Saturday, September 17, 2011


We love having visitors. Of course it is wonderful to see family and friends, people who are so dear to us, and all the sweeter are these reunions after extended periods of separation. But, in addition, our context, being so foreign and presenting daily challenges that are difficult to explain, adds additional richness to the time spent with our loved ones from home. The simple act of communicating in our mother tongue, conversing for hours on end about subjects that excite us, and experiencing the pleasure of being fully (or at least mostly) understood, always proves to be a salve of sorts for our weary souls. We also have the experience, however distorted, of being masters of our cross-cultural adventure. Our visitors, in their dependence on us due to their vulnerability in this strange place, give us the gift of appearing to be experts in how to manage the shock of engaging this new culture. In addition, visitors always return home as ones who have seen with their eyes and heard with their ears the experiences that we struggle to expound with words. For these reasons, and so many more, we are grateful when God sends brothers and sisters in Christ to us, even if the time is always too short and saying goodbye is indeed hard to do.

Here are some pictures from the time spent with our latest visitors.

The kids sailing the seven seas.

Basic auto maintenance 101

Lily holding her cousin Audrey. In seven days, I'm not sure if Audrey spent more than five consecutive minutes on the floor.

Geoff, Matthew (Mateo), and Eli teaching / acting out the parable of the prodigal son during the Saturday kids program.

Matthew offering unsolicited English lessons to a few of his new friends.

The whole crew in Santa Rosa.

These ladies can talk! They held a 24 hour marathon, filibuster-worthy conversation that was interrupted only by their need for sleep.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I was recently pondering the "ins" and "outs" of our new life in Lima. In any major transition, there are losses and gains. Some staples become altogether absent. While foreign experiences become regular occurrences. As I considered our "ins" and "outs," I discovered that what has been added to our life through our move to Lima and, more specifically, through our involvement in Santa Rosa is worth far more than the conveniences that have been subtracted.

An Abundance of Dogs
Though we do not own a dog, our kids have adopted several (close to ten) strays in Santa Rosa. Our kids beg us to buy treats for "their" dogs and have even named them. My favorite dog is "Lost," a brown and black mutt whom they now call "Found."

Running Water
There is no running water in Santa Rosa. Water is purchased from a tanker that passes through honking its horn obnoxiously. The water is contained in large tanks that sit in front of each house. When water is needed for cooking or washing, it is carried, a bucket at a time, to wherever it is needed. (The blue bucket on the stool below is used to wash dishes.)

Lots of Sand
Lima is located in a desert, and when you get outside the city, the outlying towns are situated in undulating hills of sand. My kids are constantly covered in sand. We return from Santa Rosa with sand in our car, sand in our hair, sand in our shoes, as well as in other unmentionable places.

Flushing Toilets and Toilet Seats
With no running water, obviously there are no flushing toilets. The toilets, when there are toilets (in some places there are simply holes), are located outside the houses (outhouse style). Although the picture below shows a toilet seat, it was only put there temporarily to please the gringos (North Americans) who were visiting. They were immediately removed after their departure.

Spectacular Views
There are gorgeous views of the ocean, especially at sunset.

Light (natural and artificial)
Although I am told it is coming, one of the things that is currently "out" in Santa Rosa is electricity. We also forfeit the sun for over six months every year. The gray skies roll in in late May and dominate the sky, obscuring the sun, until mid-december. I had no pictures to illustrate the lack of electricity, but this picture depicts the sunless ambience of Lima during the winter.

Lot's of little friends
Our family has gotten a lot bigger since arriving in Lima. We now experience the joy of knowing over 30 kids who were previously not a part of our life. Their smiles, laughter, and energy fill our heart and challenge us to greater degrees of gratitude.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I am always a little taken back when I hear the comments made by first-time visitors to Santa Rosa. Remarks about the beautiful view and serene ambience seem naively Pollyanna as I look at the shacks that litter the hills and listen to stories of families struggling to survive. I have come to realize that it is a matter of perspective.

About a four months ago, I took a friend who was visiting from the States out to Santa Rosa. After participating in the ministry and walking around the pueblo, he summarized his evaluation of the situation with these words: "The people here are really blessed." I shot him a look and thought, Did he just say "blessed?" Maybe he meant "messed," as in messed up! Has he not seen the poverty, the dirty kids, the small shacks that provide minimal shelter, and the myriad of other signs that scream that this isn't the way things are supposed to be?

Before I could comment, he explained that there was a real since of joy and hope among the kids and women that he had not seen in a long time. The pursuit of happiness in the States, according to my friend, was an endless endeavor that filled neighborhoods with fractured families and meaningless lives. "Like a dog chasing his tail, we just keeping running ourselves ragged..."

