We are closing in on one month home in Iquique. It feels exponentially longer than that! That is not a bad thing, simply the days and weeks have been so busy with such a broad variety of activities and commitments. With mixed emotions I recently realized that in our 3 1/2 weeks in Chile we have probably had more non-family members in our home than we did the entire year we were stateside! Part of that is culture and shorter distances and living shoulder to shoulder in a city context.
In addition to catching up with our nearby friends and neighbors, we've had a surprising number of visitors in these short weeks. This has been fun while serving the additional purpose of spurring us to finish tasks at home in order to host others. Pedro was glad to reinstate his trusty old charcoal grill and prepare a send off for Bonnie and Trin of 43bluedoors.com, who graced our city with their presence (and our home with their paint brushes!) during their travels around the continent of South America. He also enjoyed the role of tour guide for them, taking a well-deserved break from endless house projects to drive to the town of Pisagua (which they later described in a colorful blog entry.)
Two other friends who visited Iquique this past week hold a close connection to this very blog, as we "met" one another through it. Raquel found us through the blog as she was completing a year-long missions trip around the world. Although she was raised in Iquique she did not come to know the Lord until her college years in the States, so she was unfamiliar with evangelical churches in the city. Her initial contact with us was to request a ride to our church when she returned for a visit with her family. We enjoyed getting to know her that Sunday several years ago, and have kept up on her life through Facebook and e-mail since then. She completed her studies, got married, and returned this month with her new husband to fulfill some family obligations and introduce him to Iquique. It was great to reconnect and be able to assist them in some small way. A highlight certainly was taking them on a tour of FLORECE, as both have tender hearts for ministry and for children. We look forward to seeing how God leads them in the future!
Our Australian friend Vikki also found us through the blog. Our very first communication dates back five years ago as she and her husband and two boys were preparing to move to Iquique. Soon they became dear friends, attending our church, sharing play dates, putting the kids in sports together, etc. I admire Vikki so much for her tenacity and spirit of adventure. She did not allow a language barrier to keep her from developing relationships with the women of church, or becoming a well-known customer bartering for vegetables at the local market. She boldly marched to her own drumbeat, refusing to bow to the status quo but somehow managing to do so with kindness towards all. And when God rescued her life from a deadly brain aneurysm in the midst of a stressful move from Iquique to Santiago, she demonstrated faith, grace and strength in the scariest of trials. We were so sorry to see her family go, yet enjoyed our visits back and forth within Chile while they lasted. Now they are returning permanently to Australia and we are thankful they made time for one final trip to our home before saying goodbye!
In addition to visitors, our weeks have been filled with multiple trips to hardware and grocery stores; resuming a schedule of ministry at church and FLORECE; slowly shaping the house back into a home; paying bills and hanging curtains and setting up phones and buying mattresses and even ordering a new debit card after mysteriously losing it just a week after arriving home. All this, amidst the cacophony of daily hours of jack hammering as the house next door is demolished down to the ground! With our kids on vacation from school, perhaps the hardest part has been establishing a solid routine for family life and we hope that another month from now we will have found a new normal in that regard. One night last week we took a break just to breathe some fresh air as a family and walk along the boardwalk at evening time. We bought cheese empanadas from one vendor and churros from another. Silas ran happily back and forth, excited to finally have some room to stretch apart from his not-frequent-enough walks to a nearby park.
It's been a long month, but a good month. There have been high moments and low moments, moments of stress and of laughter, of finding our place and remembering our place in this corner of the world. But I think I can honestly write that we are glad to be back and busy in the things God has called our family to here in Iquique, with open hearts and hope for all He has in store!