A Mother of None or Many?

May, 2001

After examining me, my gynecologist gently said, “Pam, I’m afraid you need to have a hysterectomy. I don’t want to let you keep bleeding like this and ending up with an emergency situation.” I choked back the tears and replied, “Is there any way I could be on a different floor so I don’t have to see the new babies?” Dr. Sally said, “No, because the nurses on the other floors aren’t familiar with post operative care of gynecology patients. But I will make sure you have a private room as far away from the nursery as possible so you don’t hear the babies cry. The surgical staff will call you with the date.”

Upon arriving home, the tears flowed as I poured out my heart to God. I know that I am too old to have a baby at the age of 46, nor would I have the energy to run after a toddler, but I grieve for all the children I never had. My pastor has been preaching an excellent series of messages on how to handle trials, so this is my opportunity to learn all I can from this difficult exercise. He said to start by thanking God for the trial. I recited the familiar verse, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thessalonians 5:18 God brought another verse to mind. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 

As I continued in prayer, I asked the Lord to teach me all the lessons He could from this trial, to comfort me, and to help me to think rightly from His point of view and not my own. I decided to do a Bible word study of “barren” since that is the word the Bible uses for women who cannot have children. Over the next weeks, whenever I read an encouraging verse, I wrote it in bold black ink (so I could read it through my tears) on an index card. Every morning I read through my growing stack of “comfort verses” and hid them in my heart. The ones that encouraged me the most were Isaiah 54:1 and 5.

Sing, O barren, thou who didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou who didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord….For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and Thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.”

I noticed the command to the barren was to SING rather than cry, so I started singing whenever I felt like crying. God always lifted the clouds away after I sang to Him. I also noticed that there is no limit to the number of spiritual children I can have. I just finished reading Amy Carmichael’s biography. She started an orphanage in India and became the spiritual mother to 1000 children! I recalled how Gladys Aylward went to China as a single lady and became the mother of many orphans and led them to safety over the mountains during World War 2. Mary Slessor adopted abandoned children in the African jungles. (see post on Mary Slessor )

Surgery

This is my first time to stay overnight in a hospital as a patient. I’m a little apprehensive as I’ve always heard that nurses and doctors make the worst patients. It feels strange to be the one receiving care rather than giving it. I am so thankful that my sister flew in from the Midwest to be with me. She is also a nurse and a Christian. God quieted my heart as we prayed together this morning and asked the Lord to give the doctor wisdom and to give me a good recovery.

I barely remember being rolled on the stretcher from the recovery room to my nice big private room at the end of the hallway far from the nurse’s station. They gave me a clear liquid tray for supper which promptly came back up. Yuck! What a mess… The pain isn’t too bad for which I thank God. My sister was hesitant to leave me because she wasn’t sure I could call for the nurse because I was so groggy.

The night nurse woke me up this morning and said she had to put the catheter back in my bladder since I was unable to urinate. I was under anesthesia the last time they did it. I recalled how many of these I have placed inside my patients over the years.

Tonight I’m feeling better and could eat solid food for supper, but sleep is escaping me. I decided to walk down the hallway and look at the babies in the nursery. As I looked through the window at each baby, I prayed for each one to receive Christ as his Savior and for his parents to look to God for wisdom in raising him. I thank the Lord for each precious new baby.

Reflection

A few months later, I was asked to share all the lessons God taught me through this exercise with ladies’ groups at several different churches. A number of women who were unable to bear children came up to me afterwards and said the lessons I had learned were a blessing and encouragement to them. I also typed in large print all the “Comfort Verses” God gave me at this time. I have handed out hundreds of these to others who are sorrowing and many have said how God used these verses to encourage and comfort them.

Bible Verses the Lord gave me prior to surgery which encouraged my heart.

http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/christia/verses.htm   

Above is the link if you would like to print out your own copy. I carry a copy of these verses in my purse so I’m ready for the next time I encounter a difficult situation.

