Monday, December 20, 2010

The Music is Back on Underwater ...

Lena and the kids have been great in encouraging me to change my shape from roundish to more vertical, and bought me a wonder gift for Christmas in 2008 - the Swimp3 device.  It gives swimmers an alternative to hearing nothing but the sloshing of water or their own wheezing attempts to breath for practices that can range from 30 -90 minutes.

I was excited to get this player because I had heard about it online as I looked at getting back into the water.  I remember back in 1988, my brother Bryan convinced mom and dad to buy him a waterproof plastic case for his Walkman tape player.  As I recall, it hook around the waist like my infamous fanny pack, and was the equivalent of a stronger, more dense Zip-Lock bag with a belt clip.  I think that it fared well in the water, but it required the use of earphones and was a bit bulky - after the swim, your ears felt like you were the recipient of 25 "Wet Willie's" and the plastic pouch dug a nice outline into your lower back.

Now we're jamming!

The SwiMP3 held 256mb (or about 60 songs), and was able to produce about 8 hours of playback from a three hour charge.  Music is transferred via Windows Media Player, iTunes, or direct dropping of music files through the computer.  I used Windows Media and had a handful of playlists that I can use to quickly add music based on the type of workout or mood that I am in.

I noticed that in early 2010 the music was not coming out the right side of the player (the non-control side).  This was ok as I was still able to hear from the left side, and I was happy with that.  Unfortunately, the playback started to get worse through the remaining side, and progressed to the point where the music would play for 10-15 seconds and then the device would shut down altogether. So a delemia - what to do?  I knew that the warranty was expired as the gift was two years old, but I decided to search their website for ideas.  I found a note from someone with the same problem, and they had sent the unit back for inspection.  I figured I'd give it a shot, too.

I got a hold of Finis support through their website, and opened up a return ticket.  Joe, one of the techs there, was very helpful in setting me up with all the info to return the unit for diagnosis.  I paid to ship it to them, and they paid to send it back.  After checking it out, Joe was not able to fix the problem so he sent out a new pair of SwiMP3's, which was awesome.  As a bonus, since my model was the "old one," I was upgraded to the current SwiMP3, which is 1GB and holds around 250 songs with a playback of 15 hours after charging!  I was so excited!

I love sharing my experience with the SwiMP3 with folks at the pool, and also the strong commitment that the company has to keep swimmers jamming out during those long and boring laps through the water.  I definitely recommend anyone who spends a lot of time in the water (like me) to check into Finis and their SwiMP3 player.  If you ever want to give my a spin, please feel free to ask the next time you see me in the pool!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

U.S. Marathon Swim Calendar | freshwater swimmer

U.S. Marathon Swim Calendar | freshwater swimmer

Click on the link above to check out this great listing of the long distance open water swims in the US. It is missing the Peaks to Portland, so I will get that info to them as soon as registration begins for the 2011 swim.

There is also information about other Marathon Swims around the world that you can access through this blog.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


On August 22, Lena and I returned from a short-term medical missions trip to Nicaragua with Global Health Outreach.  I was the pharmacist on a team of 46 folks from NY, GA, OH, and CA.  It was amazing to see how God used each of us on the team to accomplish His good and perfect will for this season in caring for the generous people of Nicaragua.

The Rec Center in Villa Sandino - no pool here

I will be updating our adventures and some amazing stories over the coming weeks, giving all the praise and honor to Jesus Christ for the blessings that we were able to give to our friends there, but also the ability to learn from Him during the adventure!

Showing some children a video I took of them (thanks for the picture, Lena!)
Check for the blogs that I put up under the August, 2010, section of the page - hope to get them up soon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fourth Day of Clinic

As you might guess, we woke up today at 6 am in order to get to breakfast with the team.  We had a special treat this morning in addition to rice and beans - cereal and pancakes, complete with Aunt Jamima syrup!  
A little American-style continental breakfast.  I am still feeling weak, but more rested thanks to a good night sleep.  Tricia gave the devotional during the morning team time, and Dr. Jo gave her testimony.
Mmmm - memories of Vermont
This morning Bruce, Mike H., and Sam were slated to start the day in the pharmacy.  We were busy, but there was not the huge rush that we have seen in previous mornings.  The prepaking of medicines throughout the week has kept us ahead of the game as far as efficiency is concerned - we have been able to keep the lines moving and still keep the dental and home-visit teams stocked.  The mayor's office and police in the town came in before lunch and we helped them.  On the way to lunch I stopped and prayed with a man named Antonio who put his faith and eternal hope in Jesus Christ - praise the Lord!

Lloyd, Pastor Chuck, Rolando, and Esau minister as some of the youth in the town watch

At lunch our group was introduced to another gringo in the town, Colin, working with the Peace Corps in the village.  His friends Valarie and Bryan were visiting from Rochester, NY, and we had fun sharing stories with them.  Chuck S. from California showed me a gecko that was near a bullitin board in the church, and we attempted to "show" it to Lena - check out this great photo I was able to catch as the gecko scurried away ...

Can you see the leaping lizard in the upper left corner?
After lunch and some discussion about the special dinner later in the evening, we went back to the clinic.  Lena, Anna, and Lori Jean joined us in the pharmacy, where the start of processing was slow but the pace picked up quickly.  I soon made Alejandra an honorary farmac√©utica for the duration of the trip.  She was nervous about this, but has shown over the week that her training can allow for her to help out in this way.  We had the blessing of having Dr. Steve and Israel help in the pharmacy as the MMU was not as busy (I still joke with Israel that he should consider pharmacy instead of medicine!).  I was also able to talk with Roy, the busiest guy in the clinic, about the break-down procedures and how to best organize things for him and the crew to load and then inventory when they get everything back to Managua and their warehouse there.

