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I have had a few experiences
in my life that truly challenged me. For example, during my tenure as a first
grade teacher, I had a little boy coming into my class who had an inoperable
brain tumor. His name was Adam Gellenbeck.
I had to learn how to care
for the PICC line he would likely have for his meds. I met with counselors from
Children’s Hospital to learn what to expect over the next few months and how to
approach the subject with Adam’s classmates. I had to deal with the very real
possibility that during that school year, one of my students could die.
I sat with Adam’s family in
their home a few weeks before school started. I made the decision that school
was going to be Adam’s “normal” place. His “safe haven.”
I remember the spring day
Adam stood bravely in front of our class and told us he was going to California
and they were going to “do something” to his brain. “I might die,” he said. “If
I die, I won’t come back, but if I don’t die, I’ll come back for my birthday
Challenging for a teacher to
hold composure during something like that. But I did. I prayed my way through
that entire year. At the end of the school year, I unloaded Adam’s desk and
packed up his things. Mostly school supplies well used by the six-year-old. A
few scrunched up papers. A few drawings.
As I said, I’ve had a few
experiences in my life that challenged me to my core. Watching Adam fly off to
California was tough. Losing my precious husband, Tom was the hardest. It still
brings me to my knees. Daily.
Mexico, Ministry, and the Mirror Moment
Adam on Right
This past spring I was
accepted to participate in a mission trip with Back2Back Ministries. I would be
helping in the construction of a new facility for special needs children.
Pretty exciting. Especially when you learn that the architect who designed the orphanage
I would be helping to build…the man by whose side I would be working was Adam
Gellenbeck. Yes, the same person I taught to read was poised to teach me how to
Cool, huh? I thought so. I
began the task of raising funds and planning for the trip.
Then the first roadblock to
this “opportunity of a lifetime” popped up. The Team B leader for the trip had
to resign. Without a leader, our team was offered two options: Go with Team A
the week before or go with a different team from another church during our
appointed week. I debated. Either week would work for me. Did it really matter?
Both trips were in July.
The second roadblock came by
way of a CDC notice to travelers. The Zika Virus. I would have to use insect
repellent the entire time in Mexico and for six weeks after returning to the
States. A list of possible repellents was listed…none of which I could use. I
have asthma and certain chemicals trigger my attacks. I could find an alternative
for me to use to avoid mosquitos but I would be housed with a dozen other women
using a variety of repellents. That mix was potentially lethal to someone with
my pulmonary history.
Yet I struggled. Should I
stay home or should I go? I talked with family and friends. No one thought I
should take the risk. After all, I would not only risk my life but could create
some real problems for the team. That should have mattered but it didn’t.
I struggled. I really wanted
Finally, as a last resort, (Yes, I said alast resort) I prayed. Oh how I hate to admit that.
I decided to not go on the
trip. I felt cheated. Why? Because my heart wasn’t right. The cool story of
meeting up with my former student had become more important to me than serving
the orphans in Mexico.
In fiction writing it’s what
we call the Mirror Moment. It is when
your main character takes a deep look—comes face to face with the real person
inside. It can get ugly.
I’m humbled. I’m broken. I’m
saddened that I could take the incredible opportunity to serve others and make
it more about me than about them. Or Him.
God Can See Around the Corners
But there is more. My mother
says, “God can see around the corners.” It’s true. As it turns out, God didn’t
intend for me to go to Mexico anyway. He used my persistence in the matter to
help me recognize my own weakness. My own frailty. My own sin.
No, He never intended for me
to go to Mexico this year. A couple of months after I made the decision to set
the trip aside, I learned that my three-year-old granddaughter, Rebekah, had to
have surgery. Her left kidney is not fully developed. The right one has issues.
The doctor said it was imperative to go in and reconstruct a valve in her
bladder to improve kidney function. The initial surgery date was set for July 7th.
On July 5th it was
rescheduled to July 14th. Are you following me? I wouldn’t have been
My sweet granddaughter.
Could Rebekah and her family have fared without me? Of course, but my daughter, Rebekah’s mother, was a little
over eight months pregnant with her fourth child at the time of the surgery. Caring
for two boys under seven-years-old and a three-year-old in pain would have been
difficult for any mom. I was needed.
God sees around the corners.
He knows me and what is best for me. I am ashamed of what I did in regard to
the mission trip. I know God has forgiven me. Perhaps I’ll have the chance to
go to Mexico again. Perhaps not. What I do know is this: We must indeed make
the most of every opportunity…but for the right reasons.
Where is your heart? What mirror moment have you experienced