Today started off as every day with breakfast, personal quiet time, worship experience and a devotional. I was fortunate to be giving the devotional today, and I talked about the book of Nehemiah. Specifically about staying on track and focusing on the work that God has asked you to do versus being distracted by opposition and others who are not part of God’s plan for you.
After the devotional we took the hour long bus ride to Villa La Paz. Villa La Paz is the location where children who are pre-op or post-op with cleft lips or other significant physical ailments go to get treated by Dr. Lazarra- a pediatrician from Atlanta who gave up his practice to come here and serve the poor. As an example, one beautiful little girl who is four years old fell from the second-story of her house two years ago and fractured her skull significantly. She is amazing and doing incredibly well all things considered. Being around her was a highlight of the trip for sure, and she just brought light to the room whenever anybody walked into it. Another girl in the same room was 13 years old and in a body cast from her waist down. She was reading a book about cats and I sat on the floor next to her to go over her favorite counts and just talk about the animals with her for 10 minutes or so. Since she’s a little older it seems like she gets a little less attention and I wanted to make sure that she knew that she was loved by God and all of us there.
We also got to spend time holding the babies, and it was magnificent. These little children are just so adorable and it was a pleasure to play with them hold them and help the workers who are with him every single day get a little bit of a break. Per usual, Taylor was holding all of the babies and glowing. Dana and Stephanie were also holding the babies and just thoroughly enjoying the experience. It was great to see their faces and the faces of the kids as they interacted with them. Also Chuck played catch with a young boy named Brandon and they kept referring to each other as “Chuky Loco” and “Brandon Loco” as they tossed the football back and forth. Brandon, who is 5 years old was laying back down in his crib. Brandon has brittle bone syndrome and both of his legs were in casts. However, the casts didn’t rob Brandon of the joy of playing catch with Chuck and you could tell that it brought great joy for him to see Chuck again. The football was originally intended for kids later in the trip but Brandon loved it so much, we couldn’t take it away from him so it stayed there as his gift.
After playing with the kids, we went downstairs to enjoy an authentically Peruvian lunch. Pasta with pesto sauce and a side soup and salad was the selection for lunch and it was incredible. We also took the opportunity to leave out handprints on the walls. Every person who volunteers or visits the hospital, as well as the children, put their handprints on the walls as a reminder of everyone who is been there and blast that location. It was humbling it to be a part of that hospital and what they are doing for these children.
On the way back to Pat’s place we stopped at our driver, Edgar 's house. At Edgar's house, we gave his three little boys (ages 8, 6 and 3) gifts. While Alison took Edgar’s wife to a room to talk in private, the rest of us stayed in the living room area and played with the little boys. They wanted me to lift them up towards the ceiling, play with the Mickey Mouse doll we bought for them, play with their new soccer balls (that we purchased on the way to Edgar’s), play with their new racing cars and play with their new dinosaurs and overall just roughhouse with Chuck and me. Edgar and his wife, Yumi, have a beautiful family. Chuck and Alison talked about replacing Edgar’s ten year old couch which is now worn and difficult to sit on with any comfort. Chuck and Alison have been such a blessing for this family as they also helped them build the house they live in. It’s inspiring to me to see how much Chuck and Alison care about Edgar and that he is not just their driver, he is a dear friend.
As we left Edgar’s house, Alison mentioned the kids would likely cry. However, I think we filled them with so much joy that they were still smiling ear to ear as we left and were waving goodbye to them.
As an extra note: driving around Peru is literally insane. I don’t know how they don’t crash into each other - we have seen maybe one accident in all the traveling we have done. There is what seems to be an unwritten rule that you pull into an intersection and just make sure the person driving towards you is slowing down before you go in front of them. Additionally even the places that don’t feel as poor as some other places and Peru are still very very poor. I feel like I have dust everywhere. Anytime we leave the house there’s dust and it gets into all of your clothes, in your eyes, mouth. It is so dusty here because it doesn’t rain here. The mountains are beautiful but with the lack of rain, the dust just gets everywhere.
Tonight we had an amazing church service. It is the longest service I’ve ever been to at almost 3 hours. But that is not a complaint. Tonight was a very special night. The pastor of the church was promoted and will be spending the next four years leading that church which is a significant deal here in Peru. We celebrated with songs of worship to God, watched a few special and very beautiful dances that the girls of the church put on and leaned into a short message from Alison.
Alison prepared a full sermon and Dana was going to share her testimony as well, but since we were short on time, Alison shared a powerful summary of her planned message instead. A message that focused on promotion + King David chasing after God’s heart. She spoke about how David wasn’t perfect but he was forgiven and you can be as well. She also left the group with seven questions to see if we are in the process of becoming a person after God's heart like David. It was really powerful and everyone was impacted by the message.
After Alison shared her message, Chuck asked the men to come to the front so that he could pray for them. Chuck spoke directly to the men and mentioned that it was time for them to “Rise Up” - noting that we always here “my mother prayed for me” or my “grandmother prayed for me” and he said it is time that somebody said my father prayed for me. He challenge the men to be the leaders of their homes, the prayer warriors for their women and children, and to draw closer to God for his guidance. Alison then asked the women to join the men and we all prayed for the families for healing, for growth closer to God, and for the love of Christ to flow through them and into their homes.
Next, to celebrate Pastor Caleb, a number of his closer friends and pastors shared moving stories about Pastor Caleb. While I couldn’t understand any of the Spanish they were speaking, it was evident that the words were heartfelt and really special to Caleb. At the end of the service we all sat together and had one big meal. The night lasted longer than expected; however, it was well worth it. I’m very honored to have experienced that ceremony in this awesome Peruvian church. Plus, Alison is letting us sleep in tomorrow! God is indeed good!