Monday, January 14, 2013

New Blog!

If you enjoyed following this blog, come get the next part of the story at our new blog, "Blessed Be."

Can't wait to hear from you!

Jen & the rest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poem by our Friend Larisa Zehr


You know,
you can never replace it.
And no matter how much you try to fit in the suitcase,
it won't.
You will leave behind.
And we will never be as “in touch” as we promise
because you can't be in touch when you
aren't touching.

Colombia, and her stomach-churning
mountain roads and dusty beaches
her regional pride in the arepa
and nation of football critics
her heat of violence
and chill of displacement
will begin to fade.

Even if you come back,
even if you stay
it must be born again.
It will never be as fond as you remember.

But yet, despite all this
we know in our bones
that add ring after ring of years
that we live no lines.
Only the swoops and blind curves of circles.
It all comes back around.

Somehow, we will fit in the cracks in the suitcase
and you will take us flying.
The epic
and soft
helpless and hopeful
pieces of the many days
you have lived

they too are going with.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Abby has probably spent more time in Colombian homes than any of us. Almost daily, she finds someone to play with in our conjunto.  For this reason, she has had the most immersion of all of us.  She has taken on  Colombian quirks, tastes, habits, and mannerisms in addition to language.

Bogota is cool and often rainy.  However, many wealthier families have resort homes 2 hours outside of the city, at a much lower altitude, where one can be reminded that we do live very near the equator.

Two groups of families, one from our conjunto and one from school invited us to spend two different weekends with them at these homes to celebrate Abby and to say goodbye.  I was touched by the love they feel for her, and how difficult it was to say goodbye.  Abby has really integrated herself to be a part of these families.  All of them say that she is part of their family, and she can come back whenever she wants.  They all know her favorite snack foods and games and they love her initiative and creativity.  Listening to stories of their times together, I know that she has taught them a little bit about our culture as well.

We were treated to weekends with amazing Colombian food, no responsibilities, pleasant conversation, nice music/dancing, sunshine, games, and laughter.  For the first time, I benefited from the relationships that Abby has nurtured (instead of the opposite).  
These are the friends she sought out and developed without my influence.

During all the laughter and fun there was also a dark understanding that this was going to be the last time.  I had to pull Abby out of the embrace of her friends in the end, with strong tears and physical objections.  She cried and cried and cried and I felt like I was pulling her away from part of who she is.

But most of the time I would hug her, ask her how she was doing, and check to see if that moment was "more happy, or more sad."  And most of the time she was "more happy."

Again, so grateful.

I hope that she can stay connected to some of these friends.  And if not, I hope she always remembers their love and hospitality.  I know they are also changed for knowing her.

Letter to Liceo Boston

15 May 2012

Dear Boston Community,

For the last three years our children have studied at Liceo Boston. We chose this school for the small class size, the friendly staff, and a reputation for a genuine caring environment paired with high academic standards.

As extranjeros, it is not easy to enter into a new culture and a new school community. The parents, staff, and teachers at Liceo Boston have been very patient with us, helping us understand procedures, welcoming us to participate, and including us in the process of our children’s education. The other parents that we have come to know are kind and committed to their families, and to each child’s development. There are so many people that have helped our children, through group projects, special events, sports, and concerts.

Each of our children have struggled at different times and for different reasons, but in every instance there has been a teacher or staff member that has walked through these struggles with them and helped them find success.

Liceo Boston is a school that we would highly recommend to other extranjeros or Colombians. The beautiful environment, creative teaching strategies, and focus on the whole child provide a perfect approach for quality education here in Bogota.

We are very grateful to each and every member of the staff at Liceo Boston. This has come to be a very special place for our family, and we will remember each of you as we leave this beautiful country with full hearts.

Please stay in touch with us. We hope to visit, and we welcome any Bostonian visitors to our home in the United States.  

We will be saying goodbye to Liceo Boston on June 2 after the sports practices. Feel free to stop by if you are available.

Gratefully yours,

Jennifer, Aaron, Andy, Lydia, and Abby Chappell Deckert

Last Day

Momento por la paz
9 mayo 2012

Hay muchos estudios sobre la acompañamiento de víctimas y las maneras más eficazes de ofrecer apoyo a las personas que han sido víctimas in una forma u otra.

A mi, me gusta mucho a estudiar y analizar. Cuando llegué a Colombia, yo tenia muchisimas preguntas y ganas de aprender.  Antes que llegué, yo lei todo lo que podía sobre Colombia, tratando a aprender lo más que es posíble.  Mi esposo estaba un poco molestado por mi tiempo tratando a entender todo antes de que llegamos.

Pero, yo encontré un desafio muy grande aqui en terminos del manejo del idioma y la confianza.  Me senti paralizada.   En solo un minuto, mis expectativas callieron.   Estuvé abrumada y no pudé concentrar ni estudiar como lo que queria hacer antes.  Yo me senti en mi escritorio con muchisima miedo de hablar, y más miedo de que alguien iba a preguntar o pedir algo de mi.

Pues, yo empecé a pensar en capacitaciones para prepararme por este trabajo.  Yo participé en un Diplomado para conocer más de la teoría y estratégias del acompañamiento.  Eso me sirvió mucho en terminos del idioma.  Yo empecé a involucrarme más en el trabajo, tomando el riesgo de hablar.  Algunas personas recibieron mis atentos con cariño, pero la majoria estaba confundido y no me entendieron.

