I think our 4-year-old said it best. “We say goodbye a lot.” Serving as missionaries in Latin America, we have grown accustomed to saying goodbyes. Whether it be people coming to visit or short trips back to the U.S., it feels like we are always saying goodbye.
Sunday night, though, we had to say some of the most difficult goodbyes. After two years in Latin America, Josh, Emily, Anne Elise, Ava, Jak, Matthew, Carter and Baby #6 moved back to the U.S. It is different saying goodbye to people who have a glimpse of both the joys and challenges of ministry in a foreign culture. They have been like family to us for almost the past 10 years and were beside us as we moved to the mission field–one of the greatest challenges of our lives.
They will be greatly missed by our team in so many ways–as friends, as family, as co-laborers–but we are sure the Lord will use them mightily as they serve in the U.S. Please continue to pray for the Kines family–as they transition back to the United States and as they discern where the Lord is leading them next.
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Colca Canyon is a beautiful area located about a 3-hour’s drive from Arequipa, Peru. Dotted with many small pre-Incan-era villages along its ridge, the canyon boasts depths of almost 14,000 feet. That is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. As you can imagine, it is quite a scene to behold. And while I was admiring the sheer beauty of the landscape, I overheard a tourist make the comment, “This shows us how insignificant we really are.”
Of course, he was comparing humanity to the majesty of creation. That comment sounds poetic. It sounds profound. It is a humbling thought. But the reality is, it is utterly false. If we only had human reason to go buy, we would all agree with what he said. A canyon of that magnitude does make you feel small. But God’s Word tells us differently. God’s word tells us that mankind is the pinnacle of creation–the only piece of creation that is made in “His image” (Gen. 1:26). In fact, humanity is held so dearly to God that he would send his only begotten Son to take on flesh and die for our sin (Jn. 3:16; Philip. 2:5-11). As it does many times throughout scripture, we see the Word of God turn earthly wisdom on its head. We need God’s Word (special revelation) to inform us about God’s creation (general revelation). When we see the grandeur of the handiwork of God, it should not diminish how we view ourselves, but rather, it should multiply it. It should not cause us to doubt our place in creation, but rather, it should give us all the more confidence of the love our Heavenly Father has for us. We–as children of God, as His image bearers–are called to rule and to reign over creation. We are called to labor for our King as he increases his Kingdom.
This is not just arbitrary theology. This has very real and practical meaning to us. For one, if I did not believe this to be so, I would not have uprooted my wife and children, I would not have left family and friends, I would not have given up a job with a steady salary in order to be solely dependent upon the generosity of others, I would not have attempted to fumble through a second language in a foreign culture, and I would not have left the “security” and “comfort” of my life in the United States. If I believed a 14,000 foot cliff trumps the love and compassion that God has for his people, why would I waste my time serving here (or anywhere, for that matter)? But that is not the case. We have come here to seek the lost because the Lord seeks the lost. We have come here to serve in building the church because Jesus Christ is building His church. This earth will pass away (Rev. 21:1), but the souls of mankind are eternal.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to play the guitar with a couple of guys from a church plant here in Arequipa. These guys have amazing talent and I was honored that they asked me to come and practice with them. I’ve been playing guitar for over 15 years, so I thought I was prepared to blow them away with my skill. Going into the music practice, I heard and was familiar with “Andino” music… or so I thought. I did not know it as well as I thought I had. I did not appreciate the intricacies of the rhythm and strum patterns. I had not listened close enough. It all seemed so counter-intuitive to my experience.
I think it is safe to say that music is a vital part of any culture or even sub-culture. You cannot understand a culture if you neglect their musical tradition. When I first met with these guys, you could tell they were excited to share the music of their heritage. The were eager to teach it to me. Whatever experience or skill I had seemed utterly useless as I tried to play with them. My 15 years of experience seemed to be like 15 minutes as I struggled through their strum patterns. As you could imagine, it was a very humbling experience.
Serving in the mission field, it is easy to overlook the intricacies of the cultures and sub-cultures around us. Our four months in Arequipa and even our year and a half in Latin America only begin to scratch the surface of understanding culture. It will take us time to see and understand these cultural dynamics. The only hope we have in reaching the people of Peru is knowing that the gospel is equipped to reach every crevice and shine light into every shadow of this culture and any other culture.
For your listening pleasure, here is a brief example of the style of music we have been working on: (This song does not have an official name, but “Vuelve a Jesucristo” (turn to Jesus Christ) is a line of the chorus.) There are three of us playing.
or right-click this link to download: http://www.crosscollaboration.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Vuelve-A-Jesucristo.m4a
At the end of March, we had the opportunity to share our vision for Arequipa with many of the “big wigs” of Mission to the World. We had the privilege of hosting 9 leaders with MTW in many different walks of life. Some worked at the MTW headquarters in Atlanta. Others were leaders that oversee missionary work all across the world. And others were team leaders in their own corners of the world.
