Dear Younger Me: First Mission Trip

This is a letter to my almost 15-year-old self on that very first exhilarating mission trip to Honduras in February 2004. Note: mission trip (STM) refers to evangelical Christian humanitarian work typically in another country. My teenage self would probably roll her eyes at this letter, but… Little Idealist, these are lessons you will eventually learn.

El Jardín

In a medical clinic during one of my first trips. El Jardín, Copán, HN.

Dear Younger Me,

Finally! You’ve been waiting and praying about the chance to go on a mission trip and it’s finally here. So much expectation and anticipation (and let’s face it… drama, because well, you’re 14.) It really will prove to be more life-changing than you can even understand in this phase of life. I know you have done so much preparation and feel like everything in life has been leading up to this big, glorious moment. It will actually prove to be just one of many gloriously small moments that will ultimately string together in a beautiful way that only God can orchestrate. Just wait.

Journal this experience. I know you do this anyway because you’ve always been the weirdo kid who documents EVERY. THING. Good for you. One day, you’ll be 27 and a more experienced, slightly wiser version of yourself and you’ll be going through your old things and come across your old mission trip journal and you will sit in your room and cry over the pages because of how faithful God has been. And you’ll laugh at how cute and naive you once were.

LEARN. That is your first responsibility as a team member on a mission trip: to learn. Learn the language. Learn the culture. If you are serious about opening your mind and heart up to this new part of the world and want to effectively serve in some capacity with these people then there is only one option that makes sense… LEARN TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEM. You can’t build a ministry in another country through hand gestures and handouts while thinking like an American (read: United States-ean). Relationships are key and the foundation is communication and understanding. Do the hard work: learn the language.

Being a learner means you realize that you actually don’t know best. Do you know who does know best? The natives, and usually, the missionaries. The ones who live there day-in and day-out. They know what is appropriate and what is not. They know which situations are dangerous and which are not. As a team member, an outsider (no matter your age), it is not your place to question their leadership or decisions. Like, if they tell you to stop laughing obnoxiously loud in a public restaurant because you are being disrespectful of the country’s social norms don’t roll your eyes because “ugh, what a party pooper.” (Other than already attracting probably more unwanted attention than necessary, you are reinforcing a negative stereotype of North Americans – being disrespectfully loud and dominating of public spaces). You are also part of a team of people who is representing a local ministry or organization. LIVE BY THEIR RULES. It might seem super stuffy or strict compared to your church back home but… you are not at home. Respect the hosts’ rules.

Once you get to truly know the people and the culture you’ll find that they aren’t that different from you. You’ll get past the point of identifying all the differences and will start to celebrate and relish in the similarities of your common humanity. You’ll see dignity in each person and will be less likely to make blanket statements about their culture or race. As time goes on and you start having more conversations with the natives you’ll realize you stop talking so much about the natives. You’ll probably start out quoting faulty statistics about the country to friends back home or making wild generalizations about the local people as a whole… (Yeah, you’re gonna think you’re an expert on the entire Honduran population within your first trip or two. You’re kind of annoying.) Then you will get to know their hearts and will feel silly for making all those ethnocentric assumptions. (Thankfully, your Honduran friends are gracious people. Most will forgive you.) 😉

You’ll undoubtedly come home from this first trip with excitement and tears and pictures, sharing stories of what you saw and felt. Who wouldn’t? You might encourage a couple other friends or family members to join you on following trips. Some will listen intently, some will get bored from your stories pretty quickly because they didn’t experience it with you. They’re not going to understand. They don’t get why you cry because you have such a nice house and so many don’t, and why suddenly you are borderline taking a vow of poverty. You just went though a real emotional journey over the last seven days and those who didn’t experience it can’t exactly relate.

