Walking by Faith through Dark Valleys

The doctors at Hospital Loma de Luz, take 24 hour call 1-2 times a week. That means that from 7am to the next morning’s 7am, any emergency or obstetric problem that comes into the hospital will be primarily the responsibility of the on call doctor. For my first 2 months here, each time I was on call I had someone assigned to back me up and show me the ropes. This is necessary because the norms of treatment, follow-up, and getting things done are so different from how things are done back in the USA that you need someone to walk you through a lot of different scenarios before you can really work independently.

For instance, if you need to give your patient a medicine through an IV at a specific rate in the US, you simply enter the order and wonder why it takes the pharmacy and nurses so long to do it. Here you go to the pharmacy, retrieve the medicine or find an adequate substitute for the medicine you wanted but don’t have, find syringes and fluid bags, then mix the medicine into solution at a concentration that will allow you to run it through a pump (A lot of moderately complicated math). Find a IV pump, place an IV if the patient doesn’t have one, hook it all up and program the pump to run at your desired rate… and then wonder what happened to the last few hours.

After about 2 months of call with back up, I recently started taking call independently. My first two independent call shifts were rough.We have an awesome team that is very supportive of one another, but we also try to take care of each other by handling anything we can independently, and only calling for help when it is absolutely necessary (especially during the night). During my first shift I had about 6 medically complex admissions topped off by a young man who came in with 4 gunshot wounds – 2 to the neck, 1 to the chest, and 1 to the abdomen – whereafter I promptly called and received help. But all of the patients did well, and were pretty clear cut from a diagnostic and treatment perspective.

My second independent call shift was not so clear cut.

Things were generally okay during the daylight hours, but as dusk settled I started getting calls.

Hospital Loma de Luz at Night

Out of the several ER patients that I was called to come in and see, I can now only remember two. At about midnight I saw an older gentleman brought in by his son because he was having trouble breathing. I was able to determine that he was fluid overloaded due to advanced liver failure and a recent medicine change. This was based on the history that I obtained from his son and my physical exam because we do not have lab or X-ray available during the night (except for clear life or death decision points that prompt us to call staff to drive in from the surrounding community during the night). So I talked with his son about our treatment plan, his good short-term but poor long-term prognosis, and then started the treatment which I would modify based on the labs that could be done in the morning.

I went back up my house, but before falling asleep I was called again. It was about 2am…

A 21 year old girl with abdominal pain and nausea was brought into the ER in middle of the night. Her blood pressure was too low but she was conscious and it was not worsening, her abdomen was rigid, her blood sugar was too high for our machine to read and she was becoming deathly pale. She had a strange history of going to a different hospital the previous night, going home, resting, eating, then coming into our hospital for the same unbearable pain that had sent her to the other hospital.

I began to treat her identified problems individually, but was not sure of her unifying diagnosis. As I was trying to decide if I should call for help or lab, one of the nurses asked me to come quickly. I followed and she took me hastily to the room of my patient with liver failure explaining that she had just gone to check on him and found him dead. I entered the room where the patient’s son was by his bed – unaware that anything was out of order. I confirmed the patient was dead and then tried to gently but clearly explain to the son that his father had just died unexpectedly. After taking as much time as I felt I could, I went to check on my 21 year old female patient and found that her oxygen saturation was dropping. With my confidence shaken and my patient doing worse, I promptly called for help from the more experienced physcians.

Ultimately, we determined that she had a very dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) coupled with the even more deadly condition called sepsis. As we tried to treat her, we came to an impasse. The treatment for DKA is to rapidly but carefully lower the blood sugar while simultaneously addressing the acid-base and electrolyte disturbances created by both the disease and your treatment of the critically elevated sugar. To do this right, one needs to monitor and replete the electrolyte called potassium, while monitoring and correcting the acid-base status, and constantly titrating your insulin to lower the sugar (in the USA most hospitals purchase a proprietary software uses a complex computer model to anticipate the patient’s blood sugar responses and guide insulin titration).

Problem #1: Our acid-base test is so finicky it cannot be trusted.
Problem #2: Our electrolyte machine broke 2 days ago.
Problem #3: The country is shut down for COVID-19 so getting the replacement part will take at least a week.
Problem #4: Septic shock is the body’s final, unregulated and often devastating response to an overwhelming systemic infection. It’s treatment is to give copious fluids, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and start life-support measures like pressors and a ventilator while rapidly determining the source of the infection.

This is the tight rope we were walking:

If she becomes to acidotic she will die – and both DKA and sepsis create acidotic states.
If we leave her sugar that high she will die of sepsis – if we drop her sugar too fast and she goes too low – she will go into a coma and likely die.
If we do not give her adequate potassium near the time when her potassium begins to drop due to our treatment of high sugar – her heart will not be able to keep pumping – if we give her too much potassium, well, potassium is the drug of choice for lethal injection.

With these limitations, we did everything we could to help this young lady. We prayed for wisdom and healing and made our best educated guesses on what to correct – when.

