Looking Back and Moving Forward – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the blog post “Looking Back and Moving Forward.” If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

In the prior post, I shared the ways in which the Lord has given us a heart for young men and women — specifically those who come from hard places — who are approaching adulthood or who have already entered adulthood. I shared some of the many obstacles that they face and areas of struggle as they move out of children’s homes and move toward becoming independent. I am intrigued by how often we use that word — independent — without really considering the true meaning. It is an interesting concept. In this context, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines independent as, “not requiring or relying on others.” Is this really our ultimate goal, our measure of success? In thinking about our own children, do we really hope that they never need to rely on others’ help?

I would argue that this concept is actually contrary to the way in which we have been designed—contrary to God’s very nature. In Genesis 1, we see our triune God (God who eternally exists in perfect community with himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) present in the creation of humanity: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26). In the very next chapter, we see God exclaim, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18). Keep in mind that this is still before sin entered the world; the idea that humans need one another is part of God’s design — not a consequence of the fall. In fact, up until this point in the story we see that everything that God declares about his creation is “good.” Yet, the existence of man without any type of community is “not good.”

We like to talk the talk of independence in the United States. We think about the idea of our children becoming independent as the moment when they move out of our home — either to attend college or to being working and providing for themselves. But are they really independent? I am willing to bet that everyone reading this has known an 18-year-old at some point in their life (or, perhaps, many 18-year-olds). I am also willing to bet that whoever comes to your mind was not ready to be independent — completely self-reliant; needing nothing from anyone. Perhaps this is just a game of semantics. We all know that when we talk about independence, we aren’t cutting ties from our children. We all know what we really mean.

Semantics or not, I believe that this is a conversation worth having—especially as we talk about working with at-risk populations who may not have a natural community or support structure as they move into adulthood. All of the structures that so many of us take for granted in our own communities simply aren’t there for these young men and women. What was just a theoretical conversation on semantics suddenly becomes a terrifying and isolating reality for some of the most vulnerable among us. They wonder what they are doing wrong—why “success” seems so evasive to them. They ask themselves why they seem to struggle so much more to live independently as they compare themselves to their peers.

I would posit that we need to substitute independent for interdependent: “dependent upon one another; mutually dependent” (Merriam-Webster). If we are inherently relational beings, created to live in community, then perhaps we should redefine the way we talk about mature, successful adults. Perhaps we should talk about maturing from a place of dependence, “I am completely reliant on others, with nothing to give,” to a place of interdependence, “I have needs, and I must rely on others to help me meet those needs. At the same time, I have much to offer, and I can play an active role in meeting my own needs as well as helping others around me.”

This is our aim as we partner with Paths of Hope and United World Mission here in Peru. Our mission statement reads, “Guide and support young adults to discover and pursue the purposes of God.” How do we get there? It is not by telling them that they need to be independent. It is by walking alongside them in relationship, living out what a life of interdependence looks like.

It is hard to believe that we are coming up on six months since we moved back to Peru! Time is flying, and I am excited to briefly share some of the projects that we are working on thus far. Our projects each fall into one of two categories:

First, we are working with young adults who are or who will soon be moving into adulthood — either graduating from a children’s home or coming from another high-risk situation. As such, we are building relationships with local churches who are wanting to partner in this endeavor. Our desire is to act as a catalyst between local churches and at-risk youth in their community. We hope to be able to enter into conversation with local churches about how we might be able to support them in a vision to reach at-risk youth and families around them, and we are in the process of developing different components of this ministry (mentoring, life skills classes, educational support, counseling, etc.). We are excited to say that we have identified our first church partner, and we are working with their leaders to launch a mentoring ministry for at-risk high schoolers in a local public school in the next couple of months! Additionally, we are working with a local girls’ home toward the same end.

Leading a training on the Biblical basis for mentoring and God’s heart for the most vulnerable among us.

Billy and Linda discussing next steps after a meeting with administration at a local public school.

Secondly, we are working on the preventative side. Our desire is to see a system change such that families are strengthened to be the community and support system that their children need. In cases where children simply cannot return to their family, we want to build other communities of support by better equipping staff at children’s homes along with working toward equipping potential foster families or adoptive families. We are excited that we are already involved in multiple projects along this front:

– Billy is now partnering with a local ministry, called the Shalom Center, to provide therapy to clients. Shalom specifically targets lower income families who have children with chronic disabilities—both physical and intellectual, and provides occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy services, in addition to counseling services.

Participating in the beginning of the year parents meeting at the Shalom Center.

– We are partnering with a local organization, Kids Alive, as we work to develop a program to connect families who come to them in the midst of crisis to members of local church congregations who are willing to serve as a supportive community to the struggling families. We are currently working to train church members to serve as mentors to these families.

