Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fields Family Furlough 2015 - Weeks 5 and 6

This will really be a quick synopsis of weeks 5 and 6 of our 2015 furlough.  I’m sorry that I haven’t taken more time to stay caught up on events as we travel as it is so easy to lose the memories that make each place special.  Week 5 took us from my dear Aunt Helen’s house in Reno through some of the most desolate country I’ve ever seen on into Las Vegas.  Wow!  It is amazing to be able to see 150 or 200 miles in every direction and not see another living soul.  I had no idea how remote some of those places in NV and CA were.  Mariah got a little bit of drive time in as she gets ready to take her driving test and Benny had plenty of issues with car sickness as we weaved and bobbed over the uneven terrain.  Las Vegas was special because of the place that we stayed at.  The Bellagio, you ask?  Maybe he Oasis?  Na, we stayed at a Christian family’s home who, even though they didn’t know us, was kind enough to put a candle in the window and give us travelers rest on our journey.  They were a dear family of biological and adopted children who were essentially running their own stripped down version of our children’s home at Loma de Luz.  The patriarch was an absolutely joyful man with one of the most generous hearts that you will ever find.  The family was just wonderful to be around.  The wife was struggling with back issues and yet, was so gracious.  We were really blessed to be able to stay with them.  We went in that night around 11pm for a very quick tour up and down the strip and a look at the Bellagio fountains and the inside atrium.  We enjoyed our time, but were quickly off to Flagstaff the next morning. 

We left Las Vegas and took a very brief stop at Hoover dam (a place that I have always wanted to see) and then drove on into Flagstaff.  After several consecutive days of driving 250-300 miles per day and then staying with someone, it was a wonderful blessing to have a VRBO home provided for us in Flagstaff to stay in for three days.  It was a true oasis of rest for us.  One day, our dear friends Greg and Deborah Levine from - CSU College Days - drove all the way up from Tucson to see us.  It was just such a blessing to see them after probably 25 years or so.  I can honestly say that we picked up right where we left off and just felt so close to them.  God is so good and the fellowship of His kingdom has really been evident to us on this trip.  The next day we toured the Grand Canyon.  Wow.  What can you say, except “How Great Though Art”?  Benny mentioned several times that he “felt small” at Hoover dam and that he felt “even smaller” at the Grand Canyon.  Yep.  I agree.  After Flagstaff, we were on for an overnight at Albuquerque and a quick, but wonderful overnight with the parents of some friends that had come down to visit us in Honduras.  We so enjoyed getting to meet Ben and Emily’s parents as they just took us into their home and blessed us with tons of hospitality.  Once again, the KINGDOM is such a beautiful place.   One very special treat for me (and for Benny also) was that Ben’s father was an Air Traffic Controller with the FAA for many years.  Well, when he found out how fascinated we were with ATC, he arranged a TOUR for us of a ground based control center.  Benny and I got to sit with an actual ATC and watch over his shoulder as he worked!  It was beyond fascinating for me and I gained a whole new level of respect for the people and the system!

Week 7 will have us in Colorado enjoying family, and home cooked meals, and I’m guessing a few struggles as we cope with a new reality of life after the passing of Marinajo’s father last year.  Stay tuned. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fields Family Furlough 2015 - Weeks 3 and 4

Since were only halfway through our furlough and I’m already behind on the blog, I’m going to combine weeks 3 and 4 into one blog post.
First, a quick report on where we were and some of what we did: week three started out with us in Jacksonville OR, the recipients of the wonderful hospitality of our friends Rich and Stacy Owens.  We then headed over to Brookings WA (right on the CA/WA Border) to a vacation rental that some other dear friends let us stay in for a few days.  Our wonderful hostess, Lori, took us over there and showed us all of the cool spots to visit.  This was really the first time (and not the last) that we learned that you can indeed freeze to death on the Pacific Coast in the middle of summer.  We went to a beach where we learned a new definition of playing on the beach.  Where we come from, when you play at the beach it includes going in the water.  Here on the Pacific Coast, you don’t go into the water unless you are a walrus or unless you have a wetsuit on.  Just walking into the water caused our feet to hurt and caused Marinajo to make some pretty incredible faces!  We then drove down Hwy 101 to Mendicino CA – which is now on my personal list of most beautiful places on earth – and then on down to San Francisco!  Wow, we were so blessed to stay at the home of the sister of a dear friend of ours.  They were then able to find us a beautiful home in San Francisco to house sit while we were there.  Can you believe that?  San Francisco was like nowhere we had ever visited before.  Beautiful, charming, international and just an amazing place to visit.  We really enjoyed our three days of touring there and were just completely worn out when we left.  We then drove over to Reno where we spent a wonderful night with my Aunt Helen, telling stories about her and my dad when they were children and working on our family tree.  I can’t emphasize enough what a blessing it was for the kids to meet Aunt Helen and to have them hear firsthand some of her stories.  Beside the stories of family life, she told Mariah about the time that she heard Fred Astaire live and the time that she saw he husband’s ship on the newsreel at the movie theater during WW2!  Wow!

