CUDA News: June

It is always a blessing to have your supporting church highly involved in your mission work.  We love our relationship with Cedar Lane and were excited when they contacted us over a year ago with a desire to put their talents to use here in Arequipa.  Since the Cedar Lane church is blessed with an abundance of engineers (even some rocket scientists!) we began to think of ways for them to put their technical skills to use.  What came of our planning/praying was the idea to build and install solar panels in a poor community.  The team that Cedar Lane put together rose to the challenge and arrived this month ready to get to work.

The process of choosing a community to receive the panels was long, frustrating, and God-led.  Due to some early mistakes and assumptions we found ourselves a month-out from the arrival of the solar team with no community committed to working with us.  We eventually decided to stick with Naranjal, Manuela’s community where we installed water tanks and built latrines, after a few weeks of praying and looking for an open door.  After the community-chosen directors of Naranjal asked for our assistance in resolving some in-community issues we felt like we were being told to stay in Naranjal, to put the solar panels there.  After a few weeks’ discussion we have decided to install panels in the seven homes that are currently occupied and one or two panels for the community building.

God certainly blessed our week with the group as we were able to get more work done than we had originally planned on.  Thanks to our interns we were able to get all ten of the panels constructed!  Even better we were able to install five panels when originally we had hoped to get one installed.  As of now five of the seven families that live in Naranjal can turn on their lights at night and the other two should have their panels installed soon.  It was a sweet moment when Manuela conveyed their gratitude to the group from Cedar Lane with lots of hugs and even a few tears.

While here the three engineers from Cedar Lane (Joel, Brian, and Mark) 1) held a press conference, 2) gave various radio/tv interviews, and 3) presented at two universities.  Abraham really outdid himself in creating these opportunities to let Arequipa know about CUDA and our programs/businesses.  During these interviews they were able to not only talk about solar energy as a viable power source but they also had many opportunities to share their faith as what motivated them to come to Arequipa.

Our hope is that we can continue this program using the simple design created by the engineering team without the need for repeat trips by American engineers.  We will be looking for Peruvian partners to help make this a reality.  Already we have had a community send their president to talk with us about acquiring panels for their homes.  Join us in praying for God to lead us in this, and every other, project.

New Life

Jose Luis was the first Peruvian that was baptized into Christ in our time here.  I can remember our first meetings with only the two missionary families, Emilio (who was already a Christian), and Jose Luis.  How exciting it is to see what has happened over the course of these almost-four years.  We have grown in number, but more than that, we have grown in our relationships with so many of these Peruvians.  I commented to one of our interns that it is kind of scary for me to think about leaving Peru at this point.  I am so invested in the lives of these people, my Peruvian family, that I cannot and don't want to imagine the day when we leave.

Throughout the first part of this year, Jose Luis's attendance to our weekly meetings were off and on.  He works a lot, and we were aware that his work sometimes affected his attendance.  What we were not expecting to hear one Sunday is that Jose Luis was gone a lot of weekends because he was visiting a certain friend in another city...

Meet Miriam.  She is promised to Jose Luis and they will wed this August (the 18th to be exact).  She lives in a town 4 hours away from Arequipa.  She will move here the beginning of August.  She has been studying the gospel message with Jose Luis throughout their courtship.  They requested to come meet with Greg and me a few Sundays ago.  We felt so honored that she would make a special trip to come meet us.  But that trip meant more than that.  Jose Luis explained that she wanted to join him in his journey with the Lord.  We scheduled a time to meet again and talk about the cost of discipleship.  They came, we talked, and Miriam decided to go with the “Eunuch response.”  If there was a place to do the baptism, she didn't see any reason to wait.  On June 29, the holiday of Peter and Paul here in Peru, Miriam confessed her faith in front of the church that could come with 2 hours notice.  It was a beautiful scene.  We all came back to the house.  We shared, sang, and prayed.  Keep Miriam in your prayers as she begins her journey of discipleship.  Also pray for the new life Jose Luis and Miriam will share as they say their wedding vows this August.

Toward the end of this month, I finished the study of Mark with Nadia.  I went into that last study feeling so excited about Nadia making the commitment.  The result caught me off guard.  To make a long story short, I learned that Nadia had a different perception of baptism than what I believe the Bible teaches.  She explained to me that she is in the process of making that commitment but she needed to forgive some people in her life and make things in her heart right before she could make covenant with God.  I immediately went to Romans 8 where it talks about the Spirit helping us in our weakness.  We conversed for awhile, and we concluded with the plan to look more closely at baptism in our next study.  I spoke with David Mitchell, the overseeing elder at Cedar Lane of the Peru work who was here with the engineers, and with Greg about where I should go with this conversation.  I fully believe the Spirit pointed me to Romans 8, so it was no surprise to me when they both said I should take her through Romans 6-8.  

