New Normal

As you are reading this we are most likely starting our last full 24 hours here. We probably have emotions running high through our minds and hearts and are thinking and feeling things we never knew we could. We are in a bittersweet place…anxious with the thought of home…but heartbroken to think of leaving this place. In the next 24 hours, both emotions will run vividly through us.

Because all of the work that we need to do is completed at both work sites, today we got to spend time with a lot of families and kids in the communities. It was awesome. Not having as much work as we first assumed has been such a blessing for us because we have had so much opportunity to play with kids and do other things that have opened our eyes to the reality of this place.

We went to the worksite this morning to see the finished project. A few people, like Denver and Marshall who had been working at the other site, hadn’t seen if for a few days now. There was a roof fastened to it, doors in place, and some bars being put on the window. As we walked around and took pictures and visited with the kids who we have come to really love, there was an excitement about the house. A family was now going to LIVE here…there were going to have a house to themselves which they had never had before. For me, the thought was overwhelming.

It was fun to watch the kids get excited about the parts we helped with. I talked with Anthony about how, if we hadn’t started this whole process, this house wouldn’t be here. Anthony just kept saying that that thought blows his mind. He then felt even more blessed when he got asked to help weld some bars into the windows. It means something very special to put your fingerprint on something so huge.

We continued to spend time in the committee all day. We went to a Mini Super (small supermarket) to get a few things that will remind us of Nicaragua once we are home. We also visited Evelyn’s house. We loaded the van up with backpacks and clothes from the packs we took down so we could hand them out to the kids in the community there. We had made some back packs for specific little friends, and others just for those who would fit the clothes and things inside of it. It was a hard experience for us. We only had so much and there were many more hands to give to. We started by bringing stuff into Evelyn’s house and handing it out from there. But more and more kids came and more and more was needed. Denver and I hopped in the van to hand things out and all of a sudden there were kids we didn’t know, moms with babies, even grandmas standing at our open door with hands out. It was heartbreaking. We wanted to give them everything we could. But we knew just giving them that would not be enough.

The orphanage was next on our list of places to drop stuff off. We brought duffle bags full of toys, hygiene products, clothes, and stuffed animals to them. Since we cannot give backpacks to specific kids and not others, we lined them up along a pic-nic table to pick their items. They loved to sift through everything and pick clothes and toys that they would like. They had fun showing us their new treasures…laughing and playing with each other. One little boy named Richard got a Yahtzee game. Right after he took it, with delight on his face, he tripped and fell and the top, the whole game part, broke off. He lost most of the pieces and was so sad. But, in moments, he realized he still had a part that worked and he went back to being content and excited. He got over it and made the best of it. We could learn a lot of lessons from him.

After supper we had the privilege of going to the youth service at our church. There has been a special speaker in town for the last week and he was speaking last night. Because of him, there has been a lot of people coming to church every week. The little tiny room was packed and overflowing out the back of it. Of course, there was music. So loud that I’m sure the whole village could hear it. We sang and danced and clapped. We also had the beautiful chance to join into the service. We had prepared a song to sing together in both English and Spanish; Open the Eyes of my Heart. We got up as a team to sing and the joy on people’s faces was incredible. Then, after finishing the English part of the song, it was unbelievable to lead the worship of so many Nicaraguans, singing with us in a language most of us hardly know. There was a powerful unity, a oneness in the body of Christ, that resonated with each word. The sound of our voices mixed together is what I would expect angels to sound like…not necessarily perfect, but unified in the love of our God.

Jaclyn and Braden both had the distinct honour in sharing their testimony in the service, with the help of Esteban. They shared about what being a follower of Christ in your teens years is like in Canada. They were open and honest and so well spoken. I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched them, so proud of how far this team has come and how much they have been stretched.

We got a chance to stop by the orphanage and say good night to our little ones as we were heading back to the team house. They were full of energy from the Saturday off and the gifts they had received. Many of the young ones just carried around the dolls and toys we had brought them and wouldn’t let them go. They have all come to know us. They often call us by name as we walk up to them. They run to us with open arms and don’t let go. They are precious little parts of us now, never to be separated even by time and space.

As I was playing with two little girls that I have come to love very much over the years, I had a stark realization. I had printed off some pictures of me and some of the kids from last year and brought them to them the other day. Today when we were visiting, I walked up to one of the little girls beds and she was looking at a photo album. I asked her to show it to me. As I looked at it, I saw the pictures I gave her first in the book. Then she continued to flip the pages. And I saw similar pictures as the ones I had taken with her…but with different faces in my place. Picture after picture there was a new person, holding her and smiling or having her sit in their lap or hold her hand. And it gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. As the week has progressed the team has communicated feelings of guilt for leaving these kids, like every one else in their life. When I watched this girl flip through this photo album, I felt the same thing. Are we just a face in a picture that comes and goes? I felt like all of these people had just loved and left this girl. It made me angry and sad and I felt alone for her.

Later, as we were walking back to the team house from the orphanage, I was talking with Curtis as we both felt that same guilt creeping in on us, and then we realized something. I would rather have that little girl have a photo album full of pictures of people who have come and given her love then her not having one picture cuz no one has come. These pictures are reminders to her of God’s constant love given to her through different people at different times. She is learning to trust him, solely, and know that He will always take care of her. The thought warmed me. We need not feel guilty for leaving now. We just need to acknowledge that we are an extension of the long term love that God is showing them.

In our team meeting tonight, we talked about the inevitable…leaving. How are we gonna just leave this place? This place that has now become a part of us…sewn into our hem. It cannot be separated from our being. God has taught us things and shown us things here that we could have never learned with the distractions of home. And though home offers comforts and a normal we are used to, we have realized that we are now part of a “new normal”. When we first got here there was so much that was novel and unique, but now it just feels like home. Its normal to smell burning garbage around every corner…to see dogs wandering in and out of people’s homes, to have feet so dirty they look burned, to eat beans at every meal, to have people pop their heads in your car when you are stopped at signs or lights, to fall asleep hot and sweaty from the heat around us, to have bats fly very low overhead, and to have geckos crawl up our walls, to have children ramble to us in a language that we don’t understand and then to just smile and laugh with them…these are the things that feel normal to us. Its in these situations that we don’t feel displaced or abnormal. It is strange to be caught between two worlds…one that is our permanent home and one that has come to be our home for this small time. How do we leave one normal for another?

The team’s mentality is clear; savour every moment, treasure each smile, give more energy than you have, engage in the family we have built, and leave with absolutely no regrets. That is clear in their days here. The next 24 hours will be filled with much emotion and heart break, but every second will be worth it.

Thank you for your continual commitment to lift us up in prayer. How grateful we are for knowing that you are behind us, encouraging us through the Lord. We need you now…as we enter into this vulnerable time of saying good bye.
Please pray for:
-our goodbyes; that we would give all we have in these last few hours
-Corwin; as he says goodbye to Will until they meet again
-our friend Meg visiting the orphanage; she got very sick today and has to fly home on Monday. Pray she recovers and can spend one last full day with the children, she means so much to them.
-the house dedication tomorrow night; that we can celebrate together that goodness of God and the new house for this family
-the continued health of our team; we are run down, tired, under-slept, and emotional. Pray our health stays strong in the next few days as we leave and travel home
-The Belize Team; who we are sure are going through many of the same feelings and emotions as they leave. Pray also for their leader, Kristin, who has an infection on her leg from bug bites. Pray their last days are filled with love and laughter.

It seems weird to say we will see you soon…but we will. We continue to be reminded of your partnership with us every day. We love you. So dearly. Know you are being prayed for as well.

God IS good…

-Chan & the team