Whenever someone returns from an extended stay abroad, the now well-traveled-culturally-sensitive-globally-educated individual is boundlessly obnoxious as he/she babbles on about the trip. I, for example, begin every conversation, comment or conjecture with "Well, in Perú...". The memories of yesterday are so vibrant, I feel I must share them today. There are sufficient tales for hundreds of blog posts, but this one will be the last. You have been a patient friend, dear reader. You waded through my emotions and supplied me with your prayers. You have heard many Perú stories, which seem to be personal parables through which the Lord revealed more of his good nature to me. Now, as I sit on my back porch in the sun's scorch, I offer you a final post, and a final story.*
Two friends from Buckner Perú accompanied my team and I to the airport on Wednesday evening. After checking our bags, we proceeded to the food court. Wait, why didn't we go through security first? Well, all of the restaurants are located before, not after, security. A frustrating design to be certain. My team and I wondered, "Don't people worry about missed flights while hurriedly eating?" Our Peruvian friends did not share our frustration with the layout. Instead, they described the food court as a place for a traveler to share a final meal with family and friends before departing. Getting through security is not the primary objective. The people matter more than the plane.
In coming home, I take this lesson with me. Do not board the plane, accomplish the task, depart from one day to the next, before taking the time to enjoy the relationships God has placed in your life. I miss my friends in Perú, I enjoy my family in Texas, and I look forward to seeing old & new friends in the days to come. Through all of the transitions in life, I will cling to the unchanging God who was yesterday, is today, and will forever be.
When I was in Perú...
*Disclaimer: If I see you in person, I reserve the right to share many, many, many more stories and little comments about Peru
The only men inside the orfanitorio are the security guards. 80-or-so children play within the fenced courtyard; they are shielded from outside dangers and void of inside comforts. The orphanage is an institution rather than a home. A 'mother' cooks for the children, but no mommy dotes on them. A man guards the door, but no father walks through it. These children were removed from fractured homes, but not given a replacement. In the midst of such circumstances, the children wonder as to their worth and struggle to define their dignity.
One gordita girl revels in our attention. Sitting in my lap is a particular thrill. While I was holding her today, she pointed to our team members and said, "buena, bueno, buena, mala, buena...". Then, she pointed to herself and asked me, "¿Buena o Mala?" I hurriedly responded, "¡Buena, buena!" but sorrow filled my smiling face. The same sorrow that burgeons when I watch the kids fight over worthless toys, when I hear them belittle one another to better themselves, when I sense their deep yearning for affirmation and affection, and when I perceive the utter lack thereof. Their wounds are deep, but even yet their future may be bright. Pray for these children, that the Lord's love would comfort them. Pray for the Lord's people, that they would seek opportunities to love the abandoned. Pray for my final day, that my team would love without abandon.
P.s. I am continuing the ministry tradition of Guy Cantwell by playing basquetból with the niños. It's fantastic because no one plays well... and I am at least 3 inches taller than the average Peruvian...
This morning was our first morning without a hug & kiss from Giuli. As she journeys to a conference in Mexico, we continue our work in Perú. While we miss her leadership and company, we feel at ease with our substitutionary leadership and the new team. So, this morning we returned to the teen mothers' home (TMH) and visited an orphanage in the afternoon. It was a day of fun and games as we endeavored to build relationships at both locations. This entailed the use of Spanish, and Bonnie speaking Spanish is always an adventure.
For instance, when speaking with a girl at the TMH, I asked how many months she had lived there. She patiently explained to me that she had not lived there for months, but only for two weeks. Expecting that she had moved in after giving birth, I inquired as to the age of her baby. When I received a puzzled look in response, I tried another question: "¿Dónde está tu bebé?" I was likewise confused by her amswer. Bent on learning about the ageless and missing child, I continued with my questioning. Finally, the girl points to her stomach and I, with all enthusiasm, exclaim, "¡Estás embarazada!". This leads to an awkward moment and the ultimate acknowledgement that yes, she is four months pregnant and will live at the TMH throughout her pregnancy and the early years of her child's life.
