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Saturday, November 14, 2020

 Waiting for (the) Queen

She was somewhere between limp and dead with eye slits focused on nothing.  Nine years old looking like six, wrought with fever yet cold and clammy, staring eternity in the face and just hours or even minutes from going to be with God.  We rushed mom and her small charge into our truck with dad following on his bicycle. The heavily pock-marked roads lit only by the truck’s headlights forced me to drive painfully slow-- just over walking speed to the local hospital.  Once there, we waited as time crawled by before “Reine” (Queen) was admitted.  And then we waited even more. 

We are spoiled by western triage and urgent care.  Here it’s mostly first come, first served.  One learns to wait with prayer if not with grace.  Culturally short-circuited frustration is always lurking in hospital waiting rooms.  It’s too easy to imagine the worst when it is the worst that you most often encounter.  We waited and waited some more.  Drenched in sweat, I began to wonder when someone would turn on the fans that dotted the steaming hospital hallway lined with benches of those waiting to be seen and the anguished faces who waited with them.

We filled Reine’s prescriptions at the hospital pharmacy.  The shotgun shell of medications is normal when tests take longer than the patient may have to live. Often multiple IV antibiotics, saline solution or Ringer’s lactate, calcium and vitamins begin to stir life.  The next morning with more targeted treatment, Reine could almost sit up with her back against the hospital wall and her mom cradling her head.  She had dodged eternity and survived an especially severe case of malaria,* for now.  She will likely make the same dance many times throughout her life.

Days earlier, Janet and I were still moving to our smaller home located between the local garbage dump and the nearby “nonlotit” (unofficial) warren of one-room, tin-roofed homes of brick and blocks made with cement and the local red dirt.  We need to cut our expenses to pay for increasingly larger orders of imported baby formula. As we prepared to bring another load of belongings into our smaller home we encountered Reine’s father.  We knew him from months before when he and his wife brought twins, one suffering from acute protein malnutrition called Kwashiorkor--a ruddy, bloated boy who cried his way through a couple of weeks in a local hospital before a gracious and loving God called him home. The family was now our neighbor living only a couple of hundred meters away and with a limp, unblinking daughter who was close to joining her brother.

We returned to the hospital two days later to visit the family and to pay their hospital bills.  Reine was standing and walking albeit shakily.  Her parents thanked us repeatedly as we walked to the truck to bring them to the home they shared with at least four other families. Reine was greeted by the others, hugging her like a local celebrity.  They thanked us in at least four languages.  We told them that all that was done for Reine was a gift from God.  Now whenever we drive past their home, someone sitting beneath the sprawling acacia tree is sure to smile and offer a wave and a warm greeting.

Last week, Rein and mom knocked on our door to share their joy with us.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a child’s smile is worth billions.

We encountered God between a garbage dump and a hovel where the ubiquitous plastic bags fly about and inhabit the sparse trees, goat-chewn cartons blow in the smoky breeze, and hope can be as rare as rain.

And that’s exactly why He sent us here.

Dieu est grand tout le temps. (God is great all the time.)

*We have started a new program to distribute insect repellant, mosquito nets, fumigant, and Malaria medications free of charge.  If you would like to support this unbudgeted project, please go to the Sheltering Wings website at: sheltering-wings.org.  On the home page, scroll down to “Be the Hands” and click on “Donate Today.”  In the “Donation Center” go to “Don and Janet Guizzetti West Africa Projects” and click on “Donate.”  Scroll down to “Emergency Medical Fund” to make your most needed and appreciated donation to help with the most urgent, life-threatening needs.  Thank you and may God bless you abundantly.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Urgent Medical Appeal


Hundreds of children, many with critical medical needs have passed through our baby feeding program.  We have used individual appeals for the funds to provide critical surgeries  This slows vital medical treatment.  Jihadist warfare has displaced hundreds of thousands and has disrupted and overburdened services.  We now have a Critical Needs fund with which to provide immediate treatment.


