Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The People Walking in Darkness

Within the past week I have come face to face with the very real animistic roots of Peru. You would probably guess that Peru is well enough catholic and evangelical that there wouldn't be much left of the animistic stuff. Yet, it's one of the layers of this culture that is very real in the countryside and even integrated in the lives of those in the city who are supposedly more educated and modern.

First of all I went to go see a play called Chaska this past week. It was a very impressive performance with exciting costumes and dancing and acrobats on wires suspended from the ceiling. But it was dark because the main story was about a village that has no rain and a young girl who gives up her life in sacrifice so that the god of the harvest can bless the town. The story was filled with the history of several of the gods of Peru who have demanded sacrifice. It was very eye-opening to me because it brought me face to face with the darkness of these beliefs. I left the show that night very grateful to be a believer.

Secondly, this week has been one of celebrating with parades and dances and festivities. It all cumulated today with the celebration of Inti Raymi (the Sun Festival). I decided to see what Inti Raymi was all about so I went downtown with my friend Luz and her family. The first place we went to was Korikancha (which is now a museum but supposedly was the old Incan palace that was converted into a church). At Korikancha, there was a presentation on the steps. People dressed up like the Inca, his authorities, the priest, musicians, his wife and cocubines (the virgins who worked in the temple of the Sun) came out and danced and played music. Later armies from the 4 Inca Empire sections marched out on the field. The Inca sang a song to the sun and called the sun: Father! He talked in Quechua the whole time but I bought a little booklet with the translation into Spanish. We weren't close enough to see very well but it was interesting.

Later we all crowded into the Plaza de Armas where the Inca and all his people marched in grand revelry. In the plaza I could see the soldiers closer up. The Inca came in seated on a gold throne that was carried by about 15-20 men and there were people going before him sweeping the street with tree branches and woman throwing flowers on the ground. In the plaza the priest and Inca did some ceremony with coca leaves to see if the main ceremony would be favorable. It was all very pagan and even though the bright sunshine and daylight made it seem less dark there was still lots of darkness hiding under the surface. I really wonder how many people actually believe in the sun as a god and how many just see Inti Raymi as a cultural recreation of times past. I wondered this as the actors sang a song of worship to the sun and when the woman next to me commented that the sun always seems to shine during the ceremony no matter how dark the day starts out.

The main ceremony was at Sacsayhuaman which is located above Cusco and is an archeological site with ruins that they believe were a military fortress once upon a time. We walk about 30 minutes up, up and up amongst the very crowded pathway. When we got to Sacsayhuaman we had to find a place on a neighboring hill to sit and watch the goings ons. There were so many people all over the hills. They looked like ants covering an ant hill. Unfortunately, even though we had a view we still could not see very well. I think only people who paid $50 some dollars could sit in the temporary stadium that was set up. There was no one allowed on the closest hill because it had ruins on it. It had been used in previous years and you could tell people had a bad attitude about it being prohibited this year. In fact they kept trying to sneak onto the hill while people on the other hills cheered them on. At one point the police gave up and then everyone rushed to the other hill. It was crazy! That meant that we couldn't see or hear very well what was going on. I just know from my booklet that a llama is sacrificed and etc. It was very colorful but I think I enjoyed my food and the adventure more than the ceremony. In the end the Inca gave a very modern sounding message (my friend Luz translated from Quechua for me) in the middle of an ancient ritual and ceremony. He asked the people to care for "Mother Earth" and help each other and get along. It was a very interesting.

Then we all walked down the hill and once when we stopped to wait for some of Luz's family to catch up, I started looking at all the faces walking by. I wondered how many believed in the Sun as their God and how many believed in Jesus. I prayed for them that the people walking in darkness would see a great light! I prayed for them to come to know their Creater God as their Father and Lord.

The Lord is bigger than the darkness that hides in the layers of the Peruvian culture. He can bring freedom to people who carry around so many superstitions. He can set them free from the darkness and redeem the creative and colorful things from their culture. Because there is so much color! There is so much creativity! Let it be used to bring glory and praise to the GREAT CREATOR OF THE SUN AND THE MOON!!!

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death [a]
a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adventures in High Altitude Cooking: Greenhouse Root Beer

I'm pretty sure root beer is a North American thing and I'm convinced that homemade rootbeer is something the Amish make quite regularly.

