February 2014


If you haven’t heard about CUDA’s community development program, you should visit the CUDA blog and read this post.
Recently, some participants in this program and other neighbors began studying the Bible.  It is always our hope that CUDA beneficiaries will be interested in talking more about faith or reading the Bible, but we try not to make anyone feel pressure to do so.  Instead, we talk openly about our own faith and make invitations to have personal conversations.  Very often these invitations come to nothing, but sometimes a seeker will take us up on the offer.  
Then there are the times when program participants invite us to share more with them.  That was the case for the community development program.  After we had got to know each other a little, some of the ladies in the program were chatting with me after a meeting, asking what I do in Arequipa.  This is a common question, and I usually explain that I moved my family to Arequipa because we want to tell people about the kingdom of God by serving in different ways, such as through CUDA, and by sharing the Bible with people who are interested.  Before I could get to an invitation, they asked if I would be willing to study the Bible with them.  Those are fun situations for a missionary—when you can just say yes.  This is not a fairytale story, though.  These women live hard lives, and they work whenever they can.  It is difficult to find a time to meet with them, so our studies are sporadic.  I’m praying that we can find a regular time and really get into the story of Jesus together.
Another Bible study has come out of a loan group.  After finishing the biblical business ethics class that is part of their curriculum as borrowers, a few of them requested to continue studying.  Paty and I meet every Thursday with this small group to read Mark.  Alcoholism afflicts one participant’s life, and we have tearfully begun to work through difficult family dynamics.  Paty and I were glad to have Mark Clancy visit from Lima recently and play an encouraging role in the study.  Sometimes it is hard to see they way ahead, but we trust that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.  It is a blessing to be reminded of that when other Christians visit and reflect the light.


It is good to be home! We had a great furlough, but were tired by the end and ready to get back. Our Sunday meeting was like a breath of fresh air as we settled back into the rhythms that are most familiar to our family. The group met at the Gray’s home for our celebration meeting, which is when all the house church groups come together to share. We all contribute some food items toward a meal together, spend time in worship, collaborate on a lesson for the kids, and open the floor to anything that anyone needs to say. It is beautiful.
Having been gone, this still feels like the beginning of the year, since we’ve missed a few weeks. I enjoyed seeing friends and piling all our kids on the rug for high energy songs and a hilarious drama led by Megan about Moses, kicking off a series on average people that God used in powerful ways. I hadn’t realized just how much I miss the relaxed, familial feel of our meetings until I joined them again. I love these people, my brothers and sisters in Christ - Peruvian, American and Australian alike. They are my people and without them, this would not be home. 
I am proud of this family. We constantly push for growth, learning how to live out our faith in community, focusing on establishing habits that cultivate a faithful life. Greg has challenged each person in the church to give 1 sol every week, all year. I am excited to see what can come of little sacrifices, giving of what you have, however little it may seem, because I know God loves taking bits and pieces and building beauty. He does it with our individual lives and will now have a new chance to use our community to bless others. Another new effort is in our church-wide verse memorization. We have introduced a new verse every month for the last year and many of our attendees, children and adults, have met the challenge each time. This year, we are tackling a longer passage of scripture a little bit at a time, so that after a few months, everyone will be able to recite several verses in a row, engraving more and more truths on their minds and hearts. 
This family is still young. We have many people in attendance who haven’t decided what they think about the whole thing, but they keep coming back to find out more. Some have stepped up into leadership positions and we are continually thankful for their hearts and willingness to dive in. All are welcome, and no one has all the answers, but we know that we’re better together than apart. 

From Arkansas to Arequipa

On January 13 of this year, I did something I had never done before: moved away from Arkansas. I was born in Searcy and over the years, I have lived in Judsonia, Paragould, Jonesboro, Bono, Pocahontas, North Little Rock, Little Rock, and Searcy, but I have never lived outside of the Natural State. Instead of moving to a different state like a normal person, God would have it that our family should move to Arequipa, Peru. 
So, what is Arequipa like to an Arkansan? It’s awesome, yet life is almost completely different! The transition was and is difficult, but our teammates are great. The food is delicious and it’s hard to breathe. (Yes those two go together!) The Peruvian history and culture is expansive. Arequipeños (Peruvians who are born in Arequipa) are curious yet friendly.Their worldview is complex but God can always be found. Our schedule is hectic. Rest is a priority! But the transition is and will be worth it! 
Here are some notable observations in my first month or so. Peruvians don’t build up as much as they build out. For example, Arequipa is approximately 3,800 sq. miles while Searcy, AR is barely 15 sq. miles. It’s over 250 times larger! With that much space you would think that everyone would have plenty of personal space; not so much. For instance, the buses are out to make as much money as possible and therefore it is not uncommon for fifty people to be crammed into a twenty passenger bus or worse twenty-five people in a fifteen passenger van! And my normal size of 5’ 11” is three to four inches taller than most Peruvians which makes for a tight fit! 
With only six weeks under my belt in Arequipa, my first learning goal is Castellano (Spanish). When I first arrived my experiences with Spanish included two years in high school (9th and 10th grade), four mission trips to the Dominican Republic, and six months of Duolingo (google it). It is amazing how much I have learned in these first few weeks. Prior to Arequipa, I had no understanding how hard it was to listen and understand Spanish but hearing it on a daily basis makes for great ministry practice. It is a spiritual gift to learn the art of listening. And speaking of practicing and listening, singing worship songs with my brothers and sisters does wonders for my soul! 
In my short time here in Arequipa as part of a seven family-church planting mission team, I am reminded of what the Teacher says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Every adventure has a beginning and for most missionaries the first year can be the hardest, but I am reminded of its purpose. Just as God became flesh and blood to become like us, in a small way, God is allowing this Arkansan to see life as an Arequipeño. He is teaching me about his people, whom he loves and whom Jesus died for and lives for. And just like a typical season, the enculturation process will not last forever. To that end, just as God is faithful, I too will strive to be faithful because of the hope found in the life of Jesus Christ.