The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? — Psalm 27:1
The centurion answered and said,….but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed….When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” — Matthew 8:8-10
The story is really pretty simple. But it could benefit from a little context. Since I have been known to wander for days through the Forest of Context, leaving the reader a little bewildered as to where we are heading, I’ll be straight upfront with you. My main reason for telling this story is to try to enlist your help in praying for Emilio; that, and to consider for a bit the courage it takes to consistently pray in faith for a desired good outcome on behalf of another. But mostly to get you to pray for Emilio. A few of us have been. But we are getting tired and could use your help. So here is the context.
Once upon a time, “in a Galaxy far, far away” …actually about 20 years ago in the Departamento de Colón…. (which amounts to about the same thing), we were first living in a converted coconut warehouse in Balfate. Hannah was 2 years old, Nate was 8, and Gabriel had just turned 7, I think. We had a babysitter then named Geraldina. We usually called her Gera for short. I can’t recall just now how we came by Gera as a babysitter, as she was just a child herself, about 15 years old. And, Gera was not from Balfate, but from Lucinda, the village just to the east of where we were building the hospital. Now, Lucinda is only about 3 ½ miles from Balfate as the crow flies. But people tend to be more earth-bound than crows. And, back in those days, 3 ½ miles was a lot bigger deal than it is today. Beginning at our house, at first you’d ride your bicycle down the sandy streets of Balfate, then up and down the gullies and switchbacks to the top of the hill of San Luis.
From the top of San Luis, if you timed and jumped the ditches just right, you could coast down to just about where now the soccer field of San Luis is. Past that, you had two choices: 1.) You could walk your bike down the path to the beach, wade a few lagoons of dubious provenance, accept the fact that you were going to be considered breakfast by a few billion sand fleas as you trudged along the surf, wade a few more lagoons, then climb back up to the road on the east side of La Quinta. Or you could brave the storied Mile-Long Mud Flats of La Quebrada de Oro.
Even in the dust of mid-May, the mudflats had more mud than flats. But in the rainy season? Pilgrim, I would advise against the white pants…or even the white shirt. At first you might be able to wobble along, skirting the edges of the miry pits, but soon you’d be required to dismount and walk the tightrope, carrying your bike between little mud lakes. We called them “cow holes,” as full-grown Brahmans had been known to disappear in some of them. Then, before you even reached half way, the little lakes would coalesce and you’d be wading while trying to hold your bike above the surface of the swamp. If it had been raining a lot recently, or if you guessed wrong with your footing, the only thing out of the water might be your hands and your bike. Come to think of it, maybe this is where my kids learned to hold their breath for so long. Who knew?
OK, so one way or the other, you got past the mud flats to La Quinta. There, as you ride along, drying out, with jungle on either side of the road, you had to stay alert for Bridge Troll Bandits. Yes, bandits do still huddle under bridges in such places awaiting the unwary passerby; at least they did not so long ago. But bridge troll type bandits also are no brighter than the original bridge trolls and seem to have learned no new tricks since the days of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. As long as you knew they were likely to be there, you knew to get a good running start, go blasting full speed across the bridge with your head ducked down, and be sure to take at least one glance behind you to see them come boiling out onto the road, too late to block you, throwing their hats into the dust (or mud) and maybe firing off a few inaccurate pot shots in your direction.
From La Quinta, it is downhill to the Loma de Luz Hospital gate, again jumping ditches and dodging potholes, but no unique challenges. Heading east past the Hospital gate, though, the road became even less travelled and rapidly devolved into more of a track or a path than what even the most hopeful might call “a road.” There were plenty of places along that track to Lucinda where a bike breakdown or a badly behaving citizen could make for trouble. So when Gera rode her bike from Lucinda to Balfate or back from Balfate to Lucinda, her younger brother Emilio (“Milo”) rode her or rode with her there and back. That meant Milo rode this route 4 times a day, while juggling school and any odd job he could pick up. Milo was 13 years old back then when Gera was 15. He never made any big deal of this as far as I could see. He would just show up smiling, and ride off with Gera smiling, while keeping a weather eye out for Cow Swallowing Swamp Holes and Bridge Troll Bandits.
Milo has always been the rare kind of guy who will put himself out or put himself on the line to watch out for others. That is the point of the context… so let us now make the jump to light speed and back, jumping forward 20 years to the present day. Milo is now 33 years old. He has become one of the best builders of his age group, a solid worker, a good craftsman, and a natural crew leader. He lives in Lucinda with his equally good and faithful wife (Juana), and their two children: Tatiana (6) & Justin (5).
