October 22, 2011

week three: the valley of the shadow of death

"For troubles without number surround me... and my heart fails within me." ~ Psalm 40:12

the view from our apartment turned hospital
 That about sums up week three for us here.

Since we arrived in Patagonia on Saturday we've been to the hospital four times, four days in a row. We would have gone two more times, only we were blessed to have two different doctors come for home visits - a little light in the midst of all our hardship. Thank you for your prayers - I'm convinced those home doctor visits were God's provision when I just couldn't take any more midnight emergency runs to the hospital with three sick, unhappy children.

Saturday's hospital visit was for Tony's accute sinusitis and baby's conjunctivitis.

Sunday's visit to the hospital was for baby, again. Shortly after going to sleep she got another fever. Called our missionary friend Lee to see if he could pick up us, dragged the two older, very tired and cranky kids out of bed to rush baby back to the hospital. I was just sick. You know when you're just sick to your stomach from nerves and fear? It was like wham, wham, wham. The trials just weren't letting up. We were about to crumble.

Verdict? Ear infection. Probably caused by the same virus that caused Tony's laryngitis, ensuing sinusitis, baby's croup, and conjuctivitis. Our body's are so run down that we keep getting sick.

More meds, antibiotics, and back "home" (although I'd hardly call the bare, dinky apt. we were in a home, but whatever). We've been nursing all five of us round the clock since then. I have a sheet for everyone, what meds they are taking, what time, and how much. Otherwise I'd poison someone, we are on so many meds.

That night, as the kids were finally settling in bed at 2am, I asked my boy how he was doing and what he thought about us going back to the United States. He covered his eyes and said he was upset. Oh, no. I went over and asked him about what. He said he was upset because we came here to do missions and we hadn't done anything yet.

(Wow, did he really just say that? Couldn't he have said, "Yeah, let's go home! I miss playing the Wii." or something a bit easier for me?).

He said we were failures.

My girl chimed in and said, "Yeah, we're losers."

My heart despaired. I cried and felt like I just wanted to die at that moment. I explained that we weren't failures and we aren't losers, we're trying - we just never expected to get this sick. I said we've done more than some people would ever attempt to do - that doesn't make us failures, it makes us brave. It's not our fault if it's not working out.

My son just said, "What will people say if we go back? What will they think of us? So many people helped us and we haven't done anything yet. We can't go back. Just think of Jim Elliot and those other missionaries in Ecuador - they gave their lives. They sacrificed everything. We haven't done anything yet."

Monday Tony and I just fell into a pit. I told him what our boy said and he just broke down and cried. He sobbed. And sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, saying, "Lord, why did you ask us to come here? Why??"

We were depressed, tired, sick, worried, and feeling major doubt and regret over our decision to come here. Did we miss God? Had this all been our idea? Does God exist or is this just an invention of my mind?

Yeah, it was bad.

My chest was tight with anxiety and I felt like I was going to go over the edge at any moment. I had been telling Tony for a week that I was feeling horribly anxious, and that prayer and chamomile and valerian tea were not helping. I needed something more to get me through this. I was trying to be honest and just admit that I'm not superwoman, and was most certainly feeling like the worst and most unqualified missionary ever. I knew that Tony couldn't handle one more thing, and neither could I, so for the health of everyone it was time for mommy to take care of mommy or we'd surely crumble totally.

a rather small portion of the medicines we have been taking

So we called Lee (for the millionth time, what a great guy, he always comes to help with a smile), and he came and picked me up to take me this time to the hospital. Poor Tony had to stay behind with all 4 of them sick. On the way to the hospital when he asked how we were doing I just cried and told him all our troubles - that we are just not handling things very well and were talking about possibly throwing the towel in and going home. We felt like failures, complete and utter failures.

At the hospital the line to be seen was very long. I waited for two hours. I sat there talking to Lee, also a missionary, pouring out my heart about how miserable everything was, and cried some more. The girl sitting next to me turned to look at me. I was in such a state, I didn't really care, and figured she didn't understand what I was saying anyway. And if she did, well, she just heard our entire sob story.

No one seemed to be calling anyone in to be seen, so I knocked on the doctor's office door to see how much longer it would be. The doctor who answered asked why I was knocking and informed me that it would be "a while". How long is that? Just "a while". We left.

It was raining and miserable outside. Later at the apartment Edgardo, our pastor friend, stopped in with a friend to see how we were fairing. He said, "Wow, it hasn't rained here in nine months, and now it's raining like crazy."

It hasn't rained here in nine months?

In nine months.

Not a drop?

Not a drop.

Great, even the depressing rain was for us. Yay.

Edgardo's very nice friend, a believer from the church, said he knew a young doctor he could call for us. So he did, right then and there. Within an hour the doctor was there in our apartment looking at the kids, and asking me what was going on with me. He reassured us that the kids seemed fine, that 90% of the city was not doing well because of the ash, and that the baby is on the right track with her treatment. He didn't want to give me any anti-anxiety pills, which I understood, but then he had pity on me and our sorry state and said he had a few at home and if I could wait til later he would bring them back for me. Good thing, since I still had enough dignity left not to beg, which I was seriously considering doing.

He showed up at 1am, and our cell phone beeped that he was downstairs. I went down in my robe and he handed me two little pills. I don't know what they are and I don't care. I'm just glad I have them. I haven't taken them, I'm just glad that they are there if I start teetering too close to the edge. For now, trying to be strong in the Lord and the power of his might.

But, if that doesn't work, as my chiropractor said once: there is better living through chemistry.

