I am sitting here in a mechanic shop thinking of a way to occupy my time. I do have my laptop, a backache, fever, and about an hour to kill so why not give you all a rundown of what God has been doing during the last few weeks.
I will start at the beginning. We had about 6 days of time to regroup from our first Arequipa project. Most of that group went home and left us with just enough time to scramble together the last details for the next group that was to arrive on Friday. We had to debrief and figure out what went wrong and what was successful. Then we had to modify our schedules because the government decided that the swine flu problem had subsided enough to allow the kids to go back to school. Nothing like a moving target! We needed two sets of plans-One in case the schools were in, and one in case the schools were out. No big deal! Just 80 people showing up who are all going to be shouting “what do we do now?” as they put their first foot onto the Arequipeno concrete. Well, when you have a good team, and we have the best group of people that one can imagine, a lot can get done in a short amount of time. That’s what happened. We got down to work and put together a schedule filled with impact events that were designed to meaningfully engage our short term volunteers that were on their way.
The list of things included working at local children’s, and women’s hospitals, homes for abandoned children, male adult halfway house, boys home for troubled youth, Jesus Film showings, leadership conference for women, Magdelena events for women, kid festivals in the plazas, plaza prayer ministry, a community picnic, and possibly the first ever Nazarene cultural dance contest. I am sure there were some others, but you can get the idea that we were busy. We had a group of about 28 persons each day working on the construction site. The other 50 or so were working at our impact events, while others were gathering communication in the form of pictures and video that will be eventually shared with the rest of the world. Our team was complete, for sure.
I want to let you know about some of the highlights as I saw them. I have been called a risk taker a few times in my life. We took a few big risks here in Arequipa with this group and it paid off in huge ways. One of those risks was the plaza prayer ministry. No more than just randomly going into the plazas and letting people know that we were there to pray for them. What took place as a result was nothing more than a heart wrenching evangelical goldmine opportunity for us. Armed with a small group of three, a small script, and a lot of strength from the Holy Spirit, we jumped off the bus ready to make a difference. You might think that this simple little exercise would be too simple. It was! In fact, it was so simple, yet so impactful, that we continued to send people down to the plazas almost every day. Folks, lives were changed! In a country where poverty and unemployment, and sickness riddle the streets, we were able to reach out to random people and simply pray for them. It was amazing what happened. Right off the bus came Carlos. He is a Christian tour guide that works every day in the main plaza handing out brochures to the tourists that meander through. He has never seen such a simple, but effective way to connect with people. He gladly grabbed me by the arm and drug me over to a young man who was out of work. Then he pointed us to others in the plaza that he knew of. He guided us to many people. What a Godsend! During the times he was not there, we randomly walked up to people in the plaza. What took place when we prayed for these people was astonishing. We heard some stories of the difficulties of life. We heard stories of women who were unable to have children. We heard stories of lost children. We heard stories of drug abuse. We heard stories of prostitution. The sadness was all around us. We were able to reach out to many of those people. We simply asked if we could pray for them on the spot, or we told them that we were going to have a night of prayer focus and that every request gathered in the plaza would be lifted up during that evening service. People were touched! We left each person with a hug, a blessing, and an invite to our local churches. We took with us a contact card that would soon be given to the local pastors so that they could follow up with those people and their requests. Hundreds of cards were distributed to the pastors. Our goal in everything we do is to help jumpstart a church planting movement in Arequipa. People from these plaza contacts showed up at our churches the following Sunday. Praise God! Something so simple turned out to be one of our most impactful ministries. Keep it simple Scott!
During our events, we had story after story of changed lives. People making decisions for Christ in spots we least expected it. People making contacts in ways that we never thought were possible. Language barriers lifted away as if we were all talking the same sweet words. The list goes on.