Since Arequipa is a brand new field for Mission to the World, it was exciting to share our passion for this city with them. For many of them, Arequipa was city that they had never heard of. We are thankful that now this little corner of the world is on their radar and in their prayers. After three months of being in Arequipa, it reignites our excitement to share our vision–even though it is just in small-seed form for right now. Please continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work as the vision grows, as our passion for Arequipa grows, and as the Lord raises up leaders to lead His church.
If he would have trusted me, we would have never known.
This past week, we (Nathaniel, Josh and I) were in Lima to try to find cars for our families and to spend time with some pastors from Huanta, Peru (the town where Nathaniel lived when he was younger). Decent used cars are very difficult to find in Arequipa and a lot more expensive, so we decided to go to Lima where cars are more reliable and prices are much lower. This was going to be another step for us as we get settled here in Arequipa, but we wanted it to be more than that. Leading up to our trip, we prayed that the Lord to allow us opportunities to minister to those we come in contact with even as we do the mundane things of getting adjusted to life in Arequipa–like purchasing cars. As usual, the Lord was pleased to give us opportunities to bring him glory. It was an opportunity we certainly did not expect.
We were just a few minutes from sealing the deal. The only thing left was to sign the bottom line, give him the check, and he hand over the keys. But the seller was not quite ready. He looked up and asked, “Is it okay if we go to the bank to verify your check?” I figured a cashier’s check was enough proof that the check was good, but I wasn’t going to argue. I just wanted to finish the deal. So we hopped into the car and headed to the nearest bank. We confirmed the check was good and headed back to the notary’s office to finish the transaction.
But then he received a call. On top of that, he decided to answer it over speakerphone. A sobering silence entered the car as he was told that his brother had just suffered a heart attack and was on the way to the hospital. As he hung up the phone, the only thing he knew to do was to let out a few explicatives and then sit in silence. It is very painful to watch a non-Christian deal with a crisis. There was no hope–no peace–only silent desperation. After a moment of silence, he began talking about restaurants in Lima while trying to drown out the pain he was feeling.
As we finished the formalities of the car and got ready to part ways, we asked if we could pray for him and his family. Without missing a beat, he not only allowed us to, but said he was hoping that we would because he knew we were Christians. We prayed for him and his family and said goodbye as he was fighting back the tears.
The following day, I checked back with him. You could tell he was surprised that I was following up, but he gave me the news that his brother had passed away that day. He thanked us for our prayers and our concern for his family. The Lord used his lack of trust in us and our cashier’s check as an opportunity for us to be in the car with him during a difficult time and give testimony to him.
Although it was a whirlwind visit to Lima, the Lord gave us an opportunity to plant a seed. Now, it is up to the Lord to bring sunshine and light to that seed through the testimony and witness of others and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a reminder for us on the field and hopefully you wherever the Lord has you, that we are called to witness in each and every area of life–even in the mundane.
PS. As a side note, we would invite you to join us in thanking the Lord for his provision. We were able to find and close on three cars in less than 60 hours upon arrival in Lima. If you are not familiar with getting things accomplished in a Latin American culture, this is a true miracle in and of itself.
19,101… that is the altitude that Mount Misti reaches at its highest point. Mount Misti is a volcano that reaches to the sky right outside the city of Arequipa, Peru. Misti, along with the mountain range that runs adjacent, is a breathtaking view in this area. You can not help to be in awe when you first get a glimpse in the morning. At about 6:15 in the evening, the sun puts on a show of light and shadows that will leave you in awe. But, these mountains do more than just make for a pretty view.
Arequipa is a desert which receives an average of less than four inches of rain per year. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for a small town to survive with that much water, and Arequipa is a city of over 1 million. If you want to know how this city can survive, you can turn your eyes to the mountains. Many times throughout the year, you can be walking around in shorts and a t-shirt and look up and see these mountains snow-capped. It is this snow that provides water for the entire city. If these mountains were just a thousand feet shorter, this city would not be here. There would not be enough water to drink or enough water to sustain the scattered plots of farmland. This city would not exist without God’s wisdom and provision in crafting these majestic mountains as he has done.
Our time on the mission field has shown us that the Lord provides for his people in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Through the support of our ministry partners back at home, the support of each person on our team, to the “random” acquaintances we make here in Arequipa, we see the Lord at work. He is making paths clear, directing our footsteps, and giving us provisions for the journey. But, there are certainly many times when I doubt it. Most of the time throughout the year, the mountains of Arequipa do not have any snow. It is then that I begin to wonder how this city survives. I think that is true for our lives, as well. We wonder how the Lord is going to make this work out or how the ends will meet. But the Lord is always faithful. At times it may seem like a arid desert, but the Lord always brings the snow in his perfect timing.
“I lift my eyes up to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” -Psalm 121:1-2
We are missionaries serving with Mission to the World, the missionary sending agency of the Presbyterian Church in America.