I have come that they might have life, and that
they might have it more abundantly. — John 10:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it
to one another, as good stewards of the manifold
grace of God. — I Peter 4:10
bookends of life
A few days ago, on a normal day, I was just walking in the door from the hospital. It was probably about 6 o’clock in the evening. I wanted nothing more than to lay down my backpack, walk out to the garden and breathe in the evening and breathe out the day and not talk to anybody… just 15 minutes and I’d be OK. I was just all poured out and needed to commune with some scraggly okra, and wormy cucumbers and basil going to seed. But I didn’t get across the kitchen before the radio went off, …calling a code. I’m guessing that most people already know, but calling a code is a general call for assistance from all medical people who can help in a cardiac or pulmonary arrest or impending arrest situation. I figured it was probably the little lady with pulmonary fibrosis whom we had sort of semi-coded off and on throughout the day. I knew she was “a qualified code.” She had just come to us earlier in the day, from one of the cities out in Honduras, San Pedro, I think. She had lived on home oxygen up in the US for the past 15 years and had recently returned to Honduras–maybe deported, maybe just coming home to die. The family had brought her in saying that her wish was that we do whatever we could short of being placed on a ventilator.
Rosanne had just gotten home maybe 5 minutes before me, and, if anything, she was more beat than I was. At the call on the radio I dropped my backpack on the floor, looked up at the ceiling and told Rosanne that I’d go in and call her if she was needed. I’m a few minutes quicker on my motorcycle than she is in the pick-up, and I figured there would probably be plenty of people there pretty quickly. I don’t say it often enough, but in my opinion, if you want to get some of the best medical missionaries in the world together for a group photo, just call a code at Loma de Luz. They show up (though their attire might be a little less than ideal for the photo).
So, sure enough, it was our little lady with the pulmonary failure, and though we got her heart back several times, without putting a tube in her trachea and putting her on a ventilator, we weren’t going to be able to even put off the inevitable. After about 45 minutes of mask/bagging/chest compressions and cardiac meds, we called it and had the family come in to say goodbye. I didn’t stay long afterwards. I wasn’t the primary doctor, had just come in to help, and there were plenty of people there to help the family. I walked across the courtyard feeling defeated and listening to the sobs of her daughter begging her mother just to take one more breath. It was the end of the road of a terminal disease process, but you still feel defeated. No matter what your head says, that’s how you feel.
That was on one side of the courtyard, but just 30 paces to the other side of the now darkened courtyard, as I was heading for the back door, I was passing labor and delivery. From far off now I could still hear the sobs of the daughter crying out: No Mama! Respira, Mama! Solo respira! (Just breathe, Mama! Just breathe!). From far away it sounded so pitiful and hollow and barren and sad. But closer and louder and more insistently I could now hear the familiar sounds of a soon-to-be-born baby’s heartbeat on the fetal heart monitor: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive.
I thought this a very odd and poignant moment–desperate pain and loss and pleading for more time, more life, at one end of the hospital sharing the moment with the joyous declaration of a new life about to be born at the other end of the hospital. I stood there in the gathering dark, still and listening for several minutes before I realized I’d forgotten to breathe. How precious life is–how resilient, how insistent and irrepressible. How precious life is–how fragile, how evanescent, and how desperate we are to hang on to it as it slips from our grasp.
That was a few days ago. And, in between that evening and this morning, I’ve had to make the jump again–the jump between the harder but simpler life in Honduras where we live and serve…to the United States, the more comfortable, but frenetic life where we visit and try to explain in thirty-second sound bites why we would live “out there”–the light years’ jump between the tiny, bumpy capillaries where cows are pastured and milked and the occasional pickup gathers warm milk in 10 gallon cans…to the six lane interstates with bumper-to-bumper commuters where cold milk is sold and consumed without a thought as to where it comes from.
