The Day My Brother Passed Away

No…don’t worry. We’re not heading home for another funeral. We are all quite alive and well. Now. Maybe it’s not nice to have a title like that, but you know in writing class they always tell you to use an attention grabbing title. Do I have yours? =)

Last Sunday after church and dinner were over, Sheila came running into the kitchen with her friend Sopea. She wanted a knife. She chose one and went running back outside, telling me over her shoulder that Sopea wanted to cut something. I went out to the porch where a little crowd was gathered. Austin was sitting on a chair, and Ryan was digging into a painful inflamed bump on Austin’s arm with his ever ready pocket knife, squeezing out little bits of pus. I asked what was going on and someone told me that Sopea wanted to get some banana leaf juice to put on some sores on Austin’s face. Oh. So that explained the knife. Sopea found the leaf she was after and headed back to the porch. Austin quickly rolled his sleeve down and told Ryan, “Don’t let her see that!”

Austin had some sores around his mouth. He said they were pimples, and when he popped them they got itchy. He would scratch them and then they would scab over, and then it would happen again. Sopea saw them and claimed it was from getting too hot, and that the banana leaf juice would help heal them. So here she came with her banana leaf. She whipped a tube of hot pink lipstick from her purse, put some on the oozing end of the banana leaf, and then dabbed that mixture on Austin’s sores. The hot pink splotches all around his mouth looked amusing, but he was a good sport about it.

Everyone soon left for home, and mom and dad headed out for the afternoon Bible study in the village. I was upstairs in my room for awhile, then went down to mom and dad’s room to get something. There was Austin checking his temperature. I felt his forehead and he was very hot. The thermometer read almost 104 degrees. Hmm. I looked at the bump on his arm again, and it was very hot and swollen and quite painful. Right away Staph infection came to my mind, and I grabbed the iPad and started ‘researching.’ The symptoms described in the articles I found sounded very much like Staph infection, and every place I read warned that if a fever accompanied a boil-like sore, the person should be treated with the proper antibiotics.

As soon as mom and dad got home, I told them what was going on, and after dad read the articles I had found, he took Austin down to the little pharmacy down the road. They were soon back with an antibiotic, painkillers, and a cream to put on the boil. I breathed an inward sigh of relief. Hopefully the antibiotics would do their job, and Austin would be fine.

Monday he was still laying around most of the day with a fever, and his arm was still swollen and painful. We all figured the antibiotics just hadn’t kicked in yet. Mom looked in her faithful “Be Your Own Doctor” book, and that night she applied the charcoal poultice it prescribed. The next morning we thought the arm might be a little better. The portion of his arm that the poultice had covered was less red. He still had a fever though, and Tuesday evening after supper I took another look at his arm. The angry red had returned, and the swelling was only spreading. I felt uneasy – shouldn’t the antibiotics have a good grip on this thing by now?

So I got the iPad, and once again read the what the internet had to say. By the time I was done rereading the numerous articles about staph infection and the effects it had if prolonged, I was worried. Words like “life-threatening”, “sepsis”, and “death” rattled around in my brain. I imagined life without my dear Austin, and soon I was near tears. I returned to the kitchen to finish sweeping the floor, and my voice trembled as I sang “How can I fear, Jesus is near, He ever watches over me. Worries all cease, He gives me peace…How can I fear with Jesus.” But I did fear. I told mom how I was feeling, and she thought maybe we should say something to dad. I went out on the porch where he was talking on the phone, and impatiently waited for him to hang up, praying that he would listen to my fears and act on them.

Finally he was finished and I told him how worried I was. “Couldn’t you call Dr. Sealy and ask him about it? We could email him pictures if that would help?.”

