To all who are praying for the work in Peru, I send greetings again from Machahuay!
It has been a very busy few weeks since my last update. God's pace at preparing "good soil" here in Machahuay has been gratifying, humbling and tiring all at once! I apologize for the length of this update, but I felt like giving you as much news to pray over as possible!
At the time of my last update, I had just hosted the second Movie Night here at the house, with plans to continue with that outreach effort each and every week. Since then, this weekly event has only grown in size and popularity! Last night, for example, I had a packed house of over 25 folks to watch the animated move Ole' (Ferdinand). It was a huge hit with the kids and adults...and it played loosely into the cultural reality of bullfighting in this region of Peru. Viraco and Machahuay are famous for its bulls and bullfighting. At the end of the movie there is a bullfight scene and all the kids were shouting "ole" at key moments. It was really a great time. I was able to deliver a message to the kids (and adults) before the movie began with Jeremiah 29:11-12 as the anchor text, with a nice tie-in to the movie.
During Holy Week I decided to have a Film Festival, where each night of the week I alternated a showing of Son Of God and the CS Lewis tale: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (another huge hit here, where the Gospel is at the core of the story and I am only too pleased to point it out!). The movie "Son Of God" had amazing responses from both kids and adults and many came to see it more than once. On Good Friday I followed "Son Of God" with a powerful message video-short by Dan Stevers called The Fifth Cup (La Quinta Copa) after asking the crowd the question, "What happened on the cross?" It was a good night!
But Movie Nights have only been a part of the happenings here. I spoke about my next door neighbor in the last update/blog and about hauling blocks for his home addition. A few weeks ago it was time to pour the concrete roof on the new addition. It turns out that this is an event like an old-time barn-raising, where the whole community turns out to help. For much of the day men from all over Machahuay took buckets of concrete being mixed on the lot beside my house, through my backyard, up some rickety planks and onto my neighbor's roof. It was quite a scene. These guys are made of steel and they are like machines. I opted to stay at the cement mixer and shovel and dump buckets of aggregate into the concrete mix. It was a choreographed scene with batches of concrete being mixed and dumped in time for the stream of concrete carriers to head back to the roof. I was, of course, the foil for all jokes. The tall gringo who they nicknamed as the recently ousted "white" Peruvian president PPK. It was all in good fun and I was happy to be a part of it all. In all the comradely, there was also the sad picture of an addicted culture. It was the women's job to keep the Pisco flowing for the men (Pisco is like grain alcohol) and to provide coca leaves for them to chew on while they worked. That's why most of these fellas operate like machines and are like steel...they weren't feeling much of anything! This unfortunate reality did give me the opportunity to set myself apart as a Christian and kindly refrain from taking either drink or chew. After the concrete was all poured, there was a break of a few hours and then everyone gathered in my backyard (since my neighbor no longer has the space) to celebrate the roof-raising. The owner, Juan, said a few words of thanks to the crowd and then provided food for everyone. I brought out benches for the ladies to sit on and mingled as much as I could. As I looked around, I could not believe my great fortune of having so many neighbors fellow-shipping in my backyard! I could not have planned this any better! God is so good and generous in how He knits together events and opportunities.
Just before Holy Week, Marco Salas, a Peruvian brother-in-Christ, came from Arequipa to Machahuay to begin tutoring me in Spanish. Throughout the week and in-between movies and ministry activities, Marco gave me long-needed, classroom-style Spanish lessons in grammar and conversation. Unfortunately Marco's sister back in Arequipa had a medical emergency and ended up in the hospital; so Marco cut short his stay here and returned to Arequipa on Thursday before Easter Sunday.
Marco was here to help in translation for our Palm Sunday service at the start of the week, however. Palm Sunday was a special day for us all here. Lynn came over from Viraco for the service that morning and we all walked around Machahuay trying to find palm branches or something that looked similar. During the walk, we visited one of my favorite vistas in Machahuay, overlooking a deep valley with huge mountains in the distance. Since the view faced east, we decided it would be a perfect spot for a sunrise service early on Easter morning! Walking back to the little chapel where we would hold service; we noticed there was also a funeral being held that morning at the Catholic Church, which is just across the plaza. The ceremonies surrounding funerals here can be a bit elaborate and usually involve a lot of drinking. Thinking no more about it we began to prepare for our Palm Sunday service. Time passed and one delay came after another and I was beginning to think we'd never get underway. Per usual, I was getting impatient since I was delivering the message and wanted to get started...but something was causing more and more delays. After over an hour of delay, we were all finally ready and Lucila (the stewardess of the chapel and long-time friend of our missions here) opened the service with a prayer and a song...there were only a few of us in attendance. About that time, an entire family (6 or more adults) approached the church with tears and told us that they were from Arequipa and had come to Machahuay for the funeral; but they were Christians and did not want to participate in the Catholic ceremony. They were moved to tears (as we all were) that God had provided a place for them to worship on this Sunday of both celebration and grief. The service was a sweet time in the Word and a great time of worship for us all! After the service and after the guests left we all sat in amazement of God's timing. Had we started the service "on time" we would have concluded before that family ever showed up. Yet another lesson learned for this impatient servant as God continues to teach me in such loving ways that His ways are always best.
