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Inspiring March 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 9:48 pm
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One thing we heard a lot of while in Panama with the Church of Eleven22 team is how inspiring Andrew and I are. Now anyone who knows me at all knows I definitely don’t take myself too seriously. I hardly consider Andrew and I inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, we are overwhelmed by the compliments and kind words. But realistically, we are truly just ordinary people being given the opportunity by God to take part in extraordinary things. What I kept thinking about over and over when people would hear our story and call us inspiring is the fact that we are all called to something. God calls each and every one of us to do something. Maybe leaving everything behind and moving to a foreign country is different than your calling, but you still have one that is equally important. I got to know so many amazing people this last week in Panama. I loved the boldness and passion that every single person seemed to have. Every time I was doing a task, whether it be with one other person or half a dozen others, the same question kept coming up… what’s your story? And I am 100% truthful when I say this, I love hearing peoples’ stories. I mean love. It just gives you that connection with someone, not to mention it can make for great conversation. It became abundantly clear to me that when so many people on this trip would tell me their story and about their life, they too were doing just what God had called them to do. The thing is, I don’t think half of them realized it. I get this odd feeling that people think being a full time missionary is like the trump card to everyone else’s calling and lives. It’s totally not. And maybe I am wrong in that, but it’s what I felt like people were thinking at times when talking about how different our lives were.

Nonetheless, there were a number of things that truly inspired me this past week. One thing I can never wrap my mind around is how perfectly God arranges things. He arranges talents and skills and people in such a way that I will just never comprehend, and that’s OK with me. I like seeing it all happen around me and am content in knowing He is the only one capable of such things. There was such a wide variety of things that needed to be done this week at the mission aside from the monthly feeding program taking place. I love a good to-do list. What I love more is knocking out that to-do list. I have no idea how it came to be, but there is a school bus at the mission in Panama. Apparently when the team arrived, the bus was not working. For me, that’s enough to say OK, let’s leave that be. I cannot even slightly fathom how to fix such a thing. I wouldn’t have even put that on the to-do list honestly. Somehow, someway, Lars was able to get that thing running. We ended up taking the school bus on its inaugural run to the river to do the baptisms one evening. Talk about a bunch of fearless people. Just a couple of days prior, that thing wasn’t functioning and yet we all just jumped in and said let’s go!

One day, somebody went to town to buy a couple of ceiling fans and a few of us are staring at the boxes sitting in the floor. I have technically put up a ceiling fan before but it’s not my favorite thing to do. Just then, John Pickett walks up and says “I can do that.” Thank God. And he was so perfectly content to be the person who took the old ceiling fan down and put the new one up. I am not going to lie, I may have been seriously tempted to complain my way through that task. But in the very same sense, one day my task was to totally clean and organize the main building to prepare it for the inspectors to come the next day. Most people don’t view cleaning and organizing as exciting and enjoyable things to do… but I do. The outdoor storage and laundry area looks absolutely phenomenal and I’m glad I got to do that.

Another example of God pairing things so perfectly is the chicken coop project. One of the guys who started the chicken coop was the same guy who put up the ceiling fan. At some point, the original duo kind of hit a stand still. That is when Andrew and Mark took over the building of the coop. That is the moment I became a little worried for the future chickens of said chicken coop. These guys have never done such a thing but they just started knocking it out. In a few short days, you could legitimately see what they were doing and it seemed to make sense. By the final day, they had built the whole thing and only needed to wrap the wire enclosing the sides. One night as the team was talking about wins and giving praise to fellow team members for various things that they saw during the day, John (ceiling fan guy) talked about being so grateful that Mark and Andrew had taken over the chicken coop project or else they would have been there another three months trying to figure it out. Now it hardly matters who started it or who finished it, but isn’t it something that it got done in the exact way God had planned for it to?

