Mission Stories

We Are Home!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Now that I’m back home in Haiti – I plan to write more frequently.

I started summarizing the past few months and then decided it would be easier to just cut and paste my Facebook posts.

So below are some of the posts I’ve made since I blogged in October. It’s been a VERY bumpy ride…but I’m thankful to be home. 

Thanks for your patience, prayers, encouragement, love, and support!

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Our “Joy Story” Children’s Church Kick-Off has begun!!

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I am happy to report that we made it home safely! THANK YOU for all of your prayers!

I’m also SO excited to share that we have electricity! We don’t know how long it will last… but we’ve had power every day since we arrived. Pierre said that the town has been WAITING for us to put up all the lights & start our Christmas Festivities. It’s the signal that it’s okay to celebrate even when times are tough. So we’ve been working nonstop since we arrived.

Tonight is our Children’s Church Kick-off. We will be showing A Toy Story to introduce our “theme”… which is – A Joy Story! Jose, the kids, and I will be dressing up as the characters tonight!

We have Staff, Dance, Youth, & Children’s parties to plan…. Christmas Bingo, 10 Nights of Christmas Movies, Food Give-aways, Animal Give-aways, & many other activities that will be starting this week.

We will also have a New Year’s Eve dance competition. We’ve already got 22 teams signed up! There’s 185 people coming from the Port-de-Paix area to participate! With all the drama in Haiti – I assumed the turnout would be really low… but instead everyone is just super excited to do something fun!

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I also wanted to THANK everyone for all of the thoughtful birthday messages!

Yesterday was a very difficult day… honestly I’ve found it difficult to breathe ever since we arrived home.

We decorated our tree last night and took our annual family photo. We normally mail out our Christmas Cards before Thanksgiving but we obviously got a late start this year. We’ve been doing cards since 2002. Lori has always helped us come up with the theme & written the poem. It just doesn’t “feel right” celebrating my 40th birthday without talking to her… without her picking out the clothes for the kids…. without her telling me what to write.

As we were decorating our home, I created a little square in her honor. The stocking was hers when we were children. Whenever I told her I loved her – she’d say “ Love You More”. I bought that sign for her funeral. The Mickey Mouse was a present she got for her last birthday. Her ashes are in the black bottle that Mickey is holding. Each piece in the little square has a special meaning to me.

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to move forward … and as we begin to dive into all our upcoming ministries.

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That awkward moment…

1- When your basement floods the day you are packing 16 suitcases and two of them are soaking wet… AND you have to do laundry again… AND you have to throw away boxes of food you spent hours shopping for.

2-When it’s 2:30am and you load up your van to head to the airport BUT it won’t start because the battery is dead.

3-When you are the first people in line at the ticket counter (an hour before it even opens) and yet the last people who are finally checked in because the lady is Ridiculously slow.

4-When half the kids make it through the TSA line and the other half are stuck waiting for boarding passes… AND every single carryon gets flagged… AND 4 of us get patted down… AND Asher asks if they will pat him down too because it’s “not fair” that the other two boys were.

5- When TSA can’t help the others stuck behind us because we’ve sucked up all their manpower and counter space with all the extra security checks.

6- When you were the first people at the airport and YET you have to run to the gate where they are holding the flight for you… AND everyone already hates you from back at TSA!

7- When it’s not even 5:30am and you’ve already had the most mentally exhausting day!

#neveradullmoment

Ready or not – Haiti Here We Come!!

** COMMENTS I MADE LATER: 

Jody Owen Castillo Ugh…our connecting flight leaves at 10:30 and we are not landing until 10:15am now. They close the gate 10 minutes before departure. Looks like today is just not our day and we will have to overnight 😢
 **
Jody Owen Castillo That MIRACLE MOMENT WHERE THE AGENT HAS A CAR WAITING TO TAKE US TO THE GATE AND THEY HELD THE FLIGHT FOR US!!! 😅 tears of joy!!!