The town gathered yet again as we left in the buses, and Sam received a special present from Miguel, who gave his life to Christ after we prayed for him (and Eric pursued him and a stolen hammer!).  He was dressed in surgical atttire and climbed the bus as we departed, then ushered the kids away so they did not get hurt.  It is so great to wave to the town as they wave back at us at the end of another busy day.  Anna was completing her daily task of counting patient slips on the bus ride back to Santo Tomas, and Sapna and I helped her to keep the papers organized in piles of those who became believers, rededicated their lives to Christ, or did not accept God's gift of eternal life.

Miguel, with Carlos (over his right shoulder) getting a good laugh!
*** more to come about the Appreciation Dinner help Thursday night***   :) ...mike...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Third Day of Clinic

We started the morning early again, up at 6am to catch the bus at 6:15 for breakfast and to make our lunch for the day.  All that I can say is the ice cream did me in, and reminded me that Satan does indeed walk around (2 Peter 5:8) and tries to get our attention away from God, even in the form of ice cream!  The fact that I have not had any dairy products in almost a week and my body being run down from the heat and sweating did not help matters any.  My stomach tossed and turned all night long, and I got 3 hours of sleep if I was lucky.  Lesson learned.  I tried a piece of bread and some cola to eat, but have no appetite at all.

Before morning fellowship began I shared some fotos with Erick from my palm pilot.  Laura and Joanne S. (nurse) shared their testimonies.  I has not feeling well and Frank urged me to listen to what Joanne was about to share - what a powerful story of what God is doing in her life.  Jay preached on humility, speaking of Moses crying out God from Exodus 33:15-16).  After speaking with Frank, it was decided I would take a short time to rest first thing this morning in the MMU, as he covered the pharmacy with Joe, Amy, Christian, and Anna.

On the bus ride to clinic I shared some pictures with Alejandra from my palm pilot, and talked with her about pharmacy .  I went to the MMU for about an hour and went back to the pharmacy feeling refreshed, but tired.  We were busy as usual, but had lots of help from the team.

Erick enjoying his sandwich at lunch

I was continuing to feel better at lunch, and gave Orlando and Carlos a quick massage.  Erick showed the pictures from the palm pilot to the other translators.  Roy found some extra acetamiophen liquid and cimetidine tablets on the truck, and went out and bought other medicines were have been running low on (antibiotics, infant liquid, etc.).

A break in the sports to hear the Good News

In the afternoon, Susan, Sophia, and Mike H. started out in the pharmacy.  It was a quieter afternoon, and I was able to sneak away to the basketball court for 20 minutes.  I talked with some of the folks there (lots of Lakers fans in Nicaragua), and was able to pray with the kids who accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior after Esau and Mike shared the giant EvangiCube with them.  I walked back to the clinic and noticed how warm and appreciative the people of Villa Sandino were to me.  I felt very safe, and was so happy to smile and talk with the people there.

It was still slow in the clinic, and I was able to speak to Alejandra and Erick about pharmacy stuff - kinetics of medicines and some basic therapeutics.  The rains came and we continued to prepack, and I had Dr. Jo share antibiotic choices with them while I helped everyone to pack up the pharmacy. 

The church, so full people were out on the street, including Lena!
It was Wednesday night, so we headed down to the church for evening service.  We sat with a group of kids, Edwardo was a riot, and listened to the music from the local church as well as our team while the generators were running outside.  We had the special treat of listening to Sophia and Cory share their testimonies, including Cory giving Lloyd a kiss on the cheek! haha!  Jay preached the Word and Rolando shared of the good works that God was doing in Central America and Nicaragua.  Three people accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and it was a great blessing that the Spanish New Testament that Lena and I bought at our local Christian Book Store was given to the young man who accepted Christ.  The team passed out glow sticks to the kids, and I gave some cookies and chips to some guys standing out front. 

On the bus back to the hotel we heard from Amy that one lady had traveled two and a half-hours on horse with three kids to get to the clinic, and was traveling back in the dark, rainy night.  At the restaurant, we ate with Henry, who shared some of the insights into Nicaraguan food and culture with us.  He mentioned that this part of the country was not the hottest area, which I find hard to believe because I feel like I am melting under the heat of the sun!  At the end of supper, I took a picture with Laura after we traded hats (Laura wore my Red Sox hat and I wore Mike's Yankees hat)!  After we headed home, earlier than usually due to the team starting to get worn down, we headed back to the room and got to sleep early. PTL! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Second Day of Clinic

Lena and I got up at 6am in order to catch the bus to the restaurant for breakfast and the morning sharing time.  I am feeling a little nauseous and don't have much of an appetite (dehydration and tiredness setting in, along with all the beans and rice).  I gave the devotional in the morning that I worked on before leaving for the trip - centered on Jonah.  Cory gave his testimony, and shared how the TLC program changed his life.  Such an awesome story.

As we headed into the town for clinic there was a line of people waiting for us.  Lena was feeling very faint and decided (with Dr. Frank and Laura's urging) to take the morning off and stay in the MMU, where it was cool and dark.  Dr. Frank gave her a shot of Tigan and Laura stayed and prayed with her.  The pharmacy was very busy again, and in the morning Pastor Chuck and Sandy, Julieanne, and Lloyd and Susan joined in.  We are running out of liquid pain relievers for the kids, and did our best to keep the prescriptions moving.  Lloyd is such a great source of encouragement for me (he has helped with the pharmacy on many missions before) and did a great job of showing all the folks that helped in the pharmacy some great tips on how to keep everything moving.

