Friday, March 31, 2023

Seven Doctors in Three Weeks

I’ve been to seven doctors in three weeks, and I’m on my fourth antibiotic. Also, I don’t mean to sound paranoid but I’m pretty sure the devil hates me. Either that or God is just testing my mettle, because this sort of thing seems to happen every time we get a Bible study going, which first makes me want to quit and second makes me determined to ask every human I meet to read the book of Mark with us. I’m on the second, just so you know in case we meet in public. We have sixteen students right now and there’s always room for one more. 

A few weeks ago I used Telehealth to get an antibiotic for what I thought was a routine urinary tract infection. Then, when it seemed to be long gone, I was talking to Andy’s girlfriend and had a sudden, sharp pain in my belly. (So now you know Andy has a girlfriend and we really like her. Just wanted to throw that in there.) Anyway, the pain persisted for hours, so I made an appointment with the first doctor available. By the time I got to her office, my symptoms had intensified and seemed like classic appendicitis, so she sent me to the emergency room. 

The doctor there did a CT scan and diagnosed me with ovarian vein thrombosis and, oh by the way, a stone in my kidney that doesn’t seem to be causing any problems. He told me to go home and take Tylenol because there really wasn’t much they could do about it. Hmmm. I did go home, but I did not take Tylenol and instead did what you’re thinking of doing right now and looked up what the heck ovarian vein thrombosis is. Apparently it may involve a blood clot, which would make our two-day plane trip to Africa in May a less-than-great idea, so I made an appointment with doctor number four to follow up on that. 

By the time I got to his office I was also having UTI symptoms again—and leg and side pain. He gave me another antibiotic and referred me to a gynecologist, AKA doctor number five. John, being the supportive husband he is, went with me to see doctor number five and was glad he did (not so much because of the diagnosis but more because, as he puts it, “the doctor looks like a GQ model, and I was really hoping for an old, ugly guy”). Anyway, number five refuted the ER doc’s diagnosis, saying the pain was probably from the UTI. He said now everything looked perfect. (On another side note, John didn’t really appreciate his word choice there so, while we were both happy he didn’t detect anything life threatening, I will probably be finding a new gynecologist.) Humor me as I tell this story. There really is no need to make it unnecessarily somber. 

So, about the time my second antibiotic was wearing off and I was hoping to be done with this, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like my bladder was going to explode. I know that’s gross, but there’s no better way to describe it. Thankfully, I had been given a third antibiotic as a just-in-case backup, so I took that and paced the floor for several hours until the pain subsided. Then I slept most of that day.  

For fear of a recurrence and having used my backup plan, I went to see doctor number six. (Honestly, I’m not bouncing from doctor to doctor intentionally. These people are not generally available without many days’ notice, which you don’t have in the event of a bladder explosion scare.) Number six was great and listened to my whole story like you’re doing now. She found that I still have a bacteria that seems to be resistant to antibiotics and suspects that it may be in my kidney at this point and may indeed have something to do with that stone after all. Now I’m on antibiotic number four, which I’m supposed to take daily just to keep this infection from overwhelming my body until I see the urologist, doctor number seven, next week. 

I’m beginning to appreciate why they call them antibiotics (against life) because I feel a little inorganic, if that were possible, with a constant headache and malaise. I would appreciate your prayers not only for my health but also for the Bible studies we’re doing with these students and for our trip to Africa in May. At least if I’m going to be sick, I would like for it to be worth something. And, by the way, I hate the devil as much as he hates me, and I would like to get better and be a part of a massive revival just to show him up. Who’s with me?

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Seven Things You Can Do to Help That Won’t Cost You a Penny

Charities are always asking for money, which is necessary to fund our ministries, but what about all the other ways you can support your favorite non-profit organization? Here are seven things you can do right now to help HUGS for Tomorrow without spending any money or even much of your time:

  1. Check out our new Website. Every time someone visits our site we gain popularity points with search engines, which makes it easier for people to find us when they’re looking for a reputable charity.
  2. Subscribe to our Blog and leave feedback when you’re inspired. It will keep you informed and us encouraged. It will also help steer the types of things we write and the way we write about them.
  3. Go to our Facebook Page and like us. It will show public support and you will receive updates in your feed.
  4. Follow and like us on Instagram and make comments. More interaction means more exposure. 
  5. Go to our DonorSee Page and follow us. That’s where we post projects to feed and educate kids. You can watch the videos for free and get to know the kids in our program.
  6. Tell someone about what we do. We’ve made it easy. You can share all of these links. 
  7. Pray for us, Snoden and his family, and for the kids in the program. 

