Friday, November 16, 2012

Peru part 2

Pleasurable, Peculiar, and Perilous Peru (Part 2)

This week I will continue sharing some of our experiences in Peru.  I really could go on and on with this, as there are so many occurrences that would fit this title.  It would be far easier to enumerate the things that have been painful, normal, and safe...Though, as I think about it, to catalogue painful moments would require, at least, an equally expansive list.  But, normal and safe...These are adjectives that have been all but forgotten over the last three years.  Anyway...  

During our first year here, we traveled with our Peruvian friend, Elita, to her hometown in northern Peru.  Her little town had no hotels, no known restaurants, and no other tourist attractions.  We were in the heart of Peru.  Everyday Elita would take us on a crazy adventure to see some of the area.  I remember one morning walking out of the house to see the taxi in the picture below.  Now, it is important to understand that this taxi was not taking us across town to Walmart, but instead was intended to carry us, with our four young children, through the mountains on winding, narrow roads, bordered by shear rock walls and menacing canyons.  The trip would have been perilous in a four-wheel drive SUV, but we made the trip in this retro, red station wagon which, not only took us through the mountains, but doubled as a time machine, transporting us back to the 1970s.    

After the risky drive, we took a grueling 3 hour hike into the mountain to behold the third highest waterfall in the world...Beautiful!  Now, as you can see, it is a gorgeous waterfall, surrounded by picturesque landscape.  But with only slight exaggeration, I tell you that this picture almost cost me my life.  After the 3 hour hike to the waterfall, I was exhausted, and the return trip was nearly all uphill.  Beautiful? Yes. Worth it?  Ummmm.....   

When we returned home, we were exhausted and hungry.  Finding food for our picky kids was not easy and below is the fine, local eatery that provided our dinner.   

This is the stove that our hamburgers were cooked on.

This is the wonderful lady who cooked our dinner, which was actually delicious.  

The restaurant also provided entertainment for the kids.  All of this in a 10 x 10 room attached to the front of the cook's house.

Something that I will miss from Peru is the local convenient store (bodega) that is located on every block.  The one in the picture below is a one minute walk from our house.  These stores provide everything from vegetables to toilet paper to bill paying services.  Here the kids are checking out the ice cream selection.

Below is a picture of our roof where our kids have constructed many a fort.  We have tried to explain that they will not be able to play on the roof when we return to the States, but something tells me one of them will try.  After all, in the States the roofs have built in slides... 

Geoff administering his first a swimming pool.  I mean, really, this is the following picture will demonstrate.

No, this is not mass, spontaneous baptisms.  This is godly stewardship of church resources.  Yes, same pool, same day.  The kids are always asking to baptize someone now...wonder why.

Really there are no words to describe what is contained in this video.  Now mind you, Eli was not aware that I was taping him until about half way through.  I found him in the room with the youth who were playing music and singing.  Eli approved the posting of this video.  In this respect, he is a chip of the ol' block, just like his daddy fearless and funny.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pleasurable, Peculiar, and Perilous Peru (Part 1)

Over the last three years we have seen and experienced things in Peru that we will never forget, things that have been odd, dangerous, and enjoyable.  We wanted to share a few of those things this week with our readers.  They are in no particular order, and the anecdotes below are obviously a mere sample of the seemingly unlimited tales that we had to choose from.  Regardless, here are a few of my personal favorites.

After living in Peru for about 2 months, Geoff stumbled upon an Amazon River Raft Race while searching the internet.  Having the adventurous spirit that he does, he was immediately hooked.  He put a team of five together and they headed to the jungle to tackle the Amazon.  The team was responsible for building their own raft and floating it down the Amazon for three consecutive days (about 120 miles).  Although it was an amazing experience, Geoff confronted this challenge with a fever and after returning to Lima he slept for two days straight in order to recover from the grueling escapade.  

Our two youngest boys attended a small Peruvian school for the first year.  Although this was extremely difficult in many ways, the experience provided an insightful view into the Peruvian culture.  One of the things Peruvians love to do is celebrate.  For Mother's Day, the school rented out a small amphitheater, rented costumes for the kids, and put on a grandiose performance.  Malachi's class danced to Jail House Rock.  Despite the happy expression on his face below, he was not thrilled with the idea and I ended up sitting with him on stage during the performance coaxing him into dancing, which he did for about 10 seconds.  

