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Happiness and Sadness, Laughs and Tears November 25, 2013

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I’m sure, but time is flying by. The days seem long which is normal here, but the weeks feel so short. It is already Sunday and we are ready to start a new week again tomorrow.

Last week was filled with all kinds of happiness and sadness, laughs and tears. It was the last week of programs. That came as a shock to me since I didn’t realize that until late Monday. Unfortunately, Jafeth (my replacement with the preschoolers) only got to do the program with me a few days. I know that wasn’t the best training he could have gotten. He will be OK though, he’ll just learn quite rapidly next year on his own of what works for him and the kids. On the last day of programs Thursday, I was standing in the bathroom putting my make-up on. When I am by myself, I enjoy praying aloud and talking to God as if he were standing next to me. So as I was thanking God for the opportunity of being the preschool teacher over the last year or so, I just lost it. There I was, attempting to put make-up on, while crying uncontrollably and having it all come right back off. When Jafeth and I started the morning program, Jafeth asked whether we should sing songs or not. I remember saying “it’s up to you Jafeth, the program is almost yours since this is my last day.” I almost teared up then at the thought of it. After our afternoon class, I went to bring my computer upstairs to the apartment like I always do. Instead of heading back downstairs, I just had to spend some time sitting by myself. I cried and cried and cried over it all. I’m someone who rarely cries and is not very emotional, but I knew this moment would come. The thing is, I know the kids will be in good hands next year. Unfortunately, right now all I can think about is how I am going to miss them like crazy. I hate that I won’t be here to see their accomplishments and improvements, to encourage them, to see them on their first day of school next year, etc. But it is what it is, and right now it is difficult.

Friday was a cheerful day, and thank God for that. We spent the day decorating the mission for Christmas. I have to say that while I may have been the one to buy the decorations and clearly I love how it all looks, everyone else thinks so too! Even though everything is garnet and gold, I’m not being biased here. The church looks the best I have ever seen it for Christmas. The morning of decorating kicked off with Jenny and I going to buy the Christmas trees. This is the wildest thing. I asked Jenny where we would go to buy the tree this year. She said it was pretty far and hard to explain how to get there. That’s when I decided to go with her so I could go ahead and buy our tree for the apartment at the same time. In my mind, I was thinking as soon as she said far and complicated that it must be the place Jessica took us last year to get our tree. Sure enough, that’s the place we pulled up to. I looked around and didn’t see any Christmas trees. The guy was on the phone when we pulled up so we sat in the car and waited. I told Jenny the story of going to this exact place last year and there being no trees left and we had to head to another tree lot back the other direction. I even jokingly told her that this guy was about to direct us to the same place as last year since there were clearly no trees here.

After he got off the phone, Jenny went to ask him where the trees were. I sat in the car waiting patiently and watching. When Jenny got back in the car she told me that he didn’t have any trees and that we could go to Los Jardines because they still had them. I asked her where that was and she said by her house meaning we’d have to go back where we came from and then some to get to this place. I asked Jenny if she knew what déjà vu was and she said “si,” and repeated the same thing back to me but with a Spanish accent. We started driving to this other place and the moment we pulled up, it was the craziest feeling. It was the same exact place that we bought the tree last year.

Once we parked the car, we hiked down to start walking through the maze of trees. Jenny and I were like two kids in a candy store. She asked the man to show us the biggest trees they had. We must have walked through dozens and dozens of trees. We saw several we liked but trying to back track to wherever those were was impossible. Finally, we picked two large ones and the guy started to saw them down. I don’t think we were really paying attention to size because the tree for the church can be as big as they come. But the one for the apartment was also quite large. I think we ended up taking a foot and a half off the trunk to get it to fit inside.

When we got back to the mission, Maiko asked if he should take the tree up to the apartment. I said sure, that would be nice. Let me start by saying that they don’t use tree stands here, they use five gallon buckets with rocks and sand in them to hold the tree. Last year, Pabel graciously did this for us. This year, that guy goes on vacation right at Christmas tree hunting time! Ideally, we would have set the tree out on the carport until we found our bucket and got everything together. Now I know Maiko was trying to help which is why I can’t get even slightly upset about this. Half an hour later after the tree was taken upstairs, I walked up to the apartment to see this ginormous tree laying in the middle of the floor with green sprigs and needles everywhere. We’re all quite fortunate that that was just his mess and Mack didn’t go nuts on the tree in that thirty minutes or so that it was left unattended on our living room floor. When Andrew came upstairs later that day, he actually asked me “what are the chances that we can just leave this like this until Pabel gets in on Monday?” Not good.

