Dec 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." Luke 1:31

Merry Christmas!

I’m writing this entry from the Narita Airport in Japan. I’m on my way home for a little over two weeks. It’s hard to believe that it’s already Christmas. These last two months have gone by so incredibly fast. Part of me is pretty excited to see my family and spend the holidays at home. But part of me is sad with how little time I have left. I think I spend too much time thinking about that, actually—thinking about how much more I want to do and how little time remains for me to do it all. Forming relationships takes time, but that’s one commodity I haven’t felt an abundance of lately. I’m a third of my way through my time as a student missionary. Wow. I don’t want to think about that…

But let me shift away from the future. The last few weeks have been pretty fantastic. First we had our CBS program (Christmas Bible School). Technically, it couldn’t be called VBS because the students are not on break yet. But that didn’t stop them from coming. We had 50-60 kids or so every night, and we would sing songs, make crafts, put on a play, and give them memory verses to learn. As it so happened, the night we started our program, a necro started down the road. So every night, the SMs and AY would put on the children’s program, wait around for a little while, go to the necro, and then come back to the church to play games or just hang out for a while. The evenings were long, but fun and very good.

The Monday after that, we had ourselves an adventure day. The SMs and AY went out to Burgos to check out three awesome spots. First we went to this local, historic lighthouse. We climbed to the top of it and got to look out over the ocean. The view was pretty remarkable. After that we drove down the road to a beautiful rock formation. It’s right along the ocean and looks like the rock has been hand-carved. The place was very pretty and had some nice climbing spots, for the more adventurous. Then we ended up at Kaangrian Falls. It’s a waterfall tucked back in the hills. We walked for about 20 minutes to get there, and when we arrived it was an incredible sight. It was a pretty little oasis in the woods. Unlike Kabigan Falls, which are closer and easier to get to, at Kaangrian you can do more swimming. There’s even a cave under the falls that you can swim through. It was pretty fantastic. We decided that we needed to return there and perhaps explore down the falls further.

Last Saturday night we had an AY Christmas party. There were about 20 people who showed up, and we all crammed ourselves into the upper room. We did a white elephant gift exchange, ate lots of cookies and popcorn, and watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Fun stuff!

Oh, this month we also got ourselves a kitten. Before I came, the group had one, but it died in the typhoon. So it was about time we got another pet.  Sundae, as we call her, is white with light brown and dark brown patches and streaks, making her look pretty near to a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and caramel sauce. She’s very social and has grown a lot in the last couple weeks. Honestly, we’re pretty thankful she’s alive. The second day we had her, she was nearly killed by a dog. It picked her up and shook her hard. She took a few days to recover, but now she’s a happy and healthy kitten. I imagine by the time I get back she’ll be getting pretty big.
Well, in about ten hours I’ll be home. And I’ll most likely be freezing. See you on January 12, Pagudpud!

Dec 11, 2010

My Alter-Ego

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Sometimes I feel like my own alter-ego.
There are times here when I sit down with someone I don’t know, and we start to talk, and we laugh with each other, and I’m listening to the stories on their hearts—and my mind takes a moment to step away and look in on the situation from the outside. I look at where I am, who I am talking to, and what we are saying.
And I wonder, Is that me?
I felt it a little while working at camp, but not nearly like this. At times I wonder what some people from America would think of me if they observed me here, and what people here would think of me if they observed me in America.
Of course I am still me. The attributes I have here and the attributes I have in the west are all a part of me. It’s just some are more easily visible in certain places. I suppose that’s one reason why I like it here so much: I like how easy it is to be who I want to be. For some reason I have a lot more courage here. For some reason it is much simpler to talk with people and pray with people in Pagudpud, to be more outgoing and adventurous and not let fear or uncertainty get in the way of doing what I really want to do. I’m still trying to figure out why that is…
Perhaps it has something to do with having the official “Student Missionary” title. Or maybe it has to do with how white people are received here. Or maybe it’s related to the easy-going Filipino lifestyle. I don’t know. But I like it.
It’s my prayer that I can continue living in this way when I return to the states. I hope that I will be able to keep growing more and more, and overcome my hesitations or uncertainties of getting to know people. I don’t want to leave this Katelyn in the Philippines when May rolls around.  So in the meantime I will continue solidifying my characteristics. And enjoy doing so!

