Saturday, December 14, 2013

Consider it all joy when you encounter difficulties

I arrived in Budapest from the US Wednesday night just in time for a quiet Thanksgiving with family. After a nice Thanksgiving dinner things got interesting. Here is the story of that first week home.

We tried to get the heat working upstairs. We noticed that the water pressure in the floor heating was almost zero, so we connected a hose and added more water, this brought the pressure to 1.5 bars. About 9pm I noticed the radiator spraying a stream of water in my office. Help! We frantically tried to figure out how to turn off the flow, turn off the heating system, mop up the floor. The water was filthy. What a mess!

We then invested a few days trying to replace the radiator, flush the system, and figure out what valves work which rooms so we could heat all the rooms upstairs. The previous owners had apparently not flushed the system or done much to adjust it and had even gotten a portable electric heater for one room. After a week we have it working pretty well, if you don't count the bucket under the radiator that fills up every few days.

On our way home from church on Sunday a police car pulled us over. Actually there was no where to pull over, it was a 4 lane highway with no shoulder so we had to stop in the lane of traffic. The car had no special markings, but they held a paddle out the window and when they got out, sure enough they had police uniforms. Fortunately Luiza was driving. :)

Our vehicle inspection was out of date. When they finished ticketing us and drove off, we were eager to get out of the road, but our car was not. It would not start. I had just charged up the battery and was considering replacing it, but it started fine at home and at church. Now here we were in nice clothes, with 3 boys in the backseat, in the middle of a highway, in trouble.

I got out and held up jumper cables. Finally a nice woman with kids in the backseat stopped. When she saw I didn't understand a word of Hungarian she apologized and switched to English. She tried to maneuver her car onto the curb and beside us, but her battery was too small to help. Then I ran across the highway to a gas station to buy a tow cable because in my panic I forgot to check under the spare tire where I already had one. The lady towed us across 3 lanes of traffic to safety and later that day we returned with our diesel car and got the car started. The car stayed in our garage for over a week because we had to first change our address cards, then get a new battery, then have a vehicle inspection. Finally, it is finished.

We arrived home from work at 16:00 on Wednesday December 4, 2013 to discover that our electricity was off. We checked the electric panel but no circuit breakers were off. We consulted with neighbors but they had not lost electricity. We called Elmu customer service but there was no answer. Then we called a problem report number and waited 15 minutes for a response. We asked for an English speaking employee and reached Ildiko. She explained that we had an unpaid bill of $40 from September and that our power had been turned off. We were shocked! They shut off power in the winter without any warning?! Don't they call?! We pointed out that we had paid all of our recent bills in full and did not see any unpaid balance.  (Later we discovered that we had paid 3 invoices from Elmu that were not in their system.)

We asked what we could do to resolve the problem quickly. Ildiko explained that based on our Diosd location that we could visit the Erd office the next day after 12:00. There were also Elmu offices in Dunakezi and Szentendre that could help us today until 18:00, but there was no way power could be restored within 24 hours because the workers who turn on the power don’t work after 15:00. It was hard to believe that Elmu offered no recourse no solution is this type of emergency, which they had created. Our lives had been thrown into chaos.

I called someone and asked them to send out an email for people to pray about our situation. Our immediate concern was protecting our house from frozen pipes and radiators with a temperature of -3C. Our gas furnace depends on electricity. We also have 3 small children and food stored in the freezer. We started driving to Dunakeszi, then realized that we might not reach this office across the city by 18:00. (According to elmu.hu the office would have been closed anyway.) We asked a neighbor for help. Our neighbor called Elmu for us and tried to reason with customer service. He drove us to the Csepel Plaza office. We arrived at 5:59pm and they refused to let us in. We survived the night thanks to help from neighbors and others but our review of the Elmu invoices left us convinced that we had actually overpaid. A Hungarian accountant also looked at our records and agreed.