Speaking of poverty… YOU ARE NOT A POVERTY TOURIST. You did not pay $1,200 to travel all the way to Central America so you could “experience poverty.” (Which you never actually did. Seeing poverty is not experiencing poverty.) The thousands of people who live in rural Honduras and are trying to survive off a dollar a day are not staged for your entertainment or learning exploit. This is their real life. I know you’re excited about all the pictures you get to show to everyone back home but count the cost of that photo you just snapped with your iPhone* in that family’s private space while gawking at their extreme lack. Be sensitive and consider each person’s dignity before doing anything.

*I went through 3 entire disposable cameras on my first trip 12 years ago

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Apparently all I did on my first trip was hold other people’s babies.

Now, let’s talk about your clothes for a second. This isn’t a pertinent issue necessarily but it reflects your attitude toward those you are serving. If you show up uncharacteristically dressed like a bum in cut-off capris and cut-off ratty t-shirts, the message you are conveying is: you aren’t worth my best… or at least, you aren’t worth my average. I’m telling you now, there is no need to raid the thrift store for the nastiest items before your trip because “you don’t want to ruin your good clothes.” This is a fine excuse if you are helping with hard labor or a messy job like painting but consider your activity… washing hair for lice? Giving worm medicine at the entrance of the pop-up clinic? Dress appropriately and show respect in that.

Ok, I know you most likely will not receive this well right now because you are high on enthusiasm and naive idealism but you will come to learn this with time and it needs to be said… you are not the hero. Like, it is not about you at all. Take your piece of humble pie and swallow it well because no one likes an arrogant team member. You are one of many team members and unity is key. First of all, you are doing the humbling job of serving other human beings, so esteem them higher than yourself. Secondly, you are working with other volunteers as a unit and any individualism on the job has to go. Thirdly, you nor your team are the first nor the only ones to do this kind of work. It is valuable and needed! But it is not exclusive to your group. You don’t have a monopoly on “free medical clinics in Honduras”and you certainly didn’t invent the idea. Celebrate the fact that you are joining so many others in the effort to share Christ’s love in a tangible way!

It all feels glamorous right now but it won’t always be. You will experience more fear and pain than you even imagined but you will find more love than you even imagined also.

Let this experience move you to inward and outward change. You will slowly start to see the world completely differently. You’ll probably have a slightly different perspective on success, faith, politics, and current events than others. Let it move you to make a difference at home as you dream about going abroad again. You didn’t have this awakening inside your soul just to apathetically return to abundance and self-indulgence. Your eyes will be open to hurting people all around you. DO SOMETHING. Don’t sit casually waiting on your annual mission trip to come around again. You have a bigger purpose and there is too much at stake for you to put on your missionary hat for only one week out of the year.

So, in conclusion, little 14-year-old going on 15, your years ahead have so much in store. Don’t worry about learning all these lessons at once. It will happen in its time. Just you wait,

27-year-old You

(who still anticipates more lessons in the future)

___________

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Then in college I wrote this poem in an attempt to express the love affair I have with the country & people to which I don’t belong.

A Call to Love

Broken streets and broken souls call
I am compelled to answer, answer them all
Your small hands have taught me more than textbooks could contain
Your selfless joy is like my heart’s refrain
I’d choose you over a city of gold – all of you, every inch
I’d choose you first and I’d choose you again
I am a jealous lover, it’s my heart you win
You’re more than a memory, more than a friend
More than beauty and dirt and land
More than a good story to tell, more than I can stand
I am who I am because of you
It’s taken years to express, but for years it’s been true
My commitment to you runs deeper than a flutter in my chest
You have all of me, my worst and my best
I love you longer than seven days
Beyond borders and languages, my love stays
I love you stronger than a smile or a tear
Because I choose to love in the face of pain and fear
I’ve felt welcomed, accepted, rejected and betrayed
I was close to giving in and letting apprehension have its way
But I am led to you by a greater Hand
And my trivial emotions are irrelevant to His plan
I haven’t forgotten you, I never could
You are my first love, and my love is for good

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Oh yeah, 27-year-old me still likes holding other people’s babies. 🙂 Nueva Alianza, Copán, HN.

