A lot has happened since the last time I blogged; hopefully I can explain it all okay. To recap the last few posts, Tommy and I waited for something like 8 months before we were FINALLY able to move into our rental house. The very next day, we were on our way to Managua to pick up his mom and nephew who were here for a week. We had a really great time with them, but we were still exhausted from having painted our walls, dealt with a myriad of contractors, and quickly moved all of our belongings into our house. With no couch or dining room furniture, we were all just sitting in plastic chairs, but it was just good to see our family. As soon as we had them back to the airport, we turned right back around to pick up our friend Bri who was here for 3 weeks (see my last post). She was very helpful, and while she was here we were able to start getting back into "work" mode after having had so much of our time and focus on our house. We took her back to the airport at the beginning of August, and then it was just the two of us alone... in our own home... for the first time since March of 2011 (when we moved out of our house in Summerville into Tommy's sister's house where we prepared for our move to Nicaragua).
At the same time, we were wrapping up "group season" at the mission (a very intense time where groups from the States help with all sorts of projects at the mission, including some of our Hope for Life projects). Things were going to slow down and get "back to normal". With our Spanish teacher no longer having to act as a group translator, we were going to get started again with our Spanish lessons. We were going to get ourselves organized so we could be more purposefully productive. We were going to get some actual furniture for our house so it could be a place for us to recharge as well as to spend some time with our Nicaraguan friends. (I never realized how important to mental health a couch could be.) We were finally going to get really "plugged in" (for the second time, in some cases, after focusing so much on our house) to stuff going on in Jinotega. Basically, all of the things that we had been waiting to do until we had our house and were in a normal state of operation at the mission were going to happen.
But, then there was a murder. I wish I were joking here, but sadly I'm not. A family member of some of the mission workers from our congregation (a Nicaraguan) was brutally killed in a drug-related incident. The guy had actually worked for the mission temporarily as a translator this summer, and we all knew and liked him. As if that weren't bad enough by itself, the murderer was a North American citizen (actually, he is ethnically German, but he is seen here as an American). Once word of the murder started getting out and rumors started forming, there started some be some anti-North American feelings in the air. Just to be clear, mostly everything was fine; no one was purposely going to seek to harm us. But, Benny was concerned that we could be at the wrong place at the wrong time while someone was upset in the moment. After much discussion and prayer, the decision was made for all of the North Americans at the mission to go home to the States for a while, just to be "out of sight, out of mind" until the murder was no longer big news. So, we quickly got ourselves packed and prepared for some unexpected down time after a crazy summer.
Going from "let's get ourselves really 'plugged in' to Jinotega, Nicaragua" mode to being, suddenly, in Charleston, South Carolina, USA was a big shock. We weren't planning to be back until Christmas (to have been in Nicaragua for at least a whole year), but even so we had been gone more than 10 months. We found ourselves looking with different eyes at what had previously been our "home" for pretty much all of our lives. Everything was so nice and clean and organized. It was amazing to see houses constructed with drywall where the walls actually went all the way up to the ceiling with no gaps. Driving on the Interstate was so fast and smooth. Certain stores and houses were huge. Food from restaurants tasted so good. (The best sandwich I've ever had in my life was from a little stand at the airport in Miami.) I was blown away by the convenience of having everything all right there at the grocery store and even (for clothes) Old Navy. It was all pretty overwhelming.
It was also (obviously) a really big deal to get to see our family and friends. Both sets of parents and most of our extended family all live in the Charleston area, along with a good many friends and the church family that I have spent my whole life with until moving to Nicaragua. Needless to say, there were a lot of people to see. We didn't at all advertise that we were "home," so there is still a large group of people we would have liked to have seen but for which we just didn't have the time. (We'll get the rest of you next time.) The coolest thing was getting to surprise Tommy's sister Ann and her family when we randomly showed up at their house. We were there just in time (within the week) to get to "send off" our nephew to college. I got to see my grandmother whom I feared might be gone by Christmas. (BTW, it sounds like maybe a new medicine is doing her some good.) We got to see some good friends (if briefly) that we had really, really missed since we moved. I absolutely hate that someone else's friend and family member had to die to make the trip possible, but it was so good to reconnect with our loved ones.
Overall, the trip was amazing. However, it also made us realize, first of all, how much we needed a break and, second, how much Jinotega has become our home. For me, as good as it was to be with my people in the States, it was sad to be away from my Jinotega "family." There are people here that we see literally every single day, and suddenly not to see them for a period of weeks was painful. I can honestly say that for me I was even more excited to return to Nicaragua than I was seeing the States again. Once we got to Managua, Tommy and I were literally jumping up and down like little kids in our hotel room because we were so excited to be back. When we were actually back in Jinotega and got to see everyone again, it really felt like we were "home". After being in the States where people are so separate from each other, the sense of "community" here was palpable. The night of our return was crowned by us sitting outside in our plastic chairs, surrounded by the neighborhood kids who were excitedly showing us their English workbook from school. It is so great to know that we really love these people, and they (at least those we deal with personally) really love us.
Now that we're back, we're sort of on a "getting things organized" high. We feel recharged and excited about the various things on our plate. There are still some things we're struggling with (fundraising, learning Spanish, etc.), but we are motivated to do what we need to do. We covet your prayers as we are still trying to get "settled" in our house (and—hey, I'll just say it—we covet your money as we still need furniture...and Tommy's laptop was stolen while we were away). Anyway, we feel super positive right now and just so thankful for where God has brought us. We are so overwhelmed with love from everyone we got to see on our trip and those we are back together with now. I want to say, too, that I was personally very humbled by the number of people in the States who mentioned that they have been keeping up with this blog and our Facebook updates. Well, I guess that's it. We love you all so much.