A missionary couple here in Arequipa is returning to England and their Christian-materials ministry had a lot of books left over. SIM is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and we are hosting a big event next Wednesday. We decided to give each person attending a box of books! After today's team meeting, I coaxed our missionaries to help redistribute approximately 12,000 books and an equal number of tracts between 80 boxes. "If we have 10 people and each person packs 8 boxes in an hour, we'll be done in an hour, and I'll buy everyone lunch!" Unfortunately, because of Peruvian law governing donations, we had to make a list of what each box contained. That made a lot of extra work, despite printing out the packing list for each box before we even started working. Even then it took us 3 hours! But it will be worth it. Each person will be getting a really nice set of books to further the Gospel here in Arequipa!
I (Mary Beth) heaved a sigh of relief when I saw my friend Cinthya come to meet me at the door of the Christian school where I was supposed to give my missions talk Saturday afternoon. Running a bit late, I hoped I was early enough to get the needed materials onto the tables before the event started in 10 minutes. She led me past a few parked cars into a gym buzzing with life as people put a last-minute coat of paint on the railings and walls. There was a pick-up truck in the middle of the space where I expected to see tables and chairs, and people were swarming everywhere trying to scramble the event together. Hmm, not quite what I had anticipated, but I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to help. In half-an-hour the place was transformed. Desks had been taken out of classrooms and grouped together. Fancy flag center-pieces had been strategically placed. The scaffolding had been put back onto the truck, which was successfully (after a few tries) started and manoeuvred out of the gym area. Flag banners appeared from nowhere and a world map was stuck on the wall behind the stage. The last thing to get working was, of course, the technology. The projector didn’t have a cable to hook it up with the sound system. In spite of this slight delay, they started the event only 1 hour late and it went very well.
Afterwards, one of the church leaders said “I never gave much thought to missions before. In all truth, I didn’t think it was very important, but you have opened my eyes.” Another person asked, “Do you really think it’s possible for us Latinos to be involved in missions?”, “For sure!” I answered. “We have several Peruvian missionaries with SIM as we speak!” What a great opportunity. Thank you, God.
The venue at 2:37 pm. It was scheduled to start at 2:30 pm!
Ready to go at 3:14 pm!
Yesterday, we invited our missionary team to our home for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was our first time as a couple to host a big dinner and our marriage survived. It must have looked tenuous for a moment as one missionary even asked us how we dealt with conflict as she watched us work together getting broth out of the turkey bag to make gravy. (Good Gravy, Batman!) Actually, we were a good team getting dinner on the table. We bought an 8.0 kg turkey (they're about $25, if you were wondering) which was enough for the 21 people that were present. We would have had more leftovers if more of the 8.0 kg had been meat and less had been feet (or head)! This one came with 4 of them! We still have so much to be thankful to God for!
This summer, Medical Ministries International of Peru bought a property to build a clinic for their physical therapy, optical and dental ministries. I sit on their board of directors. Before we can build the clinic, we need to design one that will have room for everything we desire and fit it in a 470 square-meter lot. On October 10th, I was reading the Christian Medical and Dental Association's E-Pistle newsletter and there was a notice that a semi-retired architect named Ken Gray was offering his services to ministries around the world. I quickly wrote him and told him the general characteristics of the project and he said he'd like to help us! Monday he arrived and since then has toured our current rented facilities and seen our new property. He has been making lots of measurements and looking at how similar projects have been done in Arequipa. Today, we went to a physical therapy clinic for disabled children that had an exercise pool, but they don't use it because the plumbing doesn't work. The person who built it designed it poorly and it can't be drained without calling the fire department to bring in their water pumps. Story is, the builder took the money he was paid and disappeared!
I guess we don't have to worry about Ken taking the money and disappearing, since he is doing this project for free as a ministry! Pray that the final design will fit in space for all of the ministries we want in the land area that we have.