Each night, we had amazing worship with the team. It was totally refreshing to be a part of something so like our church at home.  Moments where you are definitely feeling the presence of God right there with you are also inspiring to me. One night, we had a bonfire outside and did worship in the gazebo. All you could hear were the insects and birds of nature surrounding us as we sang. During the song Holy Spirit, a light rain began to fall. As we sang the chorus, it seemed to be a moment that could only be constructed by God. “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by Your presence Lord.” On that same night, I heard one of the simplest things said by the person speaking. The worship leader, John Warren, was giving the message and sharing a bit of his story and his calling. At one point, he said “John Warren is getting out of the way.” At first I laughed because I think it’s so funny when people talk in third person and I have no idea why. But when I started to think about what he meant by it a few seconds later, I thought to myself  “Ashley Davis is getting out of the way.” I’m going to get out of the way and let God do whatever He wants to do. There were a variety of areas that came to mind for me… in my life, in the place that I serve, in the ways that I think things should be done. I’m getting out of the way.

This week also left me feeling so excited and filled with great anticipation for the orphanage to be officially open and accepting children. There were several kids up at the mission one afternoon playing soccer in a tiny stretch of land with a couple people from the team. As I walked by them, I heard nothing but laughter and joy fill the air. I stopped and watched for a few minutes. Once I realized I was just awkwardly standing there smiling by myself, I kept moving along. But I loved getting that glimpse of what it will be like when I return to Panama and there are kids running around, laughing and playing games, and calling that place their home. It’s going to be fantastic. We got to take part in a bit of planning for the next few casitas to be built. Everyone prayed over the land and the future it holds for babies and children who would otherwise have no place to go. They’re going to have a place to go now, they are going to have a family in the tias and people who come there to love them, they’re going to have good food cooked up for them and someone to help them with their homework, and they’re going to learn about Jesus. I am excited for the missionaries and staff onsite there who are ready to get this thing going. I joked that I would be on the next un-airconditioned bus back there the moment the kids arrived. Of course I was only half joking…

I think that’s all for now from me on the week in Panama. Be inspired… not by me, but by whatever God has in store for all of us!


Face Your Fears March 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 1:51 pm
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So I think I am going to do a couple of blogs to recap our week in Panama with the Church of Eleven22. Otherwise, this would be one crazy, long blog and everyone would stop reading a third of the way through. We had a phenomenal week serving alongside of this team and are so grateful we had the opportunity to do so. We met awesome people and have many new friends as a result!

I’m going to kick this off with a little story that epitomizes what it means to wing it. We had a huge list of things to get done at the mission this past week. In addition to tackling that list, people could also sign up to go on the feeding program and a few other activities outside the mission. One night, I raised my hand to go to the soup kitchen the following day. I thought it’d be cool to serve children lunch and play with them a bit. There is a church that picks kids up from school and serves them a lunch. When we first got to the church, no one was there except the pastor and a few ladies. The pastor said the kids would be there shortly and to expect about fifty of them. He went on to say we’d all do some singing and dancing before we served the food to the children. Cool. So Gary and the pastor go to start collecting the children in the trucks. I walked around back to check if the ladies needed help preparing the food. They didn’t, but we did talk for several minutes. One of the ladies I was talking with about life said my Spanish was really good. I was feeling pretty good about that.  Always nice to get those compliments rather than confused looking people staring blankly back at you when you speak their language.

When the kids start to arrive, me and the four people from the team start mingling with the kids. I always love asking kids how their day at school went. Maybe they have someone at home to ask them that, maybe they don’t. My mom asked me how school went almost every single day of my school going days so it just feels like I should ask kids when I have the chance in case no one ever does ask them. Gary and the pastor had already gone to pick up the next group of kids. The woman in charge comes out and asks what we are going to do. As the only Spanish speaker in the group, I step up and begin to talk to her. I say we are going to dance and sing with them. She says “great, what are you going to sing?” I’m a little taken aback at this point. When we signed up to do the soup kitchen, we thought we were just serving food and hanging out with the kids. The pastor made it seem like we would just join in whatever dancing and singing they were going to do with the kids. So I explain that we don’t have anything prepared. We thought we were singing along with whatever they normally do with the kids. I told her I only know two or three children’s church songs in Spanish and the other Gringos with me don’t know any. By saying that, I was hoping she would realize that we weren’t really equipped for this and they should probably do what they would have done without us there. She actually went the opposite direction with that and said “OK, sing those songs with the kids.”

