The time has come to pack our bags and say goodbye to the place we have called home for the last two years. We came with no experience, not knowing what to expect, but willing to learn and grow and see what God was doing in Peru. The time has flown and we understand clearly now why it is advised you spend at least 2 years in the place you choose to serve.
Part of CUDA’s philosophy is to foster programs that are sustainable and holistic in nature and avoid paternalism and dependency. The medical branch of CUDA, called Pura Vida, is still in its beginning stages. We chose the name Pura Vida to communicate that our aim is for people to attain wellbeing in all facets of life: physical, mental and relational (also part of CUDA’s philosophy) and that this way they may be blessed by a pure life. We hope in time to be able to recruit Peruvian volunteers who will partner with us, become passionate with the work, and will continue the work once we have gone. For now, we strive to be culturally contextual and get input from local Arequipeños in all we do.
Katie and I were “sent off” by the Central and Cedar Lane churches a little over seven months ago. We loved getting to spend the summer with these two churches so goodbyes were hard. But we said goodbye knowing we were headed to the place for which we had been preparing for years. In January and in April of this year, the house churches in Arequipa had their own two send-off Sundays.
How we understand and practice mission is at the center of all of our questions about how we talk about the church and how we perceive our relationship with our neighbors. Our confusion about worship practices, our ambivalence about authority, our problems with reading scripture, our malaise about the competing moralities of our cultures, our fear of suffering, our surprising incertitude about what it means to be a church member and our ongoing struggle with nominal Christianity—none of these (or any other currently critical issue) will find their resolution without surer grounding in the practice and understanding of mission.
Living Libraries just started a new year! This year we have TWO new schools, ONE school in its second year, and ONE school in its third year. That is FOUR schools!!! This is obviously more teachers in the program than we have included in the past, and we are excited for the numbers of students we are reaching. Let me tell you about some of the changes this year.
Coming in at just under 5ft. you wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Etelvina is tough. And she has had to be. She raised her two kids on her own while searching for God. She had been a faithful Catholic for her whole life before she realized she was missing something. This began her journey to start a true relationship with Jesus.
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!
After over 6 years of investment in Arequipa, Peru, I can attest to this truth. I see beauty all around us. The family of faith, young though it may be, is beautiful. Their love is real, their desire to know and follow Jesus better is true, and we are better for having their unique qualities and experiences in our midst. Things have not occurred easily over the years, which is precisely why each success is so valuable, and even the struggles provide a chance for deep learning.
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.
“Jóven” translates to “young” or “young person” and this has been our latest project since about September last year: working with the young people of Arequipa. We had noticed that a lot of young people only had the option of drinking and going to clubs as a hangout but also found that a lot of young people do not have a space where they can explore their faith, ask questions, and be young. We were inspired to help some of the younger people in our church to connect in a way that was more real for them, to build future leaders, and encourage strong faith and community among these youth.