This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. –-Lamentations 3:21
But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. –Romans 8:25
She stands in a darkened world looking out to sea. It could be twilight, or it could be a moonlit night. It is impossible to tell, for the dense mist that envelopes this world obscures the sky. No lamp is lit anywhere in this world, but the silvery light which seems to emanate from the sky beyond the mist is enough to see the woman clearly. Her face fits the rest of her: thin but not gaunt, still beautiful though she has passed her youth. Her feet are planted solidly on the narrow stone porch of the solid stone house behind her. Her left foot advanced slightly before the right, left hand forgotten at her side, her hair blown back from her shoulders and long dress pressed against her by the wind off the sea, she stands straight and still in that entirely outward-focused posture of quiet, desperate strength, of patient yearning in which women have stood watch on the edge of the deep since men first went down to the sea in ships. Oddly enough, there is no guardrail in front of her, nothing but the mist between her and the precipice which drops off sheer to the surf on the rocks a hundred feet below. If you listen, you can hear the muted thundering, but she doesn’t seem to notice. The only other curious thing is that with her right hand she reaches out behind her to touch the front wall of the stone house. It keeps her connected to something with which she seems unconsciously determined not to lose contact.
The Dream: Act I
This is the first of three parts of the dream.
When some mild misfortune befalls you, do you default to the “well, at least…” mode? Like at the end of a long day, when your motorcycle runs out of gas and you’re pushing it home in the dark, as it starts to rain, do you say to yourself, “Well at least I didn’t hit that black horse standing there almost invisible in middle of the road”? I find that when I can remember to put it into practice, this pedestrian version of gratitude helps keep the mild misfortunes of the day in their proper perspective. So let me just say that when I realized the Lord was nudging me to share a dream in public, which, as a rather private & introverted kind of guy, ranks right up there with chewing on tin foil as something I’d naturally want to volunteer for–I consoled myself with the thought that “Well at least He did not volunteer me to be a prophet.” I mean, the attendant vulnerability of sharing a dream is one thing, but at least I don’t have to lie, like poor old Ezekiel, on my left side for 390 days, followed by my right side for another 40. Let’s not even talk about what he was required to cook with. Jeremiah’s life seemed even harder. He was forbidden to marry or mourn or comfort those who mourn while friends and family, priests and false prophets plotted his downfall. He was slandered, falsely accused, hunted by the authorities, wrongfully incarcerated (in Malchiah’s miry pit no less), starved, beaten, and betrayed. No wonder he was called the weeping prophet.
Considering that…. Well at least I think I can live through the telling of a dream. The dream began a couple of days after Marvin died.
For most of Marvin’s 24 years of life on this earth, he had been the picture of health. It had only been in the last couple of months that he found it hard to catch his breath, to fill his lungs, with this pressured feeling in his chest. His family scraped together enough means to have quite a lot of expensive & mostly unnecessary tests done. Sadly, in the city where he came from, no one had ordered the one or two truly necessary tests. When he got really bad, his family heard of Loma de Luz and brought him out to us with some of these extraneous test results but without an Echocardiogram or CT Scan… in a sense, like a puzzle without the box top picture, and in this case without the corner pieces as well. We knew from the tests that Marvin was born with Dextrocardia and Situs inversus (his heart and internal organs were reversed), but the Chest Xray we obtained looked more like a squashed pizza where his (backwards) heart & great vessels belonged.
