Last month, six of our City Beautiful Church family set out to represent our community to our partner church, La Iglesia Viñedo de Laderas in Lima, Peru. Take a deeper look into the trip by reading each team member’s own personal reflection of the trip. We are excited to see how the Lord continues to move in and through City Beautiful and La Viñedo in our partnership with one another. More information on our next trip will be coming soon, be praying about your role in that!
I am immensely thankful to have had the opportunity to go as the representation of City Beautiful Church in our mission to love and edify our sister church called “La Viña” in Lima, Peru. Prior to the trip our team was asked to prepare by praying for dreams, words, visions and encouragement for our brothers and sisters in Lima, whom many of us had not met. God absolutely amazed me by supplying us with all of these things for the edification of this church. Upon arrival in Peru, our team felt instantaneously connected as family to the members of La Viña, due the relationship between our churches that had long been established. I was hugely impacted by the time spent sitting and listening to the leadership and members of La Viña tell their stories which were adorned with abandonment, abuse and shame. I saw God moving through this vulnerability. I saw him healing, and I saw him supplying our team with the words and pictures he wanted to give his beloved children. I saw the Lord’s heart as he shattered beliefs of inadequacy. I saw his power in how the transformed broken stories and broken people into leaders who were changing the culture of their city.
We learned that in Peru you find a culture where the majority of people are brought up believing in a god of distance, wrath, and unattainable forgiveness. We were able to minster by refreshing the hearts in our sister church, who works each day to transform their cultural by proclaiming the freedom and grace of Jesus in a community where this concept is very foreign. I am thankful to feel so personally connected to our brothers and sister in Lima, and I am in awe of our Father who did not leave one prayer request unanswered. A phrase we heard over and over as we discussed the unique relationship between our churches was, “You came back, and we no longer feel alone.” My heart will forever be connected to this mission, these people, and this church.
“The closer we are to God, the closer we are to those who are close to Him. We can come to understand others only by loving Him who understands them from within the depths of their own being. Otherwise we know them only by the surmises that are formed within mirror of our own soul.” – Thomas Merton
I have seen God, I have heard this voice, I have felt his embrace, I have known his laugh, and I have seen his tears. He is flesh and blood, he is every Peruvian son and daughter I met. Too many times we look to the heavens and cry out, “Where are you God?” while he stands near to us, within each one of us who call him father. I went to share God with Peru, and found God face to face in the form of people. People who loved deeply, who embraced us like family, and gave generously. One thing I can say – I have tasted and I have seen that God is good.
We noticed God move in so many incredible ways on this trip, and it was truly a blessing and honor to get to see just a glimpse of how He continually moves among His children in Peru every day. One of the main aspects I was encouraged and challenged by was the hospitality and servanthood of our Peruvian brothers and sisters. The selflessness and heart of Christ was so evident in each of their encounters with each other and with us. Whether it was a sweet woman named Margarita pouring her energy and time into preparing delicious meals for us day in and day out, Milena spending multiple days to make sure the house was in pristine condition for some of our team that was staying there, as well as giving up the majority of her days to help us get around town and to help us translate, or Pastor Guillermo and his family opening up their home as a place to stay for people who barely spoke any Spanish…the list could go on. These people portray the selflessness and humility of Christ in a way that I have not seen on display before. One of my favorite stories involves Pastor Guillermo, who had pointed out his favorite ham to us at the grocery store. However, he does not get that ham often because of the price, so our team decided to bless him with some as a surprise. That same night, we discovered that our dinner that was in the refrigerator had gone bad; because of the time, we weren’t sure what we were going to do for dinner. Without missing a beat, Guillermo and his wife, Lisset, insisted that we use the ham we had gotten him earlier in the day. They truly understood that everything they have is from God, and they set the standard high of what it means to hold all gifts loosely, with a willingness for it to be given back to meet the needs of others. (In case you’re wondering, we did make sure to go back to the market later in the week and get more of the ham for Guillermo.)
One of the things we were praying for leading up to the trip, and even during our time in Peru, was that communication barriers would be broken down (since a lot of us, including myself, have a lot to learn when it comes to Spanish lol). God directly answered this prayer in ways that I could never have constructed on my own. Through eye contact, through physical presence, through touch, through energetic hand gestures, through tears, and through smiles, the Lord showed us that the use of words is just a small part of communication (although a very important part). One team member, who barely knew any Spanish at all, instantly became best friends with the pastor there, and it was evident to all who were around them. Another team member with a minimal knowledge of Spanish engaged in intimate conversations with Margarita, simply through being present with her. Story time again! Bethany, Garrett, and I stayed at Guillermo’s house with his family. None of us spoke much Spanish, and they only spoke a little English. We were a bit nervous about this, but figured we would be fine since they have wi-fi and we had an app on our phone we could use to translate. Well, as soon as we get there, the wi-fi went out; it stayed out the entire time we were there. Looking back, we are glad this happened, because this forced us to be intentional in trying to communicate with them, to push ourselves, to be creative, and with a little help from a Spanish-English dictionary Lisset had on hand, we had a lovely time. There were so many moments of laughter, joy, and authenticity that would not have occurred had the wi-fi not gone out during our time there. Also in regards to communication, the Lord showed me how important it is to have the tough, difficult conversations, because it is only through being willing to have these conversations that true growth in relationships can take place.
