And Rain Falls Angry on the Tin Roof…

(Admit it, fellow 90’s kids, you’re totally singing “I’ll Be” right now, aren’t you?)

For the past few months, the Honduran rainy season has been here in all its wet glory. As I type this post, our corrugated tin roof is echoing with the steady drum of tropical rain. I’m feeling quite pleased with myself for having moved all of our laundry over to the covered lines this afternoon, despite the blazing sun. I still haven’t gotten a good feel for when the dark clouds on the horizon indicate a major rainstorm or just a temporary cloud cover, but I’ve learned to err on the side of caution. We jokingly refer to it as the “second rinse cycle” when our clothes on the line end up getting doused in a rainstorm; although it’s frustrating, it’s probably the only time our hand-washed clothes end up fully rinsed of soap.

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A couple of Finca kids sharing their umbrella with Kiara

Rainy season is a bit of a mixed bag: while it provides some relief from the sweltering heat, it also provides more mold and mosquitoes, as well as more power outages and -ironically- water shortages (more below). Although most rainy season days include some hard rain and drizzling with occasional sun breaks, we’ve had two major weather systems come through with intense, constant rain that lasts for days.  After the first major storm in November, Eric and I both purchased some hardy rain boots to navigate the Finca when it’s inundated; they have already proven to be well-worth the 220 Lempira ($10) investment!

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My beloved rain boots!

When the heavy downpours relent into a haphazard drizzle, our roof has the odd effect of sounding like a muffled conversation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to see who is talking outside our house, only to realize it’s the sound of random raindrops falling on different materials on the roof. So strange!

By necessity, we’ve gotten into the habit of putting our large, multipurpose buckets outside to collect rainwater during a storm. There are various theories as to why the water goes out when it’s raining hard: debris from the rivers in the mountains (where our water comes from) have clogged the pipe, someone “in charge up there” has decided to close the pipe lest it burst from the water volume, etc. Regardless the reason, we frequently find that we have no water during storms. Even after the water is turned back on, there is usually a 24-hour period during which it is unusable due to the rivers’ churning: I’m sure you can imagine how disconcerting it is to see brown water, speckled with bugs, leaves, and twigs, pouring out of the water faucet! All of this is to say that we are highly-motivated to collect as much clean rainwater as we can while we have the opportunity!

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Collecting rain water and posing for the Finca’s “Preach the Kingdom” campaign

Because our lives here are so closely connected to weather patterns, “talking about the weather” is a far less banal exercise in Honduras than it is in the U.S. We observe the beach to see which direction the waves are crashing in from (if they’re coming in from the East, all is well; from the West, a storm is brewing); we look out on the horizon to check if el mar está enojado (the sea is angry); we keep our ears attuned to the trees in the distance, which –if you’re paying attention—can announce a sudden downpour with enough time to run to shelter. A river crosses our road at three different spots in the 7 km between the Finca and Trujillo. When it has been raining hard, we have to send someone out in a Land Cruiser to scout the road conditions before making a trip into town. It’s always a judgment call: one time, we made it into to Trujillo for Sunday Mass, only to spend several hours stuck between two river crossings on the way home.

According to the Hondurans, rainy season should be over by the end of this month. Already, we’ve gotten a few 2-3 day stretches without precipitation, which, since it’s still “winter,” make for some pleasantly cool days (low 80’s). We know that we are just weeks away from the arrival of un sol bien fuerte (a very strong sun), so we are trying to enjoy the tiempo fresco (cool weather) while it lasts.

…Which is basically our approach to everything about our life here in Honduras: We want to enjoy it while it lasts. Although the struggles and discomforts of life in a developing country are impossible to ignore, so are the unique joys and experiences of our life on the Finca. As always, we are deeply grateful to everyone who helped to make this mission possible for us. We love you and we miss you!

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The girls telling ghost stories under their mosquito net during a storm’s power outage

Holiday Season at the Finca

Merry Christmas, everyone! (I won’t say “belated Christmas,” because we are still in the Liturgical Season of Christmas, and the Finca is nothing if not liturgically accurate.) I hope you are all experiencing the light, joy, and hope of this season!

