God Faithfulness through the Sickness

I’m running back to your promises one more time, Lord that’s all I can hold on to, I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises you. Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands, and even though I keep asking why, I keep asking why,

No matter what, I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You, I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not, I’ll trust you, no matter what, no matter what.

(No Matter What-Kerrie Roberts)

Well, as most of your know from Facebook, Prayer Updates, or from my family, my life has not been easy and it seems like it has just been one of those season in which sickness will not leave and nothing seems to help permanently.  Through it all, I am reminded constantly that “all things work out for good,” but good is not always easy to see on the surface.  Since January, I have been having constant nausea and stomach pain that literally has prevented me from doing so many things and has knocked me on the ground.  I was listening to this Kerrie Roberts song and it continually has given me hope through this time when it has been hard to find home.  I have had major heartache, but it has all gone through God’s hand first and He has meant it for good.  Sickness is the result of sin and we will have it in this world and we will not always understand the heartaches that we go through, but through it all I have found that my only hope is when I love, lean on the only one that gives me hope and holds the true answer…God.

Through the sickness, God has proven faithful.  Sickness has provided great rest from a very hard semester and change from the first 6 months of being here in Indonesia, it gave me wonderful time to spend with my father, and it gave me lots of time to think. Sickness has also had its negatives, but God’s faithfulness as exceeded those.

At the beginning of June, after the fourth round of this sickness that we think we have a name for now, Bryn and I went in to Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta for a medical check-up and meeting with an internal medicine doctor.  I was told again as blood tests and other tests have told us that I am normal and healthy.  Of course, that is good news, but the question remains if I am healthy why do I feel so bad and feel so sick.  The internal medicine doctor did a colonoscopy and endoscopy to look at my innards and she came up with a diagnosis.  I began taking some medicine and the fourth round of whatever is going on in my body finally left for a time.

It was a fabulous time with my family showing them the vast Indonesian culture from Bali (Island south of Java) to Java (where Bryn and I live) and showing them the country and people that has captured my heart.   It was 10 days of fun and exploration from cooking classes in Bali, volcanic ash sand beaches, monkies crawling all over us, dolphin sightseeing trip, snorkeling, angklung (local instrument) performances, celebrating our new house, and just enjoying each others company.  It was too short, but we were so blessed they were able to be here.

The day my family left to head back to the states, I began having some major discomfort and pain that kept me up for a few nights and we contemplated what to do.  I sent a note to some friends in Singapore that we had stayed with before.  They kindly talked with one of their friends and asked if we could stay at their apartment for the week and they agreed.  We debated on going to Jakarta, but ended up making a quick flight out of Bandung to head to Singapore after deciding we would rather talk to someone in English…not ½ Indonesian and ½ broken English.  We arrived in Singapore on the day that the couple left, who’s apartment we were staying after a last minute decision to fly out sooner and not wait a week.  I went to the surgeon made the conclusion that it was GERD an acid reflux disease not my gallbladder, but medicine did not work and I was in pain, so I went back again.  No more medicine options is what we were told, but he was convinced that is what was going on.  But, he referred us to a gastroenterologist that may know some of the newest treatment options.  So, I went and saw the doctor and he was convinced it was functional dyspepsia with a hint of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  We met with a dietician as well to learn how to deal with my new condition and learned of all the food changes to help.   I was given medicine and we stayed for a week in Singapore, so that if there were side effects that we would be near reliable hospitals, which was a blessing because one of my medicines was causing a huge migraine which I could not seem to get rid of.  We went and saw the doctor and that day he received the results from the ultrasound that they had taken of my abdomen, in which we found that there was a tear on my liver.  In order to make sure that this was not cancerous, I was sent to have an MRI.  Medicine seemed to be working and I seemed to start feeling well, after the MRI I went for a follow up appointment with the dietician and gastroenterologist, in which he confirmed that it was not cancerous and that I could go home.  So 7 doctors visits, 6 months of medicines in hand, 1 zoo trip, 1 turtle museum, and 2 ½ weeks later, we were given the ok to go home.

