Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Go, Mr. Chubs, Go!!!

AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! I only have three days left in Peru! Where did all my time go? I am not ready to leave just yet. Sorry I haven’t posted anything in so long, we have been super busy and then I caught the Peruvian death virus. I only call it the death virus because I felt as if I was dying. I am getting better, the doctors gave me lots of medicine. I don’t know what any of the pills are or what they are supposed to do, but I take them. They tried to give me a shot in the butt when they came to my hotel room and I calmly refused (I will define calmly at a later date). The hotel pays for all doctor visits and they come to us, so that is a good thing. The doctor also told me not to drink any cold or hot liquids, as not to further upset my sore throat. (They blame sore throats on drinking cold drinks) This made me question their expertise a bit, but Julie reassured me that this is just a cultural practice and they actually did go to med school. The interns and I like to blame all sickness on the chicha morada, the purple corn drink. Who knows what truly got me though.

The past few days have been a whirlwind. For a couple of days we seemed to go on a tour of children’s homes in Lima. One day we got to go to a boy’s home on the coast and also visit a military base with them. The military base threw a special birthday party for the boys. It was pretty cool to see soilders handing out food, drinks, cake and gifts to the boys. You could tell the boys were so proud for all the attention they were getting. Of course we got to participate in lots of singing and dancing. We also spent time at a Teenage mother home called Santa Rita. We did a two-day program there for the children and moms. This was a really neat experience, although I wish we had more time with the mothers there. Some were so young, and the situations they found themselves in were usually out of their control. Some became pregnant as young as 11 and 12 due to sexual abuse from their households, who knows how long it had been going on before they became pregnant and the abuse could no longer be hidden. The anger and bitterness in the girls at Santa Rita was so evident and heartbreaking. They are still just kids but have to deal with the reality that they are now mothers. Some mothers were very in love with their children, but others showed no interest in their babies. One time I was telling a mother how handsome her baby boy was and she told me I could have him. On our last day there we wanted to do something for the moms so we volunteered to watch all the babies… 15 babies and only 3 interns. So we waited in this room while all the moms dropped off their screaming babies and then we just looked at each other in shock. We were all holding, rocking, singing, dancing, praying, trying to do anything to get them all to calm down. After about 45 minutes of insanity we had things under control and we saw the moms outside playing with Julie and Nydia. They were having the best time just playing games like tag and hanging out talking. So although it wasn’t much, I hope we left the mom’s knowing that we were proud of them and loved them. I wish that home had so much more though, they need parenting classes and people to visit them so that they know that they are loved and appreciated. They are never allowed to leave the home, so they are stuck inside those walls day in and day out. I don’t know how they do it.

On the weekend we played some, shopped some and just hung out. We also went to another church, one that teaches in english, called Flamingo Road. It was really neat and meets in a movie theater. All the interns seriously feel like family now. We should since we spend 24 hours a day together. I love my friends I have made in Peru. Let me introduce you:

Erika is the youngest. She is from Ohio and just graduated from high school. She is hilarious and makes me laugh until I cry, until I cant breathe and my abs are sore. We can often be found running around grocery stores acting like ten year olds. She is so fun and so wise for her age. My favorite thing about her is that she is able to make the craziest, funniest comments all the while keeping a straight face, it just kills me. She also looks like Kate Winslet.

Nydia is from Texas, but was born in Mexico and can speak fluent Spanish. She rocks! She takes a million pictures a day. The clicks of her camera are as constant as the sounds of traffic, horns, and kids. She got a canon rebel the day before she came on this trip and hasn’t stopped experimenting since we got off the plane. She attends Baylor University, is extremely beautiful, smart and funny as well. We think a lot a like about clothes, shoes and food.

Amanda is also from Texas and is 20 years old. She is the most quiet and is very wise. We pick on her a lot for being so smart. She is extremely level-headed, loving and great at sports. She is a missionary kid and her first ten years of life were in Africa, she has also spent a year in Turkey . She’s pretty much awesome to say the least.

Kristi, my roomie, is the oldest of the group and our team leader. She spent 8 years serving in the Marines and has traveled the world. She also spent three years of service in Japan. She hates when you announce these facts, but I am proud of her accomplishments. She grew up in California and now lives in Texas. She has a loud, contagious laugh and is always acting up.