Well, I'm not Amish and I'm not even in North America right now where root beer is available. Fortunately, I'm an adventurous soul who is not swayed by the unavailability of things. If you are lacking root beer, just make some. Here's the story of my root beer making adventure.

Step 1: Pull out that bottle of root beer extract that has been sitting in your cupboard for (most likely) years and years. In the past, some Pennsylvanian missionary brought that extract over carefully packaged in their belongings with the hope of making their favorite carbonated beverage some day on foreign soil. Unfortunately they never got the chance and you have inherited their precious botttle of root beer exhilir.

The special root beer extract.

Step 2: Use your handy dandy spigoted water container (normally used to hold spare water in the bathroom in case you ever have a water crisis) to mix together 9 cups of sugar, 5 gallons of water and one bottle of root beer extract.

Mix, mix, mix!

Step 3: Dissolve 1/2 tsp of yeast in 2 cups of warm water and mix with the container of very obviously root beer smelling mixture.

Step 4: Bottle and contain the root beer mixture. Unfortunately, we did not have lots of available bottles so we decided to borrow the buckets we were storing our rice and sugar in. We filled up 2 buckets, two liter bottles and four small water bottles with our root beer mixture.

Step 5: Find a warm place to store the root beer. There's no heat in Peru and it's starting to get cold so what could we do for a warm spot. Thankfully we had just had a small greenhouse built in our backyard. So, in with the lettuce, tomato and broccoli went our root beer mixture.

Our root beer!

Step 6: Wait. You have to let the root beer sit for at least 6 days. (we were trying to make the root beer for a missionary birthday celebration and had exactly 6 days!)

Bethany observes the strange root beer distillery!

Step 7: On Day 6 you take your root beer out and try it! You realize that despite 9 cups of sugar, it is not sweet enough. But it's too late to add sugar, so you take it to the party hoping that most people will have floats that incorporate sugary ice cream.

Setp 8: Enjoy your root beer float!!! Ahhhhh.....

end note: the root beer experiment certainly has not ended yet. After several weeks, I decided to try again with the root beer. I added more sugar and yeast and transferred from buckets (that are not really airtight) to bottles with twisty tops. We'll see how this round turns out!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Why working with kids keeps me laughing!

Here are some of the funny quotes and things that my kids at school have been up to:

One day I was wearing a plaid jacket and red beret combo and one of the little girls in my class asked me why I was dressed like that. Reynaldo promptly replied, "it's because she's from Argentina!" I don't know where the Argentinian thing came from but he still insists upon it sometimes.

We were learning "O" words and one of them was the word, OTTER. Since otters are more of a North American animal most of the kids had never heard of them. So, of course I had to tell them the name in Spanish which is NUTRIA. Once during the course of our class one little boy asked: "what is this animal called in Spanish?" "Nutria" I said. "And in Quechua?" he asked. I was very dubious as to whether there actually was a word for otter in Quechua but sure enough a few days later my roommate said that she was with some friends looking at a book and there was a picture of an otter with its name in Quechua: Qoa!! Who would have thunk it?

One little boy, Jared was out of school for several days and finally showed up at school. That day he was very cuddly and gave me all sorts of hugs and rubbed himself up against me. I asked him what he was doing and he said: "I'm trying to give you my fever!" Thanks a lot!

We were "cooking" (really just mixing) up oatmeal cookies in my 5 year old class and I had no desire to get flour all over my jacket. So I took it off so that I could simply be in my t-shirt. Something about me taking off my jacket caused quite a reaction with my kids. Maybe it was my blindly white bare arms or just the fact that they hardly see anyone in short sleeves. Ana Sofia exclamed: "Without shame! And in front of her students!!"

Finally, another little glimpse into to the character of Reynaldo. One day, I was bending over trying to fix the pencil sharpener (a constant problem because the kids come with already sharp pencils and jam them into the sharpener, leaving their point behind). The next thing I know Reynaldo is rubbing his face on my shirt. Do you know what he was doing? Using me as his human Kleenex!! Ugh….

That's me teacher/human kleenex!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

An Eggcellent PASCUA

Easter is not a big thing in Peru.

