Tag Archives: Pucallpa

Where I Belong

“Maybe you’ve been away from your family for a long time, and you get to fly home tonight. They’ll pick you up at the airport, and it’s hard to find anything that compares to that joy of running into their arms.” The chapel speaker was talking about home and heaven this morning, and my mind started reeling, thinking of the glimpses of heaven God has granted me on this earth – the places in this life where I have found pockets of Home.

The Most Joyous Day of the Year – no, not Christmas. The wheels touching down on the tarmac, walking down the airplane stairs into the oppressive humidity and into the airport as quickly as possible, gulping in the familiar smoky air. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the bags, impatiently shifting from one foot to another. Finally crossing through the doors from baggage claim, seeing my Peruvian family after a year. Sprinting into their arms in a chaotic storm of Spanish, English, tears, and laughter. Sound kisses on cheeks, strong arms finally tangibly wrapped around me after a year of aching. Smiling so big my face could crack open, accepting the water bottle Zaida instantly has ready, and walking outside to board a motokar for the first time in so long. Home.

A left turn onto North Rd. after four and a half hours in the car. Rolling down the windows to inhale the Pure Michigan air. God’s country. Finally pulling into the cabin. That first step into Piatt Lake, the first view of the sunset. Black stillness on the footbridge, stars reflected in the water below. Worship in the Miracle Building sanctuary, the trek from the cabins to the sweet shop, sitting on the pontoon with my dad, Tuesday night bonfires, pizza at midnight with Kendra. Home.

Ian and Avery clamoring for space on my lap. Taking hundreds of goofy pictures on my phone and laptop, telling yet another story “when me and Avery and Ah-Ah and Bo Bo and Papa went to a farm.” Will smiling up at me from my arms. Avery growing sleepy and snuggling. Home.

Moody. Chicago. Sitting in my room talking to Molly. Walking the tunnels to CPO or the SDR. Answering phones at work. Sprawling on the floor with the girls on my floor. Taking the Brown Line. Lake Michigan. Walmart Express. Classes, finally knowing my way around Sweeting. Home.

Sitting on the couch in the living room, watching Julian Smith videos with Bo. Mom doing the dishes while we try to watch TV. Laying on my parents’ bed at night, just talking. Waking up in my basement room. Farrand-to-Irish-to-Vienna-to the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. Fields, whistling wind, getting the mail, walking to the church. The librarian knows me by name. Home.

Turning into the driveway on Cole Rd, knocking extra-loud so Nana and Papa hear it. The pink room. #inthecornfields. Lady sitting on my lap in the big chair. Country magazine, morning devotions, and making dinner. Seven minutes flat from the back door to Jocie’s front door. Advice from Papa. Walks around the Arboretum. Crossroads Farm. Home.

Coffee with a friend. Weekend visits. Laughing until it hurts. The kind of hugs that you melt into and feel instantly safe and sheltered by. Long car rides. Fall walks. Home.

I’ve been so blessed to catch glimpses of heaven, of Home, here on earth. The problem with all of these things, though, is that they end.

The Most Joyous Day of the Year is followed in a few short days by The Saddest Day of the Year. Back at the airport, the tears flow again, the arms cling again. Sobs wrack my body as a soundproof glass wall separates me from the people who have worked their way even more deeply into my heart.

Summer ends and I have to cross the Mackinaw Bridge again, this time in the southbound lane. I leave the small cousins to go back to school. I leave school and everything changes before I come back. My parents sell the house I grew up in and soon I will have no legal right to sleep in my childhood home. Lady dies unexpectedly, Nana doesn’t remember me, and the barn is being sold. There are no more walks around the Arb because I’m no longer friends with the person I walked with.

The last drop of coffee is gone and it’s time to leave the cafe. The weekend is over. Sheltering hugs end within two minutes at the most. Fall turns to winter.

And then the speaker says some of the most powerful words I’ve heard in a long time.

“When we trust Christ, our souls find home.”

All the glimpses of Home I’ve been given are but temporary. They’re like watching but a few seconds of a preview for the most epic movie to ever be released. They’re not meant to be my home, but to make my heart long for my true Home – with Christ.

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Sweeping Pavement

I was awakened by a familiar sound yesterday, a swish-swish-swish that instantly transported me far, far away.

Someone was sweeping the pavement outside my window, and as I laid in my dorm room bed, my heart moved south about 3000 miles. Back to Pucallpa, to the house on Avenida Jose Galvez, where the neighbor swept his small patch of pavement every. single. morning. around 6:30 am – despite the fact that it would be covered in dust again within a matter of hours. I squinched my eyes shut tight, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I would open them and find out I had been transported magically back to Peru.

