I often think about the words of Dr. Cox, who was very influential in my formation at Harding. He tells of a lesson he learned as a young missionary in Africa prone to focusing on sermon preparation and delivery. He came to realize that his priorities were slightly misaligned and posted a written reminder for himself: 20% of what you do is sermon preparation and delivery, 80% of what you do is about being in the lives of people. I’m sure he’ll forgive me if my quote isn’t exact; the essence is right at least.
The Team Arequipa field workers have been here for a year! We have been blessed, and we have so many of you to thank for your prayers and support. We serve a faithful God. He has been good to us. For this publication we each decided to write a reflection on the last year. Enjoy the read. We look forward to many years to come!
We are proud to say that we are well on our way to receiving our religious work visas (please refer back to the May newsletter if you don’t remember the drama of this process). We traveled to Lima as a team this month to meet with a man that took us to Interpol and begin the paperwork necessary for the visas. He informed us that around six weeks from our visit we would need to return to Lima to finish the process for us and then begin the process for the girls. We are so thankful to the Lima team (that is still slowly arriving in the city) for their help in getting us in contact with Mirco (the Peruvian helping us).
Since the library officially opened in July, we have tried several different types of activities geared toward different age groups to try and draw attention to the facility and increase the level of participation by the community. We are still in the process of discerning how best to do so, which programs are effective and which have yet to fulfill their purpose. One thing that has been a little more consistent than others are the Viernes Infantiles or Children’s Fridays, which take place every other week. It is one of our more encouraging activities, as there are a handful of kids that come each time, plus we had a new attendee for our last get together. Consistency is not typical in this culture, so we appreciate this group.
I have to say that it has been a relief to get some Bible study going. For all our desire to be holistic in our work, it is no easy thing to make expressions of faith a seamless part of the activities that are less religious per se. Perhaps that will come with practice, but for now we rely upon the reading and study of Scripture to be the primary point of departure for religious discourse. By always making ourselves available to anyone interested to talk, pray, or study at any time, we create a lot of open doors for those who are already friends. No pressure, just availability, and service in the mean time. So far God is blessing this lifestyle.
Last month Greg shared with you the story of El Naranjal and their need for a water repository. He told you of our internal struggles as we tried to discern the wisest course of action. This community had asked for our help in their journey of development. They needed clean water and so they asked us to partner with them. We struggled with this decision because, while providing clean water for people is something we all feel is good and right to do, simply making a gift to this community could bring trouble of its own kind. After a month of thinking, talking, and praying we have decided to make this gift to El Naranjal.
Our strategy in approaching Peruvians with the gospel has been referred to as “friendship evangelism”. We don’t want to force ourselves into someone’s life to try and change it drastically with no previous relationship, no established trust, no perceived level of personal care for the individual. Thus, it is of vital importance to us that we make good friends here, not just to feel at home, but to have a foot in the door of the community or family unit as trustworthy, should they be interested in the Bible study that they already know we are willing to begin. It is the logical process considering the factors of life in this culture, but the execution has proved somewhat difficult and slow.
God has given us another opportunity—they just keep coming! Right now what we need most is wisdom and discernment, however, as this opportunity could be for good or ill.
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.
Fortunately, it gets to be me, and already I have been blessed by the team in my first few weeks with them. No doubt, God has some great things to teach me in Arequipa this summer.