Zeke, on the other hand, executed an amazing rendition of "One That I Want" from the movie Grease.  Below is the video.

It is quite a sight to see so many dogs, even homeless neighborhood dogs, in sweaters.  Now, I have nothing against dogs in sweaters, but I think it would need to be pretty cold for me to feel compelled to clothe my dog...I mean they do have fur covering their entire bodies.  (Although....Peru is famous for their hairless Peruvian dogs...Maybe the sweaters started with this breed and then people noticed the envy in the eyes of the other dogs.  Hmmmm...)  The coldest it gets here is probably low 50's, not exactly what I consider extreme cold.  The dog below is sporting a risque, off the shoulder design, while the other is modeling the fall hunting line.  You can place your orders at

 While we technically live in the desert, you have to get out of the city to see the undulating hills of desolate sand.  We did just this when Geoff's parents came to visit.  After a 5 hour bus ride south, we hired a desert adventure company to take us out into this wide spans of wilderness.  We enjoyed riding in a dune buggy that felt much like a roller coaster at times and also engaged in sand sledding, a sport I did not know existed.

Friday, November 2, 2012


About three months ago, we received a team from the states.  We had planned for them to have an event with the community in Santa Rosa and share some good old fashion s'mores, you know, the chocolatey, graham cracker goodness around a bonfire.  They were to provide the dessert and we were to provide the fire.

As the day approached and advanced, it was clear that a fire was not going to happen.  Winter in Lima is not extremely cold, but it is wet and cool.  And, as Geoff used to say when he was in the military, you aren't cold until your wet and cold.  Needless to say, every piece of wood in Santa Rosa was wet and would not have burned with any amount of coaxing.  So, we had to come up with plan B.

Below is a picture of what winter looks like in Santa Rosa, foggy, wet, and cold.

Plan B included a service inside the church with music, games, and a message, all without a bonfire.  The new plan was to make the s'mores in the kitchen next door and serve them to the attendees...boring, I know.  But, again, the plan changed.

Below are a couple of pictures of the worship leaders and the message being presented.

As the team progressed with the service, I sat next door preparing plates of uncooked s'mores.  I had planned to cook them over the stove and carry them over.  As I was assembling, Elita came to see if I needed any help and suggested that we carry the burner (stove) over to the church and roast the marshmallows there.  I was thrilled with the idea, already wondering how I was going to roast around 50 marshmallows over a stove and get the s'mores to the church in their gooey goodness.  We all know s'mores need to be eaten warm to be fully appreciated.  The result of plan C was delightful.  S'mores are not a common dessert in Peru and marshmallows roasted over a fire are eccentric as well.  The Peruvians were amused with the entire presentation and willfully jumped in to help roast, especially the children.

Below are a few pictures that show the roasting and assembling process.

It was adorable to see the Peruvians embrace this all American favorite.  The look on the kids' faces was priceless as the marshmallows glowed over the fire.  And then again, as they devoured their sweet snacks and asked over and over again for "s'more."  We all grew up with this snack and, although I love s'mores, it had lost its allure for me.  Their amusing reactions caused me to think about what it might be like to have a s'more for the first time.

A few pictures of Peruvians savoring their s'mores

This story is timely as we prepare to transition home.  There are a lot of unknowns for us in the near future, and we have been talking to the kids about flexibility (i.e., not setting our affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others).  One of our dear children has been externalizing what each of us is wrestling with in our own way.  He/she has broken down in tears every time she/he overhears that previous plans may be altered.  This kiddo has made an idol out of his/her imaginary future and is convinced that any disruption of her/his sovereign plans is tantamount to certain and extended suffering.  No middle ground, no reasonable consideration of pros and cons, simply her/his way or the sky will fall and the world as we know it will cease to exist.  (Please forgive the hyperbole and set aside the apparent insensitivity and harshness for the sake of rhetoric.)

Our anonymous child is simply expressing what the entire family is dealing with as we construct our utopian plans for our ideal future, avoiding the nasty details of reality and ignoring the diverse needs represented by a family of six.   We each have expectations, and rarely are all of them met the way we envision they will be (or better, should be).  We often think that happiness is just around the corner, as soon as the world submits to our wise and perfect ambitions.   We give lip service to God's sovereignty and sing songs about His loving faithfulness, but when His will infringes on ours, our reverence and joy are overshadowed by discontent and frustration.  It may be subtle, but we all do it.

