November 24, 2008

Overwhelmed (Anna)

Oh man, is this hard. We haven't yet finished our first week as a happy family and we've already experienced a baby with bronchitis, a flu-ridden mommy and daddy taking care of the sick baby and a cut in electricity that was later found to be the verge of an electrical fire.  Not to mention the givens of scarce sleep and no time to cook for ourselves, basing my survival on rice and coffee.  I knew that bringing a baby into our home would change things, but I never realized how quickly it all happens.  On Wednesday we were a couple and on Thursday we were parents.  We took Joshua in to the doctor on Friday and were then sent to take x-rays, to the kinesiologist and to the pharmacy for a list of torturous remedies that cause no end of screaming.  We've mumbled through the endless inhalers, temperature taking and antibiotic doses, but today, while watching the kinesiologist push on Joshua's chest, causing him to cry and flail, thus coughing and spitting up all the phlegm caught in his chest, I just lost it.  I broke into tears right there in the doctor's office and couldn't be consoled.  All the emotion of these four short yet life-changing days came crashing down on me.  Like most cries, it served its purpose and I feel a lot better now.

As I took the liberty of soaking three paper towels with tears, the kinesiologist assured us that Joshua would soon be better and also informed us that his daily treatments would be free.  He said that we were doing "a good thing" and that he wanted to help.  A neighbor last night let us in on the decongestive secret of saline nasal spray - something that apparently everyone but us already knew about.  And most importantly of all, we really love this kid.  Despite not being able to breath and feeling lousy from the bronchitis, he's usually smiling.  He loves to play and to be held.  He's fascinated with his own hands, as if surprised that he can actually manipulate and control them and has taken to touching my face or playing with my hair while I feed him.  I'm so thankful to finally have him home and realize now that it was none too soon.  Before he arrived, he lived through a harrowing birth, two bouts of bronchitis, a hernia and surgery to fix the hernia.  He may be little, but he's a fighter.  And he really loves life.  Despite being overwhelmed, I know things will get easier, but I'm a little curious as to just how many tears I'll shed during our lives together.

November 20, 2008


Our first family portrait.

The sign behind David says, "SENAME On Strike."  The adoption agency, as well as several other public service offices have been fighting for pay raises over the last couple of weeks.  Thank goodness, the lawyer and social worker continued to work on our case, even though they should have been on strike with the rest of their office.  We really appreciate not having to delay bringing little Joshua home, so please pray that they get their raise!

We spent our day lounging around and playing "Tickle Monster."

After an endless series of bright flashes, he finally had enough!  We stopped the picture taking for at least an hour to give him a rest.

So, these are the first pictures of our growing family.  We spent a great day getting to know our new son.  He's a very happy and loving baby.  He likes to be held and kissed.  He does not like to lie on his stomach.  He's curious and watches everything in the room in wonderment.  The not-so-nice things are that he's four pounds underweight and that he seems to have a cold.  He's had bronchitis twice before already and so we'll be taking him in to see a doctor as soon as possible.   We're looking forward to getting to know him better and watching him grow.

November 18, 2008

Thinking of the Children

As we near closer and closer to our court date (just two more days to go!), the excitement builds.  We've successfully bought every used baby item for $1 or less available in Iquique/Alto Hospicio and we think we may be ready.  However, our happiness is stunted a little at the recent email that Anna received in her inbox from a fellow Columban - a priest working in the Philippines with human rights issues. He helps run a center for children rescued from prisons and sex slavery.  The children's stories moved us to tears.  There are many children in the world who lead lives feeling unwanted and unloved. We remember and pray for all of them today.

November 14, 2008

The Week that Never Ends

We have our court date and we're anxiously awaiting the day that we will meet Joshua in person and bring him home.  November 20th - just six more days!  That is also Anna's dad's birthday, so we know it's an auspicious day.  The agency called us last week to inform us and we begged to be able to go and visit our son in his group home before hand.  We would have liked for him to be able to get to know us little by little - our smells, voices and mannerisms.  Also, we wanted to learn about his routines, so that the transition would be easier on him.  It must be a big shock to a baby to spend five months in one home and then be moved to a completely different place with new people.  However, it looks like the Little by Little Method will not be a possibility, as the earliest we're allowed to see him is the day before and just for an hour.  We're trying to keep ourselves as busy as possible in order to not think about it so much.  We've painted our entire house this week and are now moving on to repairing broken windows and other home improvements.  I think it's more an attempt to make time go faster than to make the house nicer, but it seems to be working.

