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

Unexpected goodbye

A couple of weeks ago, after just six weeks of being back in Peru, we received the sad news that my grandpa, Dr. Bill Greenman, had passed away at 93 years of age. Since then, life has felt like a whirlwind—making coordinations to come back home for grandpa’s funeral and then spending the last week and a half here in Michigan seeing friends and family again far sooner than we ever expected. We even had an opportunity to meet our new nephew, Easton, who was born the day that Kate, Will, and I began our move back to Peru! Will enjoyed the chance to meet his new baby cousin. Overall, it was a blessing to see friends and family as we came together to celebrate the life of a man that I love and admire very much.

I had the opportunity to share some words at grandpa’s funeral as we honored and remembered him together, and I share those same words below.

Grandma Pat with her 6 great grandchildren all wearing their Great Grandpa Bill t-shirts

When I think about grandpa, I am flooded with many fond memories. I remember the quick-witted man who always had a one-line joke up his sleeve—albeit a joke that we may have heard over and over again. Even if he couldn’t make us laugh at his jokes anymore, he was always guaranteed to crack himself up! He would always ask me how I was doing—my natural response: “Pretty good.”—then I would cringe immediately, knowing that my automatic answer just gave him the ammunition he needed for the same joke that I had heard a thousand times before. Already chuckling he would answer, “You might be good, but you’re not pretty!” I think, for grandpa, playfully picking on someone was his way of telling a person just how much he loved and cared for them. Sorry grandma, we all know that he loved you the most!

I remember walking through the halls at church, talking to people who would ask, “Are you Dr. Bill Greenman’s grandson?” When I replied, “yes,” I would often be met with words of sympathy for having to put up with all of his jokes over and over again! But I would inevitably also learn how much this person appreciated grandpa and how the Lord had really used him to touch their lives. I have constantly heard so many people who really appreciated the wisdom he shared in his Sunday school class. People tell me that it was always packed and that they had to show up early if they wanted to get a seat because it was often standing room only. I also fondly remember his Sunday school class, though I was never present for the teaching part of it. I remember excitedly darting out of my children’s Sunday school class, trying to make it to the gymnasium in time before all of the donuts were gone! His class was the best!


Grandpa teaching during Sunday school

I also remember the man who we always used to call scrooge at Christmas—he never wanted any gifts. It was all we could do to get him to open up a Costco sized tub of peanuts on Christmas day. He wasn’t really a scrooge, though. On the contrary, he loved celebrating the day that God became like us and entered the world to save us by emptying himself and serving us. He would always happily volunteer to read the Christmas story from the Scriptures.

As I grew up and got to know grandpa even better, I think I can honestly say that I haven’t ever known another person who loved and cherished his time in God’s Word like grandpa did. He loved God fervently, and his passion was to share and teach that which he learned from the Word. As he grew older and struggled to get around as easily as he could before, it just gave him more time to spend reading and studying the Word and praying for his loved ones.

As Kate and I have spent the better part of the last decade serving in the ministry in Peru, grandpa never stood in our way; on the contrary, he was always one of our biggest cheerleaders. I know it was difficult for him to see us living so far away, meaning that we had less time to spend with him. But even when it came at a cost to him, he always encouraged us to pursue the Lord’s call on our lives. He supported us 100%. He always had time to talk if we were looking for advice. He always looked for ways to show us that he was thinking of us and that he loved us.

When Kate and I decided to get married in Peru, one of the saddest parts of the decision was the reality that grandma and grandpa probably wouldn’t be able to come down to witness our marriage. Boy, were we wrong! The invites went out, and we almost immediately got a response from them that they were, indeed, coming. So, at 87 years of age, grandpa boarded a plane to take him all of the way down to Peru, where he not only witnessed our wedding, but he performed the ceremony for us! It was such a privilege to share that day with grandma and grandpa, and I know how difficult it was for them to make it all of the way to Peru to support us.

He would also support us with small gestures. I have to laugh; at one point he found out how hard it was for us to get peanut butter down in Peru. There was a season when he and grandma were some of Big Boys’ best customers, and each time they had breakfast there grandpa would faithfully collect the individually packed portion of peanut butter that he was given for his toast, take it home, and deposit it into his, now empty, Costco peanut bucket. Each time we would come home to visit, grandma would meet me at the door with buckets full of Big Boy’s peanut butter, rolling her eyes, saying PLEASE TAKE THIS! JUST GET RID OF IT! It was far more than we could ever carry back to Peru with us, but it was just another way that grandpa showed us he loved us and supported us.

