December has certainly kept us on our toes. We have greatly missed the Smith family. We are excited for their return on the last day of the month! This has been the first year that we have not spent one of the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with our teammates in Arequipa. They were sick on Thanksgiving, and they were obviously not here on Christmas. When you come to the field with one other family, it is very obvious that things are not the same when one family isn't present. We eagerly await their arrival. Aria and Shaye both celebrated birthdays this month. We look forward to some post-birthday celebrating with them.
I continue to be very excited about the Living Libraries work. Neil Cantrell, another missionary here, has signed on to co-lead the program with me in the coming year. The dream, obviously, is for a Peruvian to be hired to lead the library work. But until we receive the funding, that will not be a reality. As a stay-at-home-mom, I am only able to dedicate one day of the week to visiting the schools. With Neil's help, we hope to share the load next year. I will still dedicate my one day to visiting the classrooms, but he is willing to go to the schools two days a week. We hope to have more of a presence in the actual library space as well as the classrooms. Also, we will be receiving a fluency kit to help us in testing the kids' reading levels. This is exciting for us because we know we will be in the door from day one of school starting, and we can test a sample group of kids throughout the year to see if our work is making a difference.
Abraham, one of our CUDA employees, will be working with the teachers and principals in the area of conflict management. We have a meeting set for this Saturday with school faculty. One of the school principals approached us with some faculty dynamic issues, and she is seeking extra help from the NGO. That is really exciting to me. One, I feel like this past year served as a time to lay a foundation of trust with the schools. Two, this is where part of the holistic model of our ministry plays a role. We are there to serve the whole person: student and teacher alike. Aside from that opportunity, one of the third grade teachers I worked with all year has requested to study the Bible with me over the summer break. God is certainly opening doors through this ministry.
For Christmas, the CUDA staff, family, and some members of the church acted out a Christmas drama at the two schools. Emilia, a new member to the church, has a lot of experience with children's ministry. We welcomed her ideas for dramas we could use in the schools. The children seemed to enjoy the production, and it was a great message to present along side the traditional drama they see of Jesus' birth.
It is becoming an annual tradition to have our celebration meeting the Sunday before Christmas out at Naranjal. One of our house churches meets in this poor community, and they are usually unable to participate in the celebration Sundays throughout the rest of the year. This year, the church acted out the same drama that Emilia recommended for the schools, served paneton and hot chocolate (the traditional Christmas treat), shared in communion, and gave out toys to the children in the community that had been donated. It was a beautiful Sunday.
At the Naranjal Sunday meeting, the church met two of its newest members. We are excited to share with you that Alfredo and Judith (after going through a long process and waiting for a call) brought their two adopted sons to the gathering for all of us to meet. Andres is two years old, and Ángel is 1 year 2 months. They are brothers, and they are absolutely adorable. We are so happy for Alfredo and Judith, and we pray for wisdom and God's blessings as the boys adjust to their new home.
Many blessings to you and yours for the coming year from the church in Arequipa!