Monday, September 11, 2017

Tough Choices

I try to be very transparent, both in this blog and on Facebook. I really don’t like it when people project some kind of supreme wisdom or courage to others, because I know the reality. Even the strongest leaders wrestle with fear, uncertainty and their own inadequacies. And, if they don’t, they are dangerous people.

We are in the midst of something incredible as God unfolds His plan for this ministry. But people often confuse what God is doing as being equated to great leadership from me. Jesus is moving in great ways, so Daryl must be wise, courageous, a great leader, or other such nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, I am a weak and self-conscious person who feels I am in way over my head. On a regular basis I find myself completely overwhelmed by decisions that are way above my pay grade. And I often make those decisions with fear and trembling. Usually it is not until weeks, months or years later that I know the correctness or incorrectness of those decisions, if at all.

Here are just a few decisions we have faced over the last two weeks:

Will we give a baby boy a home?

Two weeks ago I received a request to take a little guy into our home. As always, I requested medical information on the child, which they sent the next day. As I read through the info, I realized that this was a very sick little guy. His list of medical needs was long and dire, and he was fighting for his life. And I realized that, if we said no, he would likely die in any other home.

Often when we share publicly about decisions such as this, we receive encouragement to “have faith” and “trust God” and, therefore, “say yes!” But most people do not realize that faith and trust have little to do with our decision. We do have faith, and we do trust God. Otherwise we would not be doing what we are doing where we do it. We do not make these kinds of decisions regarding money at all. But there is so much that we have to weigh, including the following:
  • We started this household to be a family-based home for children, not an institution. If we receive too many children and hire too many staff, we become less personal and more overwhelmed. We become an institution. When does saying yes to a child push us to the point of defeating our vision?
  • We already have lots of children with profound special needs. Three of those children are expected to die in coming months. We have G-tubes, NG-tubes, breathing treatments, therapy, doctor appointments, and much more. At what point does another yes sacrifice the care we provide to the other children?
  • As already mentioned, we have three children who are dying and more who have profound medical and care needs. We have to maintain a balance in our home in order to assure the morale of our family, interns and staff. We need to have a mixture of children with less severe needs who are more interactive with those who are more profound in their needs. Without that balance, the atmosphere of the home suffers. Will this child throw us toward an unhealthy balance?
  • Do we have enough space? Right now, our boys’ room is full, but we have space for another girl. Yes, we could probably find a way to squeeze in another boy, but we have to be careful because overcrowding could jeopardize our license.

It is important to note that we do not make these decisions lightly, but we have to make a decision. In this case, we told them that that we could not receive him into our home. Yes, you read that correctly. We said no. As I stated above, we knew that we were his best chance of survival, but we still said no.

Some of you may read that and be shocked and disappointed. I understand. I once sat in the States and read blogs like this one. I did not understand how anyone could ever say no to a child in need. I get where you are coming from, and I know that we must seem pretty horrible. But I have learned that we cannot save everyone. I want to…desperately. But we cannot.

So, I laid in bed that night and wiped tears. And I grieved for a little guy who would likely die because we said no.

Will we give a little girl a home?

Last week we received a message about a little girl they are calling Esther. She has an estimated age of three, and they don’t know her real name because she was found abandoned. The email messages were filled with her pictures and lots of medical reports. Severe cognitive and physical delays…colpocephalia…seizures…more.

She was placed in a regular home in late August, and they are not equipped to care for her. So they asked us to please receive her.

We talked it through and prayed it through. In the end, most of us were on the fence. But one of our children felt a special draw and burden for her that I believed to be from God. So, we said yes. She will be joining us once the courts process the paperwork.

Will Yasmin get surgery?

Little Yasmin celebrated her half-birthday yesterday. We chose to celebrate because she will likely not live until her first birthday. She came to us three months ago in horrible shape. Her hair had lost most of its color and was falling out from malnutrition. She was filthy and wrapped in dirty blankets. Her poor body was covered with a raw rash caused by mites and filth. She cried almost constantly.

Today her skin is beautiful and blemish free. She is mostly content and greatly loved. But she is dying because she was born without most of her brain. In its place is a growing sac of fluid that is increasing in pressure daily. In the last month, her head grew 10 centimeters in diameter.

We took her to our neurologist and to our neurosurgeon. Both of them said that a shunt to relieve pressure was likely not a good option for her. But we took her for a third opinion with another neurosurgeon, and he recommended the surgery. He told us that the surgery might kill her, or she could die shortly after, but he wanted to do it to reduce the size of her head. He said that if she survived, it could extend her life by a few months. The cost of the surgery would be Q.20,000 (about $2,800 USD).

We wrestled with that decision for days. She recently began taking meds that has her happy and comfortable. She is loved and well cared for, but she cannot see and will never crawl, learn to walk or talk, or pass developmental milestones. And, even if the surgery is successful, she still will likely not live beyond a year. Do we want to try to prolong her life instead of allowing her to go to Jesus and the perfect healing he offers? Do we want her remaining time to be spent in surgery, hospitals and recovery?

Last night we made the decision. We have chosen to love her well, do what we need to keep her comfortable, and carry her to Jesus when the time comes. Is that the right decision? I pray it is. But I likely will not know for sure on this side of heaven.

Will we give another little boy a home?

Last week I was contacted by a friend about another boy with special needs who needs a home. Currently hospitalized, he has severe medical needs, a G-tube, and a tracheotomy. Could we take him?

I received his medical reports yesterday afternoon, and I spent a lot of time going through them. I felt like my family had been through enough tough decisions in recent days, so I determined not to add this one to their burden. I would make it on my own.

Again, I weighed the space available, his needs, our equipment, the balance of our home and our current help. And I said no.

I have just given you a glimpse into four decisions we have made in recent weeks. These are just a few drops of the lake of decisions we must make each year. And I honestly cannot tell you if any one of these were the right choice. I can tell you that we did our best to follow the guidance of Jesus, and…I think we did. I pray we did. Because I know the consequences of making the wrong choice in any one of these situations.

But what weighs on me is the reality that all of these four situations are not really choices. They are lives. And that threatens to overwhelm me/us at times. The decisions we make can cost or save lives. The decisions we make can improve or worsen lives. And that keeps me awake some nights.

So, I ask you to please pray for us. We need wisdom and guidance far above who we are. We need to hear from the One who sees both the past and the future and controls both. Without Him, we will do more harm than good.

But I want to remind you that the decisions you make are just as important, but their importance may not be as obvious. Today you likely won't make an important decision regarding a child’s surgery or life, but you will make choices that will have eternal implications.

  • Will you keep your head down and your mind distracted while going through the check-out line, or will you connect and reach out to the cashier?
  • Will you really speak to and listen to your coworkers, or will you just survive until quitting time?
  • Will you love and invest in your spouse today, or will you keep your mind far away on other priorities?
  • Will you spend time with and build the hearts of your children, or will you just be anxious to get them to bed so you can have some peace?
  • Will you find the courage to finally talk to your friend and neighbor about Jesus as God has been prompting you to do, or will you just stick with the safe small talk?

These and dozens more decisions you make today are so important. Connect with God, and choose wisely. And we will do the same.

Blessings from Guate!

Daryl, Wanda and the Crew