Tuesday, August 18, 2009

18 August

I am 2 days shy of 6 months in Peru. This is the longest that I’ve been away from home and the longest I’ve ever gone without my family coming to visit me. Even when I studied abroad, Mom came out to see me, as well as Oma and Opa. Plus, I had Aunts and cousins just a two hour train ride from the school.

I'm in love with the people, the culture, the food. The heat, though excruciating at times, is not that bad....I say that tongue in cheek because yesterday and Sunday I sat in front of the fan all afternoon and thought I was melting if I had to walk to the bathroom. My Heavenly Father is revealing new truths and stretching and growing us all in ways we didn't think we moved. It's exciting and painful. I'm being pruned with fresh sheers and it hurts sometimes. It's a good hurt though.

On the 22, we'll have been in Iquitos with our Peruvian partners for 3 months. Ana is a God send. She is a fabulous partner. True, we don't always see eye to eye, but we're growing closer every day. She is very smart and has a heart for the Lord.

Keep us all in your prayers. We learn something new everyday.

i'm learning too

Last week we had an awesome professor who normally teaches at the seminary in Pilar/Buenos Aires, Argentina. Jorge Julca. He’s visited the States several times, and knows Mark Maddix and Professor Galloway. It was fun to talk about places and people that we know in common. He taught us Methods of Studying the Bible. Great teacher, fabulous person. The last night he was here, all of the 40/40 team went with him to dinner and a walk down by the river. And then we got ice cream! As Rich Wyatt once said, I’m cheap and easy (to please). Take me to ice cream, and you’ve won my heart for good.

Today we started classes with someone new. Marcario Balcazar Santa Cruz. He teaches at the seminary here in Peru. I had been told that he was really strict and that he was really cool at the same time. I wasn’t sure how those two would fit together, but this morning I learned. Our class is the History, Doctrine, and Organization of the Church of the Naz. Every day, I thank the Lord for my incredible professors at NNU and that I have this foundation to go on in the classes down here. Our Spanish has improved immensely, but to learn all this for the first time in Spanish, and in 1 or 2 weeks, I can’t imagine how hard that would be.

In these past few weeks, I have learned so much about who I am as a person and have been learning a lot about how to be myself in a different culture. I’m learning about cultural do’s and don’ts, and what I can and cannot do. It has been an interesting and bumpy ride. Being someone who enjoys being friends with everyone and has been perceived of flirting with the gas station man in the States (WHEN I’M NOT); living in a culture where I need to be incredibly careful of how I interact with men has been difficult. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned from them. God is molding me and forming me into the woman that He has in mind. It is my constant prayer that in all of these experiences, I can be a light for Christ in this world; that I won’t be a stumbling block or an obstacle; that my actions will point people to the only One who can really save us from ourselves and our selfishness.

the boys are back in town:)

Ok, I wanted to talk more about when Tim and Jared being down here too.

The boys wanted to see the river, so one day Ana, Carmen, Elisa, Jared, Tim and I set out to accomplish their mission. It was raining pretty hard that morning, so we took the opportunity to introduce the boys to Texas for breakfast. The loved it and made it their other home for the week they were here. When the rain finally seized, we took 2 moto-taxis down to the Port in Belen. Little did we realize there are 3 ports in Belen….so we arrived at different places. Jared, Ana and I were in one taxi and Jared and I both had our cells. Tim, Elisa and Carmen were in the other taxi and none of them had cells…so we were basically completely separated in the worst part of town with no means of intercommunication. The police soon happened upon our location and said that there were some guys getting ready to assault us, so we should probably move out. We took their advice, and went to a different port that was bigger and more well known (why our taxi driver didn’t take us there first I don’t know).

When we got to the other port, some of the boat people said that they had seen “2 chicas y un joven gringo” (2 girls and a white boy) walk the other way, and one of them took off to find them. We waited and soon enough the boat man came back with the missing people. We took his boat as a thank you for finding our friends, but his boat was pretty…small. And it didn’t have any form of roof covering. So, when it started to rain after we had been out on the river for maybe 10 minutes, we got nice and wet. Not gonna lie, I was a little bit nervous because I had this image in my head of a HUGE storm coming on really fast and the rain filling up the boat. I’m sure it’s impossible for that to happen, but it was a thought in my head.

Another day while the boys were here, we went to Quistocoche (it’s like a zoo/wildlife safari thing). I’ve gone one other time and pet the Tigrillo and held the snake (did I tell you about that?). This time, I got to pet a bufeo!!! It’s a pink river dolphin. He was so cute! And the most exciting thing is that we pet him!!! Carmen was so excited! Haha, it was cute. After we looked at all the animals (Jared having a stare down contest with a small puma, and both boys about peeing their pants because they were too close to snakes) we went swimming. The girls have never had male friends from the States before and this time together was really impressionable for them. Thanks guys for being so stellar and giving the girls such great memories and pictures of American boys! Elisa still talks about the shark, and Carmen and her both talk about how “bien chevere” you guys are.

