Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where in the world are we going?

This blog post is a little late in coming - I apologize. We've fallen into a nice routine the past few weeks and I've neglected my blogging. I appreciate all of you who have noticed that I haven't posted in a few weeks! It just goes to show how wonderful blogging is for keeping connected these days!

So the big news that I am late in sharing is that we found out that we got accepted to the World Medical Mission Post Residency Program! We are thrilled because this program is tailor made for people in our position and they know exactly how to help us! Other mission organizations, although great, really struggle to understand the ins/outs of a medical family (especially one just finishing training) and we have heard crazy stories about how they just don't get it. For example, a friend of our is a Pediatric Surgery fellow - very, very specialized and very talented. Most of these surgeons have spent 8-9 years after medical school training to operate on children. It is crazy competitive and you have to be the best of the best. You don't have pediatric surgeons calling your mission agency every day telling you they want to sign up to go to Africa. Well that is exactly what our friend did and explained to the person at a particular agency the geographic area and hospital he had in mind (due to the specialization of his surgery he needs appropriate anesthesia services and post - op care for his patients that isn't available every where in Africa). He was told he needed to think outside the box a little bit and was urged to think about serving in a heath outpost giving immunizations to children. WHAT??? Anyway, that is what we were up against outside of WMM so we are thrilled that we will be a part of their program.

I've decided at this point it would be a lot easier to do a FAQ section since we hear mostly the same questions about this and we have mostly the same answers. So we will catch everyone up . . .

1. Where are you going?
We don't know yet. We are in the process of deciding which is very exciting. We are both ready to know so we can start having a picture in our mind of our life there! We have a shortish list that includes hospitals in Peru, Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, Papua New Guinea and others. We are in the process of, first of all, praying about where God wants to send us and we are researching places online and through blogs to get as much information about places as we can. We are hoping to know where we are going by the first of the year.

2. Are you taking your kids?

3. How long will you be gone?
Our commitment to this program is for two years. We are open to serving long term after that if it is God's will for our lives. We just want to have an effective ministry. If that is here then great. If that is somewhere that is not here then great. If it is somewhere in between then great! We are not into making 10 or even 5 year plans. We pray that God uses us in different ways during all the different seasons of our lives and ministry so we can be most effective.

4.What will your living arrangements be like?
This is really dependent upon where we end up going. I can answer this in a really general sense. We will most likely be living in a simple apartment/townhouse or small house either on a hospital compound or nearby. It will probably have 2 bedrooms, a living area, kitchen and bathroom. Very simple. We expect it will have electricity some of the time and we are hoping that it has hot water some of the time although this isn't a given! There will most likely not be heat or AC. There will most likely be a washing machine but probably not a dryer (can you say clothesline?) and definitely not a dishwasher. We are really hoping to have internet access from home but this is very place dependent - some places have wifi available and others only have slow connections available from the hospital. It would make communication with our families so much easier. These are all different from our current home but I have to say none of these things really bothers me. I love the simplicity and look forward to a different way of living.

5. Will it be safe?
I truly believe the answer to this question is yes. Of course there are risks living anywhere even in the U.S. After looking at most of these hospitals that we are considering I do believe we will be safe in a general sense but more than that I believe that the safest place that we can be is in the center of God's will for our lives. I know it is terribly difficult for those who love us the most to think about us being in an "unsafe" environment but I think the thing we want to convey is that we are accepting any risk there might be because we think that it is worth it. We have assessed the potential risks to us and our family. We believe that our ministry and our purpose for being there is so important that it is worth the risk involved. We are eternally safe in God's hands and we put our trust in that.

6. How will you get around?
Rhett will most likely be commuting to the hospital on foot each day. Most hospitals have transportation and/or drivers available for longer trips into nearby cities for supplies etc. I've seen a few situations where missionaries like us have purchased their own cars. This will be dependent on where we go obviously. Most of the hospitals are relatively remote. They were mostly built in areas without access to healthcare and little towns or villages have grown up around them. I have some how made it 30 years without learning how to drive a stick shift so I will most like not be driving for 2 years!

7. Are you raising support?
This is another wonderful part of WMM! Along with training and facilitating all of of the documents necessary to make this happen they also partially fund us. I say partially because they basically base their funding on the physician not the family. They will cover all of Rhett's expenses but we are obviosly a growing family with more expenses than a single physician. We will be receiving a housing and food stipend in addition to a modest amount to cover monthly living expenses. They pay for Rhett's plane ticket and his health insurance. That leaves us with a few big expenses: plane tickets for the rest of our family (which depending on the place can run as much as $2,500 a person) and the rest of our family's health insurance which will come out of that monthly living expenses amount as well as a possible vehicle purchase. So our general attitude towards "raising support" is that we know that God will provide for us and we are depending on Him to do so. I don't think that He has brought us to this point and will leave us in a lurch when it comes to paying for our plane tickets to get there!! We are excited to see God work in the details and provide for us. More on our philosophy of raising support later . . .

