Outreach using a short film :: God’s pursuit of college students

Lat night, Scott and I prepped our backpacks and downloaded the 6-minute film. This morning, the kids and I bought headphones at Big W (Aussie version of WalMart), swung by the office to pick up Scott, then drove the handful of minutes to Monash University*.

Our Cru friend and filmmaker, Chris, produced “The Parting Gift,” a few months ago and today we were hoping to show it to college students to launch into spiritual conversation. (Read about the film in a previous newsletter.)

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Bean bags and iPhones everywhere in the student union today on campus. Can I be a college student now instead?

Scott: I was feeling less anxious than I normally do when doing an outreach. The bubbly 4-year-old holding my hand probably helped.

The only student who allowed me to share the film with him was Bruce, who is already involved with Cru’s international student ministry. Everybody else politely declined saying something like, “It’s not for me” or “No thanks, mate.”

I talked with one of our other missionaries afterward and he seemed to indicate this is typical. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to engage with more students, but grateful for the sobering affirmation of how spiritually hard most hearts are in Australia.

Angie: The 6 of us prayed for our time and broke up into pairs to go talk with students. Scott took Lizzy, I took Joshua and two other Cru friends went together. I was excited but the nervousness kicked in as my 2-year-old buddy, our pram (stroller) and I navigated through the crowded student union.

Coffee for me and babychino (baby coffee…really milk) for Joshua, we sat down in a student-run cafe called WholeFoods (“For the people, not for profit”) that had a fun earthy/grunge feel that can only happen when you have students from all over the world, they way you do here.

A senior from Russia named Vlad sat caddy-corner from us. I’d overheard him talking to someone about a stock market game he was playing on the computer and asked him about that, and started a conversation. The international business/geo-sciences/philosophy major agreed to watch the film and rated his interest in Jesus before the film a 3 on a 10-point scale (10=very interested). When I asked his thoughts afterwards, he said it was good, artistically, but he was still a 3. A nice guy, easy to talk to. We talked a bit more, I thanked him and we left the table.

We headed to leave and join the other teams, but as we passed a table of 3 girls, Joshua must have caught one of the girl’s eyes and she started talking to him. (I tell you, small kids and dogs are great for conversation start ups!)

Good conversation with Sasha and Shaunti, even as they were both a 3 for their interest in Jesus. Their friend, Linda was a 10, though! Turns out Linda is a relatively new believer. I had to smile, thinking this is likely the first time she’s told her secondary-education friends that she is a Christian. She seemed glad to hear about a Christian group on her campus.

I think my favorite part of the film — and the brief discussion afterwards — is God’s never-ending pursuit of us and how evidence of that is the very conversation I was having with those 4 students. Even if their “number” didn’t change, it’s great to know God put Himself on Vlad, Sasha, and Shaunti’s radar today.

P.S. I see how God answered prayer, specifically that our kids would be a blessing and not a distraction to the students we talk to. That happened! A 2-year-old is a potential running-off rocket coupled with potential in the area of meltdown-at-unexpected-times. He sat patiently and I almost couldn’t believe it until I remembered I’d asked people to pray.

Want to try?

*Monash is an incredibly international university and enrolls approximately 45,000 undergraduate and 17,000 graduate students, making it the university with the largest student body in Australia.

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Lizzy’s tubes in/adenoids out surgery tomorrow :: Joshua’s speech update

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Our dancer and dump-truck-loving guy who thinks a tiara is some kind of hat, I think.

Lizzy: 

After going dairy-free for Lizzy for a month (with a new appreciation for people with food allergies!), chiropractor appointments, etc. we feel like we’ve checked off our list of all possible causes before we headed into surgery.

Although Lizzy’s ENT dr. is confident her small ear tubes and inflamed adenoids are the root cause, I knew I’d kick myself if we did the surgery and the reason behind the poor sleep, constant cough, at-times hearing loss was really milk or something.

That said, her surgery will be in a few hours — Thursday 9am-ish (Wed 7pm EST). She’ll get grommet (tubes) and, while she’s under, Dr. Matthew will look at her adenoids and, very likely, remove.

