Friday, October 31, 2014

Better Practice Saying Governor Michaud

James Fallows of the Atlantic makes an important observation in this article.

He observes that Cutler's release of his supporters to make a "strategic vote" and Angus King's immediate announcement that he would vote for Michaud shifts the fundamentals of this three way election.

Paul LePage defeated Cutler by just 10,000 votes four years ago.  He left the Democrat, Libby Mitchell, 100,000 votes behind.

The election is now Michaud's to lose.

LePage has run a typical establishment style Republican campaign.  He's ignored the issues that make the heart of his base beat.  This leaves him with tepid and cold support from the money people.  The Christians who take time to vote will cast their ballot for him because there's nobody else.  There is not, however, any momentum.  Nobody cares all that much.

And Christians are becoming increasingly uninvolved in politics as the country they love morphs into Sodom.  I don't blame them one bit.  A life is full of a limited number of money and minutes.  Christians are waking up and realizing that the fund raising letters are full of lies.  They know that candidates won't fight to end abortion and criminalize sodomy, no matter how many envelopes they lick.  They are walking away from churches and politics.  They should.

Christians properly prioritize these issues when they think about doing something political.  A nation that allows "doctors" to murder babies for convenience sake while it jams sodomy down the throats of vulnerable children is pure evil.  Christians don't recognize their nation.  And it disgusts them.

It is probably too late for America.  If it isn't, it will be men willing to fight evil who will save it.  Nothing else will do.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Going Under in Antigua: My Hernia is Fixed!

Fourteen years ago I had a double hernia fixed in Maine.  After about ten years the right side of the fix ripped.  For the past five years I've been living with a growing bulge in my midsection.  It wasn't painful, just annoying.

While I wasn't sure, I imagined that the fix would be expensive, so I kept putting it off.  I've never been able to afford really great insurance.  In recent years I haven't had any.  I now have insurance with a high deductible.

As the bulge grew, and the fact that I have insurance sunk in, I decided I'd research having it fixed.  My doctor noticed the bulge during my physical this summer.  He told me I needed to have surgery, the sooner the better.

I consulted a surgeon.  I was buoyed by his declaration that it would require day surgery.  My hopes were dashed when I discovered from the billing department of the Augusta hospital that it could cost in excess of $17,000!  We can't afford that.

Oscar Parades
We'd heard from missionary friends that procedures can sometimes be acquired in foreign countries, and that they are affordable.  Knowing that we were headed for Guatemala in October we touched bases with Mission Impact, one of the groups with whom we would be working.  They have a doctor on their staff.  I know him as Dr. Oscar.

What a wonderful man.

When we inquired about price he told me that he could do the surgery for much less than $17,000 dollars.  We didn't ask for any discount or special favors.  I felt like maybe God was finally opening a door to an operating room that I could afford.

Before I would spend a dime I decided that I would have the elders of our church anoint me with oil, lay hands on me and pray for healing.  This practice is known by some churches as extreme unction.  It is rooted in an admonition from James.  He wrote in his letter:
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
Lamenting his church's decision to abandon extreme unction a Scottish Bishop says the practice is, "The lost pleiad of the Anglican firmament.  One must at once confess and deplore that a distinctly Scriptural practice has ceased to be commanded in the Church of England, for no one can doubt that a sacramental use of anointing the sick has been from the beginning."

I am thankful my church never abandoned this Biblical practice.  In addition to this act of obedience, many Christian friends have been praying for this situation.

God is so good.  While I would have preferred a miraculous touch by the great physician Jesus decided to use the skillful hands and disciplined mind of Dr. Oscar.  And he allowed us to bless the private clinic in Antigua with some U.S. Dollars.

The hernia was repaired ten days ago.  While my first repair fourteen years ago was laparoscopic, this one was by direct incision above the tear in the muscle wall.

I enjoyed every aspect of the experience.
  • The antiquated American x-ray equipment.
  • A private clinic staff that spoke no english.  Fortunately Dr. Oscar spoke english, but he wasn't at the hospital much.
  • No forms to fill out.  None.  No paperwork at all.
  • A focused staff that just wanted to get the job done.
  • The relaxed atmosphere, including the anesthesiologist who was putting me under in the operating room while carrying on a conversation in spanish on a smartphone that was pinched between his ear and his shoulder.
  • The food was good, but a day in the hospital was enough.
The one thing I didn't enjoy learning after the fact is that I kept my wife awake the night of the surgery.  I snore something awful when I sleep on my back.  She quipped recently that she nearly put me out of her misery.  I'm glad she didn't.  Instead she made this embarrassing video with her phone.

Do you think I have sleep apnia?

