‘Nothing can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake’. (Biddy Chambers)
‘Nothing … can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake’. Reading this statement, it became clear that in every aspect of my service, whether great or small, I must love the nobodies of this world and in doing so, my service must always bring a sense of the Lord Jesus into all I say or do. I speak only of myself and my own personal commitment to a broken world. My ‘Things to Do’ list is rather lengthy at present – I find myself overwhelmed at times when reading through the case studies. The music of God’s presence dispels all feelings of inadequacy. God’s timing is always perfect as during my forced period of convalescence, a spiritual surgery took place where I learned to give the remnants of my day over to the Lord and wait for the problem to unravel as His will unfolds before me. We all need to be ministered to but there is so much joy in serving precious souls starved of love and for whom there is no goal in life, only survival. ‘Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I’m willing to take it because I trust Him’. (Elisabeth Elliot)
Many of you will remember reading of two darling brothers suffering from Tetraparesis. You will recall the older brother died leaving the younger brother traumatised by his loss. Two little boys had one desire, simply to be loved. Abandoned by their mother because of their progressing illness, the wider family wanted to place the young boys in to a state orphanage. Their elderly grandmother was heartbroken and took the two little boys raising them as her own. Lanko (11) is now in the terminal phase of his illness; he is very weak and his grandmother is totally exhausted mentally and physically watching him grow weaker day by day. She fears the loneliness of life without her precious grandson, having poured herself out in love for him, life will never be the same. One light had gone out, the other light is growing dim. Soon there will be no light in her dark days of loneliness.
Fabi (21) diagnosed with Epidermolysis Bullosa was stable until recently. The dawn of each new day brings added sadness to this young life as she struggles with infections which are most unpleasant and painful. These infections cover her body with open wounds. Fabi is a normal twenty-one-year-old girl dreaming of finding happiness, but her days are somewhat different as her illness makes her totally exhausted. Her mind is crowded with thoughts of a lost life. Please hold her close in your heart.
Ismael (13) has been diagnosed with Congenital Megacolon. The dreams of this young teenager have been shattered. Ismael is struggling to retain food. Concern is growing regarding the amount of weight he is shedding. He too has to cope with a rare form of infection, which clearly is affecting his state of mind. A thirteen-year-old boy who is overwhelmed with illness needs to know love that is real and lasting. Ismael’s young heart is filled with a blackness, he is living in a desert of fear. Whisper his name.
Throughout our lifetime we have all experienced hard times, situations we cannot explain and for such receive no explanation. Yet we know to develop our walk of faith we need to keep walking our path of suffering in order to learn the depth of God’s love, especially in and through our suffering. Emanuel Hospice Homecare team are constantly battling the fires of deep sorrow. One lady is going through the flames of a burning furnace. Ana (42) has a diagnosis of Colon Neoplasm, also bone, brain and liver metastases. Her current condition is extremely severe. She is totally bedridden, yet remains conscious. She has one daughter (11). Before the birth of her daughter, Ana worked as a social worker, then made a decision to be a stay-at-home mum to invest in her daughter’s future. Relations within the family are excellent, with her husband is totally committed to the care and comfort of his beloved wife. However, the little girl has become more attached to her father. Ana feels sad that her daughter has distanced herself emotionally from her. She worries her imminent death will affect her family and is trying to prepare them for that moment. These are indeed burning fires of sorrow.
Flavius (55) was diagnosed six months ago with a diagnosis of Gastric Neoplasm. He is married and lives with his wife. Flavius has not been neglectful of his ongoing problem having had several tests during past years. However, the doctors did not diagnose the disease until it had worsened and was in a critical stage. Flavius has expressed his disappointment, failing to understand why the doctors did not reach a correct diagnosis at a time when his disease was not so severe and possibly treatable. He feels the doctors have failed him and he is distraught. His mother was also diagnosed with cancer. Her records remain within the Hospice archives.
Paul (68) was diagnosed with Cerebral Metastases with an unspecified starting point. He lived alone but since his health continues to deteriorate, he decided to live with his sister in her home. One morning, his brother-in-law found Paul lying unconscious on the floor of their home. A decision had to be made immediately regarding the safety of Paul. His current state of health is deteriorating rapidly, Paul has been admitted into a state hospital specialist care facility where twenty-four-hour care is in place. Real people, real families, young lives filled with disappointment, the elderly longing for comfort. May the heart of our Heavenly Father who is filled with compassion reach out to all those searching from a hungry heart to be loved and to feel secure. May all our Hospice patients know they are loved with an everlasting love. All they need to do is ‘ask, seek and they will find’.
