Year-In-Review Ideas to Share by Karen

Throughout the world people have different ways of bringing closure to one year and welcoming the next.  20 years ago Chris and I spent New Year's in Brazil where they plunge themselves into the ocean at midnight wearing all white clothes to be cleansed of anything negative that might be lingering from the previous year.  As they emerge from the water they claim to feel clean, free, and ready for whatever lay ahead.  When we were in Peru we joined the locals in making scarecrow type figures with our old clothes which we then burned at midnight.  It's their way of symbolically parting with their old selves and destroying the power of any evil that might have crept into their lives.  As I'm typing, it's occurring to me that this tradition is a bit strange, but at the time it seemed harmless and fun.  Below are a couple of old photos of Michael and Jack with our first ever New Year's dummy.  


These types of traditions are meant to help people deal with the difficulties in life, but I'm not necessarily convinced that they accomplish all that they claim to.  

Each November, FMC missionaries travel to Louisiana from all over the world to gather for an extended time of reflection and prayer.  There are workshops and small group discussions, activities and structured debriefs.  We had the opportunity to attend Year-In-Review back in 2018 and it was amazing!  When missionaries are unable to make the trip to participate in this retreat they're encouraged to conduct their own Year-In-Review to help them process all that has happened and look forward to the year ahead.  

Last Friday, we did just that at the jungle oasis home of Jesus and Elvia Apu, a couple that we've gotten to know these last six months or so.  Jesus is in his mid 90s, Elvia is in her early 80s, and they are still self-sufficient with the food they grow, the animals they raise, and the plants they have cultivated.  They epitomize the idea of living simple and want for nothing: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."  (psalm 23)

Following are a few pictures of the home that they built for themselves over 50 years ago.

 When we arrived at the Apu's house I gave each member of my family a 17 page packet of questions that they were to prayerfully answer. 

We split up and each went to a separate spot on Jesus' property.  I didn't note the time, but I'm sure it took us over two hours to complete.  When we were done Elvia invited us to join them for a delicious meal: chicken, rice, platains, hard-boiled eggs, homemade cheese, fresh juice, etc.  We visited with them for a while and relaxed a bit before beginning Part 2 of the process - discussing our responses.  

Elvia suggested that we head up to the second level of what appears to be a big tree house, so we did.  She said that their bed is the most comfortable place in the entire house to rest and insisted that we enjoy it, so we did.  One by one we shared our answers to each question and discussed the topics as completely as needed.  As the default secretary, I took careful notes so that we'll have what we need to implement the suggested changes.  Throughout our discussion Elvia appeared with treats to help keep us going both physically and emotionally: homemade coconut cookies, coffee, empanadas, juice, etc.  Her hospitality was so authentic.  It was amazing!  

Jack was really happy to be done with
our intense discussion!
Finallly, after 4 hours of intense discussion, we finished.  I believe I can speak on behalf of my whole family when I say that we all felt like our voices had been heard and we were of one mind moving forward.  

A couple of days later we went to church to celebrate the beginning of Advent feeling ready to start another year of this crazy missionary life.

It wasn't until I was reviewing everyone's responses a couple days later that it occurred to me that other people might benefit from going through this process.  So, I've listed the questions that we included in this year's Year-In-Review packet to give you some ideas of what you might want to discuss with your team/family.  

Thanks for your love and prayers. In HIM, Karen

The main categories include: physical health and well-being, intellectual development, spirituality, and emotional well-being.  Beneath each of these major headings are sub-headings with their respective questions.



    1. How do you feel about the quality and variety of the food we've been eating?
    2. Should anything change about who is preparing the food and when?
    3. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions about the shopping that we do for food? 
    4. How do you think our mealtime clean-up has been going?  Should we do anything differently?
    5. How important is it to you that we continue eating our meals all together as a family?
    6. Do you have any other thoughts/ideas/opinions regarding food?


    1.  Do you feel like you have ample opportunity to get exercise, either during scheduled activities or in impromptu situations?
    2. Should we be doing anything different to support each other in our desire to be physically healthy?
    3. Do you have any other thoughts/ideas/opinions regarding fitness?


    1. On average how much sleep are you getting each night?
    2. Do you feel like you're getting enough sleep?  If not, why and what could you do differently?
    3. How do you feel about our current sleeping arrangements?
    4. How do you feel about bedtimes?
    5.  Is there anything else you'd like to share about our sleep routines?


