Current Child Count

  • HOGAR DE AMOR I: 11 babies
  • HOGAR DE AMOR II: 6 boys
  • HOGAR DE AMOR III: 8 girls

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Whatcha Doin' in July?

On Jake’s final day in Cochabamba, he was practically offered a job—a real, paying one! In a third world country, at that!

Not knowing what to expect, we had visited Cochabamba’s Calvert Cooperative School (one of a handful of English private schools in our area) to see if there were any job openings. You know, as if it were a perfectly normal thing to quit your job, pack up, and move to a new job in a foreign country after your very first visit! To the surprise of both of us, they were very positive and invited Jake back for a more official interview.

So that’s how on the morning of Day 6 of his first Cochabamba trip, we found ourselves seated in the office of Calvert’s director as she went over his resume (which he just happened to bring on his South America trip) and listened to more details of what job teaching at Calvert would entail. I was impressed with all the expenses they cover (moving stipend, plane tickets, visa), the salary, and the health insurance coverage. Nice! I don’t even currently know a foreigner in Bolivia who has a PAYING job! How cool is that?

We walked out in kind of a daze. Jake now had to think about quitting a job he loved at the hospital in Washington, board up and leave his beloved cabin in the woods, and move his life thousands of miles south by early August.

I was trying to reign in my thoughts to not think too far down the road. By this point, I had secretely been hoping and praying for some sign of a possible step forward before Jake left. It was incredible to think that he would now be moving to my very city! This could be my greatest dream EVER coming true!!

Unbeknownst to me, Jake had been wrestling with the idea of asking me about the future, and during a chat with God reached a peace to just ask. So I had no sooner driven out of the gate of the school than Jake said he had a question for me. He reminded me of where our conversation had stopped abruptly the night before as we parted. Sensing that this was the moment, I was struggling to stay concentrated on the road! He asked slowly and deliberately, “When I’m back, and living here, how would you feel if we…kept spending time together?” As the question hung in the air, I took a deep breath and said “I think that would be…great!” And the now-famous hamburger exchange immediately followed:

Jake: I eat hamburgers, you know…
Me: I can learn to make hamburgers.
Jake: And I can learn to eat tofu.
Me: I don’t really like tofu, that’s okay!

I could tell that this information seemed to go over well, but only recently learned that Jake found it promising news indeed. He says it showed a responsiveness to him and a willingness to follow his lead. My respect for his preference led him to envision a future for us.

Jake traveled again that night—to La Paz, to Peru, then back to Chelan, Washington, with more blockades causing plan changes. It was a long three days before I heard from him again. I wondered if the past six days were only a dream! But then we struck up our long distance conversations once more.  

On the morning of April 3, I came to a decision, a decision not particularly related to this new friendship. For a couple of months my family had frequently asked me to visit Tennessee in July. My 13 year sister Emma had even sent me a postcard all the way to Bolivia, with a handwritten appeal for me to come. I had staunchly resisted any ideas of a trip, as I had just been there in August the year before. But when I got wind that Emma was not going to be sent to visit me all year (they were withholding her from me!), I recalled the 1 ½ year period not so far back when she had not come and I had not gone, and how awful that was, and I changed my tune. That morning I felt God whisper to my heart that it was just the right thing to do, to go see my family again this year even though it was “their turn” to visit me in Bolivia.

At noon on the very same day I was enjoying a long email from Jake, when I got to the bottom and my eyes suddenly widened and my heart skipped a beat and I probably gasped audibly to read, right before his sign off, “Whatcha doin' in July?” Trying to stay calm, I immediately wrote my family, demanding to know why he asked that, and if anyone had said anything about wanting me to go?! (It had only been a few hours since my change of heart—no one knew yet!)

