Tag Archives: Peru

Sweeping Pavement

I was awakened by a familiar sound yesterday, a swish-swish-swish that instantly transported me far, far away.

Someone was sweeping the pavement outside my window, and as I laid in my dorm room bed, my heart moved south about 3000 miles. Back to Pucallpa, to the house on Avenida Jose Galvez, where the neighbor swept his small patch of pavement every. single. morning. around 6:30 am – despite the fact that it would be covered in dust again within a matter of hours. I squinched my eyes shut tight, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I would open them and find out I had been transported magically back to Peru.

Maybe I would wake up and find myself in a bed of the same size, but with a sheet kicked to the side instead of nestled under a down comforter. Maybe I would open my eyes and instead of seeing Molly standing at the sink getting ready for classes, I’ll see Mama Rosy’s head poked through the door, telling me it’s time to get up so we can go to the market. Perhaps if I squeezed my eyes shut hard enough, I would magically teleport to Pucallpa and could call Monica when I woke up, so that we could plan a night out in Pucallpa to eat papas rellenas and picarones and talk about life on the corner by the shoe store.

I squeezed my eyes shut tight, childishly hoping for magic… but also to keep the tears from pouring out. Those heartstrings that are tied to Pucallpa haven’t come untied, but they’ve been neglected. Chicago is so far from Pucallpa in every possible way. I’m so busy with school and homework that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve closed the chat window or said “lo siento, no puedo hablar, estoy muy ocupada ahorita” (sorry, can’t talk, I’m so busy right now) to one of my Peruvian friends. Mama Rosy has messaged me three or four times asking for an update on my life, but the excuses come so easily: I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m forgetting my Spanish.

I try to sweep the memories from my mind like the neighbor swept his pavement every morning. It’s easier that way. If I stop and think about how much I miss my South American home, I’ll be unable to think of anything else. I’ll lose an entire day poring over pictures and sending messages and crying into the one remaining package of Doña Pepa I have stashed under my bed.

It’s easier to try to sweep away the memories, but the wind always blows the dust back onto the pavement of my mind. You’d be surprised how many things in Chicago immediately transport me back to Pucallpa. There’s that corner on the way to the beach that always smells like the parque central. The SDR serves white rice every day, and if I get anywhere near it, I miss Mama Rosy. Tears prick my eyes whenever I hear people speaking Spanish – and I hear people speaking Spanish nearly every day. Facilities sweeps the pavement outside my window a few times a month (that’s not metaphorical. There is a broom involved).

There isn’t a good conclusion. I don’t have a logical answer or practical steps. My life has had to keep moving, and I have had to keep moving with it. But I haven’t moved on, not really. I’ve swept aside the memory dust, but it always comes blowing back. It coats the pavement of my mind a few times a week, or even daily… and there’s nothing I can do about it. I miss Pucallpa so bad that it physically hurts, but I can’t exactly drop everything and go back tomorrow. I just keep living life as the heartstrings tied to Pucallpa pull harder and harder. And that’s where it stays right now. Not the end, because there’s no good way to end it.

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Surprise!

Over the last few years of my life, I’ve learned that God enjoys working in the background in my life, through the little things I tend not to notice. This way, rather than logically connecting A to B to C to D, I look back and say, “WOW. God was working that whole time, through all those confusing/inconvenient/illogical things.”

The end result – due mostly to my general state of oblivion – is a little like the surprise party we threw my mom recently. I know He’s up to SOMETHING, but I could never dream it would be this. Looking back, I realize there were moments when I wondered what was going on. There were moments where I thought, “that’s weird, God doesn’t usually speak to me in this way,” or “Huh. That was an incredibly confusing answer to my prayer,” or “Why didn’t ____ happen the way I wanted it to? It’s not like it would have hurt anything!”

In these moments, sometimes I briefly wonder what God is up to, back there behind the scenes. When I look back in my journal, there are a lot of entries that say things like, “God, I really don’t understand what You’re doing here.” Those moments tend to pass quickly; a fleeting thought or scribbled sentence, soon replaced by the next thing demanding my attention.

I’ve got that feeling again. The feeling that maybe God is planning a surprise party for me. My course load is light this semester, I’ve made contacts and networked in ways I never dreamed of, and there are loads of new freshmen for me to meet. My best friend is here now, at my college, in my city. The student group I’m in is going in new directions. I’ve read three or four books about radical living and sacrificial giving in the past year, I changed my major, and I finally have a home church.

