Sunday, December 22, 2019

Time to Break the Silence

It's going on 6 months since my last post, so this is long overdue and I apologize for the silence on my end. Some of what transpired over these months was completely normal and expected, such as camp for adults with disabilities, work at Agape, celebrations of life events and holidays, etc. And some of what transpired was completely abnormal and unexpected.

Camp for adults with disabilities occurred way back at the end of July. I was once again paired with Ira and her mom for the week and Glory Blankenship also assisted us, more so as camp went on. The theme was "One Way" and the camp was attended by 42 adults with disabilities, including recent patients at Agape, old friends and new acquaintances. 

It was during this week camp that things took an unexpected turn for me. What had been daily, nagging headaches for a week or more leading up to camp turned into severe pounding headaches in vertical positions. The condensed version of the story is that I spent the remainder of camp in a horizontal or reclined position and drinking high amounts of caffeine (doctor's orders!). I was able to get an MRI in a nearby city which confirmed the preliminary diagnosis of spontaneous intracranial hypotension due to a cerebrospinal fluid leak in the spine. Back in Lutsk after camp we searched for treatment options in Ukraine and Europe, but that yielded no rapid options and within a few days Sveta and I were on a flight to Tulsa. We arrived on Friday, I was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, a blood patch was successfully done on Monday afternoon, and I was discharged home on Tuesday. There was a period of recovery which included taking it easy for a couple of months. By late September I was allowed to begin easing back into activity and in October the neurologist released me to return to Ukraine, which I did on October 31.  

Ira participated in my "horizontal positioning" during our small group Bible study sessions at camp. 
Awaiting discharge from the hospital in Tulsa
During this time, God's hand was so clearly at work in my life and the events and people around me. One example is the timing of the onset of severe headaches. Being at camp in a village was actually a blessing because the nearest MRI machine produces higher quality scans than most, if not all, of those in Lutsk. Because it was a clear, high-quality MRI, an accurate diagnosis was made long-distance and having this evidence already in hand when I landed in the US was helpful in the rapid hospitalization and treatment I received. Another life detail that God orchestrated was the difficulty we have had over the past year with forming the 4th class of students for the PT Training Center. Since November/December of 2018, we have had only four applicants who met our admission criteria so we had to postpone the start of this class three times. According to our original schedule, we would have held a session in August and it would have been necessary to adjust the schedule at the last minute due to this medical issue. It's a seemingly small detail that God was orchestrating months before the headaches even began. At the present time, we now have 7 qualified applicants and can schedule the first session of the 4th class as soon as we get one more! 

So many brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in Ukraine and America prayed for, encouraged, assisted, and blessed me. From prayers, to calls, to texts/cards of encouragement, to financial gifts, to business class airline tickets, to the loaning of a car, to meals - the list goes on and I will surely leave someone/something out. I AM deeply grateful for the care and love of my Heavenly Father and His children! Thank you to all who cared for and about me during this time!

I have now resumed all of my responsibilities at Agape and returned to a fully active lifestyle, with running (which I hope to resume in the spring) as the only exception. I am tremendously grateful that God restored my health so quickly and pray that the spinal leak does not return.

We continue to have plenty of work at Agape and many, many people on the waiting list for rehabilitation. We prioritize those whose injury or diagnosis occurred in the past 3 months. Previously people did not seek rehabilitation so quickly, but now the majority of our patients fit that time frame.

Our leadership continues to look for ways to expand Agape, both to allow more patients to have rehabilitation as well as for more people to have temporary residence and care. Plots of land surrounding Agape were purchased this summer and construction ideas are being discussed. Please join us in praying for the wisdom, finances and timing to expand Agape. The need is great and we want to be good stewards of the resources, personnel, and knowledge God has given us. Above all, we want more and more people with disabilities and their families to have the opportunity to hear the gospel and repent!

I'm sorry about the poor quality photos below, but this was Thanksgiving with our rehab team! We had a pretty traditional spread and dinner was followed by relaxation and games. I think these Ukrainians are getting the hang of celebrating American Thanksgiving! I love these people and was glad to get to share this holiday celebration with them.

As 2019 wraps up soon, I look back with gratitude and awe over the Lord's mercy and blessings in my life! And I am thankful for the brothers and sisters He has put in my life, both in Ukraine and America!

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them a light shone." Isaiah 9:2

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 
Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!