I apologize for the long interval between blog posts. Our days in Honduras are hectic and full, making it hard to carve out time to write. I am typing this particular post on a Friday afternoon. Eric, who was recently certified to drive on behalf of the Finca, has gone with one of the Franciscan sisters to pick up a large donation of bananas. [Post note: the “donation” ended up being a huge cargo load of Dole bananas bound for the U.S. which were rejected at the port down the road. Eric had a blast driving the Finca’s Land Cruiser through jungle roads to deliver crates of bananas to villages up in the mountains around us. According to him, it was like driving in a live-action 90’s video game. I, for one, am glad I wasn’t there, as the regular roads in Honduras stress me out enough!]

As I write, Kiara and Adelina are reading together on our “couch” (handmade wooden bench with a couple of pillows on top), and I am hoping they can keep one another occupied for at least half an hour. Outside, I hear the sound of waves crashing on the shore while a few Finca kids splash in the water; our backyard Caribbean beach still amazes me. Later today, we missionaries will gather together to cook as a community, as is our Friday afternoon tradition. While cooking is not something that generally brings me joy, I look forward to community cooking every week; it is such a beautiful time to share friendship, laughter, and purpose.

Speaking of our community, we have just gone through several weeks of special holiday events and celebrations, which I’d love to share with you all!

Las Posadas

Here at the Finca, we celebrated the season of Advent through Las Posadas, a beautiful Latin American tradition recounting Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging just before Jesus’s birth. Although I’d heard of Posadas (it is celebrated in many Catholic churches around the U.S.), I’d never participated. My loss!

During the Posadas processions, two children dressed –adorably—as Mary and Joseph lead the Finca community to three houses, seeking posada (an inn/shelter). Through a call-and-response song, they, along with the rest of us peregrinos (pilgrims), are sent away from two houses and finally welcomed into the third. Inside, we read the daily Gospel, have a prayer reflection and/or activity, sing a few Advent hymns, and finally share some food. Both Kiara and Adelina had the opportunity to represent Mary for an evening of Posadas, which was so special!

The Posadas occur every evening for nine evenings leading up to Christmas Eve. Our family led and hosted the 8th Posada at our house. The prospect of hosting the entire Finca community (about 50 people) was somewhat daunting, but it was so worthwhile. We baked six loaves of bread, rearranged our main room to provide space for everybody, and prepared an activity to demonstrate how we can help reflect Jesus’ light in the world. It was an exhausting but beautiful night. I will carry the Posadas memories with me forever… not least because I think the pilgrims’ call-and-response song will be stuck in my head forever. Ha!

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Our home’s Posadas activity

Christmas

Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, is the focal point of the Christmas holiday at the Finca. The children here woke up on Christmas Eve to a new outfit under their Christmas tree (which we missionary “elves” distributed at midnight, after putting together a large gift bag for each child). Most of Christmas Eve was spent in preparation for the evening festivities – cooking endless food (including chickens that we helped to catch, kill, and pluck the weekend before) and decorating the middle school classrooms which double as our party hall.

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Missionary elves preparing Christmas gifts for the Finca kids

The Noche Buena celebration began with a Vigil Mass and then a long, long party (we’re talking seven hours). There was a huge feast, Santa arrived to distribute the gift bags we had assembled, and the kids danced the night away.

Sadly, I am relaying all of these party details second-hand, as I woke up on Christmas Eve to some very…. dramatic gastrointestinal symptoms. Thankfully, the Finca health clinic happened to be open that morning and our doctor quickly diagnosed me with dysentery. (Yes, dysentery, of eternal Oregon Trail fame!) By the time the worst of the illness hit me that night, I was grateful to know I was already being treated; nonetheless, I will always consider this Noche Buena to be more of a Noche Mala for me!

