Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jack's 3rd World Stitches - 32 and Counting...

I saw a silent, but incredibly powerful animation recently called The Sad Reality of Our World

which depicts the impact cell phones have had on society.  This short film illustrates the emotional detachment that people can feel when they live life through the perspective of a lens.  

Although here in Peru we only have a dumb phone that we use to make local calls I often feel pressure to "capture the moment" with our camera because I want to share the experience with others, especially our team members living far away.  At times I'm able to snap a photo quickly and in a way that neither disrupts the moment or compromises my ability to be present; other times, my timing is awful and I'm acutely aware of the negative impact my camera has had.

On May 20, when Jack was approaching his friend's home, he slipped in the mud and sliced his knee open on the sharp, bike-gear bridge that his friend's family had made to span the gutter by their front steps. Jack ran home leaving a visible trail of blood behind him.  Although I knew his wound needed to be cleaned and stitched, the first step was to stop the bleeding.  I wrapped a towel tightly around his leg and turned my attention to his emotional state, which was surprisingly calm....until we removed the towel and he saw a chunk of flesh the size of an average pancake dangling off his kneecap. I wish that somehow I could have snapped a quick photo but Jack was squeezing both of my hands for dear life.  It wasn't until after we arrived at the clinic and the nurse had cleaned Jack's knee up that he felt comfortable releasing my hands long enough for me to take a picture.  In this photo his knee looks beautiful compared to how it appeared only 45 minutes earlier.

The nurse spent a very, very long time sewing the inside of Jack's knee back together with 12 large stitches.  It was hardest to watch her cut away clumps of fatty tissue and mangled flesh.  Afterward, she continued on to repair the outer layer with another 8 stitches.  Without a single bit of medical expertise to back my gut-feeling, I sensed that although 20 stitches was a lot, she should have done more.  I wanted to suggest that she put the stitches closer together, but Katelyn insisted that I allow her to her job without interruption.... and so I did.

Jack's knee looked alright when we left the medical clinic, but it wasn't alright.  The stitches were unable to hold the wound together and therefore it began healing as separate pieces of flesh. When we returned to the clinic each day to have the wound cleaned and redressed the staff assured us that everything was fine...even though we could tell it wasn't. 

After 20 days we were told to take the stitches out, so I did with a bit of apprehension.  There was a thin layer of new skin spanning the gap between the pieces of tattered flesh, but nothing more.

Although Jack was happy to be "free" he promised to be careful and seemed to understand the fragility of his newly formed skin.

Within two hours of removing the stitches Jack slipped on the cement floor - right onto his knee - and split the whole thing wide open again.

At that time we were a couple hours away from home in a small mountain village where our friends Javier, Jherson and Ivan were competing in a regional soccer competition.  Their classmates rushed us to the local medical clinic where the two attending nurses stitched Jack up once again. This time I shamelessly insisted that they "sew it up really well" and watched to make sure each stitch was done right.

Despite the extreme pain Jack agreed to stay and watch our Precious Sheep win the regional title.

Once we arrived home, the excitement from the victory passed and the reality set-in that Jack was back to square one on the healing front. It would be weeks, maybe even months before he could ride his bike worry-free, run around the soccer field and jump off the park benches like the other kids.

To ensure adequate healing Jack had to do NOTHING.  So, he spent his days reading, watching videos and playing Legos.  Even though he was capable of walking, we all knew that he had to keep it to a minimum. If we were going somewhere nearby he'd hobble along - slowly. If our destination was a bit further we'd take a motorcar.  After trip #2 to the emergency clinic Jack seemed to understand the importance of laying low.

Five days later, Jack was simply walking along the dirt road (slowly, just like the doctor ordered) on the way to dinner when his sandals got tangled up causing him to trip. When he hit the ground the basic principles of science played out exactly as one would expect.  The tender skin on either side of the wound proved weaker than the synthetic sutures that were holding it together.  Not only did the wound re-open, but the skin around most of the stitches tore, leaving Jack's leg worse than before.  When we took off the bandage to assess the damage Jack said in a calm voice, "It looks like a dog was chewing on my knee."  I couldn't disagree.  Back to the medical clinic we went.

