Saturday, April 27, 2013



If you came to my house, the first thing I would do is offer you a cup of coffee. Coffee is a pretty big deal in El Salvador, and we found some growing in our yard so we've actually been able to grow and roast our own coffee which is a complete thrill for a coffee lover like me!

The next thing I would do is ask you your story. I love hearing people's stories, because everyone has one to tell. I think that's my favorite thing about this missionary life...finding out the story of a place, and diving into why a culture is the way it is. I've learned to love El Salvador, and to find where this country hurts, and to search for all the hidden beautiful things that you can only find when you've lived in and really loved a place.

It's funny now to look back and remember the time when I promised never to move south of Texas! In high school I went on a short-term mission trip to Mexico City. I thought I knew Spanish from my high school Spanish class (I was wrong), and I thought if I took the right precautions I wouldn't get sick (wrong again)! I ended up horribly sick, doubled over in pain on a sidewalk midway through a street puppet show barely able to communicate to my host how sick I felt. I spent the next few days in agony and vowed never, ever to head south of Texas again! It's funny how life works out sometimes.

Now to answer your questions...

Which continent were you thinking you would be going to before being called to El Salvador?  Has it been hard for you to adjust your thinking to El Salvador instead of the original place?

After I graduated from college, I spent the summer in Kenya and I fell in love with it. The landscapes, the sunsets, the people I met...I left feeling 100% sure that I would return there as a full-time missionary. My husband and I actually began the application and interview process to work in East Africa and we felt really good about going there. Then, as sometimes happens, the door closed. Meanwhile my husband had made a few trips to El Salvador with our church and God began working on him, and then me. It was hard at first to wrap my mind around coming to El Salvador (remember, south of Texas!!!!), but it just became so clear to me that this is where we needed to be. Once we made the decision, I was ready to move forward but there are many days I dream of returning to Kenya!

I would love to hear about the new ministry passion God has given you.

I grew up in suburban America, so moving into one of the most violent cities in the world was a big change! We came here expecting my husband to be very involved with street kids, kids at risk, and the homeless and we pictured me cheering from the sidelines and working on the communication side of things. Through our work in the city we began to see more and more women, and young men, involved in prostitution. I also began to find out more about human trafficking in this region and the way that many Salvadorans have been taken advantage of. I can tell you that the first time I went out on the street to talk to a woman working in prostitution was way outside of my comfort zone! But God has given me such compassion for these individuals, and a real desire to find practical ways to give them hope. This ministry was not on my radar at all, and it has stretched me so much! This is a tough ministry and I feel like I am in over my head...but I thank God for it.

What's the silliest thing you've done as a family?

Hmmmm...I feel like there is a lot of everyday silliness so this is a tough one. We've had some epic bug battles against invading bugs, tarantuals, scorpions, etc. and now I can kill bugs with my bare hands! We've had tons of silly times during our various road trips around the country, and around Central America. It's fun, the stuff we get into, and we do it together and that's the best part!

Why has your biggest frustration been your kids and their education?

So, I'm not sure how education works in other countries but in Latin America the teachers are crazy-strict about things like cursive and taking massive amounts of tests. My kids go to an international bi-lingual school and there is an understanding that the academics are hard, and kids need to fit into that structure. One of my children has done fairly well with some extra adjustments, the other...not so much. My biggest frustration living here is the lack of any type of educational differentiation. My daughter is funny and intelligent and wonderful in so many ways...and definitely out of the box. This is neither encouraged nor tolerated very well in the "system" so we have tried a grade acceleration (it's helping) and lots of other "please just make it through the day without any major incidents and we will reward you" type of encouragement. I'm completely torn with this child between homeschooling and keeping her in school. The pros and cons make me dizzy. Her Spanish is so good that she can translate and speak with a perfect native accent so I don't want her to lose "playground time" but she is ripping-her-hair out bored in many subjects. So, what do I do????? The private school education system is an excellent education, but my child is just not fitting in. Would she in the States? I don't know. Will she in a few years? I don't know. Do I hope she isn't negatively affected by the whole thing? Absolutely. It's the thing that keeps me up most at nights, and finds it's way into my prayers most days too!

Do you ever have free time and if so, what do you like to do?

