Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spectating


I love this quote from Billy Graham because it's clear from his life that while he felt he was just watching what God was doing, Mr. Graham was also clearly obedient to what God was asking him to do as well.

As I depend on God for this Operation Christmas Child journey I feel that tension between trust and obedience.  I fully know this is God's work but at the same time I don't want to miss participating in His work by not being obedient to His calling.

Case in point:  the Stuffed Animal Saga.  I've been reminding myself of how God's provided in the past.   Last year at this time I was asking God to provide enough items for 15,000 boxes and, instead, He provided for 17,777.

So this year we're asking for enough to fill 20,000 but for some reason lately the number seems so big.  As the risk of sounding like the 10 spies who were afraid to conquer the Promised Land, I find myself doing the math and realizing God would need to provide 786 stuffed animals every single week between now and September 29th to bring us to our goal.

Am I missing doing something He wants me to do?  Should I be making more contacts with schools who could collect stuffed animals?  I don't know.  But in the meantime I'm going to keep doing what I know I can do each day.

I'll keep receiving donations and sorting them and hauling them.  And I'll keep praying.  And I'll keep remembering God's faithfulness.

I'm going to keep watching Him do what only He can do.

Spectating.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bagging It


Sometimes my Operation Christmas Child life finds me doing the strangest things.  I spent almost a full day of my spring break sorting, folding, and organizing used trash bags.

I know.  Weird.

These bags were left over from last year's large community-wide OCC packing party.  They were used to hold stuffed animals that were separated into groups of 100 per Force Flex trash bag with a pink label attached for girls and a blue label attached for those suitable for boys or either gender.

At the end of the packing party they were stuffed into bins and there I was, 6 months later, finally folding and organizing them so they can be reused.

I figured out that buying all new ones would cost more than $75.00--money better spent on buying soap and toothpaste--so it's worth recycling them.   Some of them had small tears but nothing that a strip of tape wouldn't fix.

As I folded them I prayed over them, asking God to fill them up with all the huggable toys we need by September 29th.

We have about 27 bags full (2700) in the Ark (storage container) already so we're only trusting God for 17,300 more.

Right now I'm working on a memory verse for a class at church--John 16:24 "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."

I'm asking, Lord.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Lilacs Bloomed


When the lilacs start to bloom I always think of this life-altering experience I had in 1973 and wrote about in this article more than 20 years ago.

When Lilacs Bloomed
By Kathy Schriefer, RN
(this article was first published in Brio magazine in 1992)

The early morning sun was already warming the earth on that lovely spring day in 1973.  The city of Rochester, NY was preparing for its annual Lilac Festival, and the scent of hundreds of fragrant bushes filled the air.  Birds chorused as background to my own humming as I walked across the park to the hospital.

I bubbled with anticipation of the day; I was scheduled to observe a Cesarean birth, and I smiled at the thought.  A junior-year nursing student, I was spending my first week on a hospital maternity floor.  Although I had already witnessed several births that week, the privilege of being present as a newborn drew its first breath left me amazed and hungry for more.

Leaving the beauty of nature, I pushed open the door to the hospital lobby.  Here the sights, sounds and smells were different.  The strong odor of antiseptic cleansers stung my nostrils.  Highly waxed floor tiles beamed brightly.  A voice blared from a loudspeaker, paging a doctor.

I was reminded that I was entering a battlefield, a place where a fierce fight against death and disease was waged daily.  Nowhere else, it seemed to me, was the essence of life such a sacred trust.  I felt proud to be part of such a noble undertaking.

In the elevator, I stared down at my newly polished white nursing shoes and took deep, slow breaths to calm my fluttery stomach.  When the doors finally slid open, I quickly checked in with my instructor then headed for the dressing area; I didn’t want to miss one moment of this exciting experience.

In the dressing room I stuffed my uniform into a locker and threw on a green cotton scrub dress.  Drawing another deep breath, I hurried to the scrub room.  There I awkwardly tucked my hair into a paper cap and thoroughly washed my hands.  Just as I was reaching for a sterile gown to cover my scrub dress, the head nurse entered the room and explained that there’d been a change.  The Cesarean delivery had been canceled.  I tried hard not to let her see my disappointment, but my shoulders sagged slightly.

“I’m sure you’re disappointed,” she observed, and then, brightening, added, “but there’s an abortion that’s just beginning.  You could watch that.”

Abortion?  Somehow I had never considered the possibility of viewing an abortion!  Since childhood I had attended church, and at an early age I committed myself to living by the principles God had set for me.  I thought of myself as morally opposed to abortion in principle, but still something made it impossible for me to regard abortion as wrong in every instance.