 

#detailsdeHonduras part 3

This is part of an ongoing photojournalism project. See part 1 and part 2.

(Kristen Bruce Photography and Multimedia)

A reflection on violence, poverty, fear, and Christian missions

Our response to violence and fear says a lot about us as individuals, as a society, and as people of faith. A lot has happened in the last few weeks. But a lot has been happening around the world and continues to happen under the radar that we don’t give a flip about.

It’s not our fault necessarily that we aren’t aware of every massacre that takes place across the world. To be honest, I know I couldn’t emotionally handle being aware of that much evil anyway. It is important to mourn when there is a catastrophe. It is important to put ourselves in solidarity with victims. It is quite curious to see which tragedies get headlines and which don’t. I certainly don’t want to add to the voices of people who think they can tell everyone which events we should be in mourning over. We all react differently. The taking of innocent life is horrific in any situation.

I try to be a relatively positive person so the purpose of this post isn’t to launch you into the depths of despair… but every now and then we need a little reality check.

Some recent world events and two great books I’ve been reading by Gary A. Haugen about the links between violence and poverty (The Locust Effect, Good News About Injustice) have prompted this reflection.

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I’m not an expert on economics or legal issues or theology. There are so many more experienced and more well-spoken people who could contribute to this discussion than me. …but well, I have a blog and I like to share my amateur opinion. 😉

I said yes to being a missionary as a child. I began that journey through short-term missions as a teenager. I admit that it started out as a largely glamorous and vaguely adventurous dream. When you travel in a secure group and stay in gated hotels and only spend a couple weeks a year in the country and don’t speak the language very well it is easy to carry out a very blissful existence more or less unaware of severe issues. Once you get a taste of the daily grit and grind, it gets way more complicated.

But I thank God that I felt Him nudge me toward missions and that I said yes in my naivety. I’m glad I committed before I knew what the heck I was getting myself into. It is a commitment that I plan to keep, even after I have since come to the realization that saying yes to sharing God’s love with hurting people means putting myself in the middle of suffering and probably coming face to face with violence. It is so messy, guys. We are all born with a natural inclination toward self-preservation. It isn’t wrong to be concerned with our own safety and that of our loved ones. But something in my heart whispers, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it; whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16:25)

I saw a FB post that said, “I should have known that following a man with pierced hands and feet wouldn’t be safe.” Ditto.

I’m either in this thing 100% or not at all.

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The violence is out of hand. And not just because a group of religious radicals decided to cause horrific terror and send a twisted message to the rest of the world a couple weeks ago.

This tragic event has made me think a lot about violence, and victims of violence, and poverty, and the refugees make me think about how people have been coming for centuries to this country in search of safety and freedom. Because insecurity and oppression is a daily part of so many people’s lives in the majority world, y’all. Like, millions of people live in extreme poverty — REAL POVERTY — not oh poor things they can’t buy new shoes. I’m talking poverty of every kind of resource that you and I enjoy. No freedom to even have a fair chance in court when faced with false charges by the very people who oppressed you. Every odd stacked against you, no way out kind of poverty. The kind of vulnerability that causes psychological damage. In developing countries, money is power and those without it have no fighting chance.

“Violence significantly raises levels of depression, suicides, panic disorders, alcohol and substance abuse/dependence, and post-traumatic stress disorders -to a point that the poor endure a level of psychological damage comparable to living in a war zone. The locusts of violence do not simply destroy your financial prospects – they destroy your life.

This is perhaps the greatest catastrophe of all, for the greatest devastation of violence is invisible – it is the destruction of the person inside. For victims of slavery, forced prostitution, sexual assault, and other intensely violent forms of oppression, the psychological wounds of trauma are invisible; they receive almost no treatment in poor communities; and they do not simply heal with time.” – Gary A. Haugen

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I realize that we do not have a perfect justice system here in the U.S. And even though is it mostly fair, there are those who abuse their power. They should be held accountable. But I know that if I am done wrong I will find someone to advocate for me. I grew up with the worldview and expectations that if something is dealt unfairly to me I will get justice.

