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Billie Fann Hill

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Today my family is gathered to remember my grandmother. There are a lot of reasons I can’t be there with them, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish I could. 2012 has been such a tough year for so many reasons. One of those reasons is losing two people who are very special to me but because of extenuating circumstances, not be able to travel back home to say goodbye. 

My grandmother had a really good, happy life, and I will always remember her positive spirit. In her last days on earth, she was diagnosed with two very terrible diseases, cancer and Alzheimer’s, but despite that, she would always talk about how healthy she was and how good she felt. Alzheimer’s is a very sad disease, but one positive consequence for my grandmother was that she never remembered her diagnosis of cancer after it was initially shared with her. She was also fortunate that her Alzheimer’s didn’t progress more than it did, and in her final time on earth, she still knew her family who were there with her, taking good care of her. 

As a child, I spent lots of time with my grandparents, and I have really fond memories of going over to my Papa and Grandmother’s house. My Papa was a real character, and part of the comedy of being around him was my Grandmother’s scolding his “bad behavior”. They had a dog named Toby who was already very old by the time I knew him as a child, but I was still always excited to go over to their house and play with him. I can remember going over sometimes on Sundays after church to eat lunch with them. My grandmother wasn’t too fond of cooking, so lots of times we would eat carry-out KFC with them and then my cousins and I would play with their set of marbles on their screened-in back porch or sometimes go down to the basement and watch sports with the men. We had an ulterior motive, though–that was where Papa kept his jellybean stash! When I was very young, I would spend the night a lot of times with them on the weekends, and Grandmother often told people that my favorite thing to do when I was with them was to “eat McDonalds and paint our fingernails.” My grandmother also was always stylish, and loved to shop, so I have lots of fun memories of going shopping with her and my sister. The only bad part about those trips was riding in the car with her. She was a bit of a nervous person, and she was cautious when driving–to a fault. Everytime we would pull up to a stoplight with her, we would all tease Grandmother about laying off the brakes since our heads would often be bobbing from her constant tapping of them when she tried to stop! 

I feel very fortunate to not only have grown up with all 4 of my grandparents still alive for my entire childhood and the majority of my adulthood so far, but to also have them play such a big role in my life. I will miss my Grandmother dearly, but I am very thankful for the happy life she lived and the part I got to play in that.

Fundraiser for Gabbi

We are selling tshirts as a way to support the Cook family and to raise money for their medical expenses for Gabriela’s cancer treatments. If you would like to purchase one, here is a link to the online store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/PrayersforGabbi. Thanks for your support!

The church here in Peru has also been praying very fervently for little Gabbi and the Cooks, and yesterday we made a photo with a sign to let Gabbi know that we are praying for her. The children’s class also had a special prayer for Gabbi yesterday.

Update on Gabriela Cook

My heart is breaking for the Cooks this evening, but I am trying to keep as positive of an attitude as they have right now and remember that God is in control. This very powerful verse was posted by Charla this morning on Facebook: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

This is the message that Matt and Charla posted this evening for those who haven’t seen it yet:

Dear friends,

Well, we have mixed emotions tonight. We are glad to know that Gabbi’s tumor is not “the worst of the three types” that we mentioned Friday. It appears to be “the middle” of the other two types and it is a type of cancer called Hepatoblastoma (we haven’t googled it…you shouldn’t either =) ). It isn’t confirmed yet, but is most likely. Tomorrow’s biopsy will confirm that.

Based on the CT scan today, Gabbi does have a large tumor in her liver that is “involving” about 80% of her liver (this is what they are pretty sure is the Hepatoblastoma). Because it is so large, they can’t just remove it. So, here’s the plan: Tomorrow they will do a surgical biopsy (not a needle biopsy…they will do an incision and take a larger portion of the tumor). They will also put in her port for the chemo treatments. Followed by this will be 6 monthly chemotherapy treatments (probably beginning next week). After these 6 months (possibly 4 if things go wel
l), they will do surgery and remove the remaining part of the tumor along with that part of the liver. The liver then will hopefully “regrow” itself.