Lena came and joined me on the way down to lunch.  It was a little longer today than yesterday, and we all welcomed that!  There was a map of North America in the church that I used to show Alejandra were we live and how we traveled down to Nicaragua.  Lunch times are a great break from the busy pace of the clinic (and the other outreach with the kids and people of the village) for everyone, and to be able to share about what God is doing through the team and the people here is just amazing.

In the afternoon, Nancy, Mike H., and Bruce started out in the pharmacy.  We were blessed with extra interpretors, which allowed us to keep the prepacking of medicine going as we filled the prescriptions.  A short time after lunch, I looked over to see that Roy had bought Erick and Alejandra some Eskimo ice cream cones  (like our Good Humor bars) from a cart on the street.  I harassed them a little bit for not getting me one, but I did not take up their offers to eat one.  I even gave them some time to eat the cones.

Lena stole me from the pharmacy for a short break as Frank kicked me out.  We went to the church to see the work done there (inside with the kids and outside by the workers, like Eric B., Chuck D., and Cory joining the local crew).  We started to take a trip to the dentistry with Carlos, but we were stopped as Kelli D. and Millie came down the path because the power went out to the clinic.  There was a store on the street and we bought some baby powder and snacks before talking with the guys sitting in chairs there.  There was even a young man in a hand-powered wheelchair that was sent from the USA.  We completed our walk by taking a peak at the MMU, and then entering through the front of the clinic to see all of the stations.

What a glorious reminder of God's love for us!
The clinic ended a little earlier this afternoon, and we had lots of hands to prepack.  Mary helped me take an inventory of meds were are running low on, and then we organized the pharmacy before heading on the bus back to our hotel for an hour of rest before going to supper.  There was a spectacular rainbow to welcome us as we left the clinic to board the buses.   All of the people of the town were waving to us as we left - hard to believe that a few short days ago they showed no emotion towards us.  At the hotel, Lena and I took a shower and relaxed for a little bit.  I played some ping-pong in the front room of the hotel with Arjun and Annu while others talked and watched tv before the bus came to pick us up.

We had a chicken meal, and also a surprise birthday party for Tom, complete with birthday cake!  We sat with Carlos during the praise time, as he translated for some of the nationals.  There were dual testimonies by the two dentists on the team, the one gal was so excited and filled with joy to share of God working in her life that we all felt so happy.  They sang Amazing Grace in Spanish, which was indeed amazing.

Lena recalled, "He didn't want to sell me car insurance!"
We traveled back to the hotel, and a bunch of geckos were waiting for us (one made it into the room)!  Anna and I went across the street to the mini-mart at the gas station and were on the hunt for helado - ice cream.  I tired to do my best at talking in Spanish to the girl behind the register, and we both shared a laugh at my inefficient language skills!  None the less, Anna and I scored some ice cream (including some treats for Sam and a creamsicle for Laura) and got back to the hotel.  I watched a video that Annu showed me featuring him and his brother dancing to Indian music, which was very good. A great end to another busy day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First Day of Clinic

Lena and I got up at 6am in order to catch the bus to the restaurant for breakfast and then fellowship time with the team.  Lena was asked to sing with the musicians during these times, and although she is a little nervous she steps in to go where the Spirit leads.  Esau and Lena gave their testimony in the midst of our singing and bible study that we had in our large group.

I left early for the clinic in Israel's SUV.  We talked on the way through the hills to Villa Sandino about how he had eaten Vermont maple syrup while in the states before, so I told him that I would mail some down to him.  Sam, Erick, Annu, and Alejandra helped with setting up and rearranging the pharmacy before the clinic started as others helped with more counting.  Before the first prescription was filled, Sophia prayed for us and the role that our department played in the clinic.  We knew before we started that there was no way that we could do the work, but we had to allow God to work through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The day was fast-paced and the prescriptions from the seven American and three national doctors filled the red baskets at all times.  

Alejandra and I busy on the first day of clinic
We took a break for lunch and I met with Lena at the church.  We ate the sandwiches that we made at breakfast and had some chips and a cold drink.  Everyone was abuzz with the events from the first day of clinic and sharing stories about what they had experienced so far.  This was a much needed break, and Sophia was able to replace the screw that had falled out of my glasses - PTL!  Our team had the special blessing of a visit by Pastor Norman, who was one of the hosts for last years GHO team that included many of our teammates this year.  He traveled over 90 miles by motorcycle from Juigalpa, where a new church was planted, to thank the team for the physical but more importantly spiritual care that they provided for his area.  What a tender moment!  

Pastor Norman and Lloyd
In the afternoon Arjun and Kelsey joined us in the pharmacy.  Both young people were so interested in learning about what happens in the pharmacy and quickly learned the ropes to fill prescriptions to be checked.  We started to get accustomed to afternoon rain shower, where gatos y perros descended from the sky.  La farmacia had a large window that was partially covered by a black tarp to keep the rain out, but the wind kept blowing it away from the ropes holding it down and sprayed us with water.  I tried putting a couple gallons of Benadryl on the window sill to hold it down, but a huge gust came and smashed the plastic bottles to the floor.  Needless to say, we had a full-on disco floor where we slid around when moving about on the back wall of the pharmacy!  Roy, the GHO administrative assistant, rounded up some large bricks that withstood the wind and rain, thanks be to God for him and all his hard work to keep all aspects of the clinic running smoothly.

We saw many things on the scripts that just broke our hearts.  I prayed over each one and the conditions that were presented, from a one month old covered with scabies (no treatment available that would not cause more harm than good) to pain and breathing issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even folks who traveled 3-4 hours just to be seen in the clinic.  Roxanne came over with two young angels who had just had all of their teeth removed at the dental clinic - to see the hurt in her eyes and the appreciation in the eyes of the kids and their mom for her compassion is touching.  

