that she needed help.  Someone reported this and a special kidnapping task force from La Ceiba raided the house on Wednesday night and rescued the woman alive – but the kidnappers seemed to have all escaped.   This meant that the kidnappers were at large in our immediate area – a fact that gave us all some pause and caused us to be extra careful  with our travel .   This also caused us to pray for security since for a couple of days we were unsure as to the location of the kidnappers.  In truth we are still unsure of the location of these people, but as time moves on it seems less likely that they are still in the area.

Lastly, we know that one of the policemen from the kidnapping taskforce died here Wednesday night, apparently while trying to apprehend the kidnappers.  The story in all of the papers is that he was chasing one of them when he either fell in the river or tried to cross the river and drowned.  The police get a bad rap here - often corrupt and untrustworthy.  This policemen seems to have died while trying very hard to do the right thing.  

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Scorching Hot!

The last two weeks of April were quite possibly the hottest two and half weeks of my life.  It was absolutely scorching here.  We struggled just to get by some days.  I am quite sure that it was over a hundred degrees in my office on several occasions.  One note of incredible comfort though, our new house has an air conditioner in the bedroom.  We laughed at it when we first moved into the house and swore we would never need to use it – but those couple of weeks brought us to our proverbial knees.  We would set the a/c to 80 degrees and it would just take the edge of the heat off enough to let us sleep at nights.  We would do this with not a little amount of guilt knowing that several of the missionaries down here didn’t have that option (a.c) and really suffered trying to sleep at night during that same time.  

My hero, Oswald Chambers, served as a chaplain in a WW1 British camp during the summers in North Africa.  He and his family served the Lord in unimaginable heat and did so with grace and perseverance (and he had to wear a tie and long sleeves every day).  This makes me feel all the more “weak” by enjoying such amazing modern comforts out here in the Jungle where we serve.   Even with all of our guilt, we are so thankful for the Larson family (former missionaries here) that built this house and spent the money to put a/c in the bedroom.  What a blessing!  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bairon's Vacation.

Do you ever “wake up” and realize that the last few weeks have just been a blur?  It seems as if I’ve been in one of those time-warp / black hole thingees lately.   I find myself reflecting on the last few weeks and really thankful that the schedule will be calming down a bit now.  It started  around mid-April when Bairon told me that he needed to take a few weeks off.  Bairon is the (Honduran) employee that works with me in the IT department here at Loma de Luz.  Since I am his direct supervisor, I suppose it is correct to say that works “for me” but it is really more accurate to say that we work together here to solve IT problems and help keep things running smoothly.  I have to say that I never really realized how much he does each day until he went on vacation.  I found myself fighting to keep my head above water as I tried to handle his duties and keep my work for the IT business going as well.  The computers staged a coordinated revolt during Bairon’s absence.  Routers and laptops were literally throwing themselves out of windows (pun intended) and onto the ground.   I’ve never seen such coordinated malicious behavior from a group of seemingly inanimate objects.   Due mostly to the incredible patience of the folks that I work with – we managed to make it through until Bairon returned.    This went on for about two and half weeks and brought us right up to the time for a much anticipated visit from my sister Kathy.