ashleyandandrew

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Thank You November 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyandAndrew @ 10:57 am
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In 16 short months of life in Costa Rica serving as a missionary, I have learned a ton. In fact, “a ton” is highly understating the number of lessons I’ve learned. I wish I could come up with words to describe all the ways I’ve grown as a person throughout all of this. When I think of cramming all that I’ve learned while doing this into just over a year’s time, it sounds like crazy talk. For all the many people who have helped me learn and grow in my time here, I’d like to say thank you. You have taught me much.

Thank you to the founders of FSM for teaching me about not being afraid of the challenges that exist in this world. I am no longer so overwhelmed by what needs to change that I am too scared to take the first step. I can imagine many years ago that it seemed like a crazy idea to think we could actually change Bajo Tejares in real, tangible ways through this mission. But that craziness didn’t stop the founders from carrying through the vision God had for this community. What if it had? What if they were too afraid to take on something like this? We’d have a lot of people in this community a lot farther from God. We’d have a lot of kids continuing to struggle with their education and continuing the cycle of giving up. There would be a void of happiness that this mission brings. We’d miss out on the laughter of the children when they come here to play and experience what safe and secure feels like. There are a few of us here at the mission still that knew Larry personally. Occasionally, one of us will say something like “What would Larry have done in this situation?” First and foremost, we want to do whatever God would have us do. But I always think it’s interesting that we can think about things by asking what Larry would have done and simultaneously understand that that is what God would want us to do as well. I think that goes for all the founders honestly. That’s when you know that you’ve been fortunate enough to have great leaders in the faith to look up to. For that, I am also grateful.

Thank you to the mission teams and volunteers that have come through here in our time because from them I have learned the true meaning of being one body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” Sometimes you hear verses over and over, but until you have seen it lived out, they are just words on a page. I’m fortunate to have seen what it’s like to work together as the body of Christ with many, many people from all over the world. It has taught me that we all bring something to the table and it would be a grave misfortune for any one of us to break away from what God would have us be as one.

Thank you to the tween and teen girls who have taught me how vitally important it is to treat others as you wish to be treated. It is something so simple that we all learn in elementary school. Yet somehow, I’ve come to appreciate this group of girls so much for always being gracious. There are a group of them that have never given up on me and my pitiful Spanish. In the beginning, it must have been a huge headache for them. Now, we talk and talk and talk. Don’t get me wrong, my Spanish isn’t amazing now by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done. It would have never even gotten to that point of such easy conversation if they had stopped bothering a long time ago. I am so grateful that they never gave up on me. I know that I don’t ever want to give up on anyone when they are making a genuine effort in whatever aspect of life it may be in. You never know the fruits that your efforts could bare on either side of that situation.

Thank you to our generous sponsors who have taught us so much about God’s faithfulness. God is faithful to provide and it’s been proven to us over and over again. We could never have done what we’ve done here without people being generous and believing in what we came here to do.

Thank you to a few of my closest friends back home for teaching me the value of wise counsel. I can’t even recall the countless hours spent discussing my life here and the challenges that have come up. I am lucky to have friends that listen without fail but never tell me what I want to hear just because I want to hear it. To listen unconditionally is a marvelous thing. But to have friends who only tell you what you want to hear is a terrible thing. I have genuine, honest friends who may not have known all the characters in the scene and perhaps couldn’t even follow all the complexities of what was happening, but gave their best, straightforward advice that they could offer up. I’ve always been very appreciative to have friends that are true Proverbs 13:20 amigos. I can certainly look back on the past year and say that I have been walking with the wise, maybe from another country, but we’ve still walked this path together.

Thank you to my fellow gringos here in San Ramon for reminding me of the importance of fellowship and how important your own culture will always be to you. It’s not always easy being immersed in a culture so different from your own, but I have greatly appreciated my time spent with other Americans as a small escape back to my “normal” when I needed a break.