What I loved about decorating the mission this year was how many mothers and teenagers showed up to help the staff. Everyone jumped in to help do something. Jenny and I put Ronald and Vinicio in charge of getting the tree in the bucket and settled. Yorlana and Erika were going to start decorating the stage. Others started to unpack all of our Christmas décor to get organized. And Jenny and I were off to buy more stuff! Before we left, I did a quick peek at the unpacked boxes of decorations. I didn’t see the special ornaments that we normally put up. I asked Jenny to be sure we put them back in those boxes last year and she said yes. It wasn’t a huge deal, but I knew Larry and Cheryl’s matching ornaments were part of that group. We decided we’d look for them once we got back from the store. Neither of us said anything to anybody about it but when we returned and everything was sorted out even more, Jaikel came up to me and said that he couldn’t find Cheryl’s ornament, only Larry’s. Sometimes, with all the new staff and changes that have taken place this year, it’s nice to have some of the people who have been around for years to notice things like that. To me, it was quite thoughtful that he knew those were always special ornaments for the tree and he looked thoroughly for them. There was a genuine sense of disappointment when he realized one of them might be lost.

The afternoon was filled with more decorating. Everything truly looked wonderful and it was such a nice collaborative effort. I will say that I really only adjusted, or “corrected” if you will, a few minor decorations when people weren’t looking. I think that’s a pretty big deal for me since I tend to be a little obsessive. It reminds me of something I saw on Pinterest recently that says “I’m not really a control freak… but can I show you the right way to do that?” To have that many people decorating in all kinds of different ways, some putting ornaments in a linear direction on the tree, and others clumping things all together, I did really well with it.

That night, we had a sleepover for the tween girls. This was a nice end of year event to do with them and especially so since I won’t be here next year. We ordered pizza, played games, painted nails, made bracelets, and just hung out. Sometime after midnight, we circled up to talk as a group. The girl who was going to give the message that evening had to leave early on. While we were all together, I took the opportunity to share a couple of verses with them and give them my farewell message, if you will. I shared Psalm 139:14 with them because I think that’s an important verse for every teenage girl to learn and believe. Several of them are sixth graders who will go on to high school next year. I shared with them how easy it is to make decisions that are based on what everyone else is doing and not what God would have them do, so be careful. I encouraged them to stay involved, make good decisions, and work hard next year. For some reason, I felt the need to let them know that even if I come back to visit next year and hear that so-and-so is into this now or hanging out with the wrong crowd or whatever the case may be, that I would never give up on any of them. And I know that their leaders that will be here next year won’t either. I read Jeremiah 29:11 to them and told them that I would forever share that great hope for all of their futures and lives. I told them how proud I was of them and how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know them all. I let them know that I will always pray for them and love them from afar in the United States, but to always remember that they will always have people here in this mission who love them. At that point, half the group was crying, which was not my intent. So I said, why don’t we get up and do something fun? And everyone got up and started a dance party.

Tomorrow starts another week here, one of just a few left. There’s much to do before Christmas comes. I have to share this precious moment I had with Cristhel a couple of weeks back. We have a million Cristhels here but this one is Hierguth’s little sister so I am sure she has heard from him about what the inside of the apartment is like. We were sitting at a table one day in the classroom and she ushered me closer. This child whispers nearly everything to me that she says and is unbelievably meek. She has spent the better part of her short life living in fear. One day, if God gives me the go ahead to do it, I will share their family’s story as I know it would open many people’s eyes to real life here in Bajo Tejares. But for now, just a handful of us know what their lives have been like and we’ll keep it that way. Anyways, when I leaned across the table, she whispered in my ear “is it true that your house is filled with Christmas presents?” I smiled back at her and said “yes, yes it is!”

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Waking Up with the Catholics November 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 10:52 pm
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There’s nothing to put time into perspective for you quite like a countdown. A few weeks ago, I was considering skipping the tween girls meeting. I was just exhausted and thought that it would be so nice to just come upstairs at 5:00 and not have to do anything else besides relax. Then I started counting just how many Thursday nights I had left with the girls. When I looked at it as only maybe half a dozen more opportunities to get to spend time with the girls, I quickly saw it for what it was. An opportunity. I may have been tired, but spending time with them wasn’t going to be a hassle for me knowing how little time here I have left to do so. It made me wonder how my attitude or mindset might have been different all along if I put things in that perspective from the very beginning. I don’t think we should all go around with running countdowns in our minds of how much time left we have to do this or that, but perhaps we should take things seriously realizing how limited our time is in general.

