It’s always funny to me how and why I went to Chile. I didn’t expect to have my entire life changed but rather I figured I would just to go experience a new culture and come back with a new outlook on the world. God had placed South America on my heart earlier that year for a reason that can only be explained by His perfect plan and as scary as it felt to be obedient to that calling, I couldn’t imagine my life without that trip now. God wanted me to go proclaim His name without knowing exactly what that entailed which was a huge test of my faith because I always love to have my own plan. He called me to have a spirit of vulnerability and openness so that I would throw off my name and cling to the most beautiful love story that illustrates grace and humility like no person ever has. And praise the Lord that He knows so much more than any of us can even begin to fathom because I don’t know what my life would like if I was actually in control.
I remember boarding the plane on that hot day in the middle of May and feeling like I was saying goodbye to my whole life as I knew it. My suitcases (2 big matching black and white polka dot ones) were bursting at the seams with all the unnecessary trinkets I had stuffed in them along with my high hopes and fears about this adventure I was about to embark on. I remember sitting on my flight to Atlanta and wondering if I was actually ready. I prayed during the entire flight that I might make a friend or two and that the Lord would use me to be His hands and feet to spread His word. I tried to distract myself and read a travel book about Chile and look over my Spanish verb book just to brush up before diving in. But I see now that God answered my prayers in tenfold and that He had planned my time in Chile to exceed everything I thought it could be by leaps and bounds.
From the incredible people I met to the most breathtakingly gorgeous sights my eyes have ever seen, it was impossible for me then, and especially now, not acknowledge God’s hand of loving guidance that was so abundantly upon me in Chile. He blessed me with the most amazing host family that I miss more with each passing day along with friends that I’m lucky enough to say I will have for the rest of my life. And in the biggest way possible, He challenged my heart in every sense of the word and that was work could have only been done there. I wrestled with many of my longtime fears and obstacles but just as He promised in Ezekiel 36 in verse 26, God whispered to me, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” And boy did He do just that. For the first time, I had a genuine sense of joy and gratitude for each day. I wanted to seek out His word daily so that I could be a better reflection of Jesus and not to satisfy any type of personal needs. The calling to serve was echoing louder and louder in my heart which came directly from spending more time in His word and finding the most enriching community of friends and followers. In the 6 short weeks I spent in Chile, God molded me in every single possible way and my hope is that those changes are still being seen by others as the work of God and not by my own doing.
I’ve been home from Chile now for over 3 months and I still can’t believe how much I want to be back. I miss springing out of bed (one big difference!) and being excited to go to class to learn about the world as playground and not a battlefield, like it’s so often portrayed these days. I miss waking up to the sound of my host family shuffling through their morning routine to get little Horacio, Consuelo, and Emiliano off to school each day. I miss the long breakfast conversations with my host parents, Ariela and Horacio, as we compared the differences between American and Chilean culture. For example, you’d be surprised to learn that in Chile Chuck-E-Cheese, which was in walking distance of their house, is considered the “nice” place to take the kids because it’s clean, expensive, and the food is fresh..weird, I know. I even miss the instant coffee and runny yogurt (something I never thought possible)! I miss walking to the micro stop on the corner of 10th and Libertad and wondering how many near death experiences I might have that on that morning commute to school in the depilated stick shift Mercedes bus. I miss my friends and my teachers there. I miss hearing the beautiful Spanish language being spoken around me all the time. I miss roaming the streets of Valpo and Viña and having herds of street dogs follow. I miss everything about Chile and my heart is yearning more than ever to return.
We just got our first real cold front this weekend but I think this weather just brought a new wave of homesickness for Chile, which as hard as that is, I have nothing but gratitude for my experiences there. The Lord answered every single prayer my heart had and even ones I didn’t know I had during that rainy Chilean winter so how could I be anything but joyful? And so, with this temporary drop in the temperature I have a new excuse to pull out all my Chilean memorabilia and talk endlessly about those unforgettable adventures while still daydreaming about my return.
P.S. if you want a good laugh at my awkwardness, check out the video below of an interview I did for Veritas! The best study abroad program if you’re thinking about it!