My new life in Peru
In October 2011 we returned to Arequipa Peru, my husband’s home city and the place where I had previously worked in mission for three years before returning to the UK, my homeland, to marry Eduardo and support him whilst he was at Bible College. Returning to Peru, which I previously considered home, was much harder this time around despite a very clear call to serve the Lord here as a family.
Being a wife and mother is a real privilege and I take my responsibilities seriously as I try to do my best for my family, recognising that God has given them to me and this is my ‘frontline mission’ at this time.
In terms of moving back overseas into mission I found that this time it was a lot more challenging as I was not just preparing myself but also my husband and son. I felt the practicalities of moving were a real pressure on me particularly as I dealt, not only with my own emotions of leaving family and friends and a culture that I was very independent in, but tried to keep the daily family routines going at a very busy time of change.
Once we arrived in Peru I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that we had made it. We had survived the traumas of packing up our home and getting things shipped and stored, we had said our goodbyes and we had made it through the twenty-four-hour door-to-door journey with our entire luggage and a very exhausted toddler. All we had to do now was adapt to a new time zone, altitude, food, language, climate, routine, values and beliefs, people and environment!
A new role
My role in mission has changed significantly now that I am a wife and mother. To the outside world this season of my ‘missionary life’ may not look as exciting as setting up projects for children with disabilities or working with the marginalised in society but God has called me to be a wife and mother and through this encourage my family to love and serve Him more and hopefully reflect lives that draw others to know Him too.
There are new doors of opportunity open to me as along with our little boy I can encourage other mothers in the church and beyond. So far at church I have been able to set up a children’s corner at the back of church with quiet activities that the children can do during the services until we get others enthused to establish a Sunday school. Keeping a very active toddler occupied during the three hours we are at church on a Sunday morning is quite a challenge. Recently we also ran a holiday Bible club for a week which hopefully will be a springboard for local children coming along to church. Because of the lack of provision for pre-schoolers in the city we have struggled with opportunities for Luis to have friends and play with others. As there are no such things as parent and toddler groups I decided along with a friend to introduce the idea at our church. We aim to encourage parents and their children to be active in their stimulation and play opportunities with the added benefit that we can reach out with the gospel at the same time.
There are lots of opportunities for development at church as the church is small and young. This is exciting for us but at the same time is difficult in the sense that there is little commitment from the young church believers and there are only a couple of spiritually mature members.
Whilst both my husband and I are called into mission it is Eduardo that has the very evident frontline role as he works in church and seeks to get us established for moving into new areas of evangelism and church planting. What a privilege it is though to know that I am being used to support him and to keep our family practically functioning on a daily basis to free him into this ministry that we have been called to.
Life in Peru
Here in Peru a woman’s role is very much focused on the home and family. She is not expected to have time for herself or indeed have opportunities for leisure or hobbies. Daily life is centred on meals and the practicalities of looking after the family. Oh how I long for a tin of tomatoes, frozen peas and baked beans! Convenience foods are non-existent here. Everything needs to be prepared from scratch. Of course this has the added benefit of being a lot healthier but I have had to develop my organisational skills and creativity with meal planning and shopping. Culturally any unexpected visitor or workman is expected to be catered for too!
We make going to the market each week a family time that we all enjoy and we have lots of opportunities to get to know the vendors. We have been able to share many a meal around our table with visitors who have heard the gospel for the first time.
I give thanks that my husband has experienced life in the UK and is a very active father to our little boy. He helps with nappies, bath time, and putting Luis to bed is their special time together. For the past two years it has been a real privilege for us both to be able to have quality time with our son as we have been able to organise our time and be flexible with mission and church responsibilities.
In our experience settling back into a culture that was previously known to us has surprisingly taken us the best part of three months. Along the way we have had many frustrations, tears, laughs but above all we can give thanks to our Lord who has sustained us through these changes. Reverse culture shock has been something that Eduardo has experienced in many ways, especially when dealing with people in a society where trust is not the basis, organisation and time management are not the norm and there is generally no vision beyond the present day. As a wife having insight into this has helped me significantly support my husband during these early days.
We are thankful that the Lord has protected us as we faced being broken into at home and also as we daily have to use public transport and taxis that do not have the same safety measures that we took for granted in the UK. We praise God that the funds for our own vehicle are becoming a reality.
Settling into another culture and environment doesn’t happen overnight. It may not have been easy but we have so much to give thanks for and trust our God in everything as we are sure that this is the place God has called us to and by His grace we seek to be faithful to Him and the people that we have been called to serve.
Esmé Zárate is a UFM missionary working amongst the unreached Quechua people of the Southern Andean Highlands of Arequipa.