Monday, February 10, 2020

God Will Make a Way (in Iquique)

I couldn't believe my ears. It's an overused phrase but the exact truth. Literally, my jaw dropped in both shock and laughter because after the morning I had it was unfathomable. Was God sending heavenly encouragement in such a high stress moment? Or a slap upside the head to change my bad attitude?? Either way, He had my attention.

That sticky summer Monday morning in Iquique I had been summoned to the regional hospital emergency room for a follow-up appointment with a young female surgeon. She had kindly seen me the week prior when a slight fever created concern after my gall bladder surgery in Santiago the week before that. My four hours in the public hospital were a rather shocking (and educational) contrast to the forty-eight comfortable hours I spent in a private clinic, and I was not too keen on returning. Nonetheless, I had the best of intentions as I began the drive downtown. I also had all car windows down as I fruitlessly sought cool air. What I found instead was a traffic jam.

Problem #1: It was the date for the re-attempt of the PSU, Chile's annual required test for graduating seniors to determine their possibilities for higher education. Already the test had been delayed for over a month due to the social crisis. Then the first attempt was sabotaged by protesters and students were sent home from test locations for their safety. In order for this second attempt to succeed, police set a perimeter around testing locations. I was unaware of this and found myself re-routed at every turn. Driving downtown is challenging enough that I usually follow a few strict routes from point A to point B, but this experience was point-less! I found myself frustrated by the driving situation and also on behalf of the students (several who were classmates of our daughter) caught in the middle of this ongoing national mess.

Problem #2: Our public hospital is overtaxed and undersupplied. The waiting room has few seats and is always overflowing. There is no air conditioning and most people find the open-air ambulance bay a cooler alternative during the hours of waiting. I had visited and taken people to the hospital but this was only my second time being attended. I had also been given the unusual instructions of bypassing check in to let the doctor know I was there for a follow up visit. How to do so was a bit of a mystery, but my friend who works at the hospital suggested giving the doctor's name to the guard in charge of the doors between the waiting room and ER. Unfortunately, the guard raised a suspicious eyebrow and informed me he had never heard of a doctor by that name! Obviously, since I had just been attended by her the week before I knew I was right and he was wrong. But just how to convince him of this fact without making him even less willing to help? He unenthusiastically dialed a number which confirmed the doctor's existence, then to my dismay proceeded to the front of a long line of waiting people to ask the receptionist what to do with me. I seized the opportunity provided by his absence to tag a passing nurse who took me directly back to the ER and the doctor while the guard was still talking. The doctor acknowledged my arrival but asked me to hold on as she was the only doctor on duty, so I joined the ambulance bay crowd for about the next hour. As I was about to nod off to sleep from the warmth and the waiting, the doctor reappeared and guided me through the hallways until she found an available bed to check my sutures and write me a script for one more test.

Weaving through crowds and vendors and buses and taxis on foot until I reached my car several blocks away, I again found myself entangled in detours with exasperation rising as I tried to reach the clinic where the test could be done. If it wasn't police barricades, it was construction. And it wasn't just me, but dozens of other vehicles squeezing down narrow side streets trying to reach main roads. Did I mention it was sticky and hot with no air conditioning? It was after so much frustration and feeling like I was fighting my way through a concrete jungle that I found myself stopped at a red light. And it was there that the sound reached my ears.

"God will make a way, where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me ..." The words in English floated from a loudspeaker on the sidewalk and through the open window of my little car. People were walking to and fro and cars were honking and vendors hawking their wares, but this one solitary man was playing his violin. His bow on strings was accompanying a song I had never heard publicly projected in Chile outside my own home (and even that was decades ago.) Not to mention it was in English in a Spanish-speaking country! After a hot, frustrating morning of grumpily trying to "make my way" through rerouted streets with my blood pressure and disgust rising at every turn, it couldn't have been more ironic yet fitting.

A part of me wanted to laugh and cry and said, "I get it, Lord! Thank you for showing me You see all this and You care!" But to be perfectly honest, another part of me wanted to say, "Ok, this is cool and all but I do not want to change my mood! This is not how I wanted to spend my morning and it has been hot and stressful and I want to stay grumpy!"

