Friday, July 20, 2012

{furlough is about} The Unexpected

A missionary family's furlough can be overwhelming, glorious, chaotic, restorative and bone-wearying all in the same week. This little series called {furlough is about} is a meager attempt to capture snapshots of our own first furlough experience by way of words and pictures. -Stephanie 
Isabel smiling at the beginning of her 23-hour EEG

When we first began to plan our furlough, we envisioned a hectic first six months where we "hit the ground running" and attempted to visit most of our supporting churches. Eighteen of the 21 churches that support us are in Michigan, so it seemed a challenging yet do-able task! Then, the second six months were planned to be more of a "down" time with just a few churches to visit and plenty of opportunities to be with family, catch up on schooling, and prepare for the ministry upon our return to Iquique.

Almost immediately upon commencing furlough, however, the unexpected hit us. This was by way of my grandmother's fall and subsequent hospitalization, illness and death. God's grace was sufficient but this wasn't as we planned. Yet through it all we were reminded that His plans are higher than ours, and we were grateful for the chance to be present with our family and to say goodbye to someone we loved so much.

Another unexpected health situation found us even before my grandmother's homegoing, yet it took us some time (and the wisdom of a few doctors) before we realized it. Some weeks after our traveling to churches began, our daughter Isabel awoke from her sleep vomiting at the home where we were staying. Certain characteristics of this episode were unusual and unnerving, and we wondered if perhaps it could have been a seizure. We determined to continue observing to see if something similar happened again, and when it did we consulted with a specialist who strongly recommended we see a neurologist.

God graciously orchestrated the details so that during our in-office visit we were able to immediately have an EEG done, the results of which led to a 23-hour EEG being performed the week before our departure from Michigan. Just days before we packed up to move, the neurologist confirmed that our daughter was at a high risk for seizures and recommended medication and follow up with a Delaware neurologist as soon as possible. 

In the midst of these health situations, life and ministry continued on. We enjoyed meeting via Skype with our teammates in Chile once a month to remain aware of the work in Iquique and it was at one of these times that the unexpected found us again. While we had known it was a possibility that two our teammates might find their families relocating to ministries outside of Chile, when the reality of it became clear it changed the picture of our ministry dramatically. With our third teammate family departing for furlough shortly after our return to Iquique, we would (will) be going from a four-family pastoral team to simply, us. Again we know God is more than able and that His strength is "made perfect in weakness" (which surely we are!) We hold on to this truth.

As we entered the final six months of furlough, I felt the time had come to follow up with the hematologist in Chile who had tested Alec shortly before we left the country. Prior bloodwork had shown that in addition to anemia (which both boys dealt with upon arriving from Haiti) his red blood cells revealed several unusual shape configurations. We were assured it was nothing serious but upon contacting her, the Chilean hematologist recommended that we take steps for a full workup for Alec during our remaining time in the States. Another somewhat unexpected turn!

And the list continues to grow. After speaking with another adoptive mom about ongoing concerns for one of our little boys in the area of what I call "cognitive connections," I found myself on a conference call with a representative of the International Adoption Health Program of CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.) This call resulted in a wealth of information as well as more recommendations - for auditory and speech evaluations, among others. Our calendar is filling up - not with visits to churches this time, but to every kind of doctor and specialist!

In the midst of all this our family was scheduled to enjoy our mission's annual Missionary Enrichment conference this week - a time of rest, fellowship and encouragement with fellow missionaries from around the world. My sister's family was to be there as well, and the cousins looked forward to spending several days in the hotel pool together. Alas, the "cousin bonding" that took place at home in the days prior to the conference results in eight of the nine children succumbing to fevers, coughs and body aches for almost an entire week. (Thankfully, one by one they are finally returning to health!)

As I think about all this I am reminded that indeed {furlough is about} The Unexpected ... and sometimes the weight of it all can seem very heavy! How grateful I am that Someone has offered to carry my burdens in times like these. For Jesus has said: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:18)

And even The Unexpected is safe in His hands.

Other posts in this series:

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Wow Stephanie. We continue to pray for you! Lots of love.