Friday night is chess club night! We usually get about 10 kids playing chess and another half dozen playing ping pong and other games. Each week we have a 3-round tournament and the top three players get a small monetary prize (about $1 for first prize). But this week we changed things. Instead of those with the highest scores winning the prizes, those who exhibited the best sportsmanship took home the prizes! 1st place went to Chiquitín (which is translated, "Little One" but his real name is Carlos) for reminding his opponent to push the button on the chess clock after he moved and for not getting mad when another kid tried to trip him. 2nd place went to a kid for saying "Thank you," and third place went to another kid for losing graciously. I've seen the kids do a lot of thinking during chess games, but I've never seen them look so pensive as tonight.
February is birthday month for all of the women in our household. Yesterday was Mia's birthday. After getting her ears pierced (the family rule is one has to wait until she is 12-years-old) in the morning, we had a discussion about whether Ben could get something pierced too, since he's over 14. He was given permission to rebel by growing his hair long again. Tattoos are right out.
In the afternoon, Mia went with Sarah and 5 other MKs to the mall to be 'mall rats'. They went to the pet store and argued animatedly about what was the best way to cook dogs to the horrified stares of others. We grabbed a bite at Chili's and then went home to watch GroundHog Day and ate birthday brownies and ice cream.
A team from Christ Community Church leading the children's program
Every January, the SIM Peru missionaries meet in Lima for our annual Spiritual Life Conference. While the adults are in meetings, the children and teens have a program like a vacation Bible school. This year, Christ Community Church of Omaha, sent a team of 7 adults to 'ride herd' over all of the kids. They sang, studied the Bible, played games and did science experiments. It really is true: if you put a Mento in a Coke, it will cause an impressive explosion!
The team did a fantastic job, and kids and adults alike were blessed by them. It was great to see people from home, and I was proud that they are from our home church. It doesn't come without risks: word of our week of 'suffering for Christ' at the beach in perfect weather could make it back home and people won't feel very sorry for us!
In August we started attending one of the daughter churches of the church we had attended since we moved to Arequipa. It is a very humble church with a tin roof held up by wooden poles and sheets of plastic instead of walls. To get into the church, one had to crawl down a pile of white volcanic blocks in the dark. Surely, some people didn't come to the church just because it was too hard to get in the door. We suggested to the pastor to make actual stairs, and we helped build them last week. Today the entire family went to the 'work day' to build a new wall and to move all of the dirt that was piled up under the new stairs. Despite being missionaries, this was the first time the whole family could work on a 'get your hands dirty and your arms sore' type of task. A big pile of dirt was under the new stairs and had to be hauled in bags to another location. It wasn't without whining, but we had a great time working as a family on a specific goal. Afterward, everyone was content with a job well done. The icecream probably helped too.
The Tiabaya Baptist Church Sanctuary
The new stairs without a pile of dirt under them.
The new stairs were built over the prior bathroom. Don't worry, they will move the fixtures so there is enough room to sit without hitting one's head!
These kids are waiting to see the doctor and they are happy! Why are they happy, you ask? Because they are not getting their fingers poked to draw blood like they often do. These kids are in the afternoon program at the church in Chiguata, where they get help with homework and food (from a program unrelated to SIM). One of the requirements to be part of the program is a check-up from a doctor every 6 months and part of the check-up is to have their hemoglobin checked. I told the organizers that I wouldn't do that. There are four reasons: 1. There is little benefit of checking hemoglobin levels in otherwise healthy kids. 2. I don't have the reagents to test 150 kids at the moment. 3. I looked at a previous report that had 93 kids listed, and not one had a hemoglobin below 13, which even at this altitude is in the normal range. and 4. Do you want to make these kids cry? And certainly, making children terrified of doctors is not in their best interests.
We went to the Chiguata church on Wednesday with a team of 11 people: 5 missionaries and 6 Peruvians from the San Luis church, which is near our camp. The San Luis church is a fairly young church started by SIM and this was the first time they have left the valley they live in to minister in another community.
Julio checking a student's vision
Pray for the children of Chiguata to grow both physically and spiritually.
A short-term team from Virginia planting trees at SIM Peru's camp
Here in Peru, SIM has a children's camp, where each summer, hundreds of kids study the Bible, ride horses, swim, shoot bows and arrows, etc. Many lives are changed for eternity. Last week, a team from Virginia came to help run a camp for the local children and help with camp maintenance, such as planting trees, as you can see in the pictures. As I drove them back to Arequipa at the end of their time here, I asked them, "What was your favorite part?" The teenagers quickly sang the praises of lunch and supper, while one of the [ahem] more mature team members said, "I was so impressed that over and over we were told that we were building this for the local Peruvian church to take over some day. So many times, foreigners can start projects that become their own like fiefdoms, but this is from the start designed to be run by the Peruvians."
