Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Musings

I was about to title this "Saturday Sabbath," but I don't think I have ever done a true sabbatical.  It would be interesting to do one, since I find it very difficult to do hardly anything all day.  On the weekends, I usually clean the apartment, do laundry, clean dishes, go work out, and maybe cook depending on what Alex's food plans are.  Today has been close to a Sabbath, since the apartment is basically clean and I refuse to go work out right now.  I feel the need to rest.  So, writing on my blog and listening to film scores by John Williams seems to be enough to keep me sitting still.

I don't have anything particularly deep or inspirational to say today, so I will talk a little more about my job and house-hunting.  YES.  HOUSE-HUNTING!  :)

This past week was a particularly hard week at my job.  We had many discharges and just as many admissions--scared, anxious people who have been told that they need to go to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for the latest in treatment to have the best fighting chance.  There are many good outcomes, but I am sad about what is done to have to get there.  These are strong people.  Just to give you an idea, I'll explain the basic process.

Most of the people who are admitted to my floor are newly diagnosed with some type of leukemia.  Once admitted, they undergo emergency treatment, diagnostic testing, and insertion of a central line.  The physicians have some results in one to two days time, and in a few more days, they have specific genetic markers for the type of leukemia that the person has.  Specialized treatment is selected per the genetic markers.  Treatment (usually chemotherapy) is started as soon as possible.

So, usually within the first week of admission, this person has learned that they have leukemia; they have finished their first cycle of chemotherapy; and that they must stay on our floor for a month in protective isolation.  YES.  THEY ARE ISOLATED FOR 28 DAYS.  No physical contact with family members, friends, or any familiar surroundings.  The only people that come in the room are care providers, dressed from head to toe in gear meant to protect them from any microbes that care providers might be carrying on their scrubs.

These are strong people.

Can you imagine staying in one room for 28 days without any physical contact?  Even the care providers try not to have as much physical contact with the person as possible.  I have found that those with some type of faith do much better.  I often walk in on someone who is praying with their loved one on the other side of the glass with their hands connected, the window in between.  There are special anterooms that the family members use to come visit, and they can talk through the intercom on the phone.  I have also been told several time by people that they aren't alone and that God is with them.  I guess you would get much closer to God if you were separated by everyone else in your life.

So.  House!  Alex and I are going to buy a house!  This is a picture of it:

It has an open floor plan, and I was standing from the kitchen.  I guess I can post some more pics later when it becomes official.  There are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room, a dining area, a kitchen, a laundry room, an attic, a detached garage, a nice-size backyard, a side yard, a front yard, and nice big trees.  Right now, we are working out foundation issues (which is quite common in Houston because the ground is so dry).  We have to water our foundation to keep it from cracking.  That's right.  We water our house.

HOUSE!  I'm so excited.  :)

What every care provider looks like to our patients.  Some can tell us apart by our eyes.  Wouldn't you be scared?  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Love-Hate Relationship with Beth Moore

Again, I have gotten out of practice in writing my blog, but I think I have a good excuse.  I moved!  I have done quite a bit in the last two months, and I guess I need to cut myself some slack.  I never finished describing what happened in Honduras, but I think I will move on and start talking about Houston.  For anyone who is curious, my last two days in Honduras were spent at the Mayan ruins with half of our group, and then traveling that final Saturday back to Atlanta.  Here is my favorite picture taken at the Mayan ruins:

Oldest Emoticon in the World
Since then, I have driven to Houston; reunited with Alex at our apartment in Stafford, TX; started my job at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; have been adopted by the Southwest Central Church of Christ family; and have started experiencing the many flavors of Texas-- food and many other things.  Yeah... I've done a lot.

Yesterday was a good example of a typical Monday.  Around 5:50 AM, I leave my apartment and drive about thirty minutes to work.  I am at work from about 6:45-3:15, which can vary based on what is taking place.  I am currently convinced that about 90% of my job has to with communication.  Sometimes, I work on communication between different disciplines -- physicians and nurses, nurses and clinical pharmacists, physical therapists and occupational therapists, case manager and social worker, etc.  I form bridges of sorts.  Sometimes, it is encouraging the patient to communicate and use their voice, especially when they feel lost.  And sometimes, it is communication among my coworkers.  Here, it is key to model good communication -- sharing of information, offering encouragement, asking for help, etc.  There are many other aspects of my job, but communication takes precedence most of the time.

After I clock out at work, I head to one of the other MD Anderson buildings to get a workout in at the FREE gym.  It's like an amusement park.  I see some of my coworkers there, and there is one who I intend to be workout buddies with soon.  After the gym, I clean up and head out to find somewhere to eat before the Beth Moore study at my friend Michal's apartment.  Yesterday was our first meeting.