I need to be really honest and up front with you all right now. My number one fear in life is singing solo in front of people. Forget spiders or heights. I don’t even mind speaking in front of large groups. But singing by myself is utterly terrifying to me. I need at minimum four or five other people to be singing with me. As I said, the other Gringos didn’t know the song I was about to sing. I asked them if they wanted me to try and teach it to them real fast while the woman was explaining who we were to the kids. As a last ditch effort, they said sure. I flew through the verses and motions all the while knowing there wasn’t a prayers chance that they would have actually been able to pick up a song in a foreign language that fast. Again, on my own here in front of 60+ kids and adults waiting for me to start doing something. The woman tries to hand me the mic. Ha. I said no thanks, I don’t like using the mic. It seemed as though the mic might have made it more real that I was about to start singing by myself in front of all these people. There was no bailing out at this point. I feel like this might have been the moment where God just busted out laughing watching this situation unfold. If anyone had said beforehand that when you sign up for soup kitchen, you need to prepare some songs, skits, or something to do in front of the kids, I would have been slightly hesitant. And then knowing I was one of very few Spanish speakers in this group who would be put on the spot to perform relatively solo, I would have been like heck no, see ya later! I’ll go put the millionth coat of primer on the casita instead, have fun! Sometimes, it turns out really interesting when God doesn’t give you the chance to bail.

After I finished singing an old VBS song that I knew with them, I notice Gary and the pastor are back. I walk over and tell him that we were supposed to have something prepared so what should we do next. Gary suggests we act out David and Goliath for the kids in Spanish. Oh man. Ain’t no way that is about to happen when we didn’t bring anything with us to do such a thing. Finally, Gary explains to the pastor that we didn’t know that we were supposed to prepare something and that we’d come back tomorrow prepared. The pastor and women in charge then went on to sing a few songs with the children.

We get ready to start serving the food and I am thinking, thank God… absolutely no more singing on anyone’s part. My part because of the risk of passing out. The woman in charge’s part because screaming into the mic probably isn’t a good thing for everyone’s future ability to hear. Make a joyful noise, yes I know, but it was better for everyone that we went onto the serving of the food. But first, Gary calls me up front where he is standing there with the pastor and a mic in his hand. I’m thinking the pastor is about to bless the food or something. Instead, Gary tells me that the pastor would like him to say a few words and he needs me to translate. Alright people, here’s my second greatest fear… translating into Spanish in front of large groups of people. One on one is no big deal, even translating for a small crowd. But there is nothing worse (besides singing solo) than facing a room full of people who speak Spanish and knowing you are probably about to butcher the language significantly in front of them all. I told Gary he better use simple words and that I would let him know if he needed to reword what he was trying to say. Apparently simple words somehow means multiple verb tenses and what not, but it turns out that the translating part went fine. They got the gist of what I was saying.

In any event, they had prepared arroz con pollo for the kids. As fast as they could scoop it onto plates, we were passing it out. For the drinks, they had a fair amount of cups but then started using old yogurt containers when they ran out. Finally, there were about a dozen kids who had yet to be served. The woman makes an announcement that when they finished their food, bring the plate back up so the next kids in line could eat. Afterwards, we stuck around for a bit to kick a soccer ball around and play some.

Sometimes, events like this take time before you look back and think about how funny it actually was. Luckily, I found the humor in all this that same day. I came back to the mission that afternoon and was telling Andrew about it, laughing the whole way through the story. I actually was thinking later on about the movie Wedding Crashers where Vince Vaughn’s character is talking about his dancing skills. He says “Why’d I have to go showin’ off like that? Now I’m all over his radar. Stupid.” It makes me laugh out loud when I liken it to my Spanish skills that day. I was feeling really good about myself when that woman told me my Spanish was so good. And man, did it put me on the radar to be the one to get up in front of everybody like that! Occasionally, it’s worth facing your fears… like your two biggest fears within a 30 minute time period. But it’s all good!


Recent Happenings March 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 1:56 am
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I’m going to make a serious effort to blog more often, really for my own sake. I am trying to capture all these memories that happen everyday! So in the last week or so, I’ve had several fun moments and realizations with the kids.

