I have reflected a lot recently on how often I may take for granted the good welfare of my own family. Not that we have been immune to difficulties in our families health in recent years. It is just important for me to remember, and if I can encourage you as well, that whenever we find ourselves being tested, we can first look for the blessings, and recognize that many around the world are not afforded the same.
In particular, regarding health care. In the first couple of hours of this New Years day morning, a close young friend of ours, Tony, in Tijuana had a celebratory firework explode in his face. He was burned very badly, and his friends rushed him to the hospital. You may remember we have explained that third world hospital care is in no way comparable to what is available in this country. Our young friend was only cleaned up a bit, head and face wrapped, and sent home with pain meds. As soon as my friend sent me a photo of his son in bed, with what could have been 1st and 2nd degree burns, I knew that he would need greater care. I put the word out on Facebook, and within 30 minutes, a missionary colleague messaged me information for an emergency contact that would be more helpful. Our friends also got him to another clinic, where he underwent more specialized care, including having an eye doctor check his eye which was badly burned (amazingly, the doctor assessed that Tony should not have permanent eye damage). The greatest part of this story, is what happened around this. We had over 50 people respond on Facebook, praying, many of you included. Day by day, our young friends’ family witnessed his face heal, and transform before them. Hands down, nothing short of a miracle! We could not be more grateful, and happy for his outcome. Tony (22 yrs old) is the same young man we have written you about over the years, having known him since he was 10. We helped him with private school when his public school had to drop kids from their over crowded roster. He still dropped out a couple of years early to go to work, then decided to return at 19 to finish high school, paying for the private tuition himself. And Tony had recently decided to start college in the coming fall semester! It takes great determination for a young person to succeed in a third world nation, where little help is provided through government or private means.
One of our other sponsored young people in college, Jasmin, became ill when her school schedule demands, along with working a job for long hours with little pay, caused her to nearly collapse from exhaustion and malnourishment. She was forced to get a job to pay for a room to rent when her household became too chaotic for studying due to the environment of a very poor and drug infested neighborhood. Jasmin took a break, and is now healthy. She plans to return to school in a couple of months.
I recently sat with another man whose family had to relocate to Mexico with him, after facing deportation due to an incomplete citizenship status. He is a Godly, law abiding, self-made career man, struggling greatly with the culture shock, and strain this relocation hardship has put on he and his wife and 2 small children. Employment, housing, food, available basic needs - all a much greater challenge in a third world. Not to mention the isolation and the challenge of starting over in a strange land with no extended family or friends.
Similar circumstances reminds me of another young friend, making amends for an unplanned mistake, in a prison yard, surrounded by others in similar dire straights. We find ourselves with every visit, written letter, and phone call, giving him the same encouragement - “just remember there are many others in your situation or worse. Pray for them as you face your own obstacles.”
I often check myself when giving this kind of encouragement, as I can not imagine facing any one of the hardships mentioned above. And of course, we have our own, as do you. But we believe that true hope and in encouragement can be found in faith. These are just a few stories where we pray that we have helped nurture other’s HOPE.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep,
so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope”. 1 Thessalonians 4:13