Scott and I will both be with Lizzy and we’re grateful for our beloved babysitter, Hannah, staying overnight who will wake with Joshua (we have to be at the hospital at 7am) and then my good friend, Alyssa, who will come get Joshua and take him home with her until we get him about lunchtime.

I’ll update on the blog about how surgery went.

Joshua:

His speech is slowly moving forward, but not caught up yet for a 2-1/2-year-old. We see a speech therapist fortnightly (meaning bi-weekly, isn’t that such a great British/Aussie word?). We’re encouraged by the progress, albeit slow. There are times when I remember the early days of being here with his almost-constant screaming and I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for how far God’s brought him to be able to communicate.

Day 2 for Scott 

I asked Scott to text me pictures so I could imagine where he was. This was his double-decker train (they make those?) in Sydney. The opposite of the crammed-full-of-people train in Melbourne he took yesterday.
I love this face! I asked Scott to text me pictures so I could imagine where he was yesterday. This was his double-decker train (they make those?) when he arrived into Sydney. 
It's day 2 for Scott in Sydney and this is his view for the day.
It’s day 2 for Scott in Sydney and this is his view for the day.

Yesterday sounds like it was good, but there were a few bumps. Not a surprise when you factor in 1) it’s technology and I’m thinking, sadly, when does IT stuff ever go like clockwork? 2) Scott’s helping streamline and set up security/backup infrastructure for a part of the Cru family of ministries that helps people hear about Jesus and the enemy doesn’t want that to happen.

Here’s how I’m praying for Scott today, if you want to join me:

  • his head and body. He woke up with a headache and sore. After not having to see the chiropractor since we left the U.S. (amazing praise because he was going monthly, at least, at home) it’s becoming evident that we need to find a good one here.
  • for Scott to walk in the power that God provides for his day and work and that he’d not depend on his own knowledge or ability (which I, in bias, think is great).
  • for him and Jiji (the Cru pointperson there) as they work together.
  • for God to move in such a way that there’d be at least one thing today that Scott could clearly point to and know that God paved the way/gave insight/etc.

A praise: kids and I had a great day together. We had a morning sweet play date/saying goodbye to one of Lizzy’s kinder (pre-school) friends and her mom. Then, “Fun Angie mom” showed up over lunch and said yes when Lizzy asked to make a simple popsicle recipe she saw in a magazine. At the end of the day, L& J and I visited a friend, recently home from the hospital, and she and her husband surprised us by asking if we wanted to stay for dinner. I was going to just heat up leftovers, but I definitely see that as God taking care of us in unexpected, kind ways.

Scott’s off to Sydney to network…computers

A rainy drop-off for Scott at the nearby train station. Today's journey for Scott involves a train, a bus, a plane flight (1 hour 20 min), then a train, then another train and finally a bus ride...to get to Jiji's house, the Cru missionary Scott is helping for 2 days.
A rainy drop-off for Scott at the nearby train station. Today’s journey for Scott involves a train, a bus, a plane flight (1 hour 20 min), then a train, then another train and finally a bus ride…to get to Jiji’s house, the Cru missionary Scott is helping for 2 days. 
Scott's view on his first train ride of the day. Yeah, I'd feel like that, too, if I was sardined in there like that, buddy.
Scott’s view on his first train ride of the day. Yeah, I’d feel like that, too, if I was sardined in there like that, buddy.

Here’s an update/prayer request Scott sent out this morning:

Tomorrow morning here in Australia (which will be Tuesday evening in the U.S.), I’m going to be flying from Melbourne to Sydney to help make some big changes at the Aussie headquarters for GAiN.  GAiN Australia is the humanitarian arm of Cru. It exists to demonstrate the love of God (through word and deed) to hurting and needy people in Southeast Asia by way of relief and development projects. Over the next couple of days, I’ll get the opportunity to put in a new system for their computer files, as well as redesign their office computer network.  The end goal is to help make processes for their volunteers simpler and also ensure GAiN’s computer files can be recovered in case of a system failure. Can you pray for the following?
  • Safe, unhindered travel
  • Success in putting the system in on Wed afternoon through Thursday evening
  • For God to watch over Angie and the kids while I’m gone
Also, we have an appointment for Lizzy to see an ear, nose and throat specialist on Tuesday the 21st (Monday the 20th in the U.S.).  Her congestion is persistent as well as the fluid blocking her ears and affecting her hearing.  Can you pray that God will give the doctors wisdom on what to do to help our little girl?  The initial thoughts by our GP is that she needs to have her adenoids removed, which will require surgery and an overnight stay at the hospital.  Thank you so much for lifting us up in prayer to our God who is faithful to answer!

