An Ending...?

riginally I was going to put "The End" as the Title of this last blog post coming from Iquitos, Peru. But for some reason that just didn't feel quite right. Yes, in some ways this is an end. I have just 6 days left of work, and will be leaving Peru and moving back home in just 18 days. But for our new church plants, for the people that we have been discipling and who we've come to love, it is truly just barely a beginning. Their new lives in Christ have only just begun. My own journey feels like it's only just beginning as I go back to the States and search for a job and begin to live my life as a different, stronger, healthier, more faithful person than I was a little over 2 years ago.

These past few months have been amazing ones to be a part of as I worked here in the jungle. My old partner Dalila never was able to make it back onto the field. We continue to pray for her and her family as her dad's health continues to fail. Because of her not being able to make it back, I began to work with a young woman from the Nazarene church in Iquitos whose name is Miluska. She is 24 years old and has recently been studying to become a pastor. While the circumstances of her coming to work with me were not ones that we ever would have wished for, working with Miluska has turned out to be a major blessing. She has connected well with our contacts and began to build relationships with them. Also she's agreed to take over our church plant in Bellavista Nanay when I leave in a week. Praise God! The work has barely begun in Bellavista and we already have very strong numbers coming to our services. I have faith that this will be a large and strong church, both in numbers and in faith someday soon. It is a huge weight off of my shoulders to know that there is someone who will continue to work and grow that church in Bellavista.

Speaking of Bellavista... I'd love to share with you some of the amazing ways that God has been working in this part of the city...

Two months ago we decided to begin holding a youth service on Thursday nights. At our first service we expected to maybe have 3-5 teenagers come. We ended up having 25 youth between the ages of 10 and 22! We’ve continued to be blown away by God’s work in Bellavista. Consistently we have had that same number of youth come to the services. Every week they invite their friends and we see new faces. About half of them are also now coming to our regular church services on Friday nights. In a culture where many youth by this age are out partying and drinking, often getting into more serious trouble like stealing, these youth have found the right path. They respect each other, and are eager to learn as they ask deep questions about who God is, and are praying for their families and talking to them about God. Wow!

For our regular church services on Friday nights we barely fit into Hermano Antonio's house anymore. We now have around 12-15 adults and youth, and then about 15 kids at every service. They are not only growing stronger in numbers, but in their faith as well. It is so beautiful for me when we visit different people in their homes and they share how God has answered their prayers. Or they tell us how every night now they pray with their children before they go to bed. Or how they've shared their faith with their neighbors, and then their neighbors come to service the next week. We also have a strong consistent number coming to Sunday School that we hold for kids and adults on Sunday mornings. I can't wait to hear in the future how this group is changing and growing!

It has been such an incredible experience to be a part of watching these lives grow and change. As I have been building relationships with all of our contacts over the past nine months, I'm starting to realize how difficult it is actually going to be to say goodbye. I have come to love and care deeply for the kids who run up and give me hugs every time I'm in Bellavista and who listen attentively to their Sunday School lessons and are memorizing Bible verses left and right. For the youth who are on fire for God and can laugh and joke around in spite of how hard their lives actually are. And for the adults who become so joyful as they feel God's blessings and experience his love and peace, and are eager to share their lives with me and those around them.

The reality of the truth that I will probably never see any of these people again is a little hard to grasp. I know that all I can do is put this work in the hands of the Holy Spirit as he continues to work in Bellavista Nanay. It has been an amazing experience to get to watch Him work thus far. One that I know I can easily say I know that I will never forget. I know that I will leave a piece of my heart here in Iquitos.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support of me over these past 2 years. It has been an amazing, life changing journey. Thank you for taking it with me.

In His Love, Grace, and Mercy.