The Drapers reflect on final weeks in mission

Anna and David Draper
January 10, 2011

Getting paperwork in order

Updated December 3, 2010
The day after the paseo (an outing), we had a special Mass and dinner among the Columban family – priests, lay missionaries, Sisters, seminarians, employees and friends. Finally, we headed out to a retreat house for our biannual regional meeting. This was our last meeting with the Columbans in Chile, so we especially enjoyed the social aspect of it all. Since the majority of the Columbans work in Santiago (more than a 2-hour flight away), we appreciate the time we have together.

From top, left to right: David, Columban Fr. Aiden Larkin, Columban Fr. Michael Howe, Anna and Joshua, and Presentation Sr. Eileen Pender.

After a great week of sharing with the rest of the Columban family, we went to the U.S. embassy to see about Joshua’s visa to enter the U.S. You would think that the process to enter the U.S. for an adopted child of two American citizens would be pretty easy, but the truth is far from it! He is treated just like any other (adult) foreigner who wants to immigrate. He has to have a medical exam, an interview and pay lots of fees. We thought, “How expensive could it be to file some paperwork?” Apparently $1,000 USD expensive.

After spending all week jumping through hoops and translating about 20 pages of adoption documents for a completely bilingual embassy, we are now waiting to be contacted with a date for an interview. We’re told this interview will be in Santiago in about two weeks. Did we mention that we live in a city over two hours away by plane? And that Joshua is two? And that the only answer he will have to any of their questions is auto (car)?

Making arrangements for the work left behind

Updated December 10, 2010
The reality of leaving Chile is hitting us full force. We had our first farewell with a family who left today on vacation and who we won’t be seeing again. We’re trying to visit at least one family a day in order to spend some quality time with all of the special people who have touched our lives during our three years in this community and we often experience a sense of nauseousness when people ask, “When will you be coming back?”

We’re still working with the youth and have a few activities lingering on as we finish the year. Also, we’re still trying to form a team of adults to work with the youth next year. I imagine that most Christian communities have the same problem – a group of youth that need guidance and not enough responsible adult help to accompany them in their journey. We continue to pray and to ask people for help. We’re making progress… slowly.

Last Christmas in Chile

Updated December 27, 2010
Officially, our contract ended in October. But, we wanted to stay on longer so we could finish out the pastoral year, accompany the kids during their Confirmation and spend our last Christmas here with the community. We’re anxious to see our family, but we just weren’t ready to say goodbye in October.

At midnight on Christmas Eve / Christmas Day, we followed Chilean tradition and placed Baby Jesus in the manger. Joshua had the honor. We invited a neighbor over for Christmas Eve dinner and got to bed at about 2 a.m. Here, Santa Claus arrives at midnight, after the arrival of Baby Jesus, and so kids can be heard playing in the streets with their new toys until the early hours of the morning.

Chao Alto Hospicio

Updated January 4, 2011
Our last night in Alto Hospicio has come and gone. We were saying goodbye to friends until 1 in the morning, got to bed at 4:30 and woke up at 6:30. Yesterday morning, we loaded the dog and the baby on the plane and arrived in Santiago in time for lunch. Our dog Gringuita was a little dopey all day from the tranquilizers we gave her for the trip. She was nervous in the car and even more worried when she looked around and saw so much green. She isn’t used to trees or grass anymore. Today, she seems to be doing much better and she’s getting used to her new temporary home. We’re staying in the Columban Center House for about three weeks while we sort out Joshua’s paperwork to come to the States, say goodbye to friends here and rest a little.

Christmas and New Year’s was a little tainted since it was shrouded with a melancholy feeling, knowing that each encounter with a friend was perhaps the last time we would see them. We’re sure we’ll be back to visit some day, but we can’t be sure about who will be around when we finally make it. It was also sad to put an end to our ministry in Chile. We’ve really enjoyed the work we did with youth, as well as families and drug addicts. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue in the same line back in the U.S.

Arriving in Santiago has helped put a new perspective on our farewell. Last night at dusk, we sat on the porch as Joshua played with the dog in the yard. We were able to pray the rosary together and just sit for awhile, enjoying the peace after so much chaos of packing and goodbyes. It also gave us a glimpse of future evenings in the U.S., where we’ll have our own home and will be able to dedicate more time to our family. As much as we have loved living in Chile, we have to recognize that the lifestyle we’ve had for the last 7 years has not been conducive to a healthy family life – constant running around, lack of privacy and the general negative aspects of living in a big city, like noise and pollution. It will be nice to focus on Joshua for awhile, and hopefully adopt some more kids. We’re looking forward to the future.

The Countdown is Getting Shorter

Updated January 20, 2011
Joshua’s visa is here and we have official permission from the Chilean department of agriculture to bring the dog to the U.S. In 3 short days, we’ll step onto U.S. soil, closing one of the most important chapters of our lives.