Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Learning to Listen

It was bound to happen with all the busy-ness and running around I've been doing. I finally got sick. My body is no longer immune to these tropical bugs and so I caught the cold going around. Now a cold all by itself is not so bad, though a friend commented that it is a bit weird in such hot, sticky weather instead of the frigid winter colds we're used to in the US. But a cold combined with flying is a horrid combination. I managed to handle it ok on the flight down to Boracay, but on the flight back to Manila, my ear never equalized on the descent. All that to say, my right ear is still plugged after a week. I feel like my head is under water. I hate it. A doctor took a peek at it and it looks ok, just angry, red, and really retracted...but no infection. A little research and I learned it may take up to 3 months to resolve.
On my drive to the birthing clinic this morning, I got so discouraged by this feeling of a plugged up head, that I just wanted to turn around, go back to my bed, and lie there until I can hear again. I'm tired of saying, "what? I can't hear you." I feel like I'm operating at half mast and that's not a fun way to start out a ministry.
However, and I think you know where this is going, it's really made me come to grips with the fact that I will never operate at 100%. Even when my body is fine, there will still be things I miss. I feel like God is using this time of frustrating deafness to make me focus more on listening to Him and hearing His voice instead of the constant cacophony of traffic, people, chickens, construction, and all manner of distraction.
Every time I talk, it sounds twice as loud. I don't like that. Maybe I'll learn to talk less and listen more intently.
I hope so.

Friday, May 27, 2011

this and that

Ahhh! I've gotten remiss in my blogging! Oh wait, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've been traveling and then sick for the last month. But persist I will! (Wow, that sounds like Yoda...no, I'm not a Star Wars fan, honest)
Less than 24 hours after getting back from Davao, I got on another plane with fellow missionary, Ruth Ortiz and her son. We were on our way to Boracay, a gorgeous island in Central Philippines. Manila is such a huge smoggy city. It's really not that pretty. Poverty, crowds, trash, smells, humidity, pollution, traffic, stress are everywhere. It's hard to get away from it. These first few months of being here have been unusual in that I've gotten to travel outside of Manila quite a bit and see the beauty of the Philippines. Boracay is such a place. The water is the most beautiful of any I've seen. Most water in the Manila is NOT like this. It's usually dirty, cloudy, and with a slight film of oil on the surface. Boracay is stunning. Here's a picture of Kai suffering as an missionary kid.
I was in Boracay to speak to wives at a pastor's family conference. I focused on basic health concepts such as hand hygiene, good and bad body responses to illness, how to make oral rehydration solution, basic prenatal care and much more. The ladies seemed to really appreciate and learn from what was shared. Most of them come from provincial areas and this was new information for them.
After the conference ended on Friday, the rest of Ruth's family and a team from The Master's College in SoCal came out in preparation for a children's outreach program they are running through today on a very remote island. What a fun bunch of kids!
May has been super busy with lots of travels and meeting some great people. Definitely helped satisfy my travel bug for a time. :)
Enjoy the pics!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

a cheap laugh

When I first arrived in Davao, the motel I stayed in had a flooded street. The only way out was to walk up a hill and catch a cab. There were no shops or restaurants in this direction and there was no way I was going to walk through calf deep, nasty, putrid water to get some Adobo and rice. So, I took advantage of McDonald's delivery. For under a buck delivery charge, McDonald's will deliver any order, large or small, straight to my motel door.

After ordering my quarter pounder with cheese value meal, the lady on the phone warned me that the order may take 30-40 minutes to be delivered so the fries may not be fresh....then promptly asked if I wanted to add a caramel sundae to my order. So if I don't mind slightly cool fries, I guess I don't mind melted ice cream?


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Davao Delight

Ever since I arrived in Manila, I've been hearing about this wonderful birthing clinic run by missionaries on the southern island city of Davao. I ran it by my supervisors and was given the green light to fly down for 2 weeks to learn and observe all I could before I begin at Shalom full-time in June.
I arrived last Wednesday and was bewildered. It looks a lot like Manila but there is NO traffic! (LA friends, you have no idea what traffic is until you've been to Manila, trust me!) And the people are definitely Filipino, but I don't understand what they're saying...it sounds like Tagalog but it isn't. It feels like my brain is one cog off the machine.
My first impression of Mercy Maternity is amazement. I have never seen such a well-run, organized, and efficient birthing clinic. It's beautiful, there's respect all around, it's open, and it's fun to watch all the teaching...from perinatal teaching to peer teaching among the foreign and national midwives (usually the nationals teaching the foreigners, which I love!).
Yesterday, I took a day-off from the clinic and joined some fellow Action missionaries, Will & Joanie Feuerstein, in their Face to Face ministry to prison inmates. What a FUN experience! Who knew that going to jail could be so much fun? These ladies are often separated from everyone they know, sent down to a faraway province where they try to live life in some semblance of normality....and yet they are so joyous and eager to be around us. We are a fun diversion from their monotony and we even come with some music, stories, and even comfort food, Jollibee (like McDonald's) fried chicken and rice. Because the order is so large, they send along their little mascot. I've never seen fully grown women act so silly around a giant bee. You would think they were a bunch of tweens meeting Rob Pattinson or Justin Bieber. It was highly entertaining to watch.
I wish I could post pictures of the beautiful, courageous women, but for their own protection and privacy I cannot. But please pray for these women as they face a life they never planned, trying to live with courage in spite of life's disappointments.

Some of the team members "behind bars"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Becoming a Papaya

Medical professionals, among others, have to become papayas. I don't know when the last time you cut up a papaya, but the meat is soft and tender, yet the skin is super thick and tough. In order to survive here, we must develop thick skins but keep soft hearts.

For the last several weeks, I've had the privilege of sitting in with an American missionary doc who is absolutely amazing. He is a teacher at heart, and not a day goes by that I don't feel like I learned more than my brain can contain (and feel a bit stupid for how much I DON'T know!). I'm learning some great medical Tagalog like balisawsaw (ball-ee-sow-sow), which means urinary frequency. But most of all I'm learning that there are times when you can lead a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink.

Example: I met an older lady, probably in her 60s, who has just started going to Dr Scott's medical clinic for cleaning of her breast tumor. Most likely it is cancerous because she had chemo 10 years ago for the same. I could smell her before I saw her. When she undressed, I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like this before. Never. Her tumor was about 8 inches in diameter and about 4 inches raised above the breast tissue. It was oozing pus and blood. At this point, there's very little we can do except clean it and redress it. She won't go to the hospital for treatment because the line is too long and she'd probably die before her turn came up.

I was surprised at how happy she still is. Smiles, laughter, still a sense of modesty. Though underlying I could sense some grief in her eyes. Life is fleeting and I think she's come to terms with that. Death is real and can only be put off for so long. Sounds fatalistic, but it's true.

As a medical professional, it's hard to see something like this and feel like my hands are tied behind my back. There's so little that I can do, except give her a soft touch, a smile, pray with her, and help her sit up from the exam table. (btw - I did not clean the tumor, another gal did that...I just oogled dumbfounded)

Please pray for those of us here. That we would be able to think like a papaya. That our compassion would stay strong, but that we would realize that we are but hands and feet. The decisions of life and death are not ours. A life lost is not our fault, a life saved is not our victory. We simply do what we can, with what we have. God is sovereign - I really believe that. Inasmuch, we can rest knowing that we do the best we can.