Andrew and I have been spending a lot of time in the reading room upstairs in the last couple of weeks. We are training one of our new teachers who was previously handling the reading room, so that task now falls to us until we hire another person. I am very much enjoying my time in the reading room. It is quiet and peaceful… most of the time. Sometimes you have to lay the smackdown. I love when kids, usually around 10 or 12 years old, come in and ask how many minutes they have to read. They so clearly know the rules and that the minutes of required reading is based on what grade they are in. What they are hoping for is that I will not know this tidbit and say a number less than what they have to read. So every single time I answer with a significantly higher number and watch them gasp. Suddenly they say “No! Mentira!” and then tell me their real number. I am amazed how many times this has actually worked on them. Nearly every time.

Just today in the reading room as I was writing this blog, Andrew and I were sitting in the reading room after lunch monitoring the kids. Andrew silently lets one rip. Unfortunately, the smell hit the air instantaneously. I turned around to the table behind me to see if anyone had noticed. One of the many Cristhel’s we have here looks back at me with this puzzled look on her face. Oh no. Then suddenly we hear all kinds of disgusted grumbling from the far table. What a great day to have all the windows open. The wind just carried the smell throughout the entire room. Andrew almost got away with it too. The kids at the far table were about to blame it on poor Yaron. That kid looked mortified. As they all had their shirts pulled up over their noses, they started to ask “quien fue??” I wasn’t going to let Yaron go down for this, I immediately said “fue Andrew!” accompanied by arm outstretched and finger pointing. We all laughed a bit (OK, I was crying I was laughing so hard) and then got back to the reading.

In the reading room, some of the little kids want to have a story read to them because that is how they get the cookies each day. But there are always some that just want to read stories with you. There is a little girl named Nazareth who is in my preschool class. She is easily one of my most favorite children here, though there are too many to count at this point. She is about 3 years old, maybe 4, but tiny. Her voice, body, facial features… all so tiny. Naza is known for finding me on the playground and in her sweet little voice that you can barely hear, she says “un cuento?” (a story?) Whether there are cookies involved or not, she wants me to read a story to her every single time she is here. If possible, multiple stories. She will sit with you as you read to her for as long as you are willing. There have been a few times in the past when I have thought to myself, ‘I’m just too busy to stop and read a story with her right now,’ or others like her. But last week the thought crossed my mind that I always had the luxury of having a story read to me as a child.  When I was in the 3 or 4 year old range, I had two parents who were educated and totally literate. I had a brother around 12 or 13 years old, also literate. I had options! I cannot even begin to tell you how many parents here in Bajo Tejares cannot read or write at all. There are tons of moms here that would probably like to be able to read a story to their child, but can’t. Likewise, children that would love to be read to at their house, but don’t have the resources. If one of the reasons that the little ones love coming here to the mission is to be read to, then that’s incredible. My realization last week was that something I always took for granted growing up is the same thing I need to make time for here at the mission for all of these children. I’m not too busy for that.

Last Friday was our first “tienda” day of the year. There was actually significantly more hype around the store than I would have expected. I will admit, we have some really awesome stuff in the store to start this year off. Teams have brought us a lot of great items and totally restocked us with heaping piles of candy. On top of that, we had a volunteer from one of the Beach teams that reorganized everything and made it look quite fabulous. So anyways, throughout the week leading up to Friday, I fielded countless questions from kids of all ages on when they would get to go buy things and what was in there. I love watching their faces when you tell them how much chocolate is in there. It’s the simple things in life! Any who, Allison was able to buy a few things last week since she is at the beginning of the alphabet. I saw her in the tienda doing her shopping. They are allowed to buy up to three items with their accumulated points. There was a pair of dress up heels that she had to have. Thank God she could afford them. When I was walking around the campus a couple of hours later, Allison comes prancing down towards the classrooms in her heels. By far and away, one of the cutest things I have seen in a long time. That girl pranced all around the playground in those heels. It might have taken her four times as long, but she did it. Sometimes when I think about the reality of what the future could be like for some of the younger kids, I want to remember them in moments like this. I am very aware that we have serious problems with drugs, prostitution, and teen pregnancy here in Bajo Tejares. I know that some of these little angels are going to grow up to make decisions and fall into paths that I would never want for them. But for me, nothing will tarnish memories in my mind like Allison being so excited to buy her dress up heels and show them off by prancing around the whole playground.

