March 26, 2014

They Gave Me the Boot

The irony of my day is probably what keeps me laughing.  I wrote my last post on Sunday, but those of you who get it in your email boxes didn't see it come out until Monday.  About the time you were reading the words "I think this I'm bored time is coming to an end," I was taking steps to ensure that it wouldn't.  Actually, just ONE step.

That step was on a piece of sidewalk that unevenly sloped down to another, rougher area, just the right way for my right ankle to roll and send me to the ground.  You may not be acquainted with Mr. Right Foot yet, as it's the good ole' Left Leg that gets all the attention here.  Mr. Right has been the handy, stable, superhero side, steadily growing more muscular over these past three years as it's picked up the slack for its not-so-stable partner.

We had just walked out of the office of a lady I was sure would rent us her open storefront for the youth center we're itching to get started, but she quite politely insisted that we should look elsewhere.  Part of the problem is that it's difficult to explain what this youth center is going to be.  I can tell anyone who's spent time in Europe or the U.S. that we're envisioning a sort of coffee house geared toward youth, and they get it.  But that venue doesn't exist here, and it is perceived more like a place for gangs to congregate or for drugs to be sold as loitering teens pass around a bottle of beer.

So, yeah.  I was feeling a little discouraged from the landlord's reaction and off my game.  I normally spend my walking moments looking at the ground beneath me, so much so that my neck hurts after even short walks and I've commented about how I'll break this habit once I can walk more stably and don't NEED to watch my every step.  The always-uneven sidewalk surfaces of Paraguay took advantage of my moment of distraction and planted a slight decline just under my right foot, knowing that the left knee would buckle instead of come to the rescue.  And buckle it did.  And down I went, in slow motion.
Okay. Okay. Paparazzi here is really just guys with cell
phones, but you get the idea.  When you fall in public,
THIS is what you imagine!

As soon as I gathered my pride and made sure no news cameras were around to catch that (aren't they always?), Ken reached down to scoop me up.  Not an easy task, as I've put on a bit of weight in these less-active few years.  Once I was up, I held onto Caroline (thank God she decided to come along!) while he ran for the car, which was only a few yards away.  It was facing the wrong way, though, and all the streets of our town are one-way, meaning Ken had to make a huge loop to get back to me.

I tried to balance myself, but the recently-operated-on, still-not-quite-100% left knee wasn't ready to take on all of my weight, and the right foot and ankle were throbbing from what I assumed was a sprain.  About the time I felt the knee couldn't take any more, I shifted a little more weight onto the sprained foot, and the world went black.  I had enough time to tell Caroline, "I'm passing out," but not enough to lower myself to the ground.  Again, thank God she was there.  She said I fell straight forward, where she happened to be standing.  She tried to catch my dead weight but ended up merely breaking my fall as I rolled over to the sidewalk on my side.

I laugh to imagine this scene--now that it's over--because Caroline said 4 people passed by us lying there without stopping to help.  I can only guess what went through their minds.  We've just come out of tourist season, when visitors from all parts piled into our little city, standing out in stark contrast to the look of a typical Paraguayan.  We were mistaken for tourists constantly during this time, as many of the visitors looked more like us.  You may remember my descriptions of the women here--skin-tight jeans or stretchy pants, sexy shirts, super-high heels, just-right makeup including those long, fake eyelashes and vibrant eyeshadow, and hair that just stepped out of a salon.  And you know me.  I was my typical self--camo cargo pants, a t-shirt, tennis shoes, and these kinda new dreadlocks.  So I'm sure Caroline looked like a sweet little girl trying to help the homeless lady whose eyes were rolled back in her head, surely because she was stoned or drunk or both.

Thankfully, a couple of men finally ran over and lifted me into a chair they brought from the empanada stand next door, where I assume they were eating.  One yelled at Caroline to go get me a bottle of water, but she was nervous to leave because I was still groggy and my purse with our bill-paying money was on the sidewalk beside me.  After he yelled his command again, she took off as fast as she could get the water and get back, and a few minutes later Ken pulled up.  Phwew!  What fun!

To make a long story a tiny bit shorter, a visit to the ER showed that I'd broken a bone in my foot during the (first) fall.  That caused the second fall.  Since the knee is still delicate and can't really make up for this foot that I'm told CANNOT touch the ground, I'm stuck in bed.  I'm not nearly as okay with it as last time, since I had some warning back then, whereas this came suddenly.  I had big plans for projects set to start this week and in April, and now they're on hold.  Postponed.  Again.