Nov 20, 2010

What Exactly are You Doing, Katelyn?

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." Ecclesiastes 9:10

So what type of missionary am I? What do I do?

Good question.

I’m not really a teacher. I don’t work in an orphanage. I’m not an assistant in a hospital. For that matter I have no boss telling me what to do from day to day. So what do I do?

Whatever God prompts me to do.
Living and working here fits my personality so incredibly well. Everything is different from day to day. I talk and visit with people. I sing and speak and help with services. I play with children. I plan events. I live and I talk and I act as I believe God would have me live and talk and act. It’s definitely a ministry of presence, but that doesn’t mean I sit around doing nothing all day. I’m amazed with how much I do with my days here. I would not recommend my situation to those who thrive on routine or schedules or well defined roles and guidelines. But for me, it’s great!
Let me give you a glimpse of what I do.
This week we mourned the loss of a church member in a neighboring barangi. Here, funerals (called necrological services) are a big deal. They are weeklong or more affairs with a service happening at the family’s house every night. We went 3 nights to pay our respects, 17 of us piling into the IHSA van.
The First Night
More decoration was added
on subsequent nights
My very first time in the Philippines (my very first night, in fact) I went to a necrological service, so I knew what to expect. But it can be quite the shock for a westerner. The deceased is embalmed right after death and placed in a casket with a glass coving and a wooden lid. A sort of memorial is created around the casket in the family home. So when you arrive, you come and sit inside the house, right next to the body—and try to act like you can’t see it (you get used to it, though). Then you sing songs altogether, pray, have a special music, and someone gives a short talk. Then there’s a final song, a prayer, and the snacks come out for everyone to enjoy. That’s how it goes every night. A candle is lit constantly during the whole length of the necro, which can last up to weeks if many people come from all over to pay their respects. We spent a lot of time participating in the services this week.

Our Jeepney From Afar

Yesterday we had a bit of an adventure. We made the trek to the church in Adams, a mountainous town about an hour and a half’s drive away from Pagudpud Central. I’d never been there before, so I was excited to go. I’d also never ridden in a jeepney before, so I was even more excited. We’ve been wanting to go for a while, but the road to get there is very rough and especially treacherous during rainy season. Even though it had been decently dry for a while, we still rode through a fair amount of water. There were at least 3 waterfalls that incorporated our road into their routes. It was quite an adventurous trip. Good conversation with new friends made it even more enjoyable.

The Bridge
Unfortunately, we had other appointments to keep and had to go back after just a few hours of worship and fellowship with the members there. We’re planning on going back later and spending the night. That way we can do some more hiking up there. But oh, how beautiful it is up there. It is so quiet and peaceful, lacking the hustle and bustle of living in a central town. The church rests in a dip in the peaks, which means you can turn every which way and see the green mountains touching the sky. It is so gorgeous and beckons for quests into the wilderness. We are undoubtedly going back. We did have a slight bit of questing though. On the way back, we took a suspended foot bridge across a river. It wasn’t as frightening as I had supposed it would be, but it was a thrill nonetheless.
There you go—a small snapshot of what life is like here. Who knows what this next week will bring. Every day is different, every moment an adventure. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something more. But then I go play with the neighborhood kids and sing “Jesus Love is A-Bubblin’ Over,” and I’m more than satisfied.

Nov 8, 2010


"Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King." Psalm 149:2

Sometimes I sit. Or I stand. Or I talk. Or I listen. Or I gaze. Or I sing.

And the moment is--full.

I wonder if you know what I mean. I imagine you do.

