Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must first direct you to the Impact Nations website. There you will find a 2009 review of the biosand water filter project. Though I am always certain that I could have done more, I am nevertheless proud of our accomplishments this year. I try to update that page about once a month with news of our progress, so if you are interested in our project, I encourage you to join the Impact Network and follow that particular page.

And now for my personal reflections...

Do you ever get dizzy on December 31st, as you spend the day looking back and forth, at both the past year and the one to come? It's been that kind of week for me. Looking back helps us know where we need to go as we move forward. Actually, looking down gives me a pretty good idea too. When I look down, I see evidence of a 2009 that was spent sitting at my computer and consuming carbohydrates. So, 2010 must contain less time stuffing my face and sitting on my butt. I am determined to lose some weight.

Less time on my posterior means less time with my faithful friend, Mr. MacBook. I struggled with this one a lot in 2009. I'm sure many of you became more intimately acquainted with your computer this year too. The difficulty is that the further we get into this century, the more we find our everyday activities being transferred to the computer and it's dastardly cousin, the internet. This is even more true for those of us who live overseas and desire to stay connected to the western world.

A few years ago, reading the newspaper meant sitting at the kitchen table and spreading out the inky pages. It meant saving a section for my wife so that she could read an article I thought might interest her. Reading a national magazine could be done while having a nice hot bath. Now I begin each day by browsing my favorite periodicals online. Instead of saving articles for my wife, I tell her to check the link that I left on Facebook!

In fact, all of my reading is done on my computer now. I even switched to reading the bible on my computer a while ago. A regrettable decision. My bible is remarkably bereft of my own handwriting and has long since known the loving touch of a highlighter. Instead of curling up on the couch with my bible and my God, I have tried to fit my quiet time into my deafening, digital day. How can one hear the still small voice when my internet browser—only a click away—is forever beckoning me with its promise of another photography tip or news of Tiger's proclivity for extra-marital activities?

Before moving to the Phils, we could visit with friends and family while actually being in the same physical space at the same time. Walks in the park with friends, or a game of golf with my father were not out of the question. Now my time with Dad is restricted to 17" of real estate. Instead of crazy adventures with my best friend, we settle for a binary beer on Skype. Bethany and I can no longer gather with the rest of the Stewart family to watch the hockey game, so I am left to listen to it. On my computer.

Like many of you, my job is performed at the computer as well. This is where I do all of my correspondence, emailing people from all over the world every day. 2009 saw the creation of the Impact Network, where I spend time (on my computer) coordinating communications between our donors and our project facilitators. I also spend time creating promotional materials such as sales presentations and brochures, and researching clean water technologies. Sometimes I do get away from my computer, only to sit in the car for several hours in order to attend a meeting and make a presentation. On my computer.

My hobby has me chained to the computer too. Sure, I must get off my duff to take a photograph, but it takes 1/250th of a second to capture an image. A memory card full of images can take me down a rabbit trail of editing that brings me hours of enjoyment. On my computer.

Each of these are perfectly good reasons to plunk my keister down in front of the almighty motherboard, but the end result is a need for larger pants, a weaker faith, and a lonely wife.

Yesterday Bethany and I had a "discussion" about all this. She makes the excellent point that whatever my activity on the computer is at any given time, the physical reality is always the same. A laptop (particularly that of the 17 inch variety) creates a physical barrier between the user and the rest of the world. It says "don't bug me, I'm busy". My eyes can't help but be drawn to the bright screen, even when I'm conversing with somebody.

So what is a 21st century man to do? After yesterdays "discussion", I retreated to the shower, where I do my best thinking. I was searching for a practical solution—self-reflection is good, self-actualization is better. My answer? Boundaries, of course! Firm rules that will help me to stay plugged in to the real world (pardon the irony of that metaphor). I have also placed some new rules that will help me invest in my family's spiritual growth without the use of any glorious gadgetry.

The new rules:
  • I will put my computer to sleep at bedtime. I have a tendency to stuff my earbuds in and listen to podcasts when I go to bed, which can alienate my wife and distract me from a time of self-reflection and prayer. If I can't sleep, I will turn to the traditional method of reading an actual, physical, made-out-of-paper book.
  • I will not open my computer again until after breakfast. I have fallen into the habit of checking my email when I first wake up, which then leads to either working or reading periodicals before I have greeted my family or my God.
  • I will read a devotional aloud to Bethany at the breakfast table. If the computer can't be turned on till after breakfast, then there is plenty more time for me to invest in my family at the beginning of the day.
  • We will not watch television during dinner. At some point in the last few years we got into this habit, and it's just one more way that keeps us from relating to one another. I don't have anything against TV, but the dinner table is an opportunity to talk to one another about our day. I don't want to miss that anymore. As an aside, we watch tv on my computer, so this is one more instance where I am demoting the marvelous MacBook.
  • We will read a bible story to Promise at bedtime. We already have a pretty good bedtime routine with Promise, and unlike the rest of the day, it does not include a computer. Regardless, in an effort to develop a good habit that will strengthen my family for years to come, we will add the element of scripture to a time that I really do treasure.
So, those are my new rules. I was ticked off when I pronounced them after my shower yesterday, so I committed to keep them only to the end of January. But honestly, I truly hope that we will spend this month developing good habits that will continue throughout 2010 and into the years beyond.

I have stated the new rules here for two reasons. First, I humbly ask for your accountability. Feel free to ask me at any time how we are doing with the new routine. If you learn that I have slipped, you are hereby permitted to give me a good tongue lashing. Secondly, there is a distinct possibility that the temptation of a digitally dominated life is not my burden alone. If you have found yourself in a similar struggle, perhaps my reflections will give you the courage to take action.

Peace out,
Tim.

Oh, and Happy New Year and all that jazz.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Surprise For You

Greetings! And Merry Christmas to all!
It's hard to believe the year is coming to a close. So much has happened in 2009! I feel the months just blend in together as one when I try to recount the many blessings and heartaches of the year.

This week I spent delivering a continuity's baby boy. :) Remember May from Bible Study? Well, she went into labor on Tuesday night, so I pulled off a very long night shift. :) Healthy baby Kaser John was born sporting a cephalhematoma and giving his mommy a nasty tear! It took me over an hour to suture it! But May did great. And she is healing happily with her precious Christmas blessing.
Wednesday was spent in a whirlwind of cookie-baking and such. Tim and Promise helped lots while Thursday was spent giving away those countless cookies at the local Philippine Army base with our friends, Eric and Casey. We met with the Chief Executive Officer and delivered enough cookies to bless 400 men! Cool.

Tim and I spent Christmas eve quietly alone watching Christmas movies and eating pizza. What a treat.

For Christmas, Tim, myself and Promise had a very Western meal with our dear friends, Darrell and Shannon. Shannon made spinach dip and broccoli salad!!! My fav. We were even able to find an inexpensive honey ham (though not exactly Western-looking) and I made lots of mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes and candied yams. Yum. We even had my special homemade egg nog! We decided that we were going to have a real home-y Christmas this year...and my tastebuds were in Heaven....but my gut is now reaping the consequences of a very rich meal. I think after 3 years here in the Phils, I can no longer handle the dairy goodness of home. Sad. Or maybe I have worms?

But that's not all that's growing inside!....We have been keeping it a secret from the world wide web for the last 13 weeks, but are sharing our special news now. We are expecting another precious miracle in July. :) I am 13 weeks pregnant! Now, if you look at the posts of the last 13 weeks, you may notice some panicky moments and some emotional blahs....well, they came from a very sick preggo lady. This pregnancy has been significantly different from Promise....from the very beginning.

We got an ultrasound at 5 weeks pregnant to confirm and to receive more accurate dating. However, the ultrasound showed 2 yolk sacs! Being the curious midwife that I am, I started doing my research and was asked to return for a second ultrasound in 2-3 weeks to check for fetal viability and the presence of twins.

