Today was the day! I had been waiting for the last few days to have the team sing Happy Birthday to my hubby! Initially coming on the trip, I had really hoped he would come with me - "it'd be a pretty epic way to celebrate 40," I tried to convince him. To my own disappointment, he didn't feel the same undeniable leading I had; and I felt pretty bad about missing such a special birthday. I wanted him to know that even though I wasn't with him, I was thinking of him and grateful for his love and support.

We were supposed to make our way back into the "Red District" that morning for service at our host church. But for whatever reason the bus that was supposed to pick us up hadn't shown. Our group stayed congregated in the front courtyard. Claudia, our translator, had made her way to the road to keep watch for the bus while Pastor Adam slipped back to his room to make other arrangements for transportation.

Granted, Peru was her home, but Claudia had such an ease and comfort about her everywhere we went despite the fact that it was also her first time in Iquitos (which is a different world from the capital of Lima where she is from.) We were trained that you never go alone, for safety, and yet Claudia moved so freely. She has such a gentleness, radiance and innocence about her, I couldn't help but want to keep her at a close distance just so I could know she was safe.

While we watched the Motos and mopeds pass by a bicycle cart with an ice cream box on front and a giant umbrella shade peddled by with a loud speaker playing some sort of propaganda. (I much prefer our ice cream truck music - which you know is echoing in your right head now ... you're welcome!😂) He caught sight of our group and backed up to our hotel entrance where we all swooped in like the ravenous turkey vultures we'd seen in the "Red District" marketplace to see what flavors he had. The ice cream didn't stay solid long because it was just so hot out, but it was a brief few minutes of delight (or in my case ... seconds.🍦🙄) Our little huddle had drawn the attention of Moto drivers hoping to pick us up for a fare and then they'd head off when they realized we weren't taking a ride. (I couldn't help but wonder how much fuel they burn driving around all day looking to pick up people vs. the fares they actually catch.) One actually stayed a minute and had ice cream too!

A bus finally arrived. (I wasn't sure if it was our original ride or another.) But we all loaded up on the side of the road and headed back into the "Red District" of Belen. The routine was a bit more familiar now, stay together, keep things put away, keep moving. But travelling through the streets and marketplace was different this time. It was no longer intimidating like it had been that very first day. We were all becoming more comfortable with the landscape, sights and sounds even though it wasn't your typical destination.
We had collected so many gracious donations from the people back home to bring with us to Peru. Every town we visited we hauled 3 or 4 suitcases filled with supplies for games/crafts and items for distribution among the people. Taylor's heart was with the community of San Francisco since our very first day though and so with every surplus from each day of ministry she would suggest passing out more in the "Red District." As we gathered at the church entrance we quickly separated suitcases that would stay at our host church, simple OTC medications since the Pastor's wife's sister owned a pharmacy and would know how to properly dispense the medication to those in need and left over craft supplies for the children's ministry. We gathered our other suitcases filled with toys, leftover hygiene items from the prison ministry and what bags of food we had left from our distribution in Nauta and headed back into the streets, making our way to the refuse covered river bank and wooden boats. (I think this may have been where Taylor agitated her wrist into a full on scaphoid fracture, from hauling a suitcase over the rough terrain with the additional weight of food.)

It completely melted my heart to see all the children running up along the rivers edge, rushing in to the church with such excitement that we had come back to them! I looked at our team, on separate boats, and every one was beaming from ear to ear. They were made for THESE moments.
We just spent a few hours loving on them. Many on the team had made connections with certain kids that first day in San Francisco, and it was so beautiful to see them reunite.

Rebecca, Julia and Brooke had the INCREDIBLE idea of packing Instax film for the trip and brought their cameras out that day. The children flocked around them to have their portraits taken, I imagine maybe even for the first time! I remember one moment when Shawana was looking for Brooke who had left the group, she returned a moment later and shared that she had gone to one of the homes (built on stilts and climbed the ladder) to capture a photo of a young woman with her child and dying Mother; three generations. As someone who LOVES capturing things, I was so excited that the girls were doing this in a tangible way for the people. My photos, unfortunately, may never make there way into their hands - but Christina had encouraged me prior to the trip when I wrestled with whether I would bring my camera or not that ministry can happen after the trip through them. So that is my prayer with every photo, that you will be moved to see the heart of missions and more importantly of our Heavenly Father!

While the girls were photographing the kids and a few others were painting faces and nails again, Christina and I went with Pastor Adam to distribute the food and hygiene items within the community around the church while Taylor and Jacob worked with Claudia to bless mamas with baby clothes they had brought from their own family. It was so touching to see how involved the children and and church were - they were thrilled to pull our luggage for us from house to house, a whole parade of support following us. (Christina had me try out my Spanish skills again which felt pretty hopeless as I needed her to spoon feed it to me word by word! As I mentioned ... I make a better parrot!)
As we made our war back to the Pastor's home, Christina asked if I needed to use the restroom. (She had used it the first day and I had actually marveled at what a blessing it was I hadn't needed to go until I heard I had missed such an adventure !)  I don't think it was an "emergency" for me but just like my Mama always use to say to me ... "at least try" ... I wasn't about to miss another epic potty adventure with my new bathroom buddy; see Part 5 if you missed that one!) And even though there were a few "Ah-ha," moments, "this is why we did high-ropes training to prepare!" ... none compared to this!

