The Sower

This past Celebration Sunday, I had the privilege to teach the kids' class.  We read through the parable of “The Sower.”  Various church members brought real seeds, rocks, cactus spines, and good soil for the children to actually see the components of the story.  After using these visuals, we told the story again with edible visuals.  We “planted” chocolate candies.  We added crumbled Oreo “rocks.”  We observed the “thistle” pretzel sticks.  And then we added some chocolate pudding as the “good soil.”  It was a very delicious activity.  I didn't mind teaching the kids class one bit (wink, wink).
Since Greg and I returned from furlough, I have experienced a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts.  For those that don't know, Greg and I will be leaving Peru in two years.  Greg desires to study more and earn a doctorate.  We feel that it is the next chapter in our journey together, and the timing of it all places us in Arequipa until January 2015.  Arequipa is our home.  We have celebrated more anniversaries in this city, we have had two children that carry Peruvian passports, we have established ourselves here as family.  We were convicted to move here in 2008, and throughout the past four years we have worked hard to make a dream for this city become reality, and we have fallen in love with many of the Peruvian people in the process.  It is hard to imagine life outside of Arequipa.
Greg and I have prayed so much about this decision, and I feel good about the timeline.  But before we left for furlough, a huge part of my heart ached for these people.  In a sense, I feel like we are “abandoning” family.  I cried when we said good-bye to our house church before furlough.  I do not want to imagine the blubbering of tears I will display in the months leading up to January 2015.  But God has taught me a huge lesson in my time here...
He is the sower.  Sometimes he uses me to plant a seed.  Sometimes he uses me to water or pull thistles away from a plant.  But the point of him being the sower is that I am just a part of the process in Kingdom planting.  We are excited beyond words about a team of four couples that is choosing to come join the work we began here four years ago.  Several of the couples will overlap with Greg and me in our final year, then continue working with the Smiths, and I cannot express the joy that brings to me in knowing that these four precious families will be partnering with Peruvians that are now growing in leadership and maturity in the Spirit.
I have struggled with the language, but God has showed me time and time again what he can do with a willing spirit that says “Here am I.  Send me.”  I expressed to Greg the other day that I know my Spanish has greatly improved, but I am pretty sure that I still wouldn't be an “expert speaker” if we chose to live here twenty years.  Who knows if I am correct.  Who knows if we end up moving back to Peru again in the distant future.  But one thing I am confident of is that I was part of Kingdom sowing while I was here.  Maybe I am not the one to run the library program as a fluent Spanish speaker, but maybe God needed me to plant the seeds for that program to really launch.  Maybe I will never fully connect to these women's lives that I am studying with–there are certainly plenty of language and cultural barriers that seem impossible to overcome at times.  But I am confident that I have been part of God sowing seeds in these women's lives, and I am excited to be a part of the growing process while I am still here.
Have you ever been in a situation where you know big change will happen in a short time?  It is easy to check out or distance yourself from those around you.  I have been thinking a lot of what these two years should look like for me.  What is it that will make the greatest impact in our ministry here?  My friends know that I won't always be around.  This past month, I read this verse in light of the communion we shared together:  

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
— John 13:34-35

Wherever we go, wherever we live, whoever we fellowship with, they will know us by our love.  It is my prayer that I can demonstrate this in its fullest form to the Peruvians around me in the coming two years.  I am excited for others to carry a torch that I have been carrying in the four years we have lived here.  I am so thankful for those that planted seeds before we even arrived.  I am even more grateful to know that God is in control of his planting, and one day we might get to see how a crop “multiplies thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times” (Mark 4:8).