Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Power of God in the Grand Canyon!

Beau and I in beginning
Dad and Beau in the beginning
"Its over...we did it!" We exclaimed as we stood in awe, standing on the edge of the south rim of the mighty Grand Canyon. Our exhausted legs, and dust covered bodies peered over the edge with great satisfaction for one last time, as we knew this journey was finally over. My Dad, my son Beau, and I just finished a grueling hike to the bottom of Grand Canyon. This was an incredible challenge for us, and the massive down and up trek, left the 3 of us mentally, and physically exhausted. With that in mind, I couldn't be more proud of both my dad, and my young son for persevering through this journey. For any normal individuals this hike is daunting at best, but for my father, and son this was more/less miraculous.

 Many of you know but 16 years ago, my dad was struck by an out of control drunk driver while he was changing his tire on the side of the highway. The vehicle was going 70-75 mph when it struck, and obliterated both of his femurs. The driver sped off, and left him for dead in the middle of the highway. We didn't expect him to live, much less ever walk again. He never would regain the ability to run, as he previously enjoyed, but after months of rehab he began to walk again, unassisted. Through perseverance and a strong faith he has walked thousands of miles, and now at nearly 67 years of age, he has finished his 4th successful journey down and up the Grand Canyon.
taking a break at the bottom

My son, whom some know was diagnosed with Schizencephaly(https://www.physio-pedia.com/Schizencephaly) at one year of age. At the time of the diagnosis, we assumed he may never walk, let alone run, ride a bike, or even attempt any form of athletics. Over the course of his short 10 year life he has continued to persevere through multiple braces, hours of PT/OT, and chronic pain. His desire has always been to be treated like any other "regular" kid. It is because of that, many people don't even realize that he's been plagued by this disease. As he trained for this trip, when most kids his age were sleeping, he spent his early mornings running/walking thousands of stairs.

I don't tell you these stories to pat them on the back, or to laud the power of the human spirit. Although, the power of human perseverance is an important element. I tell you these stories to applaud the grace of our God, and the power of faith and reliance on Him. You see, my father, and son were both dealt incredible underserved tragedy....or canyons(if you will). They could have chosen to be overwhelmed, and paralyzed by the impossibility of the work ahead. They could have wallowed in deserved self-pity. Instead, they chose to look to Him who gives strength (Isaiah 40:31), and day by day, put one foot in front of the other. 

My reason for writing this, is for others to understand there is tremendous power in the canyon. No, not the monstrosity that is the Grand Canyon, but the "canyons" we all face in life. These canyons are the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual struggles we face on this earth. The "problem of pain" or the reason for suffering has bewildered God-fearing men for ages. I too have wondered why Beau, and my Dad were dealt these hands through no fault of their own. As we walked out of the dry dusty canyon on that warm day, looking back at where we had come, we all felt a since of pride, and peace in persevering through the journey. You see, it was not the magic of the destination, because we finished where we started.....back at the top. The destination was this trial-filled journey.

Paul says it best in James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

God allows trials for our joy. What a crazy concept. He doesn't enjoy the pain that we go through, but he loves the product that those struggles will create. He doesn't expect us to passively live this life,
but to actively participate in our own spiritual maturity. We can roll over, or roll up our sleeves. God desires our full hearts, minds, and bodies to train to become more like Him. 

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8 ESV
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

 Paul says again in Romans 5: 3-4 ESV
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Beau and my dad would never have succeeded if it wasn't for their hours of training. Likewise, godliness does not come from passivity, but from active participation from us. This only happens in the form of Christian community, bible study, and prayer.  I'm so proud of their physical accomplishments, but I'm even more proud of the spiritual insights, growth, and maturity they gained along the arduous process.

As my dad said: Life's goal is character not comfort. If one could go down and up the Grand Canyon on an escalator it would not have the same impact on our mind, body, or soul. The beauty would be seen, but we would fail to be molded by the experience. The barriers are the blessing!