There is a bright side and a lot to be thankful for. Caroline kept me from what could have been a serious face plant in the concrete, and neither of us were hurt from the passing out episode.  I am not in a tremendous amount of pain--it's tolerable.  It's not the unbearable heat of mid-summer. The ankle joint seems to be intact. I was given the choice of a cast or a boot, and I went with the much-easier-to-manage boot.  My family has experience with me not being able to walk and knows just what to do.  And I have a list of projects from the last time around that I can complete on the computer now.  Yeah, let's just stick with the bright side.
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March 23, 2014

Just Killin' Time

I'm not good with down time.  Makes me feel bored and depressed and crabby and achy and on top of that, I just don't like it.  Thankfully, I don't get much.

In the first week or so of my post-surgery, sit-in-a-chair-with-the-leg-elevated-and-iced time, I planned the girls' homeschool year.  That was fun, but it didn't keep my busy long enough.  

I took a few classes online, brushed up on my English teaching skills, had a trillion conversations with God in my head and on paper, completed some Bible studies, made new family menus and shopping lists, and watched a few movies.  And found spots on the ceiling and let my friend put my hair in dreadlocks and ate too much and twisted the dreadlocks and painted my toenails and kept twisting the dreadlocks.

Then I found a post on facebook that mentioned the need for some computer design.  Turns out that Letra Paraguay, which is an organization dedicated to teaching literacy and translating the Bible into the language of indigenous people groups, was in the process of self-publishing a compilation of stories of Latin American women in missions. Its official title is Women in Mission: Real Stories of Latin-American Missionaries Passionate for the Kingdom of God.

The book will not only raise awareness of mission work, but also help raise funds for their ministry.  They posted a photo of what they had (see below) and asked for volunteers to design a cover using that information.  Just what the doctor ordered!

I got right to work and decided to use a picture of Camille, since she wouldn't charge me a fee to use her image.  ;)  And here's the final product to the right, before the organization's seal was placed on the front.  If you're interested in reading it--it's in Spanish, I must warn you--you can find it on Amazon.

And then I sent another email to another ministry that I've come to appreciate, called More to Be.  Their official tagline is Equipping Moms, Engaging Teens, Encouraging Mentors. Have I mentioned how much I love folks who put free resources online, whether they be sermons or songs or handouts or studies or classes or printable worksheets or whatever?  My email was to ask if any of the free resources they offered for mentoring teen girls were available in Spanish, but truth is, I knew they weren't.  After all, surely they'd mention that on the site, right?

So I bit the bullet and decided that with all the time I'd wasted trying to dig up nonexistent Spanish-language freebies on various websites, I could have been translating these things myself.  I actually did that for a whole book a few years back, which served us for several study groups designed specifically for teen girls.  Time to get the typing fingers back in motion.

I worked on a few documents and graphics then sent them to the leader of the ministry, so that she could keep them on file in case anyone else should contact her in my position.  Surely there are other English-speaking mentors out there who would love to be able to share this material with Spanish-speaking girls in their world, right?  Next thing I knew, we were chatting back and forth via email, and she asked if I'd consider coming on-board their team as a translator.  With the disclaimer that my Spanish is really "street slang" and fairly ghetto, I accepted and got to work.

Digging around for which documents I wanted to start with, I found a video about how to view those "single" years before marriage or even a serious relationship, through the lens of what God may be wanting to do in you.  I figured I might as well try my hand at adding subtitles, since this is information girls all over the world need to here.  You can watch the video in English with Spanish words floating around over here.  You can find the links to the resources I've gotten translated so far over at, as well as many other "still in English" freebies to help you minister to tweens and teen girls, a section specific to moms, and material for the girls themselves.

Now that school is in full-swing here at Casa Hagerman and at the schools where we teach, and this leg is getting strong enough to be up on it longer, I think this I'm bored time has come to an end. I'm thankful to have found some things to keep me occupied this go-around.
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March 14, 2014

New Developments at Prison

The latest numbers coming out for this year say there are 8,871 inmates in the 16 prisons across Paraguay.   According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 70% of them are awaiting trial.   They're hanging out while their paperwork shifts hands, or, exponentially worse, sits on a desk forgotten.  As you can imagine, this leads to a lot of confusion and frustration.

Sometimes when we go, we cross paths with other folks doing "religious visits," as they're called, in other wings.  A few nuns coming with bags of bread, a handful of older ladies in skirts carrying Bibles, a few men in ties going to the back where the adult men live.  We smile, greet each other, shake hands, pass cheek kisses, and go on our way.  But this week, we were all called together for a special meeting, where representatives from the capital shared ideas with us.
Tacumbu Prison in Asuncion, Paraguay.  Photo from ABC Color.
At the meeting, people doing what we do in different prisons came to present their ideas and tell a little about the programs being put into place across the country.  We formed a local committee and talked about how we can work together to make our local prison better, how we can minister to the needs of the people incarcerated here, not only spiritually, but also their physical, emotional, and social needs.  I had the opportunity to share about the program we are starting with the teen boys in April, using Bible-based material developed by a fellow missionary in Asuncion.  The focus is on preparing the boys for reintegrating themselves into society when they are released.

I've never gotten the chance to talk about that program, partly because, as I said, we just meet the other visitors as we pass in the hallway.  Everyone seemed interested and agreed that this sort of teaching is important.

Within five minutes of arriving back home, I got a message from the missionary who developed the workbook.  Before I read his note, I had to comment that it was so strange to hear from him when I'd JUST been talking about him and the program a few minutes before, for the first time outside of our little team.  He went on to explain that he'd like to come here to offer training on how to use the program.  Great timing!

Then today, we visited with the ladies in their wing.  Normally, we spend a few minutes praying, a few minutes in Bible study, a few minutes sharing.  Today we had much more time than normal and a couple of other missionaries taught the women how to do some crafts they can later sell.  This is important because they have to buy their food and their toiletries, as well as anything else they might need like clothes or shoes, and medical care.  You know that crafty stuff is not my cup of tea, so I just hung out talking with the gals who were also standing back watching.  After a few minutes, two of them invited me and my teammate to go back to their cell to talk.  What a wonderful time we had getting to know them and talking about life, their families, God, prison... whatever came up.  It's very rare that we have the chance to really stop and spend one-on-one time like that.

During the course of our time with them, they mentioned that they'd been transferred here recently from a larger prison, where they were working.  It seems the other place had some sewing machines set up and a few contracts with outside companies.  The ladies made beautiful linens and purses, sold them to these businesses, who, in turn, sold them to the public.  We talked to them about the possibility of getting something like that going here.

In our local prison, there is no work program or even a daily schedule.  I don't have to tell you the dangers of an idle mind.  Of being cooped up with the same people day after day in a tiny space with nothing to do.  Of having nothing to take your mind off the children or parents who are waiting for you outside.  And keep in mind that 7 out of 10 of these people haven't been convicted of anything yet.  They're just waiting for their day in court. Sure, many of them are guilty, but with percentages that high, it stands to reason that there are innocent people living here, too.

Back to the sewing ladies who want to keep working.  When we met with the group earlier this week, one of the things they explained was that the government is taking interest in bettering the conditions inside the prisons, as the UN was pretty unhappy with some of our human rights infringements.  So now is the time to ask for grants, to try to get equipment, to take advantage of the political interest in prisons.

Is it coincidence that within a few days, we had our first opportunity to create interest in the reintegration Bible study, the creator of the program wants to come train us to use it, we find out about the availability of work programs, and we meet new ladies who have experience and desire to run such a program?  Nah, I don't think so.  I think God is answering prayers and has plans for these people that society has forgotten.
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March 10, 2014

Would The Real You Please Stand Up?

You want to put that needle WHERE?

That was my first reaction when I saw how long that thing was, and then I wondered how thick the gel really could be inside the tiny container on top of it.  

I know, I know.  You’re tired of hearing about this leg.  Humor me a bit while I share with you what God taught me using this ole’ thing.  I declare, I've had more spiritual rehab following the wreck than physical rehab.

Since the surgery last month, I've been making the trek to Asuncion about once a week for injections of some sort of thick goo that is supposed to encourage the cartilage inside my knee to regenerate.  The shot’s no fun, nor is the soreness afterward, but the worst of it is the trip to and from the doctor’s office.  Because this is a pretty delicate procedure, we decided it was best to stick with the doctor we most trust, the one we feel is very capable of pulling it off.  That means a long day that includes anywhere from a five- to eight-hour bus ride each way, which has given me a lot of opportunities to catch up on recorded sermons and audiobooks and a whole lot of time to think. 

I’ve also found myself answering a lot of “Oh, really?” responses when I explain that I had another surgery.  To see me trekking about town, you wouldn’t  have known I needed it.  About six months ago or so, I mastered the art of controlling my limp, and on a good day, when the humidity level is low and I’m actively concentrating, you wouldn’t even be able to see it.  I’d gotten pretty good at walking long distances and could even keep up with the fast walkers in the crowd.  Yep, I’d gotten quite adept at hiding the pain and creaking noises going on inside there.  And since I don’t tend to wear pants above my knees these days, the scars were quite hidden and most folks forgot I’d ever even had an accident.
Until I needed to climb stairs.  Put me under that sort of stress, and I crumple.  I take the stairs like a toddler, pulling myself up by the rail and putting both feet on the same step before moving up.

Until I needed to run.  My leg’s just fine straight out, or even with a slight bend.  But bend it enough to run or even jog, and it couldn’t support my weight.  The muscle strength just wasn’t there, and the problems within the joint wouldn’t let me build the muscles to reach that point. 

Someone called me fake the other day, which really irked me.  They said there was no way I could be so positive about all this junk, no way I could remain upbeat with the stresses I’ve gone through.  I kept my cool (fake of me?) even though I wanted to punch my accuser. 

I really hope that in terms of this leg and my attitude, I’m not faking anything.  I hope that what I portray is what I am deep inside.  But the truth is, I could easily fake you out if I wanted to.  Can’t we all, for a time at least?

I could walk this walk fast enough to keep up with the best of ‘em.  I could talk the talk and come across as someone who’s got it all together—well, if you don’t count my Southern slang, I reckon.  I could cover my scars and carefully avoid the things that would bring out my weaknesses.  After all, I grew up in this Christian thing.  I know all the right words and all the cool moves.

But one day I’ll have to climb higher.  One day I’ll have to run.  

And when I put myself under those conditions, the real me will come out. 

I wrestled with whether to have this last surgery. After all, shouldn't “good enough” be enough?  Should I have just been satisfied knowing I didn’t have to use a cane anymore, and that I could control the limp if I worked at it?   Shouldn’t I be happy that I’d at least gotten that far, and just leave well enough alone?

Shouldn’t we be satisfied that we can put on the happy face and at least hold it together when folks are looking?  Shouldn’t we just be glad we’re not “as bad as she is” or “as obviously messed up” as that next guy? 

If I’d left the knee as it was, it would have gotten progressively worse, and one day, I’d be walking (or not) with a lot more pain.  I may have ended up back on the cane, and I certainly wouldn’t be achieving my goal of running again. 

If we leave our inner hurts and sins alone, they will get progressively worse, and one day, we’ll be carrying even more pain.  You may end up debilitated, and you certainly won’t be achieving the goal of running the race with endurance.

So, yeah, it’s a painful to go through the process of having bad stuff removed from deep inside.  It’s work to fill the space that remains with things that will cause positive stuff to grow.  It’s no fun to travel the road and spend the time necessary to get to the help.   

But in the end, do I really want to be fully healed, or do I just want to be perfect my ability to fake it?
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…. Hebrews 12:1-2

Ever find yourself covering up what's going on inside instead of fixing it?  How do you avoid faking it? 
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March 4, 2014

Folks With Sin, by Mission Ken

In honor of Dr. Seuss's 100th birthday, I am reposting my husband's missionary version of the beloved book, Green Eggs and Ham.  A look into what some of us may be thinking, were we to really say it out loud, and a challenge to look at folks through a different lens.  If you'd rather hear Ken read this to you, in true bedtime-story fashion, then click over to the original page.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight..." Philippians 1:9