A lot of people around the globe simply do not have this luxury.

“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will only be an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.” – MLK Jr.

Helping individuals who are victims of oppression and violence is a difficult task in itself… but confronting systemic injustice?? That is daunting.

I have the Law and Order: SVU mentality of justice. Like, defend the victim, find the dang perpetrator, and bring him to justice. Get detectives Benson and Stabler on it. (Don’t get me wrong, I totally pray for a change of heart on behalf of the perpetrator. God has turned terrorists into evangelists so who am I to doubt?) And if nothing is being done, raise your voice! That is our right here in the U.S. We speak up when things aren’t just. We call authority into accountability. We believe that as members of this nation we have inherent rights and power.

This is not the case in the developing world.

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>> A friend from Guatemala told me bluntly that growing up in her small village there was a known policy that if a thief was ever caught that he would be publicly beaten by members of the community. Sometimes even kids would join in. This was their kind of “justice” and it was just a way of life. You had to take care of yourself because the government surely wasn’t going to defend the poor or powerless.

>> I remember being told by a friend in Honduras that he had just witnessed a murder. Infuriated (and quite naively) I asked, “Did you give a description of the shooter to the police??” It wasn’t until years later that I learned that many gangs and drug traffickers operate under complete impunity and/or in cooperation with “public safety” officials in Honduras. And many times the murderers or “hitmen” come back for any witnesses. Their message gets through loud and clear: Keep your mouth shut. Or else.

  • Which is why I was advised not to even publicly acknowledge when a dear, young former student of mine was found brutally murdered last year. I can’t describe the suffocating feeling of hopelessness that came over me knowing that justice would likely never come for his family. (Honduras doesn’t have enough forensic scientists in the country to even investigate half of the homicides that occur. Families of victims are left knowing that their loved ones’ murderers walk free.)

>> Just last week at my Spanish interpreting job I was chatting with a lady from Michoacán, Mexico. I asked if it was a nice place and if she ever wanted to go back. She casually said, “It used to be. The delinquency is too much now. Just recently I got news that some friends of mine were found decapitated. I won’t ever go back.”

I thank God that I have not personally experienced violence in my travels. But I hate to admit that I have let fear intimidate me to the point that I have questioned my calling.

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A couple years ago on a typical trip to Honduras I was traveling by bus with Natán and we had planned on catching a taxi once we arrived at the bus terminal. As we got closer and closer to the terminal and the bus was swerving faster and faster along the twisting mountainous roads my breathing starting getting faster and more shallow. This had been an especially difficult trip because just a week earlier while I was still in the states I got news that an acquaintance from the church in Honduras had been gunned down and killed while in his car coming home from work during rush hour one evening. I was distraught. I’d never had to deal with news like this before (unlike many of my friends in Honduras who have had to face similar difficult situations) Once we got to the terminal I could barely speak and starting freaking out when Natán tried to help me into the taxi. It was the closest I have come to having a panic attack. I refused to get in the taxi. I was so irrationally fearful. We had to call a friend to come pick us up.

I just pray, God, don’t let me give in to fear.

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Author and founder of IJM, Gary Haugen, explains that most violence is hard for outsiders to see for three important reasons. 1. The perpetrator works really hard to hide it. 2. Paradoxically, the victims might even hide it due to the intensely sensitive and traumatic nature. (This means that when you are on a short-term mission trip, it is very likely that many you come in contact with are victims of horrific oppression and violence and they wouldn’t even consider letting you know it. You think their greatest problem is that they only have 2 tortillas to feed their entire family but you don’t see the underlying issues.) 3. “Finally, for many poor people, the threat of violence has become such a part of the air they breathe that they rarely speak of it as a distinct phenomenon. They simply absorb it.” (I will note that it doesn’t specifically apply to the “poor” but anyone who has grown up in a society where violence is the norm)

That last point for me has probably been the most shocking realization that I’ve had during my time spent in Honduras. I have found myself on many occasions getting outraged by some act of violence I heard about while those around me seem to be unaffected. My questions of, “What can we do??” have been met with blank stares and shrugs of shoulders.

