Monthly Archives: June 2012

Faithfulness in a Motocar

Today I went downtown with Mami Rosy and Papa Jacinto to go grocery shopping. Now, unlike at home when Mom and I hop in the car, drive to WalMart, throw our stuff in a cart, and drive home… grocery shopping here is a bit of an excursion. We had to hail a motocar, drive 20 minutes to downtown Pucallpa, then go to each store separately – the baking goods store, the meat store, the sugar store (which differs somehow from the baking goods store), etc.

It was on this 20 minute motocar drive that I, sandwiched between Mami and Papa, spent some time talking to Jesus. Those closest to me already know that this first week in Pucallpa has been a difficult one. I’ve been battling fatigue, culture shock, homesickness, and the language barrier – all while sweating profusely. My mind and heart have been in a bizarre battle of nostalgia and sheer happiness, and it has all been very taxing.

As we’re riding, I’m thinking about Hiawatha. Today is the day that the staff heads north to begin training and meetings, and I find myself missing the place where I spent every summer until last year. As my mind drifts, I remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago about Christ being my only constant.

And then He bops me gently upside the head and says, “Helloooo? Has that suddenly changed just because you’re on a different continent? Do you think I don’t see you? Do you think I’m someone different here than in the US?”

As I gaze at the wooden buildings with their hand-painted signs, a peace begins to wash over me. Of course nothing has changed. Of COURSE Christ is still faithful and constant and unchanging and true and all of those things. Of course He knows where I am, what I’m going through, and what I will become. He sees my weaknesses, rejoices with me in my joys, and chuckles when I make humorous grammar mistakes. He is the same God in Pucallpa that He is in Chicago that He is in Millington that He is in Eckerman that He is everywhere.  His promises have not changed just because they’re in Spanish here.

As I mull this over with growing peace in my heart, we pass the sign that says, “Jesucristo is el Senor de Pucallpa” (Jesus Christ is Lord of Pucallpa). In a throwback to my years at Lutheran school, my heart cries out, “This is most certainly true.”

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Hear Us, O God

Believers come in to the church, a few at a time. As someone new enters, they make their way around the room to greet each person individually – taking 2 Corinthians 13:12 literally (“Greet one another with a holy kiss”). Pleasantries are exchanged, seats are taken, and the 7:30 meeting comes to a casual start around 7:55.

Once it starts, though, there’s nothing casual about this prayer meeting. The thirty or so brothers and sisters who have gathered at the church are prayer warriors in every sense of the word. The group ranges in age from 12-70, and they gather at Iglesia Centro Evangelico Misionero de Yarinacocha (Central Evangelical Missionary Church of Yarinacocha) each Wednesday to pray together.

Though the group is small, they sing praise with more force and passion than most Midwestern mega-churches in the United States. As I watch older women jump and clap, the line from Newsboys’ “He Reigns” pops into my head: “It’s the song of the forgiven, drowning out the Amazon rain.”

Soon the pastor has given a short devotional and the reason for the meeting begins in earnest. Prayer requests range from common things such as attendance numbers and sick church members to huge requests like “pray that God will provide us with the money to completely rebuild our church so that it doesn’t flood every time we get rain.” They include requests for my upcoming English classes, pleas for the safe and easy travel of Doug, Marilyn, and Robert in a couple of weeks.

We break up into small groups to pray together. For nearly an hour, the room is filled with the sounds of Christians lifting up their requests to God. As I listen to the Spanish prayers, picking out words and phrases here and there, I am struck with the realization that these people’s faith is far stronger than mine.

They stand here, in the heat and humidity, swatting away all manner of insects, simply pouring out their hearts to God. They truly believe that what they are asking will come to pass, if it’s God’s will. As I hear them calmly ask for a new “temple” (“templo,” the Spanish word for church building – the church “iglesia” is the people), I realize that they know what I so often forget – Our God is easily able to provide this AND SO MUCH MORE for them. They’re not asking a big thing in His eyes. Their childlike faith washes over me as I stand with my head bowed, and I am humbled. The power of these people’s prayers washes over me, and as Hermano Victor continues his prayer for the youth group, another line from “He Reigns” comes into my head:

“All the powers of darkness tremble at what they’ve just heard
‘Cause all the powers of darkness can’t drown out A SINGLE WORD.”