Since there was so much excitement surrounding the tienda, I positioned myself on the playground right up by the third classroom. The idea was to keep a little bit of order with all the kids lingering in the area to get a peek. Of course, every single child that Yohan knew got the same request screamed at them as the entered the classroom where the tienda is… to bring him a piece of chocolate. Poor kid has to wait until the fourth week since he’s at the end of the alphabet. So as I am trying to stop kids from climbing all of the railings to look inside the classroom, I notice that Yohan, Hierguth, and Kenneth are up to something. I admit, sometimes all the mischief can get aggravating. But more often than not, it still brings a smile to my face to see young boys like them acting so mischievously, plotting and scheming like normal little boys would anywhere else in the world. I guess for some reason, it makes me feel like they have a chance in those moments to have perfectly normal childhoods. That the troubles they face nonstop in their families and homes don’t exist in those pockets of time. Anyways, I walked over to them and asked what they were doing. Hierguth very coyly says “estamos hablando” (we’re talking). Before I could even say anything, Kenneth turns around towards me and says the same thing. And a split second later, Yohan turns around with a jump and his arms folded across his chest and says “Si! Estamos hablando!” It was like a 5 year old version of The Three Stooges. They looked so cute. Naturally, they tried to get me to guess what they were talking about and asked if I wanted to know. I of course said no, just to have some fun with them. I had my phone with me so we spent the following 15 minutes taking crazy pictures of all of us together.  At some point in time, I am sure I will make a scrapbook of our time here. I am sure those photos and this short bit about that day will make it in there.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the preschoolers, as usual. We have been learning the alphabet and making letters. I have them make the letters by gluing things like cotton balls, tissue paper, or beads onto their piece of paper with the letter already traced on it. The items go back and forth from easy to more difficult items requiring greater fine motor skills. Nonetheless, I have a little boy named Joseth in the class who is 3 years old. He’s the baby of the group and still learning how to behave in a classroom with other children. Today we were working with beads and the letter ‘M’, and by ‘we’ I mean 19 preschool aged kids and myself. I was hustling! After they use their finger to trace the letter in glue, they normally call me over (freaking out in many cases) to get the glue off their finger with the rag. Joseth didn’t do that today and started picking up the beads right away. As you can imagine, the beads started sticking to his fingers. All of a sudden, I looked over at Joseth this afternoon and he is ferociously slinging his hand back and forth over his head and beads are flying in the air all over the place. While this is happening, he is also screaming “ayuda!” over and over again. This is a glimpse into why he has earned the nickname Mr. Ayuda long before today ever happened.

So that is my crazy life as of lately. I’m enjoying all of these little moments that will still bring a smile to my face years from now when I look back on it all. That’s all folks!


Andrew’s Posse March 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 5:54 pm
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I feel strange that I have to introduce myself every time, but since Ashley writes most of the blogs, I feel it is necessary.  This is Andrew, and this is my next blog… Every day something funny or crazy happens with a kid on the playground that I tell myself I’m going to write down.  Now I’ve decided to make a compilation of some memorable occurrences with some of my favorite kids.  Hopefully the things that I write here will entertain those that read it, but to be honest I’m just writing these down for myself so I can come back years from now and remember these precious memories.

