The thing about a multiplying, mobile, organic church network is that it is unstable. Of course, one missionary’s unstable is another missionary’s flexible and dynamic. The question most missionaries ask themselves, though, is, what am I leaving behind? Stability is alluring because it provides an answer to that question. The located, identifiable entity makes me feel sure that the investment paid off. The evidence of my work is X number of churches planted in X locations.
We had several people ask us during our time in the US if we were glad to be home or were enjoying our time at home. That is an interesting concept for our family because “home” is a pretty fluid thing. Beyond having spent chunks of time in several different places in the states and then leaving for another country, we have also moved several times while in Peru. And with the sheer number of homes we stayed in over a two month furlough, we started referring to wherever we would sleep as “home”.
But Peru really is where we feel at home right now. It’s where our family has grown into who we are, with two of our kids having spent hardly any of their lives in the US. We have been changed by our time here in ways that are hard to express, but our assumptions and expectations are different. After traveling, this is where we feel like we can relax and rest and settle back into our life.
We are blessed that our churches, families and friends welcome us so readily and find somewhere to fit us back in for a while. We never lacked for a place to stay, people to see or things to do. You loved us and our kids, asked about our lives, bought our coffee, invited us into your homes, and even had a baby shower for Aria. Even though Peru might be where our family calls home, no matter where we traveled, we never felt out of place. You made us feel right at home with you, too. We appreciate you and the ways you keep us in your thoughts and prayers and hearts. We truly enjoyed the opportunity to have spent time with you.
And after all that, since you asked, yes, we are glad to be home.
One day after we returned to Arequipa from furlough I went to the airport to pick up David Fann. David works for Vanderbilt, is an adjunct teacher at Lipscomb, and is one of CUDA’s board members. We were really excited to have David visit and see what CUDA is up to, meet Alfredo and Paty personally, visit our worksites and basically just get a feel for Arequipa, its people and its needs. He visited 3/4 of our church groups, met a few of the borrowers in our loan program and was able to visit a few of our libraries.
The timing of David’s visit was perfect as he was also able to help us with some of the prep-work for the solar panel project that will take place in June. Over the years David has been a part of numerous mission trips with an engineering focus. He has helped design, build and install solar panel setups in Central America, so has the experience to help us get prepared for the team coming next month. We were able to show him the community where we will be installing the panels so that he could give input on the design and installation ideas being thrown around. We also took him to a few stores so he could see what kind of tools and materials were available. His input on all levels has been extremely helpful.
The CUDA board has been a big blessing already but having one make the trip down sure made everything feel more official. These men and women have years of experience and knowledge gained but don’t know Arequipa nor the people we interact with on a daily basis. Personal knowledge of the city, workers, projects and people being reached will help them as they make decisions for the organization. A number of other members have begun to think and pray about a time they can visit. We look forward to having them here!
Let me give you a short list of things/people that we would ask you to be actively praying about as we head into the summer:
- CUDA Board (David, Ileene, Monty, Mark, Sheila, Budd, Greg, Alfredo, Kyle)
- Summer Interns (Rebecca, Ann, Sean, Emily, Taylor, Jordan, Katie)
- Library Program - the kids and teachers that Megan works with on a weekly basis
- Solar Project - team from TN coming in June to build and install 10 solar power units
- Loan Program - growth in borrowers’ businesses
- Cafe - that we utilize the space for more than just selling coffee, and that we would sell more coffee!
- Alfredo - wisdom as he leads CUDA in Peru
- Paty - funding for us to be able to bring her on board full time
If you are a fan (like me) of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, you might use the term “kindred spirit” for a that dear friend or friends in your life that just get you. They are the people that you don't have to explain yourself to, that care about you, the ones that you actually try to keep up with and they keep up with you. I am a relational person. I love social networking like Facebook and blogs because they are ways that I keep up with others and try to let others keep up with me. Living in a foreign land, I have learned that these types of social venues are good for me. Since I am such a social person and my Spanish has been on the side of lacking for the majority of my time here, Skype and social networking have helped me with not feeling a loneliness that I think I would have if I didn't have the internet.
So some of you may be thinking, “Where are you going with this? Remember, you always have God. He is the only one that can fill that void.” Nothing is wrong with me (I hope) so that I don't realize this about my heavenly Father. This isn't a bad reflection on my marriage. This girl just needs to have some of those kindred spirit connections in addition to God and a loving husband, and it has been hard to find here in this foreign place.
