Sunday, September 26, 2010

José López surgery - (Sequel #5)

Sequel #5 (positive) to July/August 2010 Update - José López – stitches out! 9-26-10 Sunday after church, Martín, Erén and I went to Loma Alta where the “brothers and sisters” have been on round-the-clock rotation taking complete care of Pastor José López as he recuperates from his surgery. They are taking turns bringing his meals to his bedside, complete with steaming-hot, hand-flapped corn tortillas. When Laura brought his lunch today, she also brought him a cheerful bouquet of roses from her bush to brighten up his stay. I bet that even Kirt would be amazed that the surgical instruments he picked up for “peanuts,” “just in case,” at a swap meet while we were on deputation about 30 years ago would have been put to such valuable use. Today was stitch-removal time, and Erén and I were elected. With sterilized the instruments, for what it’s worth for a procedure performed in a mud house, with a multi-function flashlight for operating room illumination, and surrounded by a dingy hut full of curious onlookers, we went about the repulsive task of burrowing, snipping and plucking each strand of catgut from its gruesome niche. Check it out here. It’s positively amazing that José is taking his meds exactly on schedule, and so far he has zero infection! He has a follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon on Friday. Thank you for your continued prayers for his complete recovery.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Evan - torneo (Sequel #4)

Sequel #4 (positive) to July/August 2010 Update: What possibly could be more positive than the fact that the Tepic church (Iglesia Bíblica Bautista Misericordia – Tepic) is known for her diligence in praying faithfully and trusting our omnipotent Father for the outcome that is promised for our present and ultimate good? I can’t even begin to count the hundreds of faith-building answers to prayer He has provided. Not only do our Mexican brothers and sisters pray sincerely, passionately and faithfully for people and matters close to home, but also they pray for needs around the world that are brought to our attention. For nearly a year now, since we first heard of Evan’s (a friend of this ministry who lives in Arizona) cancer, he has been on every prayer list. Not a week has passed that we haven’t prayed for his healing, for his comfort even in his agonizing chemo, stem cell transplant, and radiation treatments, for his family, and for the severe financial strains they are experiencing as a result of this trial. The IBBM young people have particularly identified with their young brother, and they have felt the need to do more than just pray, based on the Bible’s admonition in James 2:15, 16: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” They said, “None of us has much, but all of us have something we can offer.” So, they got their heads together and dreamed up a soccer tournament in Evan’s honor; with special permission from the municipal authorities, they reserved the local soccer arena for Sunday after church. Carlita invited some of her unbelieving friends from the University to form a team. Cuautli invited his city league team, and Filiberto invited his team. Jessica invited some guys from her high school. Of course the Tepic church team signed up; and even pastors Martín and Nacho rounded up some other 40-year-old “victims” from the Tepic church to join their team, the Red Fury :). Hugo and Sebastián, who are both engineers for the national water commission, could barely get out of bed for work on Monday morning, but they gladly participated with the “oldies” team! Altogether there were 8 teams competing for 1st and 2nd place trophies donated by the school where Consu teaches. Every player agreed to contribute $20 pesos (a little less than $2.00 US) for the privilege of playing on a team. Some of the girls made little bags full of iced water and Jamaica tea (a popular tropical drink) to sell for $3 pesos to the parched-throated players and spectators. Beautiful young Carlita was the moderator. She raffled the team playing order and dictated the rules. She announced that we are followers of Jesus, and this is for a “noble cause, so please keep that in mind during the games.” She added that at the close of the tournament in addition to awarding the trophies we would be giving each player and spectator a little tract that explains exactly what it means to be a follower of Jesus and why we care about Evan, a young man that none of these people has ever met. It was a perfect opportunity to share with Evan, and a perfect opportunity for Evan to share Jesus, which is the only purpose we can possibly imagine for this horrific trial in his life. See more pictures of Evan's tournament here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

José López surgery (Sequel #3)

Sequel #3 (positive) to July/August 2010 Update: I promised that today I would fill you faithful prayer warriors in with the 1st of some “mini-updates” about current positive answers to your priceless prayers for this work. I didn’t expect that today would be nearly over before that answer would be ready to report. Pastor José López' surgery we’ve all been praying for is finally behind us! Let me say up front that if you EVER thought about supporting the cause of socialized medicine, think again. I will spare you most of the agonizing details of the past 7 days spent in a hospital FULL to the brim of very sick and hurting people with next to NOTHING to offer them. There is NO medication available in the hospital (not even scripts for the residents to write out the prescriptions on). I had to run to the pharmacy daily to buy José’s IV antibiotics, pain meds, and bandages.

