The Big Reveal

When Matt and I found out that there was to be a time of sharing our experiences at the EMM office, we joked that our presentation was probably going to be quite dull compared to the stories of the other returning short-termers. We wanted to share our hearts, but we didn’t know how interested people would be in the physical work that we did on the island. I included a few before and after photos of the property and was so encouraged by the reactions from the staff. Since we have been home we have received several photo update requests from others.

The Exterior



All of the tin was removed and we were able to recycle most of it for use in other projects. The cement board siding, and the new plywood underneath it, will do a much better job and stopping the cold winds of winter. The roof was also painted and several areas that we leaking were repaired.

Apartment Area



The vision behind this little apartment is to create a space of refuge and retreat for couples or families. We did some serious scrubbing and painted everything. Matt and I worked together to create the furniture. We wanted a cozy place to sit, so we designed a couch that is the same length as a bed so it could be used as an extra sleeping space if necessary. IMG_5347

We used an old beam to raise the height of the sink and to serve as the base for the recycled countertop slabs. We built shelves underneath to store food and kitchen supplies. We stained the wooden base and all the furniture with a can of tinted varnish that was left over from another project. I loved the dishes that were donated, and we decided to display them on the walls and on open shelves to add some color to the space.

ImageMatt built a bed frame and shelf for the bedroom and I was able to find a great deal on a new comforter for the bed.


In the other bedroom, Matt built two bunkbeds. We designed them so that the rungs on the ends are close enough to serve as ladders. The room is tight, but we think it will be great for the families that visit since they will not need to put mattresses on the cold floor.



The bathroom was also rearranged. As it was previously, you couldn’t use the shower because the ceiling was too low. By moving the tub to the inside wall where the ceiling was higher, the bathroom became a little more functional.





We also totally rearranged the storage area in the back of the building. Now, the tool shed area of the building is accessed from an outside door and the narrow entrance to the apartment area is lined with shelving for linen storage.



The Salon

We had this area in a wreck for most of the time we were there with building supplies and piles of stuff that had been in the rooms were working on at the time. Finally, we were able to paint the ceilings and the walls and put things in order.IMG_1977


Matt built a table and shelving to store the dishes used for large groups.


IMG_5426 IMG_5431

It’s so clear to me that God provided over and over again by giving us materials to continue working on the property. We were not the first couple to put our energy into this place, and we probably won’t be the last, but I’m thankful that we could be a part of the transformation that is taking place on Isla Tenglo.


About a week after we left, Ricardo and Eliana posted the above photo of people crowded around the new table with their Mother’s Day crafts. My heart filled up to the brim.


How a trip to the museum helped me process

In my mind, I had allowed room for myself to feel a tinge of sadness when it was time to leave the island. I knew saying goodbye would be difficult, but I was excited about going home. I was looking forward to hugging my parents, snuggling a precious baby born in my absence, and sitting down with a cup of coffee to hear my brother’s wedding plans. I felt ready to go home.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when it took all the resolve I had not to melt into a puddle of tears the night we left our little apartment on the little island in southern Chile. Somehow, among all the splattered paint, long nights, and cold mornings, that little apartment became home. It became ours. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted one more day, one more evening sitting around the table with Ricardo and Eliana. I rotated through many emotions on the long bus ride to Santiago that night.


We had decided that we wanted a chance to see the nation’s capital and experience a little of the culture north of the Lakes Region. After we arrived in Santiago on Saturday morning we hiked up Cerro San Cristobel. The smog that normally blankets the city had lifted some and we were able to catch a glimpse of the towering mountain range that borders the city. The next day we decided to visit a few of the free-on-Sunday museums in the city.



IMG_5527 The fine arts museum was beautiful and we had been wandering around for more than an hour before we stumbled into one of the featured galleries. I had started to skim over the description looking for words and phrases that I understood when I came to the familiar words, “Estados Unidos.” The museum was featuring a collection of art purchased from the United States over 100 years ago paired next to pieces by Chilean artists of the same time period. I looked over to the opposite wall to see an English translation of the description.

It became a game for me, studying the paintings, mostly landscapes, and then guessing if they were from Chile or the U.S. I could guess most of them, but there were a few a missed, a few scenes that I thought were of Chile that were actually from the United States. The two paintings of the hillsides that looked so similar reminded me of picking mora (blackberries) on Tenglo. I could have almost imagined that I was at home had it not been for the view of the sea peeking through the trees. I stood for quite some time in that room, soaking in the contrasting cultures that had been carefully arranged and presented to show their similarities.