Also, I spoke with three of our Peruvian Christians that came from a Catholic background– Paty, Alfredo, and Manuela.  I learned from them that Nadia's hesitancy comes from a Catholic mindset of not being able to approach the presence of God unless your horizontal relationships are made right.  I learned a lot from them, and I thank God that I have my Peruvian family that understands a Peruvian mindset better than I ever can.  Isn't that what Christian brothers and sisters are for?
Nadia and I read through Romans 6-8, and we ended the meeting with her saying that she was ready.  She realizes that she is in process, but that she will always be in process.  Baptism isn't the end result of making yourself who you think you should be.  Baptism is the beginning.  It is the acceptance of the gift of the Holy Spirit who is the only answer for making us into the person God wants us to be.  

We haven't made it to the water yet, because there are some people that Nadia really wants to be there to witness her decision.  We are making plans for that special day.  I am thrilled beyond words to have walked thus far with her in this journey.  God has taught me and stretched me so much in the process.  I am now excited to see her confess her faith publicly in front of the saints, and enter into a study of discipleship with her.  Thanks to all of you for your prayers for Nadia.  She is such a dear friend to me, and I cannot express the joy I feel in being able to call her “sister.”

2012 Interns

When I was at Harding as an undergraduate—and as I turn 30 I'm coming to the realization that it's been longer than I was imagining—I remember wishing that there was an internship for Latin America comparable to the one for Africa.  Africa was the primiere destination for the missional student, and it seemed that the program was pretty great.  I began to dream then of creating a comparable internship, once we got to the field, that could provide students interested in Latin American missions another opportunity.  I'm guessing that the Africa internship at Harding is still the main event, and for good reason.  But it's been fun to see our efforts here evolve into a multi-university, seven-intern experience. 

I thought you might like to meet the students who have given their summer to learn and serve in Arequipa.

Part 7: The Dandelion Church

The thing about a multiplying, mobile, organic church network is that it is unstable.  Of course, one missionary’s unstable is another missionary’s flexible and dynamic.  The question most missionaries ask themselves, though, is, what am I leaving behind?  Stability is alluring because it provides an answer to that question.  The located, identifiable entity makes me feel sure that the investment paid off.  The evidence of my work is X number of churches planted in X locations.

Back Home

We had several people ask us during our time in the US if we were glad to be home or were enjoying our time at home.  That is an interesting concept for our family because “home” is a pretty fluid thing.  Beyond having spent chunks of time in several different places in the states and then leaving for another country, we have also moved several times while in Peru.  And with the sheer number of homes we stayed in over a two month furlough, we started referring to wherever we would sleep as “home”.  

But Peru really is where we feel at home right now.  It’s where our family has grown into who we are, with two of our kids having spent hardly any of their lives in the US.  We have been changed by our time here in ways that are hard to express, but our assumptions and expectations are different.  After traveling, this is where we feel like we can relax and rest and settle back into our life.  

We are blessed that our churches, families and friends welcome us so readily and find somewhere to fit us back in for a while.  We never lacked for a place to stay, people to see or things to do.  You loved us and our kids, asked about our lives, bought our coffee, invited us into your homes, and even had a baby shower for Aria.  Even though Peru might be where our family calls home, no matter where we traveled, we never felt out of place.  You made us feel right at home with you, too.  We appreciate you and the ways you keep us in your thoughts and prayers and hearts.  We truly enjoyed the opportunity to have spent time with you.  
And after all that, since you asked, yes, we are glad to be home.

CUDA News: May

One day after we returned to Arequipa from furlough I went to the airport to pick up David Fann.  David works for Vanderbilt, is an adjunct teacher at Lipscomb, and is one of CUDA’s board members.  We were really excited to have David visit and see what CUDA is up to, meet Alfredo and Paty personally, visit our worksites and basically just get a feel for Arequipa, its people and its needs.  He visited 3/4 of our church groups, met a few of the borrowers in our loan program and was able to visit a few of our libraries.  

