Hello, from the United States! It is good to be back for this all too short vacation. Eleven days isn’t so much time in the grand scheme of things. After all, we’re already leaving next Sunday! I had lost touch with how unbelievably hot Florida is in the summer. Absolutely suffocating. The weather of San Ramon up in the mountains seems like paradise about now. Wednesday morning was quite chilly when we set out for the airport just after 4:00 a.m. I actually recall saying to Andrew while standing in the San Jose airport, “It’s going to be so nice and warm in Florida when we get there.” Nice and warm? I’ve been a Floridian for 26 years which would be my entire life. What was I thinking by defining this scorching summer heat as warm?
All complaining about the weather aside, there’s really nothing like the feeling of summertime. School is out and whether you are of that age or not, you can feel the excitement of being a little more free. I was driving home from dinner the other night around 8:45. The sky was the most majestic shade of blue as it transformed from day to night. It gets dark in San Ramon at 6:00, so for me all the extra daylight is amazing. I love jumping in the car and going for a drive in the evenings, windows down, just cruising.
Everyone likes to ask if we’re happy to be on vacation. My initial thought is, what kind of crazy question is that? Who doesn’t love vacation? But in all seriousness, this is a much needed vacation. We have kicked off the summer team season at the mission. I can’t even put into words how much work that is. Everything from pre-planning before the team gets there to being on call 24/7 while they are there to sending them off and getting everything back in order for the next group arriving. I think it takes a couple of rounds before it feels normal and routine. The first team got off to the most awesome start. We had a last minute switch from the big bus to three small busses. We stood there with 34 people and all their luggage staring down these micro-busses in complete bewilderment. They had exactly enough space for all the people on their team. We had exactly enough space in the truck for all the extra luggage. The team wanted to go to a restaurant to eat lunch before going to the mission so we led everyone there first, all busses in line behind us on the pista. But then once we got there, the most amusing scene took place. The bus drivers asked us if we knew how to get to the mission in San Ramon. Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don’t know how to get to where you’re supposed to be taking this very large group of 34 people?? I think it was a cross between pulling it together and having a breakdown at the same time, but I went to the bathroom in the restaurant to just think through this situation. When I walked back outside, I saw Andrew and the bus drivers hunched down to the ground, staring at a “map” drawn with a rock. This was all accompanied by lots of hand motions and Spanish directions. At that point, I just had to laugh. Andrew and I went ahead to the mission with the rest of the luggage and prayed that the team made it back with their bus drivers safely, eventually. Which they did.
Part of the randomness that I mentioned above would definitely be referring to the number of bathroom issues we’ve encountered since the teams have arrived. Andrew has never unclogged so many toilets within a two week time period. I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes over the last toilet overflow. Andrew started plunging and dirty water started sloshing all over the place. At one point, he said “if this water touches me, I’m done.” After many failed attempts at plunging, we go get the guard and ask him for another plunger. Man. Ronald came in there and viciously plunged that toilet like a boss. Of course, the water sloshing was at tsunami levels at that point. I think we used twenty-something towels to dry that mess up. Washed the towels twice. Bleached the whole bathroom three times. That’s the kind of excitement that teams have the potential to be a part of at this mission!
So let’s try that question one more time after reviewing the above recent events. Are we happy to be on vacation, away from overflowing toilets and total chaos? Most definitely. We have been caught up in a whirlwind since we landed Wednesday. It’s hard being born and raised here, having serious roots in Jacksonville, to come in for ten or twelve days and attempt to see everyone we want to see. And you’re never reminded more of how much you’re missing while away as when it’s right here in front of you. One of my closest friends had a baby about a month ago. I missed her entire pregnancy, the baby shower, delivery, and everything in between. I wish I had some sort of fluffy thing to say here about my time away all being for the kingdom of God so it’s no big deal. Maybe some people can say those things and believe them but I’m just not one of them. Whether I were living in Latin America helping traffic drugs or doing what I’m actually doing as a missionary, neither situation makes it easier to miss the events like this that happen in the lives of people who are important to me.
I was talking very recently with someone back at the mission before we left. I’ll loosely call this the “transition” talk. As many people know by now, Andrew and I originally committed to be missionaries at FSM Costa Rica for one year. That year is up on July 5th. Time has flown by. After much prayer and consideration of many factors, we have extended our stay through the end of this year. That gives us just about six more months there. So during this transition talk, we began to discuss how we would begin to shift some of the responsibilities that I currently take on to other staff and board members. I guess in my mind, I was more or less thinking that in September or October I would begin to get everything in order for our departure. It came as a bit of a surprise to be having such a conversation in June. I’ll preface this next part by saying that the reality is, it’s better to prepare as far in advance as possible to give the staff on the ground there the best chance at doing this on their own when they lose two full-time staff members in December. So it makes sense. But really, what am I if not honest in these blog posts? My initial thought when he brought up “transition” talk was to say “Hey listen buddy, I’m not ready for this! Take your transition talk and… ” That’s were we’ll stop that thought. But for the record, I have become OK with discussing the transition for the reason I mentioned above. It’s the rational thing to do. Rational is not a synonym for enjoyable or comfortable. That’s life though!
I really can’t recall if I have written this in a blog before or simply said it many times in many conversations with inquiring minds. There is your warning that I may be repeating myself. Andrew and I truly feel that at a year in, we finally feel comfortable enough with the language and where we are with our relationships, that it would be impossible to pick up and leave right now. The next six months has the potential to be a huge time of growth for everyone. We can’t imagine being in Costa Rica and packing our things to come back to the states for good next week. Truth be told, we cannot even imagine doing that six months from now. But somehow, someway, the transition talk gave me a good bit of peace to carry me through what I feel is going to be one of the saddest goodbyes of my entire life. Andrew has said it best and most simply when he said that we will always return to this place, but not like this. We will come back for visits a week or two at a time. The truth is that we will likely never live in Costa Rica full time again though. It hurts to think about that in such a way. And now here I am, sitting in the Panera on 3rd, with tears streaming down my face. These blogs are going to get progressively harder to write, and possibly to read as well!
OK, time to pull it together and wrap this thing up. I say all of these things to get to the main point that we are going to enjoy the heck out of the remainder of our vacation here in the states. And then… we return to finish this mission we were sent on! I don’t want to lose sight of how important these last six months will be. I absolutely cannot let the hardest part of saying goodbye at the end of this deal put a damper on anything that leads up to that moment. This year and a half stint of my life is hardly what defines my entire life. Andrew said recently that leading up to the decision to move to Costa Rica, the thought he kept coming back to was that if we went and did this huge thing that God was asking us to do, we’d never regret it. No truer words were ever spoken. Even through the most difficult of times, I have never regretted it. But should God have given us a calling that we never answered, we’d regret it for the rest of our days. So we finish what He asked of us, and we finish well.