Emilio’s Surprise, Leaving & Going Home

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As I left Peru in 2014, one of the last things I promised my good friend, Emilio, “I will be back for your wedding.” At the time, Emilio was not dating anyone. And I made my promise in faith, not knowing exactly how I would make it back to Peru. Months go by. Emilio meets Alejandra. They get engaged. We meet via skype. Then Emilio asked me the big question: “Are you coming to my wedding?

I wanted to say yes with all my heart, however, our financial situation has had zero margin to save for plane tickets. So I had to break my promise to Emilio and declined. Then along came Patrick.

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Middle: Patrick Woodyard along with Seth Covington & myself in the Nisolo Shop in Peru

 

If you don’t know Patrick, he is quite the friend. While living in Peru in 2011, Patrick co-founded Nisolo, a social impact fashion label that has come alongside many Peruvians offering them friendship and honest work. Emilio and I have been with him from the beginning of Nisolo and watched it grow into a successful international business that today employees over 80 Peruvians. Patrick also has a huge heart for people. So when he caught wind that I could not afford to go to Emilio wedding in Peru, he emailed me with an idea. This is what he said,

Emilio mentioned that you may not be able to come to his wedding… I know it would make his year if you could come, and Sally Ward (Patrick’s wife) and I, if it would help your ability to come, would love to pay for most or potentially all of your plane ticket.”

I wept after reading these words. I could not believe what I was reading. Truly this was an answer to my prayers. God enabled me to keep a promise to Emilio that I could not keep myself! Later, Patrick suggested a twist – “Let’s make it a surprise! Let’s not tell Emilio your coming.” Sounds fun to me. And that’s how we rolled.

So for the next few months, I had to find creative ways to not let Emilio know that I was coming. Thankfully, he didn’t get tipped off. On Thursday morning, October 13 this happened….

It was a dream come true only by the grace of God working through my friend Patrick! His wedding was so much fun, an actual foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.


My trip to Emilio’s wedding afforded me my first trip back to Peru since our family left more than two years ago. It honestly felt like I had never left. Of course the adults were grayer (as I am) and the children were taller (as ours are); but other than that, everyone and everything felt the same. It fed my soul to reconnect with some of our closest friends in the world.

I have to admit, it was odd: going to Peru felt like leaving home and going home all at the same time. As I left my family, I was greeted by family. I was home but not yet home. What a great picture of living in the middle of Christ’s kingdom already but not yet here on earth!

img_6414It was very sad to leave my family behind, but I was glad to hear that Sandi and the girls vicariously lived through my experience. We all feel a greater sense of closure, remembering all of our wonderful friends and experiences our many years in Peru. As I boarded the plane back home, I had this sense that all that God had taught us, all the memories and experiences He gave us, we are now carrying those with us to Miami.

Peru is chapter 5 of our story. Our transition and training in Atlanta is chapter 6. So I guess that makes Miami Chapter 7. Here we come!

Which lead me to one final thought….


1937104_140383289675_3148357_nOur first introduction to Miami was through Emilio and his brother, Jose. We met Emilio and Jose in Peru back in 2009 after they were deported from Miami (that is a whole other fascinating God story that we don’t have space for here). As we became friends, we heard many of their stories growing up in Miami and on “the Key” (Key Biscayne).

Our friendship awoken within Sandi and me a fascination for Miami. In private, Sandi and I would say things to each other like, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to live and do ministry in Miami? I can see our family doing life with people like Emilio and Jose.” It is safe to say that if we had not become friends with Emilio and Jose, we probably would have never considered Miami as a place to plant a church. God works in mysterious and crazy ways!

Here are some pics from the trip…

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Patti, our friend and empleada along with her family

 

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So encouraging to see these men leading Cristo Rey Church so well, along with the other hermanos.

 

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Had to get in one game of futbol verdadero.

 

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Huanchaco Beach one of our favorite spots in Trujillo.

