December 2012

One Way to Look at It: Hope

Meet Misti, the volcano that represents Arequipa much like the skyline of New York. Among the three that surround the city, Misti draws the most attention, towering at 19,101 feet. What is less clear, however, is that its neighbor, Chachani, is taller, at 19,872 feet, because due to being farther away, it appears shorter. Proximity demands our attention, and things at a distance shrink from view.

My father-in-law, David Smith, died earlier this month. He was hospitalized very suddenly and quickly declined, which resulted in our decision to travel back and be with the family. We rushed into the country and dove headfirst into the situation only days before he passed. To say it has been a shock is putting it far too mildly. Even as we work to navigate the business of losing a family member and redefining life, it has not felt real and somehow all too real at the same time. Needless to say, it dominates our field of vision. It may not be the biggest thing going on in the world, but as the closest, it looms largest for us. Everything else, from minutia to plans to holidays to major crises, recedes into the background.

Hope is a background thing. Far off, small, easily dismissed.

I recently heard someone say that if a pessimist sees a glass as half-empty and an optimist sees the same glass as half-full, hope knows the glass will be filled again someday. It’s the ability to stand up yet again to a bully’s blow because you see your big brother on his way to your defense. Something is different because you see change heading your way.

This is easy to think about, but excruciating to apply when we live experiences of pain, weariness and loss. We can know that things will be made right one day, but we ache against the wrongness around us right now. We can believe that Jesus will rework the world and perfect it all, but we wrestle with the imperfections that tangle around us right now. We can trust that we will be filled and reunited, but we find ourselves empty and lonely right now. We can look forward to understanding, but we drown in our questions for now.

Even in faith, hope can seem too far off, too small because it is a background thing. Though it is big enough to cover everything we experience, we cannot fathom how that tiny speck on the horizon will envelope the brokenness of our world and make it whole. It appears insufficient to fill even the hole in our own hearts when they feel shattered or lonely or angry or weak or sad.

We have to consciously choose to stand back up and face the bully, though it be to yet another blow, because we know that He is coming. And for my part, for today, when the struggles that vie for my focus close in, I will choose to look beyond and remember the power that waits patiently in the background.

December at a Glance

December has certainly kept us on our toes. We have greatly missed the Smith family. We are excited for their return on the last day of the month! This has been the first year that we have not spent one of the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with our teammates in Arequipa. They were sick on Thanksgiving, and they were obviously not here on Christmas. When you come to the field with one other family, it is very obvious that things are not the same when one family isn't present. We eagerly await their arrival. Aria and Shaye both celebrated birthdays this month. We look forward to some post-birthday celebrating with them.

I continue to be very excited about the Living Libraries work. Neil Cantrell, another missionary here, has signed on to co-lead the program with me in the coming year. The dream, obviously, is for a Peruvian to be hired to lead the library work. But until we receive the funding, that will not be a reality. As a stay-at-home-mom, I am only able to dedicate one day of the week to visiting the schools. With Neil's help, we hope to share the load next year. I will still dedicate my one day to visiting the classrooms, but he is willing to go to the schools two days a week. We hope to have more of a presence in the actual library space as well as the classrooms. Also, we will be receiving a fluency kit to help us in testing the kids' reading levels. This is exciting for us because we know we will be in the door from day one of school starting, and we can test a sample group of kids throughout the year to see if our work is making a difference.

Abraham, one of our CUDA employees, will be working with the teachers and principals in the area of conflict management. We have a meeting set for this Saturday with school faculty. One of the school principals approached us with some faculty dynamic issues, and she is seeking extra help from the NGO. That is really exciting to me. One, I feel like this past year served as a time to lay a foundation of trust with the schools. Two, this is where part of the holistic model of our ministry plays a role. We are there to serve the whole person: student and teacher alike. Aside from that opportunity, one of the third grade teachers I worked with all year has requested to study the Bible with me over the summer break. God is certainly opening doors through this ministry.

For Christmas, the CUDA staff, family, and some members of the church acted out a Christmas drama at the two schools. Emilia, a new member to the church, has a lot of experience with children's ministry. We welcomed her ideas for dramas we could use in the schools. The children seemed to enjoy the production, and it was a great message to present along side the traditional drama they see of Jesus' birth.

It is becoming an annual tradition to have our celebration meeting the Sunday before Christmas out at Naranjal. One of our house churches meets in this poor community, and they are usually unable to participate in the celebration Sundays throughout the rest of the year. This year, the church acted out the same drama that Emilia recommended for the schools, served paneton and hot chocolate (the traditional Christmas treat), shared in communion, and gave out toys to the children in the community that had been donated. It was a beautiful Sunday.

At the Naranjal Sunday meeting, the church met two of its newest members. We are excited to share with you that Alfredo and Judith (after going through a long process and waiting for a call) brought their two adopted sons to the gathering for all of us to meet. Andres is two years old, and Ángel is 1 year 2 months. They are brothers, and they are absolutely adorable. We are so happy for Alfredo and Judith, and we pray for wisdom and God's blessings as the boys adjust to their new home.

Many blessings to you and yours for the coming year from the church in Arequipa!

Pray for 2013

My family just lost its permanent visas. I feel a great deal of frustration about the situation. The reason that we lost them was fair enough, but it was something of a technicality. I think I would feel better if there had been some major issue or injustice, actually. As it is, the time and money we will lose in order to remain in Peru one way or another seems frivolous.
Our first prayer is that we be able to remain in country without any problems. There is no reason to think that will not happen, but things are at least more precarious than before.

A close second is our prayer that CUDA would not be negatively affected. We are just to the point of finishing some legal procedures in country that, hopefully, will not require my visa to complete.

Too many good things are planned for this year to be utterly gloomy about our news. Not least, tomorrow and the next day some of our future teammates arrive for a visit. It is a sign of blessings to come. Later in the year we will have summer interns, a large group of students led by Bill and Holly Richardson, and the arrival of long-term apprentices Andrew and Bethany Gray from Australia. Please pray for funding for all of these arrivals and consider helping them financially (contact us via email if you would like to give).