Friday, July 3, 2009

a month in a page....

Because I do not have good internet, this is a running blog….I’ve been working on putting it together since the week after we arrived in Iquitos. I’ve gone in and changed the dates a few times to make them right, but as I keep having to just save in word because I can’t connect to the internet, the dates become outdated:) So, I’m sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. Not my fault:) Sorry this is 4 pages long—just read it knowing this is a compilation of a month’s worth of activities….and I haven’t updated it since June 15th…been busy….

God is so good. Better than I knew before, and greater than I know yet.

These past 4 weeks here in Iquitos have been exciting, terrible, fabulous, and awful all at the same time.

We left Arequipa after a magical last week. Jill was our friend and our mom and cooked incredible meals for us and reminded us why we needed to leave Arequipa if we wanted our Peruvian diets to work; Brian was our friend and a protective father and reassured us that we would always be #1/40. Jana and Andy were our precious little love bugs and we don’t know how we’re going to make it the next 2 years (plus forever) without them.

Scott hugs just like my Daddy, so in a strange way, I felt like I was saying goodbye to my family, to my Daddy, all over again. Wednesday night, the Englunds threw an awesome goodbye party for us. Ruben totally had it rigged against my team, but it was fun anyway:)

Thursday, Pilar and Gladys prepared an awesome lunch and then everyone made us cry with their sweet goodbyes, letters, goody bags, and love. Ruben loaded our huge suitcases in the back of the truck, and after one more tearful round of goodbyes, we were out of there. Brian and Jill were going to meet us at the bus station, but there was road construction and they didn’t get there in time. This caused more tears to fall, but we boarded our bus anyway, and took the night bus to Lima.

In Lima we spent the day pretending we were on vacation, and ate lunch at Chili’s. Normally, I have to share their fajita meal, but this day, my stomach knew how to pack things away, and I ate everything (except the rice, black beans—which I love in the states, but these were like soggy wood—and the onions). After paying our airport taxes we met our partners for the first time.

How nerve racking?! This is a moment I’ve been anticipating for the past 8 months! My Spanish isn’t good enough yet. What if she doesn’t like me? What if…. But it turned out fine. They all gave us suckers.

Our home…Well, if you’ve ever been to church camp, then you should be able to picture this fairly well. There is a large building on the far side where we live. Girls on one side, boys on the other. The windows are open holes with bars over them set in the brick walls. Our ceiling is commonly referred to as a tin roof—I think of it as an outside oven that does really good at amplifying the sound of pouring rain. Our bunk beds are very comfortable—the only downfall being that every move is reminiscent of an earthquake for both parties. Our mosquito netting does a FABULOUS job protecting us from being bit at night. I’ve only had a frog for a bed partner once. We did have bats in our room, and we still have rats, but Pastor Miguel cemented the bats’ entrance and exit so they’ve been leaving us alone now.

There is a mango tree outside my bedroom and several papaya trees. There’s a sweet soccer swamp/field, and a volley ball net. They love volley ball here, and I really suck. I play my little heart out, but my balls always go out of “bounds” or my attempt ends in embarrassment. But, they’re all very encouraging and ask me to play every time.

Our classroom is just across the muddy way, and the church is right next to that. One the other side of the church is the kitchen area. Food—everyone always wants to know what you’re eating:) Well, for breakfast and dinner, we usually have bread—little white rolls—and jam. Lunch always has rice and potatoes—the form of the potatoes varies from mashed to boiled, but they’re always there—and chicken—which also varies in form, but is only absent from the table if we’re having carne (1x a week). We’re getting full, but I don’t feel like I’m getting much more than carbs. And the ice cream is really expensive here. Sad, since it’s hot here. Well, it’s hot somedays, well, it’s hot every day, but we acclimated really fast, so when the sun’s not out, we feel chilled (and it’s still 80 some odd degrees). But when the sun is out, oh my goodness, it’s ridiculously hot.