A normal Chest X-Ray
Marvin’s Chest X-Ray
This was not just simple pericarditis; there was some mass, probably a malignancy, occupying most of the space between the lungs where the heart and great vessels should be. So, in another sense, he was an anomaly. But in the main sense, when I met him, he was just a scared young guy, sitting bolt upright in bed, struggling for every breath, his heart racing up to 150 bpm. Clinically, he was going into rapidly progressive pericardial tamponade, with something around the heart not allowing the heart to fill fully… until it fails. We had no time for any more tests. Isaac had already done all that could be done medically to stabilize him. Oscar had already prayed with him and his gathered family before I got there. Yes, Marvin was definitely a believer, and that really makes all the difference, as you’ll see… later. All that was left for me to do before surgery was to explain to Marvin and his family what I was planning to do, a pericardiocentesis, to put a catheter in between the heart and the lining around the heart and drain away the excess fluid. Though there were just the four of us there—me, Isaac, Jared as scrub tech, and Denis to circulate–I figured Isaac could put Marvin to sleep and keep him stable long enough to drain the tamponade, and we were pretty confident that just relieving the pressure of the tamponade should allow the heart to stabilize and buy us enough time to figure out what was the underlying cause.
Following Shedd’s Principle that “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for,” we launched out into the deep. But, there is a real-life corollary that ships don’t always reach their desired destination. When the pericardial tap didn’t relieve the pressure, I had to proceed to a pericardial window, an open operation removing part of the lining around the heart. This removed a lot of fluid, but didn’t change the cardiac return. This led to a pleurocentesis, removing fluid from around the lungs. This improved oxygenation, but also did not resolve the SVT, the supraventricular tachycardia.
So, by two hours and three procedures later, Marvin had made it out of the OR and into the recovery room, but he was still in SVT. We had tried different fluid management approaches to no avail. We tried chemical-, then electro-cardioversion, several different times; likewise, no go. We could not break the SVT. A body cannot live long in sustained, uncontrolled Supraventricular Tachycardia, and we were about out of ammunition here. Isaac and I walked out of the recovery room for a minute to try to think of something we hadn’t thought of, and when I came back a couple of minutes later to check on Marvin, Dennis & Jared, Hector, the lab tech on duty, and Argentina, one of the nurses from the floor, had all gathered around Marvin & taken it upon themselves to earnestly pray together for God’s rescue of this young guy about the same age as all of them. I’ve known most of them since they were children, and my heart felt a sort of paternal pride, but at the same time a sort of paternal fear, a worry over what would be the consequences to their not-yet-inured-faith if their prayers were not answered as they hoped. I didn’t want to say it, but we were getting to the end of the line. For though we know that Marvin’s hope, our hope, doesn’t end with death, it really just begins there, I haven’t forgotten how hard that is to hold onto in your twenties. I didn’t want to say that these prayers are all well and good, but it’s time to start CPR.
Frankly, I wish I weren’t telling you this story, because this is not one of those stories all wrapped up neatly with a happy Christmas bow around it. For, Marvin died within the hour, to the inconsolable wailing of his mother.
A few nights later I began having these dreams. And the first part was of the woman in the mist staring out to sea. The second dream, or the second part of the same dream, was a visage of the tableau of Hector and Jared, Denis and Argentina standing around the gurney praying for Marvin in the recovery room. It was like a snapshot posted on a black wall… or more like looking down a long, darkened corridor into the well-lit Recovery Room far away, where they were all gathered praying around Marvin’s gurney.
The Dream: Act II
But this small tableau was somehow in the darkened parlor of the same house where the woman stands looking out to sea. And, the two scenes are somehow physically connected from where her hand touches the wall to the little well-lit room in the midst of the darkened parlor. Yes, I know, dreams are strange and difficult to explain.
There is a third and final scene to this dream. And it is connected in some physical way to the first two. In the third scene, there is a sailing ship on a stormy sea. It is under full sail on the same sea that the woman is straining to see into. It is headed directly toward that darkened house, making all speed. On a local scale, the ship seems to be moving very rapidly, but it must be a very long way from its destination, because on the greater scale it seems to be closing the distance agonizingly slowly between the ship and the house on the cliff above the sea. There are two notable things about this ship moving so fast through the mist on this storm-wracked sea. The first is that there is a brilliant light encircling the bowsprit like ball lightening. It moves with the ship and radiates out into the mist like a beacon. The second is that there is someone standing on the deck at the bow rail on the port side, earnestly looking ahead into the mist. I would say he is like a man, except that he is more the embodiment of a messenger, all serious and earnest and straining ahead, willing the ship forward… that and the fact that he sort of glows with the same light as the beacon on the bowsprit. There is one other distinctive of the third scene. Though no one in any of the scenes can see the others, the messenger is aware of the people and their prayers in the two scenes in the darkened stone house on the edge of the sea, while the others are unaware of anything outside of the sphere of their senses. Yet they are all connected by some physical lines, like the bars on a flow diagram.
