Greetings! We are the Morgans: Justin, Sarah, Lorenzo and Maya. I, Justin, am 32 years old and I’m from Santa Rosa, California. Sarah is 28 and grew up in Bergamo, Italy. Our son Lorenzo is almost three years old and Maya is three months old. My wife and I are both nurses with combined experience in long-term care, cardiac and medical-surgical nursing. I also have a Bachelors in Bible and Ministry from Harding University. We currently live in Little Rock, Arkansas and are supported by the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ here. We are blessed to have our future work overseen by the elders and missions committee of this church. We will be arriving in Arequipa on February 5th. Our vision for the work there is to strengthen the church and add more to God’s kingdom as He works through us to do so. We hope to become like the Peruvians so that we can reach them with the life saving news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please keep us in your prayers as we strive towards this endeavor. We’re excited to be joining this great team.
There is a young woman that has been in and out of our meetings with the church. She will come and participate for several weeks, and then we won’t see her for months at a time. She is single, works a job in the center, and formed a relationship with one of our more mature Christian women some time ago. She has never committed to following Christ, but everyone in our church knows her. During my time home on furlough, I received an email from the Christian that has the strongest tie to this young woman, Paty. This young woman started showing up to the women’s meetings, pregnant out of wedlock. She was so very ashamed. But our beautiful group of Christian sisters hosted a baby shower for her, and Paty was writing me to ask if I could pick up donated items for the baby from the states. I brought this need before the Shiloh women, and I express with such thankfulness that such generous Christians support us and the petitions we bring before them. I didn’t have room in my suitcase for many baby items, but these women provided cash so that we could buy things she needs here.
I had the privilege of going to visit this young woman this past Wednesday with Bethany (my new teammate) and Etelvina (one of our dear Christian sisters that lives close to this young mother’s new home). Her little boy is absolutely precious, and the mother looked well, but the situation and the tears that she poured out before us that day were heart-wrenching. I can empathize with a new mother. I remember giving birth to our Anastasia. Not only was the whole birth experience scary, but going home with that little bundle and learning so many new things about babies was scary. I had family come to help, I had friends bring me food, I had a husband that shared the burden of night shifts and caring for the baby. And I was exhausted. I was so exhausted that I was on the verge of tears many days. I share all of that with you to say that it came as no surprise to me that this young mother was in tears when we began our conversation. But what I cannot empathize with is her situation.
The father of the baby is not present. Her family has kicked her out of their house because of the shame. The baby is less than 2 months old, and this mother is having to continue her job to make ends meet (how is that for a 6 week maternity leave). We were able to count some of her blessings that day: she is in a “house” (it is one room with a little area outside to cook over a fire) and she only has to pay utilities; she is able to continue to work her job from the home; the baby is healthy. But can you imagine!? She was so appreciative of our visit. We are going to go visit her every Wednesday, and we are going to read through the book of Mark with her (something she says she has never done). When I shared with her that Christians from home sent a collection for her baby boy, she burst into tears. She is so humble and grateful. Etelvina, Bethany, and I laid our hands on her and prayed. We prayed for strength. We prayed that this young mother could experience the reality of family in God. We prayed to have the eyes of Christ that do not look at others in shame but who see someone as completely unique and special in the purposes God has for them.
This is the pastoral gospel. We share the message of Jesus not to save people from hell. We share the message of Jesus because the kingdom is here and now. He says to repent and change. With transformation comes heaven on earth, and we experience this heaven with others that have confessed his name, his body, the church. We, the church, are his hands and his feet. We are his voice to the ashamed. We are the light in the darkness. We are the family to the fatherless. Because we are Christ on earth. His kingdom come, his will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven. Please keep the young mother, Sandra, in your prayers and keep your eyes open to ways that you are the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus.
This year has been a great year for CUDA. The Living Libraries program has had a great year, as you’ve seen in our newsletters. Students have improved their ability to read and teachers are better prepared to teach future students. In the micro-loan program we surpassed our goals for both no-interest and low-interest loans. Interest in the program remains strong and we have been blessed recently to begin a new bible study with members of one borrower group. We are prayerful that more opportunities for in-depth bible studies will present themselves next year.
The reality of all development (and mission) work is that without supporters it is impossible to sustain. We have taken steps to generate funds with Cafe Connection (Arequipa), Passport Language School (Arequipa) and in 2014 we will begin selling CUDA Coffee in the USA. These business ventures will help us but they will not be able to provide all of the funding required to sustain our staff and programs. The fact is we need your help. Giving has been down this year and we find ourselves without sufficient operating funds for the coming year. We have been soliciting grants and there are still possibilities for funding in that area, but the processes move more slowly than our needs. We are asking that you, as you all have done many times in the past, decide to help.
If you want to make a donation there are a few ways you can help:
Go to www.cudaperu.org and donate to our operating funds or to a borrower with an open loan.
Go to www.purecharity.com/living-libraries and donate to the installation of one new Living Library in 2014. We want to open 3 new libraries and it takes $6000 to install just one.
