Aussies, Coffee, and TA 2.0

The Aussies

Recently a new couple joined us in Arequipa for a two year stint as “apprentices.”  Bethany and Andrew Gray come to us from Australia (east cost, Brisbane) after being connected via Gary Green from ACU.  They are excited to work with our development programs, especially the new health initiative being planned, and to get to know the Peruvians in our church network and minister alongside them.  First things first though, they’ve begun intensive language learning at our language school.  Twenty hours of Spanish classes each week take a toll on you mentally, emotionally and physically.  Will you pray for them to have the stamina and dedication to their studies?  Advancing as much as possible in their language classes now will help set them up for a good two years of ministry here in Arequipa.


We are this close (imagine my hands held up really close together. . .) to being able to deliver fresh-roasted CUDA coffee stateside door!  Once the international leg is worked out, a literal ton of CUDA coffee will head that way, with two new varieties in addition to our standard Tunki. After it arrives in Texas, we will start fresh-roasting and shipping orders around the end of November in time for Christmas.  In a few weeks, we’ll send out emails with details on the coffee we have to offer as well as some gift combos that should make great Christmas gifts.  Thanks for your support of CUDA in this new venture.  We hope it will contribute toward sustainability for the NGO in years to come.

TA 2.0

With 2013 drawing to a close we are getting ready for our new teammates to arrive in Arequipa.  Four families (the Frouds, Morgans, Blairs and Daggetts) will begin arriving in January with the last family set to arrive around August.  Recently we have been celebrating with the Morgans and Frouds as they have finalized their support with two different churches.  The Frouds will be supported by the Cloverdale church in Searcy while the Morgans will partner with the Pleasant Valley church in Little Rock.  As the Frouds and Morgans enter into their final 3-4 months before the move be praying for them.  It is a hectic time full of change and goodbyes.  Pray for their last few months spent with supporting churches; that strong relationships would be formed and solid support structures put into place.  Pray for their last goodbyes to family members and for their arrival (Frouds in January, Morgans in February) in Arequipa.  We are ready for them to be here!

Planes, Libraries, and Automobiles

I made it safely to the states with our three kids.  If you happened to hear the story of our departure, you know that it was not the easiest of trips.  We missed our international flight and were totally rerouted (this happening after all the drama with Ana’s passport).  Greg posted that people pray for less stress for me, and I want you to know that if you prayed this prayer, God was gracious to me.  Though stress was going to be a factor (I was traveling without my husband with THREE kids for crying out loud), everyone was overly helpful, we got on a flight THAT night out of Lima, and my sister made all the connections with me (there was a chance she wouldn’t with the crazy delays out of Arequipa).  So, thank you for praying for our travels.  I returned early with the kids to participate in the festivities of my best friend’s wedding.  Greg will join us the end of September for a one-month furlough.  We will hit Tullahoma, Memphis, the Dallas area, and Tyler in a whirlwind trip.  It has been a blessing to already be spending time with my Tullahoma family.  We look forward to seeing so many more of you!

My article is short this month.  First of all, Happy Five Year Anniversary to Team Arequipa.  If you have supported this work in any way, we consider you part of the team.  It is an absolute blessing to see the faithfulness of God as we look back on what he has done in the past five years.  For me, I am in awe of how he has blessed the Living Libraries program.  Lucia (the Peruvian in charge of the program) and I have worked so hard this year to see how the program flows in all grade levels serving an entire school.  It has been a great year, and our plan is to open three more libraries next year.  It will be a lot of work, and CUDA saw the need for us to hire another employee for the program.  I am honored to introduce you to our newest Living Library team member, Felicitas.  She is a Christian with a passion to teach.  She is gifted in working with the children, and I am so excited to see how Lucia and Feli work together in these months that I am not present.  Please pray for our library team, and pray for the schools that we will enter next year.  We will be in contact with so many teachers and students.  It is a huge blessing to be in a place to influence so many toward the glory and work of our God.