We finished with lots of help - Erick rounded up all the folks he could to prepack, and then worked with Alejandra to label the different tables/areas in the pharmacy so that the helpers later in the week could find things a little eaiser.  The biggest blessing for me was the organization of supplies and tools that Cory did before we boarded the bus - he took the time to just pick the room up and get things back in order, despite spending all day at the church working with the building project that Chuck Damon and Eric were doing build a porch for the church.  I could tell he was tired, but he just kept working until we were all told to head for the bus.

After we returned to the Santo Tomas, we ate supper upstairs at the Rest Aleman.  Lena is able to get vegetarian meals after Rolando talked with the staff there - they find her each night for the rest of the week.  We eat the staple for Nicaraguans - gallo pinto (beans and rice) with most meals, with eggs in the morning and alternating beef and chicken at night.  Drinks are plentiful - gatorades, soda, and coffee are offered.  After we clear the tables and form a circle and start to worship in song, praise and prayers, and fellowship.  Tricia shared of seeing Jesus in the eyes of a young girl brought to the clinic by her mother. 
"Momma with her child who developed meningitis as an infant. They both taught me a lesson about loving Jesus."
Around 10:30 it was time to head back to the hotel for some sleep.  Lena is so good at washing out our clothing in the sink with the supplies that we brought, and we enjoyed some warm water in the shower after Mike and Laura explained how to properly use the "widow-maker."  After I mixed our gatorade drinks for the morning, Lena and I shared the pictures and stores of the day, and then it was off to bed.

Thoughts for the day ..

  1. When we put God first and seek to honor and glorify Him in all that we do, our actions lead to a longterm impact on those that we bless
  2. I am blessed beyond measure with the woman God has granted to be my wife.  I am able to reflect at all that she does for me and our family everyday, and to see her spirit reach out here, away from the hustle of "life" - it is absolutely amazing
  3. We are running low on children's medicine even after the first day - need to get the word out to bring more chewable vitamins and liquid analgesics

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Arriving in Villa Sandino

Up early for breakfast, a wonderful buffet complete with omlete station and fresh fruit juices.  We gathered together for team worship and an overview of the day ahead, which includes setting up the clinic once we arrive in Villa Sandino after the 4+ hour bus ride.  

The GHO bus

I sat in the back of the GHO bus  with Esau, Joe, Fitz, and Chuck Damon.  Esau (who was my accountability partner on the trip) and Fitz came last year, and pointed out some interesting sights along the road.  In the past as the team leaves the city, it has been stopped by armed police who question the drivers about the trip planned - this did not happen to our team.  As we left Manauga, we could see people buring their garbage and waste in the front yard.  The homes are very simple, mostly concrete block with tin roofs and dirt floors.  No glass in the windows, and some many people sitting outside the house because of no work.  The idleness of the people surprises me - unless they are able to live off the land (food crops or livestock), there is really no other way to pass the day.  It is interesting that so many homes have dish tv's - I learned later that the government provides this service to the county. 

Driving by Lake Managua
The trip through the mountains was breathtaking.  The scenery is full of green and luscious vegetation and beautiful white clouds floating along the blue sky.  We see many cows and horses grazing along the side of the road and in areas that have been cleared of forest along the sides of the hills in order to provide more area for the animals to eat.  The roads are rather narrow and wind up and down the rolling landscape, which I would think would cause more caution on the part of the drivers, but does not.  People can be found walking along the side of the road, miles from the nearest town, even when the rain is falling.  We pass an area where recent rainfall has washed the road away, and our bus driver Orlando carefully follows the dirt path that has been temporarily carved into the side of the hill to continue on to our destination.

After driving for a couple of hours we stopped in at a gas station in Juigalpa.  It is set up a lot like the ones here in the states - some pumps by the road and a convenience store with snacks and some prepared foods inside.  Israel, the son of GHO's missionary Rolando, spends the time standing at the register to be sure that we pay and receive the correct change.  It is amazing how inexpensive the items are here - we bought two sodas, a single size bag of oreo-type cookies, and chips for 32 Cordobas, or roughly $1.45US.  There are a lot of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, and other familiar brands.  Before loading onto the bus, we had the opportunity to visit the restrooms in an adjacent building.  There were no lights in the rooms, so we had to leave the doors cracked a bit to see what we were doing in there.  The toilet paper provided there was quickly used up, so Lena joined some of the team in getting more rolls from luggage on the bus.

After we started again, we continued to talk amongst ourselves and share some of the treats that we purchased, while some caught up on sleep.  We watched as people washed their laundry in the rivers flowing with brown water, and some girls balancing baskets on their heads crossing the bridges.

Girls in Juigalpa - notice the brown water in the river

We continue on to the town of Santo Tomas, where our team is split up into three different hotels.  Lena and I are staying at the Hotel Campo Seco, the furthest one out, and after we get our luggage, we settle into the room.  The hotel is run by a family, and they have a cafe area accessable to the street where folks can stop and take a rest.  We are very relieved to find an air condioner, and even a small frige (that was stacked full with beer, wine coolers, gatorade, and sodas - we left the drinks, and used the fridge to get our filtered water cold at night).  Minimally furnished, the cozy  and warm room has a bed, chair and lamp stand, we find a small bathroom with some sort of heating device for the water.  It will be a few tries  before we figure out how to use the "widow-maker."  We sorted through the luggage (the TSA left a nice note detailing that our green bag was searched to maintain the safety of US flights) to take out our clothes and find the goodies we will need for the clinic.

We were able to have some downtime before the team's truck was back to bring us to lunch at the Hotel Aleman, which was about five  minutes to the east of our hotel..  I stayed with the last group to go, and foiund myself riding in the back of a white pickup truck with Mike B and Amy - so cool, even though Mike was trying to help the wind knock my Red Sox hat off the whole time!  haha  Arriving into town, we passed the Hotel Seville and then pulled into the parking lot for the Hotel Aleman.  We crossed the road and walked to the second floor of the Restaurant Aleman for our first of many meals here (we ate berakfast downstairs and dinner upstairs each day here, while making our sandwiches for lunch before our breakfast was over). 