There are no great Easter Sunday celebrations. No children enjoying Easter egg hunts. No giant chocolate bunnies for sale. No Easter bonnets and Sunday best. There are no plastic eggs and Easter grass and definitely no Peeps.


It's the week leading up to Easter that is more celebrated here. It's called Holy Week (Semana Santa). There's a special meal that is served on Friday but not even the Evangelical churches do much on Easter Sunday. We had two days off school but nothing much was planned for Sunday.

You might think that all this would be a recipe for a pretty miserable celebration of Easter but you are forgetting one thing!! That missionaries can create their own celebrations. Thus begins the tale of my Easter celebrating.

It started with "E" week at school. Conveniently, Miss Carrie could celebrate "Eggs" and "Easter" with her kids!! So, we dyed Easter eggs at school (despite the fact that I couldn't find food dye anywhere when it normally is available). Ella (my North American student) was the envy of her fellow students with her brightly colored eggs. You see, she was the only one who brought white eggs! I didn't even think about asking my kids to bring white eggs. They are available here but not as common as brown eggs and brown eggs are what most people use. I also did the "resurrection eggs" with my kids. I talked too much in Spanish during that but I think it's better for them to understand the Easter story more than hearing English.

Josué and the boys' eggs!

Ella and Ester color while waiting for their eggs to dye.

"Eeeeeehhhhhh!!! EASTER!!"

Another egg dyeing event happened with my friend Luz on Friday. It was her first time dyeing eggs and I think she really enjoyed herself but she had a question: "What do you do with the eggs afterwards?" My answer suddenly felt very silly: "well, you eat them, of course!" We also made Calzones which was very fun and funny because you know the word for underwear in Spanish is spelt just the same way. So, we had fun trying to think of a different way to say the word.

Dyeing eggs with Luz and Bethany (I didn't use my camera - I'm really not trying to be vain).

Luz laughs about making "calzones."

Friday afternoon there was a Seder meal at the Shultz's house and just about all the people on our team participated. It was very fun because every person even the kids had their parts to read during the whole meal. One of the best moments was washing each others' hands. The littlest people at the table (Abby and Ella) had to be helped but it really was a special time. It's amazing how the Seder meal is filled with so much meaning. Unfortunately, I think too many of our "evangelical" traditions are not filled with enough meaning! Anyway, after drinking about 8 glasses of grape juice, dipping matza in vinegar, eating radish, apple salad and eggs we ended the time with a spontaneous romp around the table to some Jewishy sounding praise song.

Ella finds all the hidden leaven bread hidden in the Shultz's house during the Seder meal.

Ron and Regina read about the significance of the lamb bone.

As part of the Seder, everyone dips their egg in vinegar before eating.

On Sunday I taught the youngest class for Sunday school. We had a celebration party for Jesus and I handed out twisty balloons in the shapes of crosses. It was so much fun to be able to celebrate with the kids! After church the missionaries got together for a yummy meal at the Kreiders' house. Dulce Refugio brought deviled eggs, carrot jello salad (some of the kids who looked at it in disdain at first did end up liking it!), strawberry pie and peanut butter eggs. Oh, I forgot, making peanut butter eggs was another part of the whole Easter celebration. Mmmmm.... they sure were yummy!

After our delicious meal we had an egg hunt in the Kreiders' backyard. I had fun helping to hide the eggs... my favorite spot was in the rubber gloves hanging on the line. hee hee... So the kids: ages 2.5 - 16 had their egg hunt and eventually found all the candy filled eggs. They even shared with us poor candy-less adults. We played an egg cracking contest with each other and sang some Easter songs. It really was a wonderful afternoon and maybe more fun than my normal quiet Easter afternoons with my small family back home.

Singing Easter "carols" together.

Bethany and Jen try to see whose egg will crack in our egg cracking contest.

So, despite living in a country that doesn't really celebrate Easter, we ended up having a fantastic Easter after all. It was filled with fun and meaningful traditions and even some of our Peruvian friends got to join in with our festivities.



Grand Adventures in the Great Outdoors

One Saturday in March, the gals of Dulce Refugio went out for a paseo. "What is a paseo?" you say? Well, my dear friend it is an outing most often in the country or somewhere where there is a patch of green grass. You could possibly have a paseo in somebody's backyard if you wanted. The main point is to get out in the great outdoors and enjoy some fresh air.

