Monday, June 26, 2017

Sometimes the answer is "No" but...

The Accra Team
We may not get the answer we pray for, but one thing we do always have is the peace that God is in control and works through the Body of Christ, the Church, spread throughout the world.

The answer to my prayer for healing in order to make the trip to Ghana was a "No" which cost me about $700 in cancelled and changed tickets.  The answer to my prayer for healing in order to go to Nigeria was a "No" with a net financial loss of an additional $2000 USD, not to mention other losses (the financial loss is quantifiable).  BUT there is little doubt in my mind that God's work through the Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML)ministry is continuing.  We all have the head knowledge that we are not indispensable but we don't always get to see it in action.  I have been blessed to see it in Ghana, and am already seeing it for Nigeria.

If you remember, in February we took some time in California to train others to be trainers for DML.  We didn't know how soon we would need those trainers and are very thankful for those who came out for that training!  One of those persons was Rev. Dave Champness, who will be the new President of ICM-USA beginning in 2018.  He has travelled with DML to Guatemala and Uganda, and was planning to join me in Ghana, to teach the theological portions that Dr. Walker typically teaches.  Fanny Atta-Peters and Beatrice Buxton, from Hopeline Institute in Ghana, have also heard the teaching twice, and are trained facilitators, so that team of three led a group of about 25 pastors and church leaders in Accra, and a group of 100 pastors and church leaders in Tamale (northern Ghana) through the DML workshop.  And from everything I have heard so far, they did a great job!  God's people were in place and ready to go.

[We did cancel the training of trainers for Ghana, so Lord willing, we will be able to get to that in the not too distant future.]

Dave posted this message on FaceBook with the picture on the left:
This is Rebecca, she was a Muslim and came to Christ thru a church that participated in the DML training. After she came to Christ she was forced to leave her home. Thru the DML training she obtained a loan and started this business. She's now supporting herself, leading other Muslims to the Lord and growing her business and her faith. She is a light in her community. Pray for her.

In February, we also had Barbie Odom in our training of trainers.  She is a Hebrew scholar, with a Masters in Divinity, and a gifted teacher.  She was to join Dr. Walker and I on our trip to Nigeria, where we were to do a DML workshop in Abuja, in Jos, and in Lagos.  In addition to that, we were each going to teach a class at the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) Seminary - my class was Integrity and Finance.  Barbie will work very well with Dr. Walker for the DML workshops, and even though they only had one week to find a replacement for me for my class at the seminary, they were able to find someone!  So everything seems to be going on as planned.  God has provided an answer - not the one I wanted, but the one that reminds us that this is His work, done through His people, who are everywhere.
The group in Tamale, with Dave teaching.

Please pray for these workshops in Nigeria, that God may be glorified and the church built up.

As for me, the anti-nausea pills that I was given last week have really helped, allowing me to eat and keep the food in.  It has also calmed down some inflamed areas after having nausea and vomiting for four weeks.  So I feel better and will continue to work with doctors to see if we can find an answer, unless it mysteriously goes away on its own!  Thank you all for your prayers and concern.  My next trip is to Tanzania in August, but I won't book my tickets just yet!

Monday, June 19, 2017

"How Long, O Lord?" A Father's Day Reflection

Shortly after Bob died, my brother Henry sent me a CD from Brian Doerksen, asking me to listen specifically to the song "How Long O Lord," which is based on Psalm 13, a psalm of David.    It is a beautiful and haunting song.

This particular psalm has three different components to it:  the question of anxiety, the cry of prayer, and the song of faith:
L-R:  Yvonne, Henry, Dad holding Renita, Liz, Janette

Psalm 13
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

This song ministered to me in the year following Bob's death, and now it ministers to me in thinking about my father, Peter Kranenburg.  Seven years ago, my dad entered a nursing home with dementia (at the time they were thinking it was Alzheimers but because there has been no other deterioration, they are now thinking it is dementia).  At the time he entered, he had about a thirty second memory but he still knew all of us.  Seven years later, he doesn't recognize most of us, his body is still quite strong, yet he spends day after day sleeping in a wheelchair, unable to converse in any meaningful way, unable to walk, and unable to remember that he cannot walk.