The gallery brought me a sense of peace. It helped me reconcile a few of the emotions that I was experiencing. Most importantly, it reminded me that the God who brought about the changes in my heart in Chile is the same God who will continue to work in my life in the United States.

Headaches and full hearts

Rarely do more than two or three days pass that I don’t question how we found ourselves plunked down in a Spanish speaking country attempting ministry. Our primary tasks and goals here have been very practical projects, but we don’t want to work inside a box and miss the opportunity to interact with this beautiful country.

I generally consider it a small victory when I walk away from a conversation knowing that I had somehow managed to share information, understand a request, or make a statement. It makes me feel just a little better, a tiny smidgen less guilty for trying to serve in a country where I can’t speak the language.

Last week I walked away from a three-hour lunch with a Chilean family feeling something much more precious than victory. I felt blessed, as if I had just been filled up to the brim with kindness. Somehow, despite my straining to understand and my pathetic attempts at stringing together limited vocabulary, we had managed to learn about each other. We learned about the island and what life was like for them when they built their house many years before. We compared school systems and governments. We talked about the weather. They prayed for us and told us to come back if we find ourselves in Chile again. By the time we began our walk back to town, my head was aching from trying to process and understand all of the dialogue around me. .

IMG_4498The headache disappeared within the hour, but I am still holding on to the sweet memory of a  family who showed a great deal of grace and kindness to a couple of gringos

Public Service Announcment

This song is dangerous.

I heard it on the way to work one morning, and it made me late because I couldn’t turn off the radio. It became my prayer and I listened to it over and over again.

Several months later we were sinking in the fundraising process. The money wasn’t there, and I was out of ideas and running low on motivation and faith. The song came on, and I snapped the laptop shut and may have mumbled aloud, “This song is what got me into this predicament in the first place.”

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters.” Why on earth would I make this my prayer?

I didn’t listen to the song for weeks.

When I finally did, I’m pretty sure I added some restrictions in my prayers, “Okay God, let’s just ease into this faith and trust business. Nothing crazy.”

Ha… yeah, because that’s how God works.

I knew that I was beginning to understand the power of prayer when I stopped mid-sentence to really consider if I truly wanted God to work in that particular area of my life. God answers prayers. Sometimes in a gentle, quiet way, but sometimes He ships you off to another country, steals your backpack, dunks you in a river, and shows you just how little faith you really have.

You have been warned.


Excuse me if I smell like woodsmoke

Last week we moved to the island. We packed up all of our stuff and loaded it onto the boat. I immediately went to work unpacking the things that I purchased for the apartment. It was already midnight when I was dumping bags of flour and sugar into the tall glass jars on the countertop. Nancy told me to be sure to purchase a few things that would make the space feel like home and glass jars immediately came to mind.


It gets quite chilly in the apartment at night, but I don’t mind. It means we have a reason to start a fire in the stove. Since it always seems a shame to waste the heat of the woodstove, I’m baking quite often. Last week I pulled out a pan of rolls out of the oven at about 10pm. Matt and I spent the next few minutes sitting at our new little table slathering them with honey and washing them down with chamomile tea.


The blackberries are nearing the end of their season, but the apples will soon be ready to pick. I’m attempting to fill the freezer, but so many of them are ending up in my breakfast and baked goods that I am not certain how successful I will be. Apple cinnamon muffins, blackberry bars, applesauce, blackberry pound cake… it will be a miracle if I get off the island without putting on a few pounds from all the baking I’m doing.


Matt thinks it’s just hilarious how quickly I am embracing this lifestyle. Yesterday he teased that Tenglo just might make a homemaker out of me. I think I might be turning into my mother.

Caffeine Buzz

Our time here has impressed upon me the value of kindness. It is such a simple concept. Doing, giving, or saying something out of a genuine desire to bless or build someone up. I’m not good at it.  Part of my failure in this area is due to my own selfishness, and the other part is rooted in insecurity. This is all certain to be the topic of another blog post, but today I just want to tell you how much I appreciate those who “get it.”

