Tag Archives: missionary

Used To

I used to know it all.

I used to teach.

I used to read profusely.

I used to watch tv shows.

I used to write.

I used to take pictures.

I used to jog.

I used to converse in Spanish.

I used to be Angiecita.

I used to kiss people.

I used to be a missionary.

I used to live close to close friends.

I used to take buses and taxis.

I used to be warm.

I used to eat Salteñas and good fruit.

I used to suffer in silence.

I used to think the work was enough.

I used to know certainty.

I used to delude myself with auto-sufficiency.

I used to expect, anticipate, and envision.

Now the idea is that I get used to the new. 

Get used to a constant achy lost feeling.

Get used to displaced and misplaced and erased.

Get used to the glance of pity.

Get used to the empty questions.

Get used to cold.

Get used to unspectacular routine.

Get used to uncertainty.

Get used to doubting and second guessing myself.

Get used to BIG.

Get used to TOO MUCH.

Get used to SPEED.

Get used to being loved by family up close.

Get used to the familiar acceptance that wells up when I hear dear ones say Ang’.

Get used to an over-abundance of good.

Get used to polite.

Get used to crying every day.

Get used to hundreds of gifts that furnish our home, fill the kitchen, and clothe us.

Get used to a drive instead of a walk.

Get used to advocating for my soul and well being.

Get used to the default “easy”.

Get used to my cocoon of not-yet and not-anymore.

Before we moved to the States I asked my children to share their greatest fears and their greatest hopes. Had I been in my right mind I would have carefully transcribed that conversation like a dutiful stenographer. I didn’t. Now I trust the Fates to remind me of their thoughts when I need to remember them.

One of the kids said that their greatest fear was that when we got to the States that all that happened in Bolivia these 13 years would disappear, or not matter. I understand that feeling. In all our unsettling settling things look muddled. We feel shaken. Memories mix up with emotion and remembered reality morphs.

We passed the 40 day mark since leaving Bolivia. Six weeks is all; that’s single digits my friends. Gratitude abounds in the midst of the many moods. The goodness God has poured out is undeniable and comforts me.

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“This is NOT home.”

airplane over cochabamba, bolivia, january 2015

Our little mob of weary wanderers rounded the final corner of our 36 hour journey. Mama and Papa caught each others’ eyes and puffed out a breath to prepare for impact.

“You ready for this?” they asked.

“Nope,” they answered.

“Here we go,” they said.

All the kids, with baggage to drag, followed the plod of their parents up the ramp from the airplane to the airport. I saw my parents before they saw us. My mom, my dad, my youngest brother, and my youngest sister came out that chilly Saturday afternoon in January to gather us. You might tell me that was only four days ago; it feels like a lifetime ago.

We left Bolivia. To quote a friend, “It is not so weird that you left, what’s weird is that you are not coming back.” Oh the sting.

The impact of the separation has not yet hit me. I am sure the ones we left back in Bolivia are feeling it. I have been the one left behind, it is excruciating. I can see on the faces of some of my kids the sadness and loneliness. Others beam with relief and renewal. The colors of our emotional profile burn bright like a sunset on fire. Or is it the sunrise?

The transition material tells me that a new beginning starts with an ending. The rites of passage of ancient cultures teach us to face the end, embrace the grief, and move through to the new. Denial, slap a happy-face emoticon on it, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, just won’t do. Honest tears help wash the soul.

It hurts so much, though. And there are so many people so very happy to have us here. And we don’t want to disappoint people. But it is not fair to them if we are dishonest with our “glee” in the hopes to manage their emotions. No. This is not what we want to do. So we sit broken, together. Yet, there does exist happiness in all the grief. Sparks of hope of what will be flare up and our faces make genuine smiles.

Oh yes, I was talking about the airport.

We walked into view. My mom burst with shouts and ran to catch me. My sister cried and wrapped my kids in her arms. My brother said with pride and joy, “My sister!” My dad laughed as he welcomed us all. What was left of my mascara ran down my cheeks. I felt like my heart would explode.