And so I, like the psalmist, I wonder, "How long, O Lord?" will you forget your servant, Peter Kranenburg?  Four times this psalmist cries out, "How long?" and feels separated and abandoned by God.  While my Dad isn't capable of articulating that feeling, I feel it on behalf of him.  My dad struggled with anxiety his whole life; his parents struggled with anxiety; I have struggled with anxiety.  I hear the anxiety in these questions, the feeling of abandonment and darkness and despair.

From despair, the psalmist then makes his request, "Give light to my eyes."  The lights are mostly gone from my father's eyes.  Those lights will only be restored in a heavenly place.  My dad wasn't a perfect father nor a perfect pastor.  But he gave many years of service and strived to serve, despite struggling with anxiety and depression.  And now he sits day after day after day in a wheelchair, week after week, month after month, year after year, languishing, seemingly forgotten.  Look on him and answer, O Lord!

But the delight in this psalm comes through the song of faith in the last two verses:  BUT I trust in your unfailing love.  My heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good.

I know my dad would say that as well.  He would give testimony to God's grace and mercy.  He would most assuredly say that He has been good. His love is unfailing, even when things seem quiet and dark.  My heart is assured of my dad's salvation and of my own, and for that there is much rejoicing.

I made a video montage set to this song from Psalm 13, with pictures of my dad.  If you haven't heard this song, I encourage you to listen to it as it is beautiful.

I miss you, Dad.  I long for you to be free from your earthly prison and to rejoice with your Heavenly Father.  I love you.

[Health update:  I thought I was getting better last week but was not to it was good that I cancelled the portion of the trip to Ghana.  I did the labs and am hoping for a new diagnosis and treatment soon.  I am scheduled to leave for Nigeria on June 27 and hope to be better by then!]

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Foiled again by that pesky plasmodium falciparum!

[I wrote the blog below last Wednesday, June 7, looking to post it as usual on Monday, June 12.  On Thursday, I went back to the doctor as I had finished the malaria medicine and the fever was gone, but I was still throwing up and having all sorts of gastro-intestinal issues.  The doctor surmised that it was probably amoebic dysentery or giardia, told me to cancel my trip to Ghana, and start working on labs.  The next day, I realized that the treatment for both of those illnesses is the same, and being the self-proclaimed doctor that one becomes when living in places like Liberia, I requested that we skip the labs and go straight to the treatment so that I could still go to Ghana.  Surprisingly, my request was granted and on Friday I started the treatment.  By Sunday night, I was beginning to feel better.  But my loving family and friends have counselled me to delay my trip, skipping Ghana and just going to Nigeria at the end of June.  As I have been sick for about three weeks now, having eaten little and losing a good amount of weight, I have finally agreed to their counsel in order to build up my strength and to be sure my immune system is strong again. This is a costly decision financially and particularly difficult for the "ever-responsible" Renita.  But thankfully, the work in Ghana will continue without me, so please pray for Fanny, Beatrice, and David!]

Malaria tricked us once before and now it tricked me again.  Thankfully, my son Noah was quicker to be onto it.


In November 2008, we moved back to Grand Rapids after 3.5 years in Liberia, and were preparing to move to Ghana.  In April 2009, just at the time that there was the first swine flu outbreak, Bob got sick and we thought it was swine flu.  After being quite sick for about a week, someone suggested malaria, and sure enough that was it.  It had been dormant in his liver, waiting for warmer weather to come out.  By the time we caught it for Bob, it was still so far developed that Bob had to be hospitalized, without insurance (we didn't know that his missionary medical insurance only allowed for him to be in the US for three months), costing us about $18,000 and requiring us to check him out of the hospital against medical advice because we couldn't afford for him to stay longer.

Fast forward to Saturday, May 20, 2017. 