The Dream: Act III
That is all. I had this dream for at least three nights in a row after Marvin died,….but not once since I understood that I was supposed to share it. And, now I have. I wasn’t told I was supposed to interpret the dream. So, I won’t attempt to do so. Besides, explaining a dream seems more in the wheelhouse of prophets, and I suffer no delusion that I rank among the prophets. I’m just a guy who is kind of embarrassed to have to share a dream. While prophets, the Apostle Paul tells us, were God’s faithful who “were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise…,” not yet anyway. They too… had to wait.
Which brings me back to Jeremiah. Now there was a prophet, perhaps the quintessential prophet. From the heart of his Lamentations, from the depth of his despair, questioning the justice of ever having been born on this earth, from the bottom of the pit in which he was imprisoned, not yet having received the promise, he still calls out: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I Hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is thy faithfulness.”
No, I won’t try to interpret the dreams. You can do that for yourself as well as I could. But I will hazard one thing about the physical line that ties them all together. I believe it is Hope…. “because His compassions they fail not. They are new every morning.” Our Hope that doesn’t end with death— that really just begins there.
It is coming on Christmas, our Hope’s Birthday. Our strange, and lonely, and singular Hope, Who began as God’s promise to be born in a manger, who grew up on dirt roads, that led to a cross. But the story of our Hope, and the story of Marvin’s Hope, doesn’t end at the cross. For our Hope arose again from the dead and walked out of an empty tomb. So, while we wait for the answer to our prayers, wait as long as it takes, even perhaps past death’s threshold, let us hold onto Hope in the echo of Jeremiah’s declaration. For, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
In Christ Jesus,
Jefferson McKenney, M.D.
News and Needs:
Loma de Luz continues growing. And the pace of this growth is kind of hard to keep up with. We continue to need more Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, Childcare Workers, Administrators and Mechanics. But what is particularly needed more than even these, perhaps, is an Administrative Mechanic, if you will–someone with administrative skills, who can help put together the nuts and bolts of the growing administrative framework to keep up with and serve the growth of the Lord’s work at Loma de Luz into the future. There is a stipend available for the right person who could come for six months, or a year or more. If you or someone you know might have these skills and believe the Lord might be calling, contact the Cornerstone office at [email protected] or the Visitor Volunteer Coordinator at [email protected].
A brief update and THANK YOU to all who gave in response to the note in the summer newsletter about Harvest Aviation flights to Loma de Luz. We believe we’ve received enough to meet our first goal, a flight every other month for one year. We would ask that you pray for this new link in the logistics supply chain, and we would further ask that any additional for this be delayed until we can prove the concept and be sure that the value to the Kingdom that we see in this project fully materializes.
From the outset it has been our policy to communicate the need, but “don’t ask for money.” It does require a fair supply of that stuff in maintaining and growing a Hospital, Children’s Home, School, and more. But we trust that God has His own way of providing. We are, however, always grateful for His generous people through whom he supplies these needs. So …. THANK YOU.
Even though Loma de Luz is growing greatly, we often sense the spiritual opposition to be heavier than ever. Please keep this in your prayers. God uses your prayers (and the sincerity and faith clothed in them), I think, in ways we can’t even imagine. He certainly entered this world in a way that was beyond expectation or understanding—The Dayspring From On High coming to our world as a human child. May that Sunrise from the Heavens encourage you this Christmas and in the coming New Year to keep praying and pressing on, in the Hope of His redemption. –Sally Mahoney for Cornerstone
May the Light of the World shine in your lives this Christmas and in the New Year!
Blessings from the missionaries at Loma de Luz!