Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It Happens

I decided to be a good little blogger and not leave you all hanging about my appointment with the doctor on Monday. He started out with, "Your case is very rare and very tricky." That made my heart try to jump right out of my body, but it didn't quite make it. Instead it got stuck in my throat. I quickly attempted to swallowed it back down, but it slid right past my chest and landed in my stomach. It swam around down there for a while making me have to concentrate really hard on listening to what the doctor said and not throwing up all over his little rolly desk.

Fortunately, he was saying some things that made my displaced heart calm itself, and by the end of the visit it was back where it belonged and even feeling pretty optimistic, because even though my case is rare and tricky, this doctor has a plan. And that plan starts with removing my gallbladder. We're hoping that removing the gallbladder will solve most if not all of my issues and this will be end, Amen. I will have surgery on Tuesday and I never would have thought I could be so excited about having a body part removed!

There you go. Consider yourself updated- those of you who were on the edge of your seats waiting for news (basically just my mom).

With all these appointments, tests, and procedures, I've spent a lot of time talking to medical professionals about what we do as missionaries in PNG. I've had some very interesting conversations with varying degrees of response from shock and awe to I don't care would you please shut up so I can go to lunch.

I always find it fascinating to see what really surprises people or what they really focus in on about our lives and work. A lot of people really can't believe that we can/do live without the internet. You know that meme that keeps going around saying something like, "Go live in a cabin in the woods for a month with no phone, internet, or TV for $100,000. Would you do it?" Umm, yeah. One month? Try six months and where is my money?

Anyway, there are lots of different things that people just can't wrap their minds around. I always think it is going to be the witch killing, but it almost never is. Today was one of the funniest though.

I was talking to a nurse, explaining everything, answering lots of questions, and somehow we got to talking about mothers and babies and how no baby in Hewa wears a diaper.

She was shocked. She was speechless. Her eyebrows shot up so high they hit a flock of birds and crash landed into the Hudson River.

"But what happens when they go?" "I mean where does it go?"

And when I explained that it just "goes" on the moms and they wipe it off with a rag and go on with life, it was like I said they mixed it up with dinner and ate it.

"Well, you must never hold their babies then, " was her next response.

"Um, no, I am pretty much always holding a baby."

"Do they go on you?"

"No, they instinctively know that I'm a spoiled Western lady and would die or at least get pancreatitis if I was ever pooped on."

Is what I wanted to say, but instead I answered,

"Yes."

I refrained from showing her the picture my husband took one day after I was pooped on by one of the cutest babies* ever born into this world, but I won't refrain from showing it to you.

Yes, that is baby poop. He got me good.
I tried to explain to her that I just wipe it off with a towel or rag like they do and keep talking/walking/doing whatever I'm doing at the time like it's no big deal. I don't freak out. I just act like they do. But the next time I go into my house I do shower and change my skirt. Fortunately, I'm rich enough to own more than one skirt and have the ability to that.

One of my favorite things to do in the village when a lady gives birth is to gift her with a meal and a new skirt. She has to bury the one she gave birth in (they don't take their skirts off, ever, even to give birth or bathe) with the other bloody rags and towels to avoid contaminating anyone or anything which usually only leaves her with one skirt to wear. This means when her newborn poops and pees on her, she can't change or wash it until someone graciously decides to give her another skirt or until she can afford a new one. Since babies don't wait to start pooping, I don't like the mothers to have to wait to be able to wash that poop off.

I also tried to explain this to the nurse today, but I don't think her brain could handle anymore information regarding babies, poop, and no diapers because I had a hard time getting her to focus on anything else after that. Even as she walked out of the room she said, "It was nice to meet you and hear about your work," and then mumbled, "no diapers..." as she walked out.

I say all that to say, I get pooped on. It happens. But it happens a lot less to me than it does to the actual mothers of the babies that are caring for them round the clock. And by now things like this in the tribe have become weirdly normal to us, so time in America is always a good wake-up call to what is and isn't normal (nothing and everything). It reminds me that I should keep writing blogs and keep record of this weird life that God has given us because I don't ever want to forget what He has allowed us to experience. I don't ever want to forget that He uses us in this place with these people that are so different from us and everything that we know. I don't want to forget what it is like to be so inadequate for a task, but for God to miraculously take everything that we are not, everything that we can't and produce something eternal.

