There are a number of global crises affecting our planet today. Regardless of what you think the most important is, I hope hunger is on your list. Every day thousands die from a lack of food. In my lifetime, the food crisis has only gotten worse. Since 2005 global food prices have risen 80 percent! In the last year the prices of popular foods such as rice, beans and wheat has doubled. Much of the world faces an unprecedented challenge to feed itself; more and more often it is failing.
From the beginning of our involvement with teamAREQUIPA we’ve been asked questions. I can understand that. For a group of college students to plan a long-term mission work in a foreign country surely raises a lot of questions among their family, friends, and supporters. As the time of our departure has gotten closer, the questions have been taking some interesting shifts. Early on we would hear information-gathering questions: Where is Peru? How long do you plan to be there? What type of mission work will you do? The questions I’m fielding now often have to do with how we can commit so much of our lives to this work, or how we can take our family out of the country for so long. Often times I’ve been told, “I couldn’t do that...moving to a foreign place and doing that work.”
When I tell people that I will be moving to Peru for 10 years, among the first questions that inevitably follow are (1) Why? and (2) How can you take that precious baby that far away and for that long? Allow me to answer.
On the “why” front, there is the obvious answer of “to teach people about Jesus Christ.” My intention is not to be flippant with this response but to assume that we are on the same page about the obvious and that the question is aiming for a more personal answer.
I desire to focus my time and attention on a particular section of the population: the children, specifically those who have no family to call their own. It’s not just about food and clothing for the needy. It’s about finding them to be as vital to the kingdom as Jesus would have and going well out of my way so that they know I am there on purpose, for them, because of Christ.
Imagine being an orphan in a city in South America. This would probably be due to your parents dying or being in jail or just disappearing. If you are on the government radar at all, you would be tossed into an orphanage, which is basically a juvenile detention facility for the kids who haven’t actually gotten into trouble with the law...yet. Your “play” time would be when the workers drove you out to a fenced-in field and let you run around. I picture animals being let out of the barn to pasture for a while; how about you? The reason for this secure entertainment time is that the facility would get in trouble if you ran away, so they can’t risk it. The workers really do the best they can, but there are too many kids and not enough adults to guide them.
And then there are those who aren’t in the orphanage, living on the streets or still with abusive or drugged out parents. They survive, but life is very empty. We talk easily about letting kids be kids, but they don’t have that luxury.
Imagine next that the government takes you out of that setting, either one, and moves you to a Christian children’s home run by an American mission team. You wonder why they are there in the first place, and they tell you that it is because of Jesus. Your family was just Catholic enough for you to recognize the name, but you don’t understand why He would be a reason for an American to come give you a home. They explain that Jesus told everyone who believes in Him to take care of those who are alone. And out of all the places in the world, they chose to come to Arequipa and find you.
I have been praying for the children of Arequipa for years, because I realized that most of those I will meet had already been born. They may already be broken. They may already be lost and alone. I can’t explain it fully, but I miss people that I have not met. I have cried for pain in their lives that I haven’t experienced. I long to hold them close, but I don’t know their faces or voices or laughter. All because I have prayed for them and love them.
This informs the answer to the second question. How can I take Shaye so far away from home and family? Because I cannot bear the thought of meeting one of those Peruvian children in heaven and being asked, “Why didn’t you come?” Any answer I might want to give - “Because I wanted an easier life” or “Because I didn’t want to miss family moments” – just is not good enough. God has burdened me for those little ones, and I cannot refuse that call. I have a job to do. Jesus loves the little children, and I must make sure they know that.
Having suggested in my last article that the relationship between gospel and God's kingdom points toward a notion of evangelism that moves beyond simply bringing someone to personal faith and salvation, I want to look at the way we use some related words. The verb "to evangelize," which is a Greek word borrowed into English, entails proclamation in the original usage. In this sense, it will be difficult to be "evangelistic" without being prone to proclamation.
One of the greatest difficulties we face as a team is inexperience. As with most vocations, inexperience makes it hard to get a job in the first place—or in our case, raise funds to get to the field in the first place—which in turn leaves us asking how we will get experience. This is only the initial hurdle, since inexperience really matters most for the very reason employers are hesitant to hire novices: we've got a lot to learn once we finally do get in the field. It's the initial hurdle that we've been dealing with, though, and it has caused us to ask pointed questions of ourselves.
Greg and I have been planning on going to Peru as a family unit since we were engaged in 2004. It has been quite a journey. I have gone from considering not marrying Greg to feeling like I am the missing puzzle piece for Team Arequipa.
On our research trip to the city last year, my prayer was for God to burden my heart with the need and desire to go. I was having so many doubts about our decision and God’s will for the McKinzie family to be there. God certainly opened my eyes to our calling to Peru on that trip. So if one feels called to go to a place, why is it still so hard to go?
“When are you guys leaving for Peru?” many have asked me. My answer has slowly dwindled in time. I have gone from saying a few years, to a couple, to one. Ask me today... “Less than a year.” It has finally dawned on me. I shared with Greg that I have really gotten used to the idea of going to Peru, but the reality has just set in. We moved our family to Tyler, TX to partner with a church that we hope helps to send us to Peru. My home church is sending us to Peru. The pieces are all coming together, and I am starting to freak out. Is there something wrong with me? Then I go to Hebrews 11. By faith... Noah... Abraham... Joseph... Moses. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
I am going to Peru because of faith. Doubts, insecurities, and rationalizations plague my mind telling me why I should not go, but I cling to my faith in the one that has remained faithful throughout time. I read from Proverbs 3 today. Verses 5-6 are some of my favorite verses to quote, but the first four verses caught my eye. Check them out. I want faithfulness to be bound
around my neck and to be written on my heart. Noah didn’t want to build the ark; Abraham went through several times of doubt and trial; Moses told God to his face that he could not do what he was called to do. But God is faithful. I will be leaving for Peru to do his work in less than a year. I am scared to death, but I faithfully accept the call to be sent.