We’ve finished our first course. Cultural Anthropology. Completely in Spanish. Presentations, research, lectures, all in Spanish. The crazy thing is, I learned stuff!! There were multiple days that I was fighting back tears because I was so frustrated with my comprehension level, and Cristobal (our professor) would ask a question and he’d be disappointed because no one would answer, but I wouldn’t understand what he was even talking about, so I couldn’t answer. But often times I would be able to follow just fine. We all were. And if one of us wasn’t following, we’d help each other out. We’re now in World Religions and Sects/Cults. It’s interesting. Although I like the person who’s teaching us (he’s the pastor of my church here), he’s not very organized and talks circular. But, he’s really nice…we’re just in charge of our own learning is how I feel. This class will end Friday 19th.

I was struggling with homesickness and culture shock to the utmost degree 2 weeks ago. Figuring out ways that they would send me home but not be mad at me. I can’t make people mad at me on purpose. So, I figured if I contracted malaria…or if there was an pollutant in the water that native Peruvians were immune to, but North Americans we susceptible to some terrible disease and might die, so we’d have to go home. Or maybe if I had a stalker…. But then I would realize that I would hate myself if I had to go home. If I gave up. If I abandoned the call that I know God placed on my life. And then I counter that argument with, How am I supposed to do this for a lifetime?! Honestly, God, do you really want me to live this far away from my family, with crappy internet, and bats, spiders, cockroaches, frogs, and rats in my bedroom??!!! I don’t know. I do know that He’s called me to go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them about Him. Maybe next time it’ll be closer to my family, maybe it’ll be farther (but it could be a good further [not that this is a bad far, I’m just in culture shock]—like Europe or something—Mom would visit me there).

It hasn’t been all bad though. We’ve had some pretty fun escapades. Last weekend we had a torrential downpour that you expect in the Amazon Rainforest (which is where I live—incredible huh?). Callie, Elisa (Wendy’s Peruvian partner) and I all played futball (soccer) with the boys. It was a blast! I had a slight run in with something other than the ball which caused my ankle to turn purple and grow to be the size of a mango. Pretty cute, let me tell you! Of course, me being the stubborn little grunt that I am, continued to play, and we danced in the rain to celebrate our victory. Then we had some good mud slides—the kind where you run and slide on the ground on your stomach. Good stuff! My ankle looks a lot better now. Hurts a little if I turn it weird…but the swelling is virtually gone and the color is normal.

2 weeks ago we began evangelizing. We split up our two pairs and went out in 4’s with Pastor Antonio Segura and a darling older lady. Once we were out in our ‘areas’, we went to homes that had some association with the church, and went in to talk to these people. On Thursday (4th), Ana and I went to a home together. We talked to a precious young couple and the guy rededicated his life, and she accepted Christ for the first time. It was really incredible to be a part of that. It’s my first experience in Peru with someone becoming a Christian. And, they were at church that Sunday (7th). That was a big thing to me—it was them making an effort for themselves.

We have very different evangelism styles. By that I mean, INCREDIBLY different—it’s very cultural. We have recognized that a few times when we’ve gone out to visit people in their homes, but as time goes on and new situations present themselves, it’s become glaringly obvious. The Peruvian Christian culture (at least the 4 that we’re working with) is very much all about (verbally) sharing the love of Christ with everyone they meet—whether or not the individual is ready to hear it or not—and the American Christian culture (these 4 anyway) are all about showing (through actions) the love of Christ with everyone we meet. These two differences are exciting when one of us wants to talk to the individual about how they’re doing, their life, who they are (you know, get to know the person), and the other desperately wants them to become believers.

Two Saturdays (the 6th) ago, we were invited to the District Pastor’s meeting. It was in Llanchampa—a little remote village in the jungle. We took an hour ride in a cumbi (quintessential 3rd world bus. It was a little dangerous because there were two bolts sticking out of the ceiling that every bump I was afraid of it sticking into my brain), stopped along the Ananias river, and walked for another hour. We were walking through the jungle for real! Then we got to a lake thing that I know there were anacondas and crocodiles in there, and took canoes across to the other side. That was the best part of the morning—I mean, meeting the pastors was cool, but the trip there and back was pretty exciting.