Since my mother died of breast cancer and my sister also had aggressive breast cancer several years ago, I decided to have the doctor remove my ovaries at the same time that she removed my uterus. The genetic counselor told me I had a 50% chance of having breast cancer. Many women who have breast cancer also have ovarian cancer.

About ten years later, I had repeat genetic counseling. They said because I had my ovaries removed, I reduced my chance of breast cancer to 3% and eliminated ever getting ovarian cancer.  Little did I know that I would lower my risk of cancer so much by having my ovaries removed at that time. Truly, God’s ways are higher than my ways. My sister, Marsha Swinehart, later developed ovarian cancer and the Lord took her home to be with Him nearly two years ago. I miss her so much, but am thankful she is no longer suffering and experiencing wonderful fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That will be a wonderful day when we are reunited at His throne!

I thank God that He has given me a number of spiritual children over the years, and I pray that He will give me many more before He calls me home to heaven. It is so wonderful that I am never too old to bear spiritual children!

 

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You Better Belize It! Part 3

Dangriga to Big Creek, Belize – February, 1990

Sunday

We began our second week of this short term medical mission trip by walking from our hotel to the Baptist Church where Pastor R lead the services. We were warmly welcomed by the small congregation and were blessed by their hearty spontaneous hymn singing. Pastor R had a wonderful message from John 6 on Jesus Christ, the bread of life. Then said Jesus unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… All that the Father giveth me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:35, 37 How wonderful to know Jesus Christ for all eternity, the only One who can satisfy my deepest longing!

9 Dangriga Baptist Church

Dangriga Baptist Church where we worshiped.

 

After lunch, we packed our bags and met at the public bus station to travel to Big Creek in the southern part of Belize, our headquarters for the second week. The public bus was definitely faster and smoother than the old school bus! The mission director placed six of us women in a very nice home where I am sleeping on two mattresses on the floor. I walked in the bathroom and the mirror fell off the wall and whacked my head hard, almost knocking me out. It was kind of eerie, almost demonic. At dinner in a small restaurant, it was good to be reunited with the other half of our team who went to San Pedro for the weekend.

30 Week 2 at Big Creek

Red dirt roads in Big Creek, Belize

Monday – Trio Bladden Banana Farm

A lady translator from Switzerland has joined us since we will be seeing mainly Spanish migrant workers who work on the banana farm. Most of the bananas turned black because the air temperature recently went below 65 degrees F and ruined this crop. It takes 10 weeks to grow another crop. We are thankful for the rain which has cooled things off, but it turns the red dirt into red mud. It reminds me of the red clay dirt in Georgia, USA.

We saw large Mayan and Honduran families today. Dr. Don saw 10 people in one family- family practice at its best!

33 Trio Bladden banana farm Spanish

Clinic site on the banana farm

36 Clinic Dog sleeps under Dons feet

Village dog sleeps under Dr Don’s feet while he works!

37 Don w dead iguana full of eggs

Dr Don holds dead iguana full of eggs – a real delicacy!

38 Pam w village boy

Pam with a village boy.

I felt sad for one man who went blind from glaucoma. Unfortunately, Dr Don became ill after the clinic and had to skip dinner. The rest of the team had dinner at a little restaurant which is feeding our team all week. I was so thankful there was no loud “boom box” rock music like the night before. There is a bar next door where we ironically hold our Bible devotional time in the morning. Dr Joel surprised us all by wearing a dress shirt and tie to dinner. Quite the comedian! All the doctors have been lots of fun to work with this week. I appreciate their sense of humor mixed with godly humility.

Tuesday – Big Creek

I was sick all night from the shrimp I had for dinner last night, so I had to stay here today. Judy brought me boiling water for hot tea and my instant oatmeal. I am so thankful for the peace and quiet and time to be alone with the Lord and read my Bible. Since I live alone, I feel like I’m on sensory overload here with all the noise and being surrounded by people all the time.

Half way through the day, the toilet turned into a geyser, but I was rather proud of myself for fixing it with a coat hanger. Then I walked over to the store and bought a Coke. I was feeling better by dinner time, so joined the group as they ate dinner and I drank my instant “Cup of Soup”. They said the Spanish village where they worked was much like the day before. Then we went to a lady’s home and watched a few travel videos about Belize. The Belize City zoo looks interesting with all the rescued jungle animals.