Then I looked around at my children. My oldest stood off to the side, away from the huddle of hugs. I moved over to her. The anger and helplessness radiated from her reddened eyes as she met me with an indictment. Through gritted teeth and a cracking voice she whispered a gruff, “This is NOT home.”

I wrapped her in affirmation and understanding. Yes, I told her, you are right, this is not home. We cried. I told her we would talk later. She nodded.

We grabbed our 12 checked bags off the conveyor belt. I unzipped a few and snatched out sweaters and jackets for all of us. No matter how many layers and hats and scarves and gloves I put on I couldn’t cut the chill. We loaded up the people and the stuff and drove to our borrowed residence. The rest of the day rushed by as we set up beds, tended to the kitchen and bathrooms, and sorted the bags into the rooms.

When just the Washingtons remained in the home warmed by the wonder of heat blown through vents I called Raimy to my side. She initiated the conversation. Her countenance was calmed yet fatigued, and she said, “About what I said… this is not home, yet.”

Yes. That’s right baby.

Love. Be loved.

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I Love Bolivia

I love Bolivia.

I love Bolivians.

I love living in Bolivia.

I love my Bolivian children.

I love my Bolivian life.

I love that I have been able to raise my children in Bolivia.

I love our Bolivian friends.

I love the missionaries in Bolivia.

I love Bolivian food.

I love the landscapes of Bolivia.

I love the diversity of Bolivia.

I love what Bolivia has taught me.

I love the humility, the quiet fury, and the endurance of the Bolivian people.

I love Bolivian art.

I love the language of Bolivia.

I love the rhythm of Bolivian living.

I love Bolivia.

Now I am leaving Bolivia.

Bolivia has left it’s mark on my body on my soul on the very threads of my being. In case I haven’t made it clear, which is highly likely since at this time clarity eludes me: I don’t want to leave Bolivia.

Yet, I know we must. Things could not go on the same. Big change necessitated a big decision. Most people have been very tactful about the lingering “why?”; I appreciate that. The ones who need to know why do know why. For that security of trust and advice I am ever grateful. I am even more grateful for the ones who let the uncomfortable silence of unanswered questions sit between us, and don’t push, and don’t push away either.

Ah, my dears.

It’s been my belief that it is always harder for the ones who stay than for the ones who go. I feel like we are ripping ourselves out of the lives of people we love and who love us; it hurts. I feel horrible, like I am inflecting intentional pain. I am sorry for all the pain.

The weird part? The intensity of sorrow twists and throbs with the very opposite feelings of contentment and hope. That’s tearing me up, most of all! I am sad to leave Bolivia but happy to go to those who are waiting to catch us in the States.

I’m told this is normal. Gah. Normal is weird.

River bend and reflections in Trinidad, Bolivia
River bend and reflections in Trinidad, Bolivia

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Greetings from Limboland

We walked through the lobby of the Real Audiencia hotel in Sucre, Bolivia with our kids. Displayed by the front counter stands a full suit of armor from the days of knights and castles. They said, “Wow!” too many times to count in awe of the ancient artifact. We walked down the corridor of red carpet and through the arch ways draped in flowering vines. We rolled our luggage over the bumpy tiles by the pool, complete with statues of voluptuous Grecian ladies preparing to bathe. The spiral staircase took us to our suites overlooking the courtyard. My oldest threw her hands up in the air and proclaimed, “Imma freakin’ princess!” 

Those sprawling beds were ones of about a half dozen upon which we have laid our heads in the past weeks. Favorite bed thus far during transition? The ones we are in now because they have down comforters which are very cozy during this drippy rainy season. Worst bed thus far? The reclining chairs in the bus on the way back from our royal vacation because I was puked on by my daughter in the first hour of a ten hour ride. You better believe those windows were pried open no matter how cold and wet the night was.

Current tally of observations people have made about our present living conditions:

  • Vagabonds
  • Homeless
  • Nomads
  • Travelers
  • Visitors
  • Guests
  • Drifters
  • House-sitters

We have been living out of suitcases for almost a month now. This will continue for the foreseeable future in the coming weeks.

Our 13 years of life in Bolivia has been whittled down to 13 bags. 