Hierguth – This is a little boy (pronounced YAREgoot) who became attached to me pretty early on after we moved here.  He is six years old, or maybe he just turned seven.  I was told by a fellow employee here that when he first moved to the Bajo and started coming to the center, he was very quiet and reserved and always played by himself.  It was evident that there was a lot of hurt in his life, and I’m pretty sure there was abuse in the home.  However, in the past year he has really blossomed and seems to be more of a regular, care-free, happy child.  He still likes to play just with me sometimes, and if I ask him to come play with a group of children he will decline and run off to do something else.  But he is beginning to make a lot more friends and play in groups.  One of the things I love the most about Hierguth is his laugh.  He has the cutest, heartiest laugh, which I can easily evoke due to the fact that he is extremely ticklish.  He will call me a name or do something else to goad me into chasing him, and then I will grab him and tickle him silly.  The other reason why I love him is because he shares my affinity for enjoying scaring the crap out of people.  Most little kids will try to scare you by sneaking up on you or popping around a corner, but they are usually so obvious and transparent that I see it coming from a mile away.  However, Hierguth has legitimately scared me on numerous occasions by waiting around a corner for me.  He is one stealthy kid.  Just recently, he has developed the interesting habit of trying to pull down my shorts as a joke.  That can be a dangerous joke, especially if he happened to grab my boxers in the process.  Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, or I would probably be asked to leave for indecent exposure.  Another thing he has started doing, presumedly as a joke, is trying to punch me in the groin.  He will wind up, say the infamous ninja “Hi-ya!” and let ‘er rip.  He has connected a few times and all I can do is laugh, even as I’m dropping to my knees in pain.  I’m trying to work with him on appropriate playground etiquette…that little bad habit has become our number one priority.

Alma – This is a little girl who needs no introduction if you’ve ever been to Centro Comunidad Cristiana.  She is a beautiful, 6 year old girl with a dark, round face and long, black hair…and she is an absolute firecracker.  She can be so sweet and your best friend, and in the blink of an eye she will turn on you like Old Yeller.  The first time she spoke to John (the first missionary who worked here) when she was three years old, she called him an SOB.  Anyway, she also became pretty attached to me early on.  Every time she sees me she screams my name, comes running and jumps onto me.  She will lead me around every square inch of the compound playing with whatever we come across.  The second that I tell her I have to do something else or attend to someone in another place, she gets a sullen look on her face and storms off and won’t talk to me for the next hour.  That cycle repeats itself two or three times a day.  Something Alma loves to do, along with a lot of the other little girls, is to make “cakes” out of dirt, rocks, random trash lying on the ground, and sometimes spit.  It’s quite disgusting, but they love it.  Every so often Alma will come and make me sit next to the bodega with my eyes closed.  She will recruit several of her friends and they will make me a nice meal on a platter consisting of rice, beans, and meat, and on another platter they will make me a chocolate birthday cake.  Then they will let me open my eyes and sing happy birthday to me.  Once it was my birthday three times in one week.  If I try to open my eyes while they are making my cake, Alma will threaten me.  Some of the stuff that comes out of that girl’s mouth… Once she caught me peeking and asked me in dead seriousness, “Do you want to die?  Ok, then close your eyes.”

There are plenty of other kids I could mention in this, notably Jerry and Wen.  I am very close to them as well, but we have mentioned them before in blogs and nothing particularly interesting has happened with them recently.  I want to finish with a story that happened last week with Heisel.  She is probably 8 or 9 years old, and always comes to the mission with her two little sisters Meisel and Sharon.  She is also pretty feisty and is known for being stubborn when it comes to listening.  She and her sisters have also taken a liking to me, just not to the obsessive level of Hierguth and Alma.  She was playing one day last week with two other little girls and they wanted some bubbles out of the bodega.  This first part is just a funny aside.  We just hired a new playground director, Jafeth, and I have been trying to slowly turn the reins over to him.  That has included redirecting most of the requests and questions his way so the kids begin to realize that he works here now and he is in charge of the playground.  So I told them, “You need to go ask Jafeth, he’s the boss.”  One little girl Kristel said, “No Andrew, you’re the boss.  All this is yours (as she said all, or ‘todo’, she slowly stretched her arm across her body, pointing to the whole playground, for emphasis).  At least I know the kids see me as a figure of authority.  What really stood out about that day was how sweet Heisel was being.  She kept on asking me to hold her, so I would hold her wherever we went.  She clung to me tightly, with her head buried in my neck and her legs wrapped around my waist, the way a father would carry his sleepy daughter to her room for bedtime.  She kept on saying “My Andrew, my Andrew.”  Then she asked me if I could come live with her at her house.  I about melted right there.  I wanted to run upstairs with her still in my arms and ask Ashley if we could keep her.  I’ve always wanted boys when Ashley and I decide to have kids, but that right there made a strong push towards changing my mind.  I don’t know what her relationship is with her father, or if he even lives with her.  Though if she’s anything like most of the kids who live here, it’s probably not the ideal father-daughter relationship.  And then I just became overwhelmed with the thought of a lot of these children living in less than desirable living conditions with a barrage of issues plaguing their childhoods and robbing them of their innocence.  It made me, and still makes me, want to love them that much harder.  I’m not saying that you can’t grow up in Bajo Tejares to be a normal, well adjusted adult and have a fulfilling, God-honoring life, but I still want to take every last one of these children back to United States with us where their opportunities are so much more abundant.  If Ashley and I ever decide to adopt a baby, I know the first place I’m going to want to look.


