Greetings from Chile! As I looked out from the mountains at the Shalom Center this week I thought about all of my family in the United States. I have been in Chile now for almost two months and the time has gone very quickly. I am blessed to be in another of God's country. I have met many new people and have been welcomed with open arms. I feel like I have come home to Latin America!
God has given me the opportunity to once again share conversations, jokes and worship in Spanish. While being here I have had the privilege of serving with Elena Huegel who has been here as a missionary for over 11 years. We work with the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Chile. I thank God for her friendship and mentorship.
The Pentecostal Church of Chile is the partner church of the Disciples of Christ. I have been called to work with Elena at the Shalom Center which is a (camping program) that serves churches throughout Latin America. I have had the honor of working with the youth and children at the Center. Things are really picking up here as we head into our summer. The weather is about 80 degrees and things are starting to bloom!
As I have shared with you, my time seems to be flying by. I live in Talca, Chile which is about 250 kilometers from Santiago and about 60 kilometers from the Shalom Center. My mode of transportation is public transportation "colectivos" which are like taxis but they pick up more than one passenger. I am at Center at least 4 days per week and come back to Talca to attend worship services and wash my clothes and get ready for the next trip to the Center! We are currently starting construction on some bathrooms at the Shalom Center which we hope to finish by the end of January. So I will be at the Center about 5 days a week through December.
My family and friends in the United States have asked me if I am home sick. I must admit, time is moving so quickly that there is no time to think about that. The exceptions are the holidays. This was my first Thanksgiving away from home and I did miss my friends and family. I believe that the same will be true for Christmas. As I remembered Advent I thought about Peace Sunday - Peace Sunday mostly because of the name of the Center - The Shalom Center. I am thankful for this holy season and I am also thankful for the Shalom Center and all of the services it provides to many people, especially the youth and the children.
Even though Chile is seen as an economically successful country, a minority of the population enjoys this success. There are still many pockets of poverty that live outside of the big cities. Its recent economic success has benefited only a small segment, leaving large sectors of the population pushed to the outskirts of large cities. Chile was under a very repressive military regime for many years and many people still live with the emotional scars of the "desaparesidos" or the disappeared. I have heard many stories of people of the church that were personally affected by the regime. The Shalom Center has made itself a vessel to allow God to bring healing and peace by providing programs that provide leadership and reconciliation.
As this year comes to a close, I see many places that peace is truly needed. As I look over the valleys from the Center I remember all of you. I especially pray for peace in Middle East, and peace in the States. I pray for a peace that is truly God sent - a peace of spirit, a peace of mind and a peace that surpasses all human understanding. So, when you light the peace candle this week remember your brothers and sisters throughout the world who need a true Shalom and know that the world is praying for a true Shalom for you!
John Wallace serves as a volunteer with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). John assists in the preparation and administration of retreats at the Shalom Center.