TA Newsletter article September 2011:
Can I get a witness?
I don’t know if it has occurred to any of you back home, but this month marks three years that we have been in Arequipa. Feliz Aniversario! That is unbelievable to me. When I use the word “unbelievable” it’s not so much that I can’t believe we have been living in Peru for that period of time but what God has been able to do in that period. I step back from all of it, and I really am overwhelmed with thankfulness for you all back home. You are our supporters, and four years ago when we made the move to start our six months in Tyler, TX, we emphasized the fact that the field workers don’t make up this team, ALL of us make up this team. And for this month, I want to share with you that I am deeply humbled to be a witness first-hand to what the Lord has been accomplishing here in Arequipa.
When raising support, many mission committees we met with were very pessimistic about the model we chose. As a team, we had no idea how it would go. If failure happened, we would go with something else, but in our hearts we wanted something simple and easy to reproduce among the poor here in Arequipa, and our two supporting churches had faith in us and supported us in this decision for the work. In three years, we have gone from sitting at the table as two gringo families to four house churches! Three meet in homes, one meets in the library, and one of the home meetings is in our targeted area of Naranjal where many of our developmental projects have happened. God be praised for the growth we have seen in the Peruvians. Once a month, all of the small groups gather for what we call our celebration meeting.
Something we have always said is that the work here isn’t complete until Peruvian leadership is in place. That time is still not here, but for the past 6 months there has been a weekly “Leaders Meeting.” Leaders from the four house churches meet together to pray and discuss the direction of the churches. Our Peruvians are gifted in so many areas and it is neat to see the Spirit use those individuals to use their gifts for the kingdom. We strongly believe that discipleship is crucial to the church continuing when we leave. That has been a top priority among our core group of Christians.
We meet in small groups of 3-4 people (all women or all men). One of our newest Christians attended my group this past week. I love her observations because everything is brand new to her. After the meeting she asked why we only meet as women. I explained the reasoning behind the groups and commented that I really like it. She replied, “It is really different to study without the men around. I really like it too.” She was able to be very open in the meeting and seek out counsel from two of our most mature Peruvian Christians. That is how it’s supposed to work folks.
This is an area that I am just in awe. God HAD to be at work in this facet of the ministry for any success to come about, and he has! None of us had training in starting an NGO when we came here. Most of you are aware of the water and latrine projects out at Naranjal. Our relationship continues to grow with that community. We are about to inaugurate a library there. Kyle has done an outstanding job with the loan program. So many of you have given toward those loans, and it is growing in leaps and bounds. One very neat thing about those loans is that one of our house churches sprang from a group that was connected to two of our borrowers. They were a group of Christians with no leadership, and they came to Kyle to ask to be led. We couldn’t ask for more in creating a holistic relationship with those people.
I have been most involved in the library work. Our Porvenir location has thrived, but mainly because that is where we have placed all of our man-power. We have opened and closed several libraries from lack of community involvement. But in the three years we have been here, I have concluded (through several of these failures) that opening the libraries in schools is the best option. Not only has my passion for reaching out to children grown more and more, but I have a renewed passion to help educators here with no resources. As a teacher, I can empathize with the educators here that have limited resources to pull from. Through his awesome power, God has connected us to another NGO in the city that is looking for guidance in helping a particular school in an impoverished area. We are collaborating with them and partnering to make literacy a higher priority in those children’s lives. So by the end of October, there will be four working libraries in existence.
I could continue, but this is supposed to be an article and not a book. Ha! I want to mention some things in the works: three of our Peruvian Christians taking over and steer-heading the developmental projects, launching a university-aged ministry with a student center, and the evangelism going on among the Peruvians to their friends and family. As a witness to the past three years I am beyond excited to see what God can do in the next three.
God be praised for all that has gone on here in this city. We are excited to welcome our medical campaign group in October (made up of Shiloh and Cedar Lane members). You all back home are such an encouragement to us here in the field. We are honored to work with you as Team Arequipa, and we cannot wait to see what else God has in store for the coming years.