Monday, June 22, 2020

Thankyou New Hampton

To Our Dear Friends of Chickasaw County, 

These unexpectedly strange times have led to a rather simple departure for our family. I had planned to have more time reminiscing, laughing, and saying goodbye to many of you who’ve made our time in New Hampton unforgettable. 

This unassuming little town in North Eastern Iowa has won our hearts, and a piece of us will always remain here in Chickasaw county. Ten years ago when we made the long drive through the midwest, Shea and I could never have imagined all that was in store for us over the next decade. 

The last 10 years have brought us tears, struggles, bathed in deep relationships, and joy. We have watched our children grow up with yours. We mourned with your losses as you have mourned with ours. Shea and I have had the privilege of being at the bedside of so many of your parents, and grandparents as they have breathed their last. Likewise, We have been blessed to hold many of your children, and grandchildren in our arms as their first breath echoed throughout the delivery room. We have enjoyed sharing prayers with you before anxiety producing procedures/moments, prayers of thanksgiving at seeing God work, and even prayers of sadness as we were left confused at the outcomes of so many personal, and medical difficulties. 

As I look back on these years of memories, the greatest lesson I have learned is the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Winds of life have blown, and inevitable “curve balls” continue for all of us, but the foundation of faith in Christ has kept my family, and many of yours  grounded.

If I could give one piece of advice with my parting thoughts, I would want you all to understand
the importance of faith in Jesus Christ. This life will continue to give us reasons for fear, as there 
will never cease to be diseases that end life prematurely.  Cancer will always be with us, heart disease won’t go away, and a variety of infectious diseases, such as Covid will continue to erupt. Thankfully, our fear in such things will always be defeated by faith in Him who has conquered death. True joy comes through Him! 

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Thankyou for your love, and all the wonderful memories.

With Much Love,

The Epperly Family

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Upside down from Iowa!

Kiera trying to keep Chloe from leaving
Our days in Guatemala continue to slip by, and time to begin our journey back to Iowa is quickly approaching. We have persisted with next steps here at Hospital Adonai. The biggest of those is recent news that we will be hiring a Guatemalan nurse anesthetist. She will begin work in July, and will plan on being here 4-5 days a week. This anesthesia piece has been the biggest limiter to increasing our scope of practice in Canilla, and this is a massive answered prayer. This will allow us to start to schedule repeat C-sections, increase our ability to have laboring patients, and other scheduled surgeries.

Kiera as a VBS Mummy
Our trip has been filled with language school, and many visitors both family and friends. And as always it has been a joy to share stories of God's power with all who have come. We are currently hosting a youth group team from Iowa, and it has been great to see them hearing the many "God stories". We've also enjoyed seeing them jumping in, and serving in a variety of ways.

As we have been talking with these teens, I have been reminded once again how "upside down" we should be living our lives as Christians. Re-telling/listening to the stories of how this hospital came to be, and the sacrifices of many is always very inspirational. The selfless work and sacrifice of many in the construction of this hospital is completely counterintuitive to the world in which most of us were raised. That mindset says: "get as much as you can get, and do what is best for you and yours". This way of thinking flies in stark contrast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I recently read a short article written by Greg Laurie. In it he describes how the early church truly turned the world upside down. Acts 17:6 in referencing Paul and Silas preaching in Thessalonica said:  But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "Those who have turned the world upside down have come here too."

This early church lived a fearless and counterintuitive existence. They risked their lives to boldly share the gospel, no matter the cost. I agree with Greg Laurie, that we have, as a modern church been slowly eroded out of fear of fitting in, or being relevant. With this in mind, the world has instead turned the church upside down.

Vance Havner said: "We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor its conformity to it, but by combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God"

Our job as Christians is not to just be "nice Christians" who sit on our hands and close our mouths. Our job is to boldly take the gospel to the world, through our circle of influence. Our job is to turn the world upside down by looking past what is "easy" and boldly proclaiming the power of the blood of Christ.

This is how the early church lived, this is our prayer for Hospital Adonai, and this is why I'm excited to see these young men and women learning about upside down living.

Sara and Kenny with us in the mountains

Reid and our pet pig
Prosper sharing his story with nurses and our team

A quick birthday river date

The kids helped with Shea's birthday cookies

Our team doing VBS games

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

From Zimbabwe to Guatemala!


All together again!

In 2013, we had to cancel our trip to Zimbabwe at the last minute due to Shea's 1st trimester pregnancy sickness with Kiera. One month later, God used that time to get both of us to Guatemala for a week that would change our lives. It was then that we realized our trips to Africa would be ending, and God would be opening up a new chapter in rural Guatemala. It was sad to close that chapter of our book on Zimbabwe, and even worse to think we wouldn't get to work with some of our closer friends again. Little did we know, that God was already weaving together our lives in Zimbabwe with our lives to come in Guatemala.