Maybe I would wake up and find myself in a bed of the same size, but with a sheet kicked to the side instead of nestled under a down comforter. Maybe I would open my eyes and instead of seeing Molly standing at the sink getting ready for classes, I’ll see Mama Rosy’s head poked through the door, telling me it’s time to get up so we can go to the market. Perhaps if I squeezed my eyes shut hard enough, I would magically teleport to Pucallpa and could call Monica when I woke up, so that we could plan a night out in Pucallpa to eat papas rellenas and picarones and talk about life on the corner by the shoe store.

I squeezed my eyes shut tight, childishly hoping for magic… but also to keep the tears from pouring out. Those heartstrings that are tied to Pucallpa haven’t come untied, but they’ve been neglected. Chicago is so far from Pucallpa in every possible way. I’m so busy with school and homework that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve closed the chat window or said “lo siento, no puedo hablar, estoy muy ocupada ahorita” (sorry, can’t talk, I’m so busy right now) to one of my Peruvian friends. Mama Rosy has messaged me three or four times asking for an update on my life, but the excuses come so easily: I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m forgetting my Spanish.

I try to sweep the memories from my mind like the neighbor swept his pavement every morning. It’s easier that way. If I stop and think about how much I miss my South American home, I’ll be unable to think of anything else. I’ll lose an entire day poring over pictures and sending messages and crying into the one remaining package of Doña Pepa I have stashed under my bed.

It’s easier to try to sweep away the memories, but the wind always blows the dust back onto the pavement of my mind. You’d be surprised how many things in Chicago immediately transport me back to Pucallpa. There’s that corner on the way to the beach that always smells like the parque central. The SDR serves white rice every day, and if I get anywhere near it, I miss Mama Rosy. Tears prick my eyes whenever I hear people speaking Spanish – and I hear people speaking Spanish nearly every day. Facilities sweeps the pavement outside my window a few times a month (that’s not metaphorical. There is a broom involved).

There isn’t a good conclusion. I don’t have a logical answer or practical steps. My life has had to keep moving, and I have had to keep moving with it. But I haven’t moved on, not really. I’ve swept aside the memory dust, but it always comes blowing back. It coats the pavement of my mind a few times a week, or even daily… and there’s nothing I can do about it. I miss Pucallpa so bad that it physically hurts, but I can’t exactly drop everything and go back tomorrow. I just keep living life as the heartstrings tied to Pucallpa pull harder and harder. And that’s where it stays right now. Not the end, because there’s no good way to end it.

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Faithfulness in a Motocar

Today I went downtown with Mami Rosy and Papa Jacinto to go grocery shopping. Now, unlike at home when Mom and I hop in the car, drive to WalMart, throw our stuff in a cart, and drive home… grocery shopping here is a bit of an excursion. We had to hail a motocar, drive 20 minutes to downtown Pucallpa, then go to each store separately – the baking goods store, the meat store, the sugar store (which differs somehow from the baking goods store), etc.

It was on this 20 minute motocar drive that I, sandwiched between Mami and Papa, spent some time talking to Jesus. Those closest to me already know that this first week in Pucallpa has been a difficult one. I’ve been battling fatigue, culture shock, homesickness, and the language barrier – all while sweating profusely. My mind and heart have been in a bizarre battle of nostalgia and sheer happiness, and it has all been very taxing.

As we’re riding, I’m thinking about Hiawatha. Today is the day that the staff heads north to begin training and meetings, and I find myself missing the place where I spent every summer until last year. As my mind drifts, I remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago about Christ being my only constant.

And then He bops me gently upside the head and says, “Helloooo? Has that suddenly changed just because you’re on a different continent? Do you think I don’t see you? Do you think I’m someone different here than in the US?”

As I gaze at the wooden buildings with their hand-painted signs, a peace begins to wash over me. Of course nothing has changed. Of COURSE Christ is still faithful and constant and unchanging and true and all of those things. Of course He knows where I am, what I’m going through, and what I will become. He sees my weaknesses, rejoices with me in my joys, and chuckles when I make humorous grammar mistakes. He is the same God in Pucallpa that He is in Chicago that He is in Millington that He is in Eckerman that He is everywhere.  His promises have not changed just because they’re in Spanish here.

As I mull this over with growing peace in my heart, we pass the sign that says, “Jesucristo is el Senor de Pucallpa” (Jesus Christ is Lord of Pucallpa). In a throwback to my years at Lutheran school, my heart cries out, “This is most certainly true.”