Finally, one of the things that has spoken volumes to me both times I have been to Peru now is how much they exhibit what it means to be the church. There were so many times during this trip that I would look around the room and think to myself, ‘This is what the church should look like’. This was evident inside the church building on Saturday, when the leaders spent the day serving the children of the community and teaching them about God. This was evident when we were in the homes of members, enjoying meals and authentic conversations with each other. And this was evident when Guillermo identified families that were in need of food and some basic necessities, and we went shopping with him, and then got to witness him give these gifts to these families and ask to pray for them. Yes, the heart of these Peruvians, a heart full of selflessness, humility, boldness, courage, hospitality, joy, and love, so beautifully portrays the heart of Christ. I learned what it truly looked like to be the hands and feet of Christ from my Peruvian brothers and sisters, to be the church among each other and in action in the community, and I am now left with the challenge to bring this picture that they left me with back to the states. Let us be the church, recognizing our need for God and each other, holding nothing as our own, living a life of humility and boldness, selflessness and love, recognizing and meeting the needs of God’s children, ultimately laying down our lives for the sake of His Kingdom.
It was such a privilege for me to be back in Peru with our friends of La Viña. I saw God move in many ways, but the one that struck me the most was how quickly our prayers were answered. After our Sunday service there, a lady I had met during our previous trip, Mary, pulled me aside and asked if I could pray for her. She had been in constant pain during recent months due to a serious injury to her shoulder, and could barely lift her arm anymore. She also requested for us to pray for her husband, Francisco, who has Parkinson’s disease. To be honest, I was hesitant to pray for healing over them. I have no idea how that works, why some people are healed through prayer, and others are not. I realized I was hesitant because I was doubting the effectiveness of my prayer. However, I was reminded that God was not asking me to bring enough power in my prayer to heal this woman, or her husband’s disease. I was to do my part, believing that God hears and answers our prayers, according to His will, and so I prayed. I prayed with expectancy. Two days later our team had lunch with Mary, and I decided to ask about her shoulder. Mary responded with a smile, sharing that she is now able to lift her arm again, and hasn’t felt pain since we prayed. I felt so incredibly encouraged by that. God is so faithful. I will continue to pray for her husband, Francisco, believing that God is able to do far above anything I could ask or imagine.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Weakness one: language….I am an English teacher. One who prides herself on being articulate. Speaking is my job and words are my lifeblood. They are everything; they are stories, they are relationships, they can heal…then suddenly my ability to communicate was tied. I found myself desperate to speak, but having to listen. After a day of frustration, I desperately prayed for understanding and God answered that prayer in a huge way. Throughout the rest of our trip, I’d have moments of clear, miraculous understanding! The sweet testimonies of our Peruvian family members were falling on ears that understood! If it had come from my months of studying (*eye roll*), I’d have convinced myself of my own abilities. But praise God, as my heart was blessed by story after story of God’s immense faithfulness to the people of La Viñedo, I too was made intimately aware of how God takes care of our every need. Always. In times when I didn’t know the right words to say, my only source of strength was prayer – and I’m so thankful for the reminder that, honestly, that’s always the case. Grace upon grace!
Weakness two: I am an introvert – one who makes awkward first impressions and takes too long to feel comfortable around new people. Then, in His great sovereignty, God had me fly to another continent with five people I barely knew. But He knew those five people; and He knew witnessing their selflessness and wisdom would challenge my walk and encourage my faith in ways I never thought possible. God also knocked my socks off with how instantaneous my connection with our Peruvian family was. Every conversation was God-ordained and I was blessed to experience immediate, deep friendships. The humility and generosity of my brothers and sisters in Peru has left a profound impact on my heart.
God is sovereign. He sustains. In Peru, Jesus opened my eyes and heart to how massive His perfect control and matchless love truly is. He continued to show me there is more learning in listening than in speaking; that it’s disobedience to hide behind personality type; that His provision over the lives of His kids is so sweet. Praise the Lord that in my weaknesses, His power is made perfect.
This was my second trip back to our family in Peru, and that’s exactly what it was…a trip to visit family. We spent a lot of time coming along side our Peruvian brothers and sisters in prayer and encouragement. Time hearing each other’s stories of how the Lord has worked in our lives and churches. The relationship-aspect of this partnership is so important and such an encouragement not only to the people of La Viñedo, but to me.
One of the things we got to do was come along side Guillermo and La Viñedo in helping to purchase some groceries and necessities for some of the families in the community near the church. The beauty of this was that most of the families we brought supplies to are only connected to the church because their child goes to the children’s ministry on Saturdays. I loved that Pastor Guillermo connected us with the people who really just needed it the most, regardless of their attendance at the church. The heart La Viñedo has for their community is beautiful and a wonderful example to all, but especially me.