Don’t look now, but 2008 is about to be over. Somehow we have come to the end of another year. This year has been pretty important for our team (obviously!) since a number of things have happened. We lived and worked with both of our main supporting congregations. We formed support teams to aid us at both churches. We sold, stored, or gave away virtually all of our material possessions in preparation for our move to Arequipa. We packed six suitcases, said goodbye to family and friends, and boarded a plane to our new home. We completed three months of intensive language learning while finding housing and establishing ourselves in our new city. We prayed and prayed and narrowed our target area to the Miraflores/Alto Selva Alegre areas of Arequipa. We secured office space for 2009 and bought a “Mauve-Taupe” (not pink!) van. And that’s just the “big stuff” list…
Sometimes things just work out. Probably not all that often in first—time cross-cultural world, but sometimes. A couple of years ago, we surveyed the city in order to create a list of possible target areas. We had a pretty good tour guide, so we felt good about our first impressions.
I can’t believe Christmas is this week! For one thing, it doesn’t feel anything like Christmas here (or at least our idea of it). I am wearing sleeveless shirts during the day because it is officially summertime. While students in the U.S. are relieved to get time off for Christmas break, Peruvian students are relieved to finally enjoy Summer break.
A lot of people have wondered how Peru has weathered the “storm.” I’ll take a shot at that answer, but keep in mind that it is a general response because a lot of economic jargon is above my head and it’s not all interesting. I’ll cover the basics. Here’s the scoop.
Some of you may know that I was the rookie linguist on the team when we arrived three months ago. (Yes, really, we have been here that long.) I could almost order my own meals and knew that I should say “Mucho gusto” (basically “Nice to meet you”) when I met someone. Other than that, I was pretty much at a 1- year-old’s level, knowing a few numbers, colors, concepts, but really unable to do much with it.
Well, I've finished with Spanish language school. It's a strange feeling being "done." I haven't really studied Spanish since I finished my minor in undergrad., so I've been looking forward to brushing up for a long time. It's come and gone, and I can hardly believe it. With three weeks of budgeted schooling left, I decided that I would be better off to study at home what I'd learned and let the rest of the field workers have an extra week of class. So my week off has been one spent at home reviewing and trying to establish a self-disciplined schedule.
Well, in the words of my husband, "I have come of age." He said this because he made broccoli cheese casserole for his own Thanksgiving this year. His momma was not here to do it. Our Thanksgiving would not have been as tasty if it weren't for the yummy box of ingredients that my mother-in-law sent to us this month (containing Velveeta and a can of real pumpkin).
Before coming here, I was very uncomfortable with something that was suggested to us by some other Peruvian missionaries. It was the whole idea of what they call here an "empleada." Basically, many of the rich have a full-time hired maid that cooks, cleans, tends to the children, you get the idea. We heard that it was expected of those with any sort of money to hire an empleada. The people in Peru "expect" for those with money (if you are Gringo you are expected to have money) to help their economy by hiring an empleada. Would this make any of you uncomfortable?
We have a strategy. I like it. We worked hard on it and tried to be realistic. It is no surprise that young missionaries can have unrealistic expectations, and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is equally fair to call low expectations unrealistic given the Reality that we serve. To be honest, I am torn between these two modes of thought. On one hand, it is the great expectation of God that sent me into the mission field in the first place. On the other hand, it is the cowardly fear that high expectations will set us up for failure that causes me to hit the brakes. On one hand, it is the foolish zeal of inexperience that strains at the bridle. On the other hand, it is the wisdom of those gone before us that we should dedicate ourselves to learning for a time and approach our ministry to people in the careful manner of a master builder.
The thought of starting back to school four years after college graduation was a bit daunting to me. Studying had become a foreign concept, and since I was the Spanish rookie on the team, the task of learning an entire language loomed large in front of me. It didn’t help that the thought of sitting face-to-face with a Peruvian for four hours each day, hoping I could keep up enough to learn a few things, seemed overwhelming.
But then we began classes, and I realized that the time goes very quickly.