Many of you have been praying for the women's retreat that Mary Beth organized and directed yesterday and the day before. She chose the date because it is a holiday and several women assured her that it wouldn't hurt the turn out. But a few days before the event, the woman in charge of promoting the event told Mary Beth that there was only one woman signed up! Yesterday was November 1st, which is the Day of the Dead, a holiday seriously observed by people in latin cultures, so many decided that they wouldn't be able to come to the retreat. Mary Beth requested prayer and by the end, 29 women attended, if one includes the couselors and speakers. I could tell watching from the sidelines that they had had a great time!
They had a knitting workshop.
And dress-up time!
Last Saturday, we started a chess club at our church. I had some nice flyers printed up that we handed out at the nearby high school that invited the kids to come. The time was listed as between 3 and 4 pm. Only three youth came during the advertised hour, but another five came after we were already putting away things. I hoped that the late kids would come on time this week, but only a total of four came. My hope is to see youth coming each week for chess club and make friends and become comfortable enough being in the church to come to the youth group and church services. I share a short devotional each week, trying to make comparisons of chess with concepts of Christianity.
In the past, I've wanted to enter an obstacle course race, but there has never been one that fit my schedule. Since they are growing in popularity in Peru I might get my chance, but for now I'll just have medical campaigns.
Today we had a medical campaign in a poor part of Arequipa. When I arrived, the community building where we were going to see patients was locked and no one could find the keys. We considered seeing patients outside and started setting up the equipment. I noticed that the window to the bathroom was open. "Can't we just go in through there?" I asked. "No, the inside door will be locked too," was the reply from David the one directing the event. When he wasn't looking, I pulled myself up to look into the window and could see a large stack of chairs greeting me on the inside. Since it was the bathroom, I could easily hold onto the top edge of the stall and crawl down. Thankfully, the door wasn't locked and I could let everyone in to have our clinic.
On Tuesdays, I have a bible study downtown, so I drive our truck about a mile to the bus stop and take the bus to my bible study. When I returned I looked in my rear-view mirror to see that someone had stuck election paraphernalia for the mayoral elections on October 7th on the back window! If I voted, I now know whom I would vote against!
Tonight, during church, the pastor had just started his sermon when we heard a loud, incessant banging against a steel door. I looked backward half expecting to see that someone had somehow locked himself in the bathroom. Nope. Was someone banging on the church door? Nope. Did I mention it was loud and incessant? That's not quite true, the banging would stop for about 5 seconds at a time and then resume. It was really really annoyinging and I could tell it was distracting the pastor. Missionary roles: preaching, praying, counseling, being a bouncer. I went out onto the street and could tell the noise was coming from inside the house that our truck was parked in front of. "Hey!" I yelled. "Are you okay?" Nothing. The banging resumed. When it paused again, I repeated, "Hey! Everything okay?" "C-(insert Spanish expletive here) I'm locked in my house! Help me open my door!" I think in the past I would have normally been scared in this sort of situation, but I felt it was pretty unlikely that it was someone trying to do me harm. I assessed the situation. There was no outside knob on the door, just a keyhole. It looked like there might be some sort of window on a hinge that we could maybe open and we could try to work together to open the door through it. I pushed gently on it and instead of opening the window, the whole door opened revealing a man standing in a wide stance with his arms at his side. "I couldn't get out and you just opened it with your finger?!" It appears he was drunk and forgot that his door opened inward! "Yes." "You just opened it with your finger?" "Yes. What's your name?" "Juan Carlos. I just wanted to get some fresh air." "Nice to meet you. I'm Allen." "Are you Venezuelan?" My suspicions he was drunk were confirmed. "Nope. American. Well, nice to meet you. I'm going to go back to church down there. Let me know if you need anything else. Come visit us some time."
Last night, Mary Beth asked if people would be willing to commit to pray for 30 different women who are invited to attend the women's retreat that Mary Beth is directing at the end of October. In less than 24 hours, 30 people emailed us agreeing to do so. Most wrote that they felt it was a privilege to do so. It is comforting to know that if we have a prayer request so many people are willing to back us up with prayer support! Thanks!