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Trusting Life’s Roller Coaster

A Letter from Chenoa Stock, serving in Peru

Spring 2021

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Dear friends,

I have not physically ridden a roller coaster since going on one with my niece in 2015. I had a blast that day with her as we raced from one line to another, anxiously awaiting the stomach flips and speed of the loop-the-loops to come.

Fast forward to today, and I am honestly not sure I would enjoy a roller coaster ride. I can barely make it through five repetitions of ‘Ring Around the Rosy’ with my son without feeling dizzy! Though I may never physically ride a roller coaster again, life has certainly been a roller coaster these past years.

We moved to Peru as a family to minister with the Joining Hands Peru Network in February 2019. We settled into a new city and culture, jumped into our new ministry, developed relationships with our partners, began to learn about and understand the country, and finally felt that we had found a rhythm for our lives as the year came to a close.

Then came 2020. We were isolated. We were workers/parents/teachers/and more. We witnessed the suffering the pandemic brought to Peru (and the world) and the inequalities it exacerbated at the social, economic, and political levels. While our mission of accompaniment and partnership continued with our partners, albeit with a different focus, our family’s plan to complete Jose’s green card process was suspended.

As in a roller coaster, even though it seems you will fall out on each loop-the-loop, you continue moving forward, ending right side up, feet on the ground.

In December 2020, we received the good news that Jose’s immigrant visa interview was finally scheduled, so we traveled to Bolivia to prepare to meet with the U.S. Embassy. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, we were distraught when that interview was canceled. We found ourselves in the middle of another loop-the-loop and yearned to have our feet back on solid ground.

Thankfully, in April, Jose’s interview was rescheduled, and his U.S. immigrant visa was approved, so we were finally able to travel to the USA, thus completing the final step of this drawn-out process. We are now happily reunited with our U.S. family and are acclimating to the heat and humidity of the Midwest after almost three and a half years away.

Even in this transition and distance, we continue to accompany and grow with our Peruvian partners. We are beside them on the economic and political roller coaster that the country continues to ride due to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and the tense uncertainty after the presidential elections on June 6, 2021.

Peruvian authorities recently released a revised count of the pandemic death toll for the country, and it was almost triple the earlier estimates, which places Peru with the world’s highest pandemic death toll by population. Case numbers are decreasing, and vaccinations are currently reaching the elderly. There are plans to vaccinate adults soon, but some regions are being hard hit with new variants of the virus and continue to struggle due to lack of oxygen and access to medical care.

Amidst these ongoing pandemic challenges, Peru held run-off presidential elections on June 6, 2021, with Peruvians choosing between two polarizing candidates – Pedro Castillo, a hard-line leftist, union activist and, essentially, an unknown candidate from the northern highlands; and Keiko Fujimori, a far-right authoritarian, on her third presidential campaign, currently under investigation for corruption, and daughter of a jailed ex-president, who is considered a dictator by many.

It was not an easy vote and was one that caused greater division in an already politically and economically divided country. As I write this, after days of counting ballots, Castillo was unofficially declared the winner by less than 0.5%. There have already been cries of fraud and (threats of) marches of protest, and they will most likely continue in the days and weeks to come, until a winner is officially declared. We pray with our partners for a peaceful transfer of power and for a president who will work for justice and the good of all of Peru and its people.

As our partners ride the ups and downs of this political roller coaster, they continue their mission work, as they have done since the beginning of the pandemic. The theological institutions of the Evangelical Church of Peru (IEP) opened their doors at the beginning of the year, welcoming students back to continue their studies of God and God’s Word. Some institutions have created bubbles on campus, co-existing and studying together. Others have offered one or multiple-day workshops on theological formation and other biblical themes, while others have traveled to isolated regions to carry out workshops and Bible studies for those who cannot travel.

While talking with our partners, especially those who are risking their lives and health to travel and teach, they tell us that God continues to be at work and that “the church is responding.” Amidst political uncertainty, natural disasters of rains and floods, infected and dying family and church members, and economic struggles, they continue their call as Christians to care for the least of these, share God’s Word and love, and trust that God’s path will lead us to life abundant for all.

For even on the roller coaster of life, we know that we may flip, turn, spin, and (may) even go backward. But we must also trust that our faith in God will ultimately move us forward, helping us put our feet down, find our grounding in God’s call, and trust the Way as God’s people of love.

Peace,

Chenoa


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