Look west from Santo Tomas
Here our team was introduced to the local interprators that would be our lifeline throughout the week, working with those on our team to allow us to communicate with the people we would encounter in Villa Sandino.  The team was broken down into small armys to set up the clinic, and I learned before we left for the clinic that I would be blessed with a wonderful young lady named Alejandra working in the pharmacy.  She is a fifth year pharmacy student, who I later learned was taking a week off from school in order to work in the clinic.  After prayer over the whole team, we boarded the bus to travel the 20 minutes or so to Villa Sandino.

Arriving in Villa Sandino was almost like a scene from an old western movie - we could see people and movement, but most of the villagers did not smile or reach out to us.  GHO has a vision to reach out to all areas of Nicaragua, and this is the first medical mission to this town, so we must have seemed like a circus as we drove to the town's recreation center that was transformed into our clinic for the week.  Once inside the locked gates of the center we passed the triage area to the immediate right and optomitry station to the left, sepatated in the middle of the room by chairs in our waiting area.  To the right along the buildings wall were 10 consultation areas for the doctors to examen the patients, and at the far end of the room were bathrooms on each side of a stage, and around the corner to the left was "la Farmacia," right next to the womens exam area.
Doglegged shape room - 5 tables deep and 3 more on back wall.

Here I met my other translator, Erick, who has been helping GHO and other medical mission teams in the pharmacy for a while.  He is very friendly and was a great help throughout the week to find extra help when we need it.  Our main team was eager to get started, but I have to admit a total feeling of being overwhelmed.  The medicine was neatly laid out, but I soon realized that to be most efficient I would need to reorganize the supplies by drug use/category.  Lloyd had mentioned that we were working in the best stocked pharmacy in Nicaragua for the week, and the key now was to get started with prepacking medicine to help keep waiting times down.  Liz, Julianne, Alejandra, Sam, Anna, Kelsey, Bruce, and Christian were quickly given their assignments as counters, using the counting trays, spatulas and even tongue depressors to get the medicine into the baggies.  Ron and Darrell, two pharmacists I had contact with before the trip, both stressed prepacking and printing of labels to match the formulary, so the stickers were flying!

Praise the Lord for Lloyd, who gathered a bunch of people (including Sandy) to pour out 2 gallons of Benadryl liquid and cough syrup in the main room.  I transitioned Alejandra to verifying the baggies as Erick continued to get people involved.  It was like a revolving door of helpers as Cindy, Roxanne, Jay, and Joe came in to provide relief for some of the others.  The nurses in triage took the worm medicine in order to dose people as they came into the clinic, taking a big dispensing function off from us in the pharmacy.

During the afternoon the power went out as a storm rolled in.  We kept working until the light of the day faded and it was time for church.  I was still working to reorganize the tables, and I was so blessed to have Anna and Sam take the lead on listing the inventory of medicine on each table so I could take the puzzle pieces to the hotel room and come up with game plan for how to set up on Monday morning.

Who needs electricity when we have the Holy Spirit?
The Lighthouse Church was a two streets down from the clinic site, and we walked through the start of a magnificent thunder storm that was rolling into town.  I met with Lena, who had joined a group on a prayer walk through the town (she remembers that the people there were not happy that the gringos were there).  The guys worked to get a generator functional as the pews were getting filled with people inside and the thunder and lighting from the heavy storm boomed outside.    It was amazing to witness the spirit of God falling on the church with the vigor of the storm outside;  we had fun signing songs and hearing a message from Lloyd imploring men to be faithful to their wives as well as the Word from Pastor Chuck and a local pastor.  The people of the town started to receive us as their own, and Lena and I had fun playing with a family and their young kids during the service, which ran from 6:30 to 8pm. Our GHO team played some choruses before the local praise group rocked the house with some awesome Latin-fused praise music.  They had an electronic drum set that two little kids were running - it was great!

We boarded the buses in the rain and headed back to the restaurant in Santo Tomas.  I talked with the Reddy family, who joined our group from Ohio during the day.  The evening GHO team meeting was called off because it was so late, and after getting back to the hotel Lena and I showered and sorted through all of our luggage.  The anticipation of the week to come and the great blessings that God would provide to us and use us for there were met with the exhaustion, and we quickly fell asleep before the first day of clinic.

Thoughts for the day ...

  • Only Roxanne was missing luggage - we prayed and God answered by allowing Rolando's wife to find it within the next few days.  In true spirit of the early church recorded in Acts, team members shared our things with others so that we were all prepared to be used greatly for God's purpose there.
  • It is impossible to know where God can lead you if you are willing to follow. This may include riding on the back of a pickup truck in Nicaragua.  Beyond my wildest dreams!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Arriving in Managua

Lena and I left the hotel in Yonkers after a continental breakfast and got on to I-87 to head to the airport this morning. We both felt rested and happy to be closer to the airport and not feel so rushed to get there.  Traffic in Manhattan, even on the interstate, was backed up and slow moving, but before long we crossed the Triboro Bridge to pick up the Grand Central Parkway east towards Queens. After a few tries, we found the long term parking lot that Lena picked out and boarded the shuttle for the Delta Terminal.  Once there, we met the first members of our team, as we all wore similar tee shirts.  Mike H. and Samantha M. kept us company as we looked for the rest of our group.  Soon we all met up, and our team leader Frank helped to organize our small army, and with the help of a worker from the airline, move us to the group reservation check in area of the terminal.