Time Flies! March 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 8:28 pm
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I can hardly believe it’s been so long since my last blog. February flew by and I was too busy to write about it! What can I say, sometimes life happens and gets in the way of keeping up with the blog. In the last couple of days, I have been reading a few other blogs of people I know living abroad so now I am feeling inspired to keep on writing and capturing various memories of what’s been happening here. Plus countless people have told me they enjoy keeping up with us and the mission through the blog, which is equally inspiring.

This morning, I was laying bed scrolling through Facebook updates before actually getting out of bed. There is a slight chill in the air here today, mainly because of the wind, but it appears to be quite chilly in Jacksonville today. It had me thinking that I would love nothing more than to wake up in my cozy little home by the beach, throw on some clothes and a scarf, jump in the car with Mack, hit up the Starbucks on 3rd, and head to the dog park for the morning. How glorious it would be to be sipping on a deliciously warm venti caramel machiatto and watching Mack zip around the dog park enjoying life on a cool Saturday morning in Jax Beach. None of that is at all possible here, but it was sure nice to think about for a bit.

As I was sitting in the living room a little later, reading articles on my laptop this morning, our neighbor Maga walked up to the front door with fresh flowers for me. Any sad feelings about being anywhere but right here this Saturday morning had evaporated when she gave them to me ‘just because.’ In fact, as of late, I have hardly been able to enjoy any such pity parties in peace. Just yesterday, I went for a walk on my lunch break after being annoyed over something, determining I just wanted some time to myself to think through things. I don’t normally go for walks in the middle of the day so don’t you know I saw half the town on the walk where I wanted to be by myself. On my way up the hill, I notice a car approaching behind me and coming awfully close. I move out of the way only for it to stop next to me. It was Jenny and her boyfriend asking where I was going and if I wanted a ride. I told them I wanted the exercise, but thanks anyways. Then I passed one of the mothers sweeping her sidewalk near the top of the hill. She greeted me and asked “esta cansada, Ashley?” I wanted to answer with “dang straight I’m tired!” but I could hardly breath and didn’t know the correct translation for such a sentiment, so I just said “si” and kept on trucking. No more than two minutes later, Pabel comes zipping by in a taxi waving, likely on his way to the hospital with his wife to check out some complications she is having after her c-section. I make it just past the Hogar para Ancianos and hear a little voice calling my name from the other side of the street. It was Valeria waving to me on her walk home from school. I thought about how nice this half day at school must be for her since she usually has long, full days of rigorous schoolwork at her bilingual school. Maybe thirty seconds later, two teenagers come walking towards me on my side of the street, one of which is one of the more obnoxious 17 year old guys I have ever met in my lifetime and the other is his girlfriend. Why couldn’t Valeria have been on my side of the street and this kid on the opposite side? Literally right after passing these two, the cleaning lady at the mission is walking my way with a bag of groceries in her hand. We passed each other, exchanging comparable sentiments on how hot it was outside that day. I hadn’t even made it to the Maxi Pali yet and had already seen eight people I knew. Unbelievable. Once I got into town, things slowed a bit. I passed Musmanni, the bakery, which smells like heaven. Inside was one of the volunteers who has been coming to the mission. We had just laughed about our feast of sweets the day before that we all enjoyed for Laura’s last coffee on her last day working for the mission. The irony of passing by the bakery and seeing her picking out something delicious yesterday was enough to make me smile. Finally, I went to Aroma’s to grab a quick salad for lunch. Wouldn’t you know the director at Pura Vida Missions passes my table when headed to the restroom and stopped to say hello. Eleven people I know within an hour, all on a day where I wanted just an hour of solitude to be left to my own thoughts.

