Dear family & friends, I was asked by our beautiful friend and fellow missionary if she could write a ‘guest blog post’ for us. I said yes… We are humbled and touched by her words. We debated whether to share this, we aren’t serving for accolades, but in the end our friend is such a great writer and encourager, it seemed selfish to keep it to ourselves. Personally for us, it serves as a great reminder of the apostle Paul’s writings to the churches in Rome, Thessalonia, and Philippi of how we ought to spur one another on, encouraging and building each other up in our faith; so it is from this place of encouragement that I share this humbling guest blog.
“The cream always rises to the top…” A friend of mine told me this in law school. In a particularly grueling class, our Criminal Law professor all but filleted me by means of the Socratic method. Somehow, I’d never heard this before. I suppose, academically speaking, I’d never been quite so shaken before either. But those words, “The cream always rises…” buoyed my spirits then and have done so many times since. Just knowing that circumstances are temporary, and that good students and leaders will rise again, is an encouraging way to view life.
Frankly, I’d never really considered cream much (aside from this saying) until we moved to England. My husband was stationed at RAF Lakenheath and, for a few years, we lived in the bucolic village of Burwell outside of Newmarket. In fairness, Burwell isn’t bucolic by English standards, but to me it was out of a Jane Austen novel- with castle ruins, wild blackberries, holly and watercress, and even a butcher shop and baker just down the lane.
It was there that I first understood the world of cream. In the US, we have whipping cream and half & half. That is all. Our tiny little Cooperative store in Burwell had an entire end cap dedicated to cream: clotted cream, single cream, double thick cream… and on and on. It was in England that I discovered how much I love cream. I don’t need scones. Just give me the cream and I am set. My English neighbors found this revolting. Note: “That’s not proper” is really the polite way of saying, “You American Heathen, stop desecrating that pot of Devonshire cream.”
It was also in England that I discovered that sharing a language does not equate to sharing a culture. My English neighbors didn’t care much for American desserts (too much sugar) or my love of disposable paper goods. I don’t really grasp British humor and I still can’t make a decent pot of tea. The English are resolute and reserved. I am neither of those. I learned a lot about cross-cultural living during our time in England and, though we are different, I left with a profound respect for the English.
We now live in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. My husband, John, retired from the Air Force and went from fighter pilot to missions pilot. He now flies into the Amazon to bring supplies, transport medical and mission teams, medevac patients and to conduct evangelical outreach. I teach law at different universities here, where I refrain from belittling my students with the Socratic method, I should note. I also serve on the school board of our mission’s international school and I help with an adult English language ministry. It is through these additional ministries that I have come to know the Peart family well.
I met Lisa the first week we arrived. I was sitting in an orientation at our children’s school and looked out the window. There sat the most elegant “Bolivian” woman. She was wearing white pants despite the constant and unrelenting dust that blows throughout the city. After my meeting, I introduced myself. Lisa and I have become good friends, though she was not to be my first “Bolivian” friend, as I’d initially hoped. Nor was she my first American friend here, as Lisa is decidedly more English than she is American. I offer her stance on the Oxford comma as proof. Whatever she is, she is gifted in bridging cultural divides.
Lisa and I started an English class for Bolivian adults in 2017, which she now runs. Andrew and I serve together on the school board, and he is unswervingly ethical in all his decision-making. I know that the Pearts’ primary ministry is with the Anglican Church and they work tirelessly there too. Of all the missionaries that I know, the Pearts have shown themselves to be remarkable. Dare I say, the cream of the cream? Channel Island extra thick double cream, if you will.
Writing and baking calm me. Unfortunately, my oven just broke. I am left with prepping food for my family of seven without an oven during a quarantine. This leaves me with writing as my therapy. With this in mind, I asked Lisa if I could write a blog post for her. What better time to share what it is that I see of the Pearts here on the mission field (and not just that Lisa manages to effortlessly wear white in what is essentially a dust-covered, frontier town)?
During this pandemic we are all shut in our homes, as much of the world is. Bolivia is very restrictive because the medical system is ill-equipped to handle an outbreak and is already over-taxed from the surge in Dengue cases (one of our daughters and one of the Pearts’ daughters both recently recovered from mild cases of Dengue). The rules in Bolivia are such that one person may leave once a week, on foot to bring groceries into the home. No one under the age of 18 may leave the home at all. Each family is assigned a day and has four hours in which to walk, purchase food and return home. Police and military are patrolling, fines and arrest are the punishment for disobeying the quarantine.
