Being in Arequipa, Peru is like going home. Every street, every combi/bus, every district is wrapped up in memories. It hasn’t changed much. I can still get the taxi where he needs to go, found it natural to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek, still have many friends there that I have been able to keep in contact with, but there are also many changes. Friends have gotten married, had kids, moved on, or passed away. I have changed, they have changed, yet I was so blessed to be able to connect again with so many dear friends.
During the middle of my trip, we had an awesome group of High School students down there with us for a week. They were flexible, hard-working, and a ton of fun. They spent a day doing a prayer walk through the city led by various team members, pastors, and church leaders. They also helped with some work projects at the church, cleaning hundreds of chairs, and a couple big painting projects. We did a couple of cultural fairs providing opportunities to interact with the community and provide opportunities for people to practice their English with native speakers. We also did a big photo scavenger “treasure” hunt with the church’s youth group. We also hosted a couple kids events, one in our local park and then another one in one of the outlying districts with one of the local churches. I was so thankful for the opportunity to work with this team and see God working in their hearts during this time. I had many conversations with the youth and it is awesome to see them being challenged to step up in their faith. The have responded by starting prayer groups in their local congregations, receiving and acting on their call to ministry, and by taking the next step of obedience and choosing to trust God with the results. We also met a lot of new people during this time, made new contacts, and had a handful accept Christ.
One kinda crazy story is that while were were in the plaza doing a cultural fair we ran into a man we met years ago doing a similar event, He came to Christ and was very active in our church for a while. Then trials came, he got new job in a city in northern Peru and he slowly drifted away in his relationship with Christ and from the church. But that day we were there he just “happened” to be in town visiting his son and “happened” to walk past the plaza while we were there. The crazy thing is, this is how this man’s story began. We first met him 4 or 5 years ago when he ended up taking a different route to work that day and “happened” upon us in the plaza were our team connected with him and eventually led him to the Lord. It just demonstrates how God continues to pursue us even when we forget or ignore him.
Outreach in one of the Mountain Communities Team Green Photo Scavenger “Treasure” Hunt
Some Church Members and Leaders Pastor Elvin and Carolina, good friends
The old Saturday Soccer Crew together again With some of my teammates after 3+ years
Church Painting Crew Prayer Walk Lunch with Short-Term Team Balloon animals… and swords
My prayer during my time in Peru was that God would use me and direct my time. I knew I would not be able to see everyone, but I wanted to see and spend time with the people he wanted me to invest in. I surrendered my schedule to God and it was cool to see how even on the days when my plans and schedule fell apart God used and blessed those moments.
One day my friend Jessica and I (who is now the Pastora /Pastor’s wife) went to visit an old contact. We were hoping Gina and her family still lived in the same location and that she would be home, since she works a lot. On our walk to her house which is in a quiet neighbor outside of the center a taxi driver pulls up beside us and says, “Sheena?” Here was a young man named Samuel I met years ago and invited to church, he came for a time, and drifted away. He just “happened” to be driving in the area, and we just “happened” to run into him on the way to Gina’s house. He told me about his new baby and we were able to connect him with Jessica, and the church. When we got to Gina’s her husband was working in his workshop and ran upstairs to grab her, and we were able to visit and pray with her. Since we were now running late, we grabbed a taxi and dropped Jessica back home while I continued to the center. During the drive, the driver asks me why I am there and how I know Spanish. This was an open door and we started talking about God and how we can know him and hear his voice. In the middle of our conversation he stops me and says, “I need to tell you something!” as he recounts a dream he had had the night before where someone he doesn’t know comes and talks to him about the God… and there I was. We had a great conversation and I was able to leave him a copy of my pastors book, “Hearing God” and connect him with the church and Pastor Sammy. After that I was meeting a special friend who has gone through many trials and temptations and was really struggling. She had invited me over to talk to her Aunt who needed to hear about God. At first I was a little disappointed because I wanted to talk and visit with her, but went anyway. As I got to the house her Aunt ran out of the house apologizing for not being able to stay, instead I was able to talk, encourage, minister, and pray for my dear friend who was in a very difficult place. After several hours we sat down as she graciously offered me coffee and bread. It was at this time that her aunt came home and we were able to chat and enjoy each others company. Then her baby needed some attention and she ran upstairs…and didn’t come back. Her aunt and I talked for quite a while and she began to open up and share her struggles and how she is unsure God hears here and how she consequently fails to hear God. I was able to share the truth of the gospel and pray with her, and in that moment she surrendered her life to Christ. I also just “happened” to have an extra copy of the “Hearing God” book for her. A few minutes later my friend came down and joined us once again and we shared a special moment of celebration rejoicing in God’s grace, faithfulness, and sovereignty despite the difficulties of life.
This was just one of those grace-filled days when God showed up in the “happening” of daily life. I could see his hand orchestrating every minute and circumstance of my day. I am still so filled with gratitude and wonder, that God would chose to use me in that way. It was a blessing to be back in Peru and to be able to demonstrate God’s love to those around me. The struggle isn’t over, life marches on, and its rarely easy. Our church has had 3 different pastors over the course of 3+ years, and even several months in-between pastors. There are many trying circumstances in the lives of our church members. Some have left, others are coming back, but God is faithful. It’s not about the church as an entity, but about the people that make-up that church. Pray for the Pastors, Sammy & Jessica and their precious baby Thomas (TJ). They are really serving as missionaries amongst the broken and hurting and living on faith, trusting God to provide for their needs.
There are so many stories of God’s faithfulness, to a teammates emergency removal of her appendices in a foreign country or the many disciples my ministry partner Brenda and I invested in that are still walking with God and serving in in various capacities in their local church. God is continuing to do his work in the city of Arequipa, pursuing the Peruvian people with his love and steadfastness, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of his mission.
So what’s next??? Mexico!!! I leave tomorrow morning bright and early and will have limited internet access. I am really taking this time to seek God and the next steps he has for me. I am not entirely sure what this next week holds, but I am excited to see where God leads. I will be serving alongside the team at Studio del Creador art studio and staying with a local family. Illness and other challenges have been a huge challenge for this ministry this summer. Please pray for Natalie, Fransisco, and I along with the leadership team. I can’t wait to see how God shows up and what “happens” during the next few weeks! Keep us all in your prayers! See you all in August!