Many of you know one of my dearest friends, Amy (Crittenden) McKissick. She and I have been best friends since the 6th grade. She and her husband, Jeff are medical missionaries in Paraguay. They have recently finished language school in the capital city and moved out into the country along with their 5 children. Yes, FIVE! Don't ask me how she does it! We keep in touch by email and occasionally by phone. Although I miss being close to her I am extremely proud of the life she is living and how she is allowing God to use her. To tell you the truth, much of what she shares with me reminds me of growing up on the mission field in Kenya. I am jealous of the life lessons her children are learning about God’s world and how He can change lives.
Here are some powerful journal entries that she shared with me.
April 28, 2007
Pedro’s family of 7 lives in one 10x10 room which holds two twins beds and a small round table. The floor is dirt and the roof is thatched. A few clothes hang from a rope suspended from two corners. Inside is dark except for the light that shines through the cracks where the boards forming the four walls do not line up. All cooking is done outside over a fire. They have no running water, no well, and no outhouse.
On a beautiful Saturday morning my family went to visit Pedro and Sulma. We parked where the road ended and walked the rest of the way. We waved to the lady doing her laundry in the flowing stream. We passed shacks which look abandoned but there are people inside. Chickens, pigs, stray dogs and cats wander freely. As we reach Pedro and Sulma met us with smiles and terere. Two of their kids were playing a marble game in the dirt, the oldest girl was organizing her collection of bottle caps and yogurt containers, the two year old was hiding inside and the baby was being nursed by his mother.
Ginny immediately asks if she can take her shoes off. When I say no she observes, “None of them have shoes on.” And she is right. In fact, Pedro walked to our house later that day barefoot. I wonder if he owns any shoes. The kids that are dressed wear clothes that are dirty, thin with holes, and are either too small or too big. They have unwashed hands, unkept hair and rotting teeth. They look a lot different then my children.
I was very proud of my children today. Ryan jumped right in and began playing marbles with the kids. Ginny sat with the girls and Joshua went off exploring with another. I wanted my children to be reminded of how blessed they are and that there is more to life then toys and ice cream. Before today Ryan could not imagine a family so poor that they did not own a TV. My kids brought a small toy for each of the children: a deck of cards, hair ribbons, matchbox cars, a plastic Dora the Explorer toy, and a Noah’s Ark toy for the baby. We also brought crayons, coloring books and some outgrown clothes. They all seemed so thankful.
I had a nice visit with Sulma who is around my age. Even though I cannot communicate as I would like, she is patient with me. We discus how much delivering a baby hurts (even the 5th time around), how fussy teething babies can be, the kids homework, and the fruit trees. As we talk I begin to wonder how they faired these past few days when the weather turned cold. Did the planks holding the house together shake as the hard wind blew? Did rain enter through the cracks where the roof rests on the walls? Did they have enough blankets to stay warm at night and enough clothes to wear during the day? Did they feel like prisoners, trapped inside when it rained for days without letting up?
I wondered what would become of my family of seven if we were force to live like this. I feel both guilty and blessed. Guilty because I doubt I could survive living like that even for a night and blessed knowing that I won’t have to live like that even for a night. The only time we sleep seven to a room is on vacations. I look into a full closet and complain that I have nothing to wear. I have so much food in my pantry that it is hard to decide what to cook. God forgive me!
Ryan’s comment when we arrived back home was, “They were poor but they were happy”. YES! He got it! He decoded the heart of the gospel messages! So, dear children of mine, be thankful for the blessings the Lord has provided, but be ever generous. It is better to given then to receive. Don’t even think of yourself as better then others due to your education or position in the community. For it was the very poor that Jesus ministered to. And always remember that things do not breed happiness. Instead, store up treasures for yourself in heaven, not on earth.
Jeff was asked to make a house call to visit Na Satulina. Her shack is situated on the edge of town. Nothing but high grass can be seen for miles. She lives in a shack like the one I described above. Her grandson lives with her and provides for her. Rumor has it that he spends what little he makes from picking manioc root or shelling beans on alcohol. We brought with us a gift of rice, oil, noodles and a bucket of water (she too has no well) which she was very thankful.
Na Satulina is about 60 years old and for six months now had not been able to use her left arm and left leg. We listened intently as she described how difficult life is for her now. Since she cannot walk, she scoots along the dirt floor. When it rains she gets wet and muddy as she scoots to the uncovered outhouse. All day long she sits on the ground watching and waiting. Her only entertainment comes from the chickens pecking for food. She can barely lift herself onto her bed each night. She explained that all she wanted to do was be able to work again. If only she could just be able to collect eggs or peel manioc root. There is a spark in her eyes and feistiness in her voice that leads me to believe that once she was very active.
As Jeff did an exam, she laughed as some of the strange things he asked her to do (follow his finger, stick out her tongue, and squeeze his hand). When he asked to look in her mouth, she had to spit out the honeycomb she was sucking on. I think I saw 6 teeth in her mouth. The lady had never been to a doctor in her life! Jeff diagnosed her having a stroke and told her that she will never have the use to her right side again. I felt badly for her. I know she was desperately seeking a cure from the new doctor in town. Because she mentioned that she cries a lot and is unable to sleep, Jeff also diagnosed her with depression.
Sulma and Pedro and Na Satulina weigh heavily on my mind. This next week the small group of believers will build another room for Pedro and Sulma. Maybe in the future we can help dig a well and outhouse. Jeff and Tony have been brainstorming about a walker/crutch idea to help Na Satulina become more independent. The path to the outhouse as well as area around her house will have to be leveled so such a thing to work.
May 3, 2007
What do you get when you add this all together?
39.6 lbs of dog and cat food
30 gallons of milk
30 cups of butter
15 lbs of cheese
11 lbs of brown sugar
22 lbs of white sugar
22 lbs of flour
11 lbs of powdered sugar
15 boxes of cereal
4 loaves of bread
7 lbs of laundry soap
2 gallons of dish soap
28 rolls of toilet paper
13 lbs of tomato paste
70 trash sacks
33 lbs of meat and chicken
5 boxes of wet wipes
10 lbs of fruit and vegetables
4 shopping carts
You get me shopping in Villarica this weekend. I had not been grocery shopping in almost 6 weeks. I was really proud of us for making it that long. But towards the end we were running real low on food, no meat, no cheese, no butter....and the list went on. It is always embarrassing when you buy a lot at once. People stare and you begin to feel like a filthy rich American. Part of me wanted to wear a sign that read, “I only shop every 6 weeks, I live in the campana where we cannot get most of this stuff and I have seven in my family!”....maybe next time.