Dear Friends and Family,
The last year has been a blur. The days and weeks fly by quickly here. It takes longer to complete simple tasks like shopping, laundry, cooking, and getting from one place to the next. I now live in Curahuasi which has a small town feel. The church I’m attending is young (1 year) and small. Consequently we spend a lot of time together, eating together and hanging out together in both church and non-church settings. In the hospital one of the family practice doctors had to return to the states due to his children’s health issues, and two more of our long term doctors are getting ready to leave. The impact of all of this is more work and more call. As in all mission settings, even if you say “no” 99.9% of the time, after a year the “yes”es are enough to keep you pretty busy. Also, I had the blessing of a month long visit from my parents, a week long retreat in Brazil, and three weeks in the USA (passing through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Washington). Through all this and problems with internet I’m finally now sitting down to write to you all and catch you up on all the wonderful things God’s been doing in and through me.
In August I moved from the little village of Lukmos on one side of the hospital to the town of Curahuasi (about 10,000 people) on the other side of the hospital. I moved in with Lisa who is a German lady about my age who‘s a Dental technician (ie makes dentures). Shortly afterwards Joanna, who was a German volunteer straight out of high school, moved in after returning to Peru for 6 more months (she was previously here for a year) until her nursing school starts next year. Lisa and Joanna are wonderful to live with. They are both very laid back and servant hearted. They’re always willing to help out with my responsibilities when I’m out of town or on call, though I always am hesitant to ask for help because I know how much they’re already serving and involved in other ministries. It’s been a fast six months living with them. They’re both planning to move back to Germany in the next couple of weeks. Inessa, a German dental assistant, who lived here previously, is planning to return in January (she was in Germany for a 6 month furlough after many years here).
The upper photo is from where I run to every morning. Those who know me well, know that my morning routine is crucial to me functioning well all day. From where I live now I run away from town and have found a nice peaceful place to encounter God each day, and set the tone for the day. J
The lower photo is part of our view from our balcony overlooking the city at night. We also have front row seats to all the soccer games in the stadium from our balcony J (much to the envy of the Peruvians. The irony is that we probably have the least appreciation for watching football out of anyone in town J).
Melanie Brinkley and Choquequirao
For two weeks in July Melanie Brinkley came to visit between completing high school and starting at AIM (Adventures in Missions—a missionary training program). I’ve known her family since I was in 11th grade. They attended our church in Federal Way, Washington for a while. Were care takers of our church camp for many years. Moved to Houston, Texas just I was starting medical school in Fort Worth, Texas, and served as my family in Texas during those four rough years. I visited the Brinkleys for 4 days in March when my tourist visa ran out, and during that time invited Melanie to come visit and get an idea what missions can look like. She had a busy two weeks. I had her spending part of a day with as many different professions/roles I could like of. Many people think in order to “serve in missions” you must be a preacher, doctor or nurse. Not true. I had her working with midwives, teachers, (I tried to have her with social workers), pharmacists, nutritionists, physical therapists, lay bread makers, lab technicians, doctors, nurses, etc). Then we went on a 4 day camping/hiking trip to ruins like Macchu Pichu that you can only get to by hiking. It was intense, but a lot of fun. We went with one of the other American doctors, the nutritionist, two ACU premed students, the pastor of my church, and one other Peruvian from my church. I loved it because by the end of it you’re so much closer to those you’ve traveled with.
One conversation in particular that really stuck out was one I had with Jemerson, the pastor of the church I’m attending now. He trained to be a veterinarian. He says that he was raised up in a family that went to church but they didn’t really know God or have a relationship with him. He says his story is pretty typical of many Peruvians who claim to be Christians. From his perspective he was a good person, and that being a Christian was about being a good person. It wasn’t until he was in Veterinarian school that he realized that he was a sinner too, in need of a savior. And that when you truly take Christ on as your savior you’re no longer able to live for you. Because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life you desire a personal relationship with Christ and yearn to be in the church with fellow believers growing closer to Christ. Through pressure from family he completed his studies even though he no longer had the desire to anything other than the Lords work. He took a position as the pastor of the IEP church in June or July. It’s a new church plant and relatively small. He receives partial support from the church collection here and partial support from the mother church in Abancay.
Several characteristics about Jemerson really encourage me. One is his thirst to know God more and more. He’s always reading the bible, but also any other book about God he can get his hands on. He tends to find free books online from American preachers. Thanks to the donations of several of you while I was back in the states, he now has a kindle so he has access to more modern/current preachers/books. The second was his response to the slowly growing new church plant. I’ve known enough preachers who would be discouraged by low church attendance. Jemerson’s response is, “When you’re truly saved the Holy Spirit works in you to yearn to be in church with your fellow believers. If they’re not here then that makes me think they may not be saved, and we have more evangelism to do.” He spends part of his days in the streets talking with and sharing the gospel with the people. The culture here is more like the USA 50-80 years ago when everyone would sit out on their porches and talk to the neighbors passing by. Which lends itself to evangelism, which is Jemerson’s favorite thing to do.
