Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here Comes the Bride, the Bride, the Bride, the Bride...

Last Saturday I went to my first Peruvian wedding and I thought that I'd share the experience with all of you!

This was no ordinary wedding! Instead of just one solitary bride and groom, there were 10 brides and 10 grooms!! Nine of the pairs were renewing their vows and one pair was getting married for the first time. This wedding was being used as an outreach event for the friends and family of the brides and grooms. There were probably around 500 people in attendance and we even ran out of chairs.

First the bridesmaids and groomsmen came in and formed a line on each side of the aisle (there were 7-8 pairs). The girls carried flowers and the guys Bibles. Then the flower girls came in and then the sets of brides and grooms. The groom came first escorted by a padrino (godparent, usually female) and then the bride with the male "godparent." Two guys from the church (Uriah & David - yes a very interesting combo of two names of men from the Bible) narrarated the proceedings while they were going on. They said the names of the couples who were recommitting and how long they had been together. Several of the missionaries served as padrinos. Oh, as the bride went down the aisle, the bridesmaids & groomsmen formed an arch with their bibles and flowers which the bride passed under. It was funny when the missionary John who happens to be tall passed under with a short bride in tow. The archway had to stretch their arms up much higher!!!

After the nine pairs came down the aisle, the doors to the sanctuary were shut and another couple of flower girls and the last groom came out. Then a recording of "Here Comes the Bride" was played and the final bride (who was getting married for the first time) walked down the aisle. The bride, grooms and their padrinos all sat up in the front but the ones who were getting married for the first time sat in the front in the middle of the aisle. We sang some songs and the pastor shared a short message.

Then the pastor called up all the ones who were renewing their vows to the stage and it's a good thing that it was a big stage!! The pastor led them through a recommittal of their vows and they exchanged rings. It was so crazy to see all those brides and grooms up on stage. We prayed for the couples and then some people on stage started a chant "Besos, Besos!!" (kisses, kisses!). Thus started the kissing line! First one couple on one end of the stage kissed and then the next and then the next!! It was hilarious! I've never seen such a thing!

After that the last couple went through marriage vows, exchanged rings and etc. The only difference from a traditional N.American wedding that I saw in the ceremony was that the padrinos had to be up on stage with them (which was bad news because Ron suddenly disappeared the moment he was supposed to be on stage)! I felt bad for Regina (his wife) until Ron showed up and sheepishly joined them. Another thing that was different was that they knelt and we prayed for them (I liked that!).

At the end of the ceremonies the pastor of the church talked to the audience about marriage and the importance of making vows. He prayed for the people there and those who were having marriage troubles. After the ceremonies they passed out small cups of sweet wine to toast the brides and grooms with. I wasn't sure what it was for, so I drank mine before the toast! whooopss......

Then the brides/groomsmen passed out plate after plate after plate of food. We had a rotiserie style chicken quarter, a potato and some kind of pasta mixture (oh and soda). Oh, I forgot! While the food was being passed out, everyone was invited to go to the front to congratulate and give gifts to the brides and grooms. No, you didn't have to bring a gift for everyone!! Can you imagine?? Somewhere in there, someone pulled out the confetti and the brides and grooms heads were covered with the stuff!

Then there was cake and dancing! Okay so the dancing was funny! First all the brides and brides and grooms and grooms got together as couples and did a choreographed waltzy kind of dance (complete with a twirl and dip!!) What a sight! The audience had pushed their chairs off to the sides and widened the aisle. So there were the brides and grooms in a line, dancing. Ten brides, ten grooms dancing! :0) of course they weren't totally coordinated but it wasn't bad. A man (who apparently was supposed to show up with a live band) then started to sing Christian Andean music and the dancing began. The funny thing about the Andean music was that each song had the same background with different words! The dancing was done with couples and I'm not sure how to describe it. It was maybe like polka or swing or the waltz... I danced a couple of times. Once was with Kiersten (one of the missionary kids) who was out of control. He was dancing with everyone and in such an animated and crazy manner (a little more wild than everyone else!!). It was so funny!!

Thus ends the tale of the bride, bride, bride and so on! What an exciting experience!! hee hee...

The Peruvian Brides & Grooms Renew Their Vows

Ascencia (Marga's sister), Dawn & I enjoy our Inka Cola with the meal

The Dance

Boxing in a Move of God

Dear friends, this really has been a very busy week as we get ready for the start of the PROMESA school next week. Although I should be working on lesson plans and creative classroom props, I'm going to take a moment to reflect on something that has been going around in my heart and head.

