Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another one bites the dust

It's sometime around 4:20 in the morning.  We're fighting back tears.  Hugs, goodbyes, it just doesn't seem real.  We're losing another member of our team.  Justin is now gone.

Yesterday was yet another transition day for our family.  One more friend that our kids won't have.  One less friend for us to talk to.  One less team member.  There's only 2 girls left, set to leave at the end of July.  One more transition.  We have some time, but not much.

We're coming to realize the reality of how hard it is to live here.  Not necessarily physically, but emotionally.  Everything that we feel, all the visa trips, the transitions, the lack of consistency.  Our kids feel it too.  And that makes us sad.  The past 10 months have been hard on them.  It's hard for them to say goodbye.  Noah sometimes talks about not having friends (more in a dramatic moment).  Leah asks where others are who have been gone for a while.  This is hard.  I wish I could give my kids more consistency than just their parents.

School.  That's consistent (in theory, ha!).  Our toys.  Our books.  Some things aren't changing.  But those aren't always the things that matter.  People matter.  A lot.  We wish we could give our kids some sort of a normal, consistent life.  At least maybe a couple of English-speaking friends.  But the best thing about them not having that many friends?  They really like each other.  A lot.  Sure they fight a ton, but they love being around each other.  It's almost like they've come to rely on each other.  What a blessing.

It's been a few days since the shooting outside of our apartment.  It didn't change much of how we feel/interact with the culture.  We still go to campus.  We still go to the store.  The kids still love our friend Jose, the taxi driver.  The older woman that works at the store downstairs always asks how the kids are.  The students are still involved.  Some things won't change regardless of how dangerous it could be to live here.

Tomorrow we celebrate Leah's birthday.  It's hard to believe our daughter will be 3 years old.  Granted, she acts every bit of it, but still it's hard to believe it's been 3 years since she entered the world at 9:00pm at night at Riverside Hospital in Columbus.  She wants to go to the zoo tomorrow, so that's the plan.  We'll do that with whoever wants to come and then have cake at some point.  Thanks to my awesome sister and my mom, we have an edible Hello Kitty picture to put on her cake.  She'll love it!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What did we sign up for?

Gun shots fired.  15, 16 shots.  Not 15 minutes after we got back from a dinner out with the team.  People were running.  People were lying in the street between cars.  Terror on people's faces.  Every room with a light on had someone looking out of it.  What is going on?

Here's more detail of what happened.  Tuesday is family fun night. We all went out to dinner and then went back to the girls' place. Maybe 15 or so minutes after we were there, gunfire ensues. Right outside of our apartment building. People outside were running and diving behind things to hide. It was literally right in the street in which we had just walked past to get home. 15 minutes or more and we could've been walking by or sitting and eating while it happened. Apparently it was a kidnapping and the police were involved but there were a ton of gunshots. Leah started crying. It was so sad to see people scared and running (we were on the 5th floor so we could see out the windows into the street where everything was happening).

That is the 3rd time in the past few months of someone on our team just missing gunfire by minutes.  The other 2 instances were with 2 of the girls on our team and once with Bart. It just makes us really wonder why in the world we're here. We don't want to live in fear, but what on earth? We live in a "safe" neighborhood and the 3 gunfire scenarios that have happened have been within 2 blocks of our place (2 were in public mall areas in broad daylight).  From what we know, the shots from this night were mostly from police who were already ready to apprehend the man.

Our hearts feel heavy right now.  It's hard to even know what to tell our kids. Luckily we were able to distract them with a movie so they didn't understand what was going on. But I just don't really know what to feel right now. Being here just does feel worth it. And honestly living with the feeling of not knowing if some idiot is going to kidnap our kids because they think we have money is something we just don't want to think about anymore, let alone one of us getting shot.

So we're wrestling with lots of thoughts right now. Should we stay?  How much can we function here knowing that there is a potential for an "express kidnapping?"  Or being robbed?  Or worse being shot?  But then there's almost an overriding factor.  The fear or anxiety that we feel, people here feel it too.  One of the Venezuelan guys on our team had so much trouble sleeping that night.  He watched from a window with the rest of the singles on the team as the police pulled the lifeless body out of the car and just tossed it into the back of a police truck.

We're not alone.  People who live here might be a little more used to the normalcy of robberies and gunfire, but it doesn't scare any less.  And so many people here have no hope.  No future.  No freedom from fear.  No salvation.  And that's why we'll probably stay.  We don't have to live in fear.  Praise the Lord that he is in control and we're not!  Our lives are not our own.  Our kids aren't ours.  Simply on loan to us.  And we have to choose to live knowing that.  Or live with anxiety and fear.

But the one thing we do have to offer is hope.  Hope for the hopeless.  We can stay here so that maybe one (or more) can know about the surpassing grace and love of Jesus.  And that makes it worth it.  How can we withhold out of our own selfish desires?