Sexuality and Holiness
In August I was asked to give a presentation for an hour and a half about sexuality and holiness to a group of 300-400 teens and college age Peruvians in Spanish. I knew it was an impossible feat before I even said yes. I said I’d pray about it. The answer I got is that how can I say no after complaining that no one is ever talking about this topic to the youth and then I have to see them in my clinic pregnant and with STD’s. So I said yes, but told God he’d have to figure out how to make it possible. Through the book recommendations of Jessica Skidmore I wrote my talk in English. I translated my talk into Spanish and then through the hard work and sacrifice of Luz (to the right of me in the lower photo; the Peruvian general doctor who’s been working at Diospi for 1.5 years now) and Belen (the nutritionist) they fixed my Spanish. Luz agreed to come with me to Abancay to help with the Question and Answer session because questions are the hardest things to understand for me in Spanish. Probably twenty minutes into my talk out of exhaustion I vasovagal-ed and had to sit down before I passed out. So making the impossible possible, God sent Luz up to finish the talk that was mostly in her words anyways (though the answers where challenges to her life and faith as well)—something that she would never have volunteered to do. Even helping with the Spanish, she said that she would never have done for anyone other than me. And though I still don’t know why God worked like he did, the message of sexuality God’s way was share. Afterwards, all the pastors and leaders from all the churches in the area who were present came up asking for copies of the talk.
In June I was talking with Rossmery (on the right in the upper photo; physical therapy assistant) and Dennis (on the left in the upper photo; works in Admissions) during lunch one day. I have a book of questions and they asked for question 1001: If you could ask God one question and he’d give you the answer today, what would you ask him? In response to Dennis’ question the discussion turned to knowing for real if God exists. Dennis is interested in Christianity and has attended churches for a time but has never committed her life and still doesn’t understand a lot of the basics of the Christian faith. Rossmery is Catholic, though her common law husband was recently baptized in to the Evangelical church. Both have very legalistic and works-based understandings of the faith (which is very common in Peru) due to the strong Catholic influence on the country. I’d been praying that week for God to give me someone to study the bible with that week, so I asked them if they’d like to study together. They said yes. They both work in the hospital during the week and hurry home to care for their boys: Abraham (on the left in the lower photo; Dennis’ son, 5 years old) and Jose (on the right in the lower photo; Rossmerry’s son, 5 years old). On the weekends they work in their families fields. So I’ve been riding my bike 30 minutes uphill to their village Sunday evenings to study with them.
My time with them is precious because they are both sweet, kindhearted women who are thirsty to know the Lord. One week I asked Dennis what part of her day or week she looked forward to, and she said Sunday evenings because she is about to forget about all of her problems for a couple of hours. Dennis lives with her parents and brothers. Abraham’s dad has never been involved since he was born. Rosemerry lived with her common law husband, but he left several months ago and they’re currently having many problems with their relationship.
Another time while we were reading Luke and talking about what they were reading Dennis said, “When I try to read on my own I just feel more confused after reading the scriptures. But when we’re reading together the Bible always seems so much clearer.”
Praise the Lord for a pleasant surprise the last several weeks. I’d mentioned to several of the guys in the church the need of Abraham and Jose for a Christian male role model in their lives. On their own initiative they’ve been coming with me the last several weeks to hang out with the boys while I study with Dennis and Rossmery. Not only is this a much needed blessing for the boys, but it also helps the women focus and learn more about God without constant distractions. Last week Dennis said, “I can’t understand why you guys would take time to visit us.”
Please be praying for both of them. For their social situations, for their families, for their faith, that they will commit their lives to Christ and for their faith.
The Feminist League---ie Women’s Bible Study
I hate the name in Spanish. I call it women’s bible study. The Peruvians call it the feminist league, because it means something different to them than it does to us in English. This has been another sweet blessing from the Lord Monday nights. There are nights that Lisa and I are the only white people in the room and there are nights that we are half and half foreigners/Peruvians. We share dinner together because many come straight after work. Women from the hospital, church and community come. They start coming at 6:30pm and keep coming at times until 8:30pm, whenever they get off work, even if it means they’ll only be there until 9 or 9:30pm. Many of the women are in Curahuasi for work and have family in other cities whom they visit on the weekends, thereby making week nights tiring but the best option for meeting. Part of their culture of women bible studies include “crafts.” In the picture on the right they’re sewing prayer pillows for the church, since the IEP has prayer night Tuesday nights. The women represent several of the churches in town, so all are encouraged to recommend projects /crafts that can help their church that we can all participate in.
