A 21st-Century Parable of Reentry

As I sat in Wednesday night Bible class for the first time, and everyone began turning to the reading, I found that all my Bible apps were set to Spanish. While I changed my preferences, the conversation moved on without me, and I began scrambling to multitask mentally. It struck me that this is a parable of what is happening to my family. Our preferences are set to Peru, and it’s going to be awkward and frustrating while we’re in the room but busy looking for the settings button instead of fully engaging the conversation going on around us.

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A 21st-Century Parable of Reentry

For Kyle and Larissa

After a long search, I can’t find the words. After all these years, maybe there are already enough words between us. All I know to say at this moment is that we shared a road no one else did. You said yes when no one else did. You stayed the course when no one else did. You carried the weight no one else did. The road was ours for a stretch. So now I want to mark our parting with the words we learned to sing together twenty years ago, which have sustained me so many times.

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to steep so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so worth much left to do
But so much you’d already done

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
And I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit from me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

And I will follow You all of my days
And I will follow You all of my days
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

My friends, family, companions, and co-laborers;
For the beautiful nights, the too-soon mornings, and the hot days;
For being strangers in this land;
For the steep climb and the faltering steps;
For singing this song with me and Meg;
For all the forgiveness, love, and laughter;
For you;
I thank God.

And now:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

We’ll see you soon, no doubt. But soon or late, our paths will meet at Gate 11, and we’ll remember this road we walked together, step by step.

With all my love,

Greg

For Kyle and Larissa

Our ten favorite “date spots” in Arequipa

I wanted to list the places that have become special to Greg and me in Arequipa. We didn’t get to take a ton of date nights, but when we did, we would usually go to one of these places. Some of our spots are special because we went there with the kids, but this list is for us. These are “our special spots.” (and it is no surprise that they mostly revolve around food)

  1. Zig Zag: voted best restaurant in Arequipa. Besides the delicious tuna steaks and meat trilogies they served on sizzling volcanic stones, “our” favorites were “The Sexiest Salad of Perú” (think artichoke hearts, fresh asparagus, mango, shrimp, quail egg, goat cheese, and red bell pepper with a balsamic honey glaze drizzled across the top), the creamed quinoa (to die for), and their homemade bread.
  2. Crepísimo: the same owners as Zig Zag, but a nice date lunch spot. They have a whole menu of salty crepes and an entire selection of dessert crepes that can be served with or without ice cream. Their salads are amazing, and their fresh juices are divine. It is a perfect outing to share a salad, salty crepe, and chocolate crepe with the man I love.
  3. TGIFridays: When a girl’s hometown is located 15 minutes from the tiny town of Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniels, there is a great sense of homeyness that one feels in Fridays. Even though the burgers taste nothing like the pictures in the Peruvian menu, Greg and I always shared the buffalo wings with mojitos–they were fantastic. Sometimes we splurged and got the ribs with JD sauce. Yummo.
  4. El Gaucho: good beef, great all-you-can-eat salad bar and best fries in the city (and that says a lot for a restaurant located in the potato capitol of the world).
  5. Capriccio: They serve the best cakes in the city, but Greg and I love their menu selection. We would usually always try something different, but we seemed to always want to share the fried mushrooms as an appetizer. The fried chocolate filled churros topped with ice cream were pretty hard to beat as an after dinner dessert.
  6. Ekekos: This restaurant is part of a whole store, my favorite place to look for tourist gifts, but the restaurant has an unbelievable menu. There is so much to choose from, and Greg and I were never disappointed with our plates.
  7. Ras El hanout (Moroccan cuisine): Greg and I LOVE Indian food, and we found that Moroccan food had some similar flavors. We are sad to hear that they have gone out of business, but we sure did enjoy some meals of tender lamb, hummus, and falafels there.
  8. Chili’s and Starbucks in Lambramani: Chili’s is certainly a favorite of our whole family, but when just Greg and I went, we would do chips and queso, an appetizer and drinks. Chilis was comfort food to us for sure. Chilis is located in one of our favorite malls. Right across from it sits Starbucks. So basically, it would be our appetizer, dessert-coffee date night. And we could walk around the mall with our coffees to walk off those calories afterwards. 😉
  9. Hong Kong Express: Arequipa is full of mediocre Chinese food places, but we loved this place for its egg rolls. Most Chinese restaurants in AQP only have wantons on the menu, but Hong Kong didn’t disappoint us with their egg rolls. We would just order egg rolls from them. Such a fun date night. Unfortunately, they went out-of-business around two years ago.
  10. Cine Planet:  not much can beat the Jumbo popcorn and two drinks that we would order to eat with a movie. Besides our movie tickets costing about 3.50 a piece, our popcorn and drinks were around $7. I don’t think you can find that deal in the states. 🙂 We will certainly miss that.

I hope I didn’t leave any out. I will let Greg correct me if I did. These are the ones that have given me the best memories for sure. I am excited to find our new “date spots” in the next chapter, wherever that takes us.