And as weird as it sounds, I don't ever want to forget what it feels like to be pooped on, and just keep on going. Because that is daily life for my Hewa sisters. And I don't ever want to forget what it is like to live life with them.

*I wasn't exaggerating


Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Feast of Crumbs

It's Sunday night. Tomorrow I have yet another appointment to discuss the latest test performed on my pancreas. It is test number 1,438,25. And just like all the other tests before it, it showed nothing. Well...that's not true. It showed that something is wrong with my pancreas. But still no answers as to what or why or how to treat whatever is wrong with my pancreas. Also, I now hate hearing, saying, and typing the word pancreas.

It's April 15th. Just in case you've been in a coma for a while and had no idea what today's date is. We've been home since January and are still no closer to finding any answers, and although we have until next January to get everything straightened out, I'm starting to freak out a little. I feel like I'm just watching the months roll by with no progress, and no solutions. The doctors still haven't even started me on a new immunosuppressant. It's important to find the right one and for me to be on it for at least six months before returning to PNG. We don't have a repeat of the last year where we returned too quickly after starting a medicine, assuming that it would work, and then having my pancreas explode (ok so it didn't explode, but since no one really knows what it did or what it's doing, I might as well say it exploded).  I have already tried two different drugs that did not work, so I'm very anxious to at least get started on SOMETHING very soon to make sure everything is in order for us to go back in January (there's also the issue of the chronic pain in my joints that I have endured since coming off the medicine in October- it would be nice if that would stop as well-so yeah, finding a good immunosuppressant is important).

I'm at the point where I'm just begging God every day for relief. Relief from the pain, relief from the financial strain, relief from poking, prodding, drinking disgusting fluids, and hours and hours in doctors offices and hospital waiting rooms, relief from the limbo our lives are in waiting for answers that elude us.

I came across another woman begging Jesus for an answer earlier this week in my Bible reading. A Gentile woman who socially and culturally should not have even been speaking to Jesus at all.  When she first addressed Him, He was silent, not even acknowledging her question (I feel this Gentile Lady! Let's fist bump when I get to Heaven). Then when He does talk to her, he basically calls her a dog. A lot of people get hung up on Jesus' initial treatment of this woman. Most commentaries defend Jesus' actions by saying the word "dog" actually meant like a pet puppy, which is kinda better...I guess, and I think in the past I've probably gotten hung up at this as well, but this week I focused on the end of the story instead of the beginning. I focused and the woman's response to Jesus, and it was point-of-view shattering.

Instead of getting all offended, she just basically says, ok, well if I'm a cute little puppy then I at least get some crumbs, Jesus, and that's all I need. She knows that what Jesus has is so incredible, so powerful that all it takes is a few crumbs and her needs will be met. Her daughter will be healed of the demon who was tormenting her. She's willing to lick those crumbs up off the floor like a dog, because she knows they are worth it if they come from His hands. That crumbs turn into a feast when offered by God.

Then I focused on His final response to her.
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

She goes from little pet puppy to Dear Woman with Great Faith. And all because she is willing to lick up some crumbs??? It seems kind of extreme until you read Luke 14 and the parable of the Great Feast. Jesus is sitting at a table full of pharisees and important Jewish people and tells them that He has prepared an incredible banquet for them and they've all rejected the invitation. In the parable they're rejecting a spectacular meal because they all had better things to do. They don't want the feast that He's offering them even though they are technically "His people" the "children" that he tells the Gentile woman that he has come to feed.

But the Gentile woman is willing to crawl under the table and lick the floor like a dog to be fed by Jesus when His children won't even come at sit at the table and enjoy the bountiful meal He laid before them.