 

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Smith Family Update: Moving to Atlanta!

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I’m excited to announce that I have accepted a call from Perimeter Church (PCA) to be a Church Planting Intern for the next two-years!! We are now in full gear to move to Atlanta in early July. 

Though we are no longer in Peru, we are still missionaries. We believe that God has called us to plant a church in the third largest mission field in the world – the good ole US of A. Our denomination fully recommended us to pursue church planting last fall, but we feel that we need more time to adjust back to the States as well as receive more training. We’ve been gone for nearly a decade and America is definitely not the same! We are missionaries transitioning between two cultures.

Perimeter Church has one of the best church planting training programs in America. They have over two decades of experience, having successfully planted 26 churches around the Metro-Atlanta as well as helped plant over 40 churches internationally. Although we are taking two more years to prepare, we’ll be light years ahead when we begin a church. After the two years, I’ll be free to plant anywhere in America. So one of the first items on the agenda this next year is to identify a target area in which to plant. Who knows, maybe we will plant a church near you!

KEEP UP WITH US!

We’d love for you to join us on our new church planting adventure. I cannot ethically add your email address to our new database without your permission. So if you’d like to continue to follow us, please go to the following link below and sign up:

http://eepurl.com/bllbtL

Grace and peace,

Allen & Sandi Smith

7 Things I Wish I Could Have Told Myself Before Returning to America

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We all know that hindsight is 20/20. God doesn’t give us a script for each stage of life. John Flavel famously quoted: The providence of God is like Hebrew words—it can be read only backwards.” We had traveled back and forth between countries for nearly 10 years, and even experienced reverse culture shock, but
I knew moving back to America was going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced. I read many books and articles about re-entry and re-acclimation, but my future was foggy.
So if I could get into a DeLorean with Michael J. Fox, flip the flux capacitor, and travel back one year, here are 7 things I would tell myself:
  1. The first several months is survival mode. Allen, moving your family back to the States will be chaotic (see previous post). From the time you purchase your one-way plane ticket until several months after you land, you will be in for a ride. So don’t have high expectations for your wife and kids. Your only goal is not to kill anybody. If you do that, you’ll be doing great! So don’t make any long term plans. Don’t make a lot a new rules for your kids. Just breathe in. Now, breath out.
  2. Transition back to the States takes much longer than you’ll expected. Allen, you are not going to want to hear this, but you will not be settled for two to three years. Finding a new job and a new home takes time. And even after that, it takes several cycles of going through re-occuring calendar events for it to feel normal again.
  3. Waiting is the name of the game. This is similar to #2, but a bit more spiritual. While you wait, God will reveal many of your idols that you presently cannot see. You will be in a holding pattern until you repent of your idols. Be encouraged for you will literally learn Psalm 23:2 – God will make you rest and lie down in green pastures.
  4. Give lots of grace. Allen, give grace to your extended family and friends, for they have no idea what you are going through. Give grace to your immediate family, for none of them have ever gone through anything like this, and they will struggle just like you. And give grace to yourself, for you will walk through a dark valley and hit many walls. What I’m about to tell you is completely un-American: it’s OK to be down and even depressed for a season. It’s a normal part of the transition process.
  5. It’s OK to feel invisible and out of place. When you left for Peru, you were a square. When you lived in Peru, you became a circle. When you move back, you will changed again; you will become a triangle. Because you’ve changed so many times, you’ll face two identity problems: (1) All your American family and friends still think you are a square, and treat you like a square. That’s why they will say things like, “Are you glad to be home?!” You will struggle to answer that question. (2) There is another problem: when you move back, you will still think of yourself  as a circle. You will still see yourself as a Peru missionary, but that too will change. You will no longer be a square or a circle; you will become a triangle! In short, everyone will be confused. And that’s completely OK. More than anything, you will rediscover that your true identity is in Christ. This will stabilize you in the midst of your identity crisis.
  6. You will not pick right back up with your former colleagues. This will throw you for a loop. You are tempted to falsely think you can jump right back into relationships that you once had. They will be nice to you, but they honestly will not know what to do with you. You’re no longer working overseas somewhere, but now you’ll be on their turf. Some might even see you as a threat. So slow down, re-learn the terrain, re-build your networks, and don’t over assume good graces with your former peers & colleagues. 
  7. Pray for advocates. This is a direct overflow of #5 & 6: because you feel invisible and cannot jump right back into the game, what you need more than ever are advocates. This will become essential for your job search. Most hire people with whom they have a relational connection. So begin to pray that God will rise up advocates who connect you to the right people and the right job.
If you have lived in another country, what would you say to yourself if you could travel back in time? I’d love to know your thoughts!
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The Transition Bridge: Moving From One Culture To Another