If you have ever participated in one of Beth Moore's Bible studies, you will understand what I mean by a love/hate relationship.  You're gonna hate the way she makes you feel, but you're gonna love what she makes you realize about yourself and your relationship with God.  Last night's talk focused on 1 Thessalonians 1:1: "This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy."  Beth went through this trio's history together, all the way back to Acts where Paul "breaks up" with Barnabas over John Paul.  Beth describes what a great rift this must have been using New Testament Greek.  Barnabas and Paul are never mentioned together in Acts.  She then describes what Paul, Silas, and Timothy's relationship must have been like after just coming in at that rift, and then that is where it starts becoming real for her audience.

Have you been through a recent rift?  It's really awful when a close friend hurts you, doesn't it?  It's even worse when you can't fix the rift that is created, and is it even possible to move on?  Beth starts talking about "remixes," where you might have a rift that happens between one group, but eventually, you start forming relationships with other people.  She talks about how even in your discussion group, you might have someone going through a divorce.  You might have another who has lost a loved one, who was too young to leave this world.  You might have someone who just moved away from everything she knew.  Well, it turns out that we do have at least one person in our group who meets each of those descriptions!  Yeah... I think that's when I started losing it.

At the end of the video, our wonderful discussion group leader asks us what we hope to get out of this study.  She shares her heart, and starts tearing up.  Soon enough, half of us are crying from sharing our stories, including me.  I think partly I cried because everyone else was crying and being vulnerable to others, which is a beautiful thing.  So I cried for joy and for sadness.  Yes, I moved, but have I really missed anyone since I left two months ago?  I think so, but this is the first time I truly felt it.  That's what's so great and awful about a Beth Moore study.

So... what do I hope to get out of this Bible study?  It sounds like total selfishness, but I really need remixed friendships and family.  But what I really think I need more than that is to learn how to need.  I always tell myself that I don't need anything from anyone.  I don't want to be a burden on anyone.  I'm a nurse, for crying out loud!  I'm a giver!

Those of you who are my closest friends know very well that I don't like the idea of needing someone else.  It's one of those struggles that I thought I had solved.  Well, I guess there is no solving it.  I just have to need.   I have the capacity to need, but I have to let God put me in situations where I am forced to need.  And he has.  He has brought me to Houston, away from everyone I have held selfishly close save my husband.

Do you think I can do it?  God, help me need!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Go Honduras! -- Days 4, 5, 6

I am chronicling three days in a row because they all sort of run together.  Within these three days, the medical team saw 721 patients.  Donna has quite an organized way of running the clinic.  Along with the organizational system we use to get every person through the clinic and seen by eyeglass, intake, consults and pharmacy, she also has a system to control how many people we see.  For this particular site, she issued 750 tickets to the mayor of the town.  The mayor is told to distribute the tickets however he sees fit, but usually Mission Upreach gives guidelines.  The government officials are supposed to distribute the tickets to those that need to be seen most -- basically the sickest people.  Unfortunately, sometimes the tickets are sold to others, given to friends of government officials, etc.  There are some things that Mission Upreach can and can't control, and this is one of them.

People waiting in line outside the school as we are driving up

Usually, about 2/3rds of the people with tickets are seen.  So, seeing 721 people/750 tickets was a really great ratio.  On each of the three days, people were lined up back-to-back when we drove up in the army trucks around 8:45.  The front gates of the school were opened at 9:00, then we would see people non-stop until 3:00, taking shifts for a short lunch break.  I know these hours seem limited, but that is what had to be done so we could get there and back in time to meet everyone else for dinner; we had four hours of driving to do each day.  (It is not a good idea to drive in the dark.)

 Dr. Walter, who knows bacteria by smell!  I need to go back and learn more from him...

Ashley, Staff RN... she's game-planning.