Everything I’ve listed is absolutely free to you but worth so much to us. You don’t need to be a financial supporter to get involved. So, please go ahead and like, follow, share, and comment. It really will help us out a lot!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Boiling Pot

Jonah with a bullfrog in Natal, Brazil, 2008

You’ve probably heard the apologue of the frog in the boiling pot. If not, it goes like this: if a frog is placed into a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out, but if instead the water temperature is increased slowly enough the frog won’t perceive the change and will sit still until it boils to death. This is of course not true. Boiling water will kill almost anything instantly, and frogs don’t sit still. That being said, the story survives because of its poignant moral that has never been more applicable than today. 

Since the founding of our country, we’ve undergone a complete metamorphosis—a heating up, if you will. A look at a few elements that affect body, mind, and soul illustrate this point. For instance, local crops and livestock that used to go directly from farm to table are now mostly processed and packaged and stored for months before consumption. That has affected our bodies. Education used to be primarily administered within a conventional family and steered children toward said values, but now school is public and standardized and relies heavily on government funding and ethics, which are anything but traditional. That has affected our minds. Intimate neighborhood Christian churches were pillars of colonial life, but only about a fourth of Americans attend church today, and that includes mega regional churches and even non-Christian affiliations. That has affected our souls. Most of us are largely unaware of these changes since we weren’t alive when they began to happen. 

But what about the cultural changes that have taken place in just the last thirty years? By all accounts, sedentary jobs and obesity rates have dramatically increased in our country. So, our bodies continue to weaken. Mental health disorders, including depression and suicide, have skyrocketed. So, our minds continue to decay. The Satanic Temple has earned the same tax-exempt status as other Christian churches. So, our souls continue to deteriorate. Some of this may explain why it’s feeling a bit warmer in this melting pot we call the United States. 

Today, as we communicate primarily through social media and become more dependent on technology, even our children can attest to the breakneck speed at which change is occurring. This country experiences over 150 fentanyl deaths every day. Our bodies are being completely destroyed. The United States had over fifty-one school shootings last year. That’s one per week! Our minds are being fully shattered. Our churches have become so fragmented and political that we seem to focus on affirming every agenda but that of Jesus Christ. Our souls are utterly perishing. Who can escape this sweltering heat?

The water has reached a slow simmer, and the bad news is that we cannot jump out of the pot. In fact, there is nothing any one of us can do to stop this proverbial water from eventually reaching a full boil because God promises it will. He assures us in 2 Peter “…the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” People everywhere are feeling the imminent doom and are unfortunately responding in ways that are only making things worse. But take heart. There is good news. Matthew 24 declares “the one who remains faithful to the end will be saved.” So we have a promise that this place will burn up but another that we can be saved from it. 

In light of these cosmic guarantees, I urge you to consider spending less time watching the news and wondering if the water is indeed heating up. It is. I also suggest that we stop trying to jump out of the pot. We can’t. However, an excellent use of our time and one that will certainly not be overlooked by our Father in heaven is to share these truths with the other frogs in here. That’s the primary goal of our ministry in Africa and John’s job as dean of students at the university—to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We hope to not only prepare kids of all ages for a fruitful life on this earth, but ultimately to ensure that they will be counted among those Jesus returns to save from this boiling pot. Please join us in prayer and support for the lost people of this world. It’s time to get the word out that Jesus saves.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Beasts, Diabetes, and Our Son Ben

Our Family in Natal, Brazil 2009

In honor of our son’s fourteenth birthday, I thought I might share the details surrounding his birth, because, you know, that’s what every teenager wants you to tell your friends. But don’t worry, I’m not going to divulge anything embarrassing, just one of our family’s many adventure stories. I hope you find it interesting and that it informs you a little about the nature of mission work.

