It’s been a wonderful past three weeks back in the States. Since I’ve been here, I’ve traveled to Tennessee twice, South Carolina twice, and spent a week in Orlando. It’s been so nice to see… More
You don’t think about how much stuff you’ve collected until you have to pack it up and take it with you.
For weeks before I left, I had been making a pile of things I needed to bring with me. Over time it grew and grew, like some unruly monster, from a few small school supplies to a mountain of books, blankets, and boxes. Some of it was stuff for other people; some of it was for me.
Only two 50 lb checked bags were included for free on my flight. After quite a bit of finagling, I managed to fit almost everything into three. I ended up deciding to suck it up and pay the $200 for the extra suitcase. They were 47 lbs, 48 lbs, and 52 lbs, respectively (whoops).
One-hundred and fifty pounds seems like a lot when you’re five feet tall and trying to load it into your parents’ van. It feels like overkill when you’re lugging it through the airport and handing it over to security. It feels especially excessive when you are trying to drag it off the conveyor belt at the end of your trip and haul through customs by yourself.
But really, only three bags is a pretty limited amount. Everything I need for ten months in three bags!
Missionary life makes you prioritize, glean through the old and unnecessary and decide what to leave behind. You’re baggage can only hold so much.
If only this were true for our invisible baggage as well.
There’s this assumption in the Church that missionaries got it all together. We’re living the Great Commission. Our pasts are behind us and our lives are now officially right with God. We have arrived. Hand over the spiritual Super Bowl trophy!
If you know any missionaries, though, you know this isn’t true. We’re some of the most broken people you’ve ever met. Our hearts are more-than-likely in three or four different places at once. We chose a life where we will never really feel home again. That wound from the high school nickname never healed. We never processed the death of that person we loved. We’re too busy healing, helping someone else. Someone else who we may love open-heartedly and desperately though there’s a good chance they will disappoint us.
And we’re tired; tired of seeing and fighting the broken world and it’s evil. We’re face to face daily with hurt and wonder why God doesn’t fix it. We’re overwhelmed and lonely and angry at God sometimes, and sometimes we don’t do our devotions because I can’t talk God right now, but I’m choosing to keep going, keep moving, keep acting as if He is Who he says he is and maybe after awhile my heart will follow.
There are no size or weight limits on invisible baggage.
And so we go on, come quickly Lord Jesus, with all our world goods stuffed in three carry-on suitcases and our invisible baggage stuffed down inside our souls. And we don’t realize how much we’ve collected until we’ve packed it up and taken it with us so many times that one day we’re trying to minister and suddenly the zipper breaks, and it all spills out everywhere and we see it all, lying there for everyone to see.
Well, I’m still in Atlanta.
For the next few hours anyway.
My flight left at 7:50 last night. I was standing at the Delta international check-in counter with my whole family, just a few feet away. After spending two hours in Atlanta traffic (for what should’ve been at 45-minute trip), I was too late to get myself and my luggage on the plane. My friend Mandy, who I was supposed to travel with, was already on the plane and had to go without me.
Yes, it was frustrating.
But I’m grateful. I’m “stuck” at home, not alone in a foreign airport. I got some extra time with my family, and I got to sleep in my bed last night. I got a ticket on the plane that leaves tonight and the ticket agent lowered to change fee from $2,600 to only $300. (!!!)
Best of all, I get to see my friend Anna tonight at the airport. She is moving to Africa with her husband to run their organization One Heart Africa full-time, and they leave from Atlanta tonight. I didn’t know when I would see her again, but now we will be in the same terminal for a few hours before we head off into the world on our respective missions.
Hosanna. Always. God is good. He has His reasons, even if I don’t understand them all yet!
As I attempt to head out again tonight, would you remember me in prayer? Pray that I get checked-in, my bags checked, and through security with no problems. Pray for Mandy and I as we travel alone instead of together. Pray for my health, as I feel a cold coming on, and I really don’t want to get anyone on the plane or in Paraguay sick. Most of all, pray for me and my family as we say goodbye again.
Hopefully, the next time you get an update it will be from Paraguay!
And you better believe I will be leaving for the airport VERY early this afternoon! 🙂
I’ve been back in the States since Thanksgiving and have been enjoying the time with my family and friends. Here’s what I’ve been up to…
-I surprised my family for Thanksgiving! I came back a week earlier than I told them I would and walked in the house Thanksgiving morning! Only one person in the States knew about my plan (thanks for picking me up at the airport Lauren!) It was a wonderful surprise. Video coming eventually!
-I went to Cleveland and saw some of my friends and my “adopted” family the Thomases. I also got to speak at Concord, my home church, and share what the Lord has been doing in Paraguay and in my life over the past 5 months.
-Had a wonderful Christmas with my family, including all my siblings and their significant-others. And their puppies! Shiloh and Roysten are my two new furry nephews and they are both sweet and very energetic 🙂
-My favorite (and only) cousins came down from NY to visit the week after Christmas. We played a lot of ping pong and Heads Up and Courtney has passed me up in height! By next year, the oldest cousin (me) is going to be the shortest I think.
