I often think about the words of Dr. Cox, who was very influential in my formation at Harding. He tells of a lesson he learned as a young missionary in Africa prone to focusing on sermon preparation and delivery. He came to realize that his priorities were slightly misaligned and posted a written reminder for himself: 20% of what you do is sermon preparation and delivery, 80% of what you do is about being in the lives of people. I’m sure he’ll forgive me if my quote isn’t exact; the essence is right at least.
Our philosophy of ministry here is deeply incarnational, and that means that the measuring stick for our self-assessment is relationship. There are certainly times when I’m personally frustrated with our pace in this regard or that, even though it’s no different from what we’ve planned on paper. We approach our calling here with a great respect for the challenge of building authentic relationships cross-culturally and yet a dogged commitment to becoming proficient at it. Time is always the key, though, isn’t it? Time to learn the language; time to learn the culture; time to build trust; time to earn the privilege to speak. Perhaps we are now entering a new phase. Doors begin to open. Invitations arrive. Conversation takes a turn from trivial to meaningful. Those are the moments we long for and pray for.
Aside form many budding friendships, we have two solid evangelistic studies going that each involve a number of people. These are a weekly morale booster, as sharing the good news with people is the most satisfying thing in the world. The relationships involved are in a variety of places, but trust and friendship are growing. Our Wednesday night study is another set of relationships with both believers and searchers. We cherish the intimacy and mutual love the meeting holds and look forward to many similar groups in the near future. It is a witness to the power of such settings for cultivating an environment of acceptance and reciprocity that leads to open learning and processing. We may be able to “proclaim the truth” regardless, but it is relationship that creates a true audience. Our developmental projects provide a continual stream of acquaintances and conversations that stand to blossom into much more. As more people see that we serve out of love rather than self-interest, more relationships follow. It’s pretty simple, I suppose, but it’s real, and it’s powerful. I never cease to be amazed by Jesus’ example.
On a different note, God has placed a new partner in our midst. Abraham Olivera is a recent graduate of the Lubbock Christian University Bible program. He had previously completed the Sunset program as well. To put it simply, Abraham is a man of God and a true servant. We’ve written previously about the divisions among Peruvian congregations even here in Arequipa. It seems that God has sent Abraham with a mission of reconciliation, because he pays no mind to these factions and eagerly works with any and all who will proclaim Jesus. I’ve been impressed by his zeal and open spirit as well as his native intuition when dealing with Peruvians--not least those less open than himself. Most of his family lives in Arequipa, so he knows well what he is about here. Although he has no church support and no source of income save his elderly parents’ small corner store, he dedicates most of his time to pounding the pavement to generate contacts, Bible studies, and church activities. Now he is collaborating with ICDU to expand the library project into Miraflores. We’re really excited about working with Abraham and ask you to pray that his needs be met for the benefit of his ministry.