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Friday, March 19, 2010

Lots of news

First of all, I've been remiss in letting you know what's happened with Boy since December. In short, he had a full lung collapse at the beginning of February, followed by emergency surgeries (yes, the ones we'd hoped to avoid) and 8 days in the hospital. The doctors have given him a thumbs up and he's regaining his energy and previous activity levels. And the 6 new scars are way cool. :)

Secondly, I'm excited to share the news of my contract for CHILDREN OF LIGHT, due out in November from Written World Communications. CHILDREN is an historical that begins in 13th century Europe and ends a decade later on a sprawling estate in Egypt.

I'd love for you to visit my new website and then let me know what you think.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Low-Down

We're home and unpacked and very weary, but so thankful to God for his blessings and his answers to many prayers.

Here's where things stand with the Boy. After three days of appointments and lots of tests including an echocardiogram and lung function, the Mayo Clinic pulmonologist determined that our son's otherwise good health and the positive outcomes of his previous lung collapses (pneumothoraxes) bode well for him in the future.

The surgeries being considered--fusing the lining of the lung to the lung itself and removing small cysts on the lungs--would be very painful for Boy and perhaps ultimately unnecessary. Yes, he might continue to have lung collapses, but the doctor expects they will be relatively minor and that he might even grow out of them. Very specific genetic tests have been done, including a skin biopsy netting two sutures (battle wounds ;-). The results, due in several weeks, will guide doctors in reconsidering surgery. In other words, if the Boy isn't going to outgrow these collapses, then we'll know so and will have better information to decide the best course of action. In the meantime, if he has a significant lung collapse, we'll know beyond doubt that we need to move forward. The pulmonologist suspects the previous pneumos might be the result of rapid height gain outpacing lung development.

We feel great about the results of our trip. And while we love our doctors here, we feel things were heading too fast toward a decision for surgery before all the facts were in. It is a tremendous blessing to have worked with a team of doctors (here and at the Mayo), who were willing to consult together for our Boy's long term best interest.

All that being said, I will not and cannot downplay the power of prayer--many faith-filled people have prayed for healing and for a positive outcome without surgery. In one way or another, God has answered those prayers.

Thank you for keeping up with us and for your love and support.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Quick update. Docs have decided surgery would not be in Caleb's best interest at this time. We will wait for genetic testing results which will take several weeks, but current tests look really good. We're trying to hit the road asap and get to Kansas tonight in the hopes of beating the icy roads due from here through Iowa tomorrow.

Thank you for your prayers--God is good all the time!

More later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good Gifts

We found out this afternoon that we have an early appointment on Thursday with the pulmonologist who will review Caleb's tests with us and make a final determination regarding surgery. We're praying for wisdom and, if everything seems good, quick action and a trip home. The earliest surgery we can hope for seems to be Friday.

Thank you for the many expressions of love and concern. Thank you especially for your prayers. All good gifts come from God.

We're very blessed to be staying in the Ronald McDonald House--another gift. It often takes days or weeks to get in; we got in the day we arrived. We've met a couple of families and find everyone here to be rooting for each other and for one another's kids. There are many sad stories, many heartwarming. We had dinner in the community room tonight, enjoying a meal brought in by one of the local grocery stores. The Mayo Clinic itself is a fascinating small city worthy of its own blogpost. But we're tired and the alarm will go off early, so I'll close out here.

Love and hugs.

Hurry Up and Wait

Boy had an echocardiogram, blood tests, and a skin biopsy this morning . . . the last two for genetic testing. We're just hanging out now, waiting to hear about the surgeries. Waiting, waiting, waiting . . .


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adventure Boy

I haven't written on this blogsite in quite a while, but if this isn't a journey, I don't know what is.

First of all, I must say that we are so grateful for our situation. We know that many deal with much more difficult medical issues. Nevertheless, I've definitely invoked God's promise in Philippians 4:6-7--"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." And I have to say, He has been more than faithful.