Most of the people that we saw were there for general complaints such as headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or back pain.  These complaints usually indicated three major etiologies:
  •  Headaches were usually indicative of the need for glasses, especially if those having headaches were children.  We were able to provide reading glasses, but the only thing we could do with those who could not see from a distance was to tell them to see an eye doctor when available.  Headaches in teenage girls was also common, but then I quickly realized that most of these girls were wearing their hair in a very tight ponytail, and they were complaining of headaches around their hairline.  If it was headaches combined with fatigue, I would usually prescribe iron tablets along with the vitamins (which everyone got, no matter what diagnosis) to cover iron-deficiency anemia.  If I was unsure about the origin of a headache or other associated symptoms, I would pass them on to Tom or Walter.  For example, Tom and I discussed the complaint of one young woman who had sustained an eye injury a year ago that included a run-in with barb wire.  Her eye had seemed to heal well, but she was complaining of a headache that ran from the corner of that eye, running in a line to the back of her head.  This was probably nerve damage and resulting nerve pain.  Neurontin, which is for nerve pain, may have helped, but again, we really didn't have anything to help her.
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea usually indicated some type of parasite.  Fortunately, Anne Reese had this covered!  We had a parasite table in between the eyeglass room and consult room, and anyone who had not had a treatment in 6 months would get a dose of albendazole, unless you were a woman who was pregnant or breastfeeding.  When they reached me and I confirmed that it was likely a parasite causing their symptoms, I would give additional medication such as Tylenol for abdominal aches and antacids/Pepcid if they had heartburn.  I would also encourage additional fluids, and to see another healthcare provider if the diarrhea had not resolved.  If they had additional symptoms that did not fit the parasite bill, such as blood in stool or persistent nausea or vomiting, then I would send them on for further evaluation.
  • Back and neck pain were also pretty easy to figure out.  If the person was male, I would soon discover that he spends the entire day out in a field, bending over and cutting things with a machete.  If the person were an older female, I would ask about where it hurt and would eventually find that it was mostly in hand, foot, and knee joints, indicating arthritic pain.  Depending on the severity of the pain, I would prescribe Tylenol and/or ibuprofen, indicating that they could take each in alternating intervals.
Those were the three major categories I could mostly handle myself and send on to pharmacy.  By the second day, I got discouraged because I had to send so many people on to Walter or Tom.  There is only so far I can go as a nurse when it comes to assessment of signs and symptoms, especially when it comes to my area of expertise.  For example, I am not used to treating those under 17 years old.  It got to the point where if I had a mother walking up to me with a 2-month old, I would just ask Shawn to have her wait to see either Tom or Walter.  I didn't stay discouraged for long, because everyone is always smiling, always appreciative and thankful.  I spent about 20 minutes talking to a lady in her 80s who spent half that time talking about how thankful she was we were here and explaining the impact we were having on her community.  The other half of the time, she just wanted to be listened to.  I sent her on with a prescription for Tylenol and "Dios le bendiga" (Go with God).  I think this was the same lady who brought us a whole bunch of bananas later.  Sometimes, active listening is the best medicine.

Pharmacy, hard at work
Donaldo, who graciously was my translator.  Someone else from our group ended up giving him a Bible because he asked for one.  He is a U.S. soldier, stationed in Santa Rosa for 2 years.
Here are some of the more serious/mysterious cases:
  • 76-year-old man comes in, and I can easily see that he is working hard to breathe.  He complains that his chest hurts, and all of the muscles in his abdomen are working to help him get air.  I look at his blood pressure reading from intake.  It is 170/100.  I walked him on to Tom, who takes one look at him and tells me later: "I thought we were going to have a dead man in 5 minutes!" Tom retakes his blood pressure, and it is 220/110.  Tom assesses him and decides to give him amlodipine, a blood pressure medication.  Tom is with him for the rest of the clinic hours, monitoring his blood pressure and symptoms.  This scenario ended up going well.  He walked out of the clinic stating that his chest pain was gone and smiling.  He left with prescriptions for blood pressure medications that he could obtain in a local pharmacy.
  • A woman comes in with her little boy, who she is bringing in because he is not sitting up at 8 months old.  Tom assesses him, but he seeks input from Cecilia, Field and me, because we all have to look up what a baby's normal range of a blood pressure should be.  Eventually we figure out that it is within normal range, but find some other things that are pretty disconcerting.  His tongue is protruding slightly out of his mouth, and his ears are lower than they should be.  There is a considerable space between his eyes, and the bridge of his nose is a little more flat than it should be.  He won't track our fingers or respond to sounds.  All of us agreed that he might have Down's Syndrome and referred the mom to Santa Rosa for a consult.
  • A woman in her seventies comes in for evaluation of her leg wound, which, I won't describe it, was pretty gruesome.  Walter and Tom see her because Walter says that he is going to need help debriding it (removing dead tissue).  Walter explains to Tom how they teach them to identify bacteria in med school.  Since he usually does door-to-door visits with no immediate access to a lab, he is able to identify bacteria by smell!  He is sure that her wound is infected with pseudomonas.  The woman will not show Walter her other leg.  After 15 minutes of coaxing and demanding to see the leg, she lets them see it.  It is even worse!  Walter and Tom clean both of her wounds, dress them, and send her off with antibiotics.
  • A man in his forties comes in with a big lump on his back, midline near the neck.  Tom decides that we should try to remove it.  Tom, with Jacob assisting, surgically removes the lump, which is completely encapsulated, indicating that it is most likely a lipoma (fatty deposit).  Jacob... you can ask him later... is probably grossed out!
  • A 7-year-old girl walks up to my consult table and sits in the chair.  After 10 minutes of figuring out what her name actually was (her grandmother's name was listed as her name), we got to her chief complaint.  "I have bumps," she says.  "Can you show me?" I say.  The grandmother starts explaining where they started and points to where I should feel them.  The little girl has hard bumps, at least 4: one on her chest, one on the inside of her thigh, one on the opposite thigh, and one under her left armpit.  I palpate the one near the armpit and she giggles.  "Ah!" I say and I shake my finger at her, and she laughs harder.  "I know what is wrong!  You are ticklish!" We continue with this banter a little longer before I explain to her and the grandmother that they are going to have to see Walter, who referred her to the city for a more extensive work-up.  Her lumps were along her lymph node tract.  It could be a number of things, not excluding cancer.
  • A 2-year old girl comes in and is seen by Cecilia.  She sustained a head injury two days ago, and her mother explains that she has a mental deficit to begin with.  Upon examination, the right side of her head is swollen, and her right eye is gazing toward her right from pressure.  Cecilia does a neurological assessment, and in the midst of it, the little girl's mental status has worsened.  Cecilia says she will die tonight if she does not go to the hospital.  Mission Upreach staff drive her and her mother in a van towards town.  Later, Donna and Steve go to look for the girl at the hospital.  Nobody knows about her, and they can't find her.
I don't really like to end with that story, because that little girl is the exception.  We did much good for many people, and probably saved many lives.  For example, we saw many people with dangerously high blood pressures that could have led to a heart attack or stroke.  Jacob and Nyla were especially helpful in these scenarios because we needed to take repeat blood pressures over certain intervals and monitor these individuals.  There were also many with high blood glucose, and were being diagnosed with diabetes for the first time.  Tom and Walter worked diligently to assure that these individuals not only got the medicine they needed but also got adequate education on what diabetes was, how to treat it, how to control blood sugars, how to modify your diet, etc.  That prevented complications for these people like neuropathy, ulcers, and delayed wound healing.  We did help lots of people.