The GHO team heading to check in for our flight at LGA

Once inside, we were faced with our first big issue as a team.  The airline was having trouble issuing our tickets as a group, which caused an hour long delay as some of the great agents helped to sort the situation out.  It turned out to be a blessing, as two of our team members were running late and after we got our boarding passes the line to get through security were a lot shorter.  We headed to the gate and met with a group from our team that was heading down to Atlanta on a different flight, prayed together and were able to meet some of the translators from our team, Millie, Cindy, and Amy.

There was a storm starting to descend on Atlanta as our airplane did the same after our two hour flight, and our connecting flight to Nicaragua was delayed by one and half hours.  Lena and I visited the Chick-fil-A for lunch and rejoined the tam as we waited at the gate.  The second flight of team members arrived safely, and Frank was able to check on the progress of the team coming in from California.  Lena and I excitedly got to know our new family as we waited, and we even watched a rerun of a Patriots pre-season game on TV!  It was so amazing to see the different folks chatting, Fitz trying out the eye glass machine with some of the other guys who would be using it in the clinic, and Mike B, Mike H and Jay practicing some of the praise songs on their guitars.

Our route from Atlanta to Nicaragua

The flight to Managua took close to 4 hours and was free from any real issues.  After paying $10 each to obtain a visitors pass at the customs gate, we went to the baggage claim and met up with the team from California, who arrived just before we did.  It was hot and muggy in the capital city even after dark, and we loaded some bags on the truck for the hotel after we met our in-country missionary host, Rolando.  Since the Best Western is located across the street from the airport, we took the baggage we would need for the night and walked over to our abode for the night.  After we received our room assignments, we dropped our bags off and freshened up before heading to the wonderful buffet dinner that awaited us.  The dining area was beautiful, just a short distance from the pool, and after a great meal we had a short meeting together and sang some songs.  After prayer for group, we headed back to the room for showers.  I was able to change some of our US dollars for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (roughly 1:21 ratio), use the hotel computer to send a quick email home (an attempt to access facebook resulted in my account being temporarily deactivated), and then spend some time with Lena before getting some sleep in preparation for our 6:30am breakfast!

Final thoughts for the day:

  • Practical items: do not use the tap water to drink or brush teeth (always use bottled water), do not flush any toilet paper down the toilet (the plumbing can not handle it so there are waste baskets for the papers), and be sure to wear flip-flops in the shower 
  • Lena and I sat next to Jay and Dot on both flights down to Nicaragua, and I had a great conversation with Jay , who is an elder in his church and would be sharing the preaching and teaching times with Pastor Chuck from California, about the balance between love and justice that God desires for us - a love for reading and learning from the Word
  • Mike and Laura B offered to take us in when we return to spend the night closer to the city to avoid driving all the way home.  I talked with Laura in Atlanta about how God has a way of changing our plans.  PATIENCE -> OBEDIENCE -> DEPENDENCE on God.  (This lesson would be proved many times over during our trip!)
  • It is really hot and muggy in Nicaragua

Friday, August 13, 2010

Preparing for Nicaragua

Leading up to our trip to Nicaragua, God has been moving mightily in my heart.  I have spent so much time and energy trying to prepare for the trip that I have not been focused on Him that is sending me.  Too often the busyness of life keeps us from spending time with the Lord, and opens us up to attack from the devil.  One way to slow down for me has been increasing my prayer time - asking God to be forefront in my mind and to handle all of the details surrounding the trip, praying for the other team members from all around the country, and for the people of Nicaragua that we will be ministering to while we serve the Lord as short-term medical missionaries.

I have been in contact with Frank, our team leader, and also two other pharmacists who have been on these missions before.  It is funny that at work I seem to be well organized, but at home I can't find the socks from last weeks wash!  This trip is helping me to really trust on God, since I can not truly know what to expect as far as the operation of the pharmacy until we actually get there.  Darrell and Ron have sent some excellent preparation tips so that our "arm" of the trip can run efficiently (compiling a formulary from GHO stock and the meds that our team will be bringing) with predetermined dosing and quantities, preprinting labels to match the formulary and reduce the amount of writing that will need to happen there, and what items to prepack before the clinic opens to help reduce the waiting times for our patients.

Another lesson that I am coming to terms with is the fact that we can not treat every person for every condition that they have, but just the main complaints that they bring to us.  We expect to see large numbers of people on the trip, and our advice is to treat the problems that patients bring to us, because many may not receive continuous care for their conditions.  Our goal can not be to provide permanent relief from every condition, only a temporary bandage --> the focus is to present the Gospel and allow God to give every person the assurance of salvation and eternal life in His son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to bear the sins of all humankind.

We have reassigned household responsibilities to the kids and set up rules during our trip so that Grandma and the kids know what is expected.  We'll see how well they are followed!  haha  Emma will be our communication representative, setting up a facebook page to pass on updates from the team that they anticipate sending each day while we are in country.  She also has a list of folks, our experienced prayer warriors, to call while on the trip to let them know what is happening and to pass of prayers and praises.  Preston made up some great magnets that we mailed out and posted for printing on the fb page.

Thanks for the great work, Preston!

I sent out requests for donations to help cover some of the supplies for the trip.  I did not get responses from two pharmaceutical wholesalers or the big box office supply company in our town, so the OTC items and paper supplies for the pharmacy came out of pocket.  I will plan to start requesting these donations earlier should the Lord allow us to take part in a trip again.  Although the pharmacy office at work turned down a donation, our store management did authorize $40 to help buy eye drops, first aid creams, and some items for the children's ministry during the clinic - a wonderful blessing. 