Dad thought a bit, and said, “He probably won’t answer, and my phone battery is almost dead, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to try.” He located the number, and dialed. Please God, help him answer, I prayed. And answer he did! Thank you! Dad described the symptoms to our doctor, and was soon off the phone. “He says he thinks that arm should be lanced as soon as possible. He doesn’t think we should wait ’til morning, so I guess I’ll run him in.” After calling Matt about which hospital we should go to, Dad, Austin, and I headed to the Royal Angkor International Hospital.


This was when we went back the next day to get the incision cleaned, and his arm looked much better.

I was immediately impressed with the hospital. It was much bigger, cleaner, and more professional looking than many of the little clinics around town, and the staff were very helpful. They got Austin registered and we were ushered right back to the little emergency care section. Several nurses and a doctor came over right away, and took a look at Austin’s arm and checked his temperature. Dad showed the doctor the meds the pharmacist had given, and he just shook his head. The doctor definitely agreed that the sore needed to be cut open, and took us right to an empty room where he started his preparations. I was disappointed when after cleaning the arm in preparation for the cut, the nurse told us that only one person could be in the room with Austin. The main reason I came along was because I wanted to watch. Dad tried to convince them that two people would be fine, but they stuck to their guns and I had to wait out in the lobby. It wasn’t too long before Dad and Austin came walking out, Austin’s arm wrapped up in gauze. He was looking fine, and said it didn’t hurt too bad.

We went over to the desk to pay and get the new medications. Austin and I were talking about the procedure while dad was paying. I turned for just a bit to read a sign behind me, when I heard a ‘plop’. I turned around, and there was Austin laying on the floor! Dad and I rushed over to him. “Austin! Are you okay?” He sheepishly raised his head a bit, and said, “Man, that felt weird!” His pupils were dilated and he was all sweaty. He said he just felt dizzy, and suddenly there he was on the floor. He doesn’t remember falling – only hearing a ‘plop’. Apparently watching the doctor work on his arm made him woozy, the same as it does for Ryan and Dad. Dad went back to finish paying, and I sat with Austin on the floor for a bit so he could get his bearings straight again.

Down the hall I saw a man walk in the door. He walked toward us and just stared. I thought he must have had some relative in the hospital, and was just very curious, but he came up to us and said he was a doctor, and “What happened?” “He passed out for a bit after he watched the doctor work on his arm,” I explained. “Well, here, let’s get him to a room and check him out!” he said. Austin was reluctant to go, and dad assured the doctor he would be fine, but the doctor insisted, and gently helped Austin to a room. I followed them in and heard the doctor tell the nurses that came to help, “He was laying out by the desk! He passed away!” He soon changed it to “passed out”, and I contained my giggles until the nurses got Austin laying down in bed to rest and left. Then I told dad and Austin what I had heard, and we laughed and laughed. Such are the joys of living in a country where English is a second language.

After Austin had rested for about fifteen minutes and the doctor was satisfied that he was fine, we went home to tell the rest of the family how Austin had “passed away”, and we all laughed some more. I haven’t seen mom’s funny bone tickled so hard in a long time. =)

We were all relieved that Austin had not “passed away” and that he was going to be fine, thankful for our wonderful doctor in the states, and ultimately thankful to our Heavenly Physician for the healing he was bringing.

And we were thankful again the next morning when Matt brought us the bent bike wheel from Dallas’s bike. That morning on the way to school Dallas had assumed the person on the moto behind him knew he was going to turn into Matts’, and had turned in front of him without signaling. The moto driver couldn’t stop in time, and slammed into Dallas’s bike wheel, sending both Dallas and the driver flying off. They were both unhurt minus a few scrapes. Had the moto struck the bike a split second later, it could have been much, much worse. Praise the Lord for safety…all of us who drive have had close calls, and it amazes me how God always takes care of us.

Well, the Saturday work is finally done, and it’s time for a good Saturday night rest. Have a wonderful weekend y’all!