I wish I could say the heavens opened and angels sang and my heart grew happy in that moment. That would be a tidy, encouraging ending to this story but it isn't exactly true. The light changed, I continued in traffic, and my next stop was another comedy of errors. But I didn't forget the moment at the stoplight and the music that seemed meant just for me. It continues to be a reminder that God cares about the little details of life and the way we respond when things don't go the way we want them to. Nothing catches Him by surprise as it does us, and He can be trusted to work even "in ways we cannot see." Praise Him!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas 2019

This year, we have our six children ages 18, 17, 14, 12, 11 and 4 years old at home. No longer is everyone clamoring to wake at the crack of dawn to open presents on Christmas Day, especially now that we've added a Chilean-style evening meal and later night on the 24th. Instead, Owen asked if he could play video games should he be up before us and several of the kids actually had to be called from bed to start our morning celebration!

As per tradition, Christmas morning breakfast is chocolate chip oatmeal bake. Two full 9 x 13 pans, both of which will be absolutely bare by the next day at the latest! Unfortunately our growing number of children and their love for this dish means that Daddy's favorite (egg bake) no longer fits in the oven. We joke that it will be back on the menu when our family size decreases, but it is a bittersweet thought because next year that reality begins with Eva's departure to the States to study. This was never far from my mind as Christmas approached, and caused me great consternation when we were seemingly unable to find the kids' six matching stockings with their embroidered names on her "last" Christmas at home. But Ian and Alec saved the day (thanks to some encouragement from Dad!) by digging into the bodega and finding these sentimental treasures.

Normally I would have all the stockings filled and lined up on the couch the night before, but opted to wait for morning since Isabel had loaned her room to Tia Cata and was spending the night downstairs. She and Ian were my observers as I lined up six bags of gifts with their corresponding stockings and wondered if I shouldn't just leave them that way. But they eagerly urged me to take the time to put each wrapped item into the stockings even though they would just be returning to the bags again, because tradition! and fun! So I acquiesced and finally they were all stuffed and photographs were taken of the six stockings and six children as we began our celebration by reading together the Christmas story from Luke 2.

Inside the stockings, Do-It-Yourself slime and bouncy balls were a hit this year with the boys, and the girls seemed to enjoy their grown up wallets (especially Isabel's whose design was her own trademark cheetah!) The trademark triangular shape of a Toblerone gave itself away before the wrapping was even torn. I grew up with the tradition of every stocking gift being individually wrapped so as to make the unwrapping more fun, and Pedro humors me by helping me with this tedious task (times six!) But I did catch him trying to wrap two Skittles packages in one this year!

Usually we would pause after stockings and sit down together to breakfast, but our later morning meant the oatmeal bake was not quite done. So instead we designated Silas as official gift deliverer and allowed him to hand one to each person in the room before we took turns (sometimes by birth order, sometimes randomly) to open them. Another tradition in our family is for us as parents to give three gifts to our children in recognition of the number of gifts given by the wise men to Jesus. One is usually bigger or more expensive than the others. As our kids get older, these decisions get harder (and more costly!) This year's gifts included a "go-pro"  style camera, a (deeply discounted) cell phone, a video game controller, a mechanical keyboard, and a couple of gym memberships. Always in my heart I hope our children feel both loved and also content. I know that our three gifts may be less in number or cost than what some of their peers receive, but living on the mission field I also know that their three gifts may be much more than other children will see on Christmas. We have even met believers in Chile who purposely do not exchange gifts because they wish to focus solely on Christ, so I am sensitive to this as well.

Thankfully, contentment seemed to be an overall sentiment as the nine of us gathered for breakfast and quietly scattered to enjoy the novelties of the day. Silas was overjoyed to have a very patient Tia Catalina helping him to figure out and/or build his toys. When lunch rolled around, Pedro had created a delicious turkey soup from leftovers. In the afternoon, I chauffered a friend whose car was malfunctioning to a lunch activity at the home of missionary friends. And in the early evening, we video chatted with my side of the family who were all gathered at the Fishers' playing a life-sized Jenga game and enjoying a Christmas meal together. It was a delight to see great-niece Josie at eight months standing and smiling!

Our night ended with a trip to the theater for our older boys to see the new (and last) Star Wars movie as part of their gift from Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop. Since Pedro preferred not to potentially fight crowds on Christmas and Tia Cata is a film fan, she and I got to accompany Owen, Ian and Alec to the 9 p.m. showing (which turned out to be quite uncrowded after all!) Instead Pedro and Silas, Eva and Isabel enjoyed a funny family movie at home. The boys and I dropped Tia Cata off at her place and drove carefully home, avoiding the oceanfront drive at Cavancha due to tires burning at a manifestation there. We discussed the movie and the manifestation, finding paralells in having to be alert to potential danger on dark downtown streets and also alert to dangerous ideologies hidden in Hollywood movies that are contrary to God's Word. I love impromptu conversations like these and always hope they plant seeds of wisdom in our children!

