Medical Differences Overseas



Living in another culture requires an extraordinary amount of a) prep work and thinking ahead and b) going with the flow.

Recently, I messaged a Japanese friend to ask some advice.  Rosalyn had had a fever of over 100 for nearly 24 hours and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.  I asked my friend when she usually calls the doctor.  Of course, she corrected me– you don’t call the doctor here, you always take them to the clinic.  Of course, I knew that but it’s just my way of saying it.

I told her what our American doctors would say and she just said that she’s taken her kids with a lot fewer symptoms than Rosalyn had.  So I did.  I took along my American meds I’d given her, all the paperwork I thought I might have need of and went in.

Seems it’s only a cold.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.  But beyond my reconfirming all the details with the doctor to check my comprehension of how to give her the meds and what I needed to do about some insurance paperwork I have that’s now expired (sigh), it got me to reviewing.

What would I do if her fever were to go dangerously high? What number do I call?  I’m not talking about doctor’s numbers, I’m talking about 911.  Because it’s not 911 here!  There’s no nurse hotline here.  Where can I take her at 3am if I need to?  All those answers, as a mother, I have to know ahead of time.  It concerns me to make sure I can communicate clearly, and that we are prepared in case of emergency.

Some could accuse me of a lack of faith.  I’d say, no, that’s called being a responsible parent.

I absolutely have faith and trust God for healing.  I trust God that He will keep her safe.  I’m not too concerned about a little cold, it’ll build her immune system.  But in some cases, it’s not enough to just go with the flow and figure it out as it happens.

I’m not entirely sure where this blog is coming from. But it’s just been on my mind, that unlike what someone innocently mentioned that it’s just like figuring it out in the States, but just in another language, to this I’d say, no, it’s nothing like it

by Janine Alvarado, missionary to Japan

Triumphs: A Glimpse of Practical Living Overseas


Vicente, Janine and Roslyn Alvarado

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

When we lived in the USA, Rosalyn’s bottle preparation was simple.  5 ounces of water to 2.5 scoops of formula.  In Japan, for nearly the same amount of water, you add a whopping 8 scoops of formula.
And that, ladies, is the perfect illustration of what it’s like to live in a foreign country…5.5 new steps for everything you do.

The title, “Triumph”, may seem like an exaggeration.  However, I guarantee you that the feeling I have when I’m able to accomplish simple things is nothing short of triumph!

Getting a Cell Phone:
We went to two places and were turned down for cell phone contracts because of the length of our visas, although I can name four other families of the same visa status who have the same plan we applied for.  Re-collecting my confidence and disappointed expectation, we went to another shop a few days later and obtained a contract.  It took only about an hour and a half.

Later that night the real fun began as we tried to set up our email account through the company in order to use sms.  Two and a half excruciating hours later I went into the “zone,” a place where I shut out all distractions and where Vicente knows not to bother joking with me.  It was the LORD who helped me through that!

Registering at City Hall:
Two hours…four windows.  Sooo many forms to fill out.

Internet and WiFi:
PTL!! He certainly helped me out on this one!  Setting up both of them I made simple mistakes.  But, in both cases, the LORD led me through random steps to figure out how to make it work, just as I began to think I wouldn’t be able to do it by myself.

Cooking on a two burner stove:
There were cheers of triumph in our apartment a couple of days after we moved in when we figured out that our tiny two burner stove top needed a battery in order to keep the flame lit.  Anything to do with gas lines scares the “bejeepers” out of me, but when we were finally able to light our stove and keep it lit in order to cook, we cheered…randomly…several times.  In fact, I still cheer randomly.

I won’t bore you with long lists of what we’ve had to do.  Though it took you just a few minutes to read this, none of these things were as simple as the 2.5 scoops of formula or the fifteen to thirty minutes it might take you to accomplish it at home.  They’ve involved many extra steps and many challenges.  There have been times when I’ve pulled out my iPod  to use a translation tool and asked the person on the other side of the counter to type in the word for me.  I’ve received many papers in receipt of my transactions with information I’m sure is pertinent, but I can’t read them at the moment.  They are sitting in stacks and when I have a question, I’ll pull out the appropriate one, go into the “zone” and attempt to translate and understand it.

Sometimes…sometimes…maybe eight tries later, there are cheers of triumph.

by Janine Alvarado, Mission Japan

Note To My Daughter; “Mean Girls”

Editors note:  School is resuming for so many of our children that we thought it appropriate to post a lovingly instructive letter from one of our missionary moms to her beloved daughter.  May it help you as your children come face to face with those in their classrooms who might be more intimidating than friendly.

