My gecko roommates (as opposed to the human and infinitely cooler roommate sleeping on the bed that was NOT atop a desk) scurried along the walls and squeaking blithely into the wee hours of the morning served more as a source of wonder than a source of annoyance. Not even the roosters who were so dedicated to waking the dawn as to begin crowing mere hours after the sun disappeared from the sky could shake my appreciation and joy at seeing skies and sunsets that God had apparently decided to take out of his private collection of art straight from his own palette.
In the midst of the sun and humidity that left me drenched, a huge wave of contentment rolled over me. Going from the retreat I had with the Ciudad personnel immediately before hopping my plane to Panama to the CapCorps International Retreat put me into official "Retreat High," I think. The mere fact that I felt much more connected to Ciudad's community after that retreat was terrific, and then we were in PANAMA, moreover with very cool people we hadn't seen in over a year! I was so excited to go to Ciudad back in August 2009, but it was crushing to bid farewell to the two Nicaragua communities as they passed through the security gates in the Milwaukee Airport. Alyssa, Tania, and I were a community, but we were gifted as an international group with a sense of overall community, too, and to feel a distinct connection and kinship, to simply be able to bask in the wonderfulness that is these 8 other incredible people, makes parting a bittersweet act of faith. So yeah, that was definitely present as the 6 lovely people living and learning in Nicaragua headed out into their own unknown. I savored the existence of this imminent retreat with all of us together from the moment I heard it was happening, so it's safe to say that the excitement of being with them helped give me such a feeling of ease.
To get the less important part of this post out of the way, I'll start with my reactions to just being in Panama that were entirely individualistic: I felt an awakening of the sense of adventure that allowed me to come to Peru in the first place, that same feeling that, though sleepily, has sustained me and helped me to fight off fear in any number of circumstances. A breath of the air on that first morning in Central America vividly told me that my days of travel are not over, made my excitement for the future and its possibilities and uncertainties truly present and alert. A breath of that air gave me the feeling that anything and everything was and is possible, similar to what happened when I was in Honduras. A part of my heart most definitely belongs there, and God willing I'll be able to travel there again and spend more time than a week or two. I felt...alive.
The most immediately moving thing for me during and after these retreats, clearly, was the sense of community, the rejoicing in being very much in an element that allowed me to grow, be challenged, and to laugh and have an incredible time all the while. After a year of growth and challenge as an individual, with retreats in Ciudad first focused on the individual, the change to focusing on the essential nature of living as a community as Christians was welcome and a necessary step. Of course, it felt a little bit sad to have a feeling of, "Oh...duh," as I was there with the Ciudad community, being reminded of all the things that are poisonous to this essential component of Christian living and how many of them we'd allowed to permeate our daily interactions, as the immediate inclination for me was to think, "So glad we've got this piece of the puzzle here as time winds down," in a sarcastic or bitter way. But, as several folks mentioned in Panama, one of the keys to these next four months is to think of them more as beginning, or of their own time, rather than just the winding down of an 18-month experience. In Panama, we focused on Eucharist and what and how we are supposed to do in memory of Him. We had the opportunity to re-realize that we weren't perfect as humans nor community, to offer nothing more nor less than ourselves to God, each other as a big community on retreat, our respective communities in the rest of our time together, to the new community members, and to those with whom we work. The fact that we who all enjoy each other's company were able to go a little bit deeper, reveal some of our own struggles, receive others', and find a connection in our humanity (i.e., both our faults and the desire to do better and to overcome the obstacles that arise due to those faults), perhaps gain insight into our own situation from others' brokenness....what a wonderful gift CapCorps, our coordinators, the prayers that everybody back home offers for us, and the financial backing that people are generous enough to impart have given to us!
How wonderful it has been to have an experience that makes me realize that everything I learned about Church, about its necessity, its universality, get a little more integrated into my heart! And how wonderful it is to welcome Mike and Jeanette into the community! How genuinely blessed it was to see my parents for an incredible 10 days this month when they came to visit! How amazing to have even more excitement for seeing my brother again in less than a year! How exciting it is to be careening into October, a month of insanity, and rush toward another transition, but to know that a beginning started when I walked off the plane in Panama City!
More than ever, the idea of The Communion of the Saints has become something that gives me strength, sustains me, and moves something in me. The thought of perhaps not being able to ever be with them in that community setting that we were lucky enough to experience this September and in July and August of last year is saddening, but the gift of knowing that we enjoy each other's company is so wonderful. And when I miss them, it actually now offers me a great deal of comfort and joy to think that I'll see them in the Eucharist. And my family. And those others whom I miss. And those with whom I clash.
What a blessing, this life. I think I need my resolution from those retreats to be that: The constant realization of that blessing. From realizing that blessedness, that love, from incorporating that into my core (with God's grace), God only knows what will follow...and at the moment, I'm perfectly content with that.