Monday, November 29, 2010

Momma Barnes Update

This has been an awesome Thanksgiving season. One that has continually reminded me how much I have to be thankful for. I have intended to write a post on this subject since Friday, but it has been an extremely crazy week, and I kind of exhausted myself typing out an e-mail that is very important to me.

For those of you that don't know, my mother was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia back in 2007. She received chemo and the cancer went into remission, but it recently came back. It looked like Mom was going to continue to be treated with chemo in hopes of sending the CLL back into remission. Last Wednesday, we visited Johns Hopkins for a second opinion. We received new information and were given a course of action that warranted sharing with our family and friends. The following is the e-mail that resulted as an attempt to get the infomation out. This is what I would like to share for now. If this is new information for you, I am glad that I was able to share it in some way. If you have already received the e-mail, it would be great if you took another look just the same. Thanks, everyone. You are incredible.


First off, I want to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers concerning my Mother and her health. I know that whether you've met her or not, there are many of you who love and appreciate her for a mutitude of reasons, all well deserved. I deeply appreciate your thoughts and concern, it's awesome to know that all of you are there.

This past Wednesday, we had an appointment at the Johns Hopkins cancer center in hopes that we could get some more clarity as to what is going on with my Mother's CLL. Rather than focusing on treating symptoms, the doctor at Johns Hopkins focused on specific genetic indicators in identifying the seriousness of my Mother's cancer. Two things came out of this. First, he was able to describe my Mother's condition with more specificity than we had previously been given, while identifying a very focused course of action with curative intent. This is a massive answer to prayer for us. Until now, doctors have been content to treat symptoms and use chemo as a "band-aid" to keep Mom in the best health possible (and yes, it does seem counterintuitive to poison someone in an attempt to keep them healthy). Unfortunately, this end to the fog and frustration we have been in did not come without it's downside. The second bit of information we got out of our meeting at JH is that Mom's condition is more serious than we had believed and, as a corollary, her need for treatment is also more immmediate than we expected.

Mom will be receiving a bone marrow transplant in the very near future. On Wednesday, she gave a bone marrow biopsy which will be evaluated by the middle of next week. In addition, it is likely that Tyler, Jason or myself will be the donor for the transplant, so we are all submitting our blood to be evaluated. The condition of Mom's bone marrow along with matching one of us with her seem to be the two variables in the timing of the transplant, but it would appear we are looking at a January date. The bone marrow transplant is a procedure that the doctors at Johns Hopkins are executing with curative intent, meaning if it is successful Mom will be cancer free. According to the doctor we met with, bone marrow transplants will successfully eliminate Mom's type of cancer 50-60% of the time and there is a 15% mortality rate. In the remaining patients, the transplant is successful, but the new bone marrow is still incapable of fighting off the CLL.

A bone marrow transplant essentially leaves the patient temporarily without an immune system, making the patient extremely susceptible to sickness and infection. For this reason, it is performed as an outpatient procedure, but mom will need to remain in Baltimore for approximately 60 days following. This will be an extremely challenging time as we look after her, take care of Matthew and still take care of everything else that happens to get thrown our way.

Mom is tough, optimistic and graceful as always. She has spent the days since our meeting preparing our house for a massive Thanksgiving gathering, hosting guests and looking after her visiting sons. She is an incredible woman and a servant, but I have never known her to be anything different. She has the utmost faith that God is in control both in her life and in the lives of everyone in our family. For this reason, I will end this e-mail the way I think she would like, with a list of prayer requests, having faith that you all will bring this to the One in charge. This list is comprised of items that came into my head, please feel free to add some as your wisdom or insight dictates.