It was a sad day in the neighborhood when the boys left.


So, we got home Wednesday afternoon from Fumento, and Friday we started VBS (July 31-August 2). There were 3 VBS’s going on at the same time in different churches in Iquitos. Thank you Lord for my awesome Team!!!!!!!! The girls, Hermana Magna and I had been working on the materials for a good three weeks already (which is stinking good planning in Peru. Iglesia Central didn’t start planning till the week of and was scrambling up until the last moment). VBS was 3 days long, and it was an absolute blast. I definitely went through some hard moments that week. I did VBS back in the States (with Sherry Willis, and Nanny, and the help of SOO many amazing people), but the point is, I have a rough idea of what’s going on, and am capable of directing things. I was so frustrated here because I felt like I was lacking in the language and thus the understanding of what was going on and what others wanted of me. I cried a couple times, but in the end, it came off without a hitch! The first day we had 44 kids, the second 50, and the last day we had 56. On an average Sunday morning we have 30 or 35 kids, so this was an incredible turnout; especially in a our little pueblo. Our kids memorized their bible verses like pros, and learned new songs, and did stinking awesome crafts. Jared Bouton and Tim Daughtery came up from Arequipa (they came down for Projects Arequipa 0 and Arequipa 1) that Sunday morning, (the last day of VBS) so I drug them out to Gabriella Nunez with me. The kids thought they were awesome.

Saturday morning during VBS, Ana and I also programmed a day of Social Aid. With the help of local medical students, members of Iglesia Central, Elisa, Wendy, the Smiths, Noemi Correa (and her mom who was visiting), we cut and washed hair that was saturated in lice, had classes on personal hygiene and sufficient nutrition. The medical students also brought pills for every family to help with the terrible parasite problem. It was a great morning and left a great impact on the community. The people know that we “Nazarenos” are about more than just their spiritual health. We care about their physical and mental health too. It was glorious.


July 27-29

The 8 of us 40/40’s, Tyson (cluster support), Cristobal (director of education), Abietar (superintendant), and 2 pastors from Iquitos took a 12 box of a boat ride, down the Amazon River, to a small village called Fumento. When I say it was a box of a boat, I mean that it looked like a floating, 2 ½ story rectangular box. On one end, there was an area where walls and half hazard door had been constructed to represent a little room. They referred to this as the bathroom. It was a bathroom because there was a toilet bowl shaped hole cut into the floor boards’ level with the river. The river water would splash up on your feet as you attempted to keep your balance, squat and aim over this whole. It took me 3 different 5 minute attempts to relax enough to make good of this bathroom.

We each brought our own rolled up mattress, mosquito nets, sheets, and 2 liter water bottles, in addition to our expected clothes, bug spray, flashlights, and toilet paper.

It really was a beautiful experience. The river was so wide!!! I would say at least as wide as Fern Ridge Reservoir—but this was a river. There were a lot of people, and there were hammocks strung up so thick you could hardly walk through from one end of the boat to another. I never tried because I was afraid of getting claustrophobic stuck in the midst of squawking chickens, upset children, stinky unbathed adults, and lice infested hammocks….Instead, we went to the ½ story—also known as the roof. Because it was a bit overcast (we got burnt so bad!), it felt really great up there—a nice breeze and the views were incredible!! My goodness gracious. This is what I learned about in middle school geography. It’s huge and breathtaking.

We brought our own lunch for the trip—Lomo Saltado, bread, jam and manjar. Mmmm! Cabbage, meat, and French fries mixed together over rice. A lot of times there are tomatoes and onions in it too. We had embarked on our journey at 7:30 am, so by 11:30 we were ready to eat. We ate our lunch, and then at 1:30 realized we didn’t bring any food left besides jam and manjar. So, at one of the stops, we bought empanadas, sweet breads, and I got a frozen aguaje from the local venders. Later we realized that probably wasn’t a good idea sanitation wise, but we were lucky and didn’t get sick at all. It was delicious and worth it.

The sun set was spectacular! After the set, we still had a few more hours on the boat. Let me tell you, that I was a little bit nervous about being out on the Amazon River, in a floating box, at night, in the jungle, in the dark. But the moon was very bright and the stars were quite stunning.

We arrived at our stop at 10:30 pm and were all ready to get off the boat. The whole congregation met us at the river bank. I had two darling 8 year old girls relieve me of my luggage (it’s a cultural thing—if someone offers to help you with something [especially after coming to meet you at the bank] you let them help you. Normally I would never have 8 year old girls carry my things, but I no choice in the matter) and lead me a half hour through the Amazon Jungle at 10:30 pm in the dark, to their village. The village obviously did not have light switch electricity, so we used candles and flashlights to set up our beds in the church. Not before needing to kill a spider the size of my hand however.