November 13, 2008

Building Community with Traditions (Anna)

As a cradle Catholic, I think an important aspect of our faith is tradition.  It's one of the reasons many of us (I proudly admit it) liberals stick around.  All that incense, genuflecting and repetition may get to some people, but the truth is that I love it.  I didn't always love it. In fact, in those defiant teen age years I spent a lot of time visiting my friends' non-denominational churches and contemplating the pros and cons of Buddhism. I was on the verge of trading in the Holy See  until I came to the deal breaking conundrum, "What about the Eucharist?" and not only that, but what about the rosary?  And the advent candles? And the peaceful silence?  Being Catholic is more than subscribing to a certain religious doctrine, it's belonging to a culture. I wasn't willing to un-train myself out of all those rituals and traditions, so I decided to get confirmed.

And now I'm a Catholic missionary. Who knew? This week on the mission has shed a new light on all of those traditions and exactly just why they're so important. November is Mary's month in Chile and traditionally, Catholics across the country would gather each evening in the local chapel to lay roses at Mary's feet and to bring all their sorrows, hopes and thanks for her intercession and to pray the rosary.  In recent years, attendance has dropped drastically and nowadays, it would not be uncommon to find two or three abuelitas (grandmas) praying for the community in solitude.

This year, our community decided not us! In our pastoral council meeting the month before, we decided that we could do better. We couldn't let our rich traditions go by the wayside and be forgotten. The older people in the community reminisced fondly of the whole family coming together in prayer and of the early morning Misas del Alba (sunrise services) with the added bonus of breakfast afterwards. These practices instilled the basics for their prayerful attitudes as adults and they wanted to share them with their grandchildren.  Marian devotion is still alive here, but it is more and more a personal devotion.  Each Sunday, Mass ends with a song devoted to the Virgin and many of the faithful pass by her statue, touching her feet and genuflecting, whispering their prayers in the hopes that Mary will share them with her Son. But, individual and communal are different things.  The community needs to be strong in order for the church to grow and that's why traditions and rituals are so important.  They give people a sense of belonging, of unified purpose and of mutual understanding. They help us forget our petty disagreements and come together for the greater love of God.

Through that conversation, many ideas emerged.  If the people wouldn't come to us, then we would bring Mary to them!  Three days a week, we decided that the statue would be taken in procession and left in a home of a community member overnight. That family would set up an altar outside where all their neighbors would be invited to join in prayer.  We would have the Misa del Alba once a week and on the rest of the days, we would come back to the chapel for prayer.  One older women cynically commented, "They won't come. There's no more interest in these things."

The first night out, we had 20 people show up.  From children and youth, to adults and the elderly, the community came together and unified in prayer. The older ones led the prayers delightedly. The younger ones looked on in eagerness, trying to pick up on the patterns so they too could join in. We've now finished our first week of Mary's month and I can happily report that we've had consistent turn up each evening.  Always a good crowd and always a happy conversation to follow. It's nice to belong to a community.  And it's nice to be able to pass on the traditions that we've found so meaningful in our lives.  It has been a good week on the missions and I think that a few more people are a little more hopeful in the next generation of Catholics.  They say that a culture that does not change is dead.  We are changing, while remembering our roots.  I believe that God is very present and active in this community and that we just need to open our hearts a little in order to help people discover that presence.

November 4, 2008

Our Secret Motivation

Okay, we admit it. We have an ulterior motive for taking the time to actually start up this blog.  We have a big change in our family coming up and we feel the need to shout it out!  Soon, we'll be adopting a baby boy here in Chile and our "couple" status will change to "family."  It's hard to keep quiet about something that has us so excited.  Here's our adoption journey for those interested:

Joshua Emilio, born June 3, 2008

We married six years ago in Florida. Early on, we knew that we wanted to participate in some sort of overseas volunteer program and we came into contact with the Columbans through the Internet. After prayerful discernment, we knew where God was leading us and we entered the lay mission formation program in Chicago.   We celebrated our 2nd anniversary in Bolivia at language school and by our 3rd anniversary we finally found ourselves inserted into our Chilean mission in the urban city of Santiago, working with youth in a very violent, overpopulated and poverty stricken area called Puente Alto.  

