I have been attending a new church plant going on in the part of the city where we are working with the Health Initiative. They are meeting in the home of a sister from another group of Christians. This is an exciting new work. Part of the reason it is exciting is because this group meets so close to the clinic where we are working. When volunteering at the clinic I sometimes have the opportunity to speak about the mission work here in a more comprehensive manner and can invite people to come join us on Sunday nights. It’s also exciting because people from the community are coming and it’s slowly growing. We are acquainted with this other group from occasionally meeting together, and this is just another way to come alongside them in unity.
I would like to expound a bit on the fact that the work I am privileged to do through CUDA’s Health Initiative allows me to be connected with this new house church plant. Part of our strategy as a mission team is to work holistically in God’s kingdom here in Arequipa. Part of what that means is sharing our faith as we teach people how to prevent Diabetes. I often have the opportunity to mix the physical, emotional and spiritual in a short 15-minute conversation with someone. I really do believe that God cares about each part of us. For example, in Mark 2, Jesus heals a paralytic and forgives his sins at the same time. Later in Mark 6 Jesus feeds the 5,000 while he teaches them valuable spiritual lessons as well. If Jesus blended the spiritual and the physical, then I think we should as well. After all, why focus so exclusively on the spiritual while every other part of the man suffers? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do it that way. Yes, the spiritual part of the man is the most important, but the other parts of a man are still important and still a part of him and all parts are interrelated. It’s amazing to see God working in this way. I certainly didn’t plan for this church plant to start up so close to the clinic, but it is a blessing and an opportunity.

Life Transformation Groups

The whole church has recently celebrated the start up of Life Transformation Groups, where everyone has a group which they meet up with to read the Bible and pray. In this regard the church has tackled the challenge of sacrifice, commitment to each other, and deeper knowledge of the Bible.

I have been blessed to meet with Alfredo and the time reading the bible together has reminded me of the usefulness of taking time simply to read together. My heart has been equally challenged and encouraged from the time. Solely taking time to be together is clearly an essential aspect of being a church family, to allow for the opportunity to share and grow together. The brief time we have been meeting to read through 2 short books (Ruth and Titus) together has impacted me, greatly. I‘m looking forward to seeing the continued impact of an entire church sharing in the maturity of reading the Bible together frequently.

Life Transformation Groups

A few weeks ago our two house churches divided up into Life Transformation groups (LTGs). These are groups of two to three brothers or sisters that meet once a week for an hour or so to read, pray and be accountable to each other. To quote one of our team’s favorite theologians, Greg McKinzie, the essence of LTGs is to “read Scripture repetitively and pray together, particularly for those they hope to evangelize” and the goal is a “high level of integration”.

For myself, having been in Arequipa just for the past four months, the life transformation group with Anita has been a multiple blessing. It is, first of all, a spiritual blessing. Additionally, it has also given me the opportunity to spend intentional and quality time with her. It is allowing me to get to know her a little better each week in a comfortable setting with no tasks to check off a list or a specific agenda to follow (apart from reading Titus and Ruth as the other LTGs are doing). It gives me further glimpses into the Peruvian culture and how the word of God speaks to Anita specifically.

We ask that you join us in praying for Arequipa’s LTGs. We pray that through these small groups, we may all grow closer to our Father, grow closer to each other and learn to more deeply and fully commit to one another.

