15 July 2011

Peru Mission Trip

I got back from Lima, Peru, at 8:00 this past Monday morning, after being up most of the night. I wanted to write down all of the things that I saw and did while it was still fresh in my mind. I also wanted to let all of my friends know how the trip went, and give all of our supporters a big Thank You, this trip was awesome.

When we arrived in Lima, it was about 9:30 pm, and dark. We left the airport and got on a bus to get to the Hotel Yeyas. I will have to say that the drive from the airport to the hotel was a little shocking. I had driven through some poverty stricken areas, but nothing has ever come close to this. Think of the worst city streets you have ever been on, and then multiply that by 10. The brick buildings had no roofs, or doors for that matter, and were falling down around themselves. Garbage piled up on the side of the street with people congregating in areas, with all of the street dogs protecting their share of the garbage piles. As we moved away from the airport, things got a little nicer, but it was hard to see in the dark. Already we begin to realize what we have and feel thankful for it, the United States are really blessed.

The next day we got up early to go to church. For an experience of a lifetime, we ride the bus with one of the missionary families. Traffic is hectic to say the least. There is a horn blowing at least every 30 seconds or so… some to warn others that they are passing, some to say get out of my way, some to say you are moving too slow. The drivers here are very aggressive, not sure I could drive like that, no spaces between cars at all. There are close calls all the time, but we never had an accident. And the traffic circles are death traps.

The day was grey and misty, with a temperature around 60 degrees. This is typically the norm in Lima in the winter. As a matter of fact we only saw the sun twice. It is like a cloud shrouds the city in a great mist, and sometimes you can not even see the mountains in the distance. And let us not forget the smog that encases the city. It is so bad that one of our team actually swiped his fingers against a palm tree leaf, and soot came off. No wonder the leaves were so dark near the bottom of the tree, while the newer leaves looked greener. No one can do anything about the exhaust coming from the cars or factories.

Now you may say, wow, Lima seems pretty dreary… but I haven’t told you yet about the jewels of the city. Back to my story, we were on our way to church, and arrived a bit early. As other people started to come in, they greeted us with their special Peruvian greeting. In Peru, when a person comes into a room, they greet one another one at a time with a hug and a cheek to cheek kiss. Everyone gets this greeting, they don’t care if there are 50 people in the room. We felt so welcomed, even though half of us couldn’t even speak Spanish. We were so fortunate, the church had a translator system, so we could understand the service even though the whole thing was in Spanish. We felt like we belonged there, and the service was great. The people were so friendly, and even though there were language barriers, it didn’t matter. We went out to eat after church to a really authentic Peruvian restaurant, and we were able to see Peruvian dancers, and hear some Peruvian music. The food was great too!

The next day we started our work project. We were to paint a building for the girls of the House of Glory to use for their business. We prepped the walls, and painted all morning. After lunch, the men stayed behind to continue painting, while the girls went to Casa de la Gloria (House of Glory). Let me explain what Casa de la Gloria is. It is a home for teenaged girls who are either pregnant or have a child. Some of the girls were kicked out of their home for becoming pregnant, some were abused by family members, and some were forced to leave their home because their parents couldn’t afford to keep them any longer. All five girls living there had been on the streets previously, and had no place to go. Now they all have a loving home, where they are provided for. Here they also learn how to love and care for their children. The business I was referring to before is called Hand Made Mujer. They make hand made jewelry to help pay for education after what we call high school. This way when the girls turn 18, they will have a job to help them take care of themselves and their child. We made some jewelry with them in the afternoon, and got to know one another. It just so happened that this day was the 4th of July. The American missionaries wanted to have a celebration, so we went back to Jim and Sara’s house and had Peruvian hamberguesas and hot dogs. It was a great end to a great day.

Tuesday we woke up and went back to our painting project, and finished it before lunch. It looked so awesome, and we were excited to know that it was going to help the girls. After lunch we had a formal presentation about the House of Glory, and how it came to be. We learned about how many girls they had already helped, and how they are planning to have more homes for more girls. We all went back to Casa de la Gloria, and Katie and I shared our testimonies. Four of the girls shared with us, and it was sobering to hear their stories. The great thing was that they all had become Christians, and shared with us how their life has changed for the better. One of the girls would be getting baptized on the upcoming Sunday, and we were excited to get to be there to see it.

