Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Barbie, Part 3

The next morning when Barbie knew her father had gone out on his fishing boat, she crept home to bed. Even under her blankets, she couldn't get warm. She shivered and shivered. Then she began to sweat and threw off all her covers. All day she shivered and sweat, shivered and sweat in alternating waves. That night, she began to cough--deep, harsh coughs that shook her to her core. Her mother brought her fish broth, but the smell nauseated her.

Finally, after about a week, the worst of the illness seemed over, but Barbie felt weak. Her brown cheeks were pale. Her eyes had lost their usual sparkle. When she tried to return to school, even the short walk up the path exhausted her. And her coughing continued.

After several months, she still had not improved. Her parents arranged to take her to the doctor in Kodiak. After examining her, he told her parents that she had tuberculosis again, this time in her lungs. She was again sent to the sanitarium at Mt. Edgecumbe. There, after further examination, the doctors found that her lungs were so destroyed by the tuberculosis that she could not get well. They decided they could do nothing for her and would send her home to die.

In the meantime, the Cousarts learned of Barbie's condition. Knowing that God could heal her, they sent prayer requests to Christians they knew all across America. Before long, they heard that the doctors had changed their minds. Instead of sending her home to die, they would try a new drug on her--streptomycin. The results were miraculous. Within six months, Barbie was well enough to leave the hospital. (Streptomycin is still used today to treat tuberculosis, a once incurable disease.) The doctors, however, fearing she would only get tuberculosis again, said Barbie could not go home to Old Harbor.

The Cousarts were no longer operating the Bethel Beach Children's Home, which had been closed. They now owned they own home, where they lived with their three children. The Alaska Native Service social worker, who knew of the Cousarts' interest in Barbie, called to ask them if they would take Barbie into their home as a foster child. Even though friends and doctors warned them that their children could catch tuberculosis from Barbie, the Cousarts felt it was God's plan that she come to live with them.

What a joyful reunion when Barbie arrived at the Cousarts! Now she could go to Sunday school every Sunday without fear of receiving a beating! Barbie lived with us until she graduated from high school ten years later. She became one of the family--loved and accepted as a daughter and sister by all of us.

And none of us children ever contracted tuberculosis or even have a positive TB test to this day!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Barbie, Part 2

The Cousarts began to pray that God would send a missionary to Old Harbor. Before Barbie and Ralph boarded the plane to leave, the Cousarts gave them each a Bible. Clutching their Bibles and holding back their tears, the two children turned to wave and smile then disappeared into the airplane.

When Barbie and Ralph arrived home in Old Harbor, they found that God had already answered their prayers. A young lady named Violet Abel had come to live in Old Harbor to tell the villagers about Jesus. How Barbie and Ralph loved to visit her and listen to her tell the Bible stories!

Then one morning at breakfast, Barbie and Ralph's father said sternly, "You've been going to the missionary's house, haven't you?"

"Yes," they admitted, trembling with fear.

"The priest has forbidden us to go there," their father thundered. "You will not go there again. If you do, I will beat you!"

Hearts thumping hard with fear and disappointment, the two children left the house silently to go to the one-room schoolhouse. Barbie felt as though someone had turned out all the lights in her heart. She loved Violet Abel. She would miss her very much. And she wanted to learn more about Jesus.

For many days, Barbie obeyed her father. But finally she couldn't stand it any longer. She decided to take the risk and visit Violet. After school, she looked to see that no one was watching as she quickly ducked into the doorway of Violet's house. Inside, she was having such a wonderful time listening to stories about Jesus that she completely lost track of the time. Before she knew it, it was dark. Her father would be home. He would ask where she had been.

Afraid to go home and face her father, Barbie walked up and down the beach in the cold wind for hours. When she could walk no longer, she huddled down in the shelter of a rock and fell asleep.

To be continued: Barbie, Part 3

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Barbie, an Aleut Girl Who Became My Sister

Barbie was an Aleut girl, born in the tiny village of Old harbor on the shores of Kodiak Island, the largest of a long chain of islands that extends from southwestern Alaska in the Pacific Ocean. Called the Aleutian islands, this chain stretches so far west that the International Dateline must jog around it. Barbie's father was a fisherman, as were all the men of Old Harbor. Salmon, halibut, and other fish and seafood made up the main part of the villagers' diet. In the cool summer months, they picked wild blueberries, goose berries, and salmon berries from the treeless hillsides above the village to add variety to their diet.

Old Harbor in the late 1940's and 1950's had few modern conveniences--no running water in their houses and no electricity. Kerosene lanterns lit their homes on the long winter nights. They carried water in buckets from a nearby stream or melted huge chunks of ice in the winter. Instead of toilets, outhouses stood behind each house. Since lumber was scarce on this treeless island, the houses themselves were small, hardly more than shacks.

The largest building in the village was the Russian Orthodox church with its onion-shaped dome, the Russian cross on top. The Russian Orthodox priest held a lot of power among the Aleuts. As their spiritual leader, he was respected, even feared, and obeyed without question.

When Barbie was just a little girl, she and her older brother, Ralph, became very sick. Since no doctors lived in Old Harbor, their parents had to take them several hours away by fishing boat to Kodiak, the largest town on Kodiak Island. The doctor there examined them and found that they were suffering from tuberculosis, a very serious disease. Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs, but Barbie and Ralph's tuberculosis had attacked their spines. They needed surgery to remove the diseased bones. That meant they would have to fly in an airplane to a faraway hospital somewhere in the United States (Alaska was still a territory then).

After two spinal fusions and having to lie perfectly still for many weeks, the two young children were returned to Alaska to another hospital, a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients at Mt. Edgecumbe, near Sitka, Alaska. After several years of treatment and some schooling, they recovered and were sent to the small children's home in Juneau operated by my parents, where they would live until they grew strong enough to return to their family in Old Harbor.

At the Bethel Beach Children's Home, Barbie and Ralph found many other children to play with. Picnics at Tee Harbor, romps in the tall grass with the other children and Taku, the husky-German shepherd-wolf dog, filled the long summer days. With nourishing food, fresh air, and exercise, Barbie and Ralph gained weight and strength. The thing they liked best of all was when their houseparents, Mr. and Mrs. Cousart, took down the big Bible story book and read aloud the stories of Jesus. And each Sunday morning all the children dressed in their best clothes, and everyone went to Sunday school.

By the end of the summer, Barbie and Ralph were strong enough to return to Old Harbor. They both cried because they didn't want to leave the home where they had been so happy, where they had learned about the love of Jesus. Who would tell them more about Jesus in Old Harbor?

To be continued: Barbie, Part 2