1. That God's will be done through this situation and he use Mom for his greater purpose.
2. That her full recovery be part of His purpose.
3. That my Mother will continue to be as graceful, faithful and trusting as always (Not that I believe this will be an issue in the slightest).
4. Wisdom for the doctors involved, and our family and that we may have wisdom and discernment and trust God throughout this process.
5. Matthew - My 14 year old autistic brother will miss his mom during this process and it will be important that he receives the care he needs.
6. For my Dad - since coming to MHS, mom and dad have worked and lived together and have grown even closer. This will be a trying time for him.
7. Jason and Caitlin - My brother Jason and his fiancee Caitlin had scheduled a mid March Wedding and are now finding it necessary to reevaluate this date. Pray that any planning that has now become necessary will not tax them too much and that their day is incredible, as I know it will be.
8. Tyler - He's currently in his junior year at West Point. It's a busy, demanding school where he has a lot on his plate. It will be a lot to ask for him to stay focused while he is away from the family at school.
9. Me - I've found an awesome community and home - 3,500 miles away. I'm going to have to make some choices and be away from a support network that has proven invaluable to me while I am with my family. I need to keep focus and perspective.
10. For the MHS girls that will be without their House Mom while mom is away.
11. For all of the millions of little details that are going to pop up in the near future: From timing issues to the help we'll need to financial stuff. I'm sure the details and decisions will be endless.
12. For every other family that is going through something similar to this, you won't have to look far to find someone else.

I want to thank you all for being a valuable part of my life and people that I can bring all of this to. For those of you that believe prayer is valuable, please keep Mom in mind. For those of you that don't, I'd ask you to give it a try for us just the same. I have complete faith that God will use this situation to further his plans in all of our lives, and that He will bring you all in whenever there is a need to be filled. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone you would like. There are dozens of people that I simply do not have e-mail addresses for, but would love to send this to. Thank you. God Bless.

Thanks for taking the time to read this today. I'll be back with a standard post soon. I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. Just because Thanksgiving is over doesn't mean you should stop giving thanks for all you have. I know I won't.



Monday, November 22, 2010

Beard Update: Like a Phoenix Rising From the Ashes . . .

This post is about a month and a half behind. Most of you probably already know that I shaved my unruly beard. That said, I had this post partially written, had fun with it and I am on vacation. So, I added some stuff, did some editing and here it is for your enjoyment.

The Beginning

As many of you know, I started growing an awesome beard several months back. My initial goal was to grow Big Lebowski style facial hair, so it started with a goatee way back in June. For a period of about two months, I dutifully maintained and developed the goatee for which I was aspiring. One night as I sat watching the the inspiration for my mangy appearance, my friends and I concurred that I had not only met, but exceeded the length and fullness of Jeffrey Lebowski's famous mane. I had met my goal, but I was not yet finished.

You see, there is something about a man growing a beard. A man with a fierce beard is a master of his own destiny. He is wild, he is dangerous and most of all, he is free. I would submit that I am all three of these things regardless of the status of my facial hair. Despite this fact, there is something incredible about asserting yourself through such a magnificent physical statement. For numerous reasons including the sheer manliness I felt, I decided to continue my journey. From this point forward, I ceased shaving altogether, apart from an occasional neck trim. Over time, my unruly goatee morphed into a full on lumberjack man beard.

There were numerous encouragements and challenges throughout both stages of my facial hair growth. Often, when I would come back from the field clad in a bandana other Amor staff would comment that I resembled a Mexican pirate. I didn't know whether to consider this encouragement or discouragement. I took it as the former. This was tempered with constant and insistent claims from the female staff that the beard was a very bad look for me. Perhaps part of the problem was that I hadn't cut my hair since April as well. Regardless, I was reminded again and again just how undesirable I appeared. I was even offered free haircuts. At the opposite end of the spectrum were many men. I consistently work with high school and college boys who were nearly always impressed with my facial hair. Drew, my roommate, and my brothers both provided ample encouragement as well. Whether it be a limitation in hair growing capability, discouragement from significant others, or job requirements, there is a large contingent of men who wish they could grow a beard but are disallowed by their circumstances. These poor souls rejoiced and congratulated me in my accomplishment of growing a Leonidas-like beard.
The Death
The strength of their desires and longing were often enough to get me through the days when I believed I had enough. There were days when I was tired of looking like a yeti and simply wanted to be like everyone else. To be honest, looking in the mirror every day and seeing a dirty, beardy, balding, unkempt man can start to reak havoc on your self esteem. Finally, there was eating. I frequently found that whatever beverage I was enjoying would roll down my beard and on to my shirt. Additionally, food would often get caught in my beard. The worst offender was s'mores. The gooey warm, marshmallowy goodness would frequently get stuck in my beard. Marshmallow is hard to get out of beards and this grew to damper my love of s'mores. This was the final straw for the beard.