It was a Merry Christmas. It was full of fun and family. I am thankful for the birthday of Jesus. And I am thankful for His great gifts. Foremost, salvation. But also, family. May these written memories serve as a reminder of sweet times shared.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas Eve 2019

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2019 were summer days, warm in both temperature and holiday spirit. Our celebrations were relatively small and simple but thoughtful and memorable in their own way. Pedro gave of his time on the morning of the 24th to accompany Richard, a Bolivian friend, to the Zofri in pursuit of needed car documents. He then returned home to roll up his sleeves and make turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies and gravy for our Christmas Eve meal. Meanwhile Silas went to pre-school until noon and at pick up time, we delivered presents and a card he had personally colored to all the teachers at his jardin. From there we drove to Aunt Pam and Uncle Jon's house for a gift exchange and to wish Aunt Pam a Happy Birthday!

No sooner had we returned home than our friends Pedro, Isabel and Luisa were at our door delivering a surprise to us! A huge mango milhojas cake called "Torta Amor" was their demonstration of love to our family this Christmas season. Not only this, but two days prior Luisa had orquestrated the appearance of one of Iquique's favorite traditions to our doorstep when a "Pascuero" truck delivered candy and a personal gift from "Santa" to Silas.

The clock was ticking towards the time our invited guests were to arrive for dinner at 7 p.m. when I left home to finalize a few last gifts. One of my stops was the Christmas market, where I met Eva and Ian who walked up the hill to join me. From there I briefly paused at the house to exchange Eva for Silas, then drove downtown to pick up a previously ordered mango cake which we would now be passing on to another family since we had no need for two cakes, however delicious they might be! With cake in possesion, we proceeded to FLORECE to retrieve our friend Catalina who would be spending Christmas with us for the second year in a row. And then, we drove back across town to the home of the Spink family to deliver gifts and the cake since we knew they would be having a large group of people for Christmas lunch the next day.

Around 7:15 p.m. we returned home to find our friend Richard (from Bolivia) and Dr. Ron (from the States) already waiting for us. A retired doctor, Ron owns an apartment down the street from us and spends three months a year in Iquique to escape winter. This was his second year with us and we had already learned to expect delicious contributions to our Christmas Eve meal! His American-style potato salad, Chilean-style pebre, delicious guacamole and especially his sweet potato casserole did not disappoint. Pedro's turkey was tender and moist and we enjoyed a wonderful meal in good company, ending with a couple of Christmas word games at the table.

While our food settled, we gathered in the living room to sing three Christmas carols to guitar accompaniment provided by Owen, Ian and Alec. They learned "Noche de Paz," "Al Mundo Paz" and "Alla en el Pesebre" this year and had already played for a Christmas outreach downtown and at the new church plant, so they did a great job! Our final song was "Happy Birthday" as we lit candles on the mango milhojas cake and celebrated the birth of our Savior Jesus. The trick candles on the cake were not planned, but brought some mirth to the occasion! Afterwards we took turns sharing a reason why we love Jesus, and it was a blessing to hear from each of our family members and three special guests. (Silas' testimony was a bit theologically confused as he thanked Jesus for everything from Creation to Santa Claus, but he was definitely grateful!)

Later that evening when Richard and Ron had returned home and Pedro was just about to head to bed, another visitor arrived. I had run into Francisco at the Christmas fair and learned he had nowhere to spend Christmas Eve, so invited him to our 7 p.m. meal but somehow the time had not registered and he arrived at 11:30 instead! He and Pedro had a leisurely chat while the rest of us per annual tradition watched "The Nativity." Though no Hollywood movie is perfect, this one is rich in cultural context and humanity and always reminds us that the birth of baby Jesus was not clean or comfortable or easy, yet life changing for the entire world.

One other memorable part of Christmas Eve was having two sets of neighbors stop by with gifts for our family. This was significant because our children had very much wanted to continue our family tradition of handing out homemade sweet treats to our neighbors this year. I felt overwhelmed at the thought, and asked if each of our oldest would make the cookie he or she knew best how to do. Eva made sugar cookies, Isabel made marshmallow cheerio treats, and Owen made chocolate oatmeal no-bakes. They did such a great job, and then I organized decorative trays which we delivered with a Christmas note from our family in which we introduced each of us by name. Maybe it was stating that our children had made the cookies or explaining that we were North Americans with Iquique in our hearts or just sharing our names, but this year is seemed that our neighbors responded more and one family went as far as writing their own personal note with each of their names. As it turns out, their last name is Garcia, too! And the young adult son who made and delivered some delicious cupcakes seemed to enjoy practicing English as well.