Great song about God making the impossible....possible:

We're finished


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Technology is advancing in Guatemala!

Gracie taking care of Kiera
.....unfortunately, this blog site has never advanced...so please, once again, excuse the crazy photo layouts, the blog has a mind of its own!!

Over half of our time in Guatemala has past, as our work here has gone by rapidly. We've been lucky to have several visitors over the last 4-5 weeks, and they've all been a blessing to Shea and I, and especially our kids.

Pastor Corey and Pastor John....fun visit
One of the many ways our hospital project has advanced is technology. We now have many automated lab tests, a digital X ray, an ever increasing electronic medical record system, and much more reliable, and higher speed internet. This internet has allowed us to stay connected with family and friends more then ever. Its also allowed us the opportunity to send digital images for second opinions, and keep up to date on the latest medical information. The flip side is, it is also easier then ever to stay "distracted" by news, sports, social media, and other internet distractions. The days where I could come here to "unplug" are no more, for better or worse.

Colossians 3:1-2
Since, then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Technology is not our enemy, in fact it is a valuable tool. Unfortunately, the "enemy" uses this tool to keep our eyes off of the one who desires an intimate relationship with us. There is a God-sized void in all of us that we have come to think can be filled through technology. To live life to the fullest in this digital age, we must prayerfully plead with God to help us turn our eyes away from the gigabytes of digital imagery and distraction, and instead turn our eyes to the glory of Jesus, and the true joy that can only arise in Him.

An example of this true joy happened the other day. We had a lady, at one of our clinics in San Andres, decide to follow Christ!  She is no longer setting her mind on earthly worries. She now understands that there is a God who loves her, who desires to give her the free gift of salvation, and who now wants a relationship with her.

We are so excited for her decision, which not only affects her life here, and now, her children, but also her eternity.  This is her first step in "setting her mind on things above", and this is what makes our time in Guatemala so important!!

Tyler and Noelle at our favorite local restaurant.

Tyler playing with the kids at the Orphanage.
Noelle getting to know one of the goats we brought for a widow.

Reid's second head laceration of the trip
Teaching dissection in science class
Shea feeding a malnourished child

My muddy girls

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

He is working in Guatemala!

 A great sunset overlooking the hospital
Once again the familiar sights and sounds of rural Guatemala have filled our eyes and ears. We see the long lines of people walking and waiting outside the clinic as the dust enters our living room from their feet. We hear the mixture of laughter and crying from small children as they wait to be seen. These sights and sounds are mixed with the cacophony of birds, bugs, farm animals and motor bikes which persist at a steady pace throughout the day.

Gracie made us a Bouquet
For our family, we've enjoyed being back in our familiar, rural city. We've appreciated seeing the advances that slowly, continue to unfold at Hospital Adonai over the year. Since our last visit, the lab has tripled in available tests, digital X-Ray is up and running (although Shea and I don't make the best Rad-techs), and our pharmacy seems to increase in available treatment options. We work diligently to wade through the red tape of government regulations, and necessary personnel to achieve the goal of a complete, functioning hospital. Everyday brings us closer to this goal. Despite obstacles over the year, Shea and I are happy to see that we have increased our ability to diagnose and treat the sick, which better allow us to be His "hands and feet".

Kiera always finds the cutest animals
Throughout this process, we have been faced with many unforeseen challenges, and difficulties. With these challenges and difficulties its easy to ask God.....Where are you? My expectations are that if I'm being obedient to God, that He should automatically, and easily open all the doors. When this doesn't happen, I'm left wondering..."Where is God?, or What did I do wrong?" What I've realized more over the last month is that God simply wants me to come to Him. When things are challenging it forces me on my knees with my hands lifted toward heaven. That posture of submission is what he desires. That is how a relationship of intimacy with Him is developed.

John 10:10 says: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full

John 15:10 says: I have told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
Ever is one of our best nurses

It was great having our whole Az crew down for a week
He wants more from us then just "white knuckle" obedience. He wants to give us true joy and life to the full. This joy only comes through intimacy with Him, which can only be found by daily getting on our knees. Unfortunately, for me its often the challenges that force this posture. Thankfully, He's always there waiting.

