December 31, 2009
We arrived back in Chile unmentionably early on the 16th. David got smart and decided to black out Joshua's windows with blankets, hoping to trick him into sleeping longer. His plan unfolded flawlessly and we awoke at 2pm, a well-rested and happy-to-be-home family. We quickly realized that there was no food nor Christmas cheer in the house, and we only had one week to prepare. So, we spent the week before Christmas buying a tree, making paper stockings, baking and listening to carols in an attempt to make it "feel" like Christmas. We especially wanted to make it nice this year for Anna's sister Joanna, who was spending her very first Christmas away from home and with us. Plus, Joshua actually seeming to picking up that something different was floating in the air.
We gifted banana bread and cut out cookies this year, making sure to add a diabetic version of both. (Based on no factual statistics, we would guess that Chile has the highest rate of diabetes of any country.) We really enjoyed taking the plates of treats to our neighbors' houses, which gave us a great excuse to visit and see how things were going with each one. We were reminded that the best mission work is done just by being a friend and visiting wit
h families. We wished that we had taken more time to talk with each one throughout the year, and focused less on meetings, activities and administration. Perhaps a New Year's resolution in the making...
We attended "midnight" mass at 9pm. With a shortage of priests and four communities to serve, not every chapel can have a mass at midnight. After mass, we shared hot chocolate and "pan de pascua," a type of fruitcake, with the community. We then had Christmas eve dinner at a neighbor's house. This family is originally from Ecuador and understood
what it's like to be far from home during the holidays. Joshua loved playing with their two 6 year old cousins and rearranging their furniture, a hobby that he's picked up recently. Santa Claus arrives at midnight in Chile and the children open their presents after dinner, then run to the streets to play with their new toys. We walked home around 1 am to a chorus of laughing children and fire crackers. We decided to wait until morning for our presents.
On Christmas morning, we awoke to find that Santa had not passed us by, although we did fear finding coal in a couple of stockings. Joshua smiled and giggled at each new gift and absolutely loved every. single. one. Including the socks and undershirts. We did, however, find our gift to him, a picture Bible, still wrapped in the trash can, two days later. Apparently, he thought it was really fun to throw wrapping paper into the can, and the fact that the paper was concealing a gift didn't really matter that much to him.
We continued celebrating until just recently, when we realized that yet another holiday is upon us. We are now preparing for New Year's, where we'll spend the night celebrating with another neighbor family. We'll let you know how Joshua likes staying up past midnight and eating a bunch of junk food yet again.
December 13, 2009
We've been missing lately because we've been travelling. David's younger brother Mark got married last weekend, giving us a great reason to bring Joshua on his first trip out of the country to meet the rest of his family. We were also able to spend Thanksgiving with Anna's family. Joshua loved playing with all of his cousins and being the center of attention. Here are a couple of photos from the big event:
November 13, 2009
November 12, 2009
Yesterday afternoon, Fr. Michael Sinnott was finally freed. We're all very thankful to have our prayers answered and to reach a peaceful end to this ordeal. Here's an article from the CNN website on his release: Irish Priest Freed. Thank you to all who have been joining us in prayer during the last month.
October 28, 2009
October 18, 2009
The Catholic Church here has "Family Week" every year in October. They send out pamphlets to all the parishes that include daily prayers and reflections for families to share each day of the week. It's a nice way to reconnect and get to know your loved ones even better. Our little family here decided to share in the custom and we had our first reflection night yesterday. We shared on the theme "Nuestra Historia de Fe" or "Our Faith History." We all shared the experience of first learning about God from our parents. David heard about Noah's Ark and other interesting Bible stories from an early age. Anna and her sister (Joanna) remember going to sleep at night, with their mom at their side, reciting prayers and asking God to bless and protect their loved ones. It was in these small moments that our faith began to develop. We hope that we instill the same simple, strong love of God in our families that our parents did for us. Thanks Mom and Dad for sharing God with us so early on.
October 16, 2009
October 13, 2009
An 80 year old Columban priest was recently kidnapped in the Philipines. Please pray for his safe return home. We've attached an article here that is from the Columban Mission Newsletter in the US.
