Sunday, August 26, 2007

Camping in Urubamba

On Friday I went on a camping trip in Urubamba. Isn't that an exciting name? It's a town 2 hours west of Cusco in what is known as the Sacred Valley. Urubamba is smaller town with an artsy flavor. It's at the foot of the Chicon Glacier and the view is gorgeous!!!

The camping trip was organized by some of the "Cusco" youth (what was the Cusco church is now integrated with San Jeronimo). There were about 10 of us and we set up tents in the back yard of a church. Our connection with the church was the cousin of Pamela (my fellow PROMESA teacher). There was an event going on in the plaza to raise money for the victims of the earthquake so we stopped to watch the clown and musical groups. We also went out to eat pizza at a cool place with ecletic furniture, artwork and a pool table. Another part of our weekend was singing with one of the cousins in the church. We were being silly and singing all sorts of praise and worship songs. God was faithful to even meet us in that time and minister to several of the people in the group (I love it when He "shows" up in worship!).

There was not much sleeping with 7 silly girls in one tent and noisy chickens in the back yard! Besides, you are always tossing and turning when you are in a sleeping bag on the ground. The funniest thing was that in the morning one of the girls thought that the chicken noises was me goofing around. Okay, so I'm known for my animal noises already!

Our group (minus Juan and Oliver): LtoR and top to bottom - Pamela, Gloria, Juan Carlos, Marysol, Alicia, Me, Mariella & Illari

The next day we hiked towards the glacier with the goal to get back by one p.m. It was such a gorgeous walk even if it was work. We walked up and up - past small villages, people working in their fields and all sorts of beautiful outdoor sights. The funniest part was when we tried to cross a stream. The cousin (Juan) was trying to help us all across on rocks but the rocks were sooo slippery!! I was the first one across and by the end one of my shoes was soaked. It got worse as we went along and Juan started purposefully getting his cousins wet. It was so funny and we were all a bit wet by the end.
Cousins: Pamela & Juan

A church along the way.

Don't worry we had quite a bit more of our hike left so we dried out by the top. At one point we stopped and tried a non-acoholic version of chicha in a seƱora's backyard. It was kind of sour but after Juan dumped a cup of sugar in it some of us decided it was worth drinking. So there we sat in her backyard with her ducks, piglets and kitten... it was quite a sight! We continued our walk until we got to a children's home at the top where several of our group knew the directors. Then it was time to turn around and walk down and down and down. The second trip across the stream was uneventful but Illari and Pamela refused their cousin's help (hmmm... wonder why??). Of course the trip down was much easier but as you can imagine we were all exhausted when we got back to the church!

Trying to get a photo with the sheep (it didn't want to cooperate but I think the person with my camera got what they wanted!).

The view from the top!

What a great weekend! A wonderful combination of fun, exercise, fellowship and meeting with the Lord. Yay!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Home to Call my Own!

Hey friends! Here's another "sad pictureless post" (sounds like something Suzanne would say). Well, I guess the last post was all about photos so it doesn't really matter that I'm not posting any pics. Oh, why am I continuing to write when I'm just blabbering??!!

Anywhoo the purpose of my post is to announce: I FINALLY HAVE A CHURCH HOME!!!!! wooohooo!! I've been waiting since January to find out this information and I must say that I've been feeling a bit impatient in the process. I guess always before the missionaries have been given 3 months freedom before being assigned to one of the Mennonite churches here. Considering that there are only 3 churches and only one is in the city, I've been visiting the Cusco (ie San Jeronimo) church the most. But I was never sure of my place, never sure if I should be at council meetings or could get involved. I was waiting for the pastor to tell me: "this or this church will be your home."

So three months passed and I was still waiting. I asked the other missionaries how long I should wait and they said: "just wait and enjoy your freedom." I tried to enjoy it but after 4 months, I was tired of not being involved. After all, it had been since the previous summer that I was really involved in my church back home. Some theories were that the pastor was waiting until the other missionaries got back from furlough. I wondered if I should do anything at all or if I would be left in la-la land forever!

Well, tonight I got my answer in a round-a-bout sort of way. There is a council meeting tomorrow at the San Jeronimo church and my roommate asked the guy who called if I was supposed to be there or not. Well, he called the pastor about some other stuff and asked that question. The answer: "Of course she needs to be there, she's a member of the San Jeronimo church."

There you go... I wonder how long I've actually belonged and didn't know it?

