Almost 24 hours after departing my parents' home in Delaware, my husband and five tired, hot and sweaty kids leaned against a wall in the Santiago airport as I talked to the counter agent about gate checking a special piece of luggage. I turned back to glance at my family and was startled to see my husband receiving a warm greeting and hug from someone who had stepped out of the line waiting to board our same flight. It took a minute to register that he was talking to Pablo and Veronica, the young couple who were our very first neighbors from our very first house in Chile!
Running into them was the first of several such encounters during just the first few days back home. On Monday while visiting our bank downtown, a gentleman waiting his turn in line introduced himself to Pedro and turned out to be a former neighbor from Iquique (he told us we didn't recognize him because he had lost sixty pounds, and I think he was right!)
That day at the hardware store a young girl my daughter's age approached me and asked, "Do you remember me, Tia?" It turns out she was a former classmate of Isabel's from school, and she and her family had just returned to Iquique from a year away as well. And later that same day at the grocery store, I was warmly greeted at the fresh bread counter by a mom whose son had attended school and soccer with Owen.
Although Iquique is a city of 200,000 people and growing, it is this small-town quality of running into people we know everywhere we go that I appreciate so much. I contrast our arrival this time around to our first time setting foot in Iquique, and I marvel at the many wonderful friends and acquaintances God has given here in just a few years. It is humbling, thrilling, and also challenging as so many of them still need to hear the wonderful message of God's love. What a privilege to be entrusted with sharing that with these precious lives!