Saturday, March 29, 2014

Welcome to Ohio

Well, Ohio has given us quite the spring greeting.  In Venezuela, it was warm.  Always.  Sometimes just plain hot.  We longed for winter.  We rarely got sick, or at least the kids rarely got sick.  We only had 1 doctor visit, only out of necessity.

Here though.  Ohio is bipolar.  60 degrees one day, snow the next.  It's no wonder everyone gets sick.  Well, we jumped on the sickness boat.  Everyone in our family has either had a fever, vomiting, snot and congestion, or some form of all of them.  Oh Ohio.  Being in the bipolar weather and around a lot of kids, it was bound to happen.

We can say that we're really grateful for the lack of sickness we experienced in Venezuela.  The fact that we only went to the doctor once because Leah had a UTI was huge for us.  Our goal was to not go to the doctor at all, but that's ok.  We're so thankful for the lack of sickness we experienced.

So the past few days have not been "productive."  It's been a lot of cuddling on the couch with one sick child one day and then cuddling with the other one the next day.  Luckily it seems like the fever runs for only about 24 hours.  Cleaning up vomit and other accidents hasn't been fun, but we're pushing through.

We leave for Indy on Monday.  There we'll have a couple days of debrief.  It will hopefully be a good time of some closure for us to process through our time in Venezuela.  Miami was more designed to be a crisis debrief, so we're looking forward to having a debrief for our entire time overseas.

We've had to do a fair amount of grieving over the past couple of weeks.  As we've tried to invite people into the process, it's been hard to know how to grieve well, what to grieve and what to be excited about.  It seems like time and a lot of processing will heal the wounds we've experienced.  It's a slow process and there doesn't seem to be a right or wrong.  So we just do what we can.

Would you continue to pray for us?  For our health, for rest in the midst of sickness.  For our continued processing.  For our kids to continue to be flexible with our lack of housing.  We continue to rest in the only consistent thing we have right now, each other and the Lord.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


It feels like we've been back for so long.  Yet it's only been two weeks.  It's hard to keep up with what day it is.  The days go by and time heals wounds, but it seems like we'll need more time than we'd like to admit.  We decided to go to Columbus for about a week.  We have so much to do, doctors appointments, meetings, time with friends.  It has been good for us.

We're sad though.  Sad about so many realities right now.  Sad that the Venezuelans we left are still heartbroken and sad.  How can we help?  We're sad that the kids don't have anywhere to call home and that won't change anytime soon, probably not until August.  We're sad that our bodies are still recoiling from the trauma that we experienced.

I wrote a message to a friend this morning who asked how we are doing.  It's interesting because we feel like what we experienced wasn't really a trauma.  But our bodies are telling us otherwise.  We are still having issues sleeping.  We experience random stomach issues, knots in our stomach, tightness in our chest, panic attacks.  These things have not gone away unfortunately.  There are random triggers that seem to heighten these things.  And this all seems normal for someone who has experienced some sort of trauma.

But we don't want normal.  We don't want to feel the repercussions of all that happened.  We want to move on and feel like we can function and be productive.  We have been able to do things, but not nearly as much as we would like.  We have been able to grieve some.  But again, not nearly as much as we would like or would hope for.

This is our reality right now.  We take each day one step at a time.  We put one foot in front of the other.  The sad thing is that we're going through it together so we can't really console one another.  And that is hard.  We're both experiencing all of this in unique ways and we can't help each other.  So we turn to others, to friends, to family, to counselors.  This will take time.  Oh how we wish it wouldn't.

But.  There's always a but.  There is good news.  We did find out yesterday that we officially will be going to Orlando this August!  We were accepted into the program for a year at the Cru national headquarters.  We're ecstatic about this for many reasons.  This means we will have a year of low stress, personal and leadership development, free Disney passes and time to sort through with counselors and friends what the past 2 years of our lives has done to our hearts.  All of this without the normal wear and tear of campus ministry.  Don't get me wrong, we love our jobs.  But we need something low stress right now.  For our whole family.

This will only be for a year.  That means Bart will work in the office and I will hopefully get to do some admin from home.  I'll still homeschool Noah since that seems to be the easiest transition, and he claims he never wants to go to school.  :/  At some point during our time there, we will try to figure out a good fit for our family to go back into campus ministry somewhere in our region (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois or Michigan) for 2015.