One of the days Marco was still in town, he and Lynn and I decided to walk to one of the next pueblos over from Machahuay and Viraco, a place called Cotanay. It's a small village that you can easily see from Machahuay. We went there to find Roday Inejosa, the owner of a space across the street from my house in Machahuay. More on that later. In these small towns, you just go in with a persons name (or part of a name) and ask around until you find them. Right away Lynn was reunited with a teacher she had known from working in the schools in Machahuay and we got directions to the correct house of the folks we were looking for. After talking with the folks we had gone to see, we started home. But then we were stopped by an invitation from another neighbor there to sit and talk and have a snack. So we met Fernando and Claudia, a truly warm and friendly couple interested in who we were and why we are here. We explained all things and Lynn shared a bit of her testimony. It was a great visit and we were invited back. I include the side-trip to Cotanay in this update because I have been praying about which of the close-by villages we should begin to engage first. I think God has answered.
The service at sunrise on Easter Sunday was the next big event amongst the night of movies during Holy Week. I put out flyers around town during the week and plastered the house with announcements of the service and its location just outside of town. I also asked several folks back home to pray for good attendance at what could be the start of a new church here. Lynn stayed in the Machahuay hostal Saturday night after helping me with the final Film Festival showing on Saturday. Easter morning we got started around 4am carrying items to the spot for the service...a table, a bench and supplies to administer the Lord's Supper after the message at sunrise. I had gone to that spot earlier in the week and pegged the suns appearance over the mountain top at exactly 6:35am, so I advertised a start time of 6am. As 6am approached, there was no sign of anyone coming, not even Lucila with whom we had picked out special worship songs just the day before. I was beginning to worry, but then God sent a few faithful folks (including Lucila) just in the knick of time! We had six to attend and the biggest gift to me was when one of the young teen boys who attends movie nights showed up with his mom! It was another sweet time of fellowship and worship with the Lord in celebration and remembrance. Lynn had the unenviable task of interpreting the message that I had originally prepared for Marco to interpret. She did an awesome job and kept me in line throughout the service!
Finally, I ended my last update with a hopeful start to having morning devotions for passers-by. I've been praying over the development of this outreach, but I cannot report any progress yet. However, another topic of prayer for me for some months has seemed to take flight. Even before beginning the movie outreach I have been in prayer about finding a space to open some type of recreation/education center for the kids here (young and old). A place for organized table games like ping-pong or foosball (called fulbito here), a place to gather and do science or computer projects, a place for little kids to sit and color, a place to read stories...you get the idea. All of these activities would take place in a Gospel-centric atmosphere rich with lessons and examples for God-honoring life principles. Well, having a "place" for all of this means I first need a space for all of this. "Curiously" (...wait for it...) my neighbor Marta directly across the street who owned a restaurant for 6+ years here in Machahuay moved her family to Aplao (3 hours down the mountain) just a few weeks ago at the beginning of the school year. Marta, who has served food to many of the mission teams visiting over the years, wanted her young son Brian to attend school in Aplao. We found out only a couple of weeks ago that the move was permanent. "By chance"...Lynn ran into Marta in Aplao during a 15 minute bus stop on her way up the mountain from Arequipa, and Marta gave her the name of Ronay Inejosa, the owner of the space who lives in Cotanay.
So our trip to Cotanay was successful and I have rented the space directly across the street to expand the ministry here in Machahuay. Let me just say that nothing is "curious" or "by chance" when God is involved. It is all certain and assured! I have about 1,000 ideas for how to use that space and only resources for doing maybe 5 of them. So help me pray that I can discern His will for this next phase in the ministry here and be wise and obedient in using His awesome provision for His glory!
In His Service-