Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Journey through the Streets of Arequipa, Peru

It's day 7 of a fast week of ministry in Southern Peru. The city of Arequipa has been my favorite place in all of Peru and all of the years we lived here. Somewhere in this city they have buried my heart, because it was ripped out when I left here many years ago. God has been good and allowed me to return more than once. This is the first time, though, in five years. Things changed in the past five years, too.

First, for some unknown and strange reason, there seems to be much less oxygen to breathe! The first day I trudged up the stairs to my third-floor room I was sucking in a lot of oxygen-deprived air, hoping for some relief for my aching lungs. That's okay; it's normal. Then came days two, three, and four. Hmm..., I thought I would be acclimated by now. The other days have come and gone, including today. The air is still as rarefied as it ever was! Could that have something to do with age?? Surely not I!

Faces have changed. There were still plenty of the same faces in many of the places I went. But there were also very many new faces among the churches I visited. That's a good thing. New faces mean churches are being the church. New faces mean new opportunities to create new friendships. It was an exciting change to experience.

Some of the streets have changed. The city government has revitalized areas once owned by drug lords. I walked down peaceful, lovely, quiet streets that even seven years ago people would not have dared enter. It made for a beautiful experience.

The gospel has spread all across the city. That would also account for changes in the city. People who know Christ are more peaceful and joyful, as a rule. To be sure, there are scores of churchless communities that have cropped up; Arequipa continues to grow at a fast pace. I was glad to see and hear firsthand of the plans to penetrate these unreached communities.

Now I am just a few hours away from my final night of teaching. This last session will be followed by a race to the airport to catch my flights out of Peru. I will miss it again. But I will be more than happy to be back in the field God has given me to work in these days of my life.

After all, that's what drives me. That is what I live for: to please Him.