I’ve developed a new routine in the last month or so here. I really wish I had started this earlier. Every morning, Andrew and I wake up early so that he can go to the gym to do cardio and I can walk through town to get some exercise as well. I’ve never been a morning person and I have to admit, it surprises me some that I am even slightly for such a plan. The first week or so went beautifully. I would get out of the car and start walking towards the church. Just as I was arriving at the church, morning mass would be getting out and I would circle the block one more time while they all filed out. I would go in to pray for 10-15 minutes. There’s just something about sitting in a grand cathedral, letting the light shine through the stained class like fire, praying in the deep silence of it all. Right after my prayer time, Aroma’s would be just opening their doors and I’d walk there to get a cappuccino de caramelo. Then, I’d walk back to the car to meet Andrew while sipping on complete and pure deliciousness. Now I must say, the routine has changed ever so slightly. While I was previously waking up with the Catholics, it appears that perhaps they have changed their routine. I didn’t even know it was possible. The first day it happened, I was quite taken aback. I thought maybe there was a funeral or something happening. I just kept doing laps around the church, every time I passed I would study the people inside a touch more closely to see if they were wrapping it up or not. They weren’t. After a week of this, my only conclusion was that mass was now starting earlier. That’s just awful. I thought I was waking up early with the Catholics before, and now they are getting up earlier! As it is, occasionally I can make it in just after they let out and pray for a few moments in not so much silence, but a dull chanting. There’s a little group of old ladies that stays after mass for their recited prayers. The first day, it kind of bothered me. They were off in their unison just enough (and speaking in Spanish of course) to really throw me off. But all is well now. The new routine is to spend about 15 minutes doing laps around the church and using that time as devoted prayer time. I still go to Aroma’s everyday to get the cappuccino. I have compromised with the Catholics on the use of their space, but the cappuccino de caramelo cannot be compromised. Plus, the entire morning staff knows my order and I don’t even have to say it when I walk in any more. That’s the coffee shop relationship I’ve always dreamed of.

I’m just going to throw this out there since I can imagine at least one person might be thinking it. How can a missionary afford to buy a cappuccino everyday? Is that the wisest use of funds for someone who makes no money? Well, as I said, I wish I had started this routine before but I didn’t. We’re talking about two months of coffee for someone who has spent next to nothing on themselves for the past year and a half. And we’re not talking Starbucks prices by any means. Andrew and I set a small amount of money aside to travel or do something fun while living in Central America since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity living abroad. If you knew how much we worked and how often we could have used a vacation and didn’t take one, then you’d not only be aware of how dumb the question is to begin with, but you’d also be mathematically aware that I can afford a daily cup of coffee if I want one. Now enough talk about the coffee, I’m starting to salivate thinking about tomorrow’s!

One neat thing about waking up early and walking through town is that I get to see Steven walk to work almost every day. Steven and I had an interesting relationship to start out. All I can really say is he was an unbelievably disrespectful teenager who hated me for months. Somewhere along the way, he asked why I hated him. I explained in mediocre Spanish that I certainly didn’t hate him, but I didn’t like his attitude or lack of respect towards myself and other staff at the mission. From that conversation onward, he has been respectful towards me and all is well. I think in a lot of ways, he can be intimidating and that most people, adults included,  don’t bother to call him out on his behavior and attitude. For some reason, I don’t think Steven will ever respect people that don’t stand up to him. That’s exactly what it took for us to now have the relationship that we do. In any event, Steven is one of the only teenagers, albeit 18 years old, that I know who dropped out of school but is choosing to be a productive member of society. Most of the teenagers here who have dropped out of school are somewhat unrealistically waiting around to see what happens, as if something productive will happen for them as a product of them doing absolutely nothing. But not Steven. He went out and got a job. And I’m proud of him. He works at the Mundo Magico store on the corner across from the church. They always have the obnoxious people out front with microphones shouting out their daily deals and attempting to entice people to come inside and shop. Seems a bit odd that yelling at people would translate to a sound strategy in luring them in, but to each his own. Steven has yet to be that obnoxious person and for that I am quite grateful. Nonetheless, each day is a reminder that he is doing what he needs to do to earn a living and survive.

