As we move through this difficult time of adjustment and transition, we seem to be on a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes excited about new places and new opportunities and new challenges, sometimes so devastated at the thought of leaving the people we love and work with every day, sometimes paralyzed by the idea of picking up and moving again and starting over.
Building new relationships, saying goodbye to old ones. New ministry plans and vision and focus, yet thinking about the ministry here in Peru and praying that the seeds that we planted and fostered will continue to grow and spread. It is just a strange time of ‘in-between’worlds.
This time also causes me to do a lot of reminiscing and thinking back to what my original ideas were when we were transitioning to Peru. I never dreamed that I would be living in a primitive adobe house with no toilet! I never dreamed that my big challenges each day would be whether or not we have water, or whether or not the road would be open, or whether or not there would be grass to feed our goats. There are good things that I never dreamed about, too. I never dreamed that we would start two school programs, that we would have a community greenhouse or that we would have 30 abandoned elderly that we would feed and take care of. I never dreamed that we would teach Bible classes in the public school or that we would build 4 playgrounds in rural Peru.
Another ‘I never dreamed’ moment… One day, when I was well into a full-blown case of pneumonia (for the third time in four years), I was trying to take a shower. It was a miracle that we even had water that day! Our shower is located in an outhouse away from the main adobe structure, so I was pretty isolated and alone. During my shower, I began coughing. My coughing spells had gotten progressively worse over the past few days and left me gasping for air and panicked as to whether or not I would be able to take that next breath. This time, my coughing left me doubled over on the floor of the shower, naked and wet and wondering if this was the end. The thought crossed my mind, “When they find me dead on the floor, I hope Billy comes up with a good cover-up story! This is NOT the way I expected to die on the mission field. I always knew that I could die on the field, but I thought it would be doing something heroic or noble… carrying Bibles into the jungle, or trekking the highest Andes Mountains with locals, or at the hands of an angry
anti-Christian mob. I never thought that I would cough to death on the shower floor! This just won’t do!!! Oh, Billy - Please come up with a better story before my funeral!” I was totally serious. So serious that I laid there and cried.
I laugh about that story now, but it really wasn’t funny then. I spent the
next 5 days in the hospital.
There are so many good memories here. Days when we have spent all day sitting in someone’s field talking while they harvested a crop or sifted wheat or watched their sheep graze. Memories of sitting and embroidering for hours with community ladies, fingers literally bloody because I am so inept at this art form that even 4 year old Peruvians can do. Remembering how my name sounds when twenty preschoolers squeal it at the top of their lungs and run to hug my knees. Remembering watching a tiny‘disabled’ student, Kenyi, as he ran the 50 yard dash for a hundred amazed on-lookers... a miracle in action.
Memories…how will we ever live through the next couple of months? This transition gets harder by the day.
In Genesis 1:26-27, we read that God created man in his own image and
likeness. As a parent, I can somewhat liken this idea to the fact that our children carry our genes and in doing so, carry our image and our likeness. Sometimes they appear more like us than other times, in both physical appearance as well as personality and character
traits. For me, I know that I have been made in God’s image, but sadly I also know that I am a poor image bearer at times. I think of myself as a fruit basket… the basket represents God’s image in me, or you might see it from the perspective that the basket is the Holy Spirit within me. Over time, my basket has grown in its ability to function and to bear
fruit. Sometimes, I am a really capable basket and I bear fruit well: as in Galatians 5:22, sometimes I am doing well, I’m in balance spiritually, and I am doing a decent job of showing love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In other words, the image of God is shining through and I am bearing His image well. Yet, there are other times when I manage to ‘upset the apple cart’, so to speak (forgive the pun). This week was one of those times:
I’ve been having a particularly difficult time with our mission work and a transition that is in process.
It is taking its toll in many ways. I’m WAY out of balance spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And
when I’m out of balance, sin finds an easy foothold. I have been stressed, tired, very emotional, physically in pain… and the
downward spiral is hard to control. So, a couple of days ago, my emotions (and sin) got the best of me and I
became venomous. Suffice to say, I was NOT a good example of the image of God. I was less-than loving, less-than
joyful or peaceful, much less-than patient or kind. I’m positive that goodness was not in me that day, nor was gentleness or
self-control. But what was still there was the image… or the fruit basket. Today, days after upsetting the balance of everything and spoiling all of the good fruits I had, I’m working to restore balance and ask for forgiveness of all who were left in the wake.
No matter what we do or how much trouble we cause or how much the balance is upset, we cannot erase the image of God.
Just as our children cannot erase the genes of their parents and won’t ever lose that inheritance, we cannot lose the image in which we were created. ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the
redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (Rms. 3:23-24). The image is still there. All have sinned. All have fallen. But the image remains.
As a coach, counselor, and caregiver, I think the message that many need to hear is that ‘it’s not over yet!’ The image
is still there! Through Christ, there is grace - grace enough to allow us to re-balance the basket and begin to
replace the lost fruit. Interesting how fruit was the image in the beginning of sin, but fruit is also the image to
show us how to move forward and be better image bearers. So grateful for grace today, as I work to upright my apple cart…
A few weeks ago, after giving a short talk in Atlanta on the ministry and what we do in Peru, a gentleman asked me, "What do they call you?" I was taken aback by the question for a minute.
"What do you mean, exactly?", I questioned.
"I mean, how do you fit into the community? How do they see you? What place do you hold?"
I had to laugh in thinking about that question again this morning as I watched Billy open the front gate in his bathrobe, giant pipe wrench in hand. A neighbor was outside the gate with a broken pipe fitting and she brought it to Billy to try to pry open. In this case, on this day, we 'fit' into the community as plumbers. Actually, this has happened on many an occasion and the community has come to know Billy as the guy who has all the tools that might be needed, as well as the know-how to fix almost everything. So, I guess a lot of times, Billy is a Fix-it-Man.
Two days ago, a young mother was knocking on our door for advice about her daughter's fever. This, too, happens a lot. When someone needs a bandaid or cotton balls or guaze, first aid help, or minor medical advice, they often come to see us. There is a medical post down the hill (about a 30 minute walk) or up the hill (about a 20 minute walk), but both posts are not manned full-time - only a couple of days a week for a couple of hours. For real medical help, people must go to the next "big town" (a 20 minute drive in a taxi), or go to Huancayo (a 45 minute - 1 hour ride in a taxi or combi van). In the case of mild injuries, first aid, or motherly advice, we are the go-to people. So, sometimes, we hold the position of local community health folks.
We hold other 'roles' as well... sometimes, we are the people who always have eggs. Sometimes, we are the English homework helpers. Sometimes, we are the people who know how to give parasite medicine to animals. We are the people who have an extra pick and shovel to loan out. We have been called on to be the emergency fix-the-broken-water-line people. Occasionally, we are the people who will give the little old ladies a ride down the mountain so they can go to town to shop. Of course, we have always held the roles of teachers and missionaries, but somehow those began to fade away as we built deeper relationships and gained new names and roles.
In our time here, we have been called "Hermano and Hermana" (Christian brother and sister) most often. But we have also had many days that we have been called Professor, Teacher, Pastor, and Doctor. I was especially excited on the day that I was finally called Tia (aunt) by some neighbor children... to be called Tia was a sign that I had finally arrived at the most informal, familial place I could possibly hold. We also became Neighbor and Family during the past year - true milestones.
I'm still not exactly sure how to answer the question posed to me a few weeks ago, "What do they call you?" Seems like a really long list and a long answer! I think that I can sum up all of the above into three names: Family, Neighbor, Friend. And really, that's all I ever wanted to be!
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!