Monday, October 29, 2007

Git Along Little Dogies

Thankfully the past couple of weeks have been uneventful. But that doesn't mean we haven't been busy. Julie is feeling 100% back to health...something she's not felt for a few months. She and Cole are back into the routine at school while John is working on employee and financial issues with the school, and several projects with a couple of pastors.

It's amazing how we adapt to our different surroundings and become accustomed to sights and activities that once seemed very strange to us. It's now often easy to lose sight of how different our world is in Mali. Our trip to Paris helped highlight some of the stark reminders of living in Africa once we got back...things like cows wandering around on the soccer field outside our front gate. We still stand in awe at the diversity of the world.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends and family in California during this horrific fire season. We know that everything there has been focused on the fires. As a sign of the size of the tragedy, the SoCal fires have even been headlining the BBC World Service news headlines here every day. We've also had a couple of people email us pictures of the devastation. Special prayers go out the Nellis family who pastor a church in Rancho Bernardo that burned to the ground. Even though the sanctuary was destroyed, the offices received little damage. We're glad to hear that crews are beginning to contain the fires and the weather is calming a bit. May God give you grace and peace during this difficult time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Home Is Where The Heat Is

We arrived back in Bamako on Sunday night.  We enjoyed Paris and being back in the developed Western world for a few days.  Who knew a McDonald's could be such a welcome sight.  It was also nice to shop in a few stores for things we've been missing.

Paris was also a wonderful opportunity to practice our French in a different environment.  But we quickly discovered that our African French is very casual and was often frowned upon.  So we adapted to speaking a more formalized and civilized French.  But the good news is that we adapted well and survived unassisted utilizing only French.  We were a bit surprised that the American Hospital of Paris was more French than American.  But again, our basic and growing French skills got us through.  It's exciting to see the language progress we're making.  Even Cole is embracing French and was eager to look through French comic books and read signs as we walked around the City.  But eventually, the culture shock of the Western world began to take a toll and we were eager to return to Africa.

It's good to be home.  It is a challenge adjusting back to the temperature in Mali.  The weather in Paris was beautiful...ranging from 60° to 75°.  We enjoyed taking hot showers in the morning and walking out into the brisk air.  Now we're back to 90° nighttime lows and looking forward to a cool shower in the morning.

Julie was able to return to school today; it felt like a normal day.  There was no physical discomfort and the day was uneventful.  It's good to be back home and sinking into our routine.  Thank you again for your prayers.  It's exciting to share the results of your intercession for our family.  Please continue to pray for our financial situation as we recover from a very expensive event.

Friday, October 12, 2007

43 Kilometers From Disneyland...Paris

We are grateful for Julie's continuing good health. She is once again pain free. She has a lot of energy and is eating well. We have been staying with the Rempel family and it has been a wonderful blessing to reconnect with them and help encourage each other. Unfortunately, they are hosting others in their apartment this week, so we have moved to a hotel just around the corner. It's nice to be in the same neighborhood since we've become familiar with traveling the Paris Metro subway system from here and are familiar with the shops and restaurants in the area.

We are eager to return to Mali, however we're currently waiting for some money transfers so we can finish paying for the hospital and doctor expenses before we leave. Unfortunately, our insurance company will not pay directly so we must pay everything out of our pocket and hope to be reimbursed later. But we remain confident that God will provide. It's also reassuring to be here a few extra days to ensure Julie's health remains stable.

As we're waiting for our departure on Sunday, we've been taking in a few sites around the "City of Lights". Paris is an incredible place. The museums, buildings, and monuments are nothing short of amazing. Before Julie's release from the hospital, John & Cole visited the Paris Opera House...the setting for the Phantom of the Opera. After Julie's release, we started some family sightseeing. At Cole's request, we visited the Louvre Museum to see the Mona Lisa. As an added bonus, we also saw the Venus de Milo along with hundreds of other works of art. We finally had to leave after several hours as it became overwhelming to take so much in at one place.

Because Disney has been such a big part of our lives in the past, we also spent a day at Parc Disneyland. The Disneyland we know so well in California pales in comparison to this park. But as impressive as it is, it just doesn't hold the same place in our lives anymore. Although we enjoyed the day, we also left asking ourselves why we had devoted so much of our past lives to something so artificial and meaningless. It gave a whole new meaning to our lives as missionaries.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pay the Piper

Julie is continuing to recover and is doing very well.  A follow-up with the doctor yesterday confirmed that the stone has broken up.  It will take several weeks for everything to completely pass out of her system, but it should be relatively unnoticeable.  Infection has been a problem throughout this entire episode, so we remain watchful for complications.  Please continue to pray that Julie will be free from further infection and we can safely return to Mali.  We will be staying in Paris until Sunday to give things a few more days to settle and be sure everything is back to normal and take care of some of the financial matters.