As we fast forward 6 years, God has brought Zimbabwe to Guatemala in a way which confirms the power of God at work. Our good friends, Prosper and Miriam Musipa (and their son Jason), recently arrived to Guatemala after several months of turbulent, and prayer filled planning. Prosper and Miriam are a talented couple whom we became quite close with in 2010. She is a midwife, and he is an OR nurse with anesthesia experience. Their medical skillset is undeniable, but their hearts and love for others is even greater.

As we have continued to pray, and plan for next steps in Guatemala two of the biggest needs identified have been a trained midwife, and an OR nurse. We could not have fathomed that God would use this couple from Zimbabwe to fill these needs. You see, Prosper came to know that Lord at Karanda Mission Hospital, where he was raised by his mother, who was one of the hospital chaplains. Later on he met Miriam, as she was a nurse, at the same mission hospital. As Prosper grew up, and as he and Miriam worked together as nurses, the missionaries at Karanda strongly impacted their faith, and future decisions. They saw the impact of missionaries on their lives and the lives of others, and began to see God breathing those same desires in their hearts.

Prosper, Ever, and I getting the endoscopy tower working
Life in Zimbabwe, even for the educated is quite difficult. Even good jobs are financial "dead ends", with little chance to provide an adequate living for your family. With that, most jump at the chance to leave for the UK or other countries with "greener pastures". This opportunity to leave, and work in the UK came to the Musipas last year, but they just never felt a peace. Instead, God had put on their hearts the desire to be foreign missionaries by serving a people group in a different part of the world. Guatemala was the country they felt burdened to serve. Becoming missionaries, and living on support made no financial sense in comparison to good jobs in the UK, but their desire was obedience to Him.

Now, simply having the heart and desire to go to Guatemala was the "easy part". Zimbabweans getting Guatemalan visas seemed like an impossible task, and frankly unprecedented. Climbing what appeared to be this impassable obstacle took prayers from many, accompanied by months of work and persistence. Thankfully after much prayer, endless paperwork, and 7 days of tiresome travel through Egypt, and Brazil, the Musipas received their initial visa, and were allowed entry into Guatemala.

We praise God for this initial answered prayer. Although, obstacles such as finances, and long term visas remain, God has been faithful thus far, and we have no doubt He will continue to carry them through this process.

You'll find many of the challenges that were faced along the way were not mentioned specifically, but the big picture is simple. Through the faithful prayers, and actions of His people, God answered prayers. These prayers weren't answered instantly, but in His time. Even Shea and I's desire to work with our friends again was answered in a way we least expected. We are especially excited, because we know this isn't the end but just the beginning of what he is doing through the Musipa's and others at Hospital Adonai.

1 John 5:14-15  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." "And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him."

Getting ready for Easter scavenger hunt
Jason getting new glasses from Iowa....he could see so much better

I'm not a cat guy, but these two sure are happy
Gracie and Kiera dressing up one of their new kittens


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Power of the Resurrection

"10 years!"  I think to myself as I sit at a computer weary from travel. Another whirlwind trip from Iowa to Guatemala. This is the 10th year of picking up my young family, and moving them to a foreign country.

Once again, we have returned to Guatemala, and I can't help but ask the question Why? Why do we leave our more comfortable life in the US? Our home? Why do we leave family? Why do we give up income? Why do we pull our kids out of school, and have them leave their friends?

With each passing year of my life, the travel becomes more tiresome, and these questions seem to grow louder. I also, no longer just have to satisfy my own mind with these questions. With each year my children have begun to wrestle more with these same thoughts.

The answer is simple, and yet profound, it is.....The Resurrection!

It would be easier to say:
we're doing this to help the poor
we're doing this to give medicine to those who have no access
 we're doing this to give out of the excess from which we have been given

All these things are true, and good, but these are not the real reason. The real reason is that Shea and I firmly believe that due to The Resurrection we have to be willing to die to ourselves. Our lives are not our own, and we have to be willing to give up what seems best to our feeble human minds, and choose to intentionally live for HIM.

This idea of dying to ourselves seems like such a strange concept because everything inside of us desires to "do it our way". We think we know best, we think we have abilities, and talent that will allow us to succeed on our own. The reality is discussed in John 12:23-26 which essentially says that we must give up relying on our own power, and rely completely on Him to produce fruit. What a difficult concept?

The good news is that I can tell you this is true. When we have given up of ourselves, God has done more through us then we can ever do on our own power. Not only that, but there is a true contentment and joy that can only be achieved by relying completely on HIM.

CS Lewis eloquently described happiness below:

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods”—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

If we truly believe that Jesus lived, died, and arose from the grave, then none of us can live the same way. This Truth requires, and compels us to live not for ourselves but for Him.

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

With this thought let us celebrate the power of His resurrection through this Easter season!

Kiera loves flying on this little plane

Ready for take off

Reid and Kiera packed in the back of the plane

The kids playing in the White Sands, New Mexico

Shea surprised me with 2 lifelong friends for my 40th (Rick and Cedric)

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( 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 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 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