I suppose it’s finally time to break the blogging silence. I haven’t written anything in a while. I think I was slightly afraid that once I opened the blog site, I might revisit the previous posts while I was here and I just wasn’t ready for that. Though I couldn’t help but immediately notice that I am lacking a post from December altogether. We all know by now how much that annoys me… the archives are forever reflecting that I skipped a month! I know I’ve said this before in October or November I believe, but I got away with it. I had drafted the post in one month and finally posted it in another. The archives kept the month I drafted it in. While I feel that I cheated the system, it soothed my soul to see every single month lined up on the right side of my screen without a single month missing. But here we are in late January and it is time to write something. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that December came and went without a blog post. It fits the story and tells its own piece.
When I look back at our last few weeks at the mission, it’s all a blur. It all happened so quickly. We have been back just about a month now, yet it feels much longer than that. Then when I think of things that happened when we first arrived in Costa Rica a year and a half ago, those memories feel like a lifetime ago. The Christmas parties this year were a lot of fun and a huge success. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are reached through the mission. We invite all children, teenagers, and adults who are actively involved in our programs and ministries to the parties. This year, that was nearly 400 people. But that doesn’t include the many more people that come through the mission gates at any given time. I think I did a pretty decent job of staying in the moment and enjoying the parties versus running the show. Being in charge of all those parties is tough because I just want it to go well for the kids and people attending you always run the risk of missing out on the fun by being the go to person and keeping it running smoothly. I was blessed to have enough volunteers and people surrounding me to allow me the chance to just be with the kids and relish my last big event with them.
As a staff, we did a really entertaining skit of the Christmas story. I think we did one run-through and the majority of us had one sheet-fitting with wardrobe, aka Maga. That was it. Talk about typical Latin American planning. My little heart was becoming overwhelmed with the lack of practice and planning that went into this, but it all turned out wonderful. We all looked ridiculously good in our wrapped sheets and headdresses. I was a shepherd and my umbrella as a staff looked quite impressive. Xiomara was just about the best Mary I have ever seen. She’s quite the actress. Poor Vinicio was Joseph and he just had to go along with all her antics. During our one and only run-through, she reenacted a birth scene that had us all in tears we were laughing so hard. Needless to say, that part didn’t make the final cut.
We also learned the dance to “What Does the Fox Say?” as a staff for the youth party. Luckily, we had several more practices for that. It was necessary seeing as though it’s a choreographed deal that is more than a little complex to teach 8 or 9 people. Some of us are slower than others. Interestingly enough, Xiomara saw us practicing one morning and said she wanted to be a part of it. The rest of us are at least a decade or two younger than her and it had taken us a few practices to even come close to having it down. Within one hour, she was easily as good as half of the other people doing the dance. She’s multi-talented. We had someone record our dances a few times and were quite impressed with ourselves. Then the night of the youth party rolls around. I am not going to name names here, but the video of the final product is easily some people’s worst performance! I don’t know what happened but when you look at the pictures of the dance, the still frames would indicate to you that we aren’t even doing the same dance! Nonetheless, the teenagers still loved it. As soon as we began, they started going nuts. I think this dance and even the skit were so much fun because it was all of us as a staff doing this together. We planned it all out together, practiced together, and pulled it off together. That is significant to me as this staff hasn’t had the same unity as in times of the past. It was nice to go out on that note.
Andrew and I chose to stay a week longer after the parties instead of leaving with everyone else once they were over. That was such a smart decision as it gave us time to decompress from Christmas chaos and spend some quality time with everyone in the very tranquil last week of mission activities for the year. There weren’t too many kids at the mission in that last week, but we made sure to spend as much one on one time as we could with the ones that were there. Hierguth came every day and we soaked up our final moments with him. We also got to spend a lot of time with Yohan and little brother Jorhan. I cannot even believe I have waited this long to talk about Jorhan. Those two little rascals showed up to the mission one day and Yohan introduced him as his little brother and I remember standing there staring down this small, white version of Yohan in awe. Two of them. There are some kids at the mission that I absolutely love to pieces, but am grateful there’s just one of them to deal with. Yohan was that child for me. I really didn’t know if we could handle another, and so close in age! Now all of a sudden, here’s another little hell raiser. Yohan part dos, or as we lovingly refer to him, Yohan blanco. I jokingly told Andrew that we were quite lucky to have Jafeth agree to take over the preschool program well before Jorhan showed up. Now we certainly aren’t paying him enough for the challenges this next year holds for him.