Let me take you to Suceava where many young ladies and young girls walk a pathway to a land of no tomorrow. Young lives filled with grief and tears; Young lives defeated and falling apart, please take one young girl on your heart that in the midst of their inner pain they will come to know the Lord. I pray as you read you will learn to love the unlovable and reach the unreachable. There are epiphanies to be drawn on searching horizons, beauty beyond compare. How will they know unless we tell them, show them that His love covers all we need?
Tabita is a young fifteen-year-old girl who is twenty-seven weeks pregnant. Her parents divorced and Tabita entered into an abusive relationship with a nineteen-year-old boy. Her education was the sum total of four years. After that, she left school in order to care for her three siblings. Her mother suffers from an acute form of diabetes. This young fifteen-year-old has known only tears, loss and a constant path of suffering. Serious decisions need to be reached regarding her future. She has made a decision to leave this abusive relationship and has returned to her family home. A sick mother, four children and a baby – they will not be able to provide food, clothing, pay utility bills for five people and the expense of a baby. Suffering does not have to be for nothing. Pray with me that Tabita may come to know the love of the Lord in the safe birth of her baby and His sustaining grace day by day for this destitute family.
Simona (25) has two children. However, she made a decision to leave the father of her children and is now married to another man. Simona is twenty-one weeks pregnant with her third child and has suffered three miscarriages; her one desire is to carry this baby full term. Unfortunately, there are signs all is not well; Simona is currently receiving treatment. May the Lord speak peace to this troubled heart.
Gabi is a mother of two children who gave birth three months ago to a healthy baby girl. During a consultation with a paediatrician, it was confirmed there is an issue with one of the baby’s hips. Gabi has asked for our support in prayer, asking the Lord to touch and heal her little darling.
Cristina gave birth to a baby boy through a Caesarean section owing to complications regarding the positioning of the baby. Cristina is aware the Lord brought her through this surgery and has asked us to pray with her that there will be no further complications.
Rebeca has two children and gave birth in March to a baby boy called Lancu Matei. She has an autoimmune disease which affects her organs. Rebeca has now been admitted to the hospital in Iasi for further investigations. We have supported her with everything related to her pregnancy and will continue to offer support as required. Presently the urgent need is dried milk without lactose; friends visiting her, brought dried milk and other items. Rebeca is aware of the touch of the Lord in her life and for the kindness the Lord has shown to her through the work of Iochebed. Gabi writes: ‘We are deeply moved and extend our heartfelt thanks to those of you who have chosen to support the outstanding work of Iochebed. Rebeca is only one of hundreds who come searching for love’. God’s love comes in many different ways.
I want to turn our attention to one of ‘Life’s Moments’ which occurred six years ago. Sometimes, situations are so painful we would rather not remember them and yet some of my most treasured gifts in life have also involved me embracing suffering such as I have never known. It was as if it were only yesterday my friend and colleague Dora took me to the abandoned baby wing in the orphanage centre. Many years and I mean many years have passed. C.S. Lewis said: ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain, it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world’. Isa was abandoned by her mother after giving birth in the local Maternity Hospital. Child Protection placed her in our abandoned baby wing. She was diagnosed as suffering from Hydrocephaly Operated Syndrome with other complications. Following surgery, a brain malformation was confirmed. My dear friend Dora has been working with Isa since she was six months old. During our ‘play times’ with the abandoned babies, Isa was always different. She was funny, curious and insisted on disassembling all the toys or trying to escape from her cot. In time, Dora taught her to walk without fear of falling. Her progress was slow but positive, it has taken years of love, passion and patience to change the destiny of this little treasure. I smile now, remembering special times as Monika, Dora and I played and taught therapy to these children left without hope. On my last visit and ‘cuddle time’ with Isa, it was evident she was beginning to speak a little, have the ability to feed herself, define the difference between feelings. A big step lay ahead … it was now time for kindergarten. During these six years, Monika, Dora and I have been praying in our prayer trio that the Lord would find a placement for her in a Christian home. Isa had to watch all her friends go into foster care as she was left behind. Isa is now seven, still different, but oh, still so lovable. The depth of this journey has brought me to know that from the deepest suffering of hopelessness, there is a faithful God. Years have passed but God’s placement is perfect. Isa is now reunited with two of her friends Maria and Boby and has joined them as their new foster sister in a loving Christian Home. Our precious Isa has the one thing she longed for – a Mummy and a Daddy who love her.