Sometimes the thought of scaling back so much makes me want to cry. Other times I would just like to flick a lit match at the remaining piles of crap as it is tiring to lug it all around. What would be really cool is to have Merlin’s magic from the classic animated Sword in the Stone (my all time favorite Disney movie, by the way) to be able to shrink everything to fit into a dusty old bag with only a song and a dance. Imagine the look on the TSA agent’s face as he rakes his hand through hundreds of teeny tiny objects to determine if miniatures pose a threat to national security.

In the midst of mobility we have been meeting with people and doing the last rites. Last Sunday at church. Last night of youth group. Last visit from out-of-town friends. Last cook out with the ladies group. Last coffee out with friends. Last stroll through the Saturday market. The litany of lasts lasts and lasts.

Every once in a while I let myself be happy anticipating the upcoming flurry of firsts. New weather. New friends. New home. New vehicle. New schools. New clothes. New relative relations. New realities in a new culture. Soon we will trade the now for the new; until then we will wallow in Limboland.

Speaking of mobility and new things… I started my new job on January 5th. Pictured below is my “office” contained in a comfy backpack. Give me electricity and an internet connection and I am working to empower the rescue of victims of human trafficking through the diffusion of truth by way of social media and communications with The Exodus Road. I still have to pinch myself every time I get to work my hours with such an amazing group of people doing such important work.

my office

The kindness and generosity of people towards our family during this transitional season astounds and humbles me. Provision has come in such unexpected, unsolicited, and amazing ways. Yes, there are still lingering details and staggering logistics. Yes, the emotions are too numerous to name. Yet, sparks of goodness illuminate the path in the middle of the darkness.

I’ll leave you with some lyrical loveliness so you can hum along with me:

“I get by with a little help from my friends…”

“It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine…”

“Abra, cabra, dabra, nack… Shrink in size very small… We’ve got to save enough room for all… Higitus, figitus, migitus, mum… Prestidigitorium!”

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Where is God in All This

We sat on the concrete bench. My eldest son, only five or so at the time, looked out over the city from our perch. Cochabamba boasts of possessing the tallest statue of Christ in the world. We took some visitors up the hill to see it. As they meandered we sat.

“Mama, you know, God is nice to mean people, too,” he said without breaking his gaze.

“Oh, why do you say that?” I asked.

“Well, even if you are nice or mean you still get the air and the rain and the sun,” he explained.

———-

One of the most ancient names we know of God is ‘I AM’. Later we hear the words of Christ and know that I AM is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our eternal Lord inhabits the expanse of the Heavens and the Earth, He influences all of time and space, He exists.

To know and believe that God exists unconstrained by our human constructs, yet moving and being within them, is to trust that His character and power affect us all. Regardless of the definition one might give to the way she or he relates with God, or avoids relating with God, we are subject to the Sovereignty of His Majesty; Our Humble King reigns.

God is Love. Sovereign Love casts out all fear. He leads me beside still waters, in paths of righteousness, and through valleys shadowed by death, for His name’s sake. But I gotta still move my feet.

I AM in the air, the rain, and the sun.

I AM in the seen, the unseen, and the hoped for.

I AM in all.

I AM with the evil, and with the kind.

I AM with the doubter, eyes wide open, and with the believer, eyes pressed shut tight, in prayer, in denial, in defeat.

I AM with all.

I AM.

So I trust that He is in all this happening in and around me right now, as he has been from the beginning of time, and will be for all eternity.

Side by side we walk, He and I. Sometime I veer this way or that and He enjoys the exploration, as long as we are together. Sometimes I feel Him take my hand and whisper in my ear, and I lean into His woos. Other times He and I commune in the simple talks between friends, in the deep thoughts shared, in the confessions laid bare in intimacy. He is there, He is here, because He is.

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A woman told me that when she was a child she carried one of her mother’s high heeled shoes in her backpack. She was so scared of God’s punishment that she armed herself in the case He should jump out and try to get her. Her plan was to throw the shoe at Him and run away.