The stainless steel sputnik (external fixator) had to be rented privately. There was not even a wheelchair available to wheel him out of the hospital to the truck for transportation to the village of Loma Alta where the brothers are going to care for him during recuperation. Each patient is responsible for providing his/her own family-member assistant for all personal needs, and the assistant “sleeps” on the floor, or not at all, in rooms full of 6-8 patients with absolutely no attention to privacy or patient contagion; nurses are only for changing IVs, and if the patient's assistant is not assertive, that might never happen. There is no soap anywhere for hand washing, no towel for drying, no tissue in the one bathroom that serves the entire floor, and I never saw one single person (doctor, nurse, assistant) wash hands before, in between, or after patient visits. 

 So what’s the positive news? First, due to obvious racial profiling, I have been able to make friends with and share my reason for donating a solid week of my time to help an old Huichol man through the bureaucratic hoops with 2 doctors, 3 residents, 2 nurses, 2 social workers for indigenous patients, 2 pharmacists, myriad patients and assistants, the director of the pathology lab, the director of the hospital, and at long last, the orderly who finally for our departure, located a rusty old wheelchair that was missing one foot rest and the rubber rim around one wheel. Second, I made arrangements for 5 Huichol brothers from the 2 villages closest to Tepic to come to town to stay one night each with José during his hospitalization. Every one of them is one of José’s spiritual sons, and when I mentioned that fact to each one as he arrived for my little hospital orientation pep talk and to take over and do his “service” for the night duty, José and “sons,” Miguel, Elivorio, Refugio, Valente, and Toño’s eyes welled up with tears of gratitude for the privilege. Each “son” got one-on-one time with the “teacher” as the sleepless nights were spent reading from the Huichol New Testament and hearing his exposition of the select passages. And finally, after starting the discharge process at 8:30 this morning, at long last, we managed to jump through all the hoops and leave the hospital at 6:15 p.m.! Now, we need to get moving on getting José a follow-up appointment in the next 2 weeks. Please pray with me that the recuperation will be rapid, that he will heal with no infection or stray clots, and that soon he will be back at his jobs of Old Testament translation and of spreading the Gospel of Peace to every remote corner of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Here you can see a slideshow of a “Memory Album” I’m making for José...if you have the stomach for it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The "Cuchillo" - property issues (Sequel #2)

Sequel #2 to July/August 2010 Update: WOW! I never dreamed I had so many real, true friends who actually read my updates, genuinely care and are willing to do their part to help batten down the proverbial hatches in preparation for difficult times! Thank you all. I want to clear up some possible confusion with regard to “big black solid metal door across the entrance” to the property and my house. The “Cuchillo” told me when he came to “click” the lock that they would leave a 70 centimeter door in the obnoxious gate unlocked allow me the “privilege” of passing through on foot to my house...but he said, “Don’t even think of driving through.” Do I really look that impetuous?!? Though he insisted that the little 70 centimeter door is only for my personal use, it still allows my friends and me access to my house. Men’s prayer meeting met here early this morning as usual. I do have a lawyer I’ve known for 25 years working with me on the details. He says my documents are impeccably in order, and we will come to a reasonable solution, but it won’t be “mañana”. He’s estimating at least 4-5 months. This is not an isolated case. I have missionary friends all over the world who are being faced with similar distractions. One friend in Poland says, “Satan is not very creative. But he wants to stop us anyway.” Another friend in Israel is facing possible deportation. Another in Australia says they just got a property battle dumped on them last spite of having their documents legal and in order.” He agrees that the enemy thrives on the “intensity of the emotional disruption and distraction that intrudes itself upon our desire for grace and peace and healthy relationships and thoughts.” How appropriate it is that we of the Tepic Church (IBBM-Tepic) have chosen “I Press Toward the Mark” as our theme for the 19th Anniversary Sunday celebration on October 3 and for the upcoming year. The emphasis is not on “I Press” but on “the Mark.” May we not allow demonic distractions to divert us from that objective. Speaking of not being distracted from the “Mark,” check back tomorrow (I hope) for the 1st of some mini-updates about current positive answers to your priceless prayers for this work.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sequel #1 to July/August 2010 Update: It WAS official! The ½ acre plot of land directly adjacent to the Tepic church about which Kirt and I sent a letter 10 years ago requesting special prayer, with no previous notice, has been placed up for public auction, again... “Legitimately” (Ha!). However, the July/August prayer update that I had prepared to send out last week giving all the details, is now obsolete. Things have turned really ugly in the past few days since the auction officially started, and for us, the auction is officially, "off". We are in absolute need of prayer, but I don't want to receive any offerings toward the property. The ex-owner somehow has regained major political clout and connections and has come back with a vengeance. He installed a big black solid metal door across the entrance to the property, which also happens to be the entrance to my house (which was also his before he lost it years ago to the bank). He sent his lawyer (who is nicknamed in the underworld, "El Cuchillo" [The Knife]) to inform me they would allow me 10 minutes to get my vehicle off my property and out the door before they locked it permanently. They are claiming that the road in front of my house is not Acacia Street, but that it is "their" property, so I will no longer have access to my entrance. Meanwhile, my vehicle is being parked in the street on the other side of my front wall... longer story yet ... but it's not good. I've gone to all the appropriate authorities seeking assistance, but so far all have been unable or unwilling to get the lock removed from the gate (If they can't do that, they certainly won't be able to deliver to the highest bidder possession of the property we have been considering! Thank you, Lord, for THIS heads-up!). I refuse to fight over property rights with any of the “Cuchillo’s” band. I will continue to pursue justice by government authorities, keeping in heart and mind, however, that God chose to respond to us in love, while we were still His enemies; and I intend to use this opportunity to be a living example before many who are watching, of that reality of the Cross. It won’t be easy, and it is certain that I’ll need the prayers of all this team. For that I thank you in advance.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