After only a brief exam the doctor determined that Jack's knee couldn't be sewn anymore.  The majority of the skin surrounding the gash was shredded apart.  What was intact was so thin and weak that it couldn't possibly hold stitches.  Unsure what else to do, the doctor cleaned it up and suggested that we return to the clinic each day for care.  Knowing that wounds heal from the inside out he stated that inner part would likely grow back together relatively normal; however, without being able to keep the outer layer together during the healing process, he speculated that each side of the wound would heal apart from the other, leaving a large bumpy gap.

Unsatisfied with this potential outcome, I informed the doctor of the medical supplies we have in our home.  With self-adhesive sterile strips and super-glue we could bring the two sides of the wound together and hold them in place.  Although he had never glued a cut closed he understood the concept and instructed me to run home....and so I did.

For the last couple weeks we've been attending to Jack's wound daily.  I thank God that we had such a large supply of sterile strips and super glue, which have proven to be worth a thousand times their weight in gold.

Although we're definitely not "in-the-clear", Jack's knee is looking better and better each day.

We ask for prayers that during this critical time Jack doesn't have any more stumbles or falls, that he's truly able to lay low and let God do His handiwork of growing new skin and "closing the gap", as it were.

I'll post another blog when Jack's knee is completely healed so that you can see how it all turned out.  He said that he'd like to get a tattoo of a smiley face on his knee, whereby his big scar could be the smile..... I think he was joking, but who knows? Tattoo or not, Jack will definitely have a story to tell about his first experience getting stitches (lots of stitches) in the 3rd world.

As I reflect on our experiences this last month I pray that I was able to find a place of balance; that I put the needs of my loved ones first inside of each moment while still snapping enough photos to help you see what our life here in Peru is like.  As I continue to lift you and your family up in prayer, I will include petitions for this same type of balance in your life because I know that for so many it can be a real challenge to just experience a moment and not get caught-up in the idea of capturing the moment for some other person or time.  If you didn't take the time to watch the short video clip that I included at the beginning of this blog, I hope you do now:  It's an incredible two-minute reminder that without intentional decisions we can fall prey to a vice that leaves us emotionally detached and alone, despite the sea of people that surrounds us.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Whos in Whoville Celebrate Corpus Christi

What is the Feast of Corpus Christi?

A Catholic liturgical solemnity celebrating the real presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the Eucharist, known as transubstantiation. Two months earlier, the Eucharist is observed on Maundy Thursday in a somber atmosphere leading to Good Friday. The feast of Corpus Christi focuses solely on the joy of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

What does "Corpus Christi" mean?
"Corpus Christi" is Latin for "Body of Christ"

When is it celebrated?
The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is nine weeks after Easter.  If and when a diocese is unable to celebrate on Thursday, the feast is held on the following Sunday, as it was for us.

The festivities begin with Holy Mass.  

Afterward, most Latin American Catholic communities have a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament displayed in a monstrance.

Our procession started in the church.  

As Jesus passed, I unexpectedly fell to my knees and wept uncontrollably.  At that moment His presence was so tangible to me that I was unable to contain my emotions. Although this wasn't the first time I had this reaction, it doesn't happen all the time. 

It's so hard to understand or explain.  

Sometimes, during adoration, I feel empty and alone.  Other times I am completely overwhelmed by His presence.  His loving companionship gives me a sense of warmth, peace and sheer joy that is second to none.   

The procession left the church and headed for the plaza, which had been decorated for the occasion.  At each corner there was a large altar with a message of Jesus' love as well as a picture on the ground made out of dyed sawdust.

At our corner there WAS a large monstrance made out of rice and dyed least there was Saturday night.

The evening before the celebration about 25 different groups gathered in the plaza to make eucharistic murals.

Most of them were high school interest groups such as sports teams and clubs, but there were also groups of adults like ours.

The detailed creations were incredible.

Most of the groups began early in the afternoon and worked long after dark.

I'm glad that I thought to take some pictures (even though I was tempted to just wait until Sunday when they would all be done) because Saturday night there were torrential rains that washed most of the sawdust art away.

Although I expected people to be really disappointed, such was not the case.  It reminded me of Christmas morning in the movie The Grinch when the Whos in Whoville sang joyfully despite the fact that all their stuff was gone.

My perception is that everyone was so focused on the Eucharist that the ruined sawdust art was inconsequential.

