I am 7 months into my one-year apprenticeship with Team Arequipa, and time has definitely flown by. This time has been very formative and will continue to be, and I’m continually grateful for the opportunity to be here learning and working with the team. While there are some things I wish I had done differently, I did not know what to expect when deciding to spend a year in Arequipa, Peru. Much of the first half of my time here was spent getting used to the culture, living with 3 of the 4 families, and jumping around to experience and learn about the various aspects of ministry that each of the families is involved with. Here are some highlights from the past 7 months and what I have learned from them.
Christmas is less than two weeks away, and Thanksgiving was just a few weeks ago: the holiday season is here. Over the last few weeks I have been consumed with thoughts of family. I have spent an abnormal amount of time and money buying gifts off Amazon in an attempt to feel part of my family's Christmas this year, and yet all my efforts have failed to close the distance between us.
As most of you know, I teach two bible classes to children each Sunday, for children between the ages of three and thirteen. One of the challenges that has accompanied that task is finding or creating materials and lessons, particularly visual aids. Any one who has taught a bible class for young children will know just how essential good visual aids are. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and I can tell you from experience young children have a hard time sitting still and listening to a thousand words uninterrupted.
Furlough for the Smith's means that I have the pleasure of having two neighborhood girls come and spend their Saturday mornings with me (normally spent with the Smith family). We usually bake some type of dessert and play Clue. This past Saturday, was particularly busy with the girls coming in the morning, a library event in the afternoon, and Alfredo's graduation in the evening. In addition to all these planned events, I had to find time to bake cupcakes for Sunday morning, because Sunday was Rosa's birthday.
It sometimes amazes me, the things I find I miss that I never even thought about before they became unavailable. As I sit here, writing this article, I am munching on cheddar cheese (courtesy of my recent trip to Lima) and drinking root beer (courtesy of the Hendersons). I must confess cheddar cheese has never tasted better than it does tonight. In life, we make choices about where we will live, how we will live, and the sacrifices we are willing to make in order to have the things we really want.
August has been a time of transitions and adjustments. I have now been in Arequipa six months, and culture shock has set it. I would love to write that this month has been the most productive yet, but that just isn't the case. One transition we have made was going from having interns all summer, to sending then home at the beginning of this month.
I have been working with the secondary school in Porvenir for over a month now, and I am learning so much about the Peruvian school system and the expectations of the students. I work with Profesora Mercedes Castilla Mayorga as she teaches her students English.The 5th grade has been learning the past perfect tense, and the 1st grade has been working on colors. The students study English for one hour and twenty minutes every week, something Prof. Castilla would change if she could, since it is difficult to learn a language when you only study it once or twice a week. Next week the students take exams, and the following week they are out for winter break.
A few weeks ago Abraham approached me and asked if I was willing to volunteer a few hours a week at one of the national schools in Porvenir. I was excited about the prospect of doing something with my limited Spanish and that would allow me to create and build new relationships and opportunities for sharing the gospel. I met with Abraham over lunch to discuss the details of working with the school, and then we visited the school, met with the director, spoke with the English professor, and agreed on times that I was available to come and lend my English expertise to the students.
I recently walked with some friends of mine on a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Chapi located to the Southwest of Arequipa, Peru. We left Arequipa around 9:30 pm on a Friday night, taking a bus two hours outside the city, where we were dropped off in the middle of the desert to begin the walk across the desert to the Sanctuary, where hundreds of Catholics journey on the eve of the 1st of May. The actual hike took approximately three hours over sandy inclines and steep rocky descents.
I can hardly believe that I have been in Arequipa for over two months, the time has simply flown by. This past month I have been praying for guidance, for the people of Arequipa and specific individuals the team has a relationship with, and I have come to know and love. I am excited about Alfredo’s decision, and I remember the excitement in his eyes when he told me about his decision one day in language class. I am exited to see what God has in store for Alfredo, and pray that his wife, Judith will be influenced by the changes she sees in him.