The simple fact that I even have a choice as to whether I use my voice to raise awareness about violence or stay silent shows one of the great disparities between my life and those of the majority world.

God’s desire is to defend the powerless and to bring reconciliation of all creation to Himself. If He weren’t the one with the master plan it would be a hopeless situation. I am thankful that He invites me into the larger redemption story and that neither my courage nor my intelligence determines the outcome. What he wants is obedience and willingness. In my weakness, He is strong.

photoHere I am, Lord, send me.

Don’t doubt in the dark what you saw in the light…

For anyone who’s been doubting or feeling skeptical like I often do, I am here to tell you that the REAL God still changes hearts in REAL life.

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(free stock photo from Pexels)

[So, I am working on a Honduras update post or two but I wanted to give a quick testimony and word of praise for what I experienced yesterday at church.]

First of all, the worship team started off the service with a song I had never heard before called Covered by Israel Houghton that absolutely tore me up…

At the cross you called it finished!

All my past is covered… all my sin is covered by your grace…

No matter what I’ve done
No matter where I’ve been
No matter how I fall
You pick me up again
You have removed my shame
You take me as I am
You call me justified
Now I am covered by your grace

Without mentioning the name of the church (because God gets all the glory, not any person or physical location) I want to say how much I admire this team of ministers for creating such a welcoming atmosphere and having the spiritual discernment and anticipation to be prepared to minister when a person has some heavy crap to take care of. Let’s be real, as humans we get shocked and offended and scared at some of the real life junk that people are dealing with deep down. It is a lot easier to dress up on Sunday mornings and intentionally not think about the personal hell that our neighbor might be living in.

My heart hurts for those who think they wouldn’t be welcomed in a church building. We as Christ-followers should be the most welcoming people on the planet. Why do we screw this up so much?

Well, God isn’t offended or intimidated by our mess. He loves us so intensely that just one encounter with His presence, one taste of the REAL Living Water, is enough to quench our thirst and make us realize that we had been so foolishly drinking out of the wrong well for so long looking for something that didn’t even satisfy.

A friend of a family member whom I met for the first time yesterday got a RADICAL taste of this unconditional love and overwhelming grace. He got set free from some crazy stuff on the spot while praying with some staff members after the service. I’ve been in awe of the Lord and feeling kinda weepy ever since. God is good.

Sometimes in ministry we feel like we’re treading water, maybe we are in the “sowing seeds” stage and it feels really slow. The all of a sudden we get to participate in the “harvest” and it is so encouraging and affirming. And I was reminded again not to ever underestimate what God can and will do. He’s been using unconventional ways and unconventional people since the beginning of time. Who are we to predict or “approve” of His methods or even think we could possibly have Him figured out? (And who says ministry only happens in the church building? That might be one of the most debilitating myths of the Church’s ministry today and there are even pastors who perpetuate this mindset.) When we start recognizing the divine in the mundane and becoming aware of sacred moments in secular settings we will be much more effective in the Kingdom. Let’s not miss God-ordained opportunities because we’re too busy with our heads down shuffling through our daily routines.

God is so much bigger 🙂

I’m insignificant but significantly LOVED

I’ve had a couple good conversations with friends recently about how at this point in our lives (several years post-grad) there’s a disappointment that inevitably hits when we realize we aren’t in our glamorous dream job or leading these world-changing ministries like we thought we would be by this age. We decided that that’s okay. (especially considering how wide-eyed and mystified we were in our college years!) 😉 Sometimes life throws a few curve balls and you have to roll with it. What’s important is having the understanding that our significance should never come from our vocation or ministry position to begin with, no matter what that may be.