My most treasured & beloved daughter:

I could not give you any greater lesson than to teach you to learn to love and forgive. It is a life lesson you will need to “master” for many situations and relations in your life, for a lifetime. Learn how to handle “Mean Girls”, in a Godly way, NOW. It will equip you for those “life” situations when I cannot be with you (Jesus is always with you).

Unfortunately, “Mean Girls” come in all ages, cultures, sizes, colors, and are most prevalent in the most unsuspecting of places, even the church and family. They often display mean tendencies towards their mothers and/or have groups of friends who follow them, who refuse to address their bad behavior lest they be cast out of their social group.  Those people can be put in the same category, “mean”/”bullies”, since they are unwilling to stand up for what is righteous. You MUST choose to forgive them all.

A “Mean Girl”…we ALL have tendencies to be one.  (Don’t ever “be one”, even when you want to protect yourself from one.  Choose love instead.) There is some sinful drive wired in women to want to be in control of people and situations. The minute we don’t feel we are in control over a situation or individual our territory is somehow “threatened”. Then there arises a tendency to be “mean” (treat others as less, not welcoming, a gossip, show unkind behavior, etc.).

I know you know them well; you have been placed in many situations in having to face them. You always will. Have courage to obey the Lord in loving others no matter how they treat you; He asks for “obedience over sacrifice” and in that will be blessing.

Loving others DOES NOT mean you have to be best friends with them (or friends at all); in fact, it’s often Godly wisdom not to be (bad character corrupts good). That DOES NOT mean you have to tolerate their unkind words (you are not a “door mat”); but remember to never (ever) “return evil for evil”. Just turn your cheek/shoulder; God is much better at dealing with those who come against us, than we ever could be.

People always reap what they sow; it may be sooner, it may be later – but be “like Joseph” and trust God for the justice and outcome. Always, Always allow room for grace; we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all can have “bad moments”; be ready to receive a repentant heart (and forgive regardless) so you don’t allow that individual’s actions to have power over you. By doing so, you transfer power/authority to Jesus over the situation/individual.

YOU MUST be able to be in a room with someone who has been hurtful towards you and be able to make genuine “eye contact.” This requires you going to the Lord quickly with whatever offense has been committed against you and saying, “Father, forgive them – they know not what they do” (even when you are sure they know exactly what they just did). Tell Him, “Lord, I trust you for the outcome of this. I choose to forgive _____for _____”. Then, quickly find a way to “wash their feet”…serve them. Do what Jesus did with Judas, find a way to serve that individual in the strength and love of Jesus (only after truly forgiving), so that no one else in the room (or world) sees your wound. An unkind heart will eventually be revealed to others.  How others deal with it will speak volumes as to their character. TRUST that Jesus sees (He is El Roi – who saw Hagar crying in the desert after Sara was so mean to her). Have faith that He promises to handle injustices brought against His beloved. Pastor Jon Courson once said “If the Lord promises to deal with all my enemies; why would I want to stand between Him and them?”.

Also, don’t allow the enemy to re-dig up past offenses; speak affirmation to the Lord when the enemy tries to mess with your head. “Thank You Lord, that the offense has been covered by Your blood; and that You are well acquainted with my rejection and hurt. Through Your victory on the cross I, too, am victorious”.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

So, LOVE GOD COMPLETELY (in obedience with how you respond to “mean girls”) & LOVE OTHERS BY LOVING THEM AS YOU WANT TO BE LOVED (I don’t know about you, but I want others to be full of love, mercy and grace toward me when I “blow it”.) .

YOUR VALUE IS IN JESUS CHRIST. You are the daughter of the King of Kings, not who “mean girls” make you feel you are. I am thankful for the girls in your life, who are mature in Christ and know how to be friends to all. Keep them close. Be wise in who you choose as friends. Jesus said others would know who His true disciples are “by their love for one another.” (John 13:35)

In closing. Remember to ALWAYS choose LOVE.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

My heart loves you so much more than any human words can ever express; walk in His ways and be blessed!

by Coleen JeJeran, Missionary to Romania

Summer Gardening


Have you ever noticed that tending to a garden is much like tending to life? This year I was able to put in a summer garden in a 6’x30’ space. I planted flowers, kale, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, pole green beans, and strawberries. I also had room for a small herb garden of rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, and lavender. From tiny plants and good organic plant food all grew beautifully large and fruitful. I was tending it all so well until the heat wave came.