On a lighter note, we did a Secret Santa exchange within our missionary community, giving our person something that smells good, something that tastes good, and something homemade. Due to the dysentery, I was unable to participate, but I assured my Secret Santa recipient that her gifts would get to her eventually – and perhaps make Christmas last a little longer. This quickly turned into a recurring missionary joke: Dysentery: The gift that keeps on giving!

New Year’s Eve

Fresh on the heels of our seven-hour Noche Buena party, it was time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with… another seven-hour party! (You see why it’s hard to find time to blog, right?) In addition to ringing in 2019, this party served as a despedida (goodbye) for four missionaries who have completed their service at the Finca and for our five oldest girls, who just graduated from high school. It was an especially jubilant goodbye for the five high school graduates, as all of them earned a full-ride scholarship to attend university in the capital of Honduras. We are so proud of them and excited for their future!

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Kiara and Adelina performing “Sisters, Sisters” at the New Year’s Eve Party

After much feasting, dancing, reminiscing, and laughing, we welcomed the New Year with a midnight candlelit service in the church. With our candles ablaze and our focus on one another, we didn’t even notice that the power had gone out (again) in the middle of the service, and as I walked home from the church, I felt a combination of exhaustion, gratitude, and hope….

Which pretty much sums up how Eric and I have been feeling since arriving at the Finca. We are exhausted by the erratic schedule and workload here; we are grateful for all that this beautiful place has already given us and for the support of all of you who helped make our family’s mission a reality; and we are hopeful… that we will continue to be changed and formed by our experience here, that we will be able to have a positive impact on this community, and that each and every one of these fabulous Finca kids has a bright and fulfilling future ahead.

Sending you love and hugs from Honduras!

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Our backyard!

Drinking It All In

My mom and her siblings love to tell an amusing story about my grandpa: When he was a young father in the early 1950’s, he moved his growing family to a new home in a developing neighborhood. The home was at the very end of the street, which meant it was also at the very end of the water pipeline. The water pressure in the house was so pathetic that my exasperated grandpa finally took matters into his own hands: he hacked the water source and built his own pipeline directly to his home.

Grandpa, I get it.

As the occupants of a house that is literally the last in line for water here at the Finca, we have begun to celebrate simple water pressure victories, like being able to flush the toilet or complete a shower. We have learned the fundamental importance of keeping our pila (concrete water cistern) filled at all times, lest the water pressure go from negligible to non-existent (which it does for several hours each day). We have hauled huge water jugs back and forth from the potable water spicket, and appreciated deep gulps of yellowish chlorine-filtered water in the hot Honduran sun.

After years of telling our kids that water is a precious and finite resource, we are actually (finally) treating it as one. This is just one of the many ways that our missionary life here at the Finca has started to shape us more into the people we want to be – the people we know we were created to be.

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Our home, Hogar San Francisco (aka, “Where Water Pressure Comes to Die”)

We are now one month into our time at the Finca, and we are still only beginning to learn about and adjust to our new lives. We have completed our initial orientation period (though we will continue training with the outgoing missionaries until their departure in early January), and last Saturday we received our official job assignments for the coming year. As expected, much of our time will be spent at the school, which serves not only the children of the Finca but also the surrounding communities. I will be the elementary school computer teacher and special education coordinator. Eric will be the middle school math teacher and 8th grade English teacher. These roles will allow us to serve in needed positions at the school while giving us the flexibility to care for and partially homeschool Kiara and Adelina.

In Honduras, the school year runs from February to early November (mostly due to the impassibility of roads during rainy season), so Eric and I have several months to plan and prepare for our teaching jobs. Thank goodness! Since neither of us is a professionally-trained teacher, we will definitely be leaning on our resource networks here and in the States to help us plan for the year. Meanwhile, Kiara and Adelina are finishing out the last two weeks of school with their respective classes. Based on an assessment of their academic abilities, they are moving forward one year and will be entering into 3rd and 1st grade in February. (This means that Adelina will only be a kindergartner for two weeks! *sob*)

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Second grade classroom at the Finca

Eric’s and my school positions are just a couple of the many different hats we will be wearing as missionaries (the biggest and most time-consuming being, of course, parents). Eric will be able to utilize his pastoral skills as a contributing preacher during weekly Communion services and as a spiritual leader for our missionary community. I will be the primary donor/benefactor liaison here at the Finca, in addition to helping coordinate special events. I am confident that these jobs, along with our many time-consuming household chores (like hand-washing clothes and cooking on an outdoor wood-burning stove), will keep us more than occupied throughout next year!

