During our time of preparation for the field, our team studied several different books in an effort to better clarify how we would approach the mission here in Arequipa. Some things we knew wouldn’t apply culturally, but we were able to glean quite a few pearls of wisdom in how to approach church planting, cultivation, discipleship and outreach.
One such piece of advice that has turned out to be true comes from Luke 10. When Jesus sent out the 72, he instructed them to find a person of peace when they entered a town, and to remain with that person rather than move around, letting the influence and reputation of that person be the basis for others feeling safe to approach. Though I would not say we have intentionally sought out this setup, it has occurred nonetheless. Language school teachers, friends, and even Manuela have stepped into the gap between us and the people or culture that are unfamiliar and helped introduce us, one to the other, in ways that have smoothed our paths time and again.
Just recently, I have experienced this more directly myself. I have been working on getting to know my neighbor, Luzmila, almost since we moved in back in April. Her family has a small bodega, or shop, where they sell a random assortment of goods. We have chosen to consistently purchase our Cokes from her and try to take each opportunity to connect further. The progress was very slow, between our busy summer schedule and various travels to Lima and the States, and at times I felt extremely frustrated that it was taking so long to make a friend.
However, we have officially topped the hill and are rapidly picking up speed down the other side. First, they invited us to a birthday party. Then, we invited their family over for dinner one night, and before they headed home, we had made plans for more get-togethers. She has since taught me how to pick out a slab of pork at the market and how to turn it into adobo, my favorite Peruvian dish, which we ate with them and spent the afternoon. Her daughter (about my age) came over with her one year old son to play one day. We invited them to join us for Thanksgiving Day dessert. They have invited Shaye and me to stop by and play with the neighbor kids that they take care of each afternoon. This also means that we will be able to meet and get to know two more neighbors through their kids.
A few months, or even as little as a few weeks, ago, my neighborhood still felt like a big door that just barely had begun to crack open. For the most part, I knew the area, but the people were strangers. Now, I truly feel that we have made friends, not just acquaintances, and am excited for the opportunities we will have since we have passed the test with this family. I thank God that He has given us an opening into the community and pray that He continues to provide opportunities with and through their family.