Our last few days in Costa Rica were a bit chilly. We had planned to have a water day as our final hurrah with the kids. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday went by, too cold to do much besides wear jackets, drink coffee, and warm up by chasing kids on the playground. Yet somehow, as I type this now at my house in Jacksonville Beach were it’s in the 30’s, I would gladly go back to the “cold” weather of San Ramon. Thursday rolled around and we suddenly had amazing, beautiful weather. Andrew and Jafeth started filling tons and tons of water balloons. We had several volunteers in that week and everyone just kept taking shifts filling balloons. I’m not sure how word got out, but by the afternoon, we had three or four times as many kids as the previous few days. It was perfect. There are times that things happen and we look back after the fact and see how God orchestrated it all. For some reason, the entire day I could see God was doing this for us so we could just enjoy the kids one last time. Every moment of it all, I thanked God over and over. We had so much fun. Jafeth and I looked at each other at one point and I remember saying to him that this was all God and his response was “I was thinking the exact same thing.”
Friday was a somber day. We had a handful of kids at the mission. It made us even more grateful for the previous day’s water balloon fun. All the kids left around 3:00 and it was just the staff. We decided to close early. Hierguth was the last child to leave. We said goodbye and told him we loved him. Andrew told him to make sure he listened to his mother and grandmother always. We hugged him and he turned to walk away. We watched him walk out of the gates and then Andrew and I both turned to walk back in the apartment. I could feel the tears streaming down my face before I ever made it back inside. We sat down and cried together for a few minutes.
That afternoon and evening, we had a steady stream of visitors come to say goodbye. With each and every one of them, I wanted to freeze time and have it sit still. I heard Mauricio’s jolly laugh for the last time in a while. I deeply regret not having Pabel say okie dokie one more time for me. It’s one of my favorite Pabel expressions but it will have to wait until this summer. In between visitors and late into the night, I was packing away. We truly did look like we were hauling our life away when we left the mission at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.
Fast forward to life back in the United States. It was a crazy time to come home, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. The question we received most was “are you happy to be back?” I have a bit of a confession to make. I probably said yes to a variety of people and it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I still don’t even know what the true answer is. I find it most difficult to fake being excited when so many people here are genuinely excited to have us back. For weeks, I kept hoping I could be as excited to be here as everyone was to have us here. I recently read one of the most useful articles about missionaries returning from the mission field. It talked about how whether you’ve been gone a year or twenty years, most missionaries feel similar feelings of this being very much a grieving process. I have to say that I agree with it. Andrew and I have had to say goodbye to the life that we knew as missionaries in Costa Rica. Even when we go back to visit, it will never be the same. It’s hard not being there for so much. The kids went to Camp Brittney a couple of weeks ago. I must have checked the camp’s facebook page a thousand times for photo updates. I was so grateful to see pictures of the kids having so much fun there. I desperately wish I could have been there to see them off and welcome them home as I’ve done the last three times we’ve sent kids to camp. I miss our daily interactions with people. I yearn to walk outside of the apartment and have children scream my name with excitement, to have Cristhel come bring me the tiniest of flowers that she picked on her way to the mission each and every day. I want to gather all the little ones up off the playground and sing songs with them and do the preschool program. I would love to hear Luis Fabian yell “Andrew!” but really be calling me because that’s what he’s always done, or Jonathan yell “Davis!” every time he sees either of us. I’d love to let Mack out on the playground and have all the kids chase him around like they love doing so much.
I could go on for days talking about all that I miss there. I miss it terribly. It is certainly a process to move on and I have no idea where I am in that. It’s difficult to write about it all, difficult to look at pictures of our time there. When I can look at all the pictures and smile without the tears flowing, maybe then I will be past all of this grieving. The sadness will fade and all that will be present is the joy of the whole experience. One day.