Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back Where We Belong

We returned safe and sound to Mali on Monday.  We’re accustomed to the 18 hour flight from California to Mali, so this trip seemed very short.  We arrived refreshed after a much shorter 6 hour flight from Paris. ;-)   Since being back, we have been trying to re-acclimate to the weather.  Where temperatures in Paris were 40-60°, we’re now facing daily highs of 115°.  At night we drop to the low 90s.

Again, we thank you for your prayers.  Upon reflection, we realize we didn’t share enough about our trip to Paris.  It was pitted with many obstacles and hardships.  Besides the obvious medical issues we were dealing with, we were continually faced with the very dark spiritual oppression in Paris.  It is a city that turned its back on God many years ago and it really shows.  Despite Paris’ nickname as the City of Lights, its actually just the opposite.  It is a city covered in darkness.  (A good representation of this is that everyone in Paris wears black.  A popular product in the grocery stores are special laundry detergents for black clothes.)  After a couple of weeks, it took a very big toll on our family.  Towards the end of our trip, we felt as we were going to leave Paris more broken than we arrived – especially in the emotional and spiritual areas.  We didn’t feel like we were ready to face Africa again and we were feeling apprehensive about returning.

We attended a couple of churches while in Paris, including a very high and formal service on Easter Sunday at a Anglican/Episcopalian Cathedral.  The pomp and circumstance seemed appropriate for Easter, however we didn’t find the spiritual enrichment we were looking for.  We spent the next two Sundays attending the American Church of Paris.  It was wonderful and refreshing and we were touched in many ways.  The Lord really spoke to us through the worship and pastors’ messages that all included the exact spiritual medicine we were seeking.  We were very thirsty and it felt like we were handed the tall glass of cold water we needed.  The last song we sung before leaving church a couple of days ago was a song we hadn’t heard before called God of Justice.  It is very appropriately a missionary song.  It includes a phrase that keeps repeating:  “Fill us up and send us out.  Fill us up and send us out”  Wow, what could sum up our our cry to the Lord more than this?  And He heard!  He did fill us back up and we felt right about returning to Mali.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Return to Sender

We are rejoicing in the success of this trip.  The doctor in Mali alluded to some pretty dire possibilities for John’s health, including cancer.  We thought John would be facing hospitalization and a battery of tests and procedures here in Paris.  What a relief it was to learn John’s diagnosis was easily treatable with medication.  The doctor also recommended John eat as much as possible while in Paris to begin the weight gain process.  Doctor’s orders can be tough to follow sometimes.  ;-)

Despite the circumstances that brought us here, Paris is still a beautiful and wonderful city and we enjoyed our first couple of weeks.  It’s been interesting to experience our Western culture again.  But it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off.  We’re looking forward to returning to Mali tomorrow.  We miss the slower pace culture and the warmth of the people in Mali.

Thank you for your prayers and support during this trial in our lives.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Julie has had many tests and doctors visits the past few days.  We were prepared for difficult news, however it turns out everything is normal.  The doctor did find some small kidney stones, however they are passing naturally.  No surgery or other medical intervention is needed.  Today we officially completed all of our medical appointments and tasks and are now clear to return to Mali.  We don’t have all of our strength back yet, but we’re feeling much better physically and emotionally.  We are so grateful that despite the difficult physical stresses we’ve been experiencing, they were all easily treated and we can return immediately to our ministry in Africa.

Many people have played a very important role in our medical evacuation.  As we were wondering how our expenses would be paid, several people stepped forward and helped with our finances.  Thank you for taking an active role in helping us overcome this trial and providing the means necessary to regain our health.  Although originally denied, we hope our insurance company will at least help pay for some of the expenses.

We were able to rebook our flight to Bamako for Monday, April 27th.  We are looking forward to getting back, however this trip, despite it’s difficult circumstances, gave us a break from much of the African cultural differences that have been a big discouragement to us recently.  We have been able to recognize some people in Paris as being from Mali.  Today on the Metro trip home from the hospital, John had the opportunity to speak to two different people in Bambara.  On both occasions, we know they left scratching their heads on how a white man in Paris knew their language.  This often happens in Mali too and was a reminder of the friendliness of Malians and some of things that draw us to Africa.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trading Places

The doctors treating John have confirmed he has a hyperactive thyroid.  The lead doctor was overjoyed (not to mention us!) that John’s condition was easily diagnosed and treated.  John’s treatment is simply a daily medication to bring his thyroid into alignment.  John has begun his medication and is already feeling better.  His strength is returning and he’s beginning to feel normal again.  He has been cleared to return to Mali.