Will you pray for us that we would live and breath and move knowing that Jesus reigns (and truly, gratefully embrace it in our hearts)?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Valley of Despair

With the summer project having been here, life has been crazy busy.  And then we have team members leave.  The consistency of life is totally thrown off.  Multiple things in our apartment broke around the same time (or have the appearance of being broken).  We're tired.  We have very little motivation.  The valley begins.

Luckily our valleys tend to coincide with each other.  And one of us needs to choose how to push through so we both don't totally fall apart (and stop taking care of ourselves and our children).  The blessing in this is when one of us is crumbling, the other tends to pick up the slack.  Praise the Lord!  What would happen if we were both wallowing in the valley?!?!

We're happy to say that most of the things in our apartment have been fixed.  We still miss our team members but we're more adjusted to less people on the team.  We've been able to find things like flour, powdered sugar and toilet paper. Butter is still somewhat of an issue, but when you have really great students you work with, they bring you some!

We've transitioned back into school with the kids.  While the project was here, we let that go.  It just become a low priority in the midst of exhaustion.  Noah especially loves doing school.  When we got his new school stuff, he was so excited and wanted to start doing it.  School, even though it can be a lot of work at times, can be really fun.  Noah has become a real person, asking real questions and it's so much fun to see what he's learning.

Leah is quite the diva.  She acts exactly like her mother at times!  She is stubborn in the things she wants.  But she's a great eater and loves to be around people.  Anytime one of us goes somewhere, she always wants to go.  She's a little social butterfly, always interacting with people.  In the last few months, she has began a shy phase when she first sees people but she gets over it pretty quickly generally.

We feel really blessed by how the kids are doing.  Sometimes it's easy for us to think about how we're doing and not really think about all of the transitions the kids have experienced over the past 9 months.  Every 3 or so months, we got to a random place for a visa trip.  We travel within Venezuela.  They don't really have friends (that they can talk to at least).  Some of their best friends are the team and students.  So these next couple of months will continue to be hard as the rest of the team leaves and the new team transitions in.

As the summer project was leaving, it dawned on us that we needed to talk more about not who was leaving, but rather we should talk about who was NOT leaving.  That has been fun for the kids, to think about who of our Venezuelan friends will not leave.  They will be around (for the most part) this summer.  The strike on campus has thrown that off a bit as students have choosen to go home, but some will remain.  And we hold on to that for our sweet little kiddos to have consistent people in their lives.  Of course they don't have to worry about their parents leaving also!!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Still here...

We're supposed to update this blog thingy aren't we?!?!  Whoops!
Ok, here's a recap of what's been going on lately:
May 1st-4th visa trip to Curacao.  This was a great trip for many reasons, but one of the big ones was that our kids got to play with Eli, the child of one of the couples on the Ecuador team.  We were there with their team and were able to have some meetings together, but our kids were able to play with someone who spoke English!
The kids at the beach with Eli
May 8th-June 9th the summer project is here.  This has meant a lot of additions to our schedule and initially meant we needed to help them with various things, like getting around the city, going to campus, shopping, etc.  It's been great to have other people here to get to interact with!

In May we also had a couple of visitors who were able to bring some much needed supplies (like peanut butter!).  Next time someone visits, we might have them bring toilet paper (this isn't the original article but you get the idea  Yup, you read that right.  I digress....but it was fun to have other visitors/friends come and enjoy life with here.

May18th-20th we took a retreat as a team.  One last thing to do together before people started to head back to the States.  We went to the mountains, so it was great to experience the "cold" weather and get to connect with each other.
The kids like to give us cheesy smiles.  This was taken while we were in the mountains.
May 25th-26th we celebrated our anniversary!  One of the girls on the team babysat the kids overnight (she was a trooper) so we could get a hotel and just have a little mini escape to celebrate.  We ate out and enjoyed the time together.  We wish we could do it more often, but we know we can't ask our team members to spend 24 hours with our kids too often!

May 28th was our actual anniversary.  8 years!  We both sort of forgot.  Why?  Well, it was one of the guy's birthdays, so we were thinking more about celebrating that!  Ha!  That's ok.  We had technically celebrated over the weekend.  We still love each other.

May 30th, 3 of our team members left to go back to the U.S.  It was very surreal, but 2 will return in the fall and the other promises to come visit.  We're holding him to that!
Also on that day, Bart left with the Venezuelans on the team to go to a national staff conference, where he was gone for 3 days.

So that's a little bit of a run down of what's been going on with us.  It somewhat captures a bit of what's been going on with us.  Since the project leaves in less than a week, we're hoping to have a little more time.  And maybe we can actually update on here more than once every couple of months!!!