For now, we are trying to live fully into these present, precious moments.

We fall asleep to the sound of Caribbean waves and wake up to roosters crowing outside our window. We laugh and pray and read together, without ever pausing to check our phones. We celebrate water pressure! And every day, we get to witness the miracle of Living Water in the children of the Finca, whose heartbreaking histories are no match for the love that abides in and overflows from this beautiful place we now call home.

“Whoever welcomes a child such as this, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me, but Him who sent me.” Mark 9:37 (Official Bible Verse of the Finca del Niño)

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Beautiful painting that our fellow missionary Ally made as a housewarming gift for our home.

In Honduras!

Friends, we are here! We arrived at the Finca last Friday night, equal parts exhausted and excited. Since then, we have been adjusting to our new lives in Honduras – getting our bags unpacked, going through Missionary Orientation, and getting to know the kids and spaces of the Finca. Our hearts are filled with joy and wonder and a touch of apprehension.

I haven’t had time to sit down and write a proper blog post (the small breaks in our 5:45am-8pm Orientation schedule are filled with parenting and life responsibilities). Fortunately, one of my fellow missionaries and now dear friend Anna wrote an amazing post about the Finca’s history and mission, which means I can just link to her post rather than trying to write my own (ha!). I encourage you to read her beautiful words here:

https://belittlelovebig.site123.me/blog/home-at-la-finca

Additionally, I would like to share with you this YouTube video about the Finca. I watched this video repeatedly during our time in Antigua to remind myself of how and why we felt called to make this trip to Central America in the first place. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVb4lPHYAas&feature=share

Last, but certainly not least, I must say (another) profound thank you to all of you who have been supporting our mission and keeping us in your prayers during this time of transition. We have truly been carried by your love. During our first three months at the Finca, we are limited to two hours of internet on Sundays (if there’s power, which is a big IF), so I will not be able to stay in touch as well as I would like. But know that you are in our hearts and our prayers every day. Thank you; we love you!

A Step Along the Way

In just a few hours, we will depart our cozy Antigua home and catch a 3:00 am bus to Honduras. After six amazing weeks of language school and volunteering in Guatemala, we will make the 2-day journey to our new home at the Finca del Niño. We will leave WiFi, hot showers, and the tourist lifestyle behind. We will finally take the next step — the Big Step — in our camino as a missionary family. We are nervous and excited and so very grateful.

On this eve of our departure, I’d like to share with you a prayer, one which has found me repeatedly, indeed relentlessly, since I first heard it 15 years ago. It is the prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a beloved figure here in Central America and one of my favorite saints. His words always seem to track me down when I need them most – words of invitation from an old friend, reminding me of God’s call to lead a life that is reckless in both audacity and humility.

Romero’s prayer recently found me, again. I needed it, again.

Whether you are reading this prayer for the first time or the four-hundredth time, I pray that it moves you as it has always moved me. And I ask that as you read it, you pray for the Finca del Niño community . . . a community which, much to our delight, now includes our family.

The Romero Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

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Las Antorchas de Independencia

Last Friday was a day of celebration here in Guatemala. Not only was it Kiara’s seventh birthday, which we celebrated with a piñata and cake at our language school, it was also the day that Guatemalans celebrate their independence from colonial rule with the Recorrido de las Antorchas de Independencia (Tour of the Freedom Torches).

I have to confess that my knowledge of Central American history was, and remains, very limited (something I’m excited to change over the next 2.5 years). I did not know, for example, that all five original Central American countries celebrate the same Independence Day (September 15th); nor did I know in what century -never mind what specific year- Central America won its independence from Spain (1821). It was such a joy, then, to learn about and celebrate this history alongside Guatemalans last weekend.

