Eoins final resting place 

On Friday we said our final farewells to baby Eoin. He was laid to rest in Ohio, close to the farm where jennie grew up. The midwest at this time of year has a special beauty to it, fall is in full flow and everywhere has a vibrant and colourful feel to it

   
 His service was fairly simple and lasted just 15 minutes. Family and a few close friends were present. I had been dreading this day as we had been building towards it for the past few weeks. I had said my final goodbyes to Eoin in the hospital and didn’t want to go through those raw emotions again. In the end, I realised how important his final resting place was. There is some comfort that he is with family, next to Jennie’s grandparents and close to her grandfathers sister, Almira who died at just 2 days old. There was a special significance in that for me.

   
    
 God continues  to be good to us. We sense Gods presence is with us and we trust that he is looking after eoin now. We recieved additional comfort from the doctors , that there is a very low risk for future pregnancies for Jennie. The chances of the situation with Eoin repeating itself are very remote. Finally I wanted to leave you with a psalm that has meant a great deal to me over the past few weeks. Psalm 16 will be carved on Eoins memorial stone in the next few weeks.

16 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

    I have no good apart from you.”

3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,

    in whom is all my delight.[b]

4 The sorrows of those who run after[c] another god shall multiply;

    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out

    or take their names on my lips.

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;

    you hold my lot.

6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;

    in the night also my heart instructs me.[d]

8 I have set the Lord always before me;

    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[e] rejoices;

    my flesh also dwells secure.

10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

    or let your holy one see corruption.[f]

11 You make known to me the path of life;

    in your presence there is fullness of joy;

    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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A long anticipated arrival, a short time together

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I got to experience the miracle of birth last week for the second time. It was not as we had expected, Eoin Matthew (pronounced like ‘Owen’) came a few days before his due date while Kora was almost 2 weeks late. And ‘not as we had expected’ is truly an understatement…as Mark mentioned in his post below. The labor with Eoin was fast and intense. My contractions started around 5:30pm and he was born at 1:05am on the 9th of October. When we arrived at the birth center around 12:50, my waters broke and they rushed me in where they searched for a heartbeat but called the EMS immediately as they couldn’t find it at all. The midwife told me I was almost fully dilated and if I had the ability to push, I should push him out as quickly as possible. She said I pushed him out in 8 minutes – my body wasn’t really ready for that, so I’m left with a lot of healing, but it was well worth it for my little boy. I don’t know how much longer he would have been stuck inside me without oxygen if we had to wait to be transported to the hospital. Instead he was put on my tummy as soon as he made it out, and I had about 15 minutes of terrifying yet blissful moments holding my little boy as they began trying to get him breathing right there on top of me. I’ve told the midwife so many times how much I appreciate her encouraging me to get him out – it meant so much to me to do what I could to save his little life.

One of the hardest facts to cope with for me is that Eoin was a healthy, happy baby up to the very end of labor. I felt him kicking alongside contractions earlier in the evening…he was a very active little guy in me. And then a random thing occurred, no one can tell us why, the placenta abrupted, or detached from my uterus & at that point he had no more oxygen coming to him. Just like that, for no apparent reason, his chances for survival were cut to little to none.

The next few days were filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. We are surprised that we have yet to feel anger and despair, though sadness has been with us all along the way. Through all of this we have felt an undergirding of Peace that we can only attribute to Jesus’ Presence with us. And then there was the constant stream of prayers and love from our family and friends all over the world. We really couldn’t have survived those hours without all the hope and faith of others upholding us and strengthening ours which was waning. Each conversation with doctors knocked our faith while there always seemed to come an encouragement from someone else soon after. We were overwhelmed by the love, even from those we don’t and won’t ever know. I told Eoin that he was a famous little guy!

From Friday to Sunday, Eoin was surviving on an Oscillator ventilator and nitrous oxide. The hope was that after he was warmed from the cooling treatment (which was meant to protect his brain from any further damage over that time period) that he would begin to try to function on his own, try to breathe, move, etc. Unfortunately he never opened his eyes, never tried to breathe, never squeezed my finger.

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On our final day together, I was able to spend some precious moments with our little Eoin. I fed him some of my milk with a cotton swab – he probably never swallowed, but the nurses assured me it was still good for him. I helped the nurse bathe him and take some of the monitors off him. I got to spend time chatting to him about all his family and friends who loved him. Kora, Mark & I prayed over him and we sang one of the songs we sing with Kora every night before bed. His little feet were dry, so I got the baby oil out and massaged his legs and feet. And finally, when all the cords had been removed, I cuddled my precious little one.