Shawn with a cute baby who reached up for him.

There were many that we couldn't help, though, and this is where I got discouraged.  At the end of Day 5, I talked to Tom about it.  He encouraged me by telling me the truth.  "We do have the responsibility as medical professionals to provide the best care possible, but that is not what we are here for.  We are here to bring people to church, to Jesus."  When Tom helped me place my attitude in that mindset, the whole experience changed for me.  I had much more energy, and Satan had a hard time tearing me down.  The church planting team at Mission Upreach uses the medical clinics to gauge how receptive the people in these villages are to starting a church there.  They are being led to Jesus, and I am honored to be a part of that.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Go Honduras, Day 3

Like I said... this is where I just stopped writing and focused on the work to be done, eating, sleeping, and spending time with everybody else.  I think I realized that writing took up a lot of time, and that this would be the last week that I would see all of my friends before I moved.  So, I will remember as much as I can from here on!

7/14 -- Monday

Monday was the beginning of the four days that I would mostly spend with the medical team.  I don't think that Tom (the nurse practitioner) and I expected to be working outside of clinic hours, but that is what happened.  Monday was the first day that our team members started getting sick.  I would say that around 2/3rds of our party got sick, but thankfully, most episodes lasted no longer than 24 hours.

I went down to breakfast, and most of the medical team was already eating.  We were able to take a later start than all of the other teams because part of our morning was spent at the hotel for clinic orientation.  I ate about half my breakfast then went up to check on some team members per request, and so did Tom.  Again, thankfully, what everybody needed was just some good rest and rehydration.  We stressed drinking fluids and taking it easy, then went back to finish our breakfast.

Loading up the truck with medical supplies 

After orientation, we headed out on the army truck to the Mission Upreach headquarters in Santa Rosa.  We loaded up a trailer with medical supplies, which was attached to one army truck.  It took two army trucks each day to lug us all up the mountain to the remote village of La Montana de La Virgen (I think that is right... it is "Mountain of the Virgin" in English).  It took two ours each way with the roads being how they are.  If you can think refer back to what I told the roads were like in the country, then you will know how they were for this trip, except 8 times longer and twice a day.  In total, I would say that the medical team spent 16 hours total riding in the back of army trucks. 

Riding in the army truck up the mountain

 Backing into the road in front of the school

When we finally reached the village school, we had to back up into the road so we could unload medical supplies.  Unfortunately the first day, we ran into one of the villagers fences during this process because of trying to back in the trailer.  It was either hit the fence or go over the cliff.

The local school

It took us a little over an hour to set up the clinic.  We had a registration table near the front gate of the school, and the gate was guarded by a couple of our soldiers.  That's right!  Four soldiers stood guard of the school day and night from that point on so our medical supplies would not get touched.  I also had one of the soldiers for my interpreter, but that story is for another day.  Beyond registration, we used four of the classrooms for clinic processing.  The first room was the eyeglass clinic.  Jessie, Leslie, and a few others were in this room fitting people for reading glasses.  The male interns, Matt and... oh dear... I'm blanking on the other's name, helped them translate Spanish.  From the eyeglass clinic, the patients went to "intake," where vital signs, weight, and blood glucose were checked.  Jennifer, Jeremy, Nyla and Jacob worked in intake.  I was very proud of Nyla and Jake for not only how hard they worked but what great bedside manners they had.  They treated each and every person with kindness and gentleness.

