An Unexpected Blessing

2014-03-25 10.25.43Not always, but sometimes, God has given me the grace to see His mighty hand moving even as it is moving.  Such is the case now as I face, with Him, the first real medical challenge of being on the mission field.

About two weeks ago I was diagnosed with a medical condition that is compromising the quality of my life, ability to be active and if it becomes extreme my life itself.  This condition has likely been coming on slowly over more than a year of time.  Many early signs were quite minor and I remember saying more times in the last year, “I am just not 25 years old anymore”.   I was sure I was beginning to feel my age.  I accepted it.  Didn’t take the stairs when an elevator was available for multiple floor climbs – simple things that seemed quite manageable in America.

Then we arrived in Cambodia.

I have had few experiences in my life where I have seen God so alive as I do here in the work to Rescue|Restore|Reintegrate|Prevent child sex trafficking.  There are billboards across the U.S. proclaiming “GOD IS NOT DEAD HE IS ALIVE” but most everyday here I see people billboards.  Young people who are coming alive in Christ and seeing hope in their future. Preparing themselves for a life of serving their Savior.

To digress a little let me describe two “people billboards” I see.  One young Khmer man moved to Korea for 2 years to earn enough money to come back to his home city to build a small school and pay teachers to teach children.  A second young man who refuses to take a really good full time job with his employer and accepts part-time instead because he wants to lead a small church on the riverside in a village over-run with traffickers.  I could go on and on. In a country alive with sin, God is showing Himself bigger, stronger, more AWESOME as He raises up these “people billboards”.

Now, back to my smaller point.  When we arrived in Cambodia we faced an environmental stress like we had never known.  One of my doctors said to me, “in America, you live in a air conditioned home, drive in an air conditioned car, eat and shop in air conditioned places.  That is not the life in Cambodia.”  I made some adjustments to my routine but the course of events that fell into place aggravated my symptoms beyond ignoring them or viewing them as the result of getting older.

A droopy eye, some facial and muscle weakness, and at times significant fatigue pressed us for some medical answers.  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with MG, Myasthenia gravis.  The search began.  What is causing this condition.  I had just completed my routine physical with the best numbers I had had in years.  To make a long story short, we entered an accelerated diagnostic program at an international hospital nearby in Bangkok.  Diagnosis complete.  I have an enlarged thymus gland.  It needs to come out.

Here is the unexpected blessing.  In obeying God in his guidance to come to Cambodia, a condition that was slowly progressing in the US as my thymus enlarged, emerged earlier.  Perhaps at a more treatable stage.  The conditions of heat, some standard meds used to treat such things as Montezuma revenge etc all intensified my symptoms resulting in me seeking medical attention sooner than I would have in a more comfortable environment.  But, in the more comfortable environment my thymus gland would continue to grow.  It is not the environment that caused the growth, it is the environment that caused me to notice the symptoms and that there was something wrong.

So, I have received an unexpected blessing in coming to Cambodia.  The underlying condition was not able to continue unnoticed.  Scripture always brings enormous insight and comfort.  I am so thankful for pastors who have encouraged memorizing passages.  They come to mind when needed and are such a blessing.  This has come to my mind over and over in these last few weeks:

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:6 ESV)”

Our path has been made straight.  Not in human eyes because we have crossed the ocean back and forth to get to this spot.  But, those changes experienced here result in earlier diagnosis.  We will return to the states 22 September and prepare for surgery tentatively the following week.  We are hopeful that a simplified removal will occur but that requires the thymus be just a bit smaller than the diagnostic images show.  If the simplified process is used, my recovery will be significantly shortened and our return to Cambodia can be more swift – weeks perhaps instead of a few months with the more invasive method.

But, the prospects are good.  With removal, my MG is most likely to be medically manageable with monitoring much like a diabetic.  It should not affect our ability to see the life billboards and encourage more to come a live in our work in ending sex-trafficking.

You, this group of blog followers, are our supporters.  Many financially, most with prayer support.  We know it.  We are grateful.  And we wanted you to know what is happening to these two Incurable Fanatics.

Blessings to you all.  Stay tuned for more great stories of God at work to spread His name and grace to all who will hear.


Lessons from Grandma’s Kitchen

grandmas_kitchen_signWhen I was a little boy, pre-school age, I used to love to be in the kitchen with my grandma.  We called her “Ouie” but that is another story filled with fun, but not now.  Right now I want to focus on the joy I used to have to be with her in the kitchen.  As I think back, I loved being there with her because when she was in the kitchen it usually meant great treats in the works.  I can actually remember during one of her visits to our home making the decision to not go out and play with the neighborhood kids because Ouie was making her way to the kitchen with a bag that looked like it contained chocolate chips.   I was at least going to investigate what she was up to before heading outside.  Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of the ingredients coming out of the grocery bag and I quickly forgot the call of the outdoors.