While I don't agree that the impoverished conditions of Santa Rosa constitute a "blessing," it was interesting to consider his perspective. As inadequate as his appraisal was, it was helpful to be reminded that my friends from Santa Rosa are indeed rich in ways that I am poor. Many of my sisters in Christ have learned to hunger for and trust in Christ in a way that my life experiences make much more difficult.

An even more shocking example of the power of perspective occurred shortly after the visit from my friend. I was visiting one of my friends, and he was explaining how he had been struggling in his walk with Christ since moving to Santa Rosa from the province (the rural area outside of Lima). He informed me that people in the province were more devout, walking several miles each week (even in the rain) to attend church. When I asked him what he thought the difference was between people living in places like Santa Rosa and people living in the provinces, I was floored by his response. Looking me in the eyes, with a look of surprise that I needed an explanation, he exclaimed: "It is all this stuff!"

I nodded my head and pretended to understand his interpretation of the situation. But as his words washed over my mind throughout the course of the day, I began to feel slightly disoriented. Where I see abject poverty, he sees luxurious abundance. Where I see simplicity, he sees materialism. Where I see a need for more, he perceives a need for less (or at least maintenance versus the pursuit of more). Our perspectives could hardly be more different.

Each of these situations has been a helpful reminder of how limited my perspective is. Just when I believe that I am beginning to figure it all out (regardless of what it is), God humbles me through people who are looking at the same world from a completely different angle. The realization of how narrow my vision can be would be devastating had God not condescended to us in His Holy Scripture, revealing His infinite perspective. God's story, and more specifically, His Good News, allows me to understand this world and my life, imbuing it with purpose and meaning.

I thank God for the many people that He has placed in my life, all of them seeing the world from a different angle than me. I thank God for how he uses those people to humble me. I thank God most of all for His Word, His Spirit-breathed, life changing Word.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We have not been on here in such a long time and the more time that passes the harder it becomes to post. Neither Geoff or I are great at loading pictures, and we admit that this is no excuse for not posting something. We apologize. With this said, we have decided to recommit ourselves to blogging...again...and will be posting weekly from this point forward. We should probably begin by catching everyone up on our lives, ministry, and cultural adjustment.

We have been in Lima now for a year and a half and much of this time has been focused on learning the culture and the language. At this point, we are still trucking along in the language learning department. Although we see progress, we are far from fluint and have "those days" when it feels like we don't know a lick of Spanish. We can be hard on ourselves for being here as long as we have and still not knowing the language.

It is easy to compare ourselves to young single adults who seem to pick up the language much easier than us. What is wrong with us? Why can't we do this? Then we remember that we are raising a family in foreign country and this takes an enormous amount of effort and energy. We have occasion for using English regularly and therefore forfeit the benefits of true immersion. Welcome to my inner turmoil - "You should be speaking fluint Spanish." "Don't be ridiculous! I'm lucky I can still speak English by the end of a day of raising four kids in Lima..." And so goes...

The kids are doing well and seem to be healthy and thriving. We put Chi back into a Peruvian school recently, and he is already gibering Spanish to himself as he plays around the house. Lily and Eli just began 3rd/4th grade (hard to explain...when you homeschool, you can do crazy things like teach half 3rd grade material and half 4th grade material, depending on where your kids are at in a given subject). Zeke is starting first grade and is fortunate to be getting any attention at all with the amount of time it takes to complete Lily and Eli's lessons. (Don't worry. He is really not being neglected. And will be sharp as a marbel by the time I'm done with him.)

Our work with Word Made Flesh Peru has been challenging. We have been in, what feels like, a perpetual state of transition and change since the beggining of the year, and it is still unclear what the end result will be when the dust settles. We are hopeful that God's will will be done and that the major structural changes occuring will result in a more effective, God honoring and God glorifying minsitry among the vulnerable and marginalized living in Lima, Peru.

We have also been spending our weekends in Santa Rosa (a small town on the outskirts of Lima) where we have been serving our Peruvian friends who are planting a church there. There is some talk about the possibility of WMF Peru becoming involved in the ministry there, and we are hoping that this conversation might open a door for us to move to Santa Rosa and to work through the local church, participating in what God is doing in that community. Only time will tell.

In other news, we recently hosted a team from our home church, First Baptist Chruch of Columbia. Eight of our brothers and sisters in Christ blessed us with there presence and labored beside us for 10 days. It was a sweet time for all of us, and God was faithful among us during their visit. We look forward to receiving more friends next month. (December is a great time to visit. Anyone interested?)