I replied that I was thinking of going to TN for the 4th of July, which also happens to be my sister Heather’s birthday and a great time to be with the family. He replied back on April 6, describing his plans for his time leading up to moving to Bolivia: “…THAT being said, how bold can I be? Would it be okay if I was around to visit you for the 4th of July and Heather's birthday? 2nd to 6th (ish)? Texas or Tennessee? :-)”

It’s a good thing I was alone. I actually wept for joy! Every single step forward in our relationship had been initiated by Jake, and every time at the exact point when I was looking for one. If he was happy that I could defer to him on matters of food preference, I was entirely overjoyed at his clear, consistent leadership.

Of course I had wondered how and when and where Jake might meet my family and vice versa, but I wasn’t going to pressure him to make such a big move, no matter how important it was to me. Now completely independent of me, he had figured out a time and place to meet my family before moving to Bolivia. My “dream come true” was only getting better!

And then… April hit. And May. For reasons still entirely beyond me, April and May were the most challenging, terrible months of my life, possibly ever. I was on attack from every front, with two legal cases against me and Casa de Amor at once. I defended my innocence with the help of good advisors and lawyers and very supportive staff, but it was a very draining, confusing period. There were also non-stop medical and legal issues with both my Casa de Amor kids and street and jail “big kids”. Everything just piled up at once in a way it never has. Jake asked if I attracted drama! Encouraging emails from him and my family were sometimes my only bright spot. I read and re-read the prayers he would type out for me, often using all scripture and adding my name to personalize it.

When I had spare moments during the exhausting race to keep up with everything and everyone, I read through and studied Jake’s former blog, and even those of his friend’s, endeavoring to better know and understand this person who had so quickly captured my attention. Relatively speaking, I still didn’t know him that well in spite of such consistent communication, but I never doubted moving forward. God’s peace is beyond human understanding!

On May 11, after nearly two months of uncertainty, Jake was finally officially offered a job teaching High School Science at Calvert...and he wrote me with the news first. :) 

On May 24, on what I expected to be a very low-key day, I actually had the most beautiful birthday day ever! Staff strung banners decorated by the children throughout our house, my door, and my desk. The street kids bought a huge cake and confetti and we had a party. My office staff took me out for ice cream and gifts. CDA II surprised me with a cake. And even though he wasn’t here, Jake figured out how to add a very special spark to my day. He called me from Washington, sent an email with “30 verses for 30 years”, and arranged for 30 roses in my favorite color to be left on my desk. It was almost too much to take in, and after two such very hard months, too!

Early on Sunday, July 1, my parents and I drove to the Memphis airport to pick up Jake, who had flown all night from Washington. Once again, we had six memorable days together. This time we were both travelers though, and this time we toured Memphis. This time back was different in two ways: my shortest visit ever (14 days including 3 of travel), and the first time my family halted their normal work and activities as much as possible to take off and just be with us. And then, well, of course, I’d never had a “special visitor” like this when back, either.

As I look back at the little list I kept of what we did every day, I see that we ate a lot. We also stayed up late more than once, talking and talking with Jake. I learned a lot more about him, and it was great fun to look at some of the pictures he had on his laptop of past jobs and trips, enjoying his lively commentary along with my family. My sweet family really rolled out the red carpet as we visited museums and bookstores and firework shows and ate entirely too many cookies and pretzels from my their Great American Cookie stores…all while trying to keep cool in the vicious southern summer heat. One evening we had dinner with the Whisenants, some of our first and most faithful Casa de Amor supporters as they passed through from Texas. They were very pleased to meet Jake, wondering if he’s the man they’ve been praying for so many years now.

It was all very much like a vacation, and I was so grateful for the opportunity for my family to meet Jake and to get to know him better. And happily, I trust that he’s being honest when he says he liked being with them, too. He had been warned that one “marries the mother”, so he had his own motives for the visit, ha! 

As for my family, it was unanimous approval. My Dad gave his highest praise, declaring, "Well, his head is screwed on straight."

Then Jake flew back to Washington, and the next morning I flew back to Bolivia. We both had a lot to do before living in the same country for the first time, and that was just around the corner—3 weeks away, to be exact!

Some of what I share here overlaps on Jake’s blog. Read his story about the street kids and getting the Calvert job here:

Mud Island, July 4, 2012
Exploring the Mississippi River with my family

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