I'm now wondering who I am in these two stories? I certainly feel like a little puppy begging and begging at Jesus' feet. But am I rejecting what He is currently offering me because I want something different? I don't really like this feast of trial and suffering and bad health. It's like He's given me a feast of bitter greens and plain fish. Sure they have great health benefits, but are very hard to swallow. Am I pushing this plate aside and begging for something sweet instead? I want dessert. Nothing to hard. Nothing too healthy. Sure the dessert won't grow or strengthen my faith or my character, but it sure does taste good.

And isn't that the reason the Jews rejected Jesus in the first place? They didn't like what He had to offer? They wanted an earthly King and not a Heavenly one. They wanted their physical problems taken care of not their spiritual ones.  They wanted Him to come proclaiming the Kingdom of Israel, but He came proclaiming the Kingdom of God instead. They didn't want what He placed on the table either, so they rejected Him and He made room at the table for those who were willing to accept it and be grateful for it. 

I decided that I want to be a part of the feast no matter what He places on the table, because I know that He is good and whatever He offers is good for me, no matter how hard it is to swallow. I know that even if I get one crumb from His hand, it is better than an entire feast at any other table.

So tomorrow, no matter what the doctor says or doesn't say, I will be grateful. I will thank Jesus for what He is doing in my life. Growing me and strengthening my faith in Him through these times that require so much trust that He knows what He's doing. Trust that He loves me and isn't rejecting me. Trust that those sweet times will come, because He has promised they will. Trust He can take my time spent as a little begging puppy and turn me into a Dear Woman of Great Faith. 

Basically me looking at God for the last year. (But really our dog Max)






Friday, March 2, 2018

They Still Had to Fight



I have been hesitant to write this post, because it seems like every time I write something about our plans, or why we are doing what we're doing, everything immediately changes and then I am writing a completely different post explaining those changes. But, the truths I am discussing here don't change even if our plans do, so I decided not to be animistic in my thinking that saying these words will bring about some sort of doom and gloom and forge ahead.

Many people have asked us why we are still pursuing our life and ministry in PNG. Other people have suggested that our trials with the tribal fighting, and my health and all the times we have had to leave our village unexpectedly are pointing to the fact that God no longer wants us in there. I would be lying if I said those thoughts never crossed my mind, but so far I don't believe them to be true.

I know God legitimately takes people out of certain ministries and works everyday for reasons that seem much less serious than ours, and I am not naive enough to believe that He would never do that with us.

However...

When I read His word lately what jumps out at me most is the people He has called to any certain task must FIGHT in order to achieve that calling. Sure, God does the miraculous on their behalf. He does things that man cannot, but He doesn't leave them on the sidelines eating popcorn and enjoying the show. They are in the middle of everything- usually with a sword in their hands.

Joshua and the Israelites saw God bring down the Wall of Jericho, but then they had to enter into a fight to take the city. Each city in the Promised Land after that God delivered to the Israelites still included a fight. God gave it to them, allowed them to win those battles, but they still had to engage in the battle in the first place.

When God delivered the Jews from Haman's evil scheme through Queen Esther, the Jews still had to spend the entire day fighting for their lives. God saved them from utter annihilation, but they still had to pick up their swords and defend themselves all day from the enemies who wanted to destroy them.

And then I came to the story of King David. As a young boy God anointed him as the next King of Israel. And then He lifted him out of the fields of sheep and plopped him directly on the throne where he lived Happily Ever After.  No, that's not right... Biblical scholars believe that there was approximately fifteen years between the time David was anointed by the prophet Samuel and the time he was crowned king. FIFTEEN years. And those years were not filled with him just ushering around a bunch of sheep at his dad's house. They were filled with running, hiding, and fighting for his life. Plenty of reasons to just say, "Maybe that old guy was just crazy, and I'm not really called to be King. Maybe it wasn't really what God wanted. It would be easier than this if it was His Will. I'll just go back to the sheep. The sheep aren't trying to stab me with spears."