I had a truly wonderful reward the other day when I walked all the way back to the mission on my morning walk instead of back to the car to meet Andrew. I have no idea what made me decide to walk home instead of meeting Andrew like I always do. Perhaps I was thinking of how nice it would be to get back a touch earlier and have a decent shot at a nice, hot shower before work. Regardless of the motive, I was greatly rewarded. As I passed by the street where the elementary school is, I saw several kids outside playing during an early morning recess. I made the right turn and decided to walk up to the school to see if I knew anyone. I had hardly made the turn onto the street before hearing my name being screamed from multiple little voices. I saw Hierguth playing with his friends and said hello to him. I quickly said hello to a few of the girls that called me over. I went up to the fence and greeted as many of the kids as I could. I didn’t want the teachers getting too freaked out by this strange gringa coming up to see the kids during recess. When I turned to leave, I walked back past Hierguth and said goodbye but he didn’t hear me. I felt that twinge of disappointment as I kept on walking. I don’t know why it mattered but right before I turned the corner, I glanced back one more time. There was Hierguth waiting for me to turn around. All of his friends had already left to go back inside and he was standing there alone, waving goodbye to me. I must have had the biggest smile on my face as I waved back at him.

I can say with great certainty that I’m excited to be waking up tomorrow at the crack of dawn to get out and be a part of all of  those things that take place when you wake up with the Catholics! Only 5 weeks left to enjoy it all!

 

RIP September September 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 11:44 pm
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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!

 

The Roller Coaster Recap August 1, 2013

I know Andrew and I have both just written blogs, but here comes another post. I feel like this one showcases the variety of things that take place in our day. The highs and lows, the confidence boosting moments and the humbling ones. Moments that will melt your heart, and moments that have you crying because you’re laughing so hard. So here’s to a roller coaster recap of the last two days… Yes, just the last two days.

Yesterday after preschool class, I was walking around with Tamara and Sheryl looking for whoever was going to go pick them up. It’s mainly just to appease them as they tell me everyday they are not allowed to walk home alone. And everyday, they tend to get a little panicky when class is over and their mom/dad/aunt/uncle/sibling isn’t there to pick them up yet. So we walked all over the playground “looking” for Tamara’s uncle and Sheryl’s brother. As we were checking to make sure said uncle and brother hadn’t snuck into the air-nasium without us noticing, Tamara looked up at me and asked if I wanted to be her teacher when she went to kinder. She explained that I was her teacher in the preschool program now, so I could just be her teacher in kinder too if I wanted. I was so touched by such a thought. I didn’t really know how to respond besides just saying “Si” and trying to pull it together enough so their next question wasn’t “Ashley, why are you crying?”

In between doing the preschool classes twice a day, I try and get as much time in working in the classrooms as possible. This is going to sound like the dumbest accomplishment in the world, but yesterday I helped Hierguth with his first grade homework in its entirety without asking for help from Jenny or Yorlana. It’s first grade and I know that sounds like such an easy feat, but it’s in another language! And I’ll be honest, I asked Andrew to come sit with us and read over part of it because for the longest while I didn’t understand the first section. I actually had Hierguth work backwards so I could stall. As it turns out, when I flipped through his notebook, there were pages leading up to the homework that would have helped you. I’m just glad I found it on my own without having to ask for help with such an easy assignment. It’s things like that though that are so exciting, yet so humbling. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from a good university in the States and sometimes I’m fumbling my way through the simplest of tasks.

I was feeling really good about Hierguth’s homework when Daniella came in. I thought to myself, bring it on third grade homework! We got through the first two worksheets like it was nothing, child’s play. And then comes the C, S, or Z worksheet. This one has about forty words on it that are spelled with one of those three letters and you just have to choose which one is the correct letter for each word. Apparently this is a pretty tricky thing for kids in Spanish. The words are everything from zapatos to ciruela to siete and so on. I didn’t know maybe four or five words. To give myself a little bit of credit, I knew probably thirty-five of them. But in a list of that many totally random words, you have to have a rather wide range of vocabulary to know them all. I could ask anyone here, including staff who speak English, and they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you all forty words in English. Nonetheless, I had to defer to Jenny on this one. And even then, Jenny had to turn around and ask Yorlana one of the answers! What a setup that worksheet was.