Guatemalan Flag

Guatemalan Flag

Quick history lesson: In 1821, the leaders of the Kingdom of Guatemala (which was composed of modern-day Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and southern Mexico) declared independence from Spanish colonial rule. Two years later, all of those countries except Mexico came together to form the United Provinces of Central America. Although the nation of Central America did not last even 20 years before splintering into five separate countries, the citizens of those five countries share a sense of pride and joy in their common history of independence.

One of the ways in which Central Americans commemorate their Independence Day is through the running of the torches. All across Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, groups get together to light a torch and run with it from city to city. The torch represents freedom, and people run with it from city to city because that’s just how the news of independence was spread!

Early in the afternoon last Friday (after Kiara and Adelina had thoroughly demolished their unicorn piñata and stuffed themselves with chocolate cake), our family of four joined a large antorcha group from our language school. None of us knew exactly what we had signed up for (I didn’t even realize that we would actually be running until I saw everybody in athletic clothes), but we were excited nonetheless. The energy level when we boarded the language school bus was amazing, and our group of Canadians, Americans, Guatemalans, and one Kiwi sang and danced all the way to our destination: Parramos, a small village 13 km away, high in the verdant mountains that surround Antigua.

There, we lit our torch and ran!

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Our Finca del Niño family in Parramos

As we wound our way steadily down the mountain, we passed by coffee plantations and villages of cement and tin homes. Villagers crowded outside to cheer us on and – as part of the fun – to throw buckets and baggies of water at us. At one point, Kiara expressed disappointment that people seemed to be specifically trying not to hit her, which, given Guatemalans’ love for children, was almost certainly true. (We finally asked someone from our language school to throw some water at her, just so that she could enjoy the full experience.)

Our bus followed behind our running group, and we could hop on and off for a rest as needed. Kiara and Adelina, always thrilled to do something that would never be allowed in the U.S., were particularly delighted to jump on and off the moving bus. We didn’t spend very much time on the bus, though: Kiara impressed everybody by running nearly all 13 km, and Adelina ran at least half.

Running with the antorchas de independencia was absolutely one of the coolest cultural events I’ve ever experienced. For Kiara, it was an extra-special way to celebrate her seventh birthday. For all of us, it was a fun, energizing, unique adventure that we will never forget!

¡Feliz Día de Independencia!

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Our family on the run. Note: it takes a crazy international adventure for me to smile like this while running!

Un Paseo por Antigua (A Walk through Antigua)

Eric and the girls are in language school, but I have the morning off so I’m going to do some shopping. My destination is La Bodegona, the only supermercado in Antigua. It’s located on the other side of the city, but Antigua is quite small so it should only take me 15 minutes to walk there.

I exit our AirBnB’s front door and cross a small courtyard to an orange metal door. Eric and I chose this AirBnB because it was reasonably-priced and appeared, from an online map of Antigua, to be close to our language school. As a matter of fact, this particular casita is actually attached to our language school. Passing through the orange door, then, I walk right by Kiara, hard at work studying Spanish with her teacher. I see Eric and Adelina with their teachers as well, but I hurry past, lest Adelina see me and become distracted.

Cobblestone Street

Cobblestone street in Antigua

Outside, I cross a one-way cobblestone street, careful to time my crossing with a break in the stream of cars, motorcycles, and tuk tuks that traverse the city. Since there are no crosswalks, it’s best to dart across the street mid-block; that way, the vehicles are only coming from one direction. If this were a family outing, Eric and I would insist on holding the girls’ hands and keeping ourselves in between them and the traffic. Alone, I’m able to move more quickly through the city.

Antigua, the one-time capital of Guatemala, is built on a grid so – calle por calle (street by street) – I make my way steadily northwest. I pass by Iglesia San Pedro, where Eric and I attend Mass on Sundays. Although Kiara and Adelina understand very little Spanish, they do a good job of sitting still during Mass, enticed as they are by the promise of earning helado (ice cream) in exchange for good behavior. (Eric and I are not above parental bribery.)

