Our last 2 days in Peru.

The past week has been the best week of my life. 

Sunday morning I  groaned my way out of bed (groaning internally, so as not to wake Jenn) at 5a.m. so I could catch a ride on an ATV out into the jungle to a nature preserve that the family who runs MissionTEC owns.  I spent the sunrise and the early hours of that day walking the edge of a beautiful lake, casting my lure here and there in hopes of bringing in one of the beautiful peacock bass they`ve been stocking the lake with the past few years.  I saw the tracks of many of the river otters that live in the lake, but didn`t see any of the little critters themselves.  There were tons of screetching hawks overhead the whole sunrise….I have never seen so many beautiful birds of prey in one place.  Watching the orange sunlight reflect of the bottom of their white-speckled wings was like watching a daytime fireworks show!  There were herds of beautiful gray Brahma cows grazing along the edge as well.  A light breeze blew the whole time…and I can honestly say I have never felt closer to God than I did for those two hours Sunday morning.  The only reason I am giving a personal experience this much space in a blog that is supposed to be about the people of LaPerla is simply to try to communicate to those of you who have not or can not go down to Peru a small idea of the overwhelming beauty of this jungle.  (also, to see how long of a run-on sentance I could write)  The perspective that is brought on by being alone and still in the middle of God`s creation is an amazing way to prep for a church service conducted in a language you do not understand that takes place in a in a giant humid oven.

That being said, it was great to get to go to church in LaPerla.  It was kind of sad to see that there were maybe only about 14 adults in church, but we found out that most of the people in the village prefer the night service.  We could understand why – there was no air moving and it was 93 degrees with suffocating humidity.  We got to go up and speak for a little while, and by far the highlight of that was when we told the community we had received out dates for next year and that we would be back in August.  There was a genuinely huge roar of approval from everyone.  It was great to hear they felt the same way we did.  There were at least 20 children that came into church after sunday school and led songs and dances – we were soaked with sweat but the energy the kids brought was infectious!  Goodbyes after church took a long time – there was so much hugging to do!  We got to say goodbye to Juan and Paquita and all of our little buddies.  There were no tears – only smiles.

The Pucallpa director for FH is named Luis, and he and his family came over to MissionTEC for lunch.  Rachel and Jenn cooked pizzas for everyone and we had a really fun time just catching each other up on what was going on in our personal lives and in churches and communities.  Luis is an amazing, dedicated man.  I wish I could explain it better, but…..you know that person you meet and you somehow know from the very first minute that they are a sincere and honest person whose heart genuinely cares for others more than themselves?  That`s Luis.  He does the work of 3 people in his 60-hour work week and still finds time to be a great Dad, a loving grandfather, and the pastor of his own church.

Sunday night was packing a resting.  Jenn and I went on a long sunset walk around the grounds and along the river.  When it got dark the stars were so many and so bright that you could see the black outline of every leaf in every tree simply because it was outlined by the little pin pricks of light in the sky.

I got to go out and see the orphanage that MissionTEC is building out by their nature preserve.  They are paying for everything themselves….electrical, water, landscaping…..and we aren`t talking an urban area here – we`re talking needing to buy your own transformer and run lines to even get power out there.  The generosity of the people we were surrounded by all week was inspiring.  Then it was off to the airport.  We said goodbye to our fabulous, lovely, generous, funny, beautiful host Rachel and jumped on a plane.  We are in Lima right now, and my hour on this computer in the internet cafe is up.  We will be home Tuesday afternoon.  Thank you so much for caring enough to follow along.  Thank you for your prayers and your words of support.  It`s been a beautiful ride.

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A whole day in LaPerla and all sorts of good stuff.

So much has happened in the last few days!  It’s always so hard to sit down and try to find a way to communicate the overwhelming experiences of our time down here in a way that doesn’t read like a police report (just the facts, ma’am) or an overly sappy tear-jerker novel (insert photo of Fabio on a sailboat with a tossled-hair deckmaid here).  I’ll do the best I can, and ask your pardon for any raw fact-giving or brutal sentimentality.