If there were any vital signs or blood sugars that were way out of the normal range, Steve would make sure that that particular patient was moved to the front of the line for a medical consult.  From here, each person would either see me, Field (the medical student), Tom (nurse practitioner), or one of three Honduran physicians (Walter, Cecilia... and again, I am blanking on the third name).  I averaged seeing about thirty patients a day because it took me time to prescribe the right treatment for each patient.  When I was unsure about a medication, I would ask either Tom or Walter.  I am not used to prescribing medications, but either Tom or Walter would usually confirm what I thought to be the most helpful drug.

The curtains were used to separate the rooms into five different exam rooms.  I was just inside the door.

After the medical consult, each person would turn in their diagnosis and treatment form to pharmacy, where Pat (who sometimes worked in eyeglass), Jaye (I think?), Harold, Don, and some others  worked.  Please forgive me for those I am leaving out!  The medications were already counted out for proper dosages, so the pharmacy techs would grab each drug, then Don would check that the right medication was prescribed and filled before sending it out the door to Diana.  Diana called each person's medical number when the medications were ready, and would explain each medication name, what it was for, why it was prescribed, how to take it, etc.  After this, they were free to go!

So now that I have described how the medical clinic was set up, you have the general idea of what to picture when I tell you about seeing patients the next three days.  After setting up, we went back to the hotel, ate dinner, and met the church planting team of Mission Upreach, who gave a presentation on how they approach church planting and the current work that was being done.

I really loved this presentation.  It was so encouraging to see so many different church planting projects in different phases!  People were hearing the Gospel and meeting Jesus.  Every time I think about it, joy fills my heart.  Apparently the medical brigades have an important part in church planting, because the planting team observes how receptive certain villages are to the brigades to judge whether or not the village would also be open to having the church planting team visit.  This really encouraged me because I oftentimes wonder how my profession affects those around me other than providing physical healing.  I pray for others and talk about Jesus, but it was so awesome to see how providing a medical clinic could lead to telling people about Jesus to a whole village!

Lord, I am so thankful for Phil, Donna, and the whole team at Mission Upreach.  I can see You working through them to make relationships with everyone in Honduras!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Go Honduras, Day 2


We wake up and come down to a delicious breakfast of eggs, black beans, salsa, queso blanco (yummy salty cheese!) and plaintains.  I love eating breakfast in Central America.  It has made plain scrambled eggs boring.  Today, we headed out to "the country," headed out for some land that the Waldrons own.  Now, yesterday I thought that riding on an old school bus on Honduran city roads was pretty bad.  Now I have experienced something even worse!  But man, was it a blast.

We set out for the country on the school bus, then switched to revamped military vehicles, painted in green and owned by Mission Upreach.  We needed these vehicles for the last few miles out to the Waldron's property.  There are not enough seats on these trucks for all of us, so half of us were standing in the bed bracing ourselves with the rails that extend over the back.  So, imagine the roads that I described yesterday, except this time it is a very steep path that is more like a hiking trail.  There are horses, sometimes with riders and sometimes without, mosying back and forth, and seeming to be uncertain of which way to go.  When we go around a curve, there are no rails.  It takes us about 20 minutes to travel about 2 miles.  I can't help but laugh and smile the entire way because of the people that I am with and the beautiful mountain landscape.  How do they cultivate coffee on the side of a mountain?  They do!

When we reach the Waldron's property, I am overwhelmed with joy when I see so many people already having fun.  There is a baseball game taking place.  Jennifer tells me that "the gringos" won the first game.  Many people are also playing volleyball.  I get a glimpse of Cody making a good catch for a ball that would have been a foul otherwise.  There are several kids running around, a couple of them "playing football" with Adam.  Jerry and Phil are busy at the grill cooking chicken for 130 people.  Margie is cheering on some kids that are playing corn hole.  Soon enough, Jessie comes up to me and asks if I would like to go on a hike around the property led by Donna.

So off we go!  Donna shows us her lime trees and we pick two bags full of limes.  The back of the field is covered with growing corn and bean plants.  Donna tells us that the caretaker of her land asked to plant a small section of vegetables.  Somehow, this translated into the entire field, including cutting back a mango tree to provide sun for his beans.  Oops.

We also found some creatures!  Alan took photos of a grasshopper about 5 inches long, bright yellow.  We also found a nest in the ground full of frogs.  Donna said that most kids run away when they see a frog, because there are some that are poisonous.

It is near lunchtime by the time we get back, and we all gather around to pray together.  We have delicious grilled chicken, some spicy veggies, rice, fresh tortillas and lemon tea.  Someone also found two big bunches of bananas that we grilled.  I ate with some of the staff of Mission Upreach-- Ashley, the staff RN, who was being picked on by their resident medical student, Field, who was saying jokingly that she would have to take orders from him.  "Yeah, right... baby medical student," I said.  "Sure she will."  I also met Diane from D.C., who is Puerto Rican and speaks fluent Spanish, and Jaye, who is Linda Sue's sister.