You can send a check made out to “CUDA” to:
c/o Mark Adams
1200 Cedar Lane
Tullahoma, TN 37388
Once we begin selling CUDA coffee (very, very soon!) you can buy a bag, ten bags, or a subscription. We’ll be sure to mail you once everything is ready.
This isn’t the first time that we have been short on funds. Every time people have risen to the challenge, often surpassing the need. We are grateful for the way God uses you to keep us working here in Arequipa.
I've written before about how the church measures success in mission work. I'm kind of obsessed with success. I don't know why. Personality probably. Cultural values, no doubt. I've failed plenty in life, but that seems to have only reinforced my desire to succeed. Tell me I can't, and I'll prove you wrong. Knock me down, and I'll get back up. My mom told me I could do anything, and apparently I believed her.
At the end of the summer this year, one of our interns asked me what has been the most important lesson I've learned in the mission field. It didn't take me long to answer, because the important lessons are often then ones that hurt most in the learning. My response was, "I'm learning to be content with faithfulness rather than success." This is not a tremendous insight; just Google the title of this article. In fact, I distinctly remember one of my graduate professors making this point. I also remember thinking, "Sure, in theory, but of course God wants results. Otherwise, what's the point?" If that sounds pathological, just remember that the missionary too lives by grace alone.
Yet, the fact that there are results that God wants is what makes sense of the contrast between faithfulness and success. The point is not that God is indifferent about the consequences of the church's life in the world. Rather, it is the importance of such consequences that gives meaning to success, and it is the meaning of this success that makes the contrast with faithfulness actually challenging and weighty. Only in view of God's deep concern about the brightness of light and saltiness of salt can we really grasp what it means that he is pleased with our faithfulness regardless of our success. The two are not mutually exclusive, but sometimes they are very different.
Christmas isn’t about baby Jesus. It’s about Jesus, just not baby Jesus.
It’s about Jesus coming, showing up in the muck and mess of the physical world, assuming a position of no power and just walking around in skin like everyone else.
The Advent season, the season of waiting for Christmas, isn’t about waiting for the announcement of the birth of the Savior. That already happened. It’s about waiting for the announcement of the return of the Savior, about acknowledging a continuing need for as much of His Presence as we can get.
For some, it’s with excited anticipation, made manifest in the jitters of small children who can’t fall asleep for the thought of what the morning holds. For such as these, it is joy in the gifts that are coming.
For some, it’s with weariness, knowing that the current struggle or pain will someday be seen as fleeting. For these, it is determination to stand firm until it gets better, seen in the person of Mary, bearing through the shame cast her way, enduring a long journey and painful labor to birth her King, obedient through difficulty that was given as a blessing because of her faithfulness. The good and hard entertwined and impossible to separate, all taken as worthwhile for His purpose.
For some, it’s with a yearning for something they can’t put their finger on, even as they hold out hope for it. Though others around them might see it as foolishness to want the unknown, the story shows them wise and committed. For these, it is a search through the night sky, following a glimmer of truth, as seen in the “wise men” who pursue a star for long years in search of an unknown baby king. It’s an inner draw to what is real, whether it seems real to others or not.
For some, it’s almost an afterthought, the result of being in the right place at the right time and finding themselves stirred anew through the message of God. He’s fine working that way, delivering the good news directly to those who hadn’t sought it out, as He did to the shepherds. They were about their own business when He sent a whole sky-choir to change their focus for the night. He can find hearts wherever He chooses, and Christmas reminds us of that.
We remember Christmas to look back at God giving all of Himself to the world, a reminder that love means emptying yourself for the sake of the one you love. We give gifts to participate in this process, looking for how we can step into the act of making someone else’s life good. We choose selflessness and sacrifice and presence and kindness, because that’s what God did.
But we also remember Christmas to look forward to all that has yet to happen, to the day when these truths won’t be a passing season, but a fully enacted reality. We remember our hope in a world where Jesus shows up in the muck and mess of every day, acknowledging that for now He does so through us and will one day blast in and make it all new and better. He will flood earth with heaven and everything will be as it should be. That’s just what happens when His Presence and Love fill a place - everything is good.
So if, for you, this holiday is about fun and laughter and singing and joy…embrace it and know that you are embodying the light of Christ and hope that won’t give up.
And if, for you, this holiday squeezes a little tight because you feel the weight of the world’s brokenness pressing down on you, giving the usual cheer a grating, off-tune feel…accept it and know that you are reflecting the reality of our need for Christ.
And if, for you, this holiday feels empty and meaningless because life is just life and lights don’t change it, rest in it and know that the power of Christ depends not one bit on your tendency toward sentiment or joviality.
Because at the end of it all, Christmas is about how Jesus arrives in the situation He chooses and it doesn’t have to make an ounce of sense to anyone. He shows up because it’s time and that’s that.
This Christmas, remember that this story is both a past truth and a future promise about the Presence of the King in the world. It’s cause to celebrate.