(Fact section: Beware!)  On Friday we were at the FH offices in central Pucallpa by 8:00.  We participated in devotions, songs, and sharing.  Jenn had baked cookies (of course) the day before, and the staff and us sat around sharing stories and catching up.  We were there for a while, then headed out to LaPerla via Mototaxi.  It was the coolest day of the trip and we even got a little rain on the mototaxi trip.  We got to go to my sponsor child Jaun’s house for lunch.  His mother had asked me what my favorite Peruvian dishes were a few days earlier, and I had said Lomo Saltado or Aji de Gaillina.  We got to sit inside and just chill out and hang out with the family, and eventually we all got a nice, big plate of Aji de Gaillina (a wonderful chicken dish).  Jenn and I looked at each other like “How are we going to eat all of this”.  We actually found a way to clean our plates and were bursting at the seams.  Then….a plate of Lomo Saltado (beef dish with rice) was brought out and set in front of us.  Yeah – a whole other MEAL that had been cooked from scratch just for us.  We did the best we could…..but had to explain that I didn’t mean Aji de Gaillina AND Lomo Saltado……

Next came some rousing basketball games of 21 and 3-on-3 in the (now out and shining) blistering sun.  I had a BLAST, and got to play against my sponsor child Juan.  I made sure to really give him a good beat-down because I knew that soccer was coming up next and I was in for a good humiliation of my own.  The girls rested in the shade, as sane people are prone to do when invited to participate in athletics in a humid oven.  At 3:00 we headed over and participated in the Mothers reflection group that they have every week.  About 35 moms showed up and Jack taught a  lesson about domestic violence and God’s view of how important and strong women are.  Next came about an hour of volleyball out in the street.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  Alfred would be proud to know that I continued his dominance of spiking the ball way too hard against defenseless sub-5-foot Peruvian women.  What can I say – we’re bullies.  🙂   Next (as the sun was setting and my bones and joints were screaming) came a full match of soccer with the local guys and FH employees.  I did the best I could during the first half, but chose to join Jenn and all the local kids (at least 40-50 strong) on the bleachers.  During the game we were finally able to do some more home visits and that was our favorite part, as it always is.  Our time in LaPerla concluded with a good half hour of improv games and lots of laughs with the kids.  We said goodbye to Jack, and headed home.

We got back to missionTEC around 15 hours after we had left….ate some food real quick…..and passed out.

Today we helped out with a huge event with the kids here at MissionTEC.  Well…..by “helped” I mean “watched…but were ready to help”.   The big thing we got to do today was meet a bunch of the young adults from Pucallpa that are in the FH scholarship program.  Jenn and I have gotten involved with fundraising for the program, and it was amazing to meet some of the “kids” involved.  One of the guys in the program works a 12-hour job from 6 to 6 every day and then goes to night classes from 7 – 11.  The stories of dedication and hard work from these amazing, inspirational individuals is overwhelming.   This is one of those sections where I desperately want to type more and more about it, but don’t want to sound too sappy.  I’ll just say that I can’t possibly have found a cause that I believe in more than I believe in these 20 kids.

OK.  Sunrise fishing on the nature reserve, then home for a quick shower before heading to morning church tomorrow.  Thanks to all of you.

 

-S&J

Photo update

Photo update!

Yesterday was amazing!  In the morning, Jenn helped out with continuing to sew purses for the girls (this IS a “working vacation”, after all!) and I patrolled the ground armed with my video and still cameras – documenting this beautiful place.  But everything was just a warm up for our return to LaPerla.  We took a (bumpy as heck) mototaxi for about 15 minutes, and arrived in the LaPerla square in the afternoon.  The community knew we were coming and it was a really exciting and unbelievably heartwarming welcome.  Jenn had made individual photo albums for over ten of the families in the community, and had a whole stack of envelopes of photos for many, many more of the children.  It was a blast handing all of those out and watching them and their families react (there’s a great photo above of Christi’s sponsor child and her mother reacting to the book).  Next came a TON of house visits.  We spent an extended time at my sponsor child Juan’s house, and they invited us to come back have lunch with them, which we will be doing on Friday!  We spent some time at Paquita’s house (Jenn’s sponsor girl – a great photo in the group above), and then headed out to visit as many of our friends and familes’ sponsor children as we could.

We visited the homes of children sponsored by Dave Bowman, Jill and Josh Heinz, Ryan and Clarice Miller, Frank and Tanya Reader, Christi Kambs, Ron and Lydia Lewis, and Alfred Santana.  We hope to visit more homes tomorrow.  I can’t explain how thankful we are to Rachel and Jack for all of the organizing, walking, and translating they did.  If you haven’t tried to pull off visiting that many excited familes over the distance of a whole village you might not understand the amount of work….but trust me, it was a big deal.

