Saturday, September 23, 2006

Road Trip

Our bus left the Cuzco bus station last Sunday at 9:00pm. We rode for a little over 8 hours and ended up in Arequipa, Peru at a little after 5 in the morning. It started off a pretty decent busride. They served some food, showed a movie...there was plenty of leg room, and big roomy seats. The thing is, 8 hours gets uncomfortable, no matter where you're sitting; especially if you're sitting directly above a heater whose purpose in life is to hurt you with hot air.

Our connecting bus left Arequipa at...I don't remember...sometime after 5:00. Maybe it was 7:00...and we ended up in Tacna, Peru at around 1:00pm. The second bus was smaller...less leg room, but more comfortable, ironically. We watched ice age 2. I sort of slept through most of it, but I woke up for the end. And after that was Titanic. I don't know. It seems like if you're travelling, you maybe don't want to show a movie about people dying tragic deaths while they were travelling. Just my opinion.

Well, we took a sort of scary taxi across the border from Tacna, Peru to Arica, Chile just in time to celebrate Chile's independence day. What great timing, huh? We found a couple rooms at a nearby hostal (with no bed bugs), cleaned up a little, and then went to look around. We ate lots of good food (plus some not so good food), listened to loud music at the fair, squeezed through the crowd full of tons of people, and spent the next morning looking out at a really beautiful view of the ocean. We stayed in Arica for a couple days before we headed back to Tacna. It was strange to be back at sea-level again. It wasn't really cold. It was a nice change in weather.

I loved being in Tacna, even though we were only there a day. Each year we've sent a group to Ecuador for a mission trip, there has been a group from Peru there at the same time. And they come from a church in Tacna. So it was really neat to be able to hang out with people I met in Ecuador the past two years for a little while. We went to a prayer group they had Wednesday night at the church...I looked around the room and realized that out of all the people there, there were only a few that I didn't already know. It's so cool to be connected to the body of Christ all over the world.

I spent a long time talking with Ksenija (Senca) and it was good to see her again. She's the one who I talked with in Ecuador this year, when I was feeling scared to come to Cuzco because I felt I might not have anything to offer. She told me that I could always clean the bathrooms here...and that's something. It was good to see her again; and be able to talk more.

We left Tacna at 1:00pm on Thursday and spent way too long on the bus back to Arequipa. Turns out, there was a lady on our bus who was trying to smuggle some whiskey back into Peru. So when we stopped at the checkpoint, some scary men in uniforms with guns got on our bus and checked around for illegal things. They found about 10 of her whiskey bottles stashed in different places around the bus. We had to wait for an hour while she talked to the police...I don't know. Maybe she was trying to convince them it was medicinal or something. "But I have a prescription!" They also searched Tracie's bag, saw the stuffed animals she had bought in Tacna for the children's ministry here, and told her it was illegal to bring stuffed animals into Peru. They took her beanie babies. I guess Peru has got a stuffed animal trafficking problem. Isn't that sad? There's always something. Nevermind the lady with all the booze...let's get on this stuffed animal problem!

Also, we were sharing the bus with a big farting lady. And the windows don't open on the bus.

So we made it to Arequipa at 7:00pm, and took the bus to Cuzco at 8:00. We got back to Cuzco at about 6:00am on Friday. Longest ride of my life. Ricky and Tracie have to make this trip every three months, to renew their visas. That's why we went this week. Hopefully they will be able to get residency here soon, so they won't have to keep going back and forth to Chile. It really wears you out.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Movie-Making in Peru

Mondays on the Peruvian mission field are libre; free. We sleep in until whenever the day wakes us up, we hang out, we rest, we go walk around the beautiful Plaza de Armas (if we feel like switching our slippers for shoes and going outside). We even stay up well past midnight watching movies or playing games on Sunday nights after everyone has left from Bible study...because we know we can sleep in the next morning. So, you can imagine my surprise this morning when I woke up at 7:38 without the assistance of an alarm clock. And you can imagine my excitement when I realized that the thing that would not allow me to go back to sleep, as I was trying so hard to do, was the whirlwind of amazing ideas for the youth ministry here that was bombarding my brain.

This morning, God said it's time for change. No more observing the culture from a distance, no more simply participating in the things that other people are offering to the ministries here. It's time to bring what you have to the table...

