Thursday, March 29, 2018

Images of Brazil

The Voice of The Shepherd in Brazil

Each day, typically at night, we held a church service within the villages. One American student would give their testimony translated by one of our amazing new friends. 

In the village of Nova Canáa, there is one church and villagers (residents) call it a cult. At first thought, I assumed that those who made this claim were afraid of God and wanted to give an excuse as to why they avoided what I thought would be a body of believers. The service for Nova Canáa was held in the building they denoted as the church. The pastor’s wife began the service with a prayer and 3 songs fully in Portuguese. Until this night, every single conversation and devotion, every song, every prayer, and with every hug, I felt surrounded by the presence of Jesus. He has been overwhelming. During this evening, however, I was uncomfortable. I had been able to understand much of the Portuguese messages shared and I recognized many of our songs. But, the spirit with this was so different. I found myself distracted and looking around to find some of sort of comfort in the situation. When I looked at Flavio (one of our translators), he was distracted and gave me an odd look. When I looked to Dusty, our American leader, he appeared unamused. I communicated with Megan sitting next to me, that "something is off" and she agreed. When this woman finished her last song, our Brazilian boat team stood to sing a beautiful song, and my heart immediately shifted. Dr. Pablo then spoke a sweet message about Romans 8 with the woman caught in adultery whom He saved from stoning by saying, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone" and I was astonished when I knew what God was saying through him. We later found out during our nightly debriefing that the woman had been singing a song about turning to God or burning in hell as a consequence. To that I say, God does not force Himself upon us, nor does He deserve to have to. 

My heart is broken as I realize how spoiled we are here in the states. We have the ability to church hop as many times and for as long as we’d like. I am not exempt when I say: we even use it as an excuse to avoid the community of believers when we don’t like how things happen or how things operate at this church or that. The people of Nova Canáa have one option and it is no wonder they call it a cult. 

This evening truly solidified a lesson the Lord has taught me before. That is, it is so important to know the voice of the Shepherd (read John 10). If we spend little to no time with Christ or His word, then how will we be able to recognize Him when He does speak? Furthermore, other voices may appear to be Him, but can lead us slowly astray. But, if I know His very voice and get to know His heart, when other voices come my way, I can quickly say, this is not You, Jesus. Protect us from the wolves among sheep so that we may follow You, whom is solely worthy and loving and able to be trusted. 

(Matthew 7:!5) - wolves among sheep
- LT

Paper Plate Reflection - Friends who give more than they receive. I met friends on this journey. Friends from class, others who didn’t speak my language, who couldn’t pronounce my name, but friends with compassion in their hearts. They gave more than they received. They were filled with Christ’s love & I am forever grateful.

“Christ in you, the world is yours, though you are not if this world.”
Roman’s 8:2 


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Perspective from a window seat

I’m wanting so badly to take care of the needs of the sweet Brazilian next to me, and though I’ve done a decent job of that so far, I can’t bring myself to ask him if he’d like for me to close the window as the sun is rising at 4:40 in the morning. The view, even from behind the wing of the plane, is so beautiful and displays so much glory that I can’t bring myself to close it out. He doesn’t seem to mind though as he stares through the glass with me. I noticed I’m the only seat with the window open as far as my vision will allow me to see and I can’t help but want to yell “open your windows people, let the light in!” 
   And that’s when He spoke, “I am the Light.” Probably seeming a little odd when I audibly giggled, I then replied, “well good morning, Lord. Yes, you are and you are beautiful. Nice to hear from you so soon and as we’re currently flying over Manaus. I see your timing is perfect as usual.”
 I tend to think of most things I do as selfish, because naturally as a human on planet earth, we quickly place our needs or wants before others. But today, I was encouraged with the following thoughts as I keep the window open to see the sky: 
 Isn’t that how we should be as believers? That is to be so filled with joy and excitement that we can’t put out the Light and we only want for everyone around to see a Light so bright that they desire to run full force towards it because they want so badly to find the source of it. The man behind me just opened his window. I’m silently cheering him on. “Yes. You go sir, let that person behind you see it.” Maybe they’ll see just a glimpse of His goodness. Maybe the young man next to me will too. He has Revelation 12:11 in Portuguese on his wrist band; maybe he already has. 
 That’s my prayer for the people we meet this week. May we take care of their physical needs to improve the force production they’ll need to move towards a Light that satisfies and sustains all their needs. May we be vessels of you, Jesus, and all of your glory. And may we not be afraid to keep the window open. 

 John 8: 12,  Matthew 5: 14-16 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Solo Christo

January 7th, 2018

There are some times when I am so overcome by emotion that it quite literally feels as if my heart is the source of this powerful and overwhelming feeling coursing through my body. It’s almost like an ache in my chest. It overtakes my mind; it consumes me.