I got busy and didn't go. Not until I was about 9 1/2 weeks. My midwife and dear friend, Bea, Promise and our friend Beth came with me to the lab. This ultrasound proved to be a mixed blessing. Apparently, there were two eggs, two yolk sacs, but one did not fully form and split. It began to shrivel up creating a hematoma on the chorion (the outer layer of the amniotic sac) of the other baby. They called it a "subchorionic bleed" or hematoma. The doc assured me that it was not growing at this time, but to return for periodic ultrasounds to ensure the safety of the baby.
Four things can happen with this condition:
1. the hematoma gets reabsorbed into the uterine lining causing no harm to mother or baby, 2. the hematoma can get bigger putting pressure on the amniotic sac of the baby causing premature rupture of membranes or preterm labor, 3. The hematoma can burst causing hemmorhage and loss of fetal life or 4. It can stay the same size until term and cause a minor hemorrhage at delivery.

So we are praying for reabsorption. :)
My awesome midwife, Bea, has been walking with me through the process and so far, things are okay. I am sick most everyday and already experiencing sciatic and herniated disc trouble, but other than that, I am still working, loving my Lady Bird and my man.

The future looks daunting....January requires me to study like never before for my midwifery certification exam (NARM) with February requiring me to fly across the ocean 18 weeks preggo with a toddler in tow alone to take the exam. :) I am excited for the journey....the adventure...though at times, very cautious, almost protective of where I am at...I feel frail. Unlike when I was pregnant with Promise - I felt strong...almost invincible. But God.

So, that's the latest news around here. Promise is teething and has decided to show how talented she is in dramatics...she comes by that honestly! But she is beautiful and quite a lot of fun. She lives and breathes for Dora the Explorer right now and points at stars calling them "Estrellas" (the Spanish word for stars). She's a smart cookie. She received a few Dora dolls from her Grandma Con for Christmas and they still haven't left her grasp. :) She calls them, "backpack baby". So here are some pics of our quiet, somewhat Western Christmas. Be blessed!








Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And so this is Christmas...


So here, as shared in the last post, is the Lady Bird showing off her Dora ornaments....she LOVES the Christmas tree! And for those who want to make their Christmas tree appear "presentful", here's a hint: Wrap up empty boxes and beer!
Merry Christmas!

Winding Down for Christmas

Greetings!
So here we are, Tim and myself, sitting in front of two blasting fans. I am wearing a tank top and shorts....Tim has decided to go a few steps further. Sweat drips down my forehead and pools in the creases of my eyelids and on my upper lip. The sound of the Balut bell honking down the street along with the barking of stray dogs and cats crying out in heat fills the air.....Ahhh.."Christmas in the Philippines".

Today I hit my 600th prenatal exam. Yes, I have done a prenatal on 600 women. I came home to relieve Tim from Promise duty and he headed out to work.

Promise has discovered the joy of "Dora the Explorer". Without a TV, pirated DVDs of Dora is all we got for her and she ADORES Dora...or rather, Dora's backpack. We printed off some Dora Christmas ornaments off of NickJr.com and the Bird eagerly watched as I cut them out and tied a ribbon on each one so that she could gingerly place the characters on the tree singing, "Backpack, backpack." With her prickly heat rash and sweaty brow, Promise walked all by herself to our "Charlie Brown" aluminum/plastic tree and hung "Swiper", "Boots" and "Backpack". Tim helped Promise hang "Dora" and "Map" and the "Estrellias" this morning.

I love being a mom. I love hanging with my Lady Bird. I miss my mom.

Shifts at the clinic are getting busier as Christmas approaches. Everyone wants to have their baby on 'Jesus' Birthday'. I was even asked today, "Ma'am B, how do I make my baby come out on Christmas morning?" Her baby is due in early January. :) Meanwhile, the clinic is preparing Christmas food giveaways and ministering to some of the poorest women of Davao.

I currently have a continuity (one of my Bible study patients) in early labor. I am just waiting for the text message, "Ma'am B...I need to go to MMC now...sakit!" I checked her this morning....very early labor. :)

This week is busy. The water project is still busy despite taking a little hiatus for Christmas. Apparently government officials don't want to work for the next 3 weeks. However, the poor still need clean water and so if you check out impactnations.com, you will find out just how many families are getting clean water for Christmas! Thank you to all who have given so freely to these impoverished families!

We've been hanging out a lot with another missionary couple here....Darrell and Shannon...they've become like another set of parents...friends...game partners...you name it! We so enjoy their company...we both miss our families and so hanging together to talk about how much we would rather be home this time of year has become part of our weekly ritual...we are even spending Christmas day together! Tim and I have been so blessed to have them as friends. You can check out what they are up to at www.crosscultureministries.com.

So there are lots of other things on the go, but we will chat about them after Christmas. Maybe we'll get one or two more posts out before the most wonderful-lest of holidays comes....honestly, we are feeling like it's all been "same old, same old". Routine. We will have some more things to say in a week.

Thank you all again for your prayers, encouragements and support! We are missing so many of you and pray you have a beautiful and Merry Christmas full of Christ's presence.
Be blessed.

Here's a pic that Darrel snapped with his iPhone during a visit at the coffee shop yesterday. Shannon and the Bird were both feeling a little sleepy. It's not very flattering, but we haven't taken any pics recently so this is all I've got.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Continued update...

Greetings! Sorry it has been a while. Tim and I have been somewhat distracted with life the last week or two.

As most of you know, we have been reminiscing the amazing times we had with our dear friend "uncle" Bob. We are still experiencing many weepy days missing our friend, but have been greatly encouraged by the legacy he has left and the response of his family. If you read the comments from the last post, you will know what I mean! :)

As our third Christmas in the Philippines approaches, I am reminded of God's unwavering faithfulness in our life here. To give you just a tiny example of a recent "faithful God sighting"....you know all the prayers I was asking for regarding taking my certification NARM exam in February....well, just two days after posting that prayer request, my plane ticket was paid for! AND, the National College of Midwifery and the North American Registry of Midwives approved my application to take the certification exam! OREGON EXAM, HERE I COME!! God is sooo good.

So February 3rd, Promise and I will leave our precious Tim and board a plane headed for Portland to stay with my parents, take the exam and head back to the Philippines February 24th. I am looking forward to Promise getting some time with her cousins and me having a latte with my mom and dad. :) I miss our morning coffee talks. Tim will be hard at work here getting the water project set for the future....I have asked a few local friends to take care of him while I am gone. :)

In Philippine news, I have delivered more babies....sutured more, inserted more IVs, did more baby check-ups....not that all this is getting old, but it has almost become somewhat routine now. Each patient and her situation is uniquely different from the last and I love hearing their stories...but what has stood out to me these last few weeks are my Bible Study patients.

Still we have had only two show up each time. I have to laugh at that....out of the 300 patients we have at Mercy per month and then some, we have just two that show up to Bible study and they are just so hand-picked by God.

One in particular tugged at my heart this week. Ann just had a baby two weeks ago and came to Bible study 90 minutes late this week to show off her precious baby girl and to tell us that she was applying to work overseas giving her baby to her extended family to care for. My heart sank. Her family was pressuring her to look to her baby's future because she has no husband and no one to provided long-term for her and her baby. Her only option seemed to be to head off to another country (most likely a middle-eastern country) to work, make big money, and come back home after two years.

This precious baby girl was bathed in prayer in our Bible study long before she was born....we prayed at length for the relationship with Ann and her ex-boyfriend....it seemed just so wrong for her to leave this beautiful baby girl to work in an unknown land with unknown scenarios and for unknown employers. I asked her if she wanted to go and her response was not surprising....like many women here who have just given birth, she shook her head no, but her mouth said, "It is for my baby's future." But what if her baby's future looks bright with money, but without a mother or father?

People live well here on a very small amount....is it better for her to mother her daughter and raise her up in God, though not wealthy or is it better for her to leave her baby to be raised by family, but have money....more money here in the Philippines means greater responsibility and added pressure from family....less money...well, depending on how much less, can mean daily reliance on God and a family working together to make ends meet. I don't know what is better....but I do know that her choice is based on fear and not on wisdom. She is fearful that her daughter will never go to school and will never have the clothes and supplies all the wealthier families have....and yet, there are soooo many Filipinos here who work somewhat low-paying jobs who are quite able to send their kids to school and they may not have the most fashionable clothes, but they are clothed and they are fed well.

