God And My Muscle Disease – Part 2

In the last article, I wrote out some of the history of this family inherited genetic disease called MELAS 3243, which falls under the general heading of being a Mitochondrial Myopathy.  In simple terms, this means that the mitochondria (the energy production part within all of our cells) do not function properly for me.  My muscles produce limited amounts of energy each day, so I constantly battle with fatigue which can happen quite fast, depending on the level of activity I am engaged in.  Along with this, I battle constant pain which increases with activity and when I fatigue.

This can be quite challenging at times and can greatly affect me at the most inconvenient times.  I recall the time when we went as a family to the church’s Christmas Eve service.  I had been moderately active during the day (getting presents wrapped), and there was certainly more excitement in the air as our family of five engaged in our annual fun time of cooking sugar cookies and decorated them with different food-colored icing .  I had my nap, then we drove slowly through neighborhoods to see the Christmas light decorations and ended up at our church for the 11 p.m. service.

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The service was beautiful with some Christmas carol singing, a short message, and then a time of silent reflection on the birth of Christ.  Now a strange-funny kind of thing about my disease.  It doesn’t just affect my muscles, but an emotional moment (whether bad or good) can also drain my energy.  So when it was time to leave, a family member had to push me uphill to get out of the auditorium.  I started to go slowly across the foyer on my arm crutches thinking I could make it to the car outside.

But then a friend stopped me to say hello and wish me a Merry Christmas.  Well, what little energy I had left was used up in that short 5-minute visit.  Suddenly my friend asked me, “Do you need to sit down?”  She saw me going white and starting to wobble.  I nodded yes and she ran and got a chair behind me just as I collapsed into the chair.  Thankfully I have never yet actually fallen, but there have been some close calls as I can deplete my energy so quickly, sometimes within as short as 15 minutes.

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Now consider what I have just written, and then consider what God has been able to do through me in these past three years.  During these three years that I have now lived with this disease, God allowed me the privilege to travel five times over to Papua New Guinea to be able to continue doing Bible translation checking.  And each trip we’ve taken, we extend it a little longer, to see how my body will do.  I went from four or five-week trips to a seven week trip, and this past Feb/March it was a nine week trip.

Admittedly, it is very hard on me to travel half way around the world.  But God has set up a great routine for me.  I fly to Los Angeles and take a day room at a Sheraton hotel to sleep 4-5 hours before going back to the airport to catch the midnight flight to Brisbane, Australia.  In Brisbane, I taxi to a family run motel and the couple know me so well, they take me straight to the handicapped room.  They have a small kitchen behind the office and when I wake up later, they cook a home-made meal for me.  Then in Port Moresby, PNG, I stay in a mission guesthouse who also have great staff who take care of my every need.  And throughout every airport, I get fantastic wheelchair assistance.  Thank you God!!!

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Now three exciting things have happened recently.  This last January I helped lead a week-long orientation class for our mission on a college campus in California.  Going from -40 C (also 40 below zero in F.) to a balmy +10 C (+50 F.) prompted me to ask my US mission colleague if he thought there might be any work for me to do if I was to say, come down to the Dallas office area during the cooler Fall and early Winter time.  One week later, I got a call telling me that at least two departments were fighting over me and asking how soon I could come to Dallas.  (I have my ticket and will be leaving Aug. 9 until Christmas to help with training and mentoring new missionary recruits for our mission.)

Secondly, at the end of this last trip to PNG, I told the Directors that the trip was very successful as I was able to finish checking 5 New Testament books for 3 different language groups.  So now we are lining up at least three, maybe four projects for me to check during the Jan-April period.  This will allow me to get completely out of Canada’s winter months, which is wonderful, considering that the colder it is, the more pain I am in, but the more hot and humid it is, the less pain and muscle cramping I experience.

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But then a third ministry option was offered to me as well.  We have a team of nationals in a Southeast Asia country, plus a veteran missionary who lives in the States for most of the year, all of whom are very computer savvy, and are able to send all their files and notes electronically to me so that I can check them while living remotely anywhere in North America.  I was told that when we finish checking and then publish the NT in this common speech (Plain Text) trade language, we will have the potential to impact the lives of over 200 million people with a text that they can read and understand in their hearts.

So what am I saying at the end of these two articles that started with my disease and end with looking at all the ministry work God is placing in front of me to do.  Well, let me summarize it all in two sentences.  In the last two years, I was operating as a part-time disabled Missionary.  But now, by the grace of God, I am going forward by faith to operate as a full-time Holy Spirit enabled Missionary.

Thank you Jesus!  It is only through Your grace that all of this has been made possible.       To You belongs all the glory.


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