Thursday, August 31, 2006


I am so glad I came to Cuzco when I did. If I had come later, like in September, which I was contemplating a while back...I would have missed out on Machupicchu. Tracie's family is here and we took them to see the ancient Incan ruins at Machupicchu. I don't have enough words to describe how beautiful it was.

We took a taxi Monday afternoon to a town called Pisac. We ate lunch there and shopped around a little bit at the open market under the huge, weird tree. I bought some gifts. (I shouldn't have because I didn't have room for them in my backpack. I had to carry them around in a plastic bag for the remainder of the trip. haha. Think ahead, amy!)...but I got them anyway. I got one for you, Jill. You're gonna like it. Some lady tried to cheat me...but I didn't buy it from her after all.

After lunch, we took another taxi to Ollantaytambo; a tiny town with a big name. It was a cool town, especially at night when we arrived. It reminded me of an old "ghost town" in an old western movie. There were hardly any people around when we got there. We hung out for an hour or so and then caught the 8:00 train to Machupicchu.

In total, we probably travelled for somewhere between four or five hours and arrived in Machupicchu at 10:00 or so. There were probably 50 people standing on the sidewalk when we stepped off the train, all holding up signs advertising their hostel. We found one who gave us a good (?) deal and followed her up the road to her hostel. Turns out it wasn't quite like she had described it. The rooms did not, in fact, have their own bathrooms. There was a kind of gross community bathroom in the middle of the hallway. And the rooms were not, in fact, the price she had originally quoted. They were a little more expensive. And this hostel's price did not include breakfast, which was odd. But...así es la vida. And at least the bed was super comfortable. And there were no bed bugs, don't worry. We hung out for a while, had some dinner and went to bed.

The next morning we woke up and headed out. It was raining as we ate breakfast and then caught the bus up to the top of the mountain. But it was incredible anyway. What a view! It was amazing to look out and see nothing but other mountain tops around as we made our way up the jungly mountain side.

What I saw when we reached the top took my breath away. High walls, built hundreds and hundreds of years ago, the stones placed perfectly. Temples, fields, terraces; all tucked away, never discovered by the Spanish, left untouched for hundreds of years. It was absolutely amazing. The air was clear, the grass was green...and the view from the mountain was incredible.

We spent hours just slowly walking through all the different mazes of walls and temples and terraces. You could get lost in there! It was really cool to walk through, and imagine what life must have been like for those people. I imagine it was just as beautiful then, if not more, than it is now. The way the walls were built amazes me. Just tons and tons of stones piled on top of each other perfectly. They're still standing to this day! I wish there was more time to really make my way through each passage and doorway and look out each window. I know that's kind of lame, but when will I have this opportunity again? It's an incredible place! I wanted to see all of it; everything I could!

After lunch, we went up to a higher level of ruins and looked down on where we had already walked. It was so...I don't know...I don't have the words. I wanted to sit for hours and just take it all in; let my eyes wander where they would and just look. Not only were the ruins amazing to look at, but the surrounding mountaintops were so beautiful too. Everything was dark green! I wish you could have been there to share it with me.

We hiked up a long, winding, four-foot wide trail on the side of the mountain, with the mountain on one side and an abyss on the other! haha, and we ended up at a bridge built by the Incans on the side of the rock face. We couldn't cross it because a long portion of it was out. But it was beautiful, and worth the hike, nonetheless. We just sat for a long time looking out at the valley below. It was so peaceful!

We all kind of hiked back down at our own pace, and I walked alone. There was absolutely no other human soul around me for about 20 minutes. I felt like the beauty of it all was too much to consider. And it's no wonder God created us to be as relational as we are. We would not be able to handle life alone, with all it's wonder.

The last part of my afternoon was the best. I sat alone on a rock and looked out again over the ruins, from a higher perch, and took it all in. I brought my trusty cd player and listened to peaceful, pretty music in one ear and birds chirping and wind blowing in the other ear...and I just sat and let my mind wander.

The question that I asked of God was, "how did they do this? how did the Incan people accomplish so much? they did it without you! how was it possible?" how could a people group produce so much wonderful without the hand of the Wonderful Maker? how could a people rise up with such a force, and leave such a lasting impression on the world, without having known the God who created them? It makes me sad and scared and awed, all at once. But God's response is, "yes, they did something amazing without me. but where are they? and where am I?"