Ventilator

For a while the patient was stable on two forms of life-support: pressors and a ventilator. I had spoken with her mother and our chaplain about the gravity of her situation (she had already required chest compressions and life saving medicines once that morning, which decreases the odds that she would survive to be discharged). I then went and saw my clinic patients. I checked on her several times throughout the day and I started to be hopeful that she might pull through. We arranged to split shifts to run her ventilator between 3 doctors who were not on general call that night (we do not have any respiratory techs or dedicated ICU nurses). I went home, explained to my girls in very basic terms why they hadn’t seen me for so long, and we said a prayer together for my patient.

That night, my patient’s blood pressure started dropping and despite chest compressions and meds, she died.

The next morning my 5 year old asked me how my patient was doing, the one for whom she was praying. I told her that she had died during the night.

“Why?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I answered. And I don’t know. I don’t know why she died.

Medically, I don’t know if she died from an infection for which I wasn’t covering, an electrolyte imbalance I caused or didn’t correct, or something I had no control over. Spiritually, I don’t know why God didn’t answer our prayers for this 21 year old girl, when other times he so miraculously intervenes (like in my previous shift when the man who was shot 4 times, twice in the neck and head, walked out of our hospital after prayers and surgery).

I understand the philosophical arguments for why bad things happen. Abstract discussions of love, free-will, the effects of sin on creation. But I don’t believe there is a simple or straightforward answer to my daughter’s question. I believe the best answer is either silence or “I don’t know,” followed by an example of continued faith and prayer that mourns and wrestles with what happened while faithfully doing the next right thing. The Bible says we walk by faith and not by sight. Despite what we see or cannot see around us, we keep walking in faith.

I was hurt and saddened by the loss of two patients from the same call shift. But I keep walking by faith. I trust that God is good and faithful.

Nevertheless I went into my third call shift with some trepidation and prayer that God would give me a little more time to recover before my next medical disaster. And I am happy to report that my third call shift was rather uneventful. That morning, as I was nearing the end of my third call shift, I gave thanks to God that instead of severely ill patients I had the opportunity to be on the other side of things. I helped a mother deliver a healthy baby boy into the world in the wee hours of the morning. And as I went home, I stopped at our overlook and took in this view:

Clearly to me, God is at work in our world. I don’t always understand how He chooses to work, nor do I always know how I should pray. But I hold onto the faith of Jesus Christ and trust that He will not allow us to be tested beyond what we can bear.

Blessings on you all,

Nathan Gilley

Please pray for our family as we continue to settle in, push through culture/COVID shock, and the newborn phase of sleep deprivation.

And please pray for the preemie baby in our hospital. Bethany provided breast milk for her until her mother’s milk came in, and the baby has survived almost a week now, but she has several more weeks before she’ll be out of the woods.

Quantum* Confession of a Child

On a crisp August morning in 2017, I stayed with my girls in our van while my wife ran into the Murfreesboro Sam’s for hot dogs. We had only two daughters back then, a 17 month old who could break hearts with the size of her grin or break ears with the decibel level of her dissatisfied scream, and a just-turned-three-year-old whose constant flow of questions and narration could transition from side-splittingly whimsical to deadly serious without so much as a comma. My 17 month old was happily strapped into her rear facing car seat (a rare event when the van was not in motion), and my 3 year old was content to stay in her car seat as long as we kept talking to each other. This segment of our conversation began with a question she had started asking both my wife and I on a semi-regular basis.

With a fact-seeking tone my daughter asked, “Daddy, you going to die?”

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“Yes, eventually I’ll die Elizabeth.” I said, resigned to repeat a conversation I felt that I’d had one too many times.

“Why?” she asked (as she tended to do after any declarative statement was made in her general vicinity).

“We all die eventually. Probably not soon, but one day,” I responded evenly.

“I’m going to die?” She asked casually.

“Yes. …Life is like a book,” I said, motioning an opening book with my hands. “We all have a start, like opening the cover, a lot of pages to turn, and then the book comes to an end.” I showed the book closing with my hands and passively hoped we could turn to more interesting topics of conversation, but alas my daughter followed my wonderful analogy by going back to her list of people that she occasional confirmed would eventually die.

“Granddaddy going to die?” she asked, again as if asking about the weather. Now you need to understand that ‘Granddaddy’ is and was my daughter’s only living great-grandparent, all the others had died, Sweetmama within Elizabeth’s memory (which is quite keen). But Granddaddy was a healthy 81 year old man who continues to live and work his farm outside of Memphis.

“Yes,” I answered – not giving an inch.

“Granddaddy going to die on the farm?” My little girl clarified.

I paused to think for a moment, “Probably so. I think he’d be happy to die on his farm,” I said reflecting on how much he dislikes going to the doctor’s office or hospital. Elizabeth paused for a moment and I wondered if she was thinking about which other people she needed to confirm would die someday, but she surprised me with a different line of questioning.

“Where would you be happy to die, daddy?” I thought for a moment about the complexity of the question my three year old had just posed. I wondered if I could express, simply enough for her to understand, my desire to finish life well and die exactly where God wants my family and me to be- wherever that is, pouring our lives into whatever community he puts us, arm-in-arm to the end. As I tried to find words to put into concrete terms the abstract thoughts floating in my head my daughter spoke up.

“I’d be happy to die on a cross.” She said with happy finality.

And then, as suddenly as the conversation had plunged into the depths of theodicy, teleology, and soul-baring-intimacy, my barely-three-year-old girl moved on to ask when mom would be back with hot dogs and where we were going next… unaware of the tears of pride, fear, joy & sorrow that I was left crying.


