Thursday, March 24, 2016

La Conferecista - Marinajo Fields

Be careful what you share with your friends, especially the ones that believe in you, for you may find God speaking to you through them and be challenged and blessed. A weekend away with a good friend ended up in an amazing opportunity for me. For the past three years I have attended a missionary women’s retreat in the beautiful mountain town of Valle de Los Angeles. It is a time of spiritual refreshment, encouragement, healing, and profound worship. I look forward to it every year, but this year my heart told me not to go. It was confusing, I really wanted to go. Instead, my dear friend and fellow missionary, Teri Riley, and I decided to take a two-night weekend away together. Indeed, our plan was for a spiritual getaway in the word, but instead it was a time filled with deep talks, laughter and tears – something both of us needed. During one of those talks, I shared with Teri that I really enjoy sharing what I’ve learned in God’s word about my life. If you have ever been in a bible study with me, you know this to be true. I continued to share that, “I think my desire to share my heart and what I’ve learned may mean that I have a gift of teaching that I never realized I had.” Well, little did I know that this lovely sister of mine had a need and in her loving, encouraging way she immediately said, “Hey! I need a speaker at a women’s conference in Tegucigalpa and you’d be great! I know that you can do it!” This was followed by her signature gesture: Two thumbs up and a big smile. Aha! Now I know why God didn’t want me to go to that retreat in the mountains.

After some prayer and consideration Dave and I both felt strongly that I should be that teacher that my friend needed. It was an amazing opportunity for me to branch out and do something new and a wonderful way to serve the body of Christ in Honduras. Given the theme of “Binding Wounds” I knew exactly what I should share, my heart. I put down my testimony in words for the first time and opened my heart. By doing so I allowed my story and His Story to mingle on the page that I might speak the truth about the Power of the Word of God to these lovely sisters in Christ. I taught from Isaiah 43:10:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.

He wants us to know him, believe Him, and understand Him in our tragedies, in our wounds, and in our battles with sin. He is the Great I Am! Oh, it was a lot of work but it was so worth it. I loved teaching; I felt comfortable and confident and never once nervous. Is that God working in and through me or what? What a privilege. Oh, by the way, I knew right away that I wanted to honor these sisters by teaching in Spanish. Thank you Christy Andino, Mariah Fields, Jenny Riley, and Betsy Howard for your loving help in translating my words into this lovely language so that I could share my heart and His heart more clearly.

ADDENDUM: Since the writing of this blog (and our newsletter) Teri has invited me to speak at another women’s conference here locally. Your prayers are sure needed and appreciated!

Es La Vida...

“How are you doing with all of this, son?” Dave asked Ben. It was a nice Caribbean afternoon in January as we sat down to our afternoon coffee together. Shrugging his shoulders, Ben answered, “I’ve come to accept that saying goodbye is part of our lives.” Wow! We were astounded at his answer. As the days passed it was clear, our boy was growing up and taking it all in stride.

A missionary expects the difficult ‘goodbyes’ to family and friends when they leave for the missions field. It is the ‘goodbyes’ that occur while on the field that you didn't anticipate being so difficult. They can affect your life as much as leaving your family did. When your fellow missionaries leave the field they leave a hole in both your lives and the mission where you serve. This past December and January were filled with “Goodbyes” for our family. We said goodbye to dear friends that we had served with since the beginning, Joel and Cinthya Tumlison, as they headed back to the states to begin the next chapter in their lives. They were an important part of our lives here at Loma de Luz and we miss them a whole lot. We also said goodbye to long time missionaries, Dr. Mark and Heidi Merritt. Heidi was a dear friend that taught me much about studying the bible and living according to it. The Hryszczuk family was here for just a year yet we became great friends. Luke Hryszczuk and Ben became quick friends because they really seemed “to get each other” as they both had older sisters. Our neighbors, the Alexanders left for a three month long furlough which seemed to last forever, and Dr. Mackenzie Slater, who introduced Mariah and I to Downton Abbey, also returned to the states. Each of these was part of our family here at Loma de Luz and their absence is felt in the mission and in our hearts. The biggest change, especially for our kids, came when the Pirkle family left for the states. Their family has been an integral part of our kids’ lives with Phillip, Ben’s best friend, and Sarah, one of Mariah’s best friends. Our kids spent most of their spare time at the Pirkle home. Now that they are gone, they are sorely missed.