Unfortunately this is not the end of our story.  Julie’s body has decided to take advantage of our medevac situation.  She has been having extreme episodes of back pain and other symptoms that seem related to her kidney stone incident a couple of years ago.  We went to the hospital today to have her checked out.  The doctor suspects more kidney stones or something related to her kidneys and has begun several tests.

Our return tickets to Mali were for Monday, but we have canceled them and plan on staying in Paris for Julie’s treatment.  The doctor hopes to have the test results and information on how to proceed on Monday.

Although today was a day of celebration, it transformed into a day of discouragement as we face yet another medical issue.  We’re not sure what’s going on, but we’d certainly appreciate your prayers as we endure these trials.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Still Waiting

We visited 2 doctors yesterday at the American Hospital of Paris.  Unfortunately, John’s test results were misplaced so the doctors weren’t able to make a final diagnosis.  John is scheduled for another doctor visit on Wednesday when they will hopefully be able to see the test results.  In the meantime, it’s still a waiting game.  The good news is the doctors don’t seem concerned.  They think it’s a thyroid issue but can’t begin treatment until they have more information.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Processing…Processing…

We arrived safely in Paris on Tuesday morning.  We connected with some missionary friends then checked into our hotel.  John has since had several doctor visits and gone through a battery of tests.  Thankfully, everything has been outpatient so far so we’ve been able to stay together as a family.

The doctors are currently looking at a thyroid problem.  This would account for all the symptoms including weight loss, weakness, lack of energy, and rapid heart rate.  John is currently taking medication to slow down his heart to allow the doctors to further evaluate his condition.  We have a couple of more appointments tomorrow and we hope to have confirmation of the problem and begin working on a solution.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Signing Off From Mali

Today was a very taxing day. Around noon we found out our airline
reservations had been canceled. Thankfully after a call to the travel
agent, they were able to still book the flight. We also have not been able
to get a hold of the doctor to confirm arrangements in Paris. Guess we'll
just start from scratch when we reach the hospital. We're not sure what
lies ahead, but we know the Lord is in complete control. We look forward to
sharing the outcome with you.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Leaving On A Jet Plane

The fog has begun to clear and we now have a good idea where we go from
here. We will be traveling to Paris to have John diagnosed and treated at
the American Hospital of Paris.

Although our insurance company has denied paying for the medical evacuation,
we have had several churches and people step forward and offer to help with
finances. We are so grateful for your assistance in our time of need.
Thank you for taking such an active part in our ministry.

We will be leaving Bamako on tomorrow night and arriving in Paris on Tuesday
morning. At this point we're planning on being in Paris for two weeks but
that could change depending on the treatment. It is difficult not knowing
what lies ahead and what the doctors are going to discover. But we rest
assured that the Lord is watching over all and He will care for us.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Failure To Launch

Today we received word from the insurance company that they have denied the doctor’s request for John’s medical evacuation.  This makes it economically impossible for us to make the trip to Paris for John’s treatment.  We asked the doctor if John could be admitted to the national hospital here and he repeated what we’ve heard from many other people, “The hospital in Mali is a place where people go to die.”

We’ve been talking, praying, and attempting to figure out what all this means.  We’re trying to discern if this is God saying there’s no need to leave Mali or if it’s circumstances standing in the way of John’s recovery that we should try to overcome.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Here We Go Again

We were supposed to travel to Koutiala today for our annual YWAM general assembly meeting.  We have been looking forward to going, however yesterday the doctor advised against John taking the trip.  He is especially concerned with John’s weight loss and has determined that whatever John is suffering from is going to require tests and treatment that aren’t available in Mali.  He has recommended that John be medevaced to the American Hospital of Paris (where Julie was treated last year) to figure out what is wrong and begin treating it.  We have no idea what is going to be involved until further evaluation is done in France.  It could be as simple as an extensive medical exam, or it could involve surgery and hospitalization.

Needless to say, we were taken aback by this.  The last thing we want to do right now it go through another medical trip to France.  We are being heavily encouraged by both the doctor and our YWAM leaders to leave as soon as possible.  We have begun the insurance procedures and are currently waiting on their approval.  But our insurance will not cover all the costs involved…especially our living expenses in Paris.  Based on our past experience we will be traveling together as a family in case an extended stay or transfer to the States is required.  Please be praying for a quick recovery for John and for financial assistance to help cover the costs.