The Guatemala City Dump: Keeping the McNuggets and Leaving the Bones

Yesterday I spent the middle part of the day with a Christian Guatemalan university leader.  In this one minute video he describes the sad scene beneath us.  We are standing on an overlook located behind the National Cemetery of Guatemala.  Said to be Central America's largest municipal dump the sifted contents of this place enable thousands of the poorest of the poor to survive.

On our way to this perch we passed through Guatemala's National Cemetery.  It was like no graveyard I've ever seen before.  My host assured me that the layout and architecture is European.

This site featured two types of graves.  The rich erect large and elaborate stone or cement structures for themselves.  We noted that the most elaborate grave was as big as a house.  Integrating Egyptian types and symbols it contains the family remains of Guatemala's most popular beer company, Gallo.  Located in it's shadow is a flat, poorly-maintained, unimpressive structure.  It is the gravesite for the Mayor's family.  It seems they are realistic about the relative value of beer and politicians!  Maybe the beer fortifies them for what they must endure at the hands of their leaders.  It is better, of course, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit -- Ephesians 5:18

My host views the wall of graves in Guatemala
City's National Cemetery
The other type of grave is integrated in a wall of squares into which the coffin or corpse of one individual can be inserted.  These walls are for those who want to be interred in the National Cemetery but don't have the means to erect a building in their family's honor.  Families lease one of these squares for five years.  If the lease is not renewed at the end of that time the remains are thrown into the dump.

It is the people who separate the discarded bones from pop bottles that brought us to Guatemala.  They are called scavengers, and there are thousands of them.  Over the past five decades they've squatted on patches of ground surrounding the dump.  As the years have gone by the government has been forced to organize and recognize these squatter camps.  Thousands of people form a half dozen communities around the dump.

What I couldn't bring to you in the video was the smell and sounds of the dump.  You can see the vultures circling.  Numberless large black birds hop amongst the human scavengers and join in the fight for a morsel of discarded food, or a worn out shoe.

During my first visit to Guatemala City in May of 2013 I didn't get to visit the graveyard or the dump.  I did, however, visit the Potter's House.  I published an email about the experience.

I love this description from their website of how the ministry started nearly three decades ago:
I, Gladys Acuna, along with my friend, Lisbeth Piedrasanta, received a visit from some good friends from the States. During their stay here in Guatemala they asked us to take them to the city dump, but we declined because the dump was not safe for Guatemalans, let alone Americans.
One day, however, they went by themselves and brought food with them. They handed out the food in the name of Jesus to the people they found there. When they told us about their experience we were surprised that the dump wasn't as dangerous as we had thought.
After returning to the States, our friends sent us a letter requesting a favor. They asked us to buy blankets and give them away in the name of Jesus at Christmas to the people in the dump. And they sent money for 350 blankets.
But we were anxious about this request. First of all, there are thousands of people in the dump, and we didn't have enough blankets for all of them, and secondly, we weren't enthusiastic about the idea of spending Christmas at the dump. I really wanted to spend my time at home, cooking Christmas dinner and wearing my new dress. In retrospect, I realize how selfish that was! Lisbeth and I had hoped to distribute the blankets two days before Christmas, but the truck delivering the blankets didn't arrive until the night before Christmas, so we ventured out on Christmas Day. I now believe that was God's plan all along.
We didn't have a big car in which to take the blankets, and we didn't have a plan as to how we were going to distribute them. We just knew we had to go. We finally found Eleazar Gonzalez, a man with a van and a very big heart. The three of us set out for the dump with the blankets and some tamales, a typical Guatemalan dish.
One block from the dump we found a church and received permission from the pastor to leave the blankets there until we could return with people who needed them.
The moment I set foot in the dump the stench overwhelmed me. Slowly a great pain inside me welled up as I saw children playing in the filth, people rummaging through the trash looking for anything of value, and both children and adults sniffing glue. It was too much for me. I consciously blocked the suffering I saw from my mind. "I'll never be here again," I thought. "I'm just doing this as a favor." Fourteen years later, I'm still here!
Back home, I quickly forgot all I'd seen and experienced that day. Lisbeth, on the other hand, was deeply impacted to the point of depression, asking God how He could allow people to live in such circumstances. That night He showed her that He was going to use Christians to show the scavengers how much He really loves and cares for them. When Lisbeth shared this with me, we decided that the next year (1987) we would host a Christmas celebration for 1,000 people—500 children and 500 adults. We gave out blankets and shared the gospel that they might know more of God's love for them. The following Christmas there were 2,000 people and the next year, 3,000! We were continually amazed at how God provided during these celebrations.
At that time we were both working as Christian counselors in a center that we had founded with other colleagues. The time we had spent with the scavengers at the Christmas celebrations had made us acutely aware of their needs, such as health care. We invited two of our colleagues, Dr. Steve Hammer and Dr. Lucrecia de Hernandez, to fulfill this need. Soon after, we started teaching children and their mothers about the Bible. We got more and more requests to come back.
I had been thinking about perhaps spending only my weekends working at the dump, because I thought, "I already have a ministry" (at that time there was a shortage of Christian counselors). "Besides," I told myself, "I don't want to work in a dump. I want to work in a nice, clean office; I want to wear dresses and high-heeled shoes." But God did not agree with my excuses; He orchestrated circumstances and provided an opportunity that I could not ignore. One day we were approached by a man who offered to donate a piece of land for a ministry to the scavengers; it was only 150 feet from the dump! This was my confirmation that God wanted me to quit my job as a counselor and start working at the dump full-time. In faith, Lisbeth and I both decided to answer God's call to minister there. Some people thought we were crazy: two women, both single and professionals, have no business working in the city dump! Another person told me, "You will never get married. The chances of you finding a husband here are almost non-existent."
With conviction we started working for the poor. I now believe that God put this desire in our hearts because everything we did was His idea first. As the ministry began to grow we decided to register with the government as a legal association. We invited people to join our board of directors and we began thinking about what to call our new association. God gave Jodi Hammer the idea of "Potter's House," based on Jeremiah 18:1-6. In February of 1991 Potter's House became a legal association.
Initially only women were interested in working on staff at Potter's House. But soon, the husbands of the women in our programs started asking us when we were going to provide a program for them, so we prayed that God would send men to be on our staff. Little did I know my future husband would be one of them! God blessed us with Edgar G├╝itz (my husband) and Hector Rivas, two men with great ability and training in administration. Their vision for the ministry reinforced and improved much of what we were doing. Now we have a 65-member staff, and 40% of our personnel are former scavengers.
This ministry has been successful for the sole reason that God has been with us from the beginning. He began the ministry and He will sustain it. It has not been easy but I know that my life, as well as the lives of all who have worked at Potter's House, has totally changed. We like to say, "After serving at Potter's House, no one is ever the same." That has definitely been true for me. These have been the most beautiful years of my life.
I assisted yesterday in ministry to a number of women from the community, providing audio visual support to Paulie and Susan Blount.  They are giving Potter's House a week of their time, making sure that the ministry is prepared for their November VBS.  The ministry expects to reach 2000 children with the love of Jesus Christ through this outreach.