A couple of days ago, I was putting our 2-year-old son, Will, down to bed. We have a bedtime routine of reading a couple of stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible and then saying our prayers. Will has just started saying his own prayers at night, and after a day full of us sharing memories of grandpa as a family and going through old pictures, great-grandpa Bill was on his mind. Will took some time in his prayer to thank God for great-grandpa Bill. He also thanked God for Noah and Moses.

In the storybook Bible that evening we had just read about Christ’s promise that he is going to prepare a place for us. It was a beautiful opportunity for me to share grandpa’s legacy—that he lived for Christ—and that we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that grandpa is now moving into this wonderful place that Christ went first to prepare for him. He is delighting in the perfect fellowship of his Savior.

We love grandpa, we cherish his memories, and we look forward to seeing him again.

We appreciate your continued prayers and support as we continue to grieve the loss of grandpa—and as we make, yet another, long journey back to Peru with Will.


Billy and Grandpa Bill


4 generations of William Greenman – August 2017


4 generations of William Greenman – January 2019


Right before we returned to Lima in September 2019

Back in Lima

I think it’s safe to say we all can agree on how fast time flies.

When we left Lima in August 2017, we knew we were going to spend 2 years in the States for Billy’s studies and that we would be returning to Lima when he finished. Leaving Lima with a 6 month old Will, it was hard to imagine everything that we would do in 2 years and how much he would grow, learn and change from a baby into a little boy.

While some days were long (especially with papers due and a baby who wasn’t sleeping well), the years definitely were short. Looking back on those 2 years, we are extremely grateful to have been able to spend good, quality time with family and friends. Our last couple weeks in the States were filled with mixed emotions – excitement for getting back to Lima and our friends here, anticipation for everything that needed to be done to pack our belongings/unpack our storage items in Lima, and sadness as we said goodbyes to family and friends. The goodbyes have gotten 0% easier, even after all of these years.

We arrived to Lima about 3 weeks ago on September 16th with a very tired little boy who was an amazing traveler during the trip. Thanks to Billy’s searching, we found an itinerary at a great price (like 1/3 of the price of flying out of Detroit) but it meant having to leave out of Toronto. At 4:30am we woke in our hotel, headed to the airport and proceeded to spend the next 23 hours traveling.

From the airport in Lima, went directly to our old apartment. (Before heading to the States we thankfully found a fellow missionary who was interested in subletting our furnished place while we were gone meaning we didn’t need to sell all of our furniture/dishes/appliances/etc!). Those first couple days were surreal to be back in our apartment but still living out of suitcases as we slowly unpacked our bags and items we left in storage.


Our messy kitchen as we unpacked what we stored in the pantry


Morning walk to the bakery for some fresh bread


Walked one evening to the neighborhood bodega for some ice cream sandwiches – Will now always points out if the bodega is open or closed when we go past it!

Our first week was spent getting things all set back up – new cell phone plans, home internet hooked up, replacing some appliances that had stopped working, and lots of cleaning and unpacking. One thing Kate was looking forward to was participating in the Conferencia Ellas women’s conference that our church Camino de Vida puts on every year. This was the 6th conference the church has held and the 4th Kate has been able to attend (just missed the 2 while we were in the States), and it was great to be back in casa. We also were able to spend some time with our dear friends Carmen, Sabino, Esther, Hector and Maritza while they were in Lima since the women also attended the 2-day conference with Kate (Sabino and Esther are house parents in Ica, Hector and Maritza, house parents in the Sacred Valley).


Carmen, Maritza, Esther, Héctor & Sabino


Conferencia Ellas

We’ve started to reconnect with friends over meals and playgrounds (so much easier to talk while Will is happily eating or playing!) and Billy has had the opportunity to visit a friend who is in jail about 2 hours outside of Lima (more on that in a future post).


Will and Valeria


Walking in the park after dinner with Huberth


Stacy

Last weekend we made the 9 hour trip into the mountains to attend a friend’s wedding in the small town of Caraz. Jusephi, who we have known since 2006, married Yanerin in a lovely outdoor ceremony that Billy translated into English for a couple of foreign guests and we spent the evening celebrating the couple and watching Will play and dance with some of the now-young men we used to work with.


Stopped at Conococha, just over 13,500 feet above sea level


Will and Andres, one of the former boys from Kusi


Billy and Andres


The bride & groom – Yanerin and Jusephi


Dancing during the reception

As we have settled in a bit more and now that Linda (our Peruvian partner) has returned from a trip, we have started the process of defining who we will be meeting with and developing relationships with over the next few months in an effort to identify our first church-school partnership for the mentoring program we wish to begin next March with the school year. Thankfully Linda has already been making connections and slowly building relationships through prayer groups.

