Finally. Time to write.
Unfortunately, this post won’t have pictures because the wi-fi at our hotel in Iquitos is super slow. But it’s okay. Hopefully my writing will suffice. I was able to upload some to Facebook, so check there if you’re really curious.
This trip has been an exciting and terrifying whirlwind.
Day 1 started on Thursday night at midnight as we drove to JFK, and talked anxiously about our expectations for the trip. I should have slept on the van ride, but I didn’t. My biggest and only regret.
After almost 20 hours of traveling and a short layover in Bogota, we landed safely in Lima. When we stepped out of the airport, I felt like I had returned home. After four years, I was back in a country that is so dear to my heart. The smells, the weather, and the traffic – everything was exactly as I remembered.
Friday night, we ate Pardo’s Chicken with Bill & his family, and he gave us some more information about what we would be doing for the next nine days. I was exhausted, and busy eating chicken with aji (a delicious chili sauce), so I didn’t fully comprehend what we would face once we arrived in Iquitos. It’s very easy to get caught up in the emotion and excitement of a missions trip, and forget that missions trips are not vacations. At least, they shouldn’t be – we are called to serve, and to spread the name of Jesus, and quite frankly, that often translates to “hard work.”
Day 2: We woke up & had terrible hotel coffee. Bill met us in the lobby, and we transported our luggage to his house. That morning, we were able to see a bit more of Lima, and spent an hour in a market where I had amazing cafe con crema. Then came team orientation, and at 3 p.m., we left for the airport to catch our flight to Iquitos. During team orientation, we met Joe, Jennifer, Percy, and Janet. Joe, Jennifer, and Percy are all from Colordo; Percy was born in Peru, and now raises money each year for a new project in Iquitos. Janet is Bill’s assistant, and is just a beautiful person through and through.
While we were waiting in line for our flight, we met Henrike (aka Henry), who is from Germany and is working with AFS. She is going to be living in Iquitos for one year. It might seem coincidental, but I have seen God use us in small moments like these. We were able to connect with her, and give her peace of mind as we stepped out of the airport into the city of Iquitos.
The ride to our hotel provided more culture shock than expected – there are moto taxis everywhere, and on one moto taxi, a mother was breastfeeding her baby. The city is extremely poor, and there is such a stark difference between Iquitos and Lima. My heart broke again for this country, and our purpose for being in this city was made clear.
Day 3: Sunday was an amazing day. In the morning, we went to a service at a Bible school for pastors from the surrounding tribes. As soon as we entered the room, I could feel the presence of God. It was like a covering in the room, and our team immediately started praying. That morning I prayed specifically for direction – Caleb and I have such a strong desire in our hearts to become full time missionaries at some point, but I’m tired of accepting the fact that I “don’t know exactly where God is calling us.” I want to know, and even though it won’t be in my timing, if we continue to seek Him, He will be faithful to guide us. Before Bill preached, Kristen gave her testimony, and even sang the chorus of “At The Cross”…in Spanish! I was so incredibly proud of her (and still am), and the way that she is letting the Holy Spirit guide her. She has shown a new adventurous side that I hoped would come out – and it has! From the moment we finished interviews, I was sure that God placed her on our team for a reason, but at that point, I knew for sure that she was meant to be on this trip.
After the service ended, we were talking to the tribal pastors, and Bill started speaking with one young man who is studying the Bible. He is seventeen years old, and had never received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Bill called us over, and we prayed for him in tongues, and then Bill said, “now, it’s your turn. Speak in tongues.” And he did. I have never experienced anything like that before, and as much as the Pentecostal church in America focuses on speaking in tongues, I have come to realize that it is almost a one and done thing. We are not encouraged to pray in tongues daily, or to pray over others in tongues.
Another thing that impacted me is the setting of this church service. As Americans, we are SO blessed. Yet we are selfish, and relish in the art of complaining. We complain that our sound system isn’t up to date, and often require material things to enter into the presence of God. If the words to the songs aren’t up on the screen, we don’t enter into worship, and if someone is singing off key, we get annoyed. Yet, here we were, in a room with beat up chairs and only one microphone, and God moved in an incredible way.
We then went to Belen for the very first time to see the church and the school where we would be doing our VBS ministry, and the bathroom remodeling.
It is currently the rainy season, and because they don’t drain the water, it builds up, and rises so high that the people have to build wooden plank bridges, and ride on canoes to get around. There are feral dogs everywhere (*side note* where there are wild dogs, there is also poop, and I stepped in poop while walking on the bridge), and because there is no place to put the garbage, it ends up in the water. This water is also where the people bathe, what they use to cook with, what they drink, and where they go to the bathroom. Kristen and I created a system of levels as we walked over the wooden planks to get to the school and church.
Level 1: Walking on the planks the very first time. It was so scary, and we feared for our lives.
Level 2: Walking on the planks at night. We did this on Sunday night when we went to the church service in Belen.
Level 3: Walking on the planks when they were wet after a down pour.
We are currently trying to reach Level 4: walking on the planks backwards, or on one foot.
Sunday night was also incredible; half of the team went to a church in Punchana, and the other half went to the church in Belen. Kristen and I led worship with Bill, and I gave my testimony. Bill preached, and then we were able to pray for people at the altar. They are hungry for God, and are not afraid to show it. They have little to nothing, and understand that even though they can’t change their circumstances, they can rely on the Lord.
Day 4 (yesterday): We began the first day of children’s ministry and bathroom remodeling. There was a puppet show, I was a “clown” (I just had a clown nose, and a red headband), and we played the game where you put shaving cream on a person’s head, and their partner has to throw cheese puffs on it. Kristen did an object lesson, and Valerie translated. Valerie has been an incredible blessing as well! There were so many issues with her getting her visa, and I know that was an indication of the great impact she was going to have here in Peru.
I was able to connect with a few of the kids, including one little boy named Luis. After the children’s service ended, he came and sat next to me, and I told him about my family, and he talked about his. My Spanish is getting better each day, which is encouraging.
After the children’s program, we walked over to the school and began the bathroom remodeling. When I say bathroom remodeling, what I really mean is: there is a floor, and holes for where the toilets will go. Everything else, we need to build.
At one point, Percy lifted up a board that was on the bathroom foundation, and two rats ran out and jumped into the water. A few team members almost landed in the water because they were so scared. 😉
Today we might split up the team so that half of us can do children’s ministry, and the other half can make a dent in the remodeling – we only have until Friday!
Today is our last day of children’s ministry at the school in Belen, and tomorrow and Thursday we will visit another school that is supported by Latin American Childcare.
Please continue to pray for our team as we minister to the people of Iquitos. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and boldness. And pray that we will find ways to communicate, as some of our team members don’t speak Spanish. Although we have translators, it’s frustrating when you can’t connect with someone on a personal level without having a person speaking for you.
Thank you to everyone who donated funds to our trip! We are so grateful for your support, and what it has allowed us to do here in Peru.