We refuse to talk about the end of our trip and leaving each other this Friday. We all feel that denial is the best approach. Our last week has already proved to be amazing. I won’t say the best, but I do think it is the most important week we have spent here as far as God being able to use us in the lives of others. We are working at a teenage girl’s home about thirty minutes away from our hotel. It is in a bad area, but the home is really nice and has about 40 girls from the ages of 12-17. The girls have welcomed us into their home and although we have only spent two days there we feel so close to them. There are 8 babies at the home, so only a few of the girls there are mothers. We do a morning program with the girls and an afternoon program with the babies. The theme of the week is forgiveness, we are using the life of Joseph again and Julie also requested that we share a testimony each day. My fellow interns decided I should go on Monday, so I already had the priveledge of sharing with those beautiful girls about how God has worked in my life. It was such a special time. I was nervous since I had to share on the very first day, before we had time to really build relationships, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think I was able to bond with the girls more quickly because they got to hear a lot about my life. I copy and pasted my testimony that i shared with them at the bottom of this blog if you feel like reading it. They asked the best questions and listened so intently. The look in their eyes, you could definitely tell that God was working in their hearts. They asked how I was able to forgive others, why should they trust in God, and they were very intrigued because I told them that not all people who go to church are Christians. (part of my testimony is that I grew up in a Christian home and went to church but never had a relationship with God until I was much older) I am in charge of crafts along with Nydia. On Monday we asked the girls to paint a really beautiful picture with bright colors. When they were all done we would walk by and put a black streak of paint on it right in the center without explaining why or showing any emotion. They all said, “Senorita, por que, por que?” It was the worst feeling. At the end of the week we will hand the paintings back to them and they will decide if they want to let the black streak of paint ruin their picture or if they will try to turn it into something beautiful. Im excited to see what happens. Tomorrow I am baking a cake with them to demonstrate the verse Romans 8:28. Pray that this goes well. In the afternoons we do lots of playing, holding and loving. Those babies are so sweet and cute. One baby boy named Paul is my favorite, I call him Mr. Chubs. I am working on trying to get him to crawl this week. He is so chubby he can hardly move, it is hilarious. With the toddlers and three and four year olds, we work on fine motor skills and large motor skills. Julie also acts out stories and sings lots of songs with them. She is so gifted. We are also working on colors and shapes. We have a lot of fun with them in the afternoon, they are so well behaved and seem to love all the attention they are getting this week.

We have been trying to cram a lot into our last few days, seeing our favorite people and going to our favorite places. Tomorrow night we are going to try and either do karaoke or go out for some salsa dancing with everyone to celebrate our last night in Lima. We have been so well taken care of here and will miss everyone so much. I am very excited about seeing my family and friends again though. I will probably do one more post once I am back in the states to tell you how the rest of the week with the girls went. Much love to family and friends! Ciao!

My testimony, this is what I shared with the girls on Monday. I had to type it up and take it with me so in case I got nervous I could just read it.