I returning from Guatemala, and am picked up in Chicago by my dear husband Michael who has a terrible cold.  On Tuesday, I come down with a fever and a cold as well.  By Friday, I'm nauseous, throwing up and fever keeps climbing, in addition to coughing and cold symptoms.  Michael had been diagnosed with an ear and throat infection, and suspicious that I may need antibiotics as well, I go to the doctor.  No sign of infection anywhere but doctor says that if I still have a fever of 101 F by Sunday, I should start an antibiotic.  Fever reaches 103 on Saturday, still there on Sunday and I start the antibiotic.  Fever goes away, but I'm still nauseated, throwing up, and can't eat.  I'm finished with the antibiotic by Thursday; fever starts coming back, I'm looking jaundiced, cold symptoms are pretty much gone, and Michael and I start to wonder what else this could be.  Maybe Zika?

My kids both check in with me regularly to see how I'm feeling, and Noah says, "Mom, it's malaria.  Go to hospital."  (Which I love because he says it the African way - not "go to the hospital" but "go to hospital.")  Noah keeps insisting its malaria.  I review websites again and think back over the past few months.  I was in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda from mid-March to mid-April.  Ethiopia and Kenya have high enough elevations that malaria is not a great risk, but I knew when I was in Uganda (just for a few days) that I should have been on anti-malarial medication.  I actually even inquired about getting to a pharmacy to buy some...but then didn't.  Oops.

Thankfully my doctor was a missionary kid in Nigeria and understands malaria well.  She got me on meds (which are often worse than the sickness!) and I'm finally feeling better.  Unfortunately, I leave for Ghana and Nigeria again on Thursday for about four and a half weeks.  I've not had much recovery time, have a VERY hectic trip planned, didn't have much time to get anything done at home, and am quite behind in my work.

But God's got this.  And I hope to be smarter about malaria, and not quite as complacent.  I WILL be on anti-malarial drugs for this next trip for sure.

If you want to understand better how malaria works, this is what Bob wrote when he contracted it in 2009 (to read the full post click here)

As you know I like to be pithy, erudite and educative on all my posts, but this requires more energy than I fear I can muster. We'll see. The short version is I have malaria, which occasionally happens when folks come back from the tropics. The disease is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Five species of the plasmodium parasite can infect humans; the most serious forms of the disease are caused by Plasmodium falciparum. Falciparum lives in the gut the female mosquito and when she bites, the microscopic little creeps enter through an anticoagulating mosqito slobber, and make a bee line to the liver. 

Patton would be put to shame after discovering the brilliance of this little bug’s strategic assault on our body. The parasite basically infiltrates a Trojan horse into our liver, where it starts duplicating itself. Meanwhile, it is sending out a cloaking signal (similar to the Klingons in Star Trek) from within this Trojan horse so as to remain undetected by our body’s immune system. In my case, there it rested, in my liver, for at least six months.

Last Monday, however, it was time to come out and party. From Home Base Liver, the parasitical creeps searched for my juicy red blood cells. Penetrating those, it started duplicating within them as well. Usually such infected blood cells would be exterminated in the spleen. So to work its way around that, each of these little demons produces as much as 60 different types of protein which, when on the surface of the blood cell, make it stickable to the surface of blood vessels, hence avoiding potential doom by not making it to the spleen. And these proteins are the first moment when the parasites become detectable to our body’s immune system. However, by the time our body comes up with some antibody, the millions of parasites are already switching to one of its other 59 proteins. The body’s immunity system becomes a toothless bystander, because the number of different and constantly changing protein combinations are essentially infinite. 

Then things get gruesome. About every three or four days all the infected blood cells burst, exploding from over population and sending a wave of fever onto Yers Trooly, so that the next batch of demon creep babies can go about the body in search of fresh red blood cells again.
The cycle. Note the juicy explosions, both within the liver cells and red blood cells. This party cost me a few million.
Love this National Geographic shot. An exploded red blood cell and another just about to go. Each yellowish projectile is yet another living parasite, ready to find a new blood cell in which to multiply.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Word from Michael

As I have been pretty sick since coming back from Guatemala, Michael, being the very helpful husband that he is, wrote this week's blog.  It's refreshing to hear about the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders from his perspective.

Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) was conceived at a time when Renita wanted to ensure that the skills she had been teaching over the years in Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria would not help enrich the small struggling business owner in a way that would erode trust in God. As the wealth of western nations demonstrates, affluence is no arbiter of the Godly life. DML was conceived and the ministry of training business people returned to the church, and the church was challenged with the full discipleship of believers in the marketplace.

Renita’s approach impressed me in that every group that has a calling towards the spiritual formation of those serving the marketplace were equipped to that role. Pastors are reminded of the Biblical vocation of all who follow the holy call of business, or government or service. Leaders in the congregation who can teach business skills are trained to teach these skills (accounting, marketing, and the like), but taught in the context of a biblical worldview such that the Lordship of Christ over all our callings and over every facet of life is affirmed. Business owners or others involved in marketplace are both taught basic skills as needed but are also taught and discipled in fulfilling that calling according to the Gospel.  The DML vision
includes the discipleship, the teaching of skills, the advocacy towards success, all in the context of a full, rich vision of God’s redemption in the world.  Renita was in the throes of hammering out the shape of DML in three cities in Kenya when we exchanged our first messages online, when we started talking, when we began to believe that even though our callings were quite distinct and being lived out on different continents, a new calling to covenant with one another was being discovered.

In time Renita and I fell in love, and married. The project in Kenya played out its three years and an ministry was born that helped churches in a number of Kenyan cities. Within the first year of our life together, the call to plant DML ministries in other countries began to make themselves heard. As she and her colleague Dr. Walker discerned a plan, Renita started the groundwork for DML ministries to take root in Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt, Guatemala, and soon to add Uganda to that list.

In time it became clear that Renita was receiving more calls than she could answer. One of the answers was the recognition that the call of DML was not a call Renita was called to bear alone. When she started to ask for volunteers to help shoulder that call by teaching pastors and churches how to have a DML ministry and unleash the church in their communities, I felt a calling to be with Renita in this.

And so on May 2, I flew to Guatemala with Renita. I immediately fell in love with that beautiful, lusciously green country with its historic buildings and abundance of volcanoes. I sat through the entire DML training along with a group of pastors. These were a mix of pastors, many rural, some who had to have small businesses themselves to supplement their income. Faced with the callings of God as expressed in scripture to shepherd the earth itself to multiply its blessings, along with the divine commandments to love and to make disciples, their eyes and hearts burned with fresh understanding of the beauty of the gospel that in Jesus, all things are being called to be made new.

At the end of the two and a half day seminar, a good number of them wanted to take the initial steps towards developing a DML ministry in their local church settings. I had seen this before but from afar, in the stories Renita had shared with me and on her blog. Once this new wine of DML enters into the wineskins of church, grown a little dry from a ministry that retreats from the public square, well, such wineskins will crack and the gospel will flow like spilled wine throughout neighborhoods and businesses and communities.

I continue to study with Renita and prepare for a time, not too far from now, when I can go with her and help teach DML, be it in Guatemala or some other part of the earth. I have as of yet not discerned a calling to abandon my work as an editor, work that I have come to love over the years. I have felt a new burning to be a part of this growing global ministry. I hope to help Christians who do not yet see that Jesus calling for redemption is the redemption of all things and as God redeems our lives, our work and vocation is holy in Him. This is the context for work done with a Kingdom ethic that is liberating, whole, and marked by the presence of Christ in the marketplace. It is such a privilege to help Renita shoulder this calling by listening to her and lifting her head when she is tired, but now hopefully in teaching with her from time to time. These are the first steps in discerning how I can support this ministry that takes these fundamental truths of scripture and helps churches and marketplace Christians in the church to be unleashed in these holy vocations of bankers, shop owners, manufacturers, all to the glory of God. I can’t wait to see what will be the next step in this adventure.