I love to blog. I love to journal, and I have loved the venue of using our family blog to document special things in our lives that I will want to look back on and remember. This year, because of several factors, I have not had the time or energy to blog like I want. So today I decided to sit down (almost one week from our furlough departure date) and document some things with pictures. We have two collage posters hanging in our living room of the first two years we were here in Peru. I just recently ordered 2 more– TWO MORE. We are coming up on four years in the field. On one hand I can't believe it, and on the other hand it seems like we have been here forever. Anyway, “home” is definitely Arequipa for our family of five, and here are some highlights from this past year. I won't cover all of them, but there are several that I know I have failed to mention in other posts…
We had a dream as a team to start an NGO here in Arequipa. We joked about opening a cafe. Well, both of those came true this year. Emilio is our only full-time employee for the cafe. He is the first contact we made in Arequipa on one of our survey trips here. I can't get over how neat that is. The cafe has done well. Our NGO office and meeting area sit above it. It is hard to believe that this dream became reality. Many of you will be receiving Cafe Connection coffee very soon…
Last year we hosted our first medical campaign. This year, a group of engineers from my home church came to install solar panels. Mark and Joel are on our support team. David is the overseeing elder for our Peru work. It was a fantastic campaign filled with multiple opportunities for our work here. I am so proud to call these guys friends and fellow laborers for the work here in Arequipa. What a blessing to have had these guys in our lives! We can't wait to see them in a couple weeks.
Over the past two years, I feel that God has blessed me so much with opportunities to share my faith in Spanish. It has been a stretching experience. My Spanish is still lacking in many areas, but it hasn't stopped the Spirit from using me and opening doors to sharing my faith. This is Ibon and Paty. Paty is my Christian sister and fellow CUDA worker (for the micro-finance project). Ibon is her sister-in-law. I had the opportunity to gift Ibon with Jesus Calling during a very difficult time in her life. Little did I know, but it opened the door for having a weekly study with her. Ibon is such a sincere, real person. She bakes for the cafe, and something we have in common is that we are far from family. Her daughter works abroad, and of course, my family is not here. We joke about being “adopted” Mom and daughter. We are going through the book of Mark rediscovering “Who Is Jesus.” It is my first evangelistic study in all-Spanish, and I love having the support of Paty right there with me. I love my time with these ladies. What a blessing they have been to me.
Jose Luis was the first baptized Christian in our group. This year, he has courted a very lovely lady named Miriam. Greg baptized Miriam this past June, and Jose Luis and Miriam will wed this Saturday. Miriam just moved, officially, to Arequipa. I am very excited to get to know her sweet spirit better. I love Jose Luis, and I am confident that this marriage is a good thing for his life. He is a leader, and we pray to see his leadership alongside of Miriam for the Peruvian church in the near future. Ana is a flower girl in their wedding and is beyond excited. I will be sure to post pictures of their wedding.
The biggest change for me this year is the opportunity to invest time in teaching. Obviously, I have a passion for it since it was my career choice since middle school. But this year, I am a little bit freer with my time since Cohen is older and the girls are both in school. Manuela keeps Cohen and cooks lunch on my designated work library day, Thursday. I visit three classes, model reading comprehension strategies, and work on other things for the program. The Living Library program has changed so much in this past year for the good. I am so excited about the potential it has for the future. Nadia, my dear friend, has agreed to work in my place during the two months I am gone. I have been so blessed by the group of teachers and directors that I serve. I have several opportunities to speak on behalf of the library program this furlough, and I am excited to see what comes from those opportunities.
Etelvina has been a special person to us for quite some time. She attended a Bible study that Greg hosted in one of our original community libraries, and she came to faith in that study. Well in this year, I have been blessed beyond measure to get to know her daughter, Areli. Areli is fun, bubbly, intelligent, and servant-hearted. After meeting her and seeing her a few times, we just clicked– like friends do. I love having a Peruvian friend to hang-out with and laugh with. I would consider Nadia and Areli to be my closest Peruvian girlfriends here for sure, and that is a blessing to have. In this last month, Areli expressed interest in studying one-on-one with me. We finished Mark 9 yesterday, and I am excited to continue our study when I return from furlough. She has become so special to me and my family (my girls LOVE her). Such a blessing to my life.
A reality that struck me this year is the distance I am from family when I desire a quick trip home. My granny, one of my heroes, got very sick this year. She got to such a low that my father didn't know if she would make it to my furlough trip. I surprised her by flying in with Cohen, and we stayed the week. What a wonderful visit we had. I am beyond blessed to say that she is doing a little better now, and we are SO EXCITED to see Granny AND Granddad when we fly home as an entire family. The last time Granny and Granddad saw Maggie, she couldn't walk or talk. Lots has changed, and I so look forward to spending lots of quality time with them.
Greg and I both said good-bye to our twenties this year. For his birthday, I wanted to something a little more special. He requested a dessert party. After two days of baking (which I happen to love, especially when it is for him), I created quite a buffet of desserts. It was a lot of fun and we are both officially old. 🙂
We love intern time, and this year we had a blast. Taylor, Ann, and Emily lived with us– sweet girls. It is a busy two months, but I always miss them when they leave, and we create so many fun memories while they are here. My kids love having them around as well. I am excited that we will get to meet up with all of them during furlough. We are visiting both Searcy and Abilene on our trip.
The past two internships the girls have hosted a women's event. This year we had a retreat in a beautiful park. It was so much fun and such a wonderful way for the Peruvian women to grow closer together. I am already looking forward to our next outing!
This can be one of the highlights of my entire time here in Arequipa! Nadia and I have been studying together (what started as a conversational English lesson for her) since last November. This July, she took the plunge, and became new in Christ. What a beautiful day it was for me. It is my first evangelistic Bible study to do completely with someone on my own. I am indebted to the one that discipled me in how I lead a study, Greg. We team-baptized her which I will always cherish. Nadia is such a dear friend to me, and I am blessed beyond words to call her sister now. God be glorified!
Well, there you go. Quite a few highlights. Mission accomplished. I feel like I can mark that one off the list of “things to complete before leaving for furlough.” 🙂