Long-distance separation from family is a part of missionary life you never quite get used to. Yes, in this day and age technology works hard to make the distance seem much shorter. It's even true that weeks and months can sometimes go by in which the rhythm of our routines flows naturally and we don't think about the separation so much. But all it takes is one momentous event - happy or sad - to remind us how far apart we really are.
In this case, it was the arrival of a baby. (A quite unexpected and even miraculous baby born after eighteen years of infertility!) Silas was welcomed excitedly by his five older siblings whose own arrivals via adoption had been joyfully celebrated by their grandparents each time. Regardless of where we were living when Eva, Isabel, Owen, Ian and Alec came home - Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Chile - both sets of grandparents had moved mountains to travel and meet their new grandbabies on every prior occasion.
This time, however, health and finances made it physically impossible for either Silas' paternal or maternal grandparents to come to Chile and meet him. And there's this thing about babies - they grow and change so fast! With furlough nearly two years away, it made our hearts ache when we would post pictures on Facebook and read longing comments from Grandpa Garcia or Mom-Mom Christian about how much they wished they could see and hold Silas while he was still so small. By furlough he'd be running around and maybe too busy for grandparent snuggles! We hoped and prayed there might be a solution somehow.
We were sweetly reminded that God supplies the desires of our hearts when Chile's national airline ran a phenomenal fare sale to the United States. Between their special offer and points accumulated on a card used for travel, I would be able to fly with Silas and one other person for less than what one of us usually pays to return to the States! It was decided that Eva would accompany me because of a previous commitment we had with the girls for a special trip near their 16th birthdays. Along the way I realized what a unique blessing it was for not only Silas but Eva to have this one-on-one time with hwe grandparents and other extended family members. Silas will not remember this trip, but Eva will never forget it.
Eva was six years old when we came to Chile and prior to this trip, had only returned once to the States at the age of eleven. Because our extended family is so spread out, she has had few opportunities to meet and get to know some of them. This made the effort of other family members to join us at my in-laws' house extra-special. Aunt Nina flew in from Iowa to spend the week with us, and Uncle Mateo and Aunt Raquel drove long hours after work to join us for the weekend. On Saturday, Eva and Silas got to spend time with their great-grandmother, great-uncle, two great-aunts, their dad's cousin and even their grandpa's cousin!
Something I love about the Garcia side of our family is their laughter. My father-in-law is renowned for his exuberant laugh. His laugh can't help but make others laugh, too. However, in the case of small children the volume of his laughter has been known to make a baby cry! So Pedro sent me off with instructions to count how many times Grandpa's laugh brought Silas to tears. I'm happy to report that it only happened once - the very first time, when it woke him from a sound sleep on our way home from the airport!
Another thing I love about the Garcia side of our family is their warmth and physical affection. Inevitably there will be hugs, pinching, and wrestling at a Garcia family gathering (sometimes with a side of ear biting!) This one was no exception. Peals of laughter rang out as Aunt Ruth, Grandpa's youngest sister, tried to take him down in an impromptu wrestling match. I enjoyed catching Eva's wide-eyed observation of the crazy antics going on around her. Silas got more than his fair share of cuddles on this day, and even Pedro and the kids back home were able to join us via Skype to talk with the Garcia relatives in Florida.
Our time in Florida was such a sweet visit. With the exception of one marathon shopping day, most of our time was spent at home together. Eva enjoyed bike riding with Grandma and movie nights with the family. Silas enjoyed being held practically non-stop! I enjoyed getting to know my in-laws' new home area, so as to be able to picture them in it when we are far away. We played some competitive rounds of Ticket to Ride and took a winding walk through the neighborhood on a misty evening after rain. We started planning our next family vacation over a year in advance, and had a lot of fun with that!
When Pedro and I were married eighteen years earlier, I never knew that I was getting such a great "package deal" with a caring and committed family. For that matter, when my sister-in-law Raquel and I became friends in college, we never imagined we'd one day be family! I am so thankful for the Author of our life stories. He is faithful through every chapter, blessing us in seasons of rejoicing and carrying us through times of trial and pain. As our story continues, I am grateful to not only be grafted into God's family but the Garcia family as well.