Would you join us in praying for the few things:

– For our family as we continue to make the transition into life back in Lima. Enough is the same that it feels like we’re returning to a familiar place, but enough has changed that we need to relearn (in a small example, they have completely rebuilt our local grocery store that is now 3 stories instead of just 1!)
.

– For Will and his little mind as he processes his new life, home and experiences. On the outside, he appears to have adjusted to being here but sometimes asks to go to places we frequented in Wheaton or Livonia, or when we are going to go to a grandparents house, or see an uncle/cousin/etc. May God work through him as this starts to become his new normal. 


– For our meetings with potential churches and schools over these next few months as we define our first church-school partnership for the mentoring program.


– For connections with new potential financial supporters and for the continued support and encouragement from our current supporters.

We are thankful for each and every person who is supporting our ministry – whether it be through financial giving or prayer support. We would not be able to do what we do without your help.

A big hug,
Billy, Kate and Will

PS: We have started researching preschool programs for Will since he turns 3 next February. As we have discovered, preschool is a little different here than in the States – it’s 5 days a week from 8:30am-1pm(ish) depending on the school and typically where you go to preschool is the school you continue through high school graduation. Unfortunately for where we live in Lima we don’t have a public school option, and frankly, public school is not a quality education here in Peru. 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. As we are researching and visiting potential schools, would you keep us in your prayers? It seems like a daunting process to pick a school right now where he could spend the next 13 years!

If you are interested in joining our team of supporters or for more information, please click here.

Wheaton College Graduation

Last week Billy turned in his final assignments and finished his time at his internship by cleaning out his office and turning in his keys. On Saturday he walked across the Edman Chapel stage and graduated from the Wheaton College Graduate School with a Masters of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy.


Receiving his diploma


Proud of our graduate


Billy’s 3 core Marriage & Family Therapy professors, Dr. VanDyke, Dr. Yoo and Dr. Johnson


MFT Cohort photo


Maybe we will recreate this photo if Will also graduates from Wheaton?

We are so grateful to the long list of individuals, churches and United World Mission – all who have made it possible for Billy to fulfill this dream and to become better prepared for our work in Peru.

So what’s next for us?

Right now we’re in the middle of packing up our home here in Wheaton. We will ever be grateful to the Missionary Furlough Homes organization who provide these fully-furnished townhomes at minimal cost to missionaries on home assignment. Being able to have low cost housing here so close to the Wheaton campus the past two years has really made it feasible for Billy to study.

109 N. President will always hold a special place in our hearts as Will’s “first home” – where he learned to crawl and subsequently walk, where he began solid foods, sleeping through the night and began to talk. It’s where we began living with a baby and are now leaving with a little boy. (Technically his first home would be our apartment in Lima but we left when he was 5 months old… when we go back it will all be new to him!)


September 2017 // May 2019

We will be in Wheaton until the end of May before heading to Michigan for the summer. These next couple weeks we will be spending time checking things off our Chicagoland bucket list, revisiting favorite places (like our little Cosley Zoo here in Wheaton, the Morton Arboretum and the public library) and seeing some new ones. Billy will continue his work on research projects with his Wheaton MFT faculty and we will spending time with friends we have met here and starting the process of saying goodbyes.

If our parents were writing this, they would say that we will be “based in Michigan” this summer since we won’t be there the whole time. In June, Billy and I are taking a much needed celebratory trip together (thank you grandparents for watching Will!). In July we will be visiting churches, friends and supporters in the Charlotte, Nashville and Huntsville areas. We’ll also be spending time going through our belongings and Marie Kondo-ing everything that doesn’t “spark joy.” For those of you in the Detroit area, our loss will be your gain when we host a garage sale towards the end of July! (Dates will be confirmed soon so please come help us get rid of some stuff and get back to Peru!)

It’s amazing how quickly time passes the older you get. When Billy was accepted into the graduate program, two years seemed like a long time. Now, looking back on it, we have done so much during our time here. But as we get closer to our departure, time seems to go faster and faster. We will be returning to Peru on September 16th, just in time for Kate to participate in the 2-day Conferencia Ellas women’s conference our church puts on each year.

We have greatly appreciated your love and support as we have spent this time in the States and now as we transition back to Peru.

with love,
Kate, Billy + Will