Meet the Morgans

Greetings! We are the Morgans: Justin, Sarah, Lorenzo and Maya. I, Justin, am 32 years old and I’m from Santa Rosa, California. Sarah is 28 and grew up in Bergamo, Italy. Our son Lorenzo is almost three years old and Maya is three months old. My wife and I are both nurses with combined experience in long-term care, cardiac and medical-surgical nursing. I also have a Bachelors in Bible and Ministry from Harding University. We currently live in Little Rock, Arkansas and are supported by the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ here. We are blessed to have our future work overseen by the elders and missions committee of this church. We will be arriving in Arequipa on February 5th. Our vision for the work there is to strengthen the church and add more to God’s kingdom as He works through us to do so. We hope to become like the Peruvians so that we can reach them with the life saving news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please keep us in your prayers as we strive towards this endeavor. We’re excited to be joining this great team.

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.

CUDA: Year in Review

This year has been a great year for CUDA.  The Living Libraries program has had a great year, as you’ve seen in our newsletters.  Students have improved their ability to read and teachers are better prepared to teach future students.  In the micro-loan program we surpassed our goals for both no-interest and low-interest loans.  Interest in the program remains strong and we have been blessed recently to begin a new bible study with members of one borrower group.  We are prayerful that more opportunities for in-depth bible studies will present themselves next year.  
 
The reality of all development (and mission) work is that without supporters it is impossible to sustain.  We have taken steps to generate funds with Cafe Connection (Arequipa), Passport Language School (Arequipa) and in 2014 we will begin selling CUDA Coffee in the USA.  These business ventures will help us but they will not be able to provide all of the funding required to sustain our staff and programs.  The fact is we need your help.  Giving has been down this year and we find ourselves without sufficient operating funds for the coming year.  We have been soliciting grants and there are still possibilities for funding in that area, but the processes move more slowly than our needs.  We are asking that you, as you all have done many times in the past, decide to help.
 
If you want to make a donation there are a few ways you can help:
 
Go to www.cudaperu.org and donate to our operating funds or to a borrower with an open loan.
 
Go to www.purecharity.com/living-libraries and donate to the installation of one new Living Library in 2014.  We want to open 3 new libraries and it takes $6000 to install just one.
 
You can send a check made out to “CUDA” to:
    c/o Mark Adams
    1200 Cedar Lane
    Tullahoma, TN  37388
 
Once we begin selling CUDA coffee (very, very soon!) you can buy a bag, ten bags, or a subscription.  We’ll be sure to mail you once everything is ready.
 
This isn’t the first time that we have been short on funds.  Every time people have risen to the challenge, often surpassing the need.  We are grateful for the way God uses you to keep us working here in Arequipa. 

Faithfulness or Success

I've written before about how the church measures success in mission work.  I'm kind of obsessed with success.  I don't know why.  Personality probably.  Cultural values, no doubt.  I've failed plenty in life, but that seems to have only reinforced my desire to succeed.  Tell me I can't, and I'll prove you wrong.  Knock me down, and I'll get back up.  My mom told me I could do anything, and apparently I believed her.  
 
At the end of the summer this year, one of our interns asked me what has been the most important lesson I've learned in the mission field.  It didn't take me long to answer, because the important lessons are often then ones that hurt most in the learning.  My response was, "I'm learning to be content with faithfulness rather than success."  This is not a tremendous insight; just Google the title of this article.  In fact, I distinctly remember one of my graduate professors making this point.  I also remember thinking, "Sure, in theory, but of course God wants results.  Otherwise, what's the point?"  If that sounds pathological, just remember that the missionary too lives by grace alone.
 
Yet, the fact that there are results that God wants is what makes sense of the contrast between faithfulness and success. The point is not that God is indifferent about the consequences of the church's life in the world.  Rather, it is the importance of such consequences that gives meaning to success, and it is the meaning of this success that makes the contrast with faithfulness actually challenging and weighty.  Only in view of God's deep concern about the brightness of light and saltiness of salt can we really grasp what it means that he is pleased with our faithfulness regardless of our success.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but sometimes they are very different.  

What is Christmas Really About?

Christmas isn’t about baby Jesus.   It’s about Jesus, just not baby Jesus.
 
It’s about Jesus coming, showing up in the muck and mess of the physical world, assuming a position of no power and just walking around in skin like everyone else. 
 
