Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one
of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already.
Even the hairs of your head are all counted. Matthew 10:29
Before I was born the Lord called me; from
my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. Isaiah 49:1
If I ascend up into the heavens, you are there: if I make my bed
in the lowermost parts of the Earth, behold, you are there. Psalm 139:8
If you walk up and sit on the steps below the fish tanks and look back toward the mountains, you look across a little vale to the orchards on the hillside. Except when the sun is high overhead, it’s a good place to sit and think.
At dusk the night pours into this little valley like dark water from the slopes round about. If the rain has passed and the sky is clearing, the surface of that dark valley will be covered with the ephemeral sparks of ten thousand fireflies, like a second firmament at your feet, like a reflection of the bright stars in the night sky above your head.
I’d gone out there to think, or maybe just to sit and count fireflies. Dusk was just passing the reigns to dark as I walked through the grass to the little bridge below the tanks. By the time I got to the steps, it was full dark. You see, twilight hardly has a place at the table in the tropics, so it never lingers.
When I looked out over the valley of fireflies, it was evident that these fireflies are a little different from those of my childhood. They all twinkle and glow and wink out on the same plane, hardly ever rising more than a foot above the ground. It did give the disorienting impression of a night sky at your feet. Have you ever wondered how many stars you are looking at when you turn your eyes toward the heavens? Well, it’s about 3,000. That is about the greatest number of stars the (young) human eye can see in all directions from any one vantage point on a clear night out away from city lights. We are definitely out away from city lights here. I thought of that and began to try to count the stars above my head and then the stars at my feet.
Stars and Fireflies
I got to somewhere in the high hundreds counting firefies; then my mind sort of drifted off into the middle space. I was thinking about Choppy and Skinny. I don’t really call them that. Well, maybe I did on the first day. After the first day I got to know Choppy’s real name by caring for him. His name is Crescencio. After the first day I made it a point to try to remember Skinny’s name (Angel), but that was harder. I wasn’t taking care of him. I was thinking about what it takes to remember someone’s name when I lost count of the stars in the firmament at my feet.
We met both Crescencio and Angel early on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago. They were each brought in to the emergency room almost simultaneously by their respective friends and family members. Angel had been shot in the belly. Crescencio had been attacked with a machete, chopped 6 times, badly injured in 5 places. The stories diverge widely from there, depending upon who is telling the story. The one fact that is clear is that they did it to each other. They both came from way over in the mountains to the east of us, a place called Las Valles. The fact that both survived to get to the hospital is, in part, a testimonial to how tough those mountaineers are.
Angel arrived first, and the guys with him were saying that Angel was riding up to work in the mountains early Saturday AM when Crescencio shot him from ambush, and then Angel defended himself with his machete. Without going into detail, from the nature of the injuries of the both of them, that story is patently ludicrous.
Shortly after Angel, Crescencio was brought in to the hospital, and his family was saying that there is a blood feud between the families, so he (Crescencio) always went armed.
They said that Angel and two of his friends (the two guys standing there) had ambushed Crescencio with their machetes. Crescencio had shot Angel, they said, in self-defense. It was a tense situation in the E.R., and the parties had to be separated and kept separate.
We have two surgeons here now (myself and Dave Alexander), but we had only one anesthetist (Rosanne). Since we couldn’t take them both to the Operating Room simultaneously, we first took the one whose injuries seemed most imminently life-threatening. It was a good decision, as Angel hadn’t just been shot through the stomach, but also the tail of the pancreas, and his spleen was fragmented. He had also lost most all of his circulating blood volume between the mountains above Las Valles, and the Operating Room at Loma de Luz. The whole hospital was already in motion and the lab had gotten sufficient blood available from our walking blood bank in record time. If not for the efforts of many, without a doubt, Angel would have met that very morning with those awesome messengers of God that his Mama named him for… and I don’t think things would have gone well for him. As soon as we got Angel patched up, and Rosanne got him on a level flight pattern, we moved on to Crescencio. When we could examine him better, we found his injuries to be pretty horrendous. Again, Dave and I worked together while Rosanne did the Anesthesia. We dealt with open skull fractures on both sides; his facial bones on one side had been severed from his cranium down to his jaw; and about half of the bones, tendons, and arteries in his left forearm had been severed, some twice…. By the time we had all the parts put back together, it was dusk. We had worked all day just putting back together what those two guys had done to each other in less than a minute.
Here is what I was thinking about when I lost count of the fireflies. All day long, to the surgeons at least, these two guys were “Skinny” and “Choppy.” We hadn’t had a chance to learn their names yet, and we had to call them something. But, for a multitude of reasons, it is just unacceptable to go around referring to patients by some descriptive nickname, no matter how well it fits. Choppy became Crescencio for me beginning with talking with the family, then doing his post-op paperwork. We had to keep the two patients (and their families) separated. So, after surgery, I took care of Crescencio on one end of the hospital, while Dave took care of Angel on the other. It became natural to think of the kid as a real person with a real name, Crescencio, as I watched him struggle to recover from these horrendous injuries. I had to work harder to get Angel’s name down, had to ask Dave his name a couple of times. And, the converse was true for Dave. “Skinny” quickly became “Don Angel” for him as he cared for him in his struggle to come back from the brink of death. But he had to ask me Crescencio’s real name a couple of times.