This particular paseo was a trip out to Lucre with some of the youth from the Huacarpay Mennonite Church. The plan was to go fishing and cook out in the open countryside. Well, it started with several delays. First we had to find some other sort of meat option (in case there were no trout), then we had to track down some choclo (corn) and then when we were already on our way, someone had to go find some matches. Oops! Well, we walked for about 45 minutes from the small pueblo of Lucre out into the beautiful countryside. It wasn't too long of a trip but felt longer for the pots, pans, meat, fruit and choclo that we were lugging along with us!!

The trip ended by crossing the river twice. We had to take off our shoes and hang on desperately to each other as we crossed with the water rushing around us!! woohoo!! On the way we saw some people washing their sheep in the river. Poor sheep! Scrub-a-dub baa baaa!! We found a patch of grass were we put our stuff down. While the boys went fishing we set up our "stove" out of rocks and collected firewood to start cooking chicken and choclo. There was also a trip to find some capuli trees. Capuli is a type of small cherry like fruit. It's kind of bitter but our paseo buddies were very excited about picking and eating them.

Crossing the stream!

Rosa picks some capuli.

Bethany and Juana clean the chicken before cooking.

Wilma starts a fire with leaves and sticks.

It was a very good thing we brought chicken because in the end there was no trout. The chicken, choclo and cheese was very yummy and I don't think anyone went hungry! We ended up leaving very quickly because the sky started to look very stormy. We went back to Lucre on a fun skinny path above the river (trying to avoid any more crossing). Along the way the sky cleared up and we stopped by some capuli trees (which were once again the attention of the group). Most of the people climbed the trees to pick the fruit. We played "sticks" there under the capuli trees. I say "sticks" because we had no spoons to play "spoons" with!! Then the sky started to look dark and stormy again so we headed back to Lucre.

Eating our yummy

Trying to pet the clean sheep.

It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day out in the Great Outdoors!!

WAIT (a poem)

This is a poem that my mom sent me recently. She got it from a lady who is an inmate in the prison where my mom works with a prison ministry. I think you would have to know a lot about waiting if you were in a prison. Even though I'm not in a prison, this poem still spoke to me.

by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, "Wait."

"Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.
"My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.
"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?"
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.
"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
"The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.
"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."

© 1980 Russell Kelfer. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Little Police Lady

My biggest problem with teaching English is compassion. I'm too compassionate. If I see a poor little face staring up at me that understands absolutely nothing I have said then I feel bad for the poor little one. So I start talking in Spanish....

Talking in Spanish is just not a good idea if you are trying to teach English to children who probably won't hear it anywhere but in your classroom!! Oh dear... what should I do about my compassion problem??

Let's introduce my little police lady! Her name is Ella and she is my neighbor and the 4 yr old daughter of the newest members of my missionary team. Her parents are both doctors who are going to be developing health programs with the Mennonite church here. Ella is in my 5 yr old kindergarten class at PROMESA and she is fluent in English (though not yet in Spanish). What does one do with such a little person in their English class?

Daaaaaaa Dummmmmmmmm...... Presenting the English Police!

Yes, Ella is my English police lady. Her job is to watch to see if Miss Carrie is speaking too much in Spanish during her English class. Ella is very strict with this and had to tell me yesterday three times that I was talking too much in Spanish. She is my accountability and for fear of Ella, I have started talking much more in English. Today, I did practically my whole English class in English with only a few Spanish words thrown in!! The good thing about kindergarten is that the lesson is usually pretty simple so it's not like I have to explain complicated things in English that they wouldn't understand.

