May 24th began my first adventure outside of the United States. At the beginning of 2018, a guest speaker at JBU (my alma mater) shared a story about visiting a beautiful campus devoted to missions. This speaker witnessed a chapel full of college students passionately taking notes during the message and singing from their hearts. In fact, the chaplain later shared with him that the majority of their students go straight into the mission field upon graduation; however, our speaker left feeling greatly disheartened. These students were all Mormons. The remainder of my day, I reflected on the ways I had spent my last three years: studying, working, having adventures, traveling, studying some more, volunteering, discovering my career path… My time at JBU was mainly about myself. While our post-high school years are about deciphering our life purpose, I felt urged to give of my time in a way I had not before. My cousin, Lauren, has spent 8.5 years serving in Ventanilla, Perú. On several occasions she asked me to come down for a week and serve, yet summer jobs, internships or school projects always kept me tied to the States. To make a long story shorter, I arrived in Perú just a few months later thanks to the financial and prayerful support of friends and family.
Within a week, I had already fallen in love with Perú and was planning how I could return ASAP. The area surrounding Ventanilla is desert, which creates a landscape full of homes built into the sides of sand hills. Most homes are painted in an array of colors, which creates a fun contrast with the endless brown. June marked the beginning of winter conditions. While winters in Perú are mild in comparison to other regions of the world, the forever damp air seeps into everything. Only wealthy Peruvian homes have heating or air conditioning systems.
The month of June was different at Para Perú for several reasons! First, Lauren was preparing for furlough. Leaving the country is always challenging but leaving a ministry is even more difficult! In preparation, we diligently lesson planned, restocked necessary supplies, and hosted leadership meetings with the church and more in addition to a week’s normal events.
We also had a small group of gringas come from the States the very first week! The group leader has been to Peru regularly over the past couple of years. She brought two of her daughters and a friend. These ladies absolutely loaded their suitcases with donations, including hundreds of new socks and supplies for making slime! Every child or parent who attended a Bible study or discipleship class the week they were here received socks. We also had a youth night that week. Kenna, the slime master, lead forty youth in a step-by-step tutorial. We were all fascinated!
In the midst of these past weeks, we somehow managed to take a trip to a women’s shelter near Lima where Lauren’s friend, Yolanda, lives. These ladies are a blast. The day was full of worship songs, the sharing of the Gospel, snacks, crafts, snacks, socks, snacks and more snacks! One of the ladies at the shelter has down syndrome. With her charming, entertaining personality she was even able to convince our taxi driver to dance with her. To check out the clip, click here.
Her affect reminds me of a 70s professor
In addition, we were able to stand outside the local orphanage at the end of school and hand out flyers to over 1000 kids, telling them about Para Peru’s weekly Bible study in Keiko. We did this two consecutive Thursdays and, as a result, saw many new faces. A few new parents even came. This was encouraging to us and Lauren is planning on continuing to invite kids who attend there.
Personally, I worked on media for Para Perú. While this definitely has not been my only role, it is a specific skill I can offer! There is a photo gallery on Para Perú’s website containing my work from those five weeks. As the photographer, I managed to capture at least one group image at each location to show you the faces we love so dearly here. I also wanted each of you to see what Lauren sees in her everyday life. It may not seem aesthetically pleasing by United States standards, however, it is full of beauty!
I love, love, love the people of this country and I am already counting down to when I am able to return! Hopefully my spanish will be better next time around.
Head over here to see the full gallery of photos!