Given the nature of poverty in Arequipa, we have long been considering whether a micro-loan project modeled on kiva.org would be a wise ministry. There is a large number of people living in true poverty here, but the great majority of the poor--and thus of the whole population--are the working poor. This means subsistence living, a precarious balance of minimal resources. Sickness, unordinary expenses, or even short-term loss of work are the kinds of situations that can quickly spiral a family into destitution. Many of you have yourselves experienced the uncertainty that accompanies job loss or a medical bill too big for savings to cover. We all live in economic systems that allow us to imagine the worst. I believe, therefore, that magnifying those situations tenfold gives us a glimpse of the reality in places like Arequipa. Rather than the loss of savings or the downsizing of a home, it is daily bread that is at risk for so many thousands here when something goes wrong.
Just over three weeks ago, the activity level in the Smith household jumped a good bit. Now, keep in mind that the previous level was normally defined by a 2 year old, so it was not exactly boring before. But we have thoroughly enjoyed the extra life filling the house since my sister, Briana, and our friend, Kristen, joined us for an extended visit.
Well, another month has gone by and we find ourselves stuck in a holding pattern with our first library. We have sent our documents in to the government and have been approved for a book loan, yet we still await their arrival. The good news is that our waiting should be coming to an end soon. The books are in Arequipa going through a process of their own and we should be able to pick them up this week. This works out wonderfully for us because we have scheduled the inauguration for July 3rd. July’s newsletter will have full coverage of this hopefully awesome event. We’re very excited and welcome your prayers for us as we publicly announce ICDU and the library to the neighborhood.
For those of you that don’t remember, Manuela is a woman that helps with housework in both of the families’ homes. We were told that it is very hard to find an “empleada” that one can trust. We feel that Manuela is a God-send to our lives here. Not only is she a hard worker, but she has served as a great mentor, friend, and Peruvian grandmother to our girls. We love her so much, and we earnestly pray that Manuela will come to have an intimate relationship with Jesus one day.
It came as no surprise to me when she requested to prepare a special meal for Greg and Kyle on Father’s Day.
May was certainly marked by visa issues. Stay tuned for the Taco Bell joke.
If you had asked me one year ago what I thought my life would look like today, I would have said something like “I’ll be speaking Spanish, but otherwise, I have no clue!” I’ve wanted to do mission work for a long time, but there are always facets of culture and personal skill that define which part will be handled by whom. So we came with some ideas, but generally willing to be influenced by what would be best here. Between the fact that Peruvians expect male leadership, that I knew almost no Spanish when we arrived, and that when Shaye was born, I signed up to be the stay-at-home mom, much of my “job” has fallen in the realm of making friends and becoming an expert on “translating” what we have known as home life into a Peruvian version that we can embrace.
Another month has passed and we find ourselves on the brink of launching the first library. As I reported last month the ladies in Pampas de Polanco have been very supportive and enthusiastic about this project. We were quickly offered a location and two ladies offered to take responsibility for the books that the government will loan the community. We are anticipating the launch of the library Señor de Huanca in June so make sure to read next month’s newsletter for details of the launch.
May has been filled with so many things to share. We have learned about several Peruvian holidays, continued settling into our new homes, and prepared for some exciting things to come. I decided to just give you some dates and let you see some pictures of what has been going on around here.
Around Christmas time I took time to write a reflection of how the culture was affecting me. It can be found on our family site. Culture shock is something we have been told to expect in the foreign mission field. Most of our missions teachers say that it hits around 6 months of living in the field. We have now been living in Arequipa for 9 months. Everyone’s situation is different; everyone deals with stress and transitions differently. I am going to share with you how 9 months has affected me, because I believe that I have experienced some feelings of culture shock in the past month. I hope that this piece can shed light for those of you that will be foreign missionaries one day.
When Alfredo first told the team that he and his fiance, Judith, wanted us to attend their wedding, my overwhelming thought was “Wow!”. Now, I’ve been to lots of weddings in my life, but it has always been people I have known for a while and the invitation was not a surprise. However, this invitation meant more since this relationship is fairly new. Somehow in our few
months here we have come to mean enough to this couple to be invited to a very important event in their lives, and we felt honored.