There are these moments where I find time stands perfectly still, allowing me to soak in the wonders of the universe. These moments that are pure and real and good. These moments that fill my heart with life and love and depth. These moments where I feel blessed almost to the point of aching, that I might burst from God's lavishness at any moment.

Sunday, I sat on the ground and watched three girls jumping rope in the late afternoon sun. They were showing me their skills and simply having fun. I laughed and clapped and cheered. And then I just sat there. Full. And I thanked God for that moment.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon talking with two wonderful ladies who I hadn't talked with much previously. We just talked about life and ate lots of food. They are such loving women, so full of life and beauty. I was so overcome by their smiles, their words, and especially their hearts. At one point I just sat and listened and thought, "Wow. I love them so much!" I was so grateful just to be in their presence, talking with them, eating with them, praying with them. It was simple, but somehow holy.

I just came in from outside where the rain is pouring. I had been making the way from a house back to the church with several other SMs when we came upon several girls with umbrellas. I crouched down next to one girl and huddled under her umbrella, sharing with her a big smile as we proceeded to walk. I walked and talked with the girls, asking their names and where they were going. "School," was the answer. "Where are you going?" I was asked. We were passing the church, the other SMs branching off towards it. I looked at the girls and shrugged. "School." They laughed. I continued to walk with them. Sopping wet and laughing, I was so full of utter joy and freedom. I walked with them another block until they made a turn at the road. I waved a goodbye, and they reciprocated. All the way back to the church I couldn't stop smiling.

They are just moments. Life is made of billions of them, I suppose. But each one seems everlasting in a way. I thank God so much for blessing my heart, for bringing me here. Of course, as with anywhere, there is pain. Life is not perfect. There are messes here as much as America.

But somehow, goodness lingers. Life is slowed, allowing one to drink it in so much deeper. Leaving one completely and simply...full.

Oct 30, 2010

The Arrival of the Atypical

"Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you..." Genesis 26:3
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “typical” student missionary. We’re all in such different circumstances and positions, surrounded by different people, facing different hardships and joys. We have much in common, but I don’t believe there is one picture that paints what student missionaries look like.
However, if I did believe such a thing, I would consider myself far removed from the “typical” label. I arrived here on Tuesday, October 26, around about the three month anniversary of many SMs being in their countries. I settled into my room in the pavilion, feeling much like moving back into a previous home. The rest of the missionaries left on a trip shortly after I arrived, and as I stay here, the only American for miles, I feel far from lonely and isolated. I’ve spent the last few days getting reacquainted with friends and local church members. Rather than spending my year creating lesson plans and grading at late and odd hours of the day, I’ll be having a fairly abundant amount of time for reflection, reading, writing, and spending time with God.
My first week here, I haven’t been homesick or in culture shock (I believe I’ve crossed those bridges in years passed). I don’t doubt that I’ll be homesick at points while I am here, but as for this beginning, I’ve had nothing but a pleasant time. Sabbath was enjoyable, filled with meeting new people and refreshing previous acquaintanceships, plus a tiny potluck which slightly reminded me of the Hatter’s tea party in Wonderland, much to my inward chuckle.
The Riveral family is acting as our guardians here. At nights, the Riveral children sleep in the pavilion with me so I’m not alone. Last night I taught them how to play Pit. Oh. My. Word. They loved it! We literally played for hours. I’ve never played so much Pit. We had to have been keeping up the neighbors with our yelling and laughing and our fighting over spoons. I’m certain that if we play again, there will be casualties—I have grown quite sympathetic for silverware and cards. I will undoubtedly have to pick up a new deck when I reach America again.
I’ve only just begun my time here. I know there will be a mixture of hardship and joys, like anywhere on earth. But for now, I’m just soaking in the wonders of this land, and thanking God for the blessings He brings my way. Blessings like a wet, blustery Halloween to keep in tradition with all the previous years of my life.