Malaya and I both were crying as we got off the plane…knowing what a pain it would be to recheck bags and go through all the security checks again tomorrow….and they had a sign waiting for us! Totally redeemed this day! Our bags won’t make it but at least we don’t have to touch them again until Haiti! PRAISE THE LORD!!

**
Jody Owen Castillo God works in mysterious ways. They held the plane for us and we couldn’t have been in that airport for more than 10 minutes.

YET EVERY SINGLE BAG MADE IT!?! How?? I have no clue.

My crew looked like such a hot mess that as we went through customs they just waived us on through without opening a single bag!

This has to be the weirdest trip we’ve ever taken….so many twists and turns.

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Special thanks to the Hope College Dancers! The kids LOVED their box of goodies and were so surprised that you thought of them!

You all are SO incredibly thoughtful! The picture collage is awesome too!

Can’t wait for you all to come back! We love you all!

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Today we are taking Rosie to see an orthopedic doctor to discuss the possibility of their practice doing her scoliosis surgery next year pro-bono. Her curve is growing 5% each year.

We appreciate your prayers for this appointment as we fight for her quality of life.

**COMMENTS I MADE LATER

Jody Owen Castillo Thanks everyone for your prayers! The doctor said she definitively needs surgery.

The surgeon and nursing staff are willing to donate their time and waive their fees!

Now we have to go before the hospital board and see if they are willing to waive their fees. It’s a 200k surgery. It’s a lot to ask of a hospital!

We should know something in a week or so! Please pray as so many doors have already been closed to us.

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Tonight I did something that I NEVER thought I would do….

A week before Lori died, she asked me to play worship music one night in the hospital. Though she was too weak to even feed herself, I watched her raise her arms in praise as the song – It Is Well – played on my speaker.

After digging through countless journals/notebooks – I managed to find those words in her handwriting.

This evening I had them tattooed on my foot… in her writing, using her ashes. Now she’ll always be apart of me.

At the end I added “With Me” in Creole. Though I can’t wrap my mind around this year… I have FINALLY accepted that which I cannot change/understand.

Thanks Caroline for an UNFORGETTABLE evening!

It Is Well…. with me.

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Last night we had the privilege of having dinner with Joe (Diane’s husband). The fellowship and reminiscing about Diane was just what my heart needed.

This morning we are seeing the endocrinologist in Cincinnati to find out more about Malaya’s health issues. Driving the road I’ve driven a hundred times…. but knowing my sister won’t be waiting for us at the appointment… passing by all the places we ate at, places we met to switch out kids…. it’s WAY more difficult than I thought.

My sister told Malaya that if something happened – she’s counting on her to decorate her house for Christmas… just like we did last year. She of course said – “You’ll be here so we can do it together again”.

Alas… tomorrow will be another difficult day as we carry out her Christmas wishes. It’s also DJ’s first birthday without his mom. So MANY firsts.

**COMMENTS I MADE LATER

Jody Owen Castillo Thanks everyone for your prayers.

Update on Malaya: The endocrinologists were baffled at Malaya’s symptoms. They called in the head of the department and she said her labs aren’t consistent with a specific diagnosis.

Her hormone & cortisol levels are very high which is concerning. BUT to be consistent with Cushing’s disease – there’s other labs that should inadvertently be lower in order for that diagnosis to line-up.

The head Endocrinologist said in her 15+ years of working – she’s never seen such “impressive” purple/red lines that go up and down her legs, arms, and now her back. She’s the worst case she’s ever seen of that. Of course Malaya is devastated that her skin looks so bad. 😞

We are swabbing her mouth every night at midnight re-testing hormone levels and those labs will be turned in tomorrow. IF the cortisol levels are still high – then they believe there’s a brain lesion that the first MRI didn’t catch. They will want to do a more detailed MRI. They said it could be a tiny tumor and she’d have to have surgery to remove it.

