Saturday, October 13, 2018

“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.” ― Roy T. Bennett

To begin with, this is not about getting better.
This is about how much longer I have to live and the quality of life during that time.
Next week I will have 5 daily radiation treatments, called gamma knives, and if they are successful, it should add 4 years to my life span.
Our plan is to fly home to Tanzania on Monday, October 22nd, getting back to Bunda on October 25th.
The people here have been absolutely wonderful. The nurses, therapists, even the men who moved me from one area to another have all been incredibly kind and gracious.
The experience while not what I would recommend to anyone has been a good one.
I am learning to walk again, to dress myself, to stand unaided, and to move from bed to wheelchair.
And I have been successful at all of these.
It has been a very positive thing for me to be able to see increasing success day by day.
I have been strengthened by all of your prayers and words of encouragement.
I regret that I have not been able to post blogs more often, but the brain surgery left my fingers uncooperative.
I hope this brief message will fill in some blanks. I hope to blog on a daily basis again once I am back in Bunda.
God bless each of you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wednesday September 26

I'm having a good day because I'm wearing my own clothes and no hospital gown and my sister, Penny, is here (and she's typing this). I'm in Kessler Rehab which was voted fourth best rehab facility in the country. My prognosis remains at 6 months, 18 months, or 4 years if the radiation works and I am very excited about that. Now the hard part starts... physical therapy so I can walk again and my first session is in 30 minutes. Right now they have to use an engine hoist to get me out of the bed and into the wheelchair. A week from Friday will be the precision radiation on the tumor site on the brain, which will determine my longevity. I love this facility, especially the people who work here, one of whom has already donated $2400 to cover the needs of one orphan for four years. And two other staff member s have also pledged. This is providing the motivation I need to continue my push with physical therapy.

Did I mention how happy am I that my sister is here? It took many hours for her to get here and I'm so appreciative. We've been laughing and joking together and she's already bossing me around. (And that's the truth sayeth the typist.)    

Thursday, September 13, 2018

  “The soul is healed by being with children.”  ― Fyodor Dostoevsky  

                   I've been in the U.S. for five days now.  I've seen an optometrist who surprised me by saying that my eyes have improved over the last four years and I need less help seeing.  She said it was rare but it does happen.  Okay, I'll take it.  I enjoyed my son's fifty-first birthday and he took me to see a movie at a theater with powered reclining seats and waiter who will bring you drinks and food—the popcorn was free!  It was very nice.  I saw a doctor today who said I had no life-threatening issues and should live quite a few more years.  Some good friends from Boston are driving down today and we'll have lunch together.  Tomorrow, I fly back to Africa where I belong.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

“Make voyages! Attempt them . . . there’s nothing else.” —Tennessee Williams

                    Strange days around here.  I'm hardly feeling at my best and have been very concerned about whether or not I should travel to New York.  Dr. Chris isn't worried and is anxious for me to see a doctor in New York.  He also wants me to help him buy an ultrasound machine on E-Bay while I'm there.  He'll pay for it, but he can't buy it from here, so once again, I'll be helping improve the quality of medical care in these parts if I can bring it off.  I'm not feeling 100% but I'll be leaving on Friday to fly to Dar Es Salaam and from there to Istanbul and then on to JFK on Long Island.  If all goes well, I will leave Bunda at one in the afternoon on Friday and will land in NYC on Saturday night around ten thirty.  When I come back, I'll stop by Pete's for a couple of days in Arusha and should get back to Bunda on the eighteenth.  I have lots of questions for Pete about starting an orphanage as I am convinced that God is calling me to create an orphanage here.  John's been talking to a woman who is operating an orphanage for 110 kids in our area, and she's convinced that we will be filling a real need and shouldn't have any trouble getting it going.  
          Right now, I'm getting clothes cleaned and packing for my trip.  As of today, my permits have not been received by immigration here, so Shaban went to the chief of immigration and got me two letters so that I can get back into the country.  They promised that the letters will answer any and all questions, so we'll see.  I'm confident that when I am on a mission from God, things fall into place.  I truly feel that God is guiding me, so I just must trust.  I'm not looking forward to the travel, but I am looking forward to spending time with Chris and Brenda and being around other human beings.  I've been told I can be charming in the presence of others.  Again, we'll see.  I don't know how often or when I'll be able to blog, but there will be blogs from the U.S. of A.  Remember to pray for me and my pilots (and whomever has to sit next to me).

