Blogging Away!

Time to Write Something January 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 1:58 pm
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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.


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!