We’ve been in Peru since Friday evening, arriving around midnight and getting to sleep in our hotel around 2:30 a.m. The flights from Jackson to Houston and Houston to Lima were thankfully uneventful, and the longish layover and long flights afforded me good time to read from several different good books (Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper, Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, The Next Christendom by Phillip Jenkins, The Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming, Tomorrowland by Stephen Kotler and Inprove Your Chess Pattern Recognition by Oudeweetering). The length also gave our team opportunities to bond, and the Lord has been gracious to give us 19 easy-going, flexible, servant-hearted souls who desire His glory rather than their own, who know how to enjoy themselves and laugh with one another, and who possess an array of talents and personalities that make a mission team like a spice rack makes a soup.
On Saturday we woke up late, walked to a tourist area of Lima for brunch, then walked to a market to exchange our dollars into soles and buy souvenirs. Lima is on the Pacific coast, with high cliffs overlooking the ocean. Surfers were braving the cold waters for what appeared to me to be not so big waves. Lima is a city of 10 million souls, so we obviously didn’t see all of it – but I was impressed with what I saw. After a brief time of shopping, we went back to our hotel and traveled to the airport to fly to Trujillo. The flight was only an hour up the coast to the north, and our landing over the Pacific was beautiful.
The foothills of the Andes begin in Trujillo, which itself is a desert. Every morning so far has been cloudy, and so the effect is to feel like we’re in a Lord of the Rings movie – the background almost doesn’t look real. Sand is everywhere, and there isn’t much grass, in part because they only receive half an inch of rain each year. But because of that, coupled with a temperate climate, houses are open to the outside in some surprising ways. Not just open windows, but even open plazas inside of houses. It’s a different way to live certainly, but going from 100 degree heat in Jackson to 65-70 degree coolness here has been a great delight.
Our hotel is near the center of Trujillo, a city of 1 million (either the second or third largest city in Peru, I’ve gotten conflicting reports). Trujillo is a cacophany of sights and sounds, with unfinished concrete buildings everywhere, water tanks on top of every roof, walls surrounding every residence/business (except gas stations), taxis and combis honking as often as they can, children and adults begging through street performances at many stop lights, people selling their wares on the streets and in the streets at intersections. It’s a clean city in parts, but there is trash piled up in several places, awaiting garbage pickup that seems to be infrequent. There are more taxis, buses, combis, and motorcycle taxis than personal cars. The people are very friendly, and welcoming to foreigners. Evidently Trujillo can be a dangerous city in parts, but we’re not in those parts, and I’ve been impressed with the parks and activity all around. The most impressive thing I’ve seen in Trujillo, apart from the scenic natural beauty surrounding us, is the ability of the taxi drivers to navigate traffic that seems chaotic. We’ve nearly hit or been hit at least a dozen times, yet each time the drivers find a way to avoid the wreck and keep on going. It’s a fearful display of human agility and reflex.
Sunday we worshipped in Arevalo, a neighborhood where Peru Mission has planted a church, a school, and a medical clinic. I was privileged to preach through a translator (Stuart Mills, a friend from Zachary, Louisiana) on Titus 2. There is nothing like worshipping in another language. It is a reminder in stereo that the last day will be filled with voices of praise from every tribe, tongue, people and nation. As my friend Paul Randall put it, it’s one thing to profess that, it’s another thing to experience it. It’s one of the great reasons why short term mission trips are so invaluable. It would be easy to ask, “Why spend so much money taking 19 people to Peru? Why not just send the money to the missionaries?” I’m learning the answers to that question are many. 1) Because without the people, the money wouldn’t come. We would have been hard pressed to raise $50,000 to send to the Peruvian church if we ourselves were not going. And when a large chunk of that money goes directly to the projects of Peru Mission, the chunk we sent to United Airlines is more easily digested. 2) Both the foreign participants and the nationals have a chance to experience heaven on earth, in the sense of two cultures worshipping together. Both of us are reminded that the kingdom of God is larger than our little corner of the globe. 3) Those who go are changed forever. We go back with new eyes – to see the spiritual need around us, to see the physical need around us, to see the value of supporting missionaries, to see the need for prayer. And we go back with transformed relationships with the other team members. That’s been one of the best parts of this trip so far