October 2012

CUDA News: October

Another month, another update.  There's been some big news that you may not have heard so get ready.  Before I do I'd like to remind you all to pray for the safe travels of Greg and Megan (their kids too).  They get back to Arequipa on the 28th and its fair to say that the work has missed them.
I'll start with Cafe Connection.  After eight months of being open we were faced with an emergency situation.   For months, we had been receiving notices from various banks and stores concerning the outstanding debt the owner of the building had accumulated.  Well, at the end of September, a letter came threatening repossession of the building but, more important, it advised us that a bank had received authorization from the courts to enter the building by force and remove the possessions therein.  This was understandably a serious concern, so we began to look for a new location in case the situation worsened and the cafe’s belongings were seized.  One week into our search, Alfredo happened across an option downtown and after two or three visits we decided to sign the lease.  We really like the new location and think it has a lot of potential.  It is downtown, one block off of the main square in an old-style sillar building.  We hope to reopen by the first of November, though this is still Peru, so we will see.
The micro-loan program is rolling along nicely.  Paty is now in charge of more weekly group meetings than I am and she is running them better than I ever could.  We are currently at the interviewing stage with one new group and a good number of loans are still available on the website with four more to be added soon (so go check it out (cudaperu.org/loans)!  One new development in the micro-loan program is the addition of a new type of loan aimed at low-income homeowners in newly founded, under-developed communities.  We hope to offer home-improvement loans at very low (or no!) interest for construction costs on their homes.  I plan on posting more about this, including our reasons for offering these loans, but I hope you'll prayerfully consider helping these new borrowers improve their homes.  More info coming soon!
As you may have read the public school teachers of Peru went on strike shortly before the McKinzies left for their furlough.  About two weeks ago the strike slowly began to lift and Neil Cantrall, who was left in charge of the program, has began to get back to work in the schools.   While he has not had a lot of opportunities to be with the kids this month he has had a lot of time to prepare, and to work with the volunteers of Put Them First, the NGO we partner with at one of the schools.   Pray for the kids at the schools we partner with.  They missed two months of school and must  make up that time in order to move on to the next grade.  As the school year winds down Megan will begin to meet with Neil and the other library workers to develop strategy and plan for next year.  It should be an exciting one and we'll have a lot of things to announce before the year is out.
Well that seems to be all the big news to share for now, with more to come soon as there are some very exciting things in the works.  Keep praying for the Peruvians we are trying to help, the CUDA staff and volunteers, and our stateside partners who help make this possible.  We are grateful for all of you and your continued, prayerful, support.

In the Hard Times

As we wrote about at www.teamarequipa.net, our church has been hit with pain recently in a variety of forms.  We have seen the brokenness of the world claim lives, friendships, marriages, and peace.  I have watched fellow Christ-followers self-convict for not living in confidence, in trust and in faith - as if showing emotion and experiencing pain were somehow betraying the gift of grace.
We came at it head-on at our women’s meeting this month.  In our final meeting at our first cafe location, we dug in our heels with our group of women and sought truth.  Truth that would speak life into dark places.  Truth that would dispel the fear and doubt of fearing and doubting.  Truth that would remain when emotions and pain and struggles threaten to steal our security.
Why do bad things happen?  Does God make them happen?  Does God merely use them?  How can we deal with it?  Why does He feel so far?  How do I keep from succumbing to my feelings?  What do I do without my mom/sister/husband in my life?  
But at the base of it all, where can I turn?
To Jesus.  The One who wept at the sorrow of his friends and the loss of their brother even though He knew the outcome would be life again.  The One who struggled with the temptation to use His power to control His difficult situation even though He knew the final goal was worth a more difficult road.  The One who feared the plan He helped make even though He loved us enough to go through with it.  The One who developed a friendship with Judas even though He knew that he would betray that relationship.
He understands.  Loss and pain.  Desire to make it all easy.  Fear of hard things.  Risk in openness.  He felt it all.
Feeling, struggling, hurting, weakness, doubt, need, sadness, weariness - not sins.
Why do we turn the Bible into a description of the perfect Christian life and rob it of grace and personality?  Why do we use it to paint an unrealistic picture and assume we could accomplish what no one in the history of the world has been able to do in following the rules “right”?  Why do we create this persona that a “good” Christian should be this but not that?  When did people fall beyond the reach of God’s love for being lost, ignorant or just plain imperfect in their best attempt?  When did we stop seeing ourselves as those in need of Him?  Why do we change His image into someone glaring down at us just waiting to pounce on our mistakes?  Or in the other direction, why do we change His holiness and purity and power into warm-hearted care for our happiness that smooths the path, pats us on the head and sends us along with a lollipop - no challenge, no push for growth, no high standards to strive toward, no real expectation in the “die to self” command?
I get frustrated with the skewed ideas I encounter and the pain they cause to real, flawed people trying to follow such a confusing perception of God.  I absolutely love digging for truth with others, not giving up until we find a firm foundation to rest on, finding real food to nourish our souls that simultaneously challenges us to refocus, try again, but with the confidence that He’s okay with our slip-ups in the attempt.  To see that look in someone’s eye when they really grasp the freedom we have in Christ - Freedom to be messed up and lacking quite a lot.  Freedom to feel our hurts and fears deeply.  Freedom to come to Him with not a bit of spit polish work done.  Freedom to be angry and disappointed with the way He is directing life these days.  Freedom to not know what to say.  Freedom to weep and not apologize for not being strong.  Freedom to want so much more, but have no clue where to start.  Freedom to be utterly exhausted and have nothing to give.  Freedom to need Him so deeply we feel we might never be filled.  Freedom to feel far, so far, away.  Freedom from a list of rules to keep in order to show we really mean this faith walk thing.  Freedom to have no idea what the list of rules really should be.  Freedom to say the wrong thing.  Freedom to do the wrong thing.  Freedom to wish things were different.  
It’s all covered.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33

Faith is not easy.  Obedience is not easy.  But it is no more a burden than a life preserver, or a rope that is pulling us to safety.  We still feel the struggle, the fear, the realization of how close we have come (maybe multiple times) to being pulled under.  But none of that negates the power of the One who holds on tight and pulls us in the right direction.  Ease and calm are not the ideal signs of faith.