I grew up hearing the gospel. I knew that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died on the cross for my sins and that He was raised again. My family was very involved in our church, so I thought that because I knew a lot about God and did good things that I was a Christian. I did not truly come to know Christ until much later in life.
I think that I was interested in God, but I did not truly become a believer. I look back and see that I didn't understand that I had a sin problem; I don't think I realized I needed a savior. I tried to do all the right things, make people around me happy, especially my family. I wanted my family to be really proud of me. When I was a teenager some unexpected things in my life happened. A close friend of mine died and my parents decided to divorce. My father moved away and our lives changed. We moved away as well, and I had to leave all the people that I had grown up with. I don’t share these things with you because I want you to feel sorry for me, but they did have a big impact in my life and I think God used them to shape who I am today. I am sure you have been through much harder, bigger things and have to deal with a lot of pain that I cant imagine. But I can tell you that I wasn’t prepared for all these changes or all the hurt I felt. I eventually had an attitude that was filled with hurt, anger, bitterness. On the outside, I tried to let everyone know that I was just fine and I didn’t really care about what was going on, or if other bad things happened I wouldn’t even let myself get upset. I just told myself I didn’t care and things didn’t hurt as much. But it wasn’t good, because I closed myself off to people and didn’t open up with many people at all.
When I was in high school my life became characterized by sin and I didn’t care who saw my sin or who I hurt. I got involved in drinking and drugs and tried to find fulfillment in all the wrong places. I knew I was hurting the people close to me by the way I was living and it didn’t matter to me. I knew that I was getting further and further away from God, but I was so consumed with myself, what I thought I wanted and what I thought was best for me that I didn’t care. Everything was all about me, I was only focused on myself.
Finally when I went to college God used people I met there to change me. I met people who lived their whole life for God, worshipped Him and loved Him. Not because they had to or they were trying to impress people with the good things they did, simply because they were in love with Jesus. They truly understood the gospel, something I could never fully grasp. They knew that God sent his son to die on the cross for sinners, people who were in desperate need of a savior. One of the things that I did when God started working in my heart was go and buy a bible. I began to read the book of romans and as I read I was struck by a few verses. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The word that stuck out to me was sinners, while we were still sinners. I thought that for you to be a Christian, for God to love you, that you had to be perfect. But the Bible says that Jesus died for sinners. I thought that because of the way I had been living my life for the past couple of years, and the way I was so focused on myself, and angry and bitter inside that I did not deserve God’s love and grace, but I was so wrong, that is the beauty of the gospel, that God looks at our heart, knows every single thing about us, and loves us. My life began to change. The way I thought, the way I looked at people, treated people and lived my life was all different. There is another verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the old has gone, the new has come.”
I wanted to be made new, I wanted to place my whole life in God’s hands, the good , the bad, all of it. I wanted to become who He created me to be, I wanted to bring Him glory. So that my life wasn’t about me, but about Him. I am so thankful that God’s grace is shown to all, that I wasn’t out of reach. God changed my heart and made me new. I was able to let go of things that had hurt me and kept me from living a life consumed with experiencing the love of my savior. I have been a Christian now for four years, and I am still learning and growing and I pray that God will continue to work in my heart for the rest of my life, that I will keep growing and experiencing His grace.
Some song lyrics I shared with them as well, we are giving them a cd at the end of the week with some beautiful Christian songs in Spanish, a lot of them are Hillsong United songs that I think they will really love.
A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace
Your will above all else,
my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord

I love you Lord, I worship you
Hope which was lost, now stands renewed
I give my life to honor this
The love of Christ, the savior king
Let now the lost be welcomed home
By the saved and redeemed those adopted as your own

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Our week working in Collique at the OSA center went by way too fast! We had a wonderful week and fell in love once again with the precious kids. We worked with a morning group of kids and an afternoon group of kids, so it was a little more difficult to learn names as quickly. The children were so eager to see us everyday, sometimes they would already be waiting outside the door when we arrived... thirty minutes before they were allowed in. If we arrived late (one day we had a new driver and got pretty lost) they would all be sitting at tables and would begin to bang on the tables and cheer as we walked in. So sweet! I seriously d0nt think I will ever receive more kisses on the cheek than in that week. When they came in all 80 children would kiss me on the cheek and then when we split into groups they would kiss me on the cheek everytime they entered and left the classroom I taught in. The children at the OSA house were truly precious and beautiful. We started each morning and afternoon session off with lots of singing and praising. Then the children were split into three groups that would rotate through bible study, crafts and games. Every day they learned a new memory verse and were excited to hear God's Word. They are so open to truth. They were a little confused about grace though. They thought you had to work for forgiveness or that God would forgive you for sinning, but just one time. This bothered me a lot! On our final day, we had planned a small party. The children were waiting outside the OSA house two hours before they were allowed in that day and began to scream and shout at 11:02 because we said the party would begin at 11:00! They were treated to a story acted out by Julie, Bingo (their favorite game ever), games, face painting, music, popcorn, sodas, candy and dancing. They also received some presents, we put together some school packs for the children that included a notebook, ruler, pencils, sharpener, erasers, pens and scissors. They were so thankful and happy! Before the children left we were able to share why we came, how thankful we are for them and their sweet hearts, and also had a time for testimonies. This was the first time I have every shared my testimony through a translator. An experiance I will never forget. We shared that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that His gift of forgiveness is a free gift. That there is nothing we could do to earn God's love. We used the verse Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We hope that they know in their hearts that Jesus loves them just as they are, imperfections and all, and that they do not have to work to earn his love. We said our goodbyes and were covered in hugs and kisses for the last time by the children of Collique.

