Monday, June 30, 2008

The Crane

We love to hear stories of how God is working in amazing ways at Namwianga! This week we received a report from Ellie Hamby who has been there since early June. The mission is trying to get a radio station up and going. The tower and other basic equipment were sent over from the US on two different containers. One container has already arrived, so Ellie and Andrew Sibwaalu, the maintenance supervisor, have been trying to get the tower erected. Here is Ellie's account of what happened.

It is interesting doing anything in Zambia, and the scenario surrounding the erection of the radio tower was no different. The company that we contracted with to build the tower was having no luck getting a crane company from Lusaka to come to Namwianga to assist in erecting the tower. They could get one to come, but the company wanted to charge $500 per hour. It would take at least 6 hours for them to get here and that was just one way. The tower team working at Namwianga talked to our maintenance director, Andrew Sibwaalu, and asked him to help them locate a crane. Andrew came to me on Wednesday to see if anyone was going to Choma (about 40 miles away). I told him no and suggested he take a bus or a taxi and go see what he could do. To my surprise, a huge truck with a crane arrived at the tower site three hours later!

Here's Andrew's story. He hired a taxi in Kalomo and was on his way to Choma. As they were driving toward Choma, he was amazed to see a big truck with a crane meeting them on the road headed toward Kalomo. Andrew got the taxi driver to turn around and catch up with the truck. Andrew asked the crew on the truck where they were going and found out they were headed for Livingstone (another 100 miles down the road) to do a job. Andrew then asked, “Would you mind taking a small deviation and go to Namwianga to help us erect the first four sections of our radio tower?" They said they would and agreed to do it for a very reasonable fee.
They came to the mission and worked for about three hours and then left for Livingstone. While they were there, I (Ellie) talked to them and asked if they would move the other container that is going to house the studio to a place near the base of the tower. They said they would stop on their way back from Livingstone on Monday or Tuesday and place the container in the right spot. Again, they agreed to do this for a very reasonable price. God is amazing to arrange a crane appearing on the road between Choma and Livingstone at just the right time. I (Ellie) have been on the roads in Zambia many times over the years and have never seen a crane being moved.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Update - June 29

We spent four wonderful days at Blue Haven last week.  We stayed in the cabin pictured above, but spent most of our days at the camp.  We were blessed to be part of rich worship assemblies and once again marveled at the beautiful singing.  We taught classes each day while we were there and enjoyed our interactions with the campers and counselors.  On Tuesday we did a special presentation for the counselors and encouraged them to consider short- or long-term mission work after they graduate from college.  We renewed old friendships and made some great new ones.  

We left Thursday morning for the 12-hour drive back to Austin so that I could be ready for my all-important appointment on Friday morning to get set up for radiation treatments.  We had been out of cell phone range all week, so when we approached Lubbock on Thursday afternoon I checked our voicemail.  James from the Oncology Center had been trying to reach me since Monday.  When I called him back, he informed me that my Friday morning appointment would have to be rescheduled since the CAT scan machine would be out of service beginning Friday morning and would not be up and working again until July 7.  He wanted to schedule me for Thursday afternoon, but since it was 2:30 and we were seven hours away from Austin, that wasn't an option.  I had horrible visions of delaying treatments and our return to Africa for an additional 10 days.  I was especially frustrated that James hadn't tried to try to e-mail me--I had figured that as long as we were getting our e-mails I was in contact with the outside world.  Poor James said he'd talk to the doctor and see what he could do.  He called back a few minutes later assuring me that Dr. Nuesch was insisting that I get the radiation set up and started as soon as possible (bless you, Dr. Nuesch).  The technician from his office agreed to meet me in Round Rock on Friday and use the CAT scan machine there to do the set up.   Whew!  

The appointment on Friday went well.  Now Dr. Nuesch will use the CAT scan to determine the exact radiation plan, and I'll start treatments on Tuesday.  The treatments are supposed to last just a few minutes, and I'll be having one each weekday for the next six and a half weeks.   That will put us at mid-August.  Hopefully I can then rest for a couple of weeks and be ready to head back to Zambia in early September.  

For now we are pretty tied down to Austin.  We are hoping to do some presentations about our Zambian work at area congregations.  If you know of a congregation or group that might be interested in hearing about the work there, please let us know.  

