Friday, September 28, 2012

Sure Calling

It is no secret that speaking Spanish has not come naturally to me.  Some days are better than others, but in general, everyday is a battle.  Living in Peru has made me appreciate all the more the gift of conversation, especially dialogue about the Truth that has set me free.

Over a year ago, I accepted the fact that the Spirit of God had given me an extraordinary passion for the Holy Bible, a desire to give my life to God's Word and to be, God willing, anchored in its propositions, subject to its convictions, and submitted to its exhortations.  This zeal was not new, but the recognition of its uniqueness and its purpose were.  

Last year, I was convicted that this compulsion to immerse myself in God's special revelation(i.e., His inspired Word given to us in the Bible)is not for me alone, nor even primarily, but this gift is for the church.  Raechel can testify to the fact that I did not come to this conclusion quickly, nor comfortably, but with much fear and trepidation.  Yet, I have never been more sure of my calling to proclaim the glories of God the Father in the face of His Son by the power of His Spirit.

It is this calling that makes weeks like the last one extremely challenging.  This week was one of those weeks when my tongue seemed to utterly fail me and all attempts at sharing the hope that I have in Christ felt undermined by the language barrier that constantly mocks me (cursed be the leaders at Babel!). Convinced of the gift I have received and burdened with a desire to share it, my inability to communicate the Truth that has so captivated and transformed me is a great struggle. This burden is made endurable by the obvious ways in which God is working through my Peruvian brothers and sisters.

(Allow me to emphasize this last point.  The burden that I feel to preach and teach the truths of Scripture is not born out of an absence of such proclamation here and now in Lima.  I have been greatly encouraged by the gracious gifts that the Spirit has showered upon my friends in Palabra Hecha Hombre and in the church in Santa Rosa.  My Peruvian brothers and sisters who are laboring for the Lord here are equally burdened to see God the Father glorified by people loving and honoring His Son through the Spirit.  They work tirelessly to this end, and I am humbled by their faithfulness and zeal.  I pray that God allows me to be as passionate and bold as my Peruvian friends when I return to the States.)

Even now, my burden to proclaim the only Name under heaven by which people can be saved (i.e., Jesus, the Son of God) is being translated into action.  I have spent the last year spending my free time taking seminary classes in preparation for my calling to be a pastor.  In sports fitness terms (recall that I used to be a personal trainer), I am in preseason, training my heart, soul, and mind for the task that lies before me.

Finally, since the very beginning of my time here I have found that one of the ways that I can best support my ministry partners is by entertaining kids.  Most of the youth we minister to have children, and crying kids are not conducive to effective discourse.  Therefore, I employ my natural childishness in the service of the Gospel.  Below are various pictures documenting one of my "jobs," i.e., playing with kids.  It is tough work, but somebody has to do it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Reprieve From Seclusion  

I (Raechel) have a friend here in Lima who keeps an amazing blog.  She does a great job of sharing her struggles with her reading audience, and I have been encouraged and edified by her willingness to be vulnerable.  Her transparency has inspired me to communicate some of my trials and the lessons that I have learned from them.  So, for better or worse, here I go.

Honestly, Peru has been exceedingly difficult for me.  Living in a city has been a change in itself, but add to that the cross cultural component and it has made for a huge adjustment.  Everything is a challenge.  Sometimes something as simple as buying fruit at the market takes all of the energy I can muster and never knowing exactly what is going on around me takes an emotional toll.  

During our first year in Peru, Geoff and I would put the kids in bed at 7:00p.m., collapse onto the couch, drooling and staring off into space until around 9:00, and then lug our exhausted bodies into our bed.  The tasks of normal daily living and parenting our four kids, combined with the process of acculturation, often left me feeling like an amoeba, void of all attributes common to mankind.  

Although things have gotten easier over the years, they still come with various challenges.  Ordering pizza still requires unceasing prayer and unfaltering fortitude.  Going anywhere without Geoff incites dread and trepidation.  And there are still some days when my Spanish seems barely adequate to communicate the most basic ideas.

I have always been a homebody, but as I have been faced with the laboriousness of living in another culture, I have found myself less and less willing to leave the house and engage the outside world.  My home is my safe haven, my comfort zone, the place where I am understood and where I am free from the burden of dealing with the pressures of the foreign milieu outside my door, so at home I stay.  

Now, this withdrawal did not happen over night.  Sure, I always preferred being at home, but in the beginning I gave it the old college try.  When we first arrived in Lima, we tried to get involved in a variety of activities with our kids.  We did cooking lessons and soccer, and Lily even participated in a drama class.  We had Zeke and Chi in a local preschool and kindergarden, and even discussed putting Lily in a Peruvian school.  But these efforts to engage the culture soon began to cost us more than they seemed to benefit us.  Little by little, I disengaged and found myself, and unfortunately my children, secluded in my "safe haven."