Daniel 7:13-14 says,

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."

The Incan people were an amazing people. And they did leave their mark on this world. But even in as much as they accomplished without our God, they could have done more with Him. Imagine what we can do with God, if these people could create such a marvel without Him. And they, in all their glory, have passed away. Their kingdom is gone, their culture almost lost, and they are only a memory. But God is still here. And He is alive in all of us, and we have the ability to make such a mark on this world; to awe people, to produce beauty that will leave people in wonder! If we will only tap into the power of Christ! Yes, people who don't know God can build amazing cities on mountaintops. But it's our faith that can move those mountains.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Faces

This week has been full of new people. Tracie's family has come to visit for a little over a week; three brothers, a sister-in-law, and a new niece. It's fun to have a house full of people...although, I'm not really a huge fan of sharing a bathroom with so many other people. Así es la vida, I suppose. It's nice to see Tracie so happy. It's been a while since she's been able to hang out with her brothers, and I can understand how she could miss that so much. Her relationship with her brothers reminds me of mine with mine. It's nice to think of being back home in a couple months with my own family and friends.

But meanwhile, there are so many new faces around here, and it's wonderful! Not just the family, either. We met so many people while the Chilean team was here, while we were doing presentations in plazas and things like that. And some of those people have continued to come to our house for Bible studies and prayer meetings. It has been really neat to meet all these new people and see them grab on to the hope that Jesus has to offer them. I wish I had pictures, so that you could put some faces with names...but I don't over it, I guess.

Well, first of all, it's been so awesome to see Cesar growing so much. He has been inviting friends left and right. He and his friend, Jose (who you can see helping with the puppets in a picture a couple posts ago) have been coming faithfully to every meeting we have during the week; Bible study on Sunday night, prayer meeting on Wednesday night, youth meeting on Friday night...they even show up at the house unexpectedly during the week just to hang out with us and talk a little. And they have been inviting their friends from school. Cesar has brought his new girlfriend, Ivette, with him a few times, and tonight, she showed up on her own for our Bible study! I think that is so cool.

Another guy that we met in Plaza San Pedro has been coming over to talk a lot too. His name is Jhon (that's how they spell John here). He's a student at the university and it seems like he really wants to know more about how to be a Christian. Last week, he came to the Sunday night study...then he showed up randomly on Monday night on his way to class, and asked if we had a Bible that he could read. Then he came over again on Thursday to talk about the things he had been reading. It was so neat to see the way that he was taking the things Ricky was saying to him and really pondering them. And neat to see his desire for understanding.

It's amazing the things I take for granted, having grown up in a church, learning week after week since I was a baby, the stories and concepts in the Bible. I have been taught about the trinity, for example, since before I can even remember. I know that the trinity is three in one. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I get it, and I trust it, and I believe in it. Why? Because I've heard it over and over and over again, to the point where it's really not that amazing to me...that's kind of sad.

But to see Jhon's reaction to this new was awe in his face. Three times, he asked Ricky to explain it again, and when he came to an understanding of it, all he said was, "wow." It was so cool! Why do I take that knowledge for granted? Why am I not in awe of it like that? And what else, besides the trinity, have I lost a respect for? What else is there that lacks that awesome wonder for me? Seeing his example, his search for truth, and his wonder at the truth that he is finding is inspiring to me. I want to be that way! I want to be hungry for truth! I mean really hungry for it. And God is faithful. I have been asking Him to give me the desire to really seek deeply His truth...and He is giving me that hunger that I see in Jhon. God is so good.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for supporting me, for supporting the ministry in Cuzco, and in so doing, for being God's witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth," as God has called you to be. Please continue praying for the people we have been able to develop friendships with in the last couple weeks; that those friendships will grow in Christ.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

God know's what He's doing....did you know?