Deep impressions remain with me, so much so, I have been challenged and motivated to rescue ‘Even One’. Families living lost and wasted lives. One particular day is engraved on my memory. Monika drove me to meet with three families, literally struggling to survive. A single father with nine children confined to one room without proper cooking facilities or running water and where over thirty families shared a communal bathroom. A young mother with three children again living in one room where ten families shared one bathroom and a tiny kitchen area. A widowed mother struggling with acute health problems trying to raise two daughters, one of whom is severely disabled. This block of flats housed eight families sharing one bathroom. How can my heart not be stirred to care? Let me take you on a personal journey into the lives of some of the children caught in a web of struggle. Teachers seem to recognise the signs of young lives suffering in silence. Diana is not unique, she is one of many who hold a cherished hope that one day, yes, one day, things may be different. A concerned teacher made contact with Casa Grace and with great care and a soft undertone, outlined her concern for one of her pupils. Diana, who has just turned eleven, is a quiet child with a severe learning disorder which does not diminish her will to learn, in fact, the opposite. The family live in extremely difficult conditions where the only thing guaranteed is extreme poverty. Diana’s mother suffered from cancer and died many years ago. Her widowed father lives out of the remnants of very little; some days, the remnants are nothing. The struggle was not over, soon after the death of his beloved wife, the family home was totally destroyed by fire. Cristiann (father) rented an apartment in Oradea in order to be close to a local school. He has built one room to accommodate his other children. Diana’s father has since remarried, his second wife has a daughter of seventeen and they have a son of four years of age and a daughter of two years of age. Sorrow has followed this little girl since infancy. She never knew the love of her ‘Mummy’; no time for play, no arms to cuddle her and in her quiet disability she still manages to smile. All she longs for is to be normal, to be loved and accepted. Our monthly feeding programme relieves the burden of finding food for six children and two adults, the table is no longer bare. Monika frames the picture for me, she writes: ‘Sister Shirley, my precious friend, there is a lot of sorrow; poverty and we pray for His appearance in their lives. May the monthly support of precious food and hygiene, open their hearts to receive the message of Jesus. Thank you very much for supporting them and please, continue for transformation in their lives- thank you very much’.
Calin is a devoted father who has assumed the total parental care of his three children. (Two sons aged fifteen and thirteen, one daughter aged nine) Their mother made a personal choice to abandon her husband and three children seven years ago. During this time, she has never inquired into their welfare or wellbeing. The father has since remarried. There are two daughters aged three and one to this second marriage. They are an orthodox family, a very poor family, filled with deep anxiety and poverty. Poor in this world’s goods but rich in love one for the other. May the Gospel be accepted in their lives and bring real changes. They thank us so much for the monthly faithful support to them. It is not a luxury but a necessity.
We give thanks to the Lord for His provision of £500 to proceed with the refurbishing of ‘Adam’s Room’. Two tables, ball pit and coloured balls, Duplo blocks etc all on order:
Psalm 91 was mum’s favourite psalm. We read it together every evening: ‘He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God; in him will I trust’. Immediately this Psalm came to mind on receiving news my precious friend Monika’s young cousin Zsolt (37) a godly young man who served in the Hungarian Baptist Church had been ‘Called Home’ suddenly a few days ago. His mother cares for her husband who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease; she also cares 24/7 for her elderly mother. Her young son was a blessing to her; now, he is gone. Monika is travelling to Hungary to support her family during this time of sorrow. The service of Thanksgiving will take place in the Hungarian Baptist Church on Saturday. Only eternity will reveal the reason why. Zsolt has been promoted to Glory.
Generations come and go. In touching lives, we may have a different point of view but when one hears the cries of a broken heart, we cannot but ask ourselves: ‘How can I give?’ Occasions such as this have been my ‘flashing lights’ on my pathway in the land I love. Will I return? Only God knows. Until then I will keep on serving and loving with gratitude for God given new horizons. Love and suffering are inexplicably linked. His cost – our discipleship.
Shirley, June 29, 2023
42 B BERNICE ROAD, CO ANTRIM. BT36 4QZ