A tiny baby girl just returned from open heart surgery in Kenya to close a large hole between the ventricles of her heart.  She would have certainly died otherwise.


Two babies are awaiting surgery.  One baby boy entangled with his twin had both legs broken during delivery—he weighed less than two pounds. At five months he contracted meningitis.  He recovered but then developed hydrocephaly.  Emergency surgery has drained some fluid from his brain, but a shunt is needed to continuously drain fluid from his brain.


A baby boy had a blocked urethra that keeps his bladder from emptying.  Emergency surgery made a temporary drain from his bladder through the wall of the abdomen.  Constant contact with urine burns his skin and results in frequent urinary infections.


Critical surgeries range from a few hundred dollars to more than $5,000.  Please consider contributing to Sheltering Wings/ Guizzetti Emergency Medical Fund.  Anything helps.  Thank you.







If you would like to become a ministry partner, tax-deductible donations may be made online at:  
http://sheltering-wings.org/our-missionaries/#don

Or you can make checks payable to Sheltering Wings and attach a note that it is for "Guizzetti" and mail to:
Sheltering Wings, 5104 Old 66, Leasburg, MO  65535.  (314) 635-6316.


We invite you to share real-time in our day-to-day experiences:
Friend us on Facebook:    Don and Janet in Africa, Don Guizzetti, and Janet Guizzetti

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Smoking Ants


It was one of those languid, midsummer days when dungaree pockets were made for skate keys, big, fat pieces of colored chalk, and  a couple of pieces of Bazooka Bubble Gum.  Kids spun in Hula Hoops, fat Robins hopped and paused in the small patches of New York City grass that passed for front lawns, and the smell of red ribbons of caps in Roy Rogers pistols wafted through the air.  Dads mowed lawns, moms hung wash on clotheslines to dry, and the droning hum of a distant Piper Cub dodging woolen clouds in the blue sky set countless imaginations soaring.   Baseball cards clipped on with clothes pins made countless Schwinn’s sound like motorcycles.


Billy MacAfee was the “old man” of our gang—at least a year older than we six-year-olds.  Matches were forbidden us, so Billy held an enthralled court when he made dry leaves smoke with a large, round magnifying glass.  “Hey! Watch this,” said Billy as he turned to face an anthill of soil where workers were busily laboring to push sand grain boulders to the edges of the growing Lilliputian pile.  Billy focused the needle beam of sunlight on one hapless ant that instantly made a small puff of smoke and curled into something resembling a poppy seed.  A chorus of “Wows” rose as the magnifying glass was passed around.  We each took turns frying a half-dozen or so ants before passing the magnifying glass on.


No one noticed my mom, still in her laundry apron leaning down and watching us wreak havoc with the newly arrived soldier ants searching for an unseen attacker picking off the workers.  “What are you all doing?” came the voice that froze us into a huddle.  Billy almost boastfully replied that we were “smoking ants.”  I knew well enough to hope that Billy would continue to draw fire. 

My mom, who I already suspected was a closet Buddhist-Lutheran bent down and picked up the remains of one of the ants.  She took my hand and turned it over.
  

“Take this.” She said as she put the seed-like remains of one of the ants in my palm and closed my hand over it. 

I looked at her. 

“Make it live again.”  Open mouthed, I scanned my small cadre with questioning eyes. 

“I can’t,” I replied. 

“Try,” said mom. 

“I don’t know how.  It’s impossible.” 

“Remember that,” smiled mom as she turned back to hanging bed sheets on the clothesline.



Three decades later, I was driving an old pickup truck through the alpine heights of Colorado with the carcasses of a half-dozen field-dressed Pronghorns partially covered by a tarp.  One of them was mine, my first big game kill.  I had my bead on a young buck, aiming just behind his right ear.  That would kill him instantly.  Suddenly he had turned and appeared to put one big, brown eye directly against mine through the scope. I gulped and jerked the rifle just a tad to the left and knocked the still breathing buck to the ground. I wished I had missed.