And now for the big life discovery: I was being a bad listener (and philosopher!). I used my questions to confirm my limited and lacking understanding, and thus failed to recognize unexpected truths. As I did not know that girls stay in the TMH throughout their pregnancy, I was not listening to the girl explain her pregnancy. Instead, I waited for her to tell me about her newborn baby. In trying to hear, "Mi niño tiene __ meses," I was unable to recognize, "Estoy embarazada". Her answer did not meet my expectation, so I continued asking the wrong questions. It seems I have much to learn about listening to people and, yes, to God. My prayers are often focused on one desired outcome, which excludes the possibility of an alternate answer. As I wonder why God is slow to answer me, I fail to acknowledge his surprising respuesta. Oh, and thankfully God is an excellent linguist so the Spanish-English thing is not even an issue.
With humility (hopefully),
Fun Fact: The most popular question for jovenes and niños everywhere is: "¿Tienes un novio?"
Today my team of four and our second short-term team journeyed to a team mothers' home. The wounds and worries of these girls could compose a woeful tale, but their youthful grins and the babies' gurgles tell a different sort of story. I am very excited to conclude my term in Perú by serving these darlings. Our team would appreciate rayers for words of exhortation and hearts of love.
P.S. I just ate a salad. In a foreign country, a safe salad is a truly beautiful thing... I do hope it was a safe salad.
How can you sweep a dirt floor? With every strike of the ground, you turn up more dust until a gritty coat of gray smothers all vibrancy.
On Tuesday, 4 women and I went to a small shack. The two-room structure is poised on a hill covered by other homes of similar stature. A mother and her three children live here; they share a living room as a kitchen, a kitchen as a bedroom, and a bed with each other. At the "far" end of the house, an organization recently built a small second room to house the mother and her young daughter. They needed to sleep separately as a matter of security, but they lacked a bed to make use of the space. Our short(er)-term team decided to provide the bed, but, according to the council of Buckner's social worker, required a cleaning of the house before delivering it. So, 4 women and I walked into a small shack, and helped to sweep the floor, fold the clothes, and clean the furniture.
In sweeping, we picked up rocks and burried trash. In folding, we sorted damp clothees that would never dry in the humid air. In cleaning the furniture, we uncovered the homes of beatles, cockroaches, and spiders. At one point, I looked around and in frustration thought, "the only beautiful things in this house are the people." It seemed a moment of terrible despair, until the reality of the statement sunk in. The inhibitants are beautiful, fashioned in the image of a glorious God. Their dignity in light of his glory ought be respected. The dirt floors were a subsidiary concern, the bed was a means to an end. Our purpose was to acknowledge the value of this family and point them to Christ. May God by glorified by our efforts, and may he be honored in this household.
A father tells a daughter a great deal about her identity. My father imparted to me a confidence that I am valued. His presence at my recitals and games told me that my hard work mattered. His careful attention to my written words told me that my thoughts mattered. His listening ear told me that my voice mattered. And his prolific prayers told me that my God mattered. This Fathers Day, I celebrated my dad's faithful love for his daughters by extending love to children without dads.
After a morning church service, our team visited 60-something children and preteens at a state orphanage. Roughly half of the kids had special medical needs, and all of them had special emotional needs. It was one of the most difficult days that I have had in Peru. While surveying the hardships that these children face, I thought about the inexhaustible depths of the Father's love for each little one. I remembered my own futility as I alternately experienced overwhelming compassion and a fear of unknown difficulties. Several children asked team members for adoption -- they clung to the hope of a family. Others tried to steal dulces and cell phones -- they lost faith that anyone would provide for them. At moments, I wondered, "How do I articulate the love of Christ to children such as these?" And then I remembered, Christ came for the least of these. He articulates his gospel as love for the disadvantaged, and calls upon his church to care for the widows and orphans. His hope is most radiant in these circumstances of despair. Where the sights of a fallen world are most grim, you must shine God's light there. Love the fatherless, for the Father first loved you.
With much gratitude,
Guy, His Girls, and a Park Bench Rando
With the arrival of our new friends from Stephenville, our ministry has expanded! While we normally minister in one district to 4-12 year olds, today we were able to reach two districts, while adding a womens' Bible study and youth events to our usual schedule. I passed my afternoon painting nails with the youth girls and enjoying a ballgame best translated as "Kill Them in the Middle." Pleasant, yes? Tomorrow we will share a Bible lesson with the girls. As I have previously mentioned, these youth do not have many, if any, disciplers in the faith. I pray that our time with these girls would make them eager to explore the nature of God and his design for their lives.