Our ten favorite “date spots” in Arequipa

Full Circle

When we moved to Arequipa in 2008, we found an apartment that was “almost ready.” “Almost ready” turned into six weeks. If you know Greg at all, it won’t surprise you at all that he had to have… a coffee maker. We lived in that room with our 17-month-old, nine suitcases, her pack-n-play, and a coffee pot for those six weeks.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture today after we cleared out the rest of the furniture. First of all, a pic of Manuela with JUST the furniture she is taking home with her. Her house will be transformed with a “McKinzie touch” I do believe. It makes us happy when the things that made our home here end up in homes of those we love so dearly. Here is Manuela and her new boatload of furniture…

2015-01-07 06.11.57Here is what we have left to sustain us through tomorrow (teammates feeding us tonight will obviously help in the eating category). Coffee, water, and internet: what more do we need? Aside from not having a 17-month-old with us, full circle! 😉

2015-01-07 08.10.53The other fun “full circle” story is our office for CUDA (the non-profit we started in the first year that we lived here). We lived one block from the Plaza in Yanahuara and our office was located in Alto Selva Alegre, one block from Holy Spirit Park. Now… we live in Alto Selva Alegre (about 3-4 blocks from Holy Spirit Park) and our office is in Yanahuara about 3 blocks from the Plaza. How crazy fun is that?!

Full circle, people. But we got crazy and flipped the office and house locations. Full Circle.

 

 

Full Circle

A new chapter… in 2015

Every tear I have cried in our final days represents a hundred smiles over the past six years.

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And those are the memories I want to keep close to my heart in this final week that approaches. It is fitting that a new year has begun. It is natural to reflect on the past when a new year begins. The first phase of our transition has passed, moving the kids to the states. They have been happily playing with their cousins on the farm the past few days. My heart ached so much to see them say goodbye to our Peruvian family here. But my heart is comforted in knowing that they are with blood family that they love in the states right now.

Greg and I are finishing up the final details of moving out of our home. We have a few big pieces of furniture left to sell, a lot of people that need to come pay and pick up the furniture they reserved, and getting rid of all that little stuff that accumulates (food, pens, toys, etc). We are having our final garage sale on Monday. And one week from Monday, we will be reunited with our kids at the farm. I can’t wait. I miss them so much.

Our December Team Arequipa newsletter went out to subscribers a couple of days ago. I wrote my last team article. I wanted to share it here on the blog:

The time has come. This is my last Team Arequipa newsletter article. I was listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” the other day while washing dishes. The weirdest feeling came over me. I remember bawling through that song our first Christmas here, because I missed my home and family so much. I know that many of my new teammates will be experiencing this same emotion this Christmas. But this seventh Christmas in Perú, the sentiment is different. Arequipa has become our home, and we are about to say goodbye to all things familiar to us here. The song causes me to bawl my eyes out but not in the same way.

We have scheduled final dinners and meetings with our loved ones. We have sold furniture and kitchen items that have been part of our hospitality ministry for so long. Our children have cried over seeing many of their toys and puzzles being sold one-by-one with the move approaching. We have made lists for eating our favorite foods and seeing our favorite places “one last time.” Greg is finishing up his theology classes with CUDA. I finished my final year in the library program. Ana will be an angel in her final school performance. We will attend Maggie’s Kindergarten graduation program. Cohen completed his first entire year of preschool all in Spanish. Lots of things are coming to an end.

Little things make me cry. I wrote out the final food menu for my kids’ time here (my parents will be flying them back to the states on December 28). Their favorite Peruvian dish is Ají de Gallina. I started bawling when I wrote those words for the last time on my kitchen menu board. Manuela has started bawling when we talk about the kids leaving. It is so hard to be so close to the move and see the effect it has on those around us.

The first two years we lived in Arequipa, I felt an incredible sense of loneliness. I struggled with the language. I missed friendships from home. I remember Greg telling me that he would pray for me to find a kindred spirit in a Peruvian. That seemed impossible at the time. Last week, I got back from a four day trip with one of my dearest Peruvian friends, Arelí. We traveled through parts of Perú that I had never seen. We laughed. We cried. We shared life. I can’t help but smile about that trip. God’s faithfulness is so evident to me. There are so many in the church here that have become the aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers to our children during our time here. That is God’s faithfulness to a girl that worried so much about raising her children on the foreign mission field.

My dad and I were walking from the city center back to our home, and he asked me, “Are you apprehensive about moving home?” I didn’t have to blink before I answered. Yes, I am apprehensive, because I don’t have a place at home. I don’t have a routine. I don’t have a job. My kids are unfamiliar with everything that is about to happen in their new schools. We have just sold everything that created what became our physical Peruvian home, and I am so sad. I feel like I am in a dream. Everything seems so surreal. But if God has taught anything to this Tennessee girl that struggled so much with learning a new language and doubted how in the world she could make a difference in another country, he taught me that he is faithful. Because even though I am not making it through many days without crying, every single teardrop is representative of hundreds of smiles that come from my memories here. This journey was so hard at times, but here at the end it has been so completely rewarding.

Greg and I see next year as the beginning of a new chapter. It can be scary to travel into the unknown. But we are confident that God is faithful. He is constantly preparing and molding us for things that he can do that are more than we ask or imagine. And he promised to bring to completion the good work he started in us. We have seen his faithfulness in Arequipa. We are so excited to continue to see the story of his faithfulness in Arequipa through our Peruvian brothers and sisters and in our new team members. Please pray for our family and the Smith family as we have some major transitions ahead. But take time to praise God for his faithfulness, and the incredible testimony of living for his name’s sake wherever we find ourselves in his story. Thank you all for encouraging us along the way. Thank you for your words, your gifts, and your generosity. Greg, the kids, and I are all very excited to see many of our stateside friends and family in less than a month. We look forward to seeing how God makes our new home among you.

A new chapter… in 2015