Jose Luis was the first Peruvian that was baptized into Christ in our time here. I can remember our first meetings with only the two missionary families, Emilio (who was already a Christian), and Jose Luis. How exciting it is to see what has happened over the course of these almost-four years. We have grown in number, but more than that, we have grown in our relationships with so many of these Peruvians. I commented to one of our interns that it is kind of scary for me to think about leaving Peru at this point. I am so invested in the lives of these people, my Peruvian family, that I cannot and don't want to imagine the day when we leave.
Throughout the first part of this year, Jose Luis's attendance to our weekly meetings were off and on. He works a lot, and we were aware that his work sometimes affected his attendance. What we were not expecting to hear one Sunday is that Jose Luis was gone a lot of weekends because he was visiting a certain friend in another city...
Meet Miriam. She is promised to Jose Luis and they will wed this August (the 18th to be exact). She lives in a town 4 hours away from Arequipa. She will move here the beginning of August. She has been studying the gospel message with Jose Luis throughout their courtship. They requested to come meet with Greg and me a few Sundays ago. We felt so honored that she would make a special trip to come meet us. But that trip meant more than that. Jose Luis explained that she wanted to join him in his journey with the Lord. We scheduled a time to meet again and talk about the cost of discipleship. They came, we talked, and Miriam decided to go with the “Eunuch response.” If there was a place to do the baptism, she didn't see any reason to wait. On June 29, the holiday of Peter and Paul here in Peru, Miriam confessed her faith in front of the church that could come with 2 hours notice. It was a beautiful scene. We all came back to the house. We shared, sang, and prayed. Keep Miriam in your prayers as she begins her journey of discipleship. Also pray for the new life Jose Luis and Miriam will share as they say their wedding vows this August.
Toward the end of this month, I finished the study of Mark with Nadia. I went into that last study feeling so excited about Nadia making the commitment. The result caught me off guard. To make a long story short, I learned that Nadia had a different perception of baptism than what I believe the Bible teaches. She explained to me that she is in the process of making that commitment but she needed to forgive some people in her life and make things in her heart right before she could make covenant with God. I immediately went to Romans 8 where it talks about the Spirit helping us in our weakness. We conversed for awhile, and we concluded with the plan to look more closely at baptism in our next study. I spoke with David Mitchell, the overseeing elder at Cedar Lane of the Peru work who was here with the engineers, and with Greg about where I should go with this conversation. I fully believe the Spirit pointed me to Romans 8, so it was no surprise to me when they both said I should take her through Romans 6-8.
Also, I spoke with three of our Peruvian Christians that came from a Catholic background– Paty, Alfredo, and Manuela. I learned from them that Nadia's hesitancy comes from a Catholic mindset of not being able to approach the presence of God unless your horizontal relationships are made right. I learned a lot from them, and I thank God that I have my Peruvian family that understands a Peruvian mindset better than I ever can. Isn't that what Christian brothers and sisters are for?
Nadia and I read through Romans 6-8, and we ended the meeting with her saying that she was ready. She realizes that she is in process, but that she will always be in process. Baptism isn't the end result of making yourself who you think you should be. Baptism is the beginning. It is the acceptance of the gift of the Holy Spirit who is the only answer for making us into the person God wants us to be.
We haven't made it to the water yet, because there are some people that Nadia really wants to be there to witness her decision. We are making plans for that special day. I am thrilled beyond words to have walked thus far with her in this journey. God has taught me and stretched me so much in the process. I am now excited to see her confess her faith publicly in front of the saints, and enter into a study of discipleship with her. Thanks to all of you for your prayers for Nadia. She is such a dear friend to me, and I cannot express the joy I feel in being able to call her “sister.”