We were far from alone in staying up so late since Chilean tradition is to open gifts at midnight. Ours is still to do so on Christmas morning but when the movie had ended and Francisco had gone, we did open one each from our family name exchange. Last year we exchanged names and one night all together went to the Christmas fair with a designated amount to be spent by each person. It turned out so well that everyone wanted to do it again, and I absolutely loved observing my kids thoughtfully choosing for one another and then delighting in what their siblings found. We ended the night on a joyful note and headed to bed well in the wee hours (2 a.m. for me!) with happy hearts for Christmas morning!

For posterity's sake, here are the gifts chosen by family members for one another:

Pedro had my name and bought me a pretty pink and cream straw hat for all the times he has to remind me to stay out of the strong Iquique sun. I had Eva's name and gifted her a beautiful shawl with llamas and other Northern Chile designs to keep her warm with memories of home when she goes stateside to study next year. Eva had Daddy's name and gave him a new big "La U" coffee mug and matching keychain, since his previous big mug broke and this is his favorite Chilean soccer team. Isabel had Ian's name and bought him a pair of sunglasses and a big tub of glittery slime because she knows her tactile brother well, and he loved it. Owen had Silas' name and with a little help from Mom bought Silas a stuffed "Forky" (from Toy Story) and an electronic Minions toy that scoots around the floor while playing a repetitive tune and shining colored lights everywhere like a disco ball - a huge hit with his hyper little brother! Ian had Owen's name and purchased a requested gold chain and a little Fortnite pillow for his brother's "comfort" while gaming. Alec had Isabel's name and gave her a pretty purple watch and $2 mil with a note inviting her to purchase matching earrings. And finally, Silas had Alec's name and added a bracelet to his collection and bought him a big black and orange digital watch.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Happy 12th Birthday, Ian David

One of the qualities I appreciate about Ian is his childlike wonder. Special moments such as birthdays and Christmas have yet to become commonplace to a boy whose appearance each day looks more like a young man but whose heart is still that of a child. This year we faced a dilemma as he was eagerly counting down the days to his 12th birthday on December 9, but Pedro and Eva were scheduled to be away at that time. So we decided to surprise him with cake, candles and friends a few days before his actual birthday.

Somehow we convinced both Ian and Silas to play together in the boys' bedroom while balloons were blown up and strung and the table was set for company. While we always miss our stateside family on special occasions, it was meaningful to have loving stand-in "grandparents" with Aunt Pam and Uncle Jon, and Tia Isabel and Tio Pedro joining us for Ian's birthday lunch. Another special guest was Ian's friend Cristobal, a boy his age who has become a great buddy through basketball and who also lives nearby.

Cristobal's mom told me that she was unsure about the gift they chose for Ian, but her son was absolutely certain that his friend would love it - and he did! They gave Ian his very own tool box and tool set. For a tactile kid and a handyman in the making, it was a great decision. Ian had also asked us for a bike chain and bike headlights. We were happy to provide them because we love that he enjoys the exercise and socializing that accompanies his bike riding!

Unfortunately, there was one part of our surprise we did not think through well and that was preparing little brother Silas. He is the consummate lover of birthdays and at just four years old does not understand that his is still many months away. So when he came downstairs with Ian and found a crowd waiting to yell, "Surprise! Happy Birthday!" his excitement leapt only to be following by crushing disappointment and tears. Later we found out that he was also sincerely frightened by the sudden shouts. We ended up doing pre-school damage control before the party was properly started, but eventually he came around (and sat as close to the cake and presents and birthday brother as humanly possible!) 

As is our custom, we took turns going around the table to state what each one of us loves about the birthday boy. Ian's smile, sense of humor, hard work, and other attributes were mentioned and praised. And after cake and ice cream, Pedro and the boys headed to "part two" of the birthday as they ventured to the bowling alley together. Overall it seems all the kids enjoyed the outing and hopefully Ian felt loved and celebrated by everyone who participated in his special day. 