The pastor then invited us to his home for dinner. We were so hungry! It was 11:30 pm by this time. The pastor’s lovely wife had prepared fish for us. Fresh fish—with its head, tail, gills, fins, and more bones than I knew fish had. The whole thing was sitting there. 2 of them. I was sitting next to poor Callie who hates fish when it’s prepared without all the details, so when no one from the church was watching I switched some of my bones for one of her fish. The right timing was hard to find because they were all standing around us with flashlights so that we could see our plates. Sweet of them, but very awkward. The fish was delicious, but incredibly difficult for me to eat. While licking my fingers clean after finishing my plate, I remarked that I felt like a cat. Cristobal explained to them that Americans aren’t used to eating fish with bones.

We ate fish again for breakfast, and again the next night for dinner.

The morning of the 28th, we went to the neighboring village of San Jose. We went with the intent of visiting their homes and inviting them to church that night. When we got there though, we learned that a young man from the village had gone fishing the night because and had not returned. They found his boat, but not him. All the men were out searching for him, and the rest of the village was pretty much all gathered along the edge of the lake watching, waiting and hoping. We held a prayer service with them and then left. It was very sad.

Back in Fumento, the extreme heat encouraged the group to take a nap. I declined nap time when I was enticed by the precious children to go play futbal (soccer). We ran around the field, and then I thought I was going to die in the heat, so we sat on someone’s front porch and sang some church songs together. After singing, I shared the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk, mixed with the Chicken who laid the Golden Egg. The kids were either enraptured or focusing very hard to understand my SpanishJ haha, probably the latter.

At lunch, we had rice, potatoes, and chicken. I was sitting and eating, when something above me caught my eye. I glanced up to see, not a sparkling chandelier, but a glistening spider gently swinging in the rafters not 4 feet above me. As my eyes swooped back down, I made eye contact with the pastor’s wife, so I smiled grandly, and took another bite of my chicken.

That afternoon Ana, Carmen, Elisa, Wendy, Callie, and I played more games with the kids. When we were sufficiently sweaty we went down to a small stream and bathed using a small plastic bowl to dump the water over our heads and bodies. Perfect.

That night, we decided to leave bright and early the next morning. Instead of taking the boat that we took in, we elected to walk 4 hours through the Amazon Jungle where we would eventually meet up with a bridge and catch a bus for the final 2 hours to Iquitos. We got up at 5:30 and packed everything up and then waited 1 ½ for breakfast. When we got on our way, it was already warm, so we quickly got our giddy-up going.

We had to pass through San Jose on our jaunt, and learned that the young man had been found that morning. He was floating facing down in the river. We silently passed by his body where it was laid out on a table under a white sheet. So sad.

An hour passed slowly as we walked up and down hills, through sugar cane fields, across muddy bogs, balancing on fallen trees that served as bridges. I have learned that sugar cane reeds are more slippery than banana peels, and that I should purchase a backpack. My cute little bag from Victoria’s Secret works wonderfully when you are traveling by car. It does not carry comfortably when hiking. Also, drink water. And in case you were wondering, it was very hot. My legs were not tired, my body was not tired, but my face and back and neck were literally dripping sweat. I felt like Larry Carter:)

Eventually, God decided to take pity on his poor little missionaries, and we arrived at a village of 4 homes. We must have looked pretty pathetic because one of the women hollered (in Spanish of course) at us after we passed by, “come rest on my front porch. My husband can take you by boat in 20 minutes.” We accepted the blessed offer and sat in the shade of her porch. I tried the sugar cane that day. Delicious! But difficult to eat. My teeth and jaws hurt afterwards. But it was fun.

The precious little family sent us off warmly, and we rode two hours in the river in a glorified canoe (basically the rim sits about 3 inches above the water, and there is a motor) under the scorching sun. The man took us to the same bridge that we had wanted to walk to. There is no way we would have made it in 4 hours walking. We would have died of dehydration WAY before that.

It was an incredible trek. We had a blast and learned a lot about working together, as well as seeing some of God’s immaculate creation. He definitely has the best imagination ever!

Some time in the Past.....

July 13

Goodness Gracious! I love being busy because time passes so quickly, and at the same time, I don’t like it because with passing time, more things happen.

I am officially a Peruvian Resident. I have a card that says so. The picture is hideous, but I suppose that’s a given. I mean, no one gets a good driver’s license picture either. July 3 (how ironic that it was the day before our Independence) we officially received our cards.

We began our newest course today (July 13), Biblical Basis of Discipleship. Our professor is the Superintendent of Chiclayo. Ricardo Rodriguez. He’s a very good speaker; easy to follow and quite entertaining. Classes will be everyday this week, but next week we’ll end on Wednesday and begin our week and a half long vacation!! Obviously we’re getting this vacation because July 28 is the Independence Day of Peru.

