Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Experiences

It's not every day a missionary pilot gets to physically see the difference he's making in people lives.  Sure, there are the medivacs where it's obvious that if we did not come, the sick would die.  I'm talking more about the back breaking box after box after box of medical supplies that I load into the airplane, fly to a mobile clinic out in the jungle, and unload in the blazing hot after box after box.  Sometimes it's vaccines, other times it's pain pills, but it always seems to be heavy and arduous work.

Today I visited the clinic where Joy volunteers, and I saw some of those same familiar boxes.  No, I'm not sick, and I'm definitely not having a baby, but Joy is.  And today we went together to take a peek at our new little one.  Actually we went yesterday, but the doctor wasn't in.  So we went this morning.  The doctor was in, but the ultrasound machine wasn't.  So we went a third time this afternoon, in hopes that we, the machine, and the doctor could all be in the same place at the same time.

I can't help but notice some of the same people are still waiting to be seen.  Joy walks right in, confirms that the doctor and the machine are present and stands on the outside of the door.  We wait for maybe 15 minutes as the doctor finishes with another patient.  I can't help but overhear some of the conversations outside about how we white missionaries can just skip the all day waiting and hop in the front of the line, while they all have to wait even longer.  I do feel bad, but I guess it's a perk of volunteering, kinda like I can go wherever I want in the Entebbe airport and travel to different countries without having to pay for visas, or even have my passport with me.

As we wait, I'm trying to brush up on my French anatomy...fingers, toes, heart, legs, boy, girl.  I don't get to use those words a whole lot around here!  Before I know it, we're in the ultrasound room, and I'm trying my hardest to decipher the white and black lines; the doctor pushes a button on the machine, and suddenly I can see clear as day as he shows me the "grand tour" ...."here's all the fingers, heart, toes, legs, head."  Joy is right on target.  I'm amazed at the equipment they have, and even more amazed that someone is actually properly trained to use it.  He checks length, sizes, heartbeat, all the major stuff.

Then we ask him to see if it's a boy or a girl.  He checks for maybe another 5 minutes before coming to an "undecided" conclusion.  I have my own conclusions from what I saw...or didn't see, as the case may be, but you'll just have to wait and find out!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Bright Side

An essential element to survival here is keeping a positive attitude about...well, everything.  A few examples you ask?  Sure, I'd be happy to oblige:

*Like when you get a flat tire in the pouring rain.  Think of it not as an inconvenience and getting thoroughly soaked, but as an opportunity for the Congolese people to show their true colors.  Since the car jack won't work in the mud, 30 bustling men gather around and lift the car while you make the swap.  Probably not good for the car, but neither is driving on a flat.

*Different airstrip conditions (even when I land 2 or more times at the same place, on the same day) keep my skills sharp, and guard against complacency.  Goats are my favorite.  They come out of the tall grass right in front of the airplane, and instead of running back into the bushes, they hear the airplane and tear off down the airstrip, trying to outrun the airplane.  It never fails.

*Think...for every hour the city power is on, it saves me a dollar, instead of...the electricity is rarely on, I should just disconnect it all for good.

*I don't like geckos or palm-sized spiders in my house, but they need a home too, and they eat the mosquitoes (a nice bonus, since most of the windows still don't have screens).  And when they're not eating the mosquitoes, they're having turf wars, so at least it's entertaining.

*One more stomach bug reminds me that I can get antibiotics...a lot of them...for $2...without a prescription.

*A long line of thunderstorms in my flight path is a great opportunity to practice my airplane handling skills.

*A dishonest official is a reminder for me to practice honesty and integrity in everything I do, and a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate His grace.

*The blaring mosque at 4:30am every morning is a chance for me to pray for Muslims.

*An unexpected night away from home is a window into the life of missionaries who have it much, much harder than I do.

*When there's no water, it's humbling to see missionaries sacrifice even more and share what little they do have.

*Every change in the schedule is an unplanned chance to bring glory to our God and be a blessing to those around us.

*Many things are much more expensive here, but the avocados fall off the trees in the back yard every couple months.

*When something breaks around the house, I get to learn new vocabulary in French and Swahili.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  Every day is a reminder that I have a choice to make.  Every situation is an opportunity.  Will I choose to reflect the image that's been restored in me, or try to make it in my own strength?  Will I climb out of the boat?  Will I deny my Lord?  What's your choice?  Yes, or no, my friends.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Girls

They're so amazing.  I'm so blessed to have them in my life, even if they don't speak my "language."  They are fun, beautiful, intriguing, delicate, passionate.  They are unique, smart, photogenic, dedicated, understanding.

Some of you may not know, but Spokane, Washington, was probably the last place on my list of cities to live (no offense).  But boy am I glad I made that choice.  I remember once saying, in my foolish youth, that I would never step foot in California, and I certainly would never marry a Californian.  Oh how that changed in a heartbeat.  I also never believed in "love at first sight."  But the moment I saw her, I knew I would spend the rest of my life with her.  My pick up line: "hey, if you ever need the oil changed in your Honda, I have a Chiltons Manual."  That was almost seven years ago, and what an incredible journey it's been so far.

Then, it happened...I had an affair.  In fact, I still am.  I still remember when Joy told me she was pregnant.  We were in southern California at the time and Joy insisted on taking me out after a very long day of packing our shipment for Africa.  I really didn't want to go, didn't want to spend the money, take the time, etc.  We went to Mimi's, and asked for a really yummy ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, brownie thing with a cherry on top.  Let's just say the cherry was really the only edible part, the rest was hard as a rock.  Yes, even the ice cream.  But I didn't care; there's no expression for the feeling a man gets when you tell him he's going to be a father.

9 months later, the same "love at first sight" occurred with Kaitlyn Renee, my little sweet girl.  We were in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and had traveled to Newport, Vermont, just over the US border for a doctor visit.  Joy was having contractions and they were getting stronger, so we decided to stick around for a while, just in case.  Again, we had a bad experience with food and ate at a Chinese joint in "downtown" Newport.  Next time we'll know to skip that place.

Joy labored all through the night and the next morning before Kaitlyn finally arrived.  I remember feeling so tired, excited, and not knowing what I was supposed to do.  I remember almost passing out.  I don't mind the blood and all that, but people in pain and screaming just doesn't sit well with me.  I was a big fan of the epidural.  Joy, at the time, was indifferent.  When Kaitlyn was born, we saw her for thirty seconds before she was quickly whisked away and diagnosed with a pneumothorax.  She had a partially collapsed lung with a tiny hole in it.

It's fun to see her now, and how she has different personality traits of both of us (good and bad).  At 10 months, she wanted to jump in and swim down Niagara Falls.  She has to do everything herself, loves to joke, and would eat a whole tub of butter if she could.  She has a great compassion for people, and absolutely loves airplanes.

And just when I didn't think my heart could get any bigger, we have another one coming in January.  Will it be another girl, or our first boy?  Time will tell, I suppose.