Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update on Jason and Happenings in Cusco

I am writing this in the evening of the last day of May. There have been a number of events take place here and around Cusco that are unsettling to say the least. 
First, I want to update you on Jason.  Some not so good news for Jason. It looks like they will have to remove his testicles as a result of damage from the chemotherapy.  He is doing as good as can be expected. I had a chance to say hi the other day, but he is not allowed any visitors except his mother. Not much more to report, but I wanted to give you all an update at least to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
As for the other events of Cusco, there have been a lot of strikes and protests regarding various social issues in the area. One of which is a three day strike at the hospital in which Jason is admitted. The problem is that the doctors that work at the hospital make about 2500 soles a month (so I was told by a taxi driver who seemed to know the specifics of the protest). Not sure if this is accurate, but after going to school for 10 years of your life, the expected wage is much higher than 2500 soles which is about 1000 dollars per month. That is supposedly what the doctors at the public hospitals make. Now this is unsettling on a number of levels. What kind of care is my little friend Jason getting? Sometimes we can get so frustrated with the cultural things that make it uncomfortable for us. It really gets frustrating when they impact people like Jason.  For example, I have two blood donors that are willing to give their blood to Jason, but the hospital won’t take them. We are waiting it out, but it creates a lot of frustration. We will continue to do what we can, but please keep the upheaval in Cusco in your prayers. With all the strikes, it makes it hard to run the café as we cannot always get the items we need to serve our customers. It makes it difficult to get around in the city. The taxis use the strikes as a way to charge higher fares. It shuts down schools and businesses, and just has a damaging impact on the city and country. Please keep our family in your prayers as we live in the middle of it. We are safe, but just frustrated with the politics and cultural way of handling issues like these.
I will continue to keep updates coming about Jason and his family.
May God bless you and prosper you all!
Scott Englund

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jason has been found...