One Way to Look at It: Solid Ground

The other day, our youngest was sitting on my lap, facing me. As we interacted, I shifted my position, which resulted in my legs moving in such a way that she couldn’t quite feel their support anymore. She panicked, grasping my arms tightly, crying out in fear that I might not catch her in time. 
I chuckled, because I knew what she didn’t...that if she let go of my arms and settled back down into my lap, she would have lowered by an inch or two and nothing more. It struck me as comical that she was so frightened, when all she had to do was sit down. But it was behind her, so she couldn’t see, but only felt the open space below her that had previously felt solid.
I tried to pull my arms from her clenched hands, tried to help her find her seat again, but she clung even tighter and continued to cry. Her fear prevented her from realizing that I would not drop her to the floor, prevented her from trusting my hands to guide her safely.
We do that, don’t we? We feel solid and safe, then something shifts, be it ever so slightly, and suddenly we are certain that a free fall awaits us. In our panic, we grab hold of whatever feels secure, screeching for help. We plead with God to help us feel safe again, to feel that the ground is solid beneath us rather than too far away to reach.
I know, sometimes the situation warrants the reaction. But other times, I bet that God chuckles, knowing that our fear is completely unfounded, that we can sit back and find ourselves comfortable again with minimal adjustment in our position. He sometimes gives us a gentle push, encouraging us to sit back and be okay, but we refuse to give in, trusting instead in our desperate handholds. 
I am certain that we are not meant to dangle in a panic from sources of partial security. I am certain we are meant to stand on solid ground. I am also certain that it is only by trusting that we can learn just how close that certainty may be.

Finding a Coffee Farm

When we decided to open a coffee shop we did our research on what coffees were available to us in Peru.  Right away we weeded out anything that wasn’t certified fair-trade and organic and from there we began testing for the best tasting coffee.  Well it didn’t take long to pick the winner.  Tunki coffee, produced by a small producer co-op near Puno, has been an international award winner (1st place in 2010) and maintains high quality taste year over year.  For almost two years now we have been purchasing Tunki coffee through for use in our cafe and for sales in the US.  While we have wanted to take a trip to the valley to visit the coffee plantations and operations an opportunity just hadn’t arisen; until this month.  Greg, Alfredo and I were able to arrange a trip to visit the main coffee factory in Juliaca and then travel on to Sandia (the valley) to visit one of the co-op’s headquarters and to visit with some of the owners of the hillside coffee plantations.
The journey was an interesting combination of excellent and harrowing.  The harrowing part was the travel out to the valley from Juliaca.  Sadly I don’t have pictures to do the description justice but just imagine yourself in 15 passenger van going downhill around sheer mountain cliffs on a one lane road while needing to pass cars or make room for cars coming up the hill.  On top of that there were hairpin turns aplenty and a driver who loved to drive at breakneck speeds.  We were all very thankful to arrive in the valley safely.  We stayed in the small town of Massiapo where the Inambari coffee co-op is located.  One of the members of this co-op submitted a sample to the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) this year and was ranked 3rd best in the world.  The co-op president took us out to visit two different plantations about an hour outside of town, high up on the side of the mountains (about 1800 meters up).  Though we arrived post harvest we were able to see quite a lot.  Plants still laden with beans, beans laid out for drying, a newly developed area with recently planted coffee plants, and more.  Back in Massiapo that afternoon we were treated to a cupping seminar by the co-op’s resident coffee specialist, Rigoberto (a licensed Q grader).  He prepared five different coffee samples for testing.  He talked us through how to officially cup (test) the coffee and how to officially score using international scoring guidelines.  The lesson was very interesting and Greg especially enjoyed himself as he graded the coffee samples with Rigoberto.
We were so grateful to CECOVASA (the parent organization of the various co-ops) for hosting us at their factory and for arranging our guides in the valley.  As we prepare to ramp up sales of CUDA coffee through exporting to the US we felt it necessary to gain a deeper understanding of the coffee we sell.  This trip was an eye-opener and has given us a lot of ideas for our business going forward.  Enjoy the pictures!

Living with Purpose (Dedicated to Lou Ellen Bills)

As I sit here to write my piece for the month, I struggle to find the words to reflect what is going on in my heart and head.  My face has been tear-streaked today.  I spoke with my father earlier this afternoon.  He gave me some news that I have prepared myself to hear, but the reality of the situation is not an easy one to swallow being so far from family.  The time is approaching.  I am named after my Granny Bills, Ellen.  She has been in a state of physical decline the past two years, but this past year has especially been hard.  This afternoon, my dad shared with me that the possibility of losing her in the weeks to come is very real.  Keep in mind that I am four weeks away from being home.  My granny is one of my greatest heroes, and I had the privilege of growing up and knowing her well.  I have peace in knowing that these days are the end of her life, and I am confident that I will see her in the Glory land one day.  She shared something with my father in the hospital room about a week ago that relates perfectly to what I am doing here...