God is using some of our anxieties and the cares that the kids have about our return for a greater good.  We have to remember that these trials and times of unknown in our lives are binding us closer to Him so that we don't depend on ourselves - I am seeing that I can not work out all of the details on my own and I am truly giving them over to God as an act of submission and obedience.  At CLR on the 1st, I spoke on the book of Jonah and his missionary tale.  Verse 3:1 keeps coming back to me: "And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time ..." (KJV) God never stops reaching out to us!  I has blessed to fast for 24 hours starting the evening of August 1st - I dedicated the time to actively pray for the trip, and that God would open my eyes to focus and cling, to abide to Him more and more every day.  It was so cool how God took care of my physical needs for hunger as I focused entirely on Him with thanksgiving.

God also put a blessing before me in the pharmacy student at work, who had received a book, Essential Spanish for Pharmacists.  She does not speak the language, and said that I could take the book with me to help with translation.  WOW!  I also sent a package of goodies to my dear brother in the Lord Kurt in Afghanistan, serving with the military there. He is helping with the music ministry at a church there, and has been lifting our trip up with the saints there - it is so awesome how we can access our God any time, any where, and He hears our voices!

Some of the pre-trip medicines are making me feel feverish and queasy, but I am getting a good night's sleep.  On  the 6th we received our boxes from Global Health Outreach, which contained our team shirts, evagnicubes, devotional books, and a guide for medicine in developing countries.  I would have rather received the book before now, but I know that God is working to make me dependent on Him and His ways, not my own.  John 20:29: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (KJV) - I can not try to plan for everything that will happen while we are away, but have the faith of a child and believe on God to take care of the details.  

The 7th was an exciting day, as we had a sweet 16 party for Emma at the Ryebrook Tavern (we celebrated a quiet day at home on the 10th for her actual birthday).  We had some great food and wonderful music by our friend Jon's band.  We even brought the Wii for some fun!  Although many of Emma's friends did not come, those really close to her and lots of family came to share this special day.

Emma getting ready to rock her Sweet 16 cake!

On the 11th, three days before we get ready to leave, I had time to play with the little guy Lena watches during the day.  We had a fun time swimming in the pool with Preston - he loves getting pushed through the sprinkler! So often I don't get a lot of time to spend playing with little ones as mine are now grown up, so this was a refreshing moment for me.  In the evening, a dear old friend, John F., called and shared his desire that my eyes be opened to the greatness of God.  He shared "when you are an old man like me, it will give you comfort knowing that you worked for His purposes while you could - anyone can be a pharmacist at your job, but not just anyone can do God's work."  What a great living example of Psalm 37!

Friday, August 13th, Lena completed the packing (she is so good!) and I finished printing the labels as Emma and a child she was babysitting put the formulary sheets onto contact paper.  We struggled with how many bags to bring, and ended up with our two carry-ons (most of our clothes here), and two checked bags (one for the medicines we are bringing down, and the other with the rest of our clothes and food/snacks to eat in country.  I was able to mow the lawn and get Emma to a doctor's appointment, and I bought an extra pair of sneakers at Goodwill due to a lot of rain in the area where we will be going.  We had a nice supper at a local restaurant with the kids, Tony, and Madison, then went to the chocolate shop for ice cream sundaes.  We decided that since our flight was to leave from NYC at 1pm on Saturday, that we would drive down tonight so we would not rush to get there in the morning.  We took the Taconic Parkway to the Saw Mill River Parkway, then stayed in Yonkers off I-87.  We are close to our launching pad at LaGuardia Airport, and Lena and I are both excited to see what the Lord has planned for us during this time! I am still trying not to let the busyness of life take away the blessings that God has for us, and coming to grips with the idea that I can not do anything - only God can use me and the talents that He has provided me with to do His good works!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peaks to Portland 07/25/2010

My first open water swim was quite an experience.  Having started to swim again in 2008 (after a decade away from the chlorine), I decided this spring to look for an event to set my sights at and train towards. After some internet searches, I found the Peaks to Portland Swim in Portland, Maine.  2010 marks the 29th annual event of swimming 2.4 miles from Peaks Island to the East End Beach and is used as a fundraiser for the Portland Area YMCA's.  Perfect!!! Our close friends Bob and Val live in Portland and have invited us up for visits many times in the past, so having an event in their backyard sounded like a great fit.

Of course, I had to do some research before committing to the swim.  First of all, what would my wife think?  Would she support all of the training that I would put in and be ok with the distance of the race?  Indeed she was - what a blessing I have in Lena.  Next, could I put the time in to complete the race without the aid of medical intervention?  I worked at getting into the pool 2-3 times a week, and also started to meet with the Bennington Area Masters Swim Club.  It also so happened that I had the weekend off from work, and after consulting with the Browns the weekend was free on their end to host us.  Of race requirements, Bob has a kayak and volunteered to be my wing man through the course, and my friend Jon from the Masters club happened to have an extra wetsuit that was a bit too big for him and just right for me that I could borrow for the event!

On Friday, the night before the race, I checked in at the Portland YMCA on High Street to pick up my racer packet.  I found my required swimmers cap and flag to attach to the kayak, along with a tee shirt and some granola.  We headed over to the Browns and saw their car in the driveway with the kayak loaded on top.  Bob wanted to bring the kayak down to the East End Beach to test it out and get a lay of the area.  We followed behind them on the short drive from their home to the beach and watched with excitement as the kayak paddled out a hundred yards or so from the shore, between the moored boats and buoys.  After a 20 minute splash (we spent the time combing the sand for sea glass), Bob came back to the landing and reported that everything looked ready to go for the big event just 12 hours away.  

