It was a huge privilege to be part of a Student Conference for AGEUP (evangelical university student movement in Peru). Students leaders from around southern Peru came together for four days in Cusco.
Students from Arequipa
My Spanish skills are at the point where it's easy to get around and do things and to have simple conversations. Phone calls are still a challenge. I wasn't surprised that even though I thought I had spelt my name carefully on the phone, my name on my bus ticket was "David Yiewayacf".
I met the group of students heading to the conference at the bus terminal. They were a welcoming group and I felt at home immediately. These student knew how to find a good bargain. It was about a 12-hour overnight bus trip to Cusco & they got a ticket for 30 soles (11AUD). It's easy to spent triple that amount on the same trip. The bus was quite comfortable. Several non-essential items didn't work like the reading light and the air vents but the only issue was that our leader ended up getting wet when it rained as the bus leaked a bit.
I chatted a lot with a student named Erick who is studying Engineering and had a whole stack of English questions. What's the difference between "see" and "look"? What's the difference between "talk" and "speak"? Since coming I've realized what a huge task it is to learn a language. Several students had spent many years learning English but without people to practice with, no matter how many hours you spend with a book, it's very difficult to speak. Teaching English is a real opening to connect with students at University. If you're considering doing a short-term mission in Peru, without knowing Spanish, I would highly recommend teaching English. When teaching English is connected with a local church it is a powerful outreach.
At the conference, concentrating in the morning talks was sometimes hard. I had a few things working against me - lack of sleep, lack of coffee, the altitude (3400m) and what many of us would consider long talks (1.5+hrs) and in Spanish. No one told me that coffee is not a drink common with students in Peru. Fortunately we had some highly engaging speakers like Alex Chan who spoke about Sexuality and God's plan. He had the audience in hysterics. It was also good to hear talks about Christianity and Politics. In South America it can be dangerous for Christians to get involved in politics but often it is much more dangerous not to be involved. The political climate seems prone to extremes and Christians need to be a light in this arena.
It's exciting to see a group of students who are passionate about serving Jesus and meeting together. The students also take the initiative in running the ministry. This is important here because there are so few full time staff. Currently they have just one staff worker who looks after all of southern Peru - an area spanning hundreds of kilometers and several major cities including Arequipa.
- thank God for the staff workers that do an amazing job with limited resources
- thank God for the students who are passionate about serving God
- that I can make a valuable contribution as this becomes the focus of my ministry next year