Ding. (Love that text sound!) Just heard from Scott.

“Apparently there is a bad accident holding up the buses getting here. PTL that the buses somehow got thru to get her on time. Making good time now.”

Melbourne is the most livable city, we’re told, and a big reason is ease of transportation. But it’s still been tricky to figure out how much time to allot and all the stops to factor in.

That bring me to something funny: there’s no direct train going directly to the airport. Supposedly, the train tracks and everything were build into the airport, connecting it with Melbourne, but then..something. A disagreement? Steep taxes? Not sure (I keep forgetting to look it up), but whatever the reason, it’s not in service. Crazy! So, thus travel in this amazing city is easy…except if you want to fly in or out.

Thanks for journeying with us! What an adventure to go and be a part of what God’s doing!

pray for us while we travel?

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When I first played out the reality of what 25 hours of travel might look for our family, I started to panic. Then, quite quickly, God gave me an idea: ask people to sign up to pray for a time slot. My heart filled with hope at what that would mean–a tangible reminder that friends are with us in this! 

So, pick a slot and pray for whatever portion of that hour you’d like. If the time slot already has a name, just add yours to it! We welcome lots of people praying for us as we step out in faith on this next adventure and assignment.

Lizzy’s EEG results: normal!

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Objects in the photo are happier than they may appear.

Fueled by Diet Coke and Cadbury Mini Eggs (I mean, have you had these crunch-coated tastes of wonderfulness??), I write this update. Then, I hope to break last night’s stat of 4 hours — non-consecutiv hours, mind you — of sleep. Just when things are getting better for Lizzy, Joshua’s newly-diagnosed reflux is rearing it’s burning head and making our happy baby red-eyed with tears.

We are big fans of Nemours Children’s Hospital after this. First of all, get me on the phone with the interior designer. I feel like I want to jump on the colorful, cool-lookin’ furniture when I’m there. It’s like what IKEA Children’s Hospital would be if there was such a thing. Both our appointments today were actually — are you sitting down? — early. They took us early. Thankfully we were there early, thanks to my on-time husband.

At 11am, we found another blessing of Lizzy having little hair. Less mess when the tech puts on 25 probes (Is that what they’re called?) on her little blonde head. The pix above is Lizzy with her new “hat,” covering the 25 “stickers” they put on her head as i sat behind her, holding her. She did great — better than this pix suggests. 🙂 it was cute/sad how as Helen, the tech, put on the probes, Lizzy would say after every couple, “Ahhh done.” More like a statement than a question. Then, Helen wrapped her head and then we tried to sit still for her to run the tests as we watched a Winnie the Pooh movie.

A little less than an hour from the time we went back, she had the probes off and the goop mostly washed out of her hair. Should note that Scott had his head wrapped, too, to help her not be scared.

Clearly, another kindness of the Lord was that Lizzy did so well (after so many people probing her between the ER Wed and pediatrician yesterday) and our now-very-fussy-refluxy Joshua SLEPT thru her who procedure. Wow, we are grateful!

We had lunch in the cafeteria, a Lizzy ran around outside for a bit before we headed to the 5th floor to meet the neurologist. Dr. Finkle gets great points for telling us, just moments after we met him, what the results were. “Her EEG came back normal.”

He was a kind man, but Lizzy wasn’t about to trust him right away but I think the Elmo stickers from the nurse helped as a distraction for a bit as Scott and I answered his questions about what happened. He checked Lizzy’s reflexes and watched her walk barefoot down the hallway. We didn’t offer anything about the suggested reflux root cause until the very end, right before we left, because we wanted to see what he’d say without that prompt.

