Our last week in Hesston was as we had hoped – spending quality time with family and friends. A surprise visit from our friends in Colorado was just what we needed for our last weekend in KS. Our last few days were filled with lots of last-minute preparation and baseball games. Kason’s 4th grade team has developed a special bond over the past couple years, so their last games of the summer were a big deal for him (and maybe for us too). His coaches and their spouses did several things to make his last week of baseball memorable. Our last night in Hesston was Wednesday night and Kason had two home games. After the last one ended shortly before 9:30pm, his team dumped water on him and took pictures together. It was hard to get him off the field – a very emotional time for our ten year-old! Not sure we know all that was going on inside of his head, but we know he felt loved. Taylor’s emotions hit at the same time as we struggled to pull her way from her cousin in the parking lot. It was a nice goodbye to Hesston and our people all the way around. A huge thank you to everyone who went out of their way to care for us as we prepared to leave.
We had to leave town the next morning, and as is typical, Mark hadn’t started packing yet, so we were up until 2:30 am before we had the house ready for our renters and our suitcases packed.After spending a day in Colorado with DeeDee’s family we had to make last minute changes to our plans as we found out the Colombian consulate was requesting a new birth certificate, translated and apostilled for Kason… so to work we went. We flew out of Denver through the middle of the night, had a few hours to sleep in Ft. Lauderdale, and then took off for Bogotá. We arrived around 1pm in the afternoon in Bogotá. It was time to say hello to Colombia!
Our first ten days in Colombia have been great. Not sure we could have asked for a better start. The people here have welcomed us warmly and we feel connected already. Connections were something we prayed for and asked others to pray for before we left. We are experiencing new things every day and expect that will continue for quite a while. We are an adventuresome group, so the new experiences have been fun for us.
Our church family here found a furnished house for us to rent, which was a real blessing. We only came with clothes, so not having to purchase much in the way of furnishings was huge. We worked quickly to get sleeping arrangements made, our kitchen stocked, and utilities working for us. This feels like a wonderful home for our year in La Mesa.
Our house is a very short walk to the soccer stadium in town and also the public sports park (called the Polideportivo). It is about a mile walk down hill to Iglesia Cristiana Menonita (our new church) and Colegio Americano Menno (the school where we will serve). That walk is easy, but the walk back home can be more of a challenge. You can get a taxi to take you anywhere in La Mesa for about $1.30 USD, which will be great on days the hill back home is too much for us! Public transportation here in La Mesa is impressive. The city center is also near the church and school, so we’ll be making this walk to and from our house at least once a day.
DeeDee spent countless hours working on our visas before we left and that continued after we arrived. We recently returned from a two-day trip to Bogotá where we registered our cell phones (we don’t have our old numbers anymore), finalized our visas (except Kellen’s – that’s another story), applied for and were granted ID cards, and learned to travel well through Bogotá via Uber. Bogotá has a population of 8 million, so getting from one building to another with our kids in tow was no small feat. DeeDee’s Spanish is better than Mark’s so we relied heavily on her. We did accidentally end up at the Chinese Embassy at one point, but fortunately our actual destination was a short walk away!
One sad note during our first couple weeks was DeeDee’s grandpa, Mervin Nafziger, passing away. He lived a full and faithful life and passed on Monday June 24 at the age of 95. It was very difficult for DeeDee not to be with her family at the funeral in Phoenix. She especially missed being with her grandmother (age 97) during this time. Her sister Angie held a cell phone for the entire service so we could watch. Very thankful for the technology and Angie to make that happen.
The kids are doing very well. They have embraced the food, the culture and fútbol. Colombia played two games in the Copa America while we have been here. We stood out more during the first game, but then did our best to fit in better during the second one. They lost in PKs to Chile. They love their fútbol here, so this was devastating to the town!
Our church family has been great. We have already made many connections and our pastor has gone out of his way to help us with the many logistics during the first couple weeks. Our second Sunday was packed full as another service worker was ending his term and returning home to Swaziland. It was an emotional time for him and many in the church. It was hard to not think about this being us up in front of the church saying our tearful goodbyes. Glad we are just getting started and don’t have to worry about that yet. Worshiping God in a different language will be a new and enjoyable experience. We will understand more and more each week about what is being said and done during the service.
There are certainly some challenges, but nothing significant as of yet. Overall, things feel fairly settled and routines and relationships are starting to form. We expect it will get more difficult next week as the kids start school on Monday (in Spanish) and our service work begins at the school. We arrived during their two-week break, so school stating will be our next chapter of new experiences.
Please pray for the kids as they start school and patience for us as we adjust to parenting in a new environment. Developing friends will be critical for our kids, so hopefully the language barrier can begin to be broken down as school starts. Next week will be a big week. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers…. we are settled into our new home in La Mesa and feeling hopeful about the year ahead!