Thursday we collected all our invoices and payments and presented them in the Erd office. No one in the office spoke English so another customer helped us. The entire visit took 2 hours.  Our main goal was to pay whatever money was necessary to get the power on. The Elmu representative was not interested in how much we had paid over the last 6 months or how many kilowatt hours we had used, but only that there was one invoice from September that had not been paid. The fact that we had paid other duplicate invoices of similar amounts that were not in her system made no difference. She said that our original contract had been set to not pay based on meter readings but a standard monthly amount. This was another surprise and did not match our experience. Our invoices each month were not identical in amount. We had entered meter readings online and they were accepted and reflected in the next invoice. It became clear we could not get an explanation of why our power was turned off in this office, but needed to speak with someone in English at the main Elmu office at Vaci utca. So we filled out new forms to switch our contract to actual amounts, hoping this would avoid confusion in the future.

We were not given any copies of this new contract, but were required to pay a 17.000HUF ($75) reconnect fee. We were told that workers could come as late as 20:00 to turn on our electricity, or possibly the next day until 20:00, and that we were required to be home to let them in and sign the papers. If we are not there when the workers come they will leave a paper and we must return to the Erd office to issue a new reconnection order. Incredible! We are supposed to sit home in a cold dark house, perhaps for 24 hours. They didn’t need us home to turn off the power.

Workers did arrive within 5 hours and turned on the power. So they do work after 15:00, unlike what one employee had told us. The next day we were free to go to the main Elmu office. There we learned that three of the invoices we had paid by bank transfer were not in their system. Fortunately we had brought all the transaction details from the bank. Some of their responses were humorous: “We don’t have those invoices in our system." "How could you have paid this bill mailed July 22nd on July 7th?” Luiza responded, “You tell me. Elmu sent these invoices, I just pay them.” Hopefully we will learn how Elmu missed these invoices and payments, but until now we have been unable to communicate with anyone at the company who can tell us what went wrong. We also have no apology. My main concern is fixing their systems so this doesn't continue to happen to many other people. Luiza called Elmu again on Dec. 16th and was told that we should have a reply to her email within 2 weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lutheran Church in Russia

This week we stayed at a Lutheran retreat center. As we closed our training time in prayer we thanked God for this time of openness and freedom in Russia. I realized that in the past 1000 years these last 20 years have been the most open time in history for the gospel in Russia, when people could choose to follow Jesus and make disciples.

The first Lutheran church in Russia was in Moscow in 1576. By the end of the 17th century there were a number of other churches in Russia. Both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great made concessions to the German Lutheran population. They brought Germans to Russia to pioneer frontier areas and to farm the land and improve technology. They were allowed to prozelytize only non-Russians and there was a law that if an Orthodox person married a Lutheran, the children would be Orthodox.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ryan the Encyclopedia

Ryan came to us after breakfast to show us how much iron and calcium there is in oatmeal, referencing our "Family Health Guide and Medical Encyclopedia". This was because I ate his egg and Mom complained about him missing out on calcium.

Now he is trying to convince me that a gallon is really closer to 5 liters than 4. So I typed "Convert 1 gallon to liters" into my chrome browser and it said 3.78. His book the Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia says 4.55 liters. What gives?

It turns out that there are several different types of gallons. Google is talking about the standard US liquid gallon, the type we use for gas. Ryan's book is talking about Brittish Imperial gallons. There is yet another gallon, a US dry gallon is 1.03 Imperial gallons.  So now you know!
http://www.convertcenter.com/british-liquid-dry-gallon

Monday, July 8, 2013

Close Calls

It is good to know people are praying for us. We recently had some close calls that could have drastically changed our lives and this month of ministry at Speak Out. On Friday the 5th of July we had a day off from the Speak Out project, went home, and got a new scooter for Ryan as an early birthday present. I asked Kevin (born 08/08/08) to get a sharp knife from the kitchen to help in taking off the zip-ties. Kevin never walks anywhere. So he came running back with a sharp knife and just as he got to me he tripped and landed on top of me. We all caught our breath, and I started to check to see who was bleeding and how bad it was. Kevin was shook up. He was holding his throat, but there was no blood.