After a long day of work in the education programs, we still had to do youth worship last night. Tuesdays are nonstop and tiring, but a good night of worship makes it all worth it. In theory, we like to open the gates at 6 and start at 6:15. I walked up to the gates several times and no one was here. Finally at 6:18, I walked downstairs to tell Andrew that no one was here and that we should probably start to pack it up. I was disappointed to say the least. I think this is our fear every time we do worship nights, that no one would want to come and be a part of it. Not a fear of how it reflects on us, but more fear mixed with a deep sadness that the kids don’t have that desire to worship like we so hope for them. Andrew said we should give it a few more minutes, so we did. When I went back up to check, we had four guys here. I let them come on in and peeked outside the gates. More were coming. Last night, we ended up having twenty kids show up to worship. We split up into three groups and picked youth leaders for each group to ask the questions and help direct the conversations. This is one of the smartest things we have ever thought to do. Give a small slice of responsibility to teenagers and suddenly you have leaders pushing their peers to take the bible study seriously. It’s one thing for Andrew or myself to call people out from an authoritative standpoint for not paying attention, but it’s a whole different story when you’re friend is sitting there saying ‘hey man, pay attention and stop messing around.’ Andrew sat with one group and I sat with another, but we both still let the leaders take charge. I was impressed by the conversation and discussion that took place. Even though I spent a fair amount of time looking up passages and coming up with questions in Spanish, some of our best discussion came from things that we asked each other and brought up on the fly. I can tell my Spanish is improving because of how much I was able to understand and legitimately be a part of the conversation. It was a perfect night of worship and bible study with the youth. I admit, I do feel like I have to report on every successful worship night we have because every single time it feels like a miracle. All I can say is God wants this for these kids and that’s exactly why He’s making it happen every time.

While we are doing any nightly ministry meeting here, there are adult education classes that are put on by the university taking place simultaneously in the classrooms. We use the heck out of this entire campus from 9 am to 9 pm pretty much everyday. Anyways, the classes are for people that are trying to get their high school diploma. I see a lot of the moms here each night trying to learn and it always impresses me. I’m proud of them for not giving up. One of my preschoolers sometimes comes with her mom. On Tuesdays when I’m doing recreation or at the end of worship, I’ll often let her hang around with me in the church instead of having to sit in the classroom with her mom. We normally color or read stories. After worship last night, Nazareth’s mom was bringing her back from the bathroom and she ran up to me asking me if she could stay with me. I said of course. Naza is still one of the quietest little people I have ever met, but she’s becoming more and more talkative. We were walking around outside and she caught a glimpse of Andrew playing the guitar with some of the guys inside the church. She pointed at him and said “Andew.” It was one of the most precious things I have ever seen or heard.

Today after lunch, Andrew and I were both in the classroom for the afternoon rush. I walked over to where Andrew was as he was typing some biology assignment up for Justin. In general, I don’t often help the teenagers with homework unless it’s English. Just go back and reread the third grade worksheet episode and you’ll understand why. Biology for tenth graders in Spanish is a big fat heck no! But I will say, Justin had some of his algebra worksheets sitting there and I was intrigued. I always enjoyed math in school, particularly algebra. Most of my degree is math based and much of the work I was doing at the bank was balancing relatively complex stock record. And I figured that numbers are numbers no matter what language they’re in, right? Wrong. They use words to describe things in algebraic equations here that we don’t use in the United States. We had five different people looking up translations and trying to explain back and forth between English and Spanish. I’ve never been so confused in my entire life. The last thing anyone needs is a bilingual conversation to explain algebra. At the very least, we all had a few good laughs from that disaster.

For this afternoon’s preschool class, I had lots of little ones. The classes seem to get bigger and bigger. I’m averaging at least twenty kids each day, often times upwards of twenty-five. That’s a lot. I recently introduced a video of animal sounds to them and they are obsessed with it, plus it’s invariably the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. An animal pops up on the screen and makes its noise and then they all try and make the noise too. I just stumbled across this video and showed it to them one day without even previewing it and it is awesome. It probably has twenty animals or more. Then afterwards, they like to go around and say which animal they want to be. There’s no real story here, I just think it’s absolutely adorable and I’m definitely going to get it on video one day. Perhaps I’ll share it!

Valerie came to class this afternoon sick as a dog. I’ve never seen a child cough nonstop so hard and still be able to breath. I’m really not sure why her mom brought her to the mission today, but oh well. There she was, two feet away, coughing all over me and the computer as well. At one point, some saliva or other liquid particle came flying at me and landed on my face. I wanted to stop everything and go shower immediately but I refrained. As if things couldn’t get anymore gross, Yosniel walks up to me during the craft/play time and says something along the lines of making caca in his pants. All I really heard was the word “caca.” Talk about being petrified. I turned to Laura, the teenage sister of Alejandra and Cassandra, and asked her what he just said. Man, her facial expression must have been a mirror image of mine because she looked completely mortified as well. Neither of us understood anything but the word caca. We watched in disbelief as Yosniel waddled out of the classroom holding his pants. As I write this now, I am literally laughing hysterically with tears rolling down my face. What an experience.