We were living on the edge of the jungle in Natal, Brazil, when I got pregnant with Ben. Our house was a large concrete cylinder with curved walls, no climate control or window coverings, and all sorts of critters in and out, day and night. We never minded the mice that ate the crumbs off the floor, the bats that swooped in and took up residence under the stairs, or the geckos that were so prevalent they served as part of the wall decor. There were even tiny sticky frogs that lived in the toilet and delighted in attaching themselves to various body parts when we raised the lid. It did get old sharing our house with so many unwelcome guests, but they were all fairly harmless—until they weren’t.

One Saturday morning when Jonah and Andy came to join us in bed, a prehistoric looking bug approximately the length and width of a ruler scurried up the comforter with his million legs and joined our huddle. You’ve never seen a group disperse so fast. We were all immediately on our feet looking for something to kill it with. Being a typical homeschooling family, we instead caught, caged, and studied it. Turns out it was an Amazonian giant centipede. The internet listed mice, bats, lizards, and frogs among its favorite foods. Those were all of our regular tenants, so it wasn’t surprising that we began to see more and more of those little monsters in our home. We agreed that might not be the best home for a baby, so we moved into the city.

Our new place was nice and clean and varmint free, a welcome and relaxing change. I exercised and ate good local foods, including water from fresh green coconuts, which I enjoyed almost daily until I discovered two things: coconut water has an insane amount of glucose, and I had gestational diabetes. My case was serious enough to require insulin, which meant I had to give myself a shot every day. I decided the best way to psyche myself up for that challenge was to do it in front of the family. I knew I couldn’t hesitate if my boys were watching, so I held up the syringe, pinched my thigh, and with a big lying smile, jabbed that shiny needle into my thigh. Every day. For four months. It got much easier.

Just about the time we were settled into our new house and I was getting comfortable with my health regimen, I began to itch—a lot! Not like the belly-skin-stretching itch that’s normal with pregnancy. This was an intense all over sensation that wasn’t really on my skin but seemingly under it. It was as if fiberglass particles were coursing through my blood and itching my veins. My incessant scratching became involuntary. I even did it in my sleep and drew blood. Nobody knew what it was or what to do about it, including my doctor. So I did what every health care professional discourages and started researching on the internet until I was able to confirm my suspicion that something was indeed wrong.

Cholestasis of pregnancy is probably not something you have ever heard of, but it’s what I had, and it meant our baby would likely die in utero just weeks before he was due. The itching I experienced was from high levels of bile acid building up in my liver and spilling into my bloodstream. Inducing labor was the only way to ensure a live healthy baby, so Ben was basically forced out a little before his time. I have never been happier to meet someone. He was healthy and beautiful and super yellow. We stayed in the hospital for several nights under bilirubin lights to combat a severe case of jaundice that came as a result of my condition.

We moved back to the United States several months after Ben was born. I was traumatized enough by that experience to render me useless on the mission field for a while, and our whole family needed a respite. Looking back, I realize that was an impossibly difficult time, and it’s a miracle we made it through. Looking back, I also realize I would do it one hundred times over for this beloved child of ours.

Our family birthday celebrations always include presents and cake and song —all of the traditional birthday things. But every year that March third comes around, John and I remember how much God has blessed us to be able to commemorate our third son’s birth at all. We’re not promised one more year, so we cherish each one as a gift. I hope you do too. If you get nothing else from reading this, I hope you will hug your kids today and pray for your missionaries always. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Birthday Wishes

Mwayi (four years old)

Yesterday was my birthday. I received enough phone calls, social media posts, and visits to occupy a good portion of my day and to make me feel loved and appreciated. I relished each one, reminded that I am indeed blessed. Then why was I crying when that nice lady came to my door with one of the most delicious cupcakes I have ever eaten? Because, among the many happy greetings, was one heartbreaking message that is speaking to me louder than all the others, and I want to share it with you, my friends. 

Snoden notified us that another child in our program lost his mother to illness. That’s the second one in so many weeks. Mwayi, whose name means lucky, joined our program after losing his father when he was two years old. His mother could not afford to raise him and his four siblings alone, which is why she brought him to us. She has been sick ever since, and I’m sad to report that she passed away yesterday with complications from tuberculosis. Now Mwayi is four years old, and he and his brothers and sisters have no parents at all.

Even though we just want to love and support these kids through their trauma, we’re responsible first and foremost to provide for their physical needs. Because we’re still gathering funds for the family of the last child whose mother died of cholera, this is beyond our current means. We spend the money we raise on the children in our program. We don’t have a huge bank account, just enough for the occasional emergency. At times like this when we feel devastated with grief and hopelessness, and we realize that this is more than our small ministry team can handle, I’m reminded that it’s never more than God can handle. I still believe He will continue to raise up an army to help us expand our reach and impact in one of the poorest places in Africa.