We are making big steps toward this goal. On Monday night, the board of directors of the camp just invited 3 more Peruvians to join to help lead the camp as we foreigners try to 'work ourselves out of a job'. Pray that we find good Peruvian leaders to help lead the camp years after we are gone!
Serving with you.
A recently-planted palm tree
A patient in her authentic Peruvian garb
Two weeks ago I enjoyed going on a village medical trip for the first time in years. (Not that there were other ones I didn't enjoy, it just happened to be the first in years.) It was great to be back out there, speaking Quechua, working with other doctors, and it was especially fun to not be in charge! Medical Ministry International (MMI) organizes monthly village trips throughout Peru, and they contacted me to ask if I would help with their trip to Chivay, a 3-hour drive from Arequipa. On the night before the first clinic, I debriefed the doctors from the US about what types of maladies we commonly see here and available treatments. One of the doctors, a hand-surgeon, said that he could only work from the elbow down, but when we were out there he did a fantastic job of treating all sorts of body aches and pains. Not only did I not have to buy meds, or make arrangements with pastors and buses, when our bus got stuck in the mud, I could take pictures instead of figuring out how to get out!
Nothing that a pick ax can't solve
Running makes missionaries happy, healthy and wise!
SIM Peru had our Spiritual Life Conference at the Bible Union Camp near Lima. Every year we gather all the missionaries and kids (77 this year!) and spend time together. Dr. Stuart Scott from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary came to teach on Biblical decision making, and a team from Canada led the program for teens and kids. We also had workshops on 'orality' (how to teach illiterate people Bible stories and truths), multicultural teams, a book review of "When Helping Hurts" and some less-academic events such as a 4.5-mile foot race on the beach called "Race to the Rocks", pictured above. I guess having running events is one of the risks that come with having a field director who is a running fanatic.
Feliz Navidad! I'm not sure what it means, but it's on all the signs around here! As American missionaries in Peru, we have an eclectic mix of traditions. One has to be careful not to offend the Peruvian Christians. We don't have a Christmas tree, since some of the local believers point out its pagan origens. Yet our church has two, one in the front and one in the back! Despite the unapproving stares of some Peruvians when they visit our house, we do have a nativity set (complete with llama), as that really portrays the whole reason we celebrate. But even with it, there is the struggle between the 'early baby in the manger' faction and the 'put the baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day' faction. We've opted for a compromise. Baby Jesus is in the manger, but hidden by swaddling clothes until Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve we will have fondue and eat Panetón, a light fruitcake very popular in Peru. A good loaf costs a day's wages for some, yet almost everyone buys them. May your traditions be fun and remind you of the real 'Reason for the Season'! Serving with you, Allen & Amy ps. In October, we made a plea for more support, and we are glad to report that our support is back up to SIM's requirements. Thanks so much!
A doorway at just the wrong height.
Thousands of years from now, if the end of the world doesn't come first, scientists will be examining the heads of male foreigners in Peru, and discover that they have bony callouses on the tops of their heads. What were they there for? Beauty? An advantage in head-butting competitions? They will unlikely decipher that we foreigners are just a tiny bit too tall for the local construction. Nebraskans, the progeny of the hardy stock of tall Scandanavians that immigrated in the early 1900s, are tall. I'm not. But in Peru I'm the spiker and blocker on the volleyball team, and the one they ask to hang balloons at the kids' school. Because of this, I've hit my head countless times on city bus doors, concrete beams, even a cactus in the roof of a village house to keep people off of it. (Maybe that's why my memory isn't like it used to be?) One of our new missionaries, David Jeyachandran, is from Australia. He's pretty tall by any measures, which is why less than 1 minute after I said to his wife, "At least I don't have any medical emergencies at this team meeting", he hit his head on the gate, lacerating his scalp. Luckily, our team meeting was at the Reuters' house, who are two of our missionary nurses from Germany. They had suture and needle-drivers, and for about $5 at the local pharmacy, I bought some lidocaine, sterile gloves and needles. With many helping hands we had him sewed up in no time.
In our administrative roles, I think it is normal for doctors to question if they are doing what God has called us to do. He continually sends patients to our door to help us practice what we spent years training to do.
Serving with you,
Allen & Amy
Allen, Dorothee and Amy attending to David's scalp laceration