I’ve walked the streets of Trujillo for over five weeks now. We recently had to take a work trip to Lima, and after our short weekend in a really big city, I was relieved to return home: to this new home in Peru. It’s a smaller city, with less people, with more houses and hole-in-the-wall restaurants (nothing exists on Google maps here), and with more taxi honks (because we are some of the few gringos in this city), and with more familiarity. I’m feeling like I’m getting to know this city, but I still love it when I’m sitting down with students and with pride, they tell me about this city that they love, and that they’ve known as ‘home’ for much longer than I have.
Often in this same conversation, I experience a consistent series of questions that is similar to this: “So if this is an international organization, that means you could have gone anywhere?” Yes. “So that means you picked to come to Peru? To my country?” Yes.
And then with a grin, “So, why’d you pick Peru?” Let me just tell you.
As a twelve-year-old, just starting junior high, I had aspirations of being a spectacular student. With a new subject like Spanish, in my twelve-year-old studies, I thought that’d be a good place to start giving all I had. I loved Spanish, and I loved the dreams I dreamt of doing what my teachers had done by living in foreign, Spanish-speaking countries. These Spanish teachers I had from seventh grade to twelfth grade were some of the best teachers I’ve ever had.
[Just today, one of my teammates was praying with me and said, “God, thanks for this ability you’ve given Alyssa to speak Spanish. Thank you that so many years ago, you put in her the desire to start to learn and that she’s been able to devote so much time to it.” Lord, I thank you for all the years you allowed me good teachers and good studies!!!]
And you guys know that entering into college, I (obviously) wanted to continue with Spanish, wanted to get involved with a Christian ministry on campus, and had no clue how the Lord would transform my life over the next four years.
The campus ministry I found was Cru (or, Campus Crusade for Christ). Immediately, the differences I noticed in who these Christians were and what I thought Christianity was were drastic. I learned very quickly that God wants a relationship with me. That he loves me. That he loves a person like me: one that didn’t always get the grades she wanted, that fell off the balance beam way too many times, that frequently got mad at her brother, and that didn’t have anything near the faith of the people in Bible. I learned that He really does care for me, really does want to help me grow in my faith, and really does want a relationship with me. I learned that he will pick me again, and again, despite my brokenness and imperfection. I learned that because God really is perfect and that I really am not (and never will be. I will always mess up in many, many different ways, even if I could somehow never fall off a balance beam again in my life), there is indeed a separation between people and God. This difference was noticeable to me – thus the feelings of surprise and disbelief when I learned that God wants a relationship with me. I learned that God doesn’t want this separation between us. Again, I learned that he wants a relationship with me. I learned that he doesn’t want, nor does he ask me, to try to bridge this separation. I learned that He wants to do that. That He wants to be the one to do all of that work. That he wants to show me sacrificial love. That sacrificial love means that he is choosing to love me, even though I don’t deserve it. And I learned that He did, indeed, bridge that separation. I learned that he bridged that gap between imperfect people and a perfect God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus died for my sin. To take it away. To give me his perfect resume. And if I have been gifted a perfect resume, what does that mean? That there is now a way for God’s people to have a never-ending relationship with Him. But I also was reminded that a gift is a gift. You have to accept it. And because that is true, that means that I learned that I had to make the decision on whether or not I wanted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. If I trusted that that was real. I had to decide if I wanted that.
So I did, and the Lord has transformed my life. Seriously: I’m sitting in my bunkbed in Peru right now!!!! There is no way I would be here if the God that I’m serving didn’t love me, didn’t have a plan for my life, or didn’t exist.
Maybe you read in my last post about how my thought-process on interning internationally with Cru developed over the last four years (that would help you fill in the gaps between learning all of that stuff about Jesus and getting to where I am today), but really the real reason I’m here is because of Jesus.
So, why’d I pick Peru?
Because God picked me.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.