First Full Day in Jinotega

“Ask him if he would be willing to let his little girl go the United States to get help for his leg”. As the words left my mouth, the significance hit my heart. I just asked a translator to ask a 32 year old man to trust total strangers with his 9 year-old daughter.

The patient cannot be treated in Nicaragua. She has a congenital defect in her foot, ankle & leg. With one leg more than six inches shorter than the other, watching her walk is akin to watching a three-legged race. Life is a struggle. It is already hard to live in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Life with a disability can be a long death sentence.

For instance, one of the first patients I saw was a girl who fell out of a tree. She broke her wrist and now the bones were mal-formed. She was lucky that there wasn’t pain or loss of mobility. She was unlucky, because in the words of her mom, “She won’t make a good wife because she can’t make tortillas”.

Ryan and I are making a lot of great connections with wonderful doctors who are interested in helping with patients in the U.S. The team at IMAHelps is top-notch. I am thoroughly impressed with their ability to help hundreds and hundreds of people in a day.

The IMAHelps team is working on those that can be helped here today. I had the incredible experience of watching two tumerectomies, one on a 10 year-old boy and one on a grown man. 

We’re working on bringing the 9 year-old girl (Freschan) to the U.S. Her dad understood the sacrifice he would have to make in order for his girl to have her leg. He told us, “She is a gift from God. You (our team) are a gift from God.

Shawn

Nicaragua

This morning I purchased tickets to travel to Jinotega, Nicaragua. I was invited by IMA Helps to join them on their third annual trip to host a mobile hospital in Nicaragua. Last year they provided over 12,000 surgeries to the poorest of the poor. This year they are bringing nearly 100 surgeons, anesthesiologists and other medical professionals to bring health to the people of the 2nd poorest nation in the western hemisphere. This is IMA Help’s 11th year of bringing medical teams to poor countries in Central and South America.

My friend-like-a-brother, Ryan Frederick, will be accompanying me on this trip. Ryan started Crux Watches to help us bring healing to injured and ill children (along with helping some other really cool nonprofit work). In the midst of hiking Mt. Rainier, helping to plan the Exodus Experience, leading worship at Desert Foursquare Church, and running his two companies, Ryan jumped at the opportunity to go help the people of Nicaragua. Ryan, you’re one in a billion.

We really don’t know what we’re going to see. It’s one thing to see pictures of these types of procedures, and another entirely to see thousands of people lined up, waiting to be screened & hoping for healing. I know that this trip will have a profound impact on my life, but trying to guess what the outcome will be is impossible. I’ll be sure to blog, facebook post and email as much as possible.

The goal of our trip is to screen for potential Rooftop 519 patients who can come to the U.S. for advanced medical care. I am excited to share their stories with you.

We leave on July 29 and return August 4. Please begin praying for us now. My prayer is as simple as praying for God’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. That is the beginning of justice and righteousness, and we have a unique opportunity to open many relational doors that will deeply impact people.

-Shawn

Astrid and Jhonnatan are Home.

Exactly two weeks ago we helped two families experience the joyful reunion of a lifetime. Melody Steimle, our host mom for Astrid, accompanied our little patients back to their home country of Ecuador. I hope you are as blessed as I was to read Melody’s report about her travel. Here is the email I received this week:

Hello again, I’m back and have caught up on sleep enough to be able to write legibly, I think!

Everything went more than smoothly, it was incredible! I see God doing so many good things through this outreach to these children…affecting not just their physical lives, but planting eternal seeds in their hearts that are already bearing fruit and affecting their families as well.

To start at the beginning…..there were many traveling mercies, too many to count, of people being gracious and helping us make our connecting flights, etc. One of the TSA security workers was so moved when she heard the story that she took down Rooftop’s info to be able to make a donation!

Then, arriving in Ecuador, being received with much rejoicing by crowds of family and friends. Many teary eyes and tight hugs and laughter all

Jhonnatan with his papa

around. What a beautiful reunion, I feel privileged to have been able to witness it….Thank you!

Jhonnotan’s family had traveled far to be there, and turned right around and drove home that very same night. Fortunately, I got a few photos before they left. They planned to present at the US embassy in Quito upon their return to Riobamba.

Jhonnatan with his family in the airport. A joyful father welcomes his son.


Astrid’s family graciously received me in their humble home were we spent the next 3 days out and about, first to the embassy to “check in”, then on to a series of family parties where Astrid was received like returning royalty. It was a joy to see her in her own environment, surrounded by much love and support from family, friends and neighbors.

Now for the really good part. When Astrid was staying with the Parkers, they started a daily devotional book in Spanish with her, which we continued, and it led to some really deep discussions about God, his Son Jesus and what Faith in Him means. Then as a going home present, we gave her a children’s Bible in Spanish, encouraging her to read it and find out for herself more about God and His beautiful story of salvation. When I was staying with her family, I saw some instant fruit from what so many here had planted. 

