Today is our missioniversary. At least that’s what Alicia calls it, and I love that. She calls Luís’ family day (July 25) our “Luísiversary,” and December 11, when we finally touched down in Peru, is our Peruversary. And so today, September 18, is the 3 year anniversary of the day we boarded a southbound plane and moved to another continent as missionaries. Our missioniversary. 3 years ago today we landed in Bogotá, Colombia, with 12 pieces of luggage, 2 kids, and not a word of Spanish.
When I think back on Year One, I mostly remember culture shock, Spanish, and waiting… waiting for anything at all to start to feel normal, waiting to figure out where we would be long term, and mostly, waiting for Luís, whom we finally brought home 10 months into our first year. I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t communicate, exhausted from studying spanish, and really lonely. But I also remember loving Colombia, embracing our new lifestyle, and thinking, “YES. This feels right.”
I remember Year Two as “The Year We Plowed Through.” We moved to Peru right at the beginning of Luís’ transition to our family, and it was a whirlwind. Juggling adoption, continued language deficiencies, illnesses, and adjusting to a new country (again) felt a little like I was under water and fighting to swim upward so that I could finally come up for air. I was pushing through as hard as I could to get to a place where I could breathe. I remember the prayer journals filled while sitting on the floor of the boys’ bedroom while they slept; I remember Nate’s late-night spanish study sessions and early-morning prayer times; I remember wondering how long it would be before I finally made friends again in this new place. But I also remember the numerous tiny glimpses of the amazing work God was doing in each of us as we adjusted to being a family of 5; and I remember falling in love with the beauty of living in a desert; and I remember rejoicing at each new person who slowly opened up to the idea of a friendship with a clueless gringa. It was hard, but it was good, and God was faithful.
And Year Three. What would I call this last year? I’m not sure, to be honest. It’s been a weird one. With the first two years, I knew what I was walking into ahead of time, more or less. Even though there was no way to truly be emotionally prepared for the reality of culture shock or adoption transition or learning a language, and even though it’s been exponentially more intense than I had imagined, there was still a sense in which I walked into it knowing what I had signed up for. Intellectually speaking, I knew what was ahead.
But Year Three showed up with some unexpected turns. The only way I know to describe this year is heavy. All of it. It’s been an emotionally difficult year. We’ve had significant changes in our team, we have taken on new unexpected roles in ministry that have stretched us thin, and we are pouring into a church and community in which every single person has been affected deeply by abuse, poverty, and pain. None of it has been the way we had imagined, and most of it has felt too difficult and draining to write down.
And yet, there’s still somehow a deep, sweet undercurrent of joy. I have never felt more incompetent or ill-equipped for something in my life than I do right now, and yet I also have never felt more sure of our calling to missions and to Arequipa. God has so lovingly and gently reaffirmed this to my heart over and over again. I love these people. I love this church. I love serving them and crying with them and praying for them. And sometimes that terrifies me because I have no clue what I am doing. I absolutely cannot do this…which means I am reminded every moment that it doesn’t depend on me, and that my insufficiencies point all the more to Christ’s strength.
This year has been heavy, and I am thankful for that, because once again, God has tenderly shown me that difficult or heavy doesn’t necessarily equal bad. Ultimately, it has reminded me that carrying burdens isn’t a part of my job description. Casting them off is. I lay them down before the cross, and then I walk with others and show them this amazing Jesus who calms our hearts and carries our burdens and loves us fiercely, and I pray that they too will experience the sweet joy found in casting their burdens on Him and resting in the One who holds the universe.
I don’t know what Year Four holds in store, and this time I am walking into it KNOWING that I don’t know. It might be an even heavier one for that matter, but that’s okay, because I’m not the one carrying the weight. I’m the one being carried.
Happy missioniversary to us, and here’s to many, many more.