September 21, 2009
The 18th of September was Chile's 199th birthday. In our chapel, we decided to celebrate big, with a traditional fonda or carnival type of party. We had all the fixings for a fun family day -traditional dancing, foods and lots of games, including rayuela, a game typically played in the country, sort of like horseshoes. The only thing missing was chicha and red wine. It's almost unheard of to have a fonda with no alcohol, but the community decided that in order to make it truly family friendly, they could do without the drinking and fighting that often overrun independence day parties these days.
Fondas are traditionally decorated with large palms.
Fr. Mike Howe, the Columban priest in charge of the chapel starts us off with a blessing.
The teenagers ran the games. They worked hard the whole six hours without taking a break.
Chile's national dance, the Cueca, performed by local school children.
The kids also showed us a traditional Mapuche dance, from the south of Chile.
Meat, meat, meat! Chileans are not inclined to vegetarianism.
The northern version of the cueca.
Anna's sister is here visiting until March, and dressed up for her first Dieciocho celebration.
The rayuela competition was a big hit... David almost won.
It was great to see so many families participating, including dads.
The guitar is the unofficial national instrument. No party is complete without a song.
Our gringo Chilean family portrait.
Unfortunately, the fun was interrupted by a fire in the neighborhod. Two families lost their homes. Please keep them in your prayers.
September 15, 2009
Last weekend, we took our teenagers out to do a service project. This was a pretty new experience for them, since they are used to being on the receiving end of other people's service projects. We live in a notoriously poor area and whenever another youth group asks themselves, "What can we do to help the poor?" they often end up doing food drives, clothing drives or setting up a Christmas party for the less fortunate... us! We believe it is very important for all children and teens (even the economically poor ones) to learn how to help others, using the gifts that God has given them.
So, we went to an orphanage and played with babies. The teens originally wanted to collect money and toys to donate, but quickly realized they had no money to give. Then, they said that they wanted to paint faces and do magic, soon discovering that none of them had any artistic or theatrical talent. So, they grabbed a ball and decided to play soccer. THAT was a task that they were well prepared for. We showed up to the orphanage at 11 am and were met with three smiling faces peeking out the front door. ¿Tenemos visitas? they eagerly asked. Do we have visitors? We walked in and discovered about fifteen more munchkins varying between ages 2 and 5. There were also about 5 sleeping babies that we didn't notice until later, the youngest just 6 days old and weighing 5 lbs... FIVE POUNDS!! We had never held a baby so tiny in our lives. It reminded us of little Joshua. He was just 6 lbs when born and came to that exact same orphanage when he was just days old. Perhaps there was another volunteer group that came and held him in their arms, marvelling over his tininess?
The children were disappointed when we walked in with empty arms, because they are used to being showered with gifts by visiting groups. But, the disappointment soon melted away as they began singing songs, playing soccer or just simply being held and loved by another person. When it was time to go just a couple short hours later, the teens were physically worn out, but deeply touched by the experience. They learned so much more from the experience than we could have taught them through lectures. On the walk home, questions bubbled to the surface... Why are those kids there? Where are their parents? Why can't they go outside to play? Can we come back?
Due to the abusive family backgrounds of many of the children, we were unable to take pictures. You'll just have to imagine 15 toddlers 8 teenagers and 1 extremely wound up Joshua running around like nuts.
September 9, 2009
We came across an interesting reflection on today's Bible readings. We're sharing it with you because we think it explains very well the reasons that we are over here on mission.
(We couldn't figure out how to embed it, so you'll have to follow the link and then click on "September 9th" on the little calendar below.)
August 27, 2009
Well, it finally happened. After almost five years of living in Chile, we've been robbed. The culprit jumped our fence in broad daylight, creating lots of ruckus (which Anna heard and immediately ignored for no apparent reason) then snatched two of our most treasured clothing items off the line. We may never see Anna's blue track suit jacket or David's red hooded sweatshirt again, but we hope they're keeping some thief as warm as they have kept us...
