As my time approaches to return to the UK for a sabbatical, I have found myself considering friendship again. Perhaps it´s a natural thing, but having spent a couple of years away, I begin wondering what has become of the friendships 'back there'.
There are those with whom I had a close friendship previously - but perhaps the long distance contact hasn´t been forthcoming... so I wonder what will it be like now when I return.
Then there´s those who I have got to know here in Guatemala, but who have already returned to the UK - and with whom I´ve talked on a deep level about their lives - and now that I prepare to go back, and have the opportunity to see them again, I wonder if our connection was simply a result of me offering support in the rollercoaster of their emotions that is a short term missions experience and perhaps doesn´t have any longer term purpose now that they are back in their 'normal life', or will it develop into a more mutual and equal relationship?
And of course there´s the friendships here in Guatemala that I leave behind for a while. What will happen with those?
I am now realising that this reflection is a part of the rhythm of living
abroad and that this issue seems to come to the forefront of my mind each
time I prepare to return to the UK, and the moment that I realised that, it was a relief. It was somehow easier to hold all those questions - without worrying about the answers, and just trust God. Trust God - not for anything in particular - just trust God. He is here.
Recently a friend in the UK died. Apart from feeling very sad - it was way too soon for him to go! - I also felt very conscious of the divided life that I lead. Immediately I realised that here, there wasn´t anybody to tell - because nobody here knew him. I forced myself anyway and told a few friends, but it didn´t mean much to anyone; of course because they didn´t know him, and in fact they don´t know anything about my life previous to coming to Guatemala.
At the weekend, I went to San Pedro La Laguna for our Latin Link prayer meeting. It was really good to spend some quality time with fellow Latin Link members, in such a beautiful spot. And as I shared these reflections, it was great that they understood, as they live in the same dynamic. One friend, who lives there in San Pedro so has a regular view of the Lake and all that goes on there, shared the image of balancing between two canoes, with one foot in each. I think that´s exactly my experience. At times all your weight is on one canoe, perhaps with just your other foot touching the other one. At other times, it´s the other way around. But the tricky part is changing your weight, swapping your attention from one to the other in order to transition between the two. That´s when everything feels a bit wobbly and unsure.
But then falling into water has never held much danger or fear for me!
It´s actually where I feel closest to God, and know him holding me up in
whatever circumstance. And so spiritually and in my friendships, I´m
learning to keep focused on God, trusting in Him, in his 'upholding' -
whichever canoe I´m in, or even falling in the water inbetween. He is
Funny what you get asked to do when you´re a missionary in another country!.
Last week, a friend of mine, who is studying for a degree in Education management, asked if I could participate in a forum for her course about interculturality (not sure if that´s a word in english).
So that´s what I did this afternoon, - I was part of a forum panel, discussing interculturality (multiculturalism) in education.
I don´t know an aweful lot about education or mutliculturalism in education here in Guatemala but I shared a few models for understanding culture itself, which have been very
useful to me as I support new volunteers adapting to a different culture. That seems to add a different perspective to the discussion.
And I was very well looked after.... with food, and a traditional basket of sweets, and flowers to bring home.
On Saturday we also had one of our monthly Latin Link prayer meetings. It´s always good to get toegther, and catch up on each others news, as we support each other in various ways. This week, we´ll be saying goodbye to a family of Striders who have been with us for a year.
Although there´s always a fair bit of change within the team, we love being able to support and encourage each one in their journey with God and in missions. And we love an excuse to have cake too!
And as we invest and celebrate in the short termers who serve with us in Guatemala, we also want to plan for the future in a way that is strategic and meets needs within the Guatemalan church. So on Saturday morning, the long term team here in Guatemala spent some time together dreaming and discussing what a 5 year strategic plan might look like. 2 weeks ago, I had a similar discussion with our National Advisory Board (of local leaders and pastors). We don´t want to rush things so will be continuing to discuss and horne the process over the next year or so.
Latin Link is an international and interdenominational mission with a focus on Latin America. They aim to be a channel so that people can develop their God- given potential in the service of others, working alongside churches and partner organisations. Members of Latin Link serve in Latin America and in Europe, working with local Christians at their invitation. They have 5 main areas of commitment; outreach and evangelism, training and preparation, care and social action, publishing and resources, and business and ethics.
Latin Link runs 3 programms;
Step teams - undertake practical projects for 3 weeks to 6 months.
Stride - individual placements using your skills and talents for 6 months to 2 years.