One event that I have to mention is the Christian folkloric dance contest. We had hundreds of people show up to watch a wonderful display of cultural dance, dress, and good times. It was all done in coordination with Alto Libertad Church of the Nazarene. Alto is an established church that has one mission church that they have planted. They are looking to plant a number of other churches. This event was chalked full of excitement. The dance contest included 10 dance teams who were all lured by a good prize. They had some parameters to work with. They developed dances based on scripture. The one that really got me was when one of the dancers, who represented Jesus, took his death on a cross, only to be encapsulated by the other members of his team. They were the tomb! Soon a beautiful white dove flew free from the tomb to an inspired and applauding crowd who knew exactly what had just been interpreted. These dance teams were not Christians! This was a fantastic outreach opportunity like I have never seen. To top it all off, we had a group of about 20 of our volunteers dazzle the crowd with a beautiful rendition of the electric glide. Our costumes were not nearly as ornate or colorful as the others, but it was a choreography miracle to take a bunch of Nazarenes and teach them to dance. Many of you are laughing right now as you picture this in your minds. It was quite a treat. The most important thing is that the community was impacted. That little Nazarene church on the corner means business. This was an event like a 3000 person church would put on. We made an impact!
While I was not able to stretch myself and attend all of the impact events, I surely heard the stories. The women’s prison was filled with pampering for the inmates. Foot massages, nail painting, hugs, and a waterfall of tears were shared by all who were present. There were dozens of women that made decisions for Christ. That is what we are trying to accomplish. Not just decisions, but a solid plan of discipleship that will tie these new believers into meaningful ministry as part of one of our local churches. This is how we are jumpstarting a church planting movement in Arequipa. Man, this is exciting!
Night after night, we would come back to Santa Luisa (an old convent where we housed and fed the group) only to share stories of how many lives were reached, people changed, and hearts that were touched. We would often wrap up those evenings with a service that was filled with music, testimonies, and pinpointed words of God’s amazing grace.
In all, we had well over 300 people make decisions for Christ. We gave hundreds of contact cards to our pastors. In addition, many of our group of short term volunteers were called into long term ministry as a result of this project. We found the last 40/40 missionary of our 2nd phase, right here! Kevin Snodgrass, who had been placed here for a specific reason, came to us and told us that he was the 12th 40/40. God had been working on his heart. The crazy part is that he only has a few days to go home, raise 15,000 dollars, pack and return to Los Angeles for his training which begins this next week. A miracle? You bet! How in the world is he going to raise the money? Well, where God guides He provides. We explained during our banquet that Kevin had made this decision and about 75% of his funds were raised right there on the spot. I sat in the back of the room with a quivering chin as I watched the willing donors raise their hands in support of this young man who is willing to toss out all his worldy ambitions only to spend the next two years in a mosquito infested jungle where there are lost people who need to hear the message of hope that Kevin will give them. I am so inspired by this story! If you want to help Kevin raise the last of His support, he only needs $150 more per month. You can go to our website and donate to Kevin’s cause at http://www.extremenazarene.org/ and look up his name on our volunteer page. Any questions, just let me know, and I can help.
I can go on and on for at least another 900 pages. I want to let you all know that God is working here in southern Peru. Your prayers are being answered! Your resources are supporting the work that is taking place. Know that you are appreciated. Please don’t stop praying. We have a lot of work left to do.
As for our family, we are hanging in there. The school situation is not ideal. The girls are doing better, but they have many days where they just fight us to not go to school. I can only imagine that it is torture some days. I love them so much and don’t like to see them so miserable. It is not every day, but there are too many rough days to make me feel at ease. God is good and I know that he will guide us with His wisdom. Keep the girls in your prayers. They could use them.
As for Teri and I, we would appreciate your prayers as well. During these projects, it is extremely difficult for Teri as she takes on many more responsibilities as I am up to my ears in project stuff. I can get really focused on things and neglect her. Please pray for a good balance for us and our marriage. She is a wonderful woman and I love her to death. A boost of God’s joy would not hurt any of us.
It was nice to see some familiar faces on this past project. One of Teri’s dear friends, Sara Winkleman, came down and was able to spend some time with Teri. It was a good time for them both. In addition, it was good to see Jeff Angood as well. We love our Karcher church family and would love to see more of you guys.
Our next project starts in Puerto Maldonado about 3 months ago. Sounds funny, but they started the construction so in order to get it far enough along that during the next two projects we can finish it. It will be good to see more of you in the future. We pray for you all! You are a blessing and there is no way that we could do this without your partnership. I cannot wait to give you the next report…
Thank you with oceans full of blessings,
The Englund Family