So, although Franci and I are still digging through our bags and suitcases and are sleeping with our mattresses’ on the floor in a room that will eventually be a storage room, and still sharing a bathroom with the boys…technically, despite not being settled yet, we have started working. Our two weeks here in Puno have been a locura, (craziness/madness/insanity), chose your favorite, they all apply. We really haven't had much time to start getting to know people in our communities as we have been busy with the move, buying things for the house, praying over everyone's communities, and helping the mother church with VBS. But, Franci and I managed to get started the other day by spending some time in Huascar. Out of our three locations, Huascar is the most familiar to us as it is closest to our home and we spent a day wandering through Huascar at the beginning of December, just Franci and I, searching for a home.
Franci and I arrived in Puno with a plan to get started. Let me back up and explain how this plan came about. Probably about two months ago, our cluster parents Chad and Amanda challenged our group to fast lunch and use our lunch money (yes, we have lunch money like 12 year olds! haha) to bless someone that day. They challenged us to go out into a part of Arequipa, where we were living at the time and bless someone however we wanted. We could buy them lunch, household items, just give them the money, or whatever we felt the Spirit leading us to do. Franci and I left this day and went out to Alto Libertad, the area where we helped lead a cell group, close to the church we attended in Arequipa. I introduced Franci to prayer walking. We walked the area and took turns praying aloud as we canvassed the roads of Alto Libertad. We prayed God would put someone in our path to bless, that His Spirit would be with us and that we would be able to express His love and compassion. As we were walking and praying we saw some people working in a futbol field. We looked at each other and decided we would help one of them. Then we looked around and right there on the corner was a tienda. We ran over to the tienda and purchased soap, oil, butter and other items we thought would be useful. But what we didn't know is that God wasn't guiding us to these people in the field, but was guiding us to the gal in the tienda, Nora. As we were buying the items from Nora we struck up a conversation with her and were able to talk to her about the Bible and our Savior. We set up a meeting with her for the next week, left the tienda and gave the items to one of the gals in the field across the street. After this, we went back and visited Nora a few times. We were able to plant some seeds and help answer some of her questions and strike up a friendship.
It was after this experience that Franci and I were talking and both found out that we had both felt we need to fast and prayer walk in our locations in Puno. Jesus fasted before he allowed himself to be tempted by satan (Matthew 4:1-2) and he prayed as preparation to preach and speak the gospel (Mark 1:35-39). So why not use the example of Jesus? Isn't he who we should strive to imitate? So Franci and I both agreed we wanted to fast and pray over each of our locations in preparation and petition.
And this is exactly what we set out to do on Wednesday morning, a time of prayer and fasting in preparation and petition for the suburb of Huascar. Franci and I left our house and walked to Huascar, about a 30 minute trek. We got to Huascar, sat down and prayed. We walked about the city spending time together and praying. Then, we decided to go to another part of the city where we hadn't been before. There was a hill with stairs going to the top and a bunch of people on the stairs so we thought we would check it out. After climbing up a slippery dirt hill and jumping over a gaping hole, we finally got to the bottom of the stair case. We got halfway up the stairs and saw what was going on, construction. I was so mad I didn't bring my camera! These people had rigged rippled sheet metal into "hot dog bun" shapes, kept together with thin strings of metal, and each hot dog of sheet metal was set inside another one, making a slide from the top of the stairs to the middle. At the top of this contraption was a concrete mixer and a pile of rocks. The guys at the top would mix the concrete, add some rocks, then pour the mixture down the sheet metal slide and with a whoosh and a clamor, the concrete and rocks slide past us on the slide. At one point, the lady right above me on the stairs lost the head to her shovel in the passing rocks so I picked it out for her and ran it back up to her. And another time the guys let more concrete and rocks down the slide than normal and the spraying of concrete and louder noise startled me and I almost fell down the stairs and took Franci with me!
As we watched this creative invention at work, Franci and I talked to Brigida, a lady about 40 years old who owns a house on this hill and is the one building this wall. We chatted for a while, just small talk and not much else. Then, Franci whispered to me that she wanted me to tell Brigida that our mission here is to teach people about the Bible and that we would like to come back sometime to visit with her and talk about the Bible. Immediately, Brigida told me that she like to drink and party and she does not want to learn about the Bible. I explained that we will not tell her what she "can" or "cannot" do because that is up to her and her conscience and relationship with God. I also told her we could come back not to talk about the Bible but just to talk as friends. She really didn't seem interested and things were very awkward at this point. So after a few minutes, Franci and I said our goodbyes and continued up the hill to check out the view of the lake and the city from the top.
Unfortunately, we really didn't get anywhere with Brigida, at least not what we expected. But, I think this was an awesome learning experience. Being shot down on our very first attempt in Puno is quite humbling. What I have taken from this is that Franci and I need to be very sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We need to let the Spirit guide us in each conversation so that God can tell us when to proceed, what to say, when to pull on the reins and more. When Franci told me to ask her if we could come back to talk about the Bible, I cringed and thought, no, let’s not use that word, "Bible" yet, that's not how we do it in the states. That word pushes people away and turns them off. But maybe that was God telling me to pull back and build more of a report with Brigida before we mention the Bible. So my prayer right now is for discernment, for open ears and an open heart. I want to be able to hear the Spirit speak to me in these situations so that I may follow. And I want Franci and I to both hear the Spirit so that we are on the same page and of one mind, God's mind.
Even though it was not the start we expected or wanted, it was a start. Praise God that we are here and He chose us! Even though we got shot down like a nerdy boy asking the cheerleader out to prom, we got to experience our first rejection. Praise God for teaching us through this rejection!