That night Luiza was awakened by moaning. She is a light sleeper and often checks on kids during the night, since they often get uncovered. She found Kevin hanging by his neck from the top bunk. His whole body had slipped through the railing, except for his head which did not fit. He was not awake. Luiza pushed his body up through the railing. He said he was OK, but did not remember the incident the next day. Luiza didn't wake me but with all of the adrenalin could not sleep for a long time. Kevin could not yell for help and is not strong enough to rescue himself. He would probably have been dead by morning.

Without God's protection in both of these situations our lives would have changed dramatically and it would also have ended our participation in this Speak Out project. It seems unlikely these two incidents are coincidence. It is more likely that this is part of spiritual warfare. Thank you for standing with us at this time. If you were prompted to pray for us on the 5th, let us know.

Our current challenge in the family is Nathan. He keeps leaving the grounds where we are meeting and going outside the gate. Today he knew where his mother was working on email, but left again and I found him where we are staying a block or two away, crying at our gate. I gave him another spanking today, but it is hard to watch him every minute.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thank you so much for your prayers.

Yesterday was a long day. We had 3 different families who helped with the boys while we spent the day at the hospital. It was good that Dennis was there and not in Manila. I had contractions for about 24 hours so we were in a hurry. But we took the tram rather than try to drive in the center of Budapest and park. We wisely avoided the outpatient line and went straight to the emergency/delivery door.

They couldn't find a heart beat for my little boy. (I was 27 week along)  They took me in at the emergency and they started the birth process. It was painful and not that rewarding as I knew that at the end I will not be able to hold a baby in my arms. It hurts that we will not see our little Cade growing up.

We heard a lot of screaming from another woman down the hall. It was very painful. The nurse said I was only 4cm and I thought how much more can I endure. Then a few minutes later I told them, "I think he is out." Sure enough. They covered him and whisked him away. I said, "I want to see him." "Why?" They are probably used to doing a lot of abortions after genetic screenings indicate a possible defect. So they try not to show the mother the "fetus" and quickly put her under anesthesia for the curettage. He was tiny, very red, but perfect in all aspects.

It was nice to share a room with another woman who was going through a similar experience. After the ordeal she pulled back the curtain and we got acquainted with Adriana with her limited English and our few words of Hungarian. She has two girls ages 7 and 4 and was there with her boyfriend whose name is Christian. We learned that you are supposed to bring your own towel, bathrobe, mug, and silverware. We were able to give her a Magdalena DVD and our written testimonies in Hungarian. Dennis asked if she believed in God. She said, "Yes and No". That seems to fit most Hungarians.

Communication was a challenge at points. We thought we were waiting to see an obgyn before checking out. I waited for almost 3 hours in a chair. They didn't have a free bed for me in the hospital. When I begged to be able to go home and sleep in my own bed, the intern went to check with her boss. "No we can't let you leave. But we can send you to the gynecology floor and you can just go missing." So we did, signing a paper that they released me upstairs and that I am missing. We need to go back today and finish the paper work. At least I don't need to pay money under the table to the doctor because I never had a doctor assigned to my case.

Thank you again for your prayers. Sad that our surprise pregnancy didn't turn out as we hoped and prayed for.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

and God please protect my sanity

In our prayer time today Luiza prayed, "...and Lord please protect my sanity."
Yes Lord, Amen!

This would be an apt request for losing a baby, or when our 2 year old comes in at 1am crying, his bed soaked in pee, with his diaper missing in action. Or it could apply to our 4 year old leaping from a bed and pulling the drapery rod off the wall yesterday.

Actually it was in reference to her heart and how to think about various advice Luiza is receiving about how she could handle grieving for Cade, the name we are giving this unborn son. "You might want to ask for a few hours to hold him." "Think about how you want to dress him." "Be sure to talk with him now and bond with him." "Do you want a photo to remember him?"

