We bought a new (to us) car! Actually, we've had it for a while. We bought it the day after Mary Beth's brother's wedding (married June 18th). Yesterday, we finally arrived at my sister's house near Crete, NE, which will be our US address during our time in the States. So, this morning we took our papers to the county sheriff's office and county clerk to get our car registered. "They didn't sign the title," they pointed out. The papers had actually gone ahead of us and were waiting for us here so we hadn't had a chance to look at them for ourselves. "You'll have to send the title back to the car dealership in New York and have them sign it." We were planning on traveling west tomorrow, and the thought of FedEx-ing papers back and forth and then getting the plates sent somewhere seemed nightmarish. "I'll talk to the county lawyer," said the clerk. Mary Beth started praying out loud, "Lord! Please let this paperwork go through!" "Let me call the dealership and see what's up." I pleaded. The car dealership said that the certificate from the NY Dept. of Motor Vehicles in the envelope was sufficient. The Saline County clerk wasn't convinced. Then the clerk called Lincoln and the person on the other end of the line said that they had just had this happen for another car from the exact same dealer in NY and said everything was fine and they could issue a new title. Phew! Answered prayer!
We have been living in a rental house in Arequipa, Peru for the past 11 years. Now that the kids are in the US for college and careers, we plan on moving to a coastal town 3 hours away to do church-planting ministry. We are partnering with a local Baptist church in Arequipa that is providing the pastor for the new plant as well as assistance and support in any way that they can.
On June 14th, we vacated our home and moved to the SIM guesthouse for a few days before heading for the States for Mary Beth’s brother’s wedding and home assignment. Our goal for the next 8 months is to visit all of our supporters to catch up, introduce our spouses to those they’ve not met and to inform supporters about our plans.
We are hoping to travel o Canada in July, but the border quarantine rules are in flux, so we haven’t made any definite plans yet.
Paul arrived in Peru at the beginning of June to say good-bye to friends, finish up some paperwork with the government and help with the move. The church threw him a surprise birthday party in the park outside our house on his first night back.
We had a garage sale for all the things we didn’t wish to haul to the coast. It felt like the big bang of garage sales as 3/4 of our things were dispersed around the city within 2 hours of opening time.
We had lots of help to get our remaining possessions moved to a storage room at a mission-owned house.
We arrived in New Jersey just in time for Mary Beth’s brother’s wedding.
Today is election day. Yesterday, the streets were packed with panicked shoppers buying up all the rice, eggs and sugar in the city in preparation for possible rioting after the results come out (we hope they may have over-reacted). People are fiercely divided about having Fujimori’s (a former Peruvian president) daughter in office and about having a president with supposed communist ideology. Today however, the city is silent except for voters heading to the polls to fill out their obligatory votes. There is not even any church, since public gatherings are illegal on election day, and church members need to go fulfill their civic duty.
While Peru is focused on elections, we are thinking about packing! Next Friday we plan to have a large garage sale where we’ll (hopefully) sell half our worldly possessions. The rest of our stuff is going into boxes and into storage. The plan is to fly to New Jersey in two weeks for my brother Paul's wedding and then for an 8-month home-assignment. When we return to Peru we'll move 3 hours away to a Peruvian coastal town to do a church plant.
What to do on such a day as today? Running seemed like a good idea! Since November, I (Mary Beth) have been working towards my goal of running a half-marathon distance. It’ll be too hot in New Jersey when we get there and with the traffic down to just voters, today seemed like just the the right day to go for the big run. Allen and I left the house at 6:15 am to run and run and run and run for 2 hours and 43 minutes and 26 seconds. We ran 358 meters up the mountain (there’s nowhere flat to go) to the biggest bridge in Peru and then ran back down. Allen went with me and encouraged me and gave me water, expired packets of runners' GU (very strange stuff, though it does give one energy. I think they should call it 'ice cream topping' which sounds more appealing than ‘goo’) and told me stories to distract me from niggly aches. I did it! Before surgery, I would have said it was impossible for me to run a half marathon. It feels good to be alive!
No, not for COVID! Keep you safety glasses on if you are using a grinder or other tools that might send particles flying towards your eyes!
Stan, a fellow missionary, was using a grinder and removed his glasses when he stopped to talk to someone. When he went back to work, he forgot to put his glasses back on and almost immediately got a bit of rock in his eye. He came to see me the next day, but I couldn't get the speck to budge (maybe I need to get the plank out of my own eye? Sorry. Missionary humor.) Today we went to Medical Ministries International's clinic to borrow their slit lamp and when I looked at him through the scope the speck was gone! He said that in the morning he had had some discomfort and then it suddenly felt better. It must have finally worked its way free at that time. Praise God! Much better than for me to try and flick it out with a needle!
I haven't posted much lately because we've been paralized a bit by the pandemic and the third wave of new cases that popped up after Christmas. But today, Arequipa's 7-day average for new COVID cases dropped below the 300 new-cases-per-day line, which is the criterion we've been waiting for to see patients and go out to eat at a restaurant! A new seafood restaurant opened last month about 2.7 km from here (Mary Beth measured the distance on her Garmin since we walked there) so we decided to try it out. It was great to go out to eat for the first time in months!
