Friday, December 19, 2008

Tribute to a friend

This week has had its ups and downs... When I last wrote, my health issues seemed to be in check and I wasn't experiencing any real problems with the chemo treatment. On Sunday that changed a little. I started running a fever Sunday morning and it kept me down all day and over night. I called the doctor on Monday to get an appointment but instead he sent me to the hospital to have a few tests run. What I expected to be a few hours in the ER turned out to be a three day stay and could have lasted longer had it not been for my whining... 

The three day ordeal included several rounds of IV antibiotics, two units of blood, a CT scan, an endoscopy of my stomach, a few cauterizations of "bleeders" in my stomach, and constant whining by the patient. I could not have been a worse patient. It's not that I was mean to the nurses, it was because I was feeling pretty well and just didn't want to be there. Fortunately, Robyn is around to put me in check and bring me back to reality and to help me see that I need to relax and rest in Christ. You know, the thing I tend to preach about on our blog... I was released on Wednesday night and the result of the three day stay was that my fever was "probably" caused by the chemotherapy drugs and the "bleeders" in my stomach were "probably" caused by the radiation that I went through a couple of months ago. So the good news is that there is no new cancer and I survived another three days in the hospital.
That's enough about the thorn in my flesh for now... Today I want to share the news about a friend of mine in Papua New Guinea. As most of you know, Robyn, Cody and I spent a year in Papua New Guinea serving with New Tribes Mission in a missionary support center. While we were there we made several friends with nationals and other "white skins" working in the center. One of the men who worked for me in the operations center is named Ignas. Ignas and I became very good friends and we have carried on our friendship over the past two years by keeping in touch by emails sent through missionaries on the center. When I became sick in May, Ignas found out about my illness and called me on his cell phone from his village in the bush. Hearing from him and knowing the effort it took and expense it cost him was very moving to me and lifted my spirits. I really appreciated him checking on me and being so concerned about my health. He wanted to make sure that I knew he and his wife, Julie, were praying for me, Robyn and Cody.
Today, my friend is facing a challenge of his own. I received a call this morning from the director of the center who told me that Ignas was in the hospital fighting for his life. I was told that while trying to break up a fight between his two cousins, Ignas was struck on his head with a log. He suffered a severe head injury and is now lying in a hospital in a deep coma. Considering the limitations of the medical system in Papua New Guinea and the severity of the injury there is little hope that Ignas will survive. 
I wanted to share this with you, first to ask you to pray for Ignas, Julie and their family, and secondly, to share the feelings that I have about this situation. After receiving the call this morning, I sat back and just couldn't believe that this would happen to such a man among men. Ignas is a man who believes in God and has spent much of his life struggling to make life better for his family or for others. And then, I remembered how difficult life really is for the nationals in Papua New Guinea. The bottom line for me is that while I was wallowing in self pity about being stuck in a hospital, (in a private room being treated by no less than 5 doctors and the best medical care in the world...), my friend was living an extremely difficult life in Papua New Guinea and tried to break up a fight which may have cost him his life.
Please pray for Ignas, Julie and their family. Our prayer is that God will be seen through all of this and that He will be glorified through a horrible act of violence. We also pray for the cousin who struck Ignas and the rest of the family involved. In this type of incident there are may different ideas of retribution and more violence is usually at the top of the list.

Thanks for indulging my weeping and gnashing of teeth,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

His Grace is Sufficient

I've been thinking, for some time now, about what I should write about in this next update. I don't really have any exciting news or dramatic swing in my health to really talk about.  Fortunately, I'm feeling very good and my recovery is going better than ever expected. I've seen my doctor recently and he is truly amazed at how I've recovered. I'm continuing on with the chemo treatments and I haven't had any real adverse reactions or setbacks to speak of. So, things are going extremely well!

The fact I've been doing so well has caused me to think a little deeper about things and do a little more reading than I've ever done before. I've been thinking a lot about the power of prayer and why God chooses to heal some people and not others. In my case, I think the power of prayer has had much to do with my healing. So many of you have prayed for me and our family over the past six months and I truly believe that God heard those prayers and answered them by making my recovery so tolerable.
But, what about the others who have been sick and haven't made it through or have recovered only to have their disease come back again and again. What about all the prayers that have been spoken on their behalf? Does God not care or does he randomly pick and choose who is healed and who isn't? Why have I been so blessed to have recovered so quickly, or am I really not healed yet? Will this disease come back and ravage my body again but this time without relenting? 
Fortunately, we have a God who does in fact care very much about each one of us. He loves us and knows each one of us individually. He feels our pain when we suffer, and He shares in our joy when we are happy. He is the God of comfort and the God of healing. He is the sovereign God which means that His plan for our lives is perfect. You've heard me say this over and over again but I continue to hold onto this belief because it makes such perfect sense to me.
I refer back to 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, when Paul refers to Christ answering his petition for relief from a "thorn" in is flesh.  Christ said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul went on to say, "So then, I will boast most gladly about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." I hold onto what is said in this verse because it reminds me that when everything is going my way and I have everything I want I tend to forget about my need for Christ. I don't like being in that frame of mind and really want to depend on Christ everyday. Ironically, the Christmas season is one of those times when I tend to get wrapped up in the pressures of finding the right gifts and making it to all of the holiday parties that I forget about what the season is all about.
The 2008 Christmas season is going to be particularly tough for a lot of us. There are many people suffering from health issues or the loss of a loved one. The economy is down and causing all kinds of financial problems, marriage problems, loss of jobs, etc. And then you have the typical pressures of finding the right gifts, etc. I would just like to encourage each of you, before you get overwhelmed with all your troubles, to take time to reflect on what Christ and Paul shared with us in those verses. Remember that through all the difficult issues we face, the grace and eternal life that Christ offers us is truly sufficient for all of our needs. May we all take comfort in trusting Him for the future and give Him the praise and glory He deserves for the life He has given to us! 

May God continue to bless each of you!
Russ and Robyn