It was quite overwhelming for me to look back on this year and see all the different things that I´ve done. How often does one´s beginning of the year look so drastically different then one´s end of the year anyway?
Lets call the first quarter of the year ¨College of Dupage¨ (COD). Looking back I am thinking that the spanish class I took was a big waste of time. But as it is, it occupied nearly 4 months of my year. I really enjoyed that class because it gave me a lot of time to talk and hang out with one of my high school friends whom I normally wouldn´t have been able to see much of. But that class itself was difficult for a lot of reasons. One, we were a class of about 24 students all at varying levels of spanish experience. Two, the class went according to a book. We had to complete a certian amount of chapters before the end of the semester whether we were really learning it or not. Some people blazed through the elementary stuff and some people, like me, really struggled to keep up with the pace. It ended up being a really stressful time and I really didn´t retain a lot of what I learned. Upon arrival in Bolivia I had to all but start from scratch.
The next quarter of the year I´ll call ¨insane¨ for that was exactly what my spring and summer months were in my life. Beginning in about May or so, my spanish class was ending (thank God)and I started to re-focus my time and energies on fundraising for Bolivia. It was also at this time that I recieved instructions from my missions agency about the pre-training for the field training that would begin on-campus in the fall. It ended up being a good 3 solid months of reading, test taking, and paper writing. Also, keep in mind at this point that I was still working at my job 40 hours a week. If you´ve never done fundraising for a long term trip you´ll never understand how much time it requires. So with those ´big 3´ my summer was nothing less then completly insane. It was filled with work, training, and fundraising and not nearly enough FUN. Fundraising included: 2 car washes, a week of VBS, several presentations at other churches, writing updates, printing ministry reports, sending support letters, doing follow-up on those letters, researching Bolivia, putting together powerpoints, and checking daily to see if anything I was doing was having an impact on my support levels. I was absolutly exhausted! In the midst of all of that I managed to spend a week volunteering at a camp in Illinois (which I really enjoyed) and a quick weekend get away to go camping with my family. By the end of the summer, it was amazing to me to see that all my hard work and prayers had payed off. Just before I left for fall training, I had 100% of my funding. Anytime I get discouraged all I need to do is think back to this summer and remember that I saw the power of God at work in me and in other people. They told me that fundraising would stretch my faith and indeed it did. There is nothing like asking God for something and then truly believing by faith that He would answer/provide and then rejoicing when He did. If you want your faith to grow you have to depend on God for your everything, I knew that on my own I could do nothing but fail. That is why, despite all the work I listed above, I give all the glory and honor to God who has called me to this work. Gloria a Dios.
The next quarter of my year would hold the most drastic changes of the year. At the end of Aug I quit my job and quickly found myself amoungst other people just like me as we gather together for 5 weeks of pre-field training. That is also the time that I began this blog site. I made many friends and was encouraged by them. Some where leaving for their mission field ASAP like I was, others had barely begun their fundrasing. I had learned some things the hard way and I was glad to be able to share with them my experiences. I also met some of my future teammates, 2 interns who are here with me now, and also a married couple that should be coming down in the early part of 2008. The last two weeks of my north american life were filled with meetings, goodbye parties, and last min details. There was so much encouragement and prayers that I was completley overwhelmed with the love my family and friends have for me.
The final quarter of my year found me on a plane headed for a new life in Bolivia. I´ve been here for about 2 months and indeed everything in my life has changed! But the daily details are pretty much recorded in this blog. In summary, I have been adopted by my Bolivian family, I have had more hours then I care to count of language tutoring, I´ve made new friends outside of my team, I´ve laughed, I´ve cried, I´ve gotten sick, I´ve been tired, I´ve been lost, I´ve been surprised, I´ve been loved, I´ve been stolen from, I´ve been well fed, I´ve gained weight, I´ve learned, I´ve missed my home, I´ve gone through culture shock and lived to tell about it, and I´ve never been more positive that this is where God wants me to be. Its not always easy, there is nothing glamorous about life in a third world country. Its hard for me to not be able to say all that I wish I could say in Spanish but its getting better everyday. Its hard for me cause I don´t always feel like I´m being a missionary here, but thats ok, you can´t be a good missionary if you can´t speak to the people in their own language. I do as much ministry as my language will permit and spend the rest of my time studying spanish, learning the city and culture, and de-stressing with friends.
Looking forward will be a whole other entry. But I was sitting and talking with one of my sisters the other night and we both were thinking the same thing. We feel very positive about the next years of our lives. More then likely its for different reasons but I myself can not wait to see what all is going to happen! Because I know that God is good, all the time. Even when times are hard, I have a Saviour who loves me and is never going to leave me. THAT is the hope that I have and that is the hope I wish to share with every man, woman, and child in Bolivia!