Pero, hubo una cosa que me enseñé más que todo sobre mi trabajo aqui.  Y, hubieron muchas personas que con nuestra tiempo juntos compartieron conmigo la paciencia y su persistencia para entenderme mejor.  Me enseñaron como ser compasiva y responsiva a las víctimas.  Más que las palabras que yo destrozaba, ellos me enseñaron que este trabajo es más de lenguaje y más que cultura.  Es una manera de trabajar con nuestra humanidad.

De mi tiempo con ustedes, yo he aprendido:

como no juzgar al otro
como dar validez
como escuchar bien
como buscar fortalezas
como animar
como decir “Siga, adalante!”
como orar en tiempos de desesperación
como reconstruir la dignidad
como fortalecer una red social
como dar oportunidades a servir
como recrear la identidad
como honrar la identidad
como ser pendiente
como escuchar las emociones
como llorar
como tener un actitud compasiva
como no generalizar
como amar
como esperar

En situaciones difíciles, buscamos expertos para dar consejos y solucionar nuestros problemas.  Seguramente, hay alguien que sabe más que nosotros.   Pero eso es lo mágico de este lugar.  Porque las personas que puedan apoyarnos están aqui en nuestra comunidad.  Y si ellos no puedan solucionar todos de nuestros problemas, ellos tienen la gracia a decir:  “Venga con migo.  Sentamos juntos.  Oremos.  Buscamos la paz.  Estoy contigo.”

Mucha gente aqui vinó a esta iglesia sin nada de su vida anterior.  Perdieron mucha familia, hogares, comunidades, trabajos.  Pero desde esta Casa de Dios han encontrado un amor inmenso.  Y este amor extiende a cada persona que entra, por unos minutos, o algunos años.

No se que son los próximos pasos para todos de ustedes.  No so que son las próximos para mi, pero nos llevamos con nosotros el amor de Dios, y seguimos con el conocimiento que en su alma, no estamos solos.

Cuándo regresará a los estados unidos, parte de mi trabajo es entrenar personas que quisieran ser trabajadores sociales.  Hay millones de recursos y libros que yo pueda encargarles.  Pero, mi consejo más critical es:  pasa tiempo con la gente.  Escucha bien.  Aprenda como ser presente y como involucrarse en el espiritu de Dios.  Darles el honor, dignidad, y poder a la gente.

Entonces, muchisimas gracias.  Nunca podría olvidar sus amistades, sus historias, su generosidad y compromiso con este iglesia y este comunidad.  Es lo que alimenta la iglesia, y es un símbulo de esperanza por este país tán maravilloso y hermoso.  Y cuando no tienan ganas de seguir, pensen en lo que tengan para contribuir.  Den un poco de su tiempo, de su alma, de su amor.  Porque lo que yo aprendi es que este amor y sentimiento de generosidad hacen parte de un cíclo.  Lo que no tienen, se puede encontrar en la otra persona, y lo que ellos no tienen, se puede encontrar en usted.     Y con la ayuda de Dios, hay suficiente para todos.


Yo no quiero salir sin una actividad con ustedes (porque a mi, me encanta las actividads).  Yo tengo para todos algunos símbolos.

1.  una carita feliz:  que significa humor y alegríá
2.  una corazonita:  que significa el amor
3.  un cruz:  que significa la fe
4.  una estrellita:  que significa la esperanza
5.  una flecha:  que significa “seguir adalante”

En este salón, hay personas que han apoyado ustedes muchisimo.  Yo quiero que ustedes pensen especificamente en una persona que haya compartido con usted uno de estas cualidades (alegria, amor, fe, esperanza, como seguir adalante).  De a este persona su símbolo y solo mire a su cara y decir “gracias.”

Hay algunas reglas:
1.  No se puede dar más que una a la misma persona.
2.  Pensen no solo en las personas que son conocidas...pensen en las nuevas también

Cuándo terminan, sentarémos para una oración de gratitud.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Time. Out.

This house is full of emotion.  
The end of school projects, reports, and presentations.
The understanding that each day we might be doing something or seeing someone for the very last time.
The arguments over who gets to use what technology, and why their need trumps the need of someone else.
Knowing that things will not feel comfortable at "home" for a very long time.
Reflections on struggles of the past, viewing pictures, sharing memories, laughing at Spanglish and cultural misunderstandings.
Turning in novels in Spanish.  Filling up the last pages of Spanish essays and notebooks.
Deciding what needs to come with us, and what we need to leave behind.
The taste of tropical fruit, chocolate, steamy caldos and soups.
An embrace from a friend that lasts just a little bit longer.
A disorderly house full of memories, good and bad.
The light at the park, the smell of eucalyptus, the warmth of piling into a bed together.

So we said, "Time. Out."

We left for our favorite park in Bogota, where there was fresh air, quiet space, and green grass.  And for even just a few hours, all the stress and sorrow just melted away.  The kids fell into their own space,  making up adventures, floating bark boats, working it out.

I took some pictures, but I mostly just sat and watched, and I was flooded with gratitude.



Yes, dear hearts.  You are processing so much right now.  It is hard work.  But remember, the best medicine for sorrow IS gratitude.  And you still have each other.  No matter what relationships enter and leave your lives, the connection you have as siblings will always be present.  Remember these connections, dear ones, and consider each moment you have together with gratitude.

Piano lessons

This year, we have been very lucky to have a piano teacher who comes to our house to give us lessons.  Aaron, Lydia, Andy, and Abby all wanted to learn, so we purchased a keyboard and called Diana Paula.  I loved preparing dinner while listening to the lessons.  I loved Aaron's sincere interest and his commitment to practicing.  And Diana Paula was very patient and kind, responsive to the varied needs in this family.