What a ride is has been to see all the work happening through CUDA since it began in 2008! We initially identified specific needs for which we saw solutions and have been pursuing a closing of those gaps ever since. We want to be more than a band-aid or reassurance, but to actually address the source of the problem and make it better, for real.
Church life has its ups and downs, as any church knows. We go through dry spells, and we go through times of feeling blessed. Just lately, I have witnessed blessing. One of those blessings comes in the form of a theological class that Greg teaches through CUDA. It is a five-trimester program that takes any student willing to explore the Bible as story, spiritual disciplines, and other practical issues. I sat down with one of our church leaders the other day that is participating in the third semester. I asked her how the class was going. She said, “Megan, I so wish that everyone could go through these classes. I am learning a much deeper meaning to the Bible than I have ever experienced.” Because of some of the leaders from our house churches being in this theology class, they have structured the study material for all the house churches based on what they have learned so far. This is both exciting and rewarding. I have seen the hours that Greg has put into his curriculum for this class. It is really exciting to see that hard work come to fruition. I take for granted the many lessons I learned growing up in the church. I take VBS, church camps, and youth rallies for granted. I take for granted the opportunity I was given to attend a Christian university. It is such a joy to see this theology class give people the opportunity to study the story of God, and for them to express the interest of teaching others. They are people that were never given the opportunity to study the word of God in this way.
I just recently attended a missionary women’s retreat in Lima where we went through an intense five day study of the Exodus story. I couldn’t help but make so many connections from Moses and Israel’s journey to the gospel message we teach from Mark. I came home spiritually refreshed, but one of the first things I shared with Greg was that I had to study the story of Israel more deeply with Areli (one of my dearest friends here that I disciple in a weekly meeting). Praise be to God! She joined the new semester of the theology class that Greg is teaching. I am so excited to see her eyes opened even more to God’s story as she explores the messages from the Old Testament this semester.
Every Wednesday afternoon, I wait for Greg to get home so that I can walk to the bus stop and meet Etelvina (one of our Peruvian sisters) and Bethany (my Australian teammate) in Porvenir, a neighborhood in Miraflores. We meet at the corner of the street and then walk about eight blocks to Sandra’s one-room home. We are always greeted by Sandra’s beautiful smile and the sweet giggles of her 7-month-old son, Harold. We have enjoyed this weekly meeting together as we go through the book of Mark with Sandra. She is such a delight in this study, and one of the biggest lessons that she latched onto was the promise of Jesus to multiply our families when we give them up for the sake of following him. She is attending our Sunday meetings regularly, and I love to see our family welcome her and Harold into the fellowship we are so blessed to share.
It is hard to know how many will show up to our house church meeting sometimes, but this past Sunday was a record. We actually ran out of seating for those that attended (there were over 20 in attendance). I know that we will still have meetings in the future where numbers are low, and I am still not one to measure God’s success in this work as the number I see on a Sunday morning. I guess just recently, I have been blessed to see the family of God be just what it is––family. Caring to share something new with those around them and feeling burdened to teach it to others. Continuing in the journey of seeking God even after baptism with brothers and sisters in the Way. Feeling like one can be welcomed into a group of people that come from many different walks of life and still be seen as someone that “family” will care for in good and bad times. Church life can be ugly, but when it is beautiful, it is one of the greatest blessings that God has given us.
There's a first time for everything.
Moving to another country is a fresh encounter with a whole new set of 'firsts'. And, looking back, it is encouraging to see all the challenges you've faced and it is deeply satisfying to realize "It's all good, God is truly with me. All the time". And it is so true. He is with us, always, in the big things and in the little things. So here's a look at God's provision in my recent past:
- First time to figure out which meals to make for my family when I don't have all the ingredients I need easily accessible or even available in the first place
- First time to ride on crazy combis (small, jam-packed buses) with a toddler, a couple of bags etc often jumping on with a running start and jumping off without a complete stop
- First time to feel small earthquakes that shake my home and send me scurrying outdoors with my kids and husband
- First time to haggle with taxi drivers, telling them "I know it doesn't cost that much to get me there"
- First time to watch complete strangers kiss my baby girl on the cheek and head even when she's in the frontside carrier (they try with Lorenzo but he pretends to shoot at them! ...)
- First time to be asked by a Peruvian pre-K teacher to come talk to her about my son's behavior at school! (It wasn't all bad :)
- First time to figure out how to pack, organize, deal with moving companies to get a container 3,700+ miles away, discovering how many truly amazing helpers it takes to get all that done
- First, and last, time to eat Peruvian Chinese food at a mall's food court
- First bout with foreign bacteria getting comfortable in my intestines
- First time to begin working on the foreign mission field with a part of my team while joining an existing team, simultaneously taking advantage of their extreme helpfulness and learning new team dynamics
- First times learning to tune out late night and early morning parties in our new neighborhood
- First time to experience first hand how helpful and loving complete strangers can be when it comes to helping you settle into your new home and neighborhood
- First time to experience the joy and familiarity that exists in a house church
- First time to completely, utterly, fully rely on God since, let's be honest, there is not much we are completely sure of here and even less that we can pretend we have control over
With this godly gift of hind-sight, let's look at our past and thank God for always being with us! My prayer is that this will help remind us to trust Him with our future with honest and happy hearts.
Being in a new place and being away from home and what you are use to can be hard. We have been sick most of the time we have been here, have had troubles with the language and had times of not understanding the culture. I have had a couple of memorably bad days already where I have just ended up in tears and frustration. I have realised through these times that it is good to take time to celebrate and praise the Lord for the things that bring joy and happiness no matter how small or big. So there are a couple of things I want to share with you and hope you can celebrate with me.
We have now been in Arequipa for 6 months! It seems like such an achievement as this is the longest I have been away from home. I could not have dreamed of all the things we have done, seen and been a part of already in these 6 months. Our new church family have welcomed us with open hearts and it has been such a privilege to walk with them in faith.
We have finished our Spanish lessons and can hold a relatively good conversation, which in turn is helping us to make some new friends.
I am also surrounded by teammates who don't know me so well but have opened their homes and hearts to us. It fills me with so much joy to be able to share this experience with them.
And lastly God’s amazing grace…what a beautiful gift. He has given me strength. He has soften my heart when it has been so hard. He has provided so generously in ways I didn’t even know I needed.
So I praise God for these things and ask that you will with me as well.
CUDA’s latest initiative is called the Centro de Desarrollo Teológico—the Theological Development Center. Since the published (on Facebook) description of the program is in Spanish, I thought supporters might like a translation and a little extra explanation.