Saturday was the last day we have worked. On Sunday we got to go to Julie's church, an awesome experiance. It was so neat to worship and sing songs in Spanish. I beleive Jame's would refer to this as a Velvet Elvis moment. We were welcomed so warmly and got to go out to lunch with some of Julie's friends. Pepi drove us to a delicous Italian restaurant and blared opera the whole way there. We had huge dishes of pasta and were serenaded by an African woman with a voice like no other. We were all in agreement that we had never heard anything so beautiful in all our lives. All she had was a drum and her deep, soulful voice. I also had the priveledge of getting to know one of Julie's best friends, Jannina. She is a missionary who works for Food for the Hungry International. She actually grew up in the jungle, but has lived in Lima for the past 10 years. She had the coolest stories to tell and has done a lot of work recently with disaster releif in Chincha. There was a huge earthquake there last August. She works to help people who are in need through a wholistic approach while sharing Christ. It is beautiful. I asked her at least a million questions. I am obcessed with people who grew up in the jungle, we have met a few people and they all have the neatest stories. I was very ignorant to the jungle before meeting my new friends, there are cities in the jungle. Who knew? The people dress just like us, they have doctors, grocery stores and the most beautiful scenary ever. She grew up in Iquitos and came to Christ because of some missionaries who owned a houseboat that sailed up and down the Amazon. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing some shopping and we went about exploring Lima more. I now feel very guilty for saying somewhat negative remarks about how big and busy the city is. We are all starting to feel at home in Lima and it really is a lovely place. I would now be deeply offended if I heard someone say anything bad about Lima. Monday was Independence Day, and in Peru the celebrations are carried over to the next day. I think America should adopt this tradition. Due to the holidays, we have been unable to visit any homes for the past two days. We have felt more like toursits than missionaries. It has been nice to explore during the day instead of trying to go out at night after our busy days at the center when we are all exhausted though. I feel like I am getting to experiance the culture a lot more. Yesterday, we went to an Indian market and I think I found a souveneir for every person I have ever known. When I said I knew how to bargain a little, I lied. I learned from the master, Julie. She talked them down so low on things I almost felt guilty, I would slip an extra sole in when she wasnt looking. Everyone listens to Julie and no one messes with her. When she tells me to do something, I do it and I do it very quickly. She is great and so much fun. She has also taught us what to do when taxi drivers try to rip us off. We are supposed to exclaim in the most offended voice, "Do you think we look like Americans? Do you think we are tourists?" We never do this, we just run and get her and she settles everything. We have been sampling more of Peru's amazing cuisine. Our favorite restaurant is Cafe Cafe. They have delicious coffee, desserts and dinners. My favorite Peruvian meal is Lomo Saltado. It consists of strips of beef sauteed with onions, tomatoes and peppers. It is served with rice and potatoes and is absolutely divine. To make sure I fully experianced Peru, my fellow interns took me out for churros tonight. So yummy! They are these long pastries that you dip in melted chocolate. I was all wrong about the food here too. I thought there would be tacos, burritos, nachos, fajitas, you know everything on the menu at a mexican restaurant. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You can't find anything like that here. For breakfast they serve ommelettes, fruits, olives, cheeses, advocados, and ham. For lunch they usually serve big meals but you can find sandwhiches as well. A peruvian hamburger would have eggs and plantains on top. A popular sandwhich is made with hardboiled eggs and advocados. We are going to try to sample Peru's national dish soon which is Ceviche. It is raw fish marinated in Peru's highly acidic limes.