How can we really define a move of God? Does it have to look a certain way? Does it need certain parameters from our experience in order to fit into a "move of God" box? We have the model of the Bible which talks about how God moved among His people in Israel, how the Son of God moved among the sons of men and how the Spirit of God moved among those who followed His ways. Can we fit those experiences in a box? Can we look at all the ways that God has worked and say: "God works this, this, this, this and this way"?? We as humans long for simple formulas, we want the 12 step program, we want the quick fix. Often times we'll look at an example in the Bible and say: "oh, that's how God works!" and then we package it in a nifty book or on a beautiful bookmark. :0)

Yet that doesn't jive with the reality of life. The reality is that we are all different and that the same God who worked in a myriad of ways throughout history (as we see in His Word), still works in a myriad of ways in our lives. The danger is when we look at something God is doing in a church or individual's life and try to box in that experience. We can fall into the danger of looking at something an saying "God is not at work here!" or "That's exactly what God's work looks like all the time!"

I have been thinking about this recently because one of the churches in the Mennonite network here in the Cusco area is experiencing a move of God. I say a "move of God" because I don't really know whether to define it as spiritual revival or what. People are being touched by God during the church services: some are being set free from demons, others are forgiving their families, and others are understanding God's deep love for them. Some are operating in spiritual gifts like discernment of spirits and are ministering to others in the congregation. And some of these people were never even taught that these gifts existed. Talk about a mind-boggling concept!

It really is amazing and I have been thinking about my reaction. My reaction could be: "I've never seen anything like this, how could God be at work?!" Or I could conclude "That's what a move of God looks like!" and determine that God is not moving in any of the other Mennonite churches here. Or I could look at my church back in PA and think that God is not doing anything. That is the danger but that is not the truth! God is working; it just looks different! People are coming to know the Lord, people are growing in their faith and God is moving. Who am I to box in God's work? I cannot see what God is working under the surface! Just because one move of God is out in the open and another is not visible does not measure God's involvement. The evidence of a move of God is changed lives and the process can look however He wants it too.

We must be very careful at how we react! Will we let pride, lack of faith or preconceived notions guide or view of God's work or will we trust that our heavenly Father knows us His children and knows exactly what we need? I for one don't want to be one who resists what the Spirit is doing because it doesn't fit into a comfy box but I also don't want to lack the faith to believe that God is at work when I cannot see it visibly.

God is so great and He IS at work in our world in so many ways! AMEN

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Calm Before the Storm

On Thursday the EMM missionary team took a day trip to Pisac which is a town about an hour from Cusco which is in what they call the Sacred Valley. We wanted to take a fun day before the summer was over and school started. For the Shultz family it was a very needed day away because they have been teaching an English summer school. Dawn and I traveled by bus (we got seats in the very front for the amazing view of the trip over and through the high green hills). The two families came in the Kreiders truck.

Once we got there, the kids went hiking to some ruins and the ladies wandered around the market. I'm not very good with haggling over prices yet and even though I wanted to buy a rug for my room, I didn't get one. The rest of the day we all hung out at on the grounds of the Royal Inka Hotel. There were picnic grounds, tennis courts, a pool, boats & bikes for rent and etc. It was a fun place for everyone whether you wanted to nap on the lawn in the sun, collect toads in a coke bottle, read a book or paddleboat in a small pond. One special treat for the ladies was a hot tub and sauna in the hotel. It was probably especially a treat for the missionary moms to get a chance to relax while their kids were busy.

Before packing ourselves ALL in the Kreiders' truck, we stopped and got cheesecake from a restaurant owned by a German woman who came as a tourist years ago. It wasn't the best but since cheesecake is rare in Peru, I decided to enjoy it with the rest of them. As we drove home we sang worship songs together. It's so great to hear the kids singing with all their hearts! I think that was my favorite moment of the day!

What spoiled missionaries, right?! Yeah, but I think everyone needed that paseo (break). After all school stuff starts for 3 of us next week and no one will have time for anymore weekday trips!

Snaps from the bus ride to Pisac

Happy Clueless Guinea Pigs

These guinea pigs had a lovely home at this restaurant in the market and they were happily munching their alfalfa in peace. Little did they know what danger awaited them on the other side of their warm wall.... dumm...dumm...dummm....
AN OVEN!!! augh! New movie idea: Guinea Pig Run

Ron really needed a break!!

Cindy, Regina & Dawn relax on the lawn.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Won't you Be My Neighbor?

Here are some interesting things from my neighborhood!