I don't know which decision is best for her, but I am concerned that her fear may take over her ability to hear God....He is always faithful...and not just to me...or to the wealthy.

If you think of her, please pray that God will give her wisdom and her decision will not be based on her fear of having little and that she will see just how much she truly has.
Be blessed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I miss my friend.

I can't be silent and not say anything about the precious man Uncle Bob was to me. Though I did not know him as long as the Stewart clan did, he was more than a friend to me...he was the closest physical appearance of Jesus that I have ever known on earth. I think Jesus was ready for his company face to face. I don't blame Him. Jesus loves him even more than we do.

He had the uncanny ability to look at you directly in the eyes and know the state of your spirit. The presence of God was so about him that even the harshest words were soaked in love. Because my family lives in the United States, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia became my surrogate parents...mentors, friends, counselors, peace-givers. Being in their company filled my spirit with such peace. Spending time with them was like taking a drink from the refreshing fountain of Heaven. Uncle Bob loved me and I knew it...he wasn't afraid to show it or say it. I didn't have to be anyone but me around him.

What made the most impact on me was his deep, unchanging, faithful love for his wife. He called Sylvia his "sunshine" and you knew that was what she was to him. He honored her with his words, showed his devotion to her with his time, and you could see his bright blue eyes light up when she entered the room. They were best friends. And he also encouraged this deep love in our marriage. The two of them were living examples of what it means to "love as Christ loves the church and gave His life for her". He reiterated the importance of being one with the Spirit of God together....he challenged us to love each other unconditionally. He challenged us to be Christlike.

His strong sense of justice and his love of compassion infiltrated all his relationships. Any friendship he made was intentional and quickly became deeply relational....small talk was just a passageway into the heart of the matter. Over espresso (his taken with "sugar in the raw") and dark chocolate (though provided white chocolate for Sylvia and me), he would relay stories of God's faithfulness and intently listen to the areas Christ was sharpening us in. Like Tim shared, his wisdom was from the Lord. His generosity came in all forms....he loved freely and gave freely.

He was picky and had to have his plates heated for hot meals, and chilled for cold meals....but his quirks made us laugh and brought us calm familiarity. One never felt out of place in their home...whether their home was on their boat, in Ontario, or in Vancouver, one always felt welcome. I can remember him sitting in his stuffed chair with his silly stuffed dog, "Scruffy", chewing the fat for hours on end with Tim while Sylvia and I painted, sewed or cooked dinner. They were our best friends.

While my heart aches for my dear friend, I know the ache I feel is nothing compared to that of Sylvia who now has her two best friends walking together face to face now. I can just see Jesus and Uncle Bob in tears together laughing about Uncle Bob's journey here on earth....his mistakes...his triumphs...his joys...and I can see Uncle Bob, with humility and conviction kneel before the Lord in gratitude. Welcome home, Uncle Bob. You are missed.

We love you, Sylvia and we share in your sorrow and we share in our Saviour's joy through tears.

More On Uncle Bob

You should also read what Dad had to say here.

Uncle Bob

One of my best friends is gone. He's known me since I was a boy, and he is one of the people who helped me become a man. And now he's gone. If you were to ask me, "What do you want to be when you grow up," my answer would quite likely be "Uncle Bob".

He's been my father's closest friend since I was very young, and he was much like a god-father to me and my three brothers for more than 20 years. As boys we used to go exploring in the ravine behind their home in Ontario. When my parents were ministering out of the country, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylv would look after us boys. We still talk of the brownie surprise ("the surprise is...there is no brownie!"), and the chocolate chip spaghetti.

We moved to another province when I was 15, and I was just a dumb teenager, so I didn't know what I was missing. I was shocked when I did the math today and realized that Uncle Bob and I have been close friends for less than four years. It was the spring of 2006, shortly after they moved to BC, that Bethany and I started spending time with Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia. They quickly became some of our dearest friends and life would not have been the same without such a friendship.

We had many a great walk along the river in Steveston, and many peaceful afternoons eating potato chips and drinking beer on the boat. But what I treasured most was their quiet wisdom and the peaceful prayer that was sure to come at the end of the day when the cards were put down and the espresso and chocolate was gone. I'm afraid of being without his wisdom. Yes, Uncle Bob's wisdom was from the Lord, and I know that God's wisdom is still available to me, but it was far more reassuring to know that it was just a phone call away.

If you're looking for Uncle Bob's influence in my life, you needn't look far. Two of my greatest passions can be directly attributed to him. It's no coincidence that I fell in love with photography at exactly the same time that he and I became friends. When Bethany and I were in the Dominican Republic with Impact Nations in January of 2006, we began spending time with Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylv, and he let me borrow his point and shoot camera. He showed me a few things and something inside me came alive. The next month I bought my first point and shoot camera and he started to teach me. And the rest, as they say, is history.

After hearing the news today, I found myself browsing through my old photography blog (you might be curious to wander through the archives). My first images were laughably bad, but Uncle Bob's influence becomes apparent as the photography improves. So much so, that I mentioned him often in my writing and referred to him as The Famous Uncle Robert. He was always bugging me to turn that blog into a book. Perhaps one day I will.

He has encouraged me every step of the way in my photography; kicking my ass when I would complain about crappy weather or insufficient gear, and cheering me on when I was pushing myself creatively. He got me an early Christmas present this year—a subscription to the National Association of Photoshop Professionals—with a note that encouraged me to keep pressing forward. I can't tell you how many books he has handed me to read, and their effect has been profound. It's been a long time since I went on a photowalk with him, and I cannot express how much I regret not finding time to do that when I was with him this summer.

My other passion, of course, is the biosand water filter. Did you know that he's the one who trained me in that technology? Exactly two years ago I went to learn all about it from he and Aunt Sylvia in Manila. A few weeks after that, he was helping me build our first filter in Davao. We have since built almost 3000 filters and impacted as many as 50,000 lives. None of that would be possible if he and Aunt Sylvia hadn't imparted their passion to me.

You see, that's the thing. Uncle Bob did more than just teach me these things. He instilled a passion in me to do them to the best of my ability. Some days I was working hard in the hopes that he would be proud of me. But I know he was proud of me—he told me so. Most days I was working hard because I had caught his passion.

All this has me thinking about my dad. I count my father as one of my very best friends. He and I had a good cry together on Skype today. I told Dad that he and Uncle Bob were my go-to guys for wisdom, and now that Uncle Bob is gone, Dad is gonna have to carry more of the load. Problem is, I know Uncle Bob was one of Dad's main sources too. We could be in trouble.

It is days like this when I absolutely hate living on the other side of the world. It feels awful to grieve alone. Bethany and I have been holding on to each other throughout the day, but a hug from my dad sure would feel good right about now. A beer with Uncle Bob would feel pretty good too.

I miss him a lot. I know he's with Jesus, but fat lot of good that does me. Please be praying for Aunt Sylvia and the rest of their family.

I lost a lot of my photos of Uncle Bob during a hard drive crash a couple years ago. Those that I do have, I just put up on facebook.

Tim.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It was far from here.

As the news of the recent massacre has spread, some of you may be wondering how it has or will affect us. The short answer is that it won't affect us here in Davao. We are several hours east of Maguindanao, the province where this atrocity was carried out. Davao is a very safe city that has not experienced any significant political violence for many years, so there is no need to worry.

Unfortunately, this incident may indeed interfere with portions of the water project. Maguindanao is one of the provinces that we focus our efforts on because of the intense poverty that is found there (52% of the population has no access to safe drinking water). One of our main filter distributors, Glen Achivar, has gathered his team and returned to his home in Tacurong city in the much safer province of Sultan Kudarat. Most recently, Glen was overseeing the filter installations in Bulod, Maguindanao. If you haven't seen some of his reports (there are still more to come) then I strongly recommend you visit the website.

As I met with Toti this morning, it became clear that the current atmosphere in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao will impede most of our distribution efforts. We have decided to shut down the factory for Christmas a few weeks earlier than normal. We always try to have at least 100 units in stock so that we can quickly fill large orders or respond to emergencies. This week's events meant that an expected shipment did not go out, so we now have an overflow of stock. Friday will be our last day of full operations for 2009.

