I had no idea what to expect on my first international mission trip in Peru. Thankfully God planned out everything from the start to the finish, and it was better than I could have ever hoped.
After our brief tourism section of the trip and one very long boat ride we arrived at the bank of the village. The welcome was a big celebration of dances and smiles. As we walked down the mile long path to the village with our supplies in hand I was more focused on how heavy the wood felt on my shoulder than dreaming about what was to come. Even then I don’t believe I could have imagined what I was soon to experience.
As soon as I arrived at the church frame that we would be working on, I noticed the small group of curious kids that had begun to gather around. Although I only know a little Spanish, I thankfully remembered how to ask their names. As I struggled to remember names I could barely pronounce, I wondered how I could connect with these kids with our limited shared vocabulary. I desperately wished to ask them further questions to get a feel for what they enjoyed doing and what their culture was like.
Work on the church had just begun and I was eager to do my part. I began to feel disappointed as I looked around and realized that…I had no place. With 37 sets of hands for one saw and four walls, all spots had already been taken. I watched for an opportunity to jump in, but I just felt in the way. As I wandered aimlessly with my eyes peeled, I started to doubt my purpose in being there.
I noticed a group of kids all being entertained by Morgan and a few pieces of wood. I thought about how simply that connection was made without words. A few more were standing close to me, kind of looking around not sure if they should try to interact. So I decided to go for something basic, tickling. Immediately as smiles began, my heart was filled with joy. One girl (who I later learned was named Eloivi) made me chase her all around. I started feeling ok about not having a job. As the day went on I and a few other girls spent the hours running, laughing, and playing games like Pato, Pato, Gonzo (Duck, Duck, Goose).
At the end of the day as we started back to the boat, all of the kids ran up to walk with us. I strutted down the path with a girl holding my hand at each side. I felt like I belonged, like I was home.
As we reached the river, all of the kids decided to go swimming. As I watched them all jumping into the water that was deemed to dangerous for us, I thanked God for the opportunity to be there and learn from them. So even though what I expected to happen didn’t, I enjoyed exactly what God had planned for me to do.
After that day I did get to help some in building the church, but I spent most of my time with the kids. At the end of it all a few things struck me about these kids. The first was how fearless they were. Whether it was jumping in a muddy polluted river, walking a mile down the road with people you just met without telling your parents, or jumping over fire they did everything with a courage that I admire. The second was their selflessness. I watched two little boys grab containers and fill them with water, so that one of our girls could clean her muddy shoes. Another time I got down on my knees to take a picture, and when I stood up two of the little girls wiped the dust off my pants for me. Also some of the kids gave us gifts out of the little that they had. They gave us everything from pieces of gum to handmade necklaces. To be given gifts by people who need to sometimes rely on what little is given to them, was pretty humbling. The last and most important thing I saw was that these kids know who Jesus is. One day we watched the Jesus film, and Eloivi asked me what the movie was. I didn’t know how to respond in a way that she would understand. But then as I struggled with the words to say, she asked if it was Jesus. I was so surprised I could barely get out the word si. The girls also sang songs about opening their eyes to the Lord. It brought me great joy to know that they knew who he was.
Although I am back in America the kids are still in my thoughts constantly. I have faith that God has already been doing his work in that village, and I am so thankful to have been a small part. It brings me great comfort to know that the kids will be brought up with people who fear the Lord all around them. My prayer is that they grow up to be happy, healthy, and love Jesus more than anything else.
Con Dios todo es possible.
Hannah and her dad, John went with our team to Peru. Many things about this trip made my heart soar with joy, but none so much as parent and child serving together. What a great memory to share with your children, and what a great legacy to build for your family, serving the Lord together. Thank you Hannah for sharing your story !
I am happy to report that you really can't make this stuff up!