The missions team from Chile went home tonight. Well...they left for home tonight, anyway. They've got to go for about an eighteen-hour bus ride, and then they have to get on a plane after that. So that's a bust. I am sad to see them go. Even in just a week, we became good friends, and the house will be pretty quiet without them. But it was a really amazing week, and I praise God for all the things that He accomplished and began through us working together. We did a lot of really awesome things; lots of presentations in plazas, where a ton of people were able to hear the message of Christ. We did Bible studies and youth meetings and prayer meetings. We met lots of new people just walking around the city, passing out flyers to the university and professional training school students, inviting them to come over to the house for a youth Bible study. And we had a pretty great time together on our day of "rest"; horseback riding, exploring the Incan ruins of Saqsaywaman and the Temple of the Moon. All of these memories, I will cherish, but the thing that stands out the most in my mind, out of all these wonderful things is the day we went to pick Daniel up from the hospital (he's feeling much, much better, by the way. Thank you for your prayers).

Sometimes things turn out way differently than we expect or plan. But God is faithful to us, and He will use the unexpected, even discouraging, moments to do his will. Our plans definitely did not include taking a sick team-member to the hospital for a three-day stay, and we were discouraged and worried and even a bit frustrated. But it turns out, that unfortunate thing turned into something more beautiful than we could have hoped for. God is so good.

Unfortunately for Daniel, he is the one who had to "take one for the team." We visited him every day that he was in the hospital, and it was a hard, scary time for him, I'm sure. But in going to the Hospital (which we wouldn't have done if one of our own team wasn't admitted) we saw how much need there was there; and how little hope. On the day we went to pick up Daniel, four of us went to the children's ward and began talking to the kids that were sick or recovering from surgery or illness. We laughed with them, got to know them a little bit and their parents (the ones whose parents were able to be there, anyway), and we made balloon animals for them.

I have to say, I have a huge dread of hospitals. It takes a lot for me to work up the courage, get rid of my selfishness, and go visit someone. Even when close friends or family are in the hospital, it is still a difficult thing for me to do; to go visit. I just have a hard time in hospitals, and that's an understatement. But I know that we were meant to be in that hospital that day. I've never felt quite so much confidence in the midst of so much fear before. The confidence didn't come from anything inside me, I'm certain of that. I know that God used us to show His love and shine His light on the lives of those children and their parents, because that was His purpose for us. And now, the door has been opened for us to continue going to the hospital and visiting the children there.

Antuanet is one of the children we visited that day. She has cancer, and the doctors say that she's only got 45 days left to live. I don't have the words sufficient enough to express what kind of emotions I have felt over the last few days since meeting Antuanet and her mother, Juana. All kinds of things have surged through me; rage, frustration, compassion, pain, hope, peace, dissatisfaction...

It truly broke my heart. I cried a lot that day. I still hurt over it. I can handle pain in my own life, but to experience someone else's pain so personally is something else. While we were with Juana and Antuanet, Juana saw that I had a camera and she asked me if I could take a picture of Antuanet and give it to her so that she would be able to remember her daughter after she was gone. How would you feel if someone said that to you?

I have to remember that our God is bigger than this world. Like Jesus said, there is a thief. And the thief does steal and kill and destroy. If we can't see that, we are blind. But more importantly, Jesus does give life; full life. Life that has hope and joy in it, despite pain and death. Pablo and I prayed with Juana for a while. And I can't even imagine what she must be going through right now; she has no husband, and no other family around but her three children, one of whom is dying right before her eyes. I have no idea what she feels or thinks; if she has any hope. But what I do know is that she will probably remember forever the way she was loved by God during such a difficult time. And that is the kind of hope that God gives to us; where even in the midst of horrible things, we can feel comfort and love. We were able to print out the pictures and take them to her today. I hope to be able to continue visiting them and praying with them; loving them, being God's hands and arms and feet.

This world is full of things that hurt. But our God is bigger than that. He is victorious over pain, over death, over our worst enemy, even over ourselves and our own plans. I praise Him for that.

Please keep praying for Juana and for Antuanet and her other two children.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It's colder inside the house than it is outside.

It feels sort of like the rush will never end. Every morning, we're up early and every night, we're up late and during the day in between we're going non-stop, physically, spiritually, emotionally. It's hard to keep up. Plus, Chileans speak really really fast, and all at the same time when they're in groups, and it's hard to understand. I feel left out a lot of the time because I can't keep up with the conversation. But I have had a chance to talk one-on-one with a couple of them, and that has been really awesome.