And when we get to the New Testament we see the "missionary" Paul struggling and fighting many obstacles and persecutions in order to spread the Good News. He even says in Acts 20 that the Holy Spirit warns him that there will be prison and hardships in every city he sets out for. EVERY CITY. He goes to these places knowing that there will be a fight. In 1 Thessalonians he mentions Satan blocking his way back to the church there, and how he kept pressing on and trying to find a way back to them, eventually sending Timothy in his place. The only time he gives up on an idea of place that he should go to preach is when the Holy Spirit prevents him from doing so. This is the only time he doesn't fight. (Acts 16) And then notice it doesn't say that it was some difficulty that prevented it. The Holy Spirit has already warned him about difficulty. It wasn't hardship, or beatings, or persecutions, or sickness or a pancreas that prevented him from going. Only the Holy Spirit.

Right now, we do not believe that the Holy Spirit is blocking us from going back to PNG. That may change in a month, a week, or even an hour. But right now, in this moment, and all the moments before, we have been confident that the Lord hasn't changed our direction.

So we keep fighting. Even though our hearts are tired and just need like 5 minutes. Even though it would be so much easier to just let it all go, and live in America where I can go to the doctor every time I stub my toe and where there are specific doctors designated for every part of the body. Yes, that would be easier. And honestly, that would be better for me physically. But it was also better for Paul physically to NOT be beaten every time he stepped across the border into a new city.

But as Paul said in the very next verse following the warning of the Holy Spirit,

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."Acts 20:24

And our aim is the same as Paul's. To finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given us- the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace- and specifically to the Hewa people. But the truth is that even if the calling specifically to the Hewa people changes tomorrow, the task of testifying to the good news of His grace will never change. That is a task that we will not complete until we enter into His Presence. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pancreas 2, George Family 0

My pancreas took us out of the tribe and is now taking us out of Papua New Guinea. After three months with little to no change in my pancreatic enzyme levels, my doctor here and my rheumatologist in America said it was time to come back to the US to figure out what is going on and how to treat it.

Based on the tests I had in Australia in May, it looked like autoimmune pancreatitis, which makes since because of my autoimmune diseases.However, I was already on immunosuppresssants, so it shouldn't have happened in the first place. So, we are going to do more tests, and hopefully find a new medicine that works for my joint pain and my pancreatitis. We leave the country tomorrow to start our journey back to America.

My doctor suggested we stay in the US for a year to make sure that whatever treatment I am on will work long term, before we come back to PNG where we have no access to advanced medical care.

We are frustrated and confused about this turn of events in our lives and ministry, but are trying really hard to focus on the Lord and trust Him in all things.

Though, I can't help but continually ask "Why?"

My husband was just beginning to teach elder and deacon lessons to the Hewa believers - a major step in them developing a strong, healthy, and independent church.

We've had so many interruptions over the last two years that have kept us going in and out of the tribe, and made our family life full of upheaval and instability. For the last two years the longest we have been in one place is four months. FOUR MONTHS!! And that four months was March to July of 2016. We did have a 3 month stretch in the tribe in 2017 (May through August), and that is longest we'd been in one place for the last year.

I've been begging God for stability for our family and a long stretch in one place (particularly our house in the village), but He decided to answer that prayer in America instead.

My mind drifts to the many possible answers to the "Why?" Could it just be spiritual warfare? Satan trying to stop God's message from spreading through a territory that he has had claim over for centuries?

More frequently, though, I continually wonder, "Is it my fault?" (classic child of divorce)
I read the parable of the talents and wonder if I'm the unfaithful servant? I think of all the ways I have failed in our ministry life and think maybe I've just wasted everything God gave to me and now it is being taken away.

And I also wonder if it is just the consequences of the sinful world we live in and that sickness, death, and chaos are part of that and something we will have to persevere through until Jesus comes back. And it doesn't really have anything to do with me or my actions, specifically, except for how I respond- either in faith or frustration. Either dying to self or wallowing self-pity.

The truth is, it could be any of these, or a million other reasons, and all of the responses are the same. God's response to me is the same. He is faithful, He will not abandon me, even if everything is all my fault. He will work to restore my life and relationship to Him always. And He will fight for me, my family, and the Hewa people whom He loves no matter what the cause of all the frustration. And my response should be the same...repent of my areas of sin and unfaithfulness and trust Him with whatever He wants to do in my life, my family's lives, and the lives of the Hewa believers. And persevere through all circumstances.

