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.