Please focus some extra prayer on our financial situation.  Our insurance company is now saying they aren't covering our evacuation or any of the medical bills because they consider this a pre-existing condition.  Julie has never had a history or symptoms of this in the past, so this is a big mystery to us.  They are saying that kidney stones can often take several years to develop and Julie probably had it before they wrote the policy.  It's difficult to be very far from home during a crisis situation and then handed thousands of dollars in bills that must be paid before we leave the country.  But we remain confident that our God is bigger and more powerful than any insurance company and He will resolve this.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Freebird

Julie was released from the hospital today!!  We are all very excited.  She is doing well.  She is pain free and has a lot of energy.  She was even up to riding the Metro home from the hospital.

She has an appointment with the doctor and an x-ray scheduled for Tuesday to follow-up on things and check her progress.  Because of the complications in the hospital and the way this issue has been dragging on for so long, we've decided to stay in Paris for an additional week to ensure everything is finished and this is all well behind us.  Please continue to pray that Julie's health will improve and this episode will be finalized once and for all.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Same Song Second Verse

Julie had another bad night in the hospital last night.  She suffered from nausea most of the night and got very little sleep.  The doctor has changed her medication to try and ease the discomfort and help Julie return to normal.

Due to the continued complications, the doctor has kept Julie in the hospital for another night.  She is eager to leave, but at the same time wants to be sure everything is better before she ventures out on her own.

The past few days have been a real roller coaster ride for Julie.  She's cycling between feeling good enough to go home or thinking she has one foot in the grave.  Please continue to pray that this will come to a close soon.

We are currently scheduled to leave Paris on Wednesday, however that date is very much in flux right now.  At this point, our plans we have reverted to one day at a time.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It Always Looks Better On Paper

Things haven't gone as smoothly as planned in Julie's treatment.  During our flight to Paris on Wednesday night, she started experiencing intense pain.  It was a very difficult flight for her.  When we arrived in Paris, we decided to go directly to the hospital instead of stopping at our friends to drop off our luggage and catch our breath.  Because it was rush hour, it took over an hour to reach the hospital from the airport.

Julie was admitted to the hospital yesterday morning and they began treatment immediately.  Following the procedure (lithotripsy), Julie was feeling more pain, still had a fever, and was nauseous.   Unfortunately, the procedure didn't go as well as the doctor was hoping.  The stone wasn't broken up as much as planned and had began to move.  A new infection had started as a result.  Although we were hoping this would be a simple outpatient visit, Julie stayed overnight at the hospital last night (Thursday night).

Today she is feeling much better thanks to IV pain and antibiotic treatment.  X-rays and sonograms this morning show the stone is still there and is moving around (it's too big to exit the kidney).  This afternoon, she began passing small fragments of the stone so it looks like it might be finally breaking up (a day after the procedure).  She's staying in the hospital again tonight (Friday).  The doctor feels hopeful that stone will continue breaking up in the next 24 hours and she'll be able to leave the hospital tomorrow.

Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Paris - Not Hilton for a Change

The doctor has determined that Julie's kidney stone is too large to pass on its own.  And we even got an unexpected second opinion from the States via our blog.  We originally posted the sonogram more as a novelty, but Julie's sister is a radiology technician in SoCal.  She had a doc in her hospital take a look at it and he confirmed the doctor's opinion here.  It's amazing how technology is bridging such large gaps.

Arrangements have been made to medevac Julie to Paris for removal of her kidney stone.  We will be leaving tonight and plan to stay for 1 week.  Julie will be treated at the American Hospital of Paris.  From what we've seen on the net, it looks like a very nice hospital.  And one of their specialty areas is kidneys.  They are planning on a procedure (there's a big fancy medical name for it...but we'd rather keep things simple) that will break up the stone with sound waves eliminating the need for invasive surgery.  It could possibly be an outpatient procedure.

Because this is a medical issue, we feel it's important to keep our family together in case there are any complications so all three of us will be taking the trip.  Unfortunately, the insurance is only going to cover Julie's trip.  But we're glad at least that is covered.  Please be praying with us for financial provision for our $2500 deductible and the remainder of our expenses.  It's so cool to see the way God is already providing.  We have been able to connect with friends in Paris who were former missionaries in Mali...in fact, it's the same family we bought our furniture and household items from earlier this year.  They have offered to have us stay in their apartment with them.  We look forward to sharing all the other cool provisions that we know will come through during this difficult time.

Julie is currently pain free and in good spirits.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  They are working REALLY well!!