Saturday, August 6

Peru Mission: Day 4

Our final day in Peru has arrived, the past five days have gone by so quick. I wish we could have gotten here on time to spend the full week with more kids, but whatever God's plan was for this trip-- I don't know. Last night was a super late night because we met up our full team including the medics and our ground team in Peru for a family meal. We shared laughs and stories over dinner and coffee until like eleven o'clock. Pastor Pablo also informed us that a member of his church had invited the WHOLE team over for a traditional Arequpian breakfast so we had to be up and out early.

We arrived at this sweet couples house around 7:30 a.m. and their house was warm and packed with chairs and tables for our large team. After the blessing we sat down to break bread with one another- literally and metaphorically, ha. Our breakfast consisted of a special soup that many people in Arequipa eat on Sunday. The best way to explain it is a spiced broth with a huge pork chop in it and then you use this special local-made bread to kind of soak up all the liquid. Directly after finishing the soup then you drink this special tea with this licorice that supposedly is good for digestion. The soup was absolutely delicious and something hot was so nice especially for the cold Peruvian mornings. I can't say I've ever had pork chop soup for breakfast, but it was good. Finishing it off with a hot cup of tea was super warm and yummy and I absolutely loved the tea how it was. It was so sweet of them to invite our big team over for breakfast and it was such a blessing.

Next we headed back to our hotel to finish packing up our belongings and check out of the hotel. It was a mad dash to get out of there quickly so we could spend as much time with more kids that day. The rest of the day we spent with more children; loving on them, teaching them, playing with them and doing crafts. They especially loved the songs and coloring pages! Their sweet temperament and joyful spirit was so adorable and so humble. 

We spent the rest of the day playing with the kiddos until we had to head to the airport and start our long journey home. It has been a whirlwind few days but it has definitely been a life-changing and eye-opening experience. I don't know what the future holds in regards to future mission trips but it has been a blessing to get to know the Peruvian people and spend time with these wonderful children. Thank you to everyone who has contributed in prayers and finances to this trip, it has been an honor and a blessing. 

Friday, August 5

Peru Mission: Day 3

Today Pastor Pablo wanted us to take the morning to rest a little from a long day yesterday and then show us around town a little bit today. We had breakfast on the top floor of our hotel today before heading out into Arequipa. We used today to connect as a team and get ready for another day of mission work tomorrow. 

Here's a little virtual tour of Arequipa:

Thursday, August 4

Peru Mission: Day 2

Today we woke up early excited to work with the kids. Our hotel had breakfast ready for us on the top floor, and although I couldn't have it (bread), it was a cool view of the city. The honking is constant here, and although it was cold this morning it was sunny and blue skies as usual. The whole team packed up in the bus and took to the streets towards our first orphanage of the day. The morning streets were crowded with cars and taxis, people on motorbikes, dusty men standing on the side of the road waiting for buses, and stray dogs. A garbage truck sat on the side of the road playing classical music... An odd thing to witness. Turns out because of all the stray dogs people can't leave their trash on the street; so when you hear the music you're supposed to bring out your trash. 

We made it to the first orphanage and immediately set to work. The medical team made camp in the kitchen area and laid out their supplies. The rest of us on the kids team went into another building into a rec room of sorts to start getting things ready for the kids. This week we are focusing on the story of Joseph so we have several crafts planned including a coat of many colors craft, some coloring pages, a bead bracelet to tell the story of salvation and an interactive story about Joseph. Joseph faced so much adversity (his brothers hated him, he was sold into slavery in Egypt, he was wrongfully thrown into jail, he was forgotten by man) yet he continued to have faith in God. God was always with Joseph, even in the pit his brothers pushed him into, even in the prison he was wrongfully placed in for years...He saw Joseph and promised to raise him up (which He did). 

We laid out the craft supplies and Ben set up his felt board to tell his Sunday school story when the kids started buzzing in and out. They greeted us with hugs and smiles and were humming with excitement. About 50 kids excitedly came into the space and we began with teaching them some fun songs and dances. They loved them! The songs required motions and dance moves and they got really into them, it was so cute. After the songs, Ben started telling the story of Joseph with the help of an interpreter. While he animated the whole story, the rest of us got prepped for the rest of the crafts. They definitely loved all the crafts and candy we gave them and were so excited to keep the Crayons as their own. A few hours later of sticky hands and excited faces we ended our time with the kids by giving them some new soccer balls. The boys were stoked and immediately ran outside to their awesome soccer field and we played a quick game before we had to leave. They were such sweet souls! 

Our team reloaded on the bus and headed off to Pastor Pablo's pastors conference where they had prepared a traditional Arequpian lunch for us. When we arrived at the facility wouldn't you know it but an alpaca was just hanging outside the door! Turns out he lives around there and comes by. I, of course, was so excited and couldn't resist snapping way too many pictures.