    1. Do you feel that you have the clothes that you need?
    2. If / when you need a particular item of clothing (including footwear) do you feel like we buy it in an acceptable amount of time?
    3. Do you have thoughts/opinions about us hand washing our clothes?
    4. Is there anything about our clothing situation that causes you stress?  If so, what could we do to alleviate that stress?
    5. Do you have anything else you'd like to share about the topic of clothing?


    1. Do you feel like you understand how the things in our house are organized?  In other words, can you find what you need when you need it?
    2. Do you know where to put things when you're done using them? 
    3. Do you feel like others put things back when they're done using them?
    4. Is there anything we could/should do to improve the organization of our home?


    1. Do you feel safe in our home when we're here altogether?  What about when you're here by yourself or just with the other kids?
    2. Do you feel safe walking around in our community - during the day?  In the evening? With your friends?  Alone?
    3. Do you feel safe at school?
    4. Do you feel safe at your friends' houses?
    5. Do you feel safe with the other adults in your life?  Please explain your response whether it was "yes" or "no".
    6. Do you feel safe when we travel around Costa Rica?  When we leave the country?
    7. Is there anything else you'd like to share about your personal safety or the safety of our family? 



    1. How do you feel about your current schooling situation? 
    2. What is your favorite thing about your current school?  What is the worst/hardest thing?
    3. Is there anything that we need to do to supplement?  If so, what?
    4. Do you have any worries or concerns about your education at large?
    5. Now that you've gotten settled at the school here and you've made friends, what advice would you give your future self as s/he begins at a different new school (for example, college)?
    6. Do you have any other thoughts/opinions/ideas about the topic of school/education?


    1. Is there anything that you'd like to learn (knowledge) or learn how to do (skills) that you don't feel like you currently have the opportunity to learn?  If so, what?  Do you have any thoughts on how we might be able to create such an opportunity? 
    2. Is there anything more that we can be doing to help you achieve your personal intellectual goals?



    1. How do you feel about your own personal prayer time?  Is it going well?  If not, what could you/we do to help improve it?
    2. How do you feel about our morning family prayer routine?  Our nightly family prayer time?  Is there anything that we need to change?
    3. How do you feel our Confirmation Preparation class is going?  Is there anything we could/should do differently to make the most of the time we have altogether?
    4. How often should we do Desert Days?
    5. In regard to Desert Days, what are your thoughts on location, format, and amount of time spent in individual prayer versus time spent reflecting as a family?
    6. Any other thoughts about your/our prayer life that you'd like to share? 


    1. Here in Santa Rosa we have the option of going to daily Mass.  Would you like to go more often than we currently do, and if so, what would that look like?  For example, would you prefer to go altogether or for each person to go when s/he desires?
    2. Do you feel that you're going to confession as often as you need to?  Is there anything that you'd like the rest of us to do to help hold you accountable?
    3. How do you feel about silent eucharistic adoration?  
    4. Is there anything else that you'd like to share about your/our sacramental life?


    1. Dad and Mom are encouraged to go on retreat once a year.  Do you feel like you would want or need this sort of boost in the coming year?
    2. Is there anything else you can think of that could/would help you to grow in your faith?


    1. How do you feel about each of the ministries that we currently have: english class, bread baking/selling with Sonia & Maria, adult catechism class, nuns' daycare center, discipleship group in Coopevega, home visits, street ministry, miscellaneous?
    2. Do you think our current ministries are helping people to grow closer to Jesus or have the potential of helping people to grow in their faith in the future?  Please explain.
    3. What ideas do you have about possible ministry opportunities for this upcoming year?
    4. How do you feel about the amount of time we spend doing ministry?  
    5. Do you have any other ideas/thoughts/concerns/suggestions regarding our ministry schedule?



    1. How do you feel about the friends that you've made here in Santa Rosa?
    2. How do you feel about the friends that your siblings have made here in Santa Rosa?
    3. How do you feel about the other friends that you have (or have had) here in Costa Rica, for example the other missionary kids?
    4. How do you feel about the friendships you have with people living far away?
    5. Who do you feel like you can confide in?
    6. How has it effected you to have so many people coming and going from our lives this last year: other FMC missionary families, short-term mission groups, visitors, etc?
    7. Is there anything else you'd like to share on the topic of friends?