So, thanks to my little police lady, compassion is taking a back seat and English is in the driver's seat. It's great that Ella has an important job to do that will keep her from being bored in my class. I hope she doesn't stop anytime soon because it really is helping. I wish she would come visit my four year old class!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Green Gables Meets Dulce Refugio

It all started because Dulce Refugio houses the only VCR in the Mennonite missionary community. Destiny and Hannah (two of the teenage missionary daughters) really wanted to watch the Anne of Green Gables videos that they had inherited from the previous inhabitants of our house. So I said: "let's have a sleepover and watch them!" Then Carletta (our Wycliffe missionary friend from up the hill) wanted to see them too. Then Hannah and Destiny's younger sisters wanted to be a part and so did Hannah's mom (Regina), our neighbor Jen and her two little girls. Before we knew it a simple using of the VCR turned into an all out:


So, what does one do at such a party? Well, obviously you watch Anne of Green Gables! We decided to stylize our party with various foods that Anne would have eaten. Regina made a delicious plum pudding and caramel sauce (without any dead mice) and a raspberry tart. Dulce Refugio provided chocolate chip cookies shaped like teapots and raspberry cordial (the non-alcoholic kind). Well, I didn't have any raspberries but I did have a Lady Hannah berry tea (thank you Cheryl and the Spice Smuggler) that made a very yummy cold drink that was very berry-like. We also ate rice crispie treats, popcorn balls, oatmeal cookies, small chicken salad sandwiches and regular popcorn. Tea was available for anyone interested. I brought down all my hats and we all got to wear them during our fun movie watching experience.

After the first video, the younger girls and moms all left and the rest of us watched the other video. Anne of Green Gables truly is a wonderful classic and it's lovely to watch it anytime. Our party (however) really made movie watching a super special and important occasion.

We have two more videos to watch. I guess the question then should be: When is our Anne of Avonlea Party???

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Story of my Scarf

Here is the scarf that I made with the yarn that Mollie so generously provided (remember my "Knitting Emergency" blog entry?) a few months ago. The scarf was a gift for my friend Luz (the director of the PROMESA school) for her birthday in December. Even though it was not completely even she appreciated it and besides there is a fun story that goes along with the making of the scarf and how God used my attempt to enjoy an afternoon for His purposes.

Back in late November or early December, I decided to go downtown one day so that I could sit in a plaza and enjoy some knitting moments. My favorite plaza in Cusco is called Regocijo (Rejoicing). It has a fountain in the middle and is a little more peaceful than the main Plaza (Plaza de Armas). Well, I was all set to enjoy the afternoon alone but God had different ideas. I think part of the problem was that I was knitting with a kind of yarn that is not common in Cusco. In any case I attracted lots of visitors that afternoon.

My first visitor was the security guard who liked to cook. The second was an 11 year old boy named Waldo. We talked awhile about when subjects he liked in school and where he lived. Finally the whole reason he was talking to me came out when he produced a pan pipe and started to play it (wanting money of course!). Another visitor was a Quechua lady who was very interested in my fancy yarn and thought I should open a store in Cusco with fancy yarn.

My final visitor was named Julia and I think she was the reason why I was sitting there that day! She was interested in my yarn of course but somehow our conversation got on to what I was doing in Cusco. I told her that I was teaching and working with a church. Anyway, she opened up and shared some of her sad history: that her family was killed in the terrorists attacks in the 80s, that she used to go to church 8 years ago before her husband burnt her Bible and beat her up. You could still see in her face how her nose was crooked and her teeth missing from that. Anyway, that husband has left her and she was left pretty poorly off financially trying to take care of her kids. She paints and tries to sell her paintings to the many tourists that come to Cusco. Now the security is cracking down more on people selling their wares in the touristy places like parks and plazas. So, she had not been able to see many paintings because of it.

I took the time to encourage her to return to church. I told her that she needed the family and support that the church would supply. I told her that God saw her need and her pain over how her husband had acted and that God wanted to help her! I was able to pray for her and even to help her out by buying one of her paintings. I hope and pray that she will return to church and find the comfort and help she needs from the Lord.

It really was a very exciting afternoon and I'm glad that God interrupted my personal knitting time in order to use me to reach out to Julia. Praise God for interesting yarn that created conversation. I think I need to go out and try knitting in public places with special yarn in the future.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bienvenidos a Dulce Refugio!!

I would like to introduce you all to "someone" very important: MY NEW HOUSE!!!

My house is not a new house but rather a different locale for the single Mennonite missionaries of Cusco. At the beginning of January, I moved out of the apartment that the mission has used for 17 years in order to have more space and be closer to the section of the city where the church and school are located. The new house is located in L'Arapa which is above one of the two universities in town.

The view from my window!