If you've not heard, people have been giving water filters to Filipino families on behalf of their friends as a Christmas gift (if a $40 filter is a little above your price range, you can supply a kid in Nicaragua with a Christmas present and a meal for only $5). We are still selling the filters on our website, and Toti and Glen have assured me that they will soon be able to deliver to Bulod without risk, as it is a safe distance from the epicenter of the trouble.

This has felt like a confusing mess of a blog. Sorry about that. Bottom line: we're fine, pray for our filter distributors, and think about not giving your brother that ugly sweater for Christmas, but instead give him the joy of knowing that a family just got clean water for life or a poor child in Nicaragua got Christmas this year.

Okay, one last piece of business then I'll leave you to your eggnog. Thank you all for your prayers regarding Bethany's NARM exam application. A few of you have asked how you can help us with the cost of her flight. The easiest thing is to simply write a cheque (or a "check" if it's yankee-doodle-dollars) made out to Bethany Stewart and send it to:

c/o Christina Stewart
8433 Quayside Court
Vancouver, BC
V5P 4W1

We thank you so much for your prayers and support. God's goodness will forever overwhelm us. I leave you with a few snapshots of the Bird in her natural environment.

Cheers,
Tim.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Update on NARM prep.

Greetings! Thanks for all the encouraging notes regarding my current state of application chaos! Well, just to update you on my progress, yesterday, I spent the day notarizing important required documents, getting copious signatures from preceptors and supervisors, making photo copies of my last 2 years of midwifery training....that's over 550 prenatal exams (I stopped counting when I ran out of sheets), 77 labor assists and 70 deliveries, continuities, and well-woman exams, newborn exams, postpartum visits, the list goes on.

And then this morning, after sending some e-mails out to NARM and the National College of Midwifery, I was bewildered and in a state of panic as I read that the application was due November 1st to the National College and December 1 for the NARM exam! ACK! However, my contact at the National College said she would do her best to help me get all the needed materials to NARM in time despite it being Thanksgiving week! I was sent into a signing, scanning and filling-out-form-frenzy and at 5 pm this evening, both applications for permission to take the NARM exam were sent via FedEx....set to arrive exactly on December 1.

Tonight, I am going to try and pay the NARM exam fee by phone. Then it's just a waiting period to hear if all my papers are accepted and I receive permission to take my certification exam.

I feel as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and yet, a new weight has been put on...time to study and time to start praying for a plane ticket for Promise and me. In the meantime, I have shift tomorrow and Friday and life goes on.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement....please start praying now that I pass the NARM exam....I can use all the prayer I can get!
We will post a proper blog later this week.
Be blessed.

...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Help wanted...

Greetings! Crazy things are a-happening around here.....and I am feeling a little overwhelmed.

So within the last few weeks, God has been challenging me to reconsider taking my certification midwifery board exam (called the NARM) in August. Because we took our break from life here as we know it to be with our families June-August this year, Tim and I figured we would not be able to return to the West until completing his work with the water project, which we thought would be about August of 2010. However, this deadline is being extended. While my plan was to take the NARM exam in August 2010, it would appear as though this is not an option for a number of reasons. Hence, my current dilemma.

After talking with Tim and with my director, Krys, I came to the conclusion that the only way to ensure that I get certified as a professional midwife in a timely fashion so that I can serve the women here (or anywhere in the world!) in a greater capacity is to take the exam in February. THIS February. The exam is only offered 4 times a year and only in certain US cities. My parents live in Oregon and their happens to be an exam in Eugene, Oregon in February.

Here is where things get a little tricky. While Tim, Krys, and I have a peace that this is the route that we are to take, it requires some SERIOUS prayer....
1. The application (which is extensive) with an exam fee of $725. USD is due DECEMBER 1.
2. The flight to Oregon from Manila is about $1500. CDN
3. I would need to travel with Promise, but without Tim.
4. I need to PASS the NARM exam! (February 17th)
5. Tim will be alone for 3 weeks while I am away.

In other words, I really need your prayers....for provision, for grace, for wisdom. You may be asking, "Well, Bethany, what took you so long to make this decision? You have such little time to prepare!" In all honesty, it hasn't been until recently that our plans to leave the Philippines in July or August 2010 have changed.

To leave you on a good note, today I delivered a beautiful baby boy to a dear lady named Me-Me. She was having her third baby, however, her very first baby had died just two days after birth from respiratory distress syndrome a couple years back. Since then she has had one girl and greatly desired to have a boy as she had lost her only boy. After only 30 minutes of pushing, Me-Me delivered a healthy baby boy. With tears in her eyes, Me-Me showed her gratefulness for her precious gift. She has not named her baby, yet, as she is really wanting to name him something extra special...I hope she doesn't wait too long! :) So here is Me-Me, her bana and her precious baby boy.


So, thanks for praying for us as we press forward in multiple directions and we will keep you posted as things develop. I am praying and working my bootie off to get all the application requirements completed by Wednesday, November 25th so that I can send the material via FedEx to meet the December 1st deadline. YIKES! By His grace alone.

Be blessed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Repellent in November.




Greetings!! It's amazing to me that though this is our third November here in the Philippines, I am flabbergasted by the fact that I have to put on bug spray in the middle of November in order to avoid chronic itching driving me to madness. The manufacturers of OFF! are getting good business off of me! :) Unfortunately, one of my dear friends has suffered greatly from the November mosquito population. My fellow midwife, Ali, has come down with Dengue fever passed by a nasty mosquito bite. She has been bedridden for days on IV fluids and constant monitoring. Please keep her in your prayers...she is finally on the way to recovery, but very uncomfortable! Thanks! Dengue is both awful and dangerous.

Sorry about the pics above, I will explain each one below...blogger is being difficult. ARGH.

I have appreciated Tim's last couple posts and enjoy reading his rants. Sometimes the words that he finds trouble uttering appear on the blog and I get a better sense of where he is at. It's good.

In the world of midwife-mommy-wife, I am excitedly looking forward to January when my schedule will be less exhausting and Promise and I can give Tim a break. Until then, it's busy busy busy. Since my last post, I have delivered 3 babies and have been grateful for God's mercy in the deliveries. They have not all been normal.

First came Neravic (last pic above). Having her second baby, Neravic was not at all worried or fearful. She smiled throughout her labor despite varying fetal heart tones and seemed perfectly content to labor as long as it took. I was impressed by her calm nature. However, around 8:30 am, November 6, the descent of her baby's head into her pelvis took away her beautiful smile and she decided her baby was coming as fast as possible. She gave two long pushes and a meconium-stained baby boy flew out of her with barely enough time for me to grab gloves. :) Unfortunately, her pushing with all her might caused her to tear a bit, but her baby boy was finally out. However, within minutes, it was clear that her baby was having trouble breathing. Having been deep suctioned because he swallowed a lot of meconium, little baby boy, Glen was monitored every 5 minutes along with his mommy. His chest retracted and he struggled to breastfeed. I did a quick newborn exam discovering that his metopic suture was open (the frontmost suture at the top of the forehead). This can be a sign of some serious developmental problems...or nothing at all. So I had to transport as quickly as possible. I came back to Mercy to suture Neravic and monitor her bleeding. Within just a few hours, her bana returned to pick her up to take her to the hospital to be reunited with her baby.

I went to the hospital the next day to find Neravic and baby Glen doing significantly better and his sutures were beginning to firm up and close. God is faithful.

