Many doubted our strategy of starting house churches when we were fundraising. A major reason is that it has never been done in churches of Christ successfully here in Latin America. We are blessed to be supported by Cedar Lane and Shiloh Road in our work here, because they decided to take a step of faith in hiring us and in investing in this model. I believe we still have a long way to go to see evidence that it is working. Only time will tell. But I have really enjoyed seeing our little house church develop over time and slowly seeing relationships deepen between the body of believers.
Mission work is our job. We do it for a living. But the church is life, and it is made of many parts. I think many mission works have failed because the missionary is the one in charge and runs the show. He makes the contacts, prepares the lessons, instructs the church in its decisions, etc. When the missionary leaves, the church dies or loses its momentum. It is very hard to not play this role as “the missionary.” Sometimes it is hard to let go and let others do. We come from a strong heritage with traditions and great ideas, and we come here to a totally different culture and realize the ways we grew up with might not be the greatest ways to teach here. I feel like we have been very aware of this notion. We have a long way to go, but after 2 years of growing with our first house church, I am excited for the future and what God has in the works.
I want to give you a few examples just recently of how I have felt like our house church is truly experiencing family:
During the last few months, most of Greg’s Bible studies have been with Christians. We call them discipleship studies. We firmly believe that if the church is going to flourish when we leave the field, the disciples have to be well-trained and equipped to do what we were sent here to do. His studies are one- on-one, and I can tell that Greg has such a strong connection with some of our leaders in this church because of the time he has invested in them. Just recently, Greg had an afternoon meeting with Abraham, our good Christian friend that is a community leader and meets with his own group of converts in Porvenir. Abraham came around 3:00, and he and Greg visited about the work here, our developmental work, and theology (Abraham went through the program at Lubbock Christian). Greg had his weekly discipleship meeting with Alfredo at 6:00, and Abraham was still at the house. I did what I normally do when Alfredo comes and served a small “dinner” snack to all three and noted that they were very comfortable on our living room couches conversing away. 2 1/2 hours later, the door to the living room opened and the men left. Greg had the biggest smile on his face when he came in from walking them out. “Megan,” he started, “that was one of the coolest things I have seen so far. Sitting with those two Peruvian men discussing God and the work here in Arequipa, and Alfredo being one of them.” Pretty cool.
I have really been making an effort to reach out to one of our pre-teens, Isabel. As far as a youth group goes, we are very small (like 2 girls). But it is a place to start, and I am burdened with a sense that I am called to minister to this age group. The church is family because everyone is part of it, and we help everyone out. Parents have a responsibility in raising their children, but the church also has a responsibility in raising those kids. I can give you countless examples of people that influenced me in the church outside of my immediate family. I am indebted to them for raising me to love and serve the way that I witnessed them loving and serving. I married a man that has several father figures because his mother turned to the church when that was missing from his life. Greg wouldn’t be who he is today without the godly men that stepped up and took on that responsibility of being the family of God to him. Well, as a family we have attended several of Isabel’s school events. Her parents are separated, and I have grown very close to her mother in a weekly meeting we have together. This past weekend, Rachel and I hosted a slumber party for our “youth group.” Both of the girls were told that they could bring a friend. We ended up with three girls and had a great time. This was a marker to me that we have come a long way in our relationship with Isabel. She is so much more comfortable around us, and she is participating in our church activities. It is hard to believe that at the end of our contracted 5 years, these girls will be teenagers.
We meet in small groups of 2-3 Christians for a weekly meeting to confess, read, and pray together. All of the groups have a missionary present. One particular week, one of our groups of women that meets with both Rachel and Larissa were missing the gringas. Rachel was in Brazil at a conference and Larissa was gone on furlough. It may sound simple to you, but the two Peruvian women still met. Neither of them were brought into the church knowing each other. They have built a friendship through their small group meeting, and they chose to meet when it would have been easy to call it off. I love this example of some of the Christian fellowship we have witnessed among the Peruvians here. It is so exciting to see authentic relationships built upon Christ (not missionaries).