August 24, 2009
The other night, we were chatting with one of the teens from the youth group. He casually mentioned that he usually wakes up for school around 6:30 a.m. and showers in cold water so that he doesn't "annoy the other kids with stinkiness." Just so you understand the coldness of the water here, last week the average temperature at this time in the morning was about 57 degrees Fahrenheit. We sat in guilty silence, because we knew that his family couldn't afford gas to heat water. Most families around here only use gas for cooking, or not at all. Hot showers are a luxury only enjoyed by the upper classes. Our guilt arose from the fact that we can afford gas not only for cooking, but also for hot showers and a gas grill. In fact, there is a common fight that goes on in our house...
We happen to own three gas tanks. We usually only have one tank filled though, causing the annoyance of switching the tank back and forth between the stove and water heater. Every morning, one person must wait while the other one showers before they are able to heat water for coffee or cooking. It would be overly embarrassing to tell you the amount of time we spend yelling at each other because we are forced to wait ten extra minutes for use of the gas. And don't even bring up the idea of taking a cold shower, because THAT would surely be grounds for divorce.
So we sat in guilty silence because we recognized that we were born into privilege unknown to this 16 year old kid. We grew up with hot showers, air condition, a swimming pool and cable television. And we don't deserve it any more than he does.
August 12, 2009
On Sunday afternoons, I (Anna) spend my time with the kids from the neighborhood making art projects, which I shamelessly steal directly from the t.v. show "Art Attack." (I find them here, if you would also like to have fun.) The workshop came to be partly because I like children, but mainly because I love making all of the cool art myself. Here are some of the kids' "art attacks" from the last few weeks:
July 30, 2009
It was odd the first time we discovered a toilet in the middle of the desert. Strangely, it has become a rather common find. These are the remnants of the squatter communities left behind, as people moved on into more respectable housing, with help from the Chilean government. For us, this scene speaks to our hearts of a disharmony between a man-made and natural world, of the consequences of a "developing" nation and most importantly, our relationship as humans with our Creator.
July 15, 2009
It's Tirana time in northern Chile... and oh, what a time it is. "La Tirana" is actually the name of a local village where a large religious festival takes place each year in celebration of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The big draw is that tons (as in hundreds) of dance groups come into this tiny little town, complete with ornate costumes, and dance in honor of the Virgin for ten days (NON-stop). It's controversial, even among Catholics, due to the non-Christian beginnings of the festival, its commercialization and the confusion between honoring and worshiping saints. Both sides have some really valid points, but we personally lean more towards loving it. It's a lot of fun, the dancing and the colors are enlivening and peoples' faith in God seems to grow and flourish throughout the festivities. Some images from last year:
Sadly, the festival was officially cancelled this year due to the swine flu, but a much smaller version is taking place throughout Iquique and Alto Hospicio. Our parish has the privilege of hosting all of Alto Hospicio in the mini-festivities. So, we'll get up pictures and commentaries later on this week.
July 11, 2009
While looking for information on adoption on the internet just a year and a half ago, we came across a woman here in Chile with a special family. She and her husband are missionaries from the US who adopted their three kids. We emailed them asking for advice and were very encouraged by their response, which basically told us the chances were very good that we would be able to adopt here in Iquique. Their email gave us the push we needed to start the process that ended in bringing home Joshua. Now, her sister needs help raising money in order to adopt a child from Taiwan. You can help by clicking here, where you can order a cookbook to help them raise money, or make a donation to their cause. They are just $2000 away! Please be generous and help them bring a child home to a loving family.
July 5, 2009
We had a couple of special visitors last month that didn't get mentioned much on the blog. We were too busy running around having fun. Joshua's Aunt Joanna and his cousin Brittany came to meet him. Some highlights:
We quickly took advantage and put them to work.
Guess who got Batman pajamas for his birthday?
... AND bunny slippers!
We had some fresh squeezed mango and guayaba juice with our friend Sponge Bob.
David discovered that, yes, the rocks are made of salt.
Joshua drove a train.
We made the mandatory trek up the hill behind our house.
We visited the Pacific Ocean.