Not sure that is an interesting post or not, but it is part of what we have to do...sometimes quite satisfying when you can fix something or find what is needed (sometimes even when things are available here, they can be several hundred percent of what the cost on the internet is) and sometimes quite frustrating when it just does not work out. It is a reminder though that ultimately some things are out of our hands. I can plan, I can search, (sometimes I even remember to pray) but ultimately there are large swatches of life that are out of our control. It helps to foment planning for the future, but also sometimes helps to not be so dependent on the material things that cannot be ordered with one day shipping...or even 30, 60 or 90 shipping sometimes.
It is also a reminder to be thankful for what infrastructure development (in general and in helping other countries), access to internet, economic investment, and a growing "world" economy can do for all countries, especially countries that have economic disadvantages in some areas.
Felipe here. You may or may not know me, although odds are that at the time of this writing, most of those reading this do. But how well do we really know anyone?Sometimes it is hard to get to know one and another, depending on proximity, time available, personalities, etc.
For example, many of you do not know that I used to take when first dating Valerie in the early 1990s, I found she did not care for any songs by Tom Petty that were being released at that time. So I took great pleasure listening to classic rock stations, waiting for an older Tom Petty song to come on, and then casually asking if she liked that song, only to then with a dramatic flair announce, "Ah ha! That is Tom Petty!" And yet despite that and many other such stories from real life, she still agreed to marry me.
Another thing that strangers, acquaintances, and even friends sometimes do not get to know is a quality I possess in which I think many of us could identify...inadequacy. When we share our story, I am quick to point out that serving here in general and especially in a position of ministry leadership is definitely not something I identify as a strength or something innate in me. What goes along with that, but that is hard to share in a casual conversation, is a deep seated feeling of inadequacy. Sometimes that can be good...in being able to clearly see a lack of ability to gain favor with God based on merit or good deeds. Sometimes however it can also manifest in an almost crippling lack of belief of worth, of ability, and underlying doubt of Christ's redeeming power. It can be extremely difficult to work well when this is most manifest, hard to participate well in relationships, and hard to just be in public for any length of time. It can leave you feeling trapped in your house, not seeing a way out.
Those are just two embarrassing stories of my past...and present. Stories that can be hard to share, or hard to find people with whom we feel close enough to share. Not everyone wants to share our semi-embarrassing, or perish the thought actual deep dark secrets, with almost anyone. How you handle that will vary...but there is One with whom we can, and should share all that and so much more.
Tom Petty is no longer with us, but his songs are.
In a world (or inside my own brain) that can be so twisted, difficult and hard to navigate, we can take solace/strength in what? Only God...only He can get us through, only He can save our wretched souls. This is no mere platitude, not something we say to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes it does not make me feel better...but I can still know it is better and will get better. Only He can give us clarity in the fog of our brains, only He provides a solid foundation on which we can stand. Only He can lift us up and keep us going when our will gives out...
"You could stand me up at the gates of hell,
But I won't back down
Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around,
And I'll keep this world from draggin' me down,
Gonna stand my ground and I won't back down
Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won't back down
Well I know what's right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I'll stand my ground and I won't back down"
I tell my kids that when they are getting guff from someone at school, to stop and think about what might be going on in the life of the person offending them. To think about what they may be going through, and in cases where desired intent is hard to decipher, to presume the best. Several times with hindsight, that has proven to be most helpful to them and good instruction to us all.
There are reasons to do this that are altruistic, and they are good, but mostly this is practical because it is helpful to us...because the anger, bitterness, and depression that can come from our interpretations mostly affects us, not the people that we think have hurt us.
I was reminded of that yesterday while running errands...twice. I was going about my day, on my phone texting while waiting in two different locations. I heard a police officer come in to the room complaining about plans being made and someone needing to make up their mind about if they were going or not. In retrospect about two minutes later, I realized that I had been thinking as she was discussing the situation, that private get togethers should be planned not while at work (which she was, in an police office where I was filling out some paperwork for one of our cars) and that the line outside would have been moving faster if she was not also doing that. It was not angry or bitter, just casual annoyance with only a superficial paying attention...but still. I say that because at some point her seeming anger and busyness came to a head after a phone call saying they were on the way to get the casket right then, and then ending the call with her head and her hands and wondering aloud about how her friend was going to be able to deal with this.
Later I was eating lunch with the kids and a group of North Americans came in where we were eating. I did not have any particular negative thoughts per se, we even gave them a recommendation of what was on sale but not on the menu, but still had my preconceptions and only superficial interest that was quickly wiped clean when we talked about where we were from, and finding out they were from Houston, stuck here for four days more than the mission trip they were on because of Hurricane Harvey, and one of the gentlemen shared that of six relatives living in the area, all six had homes under water. He had his boots on...said that if they got out on a flight, he was ready to get to work as soon as they got off the plane.
I share this because I think we all (mostly myself) could use a reminder that we are surrounded by hurting people in one way or another, mostly seemingly normal folks...people that need some understanding and sympathy rather than too-quick judgement, defensiveness or the like. Oh that I could be consistent in doing that.
I mean, in the previous picture, you get a sense, but this one below is better, as you can see just a tinge of red which is the Ford's roof to the right of Dalton who is waving to me. But what you do not know is...the distance I have covered is perhaps only two hundred feet up the trail. We discussed that in the future having this trail have steps and even a lane for driving would be nice. It would certainly leave you less gasping for breath. But once you catch your breath and turn around...then the view takes it away again.
Darwin cannot be there at 8:00 on Fridays this year, and Oscar was out of town this Friday, but we carried on between Maria, myself and Valerie giving the devotion. It was about healing, as she has been listening to some sermons online from a former pastor of ours about the subject.