In the afternoon, we saw a patient that has been begging to get an ultrasound because she is pregnant and felt that she is bigger than she should be and her husband thought that she must have twins. Nope. Just one appropriately-sized fetus, who appears to be waving at us. It gave me a chance to try out my new ultrasound machine on a pregnant patient.
Pray that we stay safe from COVID and can minister better to those around us in person.
No, that isn't some theological quote! That is a quote from a marathoner, who bragged he could eat anything he wanted because he ran so much it would keep any atherosclerotic lesions from building up on his coronaries. It always seemed a bit misguided, since Jim Fixx, a runner credited with making distance running mainstream after writing his book, The Complete Book of Running died of a heart attack at age 52 (Yikes! That's a year younger than I!). But nonetheless, we runners tend to think we are bullet-proof as we go back for another bowl of ice cream after a platter of fries.
My family is lucky to have low cholesterol. Since my parents were the only surviving children from their respective families, our family history doesn't have enough numbers to give good statistics, though none of us six kids have had any coronary problems. So I didn't worry about heart issues. If anything, I bragged that I was extremely low risk. So when I started getting sudden attacks of chest tightness while running just over a year ago, I was surprised and concerned. Pulmonary and cardiac workups didn't reveal anything. My cardiologist here inflated my ego by telling me he doesn't get many people my age that can do his complete treadmill protocol. My symptoms became concerning enough (hard runs interrupted by light-headedness and having to stop) that Dr. Porter (thanks again!) recommended that I try to see if I could get a CT coronary angiogram here in Peru. As it happens, two years ago, a local radiology clinic started offering that study. So last week, I had it performed.
You maybe can see here that my coronaries look good, with good flow.
The arrow points to the problem. Coronary arteries are supposed to run on the surface of the heart, but one of my coronaries burrows under the heart muscle for about 9 mm. When my heart squeezes, it blocks the artery. When it relaxes, the blood flows again. Actually, when anyone's heart squeezes, it temporarily stops the blood flow into it, but when the heart relaxes the flow resumes. If the coronary goes under the muscle and the heart is beating really fast, then it can't relax quickly enough to resume blood flow and then it starts telling its owner to 'slow down!'
So now what? I'm not at any immediate risk as long as I don't race, so I won't do anything drastic at this time. When we go to North American in July, we will probably have Dr. Porter do a few more tests. Meanwhile, I'm going to cut back on the ice cream and butter.
Yesterday was our first day of seeing patients at the Dorcas Project since the government-mandated shut down last March! We saw about 15 mothers and their babies. The majority still come in having been told that their babies have hip dysplasia, something that normally has an incidence of 1/200 newborns, but here they tell almost everyone that their babies have it to sell them harnesses and other 'services'. Not surprisingly, none of the babies I saw had hip dysplasia.
It has been an exciting week. Yesterday, we talked to a Baptist pastor who is enthusiastic about the possibility of sending a competent young couple out from his congregation to pastor a new church with us along the coast. Today, a dear sister in Christ, who is knowledgeable about the towns and their congregations, donated her time to accompany us on our first scouting trip to the coast to see where the gaps are in church planting. On the way, we saw much need and several believers begged us to come work in their towns, but one area struck us especially. Nestled in a valley a few kilometers off the coast, we found four medium-sized towns where no doctrinally-sound congregations meet (as far as we know). There is much work to be done yet, but it is fun to see and dream about the possibilities starting to arise. What a good way to spend our 3rd anniversary of marriage!
Yesterday, on our way to our team Christmas party our Nissan Patrol started overheating. I noticed a small leak last week and already had an appointment for today to get it repaired. I pulled over to take a look and found the small leak had turned into a big leak and the radiator was approaching empty. Thankfully, there was a irrigation canal next to where we stopped and 1200 ml at a time (we had 3 old Powerade bottles in the car) I refilled the radiator. It was enough to get to the Christmas party, where we refilled it again. That allowed us enough time to get to the mechanic, about 10 minutes away, with a trail of water marking our route! We are so glad that that happened here in Arequipa and not on our 17-hour trip through the desert from Lima 3 weeks ago! Carlos, the mechanic, says he'll have it fixed today.
We made it! We are back in Arequipa, quarantining again, until December 12th. Things were looking a bit uncertain the day before our flight because we hadn't gotten our COVID test results back yet. Peru requires that those entering the country get a COVID test done within 3 days of their flight, but COVID tests take around 3 days for results. With Thanksgiving in the midst, we worried they might take even longer. Thankfully, at 9:46 pm we got our negative results so we were good to fly out the next morning!
Our friend Luz, who was housesitting, bought us groceries and left a clean house for us to move back into. It has been a bit surreal. We have a kind of a 'what just happened?' feeling as our brains wrap around the events of the last 4 months.
Yesterday, I had 3 virtual patients. They didn't waste much time finding out we were home!
Photo 1: COVID-19 testing station in Chicago
Photo 2: A truck accident that reminded us to drive carefully