Friday, May 27, 2011

one year

thanks to everyone who prayed for me!

Joseph is well. Richard and I have never FELT prayed for the way that we have these past two weeks and we are both so truly grateful. We got to Auckland on Monday afternoon and since Joseph was not in need of hospital care, the whole family stayed together in the Ronald McDonald House. (I never appreciated what a beautiful concept the R.McD. House is until we were on the receiving end of its services.) I was only permitted to feed Joseph until 4am overnight because of a gall bladder test in the morning but he toughed out his first fast manfully. Another ultrasound of his liver and digestive organs was done first thing on Tuesday and more blood was drawn. Afterwards we spent the whole day waiting to see the pediatric GI specialist and presumably to hear more about the potential biopsy. In the meantime we regaled ourselves trying to keep Maria and Bernadette from writhing about on the hospital floors, running wildly down hospital corridors and fighting with one another just for the sheer thrill of conflict.

Finally at 4:30 pm the doctor reviewed all the test results, examined Joseph and astonished us with the news that we could go home. Immediately. Without any further tests. It was the complete fulfillment of even our most wildly optimistic prayers. It was wonderfully anti-climactic! We were bracing ourselves for horrible tests, horrible news, horrible waiting....and instead - "go home". Richard asked the doctor twice "Are you sure? It almost seems too good to be true...." 

the view of auckland from our hospital room

We still have no diagnosis on Joseph and his liver function tests have not shown any remarkable improvement so he'll continue to have blood drawn weekly, but the serious conditions that the doctors were considering seem very unlikely now. They are hopeful that he will slowly get things under control on his own. We are too. 

another peek at auckland from our window

Apologies are in order for not sharing the good news immediately - we arrived home to 2 days of no internet reception AND a 24 hour vomiting bug for Bernadette, undoubtedly a lovely souvenir she gleaned from those hospital floors. 

This week also marked for us the one year anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand - a very full and intense year! It also marks the "half-way" point of our mission and begins the process of our discernment of what comes next. We have about one year to figure that out and get our ducks in a row and we are almost totally in the dark about what the Lord has in store for the Sealy family. On Divine Mercy Sunday we offered a chaplet for clarity, unity and peace about this next step. On Monday the ever lovely Kate, Supreme Babysitter of New Zealand, will sit on our babies while we step out for some serious soul-searching/brain-storming on the topic. 

In the meantime, the ministry is chugging along well - Glen did the whole thing solo while Richard and I focused on Joseph and the youth are enthusiastically meeting their weekly challenges and climbing the peaks of evangelization. Hopefully this is the last blog about Joseph and henceforth we're focusing on ministry, good news and other non-stressful points of interest about this mission experience! 

Thank you again, from Rich and I, to every person who offered a single prayer for our son or the simplest expression of support. We are overwhelmed with gratitude. Truly, thank you. And thanks and praise to God. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This morning we got word that the pediatric liver specialist wants to see Joseph in Auckland on Monday for a liver biopsy. Please offer prayers for him - I really detest the idea of him being put under anesthesia at only 8 weeks only and weighing only 9 pounds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

snips and snails and puppy dog tails

katie's whimsical sheep graze in peace near a dainty butterfly

It was a perfectly girly night. The girls' group assembled in the youth room to paint a full wall mural. It was orderly and calm and cooperative, with just the right amount of giggling. With nary a male in sight (except Chris Bong, who removed all the screwed-in wall decor for us) the girls mixed up pretty paint hues and adorned the wall with a beautiful mountainous landscape, complete with frolicking woodland creatures and cute mini-footprints in a fantastic shade of violet. 

So, what was the point? This term we are challenging the youth to do one thing weekly to evangelize, to share their faith, to overcome the impulse to hide their lamps under bushel baskets. Each week will offer one specific challenge: to post something explicitly Christian on Facebook, to invite someone to Church, to propose a family prayer before a meal, etc.... We're using a mountain-climbing image for the term and so (with Fr. Michael's permission) we turned a whole wall of the youth room into one huge visual aid. Each youth has created a little "avatar" of themselves and will move it from peak to peak as they meet each challenge. 

The girls and I spent hours on the mural. When we finished, it was impressive! It was beautiful! It was....too feminine (according to some). Last night the boys' group added "a few finishing touches". 

matthew gave katrina's "happy sun"
a little bit more of an edge

sam topped the snow-capped mountains
with a dragon

dylan placed a shark in the bubbling waterfall -
and fed it a reindeer for dinner

stephen thought this peak lacked a 
flaming comet ready to crash into earth

the sweet bunny no longer munches dinner tranquilly -
an archer and a tank have appeared on the scene

no longer a hike, but a dare



If nothing else makes my point so clear about the need to balance out the masculinity-run-amok, I simply don't know what will. Please, redouble your prayers for some more women to become involved in this ministry. Stat! 