We headed into the city for a stop at the park overlooking Fort Gorges, where Val planned to make our base camp in the morning.  With the aid of binoculars, we spied the route from in reverse, to the right of the fort to the dock across Casco Bay to Peaks Island.  The Ferry was slowly advancing from it's home port to the dock on Peaks, and we joked that it did indeed look a far distance away!  After making some notes (which helped us in reviewing the course map and some current info the Browns found online), we zipped to the Old Port to buy our tickets for the morning (a great idea to avoid the hassle in the morning), the we headed towards home for a some pizza and a stop at the store for supplies before we turned in for the night.   I didn't have much trouble sleeping, due in part to being tired from the long ride to Maine, the late nights during the week from work and trying to get preparations for the event all set, and my secret weapon - Ambien.  Minutes after hitting the bed I was off to sleep, a bit anxious for the big swim in the morning.

5:45am.  I am not often up this early, but the alarm ringing heralded in the dawn of race day.  Having already packed the wetsuit and other swim gear, I slipped on my trusted green speedo and some warm ups, and joined together and loaded into the cars to head over, making our goal of leaving the house by 6:15 to catch the 6:45 ferry to the island.  Typical Maine morning, overcast and foggy.  I mean really foggy - couldn't see more than a mile or so in front of yourself.  We boarded the ferry and headed to the Peaks, without being to see the city from across the bay.

Kayaks stacked on the bottom of the Ferry - three high in some spots!
We unload the kayak and headed for the beach - I registered and picked up my timing chip (which I wore around my left ankle), then Bob and I took in the sounds and excitement of the event.  It was strange to see some of the other yakers paddling in (they opted not to take the ferry, or perhaps they missed it!), almost like the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean where the pirates walked out of the water, as they seemed to just appear through the fog.
Ferry returning to Portland. Note the kayaker coming in to the left of the shot.
 Bob left with the other kayakers after they had a brief meeting, and I found myself on the beach for about 20 minutes.  I hopped in the water (as others were doing) to warm up - that ended up being more like freeze off!  I decided after a short swim to the end of the pier and back that I would wait on land.  We swimmers had a brief meeting as well, where we learned that instead of a mass start we would be leaving in "waves" of 50 swimmers to avoid the usually frenzy at the start of an open water swim.  I was ranked 33rd (based on my one mile timed swim for qualification) and started in the first flight.  We walked as a group over the blue mat that activated our chips, then floated in the water next to a lobster trap about 50 feet offshore and  waited for the starter to send us off.

The start came and we went.  I started to the right side of the group, close to the pier, in order to avoid being run over.  Two swimmers were just in front of me, so I wedged in between them just a few inches behind and allowed them to escort me out of the starting area.  The water was cold, so I kept my head out of it for the first 300 yards or so, until I was too tired by this hydroplane-style of swimming.  As we made our way out into the bay towards the kaykers, I tried to follow the feet in front of me, and found myself drifting to the side of the other swimmers.  The kayakers appeared and I saw a bunch floating together, then it seemed like they were lined up making a channel to swim through.  Bob spotted me as I made it almost through the flotilla, and patted his head to let me know that he found me.  Later, Bob said he was nervous I might miss him, so he looked for the swimmer with the whitest arms!  Haha - there I was! 

I lined up to the left side of his boat and we headed out together.  I joked "Are we almost there yet?" and Bob almost fell out of the boat!  I focused on lengthening my strokes because my arms were cold and I knew that they were falling short.  Bob was very encouraging and it was a great help having him lead the way through the fog towards the finish.  I used the time in the water to do a lot of praying, especially for ourupcoming missions trip to Nicaragua.  As we rounded Fort Gorges, the sun started to zap away the fog, and Bob threw me my water bottle for a fill up.  I commented, "Is that the second wave?" as I looked back and saw a group coming out of the fog.  "It's time to rock and roll," said I,  and after getting a good look at the finish area I started to increase my turnover and headed towards the beach.  We could see the park where Lena and the family set up the cheer camp, and I reeled in a swimmer in front of me - the extra effort paid off as I was able to draft off her for a bit.
Portland coming into view to the right.

The finish was fast and I tried to not leave too much left in the tank.  Bob kept me from many obstacles, but I did manage to brush against on the rather large buoys that the Y had dropped - it as not the most pleasant!  At the two red buoys I broke to the left and Bob headed right with the other yakers.  I spied some swimmers to my right, so I stroked harder and took a straighter line to the balloon arch that stood on the beach in front of the finish.  I had hoped to bound from the water like 'the Hoff' but my legs were too weak and my wetsuit too heavy - I fell over twice and into a race worker the third time.  I decided that a slow walk to the blue mat in the finish was in order, so I finally made it there!  My son, Preston, was the first face I saw, and then my wife came round the corner and gave me a big hug.  I checked my watch and saw a time in the 52 minute zone, much better than the goal of finishing under one hour that I had set for myself.  Val and her parents also shouted congrats from the beach, and I headed to the tent for some water and orange slices. 

My first open water event was a success!  I think we all had a great time coming together and helping the YMCA raise some funds (in all, over $15,000 was raised by all the swimmers), and spending a great weekend together in Maine with our great friends.  We are planning to swim again next year, and hope to add some surprises for then as well  :)

Finishing results:
26th of 192 Overall in 52 minutes 20 seconds.
10th out of 33 in Age Group (M 30-40) <-- these guys were fast!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Giving it a shot ...

Thanks for stopping by to see what is going on in my life.  I have been thinking of starting a space to share ideas and stories with dear friends near and far, and have come to realize that so often we don't get the time to really know one another.  Here is an opportunity to see what is happening with and through me.  I hope that you might be encouraged and that you will also share your thoughts as well.  The Lord loves you, and He is waiting to hear from you.  So am I.


Don't Be Like Mike

My photo
Thankful that God has granted me a second chance (quite a few, actually) through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love the Lord, my family, and enjoy endless laps of swimming and circles on a motorcycle. Follow Jesus.