Following Cajamarca, I spent a few days back in Trujillo to do laundry and repack. Before I knew it, I was taking off to Pucallpa – an area of Peru in the Amazonian jungle.
My two and a half weeks in Pucallpa were lived at a children’s ministry called KidsAlive. This first started as a technical training and Christian discipleship ministry 36 years ago called Mision TEC, but with time, being passed on to another generation, and the Lord’s hand, now serves as a kid’s ministry reaching over 200 kids. More about this incredible ministry here:https://secure.kidsalive.org/p-427-mission-tec-care-center.aspx
As I arrived just before a weekend, I was able to participate in the special event happening that weekend which blessed me very much. For all the women missionaries of that area, an annual women’s retreat is held for teaching & worship sessions, fellowship, and rejuvenation. My ears and brain were so very thankful to hear teaching and worship in English. The heartfelt speaker, a missionary who has served in many parts of Peru with her family, including the tribal jungle areas, spoke on the topic “A Heart Centered in Christ” with a focus on finding rest in God using Luke 10:38-42 – the story of Jesus, Martha, and Mary. This weekend touched my heart for many reasons – the topic of the sessions, the lovely women of God there that I was able to learn from, the time to reflect and check up on where my heart is, and the chance to truly relax and rest. It pierced me when the speaker shared that we can be busy for Jesus without getting to know him, just like Martha in Luke 10. It was obvious that this stuck out to many of the women there. As I’ve learned through this gap year and the women at the retreat already knew, on the mission field we can be serving Jesus and doing what the Lord has called us to do, but with our Western world minds often forget to get to know Jesus by spending time for him rather than with him. Our Lord desires to know us and we have the blissful privilege of getting to know him better too. Jesus is our Savior, not our to-do list.
This retreat led to my thinking that we can have a life centered around Jesus without our heart centered in Jesus. I think when our heart is centered in Jesus, our lives naturally will be as well, but that doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. I desire and strive for a heart centered in Christ.
That weekend filled me up for an extremely full couple of weeks at KidsAlive. Here’s all the programs they provide:
- Homework club: in this area, the schooling system is quite different than in the States. The younger (elementary age) kids go to school in the morning from about 8-noon and the older ones go from 2-6 PM or so. That means the homework club runs opposite. Younger kids come in the afternoon from 1-5 PM and the older kids come in the morning from 8-12 AM. This program provides help to the students with their schoolwork and provides further, deeper education for them. It’s vital for these children as their teachers at school don’t have care or passion for the kid’s education. By coming to this program, they receive teaching and help from Peruvian workers who have a big heart for them and pour into their lives. Furthermore, on homework club days all the kids receive a delicious, super filling lunch. It may be the only meal they eat that day. Since it’s summer in Peru, they use the homework club time just as a structured class time. For the older kids, there’s spiritual/devotional class, next math class, and last is English class. The younger ones are split into more specific age groups and receive Language Arts and math lessons. Imagine that – these kids receive and desire education year round! Witnessing their yearning for learning sparked that same desire in me. Never stop learning.
- Youth club: the days that homework club doesn’t run are used for non-educational, fun programs for the kids. Youth club is in the morning and can pretty much be compared to youth group. Bible teaching, worship, games, snacks, hanging out for all the older chicos.
- OANSA: the Peruvian version of AWANA for the little ones on the afternoons after youth club. One day is for 1st-3rd graders and the the 4th-6th graders come the other day. Bible story, memory verse small group time, relay games, snack, songs, and just so much fun. They’ll reach over a hundred kids on one OANSA day.
Besides the programs, there are other smaller, yet important aspects of the ministry. The kids are provided with toiletries that stay on campus. They brush their teeth after eating there and take a shower on the premises weekly – little necessities that they may not have access to at home.
Here’s how a week pans out:
- Monday: Staff prayer meeting > prep for upcoming week > lunch > homework club for the little ones
- Tuesday: Youth club 8AM-11AM > lunch at 12:30PM > OANSA 2-5 PM
- Wednesday: same as Tuesday
- Thursday: Older homework club – breakfast at 8 am > spiritual class 8:30-9:30 am > math 9:30am-10:30 am > English 10:30-11:30 am > lunch; Younger homework club – lunch > Bible class/craft > class time with age group (Language Arts and Math lessons) until 5 pm.
- Friday: same as Thursday
So pretty much, the days I sat in on/helped with all the programs were 8am-5pm days. Phew.
What began as me just helping out on the first day turned into me teaching the English classes during my time there and what a joy it was! I shocked myself with my Spanish knowledge as I had to explain the lessons, understand, and answer questions in Spanish. Teaching this class was hands down my favorite part of my time in the jungle. We learned pronouncing vowels, introductions, and the verbs “to be” and “to have.” The well-behaved, fun kids did so, so well and accomplished lots in my short time there.