IF her cortisol levels come back normal – then they are truly at a loss and we’ll be starting back at the drawing board – having to run a ton of other tests to figure out what’s going on and she’ll have to see other specialists as well. #neveradullmoment

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Jody Owen Castillo Yesterday was a very bittersweet day. We were able to celebrate DJ’s birthday and carry-out my sister’s Christmas wishes. I had practically lived with her this past year and being in the home without her makes every part of my body ache.

My sister collected Manager Scenes. So Malaya very carefully unwrapped and set-up each one.

Lori had several trees. One of her favorites was her Disney Tree. That tree has been around since I was a little kid. I lived with my sister my freshman year of college and I remember decorating it with her back in 1997. She loved to collect ornaments along the way…and hanging them on the tree brought back so many memories.

We invited Lori’s grandkids over to help us decorate. I feel like it’s my honor & duty to include those precious girls as much as I can. She loved them as though they were her own little girls.

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The Castillo Clan will be at the Convention Center today! Stop by and see us….maybe take a kid home with you! 😂

We also have a special 40th Anniversary Dinner tonight. Message me if you would like to attend. We still have open spots! It’s free! @nwhcm #icom #haiti

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I’m not looking to cause a debate or anything…

BUT – in full sincerity – there’s something I’ve really been struggling with this year. I don’t like that I struggle with it…but it’s my reality in face of losing my best friend, my sister, my youth pastor, my best friend’s mom, & Malonea -all within 1 year.

So here’s my thought-provoking dilemma:

Does God heal the sick (on earth) based off our prayers?

Part 1 of my Dilemma:
Lori died of an infection….not the cancer. Some may say she wouldn’t have had the infection had she not had the cancer but the immunotherapy was shrinking the cancer.

Part of me wonders: What more could I have done to prevent the infection? If only I had…… (made everyone wear masks 24-7, watched her drains closer so she didn’t keep pulling them out, fought harder for her last two treatments of immunotherapy that she missed, done more, etc) maybe Lori would still be here.

When I have shared those guilty thoughts with others – I was asked the question… Do I believe in the sovereignty of God? Did I believe that I could change God’s will for her life? After all, He knows the numbers of our days just as He knows the number of hairs on our heads.

Okay… I really absorbed that and tried to process those feelings… because I do believe God is all-knowing and I do believe God is a good God.

SO if that’s true…then here comes Part 2 of my dilemma:

Part 2 of my Dilemma:
So – if we really believe that God’s will – will be done – regardless of why His will was what it was – – why would my prayers for complete healing here on earth matter?

Lori may save more people in her death than in her living. I’m not debating whether God will work all things out for the good of others. I’m not debating that it was His will for her to go now.

BUT – He already knew how long she and Diane were going to live. He knew the number of their days. I believe He even cried with us.

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On the one hand – I could think I didn’t pray enough. And someone would say – God is sovereign. Don’t beat yourself up. Everything is in God’s hands. When it’s our time – it’s our time.

But if I shouldn’t feel guilty that I didn’t pray all day and all night long – then did any of my prayers throughout the past year (specifically for healing on earth) even matter at all?

Am I praying for healing in hopes that I get closer to God? In that case the prayers are really for me.

Or am I praying for healing because I really believe I can change God’s mind? Wouldn’t He already know that He’s gonna change His mind regardless – if He knows our forecast for the future?

Does that make sense at all?

I’ve been searching deep within the Word. I’ve read more books than I can count in the past few months trying to find some sort of peace over this.

I have no problem asking God to give me strength. I have no problem asking for God to protect others. But several people have asked me to pray for healing (on earth) for their loved one…and I’m so confused about whether I believe it even matters.

I’m truly looking for your honest and sincere feedback.

Perhaps it’s a question that just can’t be answered until I see the face of Jesus. I accept the not knowing. But I went to nursing school and not Bible College… I haven’t quite mastered my understanding of the Bible.

When someone asks me to pray for them – I take it very seriously. I won’t say yes if I don’t mean it. I learned that from the Haitians. They won’t offer to pray if they don’t believe in it. I’m just not sure what I believe now….

 

Categories: Mission Stories

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