After lunch we set up for church service under the tents.  Most of the service was in Spanish, and it was quite easy to sing along to about half of them, since they were some of the songs we sing in English.  "Open the Eyes of My Heart" and "When We All Get to Heaven" were two of my favorites.  Phil's sermon was translated into English by John "the tour guide."  The first part was about how wonderful it was to be together.  We had 7 nations represented out of everyone there.  He quoted Revelation 7:9 -- "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice."  He said that thinking about how it was going to be will make him excited.  Language won't matter.  No one will be embarrassed about how they worship.

The second part of the sermon was devoted to the beginning process of the selection of elders.  The church that was there has been recently planted, and they have 4 interim elders.  Phil passed out papers to each member of the church and asked them to write in who they would like to be considered as elders, guiding them with what it says about elders in the Bible, such as in Acts 6:3.  After the voting had been completed, we concluded worship with some more songs, and then we started breaking down tents and such.

Now that I am having time to reflect on the week like this, I must say that for how busy Phil and Donna are, they are quite calm and collected.  I get a resounding message that they are at peace and being filled by the Lord by being in Santa Rosa and doing what they do.  Phil was so calm and settled when he preached his sermon in fluent Spanish.  I want to be that confident in the Lord one day.

The rest of the day was followed by rest in the afternoon, since a lot of us had played pretty hard at sports!  We had dinner that night of some more chicken (I think) with vegetables and smoothies.  (Truthfully, this is when I stopped journaling in real time because all of us started getting really busy the next day.  I am going to try my best to remember some key points of each day.)  Donna concluded dinner with some schedule clarification for Monday, then Sunday (I believe) is the first night that we had our group devotional in the back corner of the hotel.

Adam led a couple of songs, and I was impressed by how well our teenagers sing.  Hey you parents of teens!  You have raised some great men and women.  I saw them do great things within this week, which I hope to describe some in this blog.  They are going to do much for the Lord with their lives.

I don't really remember what we talked about that night, but I think the major reflection that Jerry was asking for was what we saw on the trip from San Pedro Sula to Santa Rosa that was striking.  Many people mentioned the poverty, the trash along the road, and the roads themselves.  Yet I can't really get over how humble and inviting Hondurans are and how much they are willing to share what little they might possess.  They have something different than we do to share about love, kindness, and, essentially, being Jesus.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Go Honduras Adventures! --- Day 1

Well, it's time to revive the blog for quite a few reasons.  First, I would like to write about my time in Honduras with my Campus View family while it is somewhat fresh on my mind.  Also, I am going to have to write out my thoughts if I am ever going to process moving to Houston and working at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center!  My name is Jessica, and I am MD Anderson.  That's how I am supposed to introduce myself now.  :)

So, I will start off with what I while in Santa Rosa de Copan.  I only wrote for a few days, and then I got so busy that I either was too tired to write or just didn't have the time.  Here's what I wrote so far:
Oddly enough I have not been nervous or jittery about anything at this point.  I guess I have been keeping busy enough not to have any time to reflect... maybe that would make me nervous.  I guess we'll see by the time I have finished writing.

Left Athens.  Left America.  Entering San Pedro Sula.  Will come back to America.  Back to Griffin.  Leaving for Houston.  Current plan?  I guess it is a permanent move.  We'll see.

I don't think my lack of nervousness has anything to do with the fact that I don't care, because I do.  I hope it has everything to do with the fact that God's plan is THE plan, and He cares about me and will protect me.  With all the work I have had to do for everything, I feel prepared.  When I left for Guatemala, I was terrified.  Maybe this is old hat.

What should I expect for Houston?  Big.  That's all I can think about.  I can see myself tearfully driving down the road, a dull ache in my stomach.  But not yet.  I think the ache is more for my parents.

Will I like it?

7/12, Arrival in San Pedro Sula


 When I get to international customs on arrival anywhere, that is about the point where I get tired of the airport.  We waited about an hour in line to get processed, and by that point, someone from our group has finally made it through to pick up all of the luggage at the baggage claim.  At the terminal entrance we meet John -- for all intensive purposes, our "tour guide" for today.  (Really, he is in charge of transportation for Mission Upreach.)  We are waiting for someone to arrive on another flight, so we exchange money with one of the employees of the terminal.  I trade $40 for 800 limpias, and this is around the time when I realize that there are some people in the midst of our large group that nobody recognizes.  Did they come with John?

Well, I guess I'm gonna find out...

So I won't go into the details of this conversation, because it just makes me annoyed.  When you ask somebody, "What's your name?" and he responds with "I'm nobody," then that's a pretty good clue that you need to get away from him.  After about two minutes of this, I was able to discern that he wanted money, seeing as he appeared when our group was with the money changer.  Finally, for what seems like decades, I hear Adam say to Bryant, "Go rescue Jessica.. We need to pull her away."  Bryant comes around and throws his arm over my shoulder, and we walk out of the terminal to load our bags on the bus.

I'm treated to a lunch of a chorizo baleada by Jennifer, who somehow ordered two of whatever she wanted.  The baleada is a giant, freshly made tortilla that usually has some type of meat, eggs, sour cream, and black beans within it.  It is a common food staple in Honduras.  This meal cost $3.25 in American dollars, including a giant bottle of water.

