Sunday, June 08, 2008


i have been here for almost two years now. in some ways i feel like i just arrived, and in other ways i feel like i have always lived here. here among the dark skin and the dark eyes that meet you as you look at the faces around you... here among the shy smiles and a slender hand covering a mouth as they tell you they might be pregnant... among the smells of fresh fruit & vegetables and greasy fries & salsa dulce that make up market... somewhere between the stretch of road that you see yourself to be driving on and the herd of cattle surrounding your car preventing any movement... among the green mountain ranges and skinny dirt trails that lead the way into a peaceful quiet... that speak of a strength and greatness bigger than that which can be fathomed by our human minds... that remind us that there is One that holds this world in His hands and is greater than anything we could possibly face.

and since i know that it has been forever since i have written on here (thank you matt and heidi and rach for the reminders...), i sit here thinking through about a million and one experiences that i could share amidst just life updates.... here are a few.

a little while back in clinic, we had a little baby come in looking pretty much just awful: skin hainging over bones, a little mouth opening and closing, trying to feed from his mother's breast, and a little hand, thin and fragile - looking much unlike the pudgy little hands we all desire our babies to have - curling around his mother's finger as he laid in her arms. and their story: the baby won't feed, the mother doesn't have any milk, they would like us to give them formula. and the twist and pull and nauseaus battle i feel waging down in my stomach: "how can you not go buy your baby formula when we and you know you can afford it?" "how can your baby look like this and you still be sitting here smiling at me, asking us to take over for your responsibilities?" "how many times do we have to explain that if you would nurse your baby more, you will produce more milk... milk that is much more beneficial to your baby than the store-bought formula that we give out?" and then i come home and the battle continues: "who i am to judge this family?" "who am i to be so hesitant to give out this life-giving formula as i look in our refrigerator full of food?" "who am i to question the uneasy smiles when i have never had to look at a family member and wonder how they were going to get food and if they would survive through the day?" and now that it has been about a month and half and the baby has been on our nutrition program and not come back, i am left with another set of questions: "is he alive? did he make it?" "why god? why some and not others?" "why do i sometimes feel like i am fighting a losing battle? trying to learn and speak Truth in the midst of a thousand years of culture and beliefs and practices that i don't really know or understand?"

last week in clinic, a lady came in nursing one baby who she said was 7 months, with two other tiny girls in tow. i did her consulta and at the end she asked for milk for her little baby. after explaining to her that we only give milk to those that are malnourished (part of our nutrition program), she stood up to leave, hesitated and then announced that she thought she might be two months pregnant. after doing her ultrasound, i confirmed that yes she was two months pregnant, and asked her how many children she had... with a less than enthusiastic expression, she told me that this would be her ninth. with the story now having changed, i walked next door to weigh her baby, preparing to put her in our nutrition program as she will be getting less nutrients through her mother's milk and still not having started to eat solid foods. i mentioned the story to leslie on my way out, who told me that she had just seen the woman's oldest daughter who was five months pregnant, her husband had just left her, and was asking if there was any way that she could get an abortion that day. i wish i could say that these stories are not that common, but as much as i have heard this story before - the drinking, the physical abuse, the abandonment, the rejection and the fear - that day i left with a heavy heart.

and in the same clinic, i saw a little old man who came in looking very malnourished and with pneumonia. as he sat across from me, i looked into eyes that knew sadness, a mind that was failing to remember my directions on how to take his medicine, and a face tired from fighting this infection, yet earnest to understand what he could do to better his situation. his wife having died nearly twenty years ago, he lived alone now, making his own food and trying to continue to take care of himself in the way that was needed.

and yet, amidst the stories of sadness, there are those of hope and joy. a week later, in our canilla clinic, we had an 18 year old first-time pregnant girl come in, in labor. very thankful that heidi was there, we set the girl in the room off the side of our clinic to rest or walk around while her mother and husband went back to get their stuff in order. however, within the next hour, our clinic became a frenzy as we realized that this girl was progressing much faster than we expected. we rushed to get the patients in there their needed medicines and out the door. then, we started setting up, barely getting the girl on the table and the ultrasound on her stomach before she needed to push. as we checked the decreasing heart rate of her baby, our own hearts continued to rise as we began to feel the pressure of knowing that we needed to get this baby out as quickly as possible. with heidi and leslie forcefully telling the girl to "empuje" (push), we started to watch the head crown. but it was not fast enough and as we watched the baby's heart rate drop to low 60s and then 40s and then lower than 30s, (normal is 120-160 -aaaahhhhh!) heidi made it from one side of the room to the other in one leap as she reached for the forceps, making it back in just enough time for the head to pop out at which point she grabbed my gloved hands and showed me how to maneuver the shoulders and head to help the whole baby slide out easier. knowing that this was only half the battle, we quickly clamped and cut the cord and handed this tiny and pale, but slightly breathing baby to leslie who was ready with oxygen and a warmer, quickly working to bring some color and life back into this baby. as we heard cries and watched a pink color slowly climb up into the neck and face, it was a time to thank God and breathe a little easier as we worked to get the placenta out, the baby bundled up and to the mother, and then the clinic back in order to be able to continue treating the patients that were still sitting outside waiting to be seen. at times like that, there are few things to say other than "praise God."

yesterday after clinic, we went down to the "beach" (really a little bit of sand on the side of the river where the fickers discovered that we could set up a sand volleyball court). and so, it has become a tradition in these past several months that saturday afternoons are devoted to volleyball. and to be completely honest, volleyball (or any sports really) are not naturally on my top 45 list of things i am good at... and if you are on my team and even remotely enjoy playing and winning volleyball, it probably will not be long before it also starts to enter your top five list of "things i find frustrating" as the ball flies off my arm in the opposite direction of the net or as the ball sails over my head as i duck down more in reminiscence of a dodgeball game than a volleyball game. but, it is also in these saturday afternoons that i am reminded of glimpses of the important things in this life: laughter, time spent with those we love and love us, laughter, family, laughter, friends, laughter, and hitting a small white ball over the net scoring the final point to win the game (okay, so that last one is not something i have ever personally experienced, and probably maybe should not fall under the category of some of the most important things in this life... but i bet it is a pretty good feeling :) ) and i walk into a house that now also contains one gas-powered refrigerator (yeah!)... a refrigerator that cost a ten hour drive to guatemala city, 6 hours of it in the pouring rain in the dark... a drive that my husband hates making when the roads are "good," but made so that i could have a fridge.

and as i write this now, i cannot help but stand in wonder at the faithfulness of our God. not because i understand it, not because i deserve it, and not because the journey doesn't involve giving and taking, pain and joy, but because of who God is no matter what we are feeling, whether happy or sad. i truly am blessed. i have two families that love me and keep me around (even when i'm crabby) and a God who i can trust is faithful no matter what the circumstances might appear to be saying.

i pray that today you too see the faithfulness of God in your life.