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!