For the past couple of days, I’ve been at a medical missions conference, still on the consumer side of the jump, but sequestered up on a beautiful mountain in the woods of North Carolina. The conference is extraordinarily well organized, the people exceptionally nice, and the food exceedingly sumptuous. But the pace is still frenetic, the hours of the day all scheduled, neatly organized and goal driven. So this morning early, sensing desperately the need to be alone with God, to hear His voice, this morning early before the schedule begins, I set out for a walk in the woods.
one of God’s great cathedrals
At first I could only hear the sound of my own footsteps in the autumn leaves, and the sound of my thoughts incessantly hammering away in my head. I was troubled about someone I love dearly who was desperate enough to contemplate ending his life. I was troubled about the prospect of navigating a culture that was once my culture which now has become so foreign to me, a culture which for one thing has so devalued life that now, tragically, a pregnancy is 30 times more likely to end in an abortion than in a stillbirth of natural causes, a culture where the suicide rate has increased 27% across the board since we moved to Honduras in the year 2000, where, tragically, ending your own life has become the second most common cause of death among all people 15 – 34 years of age, second only to accidental injury, a culture where, tragically, intentionally withholding even food and water has become common “medical” practice in the last days of the elderly.
At first, these were all the sounds I could hear in my head–that and my footsteps disturbing this year’s crop of gold and russet leaves. But as I walked, I gradually began to hear more of the forest around me, hear more of the sounds of God’s breath. And, as I looked up, I became less concerned with calculating how many more minutes I had left before my next obligation and more in awe, struck by a sense of joy and reverence for being allowed to pass through one of God’s great cathedrals. How quickly this transformation took place. How quickly my entire perspective had changed from inward (the noise my feet could make and the noise inside my own head) to outward: listening and observing the wonder of God’s works, feeling His presence, and the privilege of a travel-stained pilgrim being allowed into this holy place.
Of course it also didn’t take long to realize I was lost. Well, perhaps in the interest of accuracy, I should rephrase that. Daniel Boone famously stated, “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” So it began to dawn on me that I had taken a number of trail choices without paying much attention and was now thoroughly bewildered as to the best way back to the jumping off place of my walk in the woods. Despite the rapid and radical “about face” in my perspective in the brief time I had been walking up to that point, I did still have obligations and deadlines for later in the morning. As I wandered up and down a few more leaf strewn lanes I was beginning to wonder whether I should press on along the path I was on, or turn back and try to retrace my steps, or strike off through unmarked forest. It was at that point that I really did come upon one of those maps posted in the woods, under a small roof & behind weather-dulled plexiglass… The map showed all of the possible paths, and really did have an X marking “YOU ARE HERE.” It made me laugh and it showed me that the path I was on most definitely would not take me where I wanted to end up…. But a little branch path I had passed a short ways back would.
YOU ARE HERE…X
Back on the trail, now knowing I was heading where I should be, I could again relax, knowing it wasn’t up to me to figure it out, able to relax in gratitude for the time I had to spend at worship in God’s Great Cathedral and to pick up the threads of my musings about life.
I remember. I have been there myself, deceived and deluded that life had no value… at least mine didn’t, so confused as to consider throwing a life away, something I knew I had no right to do, but in enough pain not to care. I have felt so separated from my creator and my fellows, each created in His image, that I seriously considered how I could end it, end the pain and end my own life. I could only come up with three reasons that kept me from doing so: 1.) I couldn’t cause my family and friends that much pain, 2.) I would be ashamed to answer to God for why I threw away His gift of life, and 3.) the third reason? The third reason why I held on and chose not to take my own life was that I knew I might be wrong. I knew that my outlook might change on a dime, that I might come upon a map in the woods that said “YOU ARE HERE… and that little path back there will get you where you need to go.”
It is my prayer for you that if and when you are ever at that point, to either casually or consciously contemplate throwing a life away… a life you could take but you couldn’t have given… that you STOP!… Take a breath…Take a walk in the woods… and look for a sign that tells you clearly “YOU ARE HERE.” Because your life might turn on a dime, because life is precious, and the destruction of it is the last deception.
So take a walk in the woods and listen for God’s voice and keep walking until you hear it.
In Christ Jesus,
Jefferson McKenney, M.D.