Until then, we wait.  We have our time of being nomads, raising support and trying to process through this thing called life.  Would you pray for us?  For our kids to feel settled without having a home.  For us to continue to process through everything that happened.  For those we're staying with, that we could somehow be life giving (and not just life sucking).  Maybe they're the ones who need the most prayer at this point!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nothing new to report

Life is normal.  Well, relatively normal.  We're doing school.  We're making meals occasionally, going out occasionally.  We go out.  We stay in.

Overall, we're tired.  Emotionally, physically, mentally.  We need rest and we're just not really sure how to do it.  Sleep has been difficult for both of us.  At times it feels like our bodies are still on high alert.  It's just hard to shake everything that we experienced over the past few weeks.

Still we're trying.  Trying to get time alone.  We take turns going to the basement to get away where it's quiet and we can have some time to think.  We need time to process but we're just not really sure how.

This weekend we go to Columbus.  There we'll try to process more, get time with friends, go to the doctor, be in a place we used to call home.  We're hopeful it will be life giving.  Would you pray for us?  Would you pray that our hearts would continue to heal?  Would you pray that we would be gracious with people as they welcome us back and try to love us well?

Honestly we don't even know how to be cared for at this point.  A part of us wants to be hermits and hide away, avoiding as many people as possible.  Another part of us wants to shout it from the rooftops, talk about what happened, somehow sort out the chaos that happened.  Is this really our lives?

And where is the Lord in the midst of this?  He is faithful.  He is here even when we don't understand.  Right now, I cling to Psalm 51 and am grateful for this passage especially.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Getting settled

The past few days have been a bit of a blur.  We're at my parent's house.  The kids are loving having toys and a car to ride in.  At church this morning, the kids loved being around other kids who spoke English.  They made new friends.

It has been challenging for us to be able to process since we've returned to Ohio.  There's been so much to do with grocery shopping and buying phones and catching up on rest.  We're still tired.  We're still trying to sort through everything that the past two weeks have brought.

Right now we are resting in God's goodness.  The goodness of being able to experience life in Venezuela.  The goodness of seeing and beholding all that he had planned for the ministry there.  The goodness of being able to leave when things got messy, even if it was abruptly.  The goodness of having amazing people in our lives who love us so well.

We would be remiss if we didn't take the good with the bad.  The blessings with the curses.  As difficult as the tears and the lack of sleep are, we are grateful.  Grateful for safety.  Grateful for a place to stay.  Grateful for the Venezuelans who remain to carry on the ministry.  Grateful for limbo.  Grateful for the chaos that is our lives.  It's through these experiences that we are required to lean on the Lord.

We still have heavy hearts and many things to work through.  We still don't know what this week or next week, or the next few months look like.  That's ok.  We can't rush this.  We want to try to make the best decisions we can for our family right now.  I would love very much to give my kids consistency and a place to call home, but that is not our reality right now.  So we wait.  Please pray for our kids right now, that they would be patient and gracious with us with the inconsistency that life is right now.
With Jose
With Andreina 
Making ourselves short with Haifa 
With Natalia

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Coming back (an article)

We ran across this article a little while back and saved it for the purpose of returning to the States.  Well, that day has come upon us much sooner than we anticipated, but thought we would share it.  This isn't all inclusive, but it's a good start for people to understand a bit of how we are feeling.

Coming "Home"

The kids with Debora one last time

Tommy & Noah with our favorite
taxi driver, Jose

This McDonalds is about a 10-12 minute walk from us.
We have no idea what happened to the sign, but we hadn't
been by there in a long time so it might have had something
to do with the protests...

Bart with baby Isabela, trying to convince me that
we need another one

Bart & Tony finally doing the wishbone from Thanksgiving.
The winner gets to slap the other one.  Boys.

Our last full day we were able to go to a McDonalds
to celebrate Lucas' birthday (he's the one on the left in green).

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


We're in Miami.  The transition is a seemingly good one seeing as how Miami is pretty much a hodge podge of the U.S. and Latin America.  The shuttle driver was telling us that the hotel we're staying at is actually the Venezuelan part of the city.  Hilarious.  We went to Burger King for lunch and hear Spanish all around us.  It feels like home, yet not.
Our family with Debora, one of our student leaders,
one last time for breakfast before we left

Yesterday was a really long day.  Saying goodbye was sadly easy because of all of the details, transitions, planning, and tears that were already shed.  We were scrambling to make sure everyone was there and had the suitcases, etc.  We were emotionally tired, but were running on adrenaline because it was go time.  So we gave lots of hugs, shed a few tears and headed to the airport.
The stairwell that led to a wall.
Yes, literally led to a wall (top right of pic).

