Sonidos Serranos

Sonidos Serranos: Sounds of the Sierras...
Reflecting some of my family's interests: God's wonderful creation (especially mountains and hills!), music, and language...

Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

30 September 2009

Post #101

Read about the beginnings of our missionary travels on our ministry blog:

Ohio and Indiana

East Tennessee

We are trusting the Lord for His perfect timing and provision for our arrival in Uruguay to take a more active role in the abundant ministry opportunities there. Meanwhile, we are enjoying this stage of His preparation for us!

Sometimes a Light Surprises

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens,
No creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wanted fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

Text by William Cowper
Based on Malachi 4:2; Matthew6:24-34; Habakkuk 3:17-19
Music by Craig Courtney
Copyright 1993 by Beckenhorst Press, Inc.
A sound clip is available here.

26 September 2009

September 26: Update on Jonatán

We’re thankful to be back in Greenville after eleven days on the road. The Lord gave grace, and we truly enjoyed the experiences of our first two deputation services. (We learned a lot, too!) We also enjoyed the fellowship of gracious believers in the churches and schools we visited as well as in numerous homes. We’re very grateful to the Lord and to His people. It was also encouraging to meet so many who are praying so faithfully for Jonatán and his family! Thank-you!

We also appreciate those who have been praying for John Mark's extended family. Gramma entered her Savior's presence on Friday, September 18, 2009. We’re thankful that she is now free from pain, rejoicing in Heaven. (But we will miss her!) We praise the Lord for the testimony of her life and a memorial service that glorified Christ. As we reminisced with extended family and friends, we again realized how much we have to be thankful for!

We’re now in the process of doing laundry, catching up on e-mail, and generally settling back in… Several notes regarding Jonatán have come via e-mail, so I’m going to post excerpts here. (Some of the information may be repetition for some of you.) Thank-you, more than words could possibly say, for continuing to pray.

First, some notes from the coordinator of the “Praying for Jona Torres” group on FaceBook. (This was posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009.)

I was in last night to see Jona; he was more of a blessing to me than I think I was to him. His spirits are high, and he is full of joy. As I talked with him, he shared something that we as a group need to be taking to The Throne Room of Heaven.

Please plead with Christ for the following:
  • Jona’s testimony to touch the many people he comes in contact with at the hospital and at school so that Christ will get all the GLORY.
  • Jona’s need for strength.
  • Jona’s need to keep well. (There’s a lot of flu going around here in Greenville!)
  • Christ’s guiding of the surgeon’s hands in a few weeks as they take out the tumor and part of the bone.
  • Jona’s treatment next week as it is a long and hard one.
  • Jona’s family's strength.
I just want to say thank you for joining in and praying for Jona. I just know that God has something great for him to do.

And the following are excerpts of notes sent from Jonatán’s missionary grandparents in Uruguay:

Praise the Lord with us for answered prayer! Jonatán returned to the hospital on Friday morning of last week for blood tests. His blood counts were actually better than they had been the last time they were checked. This was an answer to prayer. He was therefore able to have the four-hour chemo treatment on Friday evening of last week. He then went through the follow-up process of lots of IV fluid to flush the chemo medication from his system. He experienced quite a bit of nausea due to the chemo but was doing better on Thursday and had been able to eat a bit. He was holding his weight. This was another answer to prayer!

Perhaps the greatest cause for rejoicing is that the bone scan came back negative. The doctor also told the family that the tumor seems to be shrinking – after only two chemo treatments. These are both answers to prayer, and we are thankful. The main potential side effect of this second chemo drug is sores around and in the mouth. Jonatán hasn't had any trouble with this. Again, we are thankful for answered prayer!

A follow-up note sent yesterday adds more information:

We just talked with Esther. We asked how they were doing, and she said: “Fine. We're all home together." Then she went on to explain. Jonatán had originally been scheduled to start his 72 hours of chemo yesterday. However, after looking at previous scans and with the result of osteosarcoma in the spot on the right lung, the doctors decided to remove the spot in the left lung as well. So the revised schedule, for now, is:
  • September 29: See the doctor for blood tests.
  • October 1: Undergo laparoscopy to remove the spot on the left lung.
  • October 2: Be admitted to the hospital to begin 72 hours of chemo.
After all this, Jonatán will have two weeks of rest. Tentatively, sometime between October 19 and 26, he'll be in the hospital for the final two rounds of chemo before surgery – four hours for each treatment. These are the treatments that require him to stay in the hospital on IV fluids until all the medication is out of his system.

Jonatán has been able to work on his school work even during hospital stays. Esther has been able to work almost every day, and they work with her when she needs to be off. Marcos is enjoying having Jonatán home for these extra days. This extra “time off” from chemo will allow Jonatán’s body to gain strength and also allow the chemo he has already had to work longer in reducing the tumor.