Tending to my garden during the heat wave didn’t happen daily. If it did happen, I didn’t spend as much time with my garden as was necessary. My plants suffered and were stressed from the heat and even with water it wasn’t enough to keep leaves from drying up. Much worse than that, some of the leaves on the cucumber plant and the zucchini plant developed powdery mildew. I didn’t notice them at first because they were hidden by the larger leaves. I lost the basil plant; it couldn’t withstand the heat. Two plants also grew too large for the space and infringed on the space of the other smaller plants threatening their survival.

Isn’t this a bit like life when the “heat” turns up? Things get out of balance! In order to tend well to our lives we must be in God’s Word daily. We must remember He rules over and above all things! This is easier to do when all is well in our lives. When the fiery trials come, we can get wrapped up in the stresses they bring. We can lose focus. We can let prayer and reading God’s Word slip. Our souls can wither up a bit as worry and fear threaten to overwhelm our thoughts. We know we must make the greater effort to stay in God’s Word, in prayer, in fellowship with God’s people, and be a voice for righteousness during these times if we are to overcome them. So, too, it is with my garden as I must make the greater effort to get back into it….

And so I went back into my garden and began to tend well to it. As God prunes us for our good, so I, too, pruned my garden for its good. I took out the cucumber plant that is so overgrown and filled with powdery mildew. I didn’t want to lose the zucchini so I gave it a good pruning so the strawberries were no longer threatened by them. I picked the tomatoes and the green beans that were good and then removed these plants as they had so many heat-damaged leaves and were not doing well at all. I trimmed and pruned all into well-tended plants each with their own space. I planted new cucumber seeds, bush green bean seeds, and a smaller variety of tomato in new spots of the garden. I planted a few more flowers, too. I also fed each of the plants again as it was time.

One month later my garden is now thriving. The new cucumber plant is producing cucumbers. The new tomato plant has tomatoes growing on it. The strawberry plants produced many strawberries and are now sending out runners for new plants. Bush green beans are flowering and setting fruit. The kale plants have given me many leaves to pick.

I go out daily again now and examine my plants. I remove the yellowing leaves, remove the occasional green worm that would weaken my plants, and tend to the ants that come seeking water with an organic orange oil spray. Thinking about those ants reminded me of a verse in proverbs. You probably know it. We are told to learn from those ants so here is yet another gardening life lesson for my soul!

Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, o sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.”

Have you ever observed the tenacity and the determination of ants? I must say I am getting my fair share of experience in my garden. I don’t use conventional sprays so I am always watching for their presence and doing what I can to limit their activity. They just never give up! They will move from one spot to another! They hide and I must lift up the lower leaves of the plants to find if they are nesting there! Their vigilance to get their work done gets to me some time but I also know their very survival depends on what they do! I can see through them that the well-being of life itself requires this same kind of tenacity, the determination to stand firm and have a “fight back” mentality. I must be wise with the time God has given me. God has called us to be His lights in this world and no matter how dark the world becomes, we must continue to be that light. We must be faithful and persevere to the end. Galatians 6:9 says,

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

God has given us each tasks to do! In Isaiah 58 God calls His people to act according to His righteousness and to let Him lead them, something I, too, heed and follow. God spoke to Isaiah and told him to proclaim LOUDLY the sin of the people. God’s people appeared to be following after God on the outside, but God saw their hearts. God saw through their pretense. They had fasted expecting God to do for them, but they then complained when God remained silent. The whole chapter is worth reading, but I will begin with verse 6 where God explains how proper fasting leads to helping others. It is taking the focus off of ourselves and seeking to aid the afflicted.

“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every bond? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say here I am. If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:6-12

I desire to be His light that breaks out like the dawn. I desire His righteousness to go before me. I desire His glory to be my rear guard. I desire to hear His answer when I cry out. I desire my light to rise in the darkness as He continually leads me. I want to be His well-watered garden whose waters do not fail. I want to be a “rebuilder”, a “repairer” and a “restorer” for all He would grant me to be.

My garden is beautiful right now, but I know that to keep it doing well, I must be vigilant and committed to its care. Only then will it truly flourish! Tend well to the garden of life and it will also do likewise!

God has given us life at this time in history and so, to quote Esther, “for such a time as this”, let us become His well-watered garden whose waters do not fail, but rather rebuild, repair, and restore. Let our lights cut through the darkness! May what we do on the outside for all to see be a true reflection of what God sees on the inside of us. Only then will we be able to flourish!

By Pat Tingwall

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