Today was one of the best days we have had here. We were invited to a cookout at Jannina's apartment. There was about 15 or 20 people there and we had the best time meeting all of her cool friends. The amount of Americans outnumbered the Peruvians, kinda funny. Most of the Americans there were long term missionaris though and have lived in Lima for years. The interns were the first to arrive so we got to spend a lot of time looking at her pictures of her trips, life in the jungle, and her family. Then she put us to work. I learned how to take a part a grill, clean it, put it back together and then start the fire. This created lots of entertainment, but I felt very efficient when I was all done. I also learned how to make Peruvian guacamole, it is heavenly! We all worked together to assemble shish kabobs. We ate outside with the best company, loud music, great food and dancing. I loved celebrating Peru's Independence day. On the way home we took our first public bus, where no one understands the concept of personal space. It was pretty exciting. I have decided that before coming on another trip to South America, I will have to learn to speak spanish fluently. Everyone you meet who lives here asks you within two minutes if you can speak spanish and then when you say no, they give you this look that is equivelent to the look women in the south wear when they use the expression, "bless her heart." Not good! Speaking of women from the south, does anyone who is in their twenties still use the word pocketbook? I always refer to our purses as pocketbooks and my fellow interns find this to be hilarious. They also think the way I pronounce most words are hilarious, but they dont beleive anyone else under the age of 80 uses the word pocketbook except for me. I am known for asking a million questions everytime I meet a new person (which is often), they call me the question master. They obviously dont know my friend Sara Davis. I am also known for getting lost, losing everything, and never knowing what time it is. They also make fun of me because I am always asking people if they love something. Its like I cant like anything, I either hate it or love it. No in between. Do you love it? Do you love your dinner? Do you love your new jacket? Do you love this song? Its interesting to see what people who have only known you for two weeks notice about you. Julie says my ability to be comfortable in other peoples homes, my love for dancing and music, and the fact that I can talk to anybody means I fit in well in Peru though and thinks I should move here. We shall see. I wouldnt mind living out this culture for a year or two or three. No worries family, not anytime soon.

A couple days ago I lost my camera and my bank card. Ughhhh. Bank card had to be canceled and I had given up on finding my camera. I decided I deserved for it to be gone because this was the second time I had lost it. One time in Cusco I left it on a bus and someone miraculously tracked it down for me. My dear sister promised she would pray for me though that I would somehow get my camera back and after 3 days I got a phone call saying that they would drop it off at the Buckner office tomorrow morning. Hallelujah! Tomorrow we will be working at the buckner office to sort 2,000 pairs of shoes and box them for a upcoming, "Shoes for Orphan Souls" trip. I would love to participate in one of these someday. On Thursday we will finally be back working in the homes! We will work in a teenage mother home. Some of the mothers there are as young as twelve. Please pray that we will devolop strong relationships and that God will use us to share truth, love and joy. I am pretty excited about getting to love on some babies as well! Love you all! Thank you for your prayers! My computer is mad at me and will not allow me to upload any picures on here, but I will keep trying!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last days in Cusco...

The carnival was a great day... a blessed day... a BEST DAY EVER DAY. It exceeded all my expectations. We worked with the Red Dot team all day Saturday to set up a carnival for the boy's home and girl's home we had been working with during the week. It was a huge celebration of the friends we had made and all that God had taught us. There was a great big tent where we set up tons of games that the children went around and won candy and prizes at. I worked the pie throwing station and sponge throwing station. So fun! The children had overflowing bags of candy and prizes, I think we need to come back next month for a dental care trip. There were two of those huge blow up slides, a DJ who played Peruvian and American music, a small ride, a trampoline that didnt actually look safe, face painting, photo booths, cotton candy, hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream and candy apples. For two hours the children roamed, played, laughed, danced and squeeled. The best and most meaningful part of the day was having the oppurtunity to tell the children why their lives were so worthy of being celebrated. After serving them cake, we shared with our new friends that our Heavenly Father does not view them as orphans but as His children. The children were told that God wonderfully made each of them, and that He had a plan for their lives even before they were born. We shared with them that as true love goes, God came to pursue a relationship with us by sending Jesus to walk among us, to love us and to redeem us. We hoped that for a few hours the children could see the light of God's unconditional and unfailing love for them and enjoy a party in their honor. Each child was called to the front by their name and was given a gift. The kids got some pretty cool stuff: necklaces, pajamas, soccer cards, hot wheels and a Max Lucado book in spanish titled, You are Mine. They loved everything. Then came the worst part... goodbye. We danced for a good hour before we got on the bus and cried and cried. Who knew you could fall so in love in just a short week. I was able to give my favorite little guy, Elvis, his very own Bible and my favorite little girl, Margarita, slipped the sweetest note ever into my hand as I said goodbye to her. It is one of the most precious things I have ever read. The goodbyes continued to linger on that night as we said goodbye to our tour guide, Jonathan and our awesome translators. I am so thankful for the strong relationships that were made during our week in Cusco with the kids, the red dot team, translators and even our favorite waitor at the hotel named Flavio. He always brought us our coffee con leche as soon as we got off the elevator and loved to hear about our day with the kids when we got back at night.

