Part I: The Year That Everything Changes
Part II: The Week That Changed Everything
Part III: Whatcha Doin' In July?
Part II: The Week That Changed Everything
Part III: Whatcha Doin' In July?
Jake arrived to Cochabamba on Friday, July 27, with mounds of luggage and his cat Rusty. No bike yet—it finally followed eight days later.
In the weeks leading up to his arrival, I had gone through different options of where he could live. Finally one Monday morning after a weekend of no results, I shared about my search with the office staff and they declared “He should just live at Casa 2”. Huh? Go from living in a cabin in the woods with no neighbors for a mile, to a house on the outskirts of a big city with 15 young children and 2 dogs?? Well. He said he wanted to visit the homes a lot and get to know the kids. This could either be really good, or really bad!
Jake’s response to my tentative inquiry was so positive it made my heart smile. We began moving things around to give him the upstairs room and office area. It was so much fun to set up! Some of the boys helped me put together the rods for his clothes and decorate with some boats and picture frames (complete with pictures) from one of the jails I regularly enter. And… It turned out to be amazing! In just a matter of days some of the kids were consistently calling Jake “papi”, and Jake wrote an article for our last newsletter talking more about his relationship with the kids. (The Father’s Love, Fall 2012)
We continued to get to know each other at every opportunity. On a holiday shortly after Jake got here, we loaded up the 13 kids of CDA II and headed to the lake. By day’s end, we sent the kids, staff, and volunteers home in our CDA bus, while we stayed back (a first for me on a big CDA outing!). We watched the sunset over the lake then had dinner, all the while talking and asking each other questions. Jake asked me where I’d want to get married if, you know, some guy came along: Texas, Tennessee, or Bolivia. I didn’t have a ready answer, but did spend some time after considering one!
Another evening we stayed with kids of CDA II while the house parents went to a marriage seminar at church. After the six kids were in bed, we talked more about Jake’s journey to this point. The beginning could be traced back to the Creation Conference in Washington and God leading him to sponsor his first child through Compassion International. When he said it was eight years back, I asked him for a month and day. After a little bit of calculating, we realized it was probably the weekend right after I moved to Bolivia—the same July 2004! Wow. To think that God set us both on the path that led to us meeting, on the very same week, eight years back…
Between July and September, four of our kids at CDA II turned 9 years old. We started taking them out for birthday dinners. One night Jake was chuckling to himself as he got back into the driver’s seat of my car with a load full of kids in the back and a two year old in front with me. What’s so funny? I asked. “We haven’t even kissed yet and we have a car FULL of kids. It’s like the ‘just add water’ family!” That became our joke when we we’re out with a lot of kids or babies: “Just add water…!”
Even though things were going very well with us, Jake had his work cut out for him in other areas. He struggled with constant viruses from his students, figuring out how to maneuver (or not) on blockade days, communicating in Spanish, finding the right balance at the Casa de Amor homes of being the fun amigo or really a “tio” (uncle), and most of all, the challenging behaviors and lack of interest in his 90+ students at school. Moving to a foreign country is hard. Being a teacher is hard. Learning to teach full time for the first time and in a foreign country is most definitely hard!
Finally on September 5, he thought he’d had enough and shared with me that he was pretty sure that in October, he’d go back to sea for a few months. Then he’d come back to Bolivia and live off his substantial earnings.
This was an upsetting new change of plans, even more than I could have foreseen. Although he assures me this declaration was not meant as a test, it turned out to be a good one. Within 24 hours he realized how shaken I was over his decision and committed to stick it out at Calvert, no matter how much it varied from his expectations of a rewarding experience.
On Friday, September 7 we had our first counseling session with Pastor Joe Holman of our church, Cochabamba International Church. We went in calling it “pre-engagement” counseling, but Joe quickly set us straight by asking “So…does that mean you want dating advice??” Jake clarified that we were on the path to marriage but that he hadn’t asked my Dad for my hand yet, and there was no ring just yet. Of all the people in the world that we could learn from about marriage, I would choose Joe and Denise Holman. We have known the Holmans and their (now 11) children since they moved to Bolivia in 2007 a couple months after my family, and anyone who knows them would agree they have much wisdom in the area of marriage and family.
In addition, we dug around for anything that could support our goal of getting to know each other better. I found a 22 page “pre-marriage inventory” and we began going through those questions every Sunday. Sometimes we’d only get through 3 or 4 questions, and sometimes we’d get through nearly two sections, depending on how many rabbit trails we took. (The rabbit trails were great!)