Aside from the general attempt to adjust to life in Lima, there was the more specific endeavor of finding my fit in the ministry.  It did not take me long to wrestle with the tension of feeling the need to do ministry and the reality of not desiring to participate in ministry events.  In the beginning, I told myself that things would get better with time and that I would want to be out there doing more ministry after I was more comfortable with living here.  But as time went on, I found that my aversion to working directly with the ministries only increased and that my focus on the ministry that I had at home consumed more of my energy and time (homeschooling and being a wife).  

In addition, I slowly began to come to grips with the tension that pulled my heart in divergent directions.  In reality, I love my calling.  I love being a wife to Geoff and a mom to my four crazy kids.  I feel so blessed to be able to do these things full time and could not imagine doing anything else.  Yet, after the first year, the tension still existed.  I felt guilty for not wanting to be out there doing more.  I felt like I was not being a good Christian because I was under the impression that good Christians go out and do ministry.

Then, God challenged me, reminding me about the all-encompassing nature of the Gospel of grace.  I was reading A Prodigal God by Tim Keller and through this, as well as Geoff speaking truth into my life, I was brought back to my true identity in Christ and the completeness of the salvation I have received in Him.  I realized that the tension that I had been wrestling with stemmed from my prideful desire to earn my place in the Kingdom of God.  I was no different than the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, thinking that I could earn God's favor by working for my keep.  

I would have never been able to articulate this at the time, but the move to Peru to do missions, in a lot of ways, was, for me, motivated by a yearning to become a "better" Christian.  I was doing what I thought all good Christians should do, working to please my Father.  Over the last few years, my works, born in my own strength, efforts to please God and earn His commendation, have only served to bring me to my knees and humble my prideful heart.  

I am who I am in Christ because God has reached down and pulled me from the pit and set me on solid ground by His grace.  In Christ, I have already received an inheritance that I could never earn in a thousand lifetimes of overseas missions.   So, I do not have to have a ministry outside my home to please my Father.  My Father is pleased with me because I have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, not because of my work with any ministry.  There is no tension when I remember this, only freedom to be the best wife and mother I can be in Christ.

So, what does this have to do with the pictures below?  Like I was saying, I am a homebody.  I prefer to be secluded than to be amidst the hustle and bustle of this insane city.  But one of the goals for our last few months in Peru is to acquire pleasant memories from our time here.  I am aware that the problem is not Peru.  This is a beautiful country with precious people made in the image of their creator.  So, I want to experience and remember some of that beauty.

I confess that even with this new commitment to get out and see more of Peru, Geoff had to convince me this week that it was time for a reprieve from my seclusion.  On Monday we left for a three day trip to the mountains and spent an enjoyable few days outside the city.  Below are some pictures from our trip. 


Friday, September 14, 2012



With or new weekly commitment to blog about our time in Peru, we have decided to highlight each of our kids at some point during the next few months.  Being that Lily is the oldest, and because of a recent change in her life (see below), we thought we should start with her.  

When we moved here nearly three years ago, Lily was only 7 years old.  She has spent a little under half of her life here and has grown not only physically, but is growing into a mature, beautiful, young lady of God.  As she has faced the many challenges that come with living in another culture, she has dealt with loneliness and frustration, but has also experienced tremendous blessings and growth.

Lily has always cherished participating in ministry events with her daddy.  Of all our kids, she is always the first to volunteer for ministry related activities, loving a good adventure.  A few months ago, she was asking to accompany Geoff on Wednesdays for the regular ministry program at the center.  Last year, I had told her "no" because she needed to focus on her school work.  This year, I was convicted that I was elevating her education over something far more important.  I decided that I would rearrange her schooling to allow her time to serve alongside Geoff.  On Tuesdays, after she finishes the day's assignments, she starts right in on Wednesday's schoolwork.

I am so grateful for the opportunity she has to serve with her dad.  She is an enormous help to the ministry, while being discipled through the process of working with Geoff.  I am confident that this has been a formative year for her, and I thank God daily for the evidence of His grace at work in her life.  Geoff and I both pray with steadfast hope and great expectation that the seeds that are being planted today will issue forth in a glorious harvest in the life of this God-honoring young women.

Pictures of Lily in Action   

Lily loves her some babies!!!

Helping with a skit at the Family Bible Study.

I can't understand why the kids love her so much.

Her favorite job in the world, holding babies.

She has the gift of endless energy.

A Short Interview With Lily

Mommy, "Tell me some things you love about Peru?"
Lily, "The food, traveling in Peru, the Ocean, and I love going to the ministry center with dad"

Mommy, "What are some things that have been hard for you here?"
Lily, "Speaking Spanish, being away from family, and I love climbing trees and being in the forest, but here it is all city." 

