Peru: On Humility, Generosity, and the Things That Change Us

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Hi, friends. :)

So we wrapped up our official time in Lima last night, and everyone is off to the airport (or already gone) except me and Ginger. We’ll leave for Cusco later this afternoon for a few days before heading back to the States. (But not before we go for a snack run because…well, because snacks. See two posts ago.) 😀

It’s a strange sort of quiet this morning as I look around a room that‘s been filled with laughter, love, jokes, and memories…all of those things spanning just seven days that somehow felt like much more. God truly blessed us with a wonderful team, and I love each of these friends so much.

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I got up before 5 a.m. to see most of the team off and also because, selfishly, I wanted one more hug and memory with each of them. And then I climbed back into my bunk bed and tried to go back to sleep, but my mind started wandering and processing all we’ve experienced.

As much as I should sleep because, honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of it lately, I guess I want one more blogging memory, too. 😉

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So the coffee is brewed, I’m drinking out of the mug I’ve been using all week…and I’m hoping that maybe my words this morning might begin to give our time here some justice. Begin, at least.

Lima is an interesting city…it has so many things that other large (read: HUGE) cities do: more restaurants than I could ever visit, the crazy driving that somehow makes sense but doesn’t really at all (ask me about our last taxi ride here sometime), and so many people.

So many people. 

They are what make this place what it is…a beautiful, heartbreaking, amazing city and country with maybe the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life. (And also some of the best food. I promise I didn’t come for the food.) 😉

And all of what we did here centered around people. Whether we were visiting their churches, feeding them (but more often, they fed us), teaching, going to their homes to hear their stories and pray with them, playing with the kids at the park…the people are what make Lima what it is. They are kind, generous, and open…I totally jumped on board with the whole greeting with a kiss thing, I guess because it just shows how accepting they are of others. I love how warm and welcoming they were, from the first moments we entered their churches, homes, lives.

It was instant friendship, and that will stay with me forever.

One of our first mornings here, we split into two groups and had the opportunity to visit the homes of several members of the church in Los Olivos. At the first home, we talked with a new mama while her baby napped. I was amazed, as she shared her story, at how much we have in common, and my heart went out to her as she talked about the struggles I have, too…with life and her past, with parenting, with feeling like she’s enough. The things that are universal with every mama’s heart.

A few mornings later, God set it up so I could be in a home with another mama of three, including a nine year-old girl and a three year-old boy. Again, hearing her stories and pain and joy and faith, sometimes all in the same sentence, reminded me that we’re really not so different from each other. We struggle, but we also have hope because of Jesus.

The last few days have been spent in a different part of Lima, where the challenges seemed a little more tangible. It’s pretty hard to forget walking into someone’s house with the first door being to a bedroom…and then realizing that it’s the whole house. There were beds, the tiniest kitchen area, clothes, a tv, everything this family possessed…all in a space smaller than our family room back home. Plastic stools were lined up, and they stood so we could sit.

We were given their very best. 

It was humbling and it was also life-changing. I thought about the place I come from and how I don’t ever have to think about my next meal or what I’ll do if I need or want something. And yet, the poverty here is real, and it stabs a person in the heart so deeply that it hurts…maybe so we can enter into their pain just a little.

And so we don’t forget.

And beyond those struggles, we heard a father of three talk about a difficult health challenge he’s facing, and we saw his brokenness in worrying about his children. I think there were tears in all of our eyes as we listened, and then he stood there and proclaimed that, despite all of this, his Heavenly Father would take care of them because He’s the best Father, and I can’t get this man’s face or words (even if they were in Spanish) out of my head.

If anyone in the world is justified in losing hope, it would be him…but he knows and believes with all his heart that Jesus is our true hope. 

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And I suppose I could keep writing this morning…I could tell you more stories and talk about the amazing place called Castillo Fuerte (Mighty Fortress) and about the life-changing work being done there and about how the place is so full of love that it makes a person never want to leave. One of the teachers there asked me, when will you return? 