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Home to Pucallpa

At this time tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll be in Pucallpa. In fact, by this time, I’ll probably be in Mama Rosy and Papa Jacinto’s house, having eaten my first Peruvian meal of 2012. The air around me will smell like dust, smoke, and chicken, and – if I have my way – I’ll be laying in the hammock.

As I got ready to fall asleep in Aunt Lora’s squishy pink bed (the same place I’ve slept the night before every Peru trip) last night, I commented to Mom that this year’s trip felt different. Of course there are the few major differences – going alone, length of trip, purpose of the trip, etc – but there has just been a different feeling hovering over the whole idea of the trip itself.

Between the flight from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale and the 8-hour layover in Ft. Boringdale that Spirit Air has blessed me with, I’ve had a lot of time to think about that feeling. I think I’ve figured it out.

You see, up until this year, Pucallpa was the only place where I had ever gone maskless. Something about the combination of serving, pure love despite the language barrier, and the sweltering heat, caused my mask to fall off when I first stepped out of the plane in 2008.  It was one of the things I loved most about Peru – how free I was always able to be when I was there. How I was able to laugh and cry from the deepest place inside of me, to sing and dance without feeling embarrassed, and to love from the deepest place in my soul.

Towards the beginning of my time at Moody, however, something changed. I was assigned to read the book “True Faced,” and it convicted me in the deepest way. God gently reached down, tipped my chin upward, pulled off my mask, and threw it on the ground. It shattered into a million tiny pieces, never able to be worn again.

As a result, I lived out this past year with the vulnerable confidence that I had previously only felt in Pucallpa. I learned to laugh, cry, dance (this is a relative term. I still can’t dance.), and be a friend. I learned the true, radical, life-altering meanings of church words like “grace,” “trust,” and “faith.” And I was content on a much deeper level.

That’s why this year feels different. Rather than longing to go to a place where I can truly be myself, I’m returning to the place that first taught me who “myself” was. I’m going home, but I’ve really been home all year long.

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Things Airports Need

I’m currently in the third of eight hours I’ll be spending at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. As I type this blog post, I’m sitting in a very uncomfortable chair, uncomfortably close to a total stranger, and there is a pile of either sugar or cocaine with ants crawling in and out of it on the floor next to me. The hours on end that I’ll have here in Ft. Lauderdale have given me a good minute to think of several things that would make airports better.

  • Small “nap time” rooms with a bed and a loud alarm clock/wake-up call, that can be rented on an hourly basis.
  • Friendly employees who don’t look like they want to kill me.
  • Rooms filled with puppies.
  • Vending machines that sell deodorant, ibuprofen, and magazines, so that I wouldn’t have to go into the same store and face the same employee every time I think of something else I forgot. (Yes, I’ve been in there three times so far.)
  • SWINGS
  • More electrical outlets. This one should be a no-brainer. Everyone and their great-grandmother travels with, at the very least, a cell phone. Most also have iPods, iPads, laptops, etc. Yet, each gate seems to have half an outlet. If we’re lucky.
  • A place to store your luggage if you’re traveling alone, so that you can avoid the awkward trying-to-fit-in-a-tiny-bathroom-stall-with-a-rolling-suitcase-and-backpack thing.
  • Larger bathroom stalls. With doors that open outward. For Pete’s sake, this should not be difficult.
  • Free coffee.
  • Chairs with two armrests between them. Last time I checked, the vast majority of travelers had two arms… yet we’re each offered only one armrest.
  • Sugar (maybe? still not sure) free floors.
  • Quieter loudspeaker announcements.

Any more ideas?

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10 Days

Oh my word, y’all. I clicked onto my blog to check my stats, and the Pucallpa Countdown on the left side of the page caught my eye.

10 Days.

I’m going “home” to Peru in just 10 short days. There’s a lot to do between now and then, so I wanted to share some specific prayer requests and praises for you to keep in mind as I prepare.

Praises:

  • I received above and beyond the amount of financial support I needed. HUGE yahoo!
  • I’ve been in contact with my host family and everything is in place for me to join their family for five weeks.
  • I get to go back to Pucallpa! Truly, this is the biggest praise. God has granted me the deepest desire of my heart and is allowing me to return to my friends and family in Peru.

Prayer:

  • Please pray that I will be motivated and diligent as I work on lesson plans for the English classes I’ll be teaching.
  • Pray that I have time to connect with those at home who I want to see before leaving.
  • Pray that the last-minute details, such as where I’m staying overnight in Lima and whether I’ll be traveling to villages, will fall into place.
  • Pray for peace, calm, and trust while I prepare and plan.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and love. I’ll keep updating throughout my trip!

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