Basically, I’m starting to get suspicious. Starting to wonder why (to stretch the metaphor probably too far) God keeps whispering when I leave the room. I’m beginning to see things that can’t be called coincidences. Little details have shifted and changed and fallen into place just enough to make me question.

My heart is tight in anticipation. I know He’s up to SOMETHING, I’m just not sure what. Every time He drops another little clue, my heart pounds with excitement. Each time I open a new door, I brace myself, wondering if this is it… or if it’s just another step in the process.

Someday, I know, I’ll open that final door, and be completely blown away by what I find. And God will be there, smiling, and gently say,

“Surprised?”

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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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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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Convicted

“That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell their possessions gives comfort only to the kinds of people to whom he would issue that command.” – David Platt, Radical

Tears sprang to my eyes as I read these words last night.  There I was, lounging on my bed in my dorm room, eating popcorn, and reading a chapter of Radical about global poverty and the church.  For me, it was nothing out of the ordinary.  But to a child whose parents are struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day? I was lounging on my bed complete with four pillows, a down comforter, and a fleece blanket.  I was in my dorm room, which implies not only a roof over my head, but that I am participating in higher education.  I was eating popcorn… not for dinner, even, but just because I was a little hungry and had a craving.  And I was reading, an activity which is unfathomable for children and adults in many parts of the world.

I’m so blessed, and I know I am called to share those blessings with the less fortunate.  More than called, in fact, I know I am commanded multiple times in Scripture to give to the poor, to care for the orphans and widows, and to make less of myself.  I generally think I’m doing okay.  After all, I tithe, I go to Peru, I give my old clothes to Salvation Army, and I’ve never cared about brand names or big spending.  In fact, I think of myself as a fairly frugal person most of the time.  The lifestyle of the rich has never been appealing to me.

Then I decide to “treat myself” to a milkshake “just because.” I walk back from Chick-Fil-A, sipping on my creamy, cold $3.49, right past at least 15 people who will have no dinner tonight.  I buy a new shirt “because it’s on sale,” when the children I have loved and held in the villages of Pucallpa are overjoyed to receive the shirt I wore for two years then decided to throw to them.  I send two suitcases of winter clothes home with my parents because there’s not room in my dresser for two seasons’ worth of clothing, as refugees a few Brown Line stops away lack even one pair of gloves.  I throw away an entire plate of food in the SDR because I don’t like it, then read stories of brothers and sisters in Africa who eat a half a cup of rice A DAY.

How? How is this possible? How can I continue to read those Scriptures, to read chapters in books like this, and remain unmoved?  Sure, my eyes filled with tears when I read that quote.  Yes, I looked through my pictures from the orphanage in Pucallpa and prayed for those children.  But I looked through those pictures on my Macbook Pro while painting my freaking fingernails.  Kids are starving, dying, impoverished, and I was painting my nails while crying over them.

There is something wrong with me.

What is wrong with me?

I’m no monster.  I don’t sit stoically in the face of these statistics.  I can readily admit that it is my Christian responsibility to do something about it.  I cry, okay? I CRY OVER THEM.  But the truth is, these tears don’t matter if they don’t lead to action.  I can cry all I want.  I can feel guilty for years.  Until I am moved to actually do something, I might as well be laughing in the face of the dying children.

I don’t know what this means.  I’m comfortable in my Middle Class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant lifestyle, complete with an iPhone, a meal plan, and a 2007 Ford Taurus.  I like having clothing and entertainment options at my fingertips.  I enjoy the luxury of having study Bibles in multiple versions, books for fun, and the occasional midnight snack.

It’s not bad to live a content, comfortable life, thankful for the blessings God has showered upon me.

But where is the line?

I truly don’t have the answer to this question.  All I know is for the last couple years, God has very steadily been making my uncomfortable with my level of comfort.  He has been placing books, speakers, sermons, and documentaries in my path to shake up my way of thinking.  He has used my trips to Peru and experiences with rescue missions to begin breaking my heart for those less fortunate.

As I stand here, teetering somewhere between terrified that He’ll call me to literally give up everything and hopeful that I’ll have the chance to prove my faith in such a tangible way, I am convicted.  Where this conviction will lead, I don’t know.

But Jesus is worth it.

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