So, I was thinking about that as I lost count of fireflies, while their galaxies of evanescent sparks blazed and faded in the blink of an eye on the lake of darkness below the fish tank steps. I was wondering about how things would have gone for Crescencio or Angel if they had died that day. They didn’t, you know. Their story isn’t all told yet. And, of course, I can’t really know how it would have gone for either of them if they had met their Maker that day just after doing such horrendous violence, the one to the other. But I know this: He would have known their names.
Their Maker would have known their anger and their pride and who shot first or swung the machete first. And, He would have known how much they were hurting and how scared they were. I don’t think either one of them has a password to anything, but He would have known the name of their first pet. He would remember, and, He would have cared about it. How unique it is among all the gods to think of one not just far beyond the heavens or in the deepest parts of the earth, but here in the struggle, in the middle ground between the fireflies and the stars. How strange it is that of all the stories of all the gods, the real one is the one who knows your name.
I had to discharge Crescencio to the Police about a week after his injuries. Then I saw him in wound clinic a few days ago. They brought him over from the prison in Tocoa. His sister and his brother were with him. They’re all really quiet and shy, and real poor. They were too insecure to talk to anyone around them, like all the other patients do, even though all the other patients are almost as poor as they are. That’s not just humilde (humble), that’s penoso (awkwardly, painfully self-conscious). By the end of a long day of waiting without complaining, it dawned on me that they hadn’t eaten and they didn’t have any money for food. I went and found them some cookies and some candy, pretty much all I could find at that hour of the day. It was the first time I saw them light up. You would have thought it was their first Christmas. Being badly injured and in prison with no money over in Tocoa is no walk in the park. But it’s do-able if somebody’s got your back, if you’ve got an advocate. You can do it with some peace in your soul, like counting fireflies, if you’ve got somebody who knows your name. Next clinic visit, I think I’ll tell them about that. It’s better than cookies.
In Christ Jesus,
Jefferson McKenney, M. D.
p.s. At the sending of this letter, Crescencio is healing almost miraculously well. He is now out of prison and is a professing Christian. We are connecting him with a church, (actually, one that grew out of the work of Loma de Luz). Angel is recovering and continues to be seen in clinic. He recently told one of the hospital chaplaincy staff, “The words I heard from you all in the hospital are working their way out in my life.”
Crescencio healing miraculously
Beginning the New School Year
The Bilingual School: The new school year for Escuela Bilingue El Camino began February 21. This year we plan as a transitional year, one that will bring our calendar in line with the school year of the USA. The entering classes will stay in their grade until May 2018, with a significant break in the summer and for Christmas. From May 2018 and following, our school calendar will generally begin in August, and end in May. This allows for more participation by teachers on a US School Calendar…. WHICH WE ARE IN NEED OF (teachers).
The first part of this transitional year will last into May, but then it will begin in earnest again in August. We currently have 96 children enrolled in the school. But there are 58 children (with their respective families) anxiously hoping for placement. We cannot commit at this time, due to an insufficient number of teachers to cover all of the bases, but if we had one or two more teachers, particularly kinder / pre-kinder teachers, we could place the majority of these children in a pre-kinder class, and possibly an additional kindergarten class.
So, if you know anyone who is a teacher, particularly a kindergarten teacher who might be willing to work for the Lord (with some assistance from the Cornerstone Foundation) for a school year beginning August, 2017, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isai (kinder) and big brother Yafet
Children’s Home Supervisor(s): We have an urgent need–with the McKenzies leaving the field in June–for supervisors for the Sanctuary Children’s Centre. We have an interim plan, but a real need is waiting for the right qualified person(s) to answer the call. If you keep a list of things to pray for, please put this need on that list and mark it with the brightest yellow highlighter you can find. Seriously, please do some very intentional prayer in this area; it is a crucial ministry, and it can’t function well without this need being met.
Administrative Personnel: As the work of the ministry at Loma de Luz grows and improves, there is need for additional administrative staff. If you know someone gifted in this area who would also like to be able to do such work as a ministry, let us know and urge them to contact us and consider this calling.
Laboratory Technologist: We have a need for a laboratory technologist who would be willing to come down (for ideally two weeks or more) to train our new Honduran lab technicians in microscopy skills. We could provide the microscopes, the personnel, a translator, and a syllabus if needed.
Please pray for the missionaries’ health, pray for them to be encouraged by the way in which God weaves their lives together to accomplish His work, and pray for their support. Pray for logistics—pray for the water and power supply systems to work well, and for the needed vehicles to hold their own against the rutted and washboard roads with which they have to do battle. Please pray regarding the ever-present challenge of government paperwork, please pray for us to have special grace with the bureaucrats to whom we submit filings, and please pray that our requests will be seen with favor and work their way rapidly through the chaotic maze of government offices in the capital city. Pray for safety, wisdom, and direction in all the support services—from the carpentry shop to the hospital lab and pharmacy to the hospital laundry to the Children’s Centre’s kitchen to the school’s lesson plans. All of these mundane “small” things (and many more) God often thoughtfully attends to even when we forget to ask.
He showers us with blessings each day in the form of all the bad things that did not happen. Let us, while we are thinking of it, thank Him for that. Let us also find joy in knowing that we serve a Lord who uses the small and mundane things of this world (sometimes right alongside the magnificent ones) to accomplish His artistry. He gives us hope by the light of the stars and hope by the light of fireflies.
–Sally Mahoney for Cornerstone
El Camino Staff / Teachers for the new year
Front: Belinda Gomez
Back: Estelle Barnett, Julia Barnett, Sara Klossner, Eliza McKenzie, Reagan Jefferies, Katie Stockton, Heidi Moultray, Kathryn Goodloe, Rebekah Pirkle