One Way to Look at It: Hope

Meet Misti, the volcano that represents Arequipa much like the skyline of New York. Among the three that surround the city, Misti draws the most attention, towering at 19,101 feet. What is less clear, however, is that its neighbor, Chachani, is taller, at 19,872 feet, because due to being farther away, it appears shorter. Proximity demands our attention, and things at a distance shrink from view.

My father-in-law, David Smith, died earlier this month. He was hospitalized very suddenly and quickly declined, which resulted in our decision to travel back and be with the family. We rushed into the country and dove headfirst into the situation only days before he passed. To say it has been a shock is putting it far too mildly. Even as we work to navigate the business of losing a family member and redefining life, it has not felt real and somehow all too real at the same time. Needless to say, it dominates our field of vision. It may not be the biggest thing going on in the world, but as the closest, it looms largest for us. Everything else, from minutia to plans to holidays to major crises, recedes into the background.

Hope is a background thing. Far off, small, easily dismissed.

I recently heard someone say that if a pessimist sees a glass as half-empty and an optimist sees the same glass as half-full, hope knows the glass will be filled again someday. It’s the ability to stand up yet again to a bully’s blow because you see your big brother on his way to your defense. Something is different because you see change heading your way.

This is easy to think about, but excruciating to apply when we live experiences of pain, weariness and loss. We can know that things will be made right one day, but we ache against the wrongness around us right now. We can believe that Jesus will rework the world and perfect it all, but we wrestle with the imperfections that tangle around us right now. We can trust that we will be filled and reunited, but we find ourselves empty and lonely right now. We can look forward to understanding, but we drown in our questions for now.

Even in faith, hope can seem too far off, too small because it is a background thing. Though it is big enough to cover everything we experience, we cannot fathom how that tiny speck on the horizon will envelope the brokenness of our world and make it whole. It appears insufficient to fill even the hole in our own hearts when they feel shattered or lonely or angry or weak or sad.

We have to consciously choose to stand back up and face the bully, though it be to yet another blow, because we know that He is coming. And for my part, for today, when the struggles that vie for my focus close in, I will choose to look beyond and remember the power that waits patiently in the background.

December at a Glance

December has certainly kept us on our toes. We have greatly missed the Smith family. We are excited for their return on the last day of the month! This has been the first year that we have not spent one of the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with our teammates in Arequipa. They were sick on Thanksgiving, and they were obviously not here on Christmas. When you come to the field with one other family, it is very obvious that things are not the same when one family isn't present. We eagerly await their arrival. Aria and Shaye both celebrated birthdays this month. We look forward to some post-birthday celebrating with them.

I continue to be very excited about the Living Libraries work. Neil Cantrell, another missionary here, has signed on to co-lead the program with me in the coming year. The dream, obviously, is for a Peruvian to be hired to lead the library work. But until we receive the funding, that will not be a reality. As a stay-at-home-mom, I am only able to dedicate one day of the week to visiting the schools. With Neil's help, we hope to share the load next year. I will still dedicate my one day to visiting the classrooms, but he is willing to go to the schools two days a week. We hope to have more of a presence in the actual library space as well as the classrooms. Also, we will be receiving a fluency kit to help us in testing the kids' reading levels. This is exciting for us because we know we will be in the door from day one of school starting, and we can test a sample group of kids throughout the year to see if our work is making a difference.

Abraham, one of our CUDA employees, will be working with the teachers and principals in the area of conflict management. We have a meeting set for this Saturday with school faculty. One of the school principals approached us with some faculty dynamic issues, and she is seeking extra help from the NGO. That is really exciting to me. One, I feel like this past year served as a time to lay a foundation of trust with the schools. Two, this is where part of the holistic model of our ministry plays a role. We are there to serve the whole person: student and teacher alike. Aside from that opportunity, one of the third grade teachers I worked with all year has requested to study the Bible with me over the summer break. God is certainly opening doors through this ministry.

For Christmas, the CUDA staff, family, and some members of the church acted out a Christmas drama at the two schools. Emilia, a new member to the church, has a lot of experience with children's ministry. We welcomed her ideas for dramas we could use in the schools. The children seemed to enjoy the production, and it was a great message to present along side the traditional drama they see of Jesus' birth.