These guys were in town over New Years ❤ ❤ ❤
-Serving Paraguay announced that we raised enough money to build new classrooms at the school! They broke ground today! I’m very excited.
-I have also had the chance to share about Serving Paraguay at my dad’s office with his coworkers as well as at my home church in Florida this past week. It’s such a blessing to share what I’m passionate about with people who are so encouraging and eager to help! Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has given to me and to the ministry of Serving Paraguay. I will be speaking at my parents church in Alpharetta on January 24th and hopefully a few more places in the next few weeks as well. Pray that hearts would be open to partner in the work God is doing in Paraguay!
Such a blessing to see many wonderful friends over the past few weeks! I also got to meet my “nephew” Mr. Levi Timothy Akers this past week. Can you say ADORABLE?!
I just bought my plane ticket back to Paraguay for February 4th. I have a LOT to do before I leave, but I am looking forward to an exciting year of teaching at Tape Pyahu and hanging out with the kids at Hogar El Camino.
I’m raising money to cover my expense for next year at Serving Paraguay. I’ve covered everything myself so far, but now that I will be working for a year, I am humbly asking people to considering partnering with me. I need to raise about $1,500/month to cover my food, visa and residency fees, language school, transportation, and classroom expenses. So far I am at 4% funded! Here are the steps to give in you are interested:
- Go to servingparaguay.org/donate to give online (you can sign up for one-time or monthly) or you can mail checks to:Serving Paraguay 4353 E. McNeil Street Phoenix, AZ 85044
and put my name in the memo.
- Email me [email@example.com] and let me know your name and the amount of your gift, whether it is a one-time or a monthly pledge. This way, I can keep track of who is giving and how close I am to being fully funded.
Thank you to everyone who is praying for me! Please continue to pray for us, God has been answering prayer and we can’t help but say “Hosanna, Lord!” We are grateful. 🙂
Let me start by saying “I’m sorry.”
I haven’t forgotten about my blog, or all of the people who are praying for me and waiting for updates. I know I haven’t posted in a long time.
And it’s not because I’ve been busy, although I have been.
It’s not because there’s nothing to write about, because of course, there is plenty.
I guess I’m just kind of at a loss for what to say.
In the past two and a half months I’ve been in Paraguay (crazy how time flies!), I’ve kind of ridden a roller coaster of emotions. That’s just how culture shock works. Some days are fantastic and some are very very hard.
Most days, however, I fluctuate between thrilled and bewildered and happy and exhausted and laughing and grieving one hundred times. It’s as unpredictable and inconsistent as the weather in Cleveland.
And that’s okay. It’s part of adjusting.
But it does make it hard to blog. Or to even update Facebook.
On the one hand, I don’t want to write about all of the difficult things. The last thing I want is for those of you back home to think I’m complaining or unhappy. That’s so very very far from the truth. I love it here. I feel like I belong. It feels like home. I know this is where I’m supposed to be right now.
But this isn’t a vacation. It isn’t a short-term, two-week, feel-all-the-emotional-highs-and-go-home-with-a-renewed-passion kind of trip. This is real life I’m living alongside real people and (very) real spiritual warfare. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had a funeral, behavior issues, children going back to their parents, language learning faux pas, trips to the hospital, illness, government problems, four sets of houseparents rotating through…
We literally take it hour-by-hour, one day at a time. Things change quickly, and we have to be flexible.
I have learned to lean on the Lord so much more, because so often there is NOTHING I can do but pray.
Change happens so slowly. It can be very discouraging.
And yet there are so many beautiful, happy moments. The night all of the houses, adults and children, came outside at dusk and played volleyball together. Luana falling asleep in my lap on the bus. All the ladies sitting together on the front porch before dinner time and watching their kids play and talking. Beautiful weather and morning walks to school. Running a whole lap around the soccer field without stopping.
Making it through three weekends of substitute-parenting in a house of eleven children who speak Spanish all. by. myself.
My heart is so full, pain and joy and confusing and learning mixed together, that I don’t always (usually) know how to express it all. I don’t know where to begin. It feels fake to only write about the fun parts: the track-and-field trips, the folklore days, birthdays, and movie nights. Like I’m on some kind of glorified vacation getaway. It would be an incomplete window-glimpse of my life.
But often the rough spots aren’t my stories to tell.
Additionally, I am very wary of posting something that could seem like I’m judging the culture, or belittling this way of life, or using the children’s faces to get “likes,” or making a backhanded passive-aggressive reference to something that happened.
The people here are not characters in a story. They are fellow-humans. My friends and “family.” My students. Fellow ministers and gospel-sharers.
Also, they see my updates.
So thank you for bearing with me as I try to figure out how to tell my story while respecting others. Thank you for being patient with me as I learn to be patient with myself. Thank you that I KNOW I am being prayed for even when you don’t always know exactly what our needs are. God knows.