Oct 28, 2010

Detour Blessings, Part 3

"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. " 1 John 4:12

You cannot give if you have nothing to give. Seems pretty simple. If Jonny has no apples and he gives two apples to Sally…Sally better check what she actually received.
I’m writing this entry a little later than I had anticipated writing it. I’m sitting by myself in the terminal at SEA-TAC. I just said goodbye to my mom and dad, and in saying goodbye I was reminded how much I love them and how much they love me.
During my extended time at home, I’ve gotten to stay longer with my mom, dad, brother, and new sister. I’ve gotten to see and talk with incredible friends. I can’t tell you how many people have been praying for me, writing me cards, notes, and emails, and have been supporting me through this sickness twist. Before going out to give of myself to others, I received so much from those around me. It’s been incredible.
And I think that one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned (or relearned, I suppose) through all this experience is that simple math equation which remains at the heart of service: you need apples to give apples and you need God’s love to receive God’s love.
I thank everyone for filling me up with the Lord’s love because that’s exactly what I need as a student missionary and as a child of God. I, like you, need His love for myself. I need it for nourishment and growth and understanding. But I, also like you, need it to give it. I’ve been fueled up in excess in preparation to give, and this has reminded me that I constantly need to be fueling up on God’s love—receiving from Him and also from His servants.
It’s a pretty cool process really. We receive to give so that others may receive and in turn give. It’s an exponential web of love, a marvelous design by the Father. So my challenge to myself and to you, dear reader, is that you may practice receiving. For once we have truly received, we have the heart to truly give.
I love love and could talk about it for quite some time. But right now I have a plane to catch. It’s time to give.
Love to you.

(P.S. I'm posting this a couple days after arriving. I'll write something more recent soon) 

Oct 20, 2010

Detour Blessings, Part 2

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34,35

It’s about time part 2 made its way onto the internet.
I lay down on the table and stared up at the ceiling. It was dark and a little chilly in the room. A little woman with bushy hair entered after a few minutes and pulled up a seat next to me. She began fiddling with her computer.
“Hi,” I said at last.
I rolled my eyes around the ceiling again. I was about to start my echocardiogram, a test that would take half an hour.  I was hoping awkward greetings wouldn’t be the only thing the technician and I said to each other in that time.
“So…how are you doing today?”
She looked over at me. “Uh, I guess I’m okay.” She turned back to her computer while continuing, “How about you?”
“Oh, I’m alright. Kinda hoping to figure out all this business soon so I can go back to work. But can’t complain too much.”
“Well that’s good…” She started her test, her eyes scanning my heart on the monitor.  “Where do you work?”
“At a summer camp. I’m usually a counselor there, but I haven’t been there in a week because of all this.”
“Oh yeah? Sounds like a tiring job.”
“A bit.” I laughed. “Days off are always nice. But it’s really great. I love working with kids. You have fun and get to do a lot of good. You give them a chance to really be who they were meant to be, you know? You get to step out of yourself and just spend a summer helping others. At least, that’s the hope.”
She nodded and smiled. “Yeah, that’s really nice. You like service?”
“Oh definitely! It’s the way to go.” I smiled.
“That’s what I like about working for Virginia Mason: it’s all very service and people oriented. I worked for another company in California where, I don’t know, everything seemed to be about business. But here it’s about people.” Her eyes were starting to light up in the dim room.
“That’s awesome!” I let her work in silence for a few minutes. “You know, I’m really hoping to get everything figured out soon—I’m supposed to be flying to the Philippines to serve as a missionary for the year.”
“Oh really? Where? What will you be doing?”
I filled her in on some of the details. Then she asked, “Is this church-related? Or is it a program with your school?”
“Well, kind of both. I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist and our schools are very mission oriented. About a hundred from my college go every year.”
“Huh, I dated a Seventh-Day Adventist a couple years ago. You know, if everyone just followed what Ellen White wrote, we’d only have half as many people in our hospitals.”
I laughed in surprise and agreed with her. For the rest of my echocardiogram, we talked about Ellen White, Adventism, service, and our purposes in life. When she was done, we thanked one another for a good conversation, and she wished me the best of luck in the Philippines.
I’m pretty sure just about every medical person I’ve come in contact with these last few months knows I’m going to the Philippines. I’ve had a number of conversations about service and humanitarianism and God, sometimes in very unusual ways. Well, maybe all in unusual ways. This whole time, it’s felt like I have this team of medical staff all prepping me to go. Every new nurse, technician, and doctor is sort of sucked into this deal with me, making my solitary little flight over seem to be much more.
My final post-op appointment with Dr. Crider, she made me promise to send her a post card once I arrive in Pagudpud. She’s been on a couple of mission trips herself and hopes to return to the mission field soon. She’s been doing her best to make sure that I can leave as soon as possible, and I don’t intend to disappoint.
At times, I’ve felt like a sort of rallying figure, or that little voice of a reminder. All these people from all these clinics and hospitals, they’ve all been serving in a mission field for years. Not only do they help heal people and bring the tremendous blessing of healthy living, but they help make it possible for others to go out and serve as well. It was my pleasure to remind them (and seriously thank them) for all that they’ve been doing and all that they stand for in their careers. And after receiving such a blessing from them, it’s my turn to take this healthy life I’ve been given and use it to pass on blessings to others. I’ve seen that it’s quite impossible to go out and serve just as myself. As I leave America, I represent so many people who have put their energy, money, time, and prayers into my year abroad. They are all serving. Through all this, I’ve come to understand just how, well, big mission work and service is. It’s not about the single student missionary off in some corner of the world. It’s not about me.
It’s about us. And it’s about God. All together. That’s big.