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The nurse had encouraged us over the weekend to have Kora involved, to meet him and draw him pictures that they would hang by his bedside. On Sunday she colored a picture of a bear (pictured above)- it was just the first page we came to in her book, nothing special, but it has come to mean a lot to me. The nurse hung it right above Eoin’s feet and this little picture of a chubby bear playing with a butterfly has brought me a lot of hope during those days and beyond. The bear is lying on his back as Eoin had the whole time we knew him – and as Eoin was quite chubby with the extra fluid he was retaining, he reminded me of the bear. Thus Eoin became my little baby bear. But more than that was on Sunday or Monday night, I can’t remember which, I had a dream with bears in it. We were driving along in a beautiful place & out of the grass came a huge mama bear…and just behind we could see her baby bear. We began backing the car away, but we were more in awe than scared. That’s the extent of the dream, but as I contemplated more on that dream and this picture, I felt Jesus speaking over me how He was now the mama bear, protecting my little cub. That the happy, playful bear in the picture was how Eoin would be with him, enjoying his little baby life to the full. And then on his final day, I noticed the butterfly that the bear in the picture was playing with…and I remembered that it is often a symbol of resurrection life…something our little Eoin is now experiencing in full, a promise that I cherish.

Such joy and such sorrow all in one. We don’t know how the next few weeks, months, etc will feel or be like, but we’re taking it a day at a time & appreciating the moments we as a family have together.

What happened this week

We have had lots of support, love and prayers from all around the world this week….but it occurred to us that not many people really know what happened. Its actually helpful to write this out and share our story.

Its now been more than a week since Jennie first went into labour. Last Thursday evening, the 8th October Jennie started to have contractions and we visited our birthing centre at 9pm that evening. Everything was fine and we could hear a our baby’s heart beating strongly. Everything going well, as it had done throughout the entire pregnancy.

We were sent home as Jennie was still not that far along in her labour. Everything moved very quickly and we were asked to return to the birthing centre by 1am. At this point no heart beat could be found with Baby Eoin. We later found out that the placenta had ruptured at some point, probably in that final 30 minutes of labour. This meant that Eoin was not getting the oxygen he needed. Apparently, this is a condition that will affect only 1 in every 1000 births. Its rare and we don’t have any answers for why this happened to us.

We’ve asked ourselves this question a few times this week. Could we have done anything differently? It seems like the answer is no. Whatever went wrong happened in the very final stages of labour, this was completely unexpected. We were very very unlucky.

The days following Eoin’s birth were dramatic, hopeful, difficult, tough. All those emotions rolled into one experience. You see, the doctors resuscitated Eoin 30 minutes after he was born. This itself was a miracle. He was given a pioneering cooling treatment for the next 72 hours, the doctors hoping this would minimise the impact of his lack of oxygen during the final moments of labour.  I’ve not experienced a time like that before in my life, torn between being hopeful for a miraculous recovery and trying to be realistic that his condition was very severe.

To be completely honest, i was dreading having to make a difficult decision about continuing or ending Eoin’s treatment, this was my worst nightmare. In the end our decision was an easier one. Eoin simply never responded to the treatment he was getting. His never opened his eyes, never breathed for himself and his vital functions just started shutting down.

I expected to be finding this harder than I am right now. Maybe those feelings of loss will come, or maybe God has helped us through the past week. Eoin passed away on Tuesday and I have been surprised to have felt some relief since then. Going back to the hospital each day, seeing Eoin’s condition get worse over time, it was very hard. Other things have helped too, having close friends who have been through this before and everybody’s prayers and love for our family. Our 2 year old daughter Kora has been a source of entertainment.

We have been told that Jennie should be able to have children in the future, that is at least some comfort. Of course that is not on our minds right now, we need time to heal and grieve. On 28 October we will travel to Ohio and Eoin’s final resting place will be there, next to Jennie’s parents farm. There are many years of family history at the farm, and it feels like the right place for him.

Amazingly we received a large tax rebate in the post, the morning after Eoin was born. This has helped us to cover most of our bills and gave me amazing sense that God has been in control throughout the entire situation. Its just a small thing in light of what has just happened, but has helped me to cope with a very difficult week.

Chaos and Genesis

Often, neighbors in the type of community we are living in feel as though their life and their world are a complete mess. Their picture of God might resemble that of Marduk more than the God of the Bible. They may believe that their life is up to them, and they can rely on only their own wits and strength to make it. Genesis 1 however says to them here that God is in complete control. He brings life out of death. He triumphs over chaos and desolation. There is no contest. It follows then that the God who made heaven and earth wants their complete trust, for he alone can defeat the chaos and death that threaten to overrun their world. What he has done before, he can do again.