Our first surgery was Reid's head(why am I not surprised)

Hanging out at our local restaurant

Grammy found some cool things to buy even in Guatemala

Matt pulled out this monster tooth with giant roots

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vamos y Hacemos Discipulos! (Lets go and make Disciples!)

My parents before they left Canilla in the Cessna.

This morning as I write, the morning sky is dark and the room filled with the unusual sound of pounding rain that is roaring down the roof and spilling off the gutters. This rain is a welcome change to the dry weather over the last several months. With signs of changing weather this week it is a reminder that our time here in Guatemala is nearing the end.

The last several weeks have been filled with more visitors. Our most exciting visitors were my parents. It was their first time here, and it was great for them to see what God has been doing in Canilla. It was also especially refreshing for Shea and I, along with our kids, to have family here. My parent's steadfast encouragement, leadership, and support have been a huge blessing not just this week, but over the years. It was a great visit and we were lucky they were able to come.

Our Spanish worship night.
This week we also had 3 more visitors from Iowa who were here helping out with the agricultural side of the ministry. It was great getting to know the Bjelica family and see them use their gifts for the Lord. They were able served widows in this area through a goat project.

There were also 8 pre-medical students from ACU (Abilene Christian University), Shea and I's alma mater. It has been fun to see these clinics and hospital through their eyes. It was the first of such trip for most of them. Much like Shea and I's first visit to Guatemala as pre-med students 17 years ago the significant cultural, and language barriers along with harsh reality of poverty were evident on their faces. I have high hopes that many of their lives will be positively impacted by this short trip, as Shea and I were impacted at that same stage in our lives.

One of the highpoints of the week for me was having the opportunity to preach a short sermon at our Spanish worship service. This is a group that has been led by Dr Luis Aquino for the last several years. We have a mixture of our Guatemalan construction crew and families, with our hospital nurses and staff, and even some patients from the community. Over the last 2 years, they spend one night a week worshiping together usually followed by Luis giving a short message. He has intentionally spent the last year focusing on the simplicity of the Gospel and the power of the blood of Christ.

I was privileged to talk with them about my greatest passion. Our obedience to Christ's Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 states: "Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age"

These last spoken words of Christ are simple, powerful, and challenging. He saved his most important teaching for his last moments on earth. For those of us who have accepted Christ our job is now to make disciples! Wherever you live in the world, or whatever career you have, there are people in your sphere of influence. Our job is simply to leverage these relationships for the Kingdom of God. Whether construction worker, teacher, lawyer, accountant, nurse, or stay at home mom, everyone of us has people we come into contact with that need to know the simple truth of God's love and Christ's sacrifice.

Making disciples does not require some deep theological understanding or years of biblical training. It simply requires you to build relationships, and through those relationships you tell your story of where God has taken you, and where He is taking you now.

This is the reason we are building Hospital Adonai. This is the reason Shea and I practice medicine both in the United States and Guatemala. Join us on this grand adventure.

Lets go and make disciples! Vamos y Hacemos Discipulos!

My mom and the kids enjoying one of their
many games.

My dad and the boys on a hike.

The sunset view over Canilla

Kiera is getting some "Nanna" time.

Kiera was trying to stow away on Nanna and Grandpa's plane.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

We're Thankful in Canilla!

My girls found a stray puppy....but no we didn't keep him.
2 Volcanoes at sunrise at Lake Atitlan
The familiar sounds of the rock crusher chewing up large stones and spitting out smaller ones is quickly being replaced by the sounds of wood saws carefully cutting and shaping warped raw wood into sturdy cabinets. We have continued to transition from concrete pours and block lay to finish work with the hospital nearing completion. As the construction nears completion with every passing day, the administrative checklist seems to grow. Our medical team here and in the US continue to feel the pressure of addressing many questions..... where there seems to be no obvious answers.

