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Over the past two years, there have been many tough decisions we have had to make.

The decision to actually leave the US to come here.

The decision of out of all the tribes in PNG in the Finisterre Mountains which five we should survey.

The decision of those five tribes, into which one we should move.

And then thousands of smaller, important decisions regarding our time, our family, our finances, this new culture we live in the tribe…the list goes on.

But the decision we made in the last few days was one of the hardest we have had to make for several reasons:

-it involves our children’s health

-it is based largely on probabilities and possibilities, what could be and what might never happen

-it forces us to interrupt our ministry at a less-than-ideal time

As some of you may know, two of our kids have been struggling through multiple occurrences of strep throat recently. Susanna, our oldest, had it the most severe, with the last bout lasting through three weeks and two rounds of antibiotics and culminating in fevers that remained around 104 degrees for six days. Onesmius, our six-year-old, also has had strep, but the last time he got it was just six weeks from the previous time.

Without being able to be properly diagnosed, the ENT we’ve been consulting with stateside has said that their symptoms point to being strep carriers and the only real remedy a tonsillectomy. Basically, there is a good chance that the strep will continue to come back, possibly putting Susanna through high fevers again (and the dangers associated therein) with no medical assistance nearby, or at the very least, continuing to interrupt our ministry here with one or both of our kids continuing to contract it. There is also a chance that the strep might not come back for either of them.

So do we stay or do we go?

Staying would be far more preferable if no one gets sick since we just started to make real progress in learning the language and building relationships with our friends here in Mawarero. But going would be erring on the side of caution for Susanna’s sake and possibly save us time in our ministry in the long run by addressing the problem now instead of waiting for it to become bigger, therefore consuming even more of our time than it already has.

We’ve been observing this since June, continuing to think through it throughout July, and seriously considering a tonsillectomy in August. Particularly the last month, Matt and I have spent praying and seeking counsel from an ENT, Susanna’s former pediatrician, our pastors and other medical health professionals. Because we don’t know the future, and really can only make the best decision we know how to make with the information we have, we have decided to go home to get Susanna a tonsillectomy.

There have been many iterations to this plan, i.e. just Susanna and I going, all of us taking a short medical leave, but in the end, after talking with our teammates, the option that presents the least amount of interruption in our ministry would be for all of us to come home on an early furlough now, instead of a year from now as we had originally planned.

To put it as simply as possible–everyone on our team has planned to take a 6-9 month furlough at some point between moving into the village and actually preaching the gospel. So sometime within language learning, preferably towards the end for the sake of retention, both we, the Dodds, and our teammates, the Canns, would have come out to the States to see our families, hug our supporters, remember how to use dryers and dishwashers, etc. etc.

In that sense, in choosing to take our furlough now, we are not impacting the big picture of what we came to do here–it might even get us to the gospel quicker! The downside to this, however, is that we have only been learning language for six months. It’s possible that we might lose more language in taking furlough now than we would have if we had taken it at a later point. But in light of our kids’ health issues, we think this is the best course of action to take. Best for our family, best for our teammates, best for our ministry.

But oh!  How mixed it is to be taking a furlough when we do not feel in such great need of one nor are prepared to take one! When our friends and family and churches are not prepared for us to come back! And when there are faces and people here in this village who have become our friends that we may never see again if we leave now.

So this decision has not been easy.

Make no mistake: we have been sick here. We have had fevers, more than I can count–even 104 degree fevers! We have had fevers and and Ecoli and worms and parasites, bronchial infections and eye infections and ear infections and fungus infections, allergic reactions and infected wounds and ringworm…the list goes on! And by God’s grace, we have never even talked about going back to the States for medical reasons before now. Praise God!

But we find ourselves now in circumstances that God has given to us and for our family, at this time, and have to make what we think is the best, most God-glorifying decision.

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Our kids observing the sudden rainstorm today from our porch

Our hearts have been torn. Our conversations have been many. Our prayers have been continuous.

And even as we have made the decision to go, even as we know that we’ll be coming back in just six or seven months, we know we will be leaving a good part of our hearts here in these mountains for the whole of that time.As you think about it and have time, we would love prayer for a few key things!

  • For God to provide lodging and a vehicle on very little notice (I’m sure there will be many other smaller things like carseats or winter clothes for our kids, but those are the two most immediate and important)
  • That any gap in our finances in taking furlough a year early (along with the cost of one or two tonsillectomies) would be provided.
  • That Susanna’s tonsillectomy would go well!
  • That the Lord would help us plan a furlough that would be refreshing to our souls, fortifying for our marriage, fun for our kids, and a blessing to the people who love and support us in a short period of time
  • For God to provide endurance and progress to our teammates who will remain behind–both in the tribe and in the country–for the next few months without us

God has been so good and so faithful to us every moment of every day since we arrived in Papua New Guinea December of 2014. We know that He will not fail us now, even in circumstances that are not what we would have chosen!

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