Upon comparing notes when we got home about the time, Scott mentioned that the doctor had said that the EEG showed no signs of a seizure. What? I think I’d missed that when both Lizzy and Joshua were crying and I was slightly distracted. That’s great news! But, Dr. Finkle thought our description of what happened sounded like a seizure though. Hmmmm. Confusing. The great thing is that everything checks out normal with our 22-month-old. When we talked about reflux, Dr. Finkle said (again I insert my disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and I’m hoping I’m saying this correctly) that it was possible but 2 things seemed different about our experience and what would most likely be true if it was reflux-based.

1) The episode would have lasted only 1-2 minutes and Scott thought it was 2-3. Of which, can I say, I can’t imagine what my beloved had to witness and can only guess it felt like an eternity. And no one had a stopwatch. 2) With reflux, the child will vomit and then often snap out of the episode and cry. Scott said Lizzy was slow in coming back around and didn’t cry.

So, there’s much, much, much to be thankful for and yet we would have loved a resounding “yes” from the doctor that it can be blamed on reflux.

What next? We don’t have any more follow-up appointments but still have the big question of what caused it? We’ll watch her and see. I’ve been so encouraged by the emails, calls and comments friends have left and have been surprised to hear how many children out there have had one seizure at some point in their life and then never another one.

I feel like our family got to experience what is true of all of us, but usually we don’t face it: we aren’t invincible. We aren’t as strong or as in control as we think we are. We’re one episode away from having our entire world as we know it shifted. I’ve been hugging Lizzy a little tighter and showering her with a few more kisses the last 2 days.

Going to bed thankful, yet again, for a “big and trustworthy God” as my dear friend Marcia reminded me when she wrote. And thankful for amazing praying friends. (And thankful for cooking friends–a shout out to Anna and Amanda for feeding our family these two days, letting this mama use those moments to rest instead of standing in front of the fridge wondering what to make.)

Lizzy update after the seizure

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Both kids are sleeping (strike that–Joshua keeps stirring) and I’m longing for the pillow, but wanted to write an update. Partly for you and partly for me to document before my fuzzier brain gets fuzzier with time.

How grateful we are for the influx of texts, calls and messages. What a community of praying friends we have across time zones!

Long story short, it looks likely that the seizure episode last night was a result of acid reflux. (That sounds crazy even as I write it.)

After our last 2 appts with Dr. Nielsen–our pediatrician/medical sleuth–I’ve started feeling like I’m watching some kind of CSI episode because I leave saying, “How did she figure that out?” Last time it was her figuring out that Joshua was really older than we’d thought and our due date had been off by at least a week.

Yesterday at the end of  lunch, Lizzy had a few-second shudder “something” of her head that made Scott and I both look at each other with a What was that? exchange. And Scott had been with Lizzy when she had the seizure after dinner (I was at Jazzercise). It was about 15 minutes after she’d eaten dinner and he was changing her diaper in her room upstairs. At some point, she started staring off and he couldn’t get her attention. Her lips went from fleshy to purple to fleshy and back to purple. She vomited 4 times. Somewhere in that he was able to call 911. Oh, how grateful I am for Lizzy to have had her calm Daddy to be wise to get her on her side, loving and caring for her through those agonizing 2-3 minutes before she became lucid. It was about 6:20pm on Wed, March 6.

I was gathering my things after class when Scott called. I’ll never forget his tone. Calm but very firm.

“I need you to come home. NOW. Lizzy’s ok but she’s had a seizure…” I have little recollection of what he said after that.

I ran out, calling to friends to pray. My sweet friend, Christy, asked if she could drive me home or come with and I readily accepted.

I sprinted into the kitchen from the garage, dropping my bag and running to my baby on her Daddy’s lap, who was shaking and crying, surrounded by 4-5 big EMT kind men in our not-so-big living room. Vomit covered a good portion of her head.

I understood, really for the first time, how parents say they’d change places with their child. It’s a no brainer.

They checked her blood glucose and it was fine at 105 (a relief to this diabetic mama) and tried to get vitals but she flailed a lot, undone.

