The Journey West

We’ve been in Arizona for almost two weeks now and finally have Internet.  I’ve enjoyed the “unplugged” time, but in the back of my mind I knew that every day without Internet just means an even longer first AZ blog post! But it’s really my joy this morning to sit in our sunrise-lit living room catching up on all that God has blessed us with recently.

After Charlie accepted his new contract, we enjoyed a few more days at my parents’ home in Ocean Springs.  It was hard to leave them and Charlie’s family without being sure of when or how we’d see them next.  But, when we left Will and Ella in Costa Rica this past summer, we were in the same situation and God knew perfectly that we would be able to meet them for lunch in Rhode Island!  I’m sure He has great plans to get us together with our families again over the next couple of years.

With all of our things loaded in the car for the final time (at least for the next 3 months), we headed to Houston to stay with Kandace, Eric and Kya.  We hadn’t seen them since they left Auburn early last summer, and it was really great to see the life that God has blessed them with after they patiently waited for Kandace to finish her degree. We left early the next morning to begin our 900 mile drive across the entire state of Texas.  I was kind of dreading this travel day, but it turned out to be awesome!

Most of our drive was through the sparsely populated Texas hill country, and it was fun to see how the scenery changed more and more as we continued west.  A lot of the time, we felt like we were the only people on all of I-10 with no other cars or cities in sight.  We made great time and spent the night in Las Cruces, NM, before heading to Phoenix the next day.

We went straight to the nursing board on Monday afternoon so that Charlie could apply for his temporary license.  His contract didn’t start for another week, which meant we had a few bonus days to explore while we waited for the 2-day license turnaround.  Our first stop was the Heard Museum, which focuses on the history of the various local Indian groups.  We spent all afternoon here, and it was a great way to orient ourselves to this new culture and its past.  We were a little overwhelmed by the end of our afternoon, but we kept making mental notes of places we want to visit throughout our time here to learn more about the Indian culture, the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, and the whole concept of the “wild west.”  That’s a lot of culture and history to discover, and I’m excited to get out and soak it all up on Charlie’s free days.

The next day, we drove a few miles outside of Scottsdale to see the Sears-Kay ruins in Tonto National Forest.  After a couple of days navigating bad Phoenix traffic, it was wonderful to drive into the near soundless Sonoran desert.  The ruins are a compound set atop a small mountain overlooking the Sun Valley (where Phoenix is located).  The views were incredible and served as a nice “Welcome to the West!” moment.  I don’t think you could create a landscape more different from the one we left in CT!

After our time at the ruins, we drove further into the desert on what seemed like an endless dirt path.  We were quiet most of the way, just taking it in and thinking about the people who called this seemingly barren area home for thousands of years before we arrived.  The land looks like it’s been copied and pasted as far as you can see, with the only variance being in the shapes of the mountain ridges on the horizon.  It’s amazing to think how people found their way between settlements here, because we surely would have been lost in a heartbeat without that road.

Charlie picked up his license on Wednesday afternoon and we headed 40 minutes south to Casa Grande and our new apartment on Friday.  The apartment is right across from the hospital and up the road from grocery stores, etc.  It has a vaulted ceiling with skylights on the eastern wall that let in the gorgeous morning sun.  We drove around town on our first day and that took all of about twenty minutes.  It’s a small town bordered by cotton fields (totally unexpected!) and surround by mountains on all sides.  The land is so flat here that you can see the mountains from anywhere in town.  Right now, the population is swelled with snowbirds from places like Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming who live in luxury RV parks on the edge of town.  You’ll see two groups of people at Wal-mart:  the young Hispanic or Indian families, and the retired, pale white couples sporting their best leisure wear.  We laughed about these “birds” at first, until we remembered that we came to Arizona in January for the exact same reason.  Just call us ahead of our time!

Charlie was in orientation at Casa Grande Regional all this week, and he thinks he’s going to like being at a small hospital for awhile.  He said the people are all very nice, but there was only one other traveler in his orientation.  All of our friends in CT are people that he met at orientation, so we’ll have to wait and see how God chooses to bring new friends to us this time.  We found a wonderful church on Sunday called Victory Baptist and we feel sure this is where we’re supposed to be for our time here.  It’s a slightly older congregation, and the preacher is a great, biblically sound teacher.  We went back for their Bible study and prayer service on Wednesday and were really blessed by how the smaller congregation is able to split up and pray for their entire prayer list by name each week.  I think we’re going to like continuing to be in this size of a church.  I’ve already signed up for the ladies’ Bible study and can’t wait to see the blessings that are going to come from being in this group.

Other than that, I’ve chosen two places to volunteer on the days that Charlie works.  In the mornings I’ll help with a hot lunch for the local homeless community, and in the afternoons I’ll hopefully be volunteering at the hospital.  I have to go through the screening process, but once I’ve interviewed this coming Wednesday and had orientation, I’ll be there to visit with the patients who don’t have friends and family stop by regularly.  I’ll also hopefully be involved in the Life Story program where I “interview” patients about their lives and write a 1-2 page summary for the doctors.  This will help the patients’ medical team have a more complete picture of the patients’ situation and create a more personal doctor-patient connection.  I’m grateful that the Lord has opened up these opportunities to help me grow in relational ministry, and I just pray that He uses me to show His comfort and hope to the people I’ll meet.

This post is already really long, so I’ll post soon about the great things God’s already taught us during our short time here!

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