Sunday, September 2, 2018

“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.” ― Mark Twain

             Yes, I am absolutely sure that I have lost my mind.  We have not yet figured out how to increase our funding by $1,000 a month by the end of next year in order to just continue at our current work level.  We have not yet figured out where we are going to get the $15,000 to pay for my implanted defibrillator surgery in October 2019 (without which I will probably die).  Yet, we are plowing ahead with our plans to put an orphanage here on our grounds.  We will convert the two guest cottages to male and female homes for five orphans each.  We will take two-year-old orphans and raise them till they are six and can start government school.  There are already orphanages that take infants up to the age of two, so we will always have kids ready for us.  At the age of six, extended families and even whole villages will and can care for the kids.  We will be doing all the formative work, raising caring, Christian kids who will know that they are loved and worthwhile.  We are thinking that we can do this for just $50 per month per child.  So, if someone wants to adopt an orphan, we will raise, feed, educate, love, and provide spiritual guidance for four years.  The sponsor will get pictures, letters, can come visit, or even Skype for face-to-face visits.  Shaban is already contacting government officials to see what we need to do, but the locals tell us this is one of the best things we can do for Bunda and our area.  We have the buildings, we have the school, we have the kitchen and already cook five days a week for forty orphans, so this won't be that big a deal.  I already want to name it in memory of my Aunt Helen who never had kids of her own but made my life so much richer because of her love.  I may not even live to 2020, or we may run out of money to operate before then, but right now, John and I both believe that this is what Karen would have wanted—and it's what we want to do.  Imagine that for $50 a month, a child with no future and no hope gets both.  One of these may find a cure for cancer, or make a huge difference for Christ Jesus for about what one meal for four at a restaurant once a month would cost.  I know, people are already stretched and don't have money laying around, but I can't shake off the feeling that God has been waiting for this—and keeping me alive to do it.  Whatever happens, you'll be in on exactly what's happening as it happens.  God has asked me to do some crazy things, and, to my surprise, I’ve done ‘em (there’s a church in a village on the Amazon river in Peru that God wanted and got).  What was an abandoned potato field in 2003 in Bunda, Tanzania, on the edge of the Serengeti National Park is now an established mission with a preschool, assembly hall, prayer chapel, biosand filter workshop, computer lab, and a big new kitchen.  Why not one more big surprise just to show that Arkansas Bishop that kicked me out of the church that I don't need to be clergy or a member of his denomination to answer the call of God?  Love is not what you have, it’s what you give and who you share it with.  Our only task seems to be how to respond to what God asks of you and me—so we just say, "Here am I, send me."

Friday, August 31, 2018

“A truly humble servant answers not the trumpet calls of self promotion, but the hushed whispers of necessity.” ― Keith McDow

                   John and I just got a text message from one of our workers, Francis, in the middle of the night.  He asked us to pray for a friend of his because he said, “Mungu anapenda Baba.”  Which is to say that our workers and neighbors believe that God loves me because in spite of everything, I am still here.  To them, my continued existence is proof that we are doing God’s work here.  The problems I have faced have convinced them that the "other side" is attacking me because we are doing good things for God.  Francis surprised me because over the last several years, I have seen other people being Christ for others and have seen those others recognize Christ in the humans helping them, but I never thought I was doing that.  I have experienced other people showing Christ to me through their caring and love.  The problem is that I don’t think I am showing Christ to others through my own words and actions—and that is upsetting and a little depressing for me, yet others don’t see it that way.  I have read and re-read “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis.  I have read and re-read “The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society” by Henri J.M. Nouwen.  “Wounded healer” is a term created by psychologist Carl Jung to illustrate how much more effective helpers can be in healing if they have suffered as well.  I know about suffering.  I know about being wounded.  I know grief and its pain.  I know about failing to love, to care, to treat others with respect, and to want to hurt those who have hurt me.  I have come to know Christ’s love, and it has molded and informed my life for at least the last thirty years.  Focusing on the needs of others is almost always paramount in my words and actions.  Yet, it seems as though my job is that of a middleman, one who hands the good to another to finally deliver it to the intended receiver.  Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Without that middle step, the good doesn’t get where it was supposed to go. 
                       Think of a garden hose.  The hose is certainly not the water that is needed, nor is it the source of the water.  Neither is it the force that pushes the water through itself.  It is, in the end, just a hose, just a conduit, just a means to an end.  And yet, without the humble hose, the water doesn’t get where it needs to go.  Those needing water thank the water, thank the source of the water, thank the force of the  water, but never seem to think of thanking the hose.  After all, the hose is just doing what a hose was created to do in the first place.  For those of us who are just humble hoses, we have to get our good feelings from knowing that without our presence, the water wouldn’t get delivered and people and plants would go thirsty.  We will not get thanked by the folks and the flowers who can live and grow thanks to our being where we were supposed to be.  We will, ultimately, get thanked by the water and force and its source (all those being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit).  In the meantime, if we must have thanks and gratitude to keep going, we are in the wrong business.  
                      I have seen some great preachers who in the effusion of thanks and praise for their preaching forgot that they were just hoses and began to see themselves as the water.  The messengers beginning to believe that they are the message and not just those who deliver it.  This doesn’t mean that what they are preaching is flawed but that those entrusted with the Word have begun to believe that the Word comes from the humans in whose hands it has been placed.  I once had to write a review of “Elmer Gantry” by Sinclair Lewis about a very flawed evangelist (a great movie starring Burt Lancaster by the same name).  I defended Elmer Gantry in my paper saying that those who heard the Word were changed by it, and it didn’t matter if the one delivering it was corrupt.  I got a “D” on the paper because the professor wrote that while I was eloquent in my defense, she just wasn’t buying it.  I have struggled with and will continue to struggle with my “hoseness” and its seemingly insignificant place in the order of things, but I have come to accept it as my lot.  To be honest, I can understand and fear the seductive power of getting the messenger/message arrangement mixed up for that way leads to darkness and alienation from God.  I don’t know if I will ever find pride in being a “hose” but willingly accept that without a hose, the water doesn’t get where it needs to go.  I like the concept of “hose” better than “pipe” because is a hose is more flexible and can therefore get the water to more places than a stiff pipe.  What I have discovered about myself is that the “wounded” part of me is that I would become too vain and too self-important were I to think of myself as more than a hose.  While it may not make me ecstatically happy to be a hose in the Hands of God, it is an important job and one that is worth me devoting my life to it.  I spent almost all of the time since Karen’s death fixing leaks and holes in the hose that is me, but now am better and hope to be ready to be of use once more.  So, turn that tap, Lord, and let the water flow.  Point and guide me in the right direction that Your Word is heard by those who need to hear it.  Amen.