Lunch was a good traditional meal. The first thing we ate was what they called "miracle" because during a war the army didn't have anything but some potatoes, vegetables and chicken and they made this casserole type of meal. It was served cold and was actually really good. The second thing they gave us was a traditional rice and meat dish that was delicious- I could've ate that all day long.

After a quick lunch we headed off to a second orphanage. When we arrived into the property the kids literally ran to greet us and gave each of us a hug. They were so excited and couldn't hug us enough. Every one of us suddenly had a child or two on each hand and they excitedly were telling us they wanted to show us their home. They were so proud of their home and gave us a complete tour: everything from the kitchen, to the showers to their bedrooms and library. It was small and compact but so full of love, you could just feel it. We later found out that these kids actually built this home with their own hands, so their love and excitement of their home was evident. 

These particular kids were so joyful and exuberant. I loved every moment with these kids and could have stayed twelve more hours and had a blast with them. They all were so cute singing and dancing with us and they were all over the crafts. While Ben told the story of Joseph they sat at attention and even answered questions about the story afterwards! After several hours with the kids just playing and loving on them they had a surprise for us. The kids sat us down and proceeded to surprise us with performing dances! They were so cute. They performed several dances for us, both traditional and modern, and were just so full of life and joy- it was contagious. 
Leaving those kids was super hard but as the sun was setting we loaded back on the bus and waved out the windows at all the kids on the side of the road as we drove off. To think that these kids have so little but are so joyful, it just really changes your perspective. 

Wednesday, August 3

Peru Mission: Day 1

Well it's Wednesday, not what I thought my first day would be, but sure enough it is our first day in Peru. We landed in Arequipa pretty early and Pastor Pablo greeted us with a hug and warm smile. Did I mention it's winter in Peru, and it's freezing?! Needless to say I underestimated the "winter" here. I was freezing when we landed and instantly regretted not packing my heavier jacket. Anyways, Pastor Pablo picked us up in a bus with his daughter Andrea to interpret. Our ride into town was fascinating; the city was different than I expected. Parts of the ride felt like we were riding through the Middle East- torn apart homes, destroyed cars, dust and sand everywhere. The air was thin and dry but the sun shine bright without a cloud in sight. The street was spotted with stray dogs and packed with taxis and cars. Dust kicked up and horns honked as we swerved our way through the streets, narrowly missing other vehicles and people, and finally making our way to our hotel. 
Tucked in a semi-quiet street in the middle of the city, our hotel was basic at best but clean and simple. I bunked up with two other girls and are room consisted of three twin beds, a small nightstand, a wooden desk, a piece of art on the wall, and one lamp. Luckily we had a bathroom attached to our room which was teeny tiny but managed to have a shower, toilet, sink and mirror squeezed in there. Oh, another fun fact I learned while traveling to Peru was that they don't have the infrastructure to support the sewage system so nothing can be flushed down the toilet besides waste... Not even toilet paper. So that was a whole new experience for sure. (Definitely the #1 thing I'm going to miss about America)

Marika, Abby and I unpacked a little and I took the coldest shower of my life (no hot water) before we bundled up to head out to get breakfast. Pastor Pablo's daughter got us a taxi and we zipped off into the heart of town to eat breakfast as a team. Breakfast consisted of eggs, meat, cheese, bread and the freshest juice. The team was exhausted so I think everyone enjoyed the real meal in over 27 hours. Pastor Pablo & Pastor Tony discussed our agenda over breakfast and decided to send our team back to the hotel to rest and prepare for the afternoon. 

It didn't take long for all of us to pass out when we got back to the hotel. A few hours later we were more rested, up, getting dressed and ready to go serve. Our first stop was a local pastors conference that was in town. Pastors from surrounding countries were in Arequipa (organized through Pastor Pablo) to receive training and discipleship. We joined them and Kierre and Deborah lead worship and Trevor delivered a message. The remainder of our team worked at preparing for the children's ministry for the following day. We are focusing on the story of Joseph, so Mariks came up with a few crafts to do with the kids including some coloring pages, a coat of many colors with yarn and string, and salvation bracelets with beads and yarn to remind the kids of Jesus's love and sacrifice. We worked for a few hours tracing and cutting out jackets, cutting string, and separating beads. 

After a full night of discipleship and fellowship our entire team met up for the first time (everyone else arrived on time) for dinner! We went to a Chinese restaurant in town as a group and had a nice meal together- even though I could only eat rice. I can already tell eating here is going to be interesting being allergic to gluten. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and now are quickly crashing. It has been an exhausting 2-days of travel and I'm very thankful we finally made it. Better late than never I suppose?! 

Peru Day....?

