A new chapter… in 2015

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

10603281_10152434963103997_5396358793146282353_n

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

Last––international trip with kids (for awhile)

I finally feel like we are back in action in our AQP lives. Taking an international trip always gets me out of sink. But we made it home safely, and we are prepared and still preparing for this permanent international move just a few short months away.

This was our last international trip with kids for the year because my parents will be joining us for Christmas and then taking the three kids back home with them. Greg and I will hang out in AQP a bit longer to wrap up selling our things and being with the church. I wanted to journal a few things that went on with the travels (it can’t ever be an easy trip for us).

The Day We Were Leaving

It was Tuesday. I had been packed for 2 weeks. It was my library day. The kids were in school, and Greg was at home finishing up some things. Our flight was the last one to leave AQP (around 9:20 that night). Life was good and calm.

10:00 am: I receive a call from Greg on my cell phone at school. It was weird that he was calling me, because he knows not to interrupt my classes. I was actually observing my teammate teach the lesson so I could step out and answer the phone. What he had to share with me caused a “Megan McKinzie burst out in tears” episode. Greg discovered while trying to check us in on-line that BOTH of Maggie’s passports were out-of-date. She turned five back in July, and we KNOW they are only good for five years. This mistake was completely on us. He told me I needed to come home immediately. I know the school staff thought someone had died, but I knew what this news meant. Maggie could not travel with us. I prayed she could travel at all.

Peru_passportpassport-us-nyc-223x300

all morning and afternoon: Thankfully, Manuela was cooking lunch and would be home with the kids. We pulled Maggie out of class. A short little funny is that she asked me why I was pulling her out early. I told her it was an emergency. When we entered our house she looked at me confused. She asked why the house wasn’t on fire, because I had said it was an emergency. (Ha!)

We rushed over to the notary’s office that we always use. It was closed (of course). You see, when a parent leaves the country with their children here in Peru, they must have a notarized letter of permission from the other parent saying they can take the trip. We knew Greg would be staying back with Maggie and I would be traveling alone with Ana and Cohen. This is where living in Peru for 6 years and having Peruvian family comes in handy. Greg called one of our closest friends, Alfredo, and he has a friend that works in a notary office in a different area of town. He arranged for us to have an emergency meeting with the guy at 3 that afternoon. Whew.

After picking Mags up from school we took a taxi over to the immigrations office. Here, we stood in line waiting to hear if it would be possible to get her Peruvian passport renewed. Things take FOREVER here, but miraculously, they issue new passports in one day. After lots of copying (and a trip back home because we didn’t have one of the required documents) and a trip to the bank (because all payments are done through the national bank), Maggie had her new picture taken, and we were to return at 2 pm to pick up her new passport. (Note to expats in Peru: you MUST have their DNI to renew. They won’t take their birth certificate. Cohen doesn’t have his DNI yet, but we had gotten Maggie’s. If we had not shown her DNI, the process would have taken two weeks!).

Greg had spoken with the US embassy earlier. What stinks about embassy stuff is that it has to be taken care of in Lima. That is why I knew that for sure, Maggie could not be traveling with us that evening. Also, Wednesday happened to be a holiday (like every other day here), and the embassy said they would see him for an emergency appointment for Thursday morning. Bummer, but they told him that they were certain they could issue Mags an emergency passport, and he could go ahead and purchase their tickets. (Yes, as in purchase two whole new tickets to the states. This is why you keep an emergency fund as missionaries.)

We had to get special pictures taken for Maggie’s US passport. We went to a photo place to have them printed, and they told us to wait 15-20 minutes to pick them up. We walked down to a food court to wait and bought Maggie an ice cream. Now, I need to just state right now that I am not good at not freaking out in situations like this. Peru life has certainly caused me to be more flexible but nobody wants to tell their extremely excited five-year-old that she won’t be traveling to the states with her momma and siblings. Well, Maggie blew me away. As she sat across from Greg and me licking that ice cream cone, she exclaimed, “This is the best day ever! I get ice cream, and I am the only one with momma and daddy!” (middle child syndrome much??) I just looked over at Greg and smiled. I needed that.