To recap, our 15-year-old son has had three lung collapses in the past 4 months for no apparent reason. The last collapse just over a week ago convinced his doctors he needed one or two procedures to prevent future and more life-threatening lung collapses. Easy, except that Adventure Boy has also been diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue disorder that could impact healing. Hence, we are at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where they specialize in dealing with kids like him (you know . . . the superhero variety ;-).

Today we had appointments with a pulmonologist, a surgeon, and a geneticist. The short version is that we have more questions than we started with regarding Boy's connective tissue disorder (more genetic tests have been ordered), but positive news that he is a good candidate for the lung surgeries he needs. We are also glad to report that he feels good and healthy--except when his lung pops. :)

He's scheduled for an echocardiogram on Wednesday morning. If his heart looks healthy, then he is to have two procedures done on each lung later this week (we hope). Fairly simple, though we're promised recovery will be painful. These procedures should eliminate the risk of the very bad kind of lung collapse and diminish the risk for other collapses in general. After a night in the hospital, he should be free to leave. The 1,000-mile car trip home will be interesting. Praise God our daughter arrived here today after moving all her finals to yesterday and depleting her savings to buy an airline ticket. Of course she did these things before telling us, but we're so thankful for her help and her generous, sweet heart.

We appreciate your prayers, concerns, advice and encouragement far more than you can possibly know. Thank you, loved ones. I'll update as often as possible.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Touching Them: Zimbabwe

It's been nearly a year since my last trip to Zimbabwe. I must admit I'm really feeling quite sad that I'm not going this fall as I have for the past two years. Though the trip is a hard one, my heart is so enmeshed there . . . and the situation so much worse for the people now . . . that I'd love to hug on them and encourage them at present.

This month Action!--a bi-monthly published by World Bible School--published an excerpt of my article below. Keep scrolling down to read the full story that highlights, in part, the incredible feeding work managed by Alvaro and Debbie Dos Santos.

And please pray for the men, women, and children of Zimbabwe.



The aged man with sunken cheeks and rheumy eyes was too weak to walk into the church building. He sat in the dirt, sun glistening on his chocolate skin. My friend Justin Nash, an American photographer and Christian, snapped photos of the man while the old fellow muttered something in Shona, the native language of most Zimbabweans. Another interpreted.

“I am just waiting to die,” the man mumbled. “I am so tired of being hungry.”

Compassion twisted Nash’s stomach as he and his traveling companion, Alvaro Dos Santos, were led inside to a scanty feast prepared especially for them. Zimbabwean Christians surrounded the perimeter of the one-room structure, faces pressed to the windows to watch their honored guests.

“I can’t eat this,” Nash whispered, his throat tight.

Dos Santos understood. For years he and his wife, Debbie, have lived the compassion of Jesus among the starving people of Zimbabwe. “Take a bite to show your gratitude,” he instructed in the strong accent of a man who learned English late in life, “then pick up your plate and come with me.”

Nash did as he was told, following Dos Santos into the midday heat. The photographer stooped down, offering his meal to the elderly African.

The man dipped his head in thanks. Immediately, he passed the plate to a small girl beside him. They shared a few handfuls together then passed the dish to the next child. And so it went. The man who longed for his suffering to end did not think to hoard his rare meal.

Alvaro Dos Santos says that’s the African way. “If you have one apple and twenty people, the apple will be passed around, and each person will take one bite. Not a big bite—not more than their share—then it will go to the next person.”

Dos Santos, Portuguese by birth, a shoemaker by trade, and a passionate man of God by faith operates a network of feeding centers throughout Zimbabwe, his home for many years until August 2005 when government threats forced his family to flee the country. Officially, the centers provide more than a 100,000 meals a month.

“But it isn’t enough,” Dos Santos says, running a hand through his hair.

Indeed, practicing true religion among the widows and orphans in Zimbabwe is a daunting task. The country, situated on the northern border of South Africa, is ruled by a dictator condemned by the international community for his crimes against humanity. The people live under the burden of a violent and oppressive government, a collapsed economy, and rampant HIV/Aids. They are starving, diseased, and often homeless.