When does a young child become a follower of Jesus Christ? What marks the first real confession of faith? Perhaps, in a family that saturates their daily conversation with Bible stories, prayers, and talk of God – the exact turning point of becoming a follower of Jesus might be more of gradual process than a single decision point. Was Elizabeth making a first confession of faith? Who but God can know? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to faithfully present the gospel in our everyday activities, trusting God’s grace, until our children join us in that daily presentation.

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Proverbs 25:2

I think that many children who are raised intentionally in the faith, might find themselves in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ without being able to point to a discrete turning point or prayer (I myself came to such a realization in my childhood). I do not say this to diminish the importance of celebrating and remembering when a child begins to express a desire to follow Christ.

Recently I seemed to caused some confusion when I wrote, “I am thankful for Lydia’s recent confession of faith…” What I meant by this was, inasmuch as Bethany and I can know the heart of our child, it was evident to us by her statement and other choices, that Lydia was beginning to desire to follow Jesus. Let me give you some context:

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Each night of lent, as we moved the wooden figure of Jesus bearing a cross closer to the center of our 40 candle spiral, I would ask the girls several questions, one night the questions unfolded like this: “Where’s is Jesus going?” “Jerusalem!”

“Why is he going to Jerusalem?” “To die on the cross.”

“Is this an easy or a difficult thing for him?” “Difficult.”

“That’s right, it was difficult, so much so that Jesus sometimes didn’t want to have to go to the cross. But do you know what? Jesus was God’s son, and he obeyed his heavenly Father completely – no matter what. He never failed to obey God – even if it was hard or he didn’t feel like it.”

The quiet pause of contemplation afterwards told me that both of my older children were giving unusually devoted attention to my words. Then Lydia spoke up, “I want to obey like that.” I glanced at Bethany and we shared a look that agreed this was an important and weighty comment. We were impressed with Lydia’s grasp of the our fundamental problem (disobedience), and it’s solution (the obedience of Jesus Christ). Then, I tried to follow that up by saying, “That’s really good Lydia…” But as with little Elizabeth in the first story, the moment was gone as quickly as it arrived. My child’s attention had moved on to the all important question of who would get to blow the candles out.

To encourage, cement, and remember moments such as the ones above, Bethany and I have made a quilt for our home and children. Around the outside of the quilt are areas with symbols for the rituals and milestones of the Christian faith (Birth/Adoption, Infant Dedication, First Confession, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Vocation/Ordination, Marriage, Finishing Well, and Death/Glorification). Our quilt is a reminder to orient our lives, remembrances, and individual stories around His story. And as our children live into these milestones we celebrate them and eventually embroider those dates or time periods into our quilt. I think we will be embroidering the year 2020 for Lydia’s first confession of faith rather than a specific date.

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans 10:9


Please pray for:
-Honduras as a country. COVID19 restrictions are still tightening and a large portion of the people are at risk for hunger and not getting medical care for necessary (non-COVID19) things.
-A 12 year old patient in our hospital with an infected knee (ultimately this would end in a fused joint or amputation if we cannot eradicate the infection). Pray that he would walk again, hopefully even run.
-Wisdom, regarding our decisions for what to do next when COVID19 restrictions lift (returning to language school, staying at the hospital, or some hybridization)


*I used the adjective quantum  in the title, because the geeky side of me cannot help but see the similarities between subatomic particles and early childhood salvation. Perhaps a short explanation: the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is an interesting math proof in the field of quantum mechanics, showing that you cannot simultaneously know the position and the momentum of any given particle. The more clearly you define the momentum the less certain you can be of the position, and vice versa. A related idea that is sometimes confused with the uncertainty principle is the observer effect. The observer effect states that the systems and particles at the quantum level are so delicate that any process introduced to directly observe and determine the state of said particles will itself change the system. It is like a blindfolded kid trying to determine the shape of a house of cards by feeling with his hands without toppling the cards. The house of cards would be irrevocably changed by the observation.

A child’s confession of faith is much like a subatomic particle. It’s fleeting, it cannot be pinned down, or fully spelled out, and if you try to grasp it to directly, by asking a kid about it or if they want to say a prayer with you – the child will generally try to figure out what you want to hear and say that. I am convinced that there is a deeper significance and more resolved permanence when a child confesses Jesus as Lord from an intrinsic motivation rather than an extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivations are hard to teach, it’s more about modeling than telling, more about sharing excitement and coming along-side than leading or explaining. Extrinsic motivation is easy – peer pressure, candy, time-out, and stickers, are all external motivators – the child is not doing or avoiding an action for the sake of the external good, for something that is unrelated to the action. 


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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A Brief History in Snapshots

 

This is a brief overview of our recent time here in Honduras.

