Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Easing the Pain

I often start my day with thoughts about our friends in Mulenga. Today is no different although it was this article that brought tears of relief but sadness to me. I'm not sure exactly what this will mean for those who suffer so much in communities like the ones we work in, but I do know that it is a step in the right direction.

Resolution to end global pain and suffering -

As I read this, I began to cry, thinking of this gentleman in Nairobi, but more so how he reminded me of a really beautiful story of Banda in Mulenga.  I'm not sure that Banda would qualify his own story as having been beautiful and in the short time that we had with him, it certainly wasn't.  He lived in a small addition to the cement block home of a woman named Joyce. He was in his late 60's or early 70's and his wife and Joyce's grandmother had been friends years before, though both women had since passed away. His little room was small, not tall enough to stand in, but that didn't matter for Banda couldn't stand anyway. He laid or sat on a small mattress the first time we went to visit him, our family of four plus Blessings and another volunteer. We filled the small space, no larger than a regular sized closet. I sat directly across from Banda and his greeted all of us with an openness that I thought was a contrast to what I would feel in his situation. He and Blessings spoke for a few minutes and then Blessings told us his story. Banda had been diagnosed with cancer in his leg and was having trouble walking and caring for himself. He was taken in by Joyce, the granddaughter or his late wife's friend, who built the small addition to her own home in order for him to have a place to stay. At some point, after being diagnosed with the cancer, the doctor decided that Banda should have his leg amputated below the knee to stop the spread of the cancer and ultimately, to save his life. Sadly though, in the conditions that Banda lived in and that the health care system was in, this only served to make Banda's life even more difficult. When we visited him, several months after his operation, when in our country, you would probably still be under the doctor's care, his amputation had gone terribly wrong. The skin around the bone had pulled away, there was an large piece of bone exposed, and there was infection covering the wound. When he showed it to us, I was acutely aware of what my boys were seeing and at the same time, not even sure I was taking it in. Despite the "care" of the doctor, Banda's life was now limited to being dependent on the care workers like Blessings who would come and care for him as well as on Joyce, his landlord and caregiver, who fed, bathed, clothed him several times a day, despite not having much of her own to give from.

Banda passed away not long after we visited with him but I remember him smiling through his tears with gratitude for the way that Joyce was caring for him. I remember too thinking how horrific his wound was and how something that was supposed to prolong his life, only made his life more difficult and painful.

As I was reading the article about the World Health Association's resolution to end global pain and suffering with pain killers and hospice care, I do think it's a step in the right direction. But ultimately, having someone like Joyce, who stepped in to care for, love, and provide for Banda in his pain and suffering? That is what is going to alleviate the pain and suffering across the world. Not only in impoverished countries, but right here at home, where yes, we have access to hospice and drugs and pain medications...but what we need is someone to stand up for us, sit beside us and love us when it's hard to even be in the room.  We don't need to be qualified or certified to care for one another. We are all made to love and be in relationships. We just need to train ourselves to look for those that could use it the most and then care for them, the way Joyce did.
Joyce and her son, Winter, at home in Mulenga.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Boy's Life

This is Meng. He's 11 and he lives at Place of Rescue in Cambodia with his house mother and siblings. A couple of days ago, he was climbing a tree and fell. The doctors said that he had suffered brain damage and that he was in a coma. Yesterday, he began to breathe on his own and though he's still in a coma, he is moving his hands and feet. Please join me in praying for his full recovery. He's just one boy but a boy that is loved and has a future.  

Update: May 15th ~ Meng is still unconscious and has had several seizures. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. <3

Update: May 29th ~ From Channak at Place of Rescue:  "Lastest update about Meng. He is awake now and he can talk normally. Today the mother said when he awaked he was asking for food as he was hungry. Thank you Jesus at first everybody thought that he might not live but right now he is doing way better. "
 Such great news!

R & R

John's Magnolia tree was amazing
Last fall, I was invited to speak at a women's retreat in British Columbia, the gorgeous province I grew up in. It was already snowing here when I was asked so of course, I said yes to May in BC, spring, and a chance to catch up with a really amazing group of women that have impacted my life in a lot of ways.  Oh, and to speak in front of a group of women as well. 

If I was enthusiastic in my yes, it was matched only by the nervousness I felt as the date drew closer, and yet, I prepared and went through with it.  The self-doubt came right on schedule with questions like, "Who do you think you are to stand up and tell people this story?" or "What if they think you're wasting their time. They paid good money for this." Argh... Writing is challenging but I tell myself it's me and the computer. It's hard at times to tell your story out loud. It's harder still when you're standing in front of a group of people, most of whom you don't know, and speaking it out loud. In my mind, I was wondering why on earth, this small story of mine would mean anything to anyone else. 