Bolivia is very poor. Many Bolivians live day-to-day. They are day laborers. These restrictions place a significant burden on already burdened families. No one really wants to acknowledge that families aren’t eating. It seems like something that just can’t happen this day and age. And perhaps, in England or the US, there would be relief of some sort. But this is Bolivia.
A recent news story told of a boy of twelve who walked eight kilometers down back roads (to avoid police detection) to try to get food for his family. He is the oldest of eight siblings. They had not eaten in three days. This is the heart-wrenching reality of life in Bolivia. It is a cruelty that we would like to believe only exists on the pages of a Dickens novel.
Being a missionary in Bolivia is challenging, even under normal circumstances. At the end of the day, I often choose to shut out the world. Unlike my “retreat and recharge” approach, the Pearts have opened their home to a dear girl, Daniela, who would otherwise be left to her own devices. I shudder to think of what her life would be at this moment had they not done so. They love her and are teaching her. And this, I have no doubt, is both fulfilling and exhausting. They live their ministry, day in and day out. It is who they are.
During this pandemic, most of our ministries are on hold. Missionaries long to serve, but how? We dare not defy government orders and risk arrest by leaving our homes. And yet, the awful truth that some will succumb to starvation in order to stem the pandemic is a brutal reminder of how this is not England and not the United States. This is Bolivia.
Many of us are turning inward, “How will I get seven days of food home for my large family with only a stroller to transport it?” “How will I prepare food when my oven has just broken, and no one can come and repair it?” The Pearts are, instead, continuing to serve.
Lisa and Andrew have been baking bread for their neighbors. They have coordinated with their neighborhood leader, who then issues permissions for those who are most desperate. Daily, the Pearts have people come to their home to take a dozen rolls or a loaf of bread. It is simple fare (though not simple to prepare), and yet it is sustenance. Men from the neighborhood, a poor barrio, are coming to get food for their families. And as they walk home, one by one down the dusty road in front of the Pearts’ home, Lisa admits that she weeps. Because it feels like so little.
But someone is not starving today because of this gracious act.
They are sharing the love of Christ in a crisis. When no one else is helping, despite the risks and costs, the Pearts are helping. This is the love of Christ in action.
This is “tzedakah,” the Hebrew word for “charity.” Only tzedakah means more. It is righteousness too. It is giving while maintaining the dignity of the receiver. It is doing what is right. Seeing what is wrong and doing the ethical thing to right that wrong. Righteousness to the least of these. This is tzedakah.
I am inspired by the Pearts. For as much as I have devoted my life to the service of our Lord, I see how much more so I could be serving. Agape. The sacrificial love that brings an orphan into one’s home and spends the entire day coordinating a way to feed the desolate, when everyone else shuts themselves in. That is how the Pearts serve.
I cannot help but be reminded of Matthew 25 “’For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matt 25: 35-40)
I very much look forward to a day (hopefully soon), when Lisa and I can visit again. I look forward to when we can visit and joke once again about trivial things like how Andrew sounds like a royal to my untrained ear. But until then, though we are separated only by a boulevard, it is as wide as an ocean. And I can only text Lisa and encourage her at the end of the day. Though utterly depleted from hours of baking and facing poverty in Bolivia head-on, the Pearts are, as always, serving our Lord well.
Though they would likely never tell you, this is who they are. As friends, they are wonderful, but as missionaries they are the cream that rises to the top. When battered and shaken by the harshness that is Bolivia and our whole broken world right now, they follow Christ and serve in His name. They are what missionaries should be. It is a profound honor to know them.
Light in darkness. Tzedakah. Righteousness. Agape. All for the Glory of God. These are the Pearts.
Please hold Bolivia in your prayers, as the strict lock down continues indefinitely, people are growing very desperate with blockades in protest of the quarantine are currently in place in 7 areas of the country. Having said that, we are thankful that in our barrio neighbours are uniting to help one another by providing food, gathering funds for medication, and paying others’ rent- love in action. May this be the new contagion…
Lots of love and prayers for your well being.
Andrew, Lisa, Liliana, Anayah & Daniela xo