Thank you to the college kids of Bajo Tejares for clearly exemplifying what it means to not give up. We have six kids currently studying at university and two more graduating this year who will begin their college coursework next year. The drop-out rate is unbelievably high in this particular neighborhood. I would attribute that partly to the cycle of poverty and uneducated families continuing generation after generation. When the vast majority of parents here are illiterate and unable to assist their kids with any of their homework ever, it makes it difficult for children to grow up and succeed. This mission is slowly helping to break that cycle. More and more teenagers are working hard and being encouraged to keep going. But to the leaders of the pack who have faced more adversity than any other kids here, thank you for having the courage to do what others have said you can’t. And I will just say that some of those people who discouraged them to continue on have come from within their own families. Ponder that for a moment. What’s more, thank you to the college kids for being the example for the young ones that will hopefully follow in your footsteps.

Thank you to our wonderful families who have supported us immensely throughout this process. They have proven that being far from each other is in fact difficult, but not impossible. I’m grateful for family that understood that we needed to go.

Thank you to so many people back home who have taught me the incredible importance of encouragement through positive words and prayers. I never saw myself as the kind of person who needed to hear words of encouragement often but it has strengthened me greatly throughout our time here. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Being the recipient of all the encouragement I have received will forever make me want to encourage others in the same way.

Thank you to my husband Andrew who has and will forever lead by example in what it means to serve others selflessly, continuously, and without complaining. You will not come across anyone who will work harder at serving others than him. We’ve put in more hours here than I can imagine any job ever requiring.  There have been too many times to count that I have been so exhausted and wanted to take an evening off from something or skip this or that, but Andrew was there to encourage me to keep going. His example has taught me much. He doesn’t get nearly as much credit because he tends to not be the upfront, go-to person for people outside of the mission and the big decision maker like I have been. I will say this much though, we are a package deal and I wouldn’t have been nearly as successful here without him by my side.

Thank you to the children of Bajo Tejares who have opened my eyes in too many ways to count and have taught me that everyone has a story. Always be compassionate. You never know what that story may be. Unfortunately, I’ve heard some terrible life stories here and it devastates my soul. I want to know every story of every child here, but that would take years and years. I’m grateful to even know just a small portion of the kids well enough to know their stories. And though they break my heart, I think it makes Romans 12:15 more and more important for me to remember. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” I’ve shared in a bit of both with the children here. I love the times of rejoicing because it multiplies the happiness. I think we would all bypass the weeping part given the chance, but I think it’s a good thing that the kids always have people here to share in that with them too when it comes up.

Lastly, thank you to God for choosing an average person like me to do something extraordinary like this. I have no idea why He’d ever choose me to do all of this. I often think that I don’t do nearly enough here to deserve all the blessings I keep receiving. There are so many precious memories that I will forever cherish from this place and these people and this time in my life. One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from the Old Testament when God brings the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua 21:45 says “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” God has taught me to believe in the change that will take place in this world, and to believe that it could involve me if I allow Him to use me.

I sometimes attach songs to memories. When I hear “Thank You” by Mozella, it always reminds me of Costa Rica. It probably always will. Anyways, here is a link to the song on youtube and the lyrics.

 

Mixed up and lost

You showed me love at no cost

And when nobody else cared

You were there

 

Down on my luck

You helped my life get unstuck

And when the world went away

You stayed

 

Thank you for the good times

Thank you for your love

Thank you for the joy you’ve given me

Yeah, yeah, thank you

 

You fight off my enemies

You’d take a bullet for me

And you know I’d do the same for you

‘Cause that’s how we roll

Connected at the soul

And I just want you to know how I feel

 

Thank you for the good times

Thank you for your love

Thank you for the joy you’ve given me

Yeah, yeah, thank you

 

Thank you for loving me every day

Thank you for showing me the way

Thank you for things that I’d never say

Thank you for the good times

Thank you for your love

Thank you for the joy you’ve given me

Yeah, yeah, thank you, thank you

 