Home…a word that has not sounded so good in my life.  Well, we have been home for a week and have been able to settle in to our new home.  Everything finally has its place and it is just good to be here.  Life is full of cooking experiments to try to avoid buttery, oily, sugary, fried, low-fat, and spicy foods, so that I can finally have a healthy gutt again and feel healthy.  It has been adventure; we have made homemade non-fat yogurt, applesauce muffins, granola, and so many other things.  It has been fun.  I have been feeling ok, but still the nausea has not disappeared yet.  Please keep praying for continued healing and that the medicine would continue to work and heal and that I am able to continue working out.

Through it all, God has provided all we need.  I am so thankful that we serve a God who takes care of our needs and provides for things that we need even before we know what is going to happen.  Thank you for all of your prayer through this process, so far.  Thank you for those who have been able to give financially to support us over the last year.  Really your support helps us be able to do the things that God has led us to this year.  There are lots of adventures that I will share in my next post, but until then please keep praying for healing and continued health for Bryn and I.

If you would like to receive prayer updates and support us prayerfully, please e-mail me at courtneyrice@baisedu.org.

Bryn’s July Update – Summary of our lives the past couple of weeks…couldn’t have said it better myself

Dear Friends, Family, and NICS Support Team:

Let me start off by saying that Courtney and I are back in Indonesia, and Courtney is doing well… in fact, maybe the best she’s been in a solid year. I apologize that I’m just now writing to update you both on Courtney and our Singapore trip. Suffice to say that we are still very much trying to settle in to our new “home” (more on this in a minute).

While many of you may be looking straight for the details of Courtney’s medical condition, I want to begin by giving you a transparent look into some of the spiritual lessons I’ve been learning during this blessed season of life.

“Home”

Courtney and I have a new joke: as we were saying goodbye to our friends in Singapore, it was the sort of goodbye where we honestly told them “No offense, but we hope we don’t see you again in Singapore for a while… but, we still could be seeing you again soon.”

During the past year, Courtney and I have been on an airplane 7 different times. Now, I understand that plenty of people are accustomed to frequent air travel for work reasons; however, neither Courtney nor I grew up in that sort of lifestyle. But the reality of our location means that to go to most places you either get on an airplane, spend a month on a boat, or spend even longer swimming!

And given mine and Courtney’s descriptions of our frequent, “exotic travels,” I could easily see how some people may have started forming an impression that our calling to Indonesia is just a glorified vacation and life of luxury. To that, I would respond that Courtney and I have, indeed, been blessed beyond measure, but throughout this year of consistent travels, Yahweh has been teaching us many deep and beautiful truths about himself and the lives to which he has called us.

Let me try to expound upon some of these truths: first of all, without question, he has laid as a foundation for our marriage a pillar of periodic retreat and restoration. Though during our travels Courtney and I try to do some “fun” or “touristy” things and attempt to get a feel for the local culture, it has also been of prime importance that we do some open, honest reflection with each other to assess where we’re at as husband and wife and where we want to go.  Or most recently, having a year under our belts and beginning to see more clearly the possibility (as Yahweh wills) of a long-term commitment overseas, we have started to think about what patterns we would want as a family with children, allowing us to practice them and be comfortable with them now before we have children. I am confident and feel very blessed to have learned early on how crucial it is to step back, and I know that as finances allow Courtney and I will continue to do this once or twice a year for the rest of our married lives.

A second truth comes from what we don’t want – and that is a life spent constantly “in transit.” I realize that may sound a little contradictory, but again as I rejoice in the blessings of the experiences we’ve had already, I say bluntly that Courtney and I are so sick of travelling! For our own paradigms and what we want with our family, we find it unsettling when packing a suitcase and getting our little travel toiletries ready is “the norm.” And while we do have plans (as Yahweh wills) to return to the States for Christmas and hopefully travel some next summer – that’s probably it! We are desperately looking forward to a season at home, in good health, with consistent ministry opportunities in our community.