Just ten minutes after that fun, Yosniel’s grandmother Isabel asked if she could speak with me once all the kids had left. My initial thought was ‘oh great, she wants to discuss the caca incident… but it wasn’t my fault!’ Instead, Isabel wanted my advice on how to handle the childcare for women’s group. Now this is crazy but I just learned the Spanish word for advice two or three days ago. Anyways, she wanted to ask me for ideas and solutions to solve some of the issues we’ve been having with the babysitters. At times, I allow my doubts and fears to get the best of me. I let myself believe that people think I’m not very good at working with the kids, maybe I’m not very smart or capable, that I’m not that useful here since I’m not fluent in Spanish and there’s a million people that could do this better than me. So to have Isabel ask me for my advice on something meant a lot to me. It helped put me in a place of confidence when I often let a lot of things remove me from that spot.

My work day ended with an aggravating point of contention that we seem to be coming back to as a staff all too often. I will be very upfront with you in saying that I am always willing to fight the battles that will bring about positive change. I will never be the kind of person who says that it’s too much hassle and not worth it. Of course, between various cultures and personalities present here, we don’t all share that viewpoint. Sometimes bringing about change is painfully slow for me, and I’m just more of a band-aid ripper offer. Quick, definitive, and only briefly painful. Nonetheless, after work today I decided to go for a walk into town to blow off some steam and buy myself a Coca-Cola Lite. I lost my iPhone with all of my music on it a while back so now I’m forced to use my old iPod, talk about first world problems. Unfortunately, it’s not functioning so great anymore and you can no longer see the screen, only the fact that it’s lit. So I have to either have the order of everything memorized or I have to wing it and hope it’s what I want to listen to. I turned it on and just hit play. Somehow it was on a Christian playlist that I made ages ago. It would have taken me forever to get it changed to another playlist so I just let it be. Music surprises me with how legitimately up-lifting it can be. I was jamming out to all kinds of old school praise songs. By the end of my walk, my mind was at ease. Life is not perfect, here nor anywhere else in the world. I am extremely blessed to have all of these awesome moments to look forward to each and every day. Whether it be another caca incident, more first grade homework, making animal sounds, studying the Bible with the teens, or anything else in between… life is good!

 

Good Memories July 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 2:26 am
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So I was going to name this blog post something about heartwarming memories. I then realized that one of these disqualifies that description pretty much immediately. I’ll use that one to kick this off!

Most everyone knows Justin Larry by now, also known as Little Larry. This kid makes me laugh almost every single time I see him. He is in La La land 100% of the time. He is always running into doors, tables, walls, and pretty much anything else that you could run into. And whenever it happens, he always just looks stunned as if that wall just popped up out of nowhere. I will say that Justin Larry is pretty good about not crying every time these things happen, but that’s probably a testament of how used to it he is. Anyways, a couple of weeks ago, Andrew and I were sitting in Gringo church on a Sunday morning. Justin Larry’s mom, Karla, was sitting near us with her two older children while he was outside wondering around. He walks up to the big glass window and puts his two tiny hands on the window. He was staring in at us when all of a sudden, he just starts licking the window. I’m talking like a good six inch swipe of the tongue up and down the window. Andrew and I nearly died laughing. Now do you see why I can’t call this blog heartwarming?

Since we are in the midst of rainy season here in Costa Rica, we are often moving inside the church for indoor games in the afternoons when the rain comes. It tends to be kind of chaotic, but luckily we now have the air-nasium out back and the teenagers like to go play out there. One afternoon, I was inside playing board games with the younger kids. I found myself sitting underneath a table with Maikel and Valerie, two 4 year olds. We weren’t so much playing a game as inventing a new one that made no sense, but such is life with 4 year olds. The idea of the game was to find matches with the Memory cards and place them on the Candyland board in no particular order. You flip the cards as fast as possible and as many times as you want since there are no turns. Once we had most of the matches on the board, Maikel takes the board and walks away with it. He returned a few minutes later, sets the board down, and walks off again. At this point, Valerie and I were working on putting more matches on her board to some other random game. When Maikel returned and opened his board back up, the contents had clearly shifted. He was shocked and immediately looked to us as if we’d done something. However, Valerie and I didn’t touch it. He asked “quien fue?” (who was it?). Valerie turned on me so fast, which was remarkable seeing as though she was with me the entire time. “Fue Ashley!” These two little 4 year olds were ganging up on me! I tried to explain that it wasn’t me and I didn’t touch it. I also tried to explain that all the cards moved when he moved the board, but they weren’t having it. As if to end the argument and be done with it, Maikel slowly said “fue usted” (it was you) with an emphasis on the usted, slight head tilt and dead serious facial expression. It was moderately terrifying. Nothing more was said.