Lately we've been spending more and more time getting to know the youth that come to our Bible studies and prayer meetings. We've been trying to get to know them on a more personal level; inviting them over to the house to hang out, roast marshmallows, watch movies, and have Mexican Train tournaments...we've been going out and playing soccer and other games with's definitely been a learning experience, and a lot of fun.

Well if there's one thing I'm passionate about, it's youth ministry. And if there's one thing I'm good at doing, it's making dumb have been furiously writing down every single idea that has come to my mind all morning long. It's beautiful! I feel like I really have something to give here; and I'm not just piggybacking on the things that other people are contributing. Don't misunderstand me, I am honored to be a part of the work we have been doing here, and I feel that my contribution matters. But it's nice to have something original to offer as well.

I'm finding more and more how much I love these kids and want to minister to them. I want to be able to talk with them and be someone they feel they can trust. They are good kids with open minds and hearts. We can see that they are hungry and thirsty for something, and they are finding satisfaction in Christ and the hope He has to offer their lives. It's a blessing to be able to share with them what we know of God and His unfailing love for us. I'm glad to be here; a part of this.

I plan to start filming a series of videos here very soon. They will be short, introductory videos for the youth nights we will have here...each video will present an issue that these students face, and leave it open with a question. For example... the last thing said in a video could be something like, "Am I alone?" "Do I have purpose?" "Who am I?" Things like that, which address the topics of loneliness, purpose, or identity. There are so many issues to discuss, so there will be a lot of videos as well.

I'd really love and appreciate any suggestions you have as far as what types of issues students of this age face, struggle with, and want answers to. Some ideas I have come up with are those already mentioned; loneliness, purpose, identity...along with some others, like abuse, divorce/separation, money or lack of, meeting expectations, what/who to believe, sickness/death, and hope for the future. Are there other issues you face? Or that your kids face? What other topics can we address through video? Please give me your input. Thank you for your help!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

One Month Today...

I can't believe I've been here for a month already. Time has really flown by. It feels like just yesterday I was running through the airport crying, thinking I would miss my flight here!

We have been so busy here, working with the kids up at San Marcos, doing Bible studies and prayer meetings every week, working with the missions team non-stop, then entertaining guests from Chile, then guests from Washington...the fun never ends!

I have to say, so far, my favorite part about this internship has been those precious kids. You have no idea how much they have touched my heart. I meet new kids and learn more names each week. And even though we wake up earlier than I'm used to on Sundays in order to get there on time, it's so worth it. Every time we come walking down the road, and see all those sweet faces on the playground down below waiting for us; every week, when we arrive and one of the kids sees us walking toward them and starts shouting, "Están aquí! Mira! Tíaaa!! Tíoooooo!!!!" "Look, they're heeeere!!!" And then all the kids start shouting and coming toward us. Every time I get a hug and a kiss on the cheek from one of those wonderful kids, my heart melts.

I have grown to love this sweet little girl named Guadalupe. Everyone calls her Lupe for short. She is two years old, and she loves to play with the other kids, even though they're all so much bigger than she is. She's the little one I'm talking to there in the middle, with the cute pink hat. She is so precious...she waddles when she runs, and she laughs when she's finished running, and she's always got a big smile on her face! She is a miracle. We ran into her mom on our way home from Sunday school with the kids this past week, and began talking with her a little bit. Her mom began telling us about how Lupe was what they call a "kangaroo baby." She was born so prematurely that they could not even keep her in an incubator. She was something like two pounds when she was born. They took her tiny body and placed it on her mom's stomach, and then wrapped them up together. She survived that way for months, only being moved when the wrap needed to be changed, until she was big enough and strong enough to survive without the body heat from her mother. Incredible! Lupe certainly is a gift from God, to her family and to me. And Lupe is not the first child in her family to survive in this way. Her older brother, Eric, was also a kangaroo baby. How amazing God is! What good gifts He gives to His children; even though we have to go through difficult, scary times sometimes before we receive those gifts. I imagine that during the first few months Lupe's mom was terrified, thinking of the possibility of survival for her babies...but now, I think when she looks at them and sees how strong they are; how full of precious life they are...she must thank God for the gifts He has given her.