This will be a long, hard, and unexpected road. We believe Vanderbilt is one of the best places in the world that we could be. We already love our doctor—Dr. Snyder—who will be with us through this process. We also love that one of our friends from FHU works in the pediatric cancer clinic, where we have been Friday and today (Dara Durham Macer).

Our hearts are in Peru and our intentions are to return and live in Cusco if everything goes well.

Please continue to pray for us during this process. Your prayers, messages, and comments on Facebook have meant more to us than you can imagine. They have made this past weekend bearable. This morning while Gabbi was away from us for the CT scan, we spent the time reading all of the posts, comments, and reposts just from this morning…and it made that time away from her so much easier.

We’ll continue to keep you updated. Please pray for complete healing from this horrible disease. Please pray that the surgery (biopsy and putting in the port) goes well tomorrow.

We love you all,
Matt, Charla, Gabriela, and Conner

Praying for Gabbi

There are lots of big updates I need to make, but I will start with the thing weighing heaviest on my mind right now. Friday evening we receiving some very startling news from our teammates, the Cooks. They have been in the states for their furlough and for the birth of their son, Conner, who is now 3 weeks old. He was born a bit earlier than expected and so they really haven’t even had him home from the NICU for very long. Well, Gabbi went Friday to see a doctor at Vanderbilt for a routine checkup, but while there, they saw a mass in her abdomen that concerned them. They weren’t able to do many other tests that day, but basically the doctors have voiced concern that this mass may require some very serious treatments that are a two year old and her family to handle. So right now, we are praying constantly for strength for the Cook family and sweet Gabriela, for the doctors working with them, and for good test results next week. This is news nobody wants to hear, but it makes the situation even more complicated considering that their home and their work is here in Peru. We are very thankful that they are in the states right now, working with some of the best doctors out there whom we know will take very good care of Gabbi no matter what happens.

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Last week was also a big week for our family as Cole started preschool! The school year here in Peru actually starts in March, so he was coming in mid-year, which isn’t really a big deal at his age. He has been excited for a while about starting, and we’ve been excited for the opportunity to let him socialize with other kids and improve his Spanish, among other things. His first day was Monday, and the director of the school had recommended that I stay with him the first few days since he was not speaking much Spanish yet, and just to get him used to a new place. Well, about an hour into the day, he was giving me a lot of signs that he just wanted me to GO! I took the hint and left him for about an hour and came back to check on him. His teacher told me that he did great and that I probably could just leave him the other days since he seemed very confident to be by himself. We have him going 3 days a week, since I still enjoy having him home, but I want him to have some opportunities to be around people other than me. Friday he took his first field trip out to the countryside near Cusco to fly kites and have a picnic lunch. He had a great time and is excited to go back this week.

June was an exciting month in a lot of ways, but since it is a month full of festivities for the city of Cusco, the work here tends to slow down a bit for a couple of weeks during that time. But overall we had a really good month, and now that we are in the month of July things are already picking up, with another of our “big days” coming up next week. We are excited about the possibility of new members and contacts this day could bring in, so please pray for our efforts in the coming week as well as the hearts that will hopefully be touched by the power of God’s word and the knowledge of His love for us.

One of the highlights of being on the mission field is interacting with other missionaries and other mission teams. There is a special bond among those who leave their home culture and live among a different one. We are blessed to have 2 other mission teams living in Peru at the same time we are, and another great thing about this is that we all have kids that are very similar in age. One team is working in Arequipa, and the other works in Lima. We rotate among the different cities each year, and this year it was our turn to host it in Cusco. We chose a spot about 45 minutes outside of Cusco, in the city of Pisac, which is located in the beautiful Sacred Valley surrounding Cusco. We were able to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday together, complete with American BBQ, watermelon, apple pies, and a great fireworks display! One huge blessing for this retreat was the babysitting help we received from a group of interns that are working with the Lima team right now from Texas A&M. The “Aggies for Christ” group worked tirelessly to ensure that our kids had a good time while we had some fellowship time with the other adults and even put on a little VBS for them. There were almost 20 kids present from 2 1/2 months old to around age 7, so this was no small task! Anyway, we all had a wonderful time and it was great to spend some time with some missionary friends that share a lot of similar experiences that we do and understand a lot of our feelings about living in Peru, both the good and the bad. 