I’ve been having a lot of internet issues in my classroom recently. Everyday, I use my laptop to get on youtube and access songs in order to do the preschool program. Often times, I will joke with the little kids when the song freezes that Cosmo the dog or Pin Pon doesn’t want to sing today. One day, we were singing El Sapo and it froze in the middle. I asked “que pasó?” and usually they will always yell “se pegó!” (it’s stuck, or frozen), but on this day, Valerie responded “se murió!” That means he died. She definitely caught me off guard a little bit.

Last Friday, we held our midyear education rewards parties for all the kids in our program here. Sometimes I am so busy coordinating events like this and making sure everything runs smoothly that I don’t always get a lot of time to participate and truly just enjoy the kids. We had a team here last week that was helping with the parties so I made sure that I took this opportunity to spend time with the children. We rented not one, but two bounce houses for the parties. This was a special treat as we normally only do this at Christmastime. Most of my little kids from the preschool program were invited to the morning party. After a few minutes, I decided I was going into the bounce house with them. I yelled “ya vengo!” (I’m coming) and I jumped on in. They were so excited that I got in there with them that they were chanting my name and squealing with delight. They were just being kids in their most natural form. They could never know how wonderful that makes me feel to share those kinds of moments with them.

One of the little girls in the bounce house was Rebecca. She has been in the preschool program since I started helping Laura with it when I got here last year. I don’t know that I have ever seen her smile. There is no exaggeration in that statement. She is the most serious and sad child I have ever met. Her mother has a lot of psychological problems and perhaps the instability has trickled down and affected her in ways that we’ll never know. But last Friday, I saw her smile in the bounce house. It was one of those things that was so natural and without thought. Albeit brief, it did in fact take place and I was lucky enough to witness it.

Yesterday, I was helping Valeria with an English presentation on superheroes. I like art and can be pretty creative, so I often end up doing all the artistic aspects of these projects. Plus, Valeria hates to draw and color. She had to create a superhero and come up with their super powers and values. Andrew was all over this project. These two were scheming up all kinds of stuff for Valeria’s superhero, the Splash. Being the one to sketch all this out, I finally stopped them and said, “Are you crazy? How am I supposed to draw all of this?” Valeria’s English has gotten so good that it’s scary sometimes. She simply turned to me and said, “Oh Ashley, we know you have your limits,” as if to calmly sooth my worries over this elaborate drawing. This child is growing up way too fast.

I love all of these little moments with the kids that I experience here!

 

Exposed July 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 7:54 pm
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We have been especially fortunate recently to have welcomed several wonderful teams and volunteers to the mission. That is part of what I love about doing this job is meeting people from all over the world who have the desire to serve others. Everyone has a different story and background. I always think it’s so interesting to hear why people are here, what made them come, and how it has changed them.

There is a volunteer here currently named Amanda and she has impressed me beyond measure. Amanda is originally from Alabama, but now resides in New York. She went to undergrad at the Baptist College of Florida and has a B.A. in Christian Counseling. She then went on to Mercy College in NY to get her Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. Amanda recently quit her job in NY where she specialized in family therapy and worked with victims of domestic violence, in order to take that experience abroad and do similar work in areas like Bajo Tejares. She has the desire to work with women and address issues like anger, self-esteem, depression, and parenting. Many people have noticed or commented that the vast majority of people who come to the mission to serve primarily want to work with children. After all, we do offer an ideal environment for volunteers and teams wanting to work with children. This summer, we are having a drastic increase in teams who want to take part in the nightly ministries and work with the different groups of people here. I know the other groups like men, women, and youth highly appreciate that attention. Outside of that, we can’t exactly control the fact that most people want to work with children. So to have a volunteer like Amanda who is unbelievably equipped and trained to work with a different group like the women, and have the exact desire to do so, is incredible. Not to mention, she is here for three months!