I drove the 150-yards to the hyperventilating buck who sat motionless regarding me with two huge, round eyes.  “I’m sorry that I shot you, but I will eat you,” I whispered as I fired another round behind his right ear.  After field dressing my buck, I loaded him in the truck with the others bagged that day in the sage perfumed plains of Wyoming, just outside of Lander and headed for the ranch near Granby, Colorado.


As the truck wound its way though the heavy forest of pines, I cranked up the music on the radio, still pumped with lingering “dear fever.”  The words of the next song crept into my consciousness as the familiar tune tapped on my head.  “…Bless the beasts and the children; Give them shelter from the storm; keep them safe; keep them warm.”  The song continued in Karen Carpenter’s lilting voice and dulcet tones.  The image of somebody’s buck filled the rear-view mirror.  I apologized to my buck repeatedly as I drove deflated to the ranch.  I looked into my buck’s eyes as I hoisted his carcass into the outside shed where the animals would await their trip to the processor.  I apologized once more. I ate a good part of the animal, my first and only hunt.


Now two decades after that, I started raising laying hens in Africa to nurture moms too malnourished themselves to nurse their babies.  Last week a hen died from a broken shell in her oviduct.  The African vet said nothing could be done as she suffered.  Shortly after that she died.  About the same time, another hen somehow injured a leg.  We could not find any injury or broken bone.  She could only eat and drink.  


Here you don’t spend more than a chicken cost to heal it.  After spending a few days watching her eat, drink, and hobble a little, I decided to give her to one of our guards who never seems to have enough to eat.  Knowing her looming fate that night, I recalled the advice of a farmer friend—you don’t name animals you’re going to butcher.  I should have remembered that when we bought the flock with “Baby.”


I was six-years old again.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

IN THIS CORNER


The past few years here in Burkina Faso have been emotionally schizophrenic. With many the same symptoms, we struggle with the competing emotions of fear of  jihadist violence and love for the people whom we live among.  We revel in the joy of too skinny babies becoming plump and jolly bundles squirming on their mothers’ backs and the grief and anxiety of reading near daily body counts from the latest attacks in the countryside.  

We grasp for balance as we ride the see-saw of emotions between seeing the transformative love of Jesus change despair to hope and then encounter the reality of the countless thousands of men, women, and children fleeing the swarming insurgents. We have one foot resting securely in the grace and mercy of God and the other in the bloodied shadows of indiscriminate evil.


We find ourselves alternately staring at opposing horizons.  On one we are lifted up by the brightening rays of rising dreams of expanding the Oasis of Hope; feeding more of the countless babies and orphans who have no options left, sharing the gift of literacy for whom it is not even a distant hope, and opening eyes, hearts, and minds to the Scriptures where one finds real purpose and meaning. On the other side, we can see the endless number of refugees, families and individuals who wander to and fro in the fading sun-stained dust of dreamless despair among the poorest of all people. We experience the pendulum swing between joy for the living and sorrow for the perishing.


We covet your prayers for those we live among and those whom we will never know.  We seek prayers not only for all of the Burkinab√©, but for the jihadi themselves that their hearts and minds may be opened to the Holy Spirt to hear Christ knocking at their hearts.  

We seek prayers as well for all the unprayed for throughout the world, those who have yet to find an eternity with Almighty God through His son Jesus and who have not even one person to lift them in prayer.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

DON'T WASTE (THE REST OF) YOUR LIFE.




During my late tens, my twenties, and my early thirties, I thought myself to be a reasonably good person.  I knew that I wasn’t a saint, but I could rattle off the names of a dozen Hitleresque persons worse than I.  Then I became a man and (mostly) gave up childish ways.  Faced with a nagging desire to know the true Truth, I realized that I was not really all that good. Not nearly.


