Monday, August 28, 2006

Will Grace Get A Baby Sista?

Will Grace get that baby sister that she has been praying for? We are still waiting to find out for sure. Her prayers have been so sweet though. Months ago she was faithfully praying for a baby sister. The baby sista that she said God told her she would have. However, the last few weeks her prayers have included something like this, "God, it's okay if you give me a baby brother and it's okay if you give me a baby sister." What's neat is that she changed her prayers on her own. We just told her from the start that it's up to God, but she could ask him for what she wants. I know that she wants a sister, but I think that she has come to the point that she trusts the Lord's decision in the matter.

Grace at about 6 weeks old.

It is exciting for all of us knowing that we will have a little baby in our home again. It could be tonight, it could be in a few weeks.

Tyler at about a month old.

The waiting was harder on the first baby, but after you've had four it seems to get easier. Right now, we are soo busy with ministry, studies, and our kids that the times seems to fly.

I did the math the other day and I realized that out of seventeen years of marriage to Jessica, she has been pregnant for about four of them. With four years of pregnancy under your belt you tend to learn a few things. Even thought Jess has been having contractions 3-5 minutes apart for about a week now, we have learned that this is how it works with her. A first time mother would have gone to the hospital at least four times by now, but we seem to have figured out the right time to go for us. The only thing that might mess up our discerning of Jessica's womb is the Manila traffic. The reality is that the 15-20 minute ride to the hospital could take an hour. Were praying that the time to go the hospital will be after 9pm or so because traffic is usually lighter at that time. We are also praying for a fast delivery (which was the case for our last two babies)and of course a healthy mommy and baby. I'll let you know as soon as the baby arrives. Click here to read about the baby's arival

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Outside Is Fixed, The Inside Is Next

(This is Part 3 of articles about little Angelo. Click here to read Part I).I have to admit it was a little hard for me to look at his face before the operation. I didn't want to stare or show any sign of shock at his appearance, but it did take some effort to smile and to be encouraging without having an expression of pitty on my face for this little guy. Remembering how precious he is to God; that his body will be restored to perfection if he goes to heaven, and that all of our lives in this world are temporary helped me to have compassion for him. Angelo and his family do not know the Lord now, but I pray that in the future, Angelo will be able to look back and see the deformity he used to have as a blessing from God because God used it to bring him and his family to the Lord.

The outside is fixed, the inside is next. Angelo's outward appearance looks better now, but his inside still looks the same to God. As I thought about this, I realized that Angelo is actually a good picture of many of us. We can fix ourselves up on the outside - dress up nicely, put on make-up, do our hair, be on our best behavior and look pretty good in the eyes of the world; especially when we compare ourselves to others around us. The reality however, is that inside we are still in bad shape. The facade may look great, but with God, we still fall short of being good enough for living with and enjoying Him forever. He takes every thought, attitude, word, and behavior into account. The sin within all of us separates us from God because He is holy and He can't allow deformed sinful souls in His prescense. Like Angelo, we need corrective surgery, but on the inside not the outside.

Here is Angelo before the surgery.

Here he is after the surgery.

I am so pleased with how his surgery came out. He is still healing, but he looks so much better. The doctor needs to take his stiches out still and there is a bit of swelling, but he's a handsome little guy! When I brought him back from the hospital it looked like the whole community living under the bridge came out to see him. In my best Tagalog I chatted with many of them as we all enjoyed seeing Angelo and his mom Virgi back home. At this point Angelo was more excited about his new ball than his face being repaired, but that's just how little boys are, isn't it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

At least he is a clean little monster

My little monster love's to take baths, especially with his daddy. However, daddy can't take a bath with Tyler as much as Tyler would like. If he even suspects that I am going to take a bath, He gets very excited and rushes to the bathroom door. This is what happened while I was in the CR (bath room for you Americans) the other day and Jess took this picture of Tyler. He suspected that dad was taking a bath without him, and found the door locked. By now, Tyler had learned a thing or two about locked doors. He knows how important keys are and had seen where we put them. He quickly shifted into action. First, he took off his clothes, including his underware. Second, He slid a stool over to my drawers, climbed up to open the top drawer, and pulled out our big set of keys. Third, he climbed down, slid the stool over to the bathroom door, and proceeded to attempt to unlock the door! Jessica caught him in the act and took this picture(did I mention he is only two?).

He still couldnt quite unlock the door completely (not knowing which key to use), and he was very disappointed to not get a bath that time. But don't worry he has taken a couple since. I never cease to be amazed at how smart little ones are. Just to clarify, Jessica wanted me to mention that when I call Tyler my little monster I use it as a term of endearment. He really is a sweet, cuddely little boy. I admit he is a little wilder than my other two boys were at this age, but he is still a very well behaved boy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

When he saw he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. (Luke 17:15)

He just turned 4 years old last
February, but he can’t speak much yet. He understands well, but his deformed palate has made speech difficult for him. I pray that someday Angelo will praise God with his fixed mouth and palate as he grows older and learns about God and what He has done for him.

I felt so privileged to be helping Angelo when I saw him walking hand in hand with his mom toward my car. Just a week earlier, I couldn’t help getting choked up when his mom translated my words into Tagalog to little Angelo. She asked him, “How would you like to get your mouth fixed?”. He smiled and gave his mom a high five.

