I want to kick this whole thing off by saying that I didn’t blog for the entire month of September and you all have no idea how much that hurts my obsessive compulsive soul. Every time I come to the blog site, I catch myself glaring at the archives on the right side. They will forever read that I got lazy and blogged every single month except one… ONE. I can’t handle it. So now, I will blog with a vengeance.
Well people, we now have our one-way flights home booked for December. It was significantly harder than I expected it to be. And I think I delayed it as long as I could. We will return to the United States on December 21st. One of the most challenging aspects of the move back is to try and be excited about getting back to Florida. We are so lucky to have friends and family who are genuinely excited and eager for our return. I am grateful for our relationships back home and looking forward to getting back to them in person. That is the truth. But I can’t explain how difficult it is to think about leaving here. I’m just not at all prepared to say goodbye to all the people. I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety here lately. Some nights, I can’t shut my mind down and it’s just constantly racing when I start to think of our goodbyes. I guess when I am doing my thing all day every day, I don’t have time to think about those things. When I am laying in bed at night with nothing but silence in the air and my own thoughts to deal with, I begin to plan out what I need to do before leaving, who I need to say goodbye to, the special activities I want to do with certain people before I leave. One night, after about two hours of this and being well into the wee hours of the morning, I broke down and started crying. That’s the first time I’ve let myself process our departure in such a way. I’ve been very fortunate recently because I feel as though God has given me glimpses of excitement when I think about my return to the U.S.
Anyways, enough of all that. I don’t want to put a damper on the rest of the blog. I was asked the most interesting question the other day. Tamara, a 5 year old in my preschool program, asked me if I could speak Spanish. She was dead serious so I had to answer in an equally serious demeanor. I said “Si,” and she responded “Como?” I explained to her that I was speaking to her in Spanish right then and that’s how. She giggled and giggled. So I then asked her if Andrew could speak Spanish and to go ask him. His answers were identical to mine. She again just laughed.
Mack has become quite popular in his time here. A lot of the younger kids ask to visit him on a regular basis. One day last week, it was about 2:35 p.m. and there was a large group of the preschool program kids waiting by the classroom door. We don’t begin program until 3:00 p.m., so I gathered the group and we began to look around the playground to see if any other program kids were there. I was really just trying to stall for twenty minutes or so. After we searched the entire playground, I told them we needed to check the reading room. As we all head that direction, Eitel runs ahead and into the reading room. Before we even make it to the top, Eitel comes running back out telling us there are no kids in there for program. So I tell the group that we are going to visit Mack before program and I start to move my herd of little ones up to the apartment. They were really excited. I opened the door and sat on the threshold with Mack while they all took turns petting him. He was so calm with all of them. Then I let Mack give me kisses and they just laughed and laughed. They thought it was hilarious. No one was scared of him out of the dozen or so kids there. We all said goodbye to Mack and made our way to the classroom. Now, of course, they ask if Mack can come do program with us each day. That would be a nearly impossible feat to have him sit with me and be calm for that long. Yet I have two more months here, who knows what I could pull off!
My sweet hippie child Sarchari is going to make her debut in this blog. I love this child. She bares a strong resemblance to Pebbles from the Flintstones, except she has this beautiful olive complexion and chestnut colored hair. But otherwise, she’s Pebbles. One day, Jafeth asked Sarchari if she knew who Jesus was. She said that Jesus was God’s son. That’s impressive to me since Sarchari is probably only 4 years old. Then Jafeth asked her where God lived. Her response was just too precious. She said in heaven with Simba and Mickey Mouse. Oh, goodness. A couple of weeks ago, I was pushing Sarchari on the swing. She asked me if I saw the cow off in the distance. I looked and saw it. She asked me if I saw the trees and the clouds. Saw those too. And then she asked me if I saw the airplane. I thought that sounded odd since we hardly ever see airplanes around here. I searched the sky where she was pointing and couldn’t find it anywhere. She just kept saying “It’s right there!” I assure you, there was no airplane anywhere near us. I have no idea how we slipped from reality to make-believe so quickly, but it’s typical Sarchari. I have one last memorable story with Sarchari as of late. While on the playground recently, I hear one of the children crying and I go over to sort out what happened. One of the kids explains that Sarchari hit this boy and that was why he was crying. I turned to Sarchari and asked her if this were true. All she responded with was “suavecito” which means really softly. She then proceeds to demonstrate by lightly patting the boy’s shoulder. Something tells me that’s not quite the way it went down. But nonetheless, I explained to her that she was not allowed to hit anyone, whether it be suavecito or not, and made her sit in timeout for five minutes. She may be the only child I’ve ever made sit in timeout who just takes that time to look around and enjoy the breeze with a smile on her face. Not a single complaint nor did she ask me sixty times if her time were up, or at all for that matter. When her five minutes were up, I told her she could play again and she jumped up and ran off.