Glory, glory. Hallelujah.

He reigns.

Back to High School

I’ve spent the last two days in school with my host siblings. Yesterday I was with Ruth in her junior class, and today I was with Pedro in his senior class (they graduate at 16 here; Ruth and Pedro are 14 and 16 respectively). I mostly went to absorb more Spanish, but they also wanted me to sit in on their English classes so that I could tell them how well the teacher spoke.

The teacher was shy at the beginning of class yesterday, but by the end she had no problem asking me to check everyone’s homework. Today she had me read the selection so that they could practice correct pronunciation.  The same students who had unabashedly yelled out the windows at me earlier because suddenly shy when called upon to speak English with me, but I laughed and told them it was okay since I don’t speak much Spanish either. We had a blast!

All the students (and some of the teachers) are incredibly interested in American culture… every aspect of it.  The following are some of the questions they asked me, translated directly and without embellishment. It’s quite a humorous (and somewhat sad) commentary on the image other parts of the world have of the US.

  • Do you live near Hollywood?
  • How does college work there? Do you have to go to school for 8 years to be a doctor?
  • Want to come up to the board and show us how to work this chemistry equation? (aka… my worst nightmare come to life, in Spanish.)
  • Have you met Justin Bieber?
  • Have you been to the school from High School Musical?
  • Is it true that all the teens there do drugs all the time, and no one cares?
  • Your parents really let you come alone?
  • Have you met Selena Gomez?
  • Will your brother be my boyfriend?
  • Are you married?
  • Why won’t you come in? (said by a boy washing his hands IN THE GIRLS BATHROOM, while I stood in the doorway politely waiting for him to leave before doing my business)
  • Do all those black people in pictures do steroids? (After much discussion, it was determined that he was referring to 50 Cent. This from was the chemistry teacher, a man of about 45 years old. “Politically correct” isn’t a thing here.)
  • I saw on American Pie that at college people just have sex all the time, is that true?
  • Have you met the president?
  • Do you know ANYONE famous?
  • Do you have a car?
  • Can you drive?
  • Is your house air-conditioned?
  • Have you ever been to Miami?
  • What does it feel like when you’re in an airplane?
  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • How many hours were you in the airplane to come here?
  • How’d you get your eyes to be blue?
  • Are you single?
  • Have you been to Las Vegas?

Home.

From the moment I saw Rafael and Zaida waiting for me at the airport, to right now as I sit on the couch and watch Spanish TV with my host sister Ruth, being here has just felt normal and right. It’s so unreal to sit in a motocar again, speeding through the streets of Pucallpa and Yarina. From the cold showers to the smoky smell to my consistently dirty feet, it’s all so familiar.

The language has slipped from my grasp, but it’s slowly coming back. Though I can understand quite a bit of what I hear, responding is a challenge. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to catch up with my host family and the friends who have dropped by thus far.

We tried to plan some of my class times, etc, yesterday, but I was pretty overwhelmed after traveling and not sleeping much. We ended up deciding to figure everything out on Sunday – at least as much as you can “figure everything out” in Pucallpa.

Last night we went to Pedro and Ruth’s school for the Father’s Day program, which consisted of the fathers of all the students playing soccer, and the kids doing some dances. Monica and Orestes were there with their kids, so I held baby Priscilla and talked to Monica through most of it. Nathaniel, the alm0st-three-year-old, isn’t scared of me anymore. WIN. Once they left, I talked with Pedro and one of his classmates for a while.

As I fell asleep last night, I could not believe I had only been here for a day. I felt settled in, normal, RIGHT. Sure, I was sweating from every possible pore, but even that felt normal. I slept in til after 11 today, but it was okay because Ruth and Pedro did too. Pedro and I walked down the road to the bodega to buy some coffee, and we all ate lunch together. We’re headed to the church soon for a practice for the Father’s Day program, and I’ll get to see lots more of “my” people.