Sep 27, 2010

Detour Blessings, Part 1

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16

There was one girl who needed to see the power of prayer.

It was my first week back after my medical absence, and my diagnosis was still up in the air. A diagnosis is a pretty important thing really. It could mean the difference between that horrible headache being a migraine or an aneurysm. In my case, severe anemia could be the symptom of a virus, some sort of genetic disorder, a marrow targeted disease…It could be simple, or it could be serious.

I decided to tell my cabin about my situation. I guess they didn’t have to know, but it seemed like I ought to tell them, so early in the week I explained what I was facing. And let me just pause here to say that my teen cabin was absolutely and incredibly fantastic! I charge anyone the task of finding a more caring and compassionate group of girls. They were God’s gift to me in so many ways.

Suddenly I wasn’t a counselor for teen campers: I was a counselor for prayer warriors. One girl, though, was a little skeptical. She’d experienced a fair share of pain in her life, and the idea of a loving God who answers prayer was somewhat foreign. When I would pray with her, she never quite seemed convinced about the whole matter.

My day off arrived, the day I would find out if I was making blood again, the day I would learn if things were more serious. It was hard to leave my cabin of wonderful girls, but when I finally did, there were hugs and shouts of “I’ll be praying for you!”

The next evening, I stood at the back of Cedar Island as the preliminary songs were being sung for campfire. I wiped my eyes dry and went to sit with my cabin, most of whom shot me anxious looks. As soon as we were all dismissed to go, my cabin shot up from their seats and asked me the news. When I told them my retic. count was up and I was making blood, they literally screamed for joy. Pure happiness in cabin Shasta!

Later that night, I sat next to her and asked her if she had something I could pray for. She said it was pointless. I was a little taken aback, so I asked her what she meant. She told me her request, but she knew it was “impossible.” And in my head I praised God for His timing. Using that very day’s events, I began to talk to her about the power of prayer. We ended up talking for a long time, having a very holy conversation, all thanks to God and parvovirus. Then we prayed, and I thanked God for answering prayers, lifting up her own as I did. After amen, I hugged her. She thanked me with tears in her eyes, and I knew that God had touched a chord.

As I closed my eyes that night, just on the brink of falling asleep, I smiled and praised God for answering the request of healing. He had heard my prayer and was healing hearts.