Finally, the day came. It was not without great remorse and sadness that I removed my triumphant mane, but the time had come. It had simply outgrown me. It felt that my face just could not support it's grandiousity. On a Saturday, I had my very own episode of Queer Eye for the Beard Guy. I started by getting my haircut and then decided to send my beard out in style, on a stage by stage basis:

This was me before any haircutting or beard trimming. I know the massive growth on my face and the receding hairline look awesome. Ladies, please restrain yourselves.

This was the haircut with full beard stage. To be honest, I kind of liked this one. The haircut did a lot to clean up my appearance. I would have like to keep this one going for awhile, but the decision had already been made.

I'm just going to give a shout out to Marcus for being the inspiration behind this dandy. That is all.

I'm going for the long haul trucker look here. I have proven before that I can drive 26 hours straight. I think the fact that I can pull this look off validates that I have a future if things at Amor don't work out.

Years ago, I used to watch a thouroughly entertaining show called American Chopper. I'm sure plenty of you know it. This is my shout out to Paul Teutul, Sr.

Creeper 'stache. A reminder of another character from The Big Lebowski.

The Charlie Chaplin. Film was so much better before talkies came around and they all started relying on fancy stuff like dialogue.

It seems sort of meager and pathetic here, but this is the sum total of my beard, after it's removal from my face.

The Beard is a time I will always look back upon with great fondness. It is strange to know that although I still have plenty of of opportunities to grow unattractive facial hair, there is a strong chance I will never again reach the fullness shown above. Beard updates will still continue when warranted, and I will be back for another post whenever I feel motivated. I'm on vacation!



Friday, November 12, 2010

Penasco Part 3

I'm currently on my third trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, after my time in San Carlos. This week is proving to be yet another one that gets me out of my comfort zone, but teaches me a lot. Despite challenges, I am yet again being affirmed that I am in the right place in my life right now.

For those of you that are wondering about the Meza family, Juanita is still carrying the baby and her surgery has been moved back to later this month. Keep them in your prayers!

I am getting increasingly excited about my fast approaching trip back to the east coast. It looks like it will be a whirlwind of a two weeks, with stops in Hershey, PA, Warrenton, VA, Blacksburg, VA, Richmond, VA, Charlottesville, VA and maybe a couple other spots if I can stop my head from spinning. I'll be out from November 18-December 4, so please get in touch if you are in or near any of the afforementioned towns. I miss so many friends and family and I know there is no way I will be able to see them all, but I am hoping to maximize my time and opportunity to visit with people as much as possible.

One big thing that will be happening while I'm in the midatlantic will be a baptism. Mine! My parents will be baptising me in the Rappahannock River outside of Warrenton on November 21, in the afternoon. I know I will probably go into hypothermia but am so excited for this opportunity. I want to go ahead and thank my parents ahead of time for entering hypothermia with me, along with everyone that is helping to make this happen while I am busy in Mexico. If you will be anywhere near Warrenton on this date, please come out. I would love to see you there.

Thanks again for tuning in, I hope to have a post with a little more substance up in the next week.



Saturday, November 6, 2010

San Carlos

I've been in the field here and there recently, but it's been awhile since I was on a nice, long stretch. There's something different about being out for a couple of weeks as opposed to a couple days. You have to mentally prepare yourself and get into a different mode. When I go into Mexico for a couple of days, it really just feels sort of like a trip to the office. It's those long trips that truly make me feel like an Amor field specialist. For this reason, I have been extremely excited leading up to the trip I am currently on. Last Monday, I drove out to Globe, AZ, our home base when we are building homes in San Carlos. Tomorrow, I will be driving from here to Puerto Penasco, where I will remain until the 16th. Getting out here has been extremely refreshing, but has also taken me out of my comfort zone.

