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He Chose Love

A Layne Post

My stomach turned, my lip curled. It was involuntary, but guilt washed over me like a flood. I felt unloving. I took a big breath through my mouth, careful not to let air in through my nose. I poured lots of detergent and carefully poured the clothes into the washer making sure nothing touched my hands.

Bandages

Bandages

Wounds stink. It isn’t something someone can control. Baths don’t help. It comes with advanced cancer, cancer like many have probably never seen. We change and clean bandages. But the fact is we don’t have access to nice charcoal bandages that can help with the stench; they are expensive and not practical. And so we have learned to breathe through our mouths, and when the person is near, we are careful to control our facial muscles, willing them to stay steady and not move, in an effort to honor the person and discredit the wound, in an effort to love.

The washing machine played its little chime from the veranda. The laundry was done.

I carefully lifted a shirt and with trepidation I sniffed. The smell was gone, washed away by streams of cleansing water. Into the dryer they went. An hour later I pulled clean fresh clothes out, carefully folded them and walk out back.

Gratefulness. I was greeted by a man physically suffering beyond what most of us will ever know. He with all humility, not weakness mind you, but humility, offered thanks for my small gesture.

Sometimes loving comes easy. But then there are other times that loving is a choice. Sometimes it is a matter of taking a deep breath, moving forward and serving, even when everything in your body tells you to back up.

I wonder if the Lord felt the same way. Our sins like gaping cancerous wounds attached to our bodies destined to die. Perhaps His lip curled as He took a deep breath through His mouth and stepped towards us, being birthed onto this earth, choosing to move forward in deep love, honoring the persons and not the wounds. And then as the blood of Christ fell like a flood spilt upon the ground, our stench was washed away.

Will we, too, respond in humble gratefulness, aware of the stench our sins put off? Have we been washed in the blood? Maybe, though our bodies were born with stench of our sin, we can offer incense and be called His?

He stepped toward us. He chose love.

The First to Cry

A Jon Post

We’d just gone to the beach… just spent a day together as a family laughing and dipping our toes into the cool waters of the Indian Ocean as it lapped gently against Maputo’s shoreline… just driven through Maputo’s “downtown” area, smiling and marveling at the engineering and architecture that went into creating the bustling city.

Monday was a good day.

That night Maria walked into our kitchen.

“Can I come in?” She called.

“Don’t ask me that!” I joked over my shoulder from the stove, “Just come in! It’s your house! You can’t ask if you’re allowed into your own kitchen!”

“I just received a phone call.” She told me.

I could hear the concern in her voice…. hear the pain behind the unspoken words left off the end of that sentence. I stopped what I was doing and looked at her. I could see the tears brimming in her eyes, the sorrow disfiguring her face like a hurricane ripping through a city.

“My husband was walking home from work and was hit by a car.”

I held my tongue. My American tendency to draw out all relevant information with a flurry of questions stilled and I held her hand and waited for her to continue at her own pace.

“He didn’t come home last night and my brother found him in the hospital this afternoon.”

A small relief. He is still alive.

“He wants to talk to you.”

I looked at her outstretched arm and the phone nestled in her quivering hand. The Southern African reliance on community in tragedy is a weighty thing. When there is bad news to be shared, often times it is shared around those most profoundly affected, especially when the news is shared over the phone. This is a good practice when emotional and spiritual support is vital. It was humbling and honoring to be asked to be a part of this for Maria, so recently a member of Casa Ahavá.
I accepted the phone and held a brief conversation with Maria’s older brother. Her husband is alive and conscious, but is in critical condition after being hit by a car from behind and sustaining deep road burns on his face and arms. His back and is in a lot of pain and the doctor suspects a cracked pelvis.

I looked at Maria. She sat on our kitchen bench looking at me, waiting to hear what I had to say. I assured her brother on the phone that I would get Maria to her children and husband as quickly as possible and we ended the call.

Layne had heard the commotion and we all sat together in our little kitchen. I explained to Maria what her brother had shared with me about her husband and assured her that, from the sounds of it, her husband should recover.

And we prayed. All of us held hands and I sat on my tile floor and we prayed. Maria on my couch, battling leukemia 1200 kilometers from her children whose daddy lay in a hospital bed in pain.

We pray still.

This Friday, Maria will have another consult with her doctor and, as long as her body is responding well to her latest medication, we will put her on a bus that night and send her to her suffering family.

I saw a movie last night that detailed part of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At one point in the movie Dr. King looks at a grieving parent, lost in the throes of agony. “There are no words” Dr. King says through tears to this weeping parent. “But one thing I do know for certain,” he said,

“God was the first to cry”

God was the first to cry for Maria when her body betrayed her to leukemia.

God was the first to cry when her husband lay on a dark road, covered in blood and dirt.

And God was the first to cry when Maria’s children spent the night alone, both father and mother in need of Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who Heals.

So we cry with our Lord.