God has a sense of humor. Even though I assumed I wanted to just get out and be by myself, I come across so many people that care about me and I them. People that I really love. I love having connections that mean something with so many people. I like passing someone in the street and knowing their story. Never in my life did I ever think I would enjoy living in a small town. In fact, when I return to the States one day, it will be straight back to a large city for me. But it works for me here and I actually really enjoy going out somewhere and being guaranteed to know someone.

Anyways, back to what has actually been happening around here in the last month since my last blog. In the second week of February, we welcomed a small team from New Jersey. They were all Puerto Rican and spoke Spanish, what a blessing that was! Of course, Puerto Rican Spanish is different than Costa Rican Spanish… so I had to pay real close attention when they spoke, but I was getting it. One of my managers at the bank was Puerto Rican and his English was so fast I would struggle to keep up, forget about his Spanish. So in the speed sense, I understood better than I expected. What got me was the thick New Jersey accent on top of the Spanish. This group was so much fun though. They did some baseball down in the Bajo, crafts up here at the mission, and then nightly events for the various groups. We served hotdogs each night to the different ministry groups and let me tell you – I’ve never seen so many hotdogs!

The last two weeks have been the Beach UMC teams. This was a fun time for me because I knew several people coming on these trips and we were able to work alongside of them in their construction projects. They took on the sidewalk project down in the village. It looks amazing! I cannot even put into words what a blessing that will be when rainy season gets here. There are at least two slabs down there that I helped smooth out, so there’s something to be proud of! I admit, I didn’t do a wealth of work while down there with the team… but I wasn’t about to take jobs from people who had raised a good amount of money to come down here and serve in this capacity. Plus, I was just enjoying their company for the most part. I do have a quick but entertaining story from my time down there. In the first week, I volunteered to take a wheelbarrow of concrete down the stretch. I was excited since the wheelbarrow jobs are a hot commodity and I finally got my hands on one. So I carry it up to the mixer and set it down. Jack and Don tell me I need to stand there and hold it so it doesn’t fall over when the concrete starts pouring into it. How would I know any different? I wasn’t actually paying attention when the people before me went. And they said it with straight faces so who am I to doubt them? There I am, standing by my wheelbarrow when the concrete starts to pour. It started splattering everywhere! ALL over me. At this point, everyone is laughing hysterically. If you stand too close to the mixer when it’s pouring, you will end up with concrete all over you. Lesson learned. Actually, two lessons were learned; ask a third person to confirm instructions given by Jack and/or Don as they may be setting you up and stand far away from the mixer.

We’re already in March and I have no idea where all the time goes. In the last few weeks, we have hired several new staff members and said goodbye to one of the best we’ve ever had here, Laura. I’m impressed with the people we have hired thus far and I think they are doing a great job. Laura leaving was a difficult thing for us on several levels. She’s truly just a great person, but she was also really great at her job. Several months back when Laura told us she was leaving, I started making this conscious effort to hug all the children more. I know that sounds strange. It’s not as though I never hugged the children before, but it was usually if they came up to me for a hug, I would then hug them. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a very physical person, definitely not a touchy feely kind of person. So for me, it is a conscious effort to be the ‘initiator’ of the hug. But I am making the effort every day now with as many kids as possible because I know that’s something they are going to miss with Laura being gone. We had a really fun final get together for Laura over coffee on Thursday. We closed the mission early that day and originally planned a small gathering. That small gathering turned into a much larger one with coffee, my delicious brownies, pastries, heaping plates of oreos, homemade empanadas, a couple of gifts and impromptu speeches, and over twenty people. Staff, volunteers, friends. But it was a good time. It was also a good reminder of what it takes to keep this place going each and every day. Everybody brought something different to the table, literally – you cannot even imagine the variety of food we had there. But philosophically speaking, all of us bring something unique to this mission; talents, cultures, passions, personalities. All I can say is that it’s good to be a part of it all.