Can I tell you that with all these hard times we are living there have been moments when I want to throw a shoe at God? But not so much in fear, rather in indignant anger. I thought I did everything “right”. I thought I followed all the rules. I thought I took the path of greatest devotion. I’m a missionary, for Christ’s sake!

All the while that I am throwing shoes of deserving dutiful devotion laced with manipulative attempts of purchasing a good life at God’s chest, He doesn’t go away. He takes it. He opens His Easter arms, smiles wide and tells me, “Come on, take your best shot, give it all you’ve got, get it all out, I can take it.” He doesn’t run and hide from my insults and fury. He is the I AM Who can withstand my deepest outbursts of rage.

Then my arms fall limp, battle sore and weary. He is, still. He bends His battered form next to mine. He leans my head on His bruised chest. He is, still.

God is in the voice of my counselor. God is in the tears of my friends as they weep with me. God is in the arms of my daughter wrapped around me. God is in this, all this, everywhere. I trust Him.

I trust Him to be able to take it when I question the silence. I trust Him to be able to take it when I want to blame, accuse, and judge. I trust Him to take it all and make it all into something that will be well, and good.

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Firsts Bolivia Gave Me

“It’s not like Bolivia is a blanket that we were using and now we are throwing it to one side. Bolivia is woven into me and it’s threads are a part of who we are forever,” I said with tears blurring my vision as I spoke with my oldest Bolivian friend sitting in front of me in the coffee shop today.

She gave me a butterfly ring as a going away gift, to match my first tattoo. “These are wings as you go on the next part of the journey God has for you.” I settled in and listened, as I have learned to do when I know the time has come to listen, to her speak out from her heart blessings, encouragement, sweet memories, and kind wishes. Bolivians know how to make heartfelt speeches. I was touched.

butterfly ring

Bolivia has given me many ‘firsts’. I came as a 25 year old mother of three small children, practically a blank canvas just getting started with life. Remember those lists I was talking about in the previous post? Here’s a fun one I did.

Firsts in Bolivia

1. Kiss on the cheek greeting

2. Sushi

3. Pedicure

4. Climbed a mountain to the summit

5. Got a massage

6. Went to a spa

7. Changed my mind about drinking

8. Learned I prefer white wine over red

9. Officiated a wedding

10. Served as a pastor

11. Ate Indian food

12. Stayed at a 5 star hotel

13. Got a tattoo

14. Got on social media

15. Used the sci-fi predicted miracle that is Skype

16. Blogged

17. Wrote a book

18. Bore a Bolivian child

19. Adopted a Bolivian child

20. Had major surgery

21. Learned Spanish

22. Held a baby abandoned on a the doorstep

23. Held the hand of a friend as she was losing her baby at 19 weeks of pregnancy

24. Fell in love with cactus plants

25. Got jumped at knife point

26. Owned a cell phone

27. Owned a good camera

28. Became the mother of teenagers

29. Co-founded an orphanage

30. Co-founded a school

31. Co-founded an international collective blog

32. Traveled internationally by myself

33. Traveled internationally with only my nursing baby as company

34. Traveled internationally with only my five children as company

35. Built a snowman with my kids

36. Won an award for my photography

37. Visited children who live in a prison with their criminal parents

38. Ate Bolivian food

 

Since I am now 38 years old I’ll stop there.

We are looking at a season of some new firsts for our family. Some will be fun, some terrifying, some silly, and some very serious.

Please pray with us about a huge first for our youngest, Kaitlynn. She will soon, by the grace of God, become for the first time in her life a citizen of the United States of America. There is paperwork, appointments, and other rigamarole to get through for this to happen. Not impossible, just needs to get done along with all the other stuff that is happening right now. Thanks so much for praying with us.

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Life is Hard

helen keller quote

We tried really hard to be good missionaries in Bolivia. For thirteen years we tried so very hard. It started even before that when in my youth the passion for mission life burned in my heart. DaRonn and I met as teenagers and found commonality of desire for ministry, for setting out to change the world, for making our lives count for something. We rushed our young family off to a foreign land with such a sense of urgency.