We have been studying Genesis 1 in our men’s bible study recently. It is fascinating to see the response that the guys have to these stories of God bringing order of chaos. For some it is very difficult to believe this possible when these cycles of self destruction have been continuing for a long time. Can God really help us to break out of this?

We are called to image God, and we must, with faith and courage, continue reclaiming our identity and destiny. This is difficult when people continue to make bad choices. One of our new friends in San Antonio has fallen badly in the past few weeks and is now wanted by the police. Its very likely he will go to jail. Its very sad and hard to deal with

But there is One who, unlike us, did not fail and carried out this mission to its fullest extent—even to death on the cross—and he did it on our behalf. Because of him, new creation and New Jerusalem is assured for us. Victory over chaos and death is assured. Therefore we do not lose hope even as we dedicate our lives to struggle against what appears to be overwhelming odds in our cities and sometimes get overwhelmed and wounded. Shalom is near. Christ has secured it, and his Spirit brings it to us and leads us in it. We must hold on to this good news and must hold out this prophetic vision for our neighbors and friends in a way that can make sense out of their places and lives within them.

Grieving the Brokenness, Hoping in Jesus’ Life

12334-Jesus-Is-More-Than-BrokennessThis morning my emotions overwhelmed me as I prayed for our friend who is in court today. He has a rough past and even recently has made some bad choices which is why he’s in court. And yet, Jesus is moving in his heart. He’s praying with and for us, he’s desiring and taking steps towards a more stable, healthy life for his family, he’s starting to read the Bible weekly with Mark and a couple other guys. He has a lot of potential and promise, which we continually speak over him and believe for him. He’s beginning to believe it too!
Which makes this morning even harder…the max he could get today is 6 months’ jail time, but it is possible that he will get off on probation. We’re praying for the latter as we feel his repentance and humility right now are honest. But the thought of him being sent away right now, for 6 weeks, for 3 months, or more just feels frustrating when it seems so right for him to be continuing on the path he’s on right now – a steady job, growing healthy friendships and trying to piece his life together well.
We do trust that whatever the outcome, God is pursuing him with His Love and that won’t stop! Which is comforting!
The brokenness here sometimes feels infinite, layer after layer of hurt, betrayal, sin, shame, guilt… It definitely overwhelms somedays. And yet HOPE is ever-present and NEVER out of reach! We believe this for our friends and neighbors and trust that they are beginning to see and believe this too. Jesus is their only HOPE. We’re grateful to be part of sharing that truth and honored to be invited into their lives to believe it for them too!

What I learned in Manila…

Though many may begin reading this post looking for insights into urban poor ministry, poverty or other very important and interesting subjects, that’s not what I’m heading towards in this post. My learning points on this trip were much more focused on myself and that feels quite un-missionary like to say or admit…but that’s what I had to learn…

I began this 4-week excursion to Manila, Philippines with a 1.9 year old in tow (gorgeous Kora Joy), a 5 1/2 month large pregnant belly, an awesome husband to encourage us…and a huge ego (mine that is, not Mark’s!). See I’ve been on quite a few short-term trips in the past to various places around the world, in differing levels of poverty, need and climate. I felt quite well equipped for a month in a Manila slum, sure that my expertise would allow for a relatively easy and enjoyable time, wrestling with the needs around me of course, but overall handling the new pressures of traveling as a family and 6 months’ pregnant with finesse. 🙂 Do you see where this is going?

First – My pride must be slain to protect the health of my baby and myself. I totally underestimated the heat & humidity of living in a concrete jungle of 9,000 people. Whoa baby – literally, with a baby incubating inside this body and an almost 2 year old wanting to cling to myself all the time, it was challenging! We would take a cold bucket bath in the morning to wipe off the sweat & then a few minutes later, the sweat would return resulting in heat rash, especially all over little Kora 😦 for the duration of our trip. We didn’t live in air-conditioning, though we had an electric fan to keep some air-flow going in our little abode. The few times we could escape to air-con, we would and this pregnant body fully appreciated it! I struggled with this…I should be able to deal with this – I should be able to plow through – I should be able to walk to the air-con shop and not take a local bike taxi – I should push myself because that’s what I’ve always done on these trips. Its not supposed to be easy! Ha, yes, not easy but we should survive it, right? And I was reminded on more than one occasion by my loving husband that the health of our baby and this mom was more important than my pride. Ouch…