When we left the tribe, my friend Emiyas came to say goodbye, and I told her I was really sorry we were leaving them and did not want to go. I told her I was scared that we wouldn't be able to come back, but we were going to try our hardest to at least stay in PNG, so John Michael could come in and out of the tribe to teach. She told me, "Jessi, stop thinking on this. Think only on God. Only He knows what will happen. Will you stay here? Will you go to America? Will you live? Will you die? Only God knows these things. So think only on Him and nothing else."

Emiyas saying goodbye to and encouraging me the night before we left the tribe.


Such a challenge in all this. I have one billion things that my brain wants to think about during this huge transition. But I will try to heed my sister's very solid advice and think only on Him.

"I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely." Psalm 63:6

"And I said, “This is my fate: the Most High has turned his hand against me.” But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works." Psalm 77:10-12

"I rise early, before the sun is up: I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise." Psalm 119:147-148

Sunday, October 22, 2017

My Pancreas has a Name

-->
We are back out in town (again) thanks to my pancreas (again).


In my last post I mentioned that it was just gently waving at me so I wouldn’t forget it.  For the last month it has decided to gently punch me, so I will give it lots of attention.

I have decided that my pancreas has developed Narcissistic Personality Disorder. 

I guess in “reality” it has developed autoimmune pancreatitis, but no matter what you call it, it's continually disrupting my entire life.  I can only eat small portions of bland foods, and we have had to come out of the tribe so that I can be monitored more closely by our mission doctors. At this point we have no idea when/if we will be able to go back to the tribe full-time. John Michael will still make trips in and out to continue with discipleship and teaching the Hewa church, but we know that as family we will be at the mission center for an indefinite period of time. And worst- case scenario, if I do not improve in the next month or so then we will have to go back to America so I can been seen by a rheumatologist and gastroenterologist.

So… yeah… basically, my pancreas is taking over all our lives and making our world revolve around it. I would say that is pretty narcissistic.

Rather than thinking about how our lives might totally change forever and dealing with my emotions in a healthy manner, I decided to do what I always do and deflect with humor and sarcasm.  

The treatments for autoimmune pancreatitis have not helped, so maybe if I just give in to my pancreas’s need for attention we will see some results. Like maybe I will give it it’s own facebook, twitter, instagram, and any other social media pages that I am not cool enough to know about right now.  I have no doubt that its pages will be filled with duck-faced selfies with all my other organs being cropped out of every picture.

A couple of people suggested that I give it a name, which I thought was a great idea. At first I decided that because it was being pretentious and annoying, it needed a hipster name, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my pancreas actually has a celebrity doppelganger and must be named after her.

You see in both the MRI I had done in Australia in May and in the ultrasound I had last week, the “tail” of my pancreas was the area that contained the inflammation and therefore enlarged.


In the strictest of medical terms, my pancreas has a fat tail. 

So with the fat tail, the constant need for attention, and being totally high-maintenance, I have decided that my pancreas shall be named Kim Kardashian. They are basically twins, so this is really the most appropriate option. If I had any of the images from either the MRI or ultrasound I would put up comparison pictures, but I don’t so you will just have to take my word for it.

For now, here is a picture of the human Kim Kardashian*. Now just picture her tiny and living underneath my liver and you will know exactly what pancreas Kim Kardashian looks like in my body. 



If my pancreas was on social media, I'm pretty sure this is all you'd see.



* It was actually quite difficult to find a picture to add here. The human Kim Kardashian has blessed the internet with many MANY duck-faced selfies, so quantity was not the problem, but finding one where she is wearing adequate clothing was kind of like searching for the lost city of Atlantis. Like most treasure hunters, I had to decide if I wanted to invest so much time in something that probably doesn’t even exist.  But, alas, I prevailed. So take heart all those who hunt for the treasures of myth and legend! If human Kim Kardashian can be found in clothes on the internet, then anything is possible!