I have not been able to find the time to blog for a while now. I wish there was a way to make my Facebook status updates show up as blog posts. I find it so much easier to update regularly there than here. When I post here, it's like I need to have something worthwhile to say. More than what I bought off the fruit truck that day or the fact that I realized I haven't driven a car in six months. But these little tid bits really are the fabric of our missionary lives here. And it occurred to me that the last couple of things I posted here may have made it seem like I walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders all the time here. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The truth is, joy abounds in our life here. Much of our time is spent just the same way it was before, living our family life to the fullest, playing games, reading books, cooking meals, making beds, learning algebra and division and subtraction with regrouping. And of course, joy abounds in those things. Greg and I both earnestly enjoy the challenge of cooking here. Figuring out how to use the things we can get regularly to create interesting nutritious food to share with our family and, quite often, our friends. Today, my boys water colored sky backgrounds and made city sky scrapers out of paint swatch strips while I hung the laundry on the line to dry. It was a moment to savor. Tranquility, peace, joy filling every corner of our home.Creativity drawing out the best in my boys.
Then there is the life outside my front door. The life of the place we live. Yes, there are people here, friends, who struggle to make life work on a daily basis. Yes, there are times when the pain and injustice of poverty slap me in the face and it hurts. Yes, there is a longing in my heart for the people I see in the street every day to know Jesus and the great gift of mercy and salvation we have in our all-loving God. But most of the time, walking around this town, what I feel is joy.
I pass the homes of friends and we call greetings back and forth. Usually, someone comes to the gate to talk a bit more or beckons me in for a visit. Older ladies pat my hand and take my arm and walk with me for a bit. One of my favorite parts of any walk through town is running into my friend Don Luis.
Don Luis is a stroke victim and has lost most of his speech abilities as well as the use of his right hand and leg. He walks with a cane and significant limp. But walk he does. All day. We have a little game we play each time he sees me. He offers me his good hand for a hand shake but quickly pulls it back before I can reach for it. I then proceed to try to catch his "mano magica" as I have come to call it. He has his own rule. I can only play with one hand since he only has one hand. When the game ends with me catching him, I dance and cheer in my victory. He laughs. Other times, I cheat a little and steal the cap he's wearing and kiss him on the forehead instead. Or poke him in the belly and run. Whatever way it ends, it always ends with him laughing. And me too. Because despite our brokenness, despite our weakness, for the both of us, joy abounds. Yesterday, Don Luis was standing on the bridge listening to the music wafting from a festival they were having at the school. As I walked home from that very festival and headed toward him on the bridge, I heard the other men calling to him asking him why he was not dancing. So I took his hand and danced with him. There, in the middle of the bridge, dancing freely for all to see with Don Luis, who just that morning had been so frustrated when he couldn't get the words out to make me understand what he was trying to tell me, I was overcome with joy.
One night as we were leaving the priests house to head home, we crossed the gate at the same moment that an indigenous family was entering to spend the night in the hostel that the church provides for them when they are traveling to and from town. The woman who passed me was dressed in a t-shirt, brightly colored skirt and black rubber boots, as the indigenous women usually are. There was a baby strapped to her back, tied with a piece of old cloth, also very common. The baby had fallen asleep as she walked and his head hung backwards, bobbing with each step. As she crossed me, I said to her, "oh pobrecito el que sueno tiene", meaning "oh poor baby, how tired he is". She smiled brightly, flipped her back toward me so I could see the baby better, then held up her hands which held a live hen by the feet and a machete. She giggled and answered, "which one?" We laughed wildly there in the dark at the gate to church. The baby stirred. My kids noticed that the t-shirt she was wearing was from the Christian Youth Theater organization, which has been a huge part of our lives and a major blessing for us. We smiled the whole way home marveling at how close that made us feel to our old lives. And how sweet and funny that moment was. Because even after walking for hours in the dark, when your baby sleeps gently on your back and dinner wriggles in your hand, and you have arrived finally at warm shelter for the night, well, joy abounds.
The other night, we were at the rectory going over chapel plans with the priests. Greg handed me a machete that he was going to borrow from them. I stood there for a minute feeling awkward with the machete hanging at my side, then announced to Fr. Johnny, "Look, I'm becoming just like an indigenous woman. I just need a skirt with pretty flowers and a pair of rubber boots." He smiled as he added, "and a baby on your back." A few minutes later, I found myself on the porch, arms full of a beautiful indigenous baby boy as I lent his mother my telephone so she could call her mother and let her know she and the children had arrived safely in town. We chatted and the baby cooed in my arms. My heart swelled there on the porch. Because when your husband chats with the priest in your mission and the topic of the conversation in the construction of a chapel which your imperfect "Yes" to God inspired in another beautiful family AND your fluency in the language affords you the opportunity to make jokes AND someone entrusts you with her beautiful baby and gifts you with conversation while you wait, well, joy abounds.
I keep wishing there was a way to capture it all in images to share with you, this joy, the beauty I experience every day. But the truth is, this is my life. Every day. I can't frame it in perfect pictures. I can't carry a camera around just in case Don Luis' smile is extra bright that day or I happen to end up on the porch with a beautiful baby in my arms or the canopy of clouds and banana trees above the clothes line is especially peaceful one morning. What I have are words. And I hope in this humble offering you can see that joy abounds in this life I live. That amidst poverty and brokenness and real, gritty every day life, God descends to be with His people. And when we walk in that grace, joy is what we find.
I will, however, include here this month's video news about our mission as I think it does portray a bit of the life with live with great joy. I hope you smile watching it.