Ask Amy, "What is the best thing about being a missionary?" and depending on how spiritual she needs to sound, she might answer, "Having a maid!" Naty is our maid and she comes in once or twice a week to clean and teach us how to make rice better than we've ever made before. Last week she called in sick on Thursday and on Friday we found out she was getting her ruptured appendix out! She was having abdominal pain and went to get an ultrasound and they guy doing the ultrasound told her, "You have to go to the hospital right now." "I don't have any money." "Here's 200 soles (about $70), pay me back later. If you die, have your family pay me back!" Luckily, she was able to pay it back without it being her last living request.
Today was the first day of school for this school year for everyone but Allen. Even Amy went since she just started teaching English at the Christian school at the church we attended before. Most of the kids don't know any English at all. Besides English, she has the opportunity to teach about life, the Christian walk, and geopolitical current events. One question they asked was, "Are there any other countries that speak English besides the US and InternetLand?" (okay I'm paraphrasing a bit) One student told Mia that she likes how Amy teaches. She doesn't just write things on the board to copy, but she makes them talk and even sing, which they thought was hilarious.
I did take a picture of Amy's first day of school, but her eyes were closed, so I've included one from a her first first day of school.
Today is the last day of summer vacation, so we decided to go go-karting. For just under $1 you get a ticket, wait in line and then drive 3 laps around the course. The karts have no seatbelts, but are so low they are about impossible to roll over. Mia tested the rebound characteristics of the tire barriers and was unscathed. I subscribe to the 'put the accelerator on the floor the entire time' strategy. I lost my hat on the last lap, shortly after Ben took this picture.
At church tonight, the electricity went out. We moved the pews outside, to take advantage of what little daylight was left. Fortunately, the electricity came back on about half way through the service. I thought, 'Christ Community Church in Omaha never has adventures like this!'
It is I think every Christian parent's dream to see their children not just walking in the Lord but serving Him as well. Sarah has very eagerly taken on the role of children's Sunday School teacher in our tiny new church. She prepares the lessons and prepares games and crafts by herself. The kids love her and her flannel graph stories. When we arrived at church tonight there were 5 kids sitting outside of a house across the street. The pastor and I talked to them and invited them to come to see the flannel graph stories. They came! They had such a fun time with the stories and games that one of the boys asked as it was over, "What time is club tomorrow?" "Sorry, you'll have to come back next Sunday!"
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