I have written before about evangelistic studies, but there is something I have found to be very common among the women with whom I have studied.  I have been asked in various studies, “But what is my purpose?  What is it that God wants me to do?”  Most of you have heard of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.  I meet in a group of Christian sisters on Saturday mornings to discuss the ideas and scriptures that Warren presents in his book.  I have also just recently begun reading it with another friend in conjunction with studying the book of Mark.  So many do not know Jesus, and so many are seeking to live with a purpose in this life.  I believe we find the answer in our faith in him.  I believe that our purpose is to glorify the Father in everything that we do.  I love the major points the Warren presents in his book, and after guiding someone through the study of “Who is Jesus?,” it is fitting to guide them in a study of finding purpose if they choose to accept their identity in Christ and his Church.

About a week ago my granny mentioned to my father that she had a lot of thinking to do.  “What do you mean by that?” my father asked.  And this is how my beautiful, spirit-filled granny responded, “I am just not sure yet if it is my time to give up.  I need to really think about it and figure out if God still has a purpose for me.”  In all of her misery, pain, and sickness, she still plans to fight the good fight.  She wants to live her life with purpose to the very end.

She has always said that Psalm 23 is her favorite.  Most Christians are very familiar with the psalm.  We know it by heart.  We find our purpose in its verses:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
— Psalm 23

For his name’s sake.  Our purpose is to live for the glory of the Father.  My granny is such a testament to living out her purpose for God.  I am unsure how much longer she will be with us.  It wouldn’t be the first time she makes us think it is over, and then has a turn for the good.  Whatever the case, she is such an example to me in my journey of faith.  It is my prayer that I may live with the same attitude and mindset.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:1

One Way to Look at It: A Masterpiece

Sometimes it is hard to apply what we know about God to the situations we face each day. We tend to get bogged down in “real life” which means the stuff that fills our stretched thin days and energy levels. All too often, it seems the world is spinning at a pace too frenzied to sustain. In the midst of this, trouble seems to hit hard. Life is disrupted by illness, financial struggles, interpersonal stress, work frustration, school issues, marriage, parenting, self-control...difficulties come in every shape and size, and as adults, we have to take the hit, recover and move on.

It can be very hard to understand how God is working. In this broken world fraught with pain and hardship and weariness, it can be hard to identify good things. We want to believe that God is good, that he works for good, and that he wants good for us. But we live in the tension between what we believe and what we witness in our walking-around lives. 

How can a good, loving, powerful God be taking part in all this mess? How is it not better, if he is?

One of the verses that gives us pause in this whirlwind is from Romans. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28

Sounds too easy, too good to be true. There has to be a catch, because an easy life evades us. But consider what came before that specific verse.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Paul, Romans 8

Paul makes this statement in recognition of the struggle for hope, not to denounce it. He acknowledges how much we need God’s hand in all of this, and announces confidently that we have knowledge of God’s good intention and action.

Can we understand this in such a way that it helps us live this life? Can God work for good even as bad things happen? How is that possible?

Think about it this way:

God is The Creator. We know this, but we forget that it means He is the first and best creative being. He took nothing...nothing...and made everything. If He can do that, He can take anything and make it good.

Imagine Him as a painter. He has a huge canvas and has begun a masterpiece. It will take ages and time to develop, with layers of color and life built into it. There has never been anything like it, and may never be anything like it again. He is the Master and sketches out his ideas, leaving background shadows and hints to be built upon later. He could take his time and create exactly what he wants. But he has a different plan.

Instead, he takes the paints and materials and shares them with every human being. Everyone can affect the outcome. Those who would learn from him and pursue his dream pay close attention, aiming for the guidelines he left on the canvas. Those who ignore his ownership of the entire work paint as they see fit. Sometimes their strokes closely mirror his own. Sometimes they run amok and cover hues intended for beauty. None can match his design perfectly. But he has chosen this as a collaborative project and rejoices in the opportunity to share in the process with whomever comes to take part.

But whether the paint is lovingly applied or angrily flung, he will produce a beautiful work. He would never voluntarily choose to have parts of his creation destroyed or erased, but he did voluntarily choose to let us choose, so sometimes it happens. He would never celebrate this, but neither does he feel as derailed as we humans tend to in the face of plans that go awry.

He just continues painting. He can incorporate any color, any stroke, any slash of a brush and develop it into something worth showing. It might take a long time for the colors to blend into something softer and worthwhile. He might brighten it immediately. But nothing we do counts for nothing. And nothing anyone does is beyond his repair.

Because, as we know, in all things, he works for the good of those who love him, even if we can’t see how. This does not mean guaranteeing good and preventing bad, but constantly working toward something redeemed and beautiful.

