Coming Down from the Mountain with Gemma: My Personal Abraham Moment By Jonathan Kiehl

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The last couple months have been a real test of faith for Teresa and I as we recover from the death of our beloved son and continue the ever new adventure of evangelization in mission. Last Thursday we returned to Villa de Juarez and struggled to enter back into our call to missions. How strange to enter our house and see all the baby clothes and toys and shoes, and other precious items. It was so much harder than we had anticipated and yet God is so merciful. It was so very difficult going through his things and trying to decide what to keep and what to do with the other things. We longed to have him back but also knew God had a plan.

Sunday we prayed the Mass and were pleasantly surprised to discover it was World Mission Sunday. Fr. Rogelio and the community were so glad to have us. We stayed a long time after church visiting with the community. People brought us beans and homemade tortillas, tortilla chips, cookies, and nuts. God had prepared a great and joyful welcome back for us. In the midst of all this God was still asking us to give Him more. Monday He once again called us out onto the waves and we were challenged to give Him everything.

Monday after Kindergarten let out Teresa and I went and picked up Isaac and Gemma. We came home and began cleaning their room before lunch. Gemma was teasing Isaac and they were laughing. Suddenly Gemma snatched a 2 peso coin from Isaac (about the size of a quarter) and put it in her mouth as a joke and swallowed it. Within moments she was red in the face and began drooling and then vomiting. She couldn’t speak. We were horrified. We tried to get the coin out but to no avail. It was out of sight. We went immediately to the local clinic and the nurse said we needed to go to Sabinas (about an hour away). Gemma looked sick. She and I went in the truck to Sabinas. On the way I cried. I was so worried that I could lose her. The nurse told us that if the coin turned it could obstruct her breathing and she could suffocate. I kept saying, “Please not again my Jesus. I just don’t know if I could handle it”. I prayed a rosary begging for strength.

IMG_20141021_091054_075 At the Sabinas clinic the doctor told us we needed to get an X-ray. He said he really didn’t think it was serious and she probably had swallowed the coin by then and it was in her stomach. She seemed better so we went to the store and got her some donuts. She ate one and seemed fine. We played at a nearby playground and then went to a pet store. She seemed back to normal. I decided we probably didn’t need the X-ray and we went home. When we arrived she ate a small snack and within a few minutes began vomiting again. I was so angry at myself for not getting the X-ray. We raced back to Sabinas once again praying and hoping. At the X-ray lab she vomited again. She was examined and they discovered that the coin was stuck in her esophagus. We would have to return to the hospital.

We were so unprepared for an overnight stay but they told us we would have to spend the night in the hospital in another town 15 minutes away. We traveled to Nueva Rosita and at 8 we were told we would soon have a room. I was so scared. I kept saying to God that I wasn’t ready for another lose. He seemed silent. Gemma was so calm. IMG_20141020_221134_517She dripped 2 tears when they set the IV but made no sound. Around 11PM (3 hours later) I decided to go outside for some air. Gemma was asleep on a small waiting room bed. Outside I talked with the security guard and a nurse when all of a sudden a small red truck raced up to us. Inside there were 2 men covered with blood. They were screaming “Help us please.” They pointed to the back of the truck where we saw a man covered in blood and a woman speaking to him. We opened the tailgate and blood poured out onto the ground. The nurse told me to help out so the three of us carried the bloody man and put him on a stretcher. I could see a bullet hole in his chest. He was covered in tattoos. Strangely I was not afraid at all. I felt a deep understanding and compassion for the woman who was crying for her husband. I washed my arms (with water for there was no soap) and began to pray with her for the man. She was alone. I remembered losing my son and wanted so badly to suffer with her. To help her carry her burden. Within 30 minutes the man passed away. I went back to Gemma in our waiting room and sat next to her watching her sleep. IMG_20141020_223525_600I realized that death comes to us all especially to the poor. I realized the difficulty of living in solidarity with the poor. It means giving up your privileges to learn how to suffer with them as one of them. I told God that my heart was ready. If He needed to take my girl, somehow He could also sustain me, sustain my faith, and sustain my love for Him. I was ready, I told Him, once again to give Him everything.

Within minutes the doctor returned and told me not to worry, that Gemma was past the serious point and was in no danger to die. I was so grateful. It was like when God offered the ram to Abraham. We would have our overnight room soon. At 1:15 we finally entered our overnight room.

 

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No paper towels

No TP

No TP

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No soap

We got a twin bed to share. There was no toilet paper, no soap, no paper towels and the water only went from cold to extra hot. You basically had 30 seconds to jump in between the temperature changes. We slept soundly, she in my arms on the small bed.     The next morning they woke us at 6AM to clean the room. They were in and out every 30 minutes for a variety of reasons finally telling us that we would need to go across town to another laboratory for X-rays. I asked if we could please use my truck because we had waited so long. They let us go and we went to the lab. Inside the lab the people stared at us. I asked the receptionist why everyone was staring at us so much and she said it was the first time that they had white people in their lab. Usually the whites went to the private hospitals she said. They kept smiling and touching Gemma’s head.

In the lab the young man set up the X-ray and examined Gemma. We waited nearby in a room. Soon he arrived and told us that the coin was gone. It had simply disappeared! I was so shocked. I am definitely a believer in miracles but I admit the young man did not give me confidence in his abilities. I asked him to do it again at a different angle. He reluctantly agreed and within minutes returned to tell us that the coin was still there and had not moved at all from the other X-ray. Gemma and I returned to the other hospital where the doctors told us we would have to go to Monclova (2 hours away) to see a specialist. We waited another hour as they set up an appointment for an endoscopy. When the doctor returned he had bad news. The only specialist who could do this procedure was out of the state. I couldn’t believe it. They told us we might need to go to another state to have the procedure done. I asked them if there was any other possibility for the procedure. We were told there were private hospitals in the area that could easily do the procedure but we would have to pay. I remembered the money we recently received from Ezekiel’s memorial and I began to cry. Surely we would have enough money. I t was beautiful to think that Ezekiel was still involved in helping the family. I told them about Ezekiel and the money. They were so happy for us. Within an hour we had arrived at the private hospital.

