I was just 17 years old when I first laid eyes on the tall and handsome blonde that I would call my husband some day. He was 18. Sitting on the ground, he was surrounded by a hoard of children. They had made him into their own personal jungle gym, and he loved it! That was my first and lasting impression of Nathan Terrell, and the image comes back to me whenever I see him wrestling on the ground with our own children.
It was October of `97, and we were working at a Children’s Institute in Monterrey, Mexico with our home-school organization. Basically, it boils down to a week of hard-core babysitting! I loved doing it. This CI was different from the other 9 I had done that year, however. For many reasons. The first and most obvious one being that it was in Mexico, and I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish! When we signed on for the trip, we were assured that while we would be leading a team of 10-15 children, we would have a bi-lingual Mexican assistant. *phew* What a relief! The first day of the CI arrived, and we all met with our assistants. Mine spoke as much English as I spoke Spanish. None. That is, unless you consider “taco” and “enchilada” bi-lingual! Yes, we were in a bind. In a few short hours, we would have over a dozen children in our care, and no way to communicate amongst ourselves. My assistant had never done this before, and she was terrified! Enter Nathan. He was the materials guy, responsible for keeping everyone supplied with all the craft and activity supplies they needed. So as long as no one needed supplies, he was free to roam around and help whomever seemed the most desperate! That was me. I was completely relying on a 5 yr old missionary kid to be my translator! Given that fact (not to mention the bonus fact that Nathan was cute), I flagged him down to help my team as often as possible.
Something you have to understand about our home-school organization is that guys and girls were/are not allowed to interact much. It felt very much like two fish-bowls, pushed close together but closely monitored! So while we spent time in the same vicinity, there was not much personal chatting going on. That is, until our last day in Mexico.
The American team-leaders were all waiting for our flights. The Mexican team-leaders (including Nathan) waited with us. We wandered around, eating McDonald’s, waiting. That was when I learned that Nathan was an MK (missionary kid) who grew up on the field. This was interesting information, as I had an inkling that God was calling me to the mission field. He had been calling for a few yrs already. I told Nathan of my desire to go to Russia, he told me of his grandpa’s experience there, and I knew I wanted to know more. The conversation was interesting and over too quickly. I did not learn anything personal about him, like his age, how many siblings he had, or anything else! We got the call for our plane to board, and there were awkward good-byes all around. I briefly considered getting Nathan’s contact info, but I had already been reprimanded once that week for a “flirtatious spirit”. I knew I was being closely watched, so I shook Nathan’s hand and walked away.
Once on the plane, my heart ached. My older sister Danielle was with me on that trip and noticed the tears in my eyes. She asked what was going on, but all I could manage was “I don’t want to leave.” I think I finally understand now, almost 16 yrs later, what was happening that day. God was already beginning to knit my heart to this country… and to Nathan.