Thursday, February 28, 2008


A year in review

One year ago on February 12th I moved to San Francisco, rural Paraguay. I remember that day well. It had been a very long and tiring week as we packed up our Asuncion house. I had dengue and was absolutely helpless. It didn’t help that the temperatures were well over 100 degrees. February 11th we moved all our boxes and furniture onto the front porch and waited for the moving truck who promised to come at 5:00. We waited and waited and waited. Each time we called the truck driver he responded “tranquillo” (a common response that makes me want to pull my hair out at times). By 11pm we gave up hope of leaving that day for our new town. Since rain was threatening, we moved all our things back inside.

In the morning the movers came and in the heat of the day loaded and reloaded our possessions onto their too-small-for-our-things truck. Our junk was piled up past the truck’s side walls. A tarp two sizes too small was placed on top and ropes were tied in hopes of containing the bulging items. At 10:00 we were off we went in our green Suburban with our 5 little kids, a German shepherd, and our beloved cat.

We arrived in San Francisco just before 5:00 and immediately drove to look at our house before sundown. It was hardly the same house that I had seen 3 months before (after which I had cried myself to sleep). It had a new coat of paint, screens in the windows, a kincho off the side, an extra room added to the back, and the lawn was freshly cut and weeded. “Thank you, God.” I whispered to Him. “I can make this home.”

Unfortunately, the moving truck did not arrive before dark. They had “bad gas” and had to stop every few minutes to siphon water out. By the time they arrived at 9pm it was hard for me to be happy. I was so incredible hot and sticky and dirty. My head hurt and I was still itchy from the dengue rash. All I wanted to do was crawl into a nice soft clean bed in an air-conditioned room and sleep. But we had only begun our unpacking.

Several of our SIM family came to help which was a huge blessing. Jean and Sarah watched my kids at Jean’s house, feed, bathed and put them to bed. Cherlynn scrubbed red dirt from my appliances and Gina and Kait pounded the dirt from my sofa and chairs. Becky washed my plates and silverware and found places for them. Jeff, Dan H, Tony, and Paul worked up a sweat hauling in the wardrobes and assembling beds. The dust and dirt was incredible. Everything was filthy, even things that had been taped shut in boxes. My furniture had new dings and scratches from bumping along the pot-holed road. My new curtains were already torn and grease stained. Everything seemed to have aged 10 years. I basically stood shell shocked on our porch with Micah on my hip and bossed everyone around as to where I wanted things put (like I had a clue myself).

It is a humbling experience watching your worldly purchases parade before you especially in a town where people have little more than a bed and a change of clothes to their name. Even though it was more stress on me, I was thankful that the movers arrived by the cover of night. Maybe at this hour my new neighbors weren’t staring out their windows at the rich Americans.

I remember those first few weeks in our house and wondered what the future held for our family. God had clearly called us to San Francisco, but our exact role was unclear. I was excited about living in the campana, but I wasn’t entirely sure that I could do it, let alone thrive at it. I couldn’t communicate well to anyone and I wondered if I ever would be able to express the simplest of sentences. Cooking and cleaning took so much longer out here and I wondered if I would ever have time to do anything else.

A year later

I marvel at the role that God has allowed Jeff and me to play. We consider ourselves very “green” when it comes to church planting and cross-culture ministry, yet God has seen fit to use us in spite of our defects. Using the medical ministry God has blessed us with instant relationships and acceptance into this community. Some of the roles God has asked us to play have come easily and we have done them with great excitement. Other roles push us beyond our comfort zone and have done them reluctantly. I still lie in bed at night and wonder what the future holds for our family but each night I am even more aware of God’s Great Faithfulness and mercies that are new every morning.

For me, communication has not been easy. In fact, I struggle more than I will probably let anyone know. It is difficult to watch my husband surge forward in the language and thrive in relationships. I try my best to acknowledge Paraguayans comments like, “Your husband speaks so much better than you” with a smile. For an outgoing person who loves relationships, it is torture to sit with a shut mouth! I still wonder if I will ever be able to express the simplest of sentences. I daily offer my lack of Guarani to the Lord and ask him to use what little I have for his glory.

As for the “thriving” part of living in rural Paraguay, well, I am enjoying every moment! I am enjoying learning new things about country living. For one, my chicken catching skills have improved. I can also clip their wings, de-feather, de-gut and cook up a chicken stew. I can pasteurize milk, plant a garden that actually produces fruit, kill huge spiders without screaming and put our car in four wheel drive. A year ago I wondered if I would have time to do anything else but cook and clean. Living in the land of no fast food I still spend much of my time in the kitchen. It has been fun though experimenting with recipes and learning to make things from scratch. I have learned to make my own frozen dinners and “just-add-butter-and-eggs” brownies mixes. Although I am still not so good at yeast breads, my donuts are good and my recent attempt at Hostess cupcakes were a hit. I have a wonderful lady that helps me in the house every morning for three hours. She has relieved more stress than I could express. She is a wonderful cleaner and organizer. She has two kids that she brings with her who get along well my mine. I have found on those days when I seek first His kingdom, all those other little things I want to do are added to me (I even have a chance to write things like this!).

My family is such a joy to me. Although some habits are every much the same as last year - shoes being left in the middle of the room, the toilet forgetting to be flushed, the dog not being fed, and the ice trays not being refilled and put back – I have watched other habits develop in my kids over the year in which I am thankful. Ryan reads his Bible each morning before his starts his home school. It has been fun to see Ryan’s “light” go on as he learns about historical events, interesting animals, and does cool science projects. Ginny and Joshua (finally) play well together, using their vivid imaginations and their love for the outdoors to fuel their play. Tyler has become the ham-bone of the family and Micah, well Micah, has become a full-blown curious toddler (and all that implies). The kids have morning chores which they are learning to do without being told and at times they even do them with a cheerful attitude! I watched just last night at a friend’s quincenera birthday party my children running, playing, and communicating with other Paraguayan children. People often ask them what are some differences between America and Paraguay. It is hard for them to answer because they don’t remember much from the states. This is home and they are very happy. We have so much time to be together as a family it is wonderful. We have time to eat meals together and share daily devotionals. We have time to watch movies and play games together.

Best of all, I have grown closer to the Lord over this last year. Without the distraction of TV, keeping up with latest fashions, and the high paced American life it has been easier to hear His still small voice. I read his word with great eagerness yearning to know more about his character. I have a renewed passion to memorize scriptures so His instructions are never far from my lips. I surrender my all to Him and place all hint of “flesh” at the cross. I know he has great and wonderful mysteries yet to reveal me and I am excited to learn.

Taste of summer - Joshua with watermelon

Big bite

Beautiful summer days - Micah outside

Tyler being silly

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