To Luiza this all sounds... just weird! We don't even know what the procedure is here or what the hospital will allow. Holding him for a minute or two should be enough. Someone even gave us a gift to remember him.

"I know someone who put the ultrasound photo in an egg to hang on the Christmas tree each year. I don't want to be reminded of something painful every Christmas. Maybe we could just plant a bush to remember him."

"I don't feel all that attached. Maybe I am just being selfish, but why would I want to get more attached when there isn't any hope of his survival? That would just be more painful."  "Maybe it is my European culture that doesn't really consider the baby a person until birth." In the US you have to register a still birth, can get the footprints of the child, decide whether to cremate or bury the fetus. We aren't even sure if they will wash him up here.

Our prayers for a miracle don't seem to have received a "yes" response. Luiza is not gaining weight, so the amniotic fluid has not changed.We did not go to the hospital on Friday but will check for life on Monday or Tuesday, unless contractions come before.

Meanwhile I (Dennis) got a call at 9pm last night that my dad (age 90) started coughing up blood and was taken to the hospital.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Theology: What is God really like?

One of the issues that comes up with tragedy is doubt. Is God really there? Does God ever intervene? Why does God do this or that? Is God really as unpredictable as Muslims say? Why?

One person wrote back about our situation saying God decides everything that will happen, He is the supreme ruler. This implies that for some reason God sends tragedy and pain.

We disagree. Sometimes God allows pain and disease but it is not His work. Just as Jesus when aroused commanded the wind and waves to be still, God does not send the storm but allows it, abides it, until He is aroused to intervene. He may not intervene, that is His choice.

There was a statement in the class with Ken Boa today that was helpful:
There is a big difference between hoping in something and hoping for something.
We can be very disappointed and disillusioned if we put our hope in a particular result, rather than hoping in God and His unchanging character.

Hoping for is still legitimate, it is the stuff of prayer and intercession. But we must hope in God, not in the result of our prayer. We need to be open to God's decision. Sometimes God gives us more confidence for prayer by revealing a certain result by His Spirit.

This may not please someone who is careful to entertain only "possibility thinking" and no "negative confessions". But it is tragic when someone does not allow for the possibility of sickness and death, and then falls into this with no preparation, only the thought, "I must have been too weak in my faith."

"Answer me because you are faithful and righteous." "I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works. I think about what you have done. I reach out for you I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain." "For the glory of your name O Lord, save me." Psalm 143:1,5,10,11

So today we are praying for 3 miracles:
  1. Increase in amniotic fluid
  2. Normal head shape
  3. Catch up 3 weeks of growth in just 1.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Still Waiting

Thank you for your concern and prayers.

After several days with no movement and no signs of life we were eager to get to the hospital after the long weekend. After one hour I was concerned that nobody knew we were there. We probably saw 30 other women come and go from the outpatient maternity section of the hospital. We came prepared to deliver a dead baby, but we hadn't even seen a doctor yet. After three hours we were wondering what else we could do. Where could we go? Finally they called Luiza's number and we met a new doctor. She entered some of the same data from last time. She couldn't find a heartbeat. So she went to the ultrasound room. That technician saw us for the first time, she was focused on the "deformed" shape of the baby's head. I figure this is normal, it was compressed due to lack of amniotic fluid. Luiza asked, "But is there a heartbeat?" "Yes, a slow faint one."

The doctor said the baby will probably die in the next few days. She offered to have Luiza stay at the hospital, or to induce labor today which would end the pregnancy and the baby. We politely declined. Luiza would prefer to deal with 3 kids at home than to face evaluations and pressure by herself from a series of different doctors. We plan to go back to check again on Friday. The baby is 6 months but only 300grams.

