Sunday, September 29, 2013

Iron sharpens Iron

A while back I had a conversation with a soldier who had recently returned from a tour in a war torn country.  He explained to me what he went through while serving his country.  As a U.S. soldier he fought against terrorists who had poorer quality weapons and soldiers, and a much smaller army.  There was no way they could win, yet they fought against the American forces with such hatred.  Though they could not win, they could hurt.  Even small hurts put psychological stress on my soldier friend.  I do not truly understand it because I did not live it.  I have never been on that battlefield.

A while back I had another conversation with a man who works with a minority people group in Bulgaria.  I asked him how his ministry was going.  He was a bit awkward in his response, and I quickly caught the reason.  His work had recently faced major setbacks and he had to start over again after having invested a great deal of time and energy to little effect.  I reminded him that I too am a missionary.  I too have taken risks and started projects.  I too have worked with people on a spiritual level, and I too understand just how often projects fizzle and ministries need to be restarted.  I understand that at times like this we can feel like we have failed or wasted our time working in one area only to find the results less than satisfying.  I understand the attacks of our enemy.  I understand it because I have lived it.  I have been on that battlefield.  We cannot be defeated, but we can be hurt.

Just this weekend this same man gave me a call.  He explained that he was just calling to see how things are going.  We shared recent developments and prayer requests.  After our conversation I realized just how much I needed that call.

There is a reason soldiers do not fight alone.  We need people who understand what we are going through.  We need other soldiers on the battlefield with us.  We need a band of brothers.  We need each other in a life like this.  I am blessed to have a handful of such godly men in my life in Sofia.  We can share struggles, share successes, share strategies, build each other up, and make each other stronger in a way that is non-threatening and non-political.  Iron truly does sharpen iron.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Decade of Life

Ten years ago today was a very special day for our family.  I use the word family, though at the time Sasha and I were just a couple.  On Thursday, September 18, 2003 Sasha took a trip to the University of Minnesota hospital.  This was something she had done every week for the past 4 months.  On the odd numbered weeks she would stay overnight and endure 24 hours of chemotherapy.  On the even number weeks she had it easier with only two and a half hours of
chemo.  September 18th was, mercifully, an even numbered week.  It was also her last treatment.

The spring and summer of 2003 was a time that was very dark for Sasha and me.  She went through a torturous treatment fighting a very deadly and aggressive cancer that quickly weakened her body.  She was a young woman in her 20’s, but she could not even walk a few blocks.  Sasha has always had a high pain tolerance.  That summer I watched her go through terrible pain.  She hated it, but she took it.

Mercifully, I worked the early morning shift at my job most of the summer.  I started work at 5 am most days.  The half hour drive to work alone in the dark gave me plenty of time to vent my emotions in solitude.  (Big 24 year old men don’t cry unless they can’t be seen.)

Week after week we waited for the labs to come back.  Perhaps we were nearing the end of her treatment.  Perhaps this week we would see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Week after week we were disappointed as the tests showed the cancer remained in her body.  Finally her numbers got to where they needed to be, which meant she had 6 weeks of treatment to go.

Thursday, September 18th was a day I remember with much joy.  We left the hospital after that final treatment believing that the cancer had been defeated.  Subsequent tests revealed that her cancer had indeed been cured.  She was free, and now the healing could begin, first physically, than emotionally.

Sasha has shown her resilience over the years.  It was great to watch her recover over the following months.  I remember the crisp fall day when we were first able to walk the entire path in the woods near our house.  It had been a long time since we took that walk together.  She not only recovered from that terrible summer, but she has gone on to do so many great things in life since.

She lived in Poland for 4 years and learned her 4th language (5th if you count Koine Greek).  She gave birth to three very beautiful and very smart children, and she has been a wonderful mother to them.  She started and ran her own successful business.  And those are just a few of her accomplishments.

Every year we celebrate September 18th as “Survivors Day.”  This is the 10th Survivors Day.  I can’t imagine life without you my beautiful darling wife.

Sasha: 10 – Cancer: 0