Surely, I reasoned, there must be isolated instances where abortion is the best option.  Simple curiosity, as well as my desire to be considered open-minded, overcame any doubts I had, and I hastily agreed to observe the procedure.

I paused briefly before the operating room door and squeezed my eyes shut.  Then, composing myself, I slipped inside, where everything was in place and the procedure was about to begin.

The lights, the smells, the neat rows of instruments—it was all familiar.  I reminded myself this was a hospital operating room, not some back-alley ‘clinic’, and that there was nothing sinister about it.  This was possibly the very same operating room where I would have stood to watch the Cesarean birth.

From the foot of the operating table, I could see that the mother was already under the influence of the general anesthetic.  She was about my age, and I began to fantasize about why she had decided on this abortion.  Perhaps she’d been pressured by the father of the baby or by her parents.  Maybe she was financially unable to care for a child, or perhaps it was just an inconvenient time for a pregnancy.

The low murmuring of the anesthesiologist, the O.R. nurse, and the physician interrupted my thoughts.  I then focused on the procedure itself.  Dilators of increasing diameter were gradually inserted into the cervix, or neck, of the uterus until it was stretched enough to insert the suction tube.

I watched with interest—it was all so clinical, so normal, so much like other surgeries I’d previously observed.  The medical personnel talked casually as they would during any procedure.  My clenched fingers uncurled, and my rigid back muscles softened.  I slowly relaxed and grew more comfortable.

The suction tube was connected to a bottle.  Inside the bottle a gauze bag dangled, waiting to catch the portions of tissue that would be sent to the lab for routine examination after the procedure was completed.

When the suction machine was flipped on, its smooth whirring brought a flow of blood down the tube.  Then I heard a soft “plop”, and the physician muttered an obscenity as she realized that the gauze bag containing the tissue had somehow fallen into the blood at the bottom of the suction bottle.

In what seemed to be only minutes the procedure was completed, the suction tube was removed and the patient was ready to be wheeled to the recovery room.

On final task remained—the physician had to retrieve the bag of tissue from the suction bottle and have it sent to the pathology department.  To ease the task, the physician and the O.R. nurse decided to dump the contents of the bottle into an instrument tray.

As the physician’s gloved fingers poked through the blood, I looked again at the young, unconscious woman and wondered how she’d feel when she awoke.  Relieved?  Ashamed?  Frightened?

My thoughts were interrupted by the physician.  “Oooh, look,” she whispered, “I’ve never seen one come out like this before.  Here, take a look.”

I stepped closer, and she extended her bloody, gloved hand.  Then I froze in horror as I saw what was cradled in her palm:  a tiny body.  This was not the “blob of tissue” that I expected to see after such an efficient, clinical procedure.

This was a fully formed, 12-week-old, decapitated fetus.  Two tiny arms with the smallest fingers imaginable hung from thin shoulders.  Two fragile legs dangled from the delicate torso.  About 2 ½ to 3 inches in length, this was a perfect miniature human body.

“I’m sure the head is here, too,” the O.R. nurse spoke in animated tones, still examining the tangled contents of the gauze snare.

Sick waves of revulsion churned in my stomach, and I backed toward the operating room door.  I knew, beyond any doubt, that I had witnessed the taking of a human life and that there could be no possible justification for it.

When I reached the safety of the dressing room, I stepped clumsily out of the scrub dress and fumbled with the buttons on my uniform.  I felt numb.  Dry-eyed, I sat down on the wooden bench and absently scuffed my feet together, noticing with interest that black lines now marred the shine on my white shoes.

I’m not sure how many minutes passed before I mustered the strength to get up and walk to the maternity floor.  The cries of newborn babies assaulted my ears, shrill and distorted.  I stopped in front of the Special Care Nursery and gazed at the incredibly tiny infants, several of them barely four months older than the infant I’d just seen cradled in a bloody hand.  Thousands of dollars were being spent to sustain their lives—why wasn’t the life of that other infant just as important?

Eighteen years have passed since that spring day in Rochester, and I still like to think of myself as an “open-minded” person.  But I’m absolutely certain of this—abortion involves the taking of human life.  That small lifeless baby I gazed at, horrified, will never celebrate a birthday, walk in the park, smell the flowers or hear the birds.  I’ve buried its memory for too long, and now I’m haunted by the thought of millions of tiny bodies being placed in specimen bottles and sent to pathology labs.