And just a "P.S." on Joseph....
After many, many tests, the doctor called this afternoon to say that as the results come back, many of the most serious possibilities are being eliminated (praise God!) He is still waiting on the results of a cystic fibrosis "sweat test" from this morning, but expects that it will come back negative too due to a lack of other indicators. At this point, the doctor thinks that the worst possible diagnosis would mean that Joseph needs a liver transplant (which is practically a relief compared to some of the other possibilities we'd been looking at) - and the doctor thinks that even that course of action is highly unlikely since Joseph's liver looked really good on the scan. There is an Auckland-based pediatric liver specialist who will be seeing Joseph sometime this month once all the test results are finally in, but there is a sense that this will be resolved and will have a happy ending. Many thanks are due for so many prayers, which have sustained us and given us something to find comfort and peace in. Please do keep praying as there is still no diagnosis and Joseph's bilirubins have not decreased since his release from the hospital - although he doesn't seem to be bothered or uncomfortable because of it. 

the doctors are still quite serious......

but we're feeling a LOT happier!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

native beauty

kati kati bird gardens

We're still waiting on test results for news about Joseph, and in the meantime we've said adieu to Richard's family (who had been mid-visit when Joseph became ill and were here to care for the girls while we were in the hospital - yet another instance of God's providence and blessing upon our time here). 

We did have a lovely visit, in spite of all, and were able to share some glimpses of New Zealand's beauty  with the Sealys. Rich's sister Christine and brother Jason brilliantly captured this beauty in (hundreds!) of photographs. I share just a small selection. [Click on any photo to enlarge it.] 

Jason and Christine attended several youth events during their stay. Christine, an authentically and deeply beautiful soul, even did a bit of direct ministry! Maria and Bernadette loved their time with Dwama (Grandma), Dwampa (Grandpa), Aunt Tursteen (Aunt Christine) and Uncle "JayJay" (but pronounced more like "DayDay"). The house feels very empty now that they're gone and we miss them already.


Some highlights of the visit include: a hike of Mt. Maunganui, pictured below (each carrying a child from base to summit); Joseph's Christening; Maria's 4th birthday (celebrated just 2 days early); touring the Hobbit holes of Matamata, and Grandpa's cockpit seat for the flight from Tauranga to Auckland. 

the mount

not quite halfway up 

aunt christine with her new godson

taking it in

even warm autumn days are chilly on the beach!


blissed out and exhausted

We are very moved and truly grateful for the many many emails and prayers for Joseph. We feel comforted knowing how many good people are supporting us through this ordeal. Now that we are home from the hospital and Joseph is more content, things feel a bit "normal" as we wait to hear news. But he has four separate medical appointments starting this week, some more stressful than others (for him and for us).  Please continue to pray for health, strength and, above all, our ability to trust the Lord who loves our little boy so perfectly. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

two prayer requests

photo credits to Jason and Christine Sealy, 
visiting at present from PA along with Grandma & Grandpa!

On Sunday Joseph was Baptized, Hospitalized and given the Anointing of the Sick. After 12 attempts to insert an IV catheter, the insertion of a feeding tube, blood work, urinalysis, ultrasounds, an EKG, a chest x-ray and two nights in the hospital, we finally had a diagnosis. He seems to have developed a urinary tract infection with vomiting, which ended in bad dehydration and lethargy. On top of that, the infection aggravated the on-and-off jaundice he's had since birth. He was discharged yesterday but needs blood drawn weekly for the next 6 weeks and will be on antibiotics for the next 3 months until he can be tested for urinary reflux. His jaundice is ongoing and he'll be subjected to more tests on Friday. To say that there is some "stress" at present is an understatement. We ask prayers that he continue to gain health and strength and that the doctors can understand and treat his jaundice without too much further distress on his part.

On a different but related note, I've begun asking the Lord to send some godly women to draw alongside me in this mission. We have a fantastic array of men involved with the youth groups: Fr. Michael, Rich, Glen, Chris - and others who help out in various ways as needed. We're so richly blessed in this way as it's often so hard to get good men (or any men!) involved in parish ministry. The boys are having a blast and the men are enjoying the fellowship immensely. However the girls involved in both groups have expressed a desire for a more "feminine" touch. The MANLY TEAM is doing a fantastic job, but I'm sure all the female readers will understand why the girls are craving a little more that caters to the feminine soul.

Even if I did not have 3 children to attend to, I'd still be hoping to have at least one other woman involved in our work here. But I do have 3 children to attend to. Joseph's birth has thrown the house into some temporary chaos and I'm not sure how to fit in even the very limited direct ministry that I was doing before his birth. It will be months before the newborn upheaval settles. This week I had two days in the hospital with him to reflect and take stock on how things are going and I realized that the fact that I did not really "process" his early symptoms before they became quite severe is an indication of something. I need help. Over the past months, every woman we've approached about helping out with youth ministry has either not been at all interested or has been quite busy with her own young children. So I'm asking for others to join me in praying that the Lord would send a young, reliable, fun and holy woman (or two!) to labor on the girly side of the vineyard. Ideally these would be Kiwi girls, but missionaries from America or any other country would be welcome with open arms. Also, I've kind of let the Lord know that this prayer is marked "urgent". I know His timing is always perfect, but I'm still just letting Him know that I'd really love to have someone in the next couple of weeks.  He has provided so perfectly for every true need that we have faced in this mission that I have complete confidence that this prayer will be answered and in a timely fashion!