Gigantic Cactus-type plant

A house that looks like a face & teapot

Neighborhood Flowers

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ir de Compras

Ahhhh! Shopping! Yes, shopping - the delight of women all around the world! (well, most anyway!)

Today Dawn and I went shopping. First we took a combi to a big open air market in the Wanchay Square. This market which takes place on Saturday mornings specializes in plants, plants, plants and furniture. Don't ask me why that combination but it was a very fun place! I bought a viney/philadendrum type plant and pot (my first step to decorating my mismatched room). It was heavy so we had to take a combi back to the house to drop it off (which was good because I could get rid of my extra sweatshirt - it's usually a good idea to take layers of clothes with you because you never know whether it's going to be chilly or hot and today I was hot!).

After that we got in another combi and headed to the center of Cusco. After changing money, we wandered up and down the cobblestone streets in search of the best deals. I bought the supplies to make a parrot sock puppet (you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find feathers!) and Dawn searched in vain for a pair of dressier black pants. Dawn got a haircut and I wandered around looking at other stores. We also got a blender for our housekeeper for her birthday next week. I think we went to about three different appliance stores, found what we thought was the best deal but when we came back the store we chose was closed!! Well, it turned out okay because we checked out another store and found an even better price. (in case you were wondering we spent 99 soles or $33 on the blender) The funny thing about stores here is that you have to pay one place and then give a receipt to someone who finds your item. It seems like it's adding another step but I guess it keeps the store from having to keep shelves stocked and take up extra space??

It was such a beautiful day to wander through the plazas. I wish that I had taken pictures but I was trying not to be too touristy. You always see tons of tourists in the center of town and I didn't want to attract too much attention to myself since I had just changed money. Anyway, in the center of Cusco are three main plazas: Plaza de Armas, Plaza Recocijo & Plaza San Francisco. Plaza Recocijo (Rejoicing) is my favorite so far because it has a beautiful fountain in the midde. Dawn and I ate lunch at the Pachacutec Cafe which has an original Incan stone wall inside. It was a very cute place and they had a sweet deal: lunch for 10 soles (about $3.18!). Our lunch included an appetizer (rocoto relleno - a stuffed pepper), Inka Soup (yummy soup with potatoes, lamb, fava beans & quinoa), a main dish (I got spaghetti alfredo which here is spaghetti with slices of ham in a cheesy alfredo sauce) and a glass of fresh papaya juice. What a great deal! I think it's easier to find cheap food without any atmosphere but this place definitely had both.

There were lots of people on the street hawking their wares. Would you like to buy this bracelet? Phone calls! Phone calls? Would you like some popcorn? Would you like to buy an umbrella? Would you like to give me money? It's like an onslaught. It makes me wish that I had darker skin and was slightly shorter. Okay, so I've never been tall but here at least I feel taller than most people. Thankfully Cusco is a city that is used to tourists so at least I don't get stared at all the time.

Whew! What a fun and tiring shopping day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dressing Right

"to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. " Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

I've had a revelation: PRAISE IS A DISCIPLINE

Okay maybe you knew that already but I'm sure that if someone would ask me to list the disciplines, I would mention things like fasting, confession, bible study and prayer. Praise certainly wouldn't be the first discipline that I would mention! Yet I'm convinced that it is something we have to choose to practice everyday. It's not an end to itself but a way to deepen our relationship with Christ (just like any of the discipline are). They provide a framework for us to meet with the Lord!

It feels like ever since I've gotten to Peru, that I've been assaulted with the negative. The state of the people of Peru, the condition of the Mennonite church, the troubles of the missionaries, the busyness that everyone gets caught in and the troubles in relationships. I could very easily choose to despair at that news. I could join in with the negative noise around me very easily. I guess I knew that everything was not perfect in Cusco (is it anywhere?) but perhaps I didn't expect how much I would be assaulted with it. I think this is definitely a part of spiritual warfare. The enemy wants us to feel defeated and he wants us to to look around at our circumstance and despair. He wants us to focus on the negative (not in order to pray for change but to get caught in it).