Bethany (with baby Hannah showing) learning to make pupusas during her last language class before we left Siguatapeque, Honduras for our trip across the country to our mission hospital for Hannah’s delivery. We left in the first week of March and Hannah was due March 26th.
Elizabeth and Lydia finishing up the Spanish alphabet in their last Spanish class -before what was meant to be a short 2-3 week trip to deliver Hannah and then return.
Days after our arrival at our mission hospital – Elizabeth, Lydia, Ruth and I are making a morning trip through the mangrove forest to the beach (letting mom have some peace and quiet). Our mission hospital, Hospital Loma de Luz, is strategically positioned in the midst of several underserved communities along the northern coast of Honduras.
Ruth is backpacked on me, because the walk from our guest house above the hospital to the beach is very steep. The mountains pretty much rise up immediately out of the coast and our houses and hospital are terraced up the side.
The beach is beautiful, and if you swim out a few hundred feet you can even find a coral reef.
The ocean side of this beautiful house on the left is where we get to live and weather the COVID19 pandemic. Shortly after our arrival at Loma de Luz, COVID19 began to spread across the globe.
Not long thereafter our food supply became a little bit irregular. This is a picture taken by one of our fellow missionaries and sent to us via Whatsapp meaning – Get down to the vegetable stand in Lucinda quickly – they have some veggies while supplies last.
I like to tell Elizabeth, “Be careful, it’s a jungle out there.” It took some explaining, but now she thinks its a little funny.
We have quiet time in the afternoons, but most of the time its too hot to really sleep, or even lay against mattresses and pillows The occasional ocean breaze is always welcome. And we are thankful for fans and the beauty of our enviroment.
This is the view from the water tower above the houses. Its fed by spring water. Our whole family hiked up to the water tower. One of many treks in the final week before Hannah came, trying to hurry things along. 🙂

On the day before Hannah was born my kids and I completed this video project with several of their friends.

10pm – Bethany at our house: “I’m having contractions.” Nathan: “Okay.”
11pm – Bethany at our house: “I think we need to get ready to go to the hospital.” Nathan: “Okay.”
12am – Dr. Anne at our hospital, “You’re pretty much completely dilated, are you ready to push?.” Bethany, “Yes.”
12:45am – Baby Hannah at our hospital, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah Aah Aah!”

2 hours after delivery, we’re heading back up the hill to the house! (Our next door neighbor is Dr. Anne, and there are some advantages to not having an epidural)
Lydia loves holding babies.
She’s pretty indiscriminate.
Elizabeth also loves to hold babies and help out. Its was hard for the girls to just let Hannah sleep so much of the day away when they had so anticipated her birth.

Getting the girls out of the house so mom can just think about taking care of herself and Hannah for a moment. This was one of our last truck trips as a family before Honduras began enforcing general quarantines, travel bans, work bans, beach bans, and strict curfews.
Fortunately, staying off the roads and not gathering together does not prevent us from going on hikes, visiting our neighbors in the hospital compound, and playing outside. 
Our front porch looking out at the ocean.

COVID19 in Honduras: on the left is a bleach spray down/check-point to enter the nearest major city. On the right is our hospitals COVID19 isolation/triage area where we were doing a practice run recently. (We haven’t seen any confirmed COVID19 cases at our hospital yet.)

On Good Friday, Bethany’s birthday, and Hannah’s 13th day of life, Bethany carried on our family’s tradition of hosting a passover seder during Holy week. This year we did the whole ritual meal and story telling in English and Spanish. Bethany made matzah from scratch (in addition to all the other feast foods, for our 14 place settings). We also had to substitute ginger for horseradish. My wife is incredible!

Bethany’s mom always bakes her a red velvet cake for her birthday. Also, Bethany’s mom also always comes and lives with us to help us through the first several weeks of the sleepless newborn period. But, a few days before Bethany’s parents were to come to Honduras to be with us, the borders closed due to COVID. Ergo, Bethany baked her own cake this year (the day after her birthday due to passover preparations)- and this is what happens when you let a red velvet cake cool to room temperature before icing it – but room temperature is 95 degrees fahrenheit. Thankfully – if you close your eyes (or leave them open) it still taste great. Ruth, “Yuuuuuuummm”
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On Easter morning we had a small open air gathering with our neighbors in our mission community. I read the resurrection account from John, and several of the children acted it out as we went. This is John (Josiah H) looking into the tomb, while Peter (Elizabeth G) catches up. (Ruth is dressed as an angel, ready to be popped into the tomb shortly)
Ruth somehow got something stuck in her left eye. And for nearly a week it did not move and we were unsuccessful at flushing it out with water. Ultimately with prayer and a little trepidation we took her into the hospital where Dr. Jeff and Rosanne sedated her and removed the foreign body without any complications. Thanks be to God.
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Most work in Honduras has been halted for almost a month now. In the communities around our hospital, this means people have run out of money and are running out of food. The hospital and the local churches are pooling resources to give out food bags to the families in need, to supplement the government’s relief efforts. Elizabeth, Lydia, and I went up into the mountains behind the hospital to this community to help give out food.
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As in the USA, all schools have been closed in Honduras. This is the mountain community’s one room school house that my kids were exploring with the neighbor kids and some fellow missionary kids
I hope you all get a glimpse of what life here is like for this time. I have began working in the clinic and taking call at our hospital during all this to prepare for whatever future God has for us. We don’t know when or if we’ll return to language school, so we’re trying to take things day by day and grow where we’re planted.

I am Thankful – A Million Times Over

If a picture is worth a thousand words, could a thousand pictures express my gratitude to God for bringing baby Hannah out of her mother’s womb and safely into the world in the wee hours of this morning? I don’t think so.