Another good time for deep conversation was as we ate the dinners I prepared every weekend. His answers often blew me away, and vice versa. We were discovering that we clearly seemed made for each other! To give just one example, one evening I took a deep breath and finally asked, “So, how would you like your kids to be educated?” He apologized afterwards for the long-winded answer, but I clung to every word and was speechless by the end. I couldn’t have worded my own beliefs more perfectly myself! It was literally such a neat answer I wondered if someone could have told him my beliefs, but who? Only God could orchestrate something like this.
And speaking of kids, his desire for a large family, including adoption of older kids, seemed absolutely too good to be true! But it was obviously part of who he was, no show put on for me, or to give the “right answer”.
Then at dusk on September 25, we were heading to the Cancha (huge outdoor market) for some purchases and stopped mid-sentence to see two police trucks in a row turn and zoom up the hill to the Coronilla, my main street group. As I wondered aloud if something had happened or if the police were heading up to cause trouble, Jake understandingly did a u-turn. The police detoured but we were already heading up to a beautiful vantage point of the city. As I mentioned it was one of my favorite views ever AND the best time of day to be there, we both grew quiet. When Jake spoke up again, his words caused me to call this his “first proposal”. As I enjoyed the cool evening breeze and the breathtaking view and the muffled sounds of the kids talking in their makeshift shelter a short way down the hill, Jake said something to the effect of “Well, now is as good a time as any, here looking over the city. I don’t know how to do this or ask this without giving it away, and you’ve been no help at all, so…. I want you to start thinking about what kind of engagement ring you’d like, because I plan on giving you one.”
I can’t quite recall my reaction because the world seemed to stop on its axle. Friends have asked since if it was a total surprise. I can’t say it was, and yet it WAS! Here was the confirmation I’d been waiting for all year…all my life! I wasn’t going to end up an old maid, after all. Could it really be?! The truth was sinking in slowly, but ever so sweetly. And to a guy like JAKE? He is approximately 100 times better than I ever could have imagined.
We didn’t waste time in “just happening” to pop in to some jewelry stores. That weekend we learned that there are not a lot of real diamonds in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and no one was familiar with platinum. Jake insisted that the metal of my ring last forever, same as our marriage. Then at last, we came across a jeweler with a beautiful model that could be recreated both with diamonds AND platinum.
On Friday, October 5, Jake drove me up to “El Cristo”, a famous statue of Christ that overlooks our city from a high hill. It was dusk, our favorite time for enjoying Cochabamba’s majestic mountains. We sat on a big rock and shared our hearts with each other. After Jake knelt and slipped the ring on my finger and I said YES, two guys on a perch a bit above and behind us started cheering! Then we drove back down to the city and went to a volunteer dinner at Elena’s house.
One of the most interesting parts of being officially engaged, even when everyone assumed we were heading that way, are the reactions! The older kids are practically beside themselves with joy - I never knew our girls were so romantic at heart - and the staff has come around, too. No one wanted to lose Jake’s presence at CDA II, and I’ve had many a chat with staff at the Baby Home about how odd it will be to live elsewhere after eight years on the premises. Everyone asks if we can't just move into one of the homes together.
After a bit of deliberation, we decided to celebrate our wedding right here in Cochabamba on Friday, November 30, also Jake’s parent’s wedding anniversary. (October 6 is my parent’s wedding anniversary, almost the day of the proposal.) It’s a joy to be able to honor them in this way as they will not be able to come due to his father’s health.
Then, on January 5, we will have a US wedding in Boca Raton, Florida, where all of Jake’s immediate family, other family members, and several friends will be able to travel and join in witnessing our wedding. Of all the people to have two weddings, I never ever dreamed of that for myself! But then, I never dreamed I’d be so blessed as to be loved by someone like Jake!
Jake will continue to teach at Calvert, quite obviously his mission field, on his two year contract. I will still be the director of Casa de Amor – only now commuting to work instead of walking up one flight of stairs. Jake insists on visiting CDA II, his first home in Bolivia, as much as possible to fellowship with the kids. We will remain in contact with the street community and jails but on a modified schedule.
It is a dream come true for God to bring such a Godly man to me here in Bolivia, who wants to live in Bolivia and love all of my kids, big and small, alongside me. If anything, these ministries will only be blessed by our union. :)