– We are also partnering with Health Bridges International to develop and implement a staff training curriculum that is evidence based and rooted in best practices for the two children’s homes in their care: Girasoles Cusco and Girasoles Ica. These are two of the homes that Kate and I have been involved with for many years, and we are thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with them!

If you have made it this far, know that we so appreciate your interest in our ministry. We can accomplish nothing without constant prayer and support from people like you!

If you are interested in partnering financially, you can do so in two ways:

1. You can sign up online on our United World Mission profile, or

2. If you prefer to give by mail, please open and print this form. Then fill it out and mail it to the address provided.

Regardless of whether you are able to partner with us financially, we so appreciate your continued prayers for this new ministry.

This is the first time that we have been charged with building something from the ground up as opposed to joining a ministry that is already up and running. The task feels daunting at times, yet we are also excited to have the opportunity to build something in accordance with the vision that God has placed on our hearts!

– Billy and Kate

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First Day of School

Tomorrow is Will’s very first day of school.

Billy and I are a mix of emotions over tomorrow. Will is excited to meet new kids to play with, and we’re looking forward to seeing his Spanish vocabulary increase exponentially. But at the same time, it’s the beginning of a whole new rhythm for our family and something about it feels like our little boy is growing up so quickly!

Since we’re south of the Equator and seasons are flipped, the school year starts at the beginning of March and ends right before Christmas. That means ‘summer break’ is primarily in January-February and then there is a 2-week break at the end of July/beginning of August (mid- school year) that coincides with Peruvian independence holidays.

We mentioned the school search at one point last year when we moved back to Lima. Before doing much investigating, Billy and I thought that we would enroll Will in a preschool program that would meet 3 half-days a week – something similar to what we would find in the States – and then after a couple years he’d start school for kindergarten. In October, after talking with some friends here about Will starting school, we quickly realized that there was no such program and that we needed to figure something out ASAP if Will was going to start in the coming school year, March 2020! We didn’t want to wait too long to enroll him because we find value in the socialization of school and know that is where Will will get a strong foundation of Spanish language since we primarily speak English at home.

We began scouring school websites in Lima looking for options for where to send Will. Unfortunately, for where we live in Lima, we don’t have a public school option. We have always felt strongly about making sure Will is prepared to go to college (whether it be in Peru or in the States) and that he is able to fluently speak, read and write in both English and Spanish. Apart from a quality bilingual education, we needed to make sure the school was close enough to where we currently live so we’re not spending 45-60+ minutes each way in traffic to get there!

As we researched and set up school visits, we discovered that preschool is a little different here than in the States – it’s 5 days a week from 8am-12:30pm(ish) depending on the school and typically where you go to preschool is the school you continue through high school graduation. Knowing that Will could potentially spend the next 13 years at the same school made the decision more complex – the preschool is great but what about elementary/high school offerings? Thankfully the school tours we went on covered all of the grades and we were able to see each campus/infrastructure for all of the levels.

After many visits, pros/cons lists and much prayer, we decided to enroll Will at the San Ignacio de Recalde School’s preschool called Coloring Dreams. The name is a little silly but the school is what we were looking for for Will and we think it will be a great fit for him.

He’ll be a part of the 3 year olds class and one of, if not, the youngest kid in the class. He just turned 3 less than 2 weeks ago and most kids will turn 4 during the school year! We met his teacher, Miss Daniela, recently and he’ll be in the Dinosaurs class. He has a uniform to wear each day that consists of a white polo shirt, navy shorts (during summer months), and all white tennis shoes and has his backpack all ready to go. He will go to Coloring Dreams for 3 years and then when he’s 6 years old, transition to the main school for 1st grade.

Walking with his new backpack

Trying on the warm weather uniform

Buying school supplies

So tomorrow Will begins his educational career. Join us in praying for him as he embarks on a new adventure and grows in so many ways. Pray for his teachers, classmates and the three of us as we adjust to this new schedule and rhythm for our family.

Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6

As we gather with family, may you remember the most incredible gift of all— God became man and dwelt among us so that we might know His love forever. Because of this, we are truly blessed.

We are grateful for your prayers and support during this past year.

Merry Christmas to you and your family and God’s abundant blessings in 2020!

– Kate, Billy & Will

PS. If you missed it, please read our update letter from the second half of 2019 here!

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

Happy Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we are thankful for the blessings in our lives, our little Will, and for our supporters and prayer warriors who have partnered with us over the years. We’re thankful for each one of you and for your contribution towards our ministry in Peru.

From Peru, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

– Kate, Billy & Will