A baleada, from Wikipedia

"Me gustaria un agua, por favor," I say to the lady at the kiosk.  She gives me a questioning look, and points to the bottle of water.  "Yeah," I say, and I pay for it.  I guess my Spanish-speaking skills are pretty funky.

After lunch we get on the bus.  There is really no way to describe the entire scenery in writing.  At least I don't have the capability to do that.  Here are some things that stood out to me:
  • Magnificent mountains covered by luscious greenery, spotted here and there by little towns with huts made of mud or tin.  No building looks like another, and they range from open mud shacks in the country to flats in towns.
  • While driving through the country, you occasionally pass a "true" house, meaning one made with stone or brick, with glass windows and a trim land surrounding it.  Usually, houses are just surrounded with trash or brush... or chickens and cows.
  • One of the striking differences is the construction of a mud or tin flat surrounded by trash and barefoot children, but with a satellite dish fixed on top of the flat.
  • And then there are the roads.  These deserve a whole paragraph or two for themselves.

So.  The roads.  Imagine riding down a gravel road on a car.  Sometimes it can be pretty frustrating and bumpy, right?  Now add steep hills, potholes, places where the road tried to be pavement, and really lax rules as to what side you are on, especially when passing.  Oh.  And you do this all on an old school bus, which we stopped for because we needed a new tire.  We took four hours to drive about eighty-five miles to Santa Rosa de Copan.  All of our luggage was strapped on top of the bus, and a couple of hours down the road, we hit a violent downpour.  Luckily, most of our luggage did not get wet, as far as I know.

Now, I don't mean to be all dramatic about the bus.  To be honest, it is what I expected.  The roads in Guatemala are the same.  I wanted to paint this scene, because guess who was adamant about riding the bus?  (Some road in a smaller bus with air conditioning.)  Miss Lillie.  She sat in the front seat of the bus the entire trip and would not have it any other way.  Quite impressive for someone who is 82.  At 82, I will be sticking to a comfortable 10-mile radius of my house, being driven around in the nice fluffy backseat of my cadillac.

I think we arrived at Hotel Elvir at about 8 pm.  We rushed to take the luggage off the top of the bus and then stowed it in our rooms.  We met with the Mission Upreach team during dinner, which was potatoes, veggies, spicy steak (I think), and tortillas, with a sweet strawberry smoothie.  Phil Waldron talked a little while, followed by safety statements from Donna, who met with each team leader about what to expect.

After cleaning up, pretty much everybody crashed.  If you think about it, we spend around 16 hours traveling (left for the airport at 6 am, Honduras is 2 hours behind us, then we arrived at the hotel at 8 pm).  Everybody rested well!  Hotel Elvir is quite nice.  I felt like I was on vacation because we hadn't really done any work yet.
 OK... I think that is enough for tonight.  I think I will take it a day at a time so I don't have extremely long posts.  Hope you enjoy the next week of reminiscing about Mission Upreach!  :)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dream Radar

Man!  My brain.  I just don't know anymore.  And forget me just posting regularly.  Apparently, that's not my thing.

What is wrong with my brain?  Maybe I don't release enough creative streaks when I'm awake.  Maybe it is the sleeping during the day routine that is turning everything upside down and inside out.  Here are two dreams that are so bizarre that I had to write them somewhere so I can laugh when I read it 10 years down the road.

Star Trek, Family Edition: The Never-ending Frontier

I start this dream by waking up in a department store.  Luckily, Sabrina the Wal-mart Witch (see previous post) is not the star of this fiasco.  I am, so somehow, I have some control of this environment of random events.  When I wake up, I am aware that I am not wearing underwear.  As my high school Latin teacher would say, "Semper ubi sub ubi"-- "Always wear underwear."  I am wearing clothes, however.  Just no underwear.

I somehow know that my underwear is somewhere in the department store, and I have to find it.  For what seems like hours, I search and search until I find my underwear carelessly thrown over one of the clothing racks.  After I put on my underwear, these two guys show up and taunt me about not wearing underwear.  I am also aware of the fact that they are not wearing underwear either, and they have not been able to find it in days, so I taunt them back.  In the midst of all of the taunting, my piano teacher, Ms. Annette, pops out of nowhere and says, "It's time for your piano lesson!  Today, you will be doing a duet with this guy," and she points at one of the taunters.  A full-length keyboard pops out of the wall with a music piece sitting on the mantle.  Before both of us sit down on the bench, I glance at the wall mirror above the piano.  I am fascinated by the fact that a piece of my skull is missing on my forehead, and I can see my brain.  Apparently, I have a head injury.

My reverie is broken by Ms. Annette saying, "I only have the middle section of this music, so you both will create the beginning and end together as you are playing."  This seems like an incredibly easy task to both of us, even though we had the hardest time finding our underwear.  We play the piece together perfectly and in it's entirety.  Once we are finished, I am beamed back up to my spaceship.