Tuesday Lee came back to see how we were doing (we have been SO BLESSED by Lee and Dori and Edgardo and his family. I don't know where we would be without them!). They invited us to stay at their house [a nice, big, comfy (albeit empty) one, they had just rented] so we wouldn't have to be alone. They didn't seem to worried over our sickness, although the last thing we wanted to do was pass it on the their two small children.

A couple prayers sent up to protect them from what we got, and we accepted. We packed all our belongings up and left that little, depressing apartment where we had been alone and sick. We have been here for for days now and it's been a huge blessing, HUGE. Lee and Dori are experienced missionaries and are very laid back. They are doing great here, they are so positive and happy (and healthy, I don't get it),  and are a great source of encouragement and help to us in every way.

Wednesday morning, the first morning we were here at Lee & Dori's house a couple from the church (the one we haven't had time to visit) showed up and said they had come by our apartment to take us out to breakfast. They didn't find us, so came looking for us here. Marta is a really nice, sweet, sincere Christian from near Buenos Aires. She met her husband Adrian at the university. They got married and moved 16 hours away back to Patagonia where he is from. As I told her my woes, she said, "I understand. I've been there. I left my home and family, too. You can do it. Nothing is impossible with God. If I can do it, you can do it. We came here for a secular job, you guys have a calling."

As we talked, her husband started asking about the kids. Our boy had deteriorated by then and was hacking a horrible, deep, resonating cough. He couldn't stop coughing. Adrian asked what the kids' symptoms were, what they were taking, and then asked my boy to come over and cough for him.

Turns out Adrian is a doctor (!!!). He took one listen and said yep, that's bad. He has tracheobronchitis. Do you hear how deep that cough is? He needs antibiotics. He said he would come back after lunch with stronger ones for him and Tony, who was also not really recovering well after 5 days on antibiotics.

After lunch he did just that. He came back and handed us some heavy duty antibiotics that he said would knock the infections right out. He also gave us some others meds for this and that if we happen to encounter allergies or bug bites. When I asked how much we owed him for the meds, he said, "Nothing, it's free." Praise the Lord, because we have spent a small fortune on meds since we've been here. Thank God the medical attention itself has been free, or we don't know what we'd do.

Ah... I was beginning to feel a little bit better... like maybe we can do this. If the kids get better, we get our health back, and we find our own home to live in instead of these suitcases, wandering around like nomads, then maybe I can do this, I thought.

Thursday Tony was able to squeeze an interview in at a local TV station. Hoping it goes somewhere.

It is now Friday and all five of us just came back from the doctor and pediatrician. We all have various forms of the same thing: laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsilitis, and bronchitis. We are all on antibiotics, nebulizer treatments, pain meds, and cough meds. The docs reassured us that it's nothing uncommon in these here parts and that we will be fine in 5 days. I hope so.

Thank you, prayers, for praying for us. I am convinced your prayerss have sustained us through some of the hardest weeks of our lives. God knows I was ready to get on a plane. There were a few days there that I even wondered if God really existed or if it was all a fantasy. That is how much despair we were in. And for us to get this far and seriously consider throwing in the towel, things had to be really, really bad. And they have been. The only thing worse would have been death. And it felt like we were one step away from it at any minute.

Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4

"It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him." ~ Lamentations 3:22-25

Pressed on all sides, but not crushed.


Deb said...

Oh Chris!!!!!

I love this update! I love what God is doing in your family, He is giving your children a vision for the things on His heart!! You told me stateside how you explained to them that this was God's call on their lives too! To read what Alex said, He believed you Chris!! And not only that, but God is forming in his young heart courage to endure for the things of God! How cool is that!! And the 9 month drought and then the rains, well while it might be dreary and wet, I can't help but think of those rains as a prophetic picture of the birth of God's harvest rains!! I know you guys are still in the throws, and I dont want to minimize in any way, the weariness and the struggle, please know, I pray daily for your healing and strength and provison, but my heart is filled with fresh faith and joy in all God is planning to do in and thru you guys!! And I am so glad that you have connected and are staying with your friends, that was an answer to a specific prayer!! There is strength in numbers. Loved this update!!

Blessings and hugs,


Anonymous said...

Tony,Chris, and family,

Its really late here (after midnight) but wanted to send this off before we called it a night. I just wanted to encourage you that we are standing with you in prayer. This weekend we were at a small gathering from the church(8-10 families) and specifically took time to pray for each one of you. Also were praying/trusting specifically for areas of health, the finance challenges, real/practical helps and for other believers in the local area to come along side you and support you as you adjust and get on your feet. Afterwords one of the men commented that often when the Lord moves His people to "go and serve" they often encounter some initial resistence/struggles, but the struggles are temporary. And when it breaks, God's glory is just tremendous. I would add this to his comments- you are not failures. There is not a one of us who would not be feeling the same way right now. Be encouraged- Its His work that you were called and sent to do. These trials though extremely difficult will break under His hand. Continuing to stand with you in prayer.
In Christ,

2 Corinthians 4:6-9 and 13-18
" For God, wo said 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasue in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
"It is written; 'I believed; therefore I have spoke." Since we have the spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary trouble are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Hebrews 11( sorry- not gonna type this one out- too tired- maybe next time)

Hebrews 12: 1-3:
" Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked our for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

One last thought: The last Sunday before you left I caught a glimpse of your family during worship. Tony and Chris- your hands were lifted in worship and the kids were singing their hearts out. One of your strengths as a family comes in and through worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ together as a family.

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