It sometimes amazes me, the things I find I miss that I never even thought about before they became unavailable. As I sit here, writing this article, I am munching on cheddar cheese (courtesy of my recent trip to Lima) and drinking root beer (courtesy of the Hendersons). I must confess cheddar cheese has never tasted better than it does tonight. In life, we make choices about where we will live, how we will live, and the sacrifices we are willing to make in order to have the things we really want. As I recently learned, while the people of Lima may have access to cheese, they have no sun, and if I had to choose between warmer weather and cheese, I think I would keep the sun. While there are definitely things I miss out on living in Arequipa, there are so many wonderful things I do have such as inexpensive housing, a city where I can either walk or take a bus just about anywhere I would want to go in less than an hour, sunny days that are neither too warm nor too cold, and beautiful mountains that surround the city and remind me of the mountains at home. The satisfaction I find with my life here in Arequipa, the things I have and the things I don't, is based upon my perception and the lens through which I look at the world.
The work here is the same way. There are days when I think of it as just that, a job: a series of tasks that need to be completed. At times, when I am asked by Peruvians how many hours I work, what I do, and where I work, I often find myself hemming and hawing as I explain about the libraries, and the work I do with the children, not wanting them to realize that speaking with them, getting to know them and building relationships is part of what I do. After all, if someone told me they were being paid to talk to me, I would feel a bit uncomfortable. And it does make me uncomfortable so long as I think about what I do here in Peru as a job. When I shift my perspective, and see what is done here as living out the mission of God, I find that there are several benefits. First, I find a different kind of motivation for the tasks I accomplish, because I am no longer punching my time card for a pay check, but am working in the service of my God and his church. Second, I find that the relationships I build become more about loving the people I meet and less about making contacts that might lead to conversions. I begin to see people rather than potential converts. I get to know people will real problems who desperately need the hope and peace that only Jesus Christ can provide. I suppose that's why they call us missionaries rather than employees, because what we do is a lifestyle not a nine to five job that we can tune out at the end of the workday.