It's currently 3:30am on Wednesday morning and our team has (finally) crossed the equator. Yesterday we started at the butt crack of dawn from Raleigh/Durham to Washington DC. Oh and to keep in theme with this whole trip,  we almost didn't make that first flight due to a ticketing issue. Made it onto that flight with minutes to spare! We landed in DC and had a short layover before boarding another flight to Cancun, Mexico. Three hours and some change later we landed in Mexico and cleared customs with (almost) no issues. 

Meanwhile Pastor Tony had received an email from United that 6 of our 18 bags didn't make it. The thing was, we didn't even have 18 bags to begin with!! Not sure what the issue was, because when we got past immigration and picked up our bags they were actually all there, thank goodness. Little did we know that was the least of our worries. We had to transfer terminals in Cancun and the only way is through a shuttle... That runs every 25 minutes. Doing the math, we realized we wouldn't make our flight of we waited, so that meant we had to hustle down a taxi to fit 9 people and luggage. Also, our team is prepared for fall/winter in Peru, not warm and sunny Cancun! Ha. We absolutely melted! $40 and a 5-minute taxi ride later, we were at the right terminal and proceeded with the fun task of trying to recheck our bags. Of course we had issues here as well with locating our records and such. Standing in that airport terminal with no AC in long sleeves and pants was enough to make you lose five pounds, yikes. The minutes ticked by and we were about an hour away from our connecting flight to Lima Peru when finally everything got sorted and we had to run through security... Again! 

Like an episode of Planes, Trains and Automobiles we had to board a bus to get to our plane which was way out on the tarmac in the toasty Mexican sun. I was so unprepared for the heat and sun, as we were slowly moving cattle onto the plane. But we made it! The Avianca plane was anything less than glamorous and we had some of the last seats on the plane, but we were on at least. Six annoyingly slow hours later we FINALLY landed in Lima, Peru!! At least we made it into the county. 

We cleared customs and immigration for the second time in 24 hours, gathered our luggage and decided to immediacy recheck it so we could at least go out and explore Lima and get dinner since our next flight wasn't until 6am. Unfortunately we couldn't re-check in until midnight... It was 7pm. So we had one option, sit on the airport floor with our luggage until 12- and that's what we did. 

Midnight rolled around and we rechecked our bags and made it through security for the zillionth time. Our group had been up for so many hours we had lost track and were exhausted, so we found some armless-chairs to lay out on and get a little sleep. Most of the team is still asleep but inabout an hour we will board our FINAL plane for this trip- to Arequipa. We should be on soil by breakfast and will spend the morning getting into the hostel and resting before hitting the ground running after lunch. 

Thanks for all the prayers & encouragement along the way. It's Wednesday and we're here and ready to go. Prayers for this last leg of our journey, so our real journey can begin! 

Monday, August 1

Unexpected Turn

Well to say I've hit an unexpected turn would be an understatement. Currently it is Monday, August 1st and I should be in the mountains of Peru..instead I'm sitting back at my house with my dog trying to get some work done. Due to flight delay after flight delay, our entire team missed our connection flight to Peru in Washington D.C. It was midnight and our team literally sat down on the airport floor in front of gate A23 and regrouped.

We knew we had to find someone from United to help us rebook our flights so we set off for help. The airport was a ghost town, not a soul around. Making our way to the ticketing desk we proceeded to spend the next three hours working with the desk agent to find another flight to get our whole team to Arequipa. The unfortunate part- the earliest he could get us there was Wednesday...and at that point we weren't sure if we would even be able to go do our work.

Being the emotional type and highly exhausted, at that point all I could do was not cry too loudly as I realized that this trip I have prayed about for so long was either not going to happen or be dashed short. It was an emotional night (morning) for sure. However after hours working with the gate agent, we were able to rebook our flights to Peru for Tuesday. We slept on the airport floor in Washington DC on Saturday night/Sunday morning and then caught a flight back to Raleigh on Sunday morning. A saint from church picked us up in the church van and drove our sleepy-selves back to Greensboro.

Now we wait to try Take 2 at this adventure. We drive to Raleigh tonight and got a hotel near the hotel due to another faithful friend who is putting us up for the night. Then tomorrow (Tuesday) we have a 6:00 flight from Raleigh to Washington DC >> Cancun, Mexico >> Lima, Peru -- sleep in the Lima airport for the night >> and then onto Arequipa, Peru on Wednesday morning. It will be a super long 27+ hours of travel but praying that THIS time things go smoothly and without complications. 

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me via text, IG and FB and offering prayers and kind words. I'm not going to pretend I understand this and am not heartbroken but we will press on to Peru.

Stay tuned for more updates from my (per usual) wild and crazy travel adventures. #TheTravelingCupcake