I am 7 months into my one-year apprenticeship with Team Arequipa, and time has definitely flown by. This time has been very formative and will continue to be, and I’m continually grateful for the opportunity to be here learning and working with the team. While there are some things I wish I had done differently, I did not know what to expect when deciding to spend a year in Arequipa, Peru. Much of the first half of my time here was spent getting used to the culture, living with 3 of the 4 families, and jumping around to experience and learn about the various aspects of ministry that each of the families is involved with. Here are some highlights from the past 7 months and what I have learned from them.
One of the main focuses of this year was to improve Spanish speaking ability and learn more about Peruvian culture. Many missionaries take the entire first year or longer and dedicate themselves to that, but I obviously didn’t have that much time. So instead, for the first six weeks of my stay here, I was thrust into 20 hours per week of language school while I was living with a Peruvian family. I had studied Spanish in college, which helped as a good foundation, but this experience helped get the basics for the Arequipan-Peruvian brand of Spanish with all of its unique traits. I was hoping that just by being here my Spanish would have improved drastically, but that’s not quite the case (and I blame myself for that). But my time here helped me realize (1) how important being comfortable in a language is in order to form relationships, and (2) how it takes constant work to improve and maintain language skills.
Another main point from my time so far has been the months spent living with the families on the team. Through their generosity in opening their homes to me, I was able to see firsthand many of the struggles and blessings of living, working, raising kids, and building relationships in a culture that is not their own. I was able to witness and take part in the sharing of their tables with friends and neighbors that they have come to know. I have also been able to pick their brains on their experience as missionaries and learn about their lives in general.
Probably the most valuable lesson I will take from this year is what has been taking place inside of me and what I am learning about myself. I am learning lessons of humility when, after years of studying Spanish, I am struggling with not being better than I think I should be by now. The only way to improve is to make mistakes and get better at accepting correction. I am learning lessons about how God uniquely made me, including what that means and what it doesn’t mean. God can definitely use me in my gifts. However, even though I might be gifted at some things more than others, that does not mean God cannot work through me to accomplish his will through my weaknesses. If nothing else, learning that lesson and how to put it into practice will have made this apprenticeship worth it.
This has been an extremely beneficial time, and I hope to take as much advantage as possible of the remaining few months I have here.