Thursday, July 26, 2007

Last Days & Some Reflections

I really can't believe that I sit here with just two days left in Peru. We leave on Saturday night for the states. The past 8 weeks have gone by much faster than I had anticipated. The expectations I held before coming here have been surpassed by the experiences I've had. I had no idea that this summer would have gone the direction it went. God has a way of really turning things upside down when you least expect it. It's so funny how I always learn the most whenever I'm the most vulnerable. It seems that this applies to more than just a summer missions experience.

I suppose I'll make the most of the next couple days by a) eating food I can't get in the states, b) savoring the last moments with some of the teens here, and c) reflecting on this amazing summer. I will try my best to give a re-cap on the events of this summer without being a bore with endless words. (I think there's something about that in Proverbs...) Anyway, I'll break it down week by week. Here we go...

Week One: (technically a half week) I left the United States for only the second time in my life for Santiago, Chile where I spent the week seeing this new place. It was freezing cold! I stayed with Kelley Grant and his family with the team that works there. They showed me around the city and got me excited about having such a wonderful introduction to Latin America with such good friends. Went to church and met lots of new people.

Week Two: Went to a retreat that didn't actually occur because of some issues in Buenos Aires with the group of Aggies. However, this gave me some excellent time to spend with Kelley and Julie hearing about their time as missionaries (extremely valuable wisdom to be heard). Spent the days teaching English at many of the local schools and making contacts with the teens for activities that were planned for the evenings. Spent the evenings playing games and doing activities with the youth group and others that came as a result of our time at the schools.

Week Three: Got sick with the virus and stayed in bed for 4 days. Rode the train to Concepcion to survey the city for the possibility of living there in the future. It's really an amazing city that's full of potential for things such as starting a coffee shop, beginning an orphanage, planting a church, etc. Spent some more time with some of the young people from the church before leaving for Lima. Santiago offered some amazing lessons about longterm teamwork on the field. They are a perfect product of what a team can do when they are made to work together. It was such a great experience to spend so much time working with them and learn from what they are doing there.

Week Four: Arrived in Lima at 3am and went to church on the last Sunday that it was meeting in its actual building. I've never been around such a welcoming church that was so eager to make us a part of their family. There were somewhere around 100 people there to celebrate their last time together as one body before branching into 3 cell groups throughout Lima. We spent our first week in Lima going to a few small group meetings during the evenings and spending time with the teens and university aged students. It was great to get to know them as we entered this new place.

Week Five: Again spent the week going to several of the small group bible studies that meet around town. Made plans for the remainder of our time in Lima to go to the orphanage, the jungle (which didn't happen) and to Cusco. Midway through the week we met Mario and stayed with him as we worked with the orphanage (the "community") outside of Lima. Our time at the community was indescribable! Our lives were changed simply by spending a few days with these lovely people.

Week 6: We spent this week again with some of the students such as Miguel, Mikael, Gladys, Alan, Jackie, Karina, etc. They are some of the core group of young people that are involved in the church. We got to go downtown one night with a group of them as they showed us around their home city. They took us to Chinatown, a really neat park on the river, and even to the restaurant that Alan works at to watch a soccer game. We had originally planned to go to the jungle this week to work with several churches in various villages, but we were forced to cancel it because of an unfortunate conflict with the government and the professors.

Week 7: This was one of the most amazing weeks I've ever had in my life. We went to Cusco to see the Inca capital, Machu Picchu, and the ruins that surround the area. It's difficult to describe how amazing it is, but pictures and a few words will have to do. We stayed with some members of the church there and were blessed to experience the hospitality they extended to us. It's so wonderful to see the arms and legs of the body of Christ around the world!

Week 8: Well this is now. We've been back for a few days and have said our good byes to the missionary who went on a trip to a town a few hours from Lima. We've got a few last days to spend reflecting and a few last meals with Alan and some of the other teens. It's been such a blessing to develop relationships with the church here. They are a great group of people who have a flare for following the word of God. Peace.