It is becoming an annual tradition to have our celebration meeting the Sunday before Christmas out at Naranjal. One of our house churches meets in this poor community, and they are usually unable to participate in the celebration Sundays throughout the rest of the year. This year, the church acted out the same drama that Emilia recommended for the schools, served paneton and hot chocolate (the traditional Christmas treat), shared in communion, and gave out toys to the children in the community that had been donated. It was a beautiful Sunday.

At the Naranjal Sunday meeting, the church met two of its newest members. We are excited to share with you that Alfredo and Judith (after going through a long process and waiting for a call) brought their two adopted sons to the gathering for all of us to meet. Andres is two years old, and Ángel is 1 year 2 months. They are brothers, and they are absolutely adorable. We are so happy for Alfredo and Judith, and we pray for wisdom and God's blessings as the boys adjust to their new home.

Many blessings to you and yours for the coming year from the church in Arequipa!


Pray for 2013

My family just lost its permanent visas. I feel a great deal of frustration about the situation. The reason that we lost them was fair enough, but it was something of a technicality. I think I would feel better if there had been some major issue or injustice, actually. As it is, the time and money we will lose in order to remain in Peru one way or another seems frivolous.
Our first prayer is that we be able to remain in country without any problems. There is no reason to think that will not happen, but things are at least more precarious than before.

A close second is our prayer that CUDA would not be negatively affected. We are just to the point of finishing some legal procedures in country that, hopefully, will not require my visa to complete.

Too many good things are planned for this year to be utterly gloomy about our news. Not least, tomorrow and the next day some of our future teammates arrive for a visit. It is a sign of blessings to come. Later in the year we will have summer interns, a large group of students led by Bill and Holly Richardson, and the arrival of long-term apprentices Andrew and Bethany Gray from Australia. Please pray for funding for all of these arrivals and consider helping them financially (contact us via email if you would like to give).

One Way to Look at It: Trees

Imagine if you described a tree to someone who had no knowledge of them before.  You might sketch a picture or use your hands to indicate its form.  You could wrap the details of leaves and branches in words and leave them inspired.  And then imagine that they decided that they needed a tree, and proceeded to build one.  They bought wood, cut it out, maybe bought some fake leaves and affixed them throughout the carved boughs.  They could do a masterful job of making a copy of a tree.  But you can’t build a tree.  It has to grow.  
 
Sometimes we do this with our faith.  
 
The Bible is chock-full of stories.  Some describe truly heroic people.  Some describe bumbling idiots who happen to do something heroic in spite of themselves.  Some describe rules for life, either for a particular people or in principle.  Some are letters sent directly to a church in a city in which we glimpse one side of an ongoing conversation and relationship and are blessed by the wisdom we can glean from it.  Some is meant for beauty, to express something of the writer’s experience of God and give Him glory.  God’s work is the theme throughout and Jesus the most important character in the broader narrative.  We learn from Him both by example and teaching, and watch how those who knew Him best went to work on His behalf.  It’s an intimidating conglomeration of words and meanings and what-do-I-do-with-this-little-piece moments.
 
But it is not a list of instructions on how to build a tree.  Or a faith.  
 
Simply put, faith has to grow.  It has to start with what little bit we have to put in and the seed God gives and let it take root.  We are familiar with the teaching the parable of the sower, but we often misinterpret it.  We kind of have a mentality that says, “Oh, well.  If so-and-so is having this specific response to it all, they must not have been good soil.  Too bad, so sad.  At least I’m good soil.”  But the response is always a choice.  Not for dirt, but for people.  The path is too hard?  Loosen it up.  The rocks prevent roots?  Get rid of them.  The thorns choke the plant?  Clear them away.  Think you’re good?  Check again; you will probably find that, on your bad days, the thorns sneak back in.  Work the soil to make it good.  Do whatever it takes to encourage (not demand) growth in your own life, then let God to the God part.  He will grow the tree.  He doesn’t ask us to build it.  
 
If you’re thinking this is not a struggle for you, consider this: When you read the fruit of the Spirit passage, do you hear it as a checklist of things you should be?  If you find yourself thinking, “This is an intense list, but at least I’m naturally self-controlled and gentle.  So what if patience and joy are slower to come? I’ll get there. One thing at a time.”  Or do you recognize a list of descriptors of what happens when the Spirit leads a life?  As in, “Well, I know these things don’t come naturally, but I can tell that when I am more connected with God, patience and faithfulness come much more easily, so I want to stick even tighter so all these descriptors can start blooming in my life. That’s exciting.”  
 