This week a kind soul that we had known for only a few days blessed us into a caffeine buzz with a bag of Starbucks coffee that he brought with him from Virginia. Seriously, I wanted to give him a big kiss on the cheek when he handed me the bag. Instant coffee is the norm here, and those who know us understand that freshly brewed coffee is pretty much a staple in our lives back home. Today we opened our bag of coffee and broke in the French press. It was glorious, and I made a mental note to never leave home without taking a gift.

Thanks for the caffeine buzz, my friend. The little things make such a difference, especially on a Sunday when I’m missing the family.


Mountainside Reflections

It has been about a week and half since we returned from the mountains, but I thought I would share a few thoughts and photos from our trip.


A cozy cabin and apples for every meal

We very quickly spotted the apple trees surrounding the cabin that were loaded with fruit that was perfectly ripe. We were picking apples for our oatmeal at breakfast, our lunchtime treats, and cooking them down over the woodstove for applesauce or cooked apples in the evening. We forgot our alarm clock, but our barnyard buddy made sure we were up at a decent hour.



Shockingly blue waters 

On Sunday, we spent a few hours at Lago Azul or “blue lake.” The water was bright blue and so incredibly clear. We were there for several hours, but never saw anyone else. There was a moment that I thought, “Do people know about this place? How is it that there aren’t swarms of people here? This is amazing!”




Stars that actually twinkle

I have never experienced a night sky like this one. I know. I know… “we all look up and see the same moon, the same stars, the same night sky,” Seriously though, this was NOT what I look up and see in Pennsylvania! The stars were so immense, so powerful and the sky was so deep and wide. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the view. I was mesmerized by God’s immense power and glory, and I struggled to  believe that the same God who created these stars was concerned enough about me to return a backpack… and I was a little bummed that I don’t have the photography skills and camera gear to capture the incredibleness.


The hospitality of new friends

We were on our way to visit a family on Monday when we stopped at a farm to ask for additional information about the route. The owner of the farm explained that what we thought would be a two-hour walk was actually a four-hour hike. It was already late morning so we determined that the visit would need to wait for another time.  We chatted for a few more minutes and then Mike asked our host if we could pray for him before we left. He gave us permission and Mike prayed for him, his wife and her battle with cancer, and his home. Mike’s prayer was quickly followed by an invitation to stay for tea, which was followed by an invitation to stay for lunch and check out the farm.


As we walked towards the forest to explore, our host walked around the back of the house with a large knife and some mention of meat. I muttered a quick prayer that God would not allow me to meet my dinner before I had to eat it. Fortunately, I did not. Unfortunately, my husband thought it was necessary to announce “lamb!” upon returning to the house and smelling the soup.


By this time, our host had been joined by a friend of his who works with him on the property. After lunch they happily showed us around the wood mill and the forest. They named the various types of wood, told us about the unusual bugs we found, and shared about their lives. It was a solid reminder of the heart of hospitality.



Smiles between friends

Maybe the mountains make me sentimental. Maybe it has something to do with  woolen parkas and wide brimmed hats on kind-looking souls with weathered skin. Regardless, I was mesmerized by smiles. Not polite smiles, but smiles of community, trust, and cultivated relationships.


On our drive back to the ferry, Mike recognized a couple that was waiting for a ride along the road. He pulled over and walked over to greet an elderly couple. A huge smile took over the dear woman’s face when she recognized him, and her eyes lit up whenever the girls climbed out of the packed car. Honestly, I wanted to leap out of the car and hug her too, just because. As we drove away, Mike explained that this little lady was the first Christian in those parts of the mountains. Talk about radiating the love of Christ.

IMG_3143Time to process

There is something about mountains that taps on my soul and says, “Wait, let’s just stop and reflect a little while.”


IMG_3291Sometimes, the mountains are exactly what I need.


God stole my backpack

Several months ago, Matt and I splurged on two nice packs. We knew we both needed backpacks, and we decided to go for nice travel packs with detachable daypacks from Osprey. I found an excellent deal, but it was certainly an investment. We have been very pleased with the packs and have mentioned multiple times already on this trip how thankful we are that we have them.

We traveled to the mountains on Saturday. Half of our group made the dusty four-hour drive in the SUV with the trailer of supplies and luggage while the rest of us rode the bus. When we arrived, we were met with the unfortunate news that one of the bags had somehow managed to come untied from the others and wiggle its way from beneath the tarp. Yes… my bag. My glorious almost new pack with my sleeping bag, clothing, and all the other items I felt were important for four days in the mountains (you know, like flip-flops). They had already searched the road on our side of the ferry without any success. We were pretty certain that it was gone forever, but we contacted the local police just in case someone had found it and had been kind enough to seek the owner. They hadn’t.