    1.  In our immediate family, do you feel loved: heard, seen, respected, appreciated, included, valued?
    2. Is there anything that we can/should do differently to express our love for you?
    3. Do you feel like you do a good job loving your family members in the way that they need/want to be loved?  If not, what could you do differently?
    4. Reflect on your relationship with Katelyn.  How was your friendship effected by the distance?  Is there anything you could/should do differently this upcoming year to help strengthen your friendship with her?
    5. Generally (or specifically) speaking, is there anything that we could/should do differently to help make our family more awesome than it already is...hehehe....?


    1.  It's difficult to maintain close relationships with people that are far away, especially when those people live in very different cultures and circumstances.  How do you feel about your relationships with your extended family members: Grandma/Grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins?
    2. Is there anything we could do to help you improve those relationships?
    3. Any other thoughts you'd like to share about our extended family?


    1. What does "rest" look like for you?  (For example, "rest" might mean sitting on the couch with your feet up or doing a puzzle or going for a hike.  It's different for everyone.)
    2. How can others help to make sure you're getting enough rest? 
    3. How do you feel about the time we had away from Santa Rosa?  Please explain.
    4. Do you have any thoughts/suggestions/ideas about how we might be able to get the rest we need from the mission this upcoming year? 


    1. How would you rate our family's communication?  (1 is terrible and 10 is amazing)  If you gave us a rating of anything less than a 10, what could make things better?
    2. Do you feel like you know what's happening and/or what's coming up?
    3. Do you feel like you understand (generally speaking) what's being expected of you in regards to the chores around our house?
    4. Do you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with others - good and bad?
    5. Would it help to have regularly scheduled family meetings?  If so, how often?  


Please comment on how good of job each of us did maintaining healthy boundaries in regards to each of the following:

      • friends
      • work / ministry / school
      • our privacy here at home
      • phones, computers, and other devices
      • other people from the local community
      • spending time away from our home 


    1.  Big T traumas are life events that negatively impact us in significant ways.  Little T traumas are the usually difficult life events that negatively impact us for shorter spans of time.  There is no standard for what constitutes Big T traumas versus Little T traumas since people's experiences are so unique.  For example, moving or changing schools might be highly traumatic for one person and uneventful for another.  Abuse, neglect, death, violence, social and political unrest, divorce, displacement, ongoing interpersonal conflict, and addictions are typically classified as Big T traumas, but given the particulars of a given situation they may not cause lasting damage.  Little T traumas might include losing a good friend, doing poorly in a class even though you're trying hard, having a bike accident, getting lost in a new city, having a scary encounter with someone in the street, etc.  In the last year some major things have happened.  Please consider the following and try to think of anything else that might have had a lasting effect on you so that we can talk about it:  we moved to a new country and you began attending a new school where you had to make new friends.  Multiple people died. Dad was really sick with Dengue.  Katelyn lived away from our family for the first time.  We had to cross into Nicaragua to renew our visas on multiple occasions with full knowledge that they've been persecuting Catholics.  What else?
    2. If there is anything else that has happened that you'd like to talk about, please share.  We want to make sure to process all that happens to us so that our experiences don't leave lasting wounds.


  1. How do you feel about the ways we've celebrated this last year: holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, noteworthy accomplishments, etc?
  2. Is there anything that we could do differently to make our celebrations better?
  3. Cultural activities can be a tough thing to navigate.  The traditions that we had in the United States can be difficult to continue, especially when they pertain to holidays and events that folks outside of the US don't acknowledge: Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Memorial Day.  It can also be challenging to fully enter into the local cultural events because we don't share their sense of anticipation and excitement.  Please comment on how well you think we did celebrating U.S. holidays and how well we did participating in the local traditions.
  4. The extremely unpredictable nature of our lives, as missionaries, can make it hard to get excited about anything because it seems like things are constantly changing.  However, it's important that we have things to look forward to in life.  Please reflect on this last year and comment on whether or not you felt like you had things to look forward to throughout the year.  
  5. Is there anything in particular that you're hoping will happen this year?  
  6. Do you have any thoughts/opinions about our transportation situation? 
  7. Do you feel like your "cup" has been full this last year?  If so, what has helped to fill it?  If not, what could we have done to help you feel fulfilled?
  8. Is there anything else that you'd like to talk about as a family?

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