June 2013

A Solitary Place

I went to the cafe this morning to start a study of Mark with a friend.  This is a friend that was placed in my path the first few months that we lived in Arequipa.  I have prayed fervently for this friend.  I have also stopped praying from multiple disappointments and decided to place her and her situation in God’s hands.  The Spirit moves, and it is up to a person whether to accept his invitation, right?  In my walk with Christ in this foreign city, I have tried to be intentional with those that I want to invest in loving and caring for.  Yes.  God is love, and we are to love everyone around us.  But the reality is that we must choose and prioritize who will receive our time and sacrifice.  My investment is not so that I can get something from them.  I always desire to share my faith, and I hope that the other person will get to experience God’s purpose in their life, but I am not one to give up if someone seems disinterested in Jesus from the beginning.  I believe that as a Christ-follower, I am part of the body that can exemplify Christ to others.  It is my prayer that through my love and actions, someone will see Christ glorified and be open to his message.

So back to my friend.  It has been almost five years.  I went through a season of our relationship where I wanted to give it up.  I told God that if he opened the door, I would be available, but a relationship works two ways.  In the past few months, the door seemed to open.  I had several very deep, personal, and frank conversations with this friend.  And she seemed genuinely interested in studying with me in a small group that I meet with on Saturday mornings.  It also seemed to be a perfect opportunity to disciple the girls that I meet with (both are Christians) in how to start an evangelistic study with a seeker.

The Peruvians will tell you that they do not like conflict.  And because of this, many will tell you “yes” to something when they should really say “no” just to avoid conflict and disappointment.  This is frustrating to me, because it is hard to read when someone is genuinely interested.  I want to think the best of people, but I can tell you that our mission team has wasted hours upon hours of waiting for people that plan to meet with us and never show up.  Not every situation is like this, but when I get “stood up,” I always question.  This morning was the second time for me to get “stood up” with this particular friend.  And to tell you the truth, I feel like a big fat failure when that happens.

On a completely different note, I have been feeling overwhelmed with the many visitors passing through Arequipa, keeping my home in order, keeping up with relationships, and a lot of change going on with our library program.  I go through seasons of feeling this way, but it doesn’t help to be disappointed at the end of a week in the midst of this season.

My meeting with my two Peruvian Christian sisters had been postponed to later in the day, and I ended up having time to sit still and write and reflect in my prayer journal.  I also decided to read the first chapter of Mark.

I love using Mark’s version to share Jesus’ story with someone new.  But what I love even more is that I seem to fall deeper in love with Jesus and learn new things every time I go through and share the story.  And as I sat in the cafe this morning alone, I was blessed by Jesus’ example to me.  It was a part of chapter one that I have always loved reading, but I guess it hit me straight in the heart this morning.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed, ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else––to the nearby villages––so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
— Mark 1:35-39


Maybe my thoughts are jumbled, but after reading this passage, I sat back and praised God for his message.  I too often forget who is in control, and whose message I am proclaiming.  I get overwhelmed, and I self-doubt my strength and my abilities when all the while I should be relying on my God’s strength and his message.  I needed that alone time this morning.  I needed time away from children, away from interns, away from Bible studies, away from library work, away from my to-do list.  I needed that solitary place to remember the reason for why I do any of this work here.  “That is why I have come.”  But more than anything, I needed to sit still and know that he is God.  He is the one that can drive out demons, cure diseases, raise dead people to life, calm the storm.  I am so foolish to rely on my own strength, my own abilities, my own situations, my own plan.  God has a purpose, and he has a plan.  It is up to others as to whether they will follow.

With a year and a half left, I have been praying for God to bless me with one more opportunity to share the story of Mark with someone here in Arequipa.  I really thought this morning (and last Saturday morning) was an answer to that prayer.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  I would ask that you would pray for these opportunities for our team.  But most of all, I would ask that whatever we do here is for the glory of our God, and that we are relying on his strength and his power.