Tiny Seeds, Big Plans

It’s interesting to see what our hearts start pining for when we’re so far away from the old normal. We all miss different things. Mom misses cream cheese and sudsy Palmolive dish soap. The boys wish for their guns and hunting season and the shop with its abundance of wood and tools. The younger children miss friends that speak their own language. We all miss having our friends nearby. I guess it’s a strange, unimportant thing to miss, but I miss the South Carolina summer wildflowers. It was so relaxing to walk out to the garden for a fresh bouquet of cosmos or zinnias, or to wander down the back roads gathering daisies, bachelor’s buttons, and Queen Anne’s lace on a summer evening. Here there just aren’t many wild flowers suitable for bouquets.

While we were in the states for Grandmom’s funeral, I picked up some seeds of the flowers I miss the most, and when we came back I could hardly wait to plant them. Finally I found a spare morning to carefully put them in the soft dirt. And then was the waiting to see if they would be happy with the sandy soil and pounding rain Cambodia has to offer. I prayed over those little seeds. Doesn’t God care about the smallest desires of our heart? Couldn’t He at least let a few of the seeds grow?

A few days ago I went out to check the ground for signs of life again, and there they were. Tiny green shoots. Not all the varieties have come up yet, but God definitely did let at least a few grow. I know it’s probably silly to be so excited about little green things sticking their heads out of the earth, but I can’t help but go out to my flower garden several times a day just to see if they grew anymore, or to make sure the torrents of rain didn’t drown them.

I’ve been thinking about the seeds I’m planting in the lives of people around me. The last while I’ve been feeling discouraged with what I’m doing here. Teaching English day after day – am I accomplishing anything more than just teaching English? Am I even accomplishing that? I struggle daily to come up with lesson plans, and feel so unequipped for this job. And I don’t want to just teach the children English – I want to plant seeds of God’s truth in their hearts, and yet I struggle to do that. How can I, when I can only hold the most basic conversations with them? I struggle with discontentment. Why did God bring me here when there are so many others that could do a better job?

And then the little green plants taught me a lesson. Well…I guess they are teaching me a lesson. I want to learn to be content and fulfilled right where God has planted me. Like those seeds, God brought me halfway around the world, to a place much different from where I usually ‘grow’. He brought those seeds life, and if I let Him, He will bring me life in this soil. He will equip me for wherever He takes me, and He has greater plans for me than I could ever dream up. Pray for us as we continue to try to bloom, and that we would have opportunities to share the seed of truth.

Okay, enough philosophizing. Pictures will tell the stories today instead of so many words.

Rain, Rain, & More Rain

Yes, we have entered rainy season. The landscape has taken on another look entirely. When we arrived in December, everything was dry and brown and dusty. When we came back after Grandmom’s funeral, the rain had transformed the country into a lush green. The rice fields are now flooded and thriving, and the once dusty roads are now rutted and muddy. The mud makes for interesting times on the motos!

One of the first times it really rained, we were all so excited. It was just pouring down like we hadn’t seen for a long time, and the yard was a developing lake. The younger ones of course thought it looked like perfect swimming. We all stood around and watched in amusement, and I think we were all thinking what fun it would be to be kids again. Then Dallas couldn’t help himself. Why not jump in? And then there went Austin…Frank had been sitting in the truck, (maybe trying to convince himself to behave like an adult) but suddenly he couldn’t help himself either, and he joined right in with the children. They had a grand time! It was a joy just to watch them, and to feel the cold mist blowing through the windows. After it stopped raining we drove into town, and the roads were flooded. Definitely not something we experience in SC very often.

One day I arrived at school, and my little classroom was flooded. The students perched on top of their desks, and I tried to teach…but it’s hard to concentrate when you’re constantly in danger of slipping on the slick concrete, the bottom of your dress is soaked, and your flip flops float merrily by. Finally one of the other teachers told me there was an empty classroom in the school building that I could use for the day, so we moved everything over there. It was entertaining while it lasted!