I remember going through the emotional roller coaster before making this move of being excited about the work, but incredibly sad to leave behind family and close friends. Some of you may not know that Greg, Kyle, and Larissa all grew up together in Tyler, TX. They were all good friends in the same youth group. I remember telling Greg that it wasn't fair that we were moving so far away from everything I knew and it wasn't so bad for him because we were moving there with his friends. This was also at a time when we had another teammate that grew up with their Tyler group. Greg, knowing that I am an emotional basket case that has highs and lows that change in a moment, consoled me that day and said, “Megan, maybe God has a kindred spirit waiting for you in Arequipa that you don't even know yet?” Greg knew my “kindred spirit” language at this point, and it did the job for that day.
Well, here I am 4 years later. To be honest, I have felt like I give about 85% in most of my friendships here, and I am lucky to get 5% in return sometimes. That is how it feels. We have many godly members of our church body that are true friends, but there is something about finding that person that you just know you click well with. You know? God blessed and encouraged me so much in this last month with two girlfriends that just might become Peruvian kindred spirits to me...
This last month has been a stinker in two ways. First, my grandmother (who I am extremely close to) got really sick. It is the first time that I have felt the burden of distance to family weigh so heavily on me. I can't just make a quick trip home. I had a conversation with my father about the possibility of coming to see her. Tell me I am a pessimist, but all I could think is that I might not get to ever see or talk to her in person again. This absolutely broke my heart. I had this conversation with my father right before a house church gathering. One of our dearest sisters, Etelvina, arrived to the meeting first. Even though I had washed my face and “put on my smile” she immediately asked me, “Why have you been crying?” (Peruvians are so blunt sometimes.) I explained the situation to her in the midst of my blubbering and tears. In the meeting that day, I couldn't get through the songs. They seemed to all trigger thoughts and memories I have with one of the greatest heroes of my life, my granny. I shared with the church that day why I was so emotional, and I asked for their prayers.
That night, I got a phone call. It was Areli, Etelvina's daughter, who is seeking God right now. She couldn't come to the meeting that day, but she heard through her mother what was going on. She called to tell me that I would have peace in God, that she cared for me, and that she was here for me. I haven't told her this (and I will), but that phone call meant the world to me during a time that I was feeling extreme loneliness. She is someone I enjoy hanging out with. She is someone that genuinely cares for me. She went the 85% that night. And I answered with the 15%. That is friendship.
The other big stink bomb that occurred this month is with our house. Our landlord decided to raise our rent significantly (which all of our Peruvian friends said was not right or normal), and we decided that we would look for a different place to live. Moving is such a pain here. It would be our 4th move, our interns arrive in June, and we know how stressful the looking and moving process can be. To tell you the truth, I didn't really let it bother me. I had received the news of my grandmother (and decided to take a trip to see her the first part of May), and I was over my head in the library work. I honestly can't tell you if I was experiencing peace or just choosing to ignore the worry that I could have dwelled on. That Thursday, I was teaching in one of the third-grade classes and my phone rang. I ignored it. It rang again. I tried to silence it. When it rang the third time, I thought that maybe there was an emergency. It was my neighbor and good friend, Nadia. I told her I would talk when I got home from the schools.
I returned home, and as I passed the door leading to their side of the house (our homes share the same lot), I thought I should ask what was going on. She came to the door, looked at me, told me she had heard about our conversation with the landlord (her cousin), and burst into tears. I hugged her. It hit me like a ton of bricks. She wanted us to stay. We actually have a relationship with our neighbors (which has been hard to cultivate in this culture; people stay to themselves). After a 30 minute conversation with Nadia and her mother, I returned to my house. Greg was in the front room, and I told him that I felt like I had experienced one of the most beautiful moments of my time here in Peru. Nadia and Anita (her mom) checked on houses in the neighborhood, suggested scenarios for what we could try, and told us more than once they didn't want us to move. Nadia has become so dear to me, which you know if you read my monthly articles. This situation confirmed to me something that I feel like I always have to question here—true friendship. What a beautiful moment.
In order not to leave you hanging, our landlord came to the house this week, and he lowered the price of the rent. We aren't moving. Praise God. And I told Greg in retrospect, Nadia and Anita are a deal of a lifetime. You can't “rent” good friends and neighbors that will look out for you. God is good, and I feel so blessed by these friendships at this point of my Peru journey.