Thursday, November 23, 2006

O-yaah, Kool-Aid and butter, the drink of "Little monsters"

You know, sometimes us parents are just not fast enough. It was five something in the morning and my ears woke to the sound of, "milk", "milk." Tyler took at late nap the day before so he was only up for about an hour before it was time for bed again. The result was that he woke up very early. Struggling to open my eyes I cracked them just enough to see his dark form. The sun hadn't come up yet and I wasn't about to get up yet either. I told him to wait a little while and to lay back down.

About an hour later I got out of bed and got ready so that I could take Grace to school and drop Jess off at the train. As I walked down stairs I was met by Tyler who had a big smile on his face. He said, "I have milk daddy." Right now, Tyler is at that age where all liquid such as fresh juice, Kool-Aid, etc. is milk and all meat is chicken. I could see that he had a cup in his hand, but I didn't recognize the concoction that was inside it. There was red powder and chunks of some soft yellowy substance. I took the cup from him and walked into the kitchen to try and discover what he had gotten into. I found a small plastic stool pushed up against our kitchen table. On top of the table was a canister of Kool-Aid and a container of butter (some say Parkay). The butter now had red swirls through it and I was too afraid to look into the Kool-Aid container. That will teach me not jump up and get his "milk" as soon as he asks for it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A living picture of the Gospel

After about six hours of waiting in lines and several heart tests later, we were finally able to see the doctor. Charlita and Ariel know that their son has some kind of problem with his heart, but I could see the shock in Charlita’s face when the doctor told her that Chariel needs surgery to repair his defective heart. She asked him if they could just give him some “gamot” (medicine). The doctor held back a surprised smile and said no. I could tell that she was in deep thought as she stood motionless while trying to grasp what this all meant. Her eyes began to water, but she held back the tears and did her best to compose herself as she listened to the doctor. Dr. Manrique explained the results of the tests that Chariel had taken. His heart has various defects including an obstruction in one of the valves and it is enlarged (I believe because it has been struggling to get more oxygen into his blood).

The good news is that the defects in his heart are not beyond repair, but fixing it is going to require two surgeries. I’m not a doctor, but I will attempt to explain the situation as best I can. If you would rather not read my feeble attempt at describing the technical details about the heart just skip down a few paragraphs.

The heart has four chambers; right and left atrium on the top, and right and left ventricle on the bottom. Normally, (starting from the right ventricle) the blood travels through a valve to the lungs so that it can be oxygenated. Then it returns to the heart through the left atrium, passes through a value and proceeds to the left ventricle. From there it is pumped through another valve to the aorta which distributes the blood to the various parts of the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients. The blood then returns to the right atrium to repeat the process.

In Chariel’s case, some defect is basically allowing some blood to bypass the lungs and go straight to the body without being oxygenated (making his fingers and toes blueish) or unoxygenated blood is mixing with oxygenated blood through a hole in the between the right and left atrium.

I believe the reason Chariel needs two surgeries is that one of his heart valves is too small to handle the increased blood flow that would result from the repairs to normalize his heart. This means that the surgeon will have to first do a temporary shunt to reroute some of the blood flow until the valve grows large enough (in a year or two) to be able to handle the increased blood flow expected to result from the second operation. The second operation will repair the defect in the heart and remove the shunt from the first operation.

We found out that the cost of the first surgery will be about $3000 and the second surgery will be about $7000-$8000. We are applying for government assistance, but we don’t know if they will help us in part, in whole, or at all. If you have read my blog before, then you probably know that Charlita, Ariel, and Chariel are 1 of about 15 families living under a bridge in Manila. They have no running water or electricity. It’s doubtful that Charlita and Ariel could come up with the $10-$11 thousand dollars in their entire lifetime. Ariel told me that he usually only gets work a couple of times a week and often goes weeks without work. Based on that, I estimate that during a good month (one in which when he finds work at least two days every week) he would make about $48 dollars a month. That’s about $1.60 a day for the whole family to live on! While driving home I told them that I don’t know how we will pay for the surgeries, but not to worry, God will provide. I probably would not normally say that, but from some reason I believe He will this time.

When we got back to the bridge several of the families there came to me to find out the latest with Chariel. As I began explaining to them the situation I again saw that Charlita did not fully understand the seriousness of Chariel’s condition. For a second time she appeared to be shocked. This time she was shocked when she heard me tell the others that the doctor said Chariel’s longest life expectancy would probably been in his teens if he did not have these surgeries. They were probably to numb to even being thinking about their little three year hold having his chest opened and having human hands working on his heart.

