June Update


Dear friends and family,

We wish each one of you a happy Sabbath! May the peace of God rest on your home as you rest on this holy day.

We meant to send this out even a month ago, but things keep coming up to keep us from having time to write and proofread. We are sorry for keeping you in the dark for so long.

Since we last wrote, of course many things have happened. The rainy season started, the school’s third term has nearly ended (next week is finals), and we’ve got more koi bari (the itchy rash)–at least, we think so. Everything that itches feels like it must be the “allergy tree.” But God has protected us from getting any more tropical infections, and we are learning how to ignore the intense itching.

About two months ago we started a basic music class on Wednesday evenings. Our goal is to give the people the tools to learn new hymns and other music on their own. A few villagers already know how to read music (at a basic level), but most of them have no idea what the black dots in the hymnal are for. So we have been doing vocal warm-ups, interval recognition, and the basics of reading notes in the treble and bass clefs. We have a dedicated few who have come almost every week, and our average attendance is around 8. Last week we put the class on hold until school is out, so that we have time to finish the year well.

Steven has begun work on a new classroom in the Administration Building. The first step is getting wood. Lumber has to be cut by a skilled chainsaw operator. Then it is carried, one or two pieces at a time, out of the woods to a place where a boat or tractor can reach. The trees for this project were a short trip downriver, with about 10-20 minutes walking up a little trail. It took four half-days (one in pouring rain) with 4-6 men to extract all the wood. It is now stacked for drying, and construction will probably begin in July. There are some pictures of our “fetching” trips attached. This undertaking has strengthened and deepened a friendship with one of the students’ families that has proved to be a great blessing to us. The man cutting lumber is our friend Luther. He is a kind, godly man with six children, two of whom are students at the academy. He has been experiencing severe pain in his left hip for years, and a few months ago he went in to Georgetown for x-rays and other testing. He showed us the film and we could see that he was missing the head of his left femur. He told us later that over a decade ago he was helping move a log when it rolled and crushed his hip against a large rock. It pains him often, and we are praying for some way that he could get a hip replacement. The hard part is that in this place, if the man can’t work, his family suffers. Extended family does not usually help in hard times. And so Luther has continued to walk the hour each way to his farm to plant and harvest, and cuts lumber with his chainsaw to buy what they can’t plant or what has been destroyed by the wild hogs (which this last year was almost everything). Please join with us in praying for this family in a special way, that God would provide for their needs and provide a way for restoration of his health, and even to somehow get a hip replacement.

Alice has been able to make use of some of our not-so-pleasant experiences to help some neighbors. As some of you may know, our son Grant was born with a posterior submucosal tongue-tie (ankyloglossia, or anchored tongue) which made it so he could not breastfeed properly, requiring supplemental feeding and eventually full formula-feeding. It was great disappointment for us. In case you are not familiar with this condition, the little string under the tongue, called the frenum or frenulum, is occasionally much too short in infants, preventing full motion of the tongue and thus a proper latch when nursing. Because of our traumatic experiences with Grant (a long story for another day–if you are interested), this issue is near to our hearts and we are eager to do all we can to prevent any other parent going through what we did. Well, in Sabbath school two weeks ago Alice noticed that a woman’s baby was excessively fussy. She kept trying to feed him (he was hungry) and he seemed to quiet down for a bit, but then a little later he was crying again. This time, after briefly putting him to the breast, she gave him a bottle. After watching for a few minutes longer, Alice realized that she had seen this scene before–in our own home. She went over and tried to talk with the mother–a somewhat difficult undertaking, as she is from Venezuela and speaks only Arecuna and Spanish and we pretty much just speak English (our high-school Spanish is pretty rusty). They talked for a bit, then she checked the baby’s mouth and found what was expected–the tongue had a little dip in the middle; there was a tight frenum just behind the gumline, and it felt like a stretched rubber band. After some time and with help from some local friends who were able to translate, she was able to help the mother understand why her baby was not nursing well. We learned that he had not been able to nurse properly since birth and was “on the bottle” consistently, though the mother continued to try nursing. (He is her eleventh child.) Alice was able to explain that this problem could be fixed and the baby might be able to stop using a bottle. Ankyloglossia can also cause speech problems later in childhood, so we explained that this could be prevented by the simple procedure.