Iglesia San Pedro

Iglesia San Pedro

Attached to the church is a hospital where physicians (mostly from Canada and the U.S.) volunteer their time with clinics and surgeries. The public hospitals have all been closed since before we arrived, the doctors and nurses on strike due to poor conditions in the hospitals. Antigua is a thriving, bustling city with every amenity we could want (WiFi, hot water, a sports pub for Eric to watch Notre Dame beat Michigan), but the reality of Guatemalan poverty is never very far.

Walking through the Parque Central, I make an easy target for the many indigenous peddlers vending their goods. They sell everything from drinking water in plastic baggies to Guatemalan instruments to selfie sticks. Women, dressed in gorgeous bright traditional clothes, show me woven bags and purses while swaying their babies in colorful slings. I smile broadly, but I’m firm: “No, gracias. No hoy.” (No, thank you. Not today.) Eric and I try to buy from these peddlers whenever we can. We see them carrying their heavy loads, often from villages miles away, working tirelessly to eke out a living in a country where nearly 60% of people live in poverty. If I want to buy a pelota (ball) for the girls, I might as well buy it from the man carrying dozens of them on his back.

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Vendors in the Parque Central – I bought the rainbow shawl

In the distance, the Volcán Pacaya looms large, one of several volcanos visible from Antigua. Last weekend, our family hiked Pacaya, taking in its breathtaking views and roasting marshmallows in its active lava river. Tourism is among the strongest economic drivers of Antigua, with travel agencies all around the city advertising (in English) their many excursions. We were happy to take part; as I told Kiara and Adelina during our descent from the volcano, “I don’t think there will ever come a time when that doesn’t rank among our coolest life experiences!”

Volcán Pacaya

Volcán Pacaya

Just a few more blocks to go. I pass by the many tiendas (shops) that line the street. The city of Antigua is designated as an official Unesco world heritage city, so all buildings must adhere to certain aesthetic regulations. Thus, the Taco Bell and Dunkin’ Donuts blend quite seamlessly with the city’s many colonial churches and courtyards.

I nod to a street preacher, whose dedication I admire (if not necessarily his message): he has been here each and every time I’ve walked to La Bodegona, holding his Santa Biblia and admonishing passersby for their spiritual indolence. Antigua is a very Catholic city, but – as it is throughout Latin America – evangelical Christianity is growing here.

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Colonial arches near Iglesia San Pedro

Finally, I arrive. La Bodegona employs far more people than an average U.S. grocery store. Dozens of employees stand at the end of aisles, smiling and encouraging me to try a free sample: of fruit, of soy milk, of rum, of cheese. There are ofertas especiales (special offers) advertised on neon placards throughout the store: Buy this bag of refried beans and you’ll receive a packet of salsa verde (conveniently taped to the side of the beans) for free! The first time I shopped here, I was hungry and exhausted and I found the whole store to be somewhat overwhelming. Today, I know exactly what I’m looking for and where to find it.

I make my purchases – socks for Kiara and leche en polvo (powdered milk) for our family’s breakfast cereal – mentally converting the quetzales I’m spending into dollars. I’m grateful that I finally remembered to bring my own bag and I won’t have to buy one. It is curious to me that the store has so many employees distributing free samples, but nobody helping customers to bag their groceries.

Despite the early hour, the sun is already high in the sky as I make my way back home through the city. I hug the side of buildings in an attempt to stay in the shade, vowing to wear my hat next time… and to never take for granted these incredible moments and memories in Guatemala.

Arco Santa Clarita

Arco de Santa Catalina in Antigua

The Things We Carried

We’ve arrived safely in Antigua, Guatemala, where Eric and the girls will spend 6 weeks in intensive language school and I will volunteer with a partner organization. Fresh off the plane/van ride to Antigua, I couldn’t stop thinking about this trip in terms of our stuff. This blog post is an homage to Tim O’Brien’s phenomenal book about the Vietnam War (which I highly recommend if you haven’t yet read it).