The timing of David’s visit was perfect as he was also able to help us with some of the prep-work for the solar panel project that will take place in June.  Over the years David has been a part of numerous mission trips with an engineering focus.  He has helped design, build and install solar panel setups in Central America, so has the experience to help us get prepared for the team coming next month.  We were able to show him the community where we will be installing the panels so that he could give input on the design and installation ideas being thrown around.  We also took him to a few stores so he could see what kind of tools and materials were available.  His input on all levels has been extremely helpful.

The CUDA board has been a big blessing already but having one make the trip down sure made everything feel more official.  These men and women have years of experience and knowledge gained but don’t know Arequipa nor the people we interact with on a daily basis.  Personal knowledge of the city, workers, projects and people being reached will help them as they make decisions for the organization.  A number of other members have begun to think and pray about a time they can visit.  We look forward to having them here!

Let me give you a short list of things/people that we would ask you to be actively praying about as we head into the summer:

  • CUDA Board (David, Ileene, Monty, Mark, Sheila, Budd, Greg, Alfredo, Kyle)
  • Summer Interns (Rebecca, Ann, Sean, Emily, Taylor, Jordan, Katie)
  • Library Program - the kids and teachers that Megan works with on a weekly basis
  • Solar Project - team from TN coming in June to build and install 10 solar power units
  • Loan Program - growth in borrowers’ businesses
  • Cafe - that we utilize the space for more than just selling coffee, and that we would sell more coffee!
  • Alfredo - wisdom as he leads CUDA in Peru
  • Paty - funding for us to be able to bring her on board full time

Kindred Spirits

If you are a fan (like me) of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, you might use the term “kindred spirit” for a that dear friend or friends in your life that just get you.  They are the people that you don't have to explain yourself to, that care about you, the ones that you actually try to keep up with and they keep up with you.  I am a relational person.  I love social networking like Facebook and blogs because they are ways that I keep up with others and try to let others keep up with me.  Living in a foreign land, I have learned that these types of social venues are good for me.  Since I am such a social person and my Spanish has been on the side of lacking for the majority of my time here, Skype and social networking have helped me with not feeling a loneliness that I think I would have if I didn't have the internet.

So some of you may be thinking, “Where are you going with this?  Remember, you always have God.  He is the only one that can fill that void.”  Nothing is wrong with me (I hope) so that I don't realize this about my heavenly Father.  This isn't a bad reflection on my marriage.  This girl just needs to have some of those kindred spirit connections in addition to God and a loving husband, and it has been hard to find here in this foreign place.

I remember going through the emotional roller coaster before making this move of being excited about the work, but incredibly sad to leave behind family and close friends.  Some of you may not know that Greg, Kyle, and Larissa all grew up together in Tyler, TX.  They were all good friends in the same youth group.  I remember telling Greg that it wasn't fair that we were moving so far away from everything I knew and it wasn't so bad for him because we were moving there with his friends.  This was also at a time when we had another teammate that grew up with their Tyler group.  Greg, knowing that I am an emotional basket case that has highs and lows that change in a moment, consoled me that day and said, “Megan, maybe God has a kindred spirit waiting for you in Arequipa that you don't even know yet?”  Greg knew my “kindred spirit” language at this point, and it did the job for that day.

Well, here I am 4 years later.  To be honest, I have felt like I give about 85% in most of my friendships here, and I am lucky to get 5% in return sometimes.  That is how it feels.  We have many godly members of our church body that are true friends, but there is something about finding that person that you just know you click well with.  You know?  God blessed and encouraged me so much in this last month with two girlfriends that just might become Peruvian kindred spirits to me...

This last month has been a stinker in two ways.  First, my grandmother (who I am extremely close to) got really sick.  It is the first time that I have felt the burden of distance to family weigh so heavily on me.  I can't just make a quick trip home.  I had a conversation with my father about the possibility of coming to see her.  Tell me I am a pessimist, but all I could think is that I might not get to ever see or talk to her in person again.  This absolutely broke my heart.  I had this conversation with my father right before a house church gathering.  One of our dearest sisters, Etelvina, arrived to the meeting first.  Even though I had washed my face and “put on my smile” she immediately asked me, “Why have you been crying?”  (Peruvians are so blunt sometimes.)  I explained the situation to her in the midst of my blubbering and tears.  In the meeting that day, I couldn't get through the songs.  They seemed to all trigger thoughts and memories I have with one of the greatest heroes of my life, my granny.  I shared with the church that day why I was so emotional, and I asked for their prayers.

