Seven monthly meetings for preparation, one weekend retreat for training, fundraising completed, passports acquired, packing completed…
We were considered a challenging team of strong personalities.
Our first leg of travel was a flight to Lima, via El Salvador. We arrived in Lima late and were welcomed into the Serrano’s home for the night, with an early flight to Juliaca the next morning. Annalise did great on the planes, sleeping through most of the trips.
Arriving in Juliaca on Saturday morning, we immediately felt symptoms of altitude sickness, even though some of us were taking Diamox. It was clear that we would need every moment of our acclimation time in Juliaca before heading further to Chupa, where we would be serving. We needed a lot of rest and hydration and mostly just needed to take things slowly, we were winded quite easily. Annalise seemed to do well, but her lips and gums did appear a little blue whenever she cried, and she was very restless at night which correlated with expected symptoms.
Sunday we attended church at Luz de Gracia in Juliaca, where Pastor Percy leads the church. It was a sweet time of worship and beautiful to see the familiarity in love and fellowship. Language was a barrier, but not impassible.
Annalise explored the nursery and was surprisingly friendly with all of her curious new friends.
During the sermon I joined the children’s service in the courtyard, which was an AWANA program.
I also met Pastor Percy’s wife, Veonica. We could both understand very little of each other’s language but managed to communicate a little. I appreciate this connection. (Doesn’t it look like he and Annalise could be cousins!)
We had a fellowship lunch with the pastor and his family and some of the other members of their church. It was a fun afternoon with lots of chatting and getting to know a little about each other. Challenging without enough translators, but a lot of fun (and a delicious meal). Veonica challenged me, asking if I felt our family would come and serve long-term in Peru. Honestly, I feel confirmed that the primary mission field God has ordained in this season, is our home and community. I am thankful for this opportunity and looking forward to seeing which doors God opens.
Sunday evening we returned to the church to train with some of the Luz de Gracia members who would be traveling to Chupa with us. We showed them the skits and puppet shows we had prepared and they repeated them.
Monday morning our team combined with the Luz de Gracia team and departed by van for Chupa, where we would minister to students and begin a small church. (Doesn’t our van look properly packed?)
The trip was full of gorgeous views of the Puno region.
Monday night we held the very first evangelical church service in a small upper room in a rented home.
We sang worship songs in Spanish, and prayed for our humble beginning to be blessed by God. There were seven children who attended that evening.
Monday was my birthday. It was a very full day of preparing for the coming days of ministry and I was surprised at dinner when I was presented with a cake and singing.
The next day we had the opportunity to minister in a preschool, we painted their faces and performed a puppet show of the parable of the Good Shepherd. We had lost our backdrop in transit, but were able to use my Didymos wrap to cover the opening of the puppet stages in the classrooms.
It was our first time ministering as a combined foreign and national team. It was a little scattered as we tried to find our rhythm with translating and sharing with the children and their teachers.
That evening we held another church service and our attendance doubled.
Wednesday we served at an elementary school. When we arrived in their courtyard we were greeted by one of the boys who had attended both our services. The children and their teachers came out into the courtyard where we performed a skit of the parable of the Prodigal Son.
We also played relay games and of course all the little girls flocked to Annalise, just like the little girls at home.
While the children were finishing up, one of the teachers chatted with me and asked if we could play volleyball. Once the children’s program was completed the volleyball net was put up and our team played against the teachers. It felt like a milestone to interact with the adults like this, on a personal level, instead of just performing for the children.
That evening our service attendance grew further.
After a couple of days acclimating to our residence and it’s differences from what we’re used to a few of us ventured into washing our hair. There wasn’t running water throughout the day, so water was collected in the morning and used from basins as the day passed.
Our final day of ministry was Thursday. We would be serving in the larger elementary school, this time we split into two teams to be sure we had enough time to visit all of the classrooms. Lucero translated for my team and Vince for the other. My team ministered in three of the classrooms. It was interesting to watch the progression of the groups. In the first classroom the teacher excused himself and left us to speak to the class. They were quiet and reserved and didn’t interact much with us.
In the second classroom the children interacted a bit more and the teacher was welcoming of us and stayed for our program.
In the third classroom the teacher also stayed to watch and listen. His class was very warm towards us and when we had finished the teacher asked if he could speak to us for a moment. He thanked us for being there and told the children how important our message was. He invited us to please return soon because the community of Chupa needed to hear more from us.
What a glorious and surprising open door.
After our lunch the team went up onto the mountain where we could see the entire town, to pray for this community and the growth of this new church. Julio has spent the past ten years visiting this area to see how God would open a door to this town and these people. It was an amazing blessing to be a small part in the planting of the new church.
We also got some snapshots to remember this excellent week.
Our final church service was also Thursday evening. We had over seventy children and ten adults. It was amazing to watch this church grow over these few days.
That evening at dinner we said goodbye to Judy. She was the one who had prepared all of our meals while we stayed in Chupa. I was sure to tell her how thankful I was for how well she fed us, and how I had learned so many new ideas from the delicious dishes she prepared for us.
The next morning we returned to Juliaca to begin our trip home.
It was bittersweet to leave as we were becoming connected with those we had the chance to interact with over these days.
What I really appreciated was that it wasn’t that we were just leaving and the growth we saw would quickly dissipate, because we had served and empowered a nation team of missionaries, there would be continued discipleship and growth of this new body of Christ.
We returned to Juliaca and had a day of sightseeing to Puno and Lake Titicaca.
It was a fun way to decompress after our days of service.
We toured the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and learned a little about the Uros tribes.
Saturday morning we left Juliaca.
We flew back to Lima and had an amazing lunch.
I had my very first taste of cuy, a Peruvian specialty.
Yes, I ate it all and it was DELICIOUS!
Followed by shopping and sightseeing.
We departed for home in the pre-dawn hours on Sunday morning.
Tired, ready to see my children, and to begin processing what God showed me during our time away.