How to Pray for Someone Dealing with Cancer

I have often struggled to know how to pray for someone who is fighting a long-term illness like cancer. Usually my prayers for others have been vague requests for healing and for strength for the patient and the family.

Now I am the cancer patient in need of prayer, and I suddenly understand how much more specific intercessory prayers can be. I have been blessed to hear the targeted, heart-felt prayers of my Christian friends as they have lifted me up before the Father. From them and from my experience, I offer the following suggestions as you pray for me or for others who are fighting cancer.

I believe that God works through the physicians, technicians, and caregivers who are treating me. I have seen how much precision and knowledge is involved in procedures, lab work, diagnosis, and treatment plans. I think it is certainly appropriate to pray for the medical personnel, asking God to use their skills and to guide them in their interpretations of medical reports, and in their decisions about diagnosis and treatment plans.

When possible, pray for the doctors by name. My main oncologist is Dr. Hellerstedt, and she oversees my treatment plan.  Dr. Nuesch (pronounced New-ish) is my radiation oncologist. Tomorrow (June 30) he will be determining the plan for my 33 radiation treatments. This requires a high degree of skill and precision to ensure that the correct radiation is used in exactly the right areas, so prayers for Dr. Nuesch are in order. A good outcome also relies on machines that work correctly and technicians who follow the prescribed plan, so that, too, can be a matter of prayer.  

Some of my prayer warriors have asked for specific times when I will be in surgery or in treatment and have committed to pray for me at those times. Beginning on Tuesday, I will have radiation at 10:00 every weekday, and your prayers are much appreciated.

Cancer is a frightening disease that can easily overwhelm the patient’s thinking and lifestyle. I have heard my friends pray that I will have peace and confidence as I face treatments. I have felt God’s peace throughout my ordeal, often feeling that I am riding on the wings of those prayers.

Cancer affects the entire family. They, too, are frightened and have had their lives changed by this unwelcome interruption. How comforting it is to know that friends are praying for David, Sara, John, and Leah, as well as for David’s parents and our siblings.

At times, I have found it difficult to think clearly, especially when I’ve been overwhelmed by information about cancer and treatments. Prayers for clear thinking are certainly appropriate.

My desire is that God will be glorified by whatever happens. I am constantly aware that my attitude and my faith are on display to the medical personnel and to my friends and family as I deal with this disease. I need prayers that I will be able to show God’s power at work in me so that God receives the glory.

I’ll close with the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:10b-11. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bernard and Jason Update

Meagan sent me the latest news on Bernard and Jason.  Bernard is doing well with his father and new stepmother.  He is attending preschool and even gets to call Meagan and talk to her on the phone occasionally.

Jason's grandmother came to Namwianga and talked with Cecelia Siafwiyo,  the housemother for the Haven.  The grandmother says she cannot take Jason and doesn't think there is anyone else in the family who can or should have him.  The Merritts have decided that he will move in with them at Eric's House.  He will have a bright future there with lots of attention from the other boys and many opportunities to develop his incredible athletic ability.  And we will be able to see him all the time!  

I miss the little guys and can't wait to get back to Namwianga and see them again.  Keep them in your prayers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

To BOCC Parents of Blue Haven Campers

Just a quick report on the Brentwood Oaks campers who are a Blue Haven this session: Everyone seems healthy and happy. All of them are telling me that they are having a great time, and not a single one will admit to being homesick. I served in the lunch line today and made sure to check on the youngest boys as they came through. They are all clean, and they assured me that they are taking showers every night. Moms, breathe a little easier--your kids are doing fine.

Looking Up, Continued

I continue to be amazed at the blessings God is sending our way.

On Monday I met with the radiation oncologist, a very helpful doctor who grew up in South America as the child of missionaries.

My second surgery on Tuesday was a breeze, barely slowing me down for a few hours. On Wednesday we were able to make a quick trip to Fort Worth to see Carly Branscum (daughter of long-time friends Cary and Pam) sing a solo in the finale of the Summer Spectacular musical. I’ll admit I slept all the way home and was pretty worn out the next day, but it was worth it.

On Thursday I met with a nutritionist. It turns out that she is from South Africa! Since my follow-up care will have to be in Johannesburg or Capetown, she offered to help me find medical professionals or help with any other needs when the time comes.