Milo is by no stretch prosperous in a financial sense. He has been scrimping and saving for a while just to put together enough money to put a new tin roof on part of his house. But with ingenuity and hard work, by the strength of his hands and the sweat of his brow, he has always provided for himself and for his family… and, as always, still watching out for others.
Then, a month ago, Milo slipped and fell from a roof he was working on in a village nearby. He broke his back, suffering a pretty bad burst fracture dislocation of T12 on L1. And immediately he was paralyzed from the waist down. We stabilized him in a body cast.
Milo and Juana in middle with construction crew
Milo’s injury and sudden disability really shook a lot of people in the community. Pretty much every guy on the construction crews that work on the various construction projects @ Loma de Luz…without anybody organizing them or asking them to…at the end of each week, each one puts aside 10 % of their own paycheck and puts it in a pool to give to Juana. The Honduran poor are good like that. But it is also a reflection of the kind of guy Milo is. Also, a couple of weeks ago, a very capable volunteer construction team went to their house and finished that roof Milo had been saving for. This was a big help and encouragement. But Milo needs his legs back. That is what we have been praying for.
Sure enough, we have seen some return of function. He can kind of wobble his legs (L1-L3). And he has begun to have pain in his feet (L5 & S1). But, while Milo wants to walk in Faith, and he Hopes with all his heart that God will make him whole, he Believes that He could, but he finds it hard to Trust deeply for his own healing. I find I deeply want that too. And, it has set me again to wrestling with the difference between wishful thinking and faith: the difference between false-hope and true belief, looking hard for the intersections of Reason and Trust, of Courage and Faith. I find that if you want to consider such heavyweight concepts, you first have to define your terms. So, without spending more words on the preamble, here are the working definitions that I’ve come up with.
Hope is the anticipation, with some degree of confidence (great or small), that a desired outcome will come to pass. Belief is to think or feel that some thing, an idea or a concept, is true. Trust is to believe that some one, a person, is true. (For even when you think you are trusting a thing–like trusting an elevator to take you to the seventh floor instead of dropping you through the second basement–at the heart of it, you are trusting the people who designed, built, maintain and certify the elevator.) Faith is Trust in Motion. For if you don’t act upon your Trust, it is not Faith. It remains a thought or a feeling. As James the Just, the Brother of the Lord, made clear, faith without “erga,” without action,… is dead. Finally, Courage is the fuel that sets and keeps the engine of Faith in motion.
At least that is how I understand it.
Milo finds it hard to trust deeply for his own healing. To be fully truthful, I struggle to trust that deeply for him, perhaps because I know what a flat-out, walk-on-water miracle a full recovery would be. I think a lot of us are in that boat. A lot of us find it hard to maintain the courage to believe for such a miracle for another person. But Juana has the courage. She got out of the boat … like Peter did. ...Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 29-31).
Peter walking on water
In Sunday School lessons, this episode with all of the disciples in a small boat in a storm in the middle of the night in the middle of the Sea of Galilee is usually parlayed into a simple lesson about not taking your eyes off Jesus. I get that… and I can see the high bar Jesus sets for Peter’s faith. But in Sunday School, Peter always seemed to me to be unfairly criticized for letting his fears about the wind and waves overwhelm his meager faith. So, if ever I was called upon, I would let fly with my contrary 2¢s worth. I think Peter gets short shrift as the poster child for lack of faith here. I say, “Well, at least he got out of the boat! Nobody else did. They were all still in the boat, sore afraid and crying out for fear. He even started to walk on water. Have you ever tried?” I’d ask everyone. “Well I have… lots of times… and I always sank like a stone.” …. Maybe this illustrates why I rarely got called upon in Sunday School.
But I wander. Back to Emilio.
It seems that Jesus made a point of healing many for whom another person–a friend, a father, a mother, a caring master–carried the faith. The friends of the paralytic lowered through the roof, the Syrophoenician woman, the father of the epileptic boy, and the centurion all come to mind. A key component of each story was someone who exercised a remarkable degree of Faith…. for another person. They exercised noteworthy courage to approach the Master, to ask Him for healing for their loved ones, the courage to be rebuffed, the courage to be wrong, the courage to fail, but also the courage to Trust not only that He could, but that He would, heal them. They each got out of the boat, trusting the Lord for someone else.