Things that Plague Me June 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyandAndrew @ 1:15 am
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What a title, right? I spend most of time writing about the wonderful aspects of my life here so that I can remember those moments in the years to come. But occasionally, I realize that should my children or grandchildren read these entries decades from now, they won’t be getting the full picture if I only ever share the good. While I choose to focus on the positive, it’s certainly fair to say that there are struggles of being a missionary. Like everything else, it’s a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I like to read articles from People magazine online. Don’t ask why. Do I think it’s necessary to know when Kim Kardashian goes to the grocery store? No, not particularly. But in some ways, maybe checking out these ridiculous headlines makes me feel a little more connected to American culture from afar. Nonetheless, recently I have started reading the comments people leave on these articles. If you want to know what the deterioration of society looks like, check out what people have to say on things that don’t even matter. Go find the most heartwarming story you can drum up on People.com and read the first twenty comments. Someone is bound to say something bitter and nasty no matter what the article is on. I guess I could understand if maybe it were an article on infidelity, bullying, or any other topic that upsets people. But anything will set some of these whackadoos off. One of my personal favorites is “Who cares?” yet they took the time to read the article and comment on it.

I guess I should get on with the point because random people’s idiotic comments on an article are not actually what plague me. The reason I mention all of that is because I recently read a piece about Kate Middleton. Talk about a woman who has done nothing to deserve all the hatred flung her way. What took me by surprise in browsing the commentary was that an unbelievable number of people in the world think that she loves the attention and wants to be in the headlines nonstop. Really? It reminded me of myself and of my life here. Yes I know I am not royalty or internationally known. Just hear me out. Sometimes people make assumptions about the positions others land in without ever knowing a thing about it.

Too many people to count at this point have made comments about me being in charge here. From what I gather, it’s rarely said in a negative way, but that it’s just what people assume whether good, bad, or indifferent. One of the things that eat away at me is when someone actually thinks that I have this desire to be in control of everything. Here’s the thing, I never asked to be head honcho here. I’m not even saying that I am, because it’s certainly not a self-proclaimed thought. I cannot help it that every single issue that comes up comes to me. If a teacher needs to leave early one day or recreation guy is upset with the ministry staff using equipment at night and not putting it away, I will hear about it. I’m here 24/7 and by default on-call 24/7. But to the people out there that actually think I want to be in control of everything, I would love to say what makes you think that I asked for this? I no more asked to be the person in charge here than Kate Middleton asked to be in the headlines over wearing the same outfit twice.  

There are people that want the power and control, I’m just not one of them. What everyone has to understand is that with great power comes great responsibility. I can’t tell whether I’m quoting Voltaire or FDR, but rest assured, I’m not quoting Spiderman. Can I handle the power and responsibility? You better believe it. I think life would be a thousand times easier if people who could handle the power and responsibility just stepped up to the plate and took it. Those that couldn’t handle it could just step out of the way. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think it’s completely commendable to admit that you don’t want to be the person responsible for everything. Being able to handle it and asking for it are two different things though. I feel as though so much of the time, there are people that really want the power and have little to no understanding of all that comes with it. But, man, do they want it! Sometimes, I want the critics to walk a mile in my shoes. Want to make the decisions around here? Great, go for it. It ain’t all fun and games. Just wait until someone doesn’t agree with one of the decisions you make. I’ve learned beau coups about what it means to try and make everyone happy and fail miserably. I’ve never been a people-pleaser kind of person, but something about working full time at this mission has consistently made me feel like there’s more at stake. That’s why I try so hard to keep it all running smoothly all while doing what’s right. Do I always succeed? Not at all, not even close. But I fully understand that to whom much is given, much is expected. Whether I asked for the responsibility that I have or not, God has put me in this position and I am doing the best I can. I make decisions here for what is best for this mission and the people that are a part of it because I know that’s what God expects of me.

As I said, most people who are commenting on how I run things here are mainly referencing the positive ways that I hold things together. I will forever be grateful for the kind words and encouragement from people like that. But this isn’t real life or an accurate reflection of my life if I never talk about the challenges of being here in this position that I am in. So there ya have it folks! Things that plague me!

By the way, I was considering going with the phrase “Things that Grind My Gears” as my title but then realized that the terribly annoying phrase itself happens to grind my gears!