Think about it.  You can no more demand an apple of a tree that is unhealthy than you can demand kindness of yourself when you are spiritually unwell.  If our lives right now don’t reflect that list, it’s an indication that it’s time to get to work clearing out whatever is hindering the growth that the Spirit brings.  We cannot just choose to live better.  That’s kind of why we need Jesus in the first place.  Otherwise we risk carving wooden fruit to hang on our fake tree and remain baffled as to why things don’t quite feel whole. And let’s face it:  A handmade tree looks a little silly and outsiders aren’t drawn to having one of their own.
 
The bottom line is: This is all God’s thing.  It’s His tree growing in us.  It’s His kingdom growing into a forest.  It’s not about merely understanding what that should look like so we can try harder.  It’s about bringing everything under His rule so that He can infuse it with what it needs to bring Him even more glory. 

The Sower

This past Celebration Sunday, I had the privilege to teach the kids' class.  We read through the parable of “The Sower.”  Various church members brought real seeds, rocks, cactus spines, and good soil for the children to actually see the components of the story.  After using these visuals, we told the story again with edible visuals.  We “planted” chocolate candies.  We added crumbled Oreo “rocks.”  We observed the “thistle” pretzel sticks.  And then we added some chocolate pudding as the “good soil.”  It was a very delicious activity.  I didn't mind teaching the kids class one bit (wink, wink).
 
Since Greg and I returned from furlough, I have experienced a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts.  For those that don't know, Greg and I will be leaving Peru in two years.  Greg desires to study more and earn a doctorate.  We feel that it is the next chapter in our journey together, and the timing of it all places us in Arequipa until January 2015.  Arequipa is our home.  We have celebrated more anniversaries in this city, we have had two children that carry Peruvian passports, we have established ourselves here as family.  We were convicted to move here in 2008, and throughout the past four years we have worked hard to make a dream for this city become reality, and we have fallen in love with many of the Peruvian people in the process.  It is hard to imagine life outside of Arequipa.
 
Greg and I have prayed so much about this decision, and I feel good about the timeline.  But before we left for furlough, a huge part of my heart ached for these people.  In a sense, I feel like we are “abandoning” family.  I cried when we said good-bye to our house church before furlough.  I do not want to imagine the blubbering of tears I will display in the months leading up to January 2015.  But God has taught me a huge lesson in my time here...
 
He is the sower.  Sometimes he uses me to plant a seed.  Sometimes he uses me to water or pull thistles away from a plant.  But the point of him being the sower is that I am just a part of the process in Kingdom planting.  We are excited beyond words about a team of four couples that is choosing to come join the work we began here four years ago.  Several of the couples will overlap with Greg and me in our final year, then continue working with the Smiths, and I cannot express the joy that brings to me in knowing that these four precious families will be partnering with Peruvians that are now growing in leadership and maturity in the Spirit.
 
I have struggled with the language, but God has showed me time and time again what he can do with a willing spirit that says “Here am I.  Send me.”  I expressed to Greg the other day that I know my Spanish has greatly improved, but I am pretty sure that I still wouldn't be an “expert speaker” if we chose to live here twenty years.  Who knows if I am correct.  Who knows if we end up moving back to Peru again in the distant future.  But one thing I am confident of is that I was part of Kingdom sowing while I was here.  Maybe I am not the one to run the library program as a fluent Spanish speaker, but maybe God needed me to plant the seeds for that program to really launch.  Maybe I will never fully connect to these women's lives that I am studying with–there are certainly plenty of language and cultural barriers that seem impossible to overcome at times.  But I am confident that I have been part of God sowing seeds in these women's lives, and I am excited to be a part of the growing process while I am still here.
 
