Week Four: Ohana

(I apologize in advance for the mammoth-sized post. It was a crazy week! There’s good stuff in here, though, if you just keep swimming… er, reading. Ha.)

Have you ever heard of the Hawaiian word “Ohana“? It represents a little something we like to call family.

This past week, as we sat in a “lecture hall”(aka huge concrete building) on plastic chairs with 450 other students, heard from the founders of YWAM themselves, supported and laughed with and cried with each other, and went on a whole bunch of adventures, it certainly felt like we were a part of a big ohana.

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Some of our learning this week involved hearing from the co-founders of YWAM (Loren and Darlene Cunningham, beautiful people who have a heart for young people and for hearing God’s voice), encourage us to know our God.

Both Loren and Darlene are incredible speakers, but Darlene especially said so many things that resonated in my heart and encouraged me to take active steps to discovering who God is, and leaning into Him.
Her entire message on faith and God’s character was fantastic, but one of the things she said is that

if you trust someone’s character, and you’re going through tough times, you don’t bail.

Amen. It is so, so important to know those who we are in relationship with. Not just in our interpersonal relationships, but even more so with God. I was challenged to examine what I knew of God and his character, and what I still had yet to uncover or relearn in my attitude and expectations towards him. We can trust God’s character, because he has never bailed on us. Even when times are hard, we go back to what we know of God and what he has done and promised in the past, both in our personal lives and in the Word. I needed that reminder this week.

Another thing I needed to hear this week was Darlene’s message on how to not lose our zeal.
With some homesickness creeping in and some challenges popping up here and there, both right now and concerning outreach, I’m finding my enthusiasm sometimes easily zapped, and my drive beginning to fade.
I was reminded this week of many things, including that I am called by God. I’m not here because of an organization or because of a person, but God called me here, to this moment, because he has a plan for me. A comforting reminder, no matter the challenges I’m facing.

DSC_0458 (The Three Bears Waterfall in Maui, on the Road to Hana! A beautiful drive along the ocean’s coast, and through the mountains and jungle, across one-lane bridges and under huge trees. So beautiful.)

Along the way, we’re also receiving quite a few classes on medical missions. One of the highlights this week, for me, was hearing from Dr. Carey Gear, an ER physician in the States for the past 20 years, speaking about emergency medicine in developing countries.
Trust me, when I saw “emergency medicine” on the schedule for this week, I perked right up! Now we’re talking my language!
It was so familiar, so lovely to be talking again about IVs and fluid formulas for treatment of burns, medication administration for post-operative infections, pneumonia and respiratory therapy… the list goes on.
It was also a sobering reminder that not everyone is so privileged to have the opportunities that my previous health care worldview provides.

For example, as we discussed pneumonia in little kiddos in developing countries (which happens to be the largest killer of kids under 5 in developing nations, causing nearly two million deaths per year), I realized that in my previous experience with kids with respiratory complications, I’d been in a hospital in Canada, caring for kids where a respiratory therapist was either right there or a phone call away; I could administer oxygen, give medications, or initiate treatment. The parents had probably gotten to the hospital in a vehicle, no matter the weather, and our health care system doesn’t charge for hospital or emergency room visits. Medications are easily paid for with one or two hours worth of work, and the kids often bounce back in no time.

Sometimes, in developing countries, parents have to watch their children die from simple diseases that would be easily treated by a course of antibiotics. Because of limited access to health care (think walking several hours to the nearest clinic), limited availability of medications (sometimes they cost as much as a month’s worth of wages, or are mostly placebo and only a tiny bit of medication, if at all, thanks to poorly regulated pharmaceuticals), and many, many other factors, everything adds up to one tiny child vs. one small disease, and the disease often wins.

It’s heartbreaking.

But we get to be a part of bringing mercy and hope: not only our actions and medical supplies and skills, but in bringing the hope of the gospel to people whose “hope candle” has almost been snuffed right out.

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(A beach we visited in Maui! Some kind of beautiful, eh?)
(And yes, Casey, I said that “eh” just for you :) )

One of the beautiful expressions of family that I was privileged to witness and be a part of happened on Thursday. A couple were introduced to us during the morning worship time, weeping and leaning on their school leader as the speaker and translator described their heartbreaking situation. The couple was from overseas, and the man’s younger brother was visiting the U.S. when he tragically passed away in a vehicle crash. The story was heartbreaking as it was, but added to this was that there was nobody to claim his body, or to arrange transport for the body to return to their home country for a proper burial and funeral. The young family didn’t even have the funds to pay for outreach and lecture fees (coincidentally due that day), let alone plane tickets and funeral costs. Our speaker and their school leader prayed for this couple, and asked how much money they would need to pay for one flight to retrieve the body and return his brother home one last time. The answer: $3200.
They laid some offering baskets at the front, and on the day when all lecture fees and half of our outreach fees were due, I witnessed incredible generosity as a great wave of my fellow students, poor and needy and broken themselves, surged forward to support their “ohana.” It was overwhelming to watch student after student wipe away tears, dig into their pockets, as give generously.
Several hours later, we discovered the fruit of that generosity. This heartbroken little family received a staggering $14,000… Enough to pay for flights and a funeral and lecture fees and start on outreach fees. They had plane tickets within the hour and were headed to the mainland.
That, my friends, is a miracle.
Oh, the beauty of a generous heart.

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Another perk of this week was a little weekend side trip to Maui (seriously! who says they’re going to Maui for the weekend?!) for my friend Sneha’s half marathon (which she achieved a personal best in! Yay!) and to participate in a 5 km walk/run with three other friends to support research to save the whales. It was a beautiful day for a race, and as my friends and I walked the course we were marvelling at experiencing Maui’s beauty so up close and personal!

Around the halfway mark for our 5 km, I noticed an older lady running by herself, and I happened to be walking at the same speed as her run, so made a comment about the race format as I walked past. Before I knew it, I had a race partner as we went along, her jogging with purpose and I walking quickly to keep up.

Her name was Kaye. She’s 72 years old and told me this was somewhere around her 250th race. With a sponge in one hand (to wipe away the sweat), a pacer watch in the other (to make sure she didn’t go too fast and cause her angina pectoris to flare up), she told me some of her story as we went along.

Kaye has a stage 3 cancer. She had battled it for years, fought it into remission, and now is trying another experimental treatment as some tumour bits are reappearing.
She’s been through radiation, chemo, heart complications due to some wayward radiation, and now has to convince her doctor to let her keep running. “I had a little chest pain just before the halfway mark,” she confided in me as we went along, “my doctor is not going to be impressed with me!” At this point, I let her know that I was an RN and I’d stick by her in case that chest pain came back, and stepped back our pace a little. She looked visibly relieved and joked that I was handy to have around.

I was so amazed. Her tenacity and “I won’t quit” spirit is amazing. Perseverance is alive and well in that woman, and doesn’t seem to be quitting anytime soon.
Kaye ended up winning third in her age category. I cheered, and smiled to myself. I hope that when I’m 72, I’m still going just as strong as ever.20140203-230649.jpg

Well, I think that’s probably a long enough blog post for all of you faithful readers. Thanks again for all of your encouragement and your love.  Now I think it’s time I went for a run, especially if I’m going to keep up to Kaye. Haha.

And, just to make my Canadian friends just a tiny bit jealous… I drank a Vanilla Coke while typing this post.
#sorrynotsorry ;)

I love you all.
Peace and blessings.
J

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