And right there, my friends and family, is the heart of what I believe to be one of the greatest lessons the Lord could teach us. For even as Courtney and I have such a longing to be settled at home, we cannot escape the glaring reality that this is not our home! By “this,” I mean – Jingga Prabu 18 is not our home; our landlords here in Kota Baru can (and sometimes do) require people to move out. Indonesia is not our home; this is especially apparent as government changes have required all of our teachers to redo their visas, and though it’s not likely, the government could deny any of us our visas at any time… But the United States of America is also not our home. I think Courtney and I have truly become “Third Culture Adults.” And I sincerely hope nobody takes that as us having negative feelings towards our country of citizenship – not at all. It simply means that I think there is too much Asia in our blood for us to ever completely feel settled in the States again.

So where does that leave us? Now, more than ever in my life so far, I feel the deep and glorious longing for a Heavenly home – where there will be no more customs declaration forms or immigration lines. Where I will be accepted not because of race or skin color or language… but because of birth – new birth in Jesus Christ through the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit! Hallelujah!

Until that day, though, the third lesson from our travels has been that, in the temporal sense of the word, Indonesia is mine and Courtney’s home for a season that will last until the Lord calls us away from it. There’s no question about it; our hearts couldn’t be more centered on this country, and more specifically the Sundanese people of West Java along with the smorgasbord international community of Bandung. Every time we have gone and experienced other places of Southeast Asia, we are quickly ready to get back to these people and this culture. And we long to see the day when there is a bountiful harvest for the Kingdom of Heaven – may He send workers into this difficult area, soften the soil, and find us faithful to do the work to which we’ve been called.

Health

Alright – now that I’ve sufficiently preached my sermon for the month, how about updating you on Courtney’s health? First of all, the Lord was so gracious to confirm his will for our Singapore trip. We were there a total of 19 days (see last month’s update for the amazing story of how we got there), and during that time we made 7 trips to the doctor. If we had stayed in Indonesia and gone to Jakarta, it would have probably cost much more money to keep making trips to Jakarta or having to book hotel rooms. In Singapore, on the other hand, it was so easy to get to the hospital, and several times we cancelled our plans and went to see the doctor – who was able to work us in the same day – because Courtney wasn’t feeling well.

In terms of the medical journey itself, we ended up seeing two doctors and a dietitian. The first doctor diagnosed Courtney with GERD (or acid-reflux problems) and gave her 4 different medicines to take. She took those for about 5 days but didn’t see any improvements. We went back to him, and he reassured us that he did not think Courtney was having issues from her gallstones and that GERD made the most sense. He did, however, have the humility to refer us to another gastric specialist – and for that we praise God. Along with that, we were referred to a dietitian to help with specifics of a gastric-friendly diet.

The second doctor was incredibly nice and helpful, and as an added bonus he had spent some time in the States (behind him hung a plaque from the Mayo Clinic!) By the time we went to see him, Courtney and I had made a very detailed timeline of all her symptoms dating back from December. Based on this information and upon examining Courtney, he changed the diagnosis from GERD to functional dyspepsia (or a severe indigestion). He prescribed a whole different set of medicines and, beyond that, was willing to request bloodwork and an ultrasound to further rule out any gallbladder issues or pancreas problems.

After talking with the doctor and meeting with the dietitian, what quickly became apparent was that – regardless of the final diagnosis – some major lifestyle changes were in order if Courtney’s stomach was ever to recover. Namely, we were being advised to switch from 3 big meals a day to 5-6 smaller meals. Courtney was also advised to go to a low fat/high fiber diet and cut out many of the basic cooking ingredients used in Indonesia. To the drawing boards we went – and my ever adaptable wife began looking up new, healthier recipes and figuring out what substitutions she could make to the cooking we already enjoy.

We quickly saw fruit from the new medicine, and for the first time in weeks Courtney was feeling nausea free. In fact, we were able to enjoy the surprise blessing (thanks, Lord!) of a nice park located right behind the apartment we stayed in. Everything was looking up for a day or two… until Courtney developed a very severe migraine. This was strange because, despite all the stomach problems she’s been having, her chronic migraines have been few and far between. She took her migraine medicine which usually does the trick, but two days later when her migraine wouldn’t let up, we began to suspect the new medicine as a culprit. Courtney went online to check her records from Vanderbilt at the time she was seeing a neurologist and discovered that one of the medicines prescribed to treat nausea is similar to one of the medicines she was given to treat migraines… but that medicine only made the migraines worse!

