June 22, 2018
Missionaries often say that flexibility is a requirement for being on the mission field. I learned that in regards to flights in the summer of 2017 when I traveled to Mexico for a missions trip. Today, I got a second chance to learn a little more about flexibility. When heading out the door to be taken to the airport, I checked my flight schedule and saw that my first flight out of Roanoke, Virginia would be delayed for about 40 minutes. Traveling to Charlotte was a short trip, but the window of time to get to Miami was minimal. I missed the connection, but that was quite all right as another flight got me to Miami in just enough time for my 5:40 flight to Lima—my first international flight while by myself.
I rushed to my gate while trying to get one last chance to talk to my wife before leaving the country. Out of breath I arrived at the gate, and thankfully I didn’t miss it. This airplane also would be delayed…and delayed…and delayed. First a mechanical problem, then a rough storm, and then there was “difficulty filling the tank with fuel.” No problem again though, as we could just make it a red eye flight—but there was a problem. Lima’s airport closes at 2:30 a.m. until later in the morning, and we were projected to make it by around 3. We literally turned back from the runway to wait in line for hotel and food vouchers.
While certainly tiring and disappointing, I had the chance to meet a couple of very interesting people. First, I spoke with Joaquin. As we walked what seