Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tribute To My Dear Friend

If you've seen any of my past posts, many of them involve the exceptional man with whom I work at the Clinic.  Pastor Bori is his name, and over my years of ministry in the Makalondi area, I came to love this man and his family like they are my own family!

Pastor and I have stratagized together over our health goals, I trained him in biology, diseases and treatments, we've treated patients together, we've shared God's Word together, prayed together and shared daily life together.  His kids became "my kids" and his wife became a good friend.  It was especially a joy and relaxation to sit and "chill out" together in his compound after a day of work while his little girls lounged all over their daddy.

I have had so much respect for Pastor, a man of integrity and Godliness, who put his family right after his relationship with Jesus and his patients after that. I really felt so blessed to be in ministry with him.  In exchange for my medical training, he was my mentor in culture and language and often would clue me in to when prayer was called for instead of medicine. We were a team that only God could have arranged.

He did his job at the clinic, seeing patients and treating them, because he loved them. He never asked for a salary (though I saw to it that he did receive pay for his work).  I admired and respected Pastor.

Another thing that touched me was his love for his daughters.  He has 9 of them....and 1 son.  In a culture that puts importance on sons, Pastor always dreamed the same things for his girls that he did for his son, David: education, a ministry profession, and Godly spouses. Mostly he wanted his children to follow Christ whole-heartedly!  Every morning and evening he would lead his family in a time of worship, reading God's Word and praying together.

I remember the loving care he gave his daughter, Yumanli, in the hospital after she was badly burned, taking over the daily nursing care himself.  He did this for months until he could bring her home.  I remember his gentle care of his baby twin, Esther, after she was born with Spina Bifida, going to great lengths to get the proper treatment for her.  What a loving husband and father he was!

This past Thursday Pastor was in a motorcycle accident...he hit a dog while driving home from Makalondi through the bush and was thrown forward, landing hard on his head.  Though his body was hardly touched, he had severe head trauma and he was quickly transported from the clinic in Makalondi to the National Hospital in Niamey.  There, with minimal care, and treatment that came rather late, he deteriorated over the weekend.  Our friend, Lisa, and our son, Joe, called in a respected neurologist, but by the time he saw him, the bleeding and bruising in the brain had gone too far.
Last night, pastor succumbed to his injuries and left his earthly body and entered heaven.

We had been praying since the accident, for a miracle of healing.  Pastor's wife hadn't been able to leave her little girls to come in to the city to be with her husband.  His son, David, who had been in medical school at the university in Niamey, had left only 2 months ago on a scholarship, to finish his medical studies in Havana, Cuba.  David couldn't come to be with his father or mother.  His sisters couldn't come either.

Yesterday I had to write and let David know how serious the situation was, because being a medical student, he wanted to know the truth.  When he replied to my letter, his message broke me up.  Tears ran freely as I realized that Pastor's son had become like his Dad...the highest compliment.

Good morning mama.
I have just riden all of your mesages.

Thank you for being clear with me about all of that. I don't really

have word to say, the only think i can say is that everything in our
live should be for the glory of the Lord.  He is the one who
created us, and know what is the best for us.  If my Dad has to
leave  this  world, it will be  for  the glory of  Jesus, i can´t even
think about that  and  what  will follow  after if  that  happened, but 
yes  i will know  that  my God  and  his  God  is  the one  who called
him, and  He  is  the one  who will take  care of  the  rest  of  this 
The  first  day i got  the new about  his accident, i didnt  get  TO
sleep, cause  i was  just  thinking about all of that, but  i 
remembered of  Mathtw6.27 and verst 34.

And then i stoped imaginating about all of that. God is the one who
give and take away, so it will be glory to his name.  My dad has been
the perfect example for me that i can't say much (more) than that.
I will like to go home and see them and even stay with them, but i know his
one wish has always been for me  and  all of  my sisters  to study and  be
the best of  the best and let God name be glorified of what He can do, 
and  to  console him because  he  hasnt  got  this  chance  to study, i
know that i just  have  to fulfill this will for him, what
ever  it  arrived , alive  or  with Jesus i have  to do that  for  His
memory. And praying for the  other sisters  to get to study also cause
this is His  wish for us,
and i know that God  will do and is doing that for Him  by his grace.i
will, iam on my way for that and i beleive  that  it  will came soon ,
just  need  time.and the time is  in the hands of  Jesus.

I'm praying hard that God will let him see the fruit of what 
he has been fighting for us all of his life here. This is what i will
appreciate to see and it is my one and deep wish. But God is the one
who created him. Let  Him do what  He sees good  for  Him.

I'm so sad for mama and sisters about what they are also living these
days... but I'm just praying  for  them.  Thats  all i can do.
And  praying  that God  will do a miracle for us once  more like He
always did  for us  in every pain we got  before.  I know papa is  the
physical hope  of  this family.  If  He goes, they will be like  lost.
Please pray for that also.

I just sometime remember the story of Job and I think that papa
is the "Job" of this century I knew.  So I won't lose hope. 
Arms open wide, at Him we cry.  May He let
his  name Get GLORY, whatever He will do in this  situation. AMEN!

Thank you Mama for informing me clearly because I have been thinking also
about why no one want to tell me the reality of the situation.  Thank you.

LOVE YOU TOO, big hug  to you and  Dad  there.


As I cry and mourn, I look at David's strength in grief and I am encourage to see that Pastor's character and faith are alive and lived out in his son.  That brings me such joy!  And once again I am reminded of how worthy God is of our praise in even the difficult times and in our suffering!  Like David said, may God be glorified in pastor's death, even as He was in his life!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Now: Divine Appointments

One of the neat things about going thru the experience of cancer, is that you go to new levels in your relationship with God.  So many of the truths I grew up with have become so personal and verified. I've felt His presence in familiar and new ways…and a deepening of my dependence on Him for my very life.

I've also seen that just because I'm side-lined for awhile from my "normal life" and I think that I am not really productive during this, God still has plans for me and "steps" each day that He asks me to take.

One particular joy has been a new friend that He arranged for me to meet…in the elevator…at the Cancer Clinic.  It was a Divine Appointment for me and for her.  She has become a "sister" in our flight against our cancers.  I'll call her Alli. 

                                     This is Alli with her 12 year old son behind her...

                               and her 7 month old baby boy...
Alli is 39, with beautiful red hair and a killer smile and personality! She has a loving husband and 3 children - the youngest was born just after she found out that she has colon and liver cancer.  Now the baby is 7 mos. old.  She's had more chemo treatments than I can count and in spite of so many of them, she was seeing little results.  To say that she was discouraged and often depressed is an understatement.  Over the past 5 mos. of our friendship, God has allowed me to be her "support group" and to encourage her emotionally and spiritually.  We've mostly kept our connection via texts because we live in two different towns and have to travel to the city where we receive our medical care.  We've seen each other only a few times.

Meanwhile, I've been praying a lot for her and she has done the same for me.  Alli had recently begun running back to Jesus. We've been learning trust God on a whole new level!  

A few weeks ago I texted Alli to check in with her.  I hadn't heard from her in a while.  She responded that she had had an appointment with her Oncologist and her latest scan showed that she had responded so much better to the treatment.  Enough that she might be eligible for some surgeries.  This was her best hope because without them, the doctor gave her about 24 mos.  I know that Alli's biggest wish is to see her children know and remember her, especially her baby.
She explained all that she would have to go through in order to remove the tumor in her colon (and then have a colostomy) and to remove the left lobe of her liver (the largest lobe).  That could only happen if there were no other polyps in the colon so she was scheduled for a colonoscopy.
The day before the colonoscopy, Gary and I were in that treatment city and after an appointment of mine we met a friend at a restaurant (Longhorn's! yum!).  As we were leaving, I glanced to my left, and in a back booth, I spotted a baby carrier and someone who really resembled Alli… 
I walked back there, and just grabbed her by surprise and we hugged and laughed... 

Talk about a Divine Appointment!!!

Out of all the restaurants in that city, we were at the same one!    She had some family members with her, so it was good to meet them as well.  After a short, but sweet, visit, we parted ways again, committed again to supporting each other and praying!

We were praying all day of Alli's colonoscopy.  
Finally I received word - no other tumors!…AND the tumor in the colon could be removed without requiring that she now live with a colostomy bag!  Not only that, the latest scan showed that the right side of her liver was much larger than normal…she had been born that way!  As we praised God for the good news, we were amazed by the knowledge that way back when she was formed, God had already placed an overly large right- lobed liver in her, knowing she would one day need that lobe for her life! 

I've been surprised and blessed by the appointments that God has arranged for me here in this journey!  I've met some wonderful people that I wouldn't have met otherwise…and have the privilege of praying for others whom I may never meet.  God has a purpose for my time here as well, and I love seeing what each day will bring. 

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." Eph. 3:20

Monday, October 12, 2015

One Year Later... Then and Now

For the past year I haven't posted on my blog, and though I'm sometimes slow in posting, it wasn't just a case of "not getting around to writing a post". 

On this weekend last year, my life turned upside down!

It was the weekend of the annual Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball (called NUTS for short), in which softball teams from Niger and surrounding countries will spend the weekend playing ball for the title of "Champions".  Gary and I were in Makalondi, and because we enjoy the event and because our son, Joe, had a team competing in the tournament, we decided to drive in to the city for the weekend of games.  It was Friday morning.

Before leaving home, I decided to shower to freshen up from working in the heat.  As I dried off with my towel, I felt something strange on the side of my right breast. 
I went over it again.  Yep, there was a knot, and it was pretty noticeable. 
Panic hit me as I felt again and again.  There was no denying it; there was a sizable lump there. 
I asked Gary to come and feel it. He felt it too. 
Panic rose to Extreme panic as I began to think over my options….

The whole ride into the city was spent thinking over what I'd just discovered and praying that God would help me to remain calm.
                                          "Papa" playing with Oliver at the Softball games

The weekend was spent watching softball games, visiting with friends, and praying for peace.  I talked to a good friend, a doctor, and he helped me come up with first steps.

Monday morning early, I went to a local clinic and had a mammogram done.  The technician was excellent and the equipment would rival that in most U.S. hospitals.  Then it was the waiting until I could pick up the results the next day…

Gary and I talked, but not too much, about what was happening. In some ways, to not talk about it seemed that it would help to keep it away.  One doctor friend had reminded me that a high percentage of lumps are benign, so I repeated that to myself.

I kept thinking about the patients I had seen at my clinic that I had feared had malignant tumors.  I would refer them to a doctor friend in Niamey for further tests and then treatment.  I wasn't very involved beyond the referral… I really didn't know what all would happen after a biopsy was done.

When we got the results of the mammogram back, it was stamped with the word: Normal.
At first that was comforting, but as I thought about it more, I just couldn't believe that the sizable lump was "normal".  I just felt that I needed to have it checked out further.

I contacted one of our doctors at our mission hospital further east in the country, and asked if I could come and have a consult and exam with he and our OB/GYN. I requested an ultrasound.  He agreed and Gary and I made arrangements for me to fly out on our mission air service, SIM Air, to Galmi Hospital. 

I'm so thankful for the compassionate, dedicated staff at our hospital! They were so kind and on their lunch break, after a Very Busy morning of work, the 2 doctors graciously did an ultrasound and exam. Both revealed that there was indeed "something" there…including a "knotty" lymph node.  We talked, and they suggested that Gary and I move up our scheduled December departure date to the U.S.  I remember the woman doctor (OB/GYN) saying "Woman to woman, Joy, I think that the sooner you know something, the better you'll feel. How much will you really accomplish if you are constantly wondering what is going on?"  Wise words. 

I walked back to the house where I was staying with my friend, Deb.  (Remember Deb? She's the one who helped so much with Yumanli after her burn and with baby Esther's spina bifida.)  It was good to be able to sit and talk through things with Deb.  I called Gary and told him the results. He told me that our son, Joe, was also anxiously waiting to hear something, so he would give him a call. 
Deb was recovering from a bug so she was home resting.  Thankfully, she was home that afternoon! We talked.  We watched an episode of a mystery series.  And that evening she had a couple of other medical missionary friends in for supper and to watch a movie. All this helped me to be able to not dwell on the "what if's".  But when I went in to bed, I climbed in feeling very vulnerable and very alone.  It was new territory to navigate.

My son, Joe, flew in that morning from Niamey.  He walked through the gate from the air strip, straight to me and gave me a long hug, asking, "how are you doing, mom?"  I was SO glad for his presence! I wanted to hang on to him and just talk, but we were in the middle of a crowd.  Missionaries and many nationals had come to the air strip to greet the new doctor arriving and the nationals wanted to see the airplane.  Talking would have to wait. 

I said good-bye to Deb, knowing that I probably wouldn't see her again in Niger for awhile… that was my first reality adjustment that brought home the fact that my life had changed forever.  And I had no idea how many other changes were coming…

As I climbed into the plane, it seemed surreal that my son was flying me "home".  In spite of the reason for my having to fly in the first place, I was so extremely proud of my Joe and pleased to be able to have the experience to be flown by him!!  As I gazed out the window of the plane on the vast expanse of Niger below me, I was struck by all the remote little villages…and wondering if they had ever heard the good news of Jesus.  Jesus, Who was holding me together right then, giving me courage and strength to think about all the decisions we would have to make in the next few days… Jesus, Who promised to never leave me or forsake me.  And I prayed for those villages! 

Gary was waiting for me in the parking lot when we came from the hanger.  As we drove home (to our Niamey apartment) I gave him all the details I hadn't been able to do over the phone.  When I walked in our door at home, there was a huge bowl full of all kinds of fruit - mangoes, pineapple, apples, bananas, grapes, papaya - it was Gary's gift of comfort.  It was such a welcome sight, and having him wrap his arms around me and assure me that he would take care of me!

The next few days were spent talking about the next steps: Who do we tell? How much time did we need to prepare to leave?  We needed to change our airline tickets.  Being able to talk it out helped so much. 
I remember thinking that all this seemed very unreal.  Were we really talking about all this?!  How had this happened?!  I'm a nurse, for heaven's sake…How could I have not noticed this earlier?!  And I remember just getting alone with Jesus and Him calming my heart with His Word.  Verses I had known before became full of renewed meaning and promise!  

And I remember having asked a missionary friend at one of the ball games, how she had navigated having breast cancer… and asking her if she had fallen apart.  And she told me, "No I didn't, not until it was all over.  While I was going through it, I felt like I was being carried along on the crest of a wave."  Over the next months, I would come to know exactly what she was talking about…

Now: (next post)