Arequipa’s parks fill up on weekends. A busy work week gives way to a day or two of rest in which parents and grandparents take their kids to the park to enjoy Arequipa’s beautiful, springy climate. On Sundays in Arequipa, the park is one of the places where life happens. Naturally that’s where we want the church—God’s presence as reconciled family—to be.
Most of you know that we practice what is called “organic church” here in Arequipa. This usually takes the form of “house church,” but it has more to do with how we meet than where we meet. It’s about bringing Jesus into places where life happens and the church growing out of the kingdom seed that is planted. For the past several years there have been two groups that have met consistently as church, sometimes expanding into third and fourth groups before contracting again into two. These two groups meet in homes on most Sundays, and once a month come together for a special Sunday of worship and sharing.These two churches formed as God blessed the McKinzies’ and Smiths’ work, and God used these churches to bless the Frouds, Morgans, Daggetts, and Blairs as they moved to Arequipa. After over a year of meeting with these two churches, last month they “sent out” the Daggetts and Blairs to the district in which we live, called “Hunter,” to be God’s family where we live and work, in hopes of it growing into a new church.
You’ve heard of Hunter as you’ve kept up with CUDA’s work, both in education and in health. We moved to Hunter because of the possibility to participate in the life of the community in which we are practicing holistic development, believing that true development happens in the context of relationship and walking together. For us, the church is at the heart of what it looks like for God’s family to experience reconciliation, so it was time to start being the church in Hunter and praying to be sent to a family who is searching for God.
On a Sunday three weeks ago Jake, Jaclyn, Katie, and I met in a park in Hunter for the first time to pray, eat brunch, share communion, and study together on a picnic blanket. Our prayer—which is shared by the other two churches here, as well as by our supporters back home—is that we would be sent to a family who wants to experience reconciled community. For a time we plan to meet together in the same park with this prayer, not inviting as many people as possible to the park but praying that God would lead us to a family, a new nucleus for a new church. We’re meeting in a park because we believe it’s important to be the church where life happens and where we have the opportunity to see other families enjoy their family day.
When I say that we plan to meet together praying in this way “for a time,” I don’t know whether that means weeks, months, or years, but I’m thinking longer-term. So I couldn’t help having my socks knocked off and smiling when our very first Sunday together God sent a young family of three to the tree whose shade we were enjoying. We had been studying, talking, and praying together when Jake suggested we meet this family who was so close to us. A quick “¡Buenos does!” later and we had spent two hours getting to know them and their story, sharing our story, work, and passion, and sharing bread and wine together. It was really, really cool.
Now, please don’t stop praying, because we haven’t seen them again since (and haven’t been able to get a cellphone call through to them). But please do rejoice with us in how God works, so obviously and so counter to our expectations, when we make time as a church to open our collective eyes and schedules to have a chance to cross paths with someone new. Please continue to pray for this new little church initiative in Hunter, as well as the two churches who continue to meet and share as participants in God’s mission, waiting patiently for their own growth and multiplication of God’s family experiencing reconciliation.