Last year, at the end of January, Jake and I visited Peru. The first day we were here we went to the beach for celebration Sunday with the church. It was a fun day but we didn’t really know anyone and couldn’t go much further than “Hello. What is your name? How are you?” This year we started planning the annual beach trip at the beginning of January. I was so excited!
One of my favorite movies of all time is Fiddler on the Roof. It’s a story of a Jewish man named Tevye and his family in a small, turn-of-the-century Russian village. It’s cheesy and it’s a musical, but the reason I like it is that Tevye’s whole life revolves around God. He’s a peasant milkman, not a rabbi or a priest, but every facet of his life is shaped by his relationship with God, with whom he’s constantly talking. I want to be like Tevye.
The time has come. This is my last Team Arequipa newsletter article. I was listening to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” the other day while washing dishes. The weirdest feeling came over me. I remember bawling through that song our first Christmas here, because I missed my home and family so much. I know that many of my new teammates will be experiencing this same emotion this Christmas. But this seventh Christmas in Perú, the sentiment is different. Arequipa has become our home, and we are about to say goodbye to all things familiar to us here. The song causes me to bawl my eyes out but not in the same way.
The four new families that are part of Team Arequipa are not our replacements. They are the next wave crashing toward the shore as our wave begins the slow fade back into the ocean. For a little while, you can’t tell that both are happening, but standing in that water reveals the push and pull occurring simultaneously. Their effect will be similar, but new. They are a blessing to our team, our church, and the city of Arequipa.
We bought our tickets this month.
While Meg has been ramping up emotionally for a while, I am postponing a lot of those feelings for nearer to our departure. But setting an official leave date was a significant moment. We will arrive in the US on January 12th, 2015. In just under five months, our family will leave home to return home.
I have a lot to work through—feelings that are at odds with what I think I’m supposed to think. Stuff related to my motives for coming to Peru in the first place, including my relationship with God, dreams, ambitions, and various factors of rather uneven spiritual value. Disappointments and lessons learned. Joys and sorrows. Just life, I guess, but it was life here. Anyway, my plan is to blog through these, hopefully regularly until our departure.
Right now, my primary thought is, “Sprint to the end.” I want to finish well. But it’s hard to know what that means. On one hand, it is remaining faithful in the everyday work despite feeling like mine is a contribution with an expiration date. My input becomes increasingly less relevant to long-term decisions. The window for unmet goals shrinks to a matter of months and feels impossible. The hope of correcting past failures withers. “Sprint to the end” in this sense is not the thought of the accomplished athlete finishing with discipline but of the guy who is still running the race after everyone else has already crossed the finish line, wondering what would be the point of the extra effort. On the other hand, it is doing well the things that this new phase requires. It’s time to do transition work again. So we’re starting on our RAFT, a device many expatriates have used to make a good exit and return. It entails:
- Reconciliation (in broken relationships and unresolved conflicts)
- Affirmation (of the people in our lives)
- Farewells (in timely and intentional ways)
- Thinking Destination (being realistic about life upon return)
This is a big part of our work now, and just coming to terms with that fact is really hard. But it’s time.
My wife Sarah and I worked hard in planning for work here in Arequipa and in eventually moving here. God has made this wonderful opportunity a reality for us and we are so very thankful to Him. We have been living here for 5 months now. The newness of it all is starting to wear off. As silly as it sounds, I’m starting to realize that I don’t live in California or Arkansas any more. Culture shock is a curious thing. We definitely went through a honeymoon stage. Now we realize we are here to stay and it is no vacation. It is hard at times. Apparently culture shock can make you exhausted. This is the case with me. By the time we get our kids to bed, I am longing for bed myself. It has been a rough past couple of weeks. We miss home and family and certain things here are difficult to get used to. We are in a pretty constant state of heightened awareness that we could be pick-pocketed (Sarah actually was) or be overcharged for something because we don’t know any better (which has already happened). We are making good progress in our Spanish language acquisition, but miss or don’t understand things here and there. Things like throwing trash on the ground or letting dogs do their business wherever they desire are much more common than I wish they were. More frequently than we like, new friends/acquaintances don’t call when they say they will, or don’t show up for a scheduled meeting altogether.
However, there are two sides to a coin. Although this acquisition is hard, there are so many great things happening that God is allowing us to be involved in. From simple acts of sharing our faith to formal Bible studies, from experiencing people’s willingness to help us newbies to making new friends, from enjoying new food to sharing a meal with new friends, life here really is a blessing. We couldn’t be more pleased with our landlords and our apartment. Our Peruvian brothers and sisters in Christ have received us with open, loving arms and we already love them so much and feel close to them. We have received great advice from our new closest Peruvian friends as well as the veteran missionaries who have been here for over 5 years. What an experience this has been. We hope to have many more years to come here in Arequipa working for God’s glory and for the expansion of His kingdom. Please keep us in your prayers as we adjust to this culture and learn to live and thrive here.
Every year Team Arequipa invites interns from the States to join the team for two months. They come on their Summer Break and live with the families in Arequipa. This year we have 5 girls with us through three different universities' programs. The internship provides interns with the chance to see what a missionary family looks like, get involved in projects, practice Spanish and make new friendships with locals. It is also a wonderful experience for their worldview to be broadened and see how faith looks in another cultural. They are part of a weekly discussion over assigned readings mission, and take part in cultural studies where they reflect on missional experiences. They are encouraged to be part of all the projects giving them a chance to see projects in works. Each intern is also mentored by a missionary which helps them attain spiritual and cultural goals. Please pray that the interns be safe during their time here and that they learn see God in a new way.