I also wanted to continue my short series on “why we do furlough.”  My hope is that we can communicate this, and in so doing, help you understand our lives as missionaries a little bit better.   Reason #1 (not necessarily in order of priority), from the last blog post, was to be able to listen to the “buoys” that God puts in our lives and to remove ourselves from the business of Honduras in such way that allows us to hear those markers “ringing” in our soul.  Reason #2 is to be able to spend time as a family and let get “reintroduced” to the USA culture every few years.  The first part of that is easy – we all are too busy and we have to get out of our normal routine in order to be more “present” with our families.  The second part of this is more unique to our lives as missionaries.  One thing that can be a real challenge, especially for longer term missionaries is when their kids (who grew up in the field) move back home.  They have a special name for this group of kids that grew up outside of their “first culture” and in a “second culture”.  We sometimes refer to them as “third culture kids”, meaning that they don’t ever really fit back into their first culture (the USA, in our case) and they don’t ever completely fit into their second culture (Honduras for us) and so they end up forming a third culture of kids that grew up on the mission field or kids of expats and so forth. I know, for our children, Mariah especially, identifying as a third culture kid has really helped her with her feelings of not fitting in.  The problem is this; she is now moving back to the US and will need to fit in here as best as she can.  For this reason, we try and do furlough (an extended time of 10 weeks or so) back in the US ever three to four years.  The last time we did this was 2012 and we moved to Honduras in 2008, so this is our second in seven years.  One of the big benefits of being here for a more extended time is that it helps get the kids reoriented to the US culture and it isn’t as much of a shock the next time we come back for a visit. I guess this is important for us adults, too, although it is less certain that we will come back to the US or when.  Let me give you one example.  While we were in San Francisco a friend introduced us to an “app” for our smartphones called Yelp.  We were able to review all of the restaurants within a mile or two of us, and then order our food online and have it delivered without ever talking to a soul!  Wow! This may seem silly, but it is a way that the US culture has changed that we were just totally clueless about.  Yelp, and the changes that it brings, are, more importantly, a good indicator of something much larger that is changing in the US culture – it is becoming even more isolated.  We do more online and we communicate more online to the detriment of our face to face interactions.  While it is not an important life skill for my kids to be able to order food with their smartphone, it is important for them to recognize this titanic shift in the culture here so that that will understand the feelings of loneliness that they will experience when they come back.  You see, our culture is one of infinite personal contact.  We often choose to go seem someone rather than calling them on the phone or on the ham radio.  Big difference and one that it is important for us to talk through with the kids and help them to recognize.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fields Family Furlough 2015 - Week 2

Noun - an anchored float serving as a navigation mark, to show reefs or other hazards, or for mooring.

We are here, in Brookings OR, on the Southern Oregon coast.  And when I say on the coast, I mean it.  Some friends have given us their vacation rental for a few days overlooking a cove in the Pacific.  The views are just spectacular.  Because we are in a cove, and because we are near a reef, there is a buoy sitting, oh 500 yds offshore, swaying and ringing in the surf day and night.  It is one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve heard.  A deep ringing bass of a bell, that warns boats that they are nearing a reef.  A warning of danger.  A navigation mark to say “you are here,” as buoy is marked on the navigational charts of these waters.  The thing about it is this:  you can’t always hear the buoy, at least not where we are.  The surf and the noises of the day combine to drown out this important navigational marker and warning during the day.  At night, ah, at night, all is calm in this little cove and the buoy just sings us to sleep and continues to serenade us when we wake in the night – reassuring us that it is on watch and that all is well.  This buoy is an excellent reminder of what makes furlough a good and necessary exercise for us a family and for me personally.  You see, at the hospital, the “surf” and the “noise of the day” so often drown out God’s warnings and God’s navigational markers that I  miss them.  I don’t hear them.  And so, just like the nighttime here on the coast, being away from Balfate allows me to hear God’s warnings and see God’s navigational markers much more clearly.  “You’re getting near a reef (danger), steer away!”  “Sit down and look at the map – you are here.”  Having time to stop and consider what things I need to steer away from and where “I am” with family, my responsibilities, relationships – it is valuable beyond words.  I’m sure that we all need times like this.  Furlough allows us to build them into our life as missionaries.

And so, as we consider week two of our eleven week 2015 furlough, I thought it might be good to take some time each week and expound on why we do furlough.  The buoy isn’t necessarily the most important reason, it is just the one that came up first in my mind last night as I woke up and listened to the bell that I hadn’t heard most of the day. By the way, my final analogy on this topic is this:  I hear the bell more now, on the second day because I heard the bell last night, when it was quiet, and I know what to listen for.  I pray that as I return to Honduras and to the crazy chaotic life that we lead there, that I’ll hear God’s warnings and navigational messages better when I get back because I’ll know better what to listen for. 

