The Last Lap
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The Last Lap

The Last Lap

Long-term missionaries Craig and Amanda Cunningham plan to leave Bolivia and settle in Ontario this summer. Here are some of their thoughts on the "Big Move."

From Craig: Recently, the weather has taken a cooler, wetter turn (and participants have made their thoughts about cyclists well-known on the neighborhood WhatsApp group!) I've been getting back into running. We live in a subdivision that is essentially a big rectangle. My go-to exercise is simply doing 'laps' around it (if you follow me on Strava, all you can see is a very thick orange line). When I know that I'm coming to the end of my allotted 30 minutes, I like to try to turn on the afterburners, like the great track stars I used to watch on the telly when they heard the bell clattering for the last lap. This euphoria lasts about three houses' worth before, usually resulting in my worst lap of the lot!

Well, we are very much on the last lap here. Everyday occurrences take on an unexpected poignancy. The other day, the gas tank for our oven ran out, and I popped across the road to swap it for a replacement. It's not one of my favorite household jobs. But as I loaded it into the back of the car, I realized that might be the last time I ever do that in Bolivia.

Of course, other 'last times' have been more meaningful. For example, our last Christmas at Trinity or Easter just passed. On Saturday, Sam marked his previous birthday here with his friends.

Like a runner on the last lap of the 10,000 meters, it is all going by with unexpected haste! And by God's grace alone, we continue 'running' though the tiredness is palpable.

In mid-March, I attended my final (for now!) MICN ReCharge conference, which we had the pleasure of hosting here in Santa Cruz. Though I was in charge of the practicalities, Amanda and I could mainly engage fully in the proceedings. We were hugely blessed by the ministry of Charles Price, who kindly agreed to come and teach (and take a couple of cases back to Toronto for us!). Of course, we expected some wise words from international church pastors. We had not anticipated so much that would speak so directly to our current situation of unexpected transition. It all boiled down to two simple, easier-said-than-done, yet vital words: trust God.

As usual, plenty of time was built for fellowship and sharing experiences with the pastors and wives from Latin America; Amanda enjoyed being part of it all for the first time. It was a pleasure to show off this particular corner of the continent while strengthening these ties of fellowship with others who work in this growing but niche area of the worldwide church. As pretty much each one of us said as our four days together ended and we took turns to give thanks, "You guys get me!" And the importance of that cannot be overstated.

And from Amanda: I had the opportunity to spend four days in Cochabamba, attending a women's spiritual retreat hosted by Azmera. This ministry hosts retreats worldwide to pour into women who live and serve cross-culturally. When I learned that the 2024 retreat for Latin America would be in Cochabamba, I promised myself I would go. Two months after moving home, I sometimes felt that a retreat was a bit of a luxury. Still, I internally justified it by saying that it would be helpful to have experienced the retreat if I am going to promote and maybe even fundraise for other LAM Canada missionaries once I start working in Member Care. Once I arrived, I realized my self-justification was a delusion and that I was absolutely there for myself. I needed a break and some space, and someone came along and said, "Please let me help you take a break." It felt wonderful.

There were loads of North American gifts and swag that we got to enjoy. There was a teaching in Mark 6: "Come away with me." Everyone had a birthday party (with more gifts). We were put into Connection Circles, where we got to share and be vulnerable with each other. There was a hairstylist, a crafts corner, and pedicures with covering prayer. The worship times were intense and powerful, and all the tired, burdened women in that room cried a lot. And there was free therapy! Counselors came down and just listened to me.

What I took into that retreat with me was about Sam, why we're moving home, and how intense and challenging managing him has been recently. I felt such a sense of awe as I realized how many women attending and volunteering that weekend had also adopted. One of my Connection Circle leaders had adopted, the lady who painted my toes had adopted, the lady who cut my hair had adopted, and my counselor had adopted, not to mention all the other women in attendance whom I just shared and chatted away with because they understood my experience in such a unique way.

It was a unique experience, and I would love to volunteer with them and bless other women still serving cross-culturally.