Recovery Report!

Guess what?  As of right now, I am finally typing with two hands again.  That means that God is answering your prayers for healing and recovery!  I am thrilled to share this good news with all of you!  Thank you to each one of you who has fought this battle alongside me, through prayer.  Your expressions of concern, friendship and encouragement have meant so much as I have dealt with this situation.

Yesterday, the dermatologist was pleased with the improvement on both my fingers and legs.  We are still waiting for the results from my blood tests to find out what bacteria caused the infections and what allergies I may have.

My fingers finally stopped oozing on Sunday.  It is wonderful to be able to look at my hands without being grossed out by blisters, raw flesh, yellow liquid oozing out, or a strange smell.  The pain has steadily decreased as well, leaving only an extreme sensitivity, and an occasional mild throbbing sensation.  Most of the fingers are able to bend and straighten normally, and the last couple are well on their way.

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Left thumb – this is where the blisters first started six weeks ago.
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Saturday, this was the site of oozing yellow liquid.  Now a closed wound, healing nicely.
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Not exactly a pretty picture, but looking and feeling so much better, sores healing up, and swelling gone.
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You almost wouldn’t know anything had happened.

It has been great slowly resuming normal activities.  Today’s “firsts”:

  1. Typing with correct form and fingering.
  2. Showering without using gloves or bandages for protection (and it didn’t hurt).
  3. Washed dishes (with gloves).
  4. Walked for an hour (and my legs aren’t burning with pain as they did last time I thought they could handle a 15-minute walk)

Unfortunately, I will not be able to go back to the village for at least 10 more days.  Next Monday, the dermatologist wants to do an allergy contact test, which she will need to read later in the week.

But now that I’m feeling almost back to normal, and no longer dealing with major skin infections, less time will be needed for surviving, leaving more time for accomplishing useful things.  Although survival is rather useful, come to think of it.  Maybe it would be smart to keep that as a daily goal.  Here’s a few other activities on my list:

  1.  BAKING – Always a fun diversion, but this time also as a thank-you to the base missionaries who have helped me out so much during these challenging days.
  2. LANGUAGE STUDY – Thanks to willing Neno teachers, I brought pages of vocabulary and language notes back from the village, as well as many voice recordings.  It should be enough to provide many hours of studying!
  3. NEWSLETTER – Typing and sending e-mail updates (English and Portuguese versions), with lots of village pictures and details that I can’t post here on the blog.
  4. SHOPPING – If all goes according to plan, I also hope to use this time in the city to buy materials and household supplies for building my own little house in the village.

Please continue to pray:

Pray that the tests will help the doctor figure out everything that led to these infections, so that she can advise me on how to avoid them in the future.  Also pray that my fingertips will recover quickly and well.  It has been over two years since I have had normal, consistent, unhindered use of all my fingers, and I believe the time has come for complete healing, so I can serve God and the Neno with my hands and my heart.  Pray that I will use this time in the city wisely, and that God will provide a ride back to the village as soon as possible after the allergy tests are finished.  Thank you!

The Road was Real

April 16th was an unforgettable day, marking my first journey along a road I had first imagined, then seen in pictures, then waited so long to travel with the rest of the team.  Enjoy the photographic experience of this trip to a new home and a new life.

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Prayer with the base team.
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Neno* team ready to hit the road!  (Isadora was already in the truck)
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Ready to go, but not quite awake yet.
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Scenery.
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So much beauty along the way.
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Only a bit of mud; not enough to get stuck that day!
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Last photo of scenery.
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Five hours of fun with these cute traveling buddies!
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New friends who love Jesus and used their fancy 4-wheel drive pickup to transport our team.
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Waiting at the river for a ride across.  Long sleeves, pants and repellent to avoid bugs!

 

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Baggage claim area.
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Someone was super excited.  Can you see the path to the village?  This is really happening!
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Butterfly meeting in the boat.
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Nothing says welcome like a Butterfly Cloud!
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That’s the bridge we don’t cross when we come to it.
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The lovely ladies!  And one butterfly.
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Carrying baggage up the trail…five-minute walk to Wellington and Juliana’s house.

A big THANK YOU to God for bringing us safely to our destination!

A Story from the Village

(Written during my first week there, around April 20th.  Sorry for the lack of creativity in the title.  Will try to come up with something better for the story I’ll be posting tomorrow.)

Wild pig sighting in the jungle!  Even without knowing much of what was going on, the emotion of the moment was evident.  I could only imagine all that this signified for the Neno.  Please understand that at this point, before sufficient observation and data collection, these thoughts are merely conjecture, and should be interpreted as such.

This is a real hunting culture.  Lewis County culture certainly includes hunting, and passionate hunters, but for many families it is optional, not absolutely essential for survival.  Here, with only one freezer in the village, which is plugged in for about 3 hours a day, to function as an “almost-as-good-as-a-fridge”, meat doesn’t have a very long shelf life. And the nearest grocery store is hours away.  An appropriate saying would be, “He who doesn’t hunt doesn’t eat meat.” (I just made that up, though).