Juana has that kind of courage for Emilio. She is definitely out of the boat. But she is getting tired. Some of the rest of us perhaps have a little bit of it… like maybe one wet foot over the rail. But the wind is strong, and the waves are high, and courage wears thin. Then I’m reminded from the Revelation of John that the prayers of the saints are cumulative, and I am persuaded by the Psalms that some of you out there have faith-courage to spare. And, as best I can tell, from Job to Jeremiah, from Kings to Colossians, this prayer thing works from a distance, you know. So, I’m asking for a few volunteers: you, you, and you. A Father needs his legs back to stand up and go out to work and take care of his family. That’s what Fathers are for. He can’t ask you. So I’m asking on Emilio’s behalf. Will you step out of the boat and pray that God would be glorified in healing Emilio whole?
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” –I Corinth 16:13
For, “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of evil tidings; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” —Psalm 112: 6-7
In Christ Jesus,
Jefferson McKenney, M.D.
News & Needs:
1.) Many of you know Dr. Judy Blumhofer at Loma de Luz and the Children’s Sanctuary House. Please pray for her. Judy’s mother, Edith, passed away this month after a long battle with cancer. Edith was a godly woman full of terrific energy, a noted scholar of American religious history, an author, a talented musician and baker, and someone who loved well her Lord, her family, and all those around her.
2.) We are anticipating our first Harvest Aviation Flight, bringing critical equipment & supplies to Loma de Luz. Let’s pray that they are allowed into the country, as currently this is our only potential way of bringing supplies into the country during the COVID-19 situation (more about that below).
3.) On 27 February 2020, Zina Lillard, Career Missionary, Wife of Bob Lillard, Mother of Rosanne (and Rebecca and Robert), and one of the Cornerstone Foundation’s first Board Members, passed on to be with the Lord, at the age of 93, after a brief illness.
A poem written by her granddaughter, Hannah (at age 14), brings home the theme of this newsletter (praying for others) and celebrates Zina’s superpower (and of those other unsung prayer soldiers like her).
I thank the Lord for those who pray
An old woman is pacing her porch,
In a darkened world she wields a torch.
Her vigil spent in conversation
With the God of Heaven, of all creation.
To the world she’s an old woman of no renown
In a humble house in a backwater town,
But the world could never comprehend
How to Him she is a treasured friend.
I thank the Lord for those who pray
For those unseen, yet heard all day.
At the throne of God their prayers are heard
In the cries of the heart, with the spoken word,
These humble soldiers in the scheme of things
May be more important than Popes and Kings.
This woman I call Nonna, who’s pacing and praying
To a God who listens, His mercy displaying.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We would be remiss in a Newsletter of March 2020 not to mention the Elephant In Everybody’s Room, Covid-19. This worldwide infection has already presented serious consequences, not just in global health considerations, but serious consequences financial and societal worldwide. The purpose of this newsletter is to present the Ministry of the Cornerstone Foundation as actuated in the Loma de Luz ministries and the Gospel which animates us.
We don’t presume to be a public health information site or news outlet, as we don’t believe we are supposed to. But we do intend to continue to present the News & Needs of Loma de Luz…. and Loma de Luz is certainly on the front lines of this pandemic in a difficult place. It takes little time in reflection to imagine what a potential public health, economic, and societal catastrophe this may represent for an underdeveloped country such as Honduras, which in the words of a former Honduran Finance Minister, “constantly totters on the brink of chaos.”
Although as of the date of publication of this newsletter Honduras is just now encountering their first documented cases, at Loma de Luz we have been following this and preparing as best we can since quite early this year. Hospital Loma de Luz has a proactive contingency plan in place responding to this with all of the resources we can muster. Though much of the detail of this plan is worked out in nuts and bolts–financial, logistical, facilities, triage, pharmaceutical, equipment & supply considerations–the first order of the day is prayer.
The Apostle Paul enjoined the church at Thessalonica (and us) to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks.” That is the high bar we are striving for. So, we are grateful for the opportunity to serve, and we pray Our Lord that you would “prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers.” We hope you’ll remember us in your prayers as well.
God has not forgotten the good brother Emilio was as a boy nor the good man he has been right up to the present. Seeing the boy on the bike in my mind’s eye, I think of Paul’s description of “this treasure” which we have “in earthen vessels.” The light and life God put in us, His earthen vessels, is of great value indeed. Please pray for Emilio to be healed. Jesus told us to ask. So please pray for him and the other needs mentioned in this newsletter. Ask, seek, knock, and ask again.
–Sally Mahoney for Cornerstone Foundation
p.s. Just as this newsletter was heading for the printer, Honduras was put under nationwide lockdown—nobody allowed in or out, strict curfews, gatherings forbidden, etc. Please pray for the Lord to provide us with the food, the medicines, supplies, and finances we need not only to continue our work but also to serve the Lord’s purpose in this time of crisis.