Thanks to several friends who warned how important a time like this is for our marriage I cancelled my trip to Manila to be able to support Luiza through this time and grieve together. It was a beautiful day in Budapest. God I sure wish I understood your purposes in all this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Prayer and Vitamins

We backed out of the amniocenteses  We were both shocked at the cost. At a state hospital where an ultrasound costs $15, this procedure is $1000 cash. Since we both decided not to kill the baby regardless of genetic defects, we realized this is a lot of money to spend on curiosity.

There were about 20 or 30 other women lined up for the procedure however. It seems to be very popular here. So we waited to meet with a genetics doctor and clarify why we were choosing no genetics test. He agreed that the main purpose of the test is to provide information for choosing to terminate the pregnancy.

Luiza is pretty sure the low amniotic fluid is a placenta problem anyway, not genetic because there are usually other indications. So then we waited to be assigned a doctor in the outpatient  line. We prayed for someone who spoke good English, younger, easy to work with. God provided a nice young woman who is doing her residency. She asked a lot of good questions and put it in Luiza's records. Then she suggested that Luiza stay at the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy. What?! We couldn't believe it, 17 weeks!? "Well we need to suggest this. You realize that your pregnancy is high risk and you may lose the baby in the next few weeks." "Yes." "OK, sign here. Then you will need to come every week for an ultrasound and doctor visit." "OK"

So we are back to square one. This little guy still needs prayer. We stopped at Tesco for prenatal vitamins. Luiza will try to take it easy and get lots of rest and liquids.

My plan is to fly to Manila May 20-30th. If you would be available for an emergency trip to the hospital with Luiza while I am gone, please let us know.

Thanks to Rahela, Yulia, and Dana for helping with kids today.

Thanks to Nan Green and Etah for dinners.

Monday, May 13, 2013

It was stressful

Update: Thank you for praying. It was stressful. We almost hit a car a block from home, got lost going to the hospital, struggled to make sense of the confusion of the waiting line procedures at the hospital, but the news is not so bleak. Luiza left encouraged.

It started with trying to find the right door and to get in line to be asked to come in and fill out forms with the genetics administrator, then wait in another line to pay, then back to show your receipt of payment, then another for your number to be flashed on the screen by the ultrasound door, then take the paperwork back to the first door, then wait for the genetics secretary to call you into a smaller hall to wait to be called in by the genetics doctor. Husbands are not allowed into any of this activity except the last consultation. So being a good CCC staff person I read Worldwide Challenge while I waited.

We got a younger genetics doctor than expected and he seemed pretty sharp. He was puzzled by the small size, lack of amniotic fluid, but said otherwise the baby looked healthy. He measures only 19 weeks but should be 23 or 25. So because of our ages he wanted to do an amniocentesis to screen for 3 genetic disorders on Wednesday, then meet to discuss results next Thursday. He didn't see any point to make any other prognosis or decisions until then.

For those who want to use this hospital, be prepared for a coed WC, and don't forget to bring your own TP.

This made 3 ultrasounds in 6 days. In reviewing the ultrasound measurements it looks like the baby grew over the weekend by 10mm.  We can keep praying for him to catch up on growth and especially for more amniotic fluid. The amniocentesis has some risk and Luiza will need 48 hours of bed-rest afterwards. Well, she will try.

Thanks to the Conways who helped with the kids!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Miracle Needed

Yesterday Luiza's doctor told us some bad news. WIthout a miracle the little guy inside will not make it. The baby is not growing and lacks amniotic fluid. We were referred to a genetics doctor at Semmelweis hospital for an appointment on Monday at 8am. As you can imagine the news is hard, especially on Luiza.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Conference Center Budapest

Budapest is a hub for missions in Eastern Europe. It is a privilege for us to serve at our headquarters office where there are many conferences. Today we started a training conference of 50 people for new team leaders. I am not involved in the conference but returning from lunch I greeted Gia from Tblisi, Georgia and Masha from St Petersburg.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Multiplying Church Communities launched in Russia

Working with Vasily from Izhevsk during the training for church communities.

 The Russian kickoff for Multiplying Church Communities
Praying for the city of Krasnoyarsk