Greetings Friends!

As many of you know, I (Joel) just returned a few days ago from an 18-day trip to South America. Two countries, eight airplanes, over 24 hours’ worth of boat rides, dozens of new friends, three new languages, weird foods (cow heart, anyone?), weird animals (pink dolphins, anyone?), rain, hail, heatwave, and real RAIN… Joy, lots of laughing, lots of tears, lots of worship, lots of prayer, lots of Bible, lots of missing my family, lots of physical ailments, lots of sights and sounds and tastes and… This was a PACKED 18 days. Our bodies, minds, and souls went through a lot, more than I’m used to, and while it was hard, my calling to be a part of this movement of God amongst the nations was only confirmed all the more.

And so, because this trip, which really felt like 4 totally different missions experiences rolled into a three-week period, was such a massive undertaking, I’ve decided to roll out my update in three installments over the next month or so (which is probably about the time it will take for me to somewhat process all of it anyway!). I pray you’re encouraged along the way 🙂

With such a big trip, there were multiple purposes for myself and three other SGWM pastors to head to South America and see our five missionary families there. For this installment, I’ll focus on our time at the Calvary Chapel Bible College located in the Andes Mountains in Cajamarca, Peru.

Left to right: myself, Pastor Mike, Pastor Tim, and Pastor Trent
View from the Library at the beautiful CCBC in Peru

We really had one goal in Cajamarca: to bless our four missionary families in Peru with a prayer retreat. I discovered firsthand the fact that missionaries do not get the fellowship and community with other believers that we often take for granted here in the U.S. They are called to lead, to teach, and to pastor, and while they love the nationals of the countries in which they serve with all their hearts, it is so refreshing for them to get to share their joys and struggles with people from their own culture and language. We got to hear about the triumphs and trials of our missionaries’ lives and families and ministries, and perhaps the sweetest time was when each family took their turn having hands laid upon their shoulders and prayers spoken over them on their behalf.

Group shot with our Peru missionary families! Roughly left to right: The Kilgus family, the Buescher family, the Tippie family, and not pictured, the Gunderson family

I was extremely blessed to be able to use my gift of leading worship to lead these sweet saints in singing to Jesus. Live English worship is a rarity for them, so it was a huge joy for me to be able to serve them in this way, and a privilege to worship with these men and women I look up to greatly. On top of this, we were able to teach some short devotions through the armor of God in Ephesians 6, to pray over them, and to pastor them in ways that simply don’t happen over the phone or Skype. Our hearts are now connected in a deeper way to those we serve in Peru, and we feel that our ministry alongside them will be all the sweeter and more effective as a result.

Leading worship for our missionaries in Peru

As is typical, while God used me and His gifts through me to bless our missionary families, I feel that I received more than I was able to give, that I was more blessed and challenged through this experience than I could have imagined, and that my calling to be a missionary serving long-term missionaries was all the more deeply confirmed. Praise God for His grace!

Peruvian food is a new favorite of mine! Lots of french fries and… Beef heart (pictured with the fork in it)? Not bad!

Culturally and mentally, this was the “easiest” portion of the trip, as we were surrounded by other Americans and I wasn’t missing my family too badly this early in the trip. It was with bittersweet sorrow that we left three of our missionary families in Peru to head to Huacho with the Tippies, but we are praying for and will continue to fellowship and serve with the Kilgus family as they seek God’s will for them with Venezuelan refugees, the Bueschers as they teach and disciple young students at the Bible College, and the Gundersons as John pastors a local church and they open their home and hearts to the people of Cajamarca. Look out for the next two installments of the trip with adventures in Huacho, Peru; Manaus, Brazil; and the deep Amazon jungle!

Love in Christ,
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, Jude, and Clara Garcia