Nevertheless, I’ll try to capture these moment and my heart that is heavy with gratitude:

 

This is our entry in the Family book for Hannah’s birthday.

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Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
Keep us in your prayers as we add Hannah to our family life.
Grace and Peace to you all.

Nate Gilley

I Am Thankful Ten-Times Over.

Father God – I am thankful.

I am thankful for your loving faithfulness that gives me grace, peace, mercy and love each day anew.

I am thankful that you delayed our initial flights to Honduras, so that we canceled our visa trip – and are able to be here, in Honduras, at the mission hospital right now where I can ease into working at the hospital while we wait for Hannah to be born.

I am thankful that you expedited our Honduran Residency Status so we can stay here legally until well after Hannah is born when we receive all the documents needed to travel back to the USA with her.

I am thankful for an uneventful pregnancy thus far, that baby Hannah appears healthy, head-down, and ready to be born any day now.

I am thankful that we have plenty of food, clean water, and electricity while we wait out this country-wide quarantine.

I am thankful for a kind generous Christian community, a beautiful yard and jungle to romp about, and spacious home and that we are well.

I am thankful for Lydia’s recent confession of faith, while we were lighting our Lenten candle wreath, when, after discussing Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father in going to the cross, she said, “I want to obey like that.”

I am thankful for the ocean breeze, for starry nights, beautiful birds, curious insects, and cute lizards.

I am thankful for donors who are supporting us despite the uncertainty they face in their own situations.

I am thankful for good coffee, great books, and hammocks.

Blessings on all of you,
Nate & Bethany

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The Power of Words

Have you ever noticed the unusual relationship that we have with our words? It seems like our relationship with words should be a one way process: our mind forms thoughts that are turned into words then spoken. But like most natural and biologic process – it’s not so simple our straightforward. Instead, it is reciprocal- who we are and how we think shapes the words we speak (as above), but the words that we speak and think also give form and shape to our thoughts and the words that we speak shape who we are and how we think about ourselves. (If you’d like to skip my eloquent philosophizing and just read about how we’re doing – Click here – It won’t hurt my feelings that badly.)

Perhaps your mom told you, “Don’t say that!” After you spoke aloud some bad thing that seemed likely to happen but every one was hoping against (and avoiding speaking). My mother did, often. I remember trying to convince her that saying or not saying something can’t affect the outcome. I even remember trying to convince her that believing otherwise was superstitious and not compatible with Christianity. But despite my logical arguments I could not persuade my mother that our words were just simple powerless declarations. Although she couldn’t articulate why, deep down my mother, and most mothers know that all spoken words have reality bending properties that call for caution.

In my Biblical studies I have come to realize that my childish view and argument were completely wrong. The biblical world view is founded on the truth that we are made in the likeness or image of God. We are called and equipped to bear the image of the God, the same God who spoke this world into existence. Because of this our words, in lesser ways, are empowered to create and change His world. Furthermore, we Christians are called to strive towards Christ-likeness, to be like Jesus. In the gospel according to John we are introduced to Jesus as the Word made flesh. And throughout the New Testament we are called to be like the Jesus, the man who spoke with such faith and authority that the wind and waves obeyed him. And in case we wanted this to be a special divine-only type event, he said these words to his disciples when their words failed to cast our demons: “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (ESV)

Our older girls looking out on the mountains that encircle Siguatapeque.

Clearly our mothers were right. We should take care when we speak. Our words and language are designed to have power. And as we follow Christ, our language becomes even more important. The truth is we do not simply shape our language, it in-turn shapes us and our world.

If you’ve never spent significant time trying to communicate in a language that is not your first tongue, you may not have thought about the way that languages themselves are not neutral or one-way actors. Languages develop out of a reflexive cycle with their culture. If precise time is important in a culture (The United States) than the language lends itself, more and more, to communicating precise times with ease and clarity. If flexible time frames are important (Central America), then finding out the exact time for when something will start may be difficult, the language will have lots of wiggle room in case you need extra time to talk with your neighbor or grab a coffee. Otherwise, if love, accountability, pigs, or directness are important in a culture, then the language develops many nuanced and quick ways of expressing different types and qualities of those things.

The converse is also true. Sometimes whole concepts are missing from a language (from the viewpoint of another language), but this can be difficult to describe in the language where the thing is missing. And difficult to wrap your mind around when trying to learn or identify a concept you’ve never had or thought about. It is almost impossible to discover what concepts might be missing from your primary language without spending time trying to translate concepts to and from another language.

For instance, one concept that many Biblical scholars have lamented the lack of in English is a distinction between the singular and plural second person pronoun. Let me break that down for those of you who aren’t grammar nerds or presently mastering verb conjugations in Spanish: “I” is our first person singular pronoun, and “we” is our first person plural pronoun, but “you” is our our second person singular pronoun and “you” can also be used as our second person plural pronoun, but most of the time our context isn’t clear and people just think of themselves individually (singularly) if we say “you.” So we have several informal work-arounds: ya’ll, you all, you guys and you lot. This missing expression creates a large translation problem when the Biblical writers carefully distinguish (in their native tongue) that they are addressing the church altogether or individuals in the church. In English, both for cultural and linguistic reasons, we hear the Bible as though it were always addressing us individually. For instance, consider how you might understand and reflect on these verses differently if translated with the southern work-around:

