More than a few of you reminded me a week or so ago when I said I would not mix our ministry updates with Traci updates that we and our ministry are so uniquely intertwined that it seems absolutely natural to talk about both in the same breath. Some of you who reminded me of that are actually in Russia and did not take kindly to being quarantined from any updates about Traci. So, here is my feeble attempt at updating you on the progress of our work in Russia and the health of my beautiful wife Traci all at the same time.
Bear with me please…
Let’s start with ministry since for most of you the news about Traci’s breast cancer came at a time when you were likely expecting me to write about a major gathering in Novosibirsk, Russia, called History Makers that we were just about to carry out. I am thrilled to say again that History Makers took place without me and showed our team there and yours truly that we have grown to a place in our organization where sufficient leadership has been raised up to fill even the biggest of shoes, size 15 in this case, when they must step aside. I again congratulate the YouthReach Mentors and Ruslan Asadov, our Russian Operations Manager, as well as the ILI staff and Chick fil A/WinShape team that came from England, Romania, and the US to make this event happen.
A good number of you have also asked how has Traci’s illness has affected my day to day work with YouthReach. That’s a fair question for sure. When I did my big U Turn in Germany on August 11 and headed back to Atlanta after learning of Traci’s diagnosis I had no more international travel planned for this year. Therefore no additional international trips have been cancelled or interrupted at all. The remainder of my travel for 2010 was going to be domestic and mostly for the much needed work of fundraising for our organization. Dallas and Nashville were to be the first stops followed by St. Louis in early October. Obviously, the Dallas and Nashville trips have not happened and St. Louis has been pushed to late October and I will only make that trip if Traci is doing well in her chemo treatments. More on that in a moment. Still hoping for Dallas and Nashville before year’s end. The main point here is that all of the work that should be happening in Russia right now is very much going on as planned thanks to our committed team on the ground there. The great challenge for us domestically is to cover the very much needed fundraising meetings here in the US with me being largely out of pocket right now. As most of you know, David Hennessey, our Executive Director, is in Ukraine now with our newest team member, Tony Morrow, and will be for another week or so. Development work is sorely needed right now but we have had to trust that “one man down” in our eyes does not look the same as it does in God’s eyes. We’re trusting him to provide for us here at year’s end (actually we need it before year’s end this year) even though I can’t be out on the road speaking to businesses, foundations, churches, and individuals as I normally am this time of year. As my dear mom says so often, “everything in its time” and for me right now it is not time to be anywhere but home.
I have however been able this week to catch up on email and correspondence regarding Orphan Sunday 2010 (www.youthreach.org/orphansunday) as we get ready to partner with churches all over the US and the world to promote the cause of orphan ministry worldwide. If you are reading this and want to know more about how your church, small group, business, class, etc, can join with us please do drop me an email. This day will be all about raising awareness and calling the church worldwide to respond to this great need. Please be praying for this now!
While my passport is packed away (still in my notebook bag actually after getting back on August 11) and I am very much home bound for the next few weeks I have recommitted myself to an activity I must confess I do far too little of as it relates to our work in Russia – prayer. I’m praying like never before for God to equip the Mentors who work with us, bless the ministry/corporate/civic partners we work with in Russia, provide the funding here in the US that we need so badly right now, and begin now touching the hearts of those people that will recruit, train, and lead their teams to join our Mentors in country next spring, summer, and fall. This is obviously the most important and effective thing I can do right now as it relates to my work (and my wife!) and I am finding it both challenging and exciting to do less and pray more during this season of life.
Speaking of prayer…thank you for yours for Traci and our family. I told a few people today that I feel like we are in the eye of the hurricane right now. The numbness of diagnosis is behind us as are the rogue winds surgery and the initial recuperation from reconstruction. The flood of prayers, meals, visits, cards, gifts and over the top acts of kindness from literally all over the world have done much to calm the initial shock of this never anticipated battle with cancer. Ahead lies the once feared but slowly becoming more accepted choreography with chemotherapy. Yes, I just said that. We’ve talked at length about journeying with cancer. Now we’re dancing with chemo. I’m a storyteller remember so allow me this word play if you don’t mind. After chemo comes the probable run with radiation. If all goes well there will then be a fiesta of freedom from cancer. But those things are all way out of our reach at the moment. “Do the next right thing right” my mentor and college basketball coach Don Meyer always said (by the way, check this book out at Amazon.com). The next right thing that is ours to do is visit for the second time Traci’s oncologist tomorrow. We will set out our plan for the 6 chemotherapy treatments that will begin sometime in early to mid October and continue on through early to mid February of next year. Though far from eagerly anticipated, we are now confidently resigned to the fact that this will greatly improve the likelihood that Traci never has to deal with cancer again. Your prayers are treasured as we go tomorrow and make the plans for this next phase of the journey. We assume that chemo side effects will soon have us back in the hurricane stages of this journey. God knows though. Maybe it won’t beat Traci down as bad as we think. Either way we still have peace.