I’ve asked God to forgive me for remaining silent and to give me the courage to speak.  He has, and in speaking I find a measure of peace.  Now, at last, my tears flow freely, as I remember that day long ago when life was young and lilacs bloomed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What Makes A Good OCC Box?


There's been some debate lately on the Operation Christmas Child discussion boards about what makes a good Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift.  As I think more about this, I realize that what is treasured by one child might not be valued so much by another.  I know this from giving gifts to my own children.  If a little boy really desires a Hot Wheels car, then an expensive watch won't turn his head.

My friend and fellow-OCC Area Coordinator, Jaimie Lindley, had the privilege of distributing shoeboxes recently in the Dominican Republic and she told me about the boy and his mother pictured above.  The mother was helping in children's ministry at the church where the boxes were given out that day and when her son ran to her yelling "Mama, Mama!" and showing her his box, she burst into tears.

Jaimie was watching and asked an interpreter to talk with the mother to get the story.  The interpreter explained to Jaimie that the son had been praying for only one thing in his shoebox--a baseball glove.  And, as you can see from the picture, that is just what he received--the desire of his heart and the answer to his prayers.

A bit later, on the bus with her team, Jaimie told the story and her husband piped up and said, "That's not the end of the story.  I was there when he opened his box and all his friends also got gloves and balls in their boxes."  So, Jaimie explains, God gave that boy not only a ball and glove--He gave him a whole team!  Only our loving God can know what each child who will receive a box needs and desires and as we pray and fill them in the best way we can, He can use these gifts to meet those needs.

The interesting thing is that at the OCC Connect Conference in the Philadelphia area I was in a conversation with another OCC volunteer about what makes a good shoebox.  The volunteer said, "Sometimes people just don't pack very good boxes.  I went to work at the processing center in Charlotte and one day I inspected this box and all it had in it was a baseball glove and a ball."  She shook her head and clucked her tongue.

And I said, "Umm, let me tell you a story..."

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cups of Formula--A Holy Week Miracle


I know that Holy Week is always miraculous, but this year it's been more so for me as we've seen God provide for needy babies in Haiti.  Pictured above is my friend, Dr. Meg Chilcott, who is in Haiti right now volunteering her time as she so often has.  

Just over a week ago I first learned of the critical need in Haiti for baby formula and bottles so that mothers who are unable to breastfeed can feed their infants.  Meg is working at Bethesda Medical Clinic in Haiti and their funds to provide formula ran out.  I can't imagine the heartbreak of turning away a mother with a starving baby.  

Another friend from church, Cora Kelly, began collecting money to buy a supply of formula, so on Palm Sunday I took an envelope to church with my donation to give her.  

On Monday Meg posted pictures on Facebook of these babies in Haiti that broke my heart.  When I reposted those pictures on my page there was an immediate flurry of interest from people who wanted to know how they could help.  A lot of tears were shed over those pictures and I know God placed Meg there to be our eyes into the need in Haiti.  My impulsive thought was to try to raise $2000 by Good Friday.

Cora and I weren't sure of the best way to collect these funds but after much prayer we decided to set up a "Chip In" account so people could easily donate through PayPal.  This account went live on Tuesday afternoon.   When I set up the account I had to choose a goal.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I shrank back from my initial goal of $2000.  I knew that they needed $1000 in Haiti to make a trip to get formula at a better price in the Dominican Republic worthwhile, and I also knew that Cora had already collected $350.  So I set the goal at $650.

My vision was that we could all share the link and many people could make small donations and it would all add up.  When I went to bed Tuesday night, though, several large donations had been made and the fund was already at $460.  I was amazed.

When I woke up on Wednesday, the total stood at $1160 and I had to readjust the goal up to $2000.  Large donations kept coming and by Thursday we passed the $2000 mark and raised the goal to $3000.

Still the donations came and I finally closed the "Chip In" account this morning with a grand total of $2835.  I received some additional donations to bring the total to $2920 and with Cora's previous collections added in I think the amount is approximately $3270.   Others may have also donated directly through the OMS website.  

Dr. Meg and Prudence, one of the nurses in Haiti, plan to travel to the Dominican Republic and I hope to post pictures of the supply of formula you've provided.  Here's a picture of one of the mothers who was previously given a precious life-giving supply for her baby.

If you'd still like to donate or would like to give more in the future to this fund, you can do so through this link to One Mission Society.  Be sure to specify that your gift is for Bethesda Medical Clinic in Haiti (project # 300320) and that it is for baby formula and bottles.  You can always mail a check to One Mission Society, PO Box A, Greenwood, IN  46142 and specify your donation as listed above.