We listened, we talked, we wrestled. It is a difficult topic really, especially if you deal with a lot of people with illness. Looking at healing that Jesus did and in the Bible...it is a hard-to-deal-with mix of some being healed, some not, God moving, God calling us to prayer...it leaves you possibly with a bit of a paradox, or at least a conundrum.
We arrived at something I thought was most helpful. That in our prayer life in general, as well as when praying for healing, sometimes we miss the point. We can focus on what we are asking for, and what that means for the person or people hearing the prayer...and allow many questions of doubt and whether or not we are praying correctly get in the way.
Instead...we should remember that all prayer is ultimately about getting us closer to God and what He is doing and will do. It isn't about us or how we phrase things. We are free to come to God in our confusion, our anger, in our lack of seeing the bigger picture, knowing that what He will do is so much bigger than what we can see or imagine. And if that point was not clear enough in my mind, I ran across a picture from the cancer ward in Hospital Escuela from a few years ago that showed a Bible verse. Specifically Jeremiah 33:3...
"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
I feel a duty to stop this evening and write this post, as often times with blogging, perhaps more for myself than you, dear reader.
Stress is a part of life. Some of us tend to seek/desire/want a low stress life, and boy, I have to agree that sounds good to me. All of us have different levels of stress, and different desired levels.
I am told, and I suppose I recognize, that doing what we do as a family brings a much higher level of stress on many levels than the average Joe. Most of the time, it is manageable. Sometimes less "fun" than others, but it feels like it has a purpose, and therefore can be dealt with, in a number of health, and sometimes not healthy, ways.
Today though was the first time I have found myself ready to quit in 17 years.
What? Yes, that is correct. I am ok with the traffic here. I have a handle on our rep as being such a dangerous place to live. I can somehow live in the delicate wrestle of understanding with the ever-present poverty. I can process the complexities of Church/clinic/kids/coffee/groups work.
But red tape, legalese, and inefficiency really got to me today.
I am not quitting by the way. Oh, and I do not always handle the other things I mentioned above quite well either, but today's bout with the government trying to get our new ambulance into the country without paying the roughly $20,000 in taxes they want pushed me over an edge of sorts.
The rules change, get modified in muddy terms, and foisted on me among others. Even with the help I have in our doctor and lawyer, the double speak, confusing language and lack of an explainable path of action is overwhelming. What would someone just trying to start a business here do?
Ultimately though...if I look deep down inside me, and stop and talk to myself, I find that it all pushes me so far because...I cannot control it. I cannot understand it, and most humiliatingly...I do not understand it. I lack the education, the experience, the...well, I guess I don't know what.
What must others think of me knowing this? How I have failed in my job!
What ego. What foolishness. And the soul crushing stress of it all.
So I prayed before today...I asked God to open doors that are closed, to make smooth the rocky mountain roads of paperwork. And then when I find an area foreign to me, not of my skillset (and others as well I have found out...even an accountant we know was unable to help me with the document that pushed me over the edge with over 100 little boxes to fill out with such minutiae that the vocabulary was totally beyond me) I jumped the faith ship and just flailed in the pity pool, ready to sink.
We may not be able to complete the paperwork. We may have to pay the taxes. I am firmly aware of our need for much greater accounting/government reporting representation here and we will be hiring someone to train our staff to handle that in the coming weeks/month. I won't be able to really help with that, even if I wanted to do so.
Sometimes we need a bit of a knock down to remember our place in this world. To remember that God answers all prayers, but that sometimes the answer is no, or not now. To remember that we will never excel in every area, even if we think we should.
I am not sure my reading of Paul's words in light of today is correct or not, but I do not see him writing in 2 Corinthians 12... "9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ...in a strong, confident voice. I hear God's voice in that reassuring, soft and condescending, like a loving parent to a small child who is throwing a fit, knowing that it is hard for the child to understand. I hear Paul crying as he says those words of verse 10...knowing they are true, feeling that love, and wrestling with the feelings of the heart mixed with the knowledge in the head and of the soul.
Or maybe that is just me.
We had opportunity last week to host a site visit from US surgeons, looking for areas where they can serve. Darwin set up appointments at the two public hospitals here to see what possibilities there would be to have them help.
The interviews we had in both hospitals were quite enlightening. I have some experience going into both to visit with groups, but nothing on this level of administrative sides of things, and to learn more of the needs, as well as the goals and how the hospitals work.
I learned that Hospital Escuela, the main public hospital for the entire country, has 13,000 beds in the hospital. (Darwin has routinely told me that every day there are 20,000 patients between inpatient and outpatient...knowing how many beds there are helped me believe that seemingly inflated number.)
I also learned that the general surgeries going on at San Felipe across town were not being done because that was part of the hospital's mission. It was odd to hear to start the meeting the five areas of focus for the hospital...especially when general surgery was not one of those areas. Turns out, the only reason the hospital does general surgery is because of the overwhelming need in the population that Hospital Escuela cannot handle. Even then...just one of the doctors we met with, to show just how big the need was, told us he had more than 400 patients on his waiting list.
Here is where you can pray...in general for a system here that has good doctors and administrators fighting to give the population here the care it needs. It is a different kind of battle, very complex, and sometimes on many fronts...with finances, circumstances, other administrators, etc.
You can also pray because after seeing the installations there, and the installations we have at the clinic, the surgeons decided that the best place where they could help and do that to honor Christ would be with us in the clinic. There is nothing definite at this point, just a decision to pray, and for us to budget how much a surgical wing would cost, and see where God takes it from there. Surgery has been an area for the clinic (possibly future hospital?) that has been a dream a long time coming. Many years in fact. Somewhat patiently, we wait. Right now that seems much closer...but again I warn us (read: myself), that while we plan, work and pray, that for the most part this is very much up in the air. Just pray that God's will would be done...and that it would be clear and present to us who routinely need refreshers on that.