July/August 2010 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty

July/August 2010 “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy...” Zephaniah 3:17a 

 Pastor José López is finally scheduled for surgery on September 13. It helps a lot if you agree to go to the surgeon’s private office and pay through the nose for examinations rather than jump through the hoops at the indigenous hospital. The surgery entails cutting through the bone below the knee and readjusting it, then reinforcing the whole works with an exploded sputnik-looking erector set (rented from the orthopedic supply company...owned by the doctor, of course) until it heals straight. The problem is that all his bow-legged life he has been abusing the cartilage in the knee to the point that there is no more...he’s pounding bone against bone with each excruciating step. The only reasonable solution for him (based on 4 different opinions) is to straighten the leg and replace the missing cushion with who knows what substance. That’s the job in a layperson’s nutshell. The recovery time will be about 2 months before they can remove the pins and external stainless steel brace from his leg, but according to the doc, he will be able to walk carefully, out of the hospital the day after the surgery. The brothers at Loma Alta (Puga) have said they would consider it a privilege to care for him there; they even offered to buy him a bed, since he’s used to his in his home village, Carlos Alatorre. That’s a sacrifice, for sure. It is no small surgery, and the orthopedic surgeon (who has also operated on both, Ben and Jeremy) said that when that’s won’t be long before the other leg will need the same procedure. José is not a candidate for knee replacement because that’s only good, at the very longest, for 8-10 years for people who are basically sedentary...not for 65-year-old country boys who spend their lives trekking to every remote corner of the Sierra Madre Mountains spreading the Gospel of Peace. Please keep praying with us for wisdom and compassion for the surgeon, patience, provision, and complete healing for José, who is a valuable member on the team for Huichol Old Testament translation and the lead pastor among the Huichols. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy...” Zephaniah 3:17a Marisol Rojo is the worthy recipient of the 5th annual Kirt Mellberg Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship fund, donated by interested sponsors, is a living investment awarded in Kirt’s memory for the purpose of recognizing and encouraging students who have distinguished themselves as leaders, who exemplify the servant qualities of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who are actively preparing themselves for ministry in missions or in a local church. Marisol gave her life to Jesus under Kirt’s ministry, and in spite of many obstacles, she has been faithful to her calling. This is her final year at the Universidad Cristiana de Las Americas (UCLA) :) in Monterrey, Mexico. It’s official! The ½ acre plot of land directly adjacent to the Tepic church about which Kirt and I sent a letter 10 years ago requesting special prayer has been placed up for public auction again...“legitimately”! The federal government had confiscated it for back taxes nearly 5 years prior. We were told that Hacienda (the Mexican equivalent of IRS) would be auctioning the land to the highest bidder within the month, and many of you prayed with us and got involved financially in that project. After nearly two years of litigation, it became obvious that the “month” that was originally promised, for some reason we have yet to discover, was thwarted. We opted to return funds that had been designated for that auction, though many of you requested that we use your contributions for other work-related needs or save it in the property fund account, which I have done. One friend of this ministry, who is now in Heaven, responded with the following encouraging note: “We believe with you that the Lord will provide that property next to the church, and we are also sure that His timing is perfect. He will overrule even the cleverest schemes of men to interfere with His will.” We have clung to that truth as we prayed and waited for this day. Suddenly this week, with no previous notice, the property appeared on the government site to be auctioned on September 16. The existing Tepic church campus is not only attractive, but also has been very practical and mostly adequate for our needs; however, the children’s classes are meeting in the Aldaco’s garage, and adult Bible studies meet in my living room (Thankfully, we both live next to the church.). That’s not bad, but we are landlocked, and as you can see in Kirt’s hand-drawn plan, this is a marvelous opportunity to make room for more! Please pray with me for our church leaders as they offer in the silent auction whatever God has provided. The property has been assessed with an exorbitant “suggested value” for bidding (about 5 times the suggested price 10 years ago) as property prices ironically have skyrocketed in this plummeting economy. Nevertheless, we know from personal experience that God delights in using the ridiculous to confound the mighty. Pray that the auction will be carried out without fraud, but most of all, that the Church, which is not the building and property, will continue to serve God joyfully and in unity regardless of the outcome.

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