Second, I am no longer my own. We traveled with an awesome group of 8 other Servant Partners’ new staff – 1 married couple and the other 6 were single, most in their mid-late 20s. It was so much fun to share our lives, our family, with this group. They loved on Kora so well & were a constant source of encouragement for us along the way – hopefully we were to them as well! I’ve known for awhile that this motherhood identity is challenging, I’ve felt it along the way as I’ve had to choose my daughter over other things I’d like to do or invest time into. For some reason this seemed to reach a tipping point while in Manila. We keep calling it a ‘pressure cooker’ experience because it felt so intense and full, though totally worth it. I found myself longing for the freedom of our friends that we were traveling with – to spend time on their own with God for hours at a time, to take their evenings and spend it with our Filipino neighbors, learning about the culture and singing karaoke, to sit through an entire training session and not be interrupted by someone’s nappy needing a change…the list could definitely go on & on. And at times, in the pressurised experience that it was, I felt resentful and very frustrated. I also felt limited and like my role and experience was not as full as everyone else’s. I missed at least 1/3 of our sessions (would have been a lot more had we not had the lovely Ate Cora and Ate Ema helping us hang out with Kora most days!!). I didn’t have the capacity in the mornings or evenings to process much of what we had learned or discussed – I was too exhausted and hot!

The journey of motherhood is both joy-filled and frightening. I’m becoming a new and different person, not leaving all behind but hopefully being re-defined into a better version of myself, one that is less selfish, more intentional, and lots more dependant on my Jesus! But that re-defining takes a lot of surrender, which is not the easy path for me. Some days I long to have moments to myself, to not be needed by little people, to fully pursue some areas of ministry and gifting I feel called to. God has been speaking into this space over this summer to me. He has been accepting my confessions of pride, resentment, selfishness, etc with abundant forgiveness. And He has been promising me the gifts instead of joy, peace, and fruitfulness as I seek to see my ministry of motherhood as integral to my outward ministry and gifts. Though I AM limited in capacity during this season, I am NOT without a mission or the opportunities to use my gifts. My children need to come first, which includes encouraging them to get out and love the people around us – so really ‘ministry’ flows from ‘mothering’ and I need to let off some of this pressure I’ve put myself under & actually enjoy where I’m at and pay attention to what God is up to. Because He sure doesn’t see this season as one of setting my giftings on a shelf until a more convenient season…

Plus, Kora has been a bridge to so many conversations and relationships as I share being a mother and having a family with so many we meet. She’s much more of an extrovert and seriously draws people in – God’s going to use that in mighty ways over the coming years, just wait & see! Even now, He is taking her lovely innocence and teaching this mom to not get so bound up with my own expectations of what ‘ministry’ looks like and actually embrace the opportunities arising moment by moment, both in seeing her blossom into a beautiful little girl and in experiencing the love for our neighbors that God so desperately wants to share through us.

So, I return to San Antonio humbled, limited, and joyfully expectant of how God wants to use me as I depend on Him and not myself. I didn’t expect this of our trip to Manila, but it was part of the training God needed me to be on to engage this coming season of ministry and new baby with more grace and peace. And hopefully with a lighter load, we will experience more of His fruit in our relationships with our neighbors here. We love where and to whom God has called us!!

The Philippines

We are now back in San Antonio after a very busy couple of months on the road. Its hard to know how to sum up our last few months. We were in California at the beginning and the end of the trip. We spent the first 10 days in Pomona, LA, the site of the Servant Partners headquarters and the final week in Yosemite national Park at the SP staff conference, with almost 200 people from around the world. We made great relationships, soaked up some great teaching and learnt a lot, visited different SP locations around LA and were fully commissioned onto staff.

For 4 weeks, we lived in one of the slums of Manila, in the Philippines. And it it this experience that we wanted to write a little about here. Botocan slum is in Quezon city, about 9,000 people live there, its very densely populated, most houses are made from cement with corrugated tin roofs. The slum is also extremely hot and humid, some of the toughest conditions we have ever experienced. Manila is a chaotic city, with terrible traffic problems and a huge divide between the wealthiest and poorest. We were told it is the worlds most densely populated city. its certainly one of Asia’a megacties.

We moved into the slum to learn from a Servant Partners team that has been living there for 6/7 years. The team has pioneered a new church plant, and leads a range of other social transformation programmes in the slum. We witnessed a movement rising up amongst the worlds urban poor, young leaders being raised up to lead, disciple and mentor others in their slums. Botocan struggles with issues of poverty, addiction, unemployment, violence and family breakdown. It was hugely inspiring to witness the green shoots of recovery in this forgotten place.