This happens on either end of the spectrum – incredible, uncontainable joy, or deep despair and sorrow. I’m not sure if it’s because of genetics, or life experiences, or divine intervention, but it’s the way I’m programmed. It’s both a blessing and a curse. I experience life abundantly in both the highs and the lows. There is a small margin for the in between.

Maybe that all sounds a little extreme, but I wish sometimes that others could experience this just to understand the feeling.

We left El Salvador yesterday morning, and being back in the States, I find myself oscillating between two extremes: looking back on the week filled to the brim with gratitude and joy, and then feeling sort of dejected and maybe even a little lost. Even reading the words, the latter to me seems odd, considering we just got back from a week long medical mission trip. I mean, the people were amazing all around! It was hardly a few hours before I already started to miss the team. How in the world did I come to love these people so much in seven days?

And the church members there felt like long lost family members by the end of the week. Jimmy was practically our guardian angel. He always expressed his amazement at our work, but wow, this trip would be nothing without his dedication. Our team loves him and his family more than we could ever express in words.

But that’s only the half of it. Each day we interacted with hundreds of strangers (1,452 total patients seen this week!) who came to us looking for healing and answers to why they were hurting. And we did help a lot of people!

A ten year old boy with Cerebral Palsy walked for what I believe to be the first time thanks to his sweet new dinosaur AFOs and rolling walker. There’s nothing like the joy of a child. We traded out old, damaged canes for new, properly fitted ones. We treated lots and lots of neck/shoulder pain. People tend to carry their stress there, and the El Salvadorians had some of the most tense necks I’ve ever felt.

Their stories are burdened with destruction and difficulty that I can’t even imagine. Yesterday I met a woman with diabetes who didn’t have the money to get food, which led to dizzy spells and pain. She couldn’t provide for herself and she was getting kicked out of her living situation. The same day there was a husband and wife that came hoping for a miracle, only to find that their four-month-old baby had a hole in her heart that can only be fixed with surgery (which is not available in El Salvador). I imagine the helplessness I felt in those situations doesn’t even tip the scale in comparison to what they feel.

I think throughout the week it was easy for me to lose sight of the individual, and the story, behind each patient. I’m realizing the importance of “patient first language.” Using “the patient who had a stroke” instead of saying “the stroke patient.” There are souls underneath the movement dysfunction we see! My only regret is not being more aware of that earlier on.

After the first day of clinic on Monday we actually had some down time and a few of us were sitting around and got to sharing parts of our stories. Connecting with people by blowing past the surface level is what I live for. I was designed for deep conversations and meaningful relationships with people, and honestly, that night getting to hear the “everyone is surprised when I tell them so and so about my life” from our team members was probably the highlight of the trip for me.

Everyone wants to know that they’re cared for. They want to know that their story matters and that there is purpose even in their broken and messy lives. Why do we ignore this and only scratch the surface in our interactions with others? We were meant for so much more! We’re missing out! Jesus didn’t come to this disastrous world to suffer and die for our sake, only to have us experience life on a superficial level.

It’s always amazing to me when I get to step back and take a look at the bigger picture (masterpiece, really) that the Lord has carefully, and very purposefully pieced together. I’m not even sure if this person remembers this, but on our bus ride from First Baptist Church to the airport in Springfield when we were heading out, one of our team members asked me what my necklace said. It’s one I got more than two years ago and I never take it off, so ironically, sometimes I forget about it. I told him that is said “chosen” in Hebrew, but that was all really that was said about it.

Fast forward to 6 days later as we’re sitting in the Friday night service at the church in El Salvador and the message has me feeling like the Lord is holding my face and looking me straight in the eyes as He’s telling me something. I’m having a hard time remembering exactly what it was (it started with a passage somewhere in Romans), but I think it was pretty clear that the Lord wanted me to know that no matter what emotions I feel or how strongly they come on, I am still one of His chosen people and His promises still hold true. I think He knows I tend to forget this when my emotions overtake me. Jesus experienced emotions deeply, but our relationship with Him is not built solely upon that.

Another one of my favorite things that happened was getting to sing in front of the church as a team. We chose the song “None But Jesus” and I think it so beautifully sums up why we went to El Salvador. Whether we know it or not, Jesus, in some way or another, has called to us so we can find Him and serve Him. I don’t want to live any other way and there is no one else for me. None but Jesus. Solo Cristo.

At the end of the day, I think I’m glad to have been able to experience highs and lows so deeply (even though sometimes in the moment it doesn’t feel like it). Through all of it, and by the grace of God, I live an abundant life.


Por la gente.

January 3rd, 2018

Oh guys, I’m tired. I heard we saw about 600 patients today. Finding our groove was stressful, but the patients were so…patient. So many hugs and smiles today! I think today was my favorite day so far for no particular reason other than we’re really getting to tangibly see how medical care and Jesus changes people’s lives. The team is growing closer and closer each day and I’m so thankful for them all. I’m also thankful for the Lord’s provision! The meds are in! Tonight after dinner we will be sorting meds for all the people we’ve seen the last three days and we’ll be at it for however long it takes. Thankfully, our rest day is tomorrow. Bring on some exploring and seeing what the people do when we’re not treating them! It’s all about the people. We’re here for the people. Por la gente.