The Advent season, the season of waiting for Christmas, isn’t about waiting for the announcement of the birth of the Savior. That already happened. It’s about waiting for the announcement of the return of the Savior, about acknowledging a continuing need for as much of His Presence as we can get.
 
For some, it’s with excited anticipation, made manifest in the jitters of small children who can’t fall asleep for the thought of what the morning holds. For such as these, it is joy in the gifts that are coming. 
 
For some, it’s with weariness, knowing that the current struggle or pain will someday be seen as fleeting. For these, it is determination to stand firm until it gets better, seen in the person of Mary, bearing through the shame cast her way, enduring a long journey and painful labor to birth her King, obedient through difficulty that was given as a blessing because of her faithfulness. The good and hard entertwined and impossible to separate, all taken as worthwhile for His purpose.
 
For some, it’s with a yearning for something they can’t put their finger on, even as they hold out hope for it. Though others around them might see it as foolishness to want the unknown, the story shows them wise and committed. For these, it is a search through the night sky, following a glimmer of truth, as seen in the “wise men” who pursue a star for long years in search of an unknown baby king. It’s an inner draw to what is real, whether it seems real to others or not.
 
For some, it’s almost an afterthought, the result of being in the right place at the right time and finding themselves stirred anew through the message of God. He’s fine working that way, delivering the good news directly to those who hadn’t sought it out, as He did to the shepherds. They were about their own business when He sent a whole sky-choir to change their focus for the night. He can find hearts wherever He chooses, and Christmas reminds us of that.
 
We remember Christmas to look back at God giving all of Himself to the world, a reminder that love means emptying yourself for the sake of the one you love. We give gifts to participate in this process, looking for how we can step into the act of making someone else’s life good. We choose selflessness and sacrifice and presence and kindness, because that’s what God did.
 
But we also remember Christmas to look forward to all that has yet to happen, to the day when these truths won’t be a passing season, but a fully enacted reality. We remember our hope in a world where Jesus shows up in the muck and mess of every day, acknowledging that for now He does so through us and will one day blast in and make it all new and better. He will flood earth with heaven and everything will be as it should be. That’s just what happens when His Presence and Love fill a place - everything is good. 
 
So if, for you, this holiday is about fun and laughter and singing and joy…embrace it and know that you are embodying the light of Christ and hope that won’t give up.
 
And if, for you, this holiday squeezes a little tight because you feel the weight of the world’s brokenness pressing down on you, giving the usual cheer a grating, off-tune feel…accept it and know that you are reflecting the reality of our need for Christ. 
 
And if, for you, this holiday feels empty and meaningless because life is just life and lights don’t change it, rest in it and know that the power of Christ depends not one bit on your tendency toward sentiment or joviality. 
 
Because at the end of it all, Christmas is about how Jesus arrives in the situation He chooses and it doesn’t have to make an ounce of sense to anyone. He shows up because it’s time and that’s that.
 
This Christmas, remember that this story is both a past truth and a future promise about the Presence of the King in the world. It’s cause to celebrate.

Meet the Frouds

Hello!  We are the Froud family: Chase, Briana, and Evan. We are excited to join Team Arequipa on the field in January. We have always felt called to serve in a cross-cultural context and look forward to the opportunities in Arequipa. For the past two years we have partnered with Cloverdale Church in Searcy, AR to work in the inner-city of North Little Rock at River City Ministry. During that time Chase finished up his Master’s at Harding School of Theology. Briana has been a stay at home mom for the past three years but previously taught 5th grade math and science. Evan is now three years old and, like most three year olds, is full of energy, giggles, and excitement! While working in the inner-city Chase specialized in evangelism and communications. With his passion for ministry and discipleship, he is excited to partner with the house church movement in Arequipa. Briana hopes to use her passion for education to serve as a volunteer with CUDA’s Living Libraries as well as help homeschool Evan in the future. Please pray for us and our families as we transition to Arequipa January 13th.

An Invitation and Apple Pie

Back in the day when our two families were strategizing about where to live and what to focus on in this great big city, we decided to move into two communities where “gringos” don’t live.  We wanted to live among the people that we were going to serve.  So, I remember Greg and Kyle looking at the classified section of the Sunday paper for houses to rent.  They also contacted some real estate agents to help us look for available homes.  Guess what we found out?  Our targeted communities never had listings and the real estate agents only worked in the neighborhoods where the gringos normally live.  We were at a loss for what to do until someone suggested we talk to bodega owners.
 