The name of our new house is DULCE REFUGIO which means "sweet refuge." I named it that because I think all households of single gals should have a name and why would naming a house be reserved only for the rich and old-fashioned? I want our house not to be a place that we escape to but a place where others feel safe and connected to God!

The members of Dulce Refugio are myself and two new missionaries that arrived last month. They are Bethany who is staying for 3 years and Shannon who is doing a one year internship. They are going to be teaching at PROMESA this year and together we make up the English teachers for the year. We are all getting along well and enjoying fellowship, singing silly songs and praying together.

The gals of Dulce Refugio: Bethany, Shannon and Me

One of the features of our new house besides being beautiful is a chicken coop. Last weekend in the middle of a torrential downpour (complete with hail), we went out and bought (what we hope are) 8 egg-laying chickens. Well, they are still young yet but they hopefully will be good egg-layers in the future. We are naming them all different names for chicken in different languages. So far we have: Chickie (english), Poulet (French), Pollita (Spanish), Huehnchen (German), Gocki (Pennsylvania Dutch) and Chuchie (Quechua) and Kalkun (Norweigan). They are still cute but I'm sure soon they'll look like normal chickens.

Our house is really a huge blessing and definitely a peaceful place. I'm glad that we've started a new epoca in Dulce Refugio and I can't wait to see all that God has ahead for us!

The view from the hill above my house

Peruvian Snow Day!

It's a Peruvian Snow Day!!!

No, there's no actual snow. In fact we are in the middle of summer here in the high altitudes of Cusco, Peru. It never actually snows except on the tip tip tops of the higher mountains. We have hail of course but that's the closest thing we ever get to a White Christmas.

The reason that today is a Peruvian Snow Day is because there is a PARO or a strike on the transportation system. Sometimes they are national and sometimes regional and the strikes are for various reasons: to protest new law or to protest higher prices. It's usually not to safe even to go out in your own vehicles because sometimes people will be out in the streets with rocks. Paros are much scarier in big cities like Lima because it gets more violent.

Today because of the PARO there is no school!!! Yay! I am currently teaching the English summer classes at PROMESA. These classes are for the new students who are joining us for the new school year or need help from the previous year. I have three students who are going into 3rd or 4th grade. It's so much fun to have older kids even though I had to totally change my kindergarten mindset. These kids catch on so much quicker! They can read! They are curious about learning a new language (one boy kept writing new English words in his notebook)! They can write! They can conjugate verbs!

I wasn't planning on teaching the class on my own but just helping out with it (we thought we would have way more students). Unfortunately, the school principal (of sorts), Ron had to teach the general remedial help class and I the english class. It has taken up a lot more of my summer vacation because I've had to plan the classes but it actually has been a lot of fun. Three older kids are a lot easier to handle than 13 four year olds!!

So, I'm very happy for my snow day!! My classes are planned for tomorrow (we are learning the names of vegetables and going to the local market!!). Today, will be a day to sit and stare out the window at the mountains, soak in the Lord's presence and work on all those things that have been neglected for too long (like this poor blog). Last night at the Missionary Worship Night we sang an old Vineyard song that I hadn't heard for a long time:

You bring times of refreshing
You bring times of refreshing
You bring times of refreshing to my soul

AMEN God! Yay for Peruvian Snow Days and times of refreshing!!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Retreat to Chile!

In January we had our annual missionary retreat. This year was our regional retreat and the first ever combined Peru/Chile missions teams retreat! It took place in Chillán, Chile which is 5 hours south of the capital, Santiago. Our retreat was at a ski resort with cabins, a trampoline and a pool. Since it was summer, the weather was very delightful! We were about 31 people with our speakers and boss included in there. The theme for the week was the Father heart of God and taking another look at the story of the prodigal son. It was a pretty basic theme but it was amazing to see how often we look like one or the other of the sons who distanced themselves from the Father's heart! The speakers for the week were Darrell and Sherrill Hostetter. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, swimming in the pool, playing games and of course: EATING!!! We ate lots of fruit because the fruit was so yummy and cheap in Chile.

