You probably won’t be surprised to hear that some things have changed after a year living in a different country! After all, life ‘elsewhere’ is always full of so many new things: unique experiences, unexpected encounters, and exposure to a broad range of changes in the surrounding language and culture.
As our family marks our first anniversary in Mexico, we want to share with you some of the REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS (nudge, wink!) which have changed after a year living in Chihuahua! After that, we’ll come back to the truly important things – which are exactly the same as when we arrived.
Changes in the Past Year:
- The size of our family! Okay, okay… I’ll admit this one doesn’t have much to do with living in Mexico. Yet when we crossed the border, little Joel was still nearly two months away from making his grand entrance to the big outside world! His presence has changed our lives more than any factor in our surrounding circumstances.
We love our (no longer so little!) Joel so much, and are so grateful for his presence in our family. Beyond this, he has been an awesome help in our study of language and culture – acting as a magnet for everyone from neighbors and church members to random passers-by on the street!
- Our definition of ‘Mexican Food’: Some changes you can see coming a mile away, and this certainly qualifies. Who doesn’t know that Mexican food in the United States is far from authentic, heavily influenced by American cultural standards, and cannot possibly compare to the real deal?Yet actually crossing the border has brought us into the middle of a culinary experience like none other and taught us the difference first-hand! From montados and molletes to tortas and real Mexican tacos, on to such delicacies as pastór and mole… our palates are thrilled with one of the primary ‘side benefits’ of serving in Mexico!
- Our tolerance for hot and spicy flavors: Another hallmark of Mexican food is spice. Not everything is served spicy (quite the contrary, actually), but most dishes have at least one kind of picante salsa on the side. Several of my Mexican friends would rather spend a meal with tears streaming down their faces than admit they’d added too much!
When we first arrived, I tried mango habanero buffalo wings. Oh, man! It took five minutes of effort to recover from the first, eating carrots and celery and drinking whatever was at hand! I tried again a month ago and – while still quite hot – the wings were perfectly enjoyable this time. Elayne has also come far: when we first arrived she protested heat in food where we couldn’t detect spice, but now eagerly asks for the spiciest wings at our favorite pizza place. What a change!
- Taking out the trash: This immediately struck me as incredibly interesting when we moved here. Garbage trucks come through our neighborhood three days a week at 4am, and most of our neighbors don’t use trash cans. Bags of garbage are hung from gates, put in elevated boxes, or tied to metal cables which anchor electric poles and streetlights. Rarely would they be left on the ground – that’s a great way to have stray dogs rip them up, leaving you quite a mess to clean up! For our part, we hang our bags from a sturdy branch in one of our trees – it’s quite a sight!
- Waiting at traffic lights: Before this year, I never realized a busy intersection could be so entertaining! In Chihuahua, the biggest street crossings often have stilt-walkers, jugglers, uni-cyclists, or even uni-cycling jugglers ready to come out during red lights and perform! Tips equivalent to 18-29 cents are a common response to a good show… and if you’re not looking for entertainment, street vendors walk between lanes selling everything from horchata (a sweet rice milk) to candied nuts and freshly baked donuts! Just watch out for the window washers… you’ll never need to clean your own window again, but they’re not known to take ‘no’ for an answer!
- Driving, in general! This is going to be a huge adjustment when returning to the United States. Many driving laws in Mexico are completely optional… unless, of course, you are seen by a traffic officer who happens to care! Stoplights are generally respected but stop signs are completely ignored, and it is common to see cars driving the wrong way through one-way entrances or exits. Speed is better controlled by ubiquitous speed bumps than signs, but the bumps tend to either be so high you can scarcely cross… or worn so low they might as well not exist! Finally, if a local driver in a bigger vehicle decides he needs to cross three lanes at the last minute… you’ll be moving out of his way.
- After a couple months of no progress, my friends Hector and Rich have helped make huge headway in repairing the many problems plaguing our house. Hector will keep helping us with what remains, now that the most problematic leaks and breaks have been fixed.
- The return to a school schedule has helped our family get a lot more done. The added structure in our day makes things simpler, and our language study is profiting greatly!
- We are grateful to have Amy’s sister Maria and her family back from home assignment in the United States! They were greatly missed, and we enjoy spending downtime together as the Lord grants us time.
- After ongoing stomach pain, Titus and Elayne have completed an anti-parasitical treatment and significantly improved. However, Titus still complains of occasional stomach pain. We will restart him on probiotics (which helped Elayne at his age), and hope that this will ease the rest of his off-and-on discomfort.
- Our minivan is back in the shop for the second time this month, and recently it seems we are without it more than we have it. We had planned to replace it when on home assignment (as doing so now would create a large time and logistical burden!), and now trust God to either end the ongoing problems or provide a more dependable vehicle to meet our needs.
- Please continue praying for us in language study, as a family, and as individuals each desiring to faithfully follow God and grow more like Him. We need wisdom, strength, endurance, and to constantly rest in His grace and love for us!
Clearly, many things have changed in one year. Yet as the exploration of language and culture highlights several differences in our lives, one of the most important things remains the same: our purpose in coming. We are each included in Jesus’ final command to His disciples – to go and make disciples of all nations – and our experiences here in Chihuahua only renew our focus on Mexico’s unreached.
We still do not know where exactly God will lead our family from here. While waiting on His direction and timing, we invite you to continue praying with us! There remains much work for us today in Chihuahua, and many decisions for which God alone can provide needed wisdom. Yet we ask that you not only pray for us, but also for those who God wants us to reach with His Gospel. Please pray that God would prepare them to hear, understand, and accept His Word… that He might receive glory in every language on earth!
Want to hear a bit more about our recent language and culture study? I highly recommend this three-part post from our friends Tom and Beth (link below)! We’ve enjoyed pursuing language and culture together with the Carltons, and about a month ago went together with friends to explore Mexico’s famous Copper Canyon! If you want to hear about the trip, and see a LOT of their impressive photography from a quite picturesque trip… then read on!
Thank God with us!
Ways you can pray!
Thank you so much for continuing to pray! It is our God alone who hears and answers prayer, and your loving faithfulness in intercession is such an ongoing encouragement and source of strength for our family. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church, “…for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.” (I Thess. 3:8) Every time we hear that you are praying for us we are greatly encouraged, and can press forward anew in the Lord’s strength.