Monday, July 23, 2007

1 Down, 6 to Go!

I just had the 6 most amazing days of my life. I can't believe I went to one of the new 7 wonders of the world!! Today we returned from Cusco where we went up to Machu Picchu to see the Inca ruins that have been there for over 500 years. Reid, his brother Joel, a friend from Texas A&M-Kendra, and I went to Cusco and experienced some of the best adventure I've ever known. We saw several different areas of dwellings, spent a day rafting, rode the train to a town with hot springs, rode the bus up to Machu Picchu, and got to experience a very unique culture of this part of Peru. Words seriously cannot express what our eyes have seen at this place. I was one of just 400 people that got to climb Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain you see in the background of all the photos. It gives an amazing view of the ruins. I'll just leave some pictures to give you a glimpse of what we saw the past few days. These are some good ones, but they still can't compare to seeing this place with your eyes. It is truly a wonder of the world! Can't wait to tell you more.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

we´re in cusco!!!

ok, i dont have any time at the moment, but we snuck off to an internet cafe and i wanted to let you know that were officially in Cusco! It´s absolutely gorgeous here and I can´t describe it in words. I promise to post some pictures soon! Tomorrow we´re going rafting down the river and then Satruday we head to Machu Picchu to stay the night at the hot springs and see the sites there.

we spent the entire day seeing the ancient Inca ruins and hiking through tme beautiful mountains. it´s so amazing here! the altitude is killing us and making us feel very out of shape, but we´re having a great time. i can´t wait to share more and post these pictures. peace!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Night on the Town

Lima at night is beautiful. It's much nicer than I thought it might be by my impression of other parts of the city. Central Lima is bubbling with people going about their business, shopping, eating, etc. The Plaza de Armas is a much better site at night with the lighting that brings out the intricacy of the architecture.

Yesterday was great because it was a full day with some of the youth from the church. After service, Reid and I went with Alan, Karina, and Jackie to eat some Chifa at the restaurant that Alan works at. It was great food! We stayed there to watch the Copa America final to see Brazil kill Argentina. When that was over, Alan wanted to show us Chinatown, so we rode down to an area that is basically little stores filled with pirated movies and fake name brand clothes. We saw Transformers at a store for only 3 soles, which is less than 1 U.S. Dollar. I didn't get anything. So after that we walked more to downtown and saw the Plaza at night. Then we went down to the river and discovered a pretty cool park that had spots for concerts, eating, and sports. We rode a mini-train through the park that was made for kids, but it was really a blast. It was probably one of the most random days I've had here, but it was good to let some of the guys here show us around and be proud of their city. We got home late and got some rest after such a long day.

We'll spend today and tomorrow finalizing plans for Cusco. We're leaving at 5:30 on Wednesday morning with Reid's brother and another girl from Texas A & M who's going with us. We'll be there for 5 days and back on Monday. I can't wait to see what it's like there, especially now that it's been voted one of the new 7 wonders. Hopefully the education strikes will stop here soon so that everyone will remain safe and things will become calmer around the nation. Tonight we're going to pick up a couple friends from ACU who have been in Paraguay all summer and are staying in Lima for a few days. I'll get back soon with a few stories from the past few weeks during our time here. I should have time later this afternoon. Thanks to all for your comments, prayers, and encouragement! Peace.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weekend Update

Well, after a week of reflection and preparation for the coming weekend, a change in plans is in store for the weekend. There is a man named Julio from the church that asked Reid and I to spend a few days with him in the jungle getting to know various tribes and churches that are scattered throughout the jungle of Eastern Peru. This week has been a workout trying to make last minute plans, but it's been great. On Tuesday we bought our ticket for the 18 hour bus ride out of Lima and into the rain forest. We also bought our return flight ticket for Monday night so that we could get back quick enough to go to Lima. I was a little nervous because we found that we were entering a Yellow Fever zone and I haven't had any of the required shots. I decided to go ahead and chance it a take extra insect repellent.

All this changed today....Last night we had dinner with Alan, Jackie, and Carina. When we told them about our plans, they told us that we would be crazy to take this trip. We already knew about a local strike among teachers to demand more pay, but the government wants to require them to take tests. This strike has turned nationwide and has caused many roads outside of Lima to become unsafe with road blocks, etc. Also, this morning, our connections in the jungle called urging us to change our plans because of a relatively large demonstration planned for Monday. All of this combined with a 6.1 earthquake that occurred last night, which happened to have originated in the city of Pucallpa...the exact city we were supposed to go to tomorrow.

I think it's safe to say that this decision has been made for us! If there was any doubt in our minds, then it has been resolved by current events. The good news is, we're going to stay around Lima and take advantage of some extra time with some of the youth. Looks like tomorrow we're headed to MiraFlores to check out some local markets including an Indian Market (to get souvenirs) with Miguel and Gladys. Then hopefully tomorrow night or Saturday we'll cook with Alan (because he works at a Chinese restaurant and I love to cook too!). It'll be great to take the next few days slowly and make the most of our time with them before we head to Cusco. Peace!