The airport was harder.  That meant saying goodbye to the Venezuelan staff and only a few students.  But still, it was time to go through security.  We had to go, we had to focus.  We couldn't linger.  We were able to get empanadas for the last time for lunch.  We bought the kids a flag.  This isn't ideal, but it's what we had to work with.  Bart had a time of pure frustration when he was called back while they went through 3 of our suitcases.  They picked through our bags, cut into things, and mocked him for being a Christian.  Not exactly what he needed, but this is one of the sad realities of what we faced leaving the country.
The end of the 2nd flight did them in....

The flights were long and draining, but we flew with a nice airline, so that made it a little easier.  Getting to Miami was pretty hilarious.  We had a luggage cart.  6 bags on that with Bart pushing it, Leah on his shoulders and him pulling another bag.  Noah is taking care of one big suitcase, zig zagging all over the place.  And I have all of the carry-ons, 5 in total.  We can make this work.  We go through the customs line and the guy asks if we're with a group and how Bart ended up doing all the work.  We said yes, we are with a group but unfortunately this is all of our stuff!  Ha ha!
The beauty of being in the States....a bath tub!!!
It was the first thing Noah noticed in our hotel room
and the first thing he asked to do this morning!

The hotel thus far has been restful.  We have just been relaxing today.  Swimming a little, watching airplanes, resting.  The team has had to arrive in 3 different groups and the last group arrives this afternoon.  Tomorrow we start having meetings.  Would you pray for our team and the processing we all have ahead of us?  Would you pray for us all as we transition back into a new normal?  Would you pray for our family as we transition into something new and different from the team?  It's not ideal for us to do our own thing, but at this point it is necessary and what's healthy for our family to transition in our own way and not have the pressure of needing to be in ministry mode.

Monday, March 03, 2014

So this is it...

It's Monday.  We leave today.  The past few days have been horrible.  Exhaustion, goodbyes, packing, emotional roller coasters, lack of sleep, hard conversations, horrible.  It is not even remotely what we expected our last days in Venezuela to look like.  Or feel like.  A place that has been so hard on our family has grown roots deep down in our hearts.  We weren't ready to leave.  Not like this.

But today we say goodbye.  We end this chapter of our lives, unwillingly.  Yet, we have to trust that the Lord knows what he's doing in the midst of this.  What other option do we have?

Yesterday we were able to say goodbye to some places.  It was sad.  Nothing was the same.  Goodbye to the pizza place down the road that hasn't been open for weeks.  Walk through a barricade.  Goodbye to our street, lined with trash and words painted on the pavement.  Goodbye to the bakery that only stays open in the morning.  Goodbye to the grocery store that we didn't even bother to walk to because of the barbed wire across the side walk.  Goodbye to what used to be a busy, bustling street that now feels vaguely like a war zone.  This isn't what goodbyes are supposed to look like.

Today we will say goodbye to our apartment.  To our furniture, to the carpet that we all love because it means be capable of rolling around on the floor.  Goodbye to our beds and closets and bathroom.  Goodbye to our building, to our complex.  It's funny how we do these things for the kids, but we maybe need it just as much as them.  We just sense the impact that these goodbyes will make, whereas they don't.

Our hearts grieve the friends we leave behind.  Too soon.  At least it feels that way.  But again, we have to choose to believe that God is faithful and he's doing this for a reason.  He doesn't need us here. We need to remember that.

So at 11:00 am we gather to load our suitcases to make the journey to the airport.  We leave many loved ones behind and there will be many tears.  3:30 feels like an eternity, yet it can't come soon enough.  These few days have been a torturous time.  We feel so torn between wanting to stay and soak up as much time as we can, but also knowing leaving is inevitable and we must start a new chapter.  Broken.  This world is so broken.  One day that will no longer be true.  Until then, we wait, we hope, we expect that Jesus will one day make it all new.

So it is with very heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Venezuela.  You will forever have a special place in our hearts and nothing can ever change that.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The goodbyes

Today was our official goodbye party with students.  Nothing organized or formal, but a chance for everyone to try to say goodbye.  Some students are staying at the guys and girls places, so we'll be seeing them the next day or so.  But for many, this is the last goodbye.

At this point, we're just exhausted.  Physically, emotionally, mentally.  So the pictures will have to do for now.  This is all I have to offer.
Megan, Noah & Tommy being silly
Leah just would not pose for
pictures, even with Ali
Tommy acquired some funny
looking shoes...
One last team picture
A group picture at the party
An entertaining picture of the girls,
with Noah photo bombing
One of our favorite (am I allowed to say that?)
Venezuelans, Douglas
With Douglas and Zuri, the 2
Venezuelan interns on the team