Men ran back and forth, one grabbing a gun (I heard the Portuguese word for 22, so just guessing at the type), another a large knife, and another a shirt which he threw over his head.

Even the chickens seemed excited, squawking as they raced around the village.

I stood with a group of women near the edge of the village as we watched the men leave to chase the pigs which would hopefully provide meat for the village.  From the snorting, squealing, and ruckus, it sounded like a large herd.  After a bit, the animated exclamations and gesturing died down and we all sat down to wait, outside the nearest house.

As I listened to the women converse, observing their behavior and expressions, paying attention to the sounds of this intriguingly beautiful language, I thanked God for bringing me to this place and giving me to these people.  I hoped that just in sitting there with them, I was demonstrating, at some level, my desire to be their friend, to be one of them, to share not just this moment, but also our lives from this day forward. In just a couple weeks, I won’t be so quiet.  My job will still be observing and learning, but part of that will be talking.

By faith, relying on the work God is going to do, I am already claiming these ladies and children as some of my best friends.

She’ll be Coming to the City when She Comes

So our team plan was to stay in the village until August before coming out for supplies.  I was excited to spend four uninterrupted months there, living with Juliana, Wellington, Lorena and Isadora in the Neno village, making friends and starting to learn a new language and way of life.  But God had a better plan.

He gave me exactly five wonderful weeks in the village which is now my home, full of new experiences, restful sleep, team-building, personal growth, budding friendships, eager culture and language teachers (of all ages), and overflowing joy.  What an amazing feeling to finally be among the people for whom I have prayed for a couple of years, learning their names and family connections while sitting on low wooden benches in their kitchen-buildings.

I am falling in love.

So if the village is such an incredible place, what would drag me away from it so quickly?

This.

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Another less serious issue (although it looks worse) developed on my legs.  Obviously, I wouldn’t have wanted a second skin condition, but since it had to happen, at least it was simultaneous, so I could really get “my money’s worth” out of the dermatologist visit.

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And just for extra fun, two boils (who did not consent to being photographed).

I have already been to a dermatologist who diagnosed me with a secondary infection and ordered a number of blood tests to figure out what allergies and bacteria are causing all of this.  In the meantime, she prescribed an antibiotic, anti-allergy medication, topical cream and spray, which I am using in conjunction with as many natural remedies as possible.  Indigenous areas apparently are home to many “superbugs” (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) so I want to take advantage of being in the city to fight this on every possible front.

You may ask, “How is that God’s better plan?”  Honestly, I have no idea.  It doesn’t seem better, logically.  I am not learning the language and culture better, despite the audio recordings and dozens of pages of notes I collected in the village.  I’m certainly not feeling or looking or performing better.

You should have seen me waste 20 minutes on Tuesday, attempting to thread a needle to drain my blisters, using only my non-inflamed fingers.  After realizing it wasn’t gonna happen, I went next door to ask another missionary to do me a “big favor”.  She laughed sympathetically at the simple request, gladly threading and sterilizing my needle, while her husband took a picture of my infections to post on a prayer group.  The base missionary families have all offered wonderful support, inviting me over for lunch (main meal here) every day, and giving me rides since walking any distance results in agonizing pain later.

Even though this is not what I wanted or planned for, I am convinced that God meant what He said in Romans 8:28, 29b – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  

I love God and am called by Him, and He is using this setback for my good and to make me more like Jesus, to shine His light more brightly among the Neno and love them more deeply.  That does sound like a pretty good plan after all.

Many favorite Bible verses are coming alive in new ways recently.  Paul wrote from prison, in Philippians 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”

May Jesus Christ be magnified in my body also, whether by life, or by death (no imminent danger, don’t worry) or by disgusting and painful tropical skin conditions.

Will you help me fight this battle on the most crucial front of all, through prayer?

Please pray that I will:

  • Magnify and worship Jesus in every moment
  • Count it all joy (James 1:2-4)
  • Endure hardness as a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
  • Handle this patiently, keeping my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)
  • Use wisdom and common sense in taking care of myself
  • Respond well to medication and natural remedies
  • Discover the underlying allergies and causes
  • Recover sufficiently to return to the village as soon as possible

As you pray, please don’t worry or feel sorry for me, because, all things considered, it could be lots worse.  Other missionaries I know have faced malaria, chronic illnesses, tribal wars, tapir attacks, and expulsion from the people groups they had grown to love.  Compared to those things, my situation really is not the end of the world.

Nonetheless, the slowness of one-handed typing is driving me crazy, so I will close with a couple questions to ponder.

What circumstances in your life today are causing frustration, pain, fear, or major inconvenience?  Do you believe that God, in His wisdom and love, is allowing these temporary difficulties or setbacks for your good?  Will you trust that He is still in control and that He has a better plan than yours?