Please continue to pray:
  • That Jonatán’s blood levels and energy level will stay where they need to be for continued treatments.
  • That the surgeon will be able to do the laparoscopy quickly and that there will be less pain than there was from this procedure on the other lung.
  • That Jonatán would not get sick from flu or other things going around.
  • That they'd be able to control the nausea and other effects when Jonatán has the 72-hour chemo treatment.
  • That Jonatán would be able to continue eating well and would not lose weight while undergoing the treatments.
  • That Jonatán and his entire family would continue to be encouraged in the Lord and that God would be glorified.
  • That the insurance company would pay well for expenses and that the Lord would provide all the family needs.
Esther said the surgeon who does these laparoscopies is very thorough in what he does and wants everything possible to be done and everything done properly. They are thankful for the doctors the Lord has given Jonatán during this time.

Thank you again so very much for praying so faithfully for Jonatán, his family, and his extended family!

16 September 2009

We need His grace!

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Last night I wrote: We so desperately need our Father's grace and are thankful that He stands ready to freely give us all things – including the ability to rejoice in the midst of trials. Here's the rest of the story...

We'd been planning a visit to Elizabeth's Great-Gramma as part of this trip to the Midwest. Our plans included spending lots of quality time together, making pizza for her, and mowing the lawns under her watchful eye. However, Gramma took ill very suddenly a week or so ago and is now in the hospital in critical condition. She has suffered several strokes, two of which were massive strokes. Part of her left lobe and brain-stem have completely shut down. When I wrote last night, she could only barely open her eyes, nod slightly, and gently squeeze a hand in response to questions.

She will not recover. She has already outlived the doctors’ expectations, so we do not know at this moment if we’ll be going for a hospital visit or a funeral or both. We would appreciate your prayers for the extended family at this time. Through our tears, we are rejoicing in knowing that Gramma knows Christ as her Savior and will be graduating to glory with Him!

Yes, we feel keenly our desperate need for our Father's grace, and we are thankful beyond words that He stands ready to freely give us all things – including the ability to rejoice in trials.

September 15: Update on Jonatán

We’re experiencing very mixed emotions… We are excited to (finally!) be on the way to OH where we will be presenting plans and requesting prayer for our future ministry in Uruguay. But this is an extremely hard time to be leaving town...

We stopped by the hospital to see Jonatán on the way out of town this afternoon. The remnants of this last chemo treatment are not out of his system yet, so the doctors need to keep monitoring him. They are administering fluids via IV to flush out the chemo meds. While I was there, one of the doctors stopped by to report that Jona’s level was 0.26 – but needs to be 0.1 in order for him to be released to go home. Please pray that he will be able to go home tomorrow. The next round of this same chemo is scheduled to begin on Friday, pending his release tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Jona’s white blood count is still 9 – actually considered quite good after two chemo treatments. He is being given something to boost the good cells. On the other hand, the biopsy of the lump taken from his lung revealed that the spot was in fact the suspected osteosarcoma. He will be having a bone scan tomorrow to make sure there has been no further spread of the cancer.

Due to the side-effects of the chemo, Jona hasn't been able to eat much this week. He did eat some chicken soup, made by one of his adopted grandmas from church, this afternoon. Please pray that he'll soon be able to eat more in order to regain strength and not lose any more weight.

I was at the hospital on Monday night, tutoring Jona in Physical Science from about 8:30 to 10:00 – believe it or not! He loves school and is seriously trying to keep up with his work load. We would’ve kept going with the homework except that the nausea from the chemo finally won out… (I’ll skip the details!) In spite of it all, Jona was in good spirits – and we’re very thankful. God has been exceedingly good to us…

Please continue to remember our specific prayer requests to our Father:
Thank-you SO very much for praying! We so desperately need our Father's grace, and we rejoice that He stands ready to give us all things – including the ability to rejoice in the midst of trials.
(cf. Romans 8)

11 September 2009

September 10: Update on Jonatán

We Steels have been running like crazy this week, finalizing our presentation for our first deputation services next week. (That's exciting!) Thankfully, grandparents in Uruguay wrote a lengthy update from which I'll be copying and pasting tonight. Please pray!

This morning Jonatán had the CT scan to find the exact location of the spot on his lung. It was removed via laparoscopic surgery and has been sent to the lab for examination. The doctors are hoping to have the results back before the weekend. Please continue to pray that it is not the osteosarcoma. The surgeon said that the rest of the lung looked good; we're very thankful!

Because of the pain Jona was experiencing from this surgery, he did not start chemo today. He has been given pain medicine so he can rest tonight; the plan is to start chemo tomorrow, possibly in the morning. This second chemo involves a 4-hour treatment. Then liquids will be pushed because the chemo drug needs to be out of his system before he can go home. The whole process is expected to take 3 to 4 days. Thankfully, side effects from this particular chemo drug seem to be rare in younger people. Please pray that Jona will not get the possible side effect of cold sores in his mouth.