Although the full, busy weekdays (and heat/humidity!) tired me out, I couldn’t resist adventure on the weekends and in the evenings despite exhaustion. Here’s all the crazy, adventurous, jungle-y experiences I had:
- held monkey hands
- held an anaconda
- ate a palm fruit flavored popsicle
- went on a peki-peki boat ride that filled with water as we traveled down the lake
- swam in a piranha infested lake — no, they aren’t as vicious as you think and don’t bother eating you, they’d rather chomp on other fish
- caught a fish in said piranha infested lake and then used it to catch a piranha which I will now use the jaw of to make a necklace
- ate fried grub worms, a jungle specialty called Suri
- made and drank a Peruvian tribal jungle drink called masato — a little info about masato: it serves as both an important social aspect and major part of the diet for Peruvian tribal peoples. It’s a thick drink made with yucca and saliva. In the tribes, the people sit around a pot of boiled yucca root, one person takes a bit, chews, chews, chews, and spits it back into the pot. The next person does the same and so on until it’s all chewed up and everyone’s contributed. Then, it sits for a day or two (or three, for the adults). The saliva breaks down the yucca starch turning into sugar after some time. With some extra time, it ferments. I didn’t get to make it in the tribal setting, but did make my own in a kitchen and it didn’t taste too bad.
- rode on a 4-wheeler driven by a 10 year old
- picked and ate starfruit from a tree that stood just outside my front door
- ate heart of palm
I love the jungle, even the abundance of humidity and insects couldn’t change that for me. Was it lots of fun and packed with excitement? Yes. But a huge part of why the jungle (the mighty jungle) captured my heart was due to my involvement with the KidsAlive ministry and the beautiful people there – both the staff and the children. I roomed with two of the Peruvian workers who live on campus, Paola and Karina, whom I bonded with quickly and closely. On campus, four missionary families also dwell and I enjoyed getting to know and spend time with them as well. Insane, small world moment – the newest missionary family, the Cotes, who’ve been there for just about a year, are from Lancaster, PA.; a place I’m very familiar with as the camp I work at is very near it and it’s also the area I’ll spend the next five years of my life at when I attend Lancaster Bible College. Talking, laughing, and being amazed over mutual friends was quite amusing and mind-blowing. I’m looking forward to seeing them in Lancaster as they return back for furlough shortly after I arrive home.
Lastly, the children that attended the various programs at KidsAlive truly were some of the most courteous, earnest, cheerful kids I’ve ever spent time with. I can’t put into words exactly how and to what extreme extent spending time with them touched me, but it reached my inner parts and completely filled me up with Christ’s love, peace, power, joy, life, strength, hope, vision. Witnessing the Lord’s Kingdom being spread anywhere is powerful (or should be, anyway), but especially in an area that doesn’t have the access to the awareness the Western world does. Seeing young people growing into disciples of Jesus in such an unreached, impoverished, alcoholic, and abusive area hits you with overwhelming reverence for God and prompts a restless craving to follow Jesus’ Great Commission.
After the adrenaline-pumping craziness of missing a flight, I made it back to Trujillo. Although the situation itself was quite confusing, I myself felt much at peace and composed during it all. What a precious privilege it is to turn to prayer. I have no doubt that’s what brought the internal calmness. How abundantly He’s blessed me for that to be literally the only thing that’s gone wrong during my 5 months abroad at this point.
Speaking of that, I’ve been out of the US of A for over five months. Wow, time is a funny thing. Has it gone by fast? Of course. But all the newness, yet intimacy of my relationships with the places and people add a remarkable sense of timelessness to these ineffable past months of my life. A tug of war begins in my heart whenever I think about my time abroad coming to an end and returning home. The Lord has already laid out many things for me to look forward to – my sister’s graduation, my dear English friend from FirstServe (the who I spent a week in England with) is spending the summer with me working at Black Rock, a couple new, exciting things happening for me at camp this summer, beginning my university years at Lancaster Bible College – but regardless, it will no doubt be immensely difficult to acquiesce the denouement of my gap year. If I write any more about this I’ll start crying because I don’t know what else to do with the mixed emotions so I’ll stop now. Pray for my transition home please!
As far as other prayer requests, please pray for the ministries I’ve been apart of – for God’s continued provision, Jesus’ presence, and the break through of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the perpetual continuation of the Great Commission. Pray for the missionaries around the world serving the Lord and building His Kingdom here. Pray for unreached nations – that disciples will be called to reach them and not ignore that calling. These are not one time prayer requests, pray for these things fervently.
My last month in Peru will be spent at my main base, Trujillo. This week, I’m currently helping at the VBS at my host family’s church. The two weeks after that, I’ll spend more time at the orphanage I’ve already spent time serving in. Finally, the end will come in which I’ll distract myself with packing and taking in my last moments in Peru pretending they’re not the last. I plan to scribble down one more blog post before I go home, probably just a few days before I’m back on March 12th.
April/Apes/Apey/Monae/Ape (I miss my nicknames!)