It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here for a month already! The intense weeks of orientation are over and our first excursions is behind us. Now we are starting to settle into our weekly routines. Finding a rhythm is good and I think we are starting to learn from consistency as much as from the exciting mini-adventures we have every day.
Part of the consistency that we are working to incorporate into our lives is regular fellowship, worship, and study of God’s word. I believe many of us have been feeling how necessary this commitment is to our spiritual health and personal sanity; but it also seems like the only appropriate way to respond to the blessings and challenges we experience every day.
Within our group of students from Calvin College, we have started four small Bible study groups that meet weekly. The groups meet in the homes of our host families or in various cafes and parks around Arequipa. One group has chosen to study Songs of Songs and Lamentations, another with join with Calvin’s campus in the study of Exodus, the third group decided to study Thessalonians and the final group is hoping to meet soon to choose a book. The consensus among all four seems to be that we want to create a space for open conversations to relate God’s word to our thoughts and feeling, our joys and challenges, here in Peru.
We are also finding ways to live our faith with our Peruvian brothers and sisters. Many students enjoy going to mass with their host families. We are learning about the culture through the Catholic Church in Arequipa but more importantly it’s an opportunity to live deeper into fellowship with our families. Some have even asked to attend churches with us! Many students have found a church to call home at Baptista Fe, a Baptist church in a close-by neighborhood, or in other local congregations. We have received warm welcomes and look forward to opportunities like youth group, small groups, and evangelism events. Opportunities to grow with our Peruvian brothers and sisters in Christ are beautiful and endless so we begin to reach out with excitement to see what God has in store.
Our group has also decided to meet all together once a month to have a time of worship, reading scripture, sharing God-moments, praying for one another, and fellowship. Here are some pictures from our first "Fiesta para Dios" together at the Bierling's apartment. What a blessing!
One of the challenges we have faced through all of these experiences is learning just how important language is to worship and prayer. Many times we feel unable to express our deepest thoughts in Spanish. We want to keep trying because we want to learn to express our faith and, more importantly, to pray with and for our brothers and sisters in Spanish, here and around the world. But is frustrating at times.
Sometimes we find new truth in the words in a Spanish church service. We even find that in some ways Spanish has words that help us express more than English alone. For example, there are different words for inner beauty and outer beauty – how handy! Or sometimes you need a word that is even stronger than “hunger” or “desire” – Spanish has it! And sometimes we just fall into Spanish simply because it’s becoming a habit. Yet other times we are relieved by the English words that lift from our hearts in song or prayer. We have decided that our commitment to speak only Spanish can and should be broken when we need more words to express the Spirit’s movement within us. This struggle between our hearts and tongues has resulted in Bible studies, worship, and prayer in our language of choice for faith: Spanglish.
Padre nuestro, te damos GRACIAS… God, we thank you for all of your many blessings, sus bendicios, in our lives here in Peru. For putting in in spaces where we have the chance to grow closer to you with your children, sus hijos. Thank you for your church, su iglesia. But most of all, thank you for your presence with us right now; we are grateful that you hear our prayers in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. Amen.
Photo Credit: Neal Bierling - Since he doesn't get to be in the pictures he at least deserves a big thank you for tanking such great photos. Gracias, Neal!