8. What will you be doing there?
Rhett will be working as a physician in the hospital. His complete job description is totally dependent on where we go and what kind of patients are in the area where we will live so I can't give more detail about that yet. Rhett is trained in Internal Medicine (all adult medical problems) and Infectious Diseases (any and every type of infection, HIV/AIDS) and after his course in Peru will be trained in Tropical medicine (malaria, typhoid, dengue, etc, etc.) so he can expect to take care of patients will all of these problems. Of course in places of limited resources he may be wearing many different medical hats including taking care of children, delivering babies and doing minor surgical procedures. This is going to be a stretch for a guy who wants nothing to do medically with pregnant women or sick children (in fact he cut neither of our children's umbilical cords - not interested!). So we shall see!

My job description is a little more vague. Medically, I'm not sure what my role is going to be. I would love to be involved in any way that I can in service at the hospital. Since I specialize in taking care of really sick kids I'm assuming I can come in pretty handy at times (maybe just to get an IV on a dehydrated baby if nothing else). But I do have my hands quite full at home so that is going to be the primary focus of my time. I will be homeschooling the kids and hope to be involved in some sort of small group and discipleship. I really enjoy children's ministry so I'm sure I'll be involved with kids in that sense too.

Although Rhett's patients and hospital surroundings are going to be very different he is still going to be going to work at a hospital every day. I will have a complete change of operation, however. My days consist of running errands in my car with my kids, going to fun activities with the kids like ballet and the zoo, taking the kids to school and going to the grocery store among other errands. Basically none of those things will be happening in our new location so I'm going to have to re-engineer my whole life. I expect it to be a lot more domestic because I will have a lot of work to do around the house (just hand washing dishes and line drying clothes will take up a lot of time!). There won't be convenience foods so I'll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen. It will be a big adjustment for sure. Again I am in a sense a little nervous about having such big life changes but I also am really drawn to the simplicity and I think it will be wonderful.

9. Did you say "homeschool"?
Yes! At first this was a huge barrier for me to this whole experience. I couldn't imagine my kids not having a traditional school experience. I really struggled with this until I started looking into homeschooling a founds some amazing curriculums out there. I am really excited about this now and think it will be really fun. Again this will all be very different so you have to think outside the box. I've decided on the Sonlight curriculum and can't wait to get started with it. Claire will most likely be doing preschool and kindergarten during those two years (since I'm not bound by her age like traditional school we will just go with what she knows and is capable of doing). The program is set up to teach multiple kids at once so Ford will be able to listen in with Claire and also do age appropriate activites.

10. What is your purpose for being there?
We are there to tell people who have never heard about a loving God who created them and wants to be reconciled to them. We will tell them about a God who loves them and sent his own son to die as an atonement so that we can have a relationship with Him. In short churchy terms we are going to tell the Gospel. We are following Jesus' commandments to all believers to go and make disciples of all nations so that is exactly what we are going to do. In addition to telling people about Jesus we want to help them grow in their faith by learning the Bible and growing in their relationship with Christ (the churchy term being applied here would be discipleship). My heart is really in discipleship. We aren't love 'em and leave 'em types. We really want people to grow and know God.

11. How does your family feel about you going?

This is tough for everyone involved. The last thing we want to do is hurt the people we love the most by leaving them and taking their grandchildren. It is our hope and prayer that God will work through this experience with our families as an opportunity to experience his grace and sovereignty like never before. We truly believe that God will bless the relationships in our family and sustain them even across the miles that will separate us. We aren't even hinting that it is going to be easy. It is going to really tough. We hope that all of our family considers this part of their offering to the Lord.

We plan on having our families come and visit as often as possible. We hope to be connected via technology so they can video chat as often as they want to - I'm sure every day for a while at least! Once again this is tough so your prayer for all of us in this area is much appreciated.

11. Will you be wearing long denim jumpers and have long hair with bangs?
That is what a lot of people think of when they hear "missionary" so I thought I'd stop those thoughts now. No, we are not morphing into some homely little family. I'm sure my kids will be the only ones around wearing smocked stuff (at least for a while!). We plan on being who we are while respecting the local customs (this may mean long skirts however I will avoid denim jumpers at all cost). Just so we are all on the same page . . .

So there you have it - you know what we know. As the details begin to fall into place we will share them with you. We appreciate all of you who read this blog and love us and support us. We are truly depending on you as we start this journey. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our new nephew

We were so happy to meet our new nephew, Graham, yesterday! He is absoloutely precious and I savored every newborn snuggle moment I had with him. Here is Jo Jo with her 4 grandkids - Mac, Graham, Ford and Claire (2yrs, 2 weeks, 10 months and 2 1/2 years).