Ha! What's free time????? I laughed at this one, and I'm sure many of you are laughing along because you are on the same hamster wheel of kids, ministry, maintaining a marriage, communicating with supporters, run, run, run...I don't have a ton of free time but I try to find time here and there. I absolutely love to read. Everything. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever! I like reading Latin American literature when I can and it helps with the Spanish, but of course I love reading in English too. I also like to cook, and in theory I like to scrapbook but it hardly ever happens. I like drawing and painting too and I can get that in here or there with my kids. I journal a few times a week and I have volumes of my life written down. I also recently started taking karate! I'm laughing because it's so funny! My kids are taking it, and there was a mom's class, and now I'm making some new friends and learning something new!

I'm wondering about those things that make El Salvador special to your family....

The thing that I love so much about El Salvador is that it's a small enough country that you can really know it. You can be anywhere in the country within three hours and it has everything...mountains, volcanoes, beaches. The landscapes are breathtaking, and the tropical rains are unlike anything I've ever experienced. After the civil war, many wounds were left open and that echoes on the streets today, but the people here inspire us. They are so kind, and they genuinely care. Our kids have had incredible experiences...seeing baby sea turtles heading for the ocean, visiting a little town and watching an artist at work, making deep friendships in another language. We are changed because of the people and experiences we've had here. We've been able to serve, and that is a blessing, but like many of you I can say that I am the one who is blessed.  I have been scared, frustrated, ready to give up (hello language learning!), but we're still here and it's worth it. The ups and downs, the life here, the beauty, all of that makes this country so special to us and I am just grateful to be here!

Thanks for reading...I'm looking forward to hearing from more of you around the world!

Speaking of El up, Olive!

I’m a Texas girl who fell in love with Turks during a two year stay in Istanbul during my mid-20’s. Little did I know back then that I’d marry a Salvadoran, have two children in El Salvador and live in Central America seven years before returning to Turkey in 2002. My husband and I are leading a CP team, and our little home fellowship has about 15 adults now.  We serve our community by organizing an English club for Turks who want to practice English, and the women on our team enjoy reaching out to mslm women through crafts, cooking, and special events.

My greatest joy is discipling Turkish women and watching them grow in the realization that they are wonderfully created and precious to God.  (Women here really need that message…) I love reading God’s word every day, and I love encouraging Turkish women to do the same, but my most important ministry is probably just cooking dinner for people and being available when they want to stop by.

I’m a homeschooling mother with two teenagers, so most days from 8:30-2:30, I’m busy with things like chemistry, grammar, quadratic equations, Latin, and discussing Hemingway! By 2:30 my brain is frazzled, so I either hide in my room, go out for a walk, or visit a Turkish friend.

Living and serving in the Middle East is NOT easy because response to the Gospel is SLOW, but I can honestly say I love it and wouldn’t choose any other life. One thing I’ve learned here is to take special joy in my relationship with God and in my family.

Post your questions for Olive in the comments, and she will answer them soon!


  1. so... how did you meet your husband?

    how'd you end up in istanbul the first time?

    how do you handle home schooling some of those more challenging subjects? physics and chemistry have always been the killers for me!

  2. they're KILLERS for me too, Richelle! Have to think of how I get through them...

  3. Danielle, it was so good to get to know you better! The schools there sound like here. One babushka told me about her outside-the-box grandson, and I just wanted to cry. In art class, they were each supposed to draw a lady bug. He brought home his paper with a tiny ladybug and a big 2 (like an F, worst grade possible) written across the whole paper. Babushka asked what he had done wrong. His ladybug was too small. She asked why he couldn't just go along with the teacher and make a big one: "But Babushka, there's no such thing as a ladybug as big as a whole paper!"

    Olive, I keep trying to think of what I want to ask you. There's so much, but I can't nail down anything specific.... I guess for now I'll just ask what is your very favorite part of Turkey and Turkish culture, and what part is the hardest for you?

  4. Olive, what got you guys to move from Latin America at Turkey? Are there any similarities between the two cultures?

  5. I thought of another question, if it's not too late. I know this can be a hard question for TCKs and those who have moved around a lot, but I'm curious: what place do you count as home? Where do you say that you're from?