Friday, May 30, 2008

Surgery Scheduled

I met with the surgeon yesterday and have out-patient surgery scheduled for Tuesday, June 3.  

I've had a new thought about the next few months.  Zambians, especially Tonga speakers, tend to reverse Rs and Ls.  They say they are "leady to go" and tell us to "turn light at the next corner" and announce "let us play."  So it's likely that many of them will say that I have BLEST cancer instead of breast cancer.  That sounds good to me!  I've decided that I'll have BLEST cancer.

So far that has been very accurate.  We are overwhelmed with expressions of concern and encouragement.  We met with Ellie Hamby in Abilene and have figured out how to get our responsibilities at Namwianga covered for the next three months, thanks to the many people who stepped up and volunteered to help.  

God is good--all the time.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Life Interrupted

I have often thought that the best description of my time as a Zambian missionary would be “Life Interrupted.” The title fits on many fronts. My life as a teacher in the US was interrupted when we sailed off on our adventure to Africa. My life in Africa is one interruption after another—people knocking on the door, a constant stream of visitors, chores to be done, power outages, water shortages, and endless inconveniences.

Those interruptions pale by comparison to the one I am now facing. I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The problem showed up on a routine yearly mammogram, and the initial diagnosis indicates that the cancer is in a very early stage—Stage 0 on a scale of 0 to 4. The kind of cancer I have is called Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), and if I have to have cancer, I guess it’s one of the milder forms to have. It is not life-threatening; the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%, and chemotherapy is not required as part of the treatment.

This is, however, a colossal interruption in my life plans! My head is reeling with all of the things that I need and want to be doing in Africa, and my heart is aching for the people I miss over there. And as much as I love my children, family, and friends here in America, this is not where I want to be past my son’s wedding date on June 14.

I met with an oncologist Thursday and have an appointment with my surgeon on Wednesday. The treatment plan is to schedule a lumpectomy for the first week in June if the surgeon is available. Then after John and Leah’s wedding on June 14, I will have six and a half weeks of radiation therapy. My oncologist agrees that if all goes well I can return to Africa soon after I complete the radiation treatments.

For now, I ask for your prayers. My desire is to get back to Africa as soon as possible and continue my work there. More than that, however, is my desire to do God’s will, so please pray that whatever happens, God will be glorified. Pray that the surgery can be scheduled quickly and will show no additional cancer. Pray for my doctors as they interpret test results and plan treatment. Pray for David, who is, as he has always been, solid as a rock in times of trouble. Sara, John, and Leah need God’s strength to deal with this shock—especially since John and Leah are in the middle of planning a wedding. Pray for the Zambian students who will be without a teacher and sponsorship coordinator while I’m recovering. Pray that God will send someone who can fill in for me during the next few months.

And remember my recent blog about the lesson from the chickens? I wrote that during the time I was waiting for a diagnosis, and I was preaching to myself. Pray that I’ll keep looking up and recognizing the help God is sending and the blessings that are falling on me.

If you want to know more about DCIS, a good web site is And ladies, schedule those yearly mammograms!

I will keep my progress posted on the blog. Encouraging comments are welcome, and if you don’t want your comment posted for others to read, just let me know and I will enjoy it privately.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Update - May 23, 2008

We have been incredibly busy this month with family gatherings.  The first weekend in May we traveled to the Baytown, Texas, area to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of David's parents.  

Jake and Margaret have spent their lives serving the Lord and are an inspiration to us. In the late sixties Jake left his job in Baytown with Exxon and their family moved to Rochester, New York, with the Exodus movement.  They stayed there working with the Southside congregation until 1981.  Then Jake and Margaret moved to Searcy where Jake studied in the Christian Communications Program at Harding for two years.   After graduation Jake spent the next ten years preaching for congregations in Arkansas.  

The reception for Jake and Margaret was a wonderful reunion time as they were able to visit with many friends and relatives.  Remarkably, many of the original wedding party were at the reception, including the flower girl, ring bearer, all the groomsmen, and all but one of the bridesmaids.