Destiny, Abby and Oriana

During one of our morning sessions together

After our week at the retreat I took a 3 hour trip on Saturday up to Pichilemu where my friend Joyce and her family live. There is a huge YWAM base in Pichilemu and my friend and her sister have been served at the base for several years. I hadn't seen my friend or her son for 6 years (since my YWAM school in Venezuela) and it was so fun to connect with her. She has since married a guy from Uruguay and they have a small house in Pichilemu. It was so sweet to feel welcomed in their home, eat Venezuelan arepas again and see the sights of Pichilemu. It's a regular beach town with the summer crowd that swarmed the downtown at night. The only thing is that it's really cold! Even though it was summer, it got cold at night. I can't imagine it in winter. I just stuck my feet in the frigid water and walked along the black sandy beach. Hello again Pacific Ocean!!

My little friend Moises (who was a baby the last time I saw him) and my monkey friend Sunny at the Casino in downtown Pichilemu

Marcelo, Joyce, Moises and Sunny

Posing in front of the Pacific Ocean again!

Chile is definitely much different than Peru. It's a lot more developed and really looks a lot more like the U.S. than a Latin American country! There are supermarkets and nice highways and the landscape really reminds me much more of the states. The people are lighter skinned and more European looking. It was definitely a different culture than Peru. I really enjoyed my break and chance to get away but there was something nice in coming back to Cusco and feeling sort of like I was: HOME

Ballooning in Cotabambas

One of the very exciting things that I got to do before the beginning of the new year was take my first trip to one of the communities where the Mennonite church has an outreach. The last week of December the youth from the San Jeronimo church took a trip out to Cotabambas in order to do chocolatadas. Chocolatadas are a typical event at Christmas time. It's where people go into poorer areas and give out hot chocolate and toys to kids.

There were ten people in our group and we left early on Thursday morning in two vehicles. The trip was 5 hours up and down mountains on dirt roads that curved and swerved and were sometimes rather bumpy. The truck that I was in had a tape player that only worked sometimes and only one tape that we heard many many times. We also had Señor Mac who was a laptop that one of the guys who buys and sells computers was trying out. Unfortunately Señor Mac only had a battery lifetime of two hours and there weren't available power sources on our way out to Cotabambas. Cotabambas is in another department of Peru called Apurimac.

We made it out to the town of Cotabambas where we met up with Pastor Paulino who is the missionary from the Mennonite church working in the area of Cotabambas. He and his wife Fanny are originally from Santa Teresa which is closer to the jungle and MUCH warmer than Cotabambas! We made a plan as to which communities we would go to when and set off for Colca which lay on the opposite mountain. Colca was a village of about 100 people that had about 20 believers. We parked our cars in the main square (not really a square just an open space in the middle of town) and set off to make chocolate over an open fire at one of the believers house. As they set up the fire wood and got the huge pot boiling, I distracted the kids below in the square with: BALLOONS!! Yes, it's true, my balloon twisting talents were once again going to be put to use. I don't know if these kids had ever received a twisty balloon before so it was great to see their expressions. The best thing was a huge herd of sheep that ran through the square while I was doing this. Two of the girls helped me and we made balloons for about 40 minutes. Unfortunately, by the time I was done most of the kids had dismantled or deflated their balloons!! oh, well...

We walked up to see how the chocolate was coming and get a little warmer (it was really cold in Colca!!) inside the hermano's house. We sat inside their little blackened adobe kitchen and drank tea and ate roasted corn. The believers were so sweet and loved to laugh a lot. They enjoyed our cameras and company. I loved their typical hats and outfits! The chocolate was made with hot water, chocolate powder, chocolate bars, sugar, oatmeal and powdered milk stirred over a hot fire. We separated it into two big pots and the men lugged them down to the square where we set up our chocolatada line. The kids came with their cups and containers and lined up to receive their toy, bread and chocolate. It got pitch black by the time we were done and where there are no street lights it gets _really_ dark!

The kids line up with their mugs in Colca.

Eating soup with a "whishlah"

Afterwards we went and had soup at the believer's house. There were not enough spoons and so I ate mine with the big wooden spoon that had a special name in Quechua (I think it was a whishlah or something like that - Paulino liked to try to get me to say it so that he could laugh at me). After our yummy soup we headed to the little building where a church service was being held. There were tons of people because we were there! There was a worship time in Quechua and one of the guys from our group (who normally goes out to the communities) preached in Quechua. As you can imagine I understood nothing + I was really tired (we left Cusco at 4:30 am) = I had a REALLY hard time staying awake!!! The service was really neat in any case and several people prayed to receive Christ and we prayed for a couple for healing.