What is the take home point?  In a word, flexibility.  As mentioned above, flexibility requires not setting our affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others.  It doesn't mean that we don't have expectations or that we don't make plans.  Flexibility simply denotes the character quality of holding these expectations and plans in open hands before a sovereign and gracious God.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Here's Eli

This week I want to highlight our oldest son (9 years old) and share with our readers about his experience in Peru. 

We moved here when Eli was 6 years old, and it has been such a joy to see him grow into a young man and to journey with him through this Peruvian experience.  He has optimistically encountered all of the challenges of living in another country.  In general, Eli is laid back and goes easily with the flow, something we needed as we faced the same challenges.

Below is a picture of Eli's 7th (1st in Peru) birthday, only a few months after we arrived.  (An aside - Zeke had fallen off his bunk bed a few days before, and this is why the side of his face looks slightly green.)

One of Eli's favorite things is adventuring, so living in the city has been difficult for him.  He enjoys nature, science, and just getting dirty.  His favorite times in Peru have been when we have gotten out of the city and explored this beautiful country.  In fact, I noticed when I was searching for pictures that most of my pictures of Eli are of him doing just that.  Below are a series of pictures of Eli "getting down and dirty" as he explores Peru.

Above he is learning to shoot a slingshot during our visit to the Amazones.

During the same trip, he discovered this machete and pretty much held onto it throughout the entire trip, as you will see below.

Eli and mom after a long hike through the high jungle.  It poured down rain on us during the latter half of the hike.

Climbing the rocks in Santa Rosa

Finding bugs in the jungle

Finding and "saving" frogs 

Climbing the rocks during an all-boy trip to the jungle

More exploring during the all boy adventure

Again with the machete...I am not sure Zeke felt very comfortable with this.

The machete rarely left his side, and I am scared just looking at this picture.  This must have been while Geoff was in charge.

Always exploring when given the chance

Another thing Eli loves is learning.  He amazes me with his ability to absorb knowledge (I am a little jealous) and I am constantly learning from him.  Often times during homeschool, he teaches me, especially in the subjects of science and history.  Below are a couple of pictures of him enjoying learning.

During our first year here, we gave Eli a snake for Christmas.  Peruvians always thought this to be the oddest pet and were usually a bit confused why someone would want to own a snake.

Below are a few pictures of Eli in Santa Rosa.  Although he can enjoy himself while participating in the ministry programs, he always gravitates to getting "down and dirty" in the sand.

A short interview with Eli

Mommy:  What has been hardest about living in Peru?

Eli:  I miss my cousins and I miss living so close to nature.

Mommy:  What has been your favorite thing about Peru?

Eli:  Going on adventures.  I loved the adventure to the Amazones because we had long hikes where we could explore, but I also liked the one with just the boys because it was fun to have boy time.

Mommy:  What have you learned during your time here?

Eli:  I have learned to enjoy sitting with mom and dad in church because I am enjoying preaching and because I learn more than I do in Sunday school.  I have also learned that one family, like Robbi and Elita, can make a big difference.

Mommy:  How have you changed during your time in Peru?

Eli:  I have seen that mission work is not only going out to remote places but that it can be done in the deepest of cities to the most barren deserts.

Mommy:  Anything else you want to say about your time in Peru?

Eli:  Sometimes it is boring and sometimes it is fun.

Side note from Mom:  If you want a lesson between boys and girls, you can go back and read Lily's interview a couple of months ago.  She is a bit more verbose than her brother :).

Below is a recent picture of Geoff and Eli with the abandoned kitten they rescued from the park.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meaningless and Hopeless

"Meaningless! Meaningless!"
      says the teacher.
"Utterly meaningless!
     Everything is meaningless."
Ecclesiastes 1:2

So go the opening lines of Ecclesiastes; and, upon honest reflection, so appears the world.  Our friends on the street live to feed their passions, whatever they may be at any given moment.  Many of them are simply repeating the pattern established by their parents, adapting the cycle of sin, poverty, and brokenness to their own age and environment.  The chaos and destruction that appears in the wake of their choices does indeed seem meaningless.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes was not merely referring to the obvious ways that sin perverts the goodness of God's creation and distorts the semblance of its moral order, nor did he only illustrate his point with those whose lot is endless toil with no reward.  His examination cuts deep and his diagnosis poetically describes the impression given by a horizontal survey of this world.  Rich or poor, oppressed or free, educated or ignorant, yellow, red, black, or white our best efforts are meaningless in our sight...