Every street has a bodega.  It is typically a front room or corner spot of someone’s house where they operate as a little mini-mart.  One can find milk, eggs, flour, sugar, popcorn, produce, and snack foods all in a stone’s throw.  Some are small, and some are huge, but they all have one thing in common...  they know what is going on in the community.
 
So to continue from the first paragraph, Greg talked to a bodega owner that knew of a bottom floor for rent in the area we wanted to live.  Long story short, we rented that home for two years.  We never would have found it if we hadn’t talked to the bodega owner.  Between the Smiths and the McKinzies, we have had our fun share of moving into different houses here (usually they only let you sign a one-year lease, and then they kick you out because some family member is wanting to move back in).  When one of our families needs to move, we check the papers, but we also know now to go corner mart to corner mart to ask the bodega owners of what is available to rent.
 
As a team, we had the idea to come into a neighborhood and form some of our first relationships with our neighbors.  We learned very quickly that this would not happen.  You see, when my family moved to a new home in the states, I remember people bringing food to our door to welcome us into the community.  I guess I thought it would be similar here, maybe not with apple pie, but something to say, “Hola, we would love to get to know you.  Welcome to the hood!”  This did not happen at all.  We quickly learned that Peruvians are very slow to trust anyone, and they really stay to themselves and the rest of their family (who usually all live under the same roof).  Once you form a relationship with a Peruvian, it is an even longer process to get them to introduce you to their family or invite you into their home.

We have had all kinds of outlets to form relationships here aside from the neighborhood.  We meet people through our kids’ activities or through CUDA projects to name a couple of examples.  But we really haven’t ever been super close with the neighborhood.  I have accepted that as the way it is, but I still have my eyes open to forming relationships wherever I can.  A couple of months ago, I remember going on a walk with Greg.  We were talking about the new team coming in and reminiscing about our arrival to Arequipa.  Greg said to me, “You know, if we really wanted to get in with the neighborhood, we could just go to the bodega and offer to work there for free.  Everybody from the community goes to buy the bread there every morning.  You would learn who everybody is just by hanging out in one place.”  This strategy isn’t exactly realistic.  We have lived here long enough that we know that they would look at us like we are absolute loons, but the point is a good one.  The bodega owners know everybody.  They are the ones that know what is going on with everyone in the neighborhood because everyone comes in at least once a day and spills out the scoop.

We have been living in our current neighborhood for over two years now.  I frequent the bodega just like my neighbors.  I have come to know the owners by name, and they know my children by name when we come in together.  They can even tell me if Greg already stopped by to buy ice if I am unaware!  I love it.  I feel at home.
 
The other day, something very simple happened at the bodega, but it signified a lot to me.  Esther, the bodega owner, handed me an envelope before I headed out with my bag of fresh bread for 33 cents.  It was an invitation for my family to attend her youngest daughter’s birthday party.  At first, one may think, “What’s the big deal?  It’s a birthday party.”  But to me, this invitation says that Esther trusts me.  She trusts me so much that she is willing to invite my entire family over for a birthday party for someone very special to her.  That is huge.
I have made an effort to become a neighbor here.  I frequent the bodega, and I sometimes go to Esther just to ask a question about my girls’ school activities when I don’t understand the culture.  I appreciate her so much, and I like to consider Esther my friend.  I think that she just told me through an invitation that she wants to be friends with me.  I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I am thinking I might be baking her an apple pie sometime in the near future.

Green Coffee

We have a new project in the works here in Arequipa.  As some of you know we have a new team of missionary families joining Team Arequipa in the field beginning in January.  One great asset the new families bring is medical knowledge.  Four of the eight adults are medical professionals so we decided to capitalize on that incoming expertise and come up with a way that CUDA can help communities be healthier.  To that end Alfredo has spent the past few months planning our 2014 health initiative and we are in the final stages of having it approved by the local and regional governments.  We’ll report in detail on the program later but I’d like to ask you all to begin praying for our collaboration with the health-network in the district of Hunter.  The doctors and administrators in charge of the network there have been very supportive and quite excited about the potential possibilities our partnership will provide.  We are equally excited to begin working in Hunter and hope you’ll remember the program in your prayers.
 
