December 2011 – Christmas in campo, Nagua patient

Merry Christmas, friends and family!

Assessing "Mateo's" ambulation

We just arrived home from a visit to our friends in the campo (rural mountains), where we spent Christmas.  We enjoyed the distinct stillness that fewer people, terrible “roads”, and the lack of electricity inevitably bring. We celebrated with Antonia over her continued minimal back pain, after 6 months of using the kitchen sink and outdoor cooking space we modified during our language study at their house (1st newsletter).

Coffee plant from our christmas time in the campo

For us, it was a Christmas of mixed emotions, celebrated for the first time away from our larger family.  We now more deeply realize the many layers of our own U.S. culture’s Christmas traditions –food!, music!, church rituals, movies, family activities and decorations everywhere!  The combination of all of these in public, church and private life creates quite an experience.  We noticed that both intentionality and material means to do special things greatly influence celebrations.  We enjoyed the unique things about a Dominican Christmas- a La Posada service with our Catholic neighbors downstairs, a Christmas Eve dinner, and being awakened several times in the middle of the night by parades singing “Open your doors!  Christmas is here!” (not so enjoyable).  We particularly missed family time and Advent church reflections.  We have greater regard for some of the good things in our personal cultural histories that we didn’t realize were such a part of us!

December life in the D.R. also takes on a much different rhythm than the rest of the year.  The common business phrase is “Let’s talk in January.”  Family often comes to stay for several weeks and businesses slow.  We took advantage of this time to take a planning and spiritual retreat, and complete some physical therapy visits that required travel.

"Mateo" with his new loft strand crutches (forearm crutches)

"Mateo" with his new loft strand crutches (forearm crutches)

A highlight of this month was a 3 hour trip to Nagua, in response to a Nazarene pastor’s request for support in their accompaniment of a 7 year old boy with visual and physical disabilities.  The nearest rehabilitation services are 2 hours away from Nagua, and even the travel is an unaffordable cost for Mateo’s family of 7 living in a tin roof, 3-room home.  The church had already shown excellent efforts with Mateo, having lobbied and won his inclusion in school this year.  They also facilitated a motorcycle ride to get him to school, because he cannot walk independently.  We spent a morning at school with Mateo, and found him sitting in his chair without a pencil, staring down at the desk.  When individually directed, Mateo responded to class work at rates quicker than his neighbors.  For recess, Mateo was simply moved outside the classroom door to sit at his desk.  We had some fruitful discussions with the teachers, who expressed the extreme need for special education teachers, and responded well to suggestions for increasing Mateo’s class participation. The video below is Nick evaluating Mateo’s gait.

Back at Mateo’s house, we worked on gait training with a donation of loft strand crutches from Creighton University.  To our relief, they fit him well and he loved them!  We felt extremely blessed by Mateo’s responsiveness, and the eagerness of his siblings, mom, and pastor to participate in a written physical therapy program we left behind.  On our way out of town, his mom reported that Mateo told her he planned to walk to church that evening!  We expect that with continued practice with the crutches, he should be walking independently in a few weeks, which will be a gift in many aspects of life for both Mateo and his family.

Additionally, we are happy to say that the tech level physical therapy program Laurie continues to edit is for an organization that has already begun plans to open a rehab center in Nagua.  We hope that the center will be available soon to continue Mateo’s ongoing development!

We end with a note of thanks.  We are so grateful for your many prayers and notes, and for your tangible blessing in funds that have nearly reached our budget goals for 2012.  We appreciate your ongoing efforts to reach the roughly $1,000 of need remaining.   Please click below to partner with us in this way!

Many blessings on you for the year ahead – for joy and meaningfulness in your work and home lives.  In the love of Christ, we celebrate,

Nick & Laurie spending Christmas with a family in the mountains

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