(The following was first shared as an email update directly from Tim/Luminous. Many of you, like our friends at Cedar Lane, drink Luminous Coffee at home but don't buy directly from the site, so you may have missed the update)
Thank you so much for being a part of our work in 2017, and working with us toward the future. People are experiencing justice, wellbeing, and joy in Arequipa. Development is a slow process, but it’s transformational. What is now just a seedling of new life we believe is growing into something much bigger.
One of the funnest things I do each week is sit down with Alfredo, Paty, Lucia, Nancy, and Carmen and read through a few paragraphs of Cuando Ayudar Hace Daño—that is, When Helping Hurts. If you talk to any of us very long, you’ll know that this is one of Team Arequipa’s required books to understand what we’re trying to be and do in this city. The Spanish translation was published at the beginning of the year, and we’ve been making our way through it together once a week. I think of it in terms of staff development. As we work toward justice, wellbeing, and joy in the city, we renew the challenge to ourselves to continue to develop, to be repentant of practices that may have been easy but aren’t right, and to work together toward reconciliation.
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.
I wrote some time ago about the launch of CeDeTe (Center for Theological Development). The first class is now in its second trimester, which focuses on the New Testament story, self-awareness, contextualization, and the disciplines of meditation and fasting. I very much enjoy teaching, but the true satisfaction comes with the students' assimilation of the material. While on furlough, Paty and Alfredo decided to begin teaching the church from the first semester content. I was joyfully surprised. They are excited about sharing what they have learned and convinced that the church needs to understand the whole biblical narrative as the story of God's purposes.
I pray that a second class will form soon, that the program will grow and evolve, and that more and more doors will open to teach substantial biblical theology in appropriate ways in Arequipa.
Another interesting opportunity has arisen through our new community development initiative. Those of you who contributed to flood relief will be glad to hear that a few of our contacts in the area we helped have come on board for a long-term development project. After working hard to communicate the need to transition from a relief relationship to a development relationship, most relief recipients moved on. This is the norm and the reason we do not usually invest in relief. But the upside is that three motivated young mothers are now committed to collaborating with CUDA for the good of their community.
I'll leave the details of the program for another article. The new opportunity arose when I asked one of the three women, Lila, about studying the Bible. She had expressed cautious interest before I left for furlough, so I was following up to see if there was a time she would like to meet. One of the others, Irma, piped up to say that all three of them wanted to study and asked if we could just do so when we come for the development meeting. So, Alfredo and I will start the book of Mark with Lila, Irma, and Delfina this Saturday. Thank God for the opportunity. Now we sow the seeds of the kingdom and pray for growth.
If you haven’t read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, I highly recommend it. She talks about the Greek word “eucharisteo.” It means “to be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks.” She takes the time to list 1,000 things (some little, some big) that she is thankful for as she lives her daily life and lives with a perspective of “giving thanks in all circumstances.” Whenever I am tempted to complain in a situation, I know that the Spirit is leading me when my thoughts are guided by eucharisteo. One of the girls from the Harding research team this month led our ladies‘ day in this thought. Not knowing exactly what I would write for this month’s article, I decided to share some of my eucharisteo moments.
1. Enjoying making mini-apple pies for Cafe Connection
2. Our 2013 interns
3. The Harding group helping with one-on-one reading in the library
4. Bill and Holly (our team mentors) coming to Arequipa
5. Attending the inauguration for Mujeres del Misti (a small community development project that CUDA is launching) and seeing two of the kids that attend the school where I work in the library
6. The eldest male teacher in the library program excitedly pulling me into his classroom to show me his word wall (the project he had to complete to receive his full credit for this month’s staff development hours). He stood with his students proudly showing me the wall and having them spout out the answers to different vocabulary words.
7. Mentoring our very first CUDA Living Library intern, Lisette
8. Hearing from Areli, who I have helped to disciple since her baptism earlier this year, share that she has a friend who is interested in studying the story of Jesus with her. We have been praying for this friend for two months, and it is so neat to see the prayer answered.
9. Having my first Bible study with the friend that I mentioned in last month’s newsletter and hearing her mother ask if she can join us at the table because what she is hearing is “bonito” (beautiful).
10. Celebrating our middle child’s 4th birthday, and knowing that Peru is the only home she has ever known.
We're through a third of the first trimester in the Basic Theology program of the Theological Development Center. Abraham and I instruct four students—Cirilo, Emilia, Paty, and Alfredo—three afternoons a week for an hour and a half. This trimester is an overview of the Old Testament, with a focus on the spiritual disciplines of prayer and study, as well as various techniques for reading comprehension and critical thinking. Megan asks me how class was every time I come home, and my response has been, "Fun." I'm having a blast. More importantly, the students are really engaged, and I think the focused, intensive learning is already making a difference. I was moved to hear Alfredo apply some our first lessons in his speech at the library inauguration. Likewise, Emilia has been immediately sharing her new insights in her weekly small group with Megan and Areli. I thank God for these Christians who are sacrificing time for class and homework in order to become better servants of God's mission.
The flood relief effort has given us just the opportunity we were looking for. By focusing relief on a particular area, we've been able to form more substantial relationships than a less selective approach would have allowed. Abraham in particular has led the effort. The outgrowth of this relationship has been the formation of an action group consisting of mothers from the cluster of neighborhoods where we distributed the relief. We are helping to organize and equip them to mobilize their resources and abilities for community development. If things go well in the next few weeks, we should be celebrating an official agreement between their newly formed organization and CUDA. They have already brainstormed some initial goals, such as the formation of a community daycare or a kitchen for subsidized meals. There are a lot of possible obstacles ahead, so pray for our work in this area.
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.
In late 2011, we asked for help in funding a new facet of our work here in Arequipa, Café Connection. Thanks to your help we were able to obtain a building for not just the cafe but that would also serve CUDA in a variety of ways. We opened the cafe in February of last year in what we thought would be its home for a long time, but plans often change unexpectedly here and this was no exception. Due to problems with the building’s ownership, we were forced to look for a new place, resulting in our current location in downtown Arequipa. Strategically, this location is far superior and we feel blessed to have found it, and to have gotten such a good deal from the owner. After only three months of regular operation in the new location, we are seeing more clients and higher sales than we had begun to have at the previous location.
This is important because we didn’t open the cafe just to have a place to hang out, nor to drink delicious coffee. We opened this business to begin generating income for the organization as part of a long-term strategy of sustainability, and to open new avenues for spreading news of our social justice projects in Arequipa. It is quite rewarding to see how far the cafe has come after a year in operation, especially considering that four months ago we changed location. Already the cafe is nearing self-sustainability and with the added traffic of being downtown, the cafe workers are having lots of opportunities to share about CUDA projects. Just today, a couple from Florida, who had visited the cafe yesterday and learned about us, dropped off books for the library program. They had brought books with them to donate to a voluntourism agency, but after learning about our work yesterday decided to leave them with us. We’ve made contact with other NGOs, tourist agencies, and businesses with whom we might partner, all thanks to the cafe. The cafe has also served as a place for our churches to host events such as women’s meetings, parenting seminars and college student gatherings.
So a big thank you to all of you who have prayed for Cafe Connection to be a success both financially and ministerially. Keep praying! Soon we’ll officially launch a language school, our next step toward keeping CUDA as self-sustaining as possible. You can stay in the know by following CUDA and Cafe Connection on FB or Twitter.