For I know the plans I have for ya’ll, declares Yahweh, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give ya’ll a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

…Work out ya’ll’s salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in ya’ll, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-14, ESV)

(Check out this Blog post for a more in-depth discussion of the problem and an interesting solution: http://donteatthefruit.com/2013/05/texas-bible-second-person-plural-chrome-extension/)


Alright, let me tie all this back into the reason you all read this blog. Our family has been working hard to master a new language, learn new concepts and get to know a new group of brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ve been here almost a month and we hope we are just about to hit our stride. On some level, especially in our children, we are rewiring the ways our brain conceptualizes and process input and output (consider that most of your thinking occurs in your primary language). We are in the intensive program, so Bethany and I spend 4 hours a day one-on-one with a native Spanish speaker (and grammar nerd) plus independent homework and study time and regular community immersion as we walk to and from school, shop, worship, and explore Siguatapeque. In all of this we try to absorb as much as possible about the culture, idioms, beliefs, and language of the people we have committed to serve. Our older girls start each day with one hour of language school and then review with us throughout the day.

In this time of transition we are striving to be careful with our words (in both languages). When our children declare they do not like a staple food of Honduras, we encourage them to revise the statement from “I don’t like it!” to “It’s not my favorite.” When they have a melt down and declare they will never again play with the other, we remind them of our family’s words that we say to each other every night, “We love each other, no matter what.” We use leading questions when we know a two hour kid’s church class in Spanish was tiring and difficult for them: “That was hard but fun, wasn’t it?”

Personally, it would be easier for me to pull an example of the ways that Spanish seems deficient when translating from my English for this post (rather than the example from Greek to English above) but I want to be careful with my words. I do not want to reinforce my half-formed thoughts or frustrations with the power of written or spoken word. If a concept is not easily translated, it’s likely not to be very important to my listener so I should find a different approach rather than getting stuck on my dilemma. I want to model what I encourage my girls to do. To speak what is not only true but also noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. To speak and pray a deep and abiding love for the people, language, and culture of Honduras into our lives.

Three powerful words have shaped our reality in the last weeks:

Elizabeth calls our apartment here, “home.”

Ruth spoke the 5th & 6th words she has ever spoken, calling out, “agua” while reaching for her water cup. And “adios” as she waved goodbye to one of our Honduran teachers.

¡Agua!

Spanish Scholar Ruth


So my brothers and sisters, take care with your words. In the words of TobyMac, “Speak Life.” Understand the reciprocal relationship you have with your words, that your language does not just express how you feel or what you want, but it also firms up, reinforces, and at times creates how and who you and those around you will be.

These are our praises:
-We have wonderful neighbors in our apartments, with wonderful neighbor kids and a great enclosed yard where the children can play.

-We love our teachers and the language school, and we feel like we’re learning and improving our Spanish at a good pace.

-We’ve been healthy and well.

-Little Hannah (our fourth girl who is due March 26th) is still growing and kicking.

-The coffee is wonderful and plentiful.

-Their is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

These are our prayer request:
-That we would continue to make our home in Honduras and among its people.

-That we draw together as a family and love one another deeply through this transition and the emotional upheavals and stressors that go along with creating our home in another culture and striving to embrace different norms and routines.

-That Elizabeth and Lydia would find opportunities and age-mates to engage with local Honduran culture and language (our neighbors are also in language school and speak primarily English)

-That Bethany and I would have wisdom as we push our children to learn Spanish and give them space to struggle and relax from this process as appropriate.

-That we would know God’s will and have his guidance regarding the purchase of a vehicle

Grace & Peace to all of You


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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For I Know the Travel Plans I Have for You; Part 2

I will skip the dramatic build up and simply say: by the grace of God we have arrived safely in Honduras, all the way to our language school apartment, with all our children and all our bags.

God is Good.

Our week has been a busy, thank you for your prayers. Things have gone a smooth as we dared to imagine.

God allowed us to reschedule our flights with minimal cost, immediately after the embargo ended. He allowed two family members to be available on very short notice to travel with us to juggle luggage, children, and it first week in Honduras.

Here is a run down of our week:

Monday: We loaded our minivan with 12 plastic totes, 5 full size suitcases, 5 carry on bags, 4 carseats, 1 stroller, 1 violin, ( and a partridge in a pear tree). All of our checked bags were carefully packed by my wife, weighed, repacked, and weighed again till each came in between 48 and 49.5lbs.

Tuesday: 2am wake up, 2:30am left the house, 3am checked-in and checked bags, 4am prayers and send off, 5:45am departed Nashville for Miami, 9:45 departed Miami for Honduras. 12pm touch down in San Pedro Sula airport. 1am Visas, Claimed luggage (every single piece with everything inside unbroken and present) and transported all that through customs (with the help of 4 Honduran airport workers). 3pm Pick-up truck loaded with bags and we began the drive from San Pedro Sula to Siguatapeque. 5pm arrived in the apartment where will live for most of the next 6-7 months.

Our Apartment Building

Our Apartment on the “Hospital” Road

Entrance gate, Yard, and Ramp to our Door

Entrance, Living Room, & Kitchen of our Apartment

Back Porch View in the Early Morning

Wednesday: Awoken early by Ruthy who enjoyed many naps in Tuesday and believes that roosters’s crowing should not go unheeded. Deep clean of kitchen, Began unpacking, Grocery run (it’s hard stocking a kitchen from scratch in Honduras), Discussed and signed language school contracts.