We spent more time visiting a retreat centre run by Servants to the Asian Poor, a sister organisation. We were taught about creative ways to engage the urban poor in Gods word. We learnt about the arts of biblio drama and story telling. We spent several days at a prayer retreat overlooking Manila, learning and practising healing prayer, receiving intercession ourselves and dealing with some of the personal issues that come out when you live in such an intense environment.

Jennie and Kora did amazingly well. We all suffered with the heat, and Kora developed some heat rash. She was very, very popular with the local people living in the slum and everybody seemed to know who she was. Jennie coped admirably given that she is now 7 months pregnant. God looked after us and nobody became sick. It was hard and challenging, but also very impacting for us. We are still processing much of what happened, so watch this space – some of those thoughts might appear on here.

We also wanted to give you a small taste of Botocan, so here are some photo’s.

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Kora’s friends in Botocan

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Botocan Slum

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Lilok, the retreat centre with Servants to the Asian Poor, in Rizal Province.

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Jennie and Kora taking some rest under the mosquito net

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Karaoke time

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Our room in Botocan. A mattress on the floor, and a mosquito net. Our house had 2 rooms and a small bathroom, with bucket shower

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Botocan church

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The church

Our next 6 weeks

This is what our next 6 weeks looks like. There is a lot of travelling involved, especially for a pregnant lady and a 2 year old. Please pray for protection over us all, but also good learning and collaborative working with new colleagues

Firstly we will be heading here to Los Angeles on Friday. We will be spending 10 days with the Servant Partners Leadership Team

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Then we will be heading to Manila in the Philipines, one of Asia’s great mega cities. We will spend 4 weeks learning from the Servant Partners team which is working in one of the slum areas there. We hope to learn lots.

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We will finish our travels with a week in Yosemite national Park in California, hopefully with much relaxing but also including some work as part of the Servant Partners all staff gathering.

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‘Incarnational’ ministry

One of the main values we felt was key for our ministry & calling was to be ‘incarnational’ wherever we are called. This term may mean different things to people, but to us it is this: living within the community you are called to minister to and with. It is based on Jesus’ model of coming into this world to be with us, living as one of us – and especially among those most overlooked and underserved. Servant Partners‘ staff are committed to this across the world, some moving into some pretty intense situations and having to cope with major challenges because of this – yet reaping the eternal rewards of this lifestyle.

We’ve already experienced some joys of this choice in our ministry here in San Antonio. One of the best things is just taking a walk through our neighborhood and knowing the people we are meeting on the streets! We are getting to know them and they are getting to know us – not just here & there or on a Sunday, but daily.

As we have opened our house to families and friends from the community, we are now an open door to those kids that wander around the neighborhood and are looking for friends and people to hang out with. Though we have to have healthy boundaries to protect ourselves and them, we love that we are accessible and known to be welcoming and nearby.

This past week alone we have had many experiences with our neighbors that have shown us the value of living here on the East Side. A friend who is severely vision-impaired dropped some cash out of his pocket & was walking the street trying to find it when we passed by & happened to find a few of the bills he was looking for! (pray for this friend as he has eye surgery this Wednesday!!) A couple we know had to leave their house due to a bug issue and slept in their truck one night – the next night after we learned about it, we were able to lend them an air mattress to stay at another friend’s house here.

Last night we were blessed to go to our friend, Wendy’s, induction into a school honor society. Her mom wasn’t able to make it because of work, so she asked us to give her a ride & we asked if we could stay & support her. She said to us “i think of you like my second family, i would love if you came!” Wow, what an honor for us! If we didn’t live here and see her regularly in her normal life, have an open door for her to come and hang out with us and play games, talk about life, I don’t think we’d be invited into her life so readily.

There are many other ways being ‘incarnational’ is valuable but this week we’ve enjoyed being present in our friend’s lives, both the struggles and the joys.

A la playa! To the beach!

Last Saturday  we joined some neighbours and jumped in our cars and travelled 2 ½ hours to the beach just past Corpus Christi, Texas for the day. 

It was also Kora’s first official experience at the beach – her first time was actually in the UK but we don’t really count that, it was cold and wet and rocky in southeast England…let’s just say she seemed to enjoy her time at the beach this time more! Every day she looks at us, points to the door and says ‘deech’? Man, its hard to say no to that little voice! 🙂 Here are some pictures from the day…

martinemummy & kora padre island daddy & kora group kora swimming