Thankfully, Joshua was asleep almost this entire time, just waking up when we were getting Lizzy cleaned up and ready for her and I to go in the ambulance. Thankfully, Christy was there to hold our little 2-month-old blessing and be there to help Scott get Joshua packed up to meet us at the hospital. (A shout out to her for cleaning up an incredibly-undesirable changing table and putting away/tidying up our kitchen. We came home to no clean up needed. What a blessing that was!)

We’re grateful that Nemours Children’s Hospital just opened in October, just 15 minutes away, so it was a quick no-sirens ride. They saw us right away with no wait, another blessing. They were great, but Lizzy’s a little girl who’s slow to warm up to strangers on good days–and you add the reality of a small room busting with people talking and she was a mess. Oh, the mama heart to calm her! (Thanks to our wonderful pastor, John Gullett, who surprised us at the ER.)

After drawing a vial of blood from her heel 😦 and running an EKG, she checked out OK and the ER doctor said it seemed like an “Absence Seizure.” About right now I should give the obvious disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV so this is my best go at explaining what we heard. If I heard correctly, that term is for seizures that aren’t explained another way. He didn’t seem concerned but they always refer a patient who’d had a seizure to a cardiologist or neurologist.

We were discharged about 10pm…I think.

We’d already had an appt for Lizzy the next day (today) with her pediatrician for another issue, so we were glad to get in to talk with her. She listened to what’d happened. Her thoughts are that Lizzy has late-onset reflux or might have had it awhile and it’s been “silent.” Scott’s noticed that she’s had some coughing spells recently that would make more sense if that’s true. The lunchtime episode would also make sense because it’d have been a reaction to the gross taste of reflux.

Scott was the one to catch the fact that both happened after a meal. She asked how long after dinner that he had her on the changing table. He said 15 minutes and she said that how he described the seizure could have been a result of reflux. (This is where I can’t do justice in how she explained it.) Even the issue that had made us originally make the appt for her has potential ties to reflux.

The interesting thing was how we were in the office for Joshua’s 2-month check up, too, and the question we were going to ask was about his potential reflux that we’d just been starting to notice the last week or so that he his spit-up was curdley, a sign often of reflux. His birth weight has shot up from the 5th percentile to the 50th, and she was asking about how he was nursing and how often he was feeding. I wearily told her he’d eat all the time if I offered and how it was about 2-3 hours during the day and 2.5-3.5 at night. This mama’s desperately needing an answer to his not transitioning to longer sleep stretches. She said, he was actually getting too much, she thought. (What a total contrast to when I tried to nurse Lizzy!) She speculated that he, like us when we have indigestion, wanted to drink milk to soothe the burn.

Oh my word. If this solves the sleep problem, I’m putting her in our will! She wrote a prescription to start him on a low-dose Zantac for kids and he should see some improvement soon. The little guy is saying yippee!

We have a follow-up with the neurologist–best in the state, we keep hearing–tomorrow, back at Nemours where his office is. The EEG will be at 11am and the appt with him at 1:30pm EST.

The only factor that we’re not sure how it would factor into the diagnosis Dr. Nielsen proposed with Lizzy’s poor coordination the last few days (worse that normal, because I always joke she’s a step away from falling–blessed late walker that she was). She also was really leary of getting down from chairs and stepping down off steps yesterday both Scott and I noticed. But today, she’s been fine.

When we got home, she got a bath that got out most of the smell of the night we’ll never forget. Then, she hit the pillow and was out in minutes. The night was uneventful. Whew. We were glad for our video monitor our friend had given us to be able to have a little witness in her room all night. Soothing balm for our hearts to watch her rest so soundly.

Today she’s been fine–back to her fun self apart from being tired. That nap? She didn’t sleep as much as I’d thought or as she needed but it was a good start. I knew she was tired  when I was singing to her before I laid her down and she said, “Bye.”

Well, ok then.

Bye bye night we’d like to forget but one in which we got to experience God’s grace for each moment. Dependency opportunities never come in the easy moments. More than ever I was made aware that these kids aren’t really ours–they are on loan from the Lord for a period of time…hopefully a long, long time. I thought it was so true when Scott said, “I take by faith that God loves them more do because we love them a lot.”