Wow. So much has already happened since my last update! I have been serving in the office of course, but within the past week or so I have gotten to be out on the field more. I have gotten to meet more people in multiple villages, which has been great. Especially since I am learning and practicing Spanish. I have been more confident in initiating conversations and letting myself make mistakes in speaking. That really is the only way I will learn. I know I will learn if I continue to use what I know in as many situations as possible.
I got to practice a little bit with a woman named Luisa, who is from a village called Catulaca. She came to help prepare meals for workers with Melyssa and I. There were two days of work on the hunger farm that required men from multiple villages to come out and serve. Over time, it is our hope to see leaders take it upon themselves to care for their communities by running the hunger farm. We had about twenty men come and work for two days so that they can earn food, but also work for future families in need. It was a special time for me to get to know Luisa, as much as I could anyways. She is one of the sweetest women I have ever met, and would continue to talk to me even if I couldn’t respond. We would just laugh and carry on with cooking. By the end of the day, I know I made a friend. It was really special just to be doing an everyday task with her. That’s what I’ve realized since being here. Walking with them through the day-to-day tasks mean more to them than anything else we could give.
Another special memory that I have is when I celebrated Children’s day in a village called Cenicera. This is a village that is actually the closest to town, but ironically the poorest of all of them. Even more of a problem is the breakdown of families in villages, including this one. I was informed that the children here don’t get shown affection much, so it was really awesome that the village hosted their own celebration for the children. We got to simply show up and celebrate with them. I really love children and have never had a difficult time connecting with them. There were many sweet moments I shared with a little girl named Stephanie, who wanted to sit in my lap the entire time. It truly is the little things that go a long way for kids, but my heart was also happy to spend that time with her and a few others.
Two amazing events took place in a village called Chimis, which was a village that I had never met before. The first day that I went with Shannon and Edith, we were speaking to three couples that were planning to get married the following weekend. Here it is not considered a priority or even a possibility for people to get married in the villages. The church in Chimis was ready to split about a year ago because of the disagreements within it. They fought over who should be leading. Our ministry lightly intervened and has been teaching those who want to lead what the Bible requires of them. This teaching has led these couples to get married so that they can make those covenant vows in front of God, and be credible leaders in the church. More importantly, it has led nineteen people to be saved and baptized. It was a humbling few days to see a church that was once divided, celebrate together. My favorite part was getting to walk with two small boys back up the mountain after the baptisms. That made for an interesting hike! Haha. They each held a hand of mine as we navigated around mud and steep rocks. One of them would slip and I would have to let go of one that was safe to keep the other one up. They would grab my hand again as soon as my hand was free. It was so sweet how much they wanted me to just walk with them. It painted a simple picture of how God loves us and how patient He is with us when we slip and fall, let go of His hand, and how much it pleases Him when we reach out for Him again. Those boys stole my heart!!!
There are many other moments I could share. Little moments like walking up the mountain with those small children, preparing meals (basically learning how to cook at all), and hugging new people within the first moment of meeting them. That’s what I love about people here. Those that want friendships and want to be close, will definitely reach out for it. Many are vulnerable and compassionate, and choose relationships over tasks. Their culture is rich with emotion and boldness. I love so many aspects of it and it’s hard to narrow it down to a statement. I’m thankful for the opportunities to learn and grow from them. I may have been called here to serve, but in many ways, I am also growing to be more like Christ. I can’t do it without relationships here. I can’t learn more about God without learning how to love people. There’s so much to learn from people here.
I am also thankful to have somebody here who is willing to teach me Spanish! Cynthia has already proved to be a strict teacher, but only because she knows that I want to learn it. I’m so glad that she wants to hold me accountable to study and really apply myself. I also cannot express my gratitude for the team I get to be apart of. They have really encouraged me and have made me feel welcome here. They are giving me opportunities to serve and learn. They have asked each of us to set six goals for the next couple of months, and I am praying and thinking on what I should be focused on while here. It’s easy to float around and just do the tasks needed, but I also want to invest my time wisely.
One goal that I have is to of course learn Spanish! At least enough to be able carry on more in-depth conversations. Especially if I am to ever share the Gospel to others. This is a need of mine. Please pray for me to stay focused and work hard amongst other things I will be doing here. The second goal I have is to be more involved with the school here. Not only do I love kids, but I also have a desire to encourage the youth. I know how hard it is to find your way through those years. I hope to be able to start a bible study and/or mentor young girls there. That will take me being around the school more and developing those relationships naturally. I look forward to making new friends there. Those are the two goals that are set in stone for now. I have one small one like “go to the store by yourself and speak the Spanish you know”, because I have been very timid to make myself look stupid here. But really, making mistakes is the only way I can learn to speak it. I actually didn’t want to share something that I had written a few weeks ago, but I feel that it definitely shows the struggle within myself.
“Fear is claustrophobic. That’s the word I kept thinking of in reference to how I’ve felt the past few weeks. I couldn’t put my finger on why I’ve felt that way though. On-going, churning anxiety because everything is different. I speak a little Spanish, enough to get where I need to go or to ask somebody a few questions, but I’ve never really understood the fear and frustration of not being apart before. I thought I had, but I truly haven’t until I got here. Fear really is claustrophobic. It won’t let up, won’t let you breathe, and will tell you anything to keep you where it wants you. It’ll weaken you until you wonder why you’re even doing what you’re doing. I’ve been feeling so small. Though it isn’t true, fear is hand-in-hand with pride, and pride can convince you of anything. It’s not comfortable, so I’m not made for it. It’s not easy, so maybe I wasn’t meant to do it. I feel completely wrong for this place, so maybe I was wrong. But you know, I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly why I’m here. It seems foolish that I’m here trying to build relationships with people who speak a different language, when I’m still afraid of building relationships back home. It’s completely uncomfortable, which makes me angry inside, leading to pride that says, ‘Resist change.’ Once I realize what my heart is saying, I’m disappointed in myself for the feelings and for being ungrateful. But I know God doesn’t even want me to dwell on the feelings or the fact that I’m uncomfortable. He doesn’t want me to give up because it’s hard or because I’ve stopped believing. He just wants me to turn to Him and say, ‘I believe’. I’ve learned that it’s as simple as that sometimes. Repentance is changing your mind, not wiping yourself clean. It’s always a choice. Everything comes down to whether you believe in God or not. For my situation, I believe. I believe because I know only He frees me from the fear. I know His heart and know that He’s already overcome it all. I just have to believe.”
Getting to the heart of it (or really of me), I have wrestled with many different emotions already. Though this has been hard at times, it has proven to be a really great thing. My weaknesses truly have been a vessel for God to share His grace with me. My dependency on Him has increased tremendously because of the many things I have had to let go of since I’ve arrived. The things that I have had to let go of are all the ways in which I have tried to plan out my life. There has been complete surrender here in my heart. I am working on my walk with Him, ensuring that I acknowledge my need for Him every moment of every day. I have learned that I can do nothing apart from Him, and cannot trust my feelings to lead me. I have had to place my hope completely in Him concerning my struggles here, my longing to see my family and friends, and the future. Everything is about Him. Pray for me when you think about it, because I need all the prayers I can get. God is up to many things here, and I’m so thankful to be a small part of it. Above all, I am learning to let go and to not resist change. To learn, I have to be transparent.
Published September 27, 2017