Church Life

Church life has its ups and downs, as any church knows. We go through dry spells, and we go through times of feeling blessed.  Just lately, I have witnessed blessing.  One of those blessings comes in the form of a theological class that Greg teaches through CUDA.  It is a five-trimester program that takes any student willing to explore the Bible as story, spiritual disciplines, and other practical issues.  I sat down with one of our church leaders the other day that is participating in the third semester.  I asked her how the class was going.  She said, “Megan, I so wish that everyone could go through these classes.  I am learning a much deeper meaning to the Bible than I have ever experienced.”  Because of some of the leaders from our house churches being in this theology class, they have structured the study material for all the house churches based on what they have learned so far.  This is both exciting and rewarding.  I have seen the hours that Greg has put into his curriculum for this class.  It is really exciting to see that hard work come to fruition.  I take for granted the many lessons I learned growing up in the church.  I take VBS, church camps, and youth rallies for granted.  I take for granted the opportunity I was given to attend a Christian university.  It is such a joy to see this theology class give people the opportunity to study the story of God, and for them to express the interest of teaching others.  They are people that were never given the opportunity to study the word of God in this way.
I just recently attended a missionary women’s retreat in Lima where we went through an intense five day study of the Exodus story.  I couldn’t help but make so many connections from Moses and Israel’s journey to the gospel message we teach from Mark.  I came home spiritually refreshed, but one of the first things I shared with Greg was that I had to study the story of Israel more deeply with Areli (one of my dearest friends here that I disciple in a weekly meeting).  Praise be to God!  She joined the new semester of the theology class that Greg is teaching.  I am so excited to see her eyes opened even more to God’s story as she explores the messages from the Old Testament this semester.

Every Wednesday afternoon, I wait for Greg to get home so that I can walk to the bus stop and meet Etelvina (one of our Peruvian sisters) and Bethany (my Australian teammate) in Porvenir, a neighborhood in Miraflores.  We meet at the corner of the street and then walk about eight blocks to Sandra’s one-room home.  We are always greeted by Sandra’s beautiful smile and the sweet giggles of her 7-month-old son, Harold.  We have enjoyed this weekly meeting together as we go through the book of Mark with Sandra.  She is such a delight in this study, and one of the biggest lessons that she latched onto was the promise of Jesus to multiply our families when we give them up for the sake of following him.  She is attending our Sunday meetings regularly, and I love to see our family welcome her and Harold into the fellowship we are so blessed to share.

It is hard to know how many will show up to our house church meeting sometimes, but this past Sunday was a record.  We actually ran out of seating for those that attended (there were over 20 in attendance).  I know that we will still have meetings in the future where numbers are low, and I am still not one to measure God’s success in this work as the number I see on a Sunday morning.  I guess just recently, I have been blessed to see the family of God be just what it is––family.  Caring to share something new with those around them and feeling burdened to teach it to others.  Continuing in the journey of seeking God even after baptism with brothers and sisters in the Way.  Feeling like one can be welcomed into a group of people that come from many different walks of life and still be seen as someone that “family” will care for in good and bad times.  Church life can be ugly, but when it is beautiful, it is one of the greatest blessings that God has given us.

Extending Family

Each month we get our church groups together for a “Celebration” Sunday.  We focus on time spent together, on the kids, on communion.  In March we decided to shake things up a little after Abraham, who used to meet with one of our groups, came to propose a joint meeting with the church he is currently leading.  After running the idea by the church, everyone was in agreement and looking forward to meeting new brothers and sisters. 
Together our two groups rented out the cafe on a Sunday morning and gathered around the patio.  All told we had over 50 people in attendance (children included) and enjoyed a good morning of singing, study and fellowship. Both groups were encouraged by this shared time, as we were reminded again that God's family extends beyond whatever smaller group we call our own.


