Haley’s April/May update~
Sometimes, the illusion that my teammates and I live in a Third World country is overpowering.
A few days ago, 1.5-year-old twins were brought to our hospital with severe malnutrition. Both were in bad shape, but the boy especially appeared to be near death. Our team acted quickly to create and implement care plans for these little ones that would set them on the long journey toward recovery. We initially thought that the boy must have some underlying health problem that would account for the difference between his condition and that of his twin sister. However, it soon became apparent that we were witnessing an unthinkable cultural practice of the Tarahumara: when twin
s are born, the parents will often choose one of the two for survival, while leaving the other to die, because they don’t have adequate resources to care for two newborns at once.
boy twin with severe malnutrition
Later that day, I was at home and overheard a brief exchange between my precious housemate Josefa and a Tarahumara man who was going door-to-door selling vegetables (a common occurrence in our hospital community). Josefa had purchased some vegetables from him, and then had given him some water to drink. Just before he left, the man remarked in Spanish, almost as if to himself, “This water is so clean!”
How is it possible that I live in a place where parents have to choose which of their children to feed, or where clean drinking water is such a luxury? We are a few hundred miles from the border of one of the wealthiest, most developed nations in the world, and yet the people here face a daily fight for their lives. It just isn’t fair. But, the more injustice that I see, the more I begin to understand that it is my God-given responsibility to be an instrument of justice in the world. I can’t come close to fixing the problems I see, but I can engage in acts of mercy that provide a measure of hope and point to a God who is still in control.
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
Since my last update, life here has felt packed, but with good things. The hospital continues to have the highest patient census that I’ve seen here, a testament to increasing trust of our ministry among the Tarahumara. Many of the cases we see are truly remarkable. One man arrived at the hospital with a dangerously low sodium blood level; he was out of his mind and agitated, putting up a fight with each treatment measure that we attempted. But with great patience and resourcefulness, remaining constantly by his side and creatively mixing IV solutions to replicate those that our hospital doesn’t have, the man slowly regained his sensibilities and was able to return to his community with his family. During our May surgical days, the team performed many life-changing procedures, including 3 successful cleft lip repairs. Far beyond their cosmetic purpose, these procedures helped to secure the futures of 3 young boys who may have otherwise been unable to eat properly and who may have been rejected by their culture as cursed. Another procedure was done to close
one of the wounds of the quadriplegic young man who is a long-term patient with us, and it is already healing beautifully.
At the end of the last surgical day, an infant was brought to us with signs of respiratory distress and seizure activity. Even as we were intervening, he became less and less responsive, and we ultimately had to initiate CPR. About half an hour of intensive resuscitative measures passed, and our pediatrician team lead was just telling the parents that they probably would not be able to take their son home, when suddenly the boy regained a pulse. We continued to stabilize him and were able to send him with a doctor and nurse in our ambulance to the nearest regional hospital, from which he was transferred to a children’s hospital in Chihuahua, where he remains in critical condition. To me, the strange part was that his parents seemed totally detached, true to stereotypical Tarahumara culture. Initially, they even said that they didn’t want to transfer their son to a higher level of care and would rather have him die at our hospital, presumably because they were resigned to his fate from the start (because of infant mortality rates here) and because they didn’t know how they would pay for any of it. Our team advocated for the boy by strongly urging the parents to reconsider and providing some money for them, after which the parents assented. The whole experience was somewhat other-worldly. It left me filled with pride of our outstanding team, concern for this infant’s fate, bewilderment of Tarahumara culture, and heaviness in realizing the number of infant deaths that take place in the isolation of far-flung communities.
breathing for this critically ill infant
And, in fact, community outreach has begun to emerge as a new piece of my role here. In a region with high prevalence of life-threatening but preventable illnesses, community medicine is critical. The Lord had been moving my heart toward possible involvement in community for several months when I was asked to consider joining a new core team that will engage in community medical outreach multiple times each week. Though many details remain to be seen, I will likely be joining these outreaches regularly and helping with preparation before and after. As a sort of training session, I was able to help set up the mobile clinic in the community of Wepó, where we saw about 30 patients for first-time or follow-up visits. I’m always amazed when patients from even more isolated communities walk multiple hours to reach this simple clinic. In my view, community work is valuable not only because it can allow us to educate the Tarahumara and to detect problems before they become life-threatening, but also because it demonstrates our willingness to enter the world of the Tarahumara. Traveling several hours each way to their communities on harrowing “roads” and working on setup/tear-down of the mobile clinic (despite ridiculously high winds) requires dedication. But it is a gesture of deep care for the Tarahumara, one that we pray they recognize.
mobile clinic in Wepó
assessing a mom and child
By entering Tarahumara communities, we are following the example of Christ, who “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). I recently started reading the gospel of John again, my very favorite in all of scripture. If I am struck by the disparity between the privileged world where I grew up and the world of the Tarahumara, how much more must Christ have experienced the stark contrast between heaven and earth? He did not wait for us to lift our gaze from the mess around us, but rather descended into the mess himself and broke through the darkness by his presence.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
A couple of weeks ago, I finished my online Perspectives class, which basically explores how the vision and mission of Christ-followers is to expand God’s family across the world and bring about unified global worship. The class impacted me deeply, opening my eyes to how God wants to establish his kingdom here and in all the world. I wrote my final paper on gospel spread among the Tarahumara, drawing from my own experience as well as wisdom from my teammates who have served here many years. Honestly, writing the paper was a sobering experience for me, as I described the undercurrent of darkness and hopelessness in Tarahumara culture. For centuries, these people have been met with just about every disadvantage imaginable. Due to repeated subjugation and discrimination, they have developed a mistrust of outsiders and a certain resignation to a difficult life. They tend toward stoicism and fatalism, believing that they have no power to enact change for the better. Often, little affection is shown within families, and domestic abuse is fairly common, perpetuated by a culture of rampant alcoholism. As shown by the stories above, children are viewed as somewhat expendable, and parents tend to look out for their own needs before those of their children. The lack of what many would consider basic needs among the Tarahumara means that survival itself is at times a worthy life goal for them. Few seem to entertain philosophical ideas of life’s meaning. Often, their concept of God is a distant spiritual being who is capricious, vindictive, and ultimately disinterested in their fate. In my mind, when taken together, the cultural tendencies of the Tarahumara form a seemingly formidable obstacle to the good news of Christ.
Then, I realize: without God, I am no better off than they are.
My brokenness before knowing the Lord was no more profound than theirs; my adoption into God’s family is no less miraculous than theirs. Every culture on the planet, including the one from which I came, is equally hopeless—and if any redemptive qualities are to be found, it is only by God’s grace. God can (and He has, and He will) raise up followers from the least likely contexts.
worship gathering in Wepó
When the multifaceted needs of the Tarahumara people seem to block out the light of hope, the Holy Spirit again reassures me that his grace is sufficient, that his sovereignty is unshakable, that his gaze has never for a moment been removed from the Tarahumara. And he gently awakes me to my very real part in the accomplishment of his purposes here in this world. Looking toward the promise of an eternity of worship pouring forth from every people on earth, we can move forward in the borrowed strength of the One who has already overcome. The story of the Tarahumara is not finished yet.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17
Holy Spirit guidance over new community team (and my role)
increased ability to enter into Tarahumara culture in a meaningful way
wise use of my time
rain (has not arrived yet and Tarahumara lives depend on crop growth)
My place in what Holy Spirit is doing here is made possible because of YOU, my faithful supporters! I can’t even express my gratitude for the financial, emotional, and prayer support that you all offer to me. Thank you.
If you’d like to become a financial partner, here is a link to give online: https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=2mXz2T