For months we have been preparing for a group of researchers from Harding, led by Bill and Holly Richardson, to assist us with a research project in our target area. The first half of this month we were able to execute the project we had planned and everything went excellently. The group was with us for two weeks with a trip to Bolivia in between. Aside from eating at all of our favorite places while they were here, we enjoyed the times of fellowship and worship we were able to experience.
This summer our team conducted our second research trip to Arequipa, Peru. Those in attendance were Greg, Kyle, Bryan, Eralda, baby Jack, Bobby and Candice. Bobby and Candice Garner are friends of ours from Searcy who have a heart for missions and joined us on our trip to help determine if missions in Peru was where God was leading them. Like any good research team we had a list of things that we wanted to accomplish:
- survey real estate, to rent and to own show Eralda, Bobby and Candice the city
- examine health care network
- find and speak with NGO’s - development groups not run by the government
- attend local evangelical worship services
We were all very excited about getting to look at houses and apartments in our target neighborhoods. On our previous trip we were able to pinpoint three preferred areas of the city but did not have the time to sample available housing. We began our search by speaking with our trusty hotel manager Alfredo. He recommended we speak with a particular real estate agent who, though she had no homes in our areas, was still helpful and showed us a few things that she said would be comparable. We continued our housing search through newspaper ads, sometimes dealing with an agent and sometimes with the individual owner. While we still have a lot of looking to do once we move to Arequipa, the results of our search give us a clear idea of the type of home we will live in. The numbers we gathered will also help us as we propose budgets to churches.
A major goal of the trip was to show our city to Eralda, Bobby and Candice. We wanted them to see what we had seen, see how God spoke to us through the people of this city. To do this we went on a ‘touristy’ tour of the city and then we also took them on the reality tour which we had experienced last year. Through these they were able to see the beauty of the city from various lookouts, visit historical sites and learn a little of the history of Arequipa. They were also shown the reality that the average citizen of the city faces day after day. All that took the reality tour were touched by it, even if it was their second time. It is hard to see people at that level of poverty live with such determination and not be inspired.
While we had an idea and some information on how the health care network operated we had not seen a clinic firsthand nor spoken with anyone at a clinic. In Arequipa there are basically three tiers of health care. The lowest tier is the public hospital. Services there are rendered at little to no charge to any citizen of Peru. The hospital is centrally located and staffed mostly by doctors volunteering their time. The middle tier has a significantly better level of care, but costs more, thereby narrowing the field of clientele. The upper tier consists of private clinics located around the city. Since the top tier clinics provide high quality care for a low price (when compared to US health costs), we will most likely use them. Two clinics in particular were recommended to us so we set off to see them. One of the clinics allowed us to tour their rooms and gave us some pricing for various services. The rooms were very large and very clean. Peruvian doctors are respected throughout South America for their level of training and expertise, and from what we could gather from our visit should we need any medical assistance we would be well taken care of.
I was not with the group for the last two objectives, but I am able to report on them. We have spoken before about our desire for the work we do in Arequipa to be holistic. By that we mean to minister to the people both spiritually and physically. One thing we’ll need in order to carry out developmental ministries are contacts. NGO’s will serve as vital sources of information and help as we launch programs to serve the people in Arequipa. Greg and Bobby were able to meet with a number of people about their organizations; it is our hope those contacts will be useful to us in the coming years. Lastly we wanted to experience a Peruvian worship service. It was an uplifting time of praise to our Father, and it gave us a taste of what is to come.
Thanks for all of your prayers for safety and effectiveness. We accomplished our goals and are one step closer to moving. It is exciting to think that the next time we fly to Arequipa it won’t be as researchers but as missionaries!
Our team of wonderful people has been planning mission work in Arequipa for years now. Yet, the team has morphed through the years so that my beautiful bride and I were the only two (of six) who had been in the city. Our vision casting has been second hand in the main, based on my impressions and those of former team members. The team has nurtured love for people whose faces it has not seen. It has tried to image God’s faithfulness in the unknown. At last it was necessary to stand in the city.