Confessions of an Uncertain Missionary

I love certainty. I would worship it if I could carve it into a little statue. Because I want it to fill the hole in my heart where uncertainty lurks. I confess my idolatry and wonder at its mean tenaciousness. This is what it is to live by grace.

I received an email today from another missionary. He spends most of his time on leadership training and discipleship in a "burgeoning church movement" of over 11,000 Christians who meet in more than 100 churches. After five years, our four house churches just reorganized into two because of inconsistent attendance and struggling leadership. I would confess my jealousy, but this paragraph is transparent. So I add to the confession my uncertainty, about the calling and the gifting and the way forward. Insecurity makes trust seem like blindness, and as I stumble, frustration and anger hover nearby. This is what it is to live by faith.

I spoke again on Sunday about following Jesus into a life transformed by the power of the Spirit. As some nodded reflectively, I had eyes only for the others—the blank stares of the distracted and weary. And uncertainty lapped steadily against every word. Not a tidal wave but a relentless, erosive wash. I confess my despair. How many seeds will sprout over rocks? How many among thorns? This is what it is to live by hope.

I'd rather love people than like them. I love the poor—the idea of them, at least—and my heart breaks for them, and my pulse quickens at the thought of justice and mercy. But then I meet poor people, needy people, inconvenient people, and I get over it. I would just love them, with money and service and Bible words, in contained moments, at a safe distance. Problem is, I'm to love as I've been loved. And I've been loved with friendship and patience. I've been loved with permission to be needy and inconvenient. I've been loved this way even though the idolatrous, jealous, angry, pessimistic me is unlikable. So I'm uncertain whether I can stand the dissonance between the kind of love I've received and the kind of love I've given. I'm uncertain of my own heart. This is what it is to live by love.

I hate confessing. I would pretend to be better than I am, mostly so I could lie to myself about the uncertainty that lurks in my heart. It's true, I'm uncertain about how others will read my confessions—whether it's necessary to be transparent, whether it's beneficial to be unfiltered. Whether it's prudent to be me. But the real uncertainty is whether the truth can set me free. If the truth hurts, is there really freedom in pain? If the truth is dangerous, is liberation worth the risk? What can I say? I'm uncertain. But let's be honest: this is what it is to live by the truth.

Forward Progress

So far 2013 has been a very important year for CUDA.  It has been year of ups and downs, a year of consolidation, adjustment, innovation and vision-casting.  The year has also had its fair share of uncertainty, scrambling for solution, going-back-to-the-drawing-board, and prayerful seeking for guidance.  I guess, when I put it that way, it’s been like most years in our NGO’s short history.  However this year has seen some very special things happen.  Things whose ramifications will be felt (and appreciated) for years to come.

First, we’ve reached a milestone in our bid for validation from the Peruvian government.  We have received authorization from Peru to operate as an NGO offering technical expertise in development programs.  CUDA now has its own business ID number, can officially formalize contracts and other documents with government and business entities, and can obtain visas for volunteers and workers, among other things.  This was one of our primary goals for the year and it feels good to have all of this finally taken care of, though it in no way means we are done dealing with the government.

Then, once the government officially recognized us as a foreign NGO operating in Peru we had to begin the process of having our projects officially approved.  To do this required a partnership with a local organization, government or otherwise, to execute the program.  You may have seen the update on our Facebook page but a few months ago we signed an agreement with the regional Ministry of Education validating the Living Library program, giving us official government backing and support.  Having this project approved means we can also begin to request visas for our volunteers and project collaborators instead of having to use other organizations to acquire our visas.

In regard to the vision of the organization, the potential for growth in the library program has spurred us into finalizing our NGO’s 5-year plan both for itself as an organization and for each project specifically.  Forming these plans is beneficial not just from a strategy standpoint but from a fundraising standpoint also.  For example, once planning/dreaming began for the library it soon became evident that the program had vast potential for growth and a need for formal funding.  To that end we have begun to send letters to grant-makers detailing the program and its needs.  Be in prayer for this process as we would like to push for significant growth in the program in 2014 but need the funding to come through to make it happen.

One last new development to share with you this month is that plans are in motion now to begin sending CUDA Coffee to the US in larger quantities with the goal of establishing consistent, substantial monthly sales.  We know that many of you have purchased a bag or two when we’ve managed to bring it back with us and appreciate your collaboration.  With greater availability we think many of you, and others, will decide to make CUDA Coffee your regular in-house coffee.  As always all profits go to the NGO and its work in Arequipa.  We hope to be selling coffee full-time by December.