Wednesday, Beth Ann, Marcia, and I went to the House of Glory to help with the babies, and we had another work project to do. All of the others in our group went to the university. Since we had two college professors and one engineer with us, they were going to do some science talks, which we were hoping would end with a way to share the gospel with them. We were also hoping to build some relationships with the students who came, and give them a chance to practice their conversational English. Unfortunately, I got sick and had to leave for the hotel around 5:00PM. When the rest of the group got together, they headed over to the church for prayer meeting, and then they went out for dinner. I went back to my room and rested.

Thursday was the same as Wednesday, but I stayed at the hotel. I still had not been feeling my best, but I had time to catch everyone up at home with updates for our church. The internet was slow at the hotel, but I was also able to post some pictures for our friends back home.

Friday I felt great again - Yay! The college professor at the Peruvian university helped us find a restaurant to invite the students to, so we could engage in more conversational English, and share a meal together. We began this session with a speech one of our professors gave entitled “How a Physicist Sees God.” After this we broke up in groups, two of us and two to three Peruvians, and we had English Conversations. We had prayed a lot about this opportunity, and were hoping that the conversations would lead us to talk about the Lord. God answered our prayers, and all of the conversations went in that direction. Beth Ann and I were able to speak to three Peruvians, who were already Christian and gave us their testimonies. They asked us about some of our traditions during Christian holidays, and it was neat to learn about theirs. The other groups were able to share the gospel with the students, and they were very open to hear what we had to say. It was great to have such open and honest conversations about God. We hope that we planted seeds that God would water and grow to add people to His kingdom. It was a great way to end our week, and we were so excited to hear how many of the students wanted to know more about God.

Saturday was our day to tour Lima, and the sun actually came out! We began with the Central Plaza, and went on to some Pre-Inca ruins. The civilization of the ruins seemed to be around 5000 years old. It was a very interesting archeological site. Then we went to Mira Flores, and ate lunch on a Cliffside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The food was great, and so was the view. After this we went down to the Pacific Ocean, and then we were off to the Indian Market. We had 2 and ½ hours at the market, I could have spent 3 more hours there. There was so much to see, it was awesome. We had to hurry, because the youth group meeting was at 6:00, and they invited us to come. They had a praise band there to play music, and it just so happened that the drummer was missing. I was so proud; Alex stepped in and did a great job. How did he get so good at drums, he has been playing saxophone for 5 years! He is so much like his father, is there a drum playing gene or something that he inherited? After youth group, we went back to our hotel, and ate KFC! There are a few American restaurants there, like Papa Johns, Dominos, McDonalds, and Starbucks.

Sunday, we got up early and went to church. We were excited to see the baptism and see our friends one last time. We had to leave church early, to catch our plane, and I was hoping to sneak out quietly so no one would see me crying. We really got close to the girls at Casa de la Gloria, their babies, the missionaries, and our new friends. But no, the Peruvian hospitality took over, and they actually stopped the church service to say Good-bye to all of us. Of course I cried like a baby, I am going to really miss all of the people, for they are the true jewels of the city. I hope one day I will see them again on Earth, but I know I will see them all in heaven at least. I really hate good-byes, they are the worst. So, some of us spent the bus ride to the airport in tears.

What did I learn from this trip? A whole bunch! First of all, to be thankful for what I have. Everyone who lives here should see how others really live. We are truly blessed. Secondly, that it is not all about how much money or stuff that we have, it should be about the relationships we have with other people. We need to learn to truly love each other, spend time with each other, and care about people more than our stuff. Thirdly, that we can be happy with what we have. We need to learn to be content with the things God gave us, because more stuff doesn’t make a difference. This reminds me of my favorite Bible book of Ecclesiastes. All of the things of this world are vanity. We need to find a way to invest in other peoples lives, and show them the power of the one true God, who can change their lives for ever, in the best way ever.

I would like to thank all of you who helped to support our trip, with donations of your time, money, or prayers. This was an awesome trip, and I am glad to be able to get to know my new Peruvian friends, missionaries, and anyone who we may have come in contact with while we were there. I know Alex is also just as thankful, and I know that he feels the same way I do about this trip. Oh, and I forgot to tell you about the jewelry business website. If any of you want to buy some jewelry for a good cause, visit the website handmademujer.com. This business helps the girls at Casa de la Gloria. Well, my story is done, but the things that I experienced will last forever…… so as the Peruvians say – CIAO! See you all again soon.