Interesting to me is to think back on what drew me to my grandmother’s side.  At that early age, I was not thinking, “wow, this lady loves me.  She has my best interests in mind all the time.”  No, that would have been a level of critical thinking that I just did not have yet.  But, I did think, “Wow, this lady loves me.  She makes great stuff that I like.”  At this stage of my life it was all about me.  I did not understand the depth of commitment that compelled Ouie to go to such lengths to demonstrate her love for me.  I just knew she gave me good stuff in a measure that exceeded what my Mom or Dad might let me have when she wasn’t around to spoil us.

One day, I remember it oh so well, she was melting some chocolate chips on the stove.  I was at my place sitting on the counter closer to the stove than she had told me to sit and when she lifted the pan from the burnt orange burner on the stove she said, “Now don’t touch that, it is HOT!”

Guess what I did next?  I can look at my hand all these years later and still remember well the lightening quick pain that shot through my entire body as my hand came away from that burner with the crescent shape of the rings clearly marked on my little hand.  I have never come close to making that choice again.  I learned “first hand” that stove burners are HOT.

As I ponder this event from my early life I wonder what kept me from being obedient to Ouie who I knew loved me?  Why had I so quickly disobeyed her direct guidance?  Sure, easy to chalk it up to childishness but is that all there is to it?  I think there is more.

You see, I did not understand love at that time.  Not understanding it did not keep me from experiencing it but it did keep me from understanding how it works.  Where it comes from and how it directs my path.  At that stage of life, I thought love was about getting something.  If someone, in this case Ouie, loved me she gave me stuff.  End of love story.  But not really.

Real love is so much deeper than that.  Love is about a commitment that, if I had been a deep thinking 5 year old, I would have thought, “Now why does this woman who loves me want to keep me from touching something so inviting?  What could be her reason for keeping me from something that looks like fun?”  Not me, not at 5 years old.  Ouie told me that because she knew the outcome before the event.  She warned me of the eventuality of touching that hot burner and she cared enough to say “NO.”  Seems like a biblical example of love to me now.

God is the same way.  Before I understood love, God was loving me.  Before I knew the pain of disobedience God was loving me.  Before I knew to ask for forgiveness, I was forgiven.  Scripture tells us in Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (ESV).

grandmas hugThat brings me back to Ouie.  She is the first example of love that I remember in my life.  God placed her in my life for me to learn about love.  When I touched that hot burner, I learned about love.  The very person who advised me not to touch it was quickly holding me tightly in her arms and working to comfort and care for me.  She did not cast me aside for disobedience.  She did not quickly pull out a ruler to spank me (though that did happen on a number of other occasions).  She knew my pain and that a lesson was being learned but right then, at that moment, what I needed most was love.  And I got it from my Lord through Ouie.

This is a blog about life and work in the field of ending sex-trafficking.  Specifically, this is a blog about our work where we are presently engaged in Cambodia.  So how does that life event fit this cause?

This is a country with very few “Ouies”.  An entire generation of children has been raised up with parents, relatives, neighbors and other adults who not only fail to protect, they often have been the inflictors of pain.  They have not had the learning experience of love to even conceptually understand it much less believe there is a God who loves.

Let me be careful to avoid misleading.  It is not knowing that activates love but it is knowing that activates understanding.  The fact is God loves me and you even if I don’t know it.  But understanding that has changed my life decisions.  I had many “Ouies” in my life.

Here, in the world of sex-trafficking, young people don’t see any “Ouies”.

That is why we are here.  That is why missionaries are sent.  Sometimes we spend a lot of time even on the mission field focusing on the rules of faith when we need to focus on the purpose of faith.  We need to help people here and wherever we are – wherever you are – understand that, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 ESV).

We are in Cambodia; we are in this cause to show the love of Christ to a generation that has few examples.  We are here to help them to be transformed by knowledge to activate understanding so that it becomes action.  So that a new generation will grow up with “Ouies”.

If you support our work here, we are so very grateful.  If you don’t yet support our work, please consider a monthly gift to keep us engaged in this work.  We have been called to this I am certain.  Are you perhaps among those called to send us?

Perhaps your church would find a co-mission by partnering with us with monthly support or even your business might want to be aligned with the work of the Gospel to end sex-trafficking of young people.  Click a link and find out how you can be a part of sending us.

Thank you to all my “Ouies”.  Your lights shine bright in my life.