I am Ken, Mission Ken.                                      
Mission Ken.  Mission Ken!
He is my friend that Mission Ken.
Do you like the folks with sin?
I do not like them, Mission Ken.
I do not like the folks with sin.
Would you like them here or there?
I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like the folks with sin.
I do not like them, Mission Ken.
Why don’t you like the folks with sin?            
Why don’t I like them? asks my friend.
The folks with sin, they sit in bars.
They drink their drinks, they drown their scars.
They cut their arms and hide their shame.
To be with them would soil my fame.
To talk to those who sit in bars,
My friends will think I’ve gone too far.
Would you bring them to your house?
To eat a meal and meet your spouse?
Not for a meal. Not in my house.
The risks are real for my spouse.
I would not meet them in a bar.
I would not bandage up their scars.
I would not risk the folks with sin.
I do not like them, Mission Ken.
Would you? Could you… meet their need?
Give them hope, help them be freed.
I would not, could not. They’re such a drain.
Always a bore and steeped in pain.
You may like them. Try, you’ll see.
You may like them.  Come with me?
I would not, could not go with you.
I have a life and stuff to do.
I do not like to see their pain.
I do not waste my time in vain.
I do not want them in my house.
I do not want them near my spouse.
I do not want friends of this sort.
I do not like to go to court.
I have a life and stuff to do.
I don’t have time to go with you.
A bench! A bench! A bench! A bench!
Would you meet one on a bench?
Not on a bench to make a scene!
To smell their stench of nicotine!
I would not, could not make a show.
Not in a place my friends would go.
I will not go and smell their stink.
What would all my church friends think?
I cannot ease their life of woe.
I am not God, just human so
I do not like the folks with sin.
I do not like them, Mission Ken.
Say! In the dark? Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?
I would not, could not, in the dark.
Nor on a bench in a public park.
Would you, could you, in the rain?
I would not, could not in the rain.
Nor the musty hollow of a drain.
Not in a box beneath a bridge.
Not chains that lock at Prison Ridge.
Not in a bar, a park or club.
Not in my house, a car or pub.
I think to waste my precious time
on folks with sin would be a crime.
I do not like this lowly fare.
I do not like them anywhere.
Could you help them stay afloat?
Some of their burdens you could tote.
Those burdens are their own to reap.
They are the goats!  I am a sheep.
I can’t do what you talk about,
for in my church I have some clout.
The pastor there has given me
pats on the back and my own key.
If I wish to be on staff,
I can’t be seen with such riff-raff.
What would Jesus think today
if He saw you choose this path, this way?
Ignoring all the cries, would HE
condone your lazy apathy?
Jesus was a righteous lot,
A man whom sin would never spot.
He was without a blemish, Ken.
He was not like the folks with sin.
But Jesus loves the folks with sin.
He came to make them like His kin.
He came to meet their every need,
Die on a cross so they’d be freed.
When Jesus sees the folks with sin,
Nothing differs in you and them.
We all have sin, we all fall short.
Our hearts are black, we’re all the sort.
He came to cleanse us from this state
So that we would not medicate
Or drown or hide or cover or binge
Or be depressed or seek revenge
We’re not the same the two of us.
I do not drink or smoke or cuss.
I do not steal for my addiction.
I do not rage from this affliction.
Your sins are varied, it’s to be sure.
You think your life is wholly pure.
But gluttony, gossip and closet porn
are in your life. Your family’s torn.
Your hidden scheme, your hidden affair
Pull at your seams, fill you with care.
Look up, let go, let Jesus win.
He’ll free your soul. He’ll take your sin.
He’ll cut the chains that tie you down.
He’ll end the pain that makes you frown
Jesus Christ,
Righteous One
You truly are
God, The Son.
Make me whole.
Wash my heart.
Here’s my soul.
Let me restart.
You can! You will! he says with a grin.
I’ll take your heart. I’ll take your sin.

I’ll take this chance, tell you my plan.
Carry my tale wherever you can.

You’ve given your life and heart to me, Sam.
The people will see you just as I am.

Look in the mirror and see where you’ve been.
You’ll recognize YOU’RE the folks with the sin.
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February 18, 2014

...And Forget Not

I debated about writing a post today, on this third anniversary of my accident.  I debated about even using that word--how many things are accidents, anyway?  I've been debating all sorts of things since the day it happened.

Was it my fault because I didn't stop to pick up bread when I had the feeling I should?

Should I have taken all the trouble I'd been having that week as a sign to stop going to class, instead of thinking it was just some adventure to face or hardship to push through?

Was God trying to teach me some giant lesson or did this guy just happen to be driving way too fast and lose control of his truck?

Why this?

Why that?

And on and on, enough to drive a girl batty.

Those questions and the details of that day, which have ceased to give me nightmares but still send a chill up my spine, keep me from sharing often, and keep me from wanting to write today. I also despise a victim mentality, when a person becomes defined by some tragic event they've been through.  I fight becoming that person. I remember the words of Psalm 103:2,
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits"
 How can I not take the opportunity to thank God for giving me another chance at life, for waking me up when I would have never known the difference, for protecting me and providing for me in so many ways, for teaching me all the things I've come to understand in this long process of healing?