That earned us another trip to the doctor, and he was willing to switch out medicines. While we were there, he received the results from Courtney’s abdominal ultrasound. We rejoiced to hear that, though she does have some gallstones, there is no inflammation of the gallbladder or any markers in her bloodwork to indicate that the gallstones are symptomatic. And though in some ways we just wanted them to yank her gallbladder out so we don’t ever have to think about it again, we know God fearfully and wonderfully made us, and that the more body parts you can keep in the better. We really respected the doctors too, who held to a philosophy of being as noninvasive as possible.

While we looked at the ultrasound, however, the doctor informed us of something unexpected – a small lesion on Courtney’s liver. He assured us that it was common and nothing to be immediately alarmed about… but he did want to have an MRI done just to be sure.

Taking full advantage of all the medical services Singapore offers = success!

That was on a Tuesday, and her MRI was scheduled for Thursday. On Wednesday we finally were able to work in a trip to the Singapore Zoo – such an educational and enjoyable experience! – and during that trip and the day spent having the MRI done, Courtney’s symptoms seemed to be diminishing. We returned to see the doctor on Friday, and praise the Lord the lesion is completely benign. Though it may grow a few millimeters throughout the rest of Courtney’s life, it should never get big enough to be a concern. The MRI also confirmed, yet again, that the rest of Courtney’s innards are doing just fine. In fact, my mom has joked that despite the stomach symptoms, Courtney has been poked on and examined so much that we are blessed to know that the rest of her body is doing quite well!

The final diagnosis was functional dyspepsia – a condition that the doctor said will likely never go away; however, with diet and lifestyle measures it can be regulated. Courtney has a couple of medicines to take daily for the next month, along with a couple of medicines that she can take whenever she is symptomatic (and those medicines seem to be working well). After a month, she is to come off the medicines and just see how she does. Additionally, the dietitian was wonderful to work with, and her thorough knowledge of Asian diet and cooking practices were especially helpful.

Many passages of Scripture and songs talk about praising the Yahweh through the storms of life, and I’m here to say that he is worthy of all that praise. Though I so wish Courtney didn’t have to go through this whole process, the journey of walking by faith and not by sight has led us to places as individuals and as a couple where wouldn’t have been otherwise.

We have been back in Indonesia since July 10, and so far all the lifestyle adjustments are going well. Both Courtney and I feel great and are enjoying being able to exercise. We also continue to settle into our new house, especially in preparation for my family to arrive next week!

For Our Support Network

Where would we be without you? Only our Father himself knows. What I do know is that so many people have been faithful to pray for us, and I hope you never doubt for a second the difference it makes. Beyond that, I have said very openly that Courtney and I are headed into a much more difficult financial season, as the blessing of our wedding support carried us solidly through our first year but has now run out. But with that reality comes the excitement of trusting our Lord. And honestly, I think I prefer the life of earning less money. It certainly makes decision making a lot easier, because there are many things we’d like to do that end up in: “Well Lord, if you want us to do that, you’ll just have to provide the support. If you don’t, then don’t send the support.” Surely Christ continues to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory.

And we praise God for the many of you who are willing vessels to provide that support. Several of you stepped in when we talked about having to stay in Singapore for so long. Somehow – and it truly is beyond my comprehension – we came back to Indonesia with more money than when we left. We praise God that you have added to the collection of your imperishable Heavenly treasures that our Father is so anxious to shower on us in Glory.

My next update will probably be around the time school is starting – August 21. In the meantime, Courtney and I have time to enjoy with my family, time to hopefully relax and continue getting into our healthy routines, and also time to work (me preparing for school and Courtney resuming her language studies). Though we have full trust that Yahweh will not send any more trials at us beyond our ability to handle through his strength, we would greatly appreciate prayer for a “normal,” predictable month ahead!

Blessings to you all in Christ Jesus,

Bryn Rice