Maria

Maria

Our Lord who comforts His beloved. Our Lord who speaks tenderly to His dove who hides in desert and mountainside.

Casa Ahavá Re-Opens!

A Layne Post

I remember the first morning without patients. We had temporarily closed Casa Ahavá so that we could adjust to being a family of 6, and our home felt so empty. I woke up to make coffee, glanced out the kitchen window and mourned not having anyone out there to check on.

But time passed by, as it does. Selah was born, and our lives adjusted once more. I became accustomed to Jon having a bit more time, him being around every morning when we woke up, having a predictable schedule, and having our evenings all to ourselves. There was a certain ease in that lifestyle that I enjoyed.

We took our trip up north, which went much different than expected, and then decided to give ourselves a week to recover from sickness. Finally the time had come to talk with the hospital staff about which patients would be good candidates for our project. I knew the day was approaching for another transition – the need to readjust to full time ministry from our home. I felt a bit nervous and apprehensive about life with four little ones, homeschooling, managing patients in the home, being constantly on-call, etc. Honestly, the selfish side of me wanted to hold on to the new easier life because, well, it was easier. But the part of me that knows Christ, knows that easier doesn’t mean happier and that there is a joy found in a life of service that cannot be attained in any other way.

After a few false starts, two ladies were set to move in – Melinha and Maria. On the day they were coming, I put a big  beef stew in the crockpot and tidied up the house. Jon ran out to their kitchen to make sure that things were ready. He happened to touch an appliance while out there and received a wicked shock. After touching one more thing and getting shocked yet another time, he concluded something was not grounded well. He called an electrician who could not come until the next day and so move-in day got postponed. It was frustrating.

The next day I turned on my crockpot again and filled it with beans. Maybe this day would actually go as planned. I got a call from Jon at the hospital and sure enough Melinha and Maria were coming, but so was a lady named Fruta, who was done with treatment and only waiting on transport the next week. No problem. I knew Fruta and liked her a lot.

They arrived, settled into their rooms, met our big ol’ dog Gasher, saw the markets on our road, and were ready to start life at Casa Ahavá.

Our home feels full again and our girls content to run around and giggle with the “ladies” out back. Just yesterday Jovie told me how she had eaten earlier with the ladies. I wondered if it was true or a part of my girls’ grand imaginative lives. Turns out it was true. Anaya and Jovie were happy to go sit in the kitchen and eat up the yummy traditional Mozambican food that their Tias had made.

I had no reason to be nervous. I love what we do, yes, even with the extra work and responsibility. Our lives are richer this way.

This is Fruta. Last night she boarded a bus and headed home, finally finished with her treatment. We were blessed to host her for a short stay, but excited for her to re-join her 3 children at home. She was easy going and the most comfortable of the group in our home. Let’s pray for an easy trip and for continued health.

Fruta

Fruta

This is Melinha. She will be here another week and a half. Fruta was her best friend, and I am sure she will be missing her. She is spunky and animated – full of facial expressions. She doesn’t speak Portuguese very well and we don’t speak the language where she is from up north, so it is comical at times, but we are managing with special thanks to the other patients for translating.

Melinha

Melinha

This is Maria. She has almost five more months with us. She is a hard worker and self-motivated. We knew her the least before coming to our home, but she has been nothing but delightful. She has five children at home, the youngest one is only one year old. I know it is difficult for her to be so far. We will try and send her home for a visit after another two treatments.

Maria

Maria

We have another two ladies in the line up to come and one man, who is set to come after his next treatment. We were encouraged that the hospital seemed as excited for us to restart as we were, and multiple people expressed that our absence was felt in the ward. The staff has been so supportive and helpful as we fill up our space here. We thank God for the partnership we have. To Him be the glory!

Two Years

A Jon Post

Thanks to so many of you, Casa Ahavá has been serving hurting people for two years. Below is a brief video celebrating that and celebrating all the patients who have come to be a part of Casa Ahavá.

We are trying to make Casa Ahavá a bit more visible. Please help by sharing our new site www.casaahava.org and (if you are a twitter user) following us on twitter @casaahava.

Thanks for all your support for us and for Casa Ahavá.

Trip to Beira Part 3 – Trusting God With Selah’s Breathing and Jon’s Driving

A Layne Post

This is the conclusion to the story of our time in Beira that we’ve been telling over the last two posts. If you’ve read it all, thanks for your patience and for your time. We feel you are owed all the details we can provide. 

That evening I had another scary time with Selah. Jon called a pediatrician we love and trust in the states, who gave us some advice on things to do. It was good she had no fever still and was eating fine. My 5 month old nephew in America recently had been hospitalized for RSV (a respiratory virus) and  my sister also gave me some symptoms to look for. One main things to watch for was rib retractions, where the skin under the rib curls under with each breath. This means the child is having to use chest muscles to get enough air, and they should not. Selah didn’t have those.

Jon took Selah into a steamy bathroom, and I paced the room praying over my children and their health. I ended up face down, forehead plastered to the hard tile, begging and pleading with the Lord for healing.

