It’s February 1st already and we have started a new year with new resolutions. How have you done on your resolutions for this year? Have you made it back to the gym where you signed up on January 1st for your 1-year $1 monthly membership? Have you made an extra trip to Chick-Fil-A even though your new 2020 budget app said you were a little short? Kevin says he worked out twice so far and washed the dishes three times already! He was invited to preach the first message of the New Year at our church, 1st Baptist of Cucuta. He challenged us to select our New Year’s resolutions to be some that have an eternal reward and a lasting impact. He shared the Beatitudes from Matthew 5 as an example of what we should study, pray for, and model in our lives, becoming more like Christ for an eternal benefit.
We are beyond words for our visit home. While we feel Cucuta is our home and have learned to accept sunny 95 degrees as our new normal, it was wonderful to experience the cool fall air and the snow with all of you. Our time at home with family and friends was so sweet, encouraging, and wonderful. We managed to be in 5 states in 3 weeks, and loved sharing at Northside, American Heritage Girls, and Awana. We are truly grateful to the Lord for blessing our home visit to allow us to visit with so many people. Thank you to everyone for taking time out of your busy schedules, to open your homes, sharing meals, and spoiling our boys with so much love, hugs, and presents!
Our trip home was very exciting and taught us how flexible we have become because of our time living in a foreign country where things take a little longer and aren’t quite as easy as we think they should be. We started in St. Louis the night before our 5 a.m. flight, and Kevin was up until 11 p.m. trying to confirm our flights. Then when we woke up at 3:30 for our short trip to the airport, we found out that our first leg to Miami was cancelled, and were sent to Dallas after a quick breakfast. After two hours with a customer service agent, we learned that our tickets were booked individually, and it was guaranteed that Karen and the boys would make it to Bogota by midnight , but not Daddy since his tickets hadn’t been validated! After a quick discussion, we decided it would be best to travel together, but then learned that we may not have a flight home from Bogota to Cucuta! With 8 hours in the Dallas airport, we survived on Christmas cookies and food vouchers, and the boys learned to train surf on the airport terminal shuttle. With a short night in a Bogota hotel, we found a flight to Cucuta and made it home after a quick 36 hours! Instead of getting frustrated and worn out, we looked at it as a great adventure, knowing that ultimately the Lord was bringing us through it.
Christmas in Cucuta
This year we celebrated in our own home, and treated every day as a special countdown to the Big Day (or The Big Show as Buddy the Elf says). Kevin surprised us by building a fake fireplace while we were in the States, and every day Karen and the boys made a different decoration for the apartment like paper chains, paper snowflakes, and oh! the house smelled like fresh baked Christmas cookies!
Every night the boys picked two Christmas to sing before going to bed, We Three Kings was Benjamin’s favorite while Andrew’s go-to song was Away in a Manger. We joined in the neighborhood Advent nights, where the whole neighborhood gathers around a Nativity Scene and each night learns a different part of the Christmas story. They then finish with songs and snacks. We walked the large boulevard here, called the Malecone, which has the largest Christmas light display we have ever seen with our family friends, Claudia and Carlos. Since meeting Claudia at the Holiday Inn, we have enjoyed many special visits with them, and have encouraged each other as we walk through life as families. Claudia then shared something very exciting - Carlos proposed to her and they were quickly married at their church after many years of living together. It has been a long journey for them as they became Christians after meeting each other, and the Lord has continued to grow them closer together.
We also opened our home to the many volunteers on Kevin’s food team to thank them and celebrate the amazing work that God is doing through them for Venezuelans in such need. Close to 25 folks came to our apartment for a time of prayer, sharing, and celebration. We had some lofty goals to achieve, distributing a record number of food bags. Because of their dedication and hard work, a lot of Venezuelan families were able to at least celebrate Christmas this year with food on their tables. Even Benjamin and Andrew jumped in this year, saying “Dios te bendiga - God bless you,” while handing out the 60 pound bags. Glory to God for his eternal Love for us and His Provision for those in such need!
Here in Latin America, Christmas Eve is really the big celebration. Families stay up all night, eating a special dinner at midnight. At midnight, the Baby Jesus brings everyone presents which the children open and then play with until the sun comes up. It’s a tradition that is different from ours to be sure! The boys sang a song about Christmas bells announcing the birth of our Savior in our church’s Christmas pageant. Kevin noticed that it was a strangely familiar haunting melody which he shared with the boys. The chorus of the song was very reminiscent to the classic, “Ding! Fries are Done...Ding! Fries are Done…” Afterwards, we shared a traditional Christmas dinner with our Church family. The boys were quickly tucked into bed afterwards at home for a traditional American Christmas Eve, and were sound asleep by 9 p.m.
Christmas morning was a mad dash to the Christmas trees at 6 a.m., and the boys tore through each of their gifts. We then enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner and sang many of our favorite Christmas carols around the family fireplace where our stockings still hung. Without much snow on the ground here, the boys enjoyed some pool time on Christmas day!
After celebrating the New Year, we celebrated our baby Andrew turning 3 years old! We had a small party for him with one of his favorite themes - Construction! Really his favorite part is Demolition! Karen set-up several construction themed stations which included large bricks for building and knocking over! It was fun to see his friends putting together puzzles, building sky-scrapers, and sneaking “just one more” cupcake during the party.