One of my favorite parts of being here in Arequipa is that I’ve been able to meet many missionaries from all over the world, here for many different reasons. Many that I’ve met are here for language school, and will soon be moving on [or already have]. This week I’ve randomly encountered and been able to participate with two short-term missions groups.
The first was on Monday when Jesus and I went out to the children’s home to help out. We walked in the door, and instead of being greeted by the normal tranquil scene of Peruvian children playing in the yard, we saw a yard-full of balding, grizzly bearded, “y’all” speaking North Americans. After joking for a minute that they all looked the same, we figured out what the connection was. These men painting and fixing up several buildings on campus were from the CMA [Christian Motorcycle Association]. Their deep-south accents were alive with their obvious love of Christ, and the children who they didn’t know, but had come to serve.
It’s amazing to see persons from all areas of the world in Peru for one reason: To serve their Lord in whatever way they can. If you’ve ever wondered how you can serve, but think that you have to have some sort of special ability… my answer is that it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s for Whom you are doing it.
In Africa this summer I was able to be a part of persons using their nursing/ dental/ pharmaceutical/ EMT/ firefighter/ pre-med/ pre-nursing skills to help out… here in Arequipa I’ve met a dentist, linguist, pilot, fire-fighter, nurse, recent graduate from college, high school students, mid-college students, single men and women, couples, families with as many as five children, persons from the States, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Korea… It never ceases to amaze me how it is that we all come together in a random city in Latin America to do what each one can to serve.
The other team this week that I encountered was with the organization “Joni and Friends.” If you’re not familiar with the story of Joni Eareckson Tada, I’ll quickly fill you in. She suffered an accident when she was young that left her paralyzed from the neck down. She is an amazing woman who has learned to do many things, including painting, with her mouth. She also has formed this organization that goes all over the world, giving out walkers, crutches, canes, and most importantly wheelchairs to persons in need.
It’s so much more than giving out a chair or a cane, though. First, the local pastors find the people in need, and work to get documentation proving their disability from their doctor. The team from the States consists of physical therapists to diagnose the need, mechanics [one was a retired firefighter, another a sheriff], translators, and other personnel. They adjust each wheelchair/equipment for each patient, while sharing the gospel through wordless books. They also give out Bibles in Spanish along with other helpful information for persons with disabilities. Finally, after they’ve received all they need, the patients go see a counselor who clearly explains the Gospel in detail. A few statistics: The team saw around 170 patients during the week; over 200 persons came to know the Lord.
I was able to be a part of Joni and Friends yesterday and today. And it was amazing. It was the first time that I’ve really been a “translator” and the first time I’ve ever tried praying in Spanish [now I’m praying that all my errors were overlooked!]. It was amazing. We saw children, adults, the elderly… their faces glowed, their cheeks often glistened with tears. And I got to be a part. It was yet another experience that I will log in my memory for always.