We are continually grateful for you, our stateside supporters.  We depend on your FB Likes, your Twitter retweets, supportive comments while on furlough, micro-loans made, books donated, monthly and random donations, and prayer.  Put plainly we wouldn’t be here now with you.  Thanks for being there for us now and for making us confident of our ability to continue our work into the future.

Library Event with Ministry of Education [Facebook gallery]

Eucharisteo in July

If you haven’t read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, I highly recommend it.  She talks about the Greek word “eucharisteo.”  It means “to be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks.”  She takes the time to list 1,000 things (some little, some big) that she is thankful for as she lives her daily life and lives with a perspective of “giving thanks in all circumstances.”  Whenever I am tempted to complain in a situation, I know that the Spirit is leading me when my thoughts are guided by eucharisteo.  One of the girls from the Harding research team this month led our ladies‘ day in this thought.  Not knowing exactly what I would write for this month’s article, I decided to share some of my eucharisteo moments.

1. Enjoying making mini-apple pies for Cafe Connection

2. Our 2013 interns

3. The Harding group helping with one-on-one reading in the library

4. Bill and Holly (our team mentors) coming to Arequipa
5. Attending the inauguration for Mujeres del Misti (a small community development project that CUDA is launching) and seeing two of the kids that attend the school where I work in the library

6. The eldest male teacher in the library program excitedly pulling me into his classroom to show me his word wall (the project he had to complete to receive his full credit for this month’s staff development hours).  He stood with his students proudly showing me the wall and having them spout out the answers to different vocabulary words.

7. Mentoring our very first CUDA Living Library intern, Lisette

8. Hearing from Areli, who I have helped to disciple since her baptism earlier this year, share that she has a friend who is interested in studying the story of Jesus with her.  We have been praying for this friend for two months, and it is so neat to see the prayer answered.

9. Having my first Bible study with the friend that I mentioned in last month’s newsletter and hearing her mother ask if she can join us at the table because what she is hearing is “bonito” (beautiful).
10. Celebrating our middle child’s 4th birthday, and knowing that Peru is the only home she has ever known.

One Way to Look at It: Holding On

One of my favorite parts of the Wilderness Trek trips we took in high school was the first day, when we went rappelling down a cliff somewhere. The guides took their time getting all the ropes fastened securely to at least two trees (you know, just in case we managed to pull one out of the ground), then wrapped through the harnesses and buckles secured to their bodies. 
When my turn came, I also donned a harness outfitted with hooks and buckles and locks. Another rope snaked through those loops and controlled my descent, as the only movement required to stop my fall was to pull the slack around my waist, locking the rope in the carabiner. If I wanted to leap off the cliff face and slide down quickly, I could loosen my grip and go.  If I wanted to inch my way down, carefully sliding my feet over every bump, all I had to do was grab that rope tightly and release it as minimally as I wanted.
But it didn’t all rely on me. Those guides were always at the top, roped into the system that was sustaining me. And while I controlled the ropes that were fixed at the top and dangled freely at the bottom, they controlled the ropes that attached directly to my harness and ran upwards, leaving the extra slack behind the guides. At any sign of trouble, they could also whip the rope around their waists, engaging the lock on their end, and I would freeze. No matter what happened with my hands at that point - even if I let go of the rope completely, I would stay put. Maybe spinning in the wind, struggled for a foothold or upside down, but held nonetheless. 
They could stop my fall when I couldn’t.

We often think of our walk with God as an actual walk down a road, where we can hold His hand as we progress. However, this breaks down for me when it comes to difficulty, because either I’m holding His hand and can’t fall, or I let go and wipe out. Either way, struggle indicates a problem because 1) if I’m holding His hand like I thought I was, I shouldn’t have fallen in the first place or 2) I have to get back to His hand because I obviously lost it, though I’m not sure how or where.
I prefer the rappelling image. Maybe our whole life is spent in an up and down attempt at a climb. Jesus and all His glory is at the top. Brokenness is at the bottom. For every foot of altitude we advance, it’s likely we could slip down by two. But when we lock into Jesus as our guide, we are roped in just as we used to be on Trek. We can control some of our movements. We have choices about where to put our feet, how quickly to rise or fall, how risky our path will be and how tightly we will hold to our own control. 
But when It comes down to it, we can’t fall where He can’t catch us. He knows the signs of real trouble that we can’t handle and He can grab the line in plenty of time to snatch us from it. We might be upside down, panicking, and unsure what to do next to find the right path, but He has us in His grip, just as always. 
Thinking about life in this way makes risks scary and exhilarating, because rather than seeing potential falls as moments in which I might lose my grip on His hand, I see them as moments when I might witness anew just how intent He is on holding on to me.