In the three years I have lived here I feel that I have seen a lot. Poverty has a way with staring one right in the face. Two of my best friends traveled to Arequipa to help me with the kids while Greg is gone to the states. I was explaining to them that I have grown here in a way that I might not have grown in the states in the area of complaining. Whenever I complain or sense the urge to complain, all I have to do is think of someone worse off than me and it immediately puts me back in my place. It isn't too hard to see "that person" that is worse off than me in this city of a million where many are without work, public education is one of the worst in the world, and justice does not play out in many situations. Over the past month I can recall three ways that I was touched by circumstances I hadn't personally encountered before. I knew these situations existed, but they became more real to me through people that I interact with in Arequipa.
While Greg has been gone I take Ana to school with the three kids in a taxi every morning. You can imagine the English conversation that goes on in the second seat. It makes many taxi drivers curious, and many times, they ask where we are from or why we are here. One particular morning last week, the taxi driver tried to speak a little English with me. I applauded him for his language skills and began to ask him where he learned English. He had taken English classes while studying to become a high school teacher in history. He said that he needed to continue his classes but he didn't have the money. I asked him where he taught. He explained that it was very hard to find a job in his profession and the jobs available paid very little money. He had to resort to driving a taxi because it paid more money than teaching and he has a family to support. His passion is to teach history to high school kids, but he has become very pessimistic in thinking that his dream would ever become a reality.
One of the few news stations we get here is CNN International. They have had a series of documentaries on the problem of sex slavery in the world. I realize that it is a huge problem, but I had not been "touched" by it until this month. One of our church member's sister went missing the end of last month after his brother testified against a gang member. The brother was threatened to watch his back along with his family. Our brother in Christ greatly worried about his sister, because it was evident the gang members had taken her, not even 15 years old, and would sell her into sex trafficking if the police didn't find her first. Praise be to God, the police did find her, and she has returned to her family. Unfortunately, she has physical and emotional scars to live with the rest of her life, and the gang members got away. The family continues to live their lives in fear of something else happening to them.
One more story... a sister in Christ has been sharing with me that she has an illness that does not have a cure. She has searched the internet for a possible solution, but all she can find is remedies involving plants from other countries. One day she explained to me that she would tell me about her illness some day. That day came, and aside from the details of how she contracted the disease, she shared that she is HIV positive.
I don't mean to write a depressing article this month. I guess what God is teaching me is that in this life, so many hardships exist. It is hard to explain why it is so hard for some people. We live in a broken world, and I don't have all the answers for why things happen the way that they do. My sister that is sick has accepted Christ, and she has truly experienced what it means to have a new life. Although she lives with very tangible evidence of her past life, the old has gone and she has been renewed. This is an incredible testimony to me. Our Christian brother that has been threatened by the gang has a choice to live in fear or live for the one that says, "Do not fear for I am with you." He came to the church asking for prayers and I believe that he knows that we serve a God that does away with fear. In my conversation with the taxi driver, he shared with me that he is a Christian and meets with a body of believers that is like family to him. When his life seems dreary and unfulfilling, he can call on his Christian family in times of need.
So what is the point of all of this? Life is hard, but God is there. What will I do, or how will I handle myself when hard circumstances are staring me in the face? I have accepted following Christ. What does that mean, and how does that translate when things don't go as planned? I don't hold a lot of answers. I just wanted to share three stories of people that have been dealt a pretty ugly hand in this life. But they have hung on, and they continue to walk with the Spirit. Personally, I don't have much to complain about. But when I do, I will remember the Peruvians that have given me a little glimpse of what it means to persevere and trust in the name of the Lord our God.