Here is the proud new mama with her boy . . .
And here are two of my favorites that I snapped of him while we were there . . .

Our visit was way too short! I know he will be a different baby the next time we see him (in just a few weeks!) because they grow so very fast! We are so thankful for him and can't wait to watch him grow up!

We got back late last night because we had to serve on the "Emergency Medical Response Team" at church. Don't ask me how we got involved in that (hint . . . we were asked!) because we - especially Rhett - are the medical types that generally wait to see who ELSE is going to volunteer before we do in those types of situations outside of the hosptial. So we felt kind of dorky and uncool being on the ER team but we were happy to serve if they needed us. I joked with Rhett before we left that I don't code adults so I would take the kid emergencies and he would handle the adults. We got our orientation quickly before the service - here's the walky-talky and ear piece, here are the specialy marked seats, here's the AED etc, etc. We were told we could mostly expects cuts and broken teeth in the nursery. What are the chances that anything bad would happen, right?

About 10 minutes into the service we see a ruckus down front and a crowd of people forming. Our Pastor asked for help and then asked everyone to stop and pray. I see the commotion and say "Rhett! That's us let's go!". We meet a team of ushers and various other good samaritans carrying an unconsious older gentleman up the aisle. I took one look at him and ran to get the AED (defibrillator). We got him out where we could work on him and at that point no one could find a pulse. The guy couldn't have had more medical care if he wanted it - there were was a surgeon, a few doctors, several nurses and even a nurse anesthetist. We would have been in business if we had any real equipment to work with! We went to work with a bloodpressure cuff and a stethescope and worked pretty well together as a team to help the poor guy. It turns out he had a seizure (although he had a significant cardiac history and was recovering from a stroke) and ended up doing OK and being sent off in an ambulance. So an exciting way to start our service on the ER team! I hope we don't have a black cloud over us!
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Prima Ballerina

You are in the doctor's office for the "big" ultrasound appointment to find out, first of all, the health of your baby and second what kind of plumbing they have. You anxiously await the verdict. Then she says "there it is - the equal sign - that means a GIRL!". Immediately you think pink. It's a girl. And then somewhere in the next few minutes of picturing your baby girl you imagine this day . . .

Our first day of ballet. A little girl in a pink tutu. Really - nothing cuter. Honestly, I don't even really like ballet that much. I'm totally fine never seeing the Nutcracker ever again. I agree it is quite pretty but I am kind of always waiting for the singing to begin. Even so, I guess I just consider preschool ballet a bit of a rite of passage so I was thrilled to go buy those precious little slippers and our first tutu and head out to the dance studio for the first time.
If one mini ballerina is adorable ten of them is almost too much! They all looked just darling. All of us moms gathered in the small observation room proudly watching our little ballerinas prance around. Ooos and ahhhhs abounded. But then it happened. I watched with concern as Claire's face filled with anxiety, skepticism and then tears. It appeared as though all the other little girls were veteran ballerinas at 2 1/2. They all knew the little dances and songs and happily turned in circles to the tune of the piano. Once the switch was pulled there was really nothing anyone could do . . . the tears started and she cried the whole time.
This was one unhappy ballerina. She kept looking at that one way mirror knowing that I was behind there somewhere and pleading with the most pitiful ballerina-face I've ever seen to make this whole experience stop. What is so funny is that Claire is NEVER "that" crying kid. She is almost always very happy to go wherever we drop her off or do whatever activity we have in mind. Not so much today. She would quiet down for a few brief moments the crank right up again for the entire 45 minute class. When all of the girls came running through the door when they were finished I said "Did you have fun at ballet" and she enthusiastically said "yes"! What? She's been singing the songs and pretending she is the ballet teacher all afternoon! We've discussed it and she said she won't cry at ballet next we so we will see. I'm not sure what part of the whole experience un-nerved her so I'm not too sure what to do to make it better. I guess we will just see what happens next week. It was sweet when we got to the car after class she looked up at me and said "I need a hug, Mommy". What a rough day for a 2 year old. I bet she did need a hug. So I gave her a big one and she held on a little longer than she usually does.
Not to leave out my other child I just had to snap this picture of him asleep in the car today. He was such good little brother - skipping his nap and going to ballet with his sister. It just wore him out. When I saw him asleep like this I thought how cute he looked I wanted to capture it. This is one of those everyday moments in our life that gets kind of skipped over but it's how I see my kids so much of every day. In the carseat, in the grocery cart, in the stroller. Not particularly "photographic" moments but still true life. These are the images that are burned in my mind and when I look back in 10 years and see this picture of him in his carseat I know it is going to flood me with memories of him as a baby.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First Day

Ford on his first day of Mother's Day out! What a big boy! Well, except that his bag is as big as he is!