Dear Ian,

How time continues to fly by and you are now twelve years old! What an exciting number for you, as in Chile it means you can compete for the front passenger seat with your siblings now. :) It also means we have only one pre-teen year left with the smiling little boy who captured our hearts in Haiti a dozen years ago and continues to teach us so much.

Ian, your name means "God is gracious" or "gift from God" and that is truly what you are to our family. Because of circumstances outside your control as a very tiny baby, there are certain struggles unique to you as you grow and mature. Yet God has given us the privilege of learning alongside you what it means to be persistent and patient and forgiving and kind. Mom and Dad fail often, yet I hope that we have demonstrated to you our commitment and care and that you know beyond a shadow of doubt that we are rooting for you to succeed!

We love you, Ian, and are so thankful for your wonder and joy and creativity. Happy 12th Birthday and may this year be full of wonderful blessings from God for your life!

All my love,

Birthday Posts by Year:

Ian's 11th birthday post
Ian's 10th birthday post
Ian's 9th birthday post
Ian's 8th birthday post
Ian's 7th birthday post
Ian's 6th birthday post
Ian's 5th birthday post
Ian's 4th birthday post
Ian's 3rd birthday post
Ian's 2nd birthday post
Ian's 1st birthday post

Friday, December 06, 2019

Faithful in a Fractured Land

It's been far too long since I have written here in our little corner of the blogosphere. As silly as it sounds, actually sitting down to the keyboard with this purpose in mind even makes my eyes water a bit! Life has been so full and sometimes frantic and it saddens me that so many stories of our family life are only occasionally captured in an Instagram or Facebook post anymore. With an 18-year old leaving home in just 5 1/2 months (yes, I am counting) and a 4-year old who is almost never still and three pre-teen/teen boys in basketball near daily and a 17-year old finding her place in the world, just with our "Sweet Six" there is enough chaos and conversation in a day to suffice.

But added to that are numerous changes in schedule and ministry with FLORECE's move to its new permanent location and this week's soft launch of a downtown church plant on Sunday evenings in addition to the south side church plant on Sunday mornings. Not to mention the 45+ days of political and social unrest in Chile which currently has our city of Iquique looking like a war zone with sheet metal protecting store windows and barbed wire wrapping around businesses while marches still take place, sometimes multiple times a day.

And then there is the weight of need all around us, the consequence of these weeks of wanton destruction which have left many without work as rent comes due and there is no money to pay it. Also the tension of conflicting ideologies as each and every faction seems to clamor for their rights regardless if doing so infringes on the rights of others. There is little sense of joy or excitement in the air despite entering the Christmas season and what should have been the beginning of summer vacation. Most schools in the city have been without classes for many weeks now, having been overtaken by students and/or parents whether by choice or by threats from other parties.

One day rolls into the next and I barely seem to make a dent in my ever-lengthening list and often I start and end my days with dueling pressures and priorities stealing my own joy and sitting as an invisible burden on my shoulders. Tears well up at random moments, though my fourteen-year old assures me that his cousin said his mom (my sister) cried all the time during her oldest child's last year at home, too! ;) It is this humor and sweetness of my kids that lightens my days and it is the timeless truth of God's Word that stabilizes and centers my life. 

His Word rings truer and shines brighter the darker the world around us becomes. Only God's eternal purposes and plans make sense in the midst of so much insanity. No man and no government will ever provide the answers sought through peaceful protests and anarchy alike. When one party decries "neither forgiveness nor forgetting" and each group seeks its own best interest and revenge for past wrongs, this is not the way of Christ. When those in positions of power refuse to deny themselves or empathize with the weak and poor, this is not the example of our servant King. When Christians show more passion for politics and social justice and financial security than the salvation of eternal souls, their priorities are not those of Jesus.

It is so much easier to turn off emotions than engage with the hurting; to fling frustrated words at those doing obvious wrong; to give the cold shoulder to someone with whom we disagree than to live righteously, compassionately, and sacrificially in obedience to our Savior. When our home is in the "safe" zone and we can be personally unaffected in a physical sense by conflict and confrontations, it is tempting to tuck ourselves inside and allow mindless entertainment to numb the stress. Yet it is so important that we seek to provide a safe harbor to those in need around us. What does that look like? I cannot say that I know for certain. Sometimes it is just offering a family atmosphere to a lonely friend. Other times it is helping financially as we are able. Often it is simply checking in by phone with a word of encouragement, Scripture or prayer. Frequently it is choosing responses carefully and occasionally erasing the carefully typed statement we really want to spout on social media. All I know for sure is that God is still on His throne, and we are still learning to stay faithful in a fractured land.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Doozy Days (When Daddy's Gone), Part Two

