Anyway, since it was Thanksgiving the day after my return from Peru, I took advantage of the Open Mic time during the church service, to share what I'm thankful for... specifically regarding my trip. (I wrote the whole thing out, since I have a tendency to babble inanely when I get in front of people.) I'm thankful for a lot of things, actually, but these were freshest on my mind:
"I’m thankful for the worldwide priesthood of all believers. As some of you know, I spent this weekend in Peru. You may ask, why did I go to Peru for the weekend? It’s because I have a special friend there. Her name is Sindy. We had been exchanging letters for four years, and finally met face to face for the first time on Friday. Sindy was born in a slum in Chimbote, and raised in poverty. She became a very good student, and through the intervention of Compassion International, was able to go to college to study education. Shortly after she started college, I became her sponsor through Compassion’s Leadership Development Program, and this weekend we celebrated her graduation. Through the letters we sent, we each saw the work of Jesus in the life of the other. When I finally met Sindy, I saw a person who was beautiful inside and out, transformed by her love for Jesus and for others.
"At the risk of sounding like and advertisement for Compassion International, I am thankful for their work. I first became a sponsor at the age of 13, and Compassion linked me with a 14-year-old girl in Brazil. Through letters and visits—this was my second visit—I became aware of Christians living, working, playing, and serving God in other places, in very different backgrounds to my own. I am so thankful for this opportunity, not only to bless others through gifts of letters, prayers, and financial support, but also to receive so much love. Through Compassion’s work, the communion of saints in Canada, the United States, and other developed countries has deeper ties to the communion of saints in developing countries like Peru.
"I am thankful for the optimism I saw in my Peruvian friends. Sometimes poverty seems too big to combat, but our God is bigger than poverty, and he has sent his church to serve the world. Even these people, confronted as they are by dire poverty every day, are convinced that someday poverty will end. I was inspired both by their faith and their hard work towards making that happen.
"I’m thankful for Keith, who supported me when I decided to go on this trip, and who welcomed me home with flowers and homemade pizza.
"I’m also thankful for clean tap-water, safe-to-eat raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables, the speed of air travel, and my grandparents, who encouraged and supported my college education for the past ten years."And now, some pictures. There are a lot, although they don't really do justice to my trip, since I really spent most of my time talking to people. It's funny, people ask me, "How was Lima?" but I really don't know how to respond, since I mostly saw people. The first day I visited a Compassion project. The kids were eating lunch, having reading help, playing, etc. I visited the kitchen, where some of the moms were cleaning up from lunch. (Lunch looked fabulous, by the way!) Check out those awesome soup pots. I think I have a fixation on soup, or something. :)
These kids were learning how to recognize common illnesses, by acting them out... why wasn't my health class more like this??
One highlight in Lima: there were olive trees, and they actually had olives on them! How cool!
Finally, meeting Sindy face to face! I also met her classmates, John, Joel, and Rosa.
Praying before the ceremony, and celebrating after!
Many people came to support Sindy: her pastor, her project director, her mentor, her mom, Sonia, her nephew, Israel, her grandmother, her cousin, Cesar, and me. (Am I really that tall??)
The president of Compassion, Wess Stafford, and Sixto, the LDP director in Ecuador, also attended. I ate breakfast with Wess, and watched him film a message for the Compassion workers in Peru. I also had a great chat with Sixto, who encouraged me to visit Ecuador as well.
After the ceremony was a dinner party, with great food and entertainment! We saw drumming and dancing by kids from Compassion projects (could you imagine an American or Canadian boy doing this sort of dancing??) and a Christian band playing traditional Peruvian music. Look at that guy... he's got 3 sets of pan-pipes, a flute, and a rattle! All at once! How cool is that?
I was also part of the entertainment, marking my first time playing viola da gamba outside of North America. I played early American hymn tunes. My viol was an object of curiosity wherever I went, from the guy at the hotel's front desk, to fellow travelers, to the security people at the airport, to Sindy's nephew...
Betsy helped me with my translation needs, and also with photography and general bag-shlepping. Silvia helped me the other two days.
The next day I spent wandering around Lima with Sindy, Sonia, Israel, and Silvia. We exchanged gifts (a homemade shawl for Sindy, and a homemade scarf for me... how funny!), talked, ate lunch, had coffee, and finally found a park where Israel could play, since he had a lot of energy. There was a clown in the playground, and somehow I also ended up with a clown nose.
Yep. That's about it. I had a good trip. Tell me if you want to hear more! :)