I'd love to tell you I've come out of this some renewed, enlightened person who runs marathons and jumps whenever the urge hits.  Soon.  For now, I can only say that I empathize with handicapped people, that I have forgiven the man who hit me and is still suing us, and that I have a greater understanding of what it means to lean on the Lord.  And that my children are much better cooks than when this happened.  ;)

For the rest of the details, I'll let you click away.

Surgery #1
Wheelchair Fun
Surgery #2
Surgery #3
Surgery #4

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

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February 11, 2014

A Few Miracles in the Land of Surgery

I'm typing this just 14 hours after my latest surgery, the fourth in a series following the accident that took place three years ago and shattered my femur.  This time, the focus was on repairing the inside of the knee, which, after getting the leg bones all lined back up, just wasn't doing the job it should have been.  Turns out there was a bit of damage hiding inside the knee, masked for a while by the other complications.

We weren't looking forward to this because several things made preparation difficult.  Well, who really looks forward to surgery, anyway, right?  Except this one seemed like it may be the one to get me back to as close to 100% as possible--back to jogging, to walking up and down stairs like a normal person, to going through a normal day's worth of walking without having to prop the leg up and "deal with it" by afternoon.  So in a way, I was looking forward to it.

Then the a/c in our car died.  That was a must-fix before making the trip, which took us a bit over 6 hours getting here, all in well-over 100 degree heat.  Yep, gotta have a/c.

Then I ran over something and we had to buy a new tire, as I mentioned in that last post.

Then I found out insurance didn't want to cover this surgery.  Their words?  "We have to keep our expenses down.  We can't just pay for every surgery that comes along."  I asked why they chose a very specific type of knee surgery and left all others out.  "Well, like we said, to keep our costs down."  So you randomly picked THIS one, then?  Yes, they told me.  I was a bit frustrated.  I called the surgeon, and he said there was no way he could call the surgery a meniscus repair--the random one the insurance DOES cover--because in his professional opinion, it didn't behave like that.  So we made the decision to go ahead with surgery anyway.

The doctor said I'd stay overnight in the hospital, then a few days in town, then see him one more time before leaving for the weekend. If I was lucky, I'd get in just in time to change clothes and get to my Friday afternoon class, which I really couldn't miss this time.

Because it's high tourist season (vacation + the huge festival of Carnaval in our town), it wasn't safe to leave our apartment unattended, nor could we find someone free to take care of our dog for those days we'd need to be gone.  In the end, we reluctantly made the difficult decision to leave Camille there in our apartment with a couple of older gals from church, a deadbolt lock, and some pretty firm instructions, so that they could babysit the place and the dog. Not easy for this self-proclaimed over-protective mom to do, even if Camille just turned 17.

So the car got out of the shop the day before we left for our big trip, and the mission guest house that was full got an opening just in time for us to stay here.  That saved us a fortune and put us in a safe, walled complex full of other missionaries, which meant that Caroline was able to spend the day there rather than accompany us to the hospital just before 5 AM.

I went for my pretests and found a way to also have a lot of other tests (those that folks at my age should be doing yearly anyway but never quite get done) all the same day.  It was quite the tour of exam rooms, needles, and specialized medical equipment, but it felt great to knock those things of my to-do list.

Getting wheeled to the OR in the wee hours
Then came time for the surgery, and I actually stayed awake for most of it--dozing in and out from how great it felt to have half of my body numbed and not be in pain for a change.  And I was awake when the doctor looked up over that sheet that blocks the view of the surgery, and said, "Guess what?  Your meniscus DOES have a tear or two.  Looks like insurance will be paying for this after all!"  It was hard to do much celebrating with my arms strapped to the table, but I threw out some praises anyway!  WOO HOO!

After a couple hours of napping back in the room, the doctor came by to tell me that the type of repairs he did meant that I can put as much weight on my leg as I can tolerate.  I was already planning on dangling that thing in the air for a month or so, and came prepped with crutches.  Now I only use them when I need, which is a HUGE relief to everyone in the family!  WOO HOO again!