I wrote a bit in a previous post about the much enjoyed visit from the Dad’s cousin, Marvin Mast, and his wonderful family. It was a short visit, but we packed it full of fun times. Their family had booked a photography tour of Angkor Wat for one day, and invited whoever wanted to to tag along. Everyone wanted to go, but in the end only Luke and I went. Several hours into the day we were all glad the younger children weren’t along. It was warm, we had to walk quite a bit, and the hoards of tourists around didn’t make that easy. Btw…one perk of coming to see us is getting to see one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”. I didn’t even realize until after we got here that one of them was located right here in Siem Reap. It was very interesting to see the temples up close and to hear about how they were made. To be honest though, after awhile they all started looking the same, and so my favorite part of the day was just getting to know the Masts. Thanks for coming y’all! Don’t wait so long for the next visit!

A Trip Across the Sea…

The day after my last post about Grandmom’s passing was a blur of activity and planning. There were plans to be made, packing to be done, and tickets to be bought. Mom, Dad, the four youngest children and I left for the States Monday evening already, and the four boys followed the next day. The next week and a half were filled to the brim with family, friends, tears, and laughter.

I was able to fly to South Carolina to get some things out of storage for our family and to renew my drivers’ license (PTL!). An added benefit of going to SC was the time I could spend catching up with some dear friends. The time spent with them was just what I needed. And the ‘real’ hamburgers, fresh peaches, and sweet tea they served me were simply amazing!

I caught a ride up to Tennessee with friends then the day before the funeral. It was so wonderfully bittersweet to see all my uncles, aunts, cousins, and Granddad again. It was a busy time, but good…crying together, sharing precious memories of our dear Grandmom, and laughing like only Helmuths can. Like one of my aunts said would happen, we left feeling like we’d seen so many people and being happy about that, but feeling sad that we hadn’t been able to spend much quality time with so many of them.

*Random insert* At the visitation and funeral, I was happy to hear from many of you that you enjoy hearing about our life in Cambodia through this blog, and in the newsletter ALAM sends out. After a number of such comments though, I did begin to wish that more people would think about how much WE would enjoy hearing from THEM! =) You might think your lives are boring and that no one wants to hear about your daily ‘stuff’, but you really have no idea how much the emails we get from home mean to us. We love to hear from you – to know that we are remembered. Those emails and comments make the time and effort that goes into this blog worth it. *End of rant* =)

After the funeral we travelled to Kentucky to mom’s sister’s home, and spent the remainder of our time with them. We were able to do some shopping for things we can’t buy in Cambodia, so that was nice. Mom, Dad, and the four youngest flew home on Wednesday and arrived home the following evening, and Granddad took my brothers and I to catch our flight in Nashville the following day.

Our flight from Minneapolis to Seattle was delayed due to mechanical failures, and then delayed again, and then canceled. The airline was asking for volunteers to be ‘bumped’ to a flight the next day in exchange for flight vouchers. We quickly called home to ask dad about that possibility, and he said, “Absolutely!” So we talked to a representative, got five tickets home for the next day, and five $1300 vouchers in our pockets! Those will be a huge blessing the next time we need to fly home. Then we found our way to a motel, and tumbled into bed for some wonderful sleep. Once we were rested enough think straight, we got a shuttle to the gigantic Mall of America to find some food and to occupy ourselves until bedtime. (Minneapolis is a great place to have an extended layover!) Thankfully our flights the next day were all without delay. By the time we got home, we were all feeling pretty drained, both emotionally and physically, and a lot of the next week was spent getting our nights and days straightened out and catching up on much needed sleep.

We as a family would like to thank you all for your support during the time of Grandmom’s sickness and death. Your kind emails, phone calls, and prayers of support meant so much. So many people went out of their way to help us with tickets, food, and lodging. Thank you, too, to those of you who helped with the cost of flying home. Your support and friendship means so much.

And….that’s all for now!


Coming up next…

Sunsets, snakes, crocs, class trips, and a new classroom! =)