My next shift proved to be quite eventful. I was endorsed a pushing labor named Gina. She was having her 4th baby and decided that shift-change endorsements was the perfect time to push her baby out. Her midwife from day shift, Amber, called in a panic.."Head out!" Coming in to assist, the supervisor told me to catch the baby, as it was now shift change. Well, the hard part was done. Amber had labor-watched and directed the head out. I just caught the baby as he was sailing out! Healthy and strong, baby Jepson arrived at 2:12 pm (first pic above)

As the placenta came out, I noticed that it was flat...without much shape. It looked odd. I made a note of it and continued to monitor Gina's bleeding. The shift was super busy, but Gina's bleeding kept me inside her cubicle. We gave oxytocin, had her pee, gave her an ice pack, but still, she bled....just little bits here and there. I moved her to postpartum to get her out of the busy birthroom. In postpartum, I checked her pulse...rising...and her blood pressure was dropping...fast. I checked her fundus and blood loss...250 ccs!! She was hemorrhaging! I called my supervisor, Carmen. As she started an IV with another supervisor, I tried to keep her fundus firm to stop the bleeding while trying to keep her awake to avoid her going into shock. Gina looked pale, but was able to stare at me without emotion as Carmen tried to do a manual exploration of her uterus. I continued to check her pulse and BP. The IV was working, but she was still bleeding. Then we found out she had gone to see a hilot (tribal doctor, witch doctor) when she was 5 months pregnant for fundal massage. This often causes the placenta to adhere to the uterus upon delivery causing postpartum hemorrhage. This required us to transport to the hospital so that they could do a D&C. The placental fragments were just too stuck on uterine was for us to scrape out.

After transporting Gina, baby Jepson and I bonded a bit, but the birthroom was too busy for me to babysit. I had to hand him off to another midwife living next door giving the occasion bottle of breastmilk for feeds. Then I was handed another labor. Via came in at 7 cm dilation and all smiles. She was having her second baby and was accompanied by her mother-in-law. They were a JOY to serve. Hilarious.

Clutching her Rosary, Via prayed throughout her contractions while her mother-in-law encouraged by singing Catholic chants. They were awesome...asking questions, joining me in prayer for her baby, laughing between contractions and anxiously awaiting Via's urge to push. When it came, Via was sure the baby's head was out....and yet, the baby's head was not even remotely visible. I had her get up to walk a bit and she came back to the bed grunting, but not actively pushing. However, by the time she lay down, the head dropped into place just behind the pubic bone...slightly visible. Suddenly, her bag of waters broke open and the baby's head began to come. I instructed her to breathe deep and "blow" her baby's head out slowly to avoid a tear. With total control and focus, Via pushed baby Noli's head out without tearing. Baby was super healthy and began to breastfeed right away. Via's mother-in-law kept thanking me as though it was all my doing! Ha ha. (second pic above) Via's bana arrived all smiles but had to prepare for work. (He works the midnight meat market at Bankerohan market here in Davao). All was well and I finished with Via in time to steal baby Jepson away again for another feed. Three more babies were born on that shift. Whew. Super busy, but peaceful nonetheless.

Upon the first baby-postpartum checks of Gina and Via, both patients and their babies are doing great. Via even brought me TONS of Filipino sausage (called Longganisa) from her bana's meat market! LAMI! (Yummy!) I am looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow.

In other clinic crazies...I had a few transports for high BP and was able to visit them and their babies at the hospital. All is well.

Bible study continues to amaze me. An-An and I see God move with each visit. We have had two consistent attenders and have been studying the life of Christ together. We seem to struggle with the same things...this week we studied the temptation of Jesus and His response to satan. We were challenged to change our view of temptation and to pray for those around us who struggle, as well. It has been a powerful journey for all of us. We've been able to give away 4 Bibles in Visayan and two of our Bible Study patients had their babies safely at Mercy already....an answer to prayer. This week, we are studying the Beattitudes. I am already convicted. It's good.

I am leaving out all kinds of news, but I will leave them for future posts. Many blessings as you enjoy the preparations for Christmas. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Clean Water for Bulod

My writing on these pages is usually more subtle and nuanced. Today I'm going for blunt and in your face, though hopefully not manipulative. If it ticks you off, forgive me and understand my heart, and come back next week for some nice reflection on the imponderables of life. This week it's all business and there is nary a clever metaphor to be found.

As you may already know, most of my work is done right here in Davao City. Every once in a while I get to escape to another region of Mindanao, but even then it is likely that my experience will be limited to the inside of yet another board room. I miss getting in on the action. Recently the only filters that were distributed locally were installed while I was on vacation in Canada. Go figure.

The reality is that the greatest need is in an area that is just not very safe for me (another white dude was kidnapped recently). Add to that Bethany's work schedule, and my travel options are pretty limited for now. I want to make sure I don't sound like I'm complaining. I'm not. There is plenty to keep me busy here in town and I love the challenge of keeping this whole thing moving forward.

I bring this up because my absence in the field means that our readers no longer get much reporting from me in regards to the biosand water filters and their final destination. These filters are saving and changing lives and sometimes I forget to tell you that. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to check the Impact Nations website (not yet, keep reading). We recently began a project that is in the initial reporting stage right now and I want you to read the reports and see the pictures.

People from all over the world have been donating filters to very poor families who are living in a marsh and have literally zero access to safe drinking water. It costs $40 to bring a lifetime supply of safe drinking water to a family. The first batch of 50 filters are being installed this week and I am 100% convinced that we are rescuing lives.

If you are reading this blog because you are a midwife or are midwife-curious, then you likely have a heart for mothers and children. Imagine a woman drinking nasty, bacteria-laden water throughout her pregnancy. Imagine a child being fed infant formula made with this same water (yes I know breast milk is best, but these folks don't have great midwives like you to tell them so).

This is sounding kinda heavy, but it probably should. Bad water is a big problem. Less than 50% of the population in the Muslim region (that spans three provinces!) has access to safe drinking water. People are suffering from terrible illnesses and some are dying. $40 per family stops it.

I'd like you to click on the link at the bottom of this page and see what I'm talking about. Seeing the reports that are coming in reminds me of why I do what I do. If you'd like to join the effort, consider giving a gift of clean water to a family for $40. If you think I'm not talking to you, then you are probably exactly who I am talking to. If you are already giving to Bethany and I, or have given to the water project, then you've already been a part of the impact and I thank you.

So without further ado, click here to see the project I am talking about (tip: if you sign up for the network and join the group, you will get a little email telling you when we have updated it—we will not spam you and we don't update it so often that it will annoy the heck out of you). In the unlikely event that you have no idea what I'm talking about, you may want to start by watching our short video about the filter.

Okay, I'm done getting in your face now. Thanks for listening.

Tim.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hong Kong, I Hardly Knew Ye

I wanted to write this yesterday, but things got busy (and I wanted to watch a movie with my wife). I was in Hong Kong for less than 48 hours this week for business, though I managed to fit in a bit of sight-seeing as well. The event that brought me to Hong Kong was the annual International Care Ministries fundraising banquet. Impact is in the beginning stages of a relationship with ICM, and they invited me to come to their headquarters in Hong Kong so we could get to know each other a bit better.

My plane landed at 5pm on Monday, which left me just 2 hours to claim my bag, clear customs and immigration, take the train into Central, get a cab to my hotel, check in, iron my wrinkled and frumpy suit, get dressed, and find a taxi to the banquet at the Marriott. It turns out 2 hours was just about right, and I arrived at my table minutes before the event commenced.

The banquet was quite impressive. I was seated at a table with some bigwigs from major corporations such as Coca-Cola and HSBC. I also sat with ICM's director of Health Education and was glad for the chance to get to know her a bit. There was an auction that included seven very elaborate vacation packages, one for each continent on the planet.

The highest bid was for a trip (first class) to Vegas to meet Manny Pacquiao, sit in on his sparring match the day before the fight, stay in the same hotel as him and visit his room for an autograph, and then sit ringside for his upcoming fight at the MGM Grand. Pacquiao is pretty much the #1 boxer in the world right now, and happens to be from a city only a few hours south of Davao. That auction item fetched 160,000 Hong Kong Dollars (more than $20,000 USD).

While it was fun to see rich people fight over fancy trips, the main benefit for me was to get to know ICM a bit better. I must say that I am pretty impressed. In several different regions throughout the Philippines they are doing preschools for children, meaning kids are much better prepared for grade school and far more likely to succeed. They provide health teaching and medical clinics to those living in abject poverty. They help people prepare government documents so they can apply for federal aid. They have livelihood training. They are doing more than I can list here and I am pretty excited to be working with them.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a brief mention of our clean water project during one of the presentations at the banquet. The next day I met with a couple of their executives, and it is becoming clear that they are very much interested in including the biosand water filter in their programs. I'll tell you more about that as it develops. I'm excited for two reasons. The first is obvious. ICM has a pretty big reach and will help us to get clean water to a lot of people.

