Lola & Ministry Update
God is good, all the time. Even when we don’t understand and are overwhelmed with life’s circumstances, God is good. Most of you know that Chris and I have taken four precious special needs Nicaraguan girls into our home and lives. Our girls are a major part of God’s calling on our lives and are responsible in large part to the success of the orphanage and ministry. We know that one day when our girls come of age that they will have an active role in New Life and minister to their own people. We believe this has been a part of God’s plan all along and we rejoice in it.
During the summer of 2011 we made the decision to go back to the States for a few months. The reason was twofold. Our girls were having some heath issues and the Lord opened a door for treatment. The other reason, the economy was having a negative affect on our financial support. We would use this opportunity to speak in some churches and visit with our supporters. The economy has really hit non-profits hard. We have noticed triple the number of people leaving the mission field and ministries closing for lack of funding. This is a new reality now for most non-profits; missionaries are having to spend increasingly more time in the U.S. to keep their ministries and needs before their supporters.
So in August, we prepared the ministry as best we could and Chris and I and three of our girls came to the States, thinking we would only be gone a short time. Jennifer was having some issues that needed professional help. Mercedes (Sadie), needed evaluation so we would know how to best serve her needs. Lola was having some physical symptoms that we had already begun to address in Nicaragua.
Just a month before leaving we had taken Lola to the best hospital in Nicaragua and they ordered an MRI scan of her brain and an ultrasound of her abdomen. We were told both of those tests were normal so we thought Lola’s symptoms were coming from a hormone imbalance that could be addressed with hormone injections. At this point we weren’t to worried about it. Our world was turned upside down in October when we had all the tests repeated in Charleston at the Medical University of South Carolina. The results of the ultrasound of her abdomen revealed a tumor on one of her ovaries the size of a man’s fist. How could they have missed something that big in Nicaragua? We were blown away. Surgery was scheduled right away and they removed the ovary and tumor. The surgeon said he was able to get all the tumor and he felt like that she would be okay. During a follow up in January, we had some blood drawn that checked for the presence of tumor cells. The results came back and there were still tumor cells in her body. That prompted another set of scans and tests where they found spots in her lungs.
Now the walls were really starting to close in around us and all of those feelings that we had dealt with so many years ago when our son Abram was so sick, came flooding back in. We were so defeated and depressed. We were supposed to be going back to Nicaragua around this time and we had very little opportunity to get around to our supporters to address the needs of the ministry.
After discussions with our mission and church leadership we decided it was best for our family to move to Charleston because it was to far for us to drive several times a week. They were scheduling so many tests and doctors and hospital visits. Our mission, church, family and friends rallied around us to help pay for our living expenses so far from home.
In January, Lola began a very aggressive form of chemotherapy treatment which continued for the next several months. I’m not going to tell you what all those treatments were like, but watching all of your baby’s hair fall out in one week and all the sickness and weakness is overwhelming. It is a helpless feeling watching your child go through something like that. Thank God for all our family, friends, churches and missions organization. They all stepped up in an amazing way. Even though we were alone in Charleston we never felt alone. Once Lola finished her chemo we stayed in Charleston a while longer because Lola had a port in her chest and we were spending so much time at the hospital for follow-up, tests, scans, etc. Twice Lola was rushed to the emergency room because of infections from her port.
As time went by after chemo and a few good scans and tumor markers, we decided it was best to move back to Spartanburg to be close to family and friends. That’s where we are now waiting on Lola’s doctors to give her approval to travel. We anticipate being back in Nicaragua in November. Praise God! I truly believe God has been in control of our circumstances. I know cancer doesn’t come from God and that sometimes He does miracles and sometimes He uses doctors and medicines, This has been another great test of faith for our family and again God has proven Himself faithful. Our life is in His hands.
During our time in the States we stayed in contact with the orphanage by phone and email. In July, when Lola was better, I went back to Nicaragua for 7 weeks to deal with some things and address some shortcomings. There was quite a buzz in the missionary community about a new law that the government had passed a few months prior. These laws were causing quite a bit of consternation in the missionary community and everyone who operated NGO’s. The government had changed the way that all NGO’s report to the government. My first order of business was to make sure New Life came in to compliance with the new laws. That went very smoothly thanks to our attorney and CPA. The difficult part was what it cost. It was quite expensive because we had to redo the entire fiscal year, but praise the Lord, we got it done and the government approved everything.
I was amazed at how well the orphanage was running in our absence. This really is a testament to the quality of staff we have working for us. Rina Blanco, our director, had done an amazing job while we were stateside. We currently have about 20 children in our care. Half are toddlers and the other half infants. While I was there, Rina went back through our records and counted up all the children who have been placed in loving homes through the orphanage. To be honest somewhere along the way we had lost count. From 2006 through August of 2012 exactly one hundred children have been placed in homes through the orphanage and nutrition center. That’s something to get excited about. I knew it was a lot, I just didn’t know how many. Praise God, that while we are not about adoption, it happens through us anyway. To God be the glory!
We have another reason for gratitude and praise. This week we got a call from Meghan Lopez, the Country Director for Whole Child International. She informed us that the result had come back from the research and studies that the University of Pittsburg have been conducting in our orphanage over the last 3 years. The children in our orphanage scored as high as children raised in the homes of the USA. The recovery of their weight and growth was also amazing compared to how they came in. Our orphanage as a whole rated extremely high as well. They were ecstatic as are we. There were many categories involved in the testing and they will be sending us full reports but she said she just had to let us know to encourage us. Not only thanks to the Lord but also to our staff and to our supporters. We are all in this together. God is faithful to His little ones.
I want to thank the many teams who have come along side New Life over these last few months to minister to the Nicaraguan people through the orphanage and relief ministry in Cristo Rey. One of the last teams there was Dix Hills Free Evangelical Church from New York. They did an Extreme Church Makeover at El Faro Church in Cristo Rey. They installed tile floors, a bathroom, electricity, ceiling fans and painted the whole church. They also bought a freezer and generator along with buying a laptop and projector for the pastor there. All the teams that come bring life changing ministry to the Nicaraguan people - thank you! I also met twice with Pastor Ramon Baca, the head pastor of all the El Faro churches, while I was in Nicaragua. The needs are overwhelming. Please pray with us that the Lord will meet the needs of the poor in Cristo Rey and in other neighborhoods where survival is a daily way of life. We know that their hope and ours is in the Lord.
We look forward to getting back to Nicaragua in November. God has stretched us and renewed us over this last year even in the midst of all that has happened. Only He is able to do that and we thank Him. We have a new excitement for all that He wants to do in this ministry and for the people of Nicaragua. God amazes me how He multitasks not only for our good but for His Kingdom. I would ask our friends to pray for us that God will meet all of our needs over the next few months. The uneasiness and doubt in the U.S. combined with the bad economy and what we’ve been through over the last year really has us at a financial crossroads. However; we know Gods economy is not man’s economy. We need your help as never before! We are still available for speaking if anyone is interested. As always we thank you for all that you do for the Nicaraguan people and for our family. This is a partnership and Chris and I couldn’t do what God has called us to without your help and giving. May God bless you and your family during this Thanksgiving season.
If you can help us out with a financial donation it would be greatly appreciated. We have an urgent need at this time. CLICK HERE to go to our donation page.
All our love and prayers
Tim, Chris and kids