We carried everything we thought we should bring for 2.5 years in Central America.

We carried too much, of course. We knew it when we had to redistribute stuff in our checked baggage to remain under the 50 lb weight limit, and we really knew it when we lined up all of our bags on the sidewalk together.

 

 

We carried plenty of clothes, but not as many as you might think from glimpsing our bags.

We carried a suitcase filled entirely with prescription medications (mostly asthma medication for Kiara), which I worried might be stopped at customs but which breezed right through.

We carried just one Spanish language Bible to be shared by the four of us, because we procrastinated too long in placing our Amazon order.

We carried my expensive face cream, because -at 33 years old- I am battling both acne and wrinkles, and that just seems unfair.

We carried stuffies, blankies, and “Frozen” jammies, because they make the girls feel safer.

We carried a pharmacy’s worth of vitamins, because they make me feel safer.

We carried my old iPhone 4, which seems impossibly slow and outdated but which provides easier communication than we ever used to imagine was possible.

We carried The Hobbit, because Bilbo’s voyage makes our own seem a little bit less intimidating.

We carried two large bottles of my favorite sunscreen, but we didn’t carry them far, because I accidentally packed them in my carry-on and they were confiscated at airport security.

We carried the anticipation of adventure and the anxiety of struggles yet-unknown.

We carried profound gratitude for everyone who donated to our mission fund and made this journey possible.

And we carried love… for each other, for all of you, and for God who called us to this work and who we know will sustain us throughout our mission.

Why us? Why now? Why this mission?

All very valid questions!

In fact, Eric and I have been asking and discerning precisely these questions for several years now. The short and sweet answer to all of them is (of course) that this is what we feel God is calling us to do. But here’s a closer look at how we came to hear and accept that call:

Why Us?

We don’t think Jesus was kidding when He talked about the need to commit ourselves in a real and tangible way to “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40)  And although there are infinite paths of living out this vocation of service to the poor, we have always felt drawn to international mission work.

During and after university, Eric and I individually spent time volunteering in developing countries – he in Brazil, I in Uganda and Ecuador. These experiences were foundational in our faith formation and global perspectives, and we have longed to share a similar experience together as a family. The question soon became not “Why us?” but rather “Why not us?”

Eventually, we ran out of responses.

Why Now?

Having felt called to international mission work for years, Eric and I were fairly open regarding the specific timeline for our departure. Our decision to go now has more to do with our children than ourselves. This seems like the perfect season in our daughters’ lives for a big adventure and life transition. Kiara and Adelina will be seven and five when we arrive in Honduras – young enough to adapt to change and learn Spanish, but old enough to remember and be shaped by the experience (we hope!).

Why this mission?

Eric and I began discerning what sort of mission work we would like to do several years ago. A faith-based program was of primary importance to both of us, and obviously we needed to find someplace that accommodates families with children.

Finca Games

Children playing at the Finca del Niño

I had strongly considered volunteering at the Finca del Niño (Farm of the Child) after I graduated from Notre Dame. At the time, however, I was newly in love with Eric and I couldn’t bring myself to spend 2.5 years away from him. Years later, while researching missionary opportunities, the Finca immediately jumped out at us. Eric and I started communicating with board members and former missionaries, and – through those conversations, many late nights reading about and discussing the Finca, and lots of prayer – we discerned our calling there.

The four pillars of missionary life at the Finca del Niño are community, spirituality, service, and simplicity. These pillars resonate deeply with us, as they encapsulate the values we believe Jesus lived out – the values around which we wish to orient our lives.

We love the mission statement of the Finca. We love the things we’ve heard from former missionaries about the Finca. Most of all, we love the feeling we get when we envision our life at the Finca: a feeling of peace that surpasses understanding.

Are you interested in supporting our family’s mission? Go to the Support tab above for more information, or click here to make a tax-deductible donation to our mission fund.