Life here seems less controlled and less controllable. In the United States, I think we talk about trusting God, but how often do most of us really need to trust God on a tangible level? We trust in Him for our eternal salvation and leave the rest to Providence Insurance, financial securities, a thriving economy, our own hard work or genius, building codes, safe roads, enforced traffic laws, and easily accessible (if not affordable) state-of-the-art medical care. For various reasons, those are not as developed here, which leaves things to gracias a Dios.
This understanding of gracias a Dios was driven home by my trip to San Jose. I returned from San Jose safely, gracias a Dios, despite a major collision between a bus and a semi-truck on the Pan American, nearly being mugged in the downtown mercado, a long trip home in the dark on sketchy roads, and almost having flattened a motorcyclist. And sadly, I found out that Madison (previously referred to as Marisol) never had a concussion; instead, she had a brain tumor. This makes so much more sense than a concussion. She was in the hospital for fifteen days and required a surgery. Her “injury” had made one side of her body go limp, and she won’t be able to go to school for a whole year. This was the information that we had, but none of that quite made sense for a concussion. I think we had been misguided after talking to Comanche (her grandfather) when she was first taken to the hospital and nothing was known about the cause of the problems. Talking with her mom and grandma on the long trip to and from San Jose revealed a much clearer picture.
The picture that I got is that Madison had a tumor the size of a golf ball removed from her brain. She had to stay in San Jose for fifteen days, and the doctors say that it’s a miracle. They don’t know if it’s cancerous yet. Madison has to return to San Jose on Monday morning by 9:00 in the morning, on an empty stomach, to have a lumbar puncture to see if the tumor has spread to her spinal column. Then her mother Stephanie and father Jonathan will have an appointment in San Jose on Wednesday to go over the prognosis with the doctor.
What I also found out is that Stephanie slept in a chair in Madison’s hospital room (a room shared with other patients) for fifteen days, and Jonathan slept on chairs in the waiting room. For food, Stephanie and Jonathan asked people in fast food restaurants for their leftovers. Gracias a Dios that they survived that experience, but as a father and as a human being, I feel sick to my stomach thinking about that.
I also know that the drive to San Jose is a minimum of four and a half hours by car (a lot more by bus or if the Pan American highway is closed for hours due to a fatal accident and you have to take a detour on dirt roads through sugar cane fields for about 20 kilometers). Rachel and I didn’t feel comfortable with a five-year old with a concussion taking a bus ride to Nicoya (a two and a half hour bus trip) to have her stitches out, and we sure as hell don’t feel comfortable with a five-year old, who is recovering from a brain tumor, having to leave Brasilito in the middle of the night on an empty stomach in order to make it to San Jose by 9:00 in the morning to have a lumbar puncture, and then having to return home the same day because her family doesn’t have the resources to stay in a hotel or to eat at a restaurant. We’ll be renting a car again this weekend, and I’ll be driving her family to San Jose for her Monday morning appointment. The question is whether or not we should try to return to Brasilito the same day or if we should rent some hotel rooms. Unfortunately, unless God provides the availability of a larger rental vehicle, Rachel, Jacob, and Charlotte won’t be able to come with us.
I know for certain that God has brought us here to Brasilito. We see it in so many ways. A beautiful thing is that we arrived in Brasilito about two weeks before Madison was taken to the hospital, and it is a beautiful thing to be in this place at this time to be able to support that little girl and her family. Rachel and the kids have been going to visit Madison every day in her little shack to do crafts and school lessons with her. Yesterday she painted her nails.
And a beautiful thing is that we are being invited into a deeper community here. Comanche invited us over to his house Wednesday night for a “culto” (a prayer meeting) to pray for Madison. We’ve been attending various churches here, not out of alignment of doctrine, but out of worship of the same God and the same Jesus and out of a desire to sink into the community in this town. But attending church, while it can help people to see us as more than just transient gringos, is not an intimate experience. Being invited into someone’s home to pray over someone’s sick loved one is.
We haven’t yet made it to the church that Comanche attends, but most non-Catholic churches here tend to be heavily Pentecostal. My background is not at all Pentecostal. I’m used to an orderly church service, more moderate praise music, and taking turns in prayer. The first local church service that we attended here in Brasilito (at Casa de Dios) was so intense that I went away believing in miracles because I could still hear, and I collapsed on our bed when I got home, completely exhausted. I’m still recovering, honestly.
I think Comanche’s family attends a church called Kabod, which I believe is not quite so “enthusiastic” in their worship. But the culto was still a cultural experience for me. After delivering a short message that emphasized giving thanks for what God has already done, the pastor began praying, and almost every single person there joined in raising their thanks and praise to God. There was no taking turns. There was no listening to any one else’s prayers. There was a cacophony of voices, and toward the end, many began singing a song that emphasized the refrain, “There is no one like you,” while others continued praying. The singing wasn’t in one voice, and it didn’t even sound good. But it was beautiful. I knew I was standing on hallowed ground.
I value orderly prayer. I value the idea of listening to each other’s hearts as we lift our cares to God. But this was beautiful. As Jacob saw, at Bethel, the angels ascending and descending a stairway into heaven, I could imagine a multitude of angels ascending and descending in that place, carrying each of those prayers, at the same time, to the face of God. That was the house of God; that was the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:17).
I don’t know what Madison’s prognosis will be, and as a father of a five-year old, it breaks my heart. But being in this time of trouble together with that family, and knowing that many angels are not only ascending into heaven with our prayers but are also descending from the face of the Father, this is Hallowed Ground. Gracias a Dios.
Please keep this family in your prayers.