And I told her…I want to. So much. And I meant it with all my heart. This church and school, a tiny space I’d never be able to find without a map, is doing life-changing Jesus work and families are being transformed. I hope and pray I’ll have the chance to go back (and hopefully before another twenty years pass) so I can hug these people again and see the rewards of their faithfulness.

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It’s been a good week. 

It’s been a hard week. 

It’s been a week where the love, grace, and mercy of our Father has been so present. 

There’s so much more to share, and I hope that will happen soon.

For now, it’s time to figure out how to cram everything into my suitcase and still leave room for a few souvenirs for my people. (Including snacks.) 😀

Thank you, all…for your prayers, for your support, for being part of this journey. I’m blessed.

And may I live that way, knowing how blessed I am so I can be as generous as the people I’ve met this week. 

God is good. So. Good.

And I’m so thankful. 

 

Sig

Where Are Their God Moments?

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There are moments in life that stand out to me, times when I have known, without a doubt, that God was painting a masterpiece right in front of my eyes so I’d know He was there.

I could talk about them for days, the ways God has shown up in our lives…about how He’s led us to places far beyond what we could have ever dreamed of, how He brought us to just the right place when our beyond-those-dreams life changed into a different kind of dream. How he gave us unimaginable gifts in the form of kids we thought we might never have, about how He’s provided and given and blessed.

I have no shortage of masterpieces in my life. 

And maybe the first, clear one goes back to this twenty year-old girl who traipsed through jungles with a wide-open heart and let God do whatever He wanted with her life. In between the moments and memories, He pressed deeply into her heart the desire to love the people of Peru and serve them.

I remember that when I returned, I knew this was my call…to return and be in the very place I’m typing this post from tonight, twenty years later. Except it wasn’t.

And over the years, as things and seasons have changed and shifted, the painting I thought He was doing in my life changed palettes and colors. I learned acceptance and obedience as I saw Him rearrange all I’d expected and anticipated.

And yet, still…I can look back at all that and know that it’s beautiful. A masterpiece.

It’s all from Him.

I’ve talked often about how this time in Peru feels like a gift in so many ways. Just landing here, spending time with the people, getting to share the love of Jesus with them, praying over them, receiving every single one of those kisses (and boy are there a lot!) 😀 from the probably-hundreds who have greeted me…those things have been blessings beyond what I could have hoped for.

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We’ve visited people in their homes, prayed with them, played games with kids and taught them lessons, talked with older people at a health clinic, wandered and explored neighborhoods with rugged beauty and heartbreaking poverty that somehow exist in the same space.

Those things and places and people are all part of His masterpieces, too, and I have struggled with that this week. 

I want to write a post to you that tells all about the amazing things we’ve seen God do and how He’s worked…and He has. Oh, my goodness, has He ever.

He really has been working, and it’s been awesome to see.

But today, as I heard another mom share her heartbreaking story and follow it with hope, as we met with a man and his three children in their one room (yes, you read that right) apartment, who is dealing with unimaginable challenges…and then in practically the same breath, we heard this man preach at us about how God is faithful and provides and takes care of his children and is the best Father to us all…I found myself wondering why the redemption in these stories isn’t more tangible. Here were these people in desperate need, clinging to Truth they know and believe with all their hearts…

And why isn’t God showing up for them and providing beyond what they could ever dream? 

Where were THEIR God moments, the kind where they could look back and know He was making something beautiful for each of them, too? 

And then it was almost like God decided to smack me over the head in the midst of the tears that were threatening to drip…

…because wasn’t the fact that these people, who were facing such heartbreak and pain, could turn to their faith and proclaim their trust in God and all He’s promised them…wasn’t it enough? 

Watching and hearing and knowing they’re living out their faith…those are the biggest God moments.

We were gathered last night as a team, along with a local pastor and his wife, having dinner…and someone told us to look out the window at the dusk sky.