Our second full day after Pedro's departure started much like the first, rousing a sleepy Silas for family devotions before heading him off to pre-school while his older siblings did their studies at home in Eli's company. My big goal for this day was to take advantage of a 2-for-1 special at a new car cleaning service located in the underground parking of our neighborhood grocery store. Since the cars needed to be of similar size to qualify for the sale, I invited our colleague Jenn to bring her little red Fiesta to join mine for cleaning while the two of us enjoyed breakfast together at a café upstairs. This was an unusual treat and I appreciated the time spent with Jenn who joined us on the field just five months ago and has already become an integral part of our missionary team. She has also been an encouraging missionary "aunt" to our children, making time to get to know each one and spending time building relationships with them. In fact, on the schedule for this day was lunch with Eva and Isabel at the Zofri where they would accompany Jenn in search of airtight bottles for her homemade "kombucha!"

One reason I was eager to have my 16-year old "beater" Fiesta detailed was a recent incident where I stumbled upon a strange man sitting inside my car attempting to steal the radio and other loose items inside. I'd felt icky in the car ever since and was so happy with the results of the cleaning! It was also a test of the company's services, as we had two more vehicles to bring in that day: our family's Kia van, and another green minivan which would be used by our returning teammates the next day. With just one driver at home, however, the movement of cars looked like this: after lunch, I drove the Fiesta to the Spinks' house, picked up the green van, delivered it to the underground parking lot of Lider, walked home, picked up the white van, delivered it to the underground parking lot, and walked back home. While the company's services were good, they were not quick, so I knew we'd be cutting close on time at the end of the day. What I didn't realize was that the call to pick up the vans would coincide with an accident at home (little Luciana and her mom were again with us that day, and the baby took a scary but thankfully harmless tumble on the stairs even though we were both within arms' reach!) Unfortunately, neither did I realize I had turned the green van off incorrectly which resulted in its battery being dead when I went to drive it away. By this time, Ian and Alec were on the far side of town awaiting pick up from basketball practice so I called to let them know to sit tight until I could reach them.

Thankfully, the lady at the company was so very kind. She called her husband to come help me jump the green van, so after walking to the grocery store I turned around and walked home to retrieve the jumper cables and then back again to provide them to my rescuer. She then asked her husband to drive our white van behind me in the green van so that I would not have to do another run back for it! In order to charge the van's battery, I kept it running as I picked up Yessica and Luciana and drove them through busy traffic home, finally heading then downtown to pick up my waiting sons. This was definitely one of those "doozy days" and I was not sad to see it go! The boys and I drove the green van back to the Spinks' house, ran inside to turn off a third-story light that was accidentally left on the day before, turned on the patio lights to deter unwanted "visitors" to the empty house, made sure the van was turned off correctly, and then drove the red car home. All's well that ends well, and excitement was running high with the knowledge that the next day our friends would be home after a year away.

Doozy Days (When Daddy's Gone), Part One

I've updated my cell phone screen to a picture of the two of us. It doesn't make the days any shorter or the crazy routines more manageable, but it does make me feel like I'm not so alone. Life with six kids is always an adventure, but it's one we usually take together. I sometimes call it "tag team parenting" which really means we are pulling in the same direction with the same goals, trying to make sure one or the other of us is always present and available to our children. 

We do it imperfectly, but we do it together. 

Except this week, Pedro is traveling outside the country, so I am doing it alone. It's only fair, since he did the same for me when I traveled stateside in May. And I am truly appreciative of the fact that he can be ministered to and soak in excellent training, counsel and fellowship with other missionaries to later share his experiences with us. I'm also so happy that his conference took him close enough to his parents to spend some special time with them as well.

But there has certainly been more than one "doozy of a day" since he's been gone. And I thought it might be fun to record some of it here and now, so that at a distant time in the future we might look back and remark how crazy our life once was. The trouble is, we are only on Day 5 and already I have trouble pulling up the details of Days 1 through 4! But I do know the early part of our week was spent in preparation for the arrival of our teammates, Jon and Kim Spink with their five children currently at home. My dear husband invested many hours to this end prior to his departure in a desire to "pay it forward" and make their return as comfortable as ours was when friends kindly painted and cleaned our house in advance of our arrival last year. Having done that, he also brought a neglected minivan up to speed so as to pass inspection and be ready to serve their family since the vehicle they left behind was having problems. On Sunday morning before church, Pedro drove to our friends' house to remove several seats from the van so it would be available to carry their luggage on the day they reached Iquique. Shortly after church, this picture was taken as he caught his flight to Santiago and then on to the USA.

