Redefining “work”

Last week marked the half-way point of our time here. It is hard to believe that three months have already flown by and that in just three more months we will return to the US to work towards returning again next Fall!

We celebrated with the privilege of joining these beautiful women of La Casa de la Paz at a lakeside picnic — the very first since the pandemic began. It was incredibly moving to be with them and listen to them support one another.

Photo courtesy W. Deeds

Even the kids got to participate in an activity —

We’ve slowly been realizing that we were not mentally prepared for the fact that we would need a serious detox from our Western cultural expectations of what “work” looks like and how it’s accomplished. Even though we lived here before, it’s been a bit of a rough adjustment and with the ambiguity of our role here, continues to be difficult for us to let go of the cultural ideals we arrived with.

With that being said, we do not feel like we have accomplished very much and at times have wondered, “what are we doing here?” I have remembered my interview for Peace Corps so many years ago when the recruiter asked me how I would feel as a teacher if only 1 out of 20 students actually learned? One life affected positively can be so powerful, but that isn’t our country’s usual standard for success.

We are building community in Pana, both with foreigners and with locals. We are really enjoying our local church — Templo de Alabanza (Temple of Praise) — and the opportunity to build more community relationships through our time there.

We have also been able to support our missionary friends, the Deeds family, in some small ways which was our primary goal in living here. We try to remind ourselves that a ministry of relationship/community sometimes doesn’t look (or feel) like “work” as we would define it.

For us, living in community has looked like this — going on family hikes, joining birthday parties, watching kids for date-nights and spending holidays together —

Our work with La Casa de la Paz has looked different than expected — we have been able to assist in more of an organizational role, assisting their leadership with writing a mission statement for the organization and helping them define roles as the organization expands.

Photos courtesy W. Deeds

And sometimes “work” has meant doing some rather random activities: cutting down trees, pulling stumps, helping at a VBS or building a fence (with Luke getting a rare Coca-Cola afterwards!).

Perhaps the most special situation we have been able to observe is this: the Deeds (along with Will from Dirty Feet Missions) started assisting a blind beggar in November, by simply asking him what he needed. Victor’s response that he needed “friends” was surprising and heart-wrenching. Will and the Deeds have welcomed him into their lives and by association, we also get to spend time with Victor. He is in his early 30’s with no family and has been blind for the past four years. After taking him to numerous doctor’s appointments over the past three months, and fundraising both for the medication to help treat his diabetes and for eye surgery, the Deeds have coordinated a miracle — Victor can see again! One eye surgery is complete and he is scheduled for the next eye. Such an incredible blessing to see this one life affected so profoundly.

Photos courtesy of W. Deeds