After have writing this blog, I realized it does not do the least bit of justice of the past year of my life. Nevertheless, I have tried to give you a perspective of what it has been like here stateside as a once full time missionary.
Exactly a year has come and passed since the last time I stepped a foot in Perú. I remember it like it was yesterday; hopping in the taxi to go to the bus that would (hopefully) eventually lead to the airport. Oddly enough, I find myself this morning in strikingly similar fashion as I would any given morning in Puno; bundled in a blanket with a hoodie on, commentary, journal and Bible in front of me, and a coffee not far to my right. But a lot has happened since then and now, the journey has been equally as stretching and has fostered ample growth.
Not a single day goes by when I don't think about Peru, its people, an experience I had there, or the Church. When I first arrived, everything I did or said or thought was made in comparison to something in Peru. I quickly learned to muzzle those thoughts as no one could relate or possibly care. As time went on, I didn't depreciate the value of those thoughts but learned to control them in a way that was healthy, with the help of other missionaries and friends. There isn’t a lot in common with the American culture and the Peruvian culture but I was always finding a way to bridge the gap. More and more, I couldn’t bring myself to accept the materialistic, greedy American culture as status quo. Many people say it’s simply culture, it’s consumerism and we drive the world. However, with my Christian convictions I find there is a line between right and wrong, responsibility and excess. We, as Americans have crossed that line.
It seems as if everything that would normally to happen during the process of reentry was amplified by the fact that I rejoined the upscale, liberal arts university I had once attended, Olivet. I don't even know where to begin as to what I experienced at my arrival to Olivet last autumn. The greed and materialism, the wastefulness, the spiritual stagnancy, the immaturity, the missional inaccuracy, to name a few conjured up so many feelings inside me. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have decided to refrain from expounding upon those subjects, although now I speak of them with love whereas before I can tell you that I did not. (Also, I previously participated ignorantly in all of the aforementioned activities too.)
As a result of seeing such perdition in the American culture and Olivet, I cultured myself hastily to become arrogant. Arrogant towards others in their walks with Christ, towards their aspirations, towards their beliefs and worldview, even towards their culture. Instead of humbling myself and praying, as my natural instinct was before, I was filled with pride because of my own superiority to them. In the recent months, God showed me this pride that I was trying so desperately to avoid. Now arrogance has turned to love once again at this realization and God tearing at my flesh. Do not misunderstand, I do not settle for mediocrity in others in their faith. Too much tolerance in that respect, simply, is not love. I continue to push others and myself to have a more meaningful faith, but from a loving perspective and not as a judgement.
There were bright spots at ONU. I found other peers who were mature in their faith and worldview, people whom I newly met or who had also grown over the years while I was MIA. For those few, I could not have been more thankful. I specifically remember a time when missionaries of 25 years to South Korea came and spoke at an event that Heart 4 Missions was hosting. That couple, the Mercers, put all of my thoughts and frustrations into words. This was a huge turning point for me, they had answered so much without me having asked a single question.
One constant in my life that has been most beneficial is the steady conversations that I have with Geremías (my Peruvian co-church planter /partner in crime for those of you who don’t know). We are complete opposites in every aspect of life as it exists, and this has been great. We have averaged skyping once a month since I have been back. It is refreshing to speak with him and to hear about our church in Salcedo. He is unlike any other person that I have ever met, and I think other people can vouch for me on this. He is truly the most humble, loving person I know and he accepts me even after having known me more than anyone else. I am thankful for him and for the convenience of technology so that we are able to maintain friendship.
For fear of rambling, I leave you with two points: First, the American church is still unsettling to me after a year . We all know a downward spiral when we see it. There are so many different things I could say but I think that John says it best in his letter to the Church in Laodicea:
You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realized that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
It is time to become poor once again, in more ways than simply the obvious.
Second, a question that frequently is asked of me: will I go back to Peru? Yes. To visit? Yes. To live? Probably not. I desire to see my church brothers and sisters, my inherited aunts and uncles, and perhaps to try a bite of a churro or have lunch at el Criollo. I think the missional knot has been tied in Peru for my life, but then again it is completely possible that God changes the course on which I find myself (it's happened before).
God bless you all, los quiero mucho; and as always have a listen to this.