Please prayerfully consider how you can be a part of that army. Maybe you could send a gift in honor of someone’s birthday, give to a specific project on our website, or become a monthly donor. Your tithe would be well spent to help us raise up the children we have lived among and know personally in the Tambalale Village of Malawi. Whatever the case, if we become a community as generous with our money as we are with our well wishes on Facebook, we will surely change the world.

Send a tax-deductible donation to our address or use the Paypal link:

HUGS for Tomorrow

P.O. Box 1816 

Azle, Texas 76098




Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Blessings Lost His Mother to Cholera


Blessings is eight years old and lost his mother to cholera last week. Our hearts hurt not only for him, but also for his family, for his village, and for his country. It’s difficult to mourn properly for a death that seems so unnecessary because we’re sharing our grief with the realization that this could have been avoided. You probably don’t know much about cholera because you don’t need to. You have clean running water to drink, to flush your toilet, to bathe in, and to cook with. Far too many people in Malawi do not, and that’s the root cause of the current outbreak there. Blessings is in our program and has access to the clean water on our campus, but his family still lives in a home without that luxury.

Cholera is an extremely contagious and aggressive water borne bacteria that usually originates with feces. It’s mostly a third world problem because of the lack of flushing toilets. Once it gets into an exposed water source, it can infect the place where people routinely wash clothes, bathe, and even drink. According to the World Health Organization, it has been endemic in Malawi since 1998 and breaks out during the rainy season each year. Our ultimate hope is to eventually eradicate it, starting with the families in our program.

We have been educating our students and their families about health and hygiene since the inception of our program, and we were able to install sinks and flushing toilets at our facility last year. Unfortunately, the village outside our walls still uses streams and ponds for everything we use water for, including drinking. Blessing’s mother is no exception. Snoden took her to the hospital last week after she complained of stomach pain. She passed away less than forty-eight hours later. She left a husband and seven children behind. Blessings’ father is asking for our help to care for his whole family as they recover from this shock.

We are working diligently to care for the children in our program as well as for their families, but we need far more resources than are currently available to have that kind of impact. I hope it’s apparent that we are not just improving lives but actually saving them. Every dollar you donate has a critical purpose and may mean the difference between life and death for a child or one of his family members. Thank you for taking part in this effort, and please consider sharing what we do with someone you know. We have tried to make it easy through our new social media presence. You can visit our website at, and we’re also on Facebook and Instagram as Hugs for Tomorrow.

Send a tax-deductible donation here:

HUGS for Tomorrow

P.O. Box 1816 

Azle, Texas 76098

Or make a tax-deductible PayPal donation here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Second Grade, Here We Come!

You’ve heard of a “good problem to have”, but I think ours qualifies as a fantastic problem to have. HUGS for Tomorrow has grown from a small feeding program in the village to a fully accredited school, recognized by the Malawian government, and now in need of a fourth classroom. The preschoolers who have been with us since 2018 are waiting for a second-grade curriculum, teacher, and building. We will work on the syllabus and the hiring of a new instructor, but we need your help to make the classroom a reality as soon as possible. We trust you’ll agree that this is indeed a wonderful dilemma to face as we forge into the new year. 

Now is the perfect time to break ground on a new building. We believe God will be faithful in providing what we need and that you will be generous as you always are, so we’ve given Snoden the green light to go ahead with hiring workers to plan and build. We’ll do as much as money permits, and we plan to work as funding comes in. We’re all super excited to think that we could have a preschool through second grade academy by this spring. We’re ready if you are!

Snoden has made this video to ask for your help in providing shelter for our "learners". Please give any amount no matter how small towards the goal of $3,000. Every little bit adds up pretty quickly with a project this size, so don’t hesitate to donate even what’s in your coin jar. Thank you so much for your support and for being the champions of this worthy cause. We love you and pray for God to richly bless you as you pour your prayers and finances into these precious children. 

Send a tax-deductible donation here:

HUGS for Tomorrow

P.O. Box 1816 

Azle, Texas 76098

Or make a tax-deductible PayPal donation here.