Using this restroom required sea-legs; walking out on floating planks, to a makeshift shed, where you propped up a metal sheet for the door, balanced on two wooden boards and carefully aimed! I hadn't propped the door well and it started to fall back on me while I was looking down at my aim, and the Pastor's daughter who was there to watch out for me, quickly caught it - however I wasn't prepared for the shift of weight and it made me realize what a feat this actually was! The sad thing is, if you notice in the picture, that just beside the bathroom is a boat of children fishing. Chances are these sweet people are eating, drinking and washing in the water that holds their refuse and bile. And it's not that they just don't know better, but this is their reality. There are seasons when this community is flooded (with 20 ft?) of water from the mountains, so wells and waste management is not realistic for them. There are seasons where there is no dry land, the only way for them to travel from their home is by boat ...

This was the community that most captured our hearts. Christina shared the wonderful news that we were sewing another seed, we would be leaving behind funds to help the church move forward with their new structure. We prayed a prayer of blessing over the people and church. We grabbed our luggage which was lighter but with heavy hearts made our way back to the boats. I overheard one of the girls asking Brooke when she would be back. It truly was touching. I could see every one was torn, leaving pieces of themselves behind on that shore with the children who were waving our boats off. Many of our team were silently wiping the tears away from their eyes.
We were greeted, perhaps not exactly ... by a woman and her pet monkey. She welcomed us with a smile, the monkey hissed. I was happy to have seen one as we had missed the feeding time and monkeys at the lodge where we spent our free day. (Although Pastor Adam warned us that the monkeys are not friendly.) I'd learned my lesson from hissing things so I just smiled at him and then moved on with the others back to our host church.

We arrived to lunch and a few hours of rest if we so wished before evening service. The one thing I really wanted to bring home with me was a hammock ... Pastor Adam had mentioned at the tribal village that I could possibly get one at the marketplace in Belen, so after lunch I inquired. Those of us that were not feeling unwell headed out back into the streets with Pastor Adam to find hammocks ... and took the opportunity to explore a bit. I did purchase a "4-person" hammock - although disclaimer, that's 4 Peruvians and maybe 2 Americans😂. These were the hammocks that many people would sleep in when they took long boat trips, and they would wrap themselves in the excess like a blanket in the cool of night; we had passed by a boat like this on our free day and I remembered thinking how wonderful that looked ... maybe ... unless you might get seasick! 

We walked to one of the town squares we had passed through many times in our week there. The team bought more ice cream (It looked good, but I was so full from lunch I just couldn't - wish I was that disciplined at home haha!) Christina found a group of pigeons that she wanted to run into. A small girl beat her to it, then Christina looked at me! I gave in to the peer pressure and chased them! I felt like a complete goof, but it was fun to let my guard down a bit. That was only the beginning as I got my turn in the "Floor Is Lava" game every one had been playing since Friday! Taylor saved me from death by calling me to her to spare a domino effect of mopeds which I just don't think I could have brought myself to do! Her infectious giggle and radiant smile brought me joy. (Christina captured it on video and I just keep watching it over and over.)
A train trolley pulled up (like you see in the malls here, only) legit-sized! Pastor Adam smiled with excitement and asked us if we wanted to take a ride; it was a good way for us to see the other town square that was a hike away. I was excited to see another famous site in Belen I had seen on YouTube, a building built by Gustave Eiffel✔️.  Not on my list to see was a He-wee ... As I observed the people while we passed by, I noticed a man who looked sad with an armful of pop bottles, one was rather low and as we got closer ... I realized. I'll just leave that there ... 

Spending some time with some of the team just letting my hair down was so fun. I perhaps hadn't been quite myself there for multiple reasons. Unfamiliarity, observance, learning, soaking everything in ... My time is Peru is something I will drink deep from for the rest of my life.

We arrived back at the church and sorted out who would share testimonies at the service and who would join the children. Christina thought it would be nice to share about our time in Peru this time, and I felt like God had laid so much on my heart in the days that had passed, so I gladly volunteered. I wasn't exactly sure in that moment what I would share, but I had some time still. This was the church service we were asked to wear skirts for (a sacrifice on my part!) I felt so silly with white, black and blue legs and hiking shoes ... I had destroyed my "dress" shoes (a pair of black flats) in the Amazon mud during baptism. After I changed, I took the little time we had left to think about what was on my heart. 

We went to service, and after worship, I was the first to speak. I wish I would have written it down, because when I spoke I feel like I forgot half of what I wanted to say. (I held my Bible the entire time and forgot to share my verse!) I shared that though we came from what felt like two different worlds, I had experienced the presence of the same God. I thanked them for their kindness and generosity to our team and told them we were leaving a piece of our hearts there with them. I think I shared more, but I don't honestly even remember what words left my mouth. (This happens all too often to me 🙄.) Lindsey, Renee and Christina shared testimonies before Pastor Adam preached, again, with such a fire. As Andrew joked, I wish I could have understood him, I would have gotten saved!😂

Pastor Adam was a bit hard for me to read during our time there, aside from the fact that you could see his heart bled for the people of Peru; but it was on our last day in Iquitos that I felt the connection that was made with him and our team. To be very honest, I had struggled coming in to this trip with what it would be and how I fit, most missions teams I had heard of did some type of work relief or medical care and I had felt like this was kind of all over and wondered how effective it would be. (Andrew helped me to see it was evangelical rather than work focused.) I am so very thankful that Pastor Adam led us into times of serving in the capacity we did. When I came across the verse in Matthew 25, verse 35-36, I understood how important what we did was:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

After service, we made our way back to our hotel for our final night where we packed our bags preparing to leave Iquitos in the morning. Aside from a nice warm shower, my body parts not sticking together anymore, bug free sleep and hubby cuddles, I wasn't really ready to leave ...

📷Additional Photo Credits Christina Brokaw


Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top