I'm not sure that I'm fond of the way I had to find out this information but I'm just so glad to have it settled. So glad to be able to settle into a place and start to get involved. My very first responsibility as a member of the San Jeronimo church will most likely be: washing lettuce! Well, I'm on the lettuce washing committee (yes, it's a Mennonite church) for our big fundraiser next week (we're having a Chicken BBQ and bazaar). Other things that I'm looking forward to doing in San Jeronimo are helping to design the decorations for the sanctuary, visiting a childrens' cell group (and getting involved or starting one myself in the future), helping with the kids' ministry in general and maybe when the Lord wills, starting a dance ministry. Yay! there's so much to look forward to! Can't wait to see what God's got planned at my new home church!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vacation Photos: FINALLY!!

Hey everybody! I know I have no excuse for the delay but my vacation photos are finally up and available for viewing! Just click on the title of this entry or copy and paste the address below in your web browser.

Take a look and feel free to make comments. My vacation was from July 28th - August 5 and I was in Ica for a week and in Arequipa for three days with two fellow PROMESA teachers, Luz & Ruth. We saw many beautiful sights and enjoyed the fellowship of a 6 year old and her family in Ica. I'm so thankful that I was able to see these things before the earthquake devasted the coast of Peru last week. I hope that you enjoy these photos!! This really was a great vacation - the perfect combination of rest, recreation and journey.

I think all vacations should be some sort of journey where God teaches you something. On this trip the two biggest themes were that God is Creator and Ancient of Days (see post below) and my need for dependence on Him. I had a wonderful conversation with Ruth's cousin in Arequipa that really helped to break down pride in my heart and put my focus once again where it needs to be in regards to teaching.

Yes, it was a beautiful way to spend nine days! Thank you God for that blessing.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Anciano de Dias/Ancient of Days

By now you've heard that the quake that sent only slight tremours to Cusco has devasted several coastal towns south of Lima. The city that I went to visit on vacation, Ica has been without electricity and water for days and the doctor (and family) that I stayed with I'm sure is very busy in an overcrowded hospital/clinic. I guess I should be grateful that Cusco was not touched. I should be grateful that I missed being in the quake zone by two weeks. I should be grateful that this powerful earthquake did not take as many lives as did previous quakes in India which claimed thousands and thousands of lives.

Regardless, I'm sad...

I'm sad for the vineyard owners that we went to visit in Ica whose granddaughter gave us a tour on her birthday and whose home was made of adobe.

I'm sad for the little Assemblies of God church that we visited -- how many of those people have lost their homes or even friends or family members?

I'm sad for the magnificant church downtown which was a work of art (especially all light up at night) but now is rubble.

I'm sad for that gorgeous rock formation in Paracas National Park that now longer exists.

I'm sad for all the residents of Ica who instead of worrying about standing in line to buy their favorite cookies at Velazco now have to wait in line for water or food.

I'm sad that so many of the sights that I saw will no longer be enjoyed by future visitors.

When we took our boat trip out to the Islas Ballestas and looked at all the wonderful rock formations, I couldn't help but think about my God - the Ancient of Days, the great Creator. When we snapped tons of pictures in front of the Cathedral rock formation and the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, I had a song of praise running through my heart for all that God had made. As I thought about ancient mysteries of ancient grafitti (like the Nazca lines), I realized that my God was the ANCIENT of DAYS. He's the One that was before all and created all. People may marvel at rock formations and mysterious mile long grafitti but God knows all mysteries and was before them all!

As I think about the aftermath of the earthquake and how many things were destroyed, my faith is not shaken in my Lord. He truly is greater than all and is SomeOne that CANNOT BE SHAKEN! What an encouragement to know that my Lord and God is the Ancient of Days and that He will always be. If great, seemingly immobile objects can be broken and changed, whom or what can I possibly trust in but the Creator of All, the unCreated One who has always existed and will always be? AMEN!

Our guide who graciously gave us a tour of her family's vineyard on her birthday. (Ica, Peru)

A beautiful church in Ica that now longer stands.

The Catedral, Paracas National Park

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shake it Up Baby!

Well, tonight I was calmly sitting at my computer when I started to feel a little dizzy. Wait? Was I dizzy or was the room actually moving? Dawn came in my room to tell me that it must just be the wind moving my curtains but then she saw my door moving and felt the floor. Then she believed me!! It went on for a few minutes and it kinda felt like we were in a boat. We heard someone calling our names so we went outside to find all sorts of people standing in the street. Our landlady and her empleada were out in the back yard calling us to come down! :0)

Yes, I experienced my first tremour! The funny thing is that at our team meeting this afternoon we were talking about the construction methods here and how if there were an earthquake that we would just have to run out of the buildings for safety sake. We also talked about how often a big earthquake hits and John said: "oh about every 25 years or so" My question was: "When was the last big earthquake?" "Well, 1986...hmmm...well then we're just about due one!"