Newsletter: May 2012

Below is our most recent newsletter.  Thanks for your interest and support of the work in Cusco, Peru!

Furlough 2012

I’ve been a little behind on my posting lately, mainly because of all the traveling and busyness associated with furlough. We arrived in the US on April 2nd, and spent our first week in Huntsville, with our overseeing congregation, Chase Park Church of Christ, and with my family. We also were able to spend Easter Sunday with my family and Cole got to do an Easter Egg hunt (he’s the only grandchild on that side so he was the only one hunting!) at my parents’ house. The next week was spent in Haleyville with Barton’s parents and visits to our supporters at Hamilton Church of Christ and Ninth Avenue Church of Christ. Barton’s parents live on a beautiful stretch of property with lots of woods surrounding them and a creek with waterfalls so it’s always really fun to take Cole out on nature hikes there. Cole is not the only grandchild on Barton’s side of the family–he has 6 other cousins so when they are all together, Pap & MJ’s house gets a little crazy! All the kids are pretty close in age and have a great time together. After our week in Haleyville, we went on to Birmingham and visited with Roebuck Parkway Church of Christ, Hoover Church of Christ, Ashville Road Church of Christ, and Adamsville Church of Christ. We also got to stay with Barton’s brother Drew and his family as well as his brother Ashley and his family, and enjoyed several nice dinners with some of our friends who support our work on an individual basis, both financially and through their work with our medical campaigns. Cole loved playing with all his cousins and meeting new kids at church and in his Bible classes, and although he’s a pretty shy kid, he did really well and seemed to really enjoy going to Bible classes. He is now under the impression that every place we travel to will have some sort of new toys for him to play with! The last two weeks of our visit were spent with one more visit to Haleyville and Huntsville, and a trip to Tupelo to visit Barton’s twin brother MacKenzie and his family in between.

I can’t mention all the fun times we had, but some highlights for me were: cupcakes at Gigi’s in Huntsville, shopping with my mom, sister, and sister-in-laws, going to see The Hunger Games with Barton, Easter dinner with my family, Barton’s mom’s home-cooked meals, visiting “Riddle Creek” at Pap & MJ’s, 2 visits to 2 different zoos, visits to various parks and playgrounds, fishing at MacKenzie and Rae’s pond, eating out with friends and family, and taking Cole to see the circus with my parents.

The only bad part of the trip was that during our last week there, my grandma (my mom’s mom) was put into the hospital. She had one really bad night and we were really concerned about her pulling through, but by the time we left, she was moved out of CCU into a regular room at Huntsville Hospital. I was thankful to be able to visit her in the hospital and be there for my mom because usually times like that are agonizing when I want so badly to be there with my family. My mom and my aunt are still practically living at the hospital because she hasn’t been released yet, so I know it has been tough on them. This all started with some fainting episodes she has been having over the past few months, and they have gradually become more frequent and severe, so she was having some tests run. Just before entering the hospital, she was given some beta blockers for a heart test and her body reacted pretty strongly to the medicines and she was taken immediately to the ER and soon moved up to CCU. Her blood pressure was all over the place for the next few days and her kidney function was really poor because of the dye they had used for the test. Things got a lot worse, but then she finally started to stabilize and although her blood pressure is still not as stable as they want it to be, she is doing much better now. The doctors are still running tests to try and determine the cause of her issues. Please remember my grandmother, Billie Carmack, as well as the rest of my family and her doctors in your prayers.

In light of what happened with my grandmother, I had a bit of a difficult time leaving this time, but now that I am back in Peru it feels really good to be back home and with our work here. We had another baptism this week and the church here continues to grow both spiritually and numerically. We feel so blessed to be able to be a part of this work as well as have the blessing of a nice extended visit with our family, friends, and supporters each year.

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