Praise is a choice that I must make everyday here. I must choose to not look at the darkness but to ask for eyes to see the Lord's light. I must stand, I must shout victory and I must PRAISE! I'm sure that there will be days that will feel darker than others but the Lord is with me and I choose to shout the happy news! The local missionary women from Cusco (from Wycliffe, EMM, the Presbyterian and other independent missionaries) are doing a study called "Fight Like a Girl!" In the book, the author quotes Psalm 68 and says that it's a host of women shouting happy news about God's victory. I love what this verse says:

"The Lord gives the word, and a host of women bring the good news. Enemy kings and their armies flee,
while the women of Israel divide the plunder." Psm 68:11-12 (NLT)

The Lord gives the word and then the women proclaim the victory! Wow! I want to hear the word of the Lord and be a part of that host which proclaims good news. Then I know that the enemy will FLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Yes, so everyday I make a choice about what I will put on. Will I put on a cloak of despair or will I put on a beautiful skirt of praise? Will I place on my head a hat of negativity or will I put on the shirt called "all things are possible"? I pray that everyday I will practice praise and put on God's perspective.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cosas Feas y Bonitas (Beautiful and Ugly Things)

Today Dawn and I went to have lunch with Marga in her house with her family. She lives more in the outskirts of Cusco where it's much more country than city. I felt a little spoiled when I arrived at her house which is made from the adobe bricks (mud & straw) and the ground floor is made of ground! Well, I felt pretty spoiled because last night I just got hooked up to have internet in my room here in Cusco (a blessing because the internet is a world of ideas for lesson plans and crafts and etc.). Marga and her family have a nice yard with a bathroom and sink outside, chickens, guinea pigs, dogs and cat. Their second floor is finished wood and they even have traga luces (skylights). We had a yummy lunch of chicken (a couple of their own who were killed), potato salad & cochlo (corn on the cob). Afterwards Cesar (Marga's husband) took Dawn, Raquel (Marga's daughter), Alison (Marga's neice who will be in one of my classes - what a sweetie!) and I on a walk up the mountain. (oh and Taffy the dog went with us as well!)

Wow! The view from Marga's house is fantastic with green rolling hills! We walked past the sheep, turkey, chickens, cows, goats, dogs & cats on our way up the mountain. At first we walked past the Wanatay River which smells pretty bad because there is trash in it. In fact, there is trash pretty much everywhere you go. People just drop stuff on the ground. I remember how much that bothered me in Venezuela. Because no matter how beautiful your surroundings may be, trash just destroys them. Ugh! What a sad and ugly thing to see!

Still we continued up, up and up the mountain. When Dawn and I had arrived at Marga's, I pointed out the mountain and said that it looked like there were blue spruce growing up there. As we climbed the mountain, I found out that they were eucylyptis trees! The smell of the eucylyptis was so wonderful! What a wonderful walk up the mountains! We passed some people harvesting potatoes on the side of the mountain but for the most part we were alone.

What a beautiful thing is God's creation and what an ugly thing when man destroys it!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cristo Blanco

Last night I did my first touristy type activity here. My roommate Dawn took me up to the Cristo Blanco statue that overlooks Cusco. We had a great trip up in a taxi (nearly being run over by a very small parade and winding up, up, up narrow backstreets). Wow! It was amazing to be able to see the valley with all of Cusco below. We could hear a live band playing in one of the plazas, see the ruins of Sacyshuaman and identify some of the points of interest in Cusco. Here are my touristy type pics!

Cusco (I'm sorry if this looks like a unfolded map! I had to peice together at least 5 pics to get this panoramic - you can look at this one a little bigger by double clicking on it! It should open in another window)

Thursday, February 08, 2007


My roommate, Dawn and our housekeeper, Marga sitting down for another yummy lunch!

Our lunch: Carne asada con papas fritas, arroz y jugo de maracuya (boiled beef with french fries, rice and passion fruit juice)

Views inside and outside my house


Reunion is the word in Spanish for meeting. I think it´s a pretty easy word to remember because in English, reunions are after all the meetings of family, right?

I´d like to share about some of the reuniones that I´ve been a part of since coming to Cusco!

1. Reunion of PROMESA teachers
Last Saturday morning there was a meeting for the teachers at Ron & Regina´s house (EMM missionaries). The meeting included a rompe de hielo (ice breaker), breakfast, worship and gritty details of school stuff. In all it was 4 hours long!! Most of the teachers (besides Ron obviously) are single women in their 20s so I think we will all become good friends. Some of the details of school stuff like classrooms, what subjects and grades we would be teaching and etc were quite overwhelming. My head started to hurt by the end! I think a meeting like that would be overwhelming even if it had been in English instead of Spanish. Whew! I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!!!

2. San Jeronimo church
On Sunday, I went with my roommate Dawn (who came back to Cusco on Sat night) to the San Jeronimo Mennonite church. There are three different Mennonite churches in the Cusco area and I will most likely visit them all. San Jeronimo is the largest with about 150 in the congregation and is in a section of Cusco with the same name. This is the main church and has the PROMESA school attached to it. The best part was the cows who were hanging out in front of the entrance and the beautiful view of rolling green hills all around! Pastor Ruben preached about becoming like Jacob who was desperate to be blessed by the Lord. A sermon about seeking God´s blessing might be misconstruyed in the states as prosperity gospel but from what I am hearing and learning it seems that the church of Peru needs to shake off a poverty mentality and truly grasp that they are blessed.