When Jon returned I vented some of my frustrations. I felt like this was spiritual attack, but if that were the case, shouldn’t I be able to rebuke sickness and because Jesus is stronger, we should all be healthy in the morning? Jon told me, “Layne, isn’t this what we do? We work with people begging God for healing?” I was getting a very small glimpse of the desperation and frustration that accompanies sickness.

We had a decent night, nothing alarming. I handed Selah to Jon so I could go to the bathroom. He called me back to have a look at Selah and confirm she was having rib retractions. Sure enough, she was. That was it.

It was time to get her seen.

We called Dr. Brian, the missionary doctor working there in Beira. He quickly told us to come up to the central government hospital, where he was working, and he’d have a look and then we’d make a plan.

The big girls were still feverish and tired, and we didn’t want to drag them around a hospital full of more sickness. Thankfully, there was a young missionary family staying next door to us in the guesthouse and the wife graciously came to sit with Anaya and Jovie, while we took Karasi and Selah with us.

We entered the large gate to the central hospital, surrounded by fellow sick Mozambicans waiting for help. We made our way to a bench to wait on our friend, who was currently with a patient. Selah had a large mucus-filled vomit. I was scared. I could not help but think what it would be like for us if Selah were the average Mozambican. Truth is, she’d probably die. It was sobering.

Our friend emerged from the ward and pulled out his stethoscope. My heart was beating quick as I tried not to melt down right then and there.

Her lungs weren’t normal.

We needed to get to Maputo.

First, Dr. Brian recommended we get and x-ray as a marker for comparison when we arrived at the hospital. He looked me in the eye and told be Selah was going to be okay. I cried. With his connections, Dr. Brian got an order written and walked us in and out of the x-ray room within 10 minutes, which is nothing shy of a miracle. The x-ray didn’t show pneumonia. Good news.

I asked Jon if we could fly someone up to help him and the girls get back to Maputo. He called our dear friend Ian.

Ian didn’t even hesitate. Within 1 hour he had dropped everything else he had to do (he helps lead a center for boys who live on the streets of Maputo, and co-runs a thriving business that helps fund that center), and was standing at an airport gate waiting to board the plane to Beira.

I felt a little more at ease knowing Jon would be able to tend to sick girls in the car. Selah’s breathing was stable for the time, and she was peacefully sleeping. We began the run around to get a flight, which proved to be complicated since we didn’t have I.D. for Selah. Finally it was done. We had a ticket for me and Selah at 2pm.

I hated that flight. We had a few scary moments, and I was all too aware that if she stopped breathing that was it. I kept telling the Lord, “Surely you have not brought us this far to have her die on this plane!” When we landed, relief washed over me. By 9 PM we were admitted to a bed getting treatment. Jon even texted with the awesome news that our insurance was going to pay for the flight!

The next four days were spent in that bed, curtained off in a large communal room with two bathrooms to share. It was slow. It seemed every time Selah drifted into peaceful sleep, it was time for another round of some kind of medicine. Listening to regular crying and vomiting from other patients, watching one news channel the entire day was maddening. I missed my family. Visitors were the highlight. Again, it seems almost silly to compare my short comfy experience to theirs, but I was getting a slight glimpse of what the people we minister to experience to a much higher degree. Our patients stay for months. I can only imagine the deep loneliness, frustration, and hopelessness they must feel. On a new level, I am aware of the ministry that we are trying to do – the joy and temporary comfort that can be found in a short visit to break up the monotony of the day.

Jon made it safely home with the girls, but not without his own challenges. The night before the drive Jon’s concern for Jovie was heightened. She hadn’t really eaten in three days and he was having a difficult time getting fluids in her. She was weak and lethargic. He decided he’d see how the first half of the drive went. He’d make the call whether to push through and also get her to Maputo near medical facilities, or if she drank and improved, they could stop and sleep halfway. To add to the challenges, Karasi had also started with a low fever and the nasty congestion.

Thankfully, Jovie began drinking and eating in the car, and so they stopped to rest for the night. That night at dinner she even asked for seconds of chicken and rice, which made everyone terribly relieved. The next day they made the final leg of the trip. Karasi was fairly miserable much of the morning and finally threw up in her car seat. (Extra stars for Jon for cleaning that one up.)

Karasi Wearing Dad's Shirt After Throwing Up on Hers

Karasi Wearing Dad’s Shirt After Throwing Up on Hers

After that, she felt and played better, though still not 100 percent.

We had hopes that Selah and I would be discharged by then and we could be reunited as a family that evening, however, that was not the case. The doctor still heard something in Selah’s lungs. We spent the next two nights in the hospital before finally getting discharged. I left the hospital with a renewed sense of purpose and tank filled with fresh compassion. While the Lord’s plans looked nothing like my own, He remained in control and poured out His graciousness on our family. We don’t deserve health and wellness, but I am grateful for His mercy and His willingness to restore us this time.