In all things, we are learning to trust God and to submit to His good, perfect, and pleasing will. The challange is to look for and to except His will for the here and now without needing to know the destination (i.e., His will for tomorrow - or months or years down the road). I've got this mastered in theory and now I'm just trying to actually apply it to my anxious heart and distracted mind.

Here are some pictures so that you can remember what we look like and picture our pretty faces whenever you are on your knees interceeding for us (I assume you either are praying for us or will start today...Right!?).

This is Santa Rosa and some of the kids who attend the "Friends of Jesus" club every Saturday.

Lily and Chi on Chi's first day back to school.

Our "new" car that we purchased about a month ago.

A picture from our recent trip to Tarapoto in the high jungle of Peru. Interesting side note: Raechel picked an unwanted souvenir while she was there...Thyphoid. Bummer!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Make Shift Department Store

About two weeks ago, the Word Made Flesh ministry set up a mini-store in the ministry center in order to serve some of the girls that attend the weekly Bible study. These young women, who once lived on the streets, are now committed to sustaining a life apart from the streets. They all have young children and many of them are single mom's, or their partners work long hours. Their daily struggles to maintain a healthy lifestyle (physically, mentally, and spiritually) are played out in some of the most poverty stricken areas in Lima.

On this "Ripley" day (Ripley is the name of a very large department store in Lima) the girls paid a minimal amount (about 75 cents) for two large bags. They filled their bags with clothing and accessories that had been donated to the ministry for them and their kids.

Geoff served the young women by being "in charge" of their kids so that they could shop, eat, and fellowship without their children at their feet (he knows the blessing of shopping without kids). The first thing he said when he came home from work that day was, "Lily, I needed you today, to help me hold some babies." He explained how he spent the day caring for the little tots, often holding more than one chunky, adorable, baby at a time...It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

The "Ripley" event is just one way that Word Made Flesh is serving and reaching out to our friends.

Several of the girls waiting to enter the "store"

One of our volunteers helping a girl pick out clothes

Friday, March 18, 2011

Many Differences
There are many things that are gained when moving to a new culture. And there are many things that are given up. We now have access to items that were not available to us in the States, while many of the conveniences that we took for granted before, we are no longer able to obtain. Physical objects have not been the only changes to our context. We are also learning to adjust to different perspectives, ideas, and ways of doing things.

As I was thinking about what is different about Peru, I could not stop adding to the list. Below are a few pictures that illustrate, if only in part, the differences that confront us on a daily basis. These pictures cannot communicate all that we hear, smell, and feel that is foreign to our senses - like the constant noise produced from 9 million people sharing this city, the exhaust from the crowded streets, the smell of fish in the markets, and the lack of sun for 8 months out of the year. Nor can the photos fully convey all the benefits that our new environment affords us - like the smell of fresh bread while walking down the street, the beautiful summers here with lots of sun and not a day of rain, the convenience of corner stores, and, most of all, living out God's call for our lives.

Every bathroom here has a little trashcan next to the toilet for throwing used paper into. I guess the sewer system cannot handle paper. The trash picks up everyday here, so it goes out often.

My dryer (which is not a normal amenity here) and my stove are fueled by these gas tanks like the ones used for grills in the states. When they empty, I call the local gas guys and they deliver a full one to my house and take the empty one out. I do this about once a month or so. Sometimes I run out in the middle of cooking a meal...a minor inconvenience.

Every dust pan has a long handle so you don't have to bend over to sweep up. I think this is a great idea, and I guess it is because it is necessary to sweep here multiple times a day (due to all the soot in the air that is constantly settling on everything). This handle is saving our backs.

This is an electric switch on our bathroom wall where we turn on our water heater. We have one small water heater that services our bathrooms (all but one) and no hot water in the kitchen. We usually turn it on in the morning when we wake up and then turn it off after Geoff and I have showered. Then, we turn it on again in the evening if we are going bathe our kids, and then off again before we go to bed. This is a great energy saver. As Mr. Miyagi said in the Karate Kid (2010), "Flip a switch, save the world."

Here is just a few of the foods that are packaged differently here. From the left, parmesan cheese, drinkable yogurt, mayonnaise in a soft package (ketchup and mustard also come like this), milk in a box sold warm on the shelf, and brown eggs in a bag sold warm.

Lastly, Peru has AMAZING fresh fruit. This is only one example. You break it open and eat the insides (which resembles snot with crunchy seeds). It actually tastes good if you can get over the texture.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I have a friend who has an amazing blog which gave me this idea. We came up with some questions about Peru and interviewed each of our kids. Here are the results (unedited, except for our comments in parentheses) and a little glimpse into our lives.