Have you ever been in a situation where you know big change will happen in a short time?  It is easy to check out or distance yourself from those around you.  I have been thinking a lot of what these two years should look like for me.  What is it that will make the greatest impact in our ministry here?  My friends know that I won't always be around.  This past month, I read this verse in light of the communion we shared together:  

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
— John 13:34-35

Wherever we go, wherever we live, whoever we fellowship with, they will know us by our love.  It is my prayer that I can demonstrate this in its fullest form to the Peruvians around me in the coming two years.  I am excited for others to carry a torch that I have been carrying in the four years we have lived here.  I am so thankful for those that planted seeds before we even arrived.  I am even more grateful to know that God is in control of his planting, and one day we might get to see how a crop “multiplies thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times” (Mark 4:8).

Part 8: Membership

How do you suppose the early church thought about “membership”?  Or did they?  Of course, the New Testament doesn’t mention anything about it.  There are a number of references to specific house churches, which were identified by the owners of the houses (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philem 2).  This doesn’t tell us much except that the owners were fixed members of particular congregations.

CUDA News: October

Another month, another update.  There's been some big news that you may not have heard so get ready.  Before I do I'd like to remind you all to pray for the safe travels of Greg and Megan (their kids too).  They get back to Arequipa on the 28th and its fair to say that the work has missed them.
 
I'll start with Cafe Connection.  After eight months of being open we were faced with an emergency situation.   For months, we had been receiving notices from various banks and stores concerning the outstanding debt the owner of the building had accumulated.  Well, at the end of September, a letter came threatening repossession of the building but, more important, it advised us that a bank had received authorization from the courts to enter the building by force and remove the possessions therein.  This was understandably a serious concern, so we began to look for a new location in case the situation worsened and the cafe’s belongings were seized.  One week into our search, Alfredo happened across an option downtown and after two or three visits we decided to sign the lease.  We really like the new location and think it has a lot of potential.  It is downtown, one block off of the main square in an old-style sillar building.  We hope to reopen by the first of November, though this is still Peru, so we will see.
 
The micro-loan program is rolling along nicely.  Paty is now in charge of more weekly group meetings than I am and she is running them better than I ever could.  We are currently at the interviewing stage with one new group and a good number of loans are still available on the website with four more to be added soon (so go check it out (cudaperu.org/loans)!  One new development in the micro-loan program is the addition of a new type of loan aimed at low-income homeowners in newly founded, under-developed communities.  We hope to offer home-improvement loans at very low (or no!) interest for construction costs on their homes.  I plan on posting more about this, including our reasons for offering these loans, but I hope you'll prayerfully consider helping these new borrowers improve their homes.  More info coming soon!
 
As you may have read the public school teachers of Peru went on strike shortly before the McKinzies left for their furlough.  About two weeks ago the strike slowly began to lift and Neil Cantrall, who was left in charge of the program, has began to get back to work in the schools.   While he has not had a lot of opportunities to be with the kids this month he has had a lot of time to prepare, and to work with the volunteers of Put Them First, the NGO we partner with at one of the schools.   Pray for the kids at the schools we partner with.  They missed two months of school and must  make up that time in order to move on to the next grade.  As the school year winds down Megan will begin to meet with Neil and the other library workers to develop strategy and plan for next year.  It should be an exciting one and we'll have a lot of things to announce before the year is out.
 
Well that seems to be all the big news to share for now, with more to come soon as there are some very exciting things in the works.  Keep praying for the Peruvians we are trying to help, the CUDA staff and volunteers, and our stateside partners who help make this possible.  We are grateful for all of you and your continued, prayerful, support.

In the Hard Times

As we wrote about at www.teamarequipa.net, our church has been hit with pain recently in a variety of forms.  We have seen the brokenness of the world claim lives, friendships, marriages, and peace.  I have watched fellow Christ-followers self-convict for not living in confidence, in trust and in faith - as if showing emotion and experiencing pain were somehow betraying the gift of grace.
 
We came at it head-on at our women’s meeting this month.  In our final meeting at our first cafe location, we dug in our heels with our group of women and sought truth.  Truth that would speak life into dark places.  Truth that would dispel the fear and doubt of fearing and doubting.  Truth that would remain when emotions and pain and struggles threaten to steal our security.
 
Why do bad things happen?  Does God make them happen?  Does God merely use them?  How can we deal with it?  Why does He feel so far?  How do I keep from succumbing to my feelings?  What do I do without my mom/sister/husband in my life?  
 
But at the base of it all, where can I turn?
 