The groups had lots of fun creating the beautiful artwork for the Lord, who obviously saw it all, and were indifferent to the fact that the attendees wouldn't be able to appreciate all of their efforts. This is a perfect example of how the people here are so laid back and do such a great job of focusing on the positive aspect of every situation.

Our corner was especially beautiful because our team of single women painted a six-foot tall picture of Mary and our missionary friends made a styrofoam belly in which the priest placed the Eucharist during our time of adoration. 

Everything about this celebration was super blessed.  I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this Latin American tradition and look forward to the opportunity to honor Jesus, who is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, next year during the Feast of Corpus Christi.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Did the Witch's Spell Kill Kenay?

When the phone rings at 4AM I never know what to expect.  On this particular morning we received the awful news that our friends' six-month old baby had died. 

As I was laying in bed thinking and praying for our friends I was acutely aware of the sadness that had washed over me; however, the sadness I felt was notably different than the sadness I have felt these last couple years when other babies in our village have died.

As I tried to sort through my emotions I realized that my thoughts kept returning to the fact that Kenay's parents put their trust in witch doctors, not in God.

When Kenay was just a couple months old I noticed that he was wearing a bracelet made from the red and black berries that the witch doctors believe possess special powers.

During their saiances the witches invoke evil spirits and guide them into various articles, such as this bracelet, and then insist that their clients keep the articles on their bodies at all times - which our friends' baby did.

The witches use a whole variety of potions, oils, polverized dead animals and such to "treat" their clients.

Our experience has been that although people often receive the physical healing that they were seeking, shortly thereafter every other aspect of their lives slowly falls apart.

I've been to countless wakes in people's homes and even more burials since arriving here in Peru.  However, there have only been a few occasions when I have been present while the people from the funeral parlor were preparing the body.

Since the deceased are typically buried within 60 hours of death they are not embalmed.  To minimize the odor, wax is poured into the ears, cotton swabs are put inside the nose and down the throat.

When the technician arrived, just a few hours after Kenay died, he intended to perform the routine tasks; however, he was surprised by the baby's swollen body cavity. Despite his petite frame, it appeared as though there was a balloon beneath his ribs.

The technician put tongue depressors down the baby's throat to open the esophagus and trachea while his assistant massaged his little body trying to release the gas, but to no avail.  After several different attempts the technician took a tool out of his bag that looked like a thick ice pick and pierced Kenay's abdomen six times. As he pressed down on the baby's chest and stomach the room filled with the most horrid smell. The technician's assistant dashed outside to avoid vomiting.  Those sitting around me ducked their heads and put their hands or shirts over their noses.

Struggling to maintain a normal countenance I found myself just staring off into the distance. While doing so I had a disturbing vision that resembled scenes from the movie The Princess and the Frog in which multi-colored evil spirits flew through the air taunting one of the characters.  In my vision the same types of evil spirits escaped through the holes in the baby's abdomen and zipped through the air laughing victoriously.  I shook my head in an attempt to clear my mind, but the vision continued. I prayed for protection and demanded, in the name of Jesus Christ, that every demon leave the house and go directly to the foot of the cross.  Although my mind cleared a bit, I couldn't stop wondering how the witches "treatments" had effected Kenay.

By the time the funeral workers setup the viewing area the smell had dissipated and a sense of peace prevailed.

Before Mass started the children gathered around the coffin to see Kenay.  Anna did a wonderful job answering their questions and inviting them to pray for Kenay's family.

Given the frequency of which we gather to bury the dead, it's no surprise that the children were unfazed by it all.

Padre Paco made himself available to celebrate Holy Mass in Kenay's honor, which was an incredible blessing.

Even though Chris did a wonderful job with the burial ceremony, the atmosphere was unusually cold and sterile.  Kenay's parents and siblings shed but a couple tears and robotically placed dirt upon the coffin after it was lowered into the ground.

I couldn't help but wonder what part Satan had in all this.

As we drove home in silence I peered out over the recently flooded rice fields with an incredible sense of peace.  I could feel God's presence in His creation and knew without a shadow of a doubt that we are smack-dab in the middle of His will for us.

I ask for prayers for Kenay's family as they continue to grieve the loss of their son, that they are able to put their trust in Jesus and Jesus alone.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.