Even so, the stark reality of the truths of Ecclesiastes are brought into sharper focus in the darker corners of this sin stained world; the absurdity of  selling and buying a person's body for the fleeting pleasure of sexual gratification, an unquenchable fire that consumes all who attempt to tame it; the pointlessness of huffing glue to cover the pain of past abuse only to be aroused from a stupor with a pounding headache and a profound sense of shame; the closed wombs of countless women who, along with their husbands, are mentally, emotionally, and financially prepared to care for children, while the fertility of so many others bring children into this world without fathers, homes, or love.  Everything is meaningless.

 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole [duty] of man.
For God will bring every deed into
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

So ends the wisdom offered by the writer of Ecclesiastes; and, upon honest reflection on the testimony of Scripture, so is the world.  But if this is the end of the story, we have simply been moved from meaninglessness to hopelessness.  The writer of Ecclesiastes has contemplated all of creation from a worldly perspective and has found it to be utter vanity.  He moves from the horizontal to the vertical in order to identify our purpose, banishing the pretense of triviality.  We were created to honor and glorify God by knowing Him and obeying His commands.  But the honest reader, while gaining a since of purpose, will not be moved one inch from the despair he felt when life appeared meaningless, "for God will bring every deed into judgement..." (emphasis mine).  Now everything is hopeless.

...but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God...
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us the wisdom of God - 
that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:23, 24, 30

So writes Paul; and, upon honest reflection on the testimony of the Spirit through the Scriptures, so is Christ.  When we honestly look at the world around us and consider the brevity and seeming incongruity of our lives, we are tempted to stumble under the weight of a horizontal vista (see also Psalm 73).  When we recognize that Scripture teaches that we were made for an end, that our lives are not meaningless but, instead, are imbued with purpose, we are tempted to stumble under the burden of that unreachable goal, that is, to honor and glorify God with all that we are.  It is in the revelation of Christ alone that we find that our purpose brings hope, because it (i.e., our purpose) was accomplished in Him.  Jesus Christ fulfilled the "whole duty of man," fearing God and keeping His commands.  By this He became our righteousness and holiness.  Then, He was judged for "our every hidden thing," all of which was evil. By this He became our redemption.  In Christ there is purpose (to love, serve, and enjoy our God and Savior) and hope (eternal life with the Triune God).

Oh, the depth of the riches of the
wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgements,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"
"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to
him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just Plain Peru.

This week Lily asked me if she could write on our blog and since Geoff is out trying to take care of a required test for our car (and this, like many things here, could take hours), I decided this would work out nicely.  The below post, written by Lily, is her thoughts on some of the things she has noticed about Peru.  

My name is Lily and I am writing this week on my parents' blog.  I want to share a little about Peru. Peru is very different from the USA.  The food is different, the schools are different, and the people are different. 

Lima is also different from the rest of Peru.  It is huge.  Because most people do not have cars, they ride taxis or buses.  The streets of Lima are very busy and there are speed bumps everywhere!  Rapidly, the cars shove in front of each other in order to get where they need to go.  There are little stores called bodegas located on almost every street.  They are jam packed with Peruvian treats as well as other simple foods.  Many people live in apartments and others live in one room houses.  Conveniently, there are vendors who sell food on the streets.  These are a big favorite in my family.     

Below are some pics of just plain peru!

One of the things I love about Peru is the food!

O so good.

Intestines for sale at the market. Gross!!!

The market, where most Peruvians buy there food.

In this picture you can see some of the buses people ride. Lima is very busy. 

Peru can be different depending on the place.  This is Santa Rosa. 

An Incan chief at a dance show we saw.

A Peruvian dance at the dance show.

The USA is very different from Peru, but that does not mean Peru is different in a bad way.  God made all countries and all people.  He is working with Peru as well as North America.  At first, I wanted to move back so much.  But as the time draws near, I don't want to leave the people and the country who, like America, our great God is working through.