Missionary life has many hardships. It’s hard to wrangle the tongue and make it make new sounds. It’s hard to ask people for money all the time. It’s hard to live amongst socioeconomic extremes whilst examining our own lifestyle choices. It’s hard being away from the comfort and acceptance of family. It’s hard reminding ourselves of why we are struggling with sickness in our bodies and maladies of the soul. It’s hard being misunderstood, judged, and criticized by those we are serving as well as those who are supposed to be on our team. It’s hard weighing the sacrifices we require of ourselves, our kids, and our family back home for perfect strangers. It’s hard when perfect strangers become dear friends and true family then we have to say goodbye.

We gladly assumed those hardships for the sake of the mission. We viewed the discomforts as necessary in order to win the lost. We pushed and pulled, we strove and struggled, we gave everything we had and took only loads of responsibility. We overextended ourselves. And then we broke.

Now we are leaving Bolivia worn down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our finances are suffering. Our family is in need of restoration. Life got way too hard.

If things are hard it is because we care about something. The hardship is indication of a set of values. The definition of our standards determine how hard (or not hard) something is going to be. Indifference about the outcome makes it not so hard because we would not give it any effort.

Sometimes hardship or hard times are imposed upon us. The desired outcome differs from the present reality. If the hardship came, and we didn’t care about what happened as a result, then that thing would not be hard because we would not be putting forth any effort towards changing that reality.

When things just kept getting harder and harder I began to ask some hard questions:

Is this hardship a necessary part of reaching what is hoped for? Do we know for certain what we hope for? Do we know for certain that the hard parts in our life correlate with that hope? What do I need to do differently?

Those kind of questions led to an overhaul of our lives. Granted, not all missionary careers follow the pattern ours took. Our unique path led us face to face with some realities we know need to change.

The ability to voice our values is helpful because then we can determine if the effort is worth it. We can look at what we seem to care about so deeply that is requiring this great force of effort from us and we can decide if this is actually where we want to put our energies. We assign worth to the outcome thus justifying the effort required of us to reach that place.

If we don’t think it is worth it, we’re not going to work for it.

If we do think it is worth it, we will work for it, we’ll assign creative energy towards it, and we will suffer hardship for it.

We determined that a clearer definition of our hopes is needed. Our efforts need to align more closely with our hopes. We need to set aside one set of hardships (the ones that don’t match our hopes) and take up a different set of hardships (ones that will carry us to our hopes).

We began in Bolivia with the greatest intentions. Over the years we have done amazing, wonderful, and fabulous things that have altered eternity, I am sure of it. The adventure of it all has been spectacular. Somewhere along the way, though, we chipped away too much, compromised, and became crippled.

Life is hard. We’ve heard that saying so many times. But why is it hard? Because we care. And because we care we will put forth hard efforts.

It’s hard to break destructive habits like overeating, smoking, laziness, etc. But the hardship is worth the efforts expended to attain a healthier lifestyle. It’s hard to acquire the relationship skills to overcome harmful patterns such as anger, blame, victim mentality, etc. But the end goal of a more peaceful existence with society gives us the motivation to do the hard work to learn a new way of relating to people. It’s hard to admit when things are not working and then start the even harder process of finding out why, what to do about it, and where to find help.

This decision to move our family to Omaha, Nebraska in the United States was reached after more than a year of deliberation. It is a hard, hard, hard choice. The implementation of this change is proving to be one of the hardest things we have ever done in our lives.

My Hopes:

  • I hope this move will remove some of the pressing obligations so that we can find a more livable rhythm
  • I hope this move will allow us to see more clearly where we want to invest ourselves
  • I hope we can find some healing of body and soul since there are more resources readily available in the States
  • I hope to be able to give our kids some really great opportunities, and that they will be able to connect with their heritage
  • I hope that we are not so far gone that this is “too little, too late”, that things can be better

One thing has been made clear through this all: we cannot do this alone!

Please join the facebook group a dear friend set up for us: Welcome Back Washingtons

There will be updates of practical needs you can help us with. I am so grateful that already a group of people has gathered around us to help us with this transition.

Please keep praying for us and for Bolivia.

Peace.