After discussing teams & teens, I must tell you about teas. After dinner tonight, my team and I ventured to Starbucks (again, I accept your judgment for our American ways). Bailey and I love tea, so naturally we tried each others. When she grabbed my cup, it spilled all over her hand. And it was hot. Very. Very. Hot. Her hand is now rather red, coated in Aloe Vera & Neosporin, and wrapped in gauze. Please pray for healing and the prevention of infection. The dear has endured a good bit of pain.
In the morning, my team and I will meet our first short(er)-term mission team. We are so excited. I say shorter-term team because I am increasingly aware of the brevity of our stay in Perú. A month sounds like a remarkable amount of time when you are planning the journey, but we have already reached the half-way mark and it feels as though we just arrived. Oh Lord, use our remaining time for your glory! We appreciate your prayers for unity in ministry as we enter this week.
Also, I thought you might enjoy this photo taken in a Cusco market. There was all sorts meat for sale including, but not limited to: fried guinea pig, chicken feet, alpaca meat, jelly made from cow hooves, and these cute little pig heads. Have I mentioned that I tried fried cow's blood? I did. It was chewey, and not particularly appetizing. Given increased exposure, I suppose I could appreciate the flavor...
How to get to Machu Picchu:
1. Fly from present location to Lima, Peru
2. Take hour long flight from Lima to Cusco
3. Adjust to altitude of 11,203 feet above sea level
4. Proceed on 1.5 hour bus ride
5. Take hour long train ride to Aguas Calientes
6. Catch a quick 30 minute bus ride up the mountain
7. Climb a few stairs
8. Catch your breath & stare at the marvelous ruins
The ruins of Machu Picchu are glorious. Lush green mountains surround the stone walls of this ancient city. The Incans built Machu Picchu as a learning center to honor their foremost deity, Apu, Goddess of the Mountain. In worship of Apu, the Incans planned ingeniously and labored tirelessly to perfect Machu Picchu. Their labor has the temporal yield of astounding architectural feats. However, if the ruins of crumbling city hold the power to awe visitors, how much more will the eternal kingdom impress God's people? For we worship not the mountain, but the creator of the mountain. Our hope will not fade with the passage of time, but grow richer in light of God's revealed goodness.
This morning my team and I made the short journey from Lima to Cusco. Though only an hour's flight apart, the two cities are exceedingly different: while Lima is urbane, Cusco has an old-world feel; mist settles over Lima, rain pours down on Cusco; Lima sits along the shore, but Cusco is nestled in the highlands. Your imaginations of Peru likely reflect the culture of Cusco, rather than Lima. Embroidered skirts, llamas & alpacas, Incan ruins and indigenous cultures... these are the pride of the highlands. We made the journey from one culture to the next in order to visit a state-sponsored orphanage for teenage girls and to survey the majesty of Machu Picchu. Today, we battled altitude sickness and enjoyed the company of the girls; tomorrow, we will explore the ruins.
When we arrived at the orphanage, I was fatigued from the altitude and the long day of travel. This did not hinder our visit, however, as the Lord provided strength and rejuvenation. We played a tournament of silly games with the girls. My team, Las Estrellas, did not win, but we did have a pretty fantastic song: "Las Estrellas, Las Estrellas, Las Estrellas Brillan, Brillan, Brillan!" Okay, maybe it wasn't a great song, but it was a great deal of fun. The orphanage was tidy, and seemingly well-run. Even still, it was heart-breaking to imagine the wounds of these young women. They hungrily sought our affection, and desired to curl up next to us at every moment. I tried to imagine what it must be like to be abandoned instead of affirmed by the love of one's parents, but I could not fathom this deep pain. The love they sought was far deeper than what I could provide in 2 hours of time, but it is not more than the Lord can deliver. We hope to return on Wednesday morning, and if we do, I will have the opportunity to share a devotional with the girls. If I am to bring a message, I ask that the words would be of Christ alone.