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Pat Blanchard link letter no.11 Christmas 2016

Dear friends,

Yes! On Sunday 18 September, we had a grand service and party in celebration of 15 years of ministry as Shalom and at long last, after more than two and a half years, we have the lift installed! It wasn’t quite complete, lacking a few cosmetic finishes, but it was working and after the lovely service, led by new diocesan bishop Jorge Aguilar, with over 150 people in attendance, everyone moved to the roof patio. Ribbons on each of the four floors were cut and the lift doorways were decorated with colourful balloons.

A big thank you to all of you who have supported us in this endeavour, enabling us to now have a fully accessible building. Special thanks especially to HBI (Health Bridges International), an NGO in Oregon, USA, who helped greatly with the legal details and the funding. We are now praying for God´s wisdom and direction for 2017 and the years ahead regarding the expansion of activities for all. Please pray for Power Elevadores, the company who installed the lift, that the Lord would bless them in their work.

With members of Shalom, on the roof!

On Sunday 16 October, we saw also another packed service with over 100 people and an early birthday party for me included as well, as I was going to celebrate my actual birthday in the UK during a brief two-week visit at the end of October. Another chicken lunch and cream cake kept everyone happy and full! These two Sunday services showed the real importance of joining church and project together in celebrations with good results and blessings, so do pray we can continue these services, evangelising and growing the church and sharing faith in real and life-changing ways. During the year, church attendance has grown with some of our neighbours joining us for worship which is a real answer to prayer.

Arriving at the top via the lift!

We did lose two members of our congregation in June, firstly Rigolberto (who I featured in my last letter) who died from a heart attack in hospital whilst being treated for infected bed sores. Following that, Maria Jesus was then killed in a traffic accident here in the community early one morning.

The young people from Shalom are participating in local diocesan youth events and it has been encouraging to see them integrate into various activities and grow in their faith. At a community level we also joined in street parades in October for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The young people have also been busy in the craft workshop painting, making and decorating many Christmas items that sold at the Christmas fayre at the Good Shepherd Church on 19 November. We have also helped several young people obtain their registered disabled status, enabling them to access services and apply for jobs. Yony is very proud to have his identification and we pray others will shortly obtain theirs.

Having not been away since January, I have made up for it in the past couple of months with a trip to Chile for an Anglican event, a women’s retreat in the diocese, a health ministry retreat and a “time out” retreat for missionaries. Recently, I also spent two weeks in the UK, visiting my mum.

Chile was a great experience – an excellent time of teaching, encouragement and spiritual refreshment for me and for all 16 of the Peru delegation it seems. Since returning we have shared our experiences, clearly seeing God at work through his Holy Spirit. Several things stood out. The first was a focus on creativity in worship, especially considering the disabled community, with a focus on audio/ visual. Another aspect that was good was the focus on others rather than on ourselves. It was also great for my own spiritual health with prayer and Bible study being a priority, but above all listening to God about his heart and his schedule for me and the ministry I am doing here.

The missionary weekend was a great breath of fresh air, literally in this case as I was staying in a lovely hotel by the sea, spoilt with a lovely room with a large bath, tasty food and by the times of teaching, testimonies and sharing with others. It was a much needed break after three intense months of lift preparations and installations, with the noise and disruptions, coordinating finances and lots of workmen coming and going in the building from early morning to late evening in order to get it completed on time. Incidentally, there is still no news regarding recovering the money paid out to the previous company and now the lawyer has also disappeared!

The women’s retreat focused on prayer and I had responsibility for the Sunday service along with Penny Marces and Norma and Edith, two other deacons. We were only 35 in number but it was a weekend filled with fellowship and a focus on God.

We travelled south of Lima to a Scripture Union Centre for the health ministry retreat which focused on the INES project, the advocacy project for special needs children. We are running a pilot model in the diocese supported by HBI which uses a nurse and local health ambassadors to accompany families and support them as they try and access the necessary health services needed according to their diagnosis.

Shalom hosted the usual physical therapy campaign in August with Medical Mission International (MMI) and it would have been great to have had the lift for that event but we got used to relocating the clinic spaces according to the patients’ mobility needs. It was good to serve the community and we continue to lend out crutches and wheelchairs as are able.

As from April, Peru has had a new diocesan bishop, Jorge Aguilar, as bishop William Godfrey retired to the UK after serving here for 18 years. Bishop Jorge has begun to implement new strategies and review many aspects of the diocese’s work. We are having regular area meetings which are encouraging times in developing unity, with the opportunity to discuss plans and ideas to help grow and deepen our faith and community in parishes and mission posts. Please pray for wisdom for Jorge and discernment of God’s plans for us for the future.

There was an answered prayer for Jesus El Nazareno Church, when on Sunday 18 September Rev Juan Carlos Marces was licensed as the new priest in charge following the departure of deacon Marco Gomez earlier in the year. Please pray as he encourages the congregation in new aspects of ministry and give thanks especially for Etelvina, who has kept things going over the past few months.

My recent trip to the UK was family focused and I was able to look after mum and help out my sisters in caring for her and deciding the best plan for her future. Pray that my sisters can find the right place for her and that mum would be happy and content in her life. I was also able to meet my second great niece and spend a weekend with my nephew and his family. I did some “work” visiting a couple of link churches to update them on news but I am planning a longer deputation trip in 2017 so I will be in touch soon to organise my schedule.

On the roof with bishop Jorge Aguilar and members of Shalom

As I close, let me share with you a verse given to me during the missionary retreat, Romans 15:13.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

As we reach the time to celebrate Christ’s birth, I pray that this word would be realised in each one of our lives now and into the coming year.

Happy Christmas and New Year!

With love and all my thanks