I’m 6 days short of 5 months in Peru. Weird. Exciting. Sad. Fabulous.

The past two days we have had fresh coconut straight off the tree. Superintendent/Pastor Abietar (pronounced A-BEE-A-TAR) and his family live on the compound with us. LLerson (Abietar’s oldest son- GER-SON) has a friend with coconut trees, and because 2 soles (66 cents) is too much to spend on a coconut, he got them from his friend. There isn’t much meat, it’s very delicate and soft, and there’s a ton of water (the milk is clear and tastes more like flat mineral water—hence water). It’s very good. I tried to break one open today (using the machete) and I ended up just wacking it (the machete) hard on the cement while the coconut would go flying off the blade. My coconut ended up going to the compost pile, and Llerson took over the coconut cutting. He’s had more practice. When my 2 years are up, I’ll be a pro too.

Last night during church there was a huge storm. The lightning was constant and gorgeous. It was something unexpected and incredible. The rain was so hard, and the drops so big. The volume was turned way up on the microphone so we could all hear. The church roof has some leaks and the water was making rivers on the floor. Ghim (JIM) the 3 year old son of Pastor Antonio (local pastor who also lives on the compound) was jumping over the rivers throughout the sermon. It was adorable. By the time the service was over, so was the rain.

We were all invited over to Pastor Abietar’s house for coffee and fried bananas with the family afterwards. Hermana Magna (esposa de Abietar-MO(n)G-NA)) is one of the most darling women I have ever met. About the height of my shoulder and absolutely beautiful, she’s always good for a hug and a squeeze whenever you’re near enough to touch. She loaned me her flannel graph to use with the kids on Sunday mornings. We put our gum and chocolate in her freezer for safe keeping. She invited us in to watch the funeral ceremony of Michael Jackson. She’s always telling us stories of being a newly wed nurse in the jungle without any neighbors or close friends; stories of suffering and triumph. Of snakes, spiders, demons, and the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. Her mothering and love, her encouragement, her gumption has been such an encouragement to all of us.

Saturday, 13 Extreme Missionaries, and 15 members of Iglesia Central (the church we live at…and attend Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights) went to Gabriella Nunez—the mission sight that Ana (my partner) and I work at. The church as purchased property and wants to build. First we had to go in and cultivate the ground. Meaning we all brought our machetes, hammers, and nails, and when we arrived we chopped down jungle vines and varieties of trees and grasses. With machetes. All the while we were very careful of any type of poisonous frogs, snakes, and bushes that may get us. Then, in a very counter North American manner, we went about building a fence around 2 sides of the property (we ran out of wood). In the end, it looked really good. They’re planning on planting corn in there for now, and then after the rainy season they’ll build the church (the homes are built in the air more or less because half the year there is no land around them—they live in the middle of the river).

My precious little mission, Gabriella Nunez, has 283 people, 28 families. They do not have clean water and have not grasped the concept of boiling it before consumption. They have a huge problem with infection and disease that could be easily prevented if they used clean water for bathing and drinking. Instead, the same bathroom water, is the same water they drink, is the same water they wash their clothes in, etc. Our little mission is the only church of any kind in the community. We have an average of 6 adults and 30 kids come to our services. Among them, there is 1 Bible.

Saturday night, in a different world, we went to a semi pro soccer game. It was so exciting! We won! Iquitos vs Arequipa.

Guess what we did!!!

July 18

Callie, Wendy, and I went to see manatees!! We got to bottle feed one of them and pet them. They’re soft/rubbery/firm. Their little noses are soooo cute!!! I think it would be a good idea to invest in a manatee for the church…maybe as a ministry outreach program…I’ll admit right now that it is a purely selfish and not completely ministry related thought. I just think manatees are beautiful.

These manatees are at a reserve type thing. Lots of the native people in Peru see manatees as “evil” and like to kill them for no reason. Because of this, their numbers are dwindling. This Preserve nurses sick ones back to health. It’s cool. They’re working with a zoo in…I think it was Texas.

We’re totally bringing the whole gang here next week.

July 20

Happy Anniversary to me!! I’ve been living in Peru for 5 months today!!

Brad Hunt is my hero for the week! He is giving us beautiful floors. Rather than the cement that comes up every time you sweep the floor, we are going to have ceramic tiles!! Last week some guys came in and put up false ceilings. This will help dramatically with the heat and make it a lot quieter when it rains. We’ve had just a tin roof that is very loud and makes our room an oven. We painted our walls too. They were this old dirty yellow—peeling in some areas, bare in others—but now they are a lovely salmon (we wanted a nice orange (cream-cycle, or a soft melon, but this is as close as Brad could find in Iquitos). Not what we were expecting, but it looks fresh and clean.