Our team of wonderful people has been planning mission work in Arequipa for years now. Yet, the team has morphed through the years so that my beautiful bride and I were the only two (of six) who had been in the city. Even Megan’s visit, for that matter, had been far from in-depth. Our vision casting has been second hand in the main, based on my impressions and those of former team members. The team has nurtured love for people whose faces it has not seen. It has tried to image God’s faithfulness in the unknown. At the final meeting before the trip, we had finally come to the strategy portion of our team formation. The questions that loomed before us were exciting. Where would we live in the city? How would we live? What exactly would we do, how would we do it, and with whom? At last we had come to the questions, and at last it was necessary to stand in the city. We needed to walk the streets, look poverty—both spiritual and physical—in the face, and make up our hearts, if not our minds.
My prayer, then, was for a clearer vision. We have our vision statement, and that will serve us well. For the present, though, we needed a vision of the city as it is, with which to compare the future we imagine. We needed a focus for our conviction and passion. We needed real lives for whom to feel compassion. Specifically, we prayed for an idea of where to live, a neighborhood in which to live out the lessons we have learned from God incarnate. We prayed for the courage to imagine ourselves dwelling among those to whom Jesus ministered—the poor and marginalized. We prayed for a place where our families could live without fear of constant danger. All of this would require some way by which we could, in a week, survey a city of a million and gain a reasonably accurate idea of its geographical socioeconomic breakdown. We had no clue what that way would be.
In addition to this, the other item on the agenda was to check out language schools. Appointments were made via email with four schools prior to arriving in the city, and a fifth was going to receive a surprise visit from five gringos, because it had not responded to email. So our prayers included requests for productive visits and a good prospective language-learning experience. These goals really only amounted to two tasks—survey neighborhoods and visit language schools—but it seemed a full week’s work to accomplish them. In the course of the week, though, God worked many things together to result in more than we had imagined.
[Stay tuned for more, when we figure out how to convert 10-year-old PDFs into a format that allows us to extract text. -JD]