Where do we live?

Chi: I don’t know

Lily: In Lima Peru

Eli: Peru, in God’s kingdom

Zeke: In Peru

Where do your grandparents live?

Chi: in Peru

Lily: In Illinois and St Louis and Champaign

Eli: In America

Zeke: I don’t know

Why did we move to Peru?

Chi: because we had to move back and forth

Zeke: to meet new friends

Eli: Because God called us here

Lily: Because we love God and we obey him

Why do we stay in Peru?

Chi: Just because, we like here

Zeke: Because we like it and its God’s plan

Eli: Because it is our mission that God told us to do

Lily: Because we have a commitment for three years...that’s what I heard you and daddy say

What do you like most about Peru, or where we live?

Chi: Granny dee dee’s house (which, ironically, is in the United States)

Lily: Our big house

Eli: The adventures

Zeke: I like playing Wii

What do you like least about Peru, or where we live?

Chi: There are no real train tracks here or big trains

Lily: I am away from all my family

Eli: I have no friends (ouch, this is enough to break our hearts)

Zeke: There is nothing bad about Peru

Do you speak Spanish or English?

Chi: What does that mean? I speak English and Spanish

Lily: English and Spanish

Eli: A little bit of Spanish and all of English

Zeke: Half Spanish and all English

What is your daddy’s work?

Chi: pushups

Lily: He ministers to kids on the streets

Eli: He helps the poor

Zeke: I don’t know, I have never seen his work (which is not true, he just doesn’t realize it)

What is your mommy’s work?

Chi: school

Lily: Dishes, laundry, and the list goes on and on

Eli: Teach us, mop, and sweep, and wash the dishes and take care of us

Zeke: Her work is teach the kids and cook

What makes your mom happy?

Chi: obeying

Lily: When we play together kindly

Eli: Us obeying her

Zeke: Love

What makes your dad happy?

Chi: obeying too

Lily: When I am mature

Eli: Us obeying him

Zeke: When he plays ball with me

What do you like to do in Peru?

Chi: Play trains with daddy

Zeke: I like to go to the movie theater and cony park and being with my mommy and daddy

Eli: Go to a bodega and get ice cream (small convenient stores)

Lily: Going on fun vacations.

Do you like to take taxis everywhere?

Chi: I like taxis and buses

Zeke: Yes, but sometimes I get motion sickness

Eli: I would rather have our own car

Lily: I don’t like being squished and I want my own window

Do you like Peruvian food?

Chi: Yes

Lily: I LOVE it

Eli: I like some Peruvian food (this really isn’t true, he likes one dish and it is very similar to chicken nuggets)

Zeke: NO

Do you like living in a big city?

Chi: Ya, I do. Is this a big city? This is a big city because it has a ocean.

Lily: The truth...not really. I like country

Eli: No, there is lots of noise and traffic, traffic, traffic

Zeke: Yes, because our house is a three story high building

Do you like going to work with dad?

Chi: Ya, so I can do pushups and be strong.

Lily: Yes, love it, because I get to hold babies.

Eli: I like going to the men’s Bible study because I get to be with dad, alone.

Zeke: Yes, I like being with friends

Do you like being homeschooled?

Chi: I like it because I like my mommy

Lily: It depends on the subject. I love writing, but I hate math. I have the best teacher in the world.

Eli: I love it because I get to learn.

Zeke: Yes, because I am very good at my letters.

Do you like answering these questions?

Chi: Ya, I do not, I do.

Lily: I love it

Eli: I can’t decide. I don’t hate them, but I don’t really love them.

Zeke: I like it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


One of the things that has been hard for our kids here is the lack of green space. They have spent the better part of their lives on a farm where they had lots of freedom to run, explore, play in the dirt, and climb trees. Now we live in a city, and although there are lots of small parks, the kids do not have the freedom they are used to. With this said, our kids have tried to make their selves at home in the tiny park in front of our house. They have played in the dirt, climbed trees, and searched for snails. Because of these activities, we have gotten lots of looks and comments from people in the neighborhood. The following pictures exemplify this "odd" behavior.

Lily climbing up a tree with a little boy in the neighborhood watching in awe
Chi and the little boy watching Lily in the tree

Lily jumping from the tree

This is just one example of many where our kids are introducing new ways to use the green space provided by our little park. The neighborhood kids are catching on, much to the dismay of their parents and the seniors who keep a vigilant eye on "their park." Next we are thinking about introducing dog tipping (they don't have any cows)...