Currently we’re still slowly going through Beth Moore’s Believing God bible study. Its perfect for a culture that “believes in God,” but doesn’t really understand what it means or how to BELIEVE/Trust God day to day with the big and small things. It really warmed my heart one week when Luz who’s been waiting for God to give her a big clear sign on what to do next with her life leaves bible study one week requesting that we pray that she can see God in the small things that week. Then the next Monday she returns full of joy and lists all the ways she’s seen God working through the day and in her life that last week.
The Month My Parents Came to Visit
September I had the privilege of my parents coming to visit. During the weekends we traveled around the country visiting Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake, about 14000 miles in elevation), the Amazon jungle, and Cusco. During the week they had sometime to recuperate while I worked. Also during the week they were able to experience my favorite part of Peru…the people. It meant a lot of translating for me, but it was worth it for them to have the opportunity to get to know some of my friends. They also went out on a couple excursions during the week. Several of my Peruvian friends would take them out. Unfortunately they didn’t have a language in common with my parents. Two of the security guards who work at Diospi and went out with my parents really enjoyed them. One of them, Emiliano, wrote a note to them saying that they’d be even better friends if they shared the same language. This motivated my parents to try to learn Spanish for when they come back to visit again.
Recently I got to attend the wedding of Claudia. She’s part of our church in Curahuasi, works as a nurse at Diospi, and is part of the Woman’s Group Monday nights. Her wedding was in Cusco where her fiancé lived and where she’s from. Several of us from the church and from Diospi traveled to Cusco for the event (the lower photo is of those of us from the church, and the upper photo is of those of us who work at Diospi) . It was suppose to start at 3:00pm. Claudia sent me a face book message the day before (that I didn’t see) that said to arrive early, at 2:30pm. I was trying to coordinate us a ride back to Curahuasi after the wedding since it’s hard to find a taxi after 6 pm. Claudia said the wedding and reception would go until 6pm or 8pm maximum. I was traveling with a group of Peruvians from the church and we were shopping before going to the wedding. They sat down in a restaurant in the mall to eat lunch at 3pm. We arrived at the wedding at 4:15pm. The wedding started at 4:45pm. The wedding started with a band from the church in Cusco playing worship songs. Then the preacher talked for a while. All the family was introduced. I think then were the vows. Then Claudia and her husband sang and talked for a while. Then they left for a long time to take photos. During that time we were served coke and snacks. Finally after an hour or more they came back (Familiar with Peruvian weddings, Dr. Martina left during this break to finish shopping). Then EVERYONE in the audience went up on the stage and took a picture with the bride and groom. Then everyone made a line and gave their gifts to the bride and groom and hugged them. Then a huge dinner was served after 9 pm. Then a bunch of the guys from our church in Curahuasi went up and played a couple songs while the food was being served. Then at 10:30pm we were finally about to leave.
Like a lot of couples here in Peru, Claudia continues to work several days a week at Diospi and travels on the weekends (3 hours) to Cusco to be with her husband.
The Jovenes of Abancay
I laugh at Miqui and Jemerson. I’m still not sure exactly what age is included in the term “Jovenes.” Both Miqui (who works in IT at Diospi) and Jemerson (the Pastor of our church here in Curahuasi) are from Abancay and are still involved in the “Jovenes” group. Basically from what I can understand it includes teenagers, college age, and young adult. Because of their active involvement with the group in Abancay, the Jovenes come and visit Curahuasi from time to time to help with various events such as: the week of the Bible, the one year anniversary of the church, and a children’s program around the time of Christmas. This last weekend we traveled to Abancay to celebrate the New Year with them.
Christmas!!!---the 24th or the 25th?
So Peruvians celebrate Christmas at midnight the 25th (i.e. the night of the 24th). At midnight they all drink hot chocolate, eat fruit cake and turkey, and open presents. Fortunately the Germans also celebrate Christmas the 24th. They go to church, and then eat dinner with family and open presents. The advantage is that the Germans are happy to be on call the 25th, and it didn’t bother me to be on call the 24th. Many of the Peruvians in the church went home to celebrate with their families, but those who were working and couldn’t all met at my house the 25th in the afternoon. The funny thing is we cooked together all afternoon (mostly the women). Then several of the women left to do other things and all the guys arrived in time to eat all the food. Turkey is the food of Christmas here. You can only buy turkey in town the day before Christmas.
I guess that’s a whirlwind glimpse of what I’ve been up to. We’re still playing Ultimate Frisbee once a week….the Peruvians are getting pretty good. I’m also teaching English once a week. I have “Spanish” lessons once a week and Quechua classes when I can squeeze them in. And we still have English speaking (ie American) bible study once a week, though our American numbers are dwindling L (we do have more European attendees thoughJ).
Thanks for all your prayers. The Lord is working. My New Year Resolutions that you can be praying for are that:
-I blog more faithfully
- I integrate 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 in my everyday life more
- My accent and Spanish continue to improve
- I learn more Quechua
- I integrate God’s “Rest” in my daily life more so that I can serve Him more single-mindedly
God’s blessings on you all in the new year!