The pathology report came back on Friday showing clear margins, so now I am set to begin radiation treatments the first of July. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Abilene where we spent the night with Don and Laura Oldenburg, our co-workers at Namwianga. They have been back in the US since late February because Don is also battling cancer. He has already been through his chemotherapy and just started on radiation treatments this week. We have a good-natured contest going to see which of us can make it back to Namwianga first. Laura is a nurse who has worked in oncology, so she has been very helpful to me, and it was great to visit with them.

On Saturday we traveled on to Camp Blue Haven in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Sara and John were campers here from the time they were old enough to go, and we spent eight summers teaching Bible during second session, so this place is near and dear to our hearts. We had a warm welcome from old friends as well as the many BOCC campers who are here. The cool mountain air and the rugged beauty of the mountains just add to the joy of being at a place that is aptly described as “a mile and half toward heaven.”

The camper talent show on Saturday night brought back many memories, and we loved seeing our Brentwood campers in action. Many of them are former students from my second grade classes, so that made it extra special for me.

We are staying in a beautiful log cabin nestled in the pines of the Blue Canyon. The temperatures were down in the 50s last night. Today the sun is shining, the air is crisp and clear, and we are headed for Sunday morning worship with the campers.

We are richly blest.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Good Report

The pathology report from my surgery showed sufficient clear margins.  We are rejoicing.

Right now we are headed for Camp Blue Haven in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Leah's aunt and uncle have a cabin in the Blue Canyon, and we are going to spend a few days there before my radiation treatments start.  We will be there during second session at the camp--the session we attended as Bible teachers for many years.  We're looking forward to re-connecting with some of our fellow teachers from years past, and we'll also get to see the Brentwood Oaks campers who are there now.  An added bonus will be cool mountain air--a welcome relief from Austin's oppressive heat.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Parents of the Groom

David and I probably haven't been this dressed up since our own wedding 32 years ago.  We thoroughly enjoyed the joyous day--definitely one of the happiest in my life!  God is good all the time.

The Wedding

John and Leah's wedding on Saturday evening was beautiful.  We had a wonderful time with family and friends rejoicing over God's goodness in bringing these two together.  

Surgery Report

My surgery on Tuesday went well.  I had a general anesthetic this time, so I spent an extra hour in recovery.  Other than that, everything is great.  The pathology report is due back on Friday--we're praying for clear margins greater than 2 millimeters.  

I have met with the radiology oncologist and will start radiation treatments on July 1.  

Thank you for your prayers and concern.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Surgery

I am scheduled for a second surgery on Tuesday, the 17th.  Although the pathology report for the first surgery showed no invasive cancer, it also showed that there was not a wide enough margin, or area of clear tissue around the cancer site.  This time the surgeon will take another layer for examination to make sure that all of the cancer has been removed.  It should be even simpler than the first surgery and will require very little recuperation time.

It does set back the start of radiation treatments for another two weeks, but that gives us some time to do a little more traveling.  

We continue to be blessed by the prayers and concern from family, friends, and blog readers.  We appreciate you!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Looking Up

This week I have once again been reflecting on the life lessons I've learned from my chickens (see an earlier post). I remember feeling such pity for the terrified hens who cowered in the corner of the pen, blinded by fear and unaware of the bread chunks that were being thrown into the pen for them. As I have faced a diagnosis with cancer, interrupted life plans, and an uncertain future, I have vowed that I will keep looking up and recognizing the blessings God is trying to shower on me.

Here's this week's list. My surgery on Tuesday went well and my recovery has been unexpectedly easy. I feel great! The pathology report looks good with no signs of invasive cancer. I have been able to spend lots of time with Sara, John, and Leah in the past week. I am surrounded by a wonderful, caring church family and a rock-solid group of friends to care for me. I've gotten many e-mails and cards with messages of encouragement and concern. I have time to rest when I need to. People from Texas to Zambia are praying for me, and I feel like I am riding on the wings of prayer. God is good all the time.

I am richly blest.

This week I will meet with the surgeon on Tuesday and my oncologist on Wednesday to develop the rest of my treatment plan. Next Saturday is John and Leah's wedding in Brady, so we'll be busy getting ready for that.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


My surgery today was quick and uneventful.  I was able to go home after just an hour in the recovery room.  I'm feeling great and enjoying lots of TLC from friends and family.