The rise of self-promotion via social networking has made it quite tempting to post with the purpose of making ourselves appear to be doing something more worthwhile with our life than everyone else is. It’s like we feel the need to announce to the world, “Look! I am doing something significant!” God, let that never be my motivation. When in reality we are all different parts of the body of Christ with many different functions. (Romans 12:3-5) No one is more important than the other.

(The humble experience of having to move back to the U.S. from Honduras for an extended time has been such a great teacher. I really am learning a lot of valuable lessons in this weird transition-like season my life seems to be in.)

God has been dealing with me quite a bit recently through reading a book called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning.

I’m in tears reading what sounds like the pages of my very own diary or really maybe responses to what I’ve written:

Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves. The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a “de-selfing” of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul. Humility is manifested in an indifference to intellectual, emotional, and physical well-being and a carefree disregard of the image we present. No longer concerned with appearing to be good, we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are, aware of the sovereignty of God and of our absolute insufficiency and yet moved by a spirit of radical self-acceptance without self-concern.

Humble people are without pretense, free from any sense of spiritual superiority, and liberated from the need to be associated with persons of importance. The awareness of their spiritual emptiness does not disconcert them. Neither overly sensitive to criticism nor inflated by praise, they recognize their brokenness, acknowledge their gifts, and refuse to take themselves seriously.

THAT is a person so caught up in the Father’s gaze that petty annoyances in life mean nothing. Even for a self-diagnosed Highly Sensitive Person, personal insults or subtle questions of character or blatant disinterest or underhanded “innocent” jokes from people with ulterior motives really begin to pale in comparison with the weightiness of the great mission that Abba is inviting us to. That kind of person doesn’t have time to worry about why “she didn’t message back” or why “they never ask about the ministry” or “why he didn’t donate to the cause.”

Because when the enemy uses these tactics against Lovers of Christ to derail them from their focus, instead of feeling defeat, that person so preoccupied with the glory of Jesus says, “Your will be done. Your kingdom come. All glory to Your name. I am at Your disposal.” Not the other way around. God doesn’t exist to ease our egos. We exist to bring Him glory.

And I don’t have time to maintain these regrets (or hold these grudges or stay offended) when I think about the way He loves us…

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Manel Antonio beach, Costa Rica 2010, photo cred: Charlie B.

Our culture kind of teaches us to talk ourselves up. We apply for scholarships and we have to list our achievements and involvement. We interview for a job and we have to expound on our strengths and why we’re perfect for the position.

Recently, I’ve been learning to rest in my insignificance yet accept myself in the radical and nonsensical love that Christ has for me. I am insignificant and all my attempts at being good are insignificant. The only thing worth talking about in my life is Christ in me. (Galatians 6:14) I hear him say, “you are enough.”

__________ In application to my life __________

I graduated from college with an average amount of student loans. Overwhelming and discouraging at the time and seemingly insurmountable. A definite road block to my calling, I felt. I know that it is only by the grace of God that in the last year and 8 months that I have been back in the states, I have paid two-thirds of my total school loan debt!! IN ONE YEAR I WILL BE COMPLETELY DEBT-FREE!! My sole reason for moving back to the states has been to take care of my debt. This has not been a fun process. (if it weren’t for the help of my parents and grandparents along the way, it would have been an even longer and more discouraging process – so big THANKS to them!)

I say it hasn’t been a fun process not just because of the typical cutting back and “sacrifices” of every day life but because I had a timeline and an idea in my head of how things should work and life just was not going to allow it. There have been delays on life decisions and next steps and I have had to fight back tears some days when I was frustrated with God and didn’t understand His plan – especially when it seemed like everyone else in the world was moving on with their life plans and I felt stuck. This is where I have started to put into practice the concept of TRUST. God, I trust You and your timing.

