“O Christmas Bush…” Finding Promise in a Season of Pain

Our Christmas tree this year was not what we expected. It’s actually more of a Christmas “bush.” If you get too close, the razor-sharp needles will give you tiny paper cuts. When the bush arrived, I grabbed some pruning shears and proudly trimmed it into a cone shape while Lucy pranced around in eager anticipation. A major disappointment when we moved to Mexico was losing the box containing our family’s precious Christmas ornaments (including memorabilia from our childhoods.) Undeterred, Willy and I fished out the glue gun and craft paper and got to work decorating our holiday shrub.

Baby Caroline enamored by the bush. We are happy to report that she has had no further seizure-like episodes.

Like our lackluster evergreen, 2020 didn’t round out the way we expected. The past few months have been marked with some very painful experiences. In October, we faced Caroline’s hospitalization for seizure rule-out, followed by rising cases of COVID-19 in our state of Chihuahua. After getting COVID as a family and recovering, we poured ourselves into treating our affected co-workers.

You may recall from our last newsletter that we evacuated two of our doctors who were critically ill with COVID. We praise God that Dr. David is significantly improved and off oxygen. Following his transport, Dr. Pedro remained hospitalized for several weeks battling complications of the virus. Sadly, On November 22nd, our hospital community received the heartbreaking news of his death. Our sadness was mixed with thankfulness for Dr. Pedro’s life and his legacy of service to others.

Drs. Pedro and Rosie. We appreciate your continued prayers for their family during this difficult time.

One week following Dr. Pedro’s death, our family’s grief was punctuated as I experienced a first trimester miscarriage. Thankfully, Willy is very adept at ultrasound and was able to evaluate me quickly. A kind OB-GYN friend in the U.S. guided us remotely through management, and fortunately surgery was not required. Losing our baby was incredibly hard to process in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. Amid these difficult experiences, God confirmed His love to us as well as His promise to protect and guide our family in Mexico.

Pain marks many aspects of life in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Jump into the 3-seater bush plane to visit and you’ll see what I mean. Skeletal horses graze on rocky fields. Tarahumara children hoping to sell wild spinach wait at the edge of the highway. Look closer and you’ll notice mud caking their thin legs and ulcers from chronic infections. Their struggle for survival is only magnified in the winter when freezing temperatures put animals…and people, at risk for death.

A malnourished Tarahumara boy

I can’t help but compare the Sierra Tarahumara with the manger in Bethlehem. The picturesque nativity scene on Christmas cards was probably not as sterile as we might imagine. Here in the canyon, Tarahumara women traditionally labor alone in the forest, delivering their babies on the bare ground. Mothers will cut the cord with a piece of glass or scrap metal which greatly increases the chance of infection. There are no warm blankets, gift baskets, or doting family members to receive the baby. It touches my heart to know that God understands the Tarahumara people’s suffering as His own Son entered the world in a similar environment.

A Tarahumara woman and her baby

Antonia (name changed for privacy), is a young woman we recently cared for at Hospital Misión Tarahumara. The suffering she had experienced from abuse and lack of food was unimaginable. After battling a cough and fever for two months, Antonia sought care at the mission hospital and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. For the first few days, she lay curled in a ball crying out in fear because she saw snakes on the walls. After two weeks of TB treatments, nutritional support, and compassionate care from our staff, we witnessed a remarkable transformation. Check out Antonia’s beautiful smile below as she sews a traditional dress (thanks to those of you who gave toward the fabric project!) This Christmas, Antonia met a person named Jesus who entered a world just like hers, offering a promise of hope and new beginnings. Emmanuel, God with us!

Antonia shows off her hand-made skirt

Though 2020 has had seasons of pain, we are constantly reminded of God’s faithful promises. Whether our trials range from the inconvenience of a prickly “Christmas bush” to a more searing loss, we can rely on God’s promise to bring comfort, healing, rest, and hope to each of us as we draw near to Him.

May the light of Christ and the hope that He brings fill your heart and home this Christmas.

The Bustinzas 
Willy, Jessee, Lucy and Caroline

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