It was a joy to celebrate this occasion with them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another Lesson from My Chickens

I have been surprised that so many friends and relatives tell me they enjoy my chicken stories! And I will confess that right now I miss my feathered friends and their antics. Maybe it’s because I learn a lot about myself from watching them. Here’s one of those chicken lessons.

Not all is sweetness and light in the chicken pen. I have learned from my observations of coop life that the terms hen-pecked, pecking order, and old biddy have very real meanings. This is especially evident when I add a new hen to my fowl community. It’s not pretty. The older hens, secure in their established pecking order, make sure the newcomer knows her place.

The welcoming routine is both fascinating and horrible. The new hen is dropped into the pen. Exhausted from struggling against her human captor, she flees to a corner and crouches. At least two of the old biddies strut over, cocking their heads as they fix their beady eyes on the new chicken. They watch her closely, and if she dares to move too quickly, they’ll deliver a strong peck to keep her down.

Eventually they will decide that she’s sufficiently cowed, and they’ll walk away. When the new hen gathers her courage, she’ll cautiously stand, shake out her feathers, and make her way to the food trough. There she’ll be met by a hostile ring of hens who will stick their tail feathers in her face and make sure she doesn’t get a bite until they have first stuffed themselves.

For the next week, the new hen is ostracized and subjected to hostility that might be compared to a junior high girls’ clique at its very worst. When the pecking order is firmly established and the senior hens are sure the newcomer understands it, the new hen is finally accepted into the brood and life goes on.

After watching this agonizing ritual a couple of times, I decided that I would try to help the next tortured newcomer during her adjustment. I took out crusts of stale bread. The older hens crowded near the fence, ready to jump for their share. I threw some in for them, and then while they were busy eating, I lobbed some extra big pieces to the newcomer who was hiding in the back corner of the pen.

I wish I could tell you that my kindness was gratefully acknowledged—that the abused one grabbed the airborne morsel and feasted in peace. But it didn’t happen that way. The new hen was so terrified that she didn’t even look up to observe the falling gift. Driven by fear, she ran away. The food dropped to the ground and was soon gobbled up by the undeserving tormentors.

I tried again and again, with each new pen addition. The same thing happened every time. First I was shocked, then sad, and then frustrated Why wouldn’t those silly hens look up and see their help and relief coming?

One day it dawned on me that I may be like my misguided fowl friends. Maybe my terror over life's uncertainties sends me running wildly just when God is trying to help me. And maybe I'm so panicked during my hard times that I don’t recognize the blessings God is showering on me. Could I be letting others gobble up the good things God intended for me while I cower in faithless fear?

My chicken lesson has given me new resolve. When I’m afraid, I’m going to look up. I’m going to watch for God’s help and recognize it when it comes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Georgia Hobby

We spent Mother's Day weekend in Searcy with David's parents.  On Sunday morning David preached at the Cloverdale church, and there we were privileged to visit with Georgia Hobby.  Mrs. Hobby and her husband, Alvin, were missionaries at Namwianga for 38 years.  Her heart is still in the work there, and she was eager to hear about our work.  She told us not long ago that she still dreams in Tonga occasionally.  

Missionaries like Mrs. Hobby are an inspiration to us.  Their level of commitment and the hardships they endured put us to shame.  Mrs. Hobby told us on Sunday that they stayed 15 years in Zambia before they came home on their first furlough!  


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Peace Corps Friendship

Shown here with us is Jalle (Jah-LEE) Gibesa, the Peace Corps worker who served the Kalomo area for the past two years.  Jalle quickly became a treasured friend and we enjoyed her visits immensely.  I've said before that I have the utmost respect for the hardy Peace Corps volunteers.  They live alone in thatched huts with no electricity or running water and rely on bicycles for transportation.  We have found them to be deeply committed to helping the Zambian people.  We've also discovered that they are able to find humor in the direst of circumstances, and we have enjoyed the many hilarious stories they tell us about their adventures.  

We took this photo when Jalle came to tell us goodbye.  She has completed her two-year stint in the Peace Corps and has now returned to the US.  She plans to become a doctor.  I'm confident that her experiences serving in Zambia will make her an especially competent and caring physician.