Thankfully it was just a tremour! I think I still feel dizzy though...


I just found out that there was a 7.5 earthquake in Lima. It was out in the Pacific and very deep but it shook up Lima. Thankfully, it seems that the buildings are still standing and that there weren't any casualties. Isn't it crazy that we could feel it all the way over here inland in Cusco?? whew... right now the coast is on alert in case of tsunami, etc.

well Peru was due an earthquake today I guess! I'm just thankful that it wasn't worse!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Inka Blitz

Here's something of note that I keep forgetting to write a blog entry about! At the end of June, the youth of the Mennonite churches had an event called Cafe Kairos. It was a coffeehouse type event with games and a talent showcase. I was originally supposed to go to Macchu Picchu that weekend but since things didn't work out I was around in order to join in the fun.

Part of the fun was decorating and getting ready for the night. Dawn had a great idea to make giant Dutch Blitz cards to play with. Well, it was a great idea but it turned into a very last minute project. Since I was around, I decided to help by designing a set of "Inka Blitz" cards. The cards were the size of an A4 sheet of paper and we printed and copied them so that there were 4 sets as in the normal blitz cards. Then we proceeded to tape each front and back to a peice of thin cardboard. The next step was painting each set in red, blue, yellow and green. The paper crinkled a bit but then our plan was to cover each card with contact paper to preserve them. It turned into a very time consuming project!!! Thankfully Dawn and I had Wendy and Uri over helping us but it really wasn't enough time. We headed off to the church to decorate and set up and continue to cover cards with contact paper.

In the end we only got three sets completely covered with contact paper. We played with them anyway and had tons of fun running around flipping cards and shouting "Blitz!!" The night turned out rather well with about 50 youth in attendance. I love how tables and candles really transformed the atmosphere in the sanctuary. We served popcorn, cake and coffee and despite the last minute card covering, the lack of gas for the stove and some concerns about coffee making, we had a wonderful evening!

Maybe we'll have to market our Inka Blitz cards. hee hee... I think we'd have to invest in a laminator.

The Transformation of Grace

I'd like to introduce you to one of my students (5 yr old class), Acsa* Fernanda who turned 5 a couple weeks ago. Acsa is not exactly what you would call a girly girl. She often wears unmatched clothing and her hair looks like it needs to be washed or brushed at least. She has a pretty strong personality as well (one of the many strong leader type girls in my 5 year old class) and the unfortunate habit of not getting to the bathroom in time (which really is the after affects difficult family situations).

I had the opportunity to be invited to Acsa's birthday party a couple weekends ago. When I and Wendy (the other kindergarten teacher- and the sister of Urias*) showed up at the restaurant where the party was held we found an Acsa TRANSFORMED. She was beautifully dressed in a pink frilly dress (with matching purse mind you) and her hair was nicely done. Her demeanor was different as well. Sure she still had that strong personality but in that moment she was a princess. She graciously greeted her guests and pranced all over in her pink frillyness - a child who knew that all the attention was focused on her and who became alive because of it. She was delightful and you couldn't help but be delighted in her!

How could the disheveled little girl with a difficult history be so transformed? It was the attention that was given her -- she was treated like a princess and she became one. I saw in that little girl transformed a picture of myself with Christ. He took me in the degradation and filthiness of sin and transformed me into a princess. He wipes away past hurts and pains and he brings joy and delight in our lives. It's not a self-centered sort of focus (which was more of I'm sure what Acsa was experiencing) but it's a joy because the king has turned his eyes to us and declared: "You are mine! You are my princess!"

The knowledge of the king's focus and declaration is really what turns us into princes/princesses. He chooses to delight himself in us and what a delight to be called his princess! We don't need a cake, a party and the everyone's attention in order to be transformed. We just need the transforming gaze of Grace from the eyes of a King who delights in us.

The following Monday, Acsa was back to her normal disheveled self but there was something that lingered when I looked at her. Perhaps it was the gaze of grace that looked at her beyond what she was in that moment but to how Jesus saw her. I know that He is the one able to truly heal her heart and make her to be his beautiful princess. Amen! Let it be Lord Jesus, let it be.

*Side Note: Acsa/Acsah is an uncommon name from the Bible. She was the daughter of Caleb and her story is found in Joshua 15. I also have a friend here with another uncommon Biblical name - Urias/Uriah. Now that man had the unfortunate fate to be married to a woman that like to take baths in view of the palace roof.

Alisson, Wendy and Acsa celebrating their birthdays at the school with the signature balloon birthday hat!