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!
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
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! 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 via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!