Brian came up to visit us that same Saturday night. He was supposed to arrive at 5, so Andrew, Wendy, and I waited at the gate till 6, ate some bread, came back and waited till Brian finally arrived at 7. Squealing with excitement, I accidently stomped in a yucky puddle, but it didn’t really matter because Brian was here! We gave him a tour of the grounds and then he took us all out to milkshakes and french-fries. Mmmm! Almost as good as Wendy’s:)

That Sunday morning we went out for a good old American breakfast and introduced our partners to French toast, banana pancakes, scrambled eggs and toast. They thought it was a lot of food:) haha! After Lunch that afternoon, just the 4 of us North Americans went with Brian on a boat (a glorified canoe with a motor) out on the Amazon River for 1 and half hours to visit a tribe (Bora Bora I think) out in the Jungle. They were the topless dancers that you always think of when you hear about jungle tribes. It was really incredible to see them in real life. I kept thinking, “this is the type of thing you read about it books, that I was taught in high school…and I’m living it.”

Last week passed pretty quickly. There was another protest Thursday through Saturday. The natives come out of the jungle to protest the government coming in and drilling for petroleum on their land. It’s a relatively peaceful protest—they pull trees out and put them in the streets, break bottles in the street, throw trash around….it’s really interesting. I find myself being angry that the Peruvian government goes in and drills without their permission, and then I wonder how I would feel if it wasn’t affecting me.

Noemi and Cristobal (directors of 40/40 education) are going to have a baby!!! They just told us last Thursday night, so we made a cake for them Friday morning. By hand. And by that I mean, Eliza and I took turns mixing the flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and evaporated milk with our hands. No spoons, no mixers, no added utensils to get messy. Just a bowl and our hands. No recipe, just a little of this and a little of that. It was fun and it tasted pretty good.

Internet is slow and inconsistent—you don’t ever want to depend on it here. We’re looking into other options for internet access. As it is, we have dial up at the compound where we live, and there’s wi-fi at a cafĂ© in town. You pay by the hour and have to order something while you’re there. And it’s pretty slow (and it hasn’t worked for me the past 3 times I’ve gone). We’re going to possibly get Claro things, the equivalent of Sprint/AT&T/Verizon internet things….but the Smith’s already have it, and it seems to be just as worthless.

Sunday (14th) Ana and I went to a small village for church. We left the house at 8, took a mototaxi (the front is a motorcycle, and back…well the back wheel has been cut off and a bench has been welded on with 2 wheels…) down to the river, walked through decomposing trash mixed with mud along a fresh fish/and other goods market, and leaped like gazelles over several small boats (glorified canoes), and took the one furthest out in the water across the river. As we approached the far bank, I realized that we were going to be in a stilt village. These homes are built right on the river bank, so when the river is high, they are above the water, and when the water is low, like it is now, the homes are elevated from the mud that reeks below them. Once we arrived on the other side we slid through the mud until we came to the 2 houses where we were going to hold church. I worked with another woman with the children. There are 60 kids in the village and 23 of them were at church on Sunday. They have not had a church in this village in years, and this was the first time we held service. Ana and I will be working at this mission until we leave. Dr. Larry Garmon wants to build a church there. Anyway, the kids and I learned a memory verse together, Luke 2:32, and I was able to teach them the few songs that I know in Spanish. We will learn more together. I’m really looking forward to getting to know these kids. They are stinking precious.

Monday (15th) Ana and I went to visit people in the hospital. We visited a 15 year old precious girl—she had either had an abortion or a painful miscarriage (my Spanish doesn’t cover many medical terms yet)—and Ana and I both went in wanting to demonstrate Christ’s love with her. We just wanted to do it in different ways. In the end, I stayed with the girl and talked to her for 2 hours while Ana visited other people. Eventually, the girl (her name’s Brenda) began to ask questions about myself, and why I was here in Peru. This presented the opportunity to share with her and tell her some Bible stories. She invited me to come visit her at the Market next week when she gets back to work. Please be praying for this darling girl.