Sep 14, 2010

A Sparrow's Summer Flight

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6,7

Okay, as promised, here is my summer tale. I'm betting a lot of folks who are reading this know at least part of what I'm about to discuss, but I figured I'd write the whole story down, or at least what's happened so far. A couple months ago, if I had been asked what I was planning on doing on September 14, I would have figured I'd be settling into Pagudpud for the eight month haul. I'd be typing this update from the church pavilion or the Mitz's house. But here I sit, writing from the Seattle Virginia Mason infusion clinic, awkwardly typing with an IV residing in my wrist. Huh. What happened?

I woke up early Sunday morning, still wishing I could get a few more hours of sleep. I had been up late with my fantastic honor cabin campers having a marvelous Saturday night party. But now it was time for my kids to pack up and go home, making way for the new campers to arrive. As I went about cleaning my cabin and preparing for the new week, I kept having to pause. A headache had started itself in my brain, my throat was sore, and I knew I had come across a cold. But most of the Sunset Lake staff was feeling crummy. It was something we just had to work through. So I pressed on and entered the week.

Monday dawned, and I was no better. In fact, as time progressed, I was feeling worse and worse. My energy levels were running low, not a good thing for a counselor, especially at the start of the week. Still, I hobbled along, putting as much energy and excitement as I could into the day. When I brought my kids to dinner line call, though, I was told to go to bed. I didn't put up much of a fight. I told my kids I would see them in the morning and headed to bed.

The next day, my symptoms had lessoned: my headache was pretty much gone and my throat was feeling better. I was still tired, though, and I actually had a fever. I tried out the morning, teaching my drama class. But by lunch time, my energy was all gone, and again I was ordered back to bed. Wednesday dawned, and I was determined to meet back with my kids again. The nurse gave me one look over and easily saw that I was a walking zombie. "No, go rest." Frustrated, I returned to my cabin of quarantine. I really just wanted to be with my kids again. I knew it had been hard for them not to have their counselor there. Still, the fact that I could easily sleep for 24 hours clued me in that I should rest.

Since Thursday was my day off anyway, I went ahead and left for home early, driving out of camp Wednesday afternoon. As it turned out, it would be a while before I returned. I was a little nervous about driving, but I made it home safely after the usual 45 minutes. I slept as much as possible. But, feeling jipped out of a day off, I decided to see a movie with my mom on Thursday. I figured that wouldn't be too strenuous, just a different type of resting. Toy Story 3 was coming to an end, and I started to cry silently--not because of the movie but because I felt dead. I had never felt so lifeless and weak before, like the very thought of moving was an impossibility. I sat with my mom far into the credits before I could muster enough strength to get up and leave the theater. I called Sunset Lake and said I wouldn't be back that night. "I'm going to go see a doctor tomorrow," I explained over the phone. "Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow night." I didn't want to miss the special Friday night program.

The doctor didn't spend too much time with me. "It's most likely anemia, pneumonia, or both." She sent me off to get a chest X-ray and a blood test, promising to call with the results in about an hour. About four hours later, she called my house, slightly baffled. "You're severely anemic," she told me. "You have half as many red blood cells as you should have. Normally this is due to an iron deficiency, but your iron levels aren't bad." She said she wanted to retest my blood that evening to make sure that I wasn't losing blood rapidly. Thankfully I wasn't. Since it was the weekend, my doctor told me to go to see a hematologist on Monday. "But if your fever spikes or you feel worse and worse, go to the ER." And after a particularly crummy Sabbath, that's exactly what I did.

I got into the ER around 8 on Saturday night and was admitted upstairs around 1 in the morning. For the next 22 hours, I took too many types of tests to count: X-rays, CAT scans, blood test after blood test. I also received a blood transfusion to tide me over until my body started making its own blood again. When I left the hospital, I had no more answers as to what was going on. The best guess my new hematologist friend/doctor (Dr. A) had was that I had a genetic disease that had been dormant my whole life until a particular virus came along and flared it up into a fury. But, he said, nothing was conclusive yet. The blood tests would tell, hopefully, in due time.

