Independence Across Cultures

It hit me yesterday afternoon. Today is the U.S. Independence Day. No matter that my daughter, born on July 2nd, blew out candles the day before yesterday. No matter that my Facebook feed has been lit up with pictures of, comments on, and complaints about fireworks. It still snuck up on me. I’m gifted with linear time obliviance that way.

With Costa Rica’s bid for the World Cup over, the streets around me are quiet. Fruit stands dot the roadsides, rather than firework tents. Our schedule is packed, hosting a mission team of 21 at the children’s home where we serve. I share my testimony tonight and have two more dinners to feed them.

Happy 4th of July. I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it.

I’ve never been great at “special days.” In the states, native rhythms did the heavy lifting for us: days off work, neighborhood displays, family gatherings. Colorful flyers shouted discounts for snaps and ground flowers. We stuffed ourselves at picnics and laughed at the smoke bombs that puffed a little less each year.

Here, Independence Day is September 15th and celebrates liberty from Spain, won without a fight. A nighttime parade of festive lanterns, carried by school children, ushers in the holiday as a reminder of the freedom cry spread by word of mouth through the country in 1821.

It may be a regular workday in Costa Rica, but everything about our home country affects the life our family lives here: all of our financial support, the spiritual covering of our sending church, the freedom granted by the eagle on our passports. Now, more than ever, we appreciate the privilege of our birthplace.

blake-guidry-722181-unsplashJust across the northern border, Nicaragua’s streets are choked with blockades. The citizens of that nation marched peacefully in mid-April to protest corruption and injustice. The presidential leadership unleashed months of harsh violence in response. What doesn’t rate high on the news feed has sent missionaries we know fleeing to safety, crippled business and services in Nicaragua, and flooded the borders with people seeking refuge.

We of the land of the free and the home of the brave, we don’t have utopia, but we can’t even fathom living that.

The red, white, and blue twirls my daughter hung up this morning speak something deeper to me than national identity and the faces I miss in my homeland. I did nothing to earn the benefits my country gives me; but everything about there, makes it possible for me to serve the Lord here.

Today is business as usual in Central America, yet I can feel the picnics and starbursts in the stateside air. They shine in memories of the ones we love, deep gratitude for the liberty geography gave us, and reverent honor for the long fight of many to keep us free.

May we all use it well.

I think it will be a Happy 4th of July.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.  1Timothy 2:1-2 NLT


What’s your culture for Independence Day?

Passport Photo by Blake Guidry on Unsplash

3 Month Recap

The clock has spun away 3 1/2 months since our family touched down in Costa Rica.  Over Thanksgiving we were grateful for these highlights:

Our house in Nebraska sold in October.  Hallelujah and Amen.  Huge thanks go out to the crew of folks who made that process such a blessing to our family.

I learned that laundry washes up much faster when the anemic water line to the machine is fortified with basins-full of water from the nearby sink.  The kids and I keep the faster faucet running full speed and make it a water-and-bowl game of leapfrog.

A full pound of yeast went into our first two months of homemade bread and rolls.  We go through about 6 loaves a week.  Low-carb and gluten-free we are not.  Bread is sold here, but the limited whole grain options are expensive and not as tasty as what I make.  Baking is a labor of love that saves us dinero.

We celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary.  Our unofficial date was a fun trip to the local mall for a bite to eat and a salad spinner.  Our official date took us up into the mountains for a romantic meal.  That night went down in the “forever” storybook of our family because the speedy/winding cab ride made Kris so carsick she was trembling, the shrimp special was terrible, and the cheesecake we ordered to make up for it was even worse.  Our naive belief that cream cheese makes everything good has been lost forever.  But now we have something to laugh about for the next 15 years, and we are extra grateful for the salad spinner.

Wisdom gained: Homesickness and an extra-large bag of Riesens cannot coexist for long.

At the end of our first 90 days, we had to make a visa-renewal trip to Nicaragua.  Motion sickness meds and toilet paper are required packing for the 6-8 hour bus ride.  And give each person a Ziploc just in case.  Trust us on this, we learned the hard way.  In spite of the rough passage, the required 72 hours out of Costa Rica were glorious.  See the pictures below.

Our residency application process is coming along nicely.  All of our documents are filed with the government, and we got our fingers inky at the police station.  Answering questions and joking with the officers in Spanish was good language practice.  We hope all of our visits to government agencies here in the future will go just as smoothly.

Less than 2 weeks remain of our first trimester of language school.  Brains are bogged down with grammar rules and verb conjugations.  Our first family-wide Christmas break will be a huge treat, topped off with a visit from Matt’s parents.  They fly in on Christmas Day.  Like Santa Claus, but with a frozen ham instead of reindeer.

While there is a lot of hard work for us in this season, there is also a great deal of joy. We get to do life and share history with the incredible missionaries learning alongside us.  We can crack chistes (jokes) with our teachers in two languages as we study our way from knowledge to fluency.  And we can see the doorways opening into cross-cultural relationships and opportunities to expand the kingdom.

We are beyond thankful for this season of language learning and the way that the Lord is using it to grow us up into His calling for our family.  The rains may come from time to time, but the view from here can be breathtaking.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20