We're not in Kansas Anymore

About the only things that are the same here as when I build in Mexico are that I help build a house and I wear a blue shirt. The culture, style of home and relationship that I have with my groups have been radically different during this trip. I am always interested in adventure and doing something new, but it has been frustrating at times to have my normal routines interrupted. Perhaps the most trying part of a situation like this is trying to be as effective in our ministry as possible. When I struggle to figure out what I am doing, it makes it difficult to serve my groups to the best of my ability. In addition, my understanding of the Apache culture doesn't come near my understanding of the Mexican culture, which makes it hard to facilitate the cross cultural bonding I love to see on these trips.

There have been some awesome highlights during my time in San Carlos. First, it is absolutely beautiful here. Pine covered mountains loom over the desert landscape. Our camp has a small ridge directly above it which is perfect for observing the sunset here.

(I know it's unfair that this is how my work day ends.)

Next, we had a great group of guys out here this week. Altogether we had seven Amor staff and the men on this trip nearly all have a few years on me. It was an excellent time for me to learn from others' experience and maturity both in my work life and my personal life. Despite it's challenges, it has also been very interesting to be part of a different type of house build. The homes that we build in Mexico are very basic two room shelters. The homes we are building in San Carlos feature two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. We are even plumbing and running electricity in them. It's pretty impressive to see the scope of these projects. Finally, I have gotten an opportunity to at least be introduced to the Apache culture. It seems the Apaches are more reserved, but they are very warm nonetheless. I also had the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine, including frybread and Apache burgers.

(The Maize family prepares Apache frybread for us. It is exactly as it sounds. Fried bread. Delicious.)

(This is an Apache Burger. Two patties with all the fixins wrapped in frybread. I know that sounds like a lot to handle, but the most disconcerting thing about it was it's blurriness. I have a feeling I will revisit Apache Burgers in another post.)

Despite some awesome things that I have learned about the culture, life is extremely difficult on The Rez (This is how many refer to the San Carlos Reservation). Unemployment is hovering in the 75-77% range. Alcohol and drug abuse run rampant. Teenage pregnancy also seems to be extremely high. These facts are really just the beginning of the problems on The Rez. There have been a lot of things rolling through my mind as a result of my exposure to the area. My understanding of the history of the west and all it's repercussions is certainly lacking, but I can't help but get uneasy when I consider that past U.S. policy has helped contribute to some of the destructive patterns on The Rez. It's hard for me to understand it all, but I can come to one solid conclusion: There is a desperate need here and I am glad that Amor has come here to help serve it. I am extremely thankful that I have gotten to be a part of this effort. I am looking forward to coming back in the future so that I may become more intimate with the projects and problems here and better serve my brothers and sisters here.

(An example of an Amor home in San Carlos.)



Monday, November 1, 2010


I saw this sign affixed to a fence surrounding a school or community center in a local neighborhood. I love how simple and straightforward it is. The thing that strikes me is that there is an action word in this definition of community. Simply existing around each other does not constitute a true community. Interacting with and caring for those around you indicates real community. I am blessed to have found an awesome community to be a part of here. I hope to share some more detailed thoughts on community with you in the not too distant future.

Life has gotten away from me lately. As a result, so has this blog. Right now I am getting ready to leave San Diego for pretty much all of November. Essentially, I will be doing field work with Amor for the first two weeks and then I will be visiting home for the second two. This is going to be an incredibly exciting time as we will be very busy in the field and it will feel much like our summer months. In addition, I will get to FINALLY visit home and catch back up with family and friends. I am excited to chronicle my experiences this month, but know I will be strapped for time and internet access much of the time. Stay tuned and see how it goes. Right now, I gotta finish getting ready.