Welcome home, Alyssa, welcome home.

#traveltweets

Me traveling by myself is always an intriguing thing, and normally leads to lots and lots of posts on twitter (@ahobson92) about what an awkward human being I am when traveling by myself. I had no internet access during the trip, so I couldn’t post… so I’m stealing Blythe’s idea and posting them here.

  • You know you’ve been in an airport all day when you think, “hey, $3 for a Cup-a-Noodles isn’t bad at all.” And then buy them. #airplanemeal
  • What kind of idiot tears up while filling out a customs form? #apparentlyme #tearsofjoy #imreallygoing
  • The kids behind me were screaming, so I gave them fruit snacks. Now they’re talking to me quietly and their parents love me. So does everyone else on the plane.
  • Had an entire conversation with the lady in front of me in the customs line. aka, she spoke rapidly for 4 minutes while I nodded and smiled.
  • Rosa: rapidspanishrapidspanish tu rapidspanish Universidad? Me: si, que bueno. And repeat. #nocomprendo #sleepdeprived
  • Just pushed the end table in front of my door in case someone tries to break in. Although, once I wake up I have no form of self-defense, so… #sketchylimahostel
  • Room is too quiet so I turned on the TV. People were holding goats and arguing about them. Next channel, a man in lederhosen was doing sign language in the corner. #whaaat #peruTV
  • After sleeping 2.5 hours, I can hardly speak English, much less Spanish. Thank goodness for the nice gringo man who told me where to pay for my overweight bag.
  • LIMA AIRPORT HAS STARBUCKS I JUST REMEMBERED OH MY WORD COFFEE NOW.
  • The security people saw me chugging my hot coffee frantically before getting in line and they let me carry it through security. #GodBlessPeru
  • Got teary again at take-off realizing that I was actually on my way to Pucallpa. #tearsofjoy #thisisreal
  • If I could remember the Spanish, I would apologize profusely to the man next to me, since I just sat ON HIS LAP while trying to get out to go to the bathroom. But I don’t remember, so I can’t.
  • I mean… he really should have looked at the amount of space between his legs and the seat in front of him, then at me, and then decided to stand up. So it’s not COMPLETELY my fault. Right? RIGHT?!
  • I THINK that was a chicken sandwich they just gave me, but I’m not entirely sure. #starperu
  • Well. What do you know, my eyes are welling up again as we begin descent. Apparently I didn’t actually believe I was going to Pucallpa until today.
  • It’s only 75 degrees here. #praiseHim
  • Score. Motocar instead of taxi. #favoritetransportation #windinmyhair
  • I’m understanding about 90% and able to respond to about 50%. This is an acceptable beginning, especially because Zaida talks so fast.
  • My house and my room and my hammock and my people and oh look more tears good gravy this is getting ridiculous.
  • What’s that? Would I like to shower and then take a nap for a few hours? If you insist!
  • Woke up convinced someone had driven their motorcycle into the living room. False alarm, there’s just no glass in the windows.
  • #wouldyourather eat Peruvian pesticides or wash an apple in water that will almost assuredly give you diarrhea. #decisionsdecisions
  • Is it time for Ruth and Pedro to be home yet??? #hostsiblings

 

Home to Pucallpa

At this time tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll be in Pucallpa. In fact, by this time, I’ll probably be in Mama Rosy and Papa Jacinto’s house, having eaten my first Peruvian meal of 2012. The air around me will smell like dust, smoke, and chicken, and – if I have my way – I’ll be laying in the hammock.

As I got ready to fall asleep in Aunt Lora’s squishy pink bed (the same place I’ve slept the night before every Peru trip) last night, I commented to Mom that this year’s trip felt different. Of course there are the few major differences – going alone, length of trip, purpose of the trip, etc – but there has just been a different feeling hovering over the whole idea of the trip itself.