I first met the Dos Santos family (the author with Debbie and Alvaro Dos Santos in 2008, at right) through World Bible School teacher Paula Leverett and her husband Lynn. In 2006, and again in 2007, I accompanied the Leveretts to Zimbabwe to witness the incredible and selfless work being done to touch the lives of hurting people in the Name of Jesus Christ.


Dusty gravel crunched beneath my sandaled feet when I stepped out of the truck at the Rukweza church and orphan feeding station in the heart of Zimbabwe, but I hardly noticed for the pounding of my heart. Joy and deep compassion crowded around me along with 117 children who, one-by-one, offered their hands in greeting (photo below). It was my first visit to a feeding center.

And it took my breath away.

The sweet young ones wore ragged clothes and tattered shoes—many wore no shoes at all. I was struck by how calloused and rough their little hands and feet were. Though they smiled, their eyes were somber, holding too much heartache at such tender ages.

A woman named Loveness oversaw the work there. We were officially introduced to the children under a fig tree, then they prayed and lined up to have their hands rinsed with cool water. They bowed their heads and clapped their hands in appreciation before receiving a plate of sadza—the cornmeal staple of Zimbabwe.

After they ate, the children served the men and women—several area preachers and a town official had joined us. We shared, too, eating rice, sadza, and a small portion of chicken with our fingers. The children sang for us and put on a humorous play about the importance of education. Apparently we will end up dead on the side of the road if we don’t do well in school! One boy in particular was quite an actor. His strong, bold voice made it easy to imagine him as a preacher some day.

To be honest, I’ve been enchanted by this land of beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and beautiful spirits. Every bit of it is fascinating to me—from the eucalyptus gum trees and flat-topped acacias, to the monkeys darting across the road, to the precious dark-eyed children outrunning our vehicle over rough terrain.

But everywhere, there is need.

And the church is responding.

Not only do the Dos Santoses oversee the feeding stations, but their ministry provides blankets during winter months and medicines in a country lacking even basic health care resources. The Leveretts have also mobilized WBS workers and other compassionate Christians to generously answer the pleas coming from our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters.

Every time the Leveretts visit the country, church leaders come to them with requests on behalf of the neediest in their congregations. School fees for orphans. Medicine for epileptics and asthmatics and a man with meningitis. Glasses for a legally blind boy and his sister. Wheelchairs for the disabled so they don’t have to drag themselves along the ground as I’ve seen so many do. A thatched roof for a widow who lost her home in a fire.

Through the coordination of the Leveretts, HIV testing and medications have been provided in one region to more than fifty infected Christians. Bibles and songbooks in the Shona language have been purchased for a dozen churches. Zimbabwean Christians have received shipments of cornmeal, training and equipment for drip-irrigation, and bales of clothing for distribution.
In 2002 the Leveretts initiated a correspondence-course for training vocational preachers. Thousands have been converted to Christ through the efforts of the nearly one hundred men who have been trained. These evangelists have planted churches in scores of villages far out in the bush, so bicycles have been provided to assist them in their ministries.

The Leveretts don’t meet these needs on their own—they simply share the stories with caring Christians, many of whom take it upon themselves to help in big and small ways.

Two years ago I met a young orphan at a feeding center who boldly approached to tell me he was an artist and needed supplies. He proved his claim by sketching in
my notebook. I think Joseph touched my heart because he dares to dream in a place where dreaming is impractical. Because he yearns to create in a time when priority is placed on simply surviving. I provided a modest amount of money to meet his request—and last year joyfully hand-delivered a box of supplies donated by an artist friend. It doesn’t take much to become the hands and feet of Jesus, touching the lost and hurting with His love and compassion.

Please pray for Zimbabwe and her people. God is already at work intervening—I see it in the many Christians stepping in to feed and clothe the people and treat the sick. I see it in the faith expressed by Zimbabwean men and women who have little more than faith to live on. I see it in the smile of an orphan who's treated with gentleness by an old woman dishing up sadza.

If you would like to touch those served by the ministry of the Zimbabwe feeding centers, you may send a check earmarked “Zimbabwe Feeding Fund” to the Southwest Church of Christ, 4515 Cornell, Amarillo, TX 79109. For more information on how you can help, call (806) 352-5647.