I could go on and on with stories about the little kids. They say and do the most hilarious and precious things. The teenagers, well, they’re teenagers. I wouldn’t call them hilarious and precious so much as aggravating and feisty here recently. The kids here at the mission are growing up on us, that’s for sure. Therefore, this group is significantly more challenging to deal with than ever before. Sometimes our entertainment comes more from trying to come up with creative ways to punish them than it does with the “cute” things that come out of their mouths. We had a group of six teenage boys cause a huge ruckus last week with a city worker across the way. The details are not worth sharing, but the punishment is. These guys normally have to read about 17 to 20 minutes in the reading room each day when they come in. Now they have to read 40 minutes for the next two weeks. You would have thought we were going to be force feeding them wet cat food or something. It gets better, they all have to work eight hours each with Pabel doing various projects around the mission. They will be cleaning the outside wall, picking up trash, landscaping, and other wonderful tasks. My personal favorite was to have them go down the hill to collect the large stones that fell when the teams were working on the retaining wall and bring them back up to the mission. That one was Pabel’s idea. I will say, the staff has never collaborated so well together as we did to come up with this particular punishment. The work commences mañana so we’ll see how it goes.
What other cute things have the teenagers done lately? Let’s see, this one pertains to our Tuesday night worship with the youth. Andrew and I have been plotting and planning to pick a night to tell the kids that we are only going to do worship and bible study without any recreation time at the end. The reason for this is because some of the teen guys will come and sit through forty minutes or so of worship and bible study just to get to play on the xbox for half an hour or so at the end. For some of them, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to at least be respectful and not talk while the rest of us trying to worship. And those same kids rarely take any of the bible study questions seriously, which is just sad. So for those reasons, we told them last Tuesday night that we weren’t going to have time for games at the end. If they didn’t want to worship and do bible study, it was completely OK with us if they made the decision to not be there that night and go home. To our surprise, they all stayed anyways. Unfortunately, Andrew had to stop the music a few times because of the unbelievable disrespectfulness taking place during worship. That’s one thing that I absolutely cannot stand is people being blatantly rude and disrespectful during worship. I walked over to Andrew and told him that we should stop after that song and be done with it for the night because I just wasn’t going to tolerate these guys acting like that while we were trying to worship God. I think we’ve had this thought cross our minds a couple of times in the last nine months of doing this with them, but we’ve never come to the point of stopping midway through and ending it all early for the night. During the song when I told Andrew this, a few kids got up and left. A few more followed suit, and so on. Our group of about twenty had dwindled down to seven. When the music stopped, we turned the lights on and I went to the front to tell them we were stopping for the night. As I looked at the seven though, I knew these kids were serious about wanting to be there. I never want to ask kids to leave worship. I would if I had to, but I hate that it would come to that. I was so incredibly relieved that God had sorted this out for us and the kids causing all the problems had chosen to leave on their own and He left us with those that wanted to be there. I felt like this huge burden had been lifted from our shoulders that night. The teenagers that were still there asked if we could just finish the last song at least, as we had picked out four but had stopped after three. Andrew and I glanced at each other and quickly made the decision to move forward with our night as planned. So the nine of us worshipped freely, without any distractions, for the remainder of our time. I will take seven kids who want to worship in truth any day over twenty kids that don’t want to have any part of worship and will disrespect my God the entire time. We told the kids after worship that we intended for them to still have recreation time at the end anyways, we just wanted people to be there for the right reasons. We did the bible study together as one group and ended up having some good discussion. They didn’t rush through it as quickly as possible so they could play the games either. Andrew and I ordered pizza for everyone at the end and we just relaxed and hung out. We ate pizza and listened to music. Everyone stayed a good thirty minutes past when we normally end, but I thought it was worth it. Andrew and I always kind of debrief after worship nights and talk about how we thought the evening went. At the end of the night, I assumed that one us would have a moment of disappointment at the small number we ended up with, but it was the exact opposite. We were both so excited and grateful to have a group that was sincere in their desire to worship and study the word.
Despite the previous irritating stories about some of the youth, I have had plenty of good conversations with many of the youth about all kinds of stuff. More recently, they’ve been asking about our return to the United States. We’ve received lots of questions on why we have to leave. I try to express the best I can that I believe God has called us to return home and that this wasn’t meant to be a permanent move. I’ve also explained that we need to return and work, start a family, etc. Most responses are asking if we could work for a little while and save money, then return. I want to be able to tell them that we’ll do just that, but I really have no idea what we will be called to do in a few years. I’ve promised everybody and their mother around here that Andrew and I will bring our future children here so that everyone can meet them. They seem moderately OK with that promise as the second best thing to us actually having kids here. One of our sponsor children is a teenager, so we’ve already had some of those conversations about our return. He knows we love him and we will miss him. I think it’s going to be drastically more difficult to tell our younger sponsor children that we are moving back to the United States. We’ve somewhat started a timeline of when we will say our goodbyes and announce that we are leaving to various people and groups here. Hard to imagine we are already putting all of that in order.
As I write this, we are 75 days out. There’s much to do in that time period, the major thing being the Christmas parties. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. The days are long but the weeks are flying by. I don’t want to take a single moment left here for granted. Coincidentally, I’m listening to Michael Buble’s version of ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ at this very moment. I know we’ve still got a bunch of memories to make, and who knows, maybe the best is yet to come!