Comfort in the uncomfortable

January 2nd, 2018
Same people and same clinic, different day.
Day 2 was a little bit busier and we might have seen more patients, but the days still fly by. Us PT students are getting more comfortable treating patients on our own, but our lead therapists, Hannah and Lorenzo are always in arms reach to guide us and think through things with us. They’ve been awesome to work with! We learn a lot and have so much fun at the same time.
I saw another lady with an amputation today. She was having shoulder pain because her crutches were too tall and not adjustable. We prescribed her crutches and told her to come back to the church on Friday to pick them up. And luckily all of our crutches and walkers got to us today so we’ll be able to start fitting them to people!
The medications still unfortunately are not in our hands. Someone contacted Jimmy and we’re reallllly hoping we get them tomorrow. We promised people they could pick up their meds that we prescribed them on Thursday or Friday, so getting them tomorrow is our last chance so we can sort them out for each patient. Please pray!
Nothing super extraordinary has necessarily happened on the trip so far, but I don’t think that’s for lack of God being present. If anything, I think the Lord has proven faithful in His promises – you just have to keep your eyes open to see that.
Obviously with a medical team we treat a lot of people that have some sort of discomfort. We try to ease their discomfort and either provide them with something to relieve that, or simply comfort them in their suffering. I think this is a huge part of our lives as believers as well.
I read this today: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2-5)
I love that it uses the word abundantly, and that, in Christ, we will live abundantly – but that includes both the highs and the lows. Jesus suffered immensely so He could be in relationship with us again, and He was blessed abundantly for it. God came through with His promise to raise Jesus from the grave.
I hope how we handle suffering can paint of picture of what Jesus’ sacrifice meant. Through some hurt, my life has been filled with compassion for those hurting, and even though it may be different it still can allow me to be able to stand by their side through the pain. The Lord has given me His perfect comfort through times of trouble. His promises may not be fulfilled instantaneously, but His promises are still true. Through PT and other relationships in my life, I hope to spread that comfort He’s given me to those I come in contact with. Seeing the smiling faces of patients leaving the clinic and hearing them say they feel better is a pretty good start.
(PS you might see some of our awesome interpreters in pictures! We couldn’t do it without them and we love spending time with them!)

Un día nuevo

January 1st, 2018
A new day, and a new year!
Today kept us busy, but I think it’s only a warm up to what the rest of the week is going to look like. We saw about 300 patients today between the doctors, physical therapists, and optometrist (and gynecologist from the church we’re partnered with here who volunteered with us!), but come Friday we’re expecting to see around 700.
Us PT students tag teamed triage and the PT treatment area. Half of our time was taking vitals and seeing why they were here so we could send them to see the right people. The other half of the time we evaluated patients in PT and put our hands on them to get them moving and ease their pain. It’s hard because we know what we’ve done is only temporary, but we hope with the education that they can continue to improve, and really, that having someone that is willing to put their hands on them and who wants to help with their pain, gives them hope to endure.
Probably the sweetest moment today was teaching a woman with an amputation how to use stairs with her crutches. Building confidence in herself was huge. She did so well – she just needed someone to push her to her potential and remind her what her body can overcome.
I don’t know that we all understood the significance of the dates of our trip to El Salvador before coming here. Our first clinic day, today, being the very first day of a brand new year.
New Years in El Salvador is sort of similar to how we celebrate Christmas in the States. People get together with their families to celebrate the blessings that are to come in the new year. Then there are fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks.
Jimmy can’t tell us enough how much it means to them that we leave our country and our families during this time in order to come serve them. Imagine not being with your family on Christmas – that’s how it is for them being away from family when the new year starts.
I know it doesn’t quite translate to our culture, but I still found myself thinking that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I hope I can always make myself available to be in a place to serve my purpose, no matter if that’s in the States or elsewhere. I hope that nothing else matters to me more than being where the Lord has told me to serve Him. I think all of my love for my family and friends stems from that anyway.
We saw a lot of broken and messy lives here today. Houses made from sheet metal and makeshift pillars, with sheets hanging for doors. In one of those houses was a woman and her 4 year old daughter who were on their own after the husband had left a year ago. Jimmy’s church is working to rebuild these people’s houses because this promise still hasn’t been fulfilled by the government here.
There’s a lot of political unrest here and destruction from the civil war 30 years ago. Restoration is a slow process, and definitely not a perfect process. I pray that we can all see the promise of restoration of all of our brokenness through Jesus’ sacrifice. I’ll keep sacrificing myself for His work until we do.
Keep praying. Our PT equipment should be available tomorrow, and Jimmy is going to customs in the morning to fight for our medications.