Thursday: Language school began. 4 hours of class time for Bethany and I (staggered to allow us to keep the kids). The classes are one-on-one with teachers in and around a beautiful home. 1 hour of class for the girls. Still unpacking.

Friday: Language school: class time, plus homework, plus immersion time. Still unpacking, Beginning to find routine.

As I hope you can see, between the above tasks, and simply keeping or children fed, watered, and rested – we’ve barely had a moment to spare. I apologized for the cliffhanger that my last post may have been for some of you. And thank you for the prayers that worked to smooth out the problems and obstacles we did not even see.

Prayer request:

-Safe return travel for the 2 family members that came down with us.

-That our family would embrace, with all our hearts, the language, culture, and people of Honduras.

-That we would work with excellence, perseverance, and joy to become Spanish speakers (especially pray for my girls attitudes towards the overwhelming task of learning a new language)

-That we would transition well and gracefully (especially in our attitudes towards each other in our family) through changes in culture, church, school, language, friends, neighbors, security, and life itself in these next months.

As always, thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement and support.

Grace & Peace,

Nathan Gilley

For I Know the Travel Plans I Have for You

For I know the travel plans I have you

The last weeks have been a rich outpouring of love, goodbyes, encouragement, blessing, and gifts. We know that the church universal and through them, almighty God, loves us. Thank you for the letters, donations, carbon-composite violin, blessings, prayers, hugs, and tears.

I know that many of you have been praying for us today, thank you. Please continue to pray for us as we keep you posted.

The morning was interesting. We set off to the Nashville airport with all of our children and luggage, ready to depart for Honduras. In the airport we found ourselves surrounded by family, friends, and our pastor. But at the ticketing counter we encountered an obstacle.

“A travel embargo is currently in effect for all luggage going to Honduras,” The lady behind the ticketing counter said, with no small amount of concern as she looked at our luggage.

But we had already read about the embargo in the fine print and having reviewed the criteria with our travel agent we confidently explained, “We understand, but we only have two checked bags per person, all less than 50 pounds, all less than 62 linear inches.” Knowing the embargo was in effect for the duration holiday travel, we had planned to only move with our family’s essential luggage in this first trip. With great care, my wife had packed every square inch of 7 action-packer totes and each one weighed approximately 49.5 pounds (literally, and that requires a lot of repacking and weighing).

But apparently, the awesome rugged totes into which we packed our most essential earthly possessions, fell in the category of box rather than typical luggage, and the ticketing agent as well as her co-workers and supervisor could not allow us to check our totes. We called Samaritan’s Purse and our travel agent and began working our options:

No fee or fine could be paid to wave the restriction. No other luggage, of even half the size, could be purchased for us to transfer and repack. We had friends and family check in every direction: No at every other airline desks, no at the gift shop, no at the unclaimed luggage area downstairs, and finally our pastor even made a Walmart run to see if he could get to and from Walmart with enough luggage and spare time for us to repack and board. (Apparently a group of about 20 short term missionaries had bought out all the luggage they could purchase in the airport to get around the same problem.)

In this scramble, the peace of God transcended our group, and we began to step back and realize that we were not going to make our flights with our luggage, and that was okay. With a baby on the way, a 1 year old, 3 year old, and 5 year old – going without our luggage was not an option (there are no quick or straight-forward shipping options to Honduras either).

In that moment I quietly quoted Jeremiah 29:11 aloud to my Father-in-law and children, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Its odd, is it not? The paradox of our faith. Moments like today are polarizing, they force you to either lean in and trust God, or pull away and distrust God. We chose trust. Over and over God has shown me that he does have a plan, and a much more comprehensive planning and purposing strategy than I could ever imagine. I do not understand why I’m writing from Tennessee instead of Honduras tonight, but I trust that He has His reasons.

So we wait. We came home to Mimi and Poppy’s and we are resting and beginning another round of logistical considerations to determine when we will take our next steps of faith, be it tomorrow or next week. We’ll keep you posted.

As we were leaving the airport Lydia said, “I don’t want to go back, I want to go to Honduras.”

The Peace of Jesus Christ be with you.
-Nate

 


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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Thank You for Spending Yourself

Advent is upon us. The first season of the Christian year. A season of preparation to make ourselves ready for the dawning of a light in our darkness – the birth of Jesus celebrated at Christmas. The call of preparation for my family this season is to pack up our things, say our good byes, and board a plane for Honduras in about thirty days.

Thank you for equipping us and helping us get set. With your donations we have been able to fully pay for our first flights and all of our travel vaccines – that’s around $6,000. To all of you who gave cash gifts, paid far too much for a t-shirt, or went online to give- May the Lord bless you (and if you’ll read this blog to the bottom – Elizabeth will bless you too!)