We ate a delicious meal that was graciously prepared for us in LaPerla by one of the focus group moms (Jeffrey’s mom), then headed to church for the Teen Night, which they have on Wednesday nights.  I was SO EXCITED to see my sponsor child Juan there!  The welcome from the “kids” was enthusiastic, to say the least. Jenn and I were requested (who am I kidding – we were DIRECTED) to join right in on the games.  The games that were played and explained entirely in Spanish.  We might not have had much of an idea what was going on, but apparently Jenn won at something!  I could type all of the little details forever (Judith says hello and she loves you, Pam! Jim doesn’t think you can score another goal, Alfred!) but it is time for me to go.  Tomorrow is a full Food for the Hungry day with the morning spent at the FH Pucallpa office, lunch at Juan’s house, time in the community, and then participating in the focus group with the moms in the afternoon….followed by a nice, long set of volleyball in the street at sunset.  Love and hugs from Jenn and I to all of you – have a great weekend!

Sloths, iguanas, and hawks – oh, my!

Hello, everybody!  First of all, I just want to say WELCOME to all of the child sponsor individuals and families who received the information about this blog  just today!  We are thrilled that Wendy and everyone else at FH were able to get our blog information to you, so that you can learn more about the community of LaPerla where your sponsor child lives!  PLEASE go back to the beginning of the blog and catch up on all of the exciting things that have been happening in LaPerla.

We arrived safely at our home base here at MissionTEC, which is about 15 minutes away from LaPerla.  Our friend Rachel lives and works here along with working at FH.  Jenn and I unpacked, grabbed some lunch, and took a quick rest.  It is SO HOT here.  Oh my goodness, it’s hard to even explain.  But it is an absolutely beautiful place to be.  I hope to somehow upload some photos at some time, but it might have to wait until we get home this time, because we are stuck with dial-up here at MissionTEC.  Don’t get us wrong – we’re THRILLED to even have the opportunity to update the blog from the field!  Well, we took a quick walk around the grounds here and saw a 4-foot HUGE iguana and an adorable gray sloth up in a tree just a few feet away.  There are screeching hawks everywhere and what sounds like hundreds of parakeets up in the mango trees.  I spent the rest of the afternoon doing what I could in assisting with the building of a lake-side deck next to the main house, while Jenn spent a few hours with some of the women here sewing purses!  Jenn made an entire purse from scratch!  And it’s really beautiful, too!  The purses are gifts for the teenage girl students who attend here at MissionTEC.  Jenn and I both got to spend time with the people that work here and it’s always great to hear the stories of people who have dedicated their lives to helping others out in the field.  Oh – and tomorrow I’m up at 5:30 and off to go fishing with John (who founded MissionTEC) and his brother Phil. I love fishing already….but sunrise fishing in the Amazon?  YES!

Tomorrow we finally get back in to the community of LaPerla.  We are SO excited.  We get to go spend 5 hours in LaPerla just hanging out with all of your sponsor kids and their families.  We even get to eat dinner right there in LaPerla, and I can’t begin to explain how hard it will be getting to sleep tonight just knowing what tomorrow holds and the unbelievable fact that we’re actually down here.  Thanks, God.  No…really.  Thanks.

Relaxing day in Lima…

Today was a relaxing day.  We had a great meeting and lunch at the FH main office in Lima.  We talked about everything from scholarships to microfinance and learned so much about what is going on with all of the different programs and areas that FH is working in.  It was great to see Meesha again and to get to spend some more time with Ryan Smedes.  Ryan is the country director for Peru and is a great guy that is leading with integrity and enthusiasm.

Our afternoon and evening were spent with Rachel just roaming about Lima.  We’re off to the airport at 6:30 tomorrow morning and will finally be back in Pucallpa tomorrow at 10:30!   We are so excited to get back to the jungle that it will be hard to sleep tonight.   I’m especially excited to get back into LaPerla, so I can stop writing about US and start typing about our friends!

Safely in Lima!

Hooray!

Jenn and I got in a little past midnight last night, and Rachel was there waiting to pick up up!  It was so great to see here again.  We came back to her friend Lauren’s apartment, and WOW ; this place is amazing!  We had a great night’s sleep and are now headed off to the Food for the Hungry offices here in Lima.  Jenn and I are both *very* excited, because we have never had the opportunity to visit before.

I expect to have time later tonight to catch you up on what’s going on down here.   Starting tomorrow we’re over the Andes and down into the rainforest and Pucallpa, and my chances to get online might be a little more rare than previous trips.  Well , time to go grab a taxi and get to the main FH office in Peru!