We spent one day of traveling and saying goodbye to Red Dot when we arrived to Lima. We had one last lunch by the ocean at Tony Roma's. The best thing about Lima is that there is oxygen and we can always hear, see and smell the ocean when we are near our hotel. Lima has reaffirmed the fact that I was not made for a big city. It is always so loud! Honking, yelling, policeman blowing whistles, and just too much noise. Some parts of Lima are beautiful, but most of it is covered in trash. I have never in my life seen so much litter, no one has ever heard of going green in Lima. Our hotel is wonderful though and located near a mall that we walk to at night for dinner with all the same restaurants as the states. That is kind of exciting and sad all at the same time, Cusco felt so different and new, but in Lima the only difference is that no one speaks our language. I am thankful for being able to get treats from starbucks, Praise God for chai tea lattes and caramel macchiatos.

We have started working at a community center about an hour and a half away from where we are staying. There are two missionaries and two social workers who run the place, it is pretty cool. Children from a very poor area attend, a group in the morning and afternoon. Most come from one room houses with no running water. The only way they are allowed to come is if they are clean, in the ages of 6-10, and if their parents commit to coming for classes as well on parenting. There is a cut-off on how many children can come in,so on many days children are just standing outside watching. It is pitiful. This morning a little girl was not allowed in because she was not old enough so she sat outside and sobbed and cried. It was terrible. The center ran out of water this week so we arent really allowed to use the bathrooms or wash our hands. The children are so beautiful and excited to be there. They all get one good,nutritious meal and vitamins. They are so smart! I get to run crafts in a classroom and I also teach them english. I love to hear them pronounce english phrases, I could listen to it all day. They call me hermana Mariana. It has been so cold this week. Sister, I did need those two sweatshirts we took out at the airport. In the mornings a buckner staff member named Syliva drives us the whole hour and a half to the center. The first morning we got stuck at the police station trying to file reports on lost checks. Peruvian police scare me, they always look at me like they want to arrest me. The second morning we ran out of gas while driving up a hill. Within seconds a huge line of cars had formed behind us, everyone screaming and cussing and calling us gringos. We hopped out and tried to push it, but since we were on a hill it started to roll back on us. No men volunteered to help, they just all stood and watched as we finally got it going up the hill and off to the side of the road. Today we made it there on time with no complications. On the way home we split into two groups and ride in taxi's that feel like they are about to fall apart. I have decided that riding in a taxi in the crazy traffic of Lima is like being at the fair and riding the scrambler when you were little. I always cringe and squeeze my eyes shut when I feel like we are going to hit another car or we run a stop sign/light and my heart stops beating and then just when you think it is safe to open them up again because you didnt feel a crash, you open them up and it looks like you are going to crash into something else.

Our team has been having a great time getting to know each other better while in Lima, today we celebrated our two week anniversary of knowing each other and found out that Rosanna, a full-time staff, is pregnant!!! We are so excited for her, she is truly the most pleasant person I have ever met. Full of grace, smiles, laughter, never raises her voice or gets upset, and will do anything for you. I love her! We are also trying to prepare another party for this saturday at the OSA center for the kids. Please pray that the planning would go smoothly and we can give them a special day as well. buenos noches!

Cool quote from Bono's book, On the Move,

"I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill... I hope so. He may well be with us in all manner of controversial stuff...maybe. maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree. among all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has just infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted oppurtunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."

continued... "A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small. I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying,I have this new song, look after it. Or, I have a family, please look after them. Or, I have this crazy idea... And this wise man said: "stop." He said, "stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Get invlolved in what God is doing-because it is already blessed."

"Well. God, as I said, is with the poor. That I beleive, is what God is doing and that is what He's calling us to do."