Immediately after that right thing is to hopefully get the rest of Traci’s 4 drains out this Friday when we visit our plastic surgeon again. These have greatly impeded Traci’s movement and general freedom the last 2 weeks. I’ll be honest - it’s also kept me kinda pinned in too as I have to empty them every 8 hours. It is our heart’s desire to say goodbye to them for good this Friday. Please pray we do as healing up totally from the surgery and reconstruction is a prerequisite for beginning chemo treatments in early to mid October.
While in the hospital we sent out the attached picture of Traci and me with our Team Traci hats on. These were made by a wonderful friend from our home church here in Monroe, GA. Due to the number of people who read these updates I am not going to post her name and email address here but I will be happy to introduce you to her via email if you write me and ask for it. We are asking that a $15 donation per hat be made through our church to the breast cancer research movement so keep that in mind as you write me asking for her email address. Understand that neither she nor we are making any money off of this endeavor at all. It’s a way to promote Traci’s impending victory over breast cancer while also aiding researchers in finding a cure for it in our lifetime.
A final word about our kids and we say this not out of obligation but as a way to answer the sincere concerns that so many of you have voiced. Firstly, we are calling grown up things by grown up names as we deal with this. We call it cancer so we can pray against cancer. We celebrate the victories like mommy getting drains out and we anticipate the challenges like mommy losing her hair. Our 11 and 8 year olds are obviously more aware of what’s going than our 5 and 3 year olds. The older boys know that the peace Mom and Dad have is peace they can have too. They ask questions when they have them and we do our best to answer them. Sometimes we cry. More and more we are laughing. The younger two are just kinda happy go lucky kids anyway so best we can tell they are doing just fine. Secondly, as we are a home school family, this has obviously caused an interruption in what we had planned for this fall. So many who are close to us, home school families as well as traditional school families, have reminded us that in the long term this will not impede the development of our children at all. They are learning things, deep things of the heart and soul, on this journey that no school, home or not, could ever teach them. They are seeing the character of their family being tested. They are understanding how personal responsibility and self initiative on their part allows them to keep up with a lot of their school work. They are seeing friends and family fill in teaching them from time to time. They are learning things we can’t comprehend right now. We went from a state of slight panic (“what will this to our kids academically?”) to a place of excitement and anticipation (“just imagine what our kids will learn through all of this”) so please know we are at peace and we hope you will be too as it relates to our children. The out of home aspects of our education (archery, piano, science, and classical disciplines) are all still going on as planned so there is still a lot for these young students to be busy doing. School is definitely not out!
Well, if you’ve read this far then you truly are interested in our work in Russia and Traci’s journey to victory. We commend you for staying with us this long. If you’ve just Page Downed to this point to see how long I might drone on and on then let me honor with you a bullet point synopsis of where we’ve been:
· Traci is cancer free! The upcoming chemo and possible radiation to follow are initiatives simply to lessen the chance she’ll ever have to deal with this again.
· She is still technically recovering from the surgery and reconstruction from September 7. We hope to get her final 4 drains out this Friday.
· Chemotherapy will begin in early to mid October with 6 doses coming 3 weeks apart.
· Rob’s work as Russian Operations Director with YouthReach International goes on though he is doing most of it from home and over the computer at the moment. Should you care to help our ministry (not us personally mind you but our ministry) go to www.youthreach.org to learn more about what we do and/or click here to make an online donation. Feel free to write me as well. I’m always up for a long email full of relevant details…as if you did not already know that.
· Our ministry blog runs all updates on Traci so keep http://blog.youthreach.org/ bookmarked if you care to. If you have just jumped over to our emails from Facebook check out that blog for each of the updates since that U Turn in Germany I wrote about earlier until now.
· Team Traci hats are available with your name on the back for a donation of $15 through our church but for breast cancer research. Email me if you want to know how to get one.
· Our kids are doing well and, no, summer vacation has not been extended until Mommy is finished with cancer treatments.
Wow, that was a lot. I hope it encourages you, updates you, and calls you to express your gratitude to God for taking care of the Brownes. He has definitely done that in a big way and we believe that he will continue to do more of the same as our journey continues.
Thank you again for your love, concern, and interest in Traci and our family,
Rob (and Traci, Benjamin, Nate, Aidan and Anna)
Director of Russian Operations
678-935-0220 x103 Direct
1911 Grayson Hwy, Ste 8-344
Grayson, GA 30017
| || |