Lately I have been reading and studying Isaiah 58. It is a prophecy of rebuke with a promise of blessing. I hope you will hear the context and then receive its blessing. In this section Isaiah is prophesying to Israel’s uppermost class. They had been carefully doing all the religious motions of sacrifice and fasting while at the same time neglecting and abusing pretty much everyone else. Yet they were confused by the way God seemed distant, even angry. They thought doing all the right worship ceremonies, prayers, and fasts was supposed to automatically equal God blessing them – no matter how they acted toward their neighbor. So God rebukes them through the prophet:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday…

This Advent and always, may we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and the oppressed, may we loose the chains of injustice, and may the Lord Almighty bless us with a light dawning in this darkness to heal us.
May you know the ultimate joy of loving God and neighbor: of being with and for the wanderers and outcasts among us, so when the glory of the Lord comes among them (even as He came forth many years ago – an infant that was naked, bloody, and crying – God almighty saying, “Here am I”) may you be in the right place at the right time to behold His glory, bow before Him and say, “My Lord and my God.”

We pray and believe that God will make us an instrument of his light and healing as we go. As you give and have given, you are spending yourselves on behalf of the poor, injured, and hungry – to bring light and healing through Jesus Christ.

To the elderly couple nearing the end of their sojourn, giving 100 dollars a month out of their modest retirement- thank you for spending yourself on behalf of the hungry.

To the young doctors still under the weight of massive educational debt giving regularly – thank you for spending yourself on behalf of the hurting.

To the children who gave up half of their hard earned lawn mowing wages – thank you for spending yourselves on behalf of the less fortunate children.

May the Lord bless you, draw near to you, and may the light of his face shine upon you.

If want an opportunity to receive this blessing – good news! We still have opportunities for partnership. The majority of what we have been given so far has been one-time gifts. Thank you for getting us off the launch pad, now we need regular gifts. We estimate we’ll need about $3,000 dollars a month and we have about $1,000 dollars committed (If you’d like more details click here or email me at nathangilley@gmail.com).

Giving online is easy – you should go ahead and do it right now by following the instructions below (if you prefer to give by phone or mail learn how by going here).

2) Scroll Down and type “Gilley” in this text box:
1
3) Click on the “Gilley, Nathan and Bethany” box that comes up under that text box
2
4) Type in the amount that you would like to give each month then mark “Monthly” to the right of “Donation Type.
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5) Click “Checkout” then follow the instructions to designate where the funds come from (bank account, credit card, debit card, etc)


These are two video clips that I hope will bless you. They are of my eldest two daughters acting and reciting relevant scriptures in the last few years.

May you love God and your neighbor:

May you be found among the outcast when and where God shows up:

In Christ,
Nathan, Bethany, Elizabeth, Lydia, & Ruth


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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Go!

You hear the command, “Runners to your mark.” Your heart rate increases, and you try to relax as you step in front of the blocks, staying behind the line, while try to keep limbering up as all the other runners make their way to their positions. You focus your being on the run to come, carefully place your thumbs and index fingers just behind the starting line, you take deep calming breaths.

“Ready!”

You immediately shift your weight forward towards your fingers, loading your leg muscles for an explosive push out of the blocks and remain there, poised and completely still. With disciplined focus you push out the cheering and distractions to focus all of your being, ready for action, awaiting the signal. Wait… adrenaline flooding your system, wait… an eternity – a second, wait… for the gun blast.


Starting Blocks at Vacant Starting Line Before Event
Base image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53370644@N06/4976494944

Bethany and I are getting into the starting blocks. We are selling and giving away our things, packing and storing what we must. Our family is being vaccinated for tropical diseases, travel plans are being finalized, plane itineraries weighed, my 90 day notice has been submitted. We are on track to go to Honduras this January and then serve the dire medical needs of Honduras in a mission hospital. But honestly, we do not have the funds necessary – we are obediently getting into the blocks – but it feels like our shoes are not tied and the blocks are set up wrong (its a terrible feeling in case you’ve never run track). We are set to take the next step of faith – to run the race set before us – but we need your help to start and run well – financially.

Right now we have $770 in our Samaritan’s Purse account, we have received a total of about $1700 dollar in one time gifts including what was raised with the t-shirts. But we only have one couple that has started giving us monthly gifts, they are giving $30 a month. Bethany and I have not been idle, we are working hard, stewarding our money, and seeking to faithfully present our calling and work to the body of Christ. With lean living, extra shifts, and the support of our family we have paid off school loans and are debt free – praise be to God. We similarly commit to stewarding your money well. We need you to commit to supporting us on a monthly basis. At a minimum, we need a total of $3,000 each month in support to meet our family expenses for this first year. (See detailed expenses break down)

If you can give $5 a month – please do so, we will treasure it. If your children want to donate some portion of their allowance or earned money – awesome. Our first commitment for ongoing support came from two boys who are pooling their lawn work earnings to give us 5 dollars a month for the first year.*

If you can give $50 or $100 a month – Wow, Thank you.

Many of you have committed to giving us support, and are just waiting for the appropriate time to start giving. The time is now. We need to be paying for our vaccines, plane tickets, and paper work out of our Samaritan’s Purse Project account rather than our personal emergency fund.

Please give now by click on the giving icon below, typing in “Gilley,” and marking your donation type monthly.

Give Icon

For more information on our needs and different ways to give, go to our Support>Give page.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

Grace and Peace,

Nathan Gilley

*For those of you who are detail oriented, this sum is not included in our to-date-total because these two are waiting till the end of mowing season before they calculate and give a portion of their total earnings.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not the views of Samaritan’s Purse or World Medical Mission.


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