The second positive is a financial one. In one evening, ICM raised 7 million Hong Kong Dollars (nearly 1 million USD). They flew me out to Hong Kong just to have a 40 minute meeting with them. These guys are serious about ministry to the poor and they have the money to get some big stuff done. I'm not saying it's all about money, but the reality is that it takes money to do what I do. The filters don't build themselves. By partnering with an organization such as ICM, I can get lots done without having to think as much about the bottom line.

After my meeting on Tuesday I went back to my hotel room and grabbed my camera and tripod, stuffed an extra lens in my pocket, and headed out for an evening of sightseeing. I headed up to the peak for a great view of the city that I shared with a heck of a lot of tourists and other photogs. I then wandered Central for a while and had fun making some images while getting myself completely lost. The next morning I crawled out of bed to shoot some more before heading to the airport by 11am. I wish I had more time to see the city. I really only got to see one district, and I know there is so much to see across the harbor and on some of the other islands but I didn't want to risk missing my flight.

I'll post a few pics here, and a bunch more on Facebook (click here). I'm not thrilled with them. They don't make me feel anything, and that makes me feel sucky. But whatever. At least I had fun making them.

Cheerio.
Tim.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The journey.

Greetings! Thank you for all the supportive comments on Tim's last post. He has had an interesting week as he prepares for his trip to Hong Kong...things seem to becoming clear and he is feeling greatly encouraged. His post was convicting to me, as well, and I, too am making some changes. He is looking forward to a change of pace for a few days in Hong Kong as I am looking forward to spending one-on-one time with the Bird.

The last 8 days have been a whirlwind for me. The birth room has been consistently full on my shifts with labors, births and continued postpartums. Several times, every bed was full! We had quite a few transports last week. Mostly patients having their first baby with premature rupture of membranes (their water broke before they went into labor). Last Thursday was a particularly interesting day.

When I arrived on shift, every bed was full and my peers and I dove into work. We managed to discharge quite a few healthy women and their babies and tend to the labors in the birth room creating a bit more space for new patients. I was endorsed a patient that I had treated for anemia in prenatals and had become quite close with. :) I was so thankful she was my patient. She was very active upon endorsement and at 6:53 am, I had the pleasure of delivering her third baby....a boy. She and her bana were struggling to come up with a name and so, because it was my brother, Andy's birthday, I asked if they liked the name Andrew....it meant strong, wise, and manly. They loved it and named their baby after my brother on his birthday. Very special.

Just after their delivery, I was handed another labor and an immediate postpartum. My labor, Sheila, had PROM and was only slightly dilated. I had her in prenatals just two days earlier and was grateful to receive her as my patient in labor. Despite her many risk factors, she labored like a champ and at 2 pm, I was sad to have to endorse her to swing shift.

Instead of heading home after shift, I lumbered upstairs to the prenatal room to set up for Bible study....I was REALLY not in the mood for a Bible Study. I was tired....so was An-An. We were spent. But after a cup of instant bliss (that's instant 3 in 1 coffee), An-An and I prayed and felt a little better. However, 3:30 pm came around and no one had come upstairs for the Bible Study....so I asked An-An if it would be okay to ask the laboring patients (that were not too active or pushing) if they'd like a break from the birth room for a snack and Bible study. An-An agreed and I headed into the birth room, asked Erin, the supervisor if I could steal some patients. She loved the idea and I calmly yelled out, "Any bored patients and their families that want to come upstairs for merienda and bible study, come on up!" There was a little giggle that spread through the birth room and my patient, Sheila, her mother, two other mothers of laboring patients and one other preggo came up! We had 7 in all! What a great turn-out...hahaha!

We chatted a bit and I had an opportunity to give some midwifery advice, as the mothers were concerned for their laboring daughters. Then we studied Genesis 1 taking note of how powerful God is and just how special He made man...in His own image. That discussion led to whether or not we truly believe EVERYONE (even bad people) are made in the image of God. It was a good challenging discussion for all of us. We began to pray that God would give us His eyes to see men as they truly are... precious and in the image of God. We prayed for safe and healthy deliveries for the women in labor and just as An-An was finishing her prayer, the emergency alarm in the birth room rang....a patient was in trouble.

As I was still in my scrubs, I, along with several senior midwives from upstairs on the third floor, raced into the birth room to attend to the emergency...a baby had just been born, but was not breathing. The mother was bleeding and they needed a few more midwives to help stabilize the mother and resuscitate the baby. The grandma of the new baby had been in our bible study while her daughter was giving birth. She was totally mortified, but because she had just been with An-An and I in prayer, she was greatly comforted by An-An's words from God. After the emergency was under control and the baby finally took her first breath, An-An and I were able to explain to the patients and their mothers sitting outside what had happened and we had another prayer time. :) Interesting timing. We gave thanks for the baby's breath and the faithfulness of God....

After arriving home, I received a text stating that Sheila, my patient from day shift and from Bible study, had been transported and received a cesarean section. Despite the unwanted turn of events, Sheila's baby was healthy and she is currently healing well.

Monday was also a very intense shift. Another patient I had done a prenatal on walked in fully dilated and at 2:41 pm, delivered a very healthy baby boy named Arvey Jacob. Despite hemmorhaging, Grace stabilized quickly. Here they are with their new arrival.
The birth of her baby was quite significant, as we had several active labors and her baby was Mercy Maternity's 14, 999th birth! We were holding a drawn out contest between staff and midwives to see who would guess the time of birth for baby #15,000. With baby 14,999 out of the way (ha ha ha), the clinic was in party-mode awaiting the arrival of baby 15,000. The mother and baby would receive a huge prize (tons of baby items) and the midwife who guessed the time would receive a gift certificate. :) Well, our room full of labors began to empty...two transported....one sent home...only one patient left...a woman having her 6th baby who had a closed cervix with possible PROM. Mmmm.

We took care of our postpartums and prayed that Jhobee's patient would deliver and be the 15,000th baby....on our shift. However, 10 pm was quickly approaching and we were thinking we would have to endorse her to night shift. Alas, at 9:00 pm, Jhobee's patient had SROM...7 minutes later - BABY OUT!! Baby 15,000 was born a beautiful 8 lbs. They named her "Mercy Joy" and were so excited to learn of their new-found popularity. Pictures were snapped and the prize was given. Our director, Krys, guessed that the 15,000th baby would be born at 9:00 pm, so she won the gift certificate, but happily gave it to the patient. We cheered and enjoyed recounting the full story of her birth. Jhobee, her midwife, and Maria, her assist were busily attending to her as we shared the story to night shift during endorsements. A good day. Here are Jhobee and Maria with baby Mercy and our supervisor, Ate Estef, in the background.

And me giving her the prize..they were pretty overwhelmed. :)

Today, I am headed once again to shift. While Tim and I struggle to find balance in our marriage, I, personally, am also struggling to identify my priorities and truly hear God's desires for this season of our lives. It has been very difficult, both physically and mentally, to balance my desire to serve as a good midwife, wife, and mother. I have been reading some friends' blogs sharing their experiences of staying at home with their kids taking time to do decor renovations, make cute quilts for their babies, attend playdates and go on field trips with their kids...and there is a very real piece of me that longs for that freedom...and relationship...and peace.

While I am sure they have their struggles, too, I found myself REALLY wanting to take Promise to a pumpkin patch with the leaves in their beautiful Fall colors crunching under my close-toe shoes while I drink a pumpkin latte with my mom wearing a coat feeling a brisk wind on my nose and watching Promise climb orange squash getting muddy. I know, I know...."Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Bethany!" But truthfully...I DON'T feel sorry for myself, I feel torn. Torn between wanting to be a mommy surrounded by the familiar and wanting to live overseas in service for the rest of my life....now, you may say, "but you can do both....to a certain extent". Yes, in some ways I see that. But I am struggling to see how...I love being with Promise and learning/growing with her, but the demands of a busy midwife are high and right now, both are sacrificing. The physical, spiritual and mental cost to me, Tim, and Promise has been intense.

For now, I am going one day at a time trying to be obedient to what God is asking of me TODAY while trying really hard to not look too far into the future. I know that I would not be content with "ordinary"....however, I know that even the ordinary can be made "extraordinary" if it's God.

