If you had asked me one year ago what I thought my life would look like today, I would have said something like “I’ll be speaking Spanish, but otherwise, I have no clue!” I’ve wanted to do mission work for a long time, but there are always facets of culture and personal skill that define which part will be handled by whom. So we came with some ideas, but generally willing to be influenced by what would be best here. Between the fact that Peruvians expect male leadership, that I knew almost no Spanish when we arrived, and that when Shaye was born, I signed up to be the stay-at-home mom, much of my “job” has fallen in the realm of making friends and becoming an expert on “translating” what we have known as home life into a Peruvian version that we can embrace.
I’m still very much in the learning stage. I recently had a great conversation with a friend about how to try and connect with our neighbors. Our original idea was to invite families over to get to know them. However, I now know that if we were to invite someone to dinner, they would immediately be suspicious that we wanted something from them and would likely avoid ever seeing us again. Not quite what we are going for. Their approach is to allow the mom of the family to meet the new person and get to know them a little, deciding if they are worth presenting to the remaining family members. Their homes are their most private, protected places, so getting together at home is an intimate thing to do, not a “get to know you” thing to do.
Luckily, before I got too discouraged, Jeannett was rattling off ideas of how to get to that point. I have begun a friendship with one shop owner just down the street, so we focused on her, though she also advised me on how to have a quick conversation with my neighbors when we meet on the street. She told me how to move a friendship into my home, gradually, simply by inviting one woman to come see my plants or meet my daughter. Or, if I become good friends with one person, I can ask her to invite friends to my house to learn to cook something. Then I could meet several at once, and send home some yummy food for their family to try, which opens the door for them to start talking about us. Since the moms are the doors into the families, this is pretty much my job, so I have some work to do.
Beyond making friends in our neighborhood, much of my responsibility falls in the home management department. In the States, that was pretty simple. Around here, it takes a little more planning and quite a bit more time. Luckily, we have figured out most of the confusions in food translations, substitutions, tracking down ingredients, etc. I will handle hosting our long-term guests and interns, helping their daily lives run as smoothly as possible, so they don’t have to hammer out the kinks that we have gotten past. For the research team coming this summer, I am in charge of scheduling what food to have when and who is cooking it at whose house. The fact that I know my way around the city, and around the grocery store, will come in handy time and time again.
Other aspects of my life are simply those that involve the whole team. We have all participated in the developmental project, though with different tasks. We take turns leading our study time together. We all participate in focused time together, in meetings, in training sessions with Alfredo, etc. I have particularly enjoyed attending the Wednesday night Bible Study that we are leading in the Williams’ absence. It has been a wonderful experience to spend time with Peruvian Christians. I hadn’t realized how much I missed just chatting with fellow believers until I found myself looking forward to such conversations in Spanish. There’s just something about knowing you have mutual ground that naturally draws you together. Plus, going through a study of Mark in Spanish has been very helpful with my listening, since it’s one thing to know what you want to say (based on what you CAN say), and understanding someone else’s point.
Mainly, we are still in the process of figuring it all out. A year from now, days will look different all over again. Less language study, more Bible study. Less questions, more friendship. While I look forward to it, I like that I am already content with my days.