That night, I got a phone call.  It was Areli, Etelvina's daughter, who is seeking God right now.  She couldn't come to the meeting that day, but she heard through her mother what was going on.  She called to tell me that I would have peace in God, that she cared for me, and that she was here for me.  I haven't told her this (and I will), but that phone call meant the world to me during a time that I was feeling extreme loneliness.  She is someone I enjoy hanging out with.  She is someone that genuinely cares for me.  She went the 85% that night.  And I answered with the 15%.  That is friendship.

The other big stink bomb that occurred this month is with our house.  Our landlord decided to raise our rent significantly (which all of our Peruvian friends said was not right or normal), and we decided that we would look for a different place to live.  Moving is such a pain here.  It would be our 4th move, our interns arrive in June, and we know how stressful the looking and moving process can be.  To tell you the truth, I didn't really let it bother me.  I had received the news of my grandmother (and decided to take a trip to see her the first part of May), and I was over my head in the library work.  I honestly can't tell you if I was experiencing peace or just choosing to ignore the worry that I could have dwelled on.  That Thursday, I was teaching in one of the third-grade classes and my phone rang.  I ignored it.  It rang again.  I tried to silence it.  When it rang the third time, I thought that maybe there was an emergency.  It was my neighbor and good friend, Nadia.  I told her I would talk when I got home from the schools.

I returned home, and as I passed the door leading to their side of the house (our homes share the same lot), I thought I should ask what was going on.  She came to the door, looked at me, told me she had heard about our conversation with the landlord (her cousin), and burst into tears.  I hugged her.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  She wanted us to stay.  We actually have a relationship with our neighbors (which has been hard to cultivate in this culture; people stay to themselves).  After a 30 minute conversation with Nadia and her mother, I returned to my house.  Greg was in the front room, and I told him that I felt like I had experienced one of the most beautiful moments of my time here in Peru.  Nadia and Anita (her mom) checked on houses in the neighborhood, suggested scenarios for what we could try, and told us more than once they didn't want us to move.  Nadia has become so dear to me, which you know if you read my monthly articles.  This situation confirmed to me something that I feel like I always have to question here—true friendship.  What a beautiful moment.

In order not to leave you hanging, our landlord came to the house this week, and he lowered the price of the rent.  We aren't moving.  Praise God.  And I told Greg in retrospect, Nadia and Anita are a deal of a lifetime.  You can't “rent” good friends and neighbors that will look out for you.  God is good, and I feel so blessed by these friendships at this point of my Peru journey.

A Glimpse into the Library Project

It has been a week since we kicked off the program with the teachers here, and it has been quite an adjustment for me.  First of all, I feel like I am officially working part-time.  We are hiring Manuela to work an additional day in the house to care for Cohen so that I can have the freedom to work with the schools on Thursdays.  This has been different for me.  Even though I have always played an active part in the ministry here, I have either been pregnant, nursing, or tending to a toddler.  Now that Ana and Maggie are in school and Cohen is weaned, it seems that I have entered into a new phase for my ministry role here in the library program... and I love it.

I am in contact with a professor I studied under at Harding who teaches staff development conferences all over Arkansas.  I am basing my entire curriculum of reading strategies on some books that I bought in his class.  I skyped with him last month to talk about our program and get some feedback and advice on how I was doing it.  He told me that if I want to see results in this first year I need to have as much face-to-face time as I can with the teachers.  It is a modeling system.  I model for the teachers, they model for the students, the students model for each other, and hopefully, by that point, the majority of students can use the reading strategies independently.  I have taken his advice to heart, and I have coordinated a class visit with each of the teachers once a week and a monthly meeting for all the teachers to come together and discuss and share what has worked for them throughout the month.

It is all very exciting.  I am enjoying the curriculum planning, I am learning more and more about the Peruvian methods of instruction (ways I can learn from them and suggestions for improving upon what they do), and I am developing a whole new set of relationships with Peruvian women that are share a common passion with me—teaching children.  I had a one-on-one meeting with a teacher this week that asked if I might have extra time to meet with just her outside of class.  She expressed to me that the teachers are not given much support and don't have the opportunities for staff development.  She really appreciates the opportunity she is receiving through CUDA and considers it a huge blessing to her work.  That made my day, and it opened my eyes even more to see that the children aren't the only ones lacking in educational support.  We will serve such a purpose in providing staff development opportunities for the teachers.  Something I know I took for granted in my home country.