We all went our separate ways to rest when we got back to the cabin. I grabbed my book from the bag I that I had brought on the bus but soon began a little conversation with God about this missing pack.

“So God, I know it was you who stole my pack. Did you have a particular reason?”

Now, I recognize the fact that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord and that He does not need to “steal” something that already belongs to Him, but bear with me. My conversation became a smidgen more humble as I began to pray for the pack, the person who found it, and that God would help me to understand whatever it was that I was supposed to “get” out of this little experience. I assumed it was something about how I can’t plan every little detail in life, that I have to be more flexible, and that I shouldn’t be so concerned about my personal possessions. Still, I wasn’t convinced that tossing my pack in the woods was the best manner to teach me these lessons.

After my little conversation with God and a quick nap, we went visiting while Victoria and Christina stayed at the cabin to prepare dinner. The drive and the visit were lovely. The grandeur of the area was certainly enough to help me maintain a positive attitude about the trip in general, but I was becoming more convinced that the pack had disappeared within the first several hours of the trip before crossing on the ferry. If someone did find it, the individual would have been sure to happily accept the “gift” of a pack and sleeping bag.

Upon returning to the cabin, we were greeted not only by the delicious aromas of dinner, but also by two smiling young ladies carrying a very dusty but totally unharmed pack. After a shout of joy and hugs, we sat down for dinner and the story. The girls explained that they were looking out the window when a white truck pulled into the driveway carrying a familiar looking red pack. They ran out to meet the vehicle and were greeted by several kind individuals who explained how they had found the pack and were searching for its owner.  The woman had insisted that the driver of the truck come back that particular driveway to see if its owner was perhaps renting a cabin.

I was amazed. I really hadn’t expected to see the pack again, and I was certain that it would be at the end of our trip if it were to be miraculously returned. It was then that I remembered Moses and the Israelites in Exodus. Over and over again I read about how God used signs to show people that He is Lord. Similar themes regarding God’s sovereignty are central in the book I was reading on the bus ride. If I were to be completely honest, I would admit that I have been a bit skeptical and have more than once asked God if He really does take note of the little things in my life.

Osprey makes a tough pack, and the company stands behind its product with what they call the “Almighty Guarantee.” Appropriate tagline, isn’t it?


Wet paint, clowns, and completos

Siloe hosted a music event last Saturday. On Friday night, we almost missed the last boat back to Puerto Montt because we were trying to wrap up a few projects before everyone arrived.  I had quite a list of things that I wanted to have accomplished before the event… we got to about half of them. The first thing I did when I walked into the kitchen the next morning was check the shelf that I had painted to make sure it did indeed dry overnight.





I’m familiar with event planning, but things operate a little differently here on the island than they do in a theater space.







Completos were on the menu for lunch. IMG_2865These still need mustard, ketchup, and mayo!






It was really exciting to witness the property being used as a place of worship and community building, and it didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t get to painting the window trim.


“Thanks for making me look good”

One day last week I offered a few suggestions to Matt about the tile backsplash in the kitchen. When he didn’t acknowledge my comment with any indication of immediate action or response, I grabbed a caulking gun thing and asked for his blessing to try it myself. Thank heavens, my suggestion worked. Matt walked in the room and said, “That was a great idea babe. Thanks for making me look good!”

I laughed, but I had to wonder if I would have had the same reaction if the situation was reversed, if Matt had made a suggestion about one of my projects and insisted that I let him give it a try. Had he been successful, would I have praised his work or would I have found something to complain about because he was right and I was wrong. I believe that I would have been able to shove aside my pride and admit that he was correct, but I’m not certain that I would have responded in the positive manner that Matt did.

Humility is a great thing in marriage. I guess I thought it would develop naturally with time, but six years of pretending that I wasn’t really wrong and he wasn’t completely right and withholding apologies because I was tired of always being the first one to mumble “I’m sorry” after an argument has proven otherwise. We have both struggled in this area, but I certainly admit that he is closer to success in this than I am. 

“Thanks for making me look good.” Instead of some snarky response to my suggestion, he thanked me. Later, he complimented me on my work again and chatted about how we make a great team. Awesome, right? That’s it. That is the attitude I want to have.