"If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places." Isaiah 58:9-11

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

God has given me the priveledge to serve in Peru this summer for one month! I have only been here for less than a week, but I absolutely love this country and it's beautiful people! I want to take advantage of every second I am here. My favorite thing is that everyone greets with un beso (a kiss) on the cheek and a big hug. I came on this trip with and organization called Buckner International that I found on the internet. They rock! There mission is to bring glory to God by taking care and serving orphans around the world, did you know there is over 60 passages in scripture that commands us to do this? I didn't. I have met some amazing people who give there whole life for this. I met my team of five people in Dallas for one day and flew out the next day. After many flights, carrying more pounds of luggage than my weight all over and one night in Lima, we have settled in Cusco for the week. We are working alongside a group called Red Dot, a construction company from Texas. It is a group of crazy Texan men and their lovely wives. The leaders of their group are absolutely amazing and take 4 trips per year to different countries around the world. The group is completely random, and was explained as a mission trip within a mission trip. Robyn and Todd (the leaders) hope that the men will see God working in big ways with the children and that they will see that God wants to know them and work through them as well. They are so much fun and make everyday crazy. My nickname is South Carolina from the Texan men. Sometimes a guy named Bobby calls me South Dakota to see if he can make me mad. They also seem to have unlimited funds, so every night they take us to fancy restaurants and to do fun things. Soon we will be taking salsa lessons! They have also planned this amazing carnival for the end of the week that both the girl's home and boy's home will attend, over 125 children! We will have rides, a DJ, blow up bouncing things, hot dogs, ice cream, cotton candy machines, games and prizes. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. All week we spend our mornings at the girl's orphanage and our afternoon at the boy's orphanage. We start with lot's of singing, bible study, and then we rotate through centers and activites. The children are angelic and love to do anything we have planned. All day long we hear giggles, see smiles and receive a thousand hugs and kisses. They are so innocent and joyful and thankful for everything. The girls have workshops where they learn dance, have singing lessons, learn to cook, sew sweaters, scarves, and all sorts of amazing things. They are so talented. The boys are a bit wild and we spend any free time playing futbol, dodgeball, relays or volleyball. Somehow I ended up playing a relay game the other day with the boys, and I had to crawl on the cement under about 15 little boys legs. Lesson learned: make sure instructions are explained in English before you hear uno, dos, tres...GO! The boys took a little bit longer to warm up but now they are the most loving boys i have ever known. Both the boys and girls come running to the bus when we arrive and shout and yell till we come off. Then they cover us with hugs and kisses and lead us to wherever they want us to play. The girls call me Mami Marianna, and the boys call us Mami or Senorita. The kids love hearing about God and His perfect plan for their life. This week we have been studying the story of Joseph. An amazing staff leader, Julie, tells the stories before we get started with our activities and even acts them out. The children become mesmorized and some even cry a little when she talks about how much God loves them. It is precious. We were able to pass out brand new Bibles and journals to all the girls and are working on getting enought for the boys. They have been begging for them, they are all hungry for God's Word. It is so exciting to see God at work in their hearts. We have also been discussing having a closed heart or an open heart with the children and the importance of having an open heart so God can use you and carryout His plan for your life.

Today was the best day yet! We got to sleep in a little bit, 7:00, and went to the Red Dot team's hotel. We planned out every last detail of the carnival, again so excited I dont even know what to do. Then we all piled in our bus and went to the girl's home and through a huge pizza party. They had sat up lots of tables under this huge green tent and made everything perfect. Everytime we come to serve them, they end up doing something amazing to serve us. We hired a band play for us for two hours, they were so fun. So we all ate pizza till we could hardly move and then they brought a huge cake for us and made the sweetest speech. Some of the children had never had pizza before and they used their fork and knife to cut up every piece, it was so cute. They loved the pizza though and ate and ate and ate! Then of course we danced and danced. Peruvians love to dance and they are so fun to watch, they know how to move! All the time their is a reason to celebrate and music comes on and we just dance till we cant dance anymore. The men had finished their work in the dormitories so after the party we took all the girls to check out their new floor and walls. There were lots of ooohhs and aahhhhs and muchos gracias. Then came the best part of the day. Five girls have turned 18 and were going to have to leave the orphanage soon. Well, they are so smart and motivated and have these huge dreams. Red Dot knew that if they had to move out, they wouldnt be able to make all their dreams happen on their own. So they found this amazing house close to the University, I mean it is gorgeous! The girls had no idea and we loaded them onto the bus and took them to see their knew house!!! They began to cry so hard when we pulled up and told them this is where they will be living that they were shaking. The house was decorated with huge signs welcoming them and all these cool traditions. They had to break a clay pot filled with champaigne before entering and they had to cut a ribbon tied on the doorway for every room they entered. We praised God a lot and the girls made the sweetest speeches and thanked everyone for beleiving in them. I love to hear prayers through translators. We toasted with virgin pina coladas and then of course we danced and danced. The girls were so happy. They will have a full-time house mother and will attend the university for free.