I got married, bought our first home, climbed the career ladder, and made good money.  I allowed the last two items of the preceding list to become my raisons d’etre—my reasons for being.  Big mistake.  As a then nominal Christian, I stumbled into a wiry, Reformed Baptist preacher who gob smacked me with the possibility of actually wasting one’s life.  The concept left me stunned to my shoes. He disillusioned me of the idea of buying a boat, retiring to Punta Gorda, Florida, playing softball and collecting seashells.


I listened to dozens of his sermons while pedaling my stationary bike.  I started to become annoyed with his insistence that “life” as I knew it was not life at all, that what we often mistake for life is rather a system of unimportant diversions.
  

Note that I wrote “unimportant,” not “inconsequential.”  A lot of unimportant things have consequences.  Passive decisions can have monumental and eternal consequences.  Without warning, life can become a system of passive decisions.  The American dream is such a system of passive decisions.  Almost without the slightest thought, we may embrace the idea that life consists of building a career, making a home, buying stuff, and chasing postcard vacations, like going to Punta Gorda. 


There is nothing wrong with the American Dream if it does not become the primary objective of one’s life.  Food is good, gluttony is not.  Money has a function, but it is a false objective.  Vacations are restorative, but they are an escape.  In fact, everything about the American Dream is an escape made up of unimportant (but consequential) diversions.  Realize it or not, the American Dream is the scenery that flies by as you ride the rails to your final destination.


The sermons I Youtubed while working out became the existential icing on the materializing realization that it is difficult to discover the meaning of “good” while living a life of unimportant diversions.  The American Dream can leave us confused about the main point of our lives and wholly unprepared for what comes after.


I am now in my seventh decade and I am again stunned to my shoes when I consider how close I came to wasting my life.  If not for the love of a relentless God and the people he purposely sprinkled into my life, I would have persisted in the haze that I was a reasonably good person pursuing my slice of the American Dream. I am now able to look back on decades of self-delusion and see clearly the sins for which I now fall weeping at the feet of Jesus. My eyes have been opened to how close I have come to riding the remainder of my life until it flew off the rails and tumbled into the pit of perfected irrelevance and unspeakable aguish.


What we call “life” is a prelude, a dress rehearsal if you will, for eternity.  We pass through a deluge of unimportant diversions.  Some of us are swept away by the current while others find solid footing in a loving God.  In the process, we discover that the American Dream has the potential to become a final, eternal nightmare.  We also discover that while we are capable of conceiving of “my truth” and “your truth,” that there is in the end only one Truth.  While we can also convince ourselves that we are reasonably good, there is really only one good—God.  When our goodness is measured against His goodness, there is no discernable difference between us and the meanest, most horrible person we can imagine.


In the end or nearing the end, I once again see how I have been rescued by a relentless God.  Rather than see my retirement as the opportunity to enjoy life and to find recreation with fewer concerns or responsibilities or to chase after postcards and collecting shells in Punta Gorda, my age is a vantage point from which I can squint eternity as the American Dream and my puny concepts of “truth” and “good” fade into vapors.  It is only in God through His son Jesus Christ where we finally find the real good, the real truth, and that which is consummately more real than any dream.


Don’t waste (the rest of) your life.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

MY CRAZY MOTHER



My sister and I were sure our widowed mother wasn’t crazy, but I think that there were times she wanted us to think so.  She couldn’t resist keeping us wondering.


My mom was left with a nine-year-old daughter who had been pummeled by a one-two of spina bifida and polio and who required a ridiculous number of surgeries even before graduating from high school.  A two-year-old rambunctious and strong-willed son balanced the other end of her yoke.  Maybe that’s why she always a seemed a bit “different.’


Besides the usual “clean up your room” and “please don’t start fires in the house,” mom always did the excruciatingly unexpected.  When I was about four or five, mom dropped the hammer on me for dropping toys on the floor.  One day she sat me down with “that look” on her face that said I may not be sitting down again for a while.


