A parasite is defined as “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.” Since moving to Peru in July, I have become well acquainted with various parasites. They’re easily contracted, even with the best of precautions. I have “benefited” from some of the side effects of succumbing to a couple of these parasites – ha. And, although I truly wanted to lose weight, this would not be the method I would recommend.
The first parasite to attack me was my second week here. We ate out at a street vendor, which for most Peruvians is no issue. My body was not prepared, and thus, I was quite sick. A trip to the emergency room and four hours of IV fluids and antibiotics, and I was much better, except for the extreme fatigue and thirst that lasted for a few days longer.
The next one I caught was while we were in Ayacucho in late July. In fact, 3-4 of us on the San Ramón church’s mission trip were unfortunate enough to battle this particular parasite. Although not confirmed, we believe it was from the food we ate one night at a restaurant. I’ll spare you the specific symptoms we had, except to say that we were each very weak and fatigued by the time the medicine fought off the parasite.
The next parasite to find me was probably due to forgetting to keep my mouth closed in the shower. I am assuming that this is the culprit as there isn’t any other explanation. This particular parasite again made me weak and fatigued, but it also brought with it a fever and chills. Two rounds of medicine finally knocked this one out.
The last gastrointestinal parasite that I’ve battled has hung around a bit longer than I care to admit – we’re going on week 5 now. We’re fairly certain this is simply from eating salad (raw vegetables). This one has actually had a combination of all the above symptoms, and we’re still trying to figure out which medicine will once and for all wipe it out. Each day, Charo says to me, “Toma tu medicina!” which means, “Take your medicine!”
Each parasite comes with its own set of symptoms, and each is battled with its own specific medication. Each one left me weak and fatigued, and some left me quite thirsty. But none of these parasites were as bad as the parasite of discouragement that hit me about six or seven weeks ago. I was discouraged in several areas – with my language acquisition, with the lack of visible results, with feeling out of place, with feeling homesick.
Just like all of the other parasites that I’ve battled since being in Peru, this one hit me full force out of the blue. One day I was good; the next, I wasn’t. Just like the others, I tried to dismiss the seriousness of how “sick” I was. And, just like the others, I wasn’t sure what to do. But, unlike the others, this parasite wasn’t a physical battle as much as it was a battle in my heart and mind.
Just as the gastro parasites knew how to cling to my intestinal tract, the enemy knew exactly where to attack me to have the most impact. He knew that I was feeling alone here in Peru, so he kept telling me I was an outsider and I’d never fit in here. I felt useless and unnecessary, so he kept showing me areas where I was failing. I felt forgotten by family and friends in the US, so he whispered “Have you heard from anyone today?” Because I was weak in my spirit, I was believing every single lie. I was having trouble praying and reading the Bible, which just made things worse.
I’d never thought of being discouraged as a parasite before, but it is. It took my energy. It made me fatigued. It left me weak. And, it left me thirsty. I finally fell flat on my face in front of the Lord, desperate for healing from this parasite of discouragement. And, just like He always does, He brought healing. He restored my energy and strength. He reminded me of Deuteronomy 31: 8, “And the Lord said, ‘He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.’” He left the thirst, for that thirst is for more of Him. He has also given me several encouragers and encouragements along the way the last 3 weeks or so.
Other parasites we may contract are bitterness, hatred, selfishness, jealousy, and the list goes on and on. But the medicine for each of these is the same – the Lord. So, whatever parasite may be living in you, take your medicine!