Yesterday, I wrote on my Facebo*k status: "One of the greatest blessings in life are the people God places in it - those acquaintances that become friends, and then practically family. So thankful for 10 days with the Ormeño-Oyarce family in Iquique!"
|at the "feria costumbrista" celebrating northern culture|
In response, a missionary friend said that my post reminded her of the truth in Matthew 19:29: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."
|enjoying quiet time together at home|
Her comment made me smile as it is so true to our recent experience of enjoying such a special visit from our friends. Although twelve people in a small house in the middle of a very hot summer could have been anything but fun, in this case it was a tremendous blessing and encouragement!
|Pastor Pedro and Pastor Cristian enjoy a time of "fellowship" around the grill|
This was Pastor Cristian's first visit to our home in Iquique, but for his wife Betsy and two daughters it was their second visit. They were actually our very first guests back in 2009 and we have happy memories of that time together! On both occasions Betsy has given me a birthday gift in the form of my very favorite food in the world - pastel de choclo, a Chilean meat and corn casserole which is absolutely delicious (pictured in process of preparation below!)
|Betsy is on the stage of preparation just before the corn is added - yum!|
The fifth member of the family to join us was Betsy's younger sister, Jenny. She was in the very first class Pedro taught at our seminary in Santiago, where the students jokingly said they had to learn both the Biblical book of Acts and the gift of interpreting "tongues" (in other words, comprehending Pedro's beginner Spanish!) Jenny is now studying to become an elementary school teacher and our kids enjoyed her special way of instructing them through everyday events while she was here. She even taught Ian and Alec some of their first complete phrases in Spanish!
|L-R: (back) Jenny, Isabel, Betsy, Cristian, Pedro, Steph, Carla (front) Cony, Owen, Eva|
One of the advantages of having friends come to visit is that we get to take them around to local sights and in so doing, sometimes see places we haven't taken the time to explore yet. Such was the case with the picture above, taken on the deck of a life-sized reproduction of the historic Chilean ship, Esmeralda, famous for the part it played in lighting the fire of patriotic pride during the War of the Pacific. (The original Esmeralda lies below the waters of Iquique's harbor and we visited that site during Betsy's and the girls' previous visit.)
|wading in the waves at Iquique's Playa Huayquique|
Also, with our visitors we hit the beach! Since arriving back in Iquique we hadn't yet made it a priority to go there, but had promised our kids we would when our friends arrived. Everyone got their fill of the waves, especially Pastor Cristian who was rolled over by one and as a result preached on Sunday with a scratched and bruised eye, much to his family's amusement (once they were certain he was otherwise okay!) Our little boys enjoyed having so many extra pairs of arms willing to carry them out into the water - Ian said riding the little "bodyboard" was his favorite part of their visit!
|a pit stop in the Atacama Desert on the way to Pisagua|
A highlight of our time together was a trip to the town of Pisagua. We were able to borrow an 11-passenger van from a church family, and the twelve of us squeezed in for the 2 1/2-hour drive (each way) through the Atacama Desert. Pisagua is a place many Chileans never see, and according to Cristian and Betsy it was a very powerful part of their national history for them to experience. The conversations that arose from that trip were insightful for all of us!
|at the playground in Pisagua, our friends were amused by Pedro's "shark out of water" game with the kids|
I love the picture above because of the natural smiles and the reflection of so much laughter we shared during our days together. The adult men were vastly outnumbered by the quantity of talkative females, but good-natured teasing abounded as well as serious conversations about life in the ministry.
|Pastor Cristian prepared to face "El Desafio" ("The Challenge")|
A memorable occasion was had on the evening we headed to a local eatery owned by a couple from the church. They create amazing sandwiches known in Chile as churrascos, which consist of homemade bread and thin slices of steak meat piled high with a variety of choices (anything from fried eggs to green beans and chucrut, the Chilean version of sauerkraut!) They also offer an open challenge to anyone who will dare try to eat their giant sandwich called "El Desafio" ("The Challenge") which has a whopping total of five whole onions, french fries, sausage, steak meat, cheese, and who knows what else! With only a little encouragement from us all, Pastor Cristian decided to try for the title and was given an hour on the clock to do so (rules include not standing up and having to eat every last bite.)
|celebrating Eva's 12th birthday together|
He came so close but finally had to admit defeat and with sincere apologies headed straight to bed that evening! Perhaps it was for the best so that the next day he could enjoy - with the rest of us - Eva's birthday celebration. It was great to have friends here to recognize her special day.
|the girls walking along Playa Cavancha|
Another one of those things that Iquique offers but we had never taken advantage of, was the summertime sea lion show. The night before our friends' departure we stood in line and bought sugary treats to join other tourists and locals for an hour of entertainment. While it certainly wasn't Sea World, our kids didn't know any better and Owen stated that it was his favorite outing during their visit! Being in good company made it worth the while regardless.
|waiting (with cotton candy!) for the sea lion show to begin|
All good things must come to an end, they say and so it did for us. An hour before their departure on Saturday we enjoyed our final meal together - another success on the grill! - and went around the group for a "thumbs up" recounting of everyone's favorite memory. Mine (in Spanish) was the three C's - buena conversacion, buena compañia, and buena comida (the last was tongue in cheek, but true!) With a few final pictures and a circle of prayer we ended the visit with Pastor Cristian, Betsy, Cony and Carla. Jenny was able to stay one more night - which we spent well by playing Settlers of Catan! - and then headed home early Sunday morning.
|saying goodbye to Betsy, Cony and Carla before their departure to the airport|
I started this post with a Bible verse appropriate to these special friends, and I will end with another. Proverbs 27:10 says, "Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you - better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away." The latter part of that verse is on a beautiful framed cross-stitch that my mother once made me. I've always thought of it as an encouragement while living on the mission field far from family. God has been so good and kind to give us loving "neighbors" (brothers and sisters in Christ) to fill that gap in our lives. All thanks to Him!