After our first few years on mission we realized we were having a difficult time conceiving.  It was a very frustrating time period for us; it created stress in our relationship as a couple and was very disappointing each month that we were not successful.  The doctor told us not to worry, that it took lots of couples years to conceive and that we should just keep trying.  We had other ideas, as we were a little impatient and very interested in adoption.  Once the adoption window opened, all the stress flew out the window and we found ourselves much happier in our relationship and with life in general.  This was a big sign to us that we were headed on the right path.

Adoption has always been an option for us.  Even before we were married we talked about and planned to adopt.  We had the idea that we would have biological children first and then afterwards adopt.   However, with the slowness of natural conception, we decided to move up our adoption plans and started to look into options.  God's hand in all of this became quickly apparent as we learned more about the process.  First of all, we were assigned to a new city for our second term. We moved to Alto Hospicio, which is a city in the northern most region of Chile.  It just so happens that there are more babies available for adoption here that in any other part of the country.   Also, there are very few couples willing to adopt.  Where in Santiago we may have been on the waiting list to receive a baby for a year or more, in the north, couples are quickly placed with their children, as early as a week after being approved.

We officially began the process in January of 2008.  At our initial meeting with the government adoption agency SENAME, we happily learned that our foreign citizenship would not be a problem, since we have status as legal permanent residents. This ensured that we would be treated just as regular Chileans during the process and that everything would go smoother and easier. Also, the cost would only amount to about $2000 for the entire process, including fees for the lawyer, psychologist and social worker. This was a great blessing considering we had to pay for the adoption from our own personal savings; while all our needs our met with the Columbans, extra money can be hard to come by.

It took about 9 months to get through the process and to finally be approved for adoption.  A week later SENAME called us and informed us that it would be wise to "hurry up" through the final steps of the process (legalizing birth and marriage certificates).  There was a four month old boy who was available for adoption!  This was probably the most difficult step.  Thanks to an internationally coordinated effort between both of our families and us, we were able to get all the paperwork completed just in time.  Within the week, SENAME called us into the office again and informed us happily that the judge had chosen us to be the parents for this little boy.  They told us all about his birth, history and then showed us for the first time pictures of our new son.  It was very exciting and extemely emotional. 

And now we are here, waiting for a court date where we will finally meet our son in person and bring him home.  They tell us that it will take anywhere from two weeks to a month, so we are trying to be patient. We're trying to keep busy by preparing the house and ourselves for the arrival of a new baby.  And, we're praying that little Joshua Emilio is being well taken care of in his group home and will be happy in our family.

November 2, 2008

A Little About Us

This is what we're looking like these days.

Our Dog "Gringuita"
During our first three years in Chile, we lived in an urban "poblaciĆ³n" called Puente Alto, which was overpopulated by both people and dogs. David found this lucky puppy outside of a meat market begging for food and fell in love instantaneously. She's been a great companion.

Our Backyard
We're both originally from Florida, where tropical rain and swamp land abound. So, the jump from the lightning capital of the world to the Atacama Desert was pretty shocking and surprisingly beautiful. David loves to trek up and down the sand dunes whenever he gets a chance. Anna, not so much.

Our Neighborhood
This is what Chileans call a "toma" where families take ("tomar") unoccupied land to live on in hopes that the government will eventually turn over ownership. These squatter communities build their houses with particle board, old box crates and other trashed items and do not have running water or electricity. This is the reality of many poor families in the area where we work and live.

Our House
Fortunately for us, the Columbans are generous and we don't have to live in a toma. We have the luxury of running water, electricity and an actual roof! All of the communities in Alto Hospicio, the city where we live, started out as tomas, but our particular area has grown so much that many neighbors already own their land and have been able to build decent homes little by little.

November 1, 2008


Welcome to our blog.  Our family has been asking us since we began our missionary journey four years ago to share our experiences with them through email or a blog.  Unfortunately, internet was hard to come by where we were living and we never did send much of our stories on.  Thanks to handy dandy satellite technology, we're now able to connect to the web even though we can't get a phone line (in Chile, one of the #1 pastimes is robbing copper phone wires and selling them on the black market, making house lines a rare commodity).

We look forward to sharing our lives with friends and family, people who are interested in overseas mission or those of you who just happened to slip and fall upon us while looking up something else on the internet.