News and Needs
Administrative Staff: The Hospital, the School, and the Casa de Niños all continue to grow, and so do the administrative needs. An intermediate-term or long-term commitment missionary with business / administrative education or background would be a great blessing. Your prayers for this would be so important.
School and Teachers: School has been in session since August in this configuration. The classes have enough Teachers and Teacher’s Assistants to cover all grades (spread pretty thin), but another Teacher, even two, would be very helpful even now. And, of course, we will, God willing, be adding a new grade in the upcoming year, which will require one or two more teachers for that alone. Please commit this to prayer.
For more on the needs and news of the Escuela Bilingue El Camino, please visit this page.
Kinder Kids’ snack time
Foster Children’s Home (Casa de Niños): This work is going on and going well–with a team approach headed by Dr. Judy Blumhofer while we continue to look for just the right person (or people) to work into the Children’s Home Director’s role.
But whether ultimately working into the Director’s role or a being a dependable member of the team to care for these children in need, each one of whom God has entrusted us with, we are actively looking for a missionary to commit to working a minimum of one year with these children. Please remember this in prayer.
For more on the needs of the Casa de Niños please visit this page.
The McKenzies: Iain and Liz McKenzie will be travelling from their home in Inverness, Scotland to the US to speak for the Cornerstone Foundation on the following schedule: Minneapolis, 31st Oct. – 6 Nov.; Scranton, PA, 7-10 Nov.; Southern Maine, 10-13 Nov. If you would like to hear from them during this trip please contact the Cornerstone Foundation Office.
Shipping Containers into Honduras: For this year, all of the annual requirements to be able to bring shipments into Honduras as a charitable organization have been met by the Cornerstone of Honduras, APAH (at least two months ago). We are still awaiting, however, the final signature by the Honduran Ministry of Finance… expected any day. Please pray for that. The next goal with regard to APAH’s status, shipping, etc. is that APAH would be granted a new designation which Honduras has recently created—that of a “Humanitarian Organization.” This special status is supposed to make the incredible labyrinth of annual Honduran paperwork and bureaucracy in future much simpler. Your prayers for this would be so greatly appreciated.
Amazon Smile: This is just a reminder that when shopping at Amazon, you can support Cornerstone Foundation. To do so, go to http://smile.amazon.com, simply follow the instructions, and designate The Cornerstone Foundation in Biloxi, MS. Then 0.5% of every purchase will be sent to Cornerstone Foundation. The price of your item does not go up, and there are no hidden fees. You really will smile.
Engineering Needs: With the need for hospital expansion, comes a need for an electrical engineer with experience in developing-world voltage and delivery issues, infrastructure, and variable voltage (drops and spikes). We need such an engineer to come alongside us and help us improve our electrical infrastructure to accommodate our growing needs.
We need help protecting delicate medical-grade electrical equipment and computers from worsening voltage problems as Honduras grapples with electrical infrastructure issues country-wide. We also are praying for someone that can come alongside us and help design solar solutions that would help us lower our ever increasing (now at about $4000/month) electric bill.
Hospital Expansion: The entire work is growing in all directions, but nowhere more so than at the hospital. We daily need more hospital ward space, another operating room and recovery room, ICU, and isolation room, and that is just in this phase of expansion. This expansion will require a LOT of work and careful planning to build in the midst of busy ongoing hospital care. It will also cost a considerable amount of money; even as we build it ourselves, it is estimated to cost around $100,000.
So we have talked and prayed, asking for guidance, and are left with these questions: 1.) Is this building expansion really needed to grow to meet the need (physical and spiritual) the Lord has sent us to minister to? The answer is clearly Yes. 2.) Do we have these finances already donated and in the bank? No, we don’t. 3.) Have we seen the Lord provide for our every need such as this? Yes, without a question. We are stepping out in faith and already at work on the foundations. Please hold this need up in prayer.
I am thankful that we have a Lord who is both the Ancient of Days and the One Who Makes All Things New. Who could be better to guide us on the path of life–from its beginning to its end…and then on to a new beginning on the other side?
–Sally Mahoney for Cornerstone