This effort was a miracle resulting from the prayers of God's people--here and in Haiti.   Instead of the many small donations I anticipated, this total came from about 30 passionate donors who love children and the prayers of who knows how many more.   God hears the cries of His people and He blesses us with the privilege of helping Him answer.

If even a cup of cold water given in His name can bring a reward, imagine the blessing from providing life-giving formula?  Be assured, my friends--you are blessed.






Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Saturday

It's Saturday--the day suspended between the beautiful grief of Good Friday and the joyful miracle of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

It's a day of waiting, and I wonder how the followers of Christ felt as they waited on that day hundreds of years ago.

I'm in a waiting place, too, in my Operation Christmas Child life. I'm waiting in what Mannion called "The Land Between"--that place of prayer and longing--knowing God will provide but not having sight of it yet.

Today I sorted 80 stuffed animals I purchased at a rummage sale and over 300 more that were donated but still I wait on God to provide more than 17,000 more. I'm waiting for toothpaste and soap and crayons and paper and nice filler toys.

I'm waiting for my Operation Christmas Child area team to become fully functioning according to the High Impact Model. I'm waiting for God to bring the volunteers He is calling to this ministry in Northwestern PA and I'm waiting for them to say "yes" to the call.

You can see from the 'Chip In' widget at the top of the page that God has done great things for our collection for baby formula and bottles for needy babies in Haiti. But I want to close this account tomorrow and I'm waiting for a few more hundred dollars to get to the goal.

If you want to help, you can click on the link above to donate to my PayPal acccount or you can click here to go to the One Mission Society site to donate via credit card or for info on writing a check. If you do this, be sure to put a memo on your donation that is is for OMS--Bethesda Medical Clinic in Haiti and specify it is for baby formula and bottles.

I have faith that Sunday's coming but right now it's Saturday,,,

and I'm waiting.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baby Formula and Bottles for Haiti

A friend from my church, Dr. Meg Chilcott, is volunteering in Haiti and is working at the Bethesda Clinic in Cap Haitien with OMS (One Mission Society). There are a number of mothers there who are unable to breastfeed their babies because of being HIV positive or are unable because of a lack of education and support. Some of them are in serious condition because their mothers have tried to feed them cow's milk.
These babies have a real need for formula and the clinic's fund for this has been depleted. If a lot of us give just a little, we can make a real difference in the lives of these little ones who are in perilous condition. If you'd be willing to 'chip in' a few dollars, click on the link above to donate through your PayPal account to my PayPal account and I will send one check to the clinic. If you need a tax receipt or would rather donate on your own, you can donate online through the OMS website by clicking here or mail a check to: One Mission Society PO Box A Greenwood, IN 46142 Be sure to write the check to OMS--Bethesda Medical Clinic (acct. 300320) and specify on the memo line "For Formula & Bottles" This is an ongoing need so checks are welcome at any time but formula is needed NOW so if you can chip in even a little at this time it would be a true blessing.

The Promise in Waiting


As I stated in my last post, waiting is, I think, the hardest thing to do in life.  This morning I'm waiting again.  Yesterday afternoon my friend Dr. Meg Chilcott who is in Haiti volunteering at a clinic sent some pictures on Facebook that broke my heart.  These pictures showed babies who are starving because their mothers have been unable to breastfeed them and have been giving them cow's milk.

They are in a crisis situation and need formula but the clinic's funds to buy formula have run out.  Meg has used up all her own resources and God has been leading a young woman named Cora to launch a drive to collect money for this. Yesterday when several of us shared Meg's pictures on Facebook there was an immediate outpouring of desire to help.  The problem is that we don't have a system in place to collect those funds.

So we wait.

I called OMS (One Mission Society) the parent organization for the clinic in Haiti but I'm waiting for a call back from the CFO there.  I want to figure out how to get the funds there as soon as possible so the clinic staff can arrange to make a trip to the Dominican Republic where they can save on formula and bottles.  But they need $1000 to buy enough to make the trip worthwhile.

So this morning I'm sitting on the floor in my living room waiting for a phone call while babies in Haiti are waiting for life-giving formula.

The new front door my husband installed last summer has some prisms of glass in it that cast small rainbows on my carpet and I put my hand into them and think of that sign of God's promise.

Noah had an advanced degree in waiting.  He waited for years and faithfully built an ark while being derided by his neighbors.  Then he followed God's plans perfectly and waited for the rain to start.  Then he waited while the flood came and waited for the rain to subside.

Finally he got to come into the light and God gave him that rainbow--the sign of the promise.

I have the rainbow but I'm still waiting.

I want to have patience but why does it take so long?