There are so many kids here! And they are really eager to learn what we have to teach. The Chilean team brought crafts with them that are reminders of the bible stories we tell during the presentations in the plazas. One is about how Jesus fed the 5000 with just a little bit of bread and fish, and the other is about Jesus walking on the water. It's fun to watch the kids as they watch the stories acted out, and to see them do the crafts with's like they've never used crayons before. Maybe some of them haven't, I have no idea.

Daniel, one of the Chilean team, is in the hospital. He had fluid in his lungs a few days ago. He couldn't breathe. Apparently he had had an infection before he came to Cuzco, but it got better...but being here, dancing, singing, jumping, climbing steps, walking everywhere in high came back even worse. They want to keep him in the hospital three days. And that's not a fun place to be. It's actually kind of a scary place to be. Please keep Daniel in your prayers. They also think now that he might have a heart problem as well.

Since Daniel has been getting rest and care (sort of) in the hospital, Everybody has been doing everything, plus what Daniel usually does...We've even asked a couple of the youth that come to bible studies with us to come help out, doing puppets and stuff. I wish it were under different circumstances, but I'm glad that they are getting involved. Cesar and his friend Jose have been helping us a lot. I learned Daniel's part in the drama that the team brought to perform for the adults and youth in the crowd. Yes...that's right...I play Satan. I know, I know, type-casting, right? Spare me your lame jokes. Or don't. They're probably funny. Just no lame jokes, ok? Because that will irritate me. And everyone else who reads them. Only funny jokes allowed. Anyway, it's been fun. I hope he gets better soon though, so he can be back, working with us again. By the way, no, I did not wear the vanguard sweatshirt on purpose to play Satan, but now that I think about it...kind of fitting, no?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

and...the puppets didn't smell!

Yesterday, a missions team from Santiago, Chile arrived to work with us here in Cuzco. Today was a busy, busy day. In the morning, after breakfast and a time of sharing our thoughts about the devotional that we are doing, we went to a plaza in Wanchaq (which is the district of Cuzco in which I live). We set up a puppet house, and walked around inviting kids to come sing and dance with us and watch a puppet show. And we did all of that! Lots of singing and dancing and puppets.

It's neat to come to a place like this and offer something for kids. These kids aren't here because it's a fun place to be. They're here because their parents are vendors in the plaza and they have to be here all day. A lot of these kids are put to work too, walking around the plaza trying to sell whatever it is their parents are selling in their booths. So, to have something fun, specifically for children, here is a rarity. And it's nice that we can give these kids some time to actually be kids. But it hurts a little that we can only offer them a little bit of childhood for only a couple hours. They are cute kids, and they have to grow up much faster than kids should have to grow up.

It was also really cool to watch the parents that watched from a distance. There really isn't much for children here. And it's my guess that the parents of these kids are grateful that someone will provide a place where their kids can smile and laugh and play together. It was really awesome to see these moms' and dads' faces just light up while they watched their children have fun. And what's more, as they watched these complete strangers loving their children the way that Christ loves their children. I wonder how often they get to see that...other people; strangers, caring about their kids. That is something that speaks so loud.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My legs hurt a little.

This morning, we walked up hundreds and hundreds of steps (I'm not exaggerating) to get to the community of San Marcos. That's where Victor lives. Victor is in his 40's, never been married, no kids...he lives with his father and his brother and his brother's family. I met him on Sunday, when we walked up to San Marcos for the kids' program in the morning.

Back in February, when a missions team came to Cuzco to help Ricky and Tracie get things started, Victor came to one of the presentations they did, and he decided then that he wanted to know Jesus. Ricky started doing a Bible study with Victor every Tuesday morning and they have been meeting together ever since. Victor's knowledge of God has grown and his desire to live for God has grown as well. He has learned that following Christ is not just following a book of rules...but that it's a relationship. It's learning to be in communion with Jesus and grow in a relationship with Him, in order to learn how to live as He lived. Victor is going to be baptized next Tuesday, in the river.

Praise God for Victor and his courage to stand up to his family who continually tell him that his baptism will be an act of betrayal. He needs, and will continue to need, a lot of prayer. But hopefully his baptism will be an example to the people like Victor, who wanted to give their hearts to Christ a long time ago, came to a few Bible studies with Ricky and Tracie, and have since been pressured into changing their minds by their families who don't want them to be a part of this church. It's so sad. There is a huge spiritual battle going on right now for Cuzco. Pray that God will open the eyes of the people here, so they can see that they have been blinded by the devil. And please pray for Victor and his family.