“Look, I work all day to put food on the table and to keep a roof over our heads,” said Mom.  “Your Nana keeps an eye on you and your sister every day to make sure that you both eat and that you don’t burn the house down.”  (Oh, oh, she found the burned spot on the floor beneath the hassock.)  I don’t have the time or energy to always pick up after you.  If you don’t put your toys away, we’ll figure out a better solution.”


A few weeks later, with toys still on the floor, one of our neighbor’s husband carried in an old wood army footlocker and put it my room. I liked army stuff and thought this to be pretty cool.  Mom came in and sat me down on the footlocker.  She snapped a small padlock on the hasp.  She looked me in the eye and said,

 “Every toy that you leave on the floor goes into the footlocker and remains there ensconced for two weeks.  If it winds up on the floor again, it will stay in the footlocker until just before Christmas.  We will take the footlocker to the Ottilie Orphan Home and you will give one toy to each orphan until all of your toys have been given away.”


I knew that Mom could be stern, but not THAT crazy.  I remained a recidivist. The memory of an unlearned lesson quickly vaporized.
  

A couple of weeks before Christmas Mom and I drove up to the Ottilie Orphan Home in “Becky,” our pea green 1939 Dodge sedan with a footlocker sticking out of the trunk.  Even then, I held out hope that this was just some drama meant to teach me a lesson.  It was not.  In all-too-few minutes I was raining tears as I clutched each toy before hesitantly handing it to a child who clasped the toy to his or her chest and said a very appreciative “Thank you!”


The next day, Mom helped me to write a letter to Santa.  I asked for a small, rideable delivery truck, a panda bear, and a wind-up roller coaster.  Mom walked me to the post office to mail the letter.  A few days before Christmas, a big box with a North Pole return address was delivered to our house.  Inside were wrapped packages addressed to my sister and me. They remained unopened until Christmas Day.


Sixty-plus years later, inside a yellowing photo album in our basement is a picture of a very smiley five-year-old riding a small truck and clutching a very fat panda bear.  Mom always stuck to her story that she had nothing to do with the package that came by truck.  She said that she was struggling to make a Christmas for my sister and me.  Money was tight and she was working two jobs.  There was little left for presents.  On Christmas day, she was a lot more surprised than I was when we opened those gifts plus a letter from Santa wising us all a very, merry Christmas.


When I went to my room that night to go to sleep, the footlocker was gone and I was clutching my new bear.  I still wonder about Mom to this day.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Roping Toilets

I have shared before that it is customary that just before we leave the US for Burkina, after we arrive, or before we leave Burkina for the US, or just after we arrive things fall apart. In my case it has most often been something with a toilet.
I have become so adept at quickly repairing toilets that I am reminded of a calf roper launching after a calf released from its chute only to be wrestled to the ground with its hooves bound by a rope in what the wrangler hopes is record time. I even raise both hands in victory as I flush the repaired toilet for the first time. I brought a wrangler’s hat with us to Burkina this time so I can more closely resemble my missional avatar.
This time it was an electrical connection in the main circuit breaker adjacent to the meter—it smoked and cut off the current last evening. I was not inclined to work on the problem in the dark, so we ran the generator until midnight. I “pre-cooled” the bedroom as much as possible before we hopped into bed and tried to fall asleep before the room heated to ambient. It worked, almost. When the room temperature rose above 85-degrees I awoke as if a large metal platter had fallen onto a concrete floor. I spent the remainder of the night repeating my prayers until the sun laser-beamed through a slit in the curtains screaming that the night was over.
The circuit breaker reset this morning, although I measured its temperature to be over 160-degrees with my IR thermometer. I have a call into Daouda, our very friendly and capable Burkinabé electrician. We are using as little electricity in hopes of keeping our electrical load as low as possible. While I wait for Daouda, I can see if the voltage regulator for the refrigerator can be repaired and then find the source of the short circuit in the living room lights. Later I can replace the burned-out spotlight and exterior light fixtures. Once I get the two dead batteries in the trucks recharged.
The toilets, so far, are okay.
Daouda has arrived. It will be a good day.