Helping the Ice Man

God's ways are not our ways.  But His path -- His way -- is the one I want to be on.

In February of 1980 I decided to follow Jesus.  In church recently a man stood and spoke to the congregation from his pew.  He said that he'd been singing the song "I have decided to follow Jesus" all week.  He couldn't get it out of his head.  He didn't want to.  The pastor then led the congregation in singing the song.

Paulie with a Guatemalan woman who
makes her living on the city dump
My wife wrote her own arrangement of the favorite.  You can listen to it by clicking here.

Though none go with me I still will follow.

My sons and I are memorizing Isaiah 41:10.  The Old Testament prophet writes, "So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

This is true especially in circumstances that lead us to wonder about His ways.  Faith helps us to know the truth of Isaiah's thought.  The writer of Hebrews says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  The chapter goes on to recount the stories of heroes of the Christian faith, including Moses.  "He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward."

Don't forget, dear Christian, that a reward awaits you for your courage and faithfulness.  In our age of political correctness the measure of truth is too often the popularity of an idea.  This is not in any way Christianity.  Popularity has little to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil about you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Professor Terry Hughes

The Ice Man

Speaking of prophets, for many years Terry Hughes has inspired me.  I used to think that men who held graphic abortion victim signs were going too far with their witness.  Terry healed me of that belief.

It is the society that goes too far when it murders innocent babies in the womb.  Is it even possible to go too far in stopping an innocent person from being murdered?

Terry is retired from the University of Maine at Orono, where he served as a glaciology professor for many years.  On Wednesdays he would faithfully stand at the Student Union with a very large victim sign.  What a blessing he was to so many students and faculty at the University.  Likely many of them chose not to receive the blessing of truth that Terry presented every week.  That is their loss.  A great reward is waiting for Terry in heaven.

His is one of the causes that donations from supporters enables me to assist.  I'm helping Terry get his story to the reading public.  Using Google Drive we are making his autobiography available to anyone in the world with an internet connection.  The reader can be inspired by Terry's story by opening the book in their internet browser, for free.  And what a story.

Terry is bold and colorful, to say the least.  You'll see what I mean if you read this recently published Newsweek story that features his views on global warming.

We're nearly done with Chapter 1.  I'll write a future post and introduce it to you.