I’m not sure He painted it for me…but it brought to me the reminder that God is writing each of our stories. He sees the people we’ve seen just as much as He sees me. He is present in this hillside village, just as much as He shows up in my suburban neighborhood back in Illinois.

I can trust the God who is writing my own story to write one for each of His children.

That’s beautiful. That’s a God moment.

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Sig

On Snacks and Language Barriers and Love

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Greetings from Peru!

Before I get going too much into this post, I feel like I need to fess up to something that is totally un-holy and absolutely not why I came back to this incredible country, though you would also absolutely expect this from me:

Oh my goodness. The snacks.

I’m not gonna lie. Snacks are always a winner with me, but there’s something so fun about traveling to a new place and exploring the little corner stores and grocery stores and markets that carry so many fun things. On our first day here we wandered into one during the afternoon so I could find my beloved Inca Kola…and, praise Jesus, they make it sin azucar (without sugar) now, so now I won’t be flying on a permanent sugar high during the twelve days I’m here. 😉

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And, of course, while we were there, I had to take stock of the cookies and crackers, and pretty much stuffed an entire package down while I was wandering a little store in the market.

I really didn’t pop in here to talk about the snacks, as good as they are. But I’ll share some pics of my favorites later. 😉

Peru.

Here I am (we are), and it’s been hard to put it all into words, which is why it’s taken this long to get the first post up. We flew in Saturday night, and I absolutely did tear up when the wheels of the plane hit the runway, just in case you’re wondering. We arrived where we’re staying late and finally crashed after midnight.

It was a short night of sleep before we hit the ground running on Sunday morning. It was a full day…over an hour walking/bus ride to get to church, followed by cooking and serving lunch to the members of the church while Kelley gave a nutrition talk. She’d done a lot of research and spent even more time trying recipes and prepping a menu so we’d have something to work with when we got here. (And she did an amazing job!) :) While she shared with members of the congregation, the rest of us had our first experience of cooking in Peru. We also had some time to chat with people and get to know them. I’ve been digging deep to try to find the Spanish I used to have (and praying that Indonesian doesn’t fly out of my mouth…it has a few times already!) and it’s starting to come back. I’m thankful for that and have mad respect for people who can manage to juggle more than two languages now.

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After we left church, we spent the afternoon near the coast, where we got to explore a little. We shopped a little, snack-hunted a little, gazed at the Pacific, wandered some more, and met up for dinner.

It was a great first day, and we all loved our first opportunity to see the ministry at Los Olivos and to explore a little of the city.

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Monday morning was another early one…we headed back to Los Olivos (lots of walking and time on a bus), and spent the entire day visiting members. We split into two teams and went with either Pastor Walterson or Vicar Elvis and walked/rode the bus/rode a motor taxi what felt like all over town, but really wasn’t even close to that. (Lima is big. I can’t even describe how big.)

I’m honestly still processing the visits…it was truly a great day, and there are stories to tell and things weighing on my heart that remind me to pray for the people we’ve met here.

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One thing I’ve been reminded of as I’ve listened and tried to translate as much as I could…

People are people no matter where you go. There’s always something we can find in common, a way we can connect and laugh and love. Right now my heart feels connected to a new mama we had the chance to visit yesterday morning. She has a baby boy and is going through the same struggles I have and still do…worrying about things, wondering if she’s a good mom, both of us trying to trust that we’re doing our best and not messing up everything. I love that we could connect through those things, even if the language barrier made it more difficult.

In all of it, love transcends language, and I think I’m going to hang on to that one as we go through the next days here.

We’re doing well and are thankful for the opportunity to be in this beautiful place with even more beautiful people.

Thanks for reading and being here.

 

Sig

On Peru: Before We Go

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In my last post I shared with you all that God did something pretty big to open a door for me to return to the country of Peru. For over two decades, it’s been a place that has been hidden in a corner of my heart where I store some of the sweetest memories of my life, memories that have shaped just about every aspect of who I am today. I spent just less than a month there, and during that time, the people captured my heart in a way that’s hard to describe.

I always wanted to go back.