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Welcome to our house, We are a community"

Before I begin you need to know that it is impossible to describe in words what I have experienced over the past several days. I was not prepared for my eyes to see what God showed through the lives the people I met. There are hundreds of stories to be told that I was so blessed to hear during the short time we had to develop relationships. I am seriously having trouble processing all the thoughts that are pouring out of my head right now. This is likely going to be one of the longest entries I will write this summer. I am emotionally exhausted, yet refreshed by the faces and laughter I experienced with 600 children and teens.

Last week we rode 2.5 hours to get just outside of town to a very impoverished section of the city. On the side of a hill sits tiny houses crammed together and only separated by tiny dirt roads. High on the hill sits a tiny community of 600 fatherless children and teens. Many of them have lived there their whole lives and others just a few years or months. There is no clean water and barely enough food to go around, but God continually provides for these precious young people.

It is called "the community" and for good reason. They are a family, they are all each other has. It is important that you know the story behind the pictures and numbers. Many years ago, a man named Miguel took his sick son to the hospital and found no help. He was forced to leave with his dead son in his arms. On his way home, he passed 2 orphan boys on the street corner and offered them a place to stay. The boys stayed with him for a few days that grew into weeks and months. Slowly, more and more kids began coming to him in need. Eventually, it grew into what is now a family of over 600 young people with no other hope. Miguel is one of the most faithful men I have met here. He is the kind of Christian I want to be.

Before we actually entered the place, we walked into the hospital where many kids are ill or injured. Many of them have been injured in car accidents, abused by their parents, or sick because of weak immune systems and most likely malnutrition. There was something distinct about the kind of help being provided here. There aren't many resources, but there is love at the core of the care here.

We first approached a field of kids playing soccer when they surrounded us. They all wanted to shake our hands, hug us, and talk to us. Many of them grabbed on to me and just wanted my arm around them or to sit closely to my body...just to feel my touch. I sat and heard the stories of George, Manuel, Saul, Alexandro, Christian and dozens of others. I will write about these children soon because their stories are powerful. We walked up to one of the 6 or 7 houses where about 40 children live together in each. Most of them share beds with one another and rarely get a shower. We walked into a girls house where they were singing and dancing together. One girl introduced herself..."welcome to our house, we are a community." What a deep concept to grasp! With such sincerity, this little girl taught me what community is and what it looks like in action. My heart sunk because I had never felt so welcomed by anyone before in my life. They asked if we could sing and requested Backstreet Boys, so of course we couldn't resist! It went something like this..."You are my fire, my one desire...." and you know the rest! haha.

Friday was also encouraging because of what we discovered we'd be doing on Saturday. We were walking up the hill to the orphanage when one of the other workers drove by in the van and asked us if we wanted to go to the ocean. What we didn't know is that they were going there to fish to provide food for the next day. We rode down to the beach and walked to the tiny boat. They asked us to step aboard, so we did and they took off into the water! They tiny boat took us to another tiny boat where we prepared it for fishing later that night. To make a very long afternoon there seem shorter, we went back to the community and played some soccer with a bunch of 7-8 year old boys. They learned our names and wanted us on their teams. They've got tons of energy and run around like little rascals. I accidentally kicked one little boy named Luis in the face when trying to make a goal. I kind of made his nose bleed a little, but he came back and was OK. Obviously I felt horrible about myself in that moment. Anyway, we stayed pretty late and Reid played more soccer with the older guys who are amazing and schooled him.

Saturday was the best day of all our time there. We got the privilege of escorting girls to a huge fiesta that we later discovered was their Quinceanera. This day was huge for them, and we got the honor or participating in it with them. Usually the father escorts the girl to the party and has the first dance with their daughter. Well, for these girls', Reid, myself and the other workers filled that void for one night. The whole community made this night a big deal with cakes, music, and dancing for hours. It was an absolute blast. My date for the evening was Magaly. It seemed like she had a blast and I can only hope that this night was perfect for her. Before the party, we took the girls shopping at a market to get some new clothes for their special evening. They were so happy and thankful for the little they were able to get. After taking them back, we went to Mario's place to get cleaned up for the fiesta. Mario took us to get our haircut and a shave (they did an awesome job, i mean we look gooood!) and then went to buy a nice shirt because we didn't have any with us. We danced for about 4 hours and stayed until 1am with them. It was probably some of the most fun I've had in a long time.