As I learn, I hope to journal my thoughts and share with you all back home what is going on.  It is an exciting road that we have started, and I look forward to the ways in which God uses this work to bless the futures of many Peruvian children.  Please pray for the teachers and directors that I will be serving beside: Rosa, María Rosa, Betty, Graciela, Erasmina, Nadia, and Mariela.  Thank you for your support and the prayers you have lifted on our behalf before this time.

Special Prayer Requests

Moving Again

The McKinzies are moving again. As usual, now that the initial year's contract is up, the owner is seeking to increase the rent significantly. The process of even finding other options is time-consuming and stressful, and the move itself will be costly. I pray that God would help us cope with the circumstances and find a house that meets our needs within our budget. 

Solar Panel Project

The team coming from Cedar Lane to install solar panels in a poor community will arrive in Arequipa on June 15. We are struggling on our end to ensure that things are ready on schedule in order for the project to be as beneficial as possible to the people we intend to serve. There are some cultural and logistical issues yet to be overcome. We request that you pray for their resolution and for the project to be a blessing in every way.

Living Libraries 2012

We are off to a great start in the Living Library program.  After three years of opening community libraries and struggling to make them work, we have a new strategy, and I am very excited to share this with our supporters.  In our community libraries, the people in the neighborhoods were very supportive and encouraging toward our goal of seeing the library succeed.  However, we learned that getting members of the community to volunteer their time free of charge was next to impossible.  After seeing several open and close, we chose to invest all of our man-power into the Porvenir location.  I believe that the children that attended those Saturday library events appreciated every moment they spent there.  But at the end of last year, we received a final word from the Miraflores mayor asking us to leave the building because he wanted to use it for other purposes.  I was really bummed over this situation.  How could a mayor not see the benefit of this community library.  But politics are politics, and they definitely played into that situation.  I was very sad for the children we served, but we had no choice.  And looking back, I think it was God's hand closing that door and pushing us toward another opening.

So we have a new plan.  And I am so excited to share this with you.  First, I need to fill you in on Naranjal.  We have a long-standing relationship with the people of Naranjal.  We decided to open our final community library there.  I worked during the summer months with the children at that location.  It was a very short time, during a very wet rainy season.  Only 4-6 kids came to the events, but I pray that over time that program will grow more and more.

Now for the brand new part!  We are collaborating with three different public schools this first year to try a new method in promoting reading comprehension in the lives of these students.  We are targeting just the third grade classes.  I know from my experience as a teacher and my time here, that the key to making this a success is equipping the teachers.  We had such a problem with finding a volunteer base in those community settings.  Why not go to the places where people are passionate about the kids and already trying to teach them?  So that is exactly what we have done.  The staff at these schools are thrilled to have the extra help and staff development opportunity.  Here is how it is all going down:

  1. Alfredo and I met with the staff at all three of the locations.  They have listened to the plan, know what is expected from them, and have signed a formal agreement stating that they are on board.
  2. Alfredo and I made a visit to the classes the last Monday in March in order to have the kids evaluated at the beginning of the program.  I am hoping that this assessment coupled with an end-of-the-year assessment will show positive results.
  3. I am planning the first meeting for the teachers where I will begin to share my knowledge on the subject of reading comprehension strategies.  It is my hope that we will meet once a month to discuss how it goes in the classes.  I am excited to build these relationships with the teachers involved.
  4. I will make visits to the classes once a month to do an example lesson using the different strategies.  We will also provide the classes with a start-up school library (if you have donated books in the past, they will either be found in Naranjal or these schools.  And don't hesitate to send more!)
  5. Our plan is to incentivize the students that perform well in the program half way through the year and then end of the year.

A couple of stories I would like to share with you that happened this past Monday:

I walked into the all-boys school class, and a little boy shouted, "Profesora!" (which means "teacher" in Spanish).  It was a little boy, Joel, that came to our library location in Porvenir.  I also ran into one of our girls in the all-girls school.  It is such a blessing, and affirmation from God, that we will still be serving the same children that could have come to that community library location.

In one of my assessments with a third-grade boy, I could tell he was one of the sharper ones.  His reading fluency was excellent, he answered every reading comprehension question with ease.  I got to a question, "What is your favorite book?"  He told me that he didn't have one, shrugging his shoulders.  I asked, "But do you like to read?"  He looked up at me, "Yes.  But I don't have any books to read.  That is why I can't tell you my favorite."

That, supporters, is a huge reason you are making a difference here.  It is my hope that we can make an improvement in reading comprehension, but something simpler than that is to make it easier for these children to have free access to books.  It is my prayer that they will discover a world of knowledge through this program and the stories that they will have access to read.