We picked up her pictures, dropped her off at the house, and Manuela graciously agreed to stay late with the kids while we went to finish off all the pick-ups and notary business.

We went over to immigrations and picked up the Peruvian passport… easy-peasy. We then took a taxi (I think we spent around $50 in taxi rides that day which is a lot for Peruvian standards!) over to the notary office. After about an hour, we had our letters to travel with our Peruvian babies (the law is for Peruvians only). Whew. Done.

It was a blessing for all of us to travel to Lima together. Our dear friends in Lima, the Thompsons, were able to keep Greg and Maggie. We said our goodbyes after I checked in with the two kids and parted ways.

Ana and Cohen were fantastic. No whining. They helped with the carry-ons. Our last stop before the American flight that would take us to the home of the brave was customs. Here, I always have to show Cohen’s Peruvian passport for leaving, and I have to show the notarized letter of permission. All was good, until the woman checking it all asked me to show my letter to another gentleman and to show my visa (and Ana’s) because we just recently obtained our resident visas. He asked me for my letter to travel with Ana. I explained that she was a US born resident, and only Peruvians needed the letter. He made a call for his supervisor to come over. The supervisor explained that because we have resident status, by law Ana has to have a letter of permission to leave the country as well. My heart sunk, and in my best “Megan McKinzie burst into tears” fashion, I pleaded and begged them to let us through. By the grace of those kind men, they allowed us to pass (they are sticklers when it comes to this law. I think it helped that I did have the letter for Cohen). Thank God!

We arrived to our gate, and we boarded 10 minutes from arriving. Whew.

DSC_0263
my two little travel buddies

We arrived to Dallas on-time (always a blessing), and we went down to claim our luggage. We waited and waited. I was missing one bag. I finally decided to ask the baggage claim people. They told me to see the baggage people in Nashville and to go ahead and get to my flight. Time was close.

We headed off (with our 6 suitcases and carry-ons). We made it through customs quickly, and we found the train that would take us to our terminal. We were about 20 minutes from boarding time. Perfect time to get there, use the restroom, and board… or so I thought.

The train started, and after arriving at the next stop, it took about 10 minutes for the doors to close again. The next stop was the same except that it wouldn’t start at all. The train was having technical difficulties. All I could think was, “Are you kidding me?!?”

We completely pulled a home alone airport run through 1.5 terminals. Cohen has never run that much in his life. At one point, I had my backpack on my front, Cohen on my back, holding my big bag, and Ana running with the roller carry-on. We were one gate away (and I could hear the “Last call for Flight “whatever it was”) and one of those handicapped golf cart things came rolling up. I told the guy we were about to miss our flight and he let us jump on. We made it! We were exhausted and sweaty, but we made it! Praise the Lord. You know it’s bad when the flight attendant asks if she can serve you some water when just sitting down on the plane.

From there, it was smooth sailing into Nashville where Dad picked us up, and all was well. (24 hours past the time of all the drama that occurred)

What a trip.

***Oh yeah. American Airlines was fantastic in delivering my missing bag the same day directly to my parents’ home.

***Also, Maggie had a blast with the Thompson kids in Lima and getting alone-time with her Daddy. All went well for her US passport and they arrived Friday morning in time for the first day of wedding activities.

The trip home

Our return trip was not that eventful. Besides the customs in Lima asking us about the Daggett suitcase and pulling out a pizza oven (!!!)… Greg had back soot all over his hands. Ha! Everything went well. We are home. We are safe. Maggie has the most expensive passports we have ever seen (hehehe), and we are blessed to be completing our final leg in AQP.

These kids are fantastic. They are such great international travelers.

DSC_0266

DSC_0267

DSC_0268

Last––international trip with kids (for awhile)