So, that Sunday the mother, Anni, came to campus with the baby and two of her older children. Our principal, Dan Fuller, numbed the baby’s tongue and clipped the frenum so the tongue could move (he is a dental hygienist and has been trained to pull teeth and do some basic dental procedures). It was pretty traumatic for all of them as they were having to hold the baby down while he cried and struggled (no one likes to have their mouth held open against their will). But the little guy snapped back quickly and was his cheerful self within 15 minutes. Alice gave some instructions regarding his care for that night and the family went home. The next day she went to visit, and not only was Fin-Fin (the child, he is “the very last”) happy and healing well, but his mother said that he had latched correctly for the first time! We am so glad that Alice was able to recognize this problem and help them get it fixed. This affirms to us that even the very difficult things that happen to us happen for a reason.

Fin-Fin’s grandmother Betty also had an accident. She had been having severe pain from arthritis (or gout, we’re not actually sure which) that had been preventing her working as usual. Alice gave her some naproxen sodium tablets to help her pain, but didn’t know that the consequences would be even more painful than the arthritis. One day a couple weeks ago she had taken her daily tablet and was feeling so good she decided to walk to the farm. On her way back she tripped and fell flat on her face, bursting open her lip and severely bruising her sternum. Poor woman! She was treated by the health worker, but her daughter-in-law, our friend Narika, thought that more should be done, so Alice went to visit Betty. Her lip was swollen to three times its usual size and was all torn and oozy, but this had been treated well by the health worker. Her greatest pain was being caused by the bruised sternum, which had caused all of her ribs to ache. She had been given pain killers, but was still worried about the pain. Fortunately she had no broken ribs, but she is old and even bruises take a long time to heal. Alice found that massaging her back and chest helped her, and this incident has been a way for her to get even deeper into this family (before these incidents, we knew Narika but felt less comfortable with her in-laws–probably because we couldn’t communicate with them!) We thank the Lord for all these opportunities to help the people we are here to serve, and also for the opportunities to knit their hearts to ours.

Steven has been having good conversations with his math and English classes. He likes to start each class with Bible reading, and this has been leading to fruitful discussions about many different topics, including our use of the Bible and the importance of daily personal Bible reading to find out what the Bible says, rather than trusting anyone else to tell you what it says. The students respond well to Steven’s teaching, and it is a pleasure for Alice to watch him grow in confidence as he teaches his students to know the Lord while also teaching them to know about His works in the world of mathematics and English.

This last Sunday, we had another experience that helped us see how the Lord works through even the most difficult things in our lives for the good of those who love Him. I was sewing up some little holes in our mosquito net, when I heard voices coming down the path. The daughters of our pilot came to the door and told me that we had visitors coming up the path, and soon the girls’ mother (Joy) and three ladies appeared. Two of the ladies were holding three-week-old infants, twins. As it turns out, one of the twins, Felix, had been unable to latch onto his mother’s breast and had been on formula from birth. But the village shop was out of formula and the baby would not have any food if he could not be made to breastfeed. This was an emergency! We examined the tongue and found that, indeed, the frenum was too short and the baby could not open his mouth very wide. We checked and rechecked everything, then explained to the mother, grandmother, and auntie what would need to be done. They agreed to the procedure and we set everything up–Alice sterilized some scissors and got sterile gloves and gauze and a numbing agent. Then they numbed the tongue, waited a few minutes for full effect, and quickly did the clip. It bled quite a bit. When the bleeding was stopped they looked again and saw that they needed to go a bit deeper, so one more small cut was made. Then the frenum popped open (as it did when Grant’s was done three years ago). They put gauze on the little wound and waited till the bleeding stopped again. The baby did very well. We didn’t get to see if the baby would latch well because he had been fed just before the procedure (before they came to my home) and fell asleep immediately afterward, but we prayed that he would quickly learn to nurse. Because he is a twin the mother still has plenty of milk, so the transition should have been easier (Fin-Fin’s mother was nearly dry because she has been bottle-feeding him for so long). On Tuesday the babies came back to campus–Felix is still having trouble latching on. He has grown lazy from bottlefeeding and is taking a long time to learn. We gave the mother some tips to help encourage him, and did our best to encourage her to keep trying because it will be worth it in the end. Today we found out that he still isn’t able to breastfeed, and on top of that may have an allergy to the formula! Pray that this little boy will still learn to nurse. But as an added blessing in all of this, we learned that Fin-Fin has returned completely to breastfeeding, and his mother Anni was able to share her extra formula with this second family earlier this week.

Steven’s parents, sister, and brother-in-law are coming down to visit from July 3-23. We look forward to their visit eagerly!

We also always look forward to hearing from any of you. It can get lonely out here sometimes, and hearing from our friends is always a little taste of home. Please know that your letters are very important to us.

May God bless you all. Thank you for your prayers–we need them desperately!

In the Lord’s service, Steven, Alice, and Grant

comments powered by Disqus