After the celebrations were over we went shopping at the market for hours, it is so stressful and fun all at the same time. I have finally learned how to use soles instead of dollars and I can even bargain a little bit. After that we went to this really fun restaurant where we could sample lots of traditional Peruvian food including Alpaca and guinea pig. I was dead set on trying both and even put them both on my plate. The Alpaca was pretty good, but the guinea pig I could just not put into my mouth. I made the mistake of watching everyone else taste it first and lost all courage. My friend Thomas said, "I took meats 301 at Texas A & M and that is not ediable!" He actually spit his out, wimp. Other comments included, "I think I feel a bone." I just couldnt do it. The restaurant was called Don Antonio's and had many bands and dances. It was beautiful, I am obcessed with Peruvian music. At the end the lead singer came around and began to sing to people. He made me come on stage with him and dance with in front of 100's of people. I was so embarrassed, my roomies got some funny pictures.

Yesterday, we got to go to Machu Picchu. There are no words to describe that place. We had to leave at 6am and took a scary hour and half bus ride to the train station. These are truly beautiful people, until you get on a bus or tico (taxi). Then you are in constant fear for your life. On the bus ride, I kept praying, God, please just let me see Machu Picchu before this bus runs us off the mountain. The train ride was extremely pleasant. We had a lovely breakfast, sandwhiches, passion fruit tarts, and yummy coffee. The view along the train ride was breathtaking. Then we had to get off the train on another bus up Machu Picchu, I couldnt even look out the window. I consider myself to be a pretty laidback person, but all I wanted to do was stand up and yell stop the bus and walk up the mountain myself. Once we stepped of the bus, we were all in comeplete awe. Couldn't even speak. We went on a two hour tour with a pretty lame guide who couldnt beleive we didnt know the names of any of the mountains or the history. If you ever visit, read up first so you dont look like an IDIOT! We took a thousand pictures, had an amazing lunch over looking the mountains, and then took a nap and stared at all the beauty. We also harrassed a few llamas. On the way back our train ride was a little different. We were all exhausted and just wanted a little nap so after our meal and coffee we were all trying to sleep. All of a sudden this loud blaring music came on and our attendents who had just served us began running up and down the aisles dancing. It was so odd, they also modeled alpaca clothing for us. There was definately no sleep.

Everyday I get to experiance something new and am in disbeleif that God has allowed me to be here. We are in constant praise for all that God is teaching us and showing us about serving others and seeing Him work in the children. Also a big praise, one of our team members named Tyler was released from the hospital yesterday. He got altitude sickness very badly and his lungs began to fill with fluid. He had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days and stay in this crazy oxygen chamber. I am now taking my oxygen treatments at the hotel much more seriously and make sure I slow down when I get really tired. My roomate, Kristy, is getting pretty sick as well and prayers for her would be much appreciated. Besides getting bit by some crazy bugs at Machu Picchu, I am perfectly fine. One bug even bit me on my lip and I woke up this morning and my bottom lip was the size of Texas, Im talking Bubba off of Forest Gump big. I freaked out for a second and then got over it. The swelling went down pretty quickly and the Texans didnt even pick on me too much. Sorry my first post is soooooo long. We are leaving Cusco on Sunday and staying the rest of our time in Lima. I am sad to leave this beautiful city and the children we have all fallen in love with. Please continue to pray that the children that the children would allow God to meet all their desires to be known, acknowledged, valued, and loved. Pray that they would see God's unique path for their life and be content in trusting Him when they don't have many people to trust.