To Jesus.  The One who wept at the sorrow of his friends and the loss of their brother even though He knew the outcome would be life again.  The One who struggled with the temptation to use His power to control His difficult situation even though He knew the final goal was worth a more difficult road.  The One who feared the plan He helped make even though He loved us enough to go through with it.  The One who developed a friendship with Judas even though He knew that he would betray that relationship.
 
He understands.  Loss and pain.  Desire to make it all easy.  Fear of hard things.  Risk in openness.  He felt it all.
 
Feeling, struggling, hurting, weakness, doubt, need, sadness, weariness - not sins.
 
Why do we turn the Bible into a description of the perfect Christian life and rob it of grace and personality?  Why do we use it to paint an unrealistic picture and assume we could accomplish what no one in the history of the world has been able to do in following the rules “right”?  Why do we create this persona that a “good” Christian should be this but not that?  When did people fall beyond the reach of God’s love for being lost, ignorant or just plain imperfect in their best attempt?  When did we stop seeing ourselves as those in need of Him?  Why do we change His image into someone glaring down at us just waiting to pounce on our mistakes?  Or in the other direction, why do we change His holiness and purity and power into warm-hearted care for our happiness that smooths the path, pats us on the head and sends us along with a lollipop - no challenge, no push for growth, no high standards to strive toward, no real expectation in the “die to self” command?
 
I get frustrated with the skewed ideas I encounter and the pain they cause to real, flawed people trying to follow such a confusing perception of God.  I absolutely love digging for truth with others, not giving up until we find a firm foundation to rest on, finding real food to nourish our souls that simultaneously challenges us to refocus, try again, but with the confidence that He’s okay with our slip-ups in the attempt.  To see that look in someone’s eye when they really grasp the freedom we have in Christ - Freedom to be messed up and lacking quite a lot.  Freedom to feel our hurts and fears deeply.  Freedom to come to Him with not a bit of spit polish work done.  Freedom to be angry and disappointed with the way He is directing life these days.  Freedom to not know what to say.  Freedom to weep and not apologize for not being strong.  Freedom to want so much more, but have no clue where to start.  Freedom to be utterly exhausted and have nothing to give.  Freedom to need Him so deeply we feel we might never be filled.  Freedom to feel far, so far, away.  Freedom from a list of rules to keep in order to show we really mean this faith walk thing.  Freedom to have no idea what the list of rules really should be.  Freedom to say the wrong thing.  Freedom to do the wrong thing.  Freedom to wish things were different.  
 
It’s all covered.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33

Faith is not easy.  Obedience is not easy.  But it is no more a burden than a life preserver, or a rope that is pulling us to safety.  We still feel the struggle, the fear, the realization of how close we have come (maybe multiple times) to being pulled under.  But none of that negates the power of the One who holds on tight and pulls us in the right direction.  Ease and calm are not the ideal signs of faith. 

One Way to Look at It: Gates

Gates are meant to keep things separated, what is out from what is in.  Arequipa is full of gates.  People have gates outside their front doors so that they can exit and see who has come to call before actually allowing that person to enter.  Driveways are almost nonexistent because car owners prefer a locked door protecting their possession rather than relying on the honesty of all passers-by.  People even lock the car doors while they drive for fear that someone will open it and snatch their belongings right out of their hands.  As a big city with enough stealing, the society as a whole has become good at circling the wagons and protecting what is “mine” and keeping away what is not.  
 
Gates are meant to keep things separated.
 
I think we have missed the meaning of this too-familiar passage:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
— Jesus, Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)

This is when Jesus declares Simon's name to be Peter, which is almost identical to the word for Rock.  Peter is known for his impulsive actions.  He dives in before he understands what is going on.  He makes grand statements about Jesus’ identity, then chides Him for His actions.  He walks out on water just because Jesus said it was possible.  I like Peter, because he is anything but idle, even if his gut instinct isn’t right half the time.  He was one of Jesus’ very best friends, likely because of his personality rather than in spite of it.  But he seems anything but solid, as the basis for a church.  

Except that when gates are in place to keep things separated, because then you need courage driven by sheer love and determination.

All too often, the mental image we get from this passage is something along the lines of “Oh, good.  If people want to break free from their sinful life, they will be able to.  And they know where to find this church built on a rock if they really want out.”  Church, that is the wrong way to look at it.