Wednesday – Big Creek

This was our final and busiest clinic day with 240 patients! It reminded me of our clinics in Honduras except that I could speak in English as I checked the patient’s blood pressure. It was wonderful to hand them the last of my gospel tracts and gospels of John that I brought with me.

Dr Joel, who is a dermatologist in USA, removed a large mole from a lady’s nose, and excised a cyst off a man’s finger, so that was interesting to watch. We saw a baby with a congenital heart defect we are sending to Miami, Florida for open heart surgery. A man with a staggering gait said he had seen a neurologist in the USA who diagnosed him with degenerative cerebellar disease for which there is no treatment. I helped Dr. Don irrigate our last patient’s ears to remove excessive wax.

Some of the team are flying to the Mayan Tikal ruins in Guatemala tomorrow for $185, but I decided that was not in my budget.

Thursday – Big Creek to Belmopan

Some of us decided to go snorkeling in Palencia and then fly to the capitol city of Belmopan for $35, but it rained again and the surf was too rough. The Tikal group couldn’t fly out either because of the weather, so we all took one last bus ride together to the beautiful YWAM (Youth With a Mission) camp. We took a ferry ride in an old row boat to cross the river and hike up 100 steps to the top of the hill. The camp has lush green tropical foliage with brilliant flowers, very nice outhouses (yeah- no more broken toilets!) and loads of mosquitoes. Poor Judy is covered with bites.

49 Crossing river to YWAM camp

Our ferry boat ride across the river to camp.

Friday – Belmopan

I bid goodbye this morning to Dr Pete and Judy and Dr Don as they flew together to see the Tikal ruins. How I hate goodbyes, but I am glad we will see each other again in heaven.

Five of us who remained decided to take the public bus together to see the Belize national zoo. All the animals are rescued from the jungle and in simple wire cages. The toucan is the national bird. Other animals we saw were parrots, spider monkey, howler monkey, tapir (mountain cow), jaguar, cougar, and snakes. Then we hiked back to the highway and waited in the hot sun for over an hour for the bus to come. I ran out of water and prayed I wouldn’t faint from the heat.

50  Belize zoo Toucan

Toucan at Belize zoo – the national bird.

We were so glad to see the bus which dropped us off at a hotel in town where some of the team were enjoying the pool. The five of us quickly entered the hotel’s AIR CONDITIONED restaurant and ordered hamburgers and limeade for lunch. I think we drank about 5 huge pitchers of limeade which was totally refreshing! I have never appreciated air conditioning so much after being in the tropical heat and humidity for nearly two weeks.

Back at the camp, we all showered and put on our best clothes for our farewell “love feast” the camp staff prepared for us. They decorated the dining hall with palm leaves, flowers, and put place cards with our names at our designated seats like a wedding. After our spaghetti dinner, we sang hymns together led by a guitarist. Then we put on a talent show and laughed until we cried. Dr. Joel juggled, Dr Stew pretended he was “Dr Bump”, Donna and Donna sang their rendition of “Chicago” (their home town), others did a magic show, each team sang a song they wrote about the trip, and Jeanne ended with a beautiful solo of “The Sound of Music”. It was a great way to end the trip.

55 Farewell dinner n talent show

We sing our song at the farewell love feast.

44 Goodbye Belize

Reflection

So ended my second short term medical mission trip. I have decided that God didn’t give me a rugged stomach or body to be very effective in developing tropical countries. Thankfully, I had a week to recover my strength at my parents’ home in Florida before returning to my full time job in dialysis.

I enjoyed attending Dr Pete and Judy’s beautiful wedding on May 11, 1990. They have continued to lead dozens of short term mission trips all over the world. Now that I am nearing retirement myself, I have new admiration for the retired people who volunteered in Belize in 1990! I pray God used the tracts and gospels of John I gave to the patients,  that they received Him as their personal Savior, and so I will meet them in heaven!

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not there, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11.