The church service in Colca

That night we slept in the church building. It was pretty much like camping because there was no bathroom or water available. I brushed my teeth with a water bottle and accidently dropped my toothbrush in some cow or sheep doodoo. What was I to do in such a predicament??!! Well, I cleaned it off water and antibacterial hand gel of course and tried not to think to much about it the next time I had to brush my teeth. Don't worry I have since thrown it out but there was no where to get another toothbrush in such a situation!

In the morning we left for two communities close by but a little lower down. I went to one small community called K'utuctay with half the group. I had about a dozen kids to make balloons for and it was so fun!! I got into making more complicated things and they seemed to take care of their balloon creations a little longer. We made our chocolate in the house of a believer there. We were in the kitchen/living room/bedroom with guinea pigs running around on the floor and a goat carcass hanging from the ceiling. Add some balloon creations to the mix and you've got the picture of what I experienced. The believers were really sweet and gave us a snack to eat: choclo (corn) and soft cheese with chuño (freeze dried potatoes) and goat meat (you guess where from). When the people in the campo (countryside) offer you food, you eat it and you eat it all! It was actually yummy so I had no problem. The gals in our group had trouble sometimes finishing their food but I would eat up all mine. The guys teased the girls and said: "look at Carrie! She eats like a campesino (country folk)!" hee hee...

Ruth serving hot chocolate
Chuño, Choclo & Cheese

We met up with the other half of our group and headed out to unchartered territory higher up. These communities had no Christian witness so they really were unexplored. In order to get to these places we left the dirt highway and drove out onto the grassy field. We drove past flocks of llamas and alpaca grazing and around cactus and water sink holes. It really was quite an adventure to get to a homestead where there were not too many people and hardly any kids. Since we had no contacts, we just gave out clothing, bread and toys. The woman of the home refused to sell me her yarn ("manan" no - it was for her blanket!) but she did offer us more chuño and chicha (corn beer) which we did our best to swallow down! Paulino was able to hand out some tracts and share with the people in that area. From there we drove to other homesteads to give out clothing, toys and balloons. It was pretty funny because we would stop everytime we saw someone on the side of the road or in the field. "Quick find a piece of clothing or a toy!" It was really fun.

The yarn that I really wanted to buy!

Friendly llamas along the way

That afternoon we headed to San Juan which was another larger community where there is a group of believers. We set up our chocolate making factory outside the church building and took shelter inside when the rain started. That afternoon I gave balloon twisting lessons to the majority of our group and we produced a basketful of balloons to give out later. That evening we gathered kids and adults (there were probably about 50 or 60 total) and gave out chocolate, bread, toys, balloons and clothing. It was really fun but we had so much chocolate left over!! We left in the pitch black (again no street lights and not too many house lights) and drove back to Cotabambas where we slept at the church and in Paulino's house.

Making hot chocolate in San Juan

The next day we packed up our stuff and got ready to leave. Before I left I got to go on a little tour with one of the hermanos to a nearby hilltop where they used to sift/grind the dirt for gold. You can still see the holes that they dug! He told us that the name Cotabambas came from a word in Quechua that means those that grind or mill for gold. He also talked to us about some of the surrounding communities that have no Christian witness and how his son Gedeon wants to be a missionary to those communities. It was such a cool conversation, a wonderful view and great end to my time in Cotabambas.

The hermano who was our tour guide in Cotabambas

We headed out that morning for the trip back to Cusco which was long and uneventful. Along the way we stopped and gave out stuffed animals and toys to some kids along the way. It was so fun to see the smiles on their faces! When we stopped at the bridge for a short break I was attacked by biting flies that left red marks on my face and neck! ugh! We went back up and down the hills and curves (on one hill there were 24 curves just to get up the mountain). Some of the drop offs were a bit scary but what an adventure.

I'm so glad that I got to see the community of believers out in Cotabambas! I know that they have a lot of challenges but I was encouraged by their joy, faith and commitment despite it all. I'm so glad that I could share my balloons with some kids, give them chocolate and see them smile.

So, when can I go on my next trip??