Throughout the weekend, I was able to get to know a bunch of women who really connected with the way that God weaves together lives from all different backgrounds, and brings something quite extraordinary out of the ordinary.  Sitting in the room, as I told my story, was a table surrounded by some pretty influential women in my life. They may not have ever known how influential but I was able to spend some time with them and reflect with them on what our lives intersecting has meant for all of us. Seriously, such a gift. Julie and Kim were just kids, too young for our youth group when we first started at their little church back in 1994. Daphne and Faye and Linda are great women who just give and give and give and with such joy. Little did I know how many times throughout the last 20 years I would reflect on their example and their cheerfulness and their humour in the midst of many different experiences. Michelle and her husband, Glen, were just a young couple with kids when I met them and I remember as a newlywed, looking at them, just steps ahead of us in life, and watch them as they laughed and groaned and just wrangled kids in general. One morning, I woke up early and went out and was able to sit with Faye for awhile and it was just seriously so good to just be around her. This woman has prayed for our kids and us as a couple for years.  Long before we even WANTED them, she was praying those boys into our household with great joy and mischief. 

These amazing women have been in my life for 20 years ~ lucky me!

There were such restorative moments on this trip, ever so unexpected with the tension of speaking. It was so fun to watch a variety of women hike up the mountainside to zip line down across the lake. I watched each one as they approached with every emotion on their sleeve. Some approached it with an adventurous spirit, like Daphne who didn't flinch as she got strapped in and up on the platform, to launch herself off, or Jodi, who flew upside down through the air beside me, with arms outstretched and a huge grin on her face. I snapped a few photos of her mid air, though my camera was strapped to my side, as I flew head first towards the lake.  What I really loved is how there was instant camaraderie between the women on the zip line. Standing at the top, they either shared fears or one would encourage the other....however convincingly. It really was a beautiful picture of how we should feel walking into adventure together, encouraging each other to take the leap and enjoy the ride. Too often women talk one another OUT of adventures and excitement, spurring each other on to the practical and the sensible. If I do nothing else, let me surround myself with women who will egg me on to adventure not join me in the mundane.

Tammy showing Hannah how to take on the zip line "Superman" style.
Although the retreat was not entirely restful because I was speaking, the beautiful setting put me entirely at ease. There is something about being outside in nature that really just allows me to unwind. Sad that I live in a place where the winters last so long with no skiing to speak of...

Take a hike...

This beautiful view each morning

And though I am an introvert, it was really the remaining days of my week in BC that allowed me to rest. I spent an afternoon with some girls from our first youth group there, now all grown up and gorgeous. Marah and her husband, Matt, just returned to Peachland to live and when joined by Tina, it was just a good time to hang out and catch up on life. These girls have figured friendships out and our "Peachland Girls" remain some of the dearest girls in our lives, 20 years later. We have watched them figure out life as girls in high school, as young women stretching out on their own in different directions, as wives and as moms, as single women, as career women and as leaders and contributors in their communities. They all have their own amazing qualities but put this particular group of women together and I challenge anyone to come between them and whatever they set their hearts on. I love them as fiercely as they love one another and it's always so good to just sit in their company - even when it's just one or two of them - and catch up. 
The isthmus in Oyama. 

My style guru, T.
Then, my friend, Danielle, picked me up and we headed out to her neck of the woods. We met up with Char (who is the Samwise to my Frodo) and we packed altogether too much food and fun into a weekend on the Shuswap. It was one of those weekends that flies by entirely too fast and involved a lot of laughter, tears, hiking, tromping through creeks, rope ladder climbing, fully clothed swimming in a frigid lake, scrabble, blended drinks, wine, cheese and chick flicks. I think the only time we stopped talking was when we were sleeping. There was even an impromptu dance party on the deck as we packed up to leave. All in all, it was one of those weeks that make me want to dig deeper into the relationships that I have for this. This is the payoff. Relationships that stand the double barrels of time and distance. Picking up where you left off and being able to be yourself, without pretence, these are the gifts for the awkward first days of friendship and figuring out chemistry between very different women in very different stages of life.
A short (never long enough) meander through an amazing little used bookshop in Vernon, BC. 


When I was leaving the retreat last weekend, Faye caught up to me in the hallway at one point and looked very earnestly into my face and asked me a really amazing question. She asked if Jason and I knew how very deeply we were loved and remembered for our time of ministry in their church. It caught me off guard, and the beauty of it has come back to me over the week and even this morning, as I got ready for work. We knew we were deeply loved while we were working in that church. Our first pastor, Pastor Larry, and his wife, Marilyn, showed us such love and grace and completely shared their lives with us. We knew it because we shared our lives very openly with both the kids in the youth group and with those that went to the church. I honestly believe that that openness and the depth with which we invested ourselves into those kids is the reason we have the 20 year friendships with those kids, now grown, today. When Faye asked me that, I told her that I do know that.  I did. I had heard it echo throughout the weekend spending it with her and the others who had come to the retreat.  I maybe thought the fondness and love for that time in our lives and those we came in contact was perhaps one sided or at least tilted in our favour, for we were the ones who left. Again, what a gift it is when someone speaks earnestly and truthfully about things we assume one another knows.  Thank you, Faye, from the bottom of my cracked and mended heart.

I learned a lot about myself this week. I have often been afraid to make a fool of myself even if it meant someone will enjoy the laughter of it all. I have been afraid to speak my story even if it meant that someone will see the importance of their own story. I was afraid to meet up with people I love from my past in case they saw greater flaws in me than they remembered and didn't love me quite so deeply. What I found out this week? That when I step over that roadblock of fear, that there are those willing to laugh with me, learn their own importance and love me even more deeply than I deserve.