So it was that my designated task on Monday was to go online to obtain Chile's mandatory minimum car insurance and Iquique's municipal permission of circulation in order for the van to be fully legal. It was my goal to start the day with our regular family devotions (currently consisting of The Bible Project videos and prayer) then drop Silas off to pre-school while Ian and Alec began their daily schooling with Elisa and Eva, Isabel and Owen did their work online. At 10:00 AM, I had a breakfast meeting with missionary colleague Pam and a FLORECE volunteer (at the volunteer's request.)

When our time together ended, I hurried home to pick up Yessica who would finish cleaning at the Spinks' home while we watched her 1 1/2 year old daughter. Said daughter is very attached to her mom and keeping her happy was easier said than done! Eva and Whittaker our dog joined me and the baby in dropping off Yessica and picking up Silas. We returned home for lunch with our family and "Luchi" (Luciana) who ate a few bites before falling briefly to sleep. Then I drove back to deliver lunch to her mom and planned to buy groceries. My route took me past our house yet again and God used this to put me at just the right place and time to witness a heartstopping unwise biking choice by one of my sons. Instead of continuing on to the grocery store, I summoned him into the car for a heart-to-heart conversation and afterwards poured out my frustration by voice chat to my husband far away!

But I still needed to buy groceries and just then Luciana woke up crying, so Isabel and I took her to Lider as a distraction. It turned out we ourselves were the distraction as people turned to stare while the baby cried loudly, "Mamá! Mamá!" in each new aisle as if she thought her mom might happen to be there. It wasn't until we reached the cookie aisle that her mood changed. Thank goodness for "galletas!"

After Lider, I dropped Isabel and Luciana off with Yessica for the next hour and hurried home to do some necessary paperwork before returning to pick them up. On the docket for the evening was still basketball for Owen, from 7 to 9 PM. I took Ian and Silas with me to drop off our guests, then navigated traffic to a neighborhood park where the two of them could play together for awhile. Finally we picked up Owen and returned home having completed our first day without Daddy and fell exhausted into bed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Two Abundant Weeks, Part Three

A bittersweet part of the trip my sister Jenn and I took stateside in May was the "trip inside the trip" to take her oldest son Matias to North Carolina for his senior year of high school. It was special to be able to accompany Jenn on this journey, but also painful to witness their parting and to consider ours coming up with Eva the next year. In a short span of time, there were numerous details to be accomplished: clothes shopping, opening a bank account, meeting his principal and touring his new school, among others. 

It was an encouragement to see how God had gone before them to prepare the way for the senior year they had never expected. Rather than graduating in the country, city and school with the class he had always known, Mati would be graduating in another country, city and school with brand-new teachers and classmates. But he would also be joining two lifelong friends for this adventure, and all three would be living with a missionary "aunt" and "uncle" who had known Mati from infancy. Only God could have orchestrated the timing and details of all of their lives to intersect and complement one another at this time!

It so happened that Mati would be living in the same city as the daughter and son-in-law of our colleagues from Chile, who themselves were on furlough and in town to meet their brand-new granddaughter. It always feels a little surreal to connect with each other away from our mutual field of service, but it was a treat to spend a short while with the Spinks on a sticky summer afternoon getting caught up and admiring their sweet new bundle of pink!

And finally, one more surprise for our parents and one more momentous occasion of which we were able to take part on this trip was the Fisher family's commissioning service. Having walked alongside our sister Terri with her husband and kids for several long years while on raising their support, it was a joy to be able to celebrate God's faithful calling and supply in their lives. The surprise for our parents was the song Terri had chosen for the three of us to sing together, which was the same one sung at their commissioning service so many years ago. As we sang, pictures scrolled behind us from the years of ministry our own parents had in Chile, where they are still loved and remembered.


The path that I have trod, has brought me nearer God,
though oft it led through sorrows gates.
Though not the way I'd choose, in my way I might lose,
the joy that yet for me awaits.

Not what I wish to be, nor where I wish to go.
For who am I that I should choose my way.
The Lord will choose for me, 'tis better far I know.
So let him bid me go; or stay.