One Way to Look at It

I'm an introvert. I really want an inner sanctum where I can essentially back into the corner, sit down and pull my knees to my chest. I don't want anyone to see or hear me there; I want my quiet hiding to remain mine alone.
Yes, I'm a Christian. Which means I have invited Another to dwell with me constantly. As such, my inner sanctum is actually a stage.
Every time I come onstage with a desire to run away, hide, vent, I am faced instead with the decision to speak or not speak. And if I speak, as the words that swirl and bubble inside me beg to be released and known, Light floods the stage. Sitting in the audience is only One, and the simple act of turning my voice to be heard invites Him to be fully there. And He is Light. There is no way to keep this little act hidden, this performance meant only for my guilty satisfaction.
So I must consciously choose to speak. The Light fills me, floods my face, warming me without burning, illuminating me without blinding. I am seen. Fully and completely seen.  No shadows. No secrets. Seen. I look at my body, my arms and realize that my skin is blocking none of the Light. My blood pulses through my veins with more than oxygen, carrying the effects of each day. My heart pumps not only blood, but truth and pain and my will (which seems to be constantly in the throes of death, but never quite yielding). 
I fear this speaking. My mind knows that my Audience sits not as critic, but as Father, Creator, Lover, Comforter. He delights in me as I am, as He created me, and is eager to receive whatever gift I offer. He died to bridge the gap between us and yet I fear crossing it. I fear being judged unworthy of the gift already given. I fear being deemed oversensitive, beyond help, too self-centered, unimportant. 
If I choose to trust His care and speak, my words flow from my lips and change everything. They transform and affix themselves to my very body, clothing me in my own being, made beautiful, made new, not a problem but neither the point. My deepest pains and fears become jewels that sparkle in my eyes and hands, ready to accept the pains and fears of others. My selfish demands shrivel in the air and fall to the ground as petals fall from a flower, technically useless, but releasing a lovely aroma upon being crushed. The sharp barbs of hurts inflicted by others soften and dissipate, leaving behind a tender awareness of the importance of love, patience and gentleness.
In the face of this Light that lives in me, everything I offer can be used for good.

Church in Arequipa: Prayer

Sundays in Arequipa are currently focused on prayer.  Personally, I have felt convicted to pray more about the work.  Knowing the prayerfulness of some brothers and sisters who are worthy of imitation, I always feel I should be more prayerful.  The difference now is that I am feeling called, urged, prompted to pray.  I hesitate to say "more," though, as if the issue were quantity.  It is, I think, about a way of seeing the world—perceiving the need to live, think, and speak more according to the way things really are.  Prayer, it seems, is often a matter of listening and looking, hearing and seeing, fixing eyes and mind on a dimension of reality that we call unseen.  


Over the past few months we’ve been able to report great news regarding the library program.  Teachers are being trained, kids are learning to love reading and recently the Ministry of Education gave our program their stamp of approval.  Receiving official government backing gives the Living LIbrary program real validity and will help us in the future as we begin expanding the program to new schools.  Lucia has really grown into her role as director of the library program and Megan is staying busy training her in the techniques she’ll need to continue the program’s success.  
At the end of June CUDA was sad to say goodbye to Neil Cantrall.  Neil has worked with CUDA as an expert volunteer for about a year.  With years of experience as a bilingual teacher, his contribution to the library program was invaluable.  Neil and his family moved to Lima to start a job with an international school.  We wish him the best and ask you to be praying for their transition to a new home, new school for their kids, and new ministry opportunity.
In other news, a new borrower group received their first no-interest loans and had their first meetings.  I love sitting through the first meeting of each group because Paty always starts at the same place.  She spends the first meeting having each borrower define what a business is, what a business does, and then hammers home the point that they are businesswomen (or men).  Having a business is something important, something valuable.  All too often our borrowers don’t see what they do as important, or as having value and that often times gets reflected back on them.  So basically our first meetings are pep-rallies not only building their pride in their work but also their self-worth/esteem.  I love getting to experience that first meeting with each group, and to see the foundation for all following meetings being laid.
I would like to ask that you be praying for CUDA in the area of fundraising.  This is not a plea for donations (though I won’t turn anything way) but to let you know of some opportunities that have arisen.  Specifically, we are submitting proposals to Rotary clubs both in Peru and in the US that could begin funding the library program’s 5 year plan.  We will also be applying for other grants hoping to secure long-term funding.  Be praying that both individual and group donors step in to keep CUDA running!