From Arkansas to Arequipa

On January 13 of this year, I did something I had never done before: moved away from Arkansas. I was born in Searcy and over the years, I have lived in Judsonia, Paragould, Jonesboro, Bono, Pocahontas, North Little Rock, Little Rock, and Searcy, but I have never lived outside of the Natural State. Instead of moving to a different state like a normal person, God would have it that our family should move to Arequipa, Peru. 
So, what is Arequipa like to an Arkansan? It’s awesome, yet life is almost completely different! The transition was and is difficult, but our teammates are great. The food is delicious and it’s hard to breathe. (Yes those two go together!) The Peruvian history and culture is expansive. Arequipeños (Peruvians who are born in Arequipa) are curious yet friendly.Their worldview is complex but God can always be found. Our schedule is hectic. Rest is a priority! But the transition is and will be worth it! 
Here are some notable observations in my first month or so. Peruvians don’t build up as much as they build out. For example, Arequipa is approximately 3,800 sq. miles while Searcy, AR is barely 15 sq. miles. It’s over 250 times larger! With that much space you would think that everyone would have plenty of personal space; not so much. For instance, the buses are out to make as much money as possible and therefore it is not uncommon for fifty people to be crammed into a twenty passenger bus or worse twenty-five people in a fifteen passenger van! And my normal size of 5’ 11” is three to four inches taller than most Peruvians which makes for a tight fit! 
With only six weeks under my belt in Arequipa, my first learning goal is Castellano (Spanish). When I first arrived my experiences with Spanish included two years in high school (9th and 10th grade), four mission trips to the Dominican Republic, and six months of Duolingo (google it). It is amazing how much I have learned in these first few weeks. Prior to Arequipa, I had no understanding how hard it was to listen and understand Spanish but hearing it on a daily basis makes for great ministry practice. It is a spiritual gift to learn the art of listening. And speaking of practicing and listening, singing worship songs with my brothers and sisters does wonders for my soul! 
In my short time here in Arequipa as part of a seven family-church planting mission team, I am reminded of what the Teacher says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Every adventure has a beginning and for most missionaries the first year can be the hardest, but I am reminded of its purpose. Just as God became flesh and blood to become like us, in a small way, God is allowing this Arkansan to see life as an Arequipeño. He is teaching me about his people, whom he loves and whom Jesus died for and lives for. And just like a typical season, the enculturation process will not last forever. To that end, just as God is faithful, I too will strive to be faithful because of the hope found in the life of Jesus Christ.