The years of preparation, planning, pre-field ministry and prior language training may have been new to us, but there was comfort in knowing that others had passed down those paths before. Specifically, my parents had done so and it was their testimony that often accompanied us into our missionary journey, especially our first months in Chile.
They accompanied us in person as well.
Because God loves giving gracious gifts to His children, when they accepted His call to return to stateside ministry He allowed them the blessing of traveling annually to the land they loved for short-term ministry trips. Meaning, of course, that we too were blessed knowing that every year we would see Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop in the context of our new life and ministries in Chile.
In 2009, I also had the privilege of seeing my mom somewhere we never expected: she met me in Haiti for what would be my final visit to our two youngest sons following a lengthy adoption process. Two heart-stopping months later, in a whirlwind trip to Miami following the boys' evacuation post-earthquake, both Mom and Dad flew to welcome their newest grandsons home.
In that journey, too, they walked beside us.
Last year on furlough, we had the chance to do life together for six months. It was truly a first, because never since being married have we lived close to family. It was fun to share the journey of Sunday dinners, and weekly choir practice, and (for us girls) Tuesday ladies' Bible study.
It was also profound and unexpected to share the journey of saying goodbye to someone we loved. To shoulder together the tender tasks of taking care of my grandmother until her last breath, to walk together through the valley of the shadow, and finally to honor together a life well lived.
We said goodbye at the end of furlough, the bitter tempered by the sweet knowledge of reunion sometime in the coming months. Through e-mails and phone calls and the family grapevine (aka, the joys of three daughters/sisters!) we communicated the challenges and changes faced in a new season of ministry.
Meanwhile, my parents faced a challenge all their own.
Bloodwork and testing and questions and less answers. The day I called unaware only to hear, "You're calling because of your dad, right?" because he was in the hospital and I did not know. Plans for their annual trip to Chile and hopes for their time here and worries that maybe this time it would not happen at all.
Finally, a diagnosis ... a detour ... an acute alteration in the journey as we thought it would be.
So this visit became all the more special to each of us.
We recognized with tears that perhaps it could be Dad's final trip to Chile as travel becomes difficult with the advancement of his condition. We planned to make the most of our time while accepting that doing so might not look like we had imagined. We prayed for safety and strength ... for encouragement and joy ... and as He always does, God answered.
The pace was slower but the pleasure of one another's company was priceless. The outings were shorter but the outcome was just as sweet. The moments were quieter but in the shared companionship of reading and resting, there was comfort and enjoyment.
And in overcoming the obstacles with God's grace and help, there was renewed confidence in sharing this journey together.
These pictures highlight some of my favorite memories from Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's visit.
They came with an agenda: girls' day out; boys' date out; couples' night out. We completed those plans, and more. The girls enjoyed a fancy lunch on the Cavancha Peninsula, practicing the art of table manners, while the boys partook of the (rare) pleasure of McDonald's. As couples we opted for a quiet breakfast in lieu of a late night, enjoying fresh fruit juices and tasty pastries and the comfort of adult conversation.
Dad loves the ocean, so we took time to swing by the beach to watch the waves and feel the whisper of wind on our faces (albeit mainly through the car windows!) One evening Pedro drove the family to Playa Los Lobitos where Pop-Pop relaxed in the shade of an umbrella while Mom-Mom and grandkids ventured into the water in search of treasures. A live starfish captured their imagination as they witnessed it "walk" from one rock to another.
It is always special to share our ministry with family, and Dad joined Pedro at the men's prayer breakfast this month as well as spending a lunch hour together with our colleagues and a visiting Chilean missionary and pastor. Mom was this month's speaker for our ladies' tea.
In these moments of ministry I see the intersection of missionary journeys - theirs and ours - and it makes my heart smile.
The famous quote says, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." But in a missionary's life, the one thing certain is saying goodbye. Thankfully, yesterday's farewell at the Iquique airport was "temporarily temporary" - we will see Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop again in just a few more days when our family flies to Santiago for a conference we will attend together.
We don't know all that the future holds. But at every opportunity, we treasure sharing the journey.
"Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey.
At other times, it is allowing another to take yours."
- Vera Nazarian