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Ignorant Bliss on a Life Overseas

I suppose the greatest form of ignorance is to believe one knows it all. But what do I know? Today I share on A Life Overseas blog about where my soul is right now. Here’s a little excerpt:

Our shiny vision statement listed everything in plural with big numbers. We knew that we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as they say, what our next few decades, heck, what the rest of our lives looked like.

Or so I thought.

This November 1st marks 13 years in Bolivia. So much has changed in that relatively short span of time. I miss the ignorant bliss of being a know-it-all.

Right now as I walk through the valley-of-the-shadow one of the few certainties I have is the shadow of doubt.

The trade off was too big. Home life is strained. Our finances suffer under huge debt. Relationships have become difficult. I could go on with the list of stressful situations we face; I’ll leave the rest for my skype call counseling sessions.

The ancient story of the Hebrews who clamored for a king haunts my heart. They thought they asked for a good thing…

Click here to read the rest: The Ignorant Bliss of a Know-It-All

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Birth Stories – 9 – Mercy

bunny birth stories logoMaking close friends is a necessity for survival when you are far from blood relatives. The Holman family has a few kids the same ages as a few of our kids. Mrs. Holman and Mrs. Washington have formed an especially tight bond. Yes, I just referred to myself in the 3rd person. According to Mr. Holman this is because I rock. I am so grateful for their friendships. I feel so privileged they allowed me to be present at the birth of their Bolivian born daughter, Mercy.

I was in the room the whole time Denise labored. She was so beautiful. The contractions would come and go. She would get quiet, go into herself for a while, and then as the pressure let up she would again engage in the conversation in the room. It wasn’t long. This was their 11th child. I watched, prayed, encouraged, and chatted.

The delivery room they took her to for the final moments of pushing was crowded, hot and teeny tiny. They weren’t there long, so I am sorry I didn’t ask to go with them. I learned then that if I want to walk this path I need to take the initiative to make it happen, not wait for it to come to me. I don’t want to be the one who hangs back left in the waiting room ever again. I know with all my heart that I want to be a midwife.

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Birth Stories – 8 – Jalynne

bunny birth stories logoThe induction was scheduled. Romon and Melinda graciously agreed to allow me to be present for the labor and delivery. I consider this one of the highest honors I have had in my entire life, alongside the honor of birthing our own five children.

The labor pains began slowly then progressively strengthened throughout the day. Morning turned to afternoon. Afternoon turned to evening. Evening became night. The blessed mother began pushing with the contractions, which came rapidly on their own.

The father and I stood at the doorway of the delivery room since we were not allowed to enter. We called out encouragement to the strong mama as she worked with her body to birth their daughter. Melinda remained calm and focused. She did so well!

At one point in the pushing a male nurse mounted the table and crouched over Melinda’s shoulders. He bore down on the belly pushing down on the top of the bulge near the ribs in the direction of the cervix working with a contraction to progress labor. I am curious if this is a modern midwife practice. They seemed pleased with the results.

After 40 minutes of pushing she began with very intense pushing. This intense phase lasted the last 20 minutes of the day. Jalynne was born just a hair before midnight. The first words out of the mama’s mouth after she was born were, “I miss her.” When the baby was out the doctor flipped her purple form around like pizza dough as he unwrapped the cord from her neck. The maneuvers were so quick and skilled I was shocked as I watched the doubly wrapped rope-like cord come away from the baby’s neck. It was an awful and awesome 5 seconds watching him untangle her.

Then she cried. She was born strong and flailed around batting at the nurses and doctor and her papa. I was so very happy for this precious family!

– March 2011

…click the pics to see ’em better

 

EDIT: Addition from the mother…

I remember a pink chair. Feeling like it was impossible to push any more. “There is her head”. Absolutely don’t remember the anesthesiologist jumping over top of me and pushing on my belly. That is a memory I have only because ya’ll told me it happened. Hearing utensils fly all over the place cause Jalynne went wild for a second. And thats about it until a midnight argument with a nurse and Romon about… I’m not really sure. One sweet memory I do have was holding Jalynne on my chest for the first time. So fun to go back and think about that time.

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