Since I got right up and walked around the room a bit after lunch, the doctor said I was doing well enough to leave.  So rather than spend the night in the hospital, I came back to the guest house, where Caroline was waiting for us.  The doctor said I'd need to come back (giant hassle) next week to get the stitches out, but I told him I'd take those out myself, since I'd done that for the previous three surgeries without any problem.  "Okay," he conceded, "but in two weeks you have to come back for an injection, and it goes in the joint, so I have to do that one!"  Deal.

Tomorrow I head back to our Paraguayan home and to our very responsible but worried over daughter, days earlier than expected and with a whole lot more time to rest up before class Friday.  WOO HOO all over again!

To say that I'm thrilled with how this has turned out is a huge understatement, but I know that there are people all over the world praying for me.  Thank you all for your thoughtfulness in taking our needs to the Father, and please rejoice with us for the extra special ways He's met those needs today.
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February 10, 2014

Whirlwind Ministry Tour

A group of young adults recently visited for two weeks, part of an international ministry that offers a week of intensive, practical ministry training then sends them to various places where they can put what they've learned into practice.  We were thrilled that a team was sent to us.  

We went on a community ministry tour, participating in and visiting various projects and churches to give them an idea of what happens here, and also to get a new perspective on how we can improve.  It's always refreshing to hang out with young people who have accepted the call to serve where they live.  Some of them came from far away, such as the twenty-something gal on exchange from Germany, but most are Paraguayans who want to change the spiritual climate of their country from the inside out.

We visited our pals at Che RĂ³ga, and the team did a sort of VBS while we spent time with the director and other leaders there.  One of the young men, who is now technically grown but still lives at the Home because "it's my family, after all," changed my flat tire.  

Apparently I ran over something on the way there, and it was quite the challenge to get our four-wheel drive Mission Mobile jacked up enough to change it, but I was ever so thankful it happened there and not on the road in the middle of nowhere.

We spent one morning at a beach just outside of town, where a couple of men began a huge sports ministry a little while back.  With support from the city and a few private businessmen, they bus in at-risk kids from surrounding neighborhoods, and train them in either beach volleyball or soccer.  During these two mornings per week, the kids are learning discipline, self-esteem, and physical exercise.  After their training time, they all sit around in a circle to talk about life.  We met with the national-level athletes who have committed a year of their time to come train these children and teens, for only a tiny bit of pay.  They admitted that the kids often have spiritual and practical questions that go deeper than what they feel capable of answering, and they asked for help.  We are currently talking with a few other people to see how we might support these coaches and kids spiritually.

The team went with me Friday to the prison, where the fellas went with a pastor over to the men's pavilions, and the gals followed me up to see the ladies.  Then we got together and met with the teens.  Since most of the members of this team were only a few years older than the young inmates, the meeting in this part of the prison had a natural sort of flow.  Several members of the team shared their personal testimonies, which prompted the boys to open up a bit.  Within no time, there were connections that ended with prayer.  

Other visits included the soup kitchen and school just outside of town, our local government-run hospital, several churches and parachurch meetings, evangelism at the beach, and another children's home.  The two weeks the team spent in our neck of the woods were a whirlwind tour--exhausting but refreshing at the same time.  We're very thankful for the workers God is continuing to send into the harvest.
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January 27, 2014

Meeting the President of the World

I love old people.  Really.  I do.  I'm sure there's  a more politically correct way to say that--I love persons with age-challenges or I am fond of those who have the wisdom of many years.  Whatever.  I just love old people.  Of course, I also adore teenagers, so I guess it's those in-between years that I'm not sure what to do with.  But that's another story....

Saturday morning, my English class finished their test and then walked a few blocks to catch a bus, walk a bit more, then visit the local retirement home.  I've only seen a handful of these places in this whole country because the next generation generally remains with family.  It's actually quite lovely to see the respect given to older people here.  This visit was no exception.

Paraguayans have a tendency to give formal speeches.  In just about whatever situation--birthday party, family dinner, before a test, you name it--someone rises up and waxes eloquent about the responsibilities of every citizen, the level of respect they feel for those present, and the importance of the current situation. When we began to plan the visit to the old folks' home, these little speeches began.  I grinned (inwardly) but also beamed with pride every time they reminded each other that they, too, would one day be this age, God willing.  I was giddy when, of their own volition, they gathered supplies to take as donations.  I was beside myself when, instead of whining and complaining about having to walk uphill such a long way to get there, in rainy weather, they joked and sang. 

