Archive for July, 2010

What do you think of when someone tells you that they are going on a mission trip? You might imagine that person in the jungle, staying in mud huts, and eating slugs while changing people’s lives. Or you might think of them in the Middle East, with their life constantly in danger, suffering for Jesus.

That may be the case more often than not, but missions are not always about changing other people’s lives. Sometimes, it can be about changing your life.

Here are three of the many ways that one week in Peru changed mine.

We stayed at the Paraiso (Paradise) Hotel. It was a nice hotel, but the best part about it was that they had a valet/door greeter. You never see that in America. But wait, it gets better. Halfway through our stay, he introduced himself as Wan and asked whether or not I spoke Spanish. “Poco, Espanol.” I replied. He smiled and said, “Ah. I speak little English.” After that, every time I would see him, he would greet me with either ¡buenos días, Kathryn!, ¡buenas tardes, Kathryn!, or ¡buenas noches, Kathryn! He always said my name with his own special accent, which was cute.
Wan’s name means gentle and gracious, and he definitely lived up to his name. He had a relentless and unfailing supply of joyful service. Wan’s devotion to a job that would be looked down on by a typical American was inspiring. I don’t know what his life was like outside of his job, but when he was working he was always there with a warm smile, waiting and willing to serve and become lowly. Let’s all learn to be so Christ-like.

There was a boy. His name was Steven. He was shy, smaller than the other boys, and lived in a poor section of Trujillo. Every morning he would walk to the Church in Wichanzao to attend an English class taught by Peru Mission. This class was in addition to his regular school in the afternoons. Before class each day, we would sit on the front steps and he would take pictures with my camera. Sometimes he would sit on the wall and swing his legs, a contented smile always on his face.
I don’t know what his family was like, whether he had a dad or not, as many kids there didn’t. I don’t know whether he knew that he lived in a poor part of town where everything was dirty, or if he knew what life was like where I come from, that a “normal” family in the States would have a dad who was married to your mom, went to work everyday and was able to by you cool toys and take you to the movies. I do know, however, that he was happy. Watching Steven and his friends at a game of football (soccer), I saw in his face pure joy as he took part in the simplest of things. They were truly happy just to kick a ball, to run and laugh and push each other around in the sun. You can learn much from a young boy even if you can’t speak the same language. Happiness in a poor life, for starters.

Steven with his sister, Monica

The English class with their teacher, getting ready to play a game of football

Thursday we walked out to the squatters’ town. Clementina is made up of mud huts; adobe brick houses covering rolling sand dunes. If you lived here, you generally did not have electricity or running water. If you stayed on a piece of land long enough, (or rather, your house with a small courtyard) usually 5-10 years, it would become yours, unless the government decided they wanted it. If they decided this, your house would be leveled and you would be forced to move on, find a different place to squat. Over the years, as they obtained the free money and time, the people of Clementina would slowly advance their living quarters. Eventually Clementina would become something like Wichanzao: better buildings, it’s own market, maybe some crudely paved roads.
We walked through Clementina and a few of us climbed a small hill to get a good view of Trujillo. Looking down on Clementina with Trujillo in the background and the Pacific behind that, I realized that being grateful isn’t a one time thing. We need to constantly be reminding ourselves of what God has given us and to not take things for granted. And I’m not just talking about running water, electricity, or nice houses. I’m talking about real, whole and loving families, fresh food that is clean and safe, endless options of entertainment.

View of Clementina, Trujillo, and the Pacific

Some of the houses in Clementina

So how did Wan, Steven and the town of Clementina all change my life? Wan taught me to serve anyone and everyone with a Christ-like spirit, whether or not your job is one to be envied. Steven showed me that where we live and what we do does not define how happy we can be. It’s contentment in any situation that enables us to put a smile on. The small town of Clementina reminded me that nothing is too small to not be a blessing from God.

The streets of Trujillo did not glitter, but the lessons I learned there are as precious as gold.

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