3. Super Bowl Party
I´m in South America where futbol is played with a soccer ball but I actually went to a Super Bowl party! The EMM missionary team all met at Dawn and my apartment and we watched the Super Bowl via cable. We had pizza (a bit different from North American pizza), wings and ice cream sundaes! We also had some worship time before the game and played a card game at half-time. The kids did pretty good during the game but I tried to entertain some of the girls with a game of UNO. Yay for the Colts winning the Super Bowl! (I voted for them for the sake of my friend Steve who is from Indianapolis area!)

4. Missionary Worship Night
Another reunion was with all the missionaries from the Cusco area. They get together once a month for worship nights. There were missionaries with Wycliffe, the Presbyterians, Lutherans and other independents. It was a sweet time of worship and getting to know the other missionary families here. I met one missionary couple that has a home for children (they have 28 kids) in a town close to Cusco. There is also a missionary women´s bible study on Tuesdays that I will be joining (until I get too busy with school stuff).

5. Tutoring
My final type of reunion that I´m going to tell you about is my tutoring sessions. Everyday from 3-5pm, I have a Spanish tutoring session with a SeƱora Magda. She is a great teacher (telling me not to do the things that people do that are grammatically incorrect in Spanish). I´m having lots of fun reviewing, learning new vocab and practicing. Magda has so many exciting stories and she loves to talk! I´ll do this for the month of February and probably just have a couple of days in March.

Friday, February 02, 2007

To Market, To Market!!

Today I took a trip with the PROMESA kids who are a part of a summer school for new students to introduce them to English. We went to market to buy fruit because they have been learning the words for fruit this week. There were about 20 some kids and we each split up into different groups. The market was a sprawling place with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, etc spread out all over the place under tarps and tin roofs. Everywhere there were bags and bags of potatoes, stacks of cheese, and piles of every kind of vegetable and fruit imaginable! Each location that we walked by we would talk about the kinds of food and their English names. Each group bought certain fruits and we took them back to the school to make fruit salad! We had a lot of fun and it was good to get to know some of the kids who will be at the school (though most of them were older than what I´ll be teaching) and to see where the San Jeronimo church and PROMESA school is. Especially since I will be spending a lot of time there come March!

I still need to learn my way around Cusco but I got to experience a combi today! There are two major forms of transportation in Cusco: taxi and combi. Taxis are every variety and type of car and will go wherever you choose. Combis are small vans that everyone crowds into and since Cusco is built basically in a line, they run on a basic route (until you get downtown). There is a person who drives and a person who works the door, collects the money and shouts out the stops to passengers and passerbys.

I´ve been feeling a little lonely here in my apartment by myself but I guess it´s to be expected in the beginning since I don´t know anyone. My housemate should be back tomorrow and it will be good to at least have another person around at night. I met a possible language tutor and I´m excited about starting with that next week. I´m understanding a lot of Spanish but I definitely be glad to work on my grammatical stumbling blocks.

Since I know that my days will be filled soon enough, I´m trying to enjoy this adjustment time. I´m sorry about the lack of photos. I think I fried my battery charger in the different voltage outlet. oops... thankfully most things are available here in Cusco -- I just have to figure out where!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Great Welcome in Cusco

I´m finally in Cusco! My flight from Lima got into Cusco yesterday at 10:30am and the Kreiders and I were met at the airport by a welcoming committee carrying balloons, flowers, and a welcome sign! The welcoming committee was Marga (my housekeeper), her daughters and two of the Kreider kids. We took a taxi to my house and even more people showed up to welcome me! (Wendi, a teacher at the school and the pastor & his wife) Marga who was very glad that I was finally here welcome me with te de mate (for altitude they say) and some Sopa de Bienvenidos (which is a chicken soup on top of which you pile french fries).

I like my house in Cusco very much. It´s so quiet in comparison with the noise of Lima. I´ve been unpacking and today I´ll explore the city a little with Marga and start to get used to my surroundings. Last night I met the other missionary family (the Schultz family) and we had dinner together. It was so sweet because the older Kreider and Schultz girls had prepared a dance for me. My housemate, Dawn is supposed to come back from her vacations tomorrow. I feel very welcomed here in Cusco and I look forward to seeing all that God has in store.

My Room

The Kitchen

The Living Room