A couple of kids brought guitars and they sang, performed traditional Paraguayan dances, sat with the residents, held their hands, hugged them, listened to their stories.  When the man whose cane was covered in shiny things (because it was actually a royal staff, of course) told how he owned the entire country of Argentina and was the president of the whole world, no one snickered.  They oohed and aahed at the right moments and gave this gentleman all the respect he'd earned for his years.  I'd prepared to tell them things like, "Don't make faces about the smell," or "Nod your head even if what she's saying doesn't make sense," but I found it wasn't at all necessary.  The last song we sang to them said,

God is here right now
As certain as the air I breathe surrounds me
As certain as I know the sun, will rise in the morn'
As certain as I know he hears me when I call

On the walk back, they were all smiles.  "Did you see how she sang along?  Wasn't he the cutest thing?  I think they were happy to see us!  When can we go back?"

And I was encouraged again in our work with young people.  I was encouraged to know how eager they are to make a difference.  I was encouraged that with just a bit of direction, they are jumping at the chance to do something positive.  I was encouraged that they recognize God and the part He plays in all our lives.  
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January 19, 2014

What Might Your Dreams Mean?

I typically write and post reviews of books I've read within a couple of days of turning that last page.  I finished this book four months ago.  Every time I purposed to put my thoughts down, the time just didn't seem right.   No, this one needed to stew a bit over the heat of real life experiences. Not the kind authors use to support their theories, but my own experiences.

I should warn you that we are a dreaming sort.  My mom, her mom, and who knows how many women before them have regularly dreamed things before or even while they happen.  We remember our very vivid dreams and often have a clear idea of what they mean, if not immediately, then soon thereafter.  We're not spooky people, nor are we superstitious.  This dreaming thing is just something that's always been there, so we don't think much of it.

Just this past week, I've had two experiences with dreams.  I dreamed a family member was afraid, and she explained why in great detail.  Despite the scary things happening around us in the dream, I took her by the arm and led her outside, telling her that she couldn't hide out inside because God had things for her to do outside.  When I awoke, I called to tell her about the dream.  It turns out that God was speaking directly to her about her current situation, and I was privileged to be part of relaying that message.

The next day, I was contacted by a woman far away who had dreamed of Paraguay, then asked around until she found someone who knew of missionaries living here.  After getting our names, she sent me a message to tell me about her dream.  It was clear that her dream represented our situation here,  I shared with her, and she was assured that God wanted her to partner with us in prayer for the work in Paraguay.

So while I tend to shy away from certain things that get labeled as revelation or God's voice, I can't help but believe that God does use dreams to speak to us. 

I was especially interested in reading this when I heard about the author, Cindy McGill, and her ministry of dream interpretation.  I'll let her tell you about it:
I've had the privilege to interpret thousands of dreams at events in the United States and abroad, including the Olympics, the Sundance Film Festival, Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, other expos and festivals, or just one-on-one with people I meet day to day. I've also enjoyed appearing on various media, including radio and TV, teaching on dreams and interpreting the dreams of others. I'm a keynote speaker and have also authored numerous articles for magazines and online media outlets.

In 2011, my team and I were featured in
Dreams, A Documentary, which chronicles live dream interpretation encounters that took place at the Sundance Film Festival at Park City, Utah, and won awards at various independent film festivals around the world.

When I picked up this book, I expected to read of people like us.  I expected some stories of their dreams and maybe even some, like my grandmother, who have had what I'd consider the next level--visions while awake.  Instead, I found a guidebook, a manual of sorts that walks the average person through dream interpretation.

Included are very practical chapters that untangle the mysteries of dreams by explaining things such as the various types of dreams, how to determine the source, and what to do with the message.  Common themes are analyzed, and an appendix includes symbols that may appear regularly. 

Plenty of scriptural and modern examples help you hone your skills at interpretation, and a dream journal at the end gives you direction in what parts of the dream might point you toward a certain message.  For those who don't think they dream or those who only wake with vague remembrances, a whole chapter is dedicated to helping you reawaken your dreams. 

Not only is this book interesting in the theory it presents, but it is extremely useful as a handbook to dream interpretation.  I've kept it close since I began reading it and imagine it will continue to be a great reference.  Special thanks to Chosen Books for sending me a copy for review.

You can pick up an ebook copy here or click the names to read more about the authors (Cindy McGill with David Sluka).

What do you think about dream interpretation?  Got any experiences you wanna share?

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