Abbie's Bridge
Artist: Abigail Smith

 

The transition bridge is a metaphor that has greatly helped our family understand our re-entry back into American lifeIt has given us perspective on where we are right now. It has allowed us to give each other grace. And helped us pace ourselves as we slowly cross the bridge. For those who have lived in another country or have loved ones who have lived in another country for extended period of time, understanding this bridge is extremely helpful. The Transition Bridge has five stages that you must cross to get to the other side; here they are:

  1. Settled –  All is comfortable and familiar. Routines are established. Roles are defined. Relationships are intertwined with others. You feel like you belong. Life is predictable. Cultural clues in daily life are known and accepted. Your feet are planted on solid ground.
  2. Unsettling – You’ve stepped out onto the swinging bridge with fear and excitement. Routines are broken. Roles are quickly changing. Loose ends are everywhere. Goodbyes are never-ending. You and your family express stress in exaggerated ways. Little things about the culture that didn’t bother you start to bother you again like they did in the beginning. You feel like you are in the waiting area at the airport for months.
  3. Chaos! –  You’re in the middle of the swinging, suspended bridge without sure-footing. You’re confused, unstable and scared. You’re totally dependent upon others. You have no idea who you are anymore. You feel invisible and misunderstood. You don’t know where you are going. You blow all problems out of proportion. One day you are overcome with joy. The next day you are in a panic about your future. Chaos usually begins right before the move and lasts several months after.
  4. Re-settling – You’re not swinging so much. You’re coming out of the fog a little. You begin to start new routines and rhythms. You begin to process what you just went through. Though you begin to dream again, you also grieve the losses. You feel like you are walking through a dark valley and may enter depression. You begin to make new friends. You try out tentative roles. You rediscover God’s call on your life.  For many this is the longest part of the bridge. It can last 1-3 years.
  5. Settled – You’re back on solid ground. You’ve found the new normal. You’re content with your new routines and schedules. You have new eyes: you’ve become much more aware of yourself and other cultures. You’ve learned to embrace the good, bad, and ugly of American culture. You’ve incorporated into your new lifestyle several wonderful things from your former culture. You’re better equipped to endure the hardships, relate to strangers, and live life as a pilgrim on his way to his true home. The sign that you have left the bridge is when you have a new job, a new home, and a new community.

When we first arrived back in the States in April 2014, we were definitely in the Chaos stage. It was exhilarating, scary, and confusing all at the same time. We are presently in the Re-settling stage, eager to get settled again. All we need now is a job, a house, and a new community! In a future post, I’ll share several things I wished I would have known before stepping out onto the bridge.

When we were at the debriefing center last April (DAR), our counselor asked our group (missionaries from all over the world) to collectively describe each stage of the bridge. Here’s is what we came up with…

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Photo Credit: Susan Canida

Here is Adeline’s artistic depiction of the Transition Bridge…

Adeline's Bridge

 

If you’re on the bridge right now, I’d love to know where you are. Also, if you’ve ever crossed this bridge, I’d love to know your experience and the things you learned.