And because God does His own things in His own ways in His own time (which seems to be the theme of my life, um, every single day) He decided now was the time to fling a door open. It wasn’t one I was necessarily looking for, and I think that’s what makes it so sweet. In the busyness of life with a hubby, two kiddos, and several different things that keep me busy, a mission trip wasn’t even on my radar.

And because of that, I feel like God just gave me a huge gift.

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Two months ago I told you all about how I was raising money for the trip by selling coffee mugs, and boy did you all show up in the most amazing ways! I raised nearly ALL of what I needed to cover my plane ticket, just through friends and family, both local and online, buying these sweet little coffee mugs. (Which actually aren’t that little…and I still have a few, so let me know if you want one!)

And in addition to supporting me personally, I can’t get over how our church rallied around us and gave money, gift cards, and TONS of medical supplies, enough to fill four suitcases. Amazing! We are so blessed.

And I’m just so grateful for each of you who have given and prayed and supported, so thank you.

THANK YOU.

There are five people from my church traveling to Peru (along with four others), and last week we met for dinner and kind of a “last, what-are-we-forgetting?” chat. While we were talking, the subject of sharing this journey on a blog came up. I said I’d be happy to use this space for Peru updates in the next couple of weeks.

So that’s what I’m doing, and also…in case you haven’t noticed, you’ll get a little of my wit sprinkled in occasionally, too. 😉

So, if you’re new here, welcome! And if you’re not new here, welcome back! It’s good to have you here.

Our team is comprised of: me (of course), Ginger, Kelley, Doug, and Samantha. Ginger is a nurse and good friend of mine from church, and I’m so excited that she’s part of this team! Kelley (physical therapist), Doug (firefighter and EMT) and Samantha (who has lots of cross cultural and refugee work/experience) are all friends from church, who I’ve known through different capacities…singing on praise team, playing bells, participating in volleyball tournaments. (And they’re also husband/wife and daughter, and I think it’s super cool that they’re doing this as a family.) I think we’re a pretty fun group, and I’m looking forward to the time we’ll have together!

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We’ll also be meeting up with a doctor (Jennifer) and three missionaries from the Dominican Republic (Jamielynn, Erin, and Courtney). I’ll share more about them when I can get some photos and stories in person. :)

A little about what we’ll be doing: our trip to Peru is newer territory for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and so the word, flexible, has been reiterated to us many times. The word, in general, just goes with missions. Nothing ever goes as planned. EVER. Or, at least it feels that way.

But our plan is to hold a Community Health Fair in two different parts of Lima, Peru. We’ll be touching on several different things…nutrition, hand washing, dental care, eye care…and helping/assisting the people who come to these fairs. I’m taking the lead on dental hygiene, which is honestly not something I ever thought I’d teach. 😉 My lesson involves eating Oreos, though, so I think the kiddos will have a good time.

We’ll all be meeting in Lima on Saturday (tomorrow!) night, and our official work there kicks off on Sunday. (Some have already arrived, and some of us are leaving tomorrow morning.

This past Sunday our church sent us off with a blessing and a prayer. That first picture will probably make me tear up every time I look at it for the rest of my life. We’re so very blessed to be surrounded by the love and prayers of this church family…and I’m just grateful to have this opportunity.

Please pray for us as we go and love the people of Peru. That’s really what it is, isn’t it? Missions is really just love.

Loving people because He first loved us.

I have no doubt in my mind that each person on our team is going for a specific and important reason, and I’m so looking forward to seeing all that God does and the ways He works. Will you pray with us?

Prayers:

–health and safety as we travel to Peru
–for the people we’ll be serving and loving to have open hearts
–for flexibility as some of the details of what we’re doing will be figured out “as we go”

Praises:

–for God’s provision for each of us to be able to go
–that God always goes with us and before us. He is so good!

Thanks, friends! I’m looking forward to sharing more stories soon! :)

Special thanks to our friend, Mike, for the great pictures from Sunday. We appreciate you!

Sig