We have a strategy. I like it. We worked hard on it and tried to be realistic. It is no surprise that young missionaries can have unrealistic expectations, and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is equally fair to call low expectations unrealistic given the Reality that we serve. To be honest, I am torn between these two modes of thought. On one hand, it is the great expectation of God that sent me into the mission field in the first place. On the other hand, it is the cowardly fear that high expectations will set us up for failure that causes me to hit the brakes. On one hand, it is the foolish zeal of inexperience that strains at the bridle. On the other hand, it is the wisdom of those gone before us that we should dedicate ourselves to learning for a time and approach our ministry to people in the careful manner of a master builder.
One of the basic problems for a strategy that takes God’s rather large role into account is the fact that we pick “target” people groups and create schedules that God might not necessarily have in mind. Of course, we do this prayerfully and always with the caveat that it might change. The issue, however, is not that the whole strategy is usually worthless. It’s just that God puts people in our lives that we didn’t count on at times that we didn’t plan on, and those relationships can lead us down wonderful, unexpected paths. There are some special relationships forming already here in Arequipa, and although we don’t know where they will lead, we know that we are God’s servants in the lives of these people.
Let me introduce a few of our new friends. Alfredo is one of my Spanish teachers, but that is not his primary occupation. He is the regional coordinator for the Peace Corps. He is a kind man with a very open disposition. We have already begun discussing the role of religion in social development. His experience working in the poor areas of the city is extensive, and the potential for collaboration is extremely exciting
I have already learned a lot from Alfredo about the people we plan to work with. Regina is another of the language instructors, the youngest as far as I know—around our age. Kyle and I have both benefited from her teaching, and I have enjoyed vigorous discussions concerning faith and religion. Regina is an unusual case in Arequipa, as she is an agnostic raised by an atheist father. Either of those religious options is far out of the norm in this highly Catholic society, and she bears the social scars of her beliefs. As she is no less polemical than I am, we have taken many opportunities to practice my Spanish by way of debate. Also, we began studying the Gospel of Mark in class as a reading exercise for me and a springboard for our discussions. Although the changing rotation of teachers has brought our classes to an end, she has expressed interest in continuing our Bible study in another venue-- over coffee most likely!
Meg’s and my landlord is Juan. Juan works in regional government administration. We’ve had one good talk, just getting to know one another, and he proved a very interesting conversationalist. He is quick to offer advice from his experience traveling among outlying populations, many of whom comprise the migrant groups we will work with in the city. He is a chef by hobby and eager to teach us Arequipan cuisine. I think this help in the future may prove invaluable, and, as an additional possibility, he expressed a longstanding desire to establish an NGO.
Lastly, I’ll mention our part-time house keeper, Manuela. Both families are employing Manuela on the recommendation of the language school, and we have already bonded with her. Manuela’s lifestyle is much like that of the people we intend to minister among, and it is exciting to learn from her in particular. She raised her two children as a single mother, and their families still live with her. She is a hard worker with a sweet spirit, and we hope to bring the love of God into her life in a new way. In a recent conversation, I discerned that she plays a matriarchal role in her little community, being the “most adult,” as she delicately put it.
So what will God do with a Peace Corps coordinator, an agnostic, a wealthy government employee, and a lower-class community leader? We don’t presume to know, but we never quit hoping that through us, his name will be glorified in Arequipa.