26 December 2006

Christmas Eve 2006

Written Christmas Eve, 2006 from Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire

I am sitting here in Bouaké reminiscing just a bit this morning about my dad. We received a call from my mother this morning saying that dad was admitted to the hospital and had emergency surgery to remove an inflamed gallbladder. As many of you know my father has been on a 6 month course of chemotherapy due to colon cancer. Apparently a few days ago he began feeling pain associated with this inflammation. At that time the doctor ordered a CAT scan to determine where the pain was coming from. Upon the discovery that the pain was coming from an inflamed gallbladder he was scheduled to have surgery on the 26th of this month. Yesterday however, he woke up with considerable pain and the doctors decided to operate immediately.

Of course we have been thinking and praying for him for some time now as we have been relatively concerned about this colon cancer. Several months ago dad was operated on to remove a tumor from his colon before beginning chemotherapy. As you can imagine we are not at ease about this most recent development and we are waiting to hear what the results might be from the test to be done on the tissues removed during the surgery. This morning on the phone mom said that according to the doctor the gallbladder looked “normal”, whatever “normal” must be, aside from the inflammation. I cannot for the life of me think about what could be “normal” looking about a gallbladder outside of the body and lying in some tray waiting testing.

The last time I saw dad was last January when we were in South Africa for a short vacation and research trip. We were staying with my younger brother John and his family in Kempton Park and had a great time with the folks who were down to help take care of kids at a WorldVenture conference which had been organized for its missionaries. Another bonus was that my sister and her family were also there for that same conference. With Carmel and Victor’s four kids and Jean and Carol’s as well, we were quite the crew. By the time we left South Africa the Madsen family and my folks were off to the WorldVenture conference.

Before leaving South Africa however, we dropped by at the conference to say goodbye to everyone and spent a couple of hours with mom and dad who, at the ages of 72 and 71 respectively, were in the middle of running after 3 and 4 year old missionary kids, trying to keep track of them as well as have a good time. I guess that when you see that kind of service at that age one can’t help but be impressed. I know that I was! All that to say that this was the last time we saw the folks as we left shortly afterwards to return to Côte d'Ivoire where we had other pressing matters to attend to.

As I think about all that has happened since that short and intense visit together with the Madsen family, my folks and John’s family I am amazed that it was ever possible to have been together at all last January. Since April, when Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, he has had colon surgery in which he had a tumor removed that turned out to be cancerous and has, since then, been doing chemotherapy. Then in November John’s oldest, Jean Marc, had emergency brain surgery to remove an olive sized tumor which turned out to be benign for which we thank God. And now for dad the doctors have determined it necessary to remove his gallbladder post haste on the 22nd only three days before Christmas.

In all this we are thankful that my brother Ray and his family are still in the US where they can come to the aid of our mother during these difficult days. And so it is that during this time of so much family joy and fun we would ask that you think of my old man and our mother who, this year, will be spending it in hospital and most likely alone. It is not that they begrudge our being overseas at all. On the contrary, my folks and Ray and his family are amongst our most ardent and committed supporters in our efforts here in Côte d'Ivoire, the Madsen’s in Uganda and John and Carol’s in South Africa. But that makes life particularly difficult at times like these when we would rather all be together and with the folks rather than spread out all over Africa and North America.

I know that neither mom nor dad would want us to be concerned about them at this time, knowing that they are in the hands of a God who knows far better than we what we need for each day. Mom is a rock and I believe that she will do fine regardless of what happens. Even so, it is difficult to think of them alone at this time. As she wrote us in a note today, “Pray but do not worry. The Lord is with us and we trust Him completely.” At times it is hard to do as she says but we know that anything else is to multiply folly with folly because the Lord is forever in full control of all that comes our way. We don’t like it sometimes but as Job so well reminds us when he needed hope, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” I know this is true today and we look so forward to that day when He will stand on the earth.