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Just Breathe

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

Lent 2020

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Psalm 119:105:  Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light to my path.

I lay on the floor of our living room, listening to my two-year-old son enjoying “tubby time” with my husband, and took a moment to breathe after a busy day. These are rare months of sun in the desert city of Lima, and it does not disappoint neither in ferocity nor beauty. Breathing in, I looked up at the wall and noticed how the rays of the setting sun were illuminating our wedding banner—a rainbow-colored Chakana Cross, with the Earth image of North and Latin America in the middle, with its organic colors of blue, green and white. Breathing out, I remembered the words of our wedding bulletin explaining the Chakana as: “traditionally the cross of the indigenous Andean Inca Civilization of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Over the years, The Chakana has become more universally recognized as a symbol of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all life and of all of God’s creation.”

With each breath, I can imagine that in these past weeks we have all felt the powerful interconnectedness of life, with the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world. We are all facing similar disruptions to our daily routines and challenges in finding a “normal” amidst so many life changes and fears. Here in Peru, President Martin Vizcarra declared a military-enforced, national state of emergency on March 15th for 15 days. The borders are closed. Every citizen is required to self-quarantine. All schools and establishments, except grocery stores and hospitals, are closed. More recently, a curfew has been imposed.

Though the different measures taken by governments may physically separate us as a society even more, perhaps it will truly give us the time and space to breathe, to spiritually and emotionally draw us together, and to interconnect on another level with ourselves and with Earth. In the Spanish language, quarantine is cuarentena. Lent is Cuaresma. On the surface (I am not claiming a degree in etymology here), these are such similar words for similar times. Perhaps this time of darkness, both for the world and during this church season, feels endless, makes us feel like we’re walking life alone, and creates doubt in ourselves and in each other. A Lenten quarantine, if you will, for our global village.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Mission Crisis Management Team (CMT) has been monitoring the situation and effectively communicating information and decisions with staff. Due to the uncertainty of the spread of the virus and what future measures might be taken by governments, the CMT announced a work travel ban for all staff, including Mission Co-Workers, while also strongly encouraging everybody to work from home. This recent decision, as well as the many other factors, called for deep reflection and faithful action. We decided to cancel our medical mission team in May and postpone or perhaps cancel other church groups scheduled for later this summer. This is disappointing news for both our Peruvian partners and our U.S. church teams. We have, however, come to the mutual understanding that the health and well-being of everyone involved is our greatest concern and responsibility.

Although the physical presence of the mission teams might be absent this summer, our call to partnership and solidarity with our partners is not. Our solidarity is made stronger through prayer and mutual accompaniment as we faithfully walk this Lenten cuarentena together.

The journey is always one of alternating darkness and light. During this time of darkness and ‘fasting’, we can use this time to ‘feast’ on things that bring us closer to God: God-given gifts within ourselves, the silence to connect with ourselves, and deeper consciousness to connect with those around the world in order to, as the Chakana reminds us, feel our oneness with all of God’s Creation.

One light for us now is our son, Leandro. Though our apartment is not as exciting as a park, his friends, or his scooter, we are digging deep into our creativity to ensure that our confined days provide time and space for learning, fun, imagination, and love. In our tight quarters, he continually reminds us of the simplicity of life, the importance of connecting as a family, the little joys of dancing and singing, and taking the journey one day at a time.

It is not always easy, but darkness never is, and we, as a people of faith, were never promised it would be. Maybe these difficult times will bring a better world for our son and his friends. After taking the time to breathe, we can hopefully look up at the clearer skies. We can give thanks that the Earth is being given this chance to heal from excessive auto emissions and pollution. Perhaps we will begin to change our habits for the good of God’s Creation. There is always light amidst the darkness.

Thank you for walking with us on this journey during these unique and challenging times. Please keep our Peruvian and PC(USA) church partners and the world in your prayers.

May this Lenten cuarentena journey reveal to all of us God’s love, wholeness, and healing light, one breath at a time.

Peace and hope,

Chenoa


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