Looking Back and Moving Forward – Part 1

It is hard to believe that we have already been back in Peru for three months! We have a lot to share, so I am going to break it up into two blog posts over the next few weeks.

It feels appropriate that as we come to the end of the year, we take some time to reflect and look back, sharing a little bit more about our sense of calling and how the Lord has led us to where we are in ministry. (If you were at either of our goodbye events in Michigan in September, then this first post might sound familiar, but we wanted to write it down and share with everyone). The next post, at the beginning of next year, will share more about where we are now along with some exciting developments and plans for the year to come.

As I think about our sense of calling in ministry, it feels fitting to share a testimony with you of how prayer has impacted and how it continues to impact our lives in ministry. If there is one thing that I can say about prayer, I find it to be a constant, helpful reminder that I am not living for myself but for the Lord. God uses prayer to mold us to see others as He sees them. Prayer is a present reminder that we serve a God who is sovereign over all things.

Kate and I have both been involved in work with abandoned and at-risk children in Peru since high school. We have been at it full time for almost ten years. As we have served the children, praying for them has been a constant part of our routine. We would pray together as a staff for the kids, we would pray as a couple, and also on our own. As I pray, I notice that it allows me an opportunity to really slow down and pay attention to what is happening on a deeper level. I find that as I pray for others, it frees me to live more intentionally rather than just floating through life focused on myself.

Having traveled to Peru for the first time in 2001, we have literally witnessed a generation of children grow up and move into adulthood. The opportunity to walk alongside many of these kids and to build long-term friendships with them has been a great blessing in our lives.

Long-term relationships, though, are not just lived in the happy moments. As God has given us the privilege to know kids who have gone through unimaginable experiences of abuse and marginalization, we have also grown more in tune with their deeper struggles — struggles of depression, of suicidal ideation, struggles of identity and purpose. While many of the kids have been deeply impacted by the love they receive in the context of the children’s homes, and many of them have quite literally encountered God, we have also witnessed many of the kids struggle as they move toward independence in late adolescence and early adulthood.

At this crucial transition, past struggles seem to come present again. They are met with the stark reminder that they cannot rely on their biological family as they wish they could. Many of our kids have faced this challenge of leaving the home around the age of 18 and feeling a deep sense of loneliness. While the staff at the children’s homes continually do their best to keep up with the graduates, it becomes less and less feasible as they are still charged with caring for all of the kids at the home and as the graduates move farther away.

In the last few years, Kate and I have felt the Lord calling us and moving us to dream about ways that these young adults could continue to be surrounded by a sense of community and support, and prayer has been a central part of that discernment process. For me, personally, I feel that the Lord has matured me through the process of prayer. Often times I have started praying, “Lord, help them… or be with them… or protect them… or guide them.” But as I continue to pray for others and draw closer to some of their struggles, I notice a shift—almost a sense of indignation. My prayer turns into a more pained conversation with the Lord, asking, “Why?”

Why does Javier have to continue to struggle with depression to a point that he had to drop out of classes and lose his college scholarship?

Why does Luis make destructive choices and push friends away because what he wants most is also his biggest fear—a deep, long-term friendship; a sense of family? He pushes people away because he is afraid of growing close and then losing it as he has so many times before.

Why did Diego and César have to end up in jail because they fell back into their old patterns of life on the streets out of a sense of having no other option?

On one hand, these prayers show my personal struggle with God, asking WHY? He can handle it, though. As I look back, I can see that these types of prayers are the ones that God uses most to conform my heart to his. Things in this world are not the way they are supposed to be. We have all been affected by brokenness and sin. I believe these “Why?” questions are actually a part of the process of Him growing a sense of yearning within me for His Kingdom to come. Rather than just living in a sense of ignorance, focused inwardly on myself and avoiding the pain around me, these why questions force me to yearn for something different.

Eventually, “Why?” starts to fade and “What?” or “How?” begin to take precedence:

“Father, what would you have us do as we are faced with these realities and as you have given us a heart for these people?”

“God, how can I play a role in bringing your kingdom’s culture into this broken world and these broken lives?”

It is those questions that have driven us to spend the last two years in the States concentrating on higher studies, personal and professional development. It is those questions that have guided our plan for ministry as we returned to Peru — working to build communities around these young adults as they move toward independence and working to support and preserve families who are in crisis and on the brink of breaking apart.

Our family covets your prayers as we work to build this ministry in Peru.

Perhaps the Lord is working in your heart to pray for us, that the Lord would guide our path and protect our family as we return to Peru; that God would give us strength in this time of transition; that he would provide a strong community for us in Peru. Know that these prayers are greatly appreciated. We are very conscious that we can accomplish nothing if God does not go before us.

Perhaps as you hear about the struggles of the kids that we work with in Peru, you find yourself asking, “Why God?” If that is the case, I encourage you to lean into it that rather than ignoring it. Wrestle with that question and trust that God is big enough to accompany you in that pain. Pray that the Lord would continue to mold your heart to see these kids—and to see the world—through his eyes. My prayer for you is that you would come to know that the pain you feel as you wrestle with these questions is the same pain that God carries on his heart for his people. It is this very pain and deep sense of love from which he sent his Son to die that we might be restored and reconciled to him.

Or perhaps you are asking what you can do. How can you be a part of the work that God is doing in Peru? If that is the case, then we would love to talk more with you. Feel free leave a comment or respond to this post with an email to continue the conversation. We’d love to hear from you!

An immediate need of ours is to continue to build a team of individuals and churches who are faithfully committed to praying for our ministry and also financially supporting the work that we are doing in Peru. You can find more information here.

In any case, we are so thankful for your willingness to follow us in this journey, and we look forward to sharing more about the path ahead in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

– Billy, Kate & Will

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