As I stood outside the tall wooden door, working myself up to bang on the door, I found a sudden strength to move beyond my typical refrained self. You see, it is not in my nature to ask for something when the sign clearly states there are no visitors. However, I had decided that I was not leaving until I saw Jason.
Some of you have heard the story of Jason. Basically, Jason is one of the kids from the community of Huilkarpay. Each Tuesday, we go up to Huilkarpay with a group of volunteers and work in the community. Mostly for me, it is playing soccer, wrestling a huge pile of kids, or helping with whatever needs are present. It is a way to build relationships with the kids in the community. Going up to Huilkarpay each week is one of the things in which I look forward.
Jason has been in the hospital for about a month. I have not seen him in Huilkarpay. After a few weeks without seeing him, we found out that he has actually been in a hospital. Now this is the same kid that fought Leukemia a few years back. This is also the same kid who recovered from thatand became a normal and healthy kid. This is also the same kid that almost lost his life with a blood infection that got into his brain and spurred on a long batch of epileptic seizures. This is also the same kid that I visited in the hospital a few months back that was lying in a comatose state. This is also the same kid that has beaten the odds and recovered again a number of times. This kid is my friend Jason.
He is now in the part of the hospital where they treat leukemia in children. It looks more like a place to die than a place to recover. It is filled with hopeless doctors, nurses, and parents. This part of the hospital is highly restricted. The patients have low immunity to disease and thus visitors are not allowed. Understandably so. However, I needed to see my little friend Jason and let him know that I was there for him. Also, I wanted to make sure that he had what he needed to make his odds as good as they can be. So I knocked on the door.
I asked the nurse about Jason. I asked if his mother was present and if I could talk with her. They asked me to wait outside the door while she came. It was good to see Iliana. She was tired and emotionally beat up. Watching your own flesh and blood wither away into nothing, writhing in pain, and laying there motionless for hours is not something I can imagine, but it has taken a toll on this sweet young mother.
I asked her if I could see Jason. She hesitated, but she wanted me to be able to talk with him and possibly cheer him up. So she asked, knowing that it was a long shot that they would let a visitor in the ward. She got permission and so I got to dress up in a full suit with a mask and mismatching booties for my size 12 hiking boots. The booties didn’t fit, but we made it work somehow.
In I walked to find Jason with blankets almost over his entire head. He lay there without much expression. His left nostril full of bloody tissue while his blood unable to clot correctly. Iliana pulled back the covers while whispering to her boy that Scott was here to see him.  His boredom was broken as he had a visitor.
As his face connected with my eyes, I felt this deep hurt inside my chest. My little Jason looked terrible. Not enough strength to lift up his head, he put a smile on his shrunken face and replied to my standard greeting of “como estas hermanito?” with a solid standard reply of “bien, escoot!”
Although his response was good, it sure did not seem to be the case. Jason seemed quite close to death.  As I knelt next to the bed, I put my hand on his recently shaven head. His Dad had cut his hair as he had begun chemotherapy. The less hair you have the less it falls all over the place. I rubbed his head and offered as many positive words as I could muster up.  Holding back tears the best I could; I continued to offer words that might encourage this little man. I told him that he had better get better quickly as I need another player on my soccer team. He smiled, but his mother heard this and began to break down. Her shoulders began bouncing up and down like a quivering lip as she tried to be strong. I stood quickly, put my arm around her head, as she is only about 4 and a half feet tall. I tried to comfort her, but knowing the situation she is in, not sure it helped. By this point,  I was all teared up with swollen eyes and shaky voice.  I came to do whatever I could do. So I asked if there was anything I could do to help. Iliana mentioned a number of medicines for Jason as well as for vitamins for her other kids. I think she believes that this sickness of Jason is because of lack of good diet. Regardless, there were some needs that I thought I could fill. I asked if I could talk to the doctor and get a written list of needs. She agreed.
The doctor wrote down a list of medicines that read like a Christmas list of a 4 year old just after they leave Toys R Us. It was not important how long it was. This was Jason we are talking about. I want to know everything. She paired the list down to a handful of things that I could possibly obtain at a local pharmacy. Then she mentioned that Jason is in need of blood. He has used 8 bags recently and they have no more.
I thought about a blood bank. Why not just go to the blood bank and get more? It doesn’t work like that here. No blood bank! My thoughts were that maybe I would have the same type of blood. So I quickly asked about Jason’s blood type…O+ it was. This is a common one. I bet someone in my family will have it. I was hoping it was me. So I got the meds list, agreed to return soon after a short trip to the pharmacy, and out the door I left, to be greeted by my patient wife who was sitting on a bench in the sun just outside the cancer ward.
With tears dripping off my cheeks, I began to explain to my wife how my little Jason was doing. It was not good, but that we needed to go to the pharmacy and get some supplies. Also, that I would like to get my blood type checked as Jason was in desperate need of some more blood. We left the creepy hospital in search of a pharmacy.
A pharmacy we found! It was just down the way from the funeral home. Not so comforting to look out your hospital window, if you are lucky enough to have a window, and find a place to buy your casket. It is what it is, but I want my little Jason to beat this thing.
We entered the pharmacy and found all the items on the list. In addition, they were able to test our blood right there in the pharmacy. Teri and I both were able to get tested. The results were not what I was hoping for. We are a different type. Not important! I will find some blood for Jason some way somehow.
We quickly returned to the gloomy hospital to deliver the two bags of meds and supplies for Jason. I was able to ask the nurse about donating blood. While talking with her, I thought about how I might be able to find some donors. We have a café where tons of people come through each day. I am going to talk to our customers and volunteers and see if anyone can help. This is Jason we are talking about.
So today, in the café, the story got out. We are now up to three O+ donors.  I am not sure how the story will end, but I do know that there is One that is in control of this situation. God has blessed Jason with a life. Jason has impacted me as well as many around him. I am looking forward to playing soccer another day with Jason. Please keep my little friend and his family in your prayers…I will provide more updates to come…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Here is why the F word belongs in church

Well, I must admit that I am still shocked when things happen in places that are not places they normally happen. Just like this past Sunday. While having a great discussion at the gathering at The Meeting Place, I heard “the word.”  It was right out of the mouth of a first time visitor and non-believer: In fact, an outspoken atheist.  The word came from a guy who is a regular customer at the café. He was intrigued at the idea of a discussion group and after a couple of invites, he decided to join us for a Sunday night gathering at The Meeting Place.
Our discussion was about fathers. We discussed the way we view our earthly fathers and how we might view God or gods as fathers and the correlations between the two. It was a bit deep, but nobody wanted to stop the discussion. It could have gone on all night.  The Holy Spirit was there for sure…It was amazing…
The discussion was spurred on by various points of view. We had a handful of Bible believing Christians, at least one Buddhist, a Jew, and an Atheist. With many of the other faiths unaccounted for, it created a great platform to get a good discussion going. And a good one it was. When a pastor or layman gets the privilege of hearing an F-word in their church, it should be followed with a stout AMEN. During a brief description of His dad, this young man used an unsavory 4 letter word…for that I say “AMEN!!!” We are trying to reach the people that are not the ideal Christian. No point in sharing the Gospel with those that already have their faith all figured out. Not that dropping an F bomb in church is something that a good Christian is incapable of doing, it is just that it gave me a good confirmation that we might be reaching into the area that we are called to reach…The lost.
So next time you hear an F bomb in church be sure to grab the white hanky out of your suit pocket, lift yourself out of the comfort of the nice padded pew, and wave that thing like something exciting just happened.