I now picture people being dragged into the darkness, sometimes resisting, sometimes not realizing what is going on, sometimes drawn by their own desires.  They are pulled until they are inside that gate and it clangs shut.  They are trapped by forces that want them in a bad place.  They might want to struggle against it, might even succeed (We love those stories, don’t we?), but we would never point the finger of fault at them for being stuck, broken, helpless, even clueless.

Those gates are meant to keep us separated. 

I picture my own friends who still don’t follow Christ.  Rather than seeing them as having defiant hearts and weapons drawn should I approach them with the idea of faith, I see them as caught, held, dragged down by all the things that we shouldn’t have to fight against.  If I were walking with my friend and an animal attacked her, I would join in the fight to help free her.  It would make no sense to wait for her to battle free so that I could help her heal. 

I cannot let gates separate us.

Jesus said the gates of Hades (which represents death) can’t handle His Church.  If His Church were like Peter, we would hear those words, draw our swords and storm the gates.  I can just picture Peter declaring “These people are NOT YOURS!!!” and charging at the gates to break them wide open.  Why?  Because Jesus said it was possible.  And Jesus said He could build a whole church on this attitude, and when that church takes action, there’s no stopping it. It’s not about being available.  It’s about being determined that sin and death have been stripped of their power and there is no way that we are going to sit idly by and watch them continue wielding it.
Jesus died to remove the veil that separated us from God.  We should not let gates trap any of His created children from being able to follow Him.  

CUDA News: September

Our work here can be hard sometimes; and not for the reasons you might think.  Sure being away from family and friends is hard.  Learning a new language and culture (and learning how to survive in it!) is very difficult.  Adjusting your thinking and work habits to be completely self-starting and constantly motivated is tough to be sure but all these things can be overcome with time and dedication to a vision.  The part of working here that I have found hard lately is that I am constantly in contact with desperate people.  People with little to no hope, people who have been hurt before, people can’t (or don’t want to) trust anymore.  This isn’t the desperation of watching your children die while being unable to help - that is happening as I type this article and as you read it - but it is still desperation and I can feel its effect on me.
 
The lives of the people we work with have been hard.  Unless their parents were able to afford a decent private school, they were educated in a system that is underfunded, understaffed, and underperforming.  Bending or breaking rules is the norm.  The police can be bribed at any and every opportunity which only helps to reinforce the generally vague feelings about the laws the government enacts.  I mean, when your government passes laws in direct contradiction to each other, it is hard to tell legal right from wrong so why bother, right?  Machismo still holds some sway in the lower classes so while a husband may spend his afternoon watching the soccer game, drinking with his buddies, his wife spends the day taking care of the kids, house and her side business with little thanks and no voice in her own home.  This side business is the only income the wife will see as generally incomes are kept separate with each spouse taking individual  responsibility of the various needs of the household.  And when either one needs capital to help their business the banks are ready to step in and charge 50% interest (or more) per year, but that sounds pretty good because the money lenders down the street start out around 100% and go up from there.  When that loan becomes too much to bear the individual, or family, will simply not pay because they know that, usually, the banks won’t actually take away their collateral and instead will just write the loan off.  That’s good, but bad also because the next time they’ll have to borrow from friends, family, or that moneylender with his 100% interest.  
 
I’ve only listed a handful of the situations we find ourselves facing and working in.  When all of that comes together in a person I can’t help but see them as desperate.  Desperately hoping that we will provide a small loan to keep their business going, or add that one little thing they never can save up enough to purchase on their own.  Desperately waiting for someone to give them the time of day and listen to their words, to give their voice a place.  They are desperate to receive a small solar panel in their home so that their kids can do homework with good lighting and not get candle drippings all over the homework (not to mention the damage being done to their eyes).  Desperate and in need of friends that will build them up instead of tearing them down.  This is what we do and I don’t mind admitting that it is hard.  It is hard to connect that often and that deeply with desperate people because once they realize that we are willing to connect with them, and once they feel safe, they are all in.  Filling in those gaps, sharing our beliefs, building up, encouraging, teaching, lending, learning.  That is what we aim to do in Arequipa, to see desperate people and (acknowledging our own desperation) live in community with them.