Saturday, December 07, 2013

Family Thankfulness

There have been years when Thanksgiving has been just another day on the calendar for our family in Iquique. With no break from Chilean school, regrettably we have let the holiday pass more than once without the traditional trimmings but not without a bit of heartache.

But not this year. This year thankfully - Thanksgiving was much different!

This year our family of seven hopped an airplane, flew to Santiago, hopped a bus, and drove to the beautiful Cajon del Maipo on the outskirts of Chile's capital city to celebrate with our entire ABWE-Chile missionary family. This group included my sister Jennifer, brother-in-law Mark, nieces Juliana and Kendra and nephews Matias and Micah - and as the icing on the cake, this year it also included my parents, Jim and Gail Christian.

The retreat organizers were pleased to offer the Garcia/Rubin families a duplex cabin, which meant cousins could be neighbors and we could share the hairdryer and practice special music in a dorm room full of children's beds. We couldn't have asked for a better housing assignment!

Our kids were so excited they could hardly contain themselves. When you live in the desert (even one which offers beautiful beaches and fabulous landscapes like ours does) those moments when you find yourself amidst greenery and open space are breath-taking.The first night, Ian kept thanking us over and over for this trip. "THANK YOU, MOMMY AND DADDY FOR BRINGING US HERE!" he exclaimed for all the world hear.

The children has classes and activities of their own, hosted by several young people including five who came from the States to minister in this way as well as the oldest ABWE-Chile MK who is graduating this year. They were gracious and fun-loving, and it was especially sweet to see our little boys soaking in the attention and kindness of "big" boys they could look up to and imitate.

When not in class, the kids had their choice of two pools, one playground, multiple hiking trails, ping-pong and pool tables, taca-taca (foosball) and even a zipline - for a price, which we paid for Owen, Micah and Matias to experience one afternoon with a few other fearless companions. After all their preparation the ride itself was quick, but the view was amazing and the boys loved it!

Meanwhile Eva delightedly reunited with and spent most of her time in the company of her friend Andrea, while Isabel could always be found with the nearest baby! There were two infants and a toddler at the retreat and she couldn't have been happier.

There were special touches at the retreat just for the missionary children, including a big gift bag upon arrival which had American candy, crafts and toys. On Thanksgiving Day, one missionary family also organized a "turkey egg" hunt which had the kids darting here and there in search of eggs specially marked for each one of them and resulting in even more gifts and prizes! It was a blessing to see our kids feeling so happy and loved.

Throughout the retreat we enjoyed times of fellowship and conversation with missionary colleagues, as well as encouragement through music, testimonies and the teaching of God's Word. With many new faces in the group, it was neat to hear how God had orchestrated each family's journey to bring them to Chile.

Of course there was one journey that was of special interest to us, and that was the one which brought my parents to Chile. Throughout the daily devotionals my dad shared with the adult group, we were reminded of the many memories my parents made over the years of serving on this very field with a similar group of colleagues. It was a blessing to consider lessons learned and be encouraged in our own ministries here today.

What a special gift and a blessing. It was truly a time of family thankfulness.

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