By the way...not kidding about the steps. Hundreds of them. Seriously. I mean, that's a lot of steps. You know?

Friday, August 04, 2006

God is good

Journal Entry #2

"Friday, August 4, 2006

Already, so much disaster; so much blessing. We (my parents and I) arrived to LAX only a couple hours before the flight. Waited in the ticketing line about an hour and a half. Finally, the unhelpful people behind the counter helped us (sort of). I was not allowed to check three bags. I couldn´t even opt to pay the fee for the third. It just wasn´t allowed. Only two. So the beautiful guitar I had acquired only yesterday, to give to the new church in Cuzco got left did all 15 packs of guitar strings, all my towels, my joy, and Kirk Cameron. It was so frantic! Nothing but a big, confusing mess. Mom and Dad had to take my two bags to the baggage security while I had to sprint to gate 60 in hopes that my plane hadn´t already taken off. I was shaking all over and crying by the time I got to the security line, believing I would not make my flight which was scheduled to leave in like seven minutes.

But God sent an angel. The man at the x-ray machine saw my fear and frustration and tears, and he just looked me in the eye and said, "God is good." I was shaking so much that I couldn´t even get my laptop back in the bag! He just walked over, opened the bag up so that I could put the computer in it, zipped the bag for me and gently handed me the laptop bag, my jacket and my backpack; all the while, saying, "God is good. Don´t be afraid. Jesus will get you on that plane." I believe angels still walk this earth every once in a while, and it would not surprise me if that´s who I encountered this morning.

I ran to the gate, tears streaming...I had been ripped off of a goodbye. I didn´t even get a second to hug my dad. There had been so much confusion and panic, that we just all ran in different directions in a rush.

When I got to the gate, the plane hadn´t even arrived yet. It took me the whole flight from LA to Houston to calm down.

How will I do this? Not even on a plane yet and I had let fear and worry overcome me. Well, I will not forget those words. "Don´t be afraid. God is good."

Yes He is. I think if I had not been put in that panic situation, I would not have heard those precious words from that man.

God, you are good. Thank you for allowing me to have just enough fear, so that I could see you better. Help me to trust you more.

Mom, Dad...I love you. I miss you already. I wish I had had time to really say that this morning."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

...Be back again November 3rd.

Here I go! I'm off to Cuzco, Peru this Friday morning to spend the next three months doing whatever I am able to do to share Jesus with people who need Him. I still don't know exactly what to expect, since I have never gone on a mission trip alone before...or for quite so long. I have some fears...travelling alone makes me a little nervous. What if I miss a connecting flight? What if I can't find my luggage? What if i get a seat on a flight or two right next to someone who is super smelly? (It happens) And I'm also afraid of being homesick. And being regular sick. And of big, gross bugs. What if, what if, what if... I worry about a lot of things.

But in the midst of that worry, I am confident that God will give me exactly what I need in order to serve Him best, and if I need to get homesick to serve Him, then so be it. If I have to sit next to the smelly guy on the plane and miss my connecting flight and have to buy all new clothes because my bags never actually got on the plane at LAX...then amen. And God will use those things to do His will if I am willing to follow Him into His will with a joyful heart.

It will be an adventure, and I am excited about that. I don't have any adventure shoes, like Trevor does, but I think I'll be okay without them. I am really excited to see my friends, Tracie and Ricky again. Ricky and Tracie Olivares are the missionaries I will be working and living with. They started this church back in February of this year and they both have so much passion for sharing the gospel! I hope that I can add to that passion for Christ that already radiates from within them and their household. I hope God will use me to encourage and minister them just as He will use them to teach and minister to me. (That's them at Machu Picchu-maybe one of the most beautiful places in the world...where I will hopefully get to go within the next month or two!)

I will do my best to keep you updated about what's happening in Cuzco over the next few months. I hope I can share my experiences with you and I hope you will feel like you are a part of them. You faithful friends, who read these words of mine, have no idea how much you encourage me. Thank you for your support and your love! You will definitely be with me in Peru!!