Hmmmm? I wonder which one was Ben's best friend?
Other than Hannah Mckenney (not pictured)
Ben is the only MK left at LDL from this group that grew up together. 

I wanted to share this with each of you to help you understand another aspect of missionary life that is often overlooked. Just as Ben said, “…saying goodbye is part of our lives.” Since saying goodbye is such an integral part of our lives here, it is really difficult to continue to "love deeply and hold lightly" in each of the friendships that the Lord has given us. Jesus told us to love one another as He has loved us.  This isn't easy for anyone, regardless of location or vocation! It is often easier to guard the heart and only love so much, which is not how Christ loved us. Please pray for our family as we strive to love in the here and now of our relationships with other missionaries. As Emerson said, “It is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all.” 

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Sight For Sore Eyes

Rio Esteban after days of rain.
Dr. Richard Reichert and his wife, Jill, comprise our visiting Ophthalmologist team. Their third trip to Loma de Luz was this past February. During his time here, Dr. Reichert performed 20 surgeries. The two weeks that they were here the rain poured down in buckets. Rivers were “impossibly unpassable” as one friend said, and many patients were unable to keep their appointments. There was one patient and his wife that did not let the swelling rivers and drenching rain stop them. Having journeyed for hours on a trip that normally takes 20 minutes on a bus, they arrived late Friday afternoon after all of the surgeries had been performed. Upon examining him, Dr. Reichert found that he had a very dense cataract and could barely see light and that he also had a pterygium, which is a growth on the eye from sun damage, which needed to be removed. He was prepped for surgery immediately and taken to the O.R.  During this whole time it continued to rain cats and dogs. How they made it home after the surgery is unknown, but how they returned the next day for the follow-up appointment is: 

It was 8 am on Saturday, the day before Valentine’s Day, called Dia del Amor here, when we opened the eye clinic just for this patient. It was urgent that he be checked and receive medications to protect his eye from infection and to help heal the incisions. It had rained all night. This couple lives in Rio Esteban, a Garifuna village about five miles from the hospital. Between the hospital and Rio Esteban there are two rivers that cross the road. Since the rain had not stopped in nearly 48 hours both of these rivers were fast, full, and furious. Rio Esteban had overrun its banks two days earlier and was at a width that most locals had never seen before. (See picture at right.) The couple, we'll call them Mr. and Mrs. G, had called the hospital early that morning to confirm that they were indeed going to try to get here. After waiting nearly an hour and a half and knowing that they had left their home on foot three and half hours earlier, we were discouraged and worried about them. Then we heard a knock at the clinic door and opened it to find both of them safe and sound. We celebrated their arrival with amazement and a heart-felt welcome.

After the celebration of their arrival, Dr. Reichert quickly began the post-op exam. The bandages and the protective eye patch were removed from Mr. G’s eye. The lighting was dimmed in the room as Mr. G began the E-chart exam. With a beautiful smile on his face, he began to slowly nod his head and with exuberance read the letters he could see. Mr. G’s eyesight, only one day post-op, was already 50 to 60% better! Mrs. G was sitting in a different area of the room where it was dark as her husband read the E-chart. As we turned the lights on in the room, Mr. G was walking to the area where his wife was sitting. As he passed her, he turned around, gazed upon her face and with a gentle smile said, “It has been a very long time since I have seen your lovely face.” They both smiled and then began to laugh together. We all shared in the joyful moment together. Since the next day was el Dia del Amor, we began having fun with them saying this year he would enjoy celebrating with her all the more. There was so much joy between them and you can see it in their beaming smiles and faces!
Look at those smiles!
I look forward to seeing them again in a few weeks to learn how much better his eyesight is and to talk with them again. I will ask him about how his life has changed since his operation. I will ask them if they understand what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. I will make sure that the name of the Lord is glorified through this miracle of sight.