“There is a first for everything. Here are some of the firsts I’ve experienced in the past five days:
• I was drying my face after my first cold shower of the day and much to my surprise and horror, a huge cockroach crawled out of the towel. I was very disturbed to say the least. Chris came running and killed it. My hero.
• I took a colectivo – a pickup truck with a blue tarp over the back that takes passengers to el mercado – by myself and did some grocery shopping for the family. I took a taxi home and had a great conversation with the driver. He was very nice and I was proud of myself for having a conversation in Spanish.
• Chris and I share our room with 2 screeching lizards (I’ve named my new friends Carlos and Pedro) and I like them. (They eat mosquitoes.)”
– – excerpted from the Frohling Family’s Travel Blog
For two families from Santa Barbara Community Church, this summer brought new meaning to the concept of “summer break.” Compelled by a desire to advance their Spanish speaking skills as well as to broaden their young children’s perspectives, they each embarked on separate trips to Latin America.
After much prayer and planning, Chris and Krista Frohling along with their three young sons spent eight weeks in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico at a language school. “It’s hard when people ask me why we did this because there’s such a long answer yet it’s also really simple,” recalls Krista. “We’ve just felt such a growing love in our hearts for the Latino culture. We feel like we can’t really engage with the people if we don’t speak their language. That said we went for language school.”
Meanwhile, Dave and Paige Chase devised a plan of their own for their family of six. They, along with their friend Taylor Wrinkle, set their eyes on a language school in Antigua, Guatemala. As she and Dave thought through this prospect and the sacrifice it would require, they were reminded of something they’d heard English Missionary Hudson Taylor say to those thinking about becoming missionaries. It centered in on the idea of what one can do now in order to prepare for a life of service in the mission field later. “He suggested that people begin living, eating, spending their money as if they were missionaries now,” recalls Paige. “…doing things that would prepare them for when they were able to go.” For the Chase family, their three week venture to Antigua became a thing that they could do now.
When asked how their kids took to the idea of spending a significant part of their summer abroad, both sets greeted the prospect with enthusiasm. “I think that it is easier when your kids are younger,” says Krista. “If you were to present this same plan to a teenager, I can imagine that I might have a rebellion on my hands.” Paige was also quick to add that, “Family is where kids get their comfort. I think parents are so freaked out of having their kid be somewhere where the foods and smells are different. This will for sure play a factor. Still, what’s most important is that they feel the safety of being with their Mom and Dad.”
Days into each family touching down in their Latin lands, it became clear that adaptability would be a central element to their stays. While each had spent time planning for their trips stateside, the unexpected did indeed usher in a handful of situations that required them to change course from time to time. The Frohlings were disappointed to realize that the kid friendly language school they were attending, did not in reality serve their children in relevant and fun ways. “We had so many goals and expectations of what we wanted,” recalls Krista. “We totally had to change those after a week of being there. I was surprised at how hard that was for me.” Thankfully, the Frohlings happened upon a summer camp housed in a hotel that was halfway between their house and the language school. The boys spent their mornings there, swimming and playing with other local children. Krista was quick to add that, “Changing our expectations ended up being so wonderful and gave us such amazing family time.”
For the Chase family, they ended up having to change their living arrangement, figure out how to navigate grocery shopping on very busy streets with four children and find afternoon activities in a city with literally no parks. “You grow in your comfort when you’re in this sort of place,” Paige remembers. “If someone would have said that my kids were going to be in language school with a male teacher and that I was going to feel comfortable with him walking to the market with your kids, I would have never ever thought that I would do it. But within the context, that was fine.”
Highlights for both families centered on shared experiences. Some of these moments were simple. The Chases brought along a quote book to capture the classic kid (and adult) statements that would inevitably surface. Upon arrival, Paige realized that she hadn’t prepared her kids for Latin dogs. Put gently, she explained to the kids that they’re a “mange” bunch, and to please keep their distance. The next day, five year-old Anna spotted one such canine and declared, “Mom look! It’s a manger dog!”
Other high points felt like a long time coming. The Frohlings had the chance – by way of a twelve hour bus drive – to visit the boys that they sponsor through Compassion International. They have intentionally sponsored children the same ages as their two eldest and plan on acquiring a third sponsorship to coincide with little Johnny now that he’s three. “It was very rewarding to meet our Compassion kids,” says Krista. They were able to spend time not only with their children, but also their families. “It was one of those sacred moments, really.”
Now back at home, both families are acclimating – again – this time to life in Santa Barbara. The Chase family desires to both simplify and utilize their Spanish in the Santa Barbara community. Goleta Kids Club summer camp proved to be an immediate way to connect with local Latino people. Now that school is back in session, Paige is also seeing the many opportunities there as well. “The trip helped me realize what is really important to me,” says Paige. “We are trying to orient our lives in such a way that it makes it easy to be in community with other people and easy to be with our families and that you’re not feeling like you’re being pulled in so many different directions.”
As the Frohlings continue in their aim to reprioritize and find ways to utilize their Spanish skills, Krista has found one source of strength very close to home. “God’s Word has never felt as alive to me as it does when I read it in Spanish. Being able to begin understanding Scripture in two languages has carried me to a different place in my relationship with Him. It’s been amazing to study it in Spanish as it is translated from Greek or Hebrew. I am taken aback when I imagine how beautiful it will sound in heaven when ‘…every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.’”
*If you’d like to learn more about these families’ experiences, feel free to email them at ten.x1519183134oc@5g1519183134nilho1519183134rf1519183134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.