Several things happened when I was being beamed up.  My head is repaired, and now I can remember why I was in the department store in the first place.  My spaceship had crash-landed on a hostile alien planet several days ago, and during one exploration mission, I was captured by the natives, who look just like humans.  During the struggle, I suffered a head injury, but I was deemed healthy enough to live and be placed in an experiment where all of the participants had to find their underwear in the vast store.  Unfortunately, my underwear has a tracking device so my crew can find me, but since I didn't have them on... well, I had just been lost for weeks.  When I put my underwear on, my tracking device reactivated, and they found me and beamed me back to the spaceship.

Well, no wonder we had been stuck on this evil planet for forever!  I look at my crew, and it consists of my grandmother (Mammaw), my brothers (Bill and Mike), and my cousin (Tesse).  And I'm captain.  Hopeless.

While my hopeless yet awesome crew is getting ready for takeoff, I go down to the basement of our spaceship, which looks exactly like Mammaw's house on the inside.  In the basement, I begin talking to our favorite allies, the intelligent and invincible colony of mice that have made our spaceship their home.  We can't get rid of them, because they are the descendants of all those lab mice that have had all those experiments performed on them.  They eventually acquired perfect immunity to everything, so nothing kills them.  They are friendly, however, so we don't mind having them in our basement.  While I'm down there, the ship begins to take off.  "Bye guys!  Wish us luck!" I say as I run up the stairs toward my captain's chair.

I strap myself in, and we take off.  Within a few seconds, we reach the boundary between the atmosphere of the planet and space.  "Yes! It worked this time!" I exclaim, but too soon.  The ship begins to fall, and we crash land in the middle of a hostile alien metropolis.

"Jarvis, why did we crash?" I ask.  Jarvis is the computer system for our spaceship, and yes, it's the same Jarvis that Ironman created.  And Jarvis responds with the same voice that he has in the Ironman movies:

"I could not find a portal, and the twilight was not the right shade of lavender."


I pretend to understand what he means, and just move on with the next order of business.  Apparently, every time we fail to get off this awful planet and crash, Jarvis must take a day to repair the ship.  The way he repairs the ship is lethal to humans, so he teleports us to a random location on the hostile alien planet to fend for ourselves until the ship is in working order.  This is how I got captured last time.

Jarvis teleports us to the center square of a small and seemingly quiet alien town.  We look around for a few seconds, and decide that this was a good choice.  It seems safe.  Then, our dreams are shattered as a giant tank enters the town square.  It attacks the local Chuck E. Cheese, and then barricades it, readying for battle.  We decide that we don't want to be in the middle of whatever is going to happen, so we try to break in to the local post office.  Tesse transforms herself into the one-year-old version of herself, and climbs through the mail slot to unlock the door.  While she is doing this, Mike teleports himself inside.  (I don't know where Billy is... I think he got captured.)  Mammaw and I are like, "What are you waiting for?  Get us inside???"

While he is struggling to unlock the door (and yes, he can teleport but can't unlock a door), two buff human-like aliens leave the Chuck E. Cheese and try to capture Mammaw and me.  Mammaw pulls out a rope and hog-ties her alien within seconds.  I, of course, struggle with my attacker.  When I have him tied up, Mammaw and I drag them into the post office, and then the dream ends.

What a cliffhanger.

And now, the next dream.  This one is less detailed.
A Girl Among Lost Boys

The dream starts with me constantly running around with purpose.  Wherever I am, I am not supposed to be there, because it is after hours and all of the lights are off.  It seems to be some kind of building.  There are several lasers, but I know that if I keep moving, they will not set off the alarm.  Movement is key.

After several minutes of running down hallways, up and down stairs, and entering and exiting elevators, the dream changes.  I am now in a vast apartment complex.  I live there, but I can't find my room.  I get on the wrong elevator, and I end up in a deserted part of the complex.  I am suspicious.  It's like in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" where Harry, Ron, and Hermione accidentally end up on the third floor.  Somebody's watching me.

The dream changes.  Whoever was watching me has convinced me to rejoin high school, except it's like a Japanese anime.  I have a cool uniform on, and the school is more like a mansion.  I have a quick discussion with the principal why I should not take Economics 101.  My classes consist of karate, reading, ballet, and raquetball.  Awesome!  I spend an entire day in these classes, even though ballet was really awful.

The dream changes.  I am now outside of the apartment complex in which I was lost before.  I'm running again.  A group of boys find me and tell me to join them.  I'm lost, and I, for some reason, trust them.  We reach their hideout place in the apartment complex, which is just one of the apartments.  They all take showers and change, and head to the basement of the apartment.  I take a shower, change, and follow them to the basement.  Somehow, I become valuable to them because I know how to flush a toilet.

The basement becomes a beach.  We frolic around in the water in beautiful dresses.  Me and the girls, that is.  I don't know where the boys went.

I am happy because I am at the beach.  The end!