Sweet Claire was SO excited about her first day of school today! She's starting to look like a little girl!
I was lined up with all of the other Moms trying to get pictures by the signs this morning. Claire decided to be super silly since she had an audience!
I am so excited about this amazing school that she is going to this year. It is just a wonderful, wonderful place. We are so thankful we are there (we should be - she's been on the waiting list since she was 7 weeks old -HA!). I know she is going to have a great year! I got a big hug and a kiss on the lips and she was off. I stood by the door for 10 minutes because I wanted to stay and watch her. My heart was warmed when she saw another little girl crying and went to get her a babydoll to hold so she would feel better. I can't wait to hear her version of what happened today . . .
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Monday, September 01, 2008

One of my most favorite places . . .

This is one of my most favorite places in all of the world. Isn't it gorgeous? I love when the water is all different shades of blue like this. Seriously, here is another view looking out . . .
Ahhhh. It's amazing. Any guess where it is? Hawaii? No. Barbados? Try again. Nevis? Nope. It is Haiti. I know not really the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Haiti, huh? More than likely it is images of poverty and suffering - which is completely accurate by the way. But here is a different side of Haiti a beautiful slice of paradise called Cormier Plage.

When I was in nursing school and for several years afterwards I made regular trips about every 3 months to Haiti to volunteer in an orphanage and medical clinic out reach. I can not even being to explain the impact that my time in Haiti has had on my life. When I first glanced down out of a window of an airplane and tried to absorb the destruction I saw where I was about to land (seriously, I thought that there must have been a recent storm that knocked down all of the buildings - turns out that was just the way it was) I had now idea what a special place Haiti would become to me.

I really wasn't planning on going into all the details about my experiences in Haiti but I seem to have started wondering down that road. Without making this the longest blog post in history filled with story after story I can just tell you that this is the place where I learned what the word "poverty" means. Not the American definition. The definition that all of those other people in the world have to deal with. It is basically living on the brink of death each day. Not knowing where each meal will come from or how long your babies will live. I learned what poverty like that looks like, feels like, smells like and even what it tastes like. I learned what it was like to hold a dying baby in my arms and wonder if each breath was going to be her last. I learned what it meant to truly love people of another color. I learned that I can't pull out my American passport and boss people around to get them to change their ways. I redefined my idea of retirement when I met an 80 year old woman running an orphanage for 100 kids. I met God as a God of the nations not as a God of just the USA.

You can see why this place is so special to me. It has really played a large part in defining who I am and has really shaped my faith and understanding of God. All of my pictures of my days in Haiti were way before digital cameras so they are tucked away nicely in photo albums. Maybe one day I'll scan some in to share. I have so many of the children, the patients and the people I met along the way. Some of the pictures are startling as you glimpse into that poverty I mentioned earlier. That's why I like these pictures. It's just the beauty and none of heartache and pain. Sometimes you just need to step back and be refreshed in the midst of all of that suffering. That's exactly what we would do on off days in Haiti. We would load up a truck or a tap-tap and take the very bumpy ride over the mountain to this lovely paradise. We would often take a bunch of the kids form the orphanage (sometimes ALL of the kids) and have a fun day at the beach. Nothing can compare to seeing a little child who has nothing and no one in the world playing in the sand in a beautiful beach resort that they could only otherwise dream of! We would just relax and walk up and down the beach and eat a delicious lunch. It was great and I have such wonderful memories there. I actually suggested it for our honeymoon but Rhett said no.

Haiti has been on my mind lately because our "plan" has always been to adopt from Haiti "one day". We found out a few years ago that we had to be 30 years old and married for 5 years in order to qualify to adopt from Haiti. Well a few weeks ago we attained both of those things and we both were a little sad that we weren't starting our adoption journey. Right now everything is just so up in the air. How do we tell an adoption agency that we'd like to adopt a child from one 3rd world country and take them to another? Oh and we won't have any income. But we've got lots of love : ) Unfortunately that doesn't quite cut it. So for now our plans are on hold but I've been thinking about it so much recently. I pray that God continues to take us down this path to our child one day.

One of the orphanage websites that I check frequently has a video section that Claire has become quite fond of. There is one video that lasts about 17 seconds of a bunch of kids in the orphanage swinging on the swing set singing a song. She has watched it approximately 100 times. Today we were filling out a "get to know you" questionaire for Claire's first day of preschool and one of the questions was "I can't wait to go to _______". I asked her where she couldn't wait to go and she quickly replied "Haiti". That's my girl!