The doctors are very thankful that Jona's blood levels continue to be good and that he has gained back a little of the weight he lost during the first chemo. If his blood levels stay up this next week and his strength continues to be good, he will probably have another dose of this same chemo drug next week (Thursday or Friday). Please pray specifically for these needs!

The flu virus is going around Greenville, so they are not allowing anyone under 18 to visit the cancer unit. This means that Marcos can't see Jona during this hospital stay. Please pray for Marcos. [And remember that you can send an eGreeting to the hospital for Jona; he was very encouraged by the pile of notes he got last time! Click here and then click on the eGreeting link in the first paragraph. Or go to and then to the "Patients and Visitor Info" tab on the top left and then click on the eGreeting link in the first paragraph.]

One of the nurses, who also has had a type of sarcoma, encouraged Jona to keep as active as possible. He said that those who stay active seem to handle chemo better and have a stronger immune system. But he also encouraged Jona to "listen to what his body is telling him." If he doesn't feel like going to school one day, he shouldn't go; it's probably his immune system saying: "Stay home!" Jona and his family are thankful for this Christian nurse who understands what Jona is going through and can encourage him.

A pastor friend e-mailed the Garwoods today: "We know that only a Sovereign Lord God can intervene to give health to Jona quickly." And we know that He IS able, and we continue to trust Him for what is needed and will bring Him glory. We know the Lord is hearing and answering prayer!

Thank-you for praying so faithfully for Jonatán and his entire family – especially those overseas and those who will soon be traveling!

05 September 2009

September 5: Update on Jonatán

The next several weeks look grueling! Please pray earnestly for Jonatán – and for his family! Here are the details as adapted from an update written by his missionary grandparents in Uruguay:

A little before 11:00 last night, we talked with Esther about Jonatán. She said he's feeling pretty good. He's eating well but did lose weight when he had his first chemotherapy. She said he looks weak – but ran two miles in his PE class last Tuesday! Even the medical people were amazed that he did that and wrote it in his chart.

He has blood work done every week. So far the levels have stayed where the doctors want them to be. Please pray that this continues. He was able to go to school most of this week and has even been able to make up some missed work.

When the family saw the surgeon on Wednesday, he said he was not concerned about the spot on the left lung and that the spot on the right lung is very small. Jona will have another CT scan on Thursday morning to determine if he needs the laparoscopy to check out the spot on the right lung. If he does, the surgeon hopes to "wedge it out" – it's that small. If they take it out, they will do a pathological test to see what it is. Please continue to pray that it isn't the osteosarcoma, the same type of cancer as the tumor in his arm.

Please pray especially for Jona on Thursday. Starting at 8:30 a.m. (EDT), he'll have the CT scan, blood work, and then, if needed, the laparoscopy. Following all this, if the blood levels are still where they want them to be, he'll be admitted to the hospital for his next round of chemo. This will again be for three continuous days (week 4 of 12). This particular chemo drug can cause blisters (like cold sores) around and in the mouth and elsewhere, so they are already giving him medicine to counteract this possible side effect.

After this round of chemo, he'll have a few days of rest and then have more blood work done. If the levels are still up, he'll have another three days of chemo (week 5 of 12). This will be the same chemo drug as week 4. After another few days of rest, if he's still feeling strong enough and the blood levels are up, he'll have three more days of chemo (week 6 of 12). This will be the original two medications and could again cause nausea and loss of appetite.

Please pray specifically for the following:
  • Continued strength and energy for Jonatán
  • Success for the chemo drugs in attacking the tumor
  • Continued wisdom for the doctors to know the best timing in all these details
Also pray for endurance! The insurance company seems to be dragging its feet as things are being done so quickly. Thankfully, everything so far has been approved – just no money paid to the doctors or hospital yet.

We are all very thankful for the many, many people praying for Jonatán – and for all of us. We are thankful for the way the Lord is answering prayer, and we continue to trust Him for what He knows is best and will glorify Him.

02 September 2009

September 1: Update on Jonatán

As for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.
~Psalm 73:28

Please continue to pray earnestly for Jonatán!

As some of you who have seen Jona today undoubtedly noticed, he was not admitted to the hospital at 9:00 a.m. today for pre-op for the laparoscopic procedure to check the two spots on his lungs. The family did have an appointment with the surgeon who will be doing the biopsy and will be meeting with him again later this week, with the actual procedure taking place next week.

Jona did have various lab tests done today. The doctors were pleased that his blood counts have stayed where they want them to be. Praise the Lord!

Thank-you for praying! We are experiencing God's grace. I was over at Jona's house on Monday night, setting up a FaceBook account for the family. (Believe it or not, Dad in Carriacou, I'm their IT Guy!) They were such a blessing to me – all four are in great spirits, trusting the Lord completely!