A friend asked me if I wanted to move back to the West....everything in me said, "no", but a very small piece of says, "maybe"....only to experience "seasons" again, wear warm clothes and to be close to our families. It's all a process...a journey. I'm tired of journeying. With that, I leave you with two new photos of the Bird. I sure love her.

Be blessed.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Mo' Mojo

I've lost my mojo. It disappeared a couple weeks ago. My spell checker doesn't believe that "mojo" is a real word, but it is. I checked. You can check too, though I'll try to save you the trouble. One of the definitions is charisma. I keep misplacing mine. It's probably a good thing, though I'm not really ready to embrace such a theory at this point. I'll lay the theory out for you regardless.

To put it bluntly, I rely on my mojo too much. Some of you are having trouble with the word mojo (you know who you are), so I'll try to replace it with charisma. In the last two years, I have become a rather driven person. I'm the guy who coasted through high school, met the bare minimum requirements for my university application, and then dropped out during my second year of post secondary education, having come to the shocking realization that the institution actually expected me to put in an effort. Since that time, there has been an abundance of grace heaped upon me and I managed to get a few things done. Not the least of which was finding a fabulous lady, convincing her to marry me, and developing what I believe is a pretty strong marriage.

When I caught the vision for clean water in Mindanao, something deep inside me suddenly woke up. There was a drive, a determination that I had never known before. I'm pretty sure that it was the Holy Spirit. It seemed to compliment another part of me that has always been there, including a surprising passion for business. That's where the mojo comes in. My problem lies in the fact that I so often find myself relying too heavily on my charisma instead of the Holy Spirit who gave me this vision in the first place.

Frankly, I've made it pretty far on my charisma, but lately it has failed me. As the challenges (and failures) have stacked up this month, my ability to respond with renewed energy and determination has been eroded. Sure, when I'm in a meeting and I need to impress, the mojo is there. But when I'm at my desk and crappy news appears in my inbox, or people won't return my calls, my drive is nowhere to be found. And now that it's gone, it is becoming abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit was edged out a long time ago.

My vision is too big to be serviced by my mojo alone, especially considering it is M.I.A. these days. I understand that my charisma is one of my giftings, and it comes from Him. There is however, a subtle but important difference between putting my trust in God, and putting my trust in the talents and gifts that come from God.

I'm a stubborn fool. You may know that about me. I have just laid out before you a perfectly logical equation that clearly points to my need for God. Logic is my dear friend, but today it has betrayed me, leaving me to pout stubbornly alone. √Čt tu, Logique?

I will come to a place of surrender soon, where I place my trust in the Lord and stop trying to do everything on my own strength. Bethany has been praying for that day. You can join her. In the meantime, my Father is still mysteriously merciful.

Yesterday Toti and I travelled to Koronadal, where we had a very productive meeting with the CEO of International Care Ministries and his Director of Community Development. The meeting was quite a distance from here (the equivalent of driving from Vancouver to Portland for one meeting and then returning the same day), so we ran out of time and weren't able to work out all of the particulars. Long story short, I will be in Hong Kong to meet with them again on November 3rd, when we hope to ink our first deal of many. They are planning pilot projects in four different villages and if those go well, we will be seeing a very fruitful partnership between our two organizations which will result in a lot of people getting clean water.

So that is good news, and I know that it is due to the Lord's grace. Imagine what he could accomplish through me if I would just surrender to Him and stop being such a jackass.

On a side note, I am left wondering why I can make myself so vulnerable here in the interwebs, but squirm when my wife addresses these issues in a coffee shop. Pray for me; I'm a jackass.

Tim.

Toti snapped a pic during our meeting. There are some more photos of Promise's wake up faces on Facebook.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tim's refusing to post....

Greetings! So once again, I have promised to have Tim blog, but alas, he refuses....so you will have to settle with more birth stories...I hope I am not boring anyone. There are MANY things to report regarding the water project, but Tim has decided that he is too busy to blog as of yet. Maybe in a day or two....

For me, life has been a whirlwind...in other words...not much has changed. :) October 4 brought me a swing shift to remember. I had the privilege of delivering a very beautiful baby girl to my patient, Josie. It is her 5th girl! She was hoping for a boy, had boy baby clothes prepared and the perfect baby boy name, but her baby had the most gorgeous lady features...ALL girl. Slightly disappointed, though happy her baby was healthy, she gave the job of naming the baby to me. :) After a very full and mildly frustrating swing shift, I was hoping the name I picked would be one that suited the cherished baby...so that despite her 4 older sisters, she would know that she, too, is precious....Hence, I got to name her Precious....aka: Peanut. Yes, many of you who have been following the blog know that my very first handle was the fourth baby girl of a patient of mine...I named her Precious, too. It's a very good Filipino name for a family of all girls!
And here are Josie and Precious...aka Peanut.


The next two shifts gave me lots of transports to Davao Medical Center. The first patient had BOW rupture over 12 hours and the baby's heart rate was tachycardic (too high)..however, several hours after transport, she delivered her very first baby girl after 3 boys and 10 years without a full term pregnancy. The baby is still recovering from a postpartal infection most likely received as a result of premature rupture of membranes.

My next transport, unfortunately, was my continuity. Remember Macaria? I delivered her baby boy early last year at MMC. Well, when I found out she was preggo again, we met and I had the pleasure of taking her again as my patient. However, she shared that her husband was moving to Macau before her baby was due and he would be working there for 2 years. Heartbroken and fearful, Macaria decided she would sacrifice his presence at her birth for a hopeful future of financial security (many families from the Phils do this). I personally do not recommend this and I could tell that Macaria was struggling with him leaving.
Her prenatal was last Tuesday and my peer, Tiara, and I got to spend a long time praying for her that Jesus would bring her peace and wisdom. She is pictured above. We also prayed that she would have boldness to tell her bana how she felt about him leaving. She stated that he planned on leaving Sunday and she really wanted him to be there for the birth. At 33 weeks, I explained that it was just too early for her baby to come safely and to just hang on for another 4 weeks.

Well, 2:30 am that night/Wednesday morning, I got a text from her. "Ma'am, daghang dugo sa gawas...sige busog. Balik sa MMC?" Her labor had started, she was bleeding and contractions were coming every 3 minutes. We raced to MMC. Sure enough, she was 8 cm dilated and her baby was quite small. Premature. We transported and within 3 hours, her baby came out barely breathing. The baby was moved to the nursery and briefly incubated when he started to pink up and breathe without assistance. Miracle.

When I visited her in the hospital at 11 am Wednesday morning, she still had not seen her baby at all, had not been able to breastfeed and had no idea what the status of her baby was. Her husband had gone home to get some supplies and was still planning on moving to Macau for work. Macaria, scared and alone seemed grateful that he had been able to see the baby briefly before leaving, but knew the road ahead would be rough. Please pray for Macaria as she parents two young boys alone for the next two years. Because her baby John Carl, was premature, he may have difficulty in lung development and may be predisposed to lung infections. Please pray for his safety and total healing. Thank you. She and baby John Carl are still currently in the hospital.
Here is that Tuesday prenatal day...and there I am teaching the patients about labor and delivery....with my three visual aids...Tiara, Willow and Ate Melody. :)

Thursday began the first of many Bible Studies! An-An and I arrived in the prenatal room at 3:15 pm with boiled eggs and pandesal (bread), pens, papers and prizes. We prayed for 15 minutes and asked the Lord to bring whoever He desired to the Bible Study. We prayed that those that He had handpicked would come with willing and excited hearts....and then we waited. And waited. Start time was 3:30 pm. At 3:45 pm, we decided to head downstairs and see if maybe someone was waiting outside....yup, one lone patient....she was waiting for a friend to go with her...we told her she was the only one...embarrassed and slightly annoyed, she lumbered upstairs...then one more patient trailed in. We were four. An-An and I shared how blessed we were that they had come and gave them lots of food.

First An-An shared her testimony...how she met Jesus, how He has given her peace amidst heartache and how she has found joy being in His presence. Then it was my turn....I shared from beginning to end...lots of details and areas in which Jesus is still changing me. Then we asked them (I will keep them anonymous) if they had ever seen Jesus work in their lives....that's when the Spirit of God fell.