And if you want a more detailed update, I have a much easier time with “face-to-face.” So let me know when would be good for you to Skype or FaceTime. 🙂
I love you all. And I will try to keep in touch more often.
P.S. Yes, my Spanish is getting better.
The past few weeks have been filled with lots of adventures…
Lots of selfies on my phone…
Preparing for teaching (before and after I got my desk).
Lunch with Luana 🙂
Allie and Kony threw a princess party for the middle school girls to dress up and have a special lunch together. We miss Kony and Allie already.
First day of teaching and a selfie with some of my students.
Teaching is fun for me. And teaching 140 students who don’t speak my language is an interesting challenge. I am making a lot of mistakes in the process, but I am learning. I just hope the students are learning as much as I am!
I started off the first day telling the students that they will call me “Miss Katie.” Usually they call their English teachers “Teacher,” but I wanted them to call me by my name, the way students in the States refer to their teachers. Plus, I’ll go mad if I hear “Teacher, teacher, teacher!” all day, every day 🙂 So far, they are being great sports.
I want to be a good teacher, and it will take time. I am grateful for students who are forgiving! 🙂 Pray that I will be loving, have wisdom, and also LEARN SPANISH.
Also, please be in prayer for three specific prayer needs here at Hogar el Camino. Thank you!
We (Kony and Allie and I) took a bus from Itaugua to Cuidad del Este, supposed to be a five-hour trip… but because of a little fender-bender it took a bit longer.
We stayed with Jewel (Jackie McCobb’s sister) and her new husband José overnight, and headed off to the falls in the morning. They were SUPER awesome for putting up with us, what would we have done without them? Muchas gracias, amigos.
Several bus rides later we arrived at the National Park!
Too beautiful for many words. I’ll let the photos do the talking. Just know if you ever get the chance…come see it for yourself.
We stayed until the park was getting ready to close. Then, several buses and taxis later, we were walking across the bridge back to Paraguay at sunset.
We had dinner with Jewel and José and then rode back on the night bus to Itaugua.
The Cataratas do Iguacu were beautiful…but these people are even more incredible. How blessed are we to be able to spend our lives in service of the God of this Creation?
I’m bad with names. I forget people’s names almost instantly. It’s always been a struggle. Even when it’s just one new person, who speaks English, I have to ask them repeatedly. I’m so sorry, what was your name again? Names are so important. I hate that I can’t remember. It’s not because I don’t care. I do, tremendously. The least you can do, I think, is give someone the dignity of calling them by their name. Identity. Sometimes I just try to get away with not using it until someone else says it. Sometimes I forget names of people I’ve known for years. Oy. This weekend has been a tsunami of new, all at once. Hispanic names, mostly, Amado y Luana y Lujansita y Mili y Ricardo y Ortiz…hard enough for me to remember, and then so many faces to match them to, faces that look far too much alike to me.
I’m getting there, though. I am learning new names, and words, and recognizing faces and personalities. I am learning new Spanish words, phrases constantly. Muy rapido. (But never fast enough.) #prayformyspanish I love every minute, here. I love the community, children outside playing with one another and their parents talking on front porches. Neighbors. I love the weather (which has been sunny and warm and beautiful, and is about to turn cold and wet.)
I love the long walk down to the school (which really isn’t very long) when Luana picks tiny wildflower bouquets for me. And then I learn the colors of the rainbow. I love hanging out in the evenings with Kony y Allie, the two interns who are here with me for a few more weeks. I love the food and eating dinner with the families every lunch and dinner. So far, my allergies haven’t caused too much trouble. I love shopping at the corner market a mile down the road and celebrating birthdays every other day in the pavilion across the street. Many children, many birthdays.
I love the missionary families, old and new: the Mortons and McCobbs (seasoned veterans), the McKaneys and the Crooks (just arrived). I love holding baby Santi. I will miss him when his family goes back to the States in three days.
I absolutely adore siestas. Haven’t missed one yet. #napsforthewin I mostly love that I have two whole weeks before school starts to fall in love with this place and the people.
Not that it took that long. But I am still working on learning those names.
So you want to keep in touch with me… Here’s how it works: my phone will basically be tuning into a glorified iPod as of this evening. I can only use it for iMessaging, FaceTime, and Internet when I am connected to WiFi (which won’t be constant, but still frequent). If you have an apple device, you can text (iMessage) me at my Apple ID firstname.lastname@example.org. I think it’ll work just like you’re texting me. I’ll get your message the next time I connect to Internet. You can also FaceTime me (but probably schedule a time to talk rather than just calling randomly.) Internet is limited there so I can’t just drain it all at once 🙂 If you are Apple-less, you can use Facebook to message me and Skype to call me. Username specialkt1. Don’t worry by the way, I will have a cell phone to use in country to keep in touch with the people there. In emergencies, call my parents or my sister (message me for their info if you don’t have it.) Gracias y’all!