Between the flight from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale and the 8-hour layover in Ft. Boringdale that Spirit Air has blessed me with, I’ve had a lot of time to think about that feeling. I think I’ve figured it out.

You see, up until this year, Pucallpa was the only place where I had ever gone maskless. Something about the combination of serving, pure love despite the language barrier, and the sweltering heat, caused my mask to fall off when I first stepped out of the plane in 2008.  It was one of the things I loved most about Peru – how free I was always able to be when I was there. How I was able to laugh and cry from the deepest place inside of me, to sing and dance without feeling embarrassed, and to love from the deepest place in my soul.

Towards the beginning of my time at Moody, however, something changed. I was assigned to read the book “True Faced,” and it convicted me in the deepest way. God gently reached down, tipped my chin upward, pulled off my mask, and threw it on the ground. It shattered into a million tiny pieces, never able to be worn again.

As a result, I lived out this past year with the vulnerable confidence that I had previously only felt in Pucallpa. I learned to laugh, cry, dance (this is a relative term. I still can’t dance.), and be a friend. I learned the true, radical, life-altering meanings of church words like “grace,” “trust,” and “faith.” And I was content on a much deeper level.

That’s why this year feels different. Rather than longing to go to a place where I can truly be myself, I’m returning to the place that first taught me who “myself” was. I’m going home, but I’ve really been home all year long.

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Things Airports Need

I’m currently in the third of eight hours I’ll be spending at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. As I type this blog post, I’m sitting in a very uncomfortable chair, uncomfortably close to a total stranger, and there is a pile of either sugar or cocaine with ants crawling in and out of it on the floor next to me. The hours on end that I’ll have here in Ft. Lauderdale have given me a good minute to think of several things that would make airports better.

  • Small “nap time” rooms with a bed and a loud alarm clock/wake-up call, that can be rented on an hourly basis.
  • Friendly employees who don’t look like they want to kill me.
  • Rooms filled with puppies.
  • Vending machines that sell deodorant, ibuprofen, and magazines, so that I wouldn’t have to go into the same store and face the same employee every time I think of something else I forgot. (Yes, I’ve been in there three times so far.)
  • SWINGS
  • More electrical outlets. This one should be a no-brainer. Everyone and their great-grandmother travels with, at the very least, a cell phone. Most also have iPods, iPads, laptops, etc. Yet, each gate seems to have half an outlet. If we’re lucky.
  • A place to store your luggage if you’re traveling alone, so that you can avoid the awkward trying-to-fit-in-a-tiny-bathroom-stall-with-a-rolling-suitcase-and-backpack thing.
  • Larger bathroom stalls. With doors that open outward. For Pete’s sake, this should not be difficult.
  • Free coffee.
  • Chairs with two armrests between them. Last time I checked, the vast majority of travelers had two arms… yet we’re each offered only one armrest.
  • Sugar (maybe? still not sure) free floors.
  • Quieter loudspeaker announcements.

Any more ideas?

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10 Days

Oh my word, y’all. I clicked onto my blog to check my stats, and the Pucallpa Countdown on the left side of the page caught my eye.

10 Days.

I’m going “home” to Peru in just 10 short days. There’s a lot to do between now and then, so I wanted to share some specific prayer requests and praises for you to keep in mind as I prepare.

Praises:

  • I received above and beyond the amount of financial support I needed. HUGE yahoo!
  • I’ve been in contact with my host family and everything is in place for me to join their family for five weeks.
  • I get to go back to Pucallpa! Truly, this is the biggest praise. God has granted me the deepest desire of my heart and is allowing me to return to my friends and family in Peru.

Prayer:

  • Please pray that I will be motivated and diligent as I work on lesson plans for the English classes I’ll be teaching.
  • Pray that I have time to connect with those at home who I want to see before leaving.
  • Pray that the last-minute details, such as where I’m staying overnight in Lima and whether I’ll be traveling to villages, will fall into place.
  • Pray for peace, calm, and trust while I prepare and plan.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and love. I’ll keep updating throughout my trip!

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