Mommy, "What do you like about working with Word Made Flesh?"
Lily, "I love playing with the kids and having them come to me, and holding babies."

Mommy, "What have you learned during your time here?"
Lily, "I have learned that God has given me a gift to work with kids.  It is really hard, but I like it because I love kids, and once they get to know me, they come to me.  It has taught me patience.  For example, one time I was walking around with a crying child because she wanted her mom.  I just kept trying to comfort her, and I had never realized a child could have so many tears."

Mommy, "How have you changed during your time here?"
Lily, "I have seen a lot of poverty and sin and this has changed my perspective on things.  For example, I visited a lady's home and she had one room with two beds and a small table.  I was amazed that people live like this, while we have big houses and lots of stuff we don't even need.  I also sometimes think about the little kids I work with.  I don't want them to grow up like their parents who are often rowdy, with no manners, and maybe on drugs."

Mommy, "Is there anything else you want to share?"
Lily, "Peru has been a good experience for me.  I have learned a lot and seen a lot of things that have changed me.  Although it has been hard, it has been good."

Mommy, "What do you want to do in the future?"
Lily, "I want to have lots of kids and maybe be an artist or a writer.  Maybe I would like to be an owner of an orphanage.  Hopefully, I can live on a farm because I like nature and animals, and I think my kids would like that too."

Pictures from Lily's time here

Lily's first birthday in Peru.  Her neighborhood friends threw her a surprise birthday party.

Our trip to visit Elita's family included a visit to the third largest waterfall in the world, Gocta.  Lily and the boys rode mules, while the grownups walked.  (Side-note:  Elita and Raechel almost died from exhaustion on this four hour trek.  Raechel would like to add that the trail was nearly both directions.  "It was the hardest thing I have ever done." - Raechel)

Lily enjoying a Christmas celebration...In the summer!!

In Santa Rosa, Lima, and the world round, Lily is a kid magnet.

Lily enjoying a visit from her cousin and friend.

Lily and Daddy acting a fool.

The two most beautiful women in the world...In my humble opinion. - Geoff

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Day At The Beach And Other Unrelated Topics

Here we go again!  As we begin the process of wrapping up our time in Peru, we have committed ourselves, once more (a final last ditch effort, if you will), to share some of the memories that we have made over the course of the last two and a half years.  Some of these stories will carry us back to our arrival to Peru, while others will reflect our more recent adventures.  Through these accounts we will endeavor to also communicate some of the lessons that we have learned and the various ways that God has forever changed us during our time here in Lima.  Our goal is to publish these recollections every Friday for your reading enjoyment.

At the end of this past summer (in March), we decided to take our friends to the beach.  Three young ladies, a young man, and their respective kids piled into our car early one weekday morning, and we left the smog-filled foulness of the streets of Central Lima for the open-air splendidness of the beaches south of the city.  The car ride alone was worth the price of gas as we lifted our voices together to the blissful sound of Eighties music and filled the remaining moments with congenial conversation.

We arrived at our destination in time for lunch and hit a local eatery a stones throw from the beach.  The food was typical Peruvian cuisine.  True to form, Lily and Chi demolished adult sized portions of the delicious fare while Eli and Zeke bemoaned the fact that I wouldn't allow them to just eat the crackers and apples that I had packed for a mid-afternoon snack.  Our friends ate their fill quicker then usual, and we all felt a little anxious about being so close to the beach yet not quite there.

After lunch, we made the short drive to the beach where we passed the afternoon breathing deep of the fresh ocean air and bathing in the golden drops of sunshine that warmed us just enough to allow us to brave the frigid water off the Peruvian coast.  The kids attempted to burrow to China, and made amazing progress towards that end.  The youth played volleyball and dodged jellyfish in the sea.  As for me, I soaked it all in.

For just a moment, life was grand, literally, "a day at the beach."  We weren't standing on a street corner amidst the tumult and depravation of Central Lima.  We weren't surrounded by kids reeking of glue and looking like the streets that they live on.  We were on the sandy shore of the Pacific Ocean amongst the grandeur and glory of God's creation.  We were in the presence of young women and a young man, with their children, who seemed to be in all visible respects no different than me and my kids.  What a difference a change in venue can make.

On the drive back to Lima a solemness replaced the jubilant atmosphere that marked our trip to the beach.  Each of us seemed to be wrestling with words to express our gratefulness for the day God had given us, free from our normal worries, concerns, and battles, while sensing the impending return to reality that awaited us in Lima, very different realities to be sure, yet each weighty in their own respect.

As I pulled into downtown Lima to drop off my young friends, they identified the corner where they would disembark.  I stopped at the place they asked me to and immediately recognized it as the infamous intersection of Grau and Iquitos, where broken young women gather to sell their bodies to depraved men.  We were not at the beach any more.