It is good to be home! We had a great furlough, but were tired by the end and ready to get back. Our Sunday meeting was like a breath of fresh air as we settled back into the rhythms that are most familiar to our family. The group met at the Gray’s home for our celebration meeting, which is when all the house church groups come together to share. We all contribute some food items toward a meal together, spend time in worship, collaborate on a lesson for the kids, and open the floor to anything that anyone needs to say. It is beautiful.
Having been gone, this still feels like the beginning of the year, since we’ve missed a few weeks. I enjoyed seeing friends and piling all our kids on the rug for high energy songs and a hilarious drama led by Megan about Moses, kicking off a series on average people that God used in powerful ways. I hadn’t realized just how much I miss the relaxed, familial feel of our meetings until I joined them again. I love these people, my brothers and sisters in Christ - Peruvian, American and Australian alike. They are my people and without them, this would not be home. 
I am proud of this family. We constantly push for growth, learning how to live out our faith in community, focusing on establishing habits that cultivate a faithful life. Greg has challenged each person in the church to give 1 sol every week, all year. I am excited to see what can come of little sacrifices, giving of what you have, however little it may seem, because I know God loves taking bits and pieces and building beauty. He does it with our individual lives and will now have a new chance to use our community to bless others. Another new effort is in our church-wide verse memorization. We have introduced a new verse every month for the last year and many of our attendees, children and adults, have met the challenge each time. This year, we are tackling a longer passage of scripture a little bit at a time, so that after a few months, everyone will be able to recite several verses in a row, engraving more and more truths on their minds and hearts. 
This family is still young. We have many people in attendance who haven’t decided what they think about the whole thing, but they keep coming back to find out more. Some have stepped up into leadership positions and we are continually thankful for their hearts and willingness to dive in. All are welcome, and no one has all the answers, but we know that we’re better together than apart. 

The Pastoral Gospel

There is a young woman that has been in and out of our meetings with the church.  She will come and participate for several weeks, and then we won’t see her for months at a time.  She is single, works a job in the center, and formed a relationship with one of our more mature Christian women some time ago.  She has never committed to following Christ, but everyone in our church knows her.  During my time home on furlough, I received an email from the Christian that has the strongest tie to this young woman, Paty.  This young woman started showing up to the women’s meetings, pregnant out of wedlock.  She was so very ashamed.  But our beautiful group of Christian sisters hosted a baby shower for her, and Paty was writing me to ask if I could pick up donated items for the baby from the states.  I brought this need before the Shiloh women, and I express with such thankfulness that such generous Christians support us and the petitions we bring before them.  I didn’t have room in my suitcase for many baby items, but these women provided cash so that we could buy things she needs here.
I had the privilege of going to visit this young woman this past Wednesday with Bethany (my new teammate) and Etelvina (one of our dear Christian sisters that lives close to this young mother’s new home).  Her little boy is absolutely precious, and the mother looked well, but the situation and the tears that she poured out before us that day were heart-wrenching.  I can empathize with a new mother.  I remember giving birth to our Anastasia.  Not only was the whole birth experience scary, but going home with that little bundle and learning so many new things about babies was scary.  I had family come to help, I had friends bring me food, I had a husband that shared the burden of night shifts and caring for the baby.  And I was exhausted.  I was so exhausted that I was on the verge of tears many days.  I share all of that with you to say that it came as no surprise to me that this young mother was in tears when we began our conversation.  But what I cannot empathize with is her situation.
The father of the baby is not present.  Her family has kicked her out of their house because of the shame.  The baby is less than 2 months old, and this mother is having to continue her job to make ends meet (how is that for a 6 week maternity leave).  We were able to count some of her blessings that day: she is in a “house” (it is one room with a little area outside to cook over a fire) and she only has to pay utilities; she is able to continue to work her job from the home; the baby is healthy.  But can you imagine!?  She was so appreciative of our visit.  We are going to go visit her every Wednesday, and we are going to read through the book of Mark with her (something she says she has never done).  When I shared with her that Christians from home sent a collection for her baby boy, she burst into tears.  She is so humble and grateful.  Etelvina, Bethany, and I laid our hands on her and prayed.  We prayed for strength.  We prayed that this young mother could experience the reality of family in God.  We prayed to have the eyes of Christ that do not look at others in shame but who see someone as completely unique and special in the purposes God has for them.

This is the pastoral gospel.  We share the message of Jesus not to save people from hell.  We share the message of Jesus because the kingdom is here and now.  He says to repent and change.  With transformation comes heaven on earth, and we experience this heaven with others that have confessed his name, his body, the church.  We, the church, are his hands and his feet.  We are his voice to the ashamed.  We are the light in the darkness.  We are the family to the fatherless.  Because we are Christ on earth.  His kingdom come, his will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven.  Please keep the young mother, Sandra, in your prayers and keep your eyes open to ways that you are the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus.

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.