The cross that I must bear, if I a crown would wear,
is not the cross that I would take.
But since on me 'tis laid, I'll take it unafraid;
and bear it for the Master's sake.


Submission to the will, of Him who loves me still,
is surety of his love revealed.
My soul shall rise above this world in which I move;
I conquer only when I yield.

Terri did a wonderful job of planning every detail of the service. It was a blessing to see friends from different seasons of their lives who made the effort to come and join them on this evening. Extended family members - Dave's dad and our aunt and cousins - joined us also, as did several individuals from our mission board who have been an encouragement to the Fishers along the way. Soon Dave and Terri will join us in Iquique, and as the words above their heads declare in the picture below, "To God be the glory!"

Monday, June 17, 2019

Two Abundant Weeks, Part Two

It was a blessing to visit my parents' church twice during my brief visit to the States for their anniversary. Our family "met" Grace Baptist Church of Lancaster during our 11 1/2 months of stateside ministry/furlough. During that time, a previously unknown-to-us congregation became dear friends and supporters. In a weekday morning Bible study and my mom's Sunday School class for adult women, I was blessed by the fellowship of sweet ladies from various backgrounds who truly cared for one another and expressed sincere interest in our family's story. In youth group, AWANA, Sunday School, choir and Sunday morning services, each of our children found encouragement and friendship. We were challenged individually and as a family by the practical, Biblical messages by Pastor Greg and the fleshing out of those messages within the church through ministries such as Discovery Recovery which was new and encouraging to us.

I love to listen to my mom teach, and was happy to be able to do on this visit. She is sincere, self-effacing, studious and sympathetic. She has read the entire Bible many times through, yet continues to have a teachable spirit and refreshing wonder at the truths contained therein. She spills this interest and excitement onto her listeners as well, never assuming vast knowledge but seeming to learn right alongside them. I love my mom so much!

On this trip, I also treasured Sunday morning breakfast prepared by my dad. There are so many memories wrapped up in this one simple meal! I don't think I exaggerate when I recall that throughout our growing up years, Sunday morning breakfast was the only meal I ever knew Dad to cook. He had one recipe: scrambled eggs, a bit on the dry side. Sometimes we'd enjoy bacon with our eggs with a strict limit of two pieces each. Often buttered toast rounded out the meal. It wasn't until later in life that I pondered the idea that preparing breakfast for us on Sundays - a pastor's working day - was an act of prioritizing our family before focusing on "ministry." Certainly doing so now is not an easy task for my dad with his struggles to stay on his feet and balancing/fine motor skill issues due to challenges from MSA (Multiple System Atrophy.) But in honor of two of his girls being home, there he was carrying out the task we witnessed hundreds of time in our growing up years. How I love my dad!

Dad's MSA has limited his lifestyle in recent years, restricting him to use of a walker as his legs often give out and sapping his energy so that he does not venture far from home for long periods of time. This made it all the more meaningful that he put out so much extra effort on our visit, summoning the desire to join us on outings that certainly taxed his limits physically. On two occasions we enjoyed theatrical productions together. Servant Stage brilliantly presented the musical "My Fair Lady" which brought back family memories from my sister Jenn's role as Eliza in a high school production. And as Lancaster residents, my parents were able to purchase half-priced tickets to Sight & Sound Theatres for their magnificent musical "Jesus." I am so thankful for these special moments shared together.

Sight & Sound Theatres, Lancaster, PA

Servant Stage production of "My Fair Lady"

It was a blessing to have so many family events packed into a short while, so that we were able to see extended family more than once during our two weeks stateside. The birthday of our niece Carey and the graduation from masonry school of our nephew Sabastian allowed us a pleasant afternoon with them and other friends and family members. Our former missionary colleague Crystal drove to spend the day with us and it was a joy to reconnect with her! 

Of course, we loved more opportunities to hold beautiful grand-niece Josie as well. Both sets of grandparents and her great-grandfather Fisher were also visiting, so there were many arms awaiting her! Another special person we met was our nephew's girlfriend Emma (to whom he would become engaged several months later) which made it so nice to place a face with a name!

While at Terri and Dave's for this celebration, many hands made "light work" of crushing galletas de vino that Jenn had brought from Chile and mixing those with manjar to later roll in coconut, creating delicious Chilean cocadas for the Fisher commissioning service and dinner. The beauty of the body of Christ but especially those of us who have connected across countries and cultures is the ability to pick up not only where we left off, but also incorporate shared customs and tastes that bring back so many sweet memories!