It was such a blessing to spend some time with this community. It was beautiful. It's extremely difficult for me to fathom what I have seen the past few days. My heart breaks for them, but it also leaps for joy because of the hope that lives there. I wish that each of you could see what I have seen and meet the people I have met. Many of the children told me that when I left, I should not forget about them. Luz, one of the girls urged me that I have the power to change people by what I have seen. She wanted me to take it and share it with the world and I am seeking the way to do that now. I still need time to process my thoughts, but I will get back soon with some of the stories I noted in my journal and some of the wonderful conversations I had. Peace.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Off to the Orphanage

Happy 4th of July! The group we're with here in Lima apparently likes Independence Day quite a bit, therefore we had a North American style cook out with burgers (USDA certified beef), hot sauce, and Dr. Pepper (my favorite). Anyway, I didn't expect such festivities, but the group enjoyed it a lot, so I went along with it. We ended the day with a viewing of Independence Day, appropriately. They're still getting used to their time here so I think they needed it. I hope you also had a relaxing day with some time with family and friends.

I'm doing better with the stomach issues. I think I've figured out that it's a bacterial infection that should be wiped out with an antibiotic that I'm planning to take tonight and this week. It looks like we're leaving tomorrow morning to stay and work with the orphanage outside of town for the remainder of the week. They're really excited about Reid and I coming, so I plead for your prayers for our safety and ability to genuinely serve there. I will be back soon with pictures and good news of our time with the children there. We should be back either Sunday or Monday...and if we love it a lot, maybe Tuesday. Hope you have a great week! Peace.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


This morning I woke up with a fever and some intense stomach cramps. It seems as though at some point over the last several days I ate something that didn't agree with my stomach...probably some bad meat or something. This has of course put me back in bed with only one option: rest. This is much like how I felt in Santiago for those few days, and it is not good. It's just one of the worst feelings to be sick away from home. I guess I just need to be cautious of what I eat and be sure it's cooked right. Anyway, pray that I get better and can get back on my feet so we can do all the stuff we've got planned coming up. So I guess I will just try to get some rest, watch some office episodes and maybe put in a movie until I get to feeling good again. I'll probably still be in bed for a while if anyone wants to skype me or something. Being sick makes you a little homesick, so know that I am thinking about you all. Peace.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Past Weekend and Upcoming Plans

Ok, so I woke up on Saturday and my ankle felt about 100 times better than it did Friday night. Thank goodness for either prayer or Advil, or the combination of both. Anyway, that was barely worth the time I spent writing about it. Other than that, we had quite a full and encouraging weekend. On Saturday Reid and I got invited to watch Peru play Venezuela at Miguel and Gladys' house (two of the young people at the church). It was great because we ended up staying all afternoon and until pretty late at night. They fed us dinner and gave us these really good donut type desert things that are amazing. The best part about Saturday night was that after the game Gladys asked us what we thought about Christians and politics...boy was I excited about this one. I have never before been so thankful for Christianity in Culture and my freshman Bible class (especially the part where we had to memorize the main points of each book of the NT). Anyways, it was so refreshing to carry on a conversation with another person about life and about the questions we all have about it. I wish I could tell you more, but there's something indescribable about moments like these.

Yesterday was great at church. We met at the home of Cesar (one of the members) and filled his livingroom. Alot of the youth were there and we all went to lunch afterwards at a Cevicheria. By the way, Ceviche is basically raw fish soaked in Lemon Juice to "cook" it with its acidity. I tasted it, but there's noway I could handle my own dish, so I got some Chifa (a mixture between Peruvian and Chinese). At church we met Mario, who runs the orphanage. He's very excited that we want to spend time with them. He kept telling us how much emotional and sexual abuse these children have encountered and was surprised that we're interested in staying there for a while. I'm so excited because this is really where my heart is. We also met a guy who offered to take Reid and I into the jungle for a few days...we're talking primitive, have to take a boat and only a backpack kind of stuff. Apparently there are churches scattered all through the jungle that meet that no one really knows about. We're still considering this option.

This week it looks like we'll be heading out to the orphanage to stay for several days. I can't wait to get involved there and play with some kids. We'll also be finalizing our plans for the jungle...eesh. We'll also be figuring out when and for how long we're going to Cusco and Machu Picchu. There's also a church there that we might get to spend some time with. In addition to all of this, we really want to continue pursuing time and study with Alan, Gladys, Miguel and others at the church. I hope we continue to share time with them. I'll get back with updates of our plans coming up this week. Keep praying that God guides us and gives us direction for the next 3.5 weeks. Peace!