This week Shea and I were fortunate to take a trip to another mission hospital 4 hours away near Lake Atitlan. This particular hospital is about 10 years further along in this process then we are currently. Meeting with them was incredibly enlightening, as we think about next steps. The only unfortunate repercussion of this visit is it adds to the list of things that need to be accomplished before we reach our goal of being a fully operational hospital. Our list includes a plethora of equipment, medications, and hospital personnel needs, not to mention the cash to pay for all of it.

Our North American mentality (rightly or wrongly), says that we need to push hard, and fast to accomplish our goals. Through this project, we have learned that waiting on the Lord's timing is of most importance. It's important to have a plan, and work towards it, but without God's timing the road is often more difficult. In the midst of waiting, its easy to become to discouraged by insurmountable needs and answerless questions.

I have found it important on this project specifically, and in life in general, that as we wait for clear answers from God it is always important to have an attitude of thankfulness, and gratefulness for what God has already done. It's not that God needs the praise, but it's we who need the reminders. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"

Our List (although not exhaustive) of things to be thankful for this year for Hospital Adonai include:

1. The recent hiring of our first 4 official hospital nurses.
2. Several new workers hired for hospital cleaning, grounds management, and a new cook.
3. The hiring of a hospital secretary
4. A functioning C-arm, and numerous donated and well functioning hospital beds
5. 2 older sets of OR lights that are working great
6. 2 anesthesia machines
7. 2 small autoclaves
8. An X-ray machine still in the crates, but hopefully functional
9. 1 new lab machine to help with our chemistry panels
10. One of our employees who has recently finished basic lab tech training
11. Four 40ft containers filled with medical and construction equipment, and one on the way
12. The successful move of clinics to the hospital building
13. Several successful hospital admissions and 3 new babies born in our hospital.

God is Good!

Reid and Kiera laying in our ER beds

Our lab room....keeping the dust off.

Our observation room

Our delivery room

One of our cribs in the pediatric room.

Our HVAC system for our Operating rooms

Our backup generator next to one of the guest houses.

Four 40ft containers still half filled with equipment

Our courtyard.....grass is finally growing

Our kitchen and some staff enjoying a snack break.

Our first surgical patient ...ready to go

Our nearly completed 2nd story over the OR

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Life comes to Hospital Adonai!

Our first baby, a baby boy....yet to be named
Our second baby born, but first baby girl...named Juana
After 3 years of project planning, prepping ground, pouring concrete, and prayer, new life has finally arrived to Hospital Adonai. Our end goal has always been glorifying God by providing excellent maternal-child care. This starts with high quality obstetrics to a people group with an abnormally high maternal-infant mortality rate.

Despite the fact that we are not officially open for hospital services, two babies have been delivered in our hospital over the last week. We hadn't planned for these deliveries, but God simply brought in laboring moms whom we felt, we should help. There remains several "small" details that haven't been completed yet...like a functioning OR, adequate medications for C-sections, or trained Guatemalan nurses. But those of us who were here, felt we had a sufficient facility, personnel, and supplies to give care to these patients in need.

It was incredibly exciting to be apart of these deliveries, especially considering the hundreds of people who have worked and prayed for these moments over the last several years. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of many new lives that will be held by their mothers for the first time within our hospital walls.

We know that within hospital walls there will be suffering, pain, and often loss, but the joy of a new soul entering this world far outweighs all of the latter. There remains many obstacles on our path, but with this last week we were able to see the years of hard work paying off in that thing which is most important......Life!

The writer of Psalms says in Psalms 139:13-16 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

 The process of birth is an incredibly hard, painful, and messy process. Thankfully, the end result and joy of new life makes those hours of suffering only a small wrinkle in the timeline of a brain. We are so thankful for new life at Hospital Adonai, and we know that every single soul matters to our Lord!

Shea and I after the second delivery
The kids celebrating Beau's 9th birthday!
Kiera and Reid following an Indian lady

Shea and trying to figure out how our C-arm works.