On Monday morning, we were on our way to the hospital for a consultation with the doctor about fixing Angelo’s cleft palate. We found out that we came at the perfect time of the year. Angelo’s doctor told us that several doctors were doing a mission that week and that they were doing cleft palate surgeries the next Saturday for free. For FREE! God sure has good timing! The surgery and all the medicines would be free this particular week. There are only a few costs left and some kind friends from the States have already stepped up to cover them.

To our surprise, the doctor had Angelo immediately check into the hospital for initial tests (blood, x-rays, urine, etc.). He told us that Angelo needs to stay in the hospital untill Wednesday and then I could bring him back on Friday to get prepped for surgery on Saturday. Angelo didn’t seem to mind, but Vergi, his mom, was surprised and a little worried. First, I learned that Angelo is one of eight children and she now began to worry, “How can I feed my kids if I miss work?” (She would have to stay with Angelo the whole time). Second, since she did not anticipate having to stay at the hospital, she didn’t bring anything with her (like a tooth brush, extra clothes, a towel, etc.) The hospital doesn’t even provide blankets or pillows. We went across the street and picked up some food, water, tooth brush and other such stuff for them. Vergi’s best friend Charlyne would bring clothes and other necessities the next day.

The ward that they were staying in
has two large dorms with about 100 beds on both sides and all were occupied with patients and their families. Angelo was captivated by a little girl in the bed across from his. She had a cleft palate too, only she had two openings in her lip instead of just one. This may be the first time he has ever seen anyone in the same situation as his. They stared at each other fascinated. As it turns out, the cleft palate wasn't the worst problem this little girl had. When they did evaluations on her to get her mouth fixed, they discovered that she actually had a hole in her heart. So last month they did open heart surgery to fix her heart and this month they will fix her mouth. Add to those difficult circumstances the fact that she is not even a year old yet, she is only ten months old right now. As I was talking with her mom and playing with her I got a big smile out of her. Because of the open flaps of skin above her mouth, it was hard to see that she was smiling, but her eyes couldn’t hide it.

The next day I found out that the doctor was having trouble finding a vein in Angelo’s arm and was unable to finish all the bloodwork in time to release Angelo on Wednesday. He decided that Angelo should just stay there through Saturday for the operation. Again, Vergi expressed her concern about not being able to work. She and her husband sell eggs (the ever so popular Filipino "balut" to be exact – basically duck embryos) to support the family. I told her not to worry, that we would take care of her and her family during this time. After that I went home to wait for Saturday. Click here to read the next part of the story.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So little for us and yet so much for him

There was excitement in her voice as we discussed the possibility of her son's face being whole, but I could also hear the concern in her questions. Perhaps it was a dumb question on my part, but I asked her if she (Ate Vergie) was interested in having her son's face fixed. I've learned never to assume anything. I thought to myself, "It's possible that she could be against modern medicine or too afraid to have her son go under the knife". After I brought it up, Ate Vergie and Ate Sylvia asked me a few questions. Would he feel pain or would the doctor make him sleep during the procedure? Would the doctor just numb his lip? Would they use needles or would he just have to breath in the anesthesia? "It's too mahal (expensive)! How can we afford the medicine?" I told her, "akong bahala sa gastos" (I will take care of the expenses) if she is interested. I'm kind of taking this by faith because I don't know exactly how much it will cost, but I heard that there is one group that comes to Manila about once a year and does the surgery for about $300-$400. That's no small amount for a missionary salary, but it is still relatively small. How could Jessica and I not do that? Relatively so little for us and yet so much for him. I haven't done the math, but I wouldn't be surprised if I found out that we spend that much on coffee each year. This surgery could be life changing for Angelo. It would spare him from years of ridicule and hurt, adverse hygiene and medical issues, open up better possibilities for work and most of all, be a life long testimony to the love of Christ.

Angelo was born four years ago with a cleft palate. His tita (aunt) told me how he never cried as a baby and still doesn't speak. Ate Vergie said that he makes some sounds and he clearly understands what is being said to him. She hopes that he will be able to talk after his mouth is fixed. Angelo's father seems to have had a nervous break down and is out of work and seems to have given up on life at the moment. Maybe God will use this surgery to give Angelo's dad some hope and remind Him that He loves him.

I'm hoping that this surgery will have several other effects as well. First, Angelo has asthma. He is one of many kids and adults living under the bridge who have asthma. I'm guessing that the fumes from the exhausts of the thousands of cars passing over their bridge each day has a lot to do with it. This is especially dangerous for Angelo because I don't think he can use a conventional inhaler for his asthma. He is not able to form a seal around an inhaler with his mouth due to the section of lip that is missing. I think this could potentially be life threatening for Angelo if an asthma attack makes it difficult for him to breathe. His family can't afford a trip to the hospital, but they do have access to an inhaler...An inhaler which I'm guessing would have little effect at this time because of his deformity.

Second, I hope that God helping him through us will not only be a testimony to Angelo and his family, but to that whole community under the bridge. Several of them have and are reading bibles that I was privileged to give them. I was just talking with some of them today and they can see how God has not forgotten them. They see how He has sent me and other people over the years to help them as He cares for them. I have found a few possibilities of some local churches that might be able to help me minister to them. Their hearts have become more and more prepared for this. I get excited as I think about the possibilities. Join me in praying that we can help correct Angelo's deformity and get a local church involved with loving and teaching these precious people. Click here to read what happened next.