The private hospital was very modern and clean. It had the look of an American hospital. The walls were not stained up, the ceiling did not drip, and there was toilet paper and soap! We were given a nice little room and within thirty minutes they had brought back Gemma asleep and coin free. I was so happy but also startled at the vast difference a little money made even in that town.   In the end I thought of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s words:

“Human rights are still too often disregarded, if not scoffed at, or else they receive only formal recognition. In many cases legislation does not keep up with real situations. Legislation is necessary, but it is not sufficient for setting up true relationships of justice and equity. In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others. If, beyond legal rules, there is really no deeper feeling of respect for and service to others, then even equality before the law can serve as an alibi for flagrant discrimination, continued exploitation and actual contempt. Without a renewed education in solidarity, an overemphasis of equality can give rise to an individualism in which each one claims his own rights without wishing to be answerable for the common good.” Octogesima Adveniens 23

Missions has taught me that I cannot simply look out for my own or even simply my own family’s good. Jesus is calling us to bring the Gospel to the least, even and especially at our own expense. As Pope Francis has said:

“[The Poor] in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them.”

In Jesus,

Jonathan Kiehl

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It’s been one month since Ezekiel died . . .

“Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?’ This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” John 6: 1-6.

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Taken at Ezekiel’s funeral on September 16, 2014.

One month. In a way it feels like years, in a way it feels like no time at all. Our son Ezekiel died on September 8, 2014, and as probably all parents who have lost a child feel, our lives can be classified into two parts . . . our life before he died and the life we have now. Before he died we were Catholic Missionaries living in Mexico who wanted to tell people about Jesus because He made our lives happier, more satisfied. In our life before, we were Catholic Missionaries living in Mexico because we liked the idea of serving a good God and experiencing a bit of adventure at the same time. Before we were a family that lived in this world with the hopes of attaining a future that would last forever. Before we spoke words that we believed to be true: that with Jesus we were called to take up our cross and follow him, but with Him our burden is light, that God wants everything we can give and we as good missionaries should be ready and willing to give Him everything at all times, that everything we have in this life is not ours, but is instead a gift from God and we need to thank Him for His gifts at all times, that He hold us all in the palm of his hand and He would protect us from all evil, that with Him we would always find comfort and joy and love and all good things . . .
In the life we have now we feel compelled to speak not the words that we believe to be true, but the words we KNOW to be true!!! Ezekiel’s death have kindled a fire that was only smoldering before. The beliefs of our lives before were easy to say. It was very easy to say in our life before that we have a good God and He will always be with us and take care of us and with Him our burdens are light, and everything else we said over and over and over. In our life now we no longer can say these words as easily as we once did—not because they are no longer true but because we really understand the truth of what we say. The weight of the words we read in the Bible are incredibly powerful, they are heavy, they are deep and we now KNOW they are TRUE. We do not just believe, we know because we have lived them, and God has been everything we have ever said He was. He has done everything we ever said He would. He did hold us in the palm of His hand and amazingly enough, even in this tragedy, made this burden light. He has brought us to such a deeper understanding of His love and the life He has called us to.
Since the death of our son God has given us new eyes to see His creation the way that it is. He has given us hearts that are capable of a love that I know was previously impossible because even in our willingness to serve they were intertwined with a deeply ingrained and almost invisible self-love. Would we really follow Jesus wherever he led us or would we stay where we felt safe or comfortable? Would we really put our trust completely into God’s hands, even if it meant our lives were at stake? We did put some things before God, though we didn’t realize it. Ezekiel’s death revealed our reluctance to completely abandon ourselves to our Lord, and it freed us from it. His death also brought about a zeal for our ministry that I would never have dreamed possible. We know there is a life after this one and our greatest hope in this life is to attain the life everlasting so that we will see our Ezekiel again. But that is just the beginning, we don’t want there to be anyone left behind. If it is our job to tell someone about Jesus then that is what we want to do! What a tragedy it would be to get to heaven and hear God ask us where are all those we were supposed to bring with us! We do not see Ezekiel’s death as anything but the catalyst God used to set a fire to this Earth, and we want to play our part as best we can!!!
Jonathan said something this morning, and I felt like God amplified his voice and made me hear it, even though I hadn’t been paying attention moments before. He was speaking of Cardinal Francis Xavier Ngyuen Van Thuan who was a prisoner for a long time (and is now on the road to canonization) and when he got out he wrote a book and called it Five Loaves and Two Fish. That was what struck me, the words “five loaves and two fish.” It immediately called to mind the story we are all familiar with in the Bible of the boy who gave away what he had, his five loaves and two fish, so that Jesus was able to feed to the five thousand who were following him. By this sacrifice, Jesus fed thousands. The boy gave what he had and Jesus made such a small amount go so far! Ezekiel’s death is our “five loaves and two fish.” It is the offering we wish to give to our Lord so that he can feed thousands. If this is the spark that He needed to use to get us ready to serve Him in ways we were not ready to serve, then we want to say yes! If this was our gift to bring to the world so that Jesus can demonstrate His power then by all means do with it what you will Dear Jesus. May our loss be your gain, and may You multiply this offering a thousand fold!!!!!!