In other news our first shipment of coffee has made it to Lima and soon embarks on its maiden voyage to Texas.  As soon as possible we will be shipping fresh-roasted gourmet coffee right to your door.  Though we tried our best the coffee won’t arrive in time for Christmas delivery.  If you want to give the gift of CUDA coffee we plan on selling a gift certificate redeemable for individual bags or subscriptions.  Once all the details are finalized we’ll send out the word via email, FB and Twitter so you can be guaranteed delivery from our first roasting session.  For years you’ve bought every pound of coffee we could bring back with us and we hope you’ll support this new enterprise.

16 huge bags (151 pounds each!) of coffee in a Lima warehouse.

16 huge bags (151 pounds each!) of coffee in a Lima warehouse.

Seeing Growth

I wrote some time ago about the launch of CeDeTe (Center for Theological Development).  The first class is now in its second trimester, which focuses on the New Testament story, self-awareness, contextualization, and the disciplines of meditation and fasting.  I very much enjoy teaching, but the true satisfaction comes with the students' assimilation of the material.  While on furlough, Paty and Alfredo decided to begin teaching the church from the first semester content.  I was joyfully surprised.  They are excited about sharing what they have learned and convinced that the church needs to understand the whole biblical narrative as the story of God's purposes.
 
I pray that a second class will form soon, that the program will grow and evolve, and that more and more doors will open to teach substantial biblical theology in appropriate ways in Arequipa.
 
Another interesting opportunity has arisen through our new community development initiative.  Those of you who contributed to flood relief will be glad to hear that a few of our contacts in the area we helped have come on board for a long-term development project.  After working hard to communicate the need to transition from a relief relationship to a development relationship, most relief recipients moved on.  This is the norm and the reason we do not usually invest in relief.  But the upside is that three motivated young mothers are now committed to collaborating with CUDA for the good of their community.  

I'll leave the details of the program for another article.  The new opportunity arose when I asked one of the three women, Lila, about studying the Bible.  She had expressed cautious interest before I left for furlough, so I was following up to see if there was a time she would like to meet.  One of the others, Irma, piped up to say that all three of them wanted to study and asked if we could just do so when we come for the development meeting.  So, Alfredo and I will start the book of Mark with Lila, Irma, and Delfina this Saturday.  Thank God for the opportunity.  Now we sow the seeds of the kingdom and pray for growth.

One Way to Look at It: A Proposal

It’s easy to think of people in terms of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. That The World is an entity separate and apart from The Church, and the very basis of our identity is wrapped up in having a line drawn between the two groups. Then we imagine that if God were to choose a side, He would plant His feet just as firmly on our side of the line as we do and join us in glaring fiercely at those who refuse to cross over to our side. He rejoices in their struggles, failings, and pain as proof of their wrong position. 

Except, does that actually sound like Him? There has to be a better way to think about it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
— John 3:16

Familiar words that pack a punch, though its power is often lost on us because we can rattle it off “by heart” without actually engaging the heart at all. Yet, it carries a great deal of meaning. 

It means that God wanted so badly to be in unity with each and every one of the people He created in His image that He proposed marriage to everyone who ever existed. He came in close, offered the promise of a committed life with Him, and asked if we would take Him up on it. As proof, He paid all that it would cost with His own life, giving that which was valuable to Him to His beloved. As a man presents a woman with an engagement ring, Jesus gave us Himself to prove His dedication and sincerity. 

And every single person who has lived or will live since then has the choice to merge their life with His, or not. Some of us have accepted His proposal and now live a mutual life with Him. Just like marriage, we don’t do very well some days, but the commitment is there, the base assumption that we live this life together. Others have not yet accepted His offer, but it still stands. It will stand until time ends. He loves each person so dearly that He will wait patiently for their answer. 

Do we really feel justified to look down on anyone else for where they fall in their process with Him? Do we truly think that God has assigned us the task of determining whether others have missed their chance? Or, when we really think about it, do we recognize that such an assumption makes no sense in light of the God who has shown us such grace, accepted us so freely, and continued steadfast in His love for us despite our own flaws? 

Who are we to write off anyone to whom He has made such an offer? Who are we to be stingy with love when we have received it abundantly? If we are His representatives here on earth, then we show others what this committed life with Him looks like, which means being open to those He has invited. After all, it’s His kingdom.