As the two patients began to tell of years and years of abuse from family members, bitterness, fear, and sleepless nights, they began to see God's hand in their lives....He had removed them from the situations of abuse in miraculous ways and gave them incredible stories of survival. They began to understand how Christ impacted their lives without them even recognizing it at the time. The joy on their faces was incomparable. An-An and I shared that going through trials and recognizing God's hand on us through those times prepares us to be an encouragement to others struggling in the same areas and that we have a purpose to proclaim the glory of God because we have SEEN it with our own eyes! They got it. We had an amazing time of prayer and we talked about ways of stopping the cycle of abuse in our own families. It was rad.

Upon reflection, An-An shared with me that she had never seen a Filipina open up about their life so freely before. She was encouraged and suggested we open the Bible Study up for any and every patient that comes to MMC. So we'll see how many come this Thursday! We're diving into the Word this week, WAHOO! And here we are...just us four. :)



The weekend came and Tim, Promise and I got to witness the death of our Thanksgiving Turkey. A few of my peers, Jenna and Kinshasa, bought a wild, Filipino turkey from the local meat market and decided to slaughter it on their front porch. We attended the ritual and cheered for joy knowing that this evening, he will be gracing our bellies. :) Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

And finally, this morning, I had the privilege of delivering my 57th baby. Ter came in fully dilated at 10 am and at 10:49 am, she powerfully pushed her baby out. I mean...stubbornly! She did not want any help or any instructions...she was focused and determined. Despite my warnings of slowing down, she popped her baby's head out slicker than snot and this was a BIG baby. A 7 1/2 pound baby girl came flying out creating a first degree tear in her momma. She is a beautiful baby...healthy, strong and stubborn like her mom. I sutured the tear and with the help of a new friend, Maria, got Ter to the postpartum area in time for shift change. Both momma and baby are well. Beautiful baby, Jammy and momma, Ter. :)

Well, Tim, Promise and I are headed to the orange house to have Canadian Thanksgiving with the other Canadian midwives....I was able to pump out three pies...kalabasa (squash similar to pumpkin), raspberry (from a very expensive can!) and dutch apple (made with fuji apples...it's all we got here!), but I am sure they will be grand! WAHOOO!

Blessings to you all on this very Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks be to God!

Friday, October 2, 2009

"When it rains....

it pours"....and so it has. As many of you know, the Philippine Islands have been hit hard by brutal typhoons the last two weeks and one is currently on the way. The President in Manila has considered the country in a state of disaster. Like you, we have only heard and seen pictures and testimonials of the terror of the typhoons. In the clinic, I have had many patients concerned for family members they have been unable to contact. Thankfully, Davao City and the island of Mindanao has been spared receiving only heavy rain and wind. A few lower-lying parts of the city have flooded, but very little. The devastation has been limited to the island of Luzon so far.

As we receive news from internet, newspapers, and friends, we are very aware of the need for intense prayer for our neighbors in Manila, but also in Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Please pray, too. Thank you.

This week it has been "raining" in the clinic, too....babies, that is. I was looking at my calendar this morning and counted 8 deliveries in 3 weeks. That's a record for me! Eight babies, eight mommas, and 40 baby checks over the next 6 weeks. This week alone I had the privilege of delivering 3 babies, 2 on one shift. What a zoo! One delivery in particular blessed my socks off.

I had met Teche about 3 weeks ago in prenatals and noticed that she had been Jes' patient (a former student) and Jes couldn't continue caring for her because she had to return to her homeland...so I debated whether or not to take her as a continuity. I decided against it concerned I would inconvenience Promise and Tim if she decided to deliver in the middle of the night. Well....on her due date, October 1, I just happened to be working day shift and she walked in. We saw each other and burst into loud hellos and laughter! Her smile is priceless....we hugged and thanked Jesus for allowing us to be together on her special day! I've never had such an amazing greeting from a patient....and I got to be her midwife. I was so honored.

Teche labored AMAZINGLY....her bana at her side, she smiled the whole time telling me all the things she needed to do to get the baby out. And she was right. She had delivered her other two babies at MMC, so this was old hat to her, so I just monitored and enjoyed her company. Meanwhile, I got another labor....three baby checks....and another patient pushing...ha ha ha...my fellow midwives all had labors, births or both! We were insanely busy, but loving every minute...there was never a moment where we were short or frustrated....just driven and busy.

Teche continued to labor...then the smile left her face with the wave of a heavy contraction...but she started to have intense pain in her lower abdomen. She had a UTI and I knew she had only been able to pee a bit here and there. I told her that before her baby could come, she would have to pee. She laughed at me and explained to me exactly why she would have to do that..."To make room for the baby's head and so that I do not have to get catheterized". Yup. She'd done this before. I found out later that she had studied nursing and completed a program here in the Philippines just as she found out she was pregnant with her first baby!

After peeing like a champ (believe me, it's hard when you're near the pushing stage!!), she wanted to push....just like that, a beautiful 6 lb. baby girl, Lois Ariel, arrived. Beautiful. Healthy.
Here they be!


Then another labor came in....between the postpartum checks and bathing of babies, fundal checks, another baby was born...and another. Then a patient I was sharing with my supervisor (depending on who was busier) wanted to push. She was 7 cm, but really wanting to push. Jean was in so much back pain she was crying out in frustration and fear. Her first baby, she labored with intense concentration, trying to follow my instructions to breathe instead of pushing.

We finally had to take her to the CR (washroom) to take a shower/half bath to get her mind off pushing. It worked...10 minutes after taking a bath, her baby's head dropped just behind her pubic bone and her bag of waters was visible. YEAH! Jean pushed her baby out slowly...there wasn't much room for her baby to come out of! And yet, she controlled her pushing and our eyes met, we breathed together 7 deep breaths and her baby came....beautiful 5 lb 15 oz. baby boy. And here is Jean, baby Kent, and her hilarious bana. He cheered out loud and did a lap around the birth room when the baby arrived. :) Five babies born in 4 hours.

Wednesday also brought me a wonderful patient. Claire came in wearing a huge smile and a huge personality. Delivering her baby without a boyfriend or partner, Claire was not at all shy about her situation and loved having another baby. I was a little caught off guard by her transparency. She had several friends coming in and out wanting to help, but chose her close friend and neighbor to be there for the birth. Baby Rafael was born sporting his umbilical cord around his neck and spilling meconium everywhere, but super healthy despite. And there they are!

I later found out that Claire's neighbor has been married 7 years and has never been pregnant. That's huge here. And I can relate to the disappointment and frustration of desiring a child...

I had an awesome opportunity to share how after 6 years of marriage and 8 years of being told that having a baby would be an impossibility, God did the impossible...Promise was born. I shared that God hears our prayers and for me, God gave me a child in His precious timing. It was not my timing and it required me laying down my deep desire to have children and just be obedient to what God asked of me, but when I gave the desire to Him, He fulfilled it. Not only that, but I knew that I was pregnant as a result of His grace and mercy, not of my own striving (like in vitro or trying to plan it). It was not planned...but it was God's plan. She looked astounded and alarmed. I offered to pray with her regarding her desire and exhorted her for being her friend's support during labor....I know the pain one feels when seeing another's joy. She excitedly agreed for me to pray.

We prayed for God's perfect timing and that He would show her areas of her like that she could work on during this season of waiting and that if He asked for her to give up her desire for children, that God would give her courage and strength and that He would give her a new vision and new hope for the future. It was cool.

Meanwhile, Tim and Toti have been working on several different projects, but Tim will post all that info tomorrow. He's great and he has been extremely attentive with Promise while I've been at work. As a result, Promise has grown quite attached to her playmate, Daddy. I have to say, He DOES light up a room. :)

Okay, I am tired and that's enough for now, eh?
Thank you all for your prayers after last week's stink week...this week was better for me, but I realize just how many of you are going through the poo, too. Praying for you.
Next week begins our patient Bible Study. An-An and I are nervous, but we anticipate the Lord showing up and doing what He does....we serve an awesome, loving Savior.
Be blessed.