January 24, 2009

Summer Getaway

We're a week into our vacation in Santiago and it has been very refreshing.  Generally, we're not too fond of this big city where smog and crowds abound.  However, it has been great to get back to so many friends and loved ones.  Joshua had his first plane ride, during which he behaved very well and enjoyed his first taste of bread sticks.  We went straight from the airport to the Columban Center House, where all of the missionaries (priests and lay) gather each Monday for lunch.  We were greeted by a mob of happy cooers and gigglers.  The housekeeper quickly stole Josh away to show him off to the kitchen staff.  It was about half an hour before we could pry him back from her and introduce him to Tata (great grandfather) Hugo, the oldest priest member of the region.  Joshua liked him a lot, especially his finger, which he immediately shoved in his mouth.  He also met Matilda, his almost two year old peer, who is the daughter of another lay missionary couple.  Matilda pointed and smiled while practicing his name and Joshua laughed and tried to pull her hair every time she passed close by.  It was a nice way to start our week and we've continued the good fortune with Joshua sleeping through the night every night this week. We think it's probably sheer exhaustion from meeting so many new people, but we'll take it!  We haven't heard any news about our neighbor's son in the hospital, but are continuing to pray. Thanks to all of those who are praying with us.

January 18, 2009

Tragedy (Anna)

It's almost 2 in the morning and I should be in bed.  We leave for Santiago tomorrow morning and have spent the last two days preparing for Joshua's first trip in a plane and our first vacation as a family.  Our preparations were interrupted with some pretty sad news though.  Our neighbors across the street own a "Salchipapa," which is northern Chile's version of McDonalds.  They sell hot dogs, fries and other varieties of greasy yet delicious foods that we shouldn't be eating.  Needless to say, we spend a lot of time over there.  We learned that their youngest son, 19 years old and just a year out of high school, was shot two days ago and is now in critical condition in the ICU.  It was a big shock, especially because this particular son was such a great kid.  We got to know him at a retreat that we gave for the youth in the parish early in the year.  Even though he didn't participate in the youth group and didn't really know any one there, he quickly became known as an outgoing, enthusiastic believer.  He loved God and had a way that attracted the other kids to him and made them feel at ease.  He also knew lots of fun "dinĂ¡micas" (silly songs and games for groups), which are imperative in any Chilean youth work.  I went over to their house tonight, hoping that the information I had heard was wrong, and that it wasn't really their son who had been shot.  But, when I passed through the door and saw his mother's face, I knew that it was unfortunately true.  We sat and talked for awhile as she explained to me how he was and what exactly had happened. He was at a friend's birthday party and on the way home, was mistaken for a drug addict who owed some dealers money.  A car drove by and opened fire on the group he was walking with. Three boys were shot, but he was the most critical and also the youngest.  The doctors tell his mother that he's lucky to be alive but it's what they're not telling her that has her most worried - namely, whether he'll make it or not.  I've learned that the most important thing we can do at times when things aren't in our control is to pray.  So, we prayed together, asking God to heal her son and to bring the family strength and hope.  

It's hard to decide which stories get shared with our friends and family back home and which stay with us here in Chile.  It's not that we want to scare people, but sometimes we think it's important for them to know the reality.  It's easy to tell people that we work in an area where drugs are a problem, but gets harder when that reality hits home and we tell them our neighbor was shot by drug traffickers.  I think it's important for us to hear these personal stories though in order to really understand what others are going through. It's important for us to feel empathy, to share in others' suffering and help with some of that burden when possible, even through simple prayer.  The nature of our work and where we live lends itself to tragedy, but that doesn't make it easier to handle when it hits.  We're praying for a happy ending to this one and appreciating life a little more than we did this morning.

January 14, 2009

Here Today, Gone Tomorow

We can't believe how fast it has gone. Anna's mom boarded a plane out of Chile two days ago and we're still getting used to the empty space left in the house.  We had a great time with her, although it seems like she spent more time as a nanny than as a tourist.  The baby's health didn't allow for us to make many excursions. We missed the beautiful salt flats high up in the Andes mountains, the oasis town with natural hot water springs and the quaint coastal fishing village with lots of historical interest. She's going to have to come back again next year, when Joshua's older and we're better at this parenting thing.  We appreciated the help though and we were able catch up on some much needed sleep.  We already miss her, but are glad that she made it home safely and is there to take care of Anna's dad, who has had some medical problems lately. Here are some photos of her visit and the places we did manage to show her:

Joshua shows Grandma how a big boy eats... or refuses to eat.

We made it to an old salt mining town called Humberstone, which we're sure has real ghosts (future posts with orb photos to come).

Santa showed up a day late for Daddy.  Here he is with his new Wii Fit, teaching Joshua all about rhythm.

The family took a hike up into the sand dunes to watch the sunset. We were also acompanied by two neighbor kids who agreed to take the photo.

A neighbor family who invited us over for lunch on New Year's Day.  They're just one of the many families that we've befriended while here in Alto Hospicio, and were very excited to meet Anna's mom and practice their English.

The coast of Iquique.

Joshua's reaction when we got in the car on the way home from the airport and Grandma wasn't at his side.  He'll miss you Grandma!

January 6, 2009

Our Work

Some people have asked us what exactly we do here, besides travel and eat. We do work (we promise), but haven't been blogging much of that here due to the end of the year and the new addition.  In Santiago, we helped manage the youth groups of a very large parish that served 300 teens.  We were pretty under-qualified, but did manage to learn a lot in the process and create some very meaningful and lasting relationships - both with the youth and with our neighbors.  Here in Alto Hospicio, we are also working with the youth, but in a much smaller parish. There are four neighborhoods with their own chapels and we work on a team with two others in order to build up the youth groups.  We also do some things on the side, which are a lot of fun and have helped us build ties with the community.  David does English and Sports workshops that help him connect and Anna does art workshops for children in the chapels and also for women in a local community center.  Recently, we've also fallen into two other pastoral commitments that have proven very worthwhile - a family ministry where we organize activities in the community that promote whole-family involvement in church and also a ministry that focuses on the drug problems very prevalent in our community.  We've learned that it doesn't really matter what you do, but rather how you relate to people.  Our "job" as missionaries is to bring people closer to God, to help them discover His presence in their lives and to help awaken that desire deep within that we all have - that yearning to live in communion with God.  As we look back on our own lives and our own conversions, we realize that our communion was nurtured by loving friends and family - by late night conversations with understanding friends and by good examples of how to respect each other in daily life.  So, we try to do the same here in Chile, with our neighbors, church community and especially with the young people who very easily can fall into the lie of materialism and consumerism that surrounds us all.  In March, there will be more blogging about each of our pastoral commitments, but for now we'll be enjoying the summer vacation and family time.