Even when I was having pity parties or hissy fits because I can be dramatic and life just wasn’t fair! – God was faithful. Not only am I making progress and moving toward my goal of getting back to the mission field in Honduras but I have come to see much of my current work in the states as my ministry. (And I do so enjoy all the part-time and contract jobs I am working these days! For privacy reasons, there is a lot that I won’t post on my public blog but I’d love to chat with you about it in person if you know me.)

Although, I would advise a young person to really consider the financial burden of student loans before deciding on a college and how to pay for it, I must say that I LOVE my alma mater, Lee University. I would not be the person that I am today nor be heading down the path I’m on if it weren’t for my school and the experience I had, friends I met, and connections I made there. I am confident that it was part of God’s plan for my life.

All that to say, I don’t know the details of what the future holds for me* (and the man I am in love with so many miles away from me ❤ ) but as the cliche goes, “I know Who holds my future,” and I trust Him so very much!

*except that, God-willing, I will be back in Central America for good by sometime next year 😀

Frijoles and Piñatas and sweet, cinnamon Horchata – That’s what I’m made of

So, I know all little girls are supposed to be made of sugar and spice and everything nice… and maybe I was at one time… but I’m really more of a frijoles and piñatas and sweet, cinnamon horchata kinda girl. You get me? 24706_1382595317586_5855294_n

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I never got a Quinceañera party so when I turned 21 I had a Veintiunañera. 😉

I feel at home in Hispanic culture. It’s obvious. I am all about the gaudy decor, cheesy romance and dramatic emotion of the Spanish-speaking cultures of the world. It’s like I was born to be a part of it. (I am also all about that bass… but that’s another post for another time…) The Americana individualist and lover of witty, sarcastic humor in me can occasionally find itself at odds with the Latino lifestyle. But for the most part I am all in.

Afternoon naps in the hammock.

Fresh green mangoes with salt and pepper.

Getting dressed up in my platform shoes for a night out. Or an afternoon at the park. You know.

So I started thinking back to when it all began. It had to start somewhere. I have no Hispanic ancestors. I didn’t even grow up with Hispanic friends. (I had a pretty boring, monocultural childhood)

I had a professor who asked me one time, “You’re part Hispanic, right?” And there have been countless others who say things like, “Oh, let me guess where you’re from! Venezuela?”

So the earliest I can remember taking interest in Latino culture as a child was due to the following two influences:

1. Josefina Montoya, American Girl doll. I read these fictional chapter books and became intrigued by the lives of early Mexican Americans. 610YSYTYY9L 2. Feature Films for Families, Friendship’s Field movie from 1995 (I still cry when I watch it) 600full-friendship's-field-poster This movie is about a daughter of a farmer in the U.S. during the 1960’s befriending a Mexican boy who came to work the fields with his family. 

Then all of this inspired me to write (I was really into creative writing as a kid. This is what happens when you don’t have cable TV as a child) my own work of fiction called “Josie” when I was in fourth grade. I didn’t understand anything about immigration at that time but I wrote an innocent little tale of a girl who came from Mexico with her family to work. (And of course it was a love story because what 4th grader doesn’t know how to perfectly write a plot about a couple romantically meeting and overcoming their cultural differences? …what??)

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the actual, original manuscript, y’all, complete with illustrations on each page and some younger sibling’s pen scribbles

It ends with the two main characters marrying and living in a pretty little house they built in Mexico – on a hill by a waterfall. The usual.

Then I started to see the world beyond our neighbors over the border when I went on my first trip to Honduras at the age of 14. The rest is history!

As humorous and maybe strange as it was to always have had such a fascination with a distinct culture… I truly have felt the hand of God over my life as I look back on each of these defining moments. Things that stuck with me and shaped me to be who I am today – I would have never known where they would lead me!