Amanda immediately introduced herself to the women’s group on her first Monday evening here. They were extremely receptive to her and what she had to say. She set up a schedule of group sessions and has a dozen women signed up and consistently coming to these sessions where she is covering a variety of topics. In addition to two group sessions a day for three days a week, she is doing a considerable amount of individual counseling sessions. I’m blown away by the time she is putting into this, I would guess it’s easily 30+ hours a week. She takes it very seriously and is visibly passionate about transforming the lives of the women in Bajo Tejares. The women seem eager to get help too. For far too long, I think this group has felt over-burdened, under-appreciated, and perhaps like they are fighting a losing battle. They feel stupid, ugly, like they’re not worth anything. In the first week of sessions, Amanda told me that five women revealed suicidal thoughts and tendencies to her. She has been helping them with the idea of ‘safety planning’ for when those thoughts come about to make them feel more empowered on how to handle them in what feels like a hopeless situation. I can’t express how amazing it is to have a volunteer here who is qualified to do this and would rather be doing absolutely nothing else in the world right now.

Amanda and I had the most interesting conversation on the work we’re both doing and the mindset we seem to share. One of the points that came up in our conversation was how huge it was to expose people to a world they have never seen or experienced. I wear many hats here, but one of them that is as important as the rest, one that people may not even recognize, is how much effort is put into exposing people’s minds to this community, this level of poverty, the change that is taking place, the change that needs to take place, the ways people can be a part of it and help, and so on. I give countless tours and talk to many people about this community and the mission’s work in this community. So often, people often comment that they just had no idea this was what life was like in a place like this. Very few Americans have seen third world slums, true slums. Maybe most of Bajo Tejares doesn’t look like the slums it once was, but it’s still remarkably eye opening. I took a group down to Larry’s Village last week to see the homes I call “wooden boxes.” We went into Karla’s house and you can literally walk from one end of the house to the other in four seconds. When I explained how many people lived in that little wooden box of a house, I am certain it came as a surprise to most. Karla, Andres, their three children, and Karla’s mother. Sometimes I think about life in the US and compare it directly to Karla’s life here. She has always meant a lot to me since she moved to Bajo Tejares four years ago and we met shortly thereafter. My kitchen is almost the size of her entire house. Three years ago, Andrew and I bought our “little” house and I remember longing for granite countertops, along with a million other improvements. What I would spend on granite countertops would easily feed their family for a year and likely cover most of their other expenses as well. They could save every penny earned in an entire year and not be able to afford to put granite countertops in my kitchen.

I use the example of granite countertops not to make anyone feel guilty that has them. It’s just one way for me to put it into perspective for myself. If you’re fortunate enough, there’s a switch that takes place in what you see and value in life after being exposed to such things though. Amanda mentioned in our conversation that she could very well make a lot of money in her profession but she could never be content in just that. She’d rather be ‘poor’ by US standards and be traveling the world doing things like this. It so reminded me of my own story. As many people who know me are already aware, I left a good job in investment banking. I had this pretty path in front of me that felt like a fast track up the corporate ladder. Walking away from that surprised a lot of people. But my perspective has changed in such a way that I could never go back to something that wouldn’t allow me the freedom to go out experience the world and do things like this. I’m not saying I won’t go back into the world of finance, but I won’t ever let it lock me into a path that I can’t get out of. I’m not going to let any job control me. Amanda was able to point something out to me that I had kind of thought about before but couldn’t put into words. We talked back and forth about what we’d both do when we left Costa Rica and what the plans were for the future. She said to me, do the job that’s going to let you live this kind of life because living life this way makes you happy. That really hit the nail on the head for me. The job I have in the future will probably never be the kind that defines me. I don’t fault anyone for being wealthy and successful. I just think that at one time, I was sure that I would be that person. Somewhere along the way, I stopped needing to be that person. Don’t get me wrong, we need people to be unbelievably successful and generous beyond belief to fund much of the change that will take place in this world. But we also need people to agree to go and do it and understand that they probably will never be among the rich. Part of the responsibility of those of us out in the mission field, staring down the problems of this world each and every day, is to expose the rest of the population to it. Amanda mentioned to me that it was difficult for her to be a part of some of the small changes and differences being made when you could see how much more has yet to be done. I can relate to that. But I also know that I can’t change it all. Maybe if everyone feels the needs as deeply as we do, sees it with their own eyes or even just through ours, we’ll be able to change the world together.

 

Back in the US of A June 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — AshleyNDavis @ 7:36 pm
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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.