A Word from Ryana
Posted on August 24, 2019 | Posted by Annie Saunders
You might have already had a real “un abrazo” with our local missionary Ryana Holt, as she’s back in the States from Chile! Even so, she has one last word concerning her conclusion of work in Chile. Continue reading below to hear what she has to say:
My service in Chile has ended, and I sit in my parents’ home in Colorado Springs writing to you what I haven’t been able to write since leaving Chile in July. The beginning of the end does not come empty handed. It comes bearing a hat of joy, a bag of grief, and a lot to reflect on.
It has been no less than deeply joyful to see so many of my loved ones I hadn’t seen for a year or more. This hat of joy is donned as I get to walk with my family after dinner, dance in celebration of a marriage with my YAGM friends, and take hikes throughout my beautiful state with friends from high school, college and beyond. This hat of joy was donned as I sat at the Global Mission Summer Missionary Conference (SMC) reconnecting with and learning from the brilliant, critical, passionate and caring colleagues and leaders who make up that unique group.
This hat of joy is donned as I hear squirrels territorially ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ing at me as I walk under a tree, thunder in the afternoons and crickets steady at night.
Of course there is the bag of grief filled with what is no longer part of my reality and may never be again. Some of these things are simple routines. I sometimes feel the absence of “buen día” exchanges to start the day, not hearing the “s” at the end of the words, a cheek kiss to greet and say goodbye, taking communion in a circle, heaving Roberto, my roommate’s fat cat, into my arms during his escapes to the patio, and a table set for once in the evening with marraquetas, the fresh toasted white bread rolls so perfectly soft on the inside.
The heavier parts of the bag of grief come from the goodbyes to people. As you may have noticed, I was part of many communities, within and outside of the Chilean Lutheran Church. Goodbyes started weeks out, a trip south to communities in Concepción and Osorno, and of course last classes, parties, and hugs throughout Santiago. I am brought to tears recalling the immense love I was shown in gestures, gifts, and words, and thus recalling the immense love and gratitude I have for them, for their time, wisdom, care, knowledge, friendship. I found the Holy Spirit in these shared meals or cafecito, squeezed hands and/or longer hugs. I find comfort in their conviction I will be back, to visit, although less so in their dream where I become as the youngest pastor in the IELCH.
I find over and over goodbyes are not comfortable, but they are key to leaving well and honoring the relationship.
Miroslav Volf, the speaker at the SMC, mused upon how he thinks of home not as place or people, but as a process and story. Captivated, I continue to warm up to the idea which frees me from the internal battle about where home is for me. Home, then, could come in chapters. There are some consistent characters (hello, family!) and others that come and go, depending on how the story develops and reveals plot twists. My story of home is rich with good characters from many states and many countries, and I celebrate that.
My story of home, also, has a fairly consistent feature of the faith and the church. As I understand it, the Spirit continues to bring me into contact with good people and communities. Good and imperfect. The ever present and enlivening Spirit then informs me little by little, if I’m willing to open my eyes and heart, of what being a Christian means.
Once being part of these communities, church communities or not, having lived with them, broken bread with them, loved and been loved by them, embraced their truths and learned how they read the Bible I am not the same. And I believe I understand the hard, counter cultural, radical, kin-dom and justice seeking work of Christ more clearly. And so, while I have been given no map along with my hat of joy and bag of grief, I walk into this new beginning knowing there are chapters to come, with not just ends, but plot twists, reemerging characters, and a whole lot to discover.
I walk into this new beginning far from being alone.
Thank you dear readers, supporters, family and friends for your time, prayers, thoughts, conversations or whatever you have generously gifted me these last years. Thank you for being willing to change your ideas of what being a global church companion means, in offering to support me as the ELCA presence to the IELCH in their time of crisis. Thank you for being willing to learn with me and continue to push me to be the best bridge I possibly can be for the characters in my home stories that you may never meet in person.