I’ll end with a quick report on week 2.  We left Northern Washington and headed down to the southern end of Washington (Vancouver) near Portland.  Week 1 ended with the incredible privilege of being included in the huge Johnson family reunion at Big Lake WA and being adopted for a weekend by this wonderful family.  Week 2 began with a trip to see my mom’s oldest sister, Aunt Sarah, in La Conner Washington and my cousins Billy and his wife Norma.  We really enjoyed our brief visit with them and stories of my mom, who passed away in ’95, and my grandparents.  The majority of week 2 was spent with another amazing couple, who are the sister and brother in law of our dear friends John and Penny Alden.  We toured Portland.  I met with several contacts regarding new funding sources for the hospital.  I worked one day. We had an amazing homemade Mexican dinner one night with our sister in law Patsy’s side of the family.   We had a wonderful Argentinian supper with a family that had been down to the hospital a couple of times.  We then moved down to Jacksonville OR for some quality time with our “family” from Jacksonville Presbyterian Church.  Dr Rich Owens and his lovely wife Stacey are our hosts for the end of week two and part of week three and they have provided yet another sanctuary home for us to stay in and just relax and enjoy ourselves.   More on week three and more reasons why we do furlough in a few more days.  May God grant you the peace to hear the buoys that he has set out for you in your life!   

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fields Family Furlough 2015 - week 1

Fields Family Furlough 2015
18 July, 2015 from Big Lake in Mt Vernon (Northern) WA

There is so much background here that I don't know if I want to take the time to tell or that anyone would find it interesting.  There was the really challenging part of finding a car in Kent WA and a person (a friend of a friend) who was willing to let us send him the money and then buy it for us and then meet us at SEA-TAC when we flew in, who turned out to be pretty quirky and made for lots of (now) funny stories.  There was the crazy stress of trying to buy three round tip tickets and one one-way ticket for Mariah and keep all of us on the same departure fight and even get seat assignments next to each other. 

There was so much emotion surrounding our departure.  This was Mariah leaving her home and heading off into the brave new world of adulthood.  There were the months before leaving in which we tried to let go of Mariah more and more, encouraging her to make more of her own decisions, and sometimes really regretting some of the decision that she made.   There was the hard task of leaving well for Mariah and of reconciling with some of her friends and working through the leaving process.  We are really proud of her in the way that she left and we’re just so thankful for way that he friends said goodbye.  It was deep and real and hard and messy and good.  And hard. 
Finally, for me, there was the stress of just trying to get so much done before leaving. I had one project that I was working on that blew up on me and took 3-4 times longer than it should have.  I was closer to “losing it” then than I have been in a very long time.  I was beyond frustrated and beyond tired.  I think, in many ways, we all left tired and stressed.  That’s what makes this first week such an incredible blessing. 

We've been in the Seattle area.  Staying with friends who’ve now become good friends, amazing friends, lifelong friends, I think.  This family has opened up their home (hard) and their lives (much harder) to us in a way that has just been so humble and for which we are so grateful.  They live in a beautiful place in this beautiful northwest.  The scenery and the weather have just been so perfect!  We have eaten so many berries that I think I’m going to turn red!  We’ve roasted hot dogs on the beach at Puget Sound; we've toured downtown Seattle and the famous Pike Fish market.  We've had the best coffee in the universe - not Starbucks - we've sat quietly, with coffee and blankets, and watched pine trees and hardwoods sway in the breeze.  The peace that this week has brought has been a gift from the Lord.  Sure there have been arguments and sure there has been tension – we a family with two teenagers with four big suitcases staying with friends and traveling for eleven weeks, the difficult stuff will be there.  But that is not what you remember, you remember the pines and the hardwoods and the blankets and the coffee and more than anything you remember the sense of families and homes opening up to you because in the Kingdom there are no strangers.  There is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and in hospitality and Christianity go hand in hand. 

We've seen old friends and been the recipients of some of the most lavish hospitality.   We've enjoyed an authentic Argentinian Carne Asada (pretty much the best beef I will ever eat in my life) and a Wonderful day with Leon and Judy Greene, former LDL missionaries and our old neighbors on the hill in Honduras.  Leon and Judy hosted an evening at their house in which church friends and neighbors came over and we showed videos from the hospital and talked about the ministry of Loma de Luz, something we want to do a lot of on this trip.  We talked about the solar project and pray that some of the connections made will result in God’s kingdom being furthered in Honduras.  And now, the family that has been hosting us this week has brought up to the family patriarch’s home on the lake and allowed us to be part of their annual family reunion and what a reunion it is.  There are over a hundred gathered here on the side of the lake, water skiing, playing baseball, eating and visiting and getting caught up with each other.  It is a blessing beyond words to get to be a part of it.  To get to see this American dream being lived out right before our eyes.  It all started when a Swedish couple had the vision and guts to immigrate to America because they knew that they could make a better life here.  They were right and now hundreds of their descendants live a life of freedom and opportunity and safety because of what they did.  I’m so thankful to see and to be reminded, today, of all that is right about the USA , and to be in a place of peace and blessings.  It is rubbing off on us and I can feel the stress of the last few months beginning to peel off of me.  It is time to move forward now, into what the Lord has for us this next 10 weeks and some 3,500 miles.  He has great things in store for us as move towards Nashville and Mariah’s new home.  I’m so thankful to be on this journey.  Thank you Lord.