I think that everyone living at the bridge was shocked when they heard the cost of the operation. I could hear many of them repeating the words, “That’s over a half million pesos!” I could understand the sense of hopelessness that Charlita and Ariel must have felt when they heard what seems to be a price beyond their ability to pay for the life saving operations for their only child. What a powerful way that God has given me to share with them how God is experienced in paying for debts that are beyond our ability to pay. I will use this opportunity to share with them how God paid the penalty of our sins with the life of His only Son. They have heard the gospel through my friend Pastor Sonny and me several times, but now they will get to see a living illustration of it.

My wife Jessica and I were able to cover the 5,000 pesos for the heart tests, but the cost of the surgeries is beyond what we can do on our own. I now plead with you and all who read this to let God use you to show his love for His people at the bridge. Consider proclaiming to this family and community how great God is by making a sacrifice to help Chariel. Lets illustrate the gospel together not only in words, but also in deed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

She knew her son was different, but she didn't know why

Our Sunday afternoon Bible study at the bridge is going well. The other day as Pastor Sonny taught from the word of God, I was able to show a few visitors from our mission (Pastor Paul and Judy Snuffer) the ministry. It gives me great joy to see Robert, my first friend from the bridge, leading the worship songs, everyone paying attention, reading along in their bibles, and asking questions. I was amazed to see for the second week in a row a few visitors from outside. I am also enjoying seeing friendships deepen among the people at the bridge like I had not observed there before.

As usual, its always fun to see the little ones in their bible study. Pastor Paul took a few good pictures that I thought I'd share. Merriam has been faithfully teaching the children and we were pleased to have her sister Marife join us for the first time this week. Josette also faithfully helps teach the children, which allows us to separate them into there age groups and teach them better. We were also able to move the kids Bible study from a small space under the bridge to a larger shanty. It blesses me to see the kids looking forward to teachers Meriam and Josette's coming each week. They usually follow us out to the car and wave us good-bye.

After the study we all sat around talking when I could see the pain in the face of one of the mothers. Her name is Charlita. She was holding her son Chariel in her arms as she began to cry and tell us there story. I had noticed Chariel before, but only from a distance. He is a three year old little guy who is always in his mom's arms and cries a lot. He is one of the few children who does not join the other kids for the bible study. His mom comes when she can, and now I understand when Chariel doesn't join the other kids. Seeing him up close I noticed that his lips, fingers, and toes are blue.

Charlita told me that she wanted to tell me earlier, but felt ashamed to ask for help. She knew that her son was different, but she did not know why or what the problem was until just a few days earlier. Her only son Chariel was having difficulty breathing and passed out. They took him to a doctor and right away he knew that Chariel has a heart problem. It was a blessing the Pastor Paul and Judy were there because they were able to share that over 30 years ago their son was also a blue baby and had to have his heart repaired. I told Charlita that I would help them as much as I can.

The next day I picked up Charlita, her husband Ariel, and Chariel (Charlita + Ariel = Chariel). First we went to Philippine General Hospital (PGH). As we were driving I could hear Chariel laboring to breath. I began thinking about the man who was blind from birth in John 9:1-3. In verse two, His disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied in verse three, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." Was this why Chariel was born with a defective heart? Is the Lord going display Himself to Chariel and the people from the bridge through His power and love?

When we arrived at the PGH emergency room the doctors told us that he needed to be admitted so that they could run some tests. They assured me that he was welcome, but they also warned me that at the time, it was TWO PEOPLE PER BED. They wanted to make sure that we were okay with that before they admitted Chariel. Then what I had observed began to makes sense. I saw several beds with more than one patient on them. I saw children hooked up to breathing machines laying next to children hooked up to heart monitors on the same bed. The doctor told us that we could also go to the Philippines Heart Center. Charlita and Ariel left it up to me (which is the culturally correct thing for a Filipino to do). I decided to try the other hospital hoping that it would have more room and because it specializes in heart surgery.

At the Philippines Heart Center the doctor seemed a little irritated and asked Chariel's parents why they didn't have this problem correct soon after his birth. He said that the doctor who delivered Chariel should have recognized the problem right away and recommended the surgery. However, the doctor at the heart center quickly changed his tone as Charlita explained that they couldn't afford to have the baby in the hospital. They delivered the baby by themselves in their home. As the doctor explained to me the problem with Chariel's heart he pulled out a sheet of paper breaking down the costs of the surgery. If the tests determine that they can do the surgery, then it will cost about $7,000. That is cheap compared to having heart surgery in the U.S., but it is much more than missionary family can afford. We will ask the Philippine government for help, but if the Lord puts it on your heart to help, all of us over here would deeply appreciate it. Either way, all eyes are on God to see what He will do through us and you. Stay tuned. Click here to read what happened next.