She insisted on praying before meals, making everyone stop with their mouths full, hold hands, then pray to give God thanks for his blessings. Her parents were too shy to pray out loud themselves, as their religious practices included mostly passive participation in the Catholic church, but they seemed proud and pleased to see Astrid leading the prayers.

Astrid at home with her family.

Then, her mom found the Bible we gave Astrid, and after determining that it wasn’t conflictive with their Catholic beliefs, only the Word of God, she started pouring over it, never having had their own Bible in the house. I showed her how the daily devotional could be supplemented with the different reference scriptures, showing her how to find them using the index, and she took to it as seriously as Astrid’s daily physical therapy routines. I feel confident that God has started a very good work in Astrid and her family, plans that go way beyond her physical needs and reach into the eternal.

After my trip to the mountains and Cuenca, I spent the last day with 

Astrid and her family again in Guayaquil, giving them some good contacts for continuing prosthetic care should she need it before her return to Shriners. The same day, as God’s perfect timing would have it, the director of El Cielo Para Los Niños, Dr. Zorayda Figueroa had just returned from Costa Rica and I was able to not only get the files on more needy kids, but have a good talk with her about their mission, goals and vision. She definitely loves the Lord and knows how to share it! We also talked about visas for the kids, and she informed me that due to their long history and excellent reputation as a foundation, they have an “open file” going with the US consulate and don’t have issues getting visas for the kids they help, or support from the minister of health of Ecuador. The biggest barrier is getting receiving help in the US with doctors who can collaborate pro bono, and of course host families. So, what Rooftop 519 is doing has her very excited to work together to help more children, all to the Glory of God.

So, that’s a summary of a lot of activity in a short amount of time. I would be happy to talk more about the trip and answer more questions in person…so give me a call when it’s convenient and we can go over more of the details. Also, I have posted many of the pictures to my facebook page, but I can burn some CDs and send them to you if you would like hard copies. Just let me know.Thanks so much for giving me this opportunity to follow these kids all the way through the process and see them safely return home. I feel it was a great benefit for all, especially to get to personally know the people running the charity there.

I have had a lot of experience with medical missions, and what I’m seeing you guys doing really excites me and I’m blessed to be a part of it.
Be encouraged that God is doing a good work through you… I feel like it’s just beginning!
Love in Christ,
Melody Steimle

Melody and Astrid in Ecuador.

Thank you to all who are a part of Astrid and Jhonnata’s stories. Much thanks to Shriner’s Hospital in Portland for donating all of this incredible work.

Ditto the Love in Christ, and like Melody, I believe this is just the beginning.

Shawn

Big Take Away

I am at the Christian Leadership Alliance conference in Orlando. Yesterday I had the honor of sitting with 25 nonprofit (and one for-profit) CEO’s. Several of them were bi-vocational ministers, pastors and nonprofit leaders like me.

What really struck me was the excitement in the room when discussing how these leaders, average age of 55 or so, discussed the idea of how to communicate with people in their teens and twenties.

The problem I see is not a values problem but a process problem. The assumption older leaders make about younger people is that the values of younger people “ain’t what it use to be”. Chronology is the only solid identifier of an individual. The kicker is that youth today can’t be categorized and grouped like youth of any other generation. The trick isn’t to learn to speak to a generation. The trick is to learn to speak to a person.

OK, so There is one more identifier; youth generally don’t care what you wear. The MC last night informed us that “business casual” is the dress code. All I packed were jeans. My mission for the rest of the trip is to connect with other jean-wearers and make them feel welcome. Don’t let the man get you down.

Astrid & Jhonnatan

It was incredible to see our team of 12 very unique individuals arrive at SeaTac Airport last night for their arrival. Jhonnatan is a 5 year-old burn victim, and Astrid is a 12 year-old double amputee. She lost her legs due to a congenital defect.

In spite of their issues, these children are strikingly beautiful. Not the world’s view of “pretty”, although Astrid has an attractive face, both children are beautiful because of the hope that shows in their faces. Hope that Jhonnatan can have some of his facial function back. Hope that Astrid can stop walking on the stubs of her femurs. Hope that she can have the dignity of looking people in the eyes, rather than being looked down upon.

Jhonnatan isn’t used to the car rides at high speeds. He threw up on the way to the pediatrician’s office this morning. Poor little guy… he’s so far away from home. The great news is that he has a loving family who will care for him with the compassion they would give to their own daughter.

As I watched Jhonnatan and Astrid come off the plane last night, I was overjoyed at the sense of belonging our host parents felt. There might be a little trepidation over the huge responsibility, but that is far overshadowed with the knowing that God called each of them to serve in this way. Their lives are now forever changed.

I posted pictures on our Rooftop 519 facebook page. This is the beginning of several incredible stories. My sincerest thanks to all who are a part of these kids’ healing.

If you’re near any of our host parents, please offer your support. Encouragement, prayers, cards of encouragement, age-appropriate friends and the occasional invitation to dinner are all great ways for you to be a part of their journey.