The birth of another booklet

I’m really still a teacher and literacy promoter at heart, even though I’ve been doing Bible translation for the past 15+ years. I want kids to learn to read and often I have a little project on the side of making a booklet of some type. What I pick to do just depends on if I sense a need for getting info out to the people (like about AIDS, for example) or if I see a cute book I want to do for the kids (like The Wide-mouth Frog).

This year, I got the idea to do a booklet for some couples who wanted to get pregnant and have children but haven’t been able to. I became aware of the need because of a big problem that arose in the village which involved my main translation helper’s family. I’ll write about that, then tell more about the booklet later.

When we returned to the village in May, I learned that Edgar, the kids’ Sunday school teacher, hadn’t been calling Sunday school for several months. After asking around a bit, I found out that his wife had accused him of having an affair with Lydia, a married woman. Turns out that he had been using his shamanistic abilities to try to get Lydia pregnant. I didn’t press to find out details of just how he could do that. Whatever it was, though, it had caused a big blow-up between the families involved, and the pressure on Lydia made her father, my translation helper, think about taking his family and leaving town. Not good from my perspective, since I had just arrived back to begin working with him.

Dealing with Lydia’s problem brought to my attention that there were several women in the village who were anxious to get pregnant but couldn’t. She has a sister-in-law and two aunts who had all been married for a year or more and have not gotten pregnant. So I decided to encourage them with God’s Word, prayer and knowledge of the rhythm method. I also wanted to point out to them that the problem could be with their husbands, and I wanted to encourage them to stay married and not give in to the pressure put on them to split up because of it.

In the booklet, I started by explaining the reproductive organs, ovulation, movement of the sperm, conception and that sort of stuff. I explained how they could keep track of their periods in order to estimate the days of the month when they would ovulate and be most likely to conceive. I listed some reasons why a woman might not get pregnant in spite of having intercourse during the ovulation period. I wrote the stories of six women recorded in the Bible who God helped conceive, and also some he stopped from having children. I suggested that the couples study the stories of those six women, spend time praying together and maybe even fasting, and that they trust in God completely and not go to the shaman or another man.

This was a joint project, as all our booklets are. I wrote it, Culinas corrected it, Jim formatted it, put in diagrams, made a calendar booklet to go along with it and printed it. Then I called the couples in to explain it to them, give them a copy of the booklet and pray with them. By the time we got it done and handed out, it was about time for us to leave the village and return to the city. So we are praying that they will take the advice, be encouraged, trust in God and see him answer. The name of the booklet is “Ejedeni icajinijinecca ima” which is “The story of how we will have children.”

The problem with Dsidsi

Dsidsi, who came from the village of Maronahua in Brazil, was hoping to get some medicine from me for her skin problems. She had sores all over her face and upper body, which she had painted with genitian violet for lack of something better. She said that the sores had started with just one on her face and had slowly spread to other parts of her body. She’s had the problem for a year. I didn’t know what it was, and I wasn’t sure what to give her for it. I did have the phone number of my dermatologist in Pucallpa, however, so I thought I’d try giving her a call.

Getting through to anyone on the village phone is pretty iffy. In previous attempts to contact people I’ve often had poor results. But the night I tried to call Dr. Sandra, to my surprise and delight the call went through and she answered. I told her about the lady with skin problems, asked her for her e-mail address and said I would send her some pictures. Fine, send them on, she said.

After a couple days when I didn’t hear back from her, I called again. She had not gotten the pictures! So we sent again. I don’t remember what the problem was. We hadn’t gotten a notice back that our mail didn’t go through. But on the second try they went through and she answered back. The lady probably has pemphigus, she said, and she should be on a supervised treatment of prednisone. Pemphigus is an auto-immune disease and prednisone is an oral corticosteriod.

On that same day, a nurse came to the village and I took Dsidsi in to see him. He thought she had rosacea, and he prescribed injections of penicillin plus topical corticosteroid and antibiotic. I decided to give her that treatment, since I had it and it was not anything risky like prednisone is. But thinking that it might actually be pemphigus, I had an idea to confirm that.

Alicia, a woman who lives across the airstrip from us in San Bernardo, has had pemphigus for 16 years. We’ve supplied her with prednisone and face cream for all those years. I remember how she looked when she was having the worst outbreak of it. Dsidsi’s case was not that bad. I asked Alicia to visit Dsidsi with me so they could compare their stories. Jokingly I also asked Alicia to smell Dsidsi’s face, knowing that pemphigus sores have a characteristic bad odor. She burst out laughing, and she has a loud giggly laugh that makes you laugh just to hear her. In Culina culture, sniffing someone’s face is something you do in greeting someone you love and haven’t seen for awhile, or what you do to babies. Similar to a kiss on the cheek. So my suggestion for her to greet her with a sniff was silly.

Alicia and Dsidsi got to talking about their histories, and if confirmed to us that the illness was indeed pemphigus. The sores start with blisters that itch and then sting when scratched open. It does have a bad smell. Dsidsi was probably a few months to a year away from a terrible outbreak that Alicia ended up having when she was without treatment for a long time. Prednisone is definitely needed!

Since I was going to be leaving the village for a few months and Dsidsi and family planned to return to their home downriver, I was not willing to start her on a treatment of prednisone. It needs to start with high doses and then get reduced little by little over a month or more until the outbreaks are under control and the patient can live on a small maintenance dose. The patient really needs to be supervised every 7-10 days during that period of high doses. If they get sick with something else during that time, they will need a strong treatment of something, because the prednisone suppresses their immune system. Or something like that. I’m not a doctor you know, just a linguist missionary!

So what I did was give her the 3 days of injectable penicillin, then to take home with her I gave 3 tubes of antibiotic ointment, 3 tubes of Clobetasol,  and 7 days’ worth of dicloxicillin in case she got another infection. I wrote the name pemphigus and the proposed treatment of prednisone on a card and gave it to her husband to save in his wallet. I encouraged them to go to a doctor in a town downriver and present the card to him if she was not helped by the ointment and cream and wanted to try the pills. And I warned them that the treatment with prednisone pills had to be carefully controlled and supervised by a doctor or nurse.

I’d like to write that I prayed for her before we said good-bye, but I can’t remember if I did or not. My intention is to always pray with people, but I don’t always remember to. I have prayed for her since then, however, and I feel that God has endeared her to me so that I will look forward to seeing her again and finding out how she’s doing.

Dsidsi & Bodo with kids & grandkids