In the mean time, I went back home to rest. It's amazing what blood will do for you. Suddenly I could walk around my house like it was nobody's business. I still had to sleep a lot, and I had no desires to go out and run a marathon (admittedly, I never did), but I was feeling a lot better after the transfusion. A few days later I was back at Dr. A's to figure out what the blood tests revealed.  It turned out my body had pretty much decided to stop making blood. My retic. count (the level of red blood cell production, which in a healthy person is 5%) was at .1%. Not good. "We've determined it's either a virus, which will pass on its own," Dr. A told me. "Or it is related to a problem in your bone marrow. If that's the case, we'll have to do a bone marrow biopsy and go from there. It would be more serious: you would have to take immunosuppressant steroids for several months and, if that didn't work, we might have to do a marrow transplant." If that was the case, then the Philippines would have to be delayed for several months, if not more. "But if you begin making blood again, then we'll know it's just a virus and not something more serious. But it has to be a significant increase. Something higher than .1%. We'll check again next week and see if your numbers have increased or if we need to do a biopsy. Till then, feel free to do whatever you feel like you can handle." I went back to camp.

I had been gone a week and a half, getting back in time for teen week to start. As I got myself resettled in my cabin, I began to feel very nervous. I wasn't sure I was ready to counsel again. But then my girls came. All doubts left. It was a little bit of an odd experience at camp that week. If I had been home, I know I would have been thinking about my health all throughout the day. But at camp, it seemed like a whole different life. Sure I thought about it, prayed about it, and talked about it here and there, but it wasn't an all-consuming worry. I figured things would work out according to God's plan. I really wanted to be able to go as an SM, but if God had something else in mind, well, I'd just go along with that. Another comfort and boost for me throughout this entire experience was the support, love, and prayers of my fellow staff members, campers, friends, and family. I was tremendously blessed throughout it all.

And so it was with the hopes and prayers of many wonderful people that I went in on my day off to get my blood tested, checking my retic. scores for red blood cell production. If I had gone up to 1%, that would have been a tenfold increase and very incredible. My number? 3.9%. Praise God, my bone marrow was fine! I got back to camp and immediately my cabin wanted to know the results. When I told them, there was much rejoicing to say the least! It looked like the Philippines was on!

The next week I returned to get my blood checked, making sure I was progressing fine. Now we knew that my bone marrow was fine, but we still had no answers as to what exactly was going on. It was probably a virus, but we didn't know what. When I met with the doctor after having my blood drawn, he told me I was progressing decently. But what was more, it looked like we finally had an answer. "We did a DNA test, and you showed up positive for parvo." Parvovirus B19 to be exact. It's somewhat common, though usually found in infants. With babies, the only symptom tends to be extra rosy cheeks, and when adults get it there is usually not a single symptom. Generally speaking, it's a benign little virus. Most of the time. Every once in a while though, it does a little number on the body's ability to create red blood cells. Enter Katelyn Campbell.

It was nice to have a conclusive answer. Now I just needed to wait out the results and watch as my blood returned to normal. I did, however, need to have something else looked at, the result of my testing way back in July. During my overnight stay in the hospital, a CAT scan had documented a mass in my abdomen. It was completely unrelated to my virus, but it still needed to be checked. So on my final day off, I went in to see Dr. Cryder.

"Well, we have to operate." Dr. Cryder didn't give me good news. After a month of craziness, I had come out the other side thinking that, miraculously, I would be able to go to the Philippines after all--only to be told that I would have to take some time out for an operation. "It's benign, and it doesn't have to be removed right away. But it needs to go." I explained that I was hoping to fly out as a student missionary. "Well we'll have to wait for your blood to get back to normal," she said, "then we'll have surgery, then it's 4-6 weeks of recovery." She smiled. "You might have to just go a little late." Not a great day off.

Camp ended soon thereafter, a sad occurence indeed. I was definitely going to miss everyone and everything. Now it was time to focus on medical stuff. I went back to Dr. A to check my blood's progress. Sadly, I was plateauing--not getting better, not getting worse. But in order to have surgery, I needed to be getting better. I anxiously requested that we do the surgery as soon as possible. Dr. A was hesitant; Dr. Cryder agreed. They both warned me that I had a greater chance of needing another blood transfusion if we pushed ahead with the surgery. I accepted that. They did too. Both my doctors wanted to see me taking off for the Philippines. "We're just going to get you as healthy as possible before you go," Dr. A said.

I continued to get checked up for this and that. At my next blood test, I unexpectedly dropped in iron levels. Since I needed iron-rich blood for surgery, I was put on an 8-week infusion plan. That's why I'm here now: iron is being pumped into my veins for the third time (a somewhat painful process for someone with little veins). Last week my surgery date was finally set, scheduled for September 16. Things have been progressing. On Friday, when I came to get my second dose of iron, Dr. A came in and said that I still had traces of parvo in my blood. "That's why progress has been going a lot slower than we anticipated. In a normal case, it would have been gone by now." So he put me on a three-day protein infusion treatment. That's also why I'm here. Today's third dose should clear up the rest of nasty Parvovirus B19. And with my bolstered iron levels, I'll be heading into surgery on Thursday.

Dr. Cryder is going to attempt a laparoscopic surgery to quicken my recovery time and get me out of the country. If she is able to and there are no complications, I should be able to fly out in the middle to end of October. Still, expectations throughout this situation have repeatedly not been met. I'm going to just see what happens and go with it. I choose to trust that God's got a plan and reasons for all that comes, since I know He does.

Well, that's what's been happening. It's a pretty quick version of a long summer. More eloquent analysis and discussion to come, most likely after my surgery. Till then, grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Sep 5, 2010

September 5: Departure Date

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5,6

So today was the big day. I got into the car, drove to the airport, and met my fellow student missionaries at Korean Airline. Excitement was in the air for sure. After taking a number of pictures, we gathered in a circle to pray. Then came the goodbyes. I bid everyone farewell and promised that I would be keeping in contact. Finally it was time to go, to leave on the great adventure that was beckoning. With one last “bye,” I watched them head through security and on to the next year’s journey. I stood there a moment. Then I turned around and headed back to the car.

 Up until July 16, I was sure that September 5 was my big departure day for the Philippines. Then my story took a twist I wasn’t anticipating. I think I’ll save this summer’s story for another day, but the end result is that I’m not as healthy as I should be for flying out to be a year-long student missionary. I’m still planning on going soon, though. It’ll just be delayed a little.

 The last couple months, I haven’t really been able to think about going to the Philippines too much. I mean really think about it as a reality. I’ve been occupied with working as a camp counselor and taking the sickness journey. I’m going to be having surgery soon, and honestly, that has seemed a lot closer to reality than going as a student missionary. I guess I’ve been having to process other things and haven’t quite worked my way to missionaryhood.

 But today it seemed a whole lot more real. Today I met three people with whom I was supposed to be starting an adventure, and rather than walking with them onto that plane, I said goodbye. It didn’t feel right. I was on the wrong side things. The plane is in the air, and my feet are on the ground.

Still, I think this is a good start into being a missionary. I decided to call my blog “naim bag toy puso.” In Ilocano, the language of Pagudpud, Philippines, this roughly means, “it is well with my soul.” This is what I remember when God causes or allows my path to take a different direction than I anticipate. No matter where I go or what I face or what I think I miss out on, it is well with my soul because God’s got things covered. He knows what’s going on and He’s working it all for good. I’ve already seen Him at work, using my situation for His glory and for the benefit of others as well as myself. Since I wanted my first post to be more introductory (and since I’ll have a decent stretch of time on my hands), I’ll hold off on delving into the blessings for another post. But the point I want to make here is that perspective makes a difference. I’ve decided to dedicate my life and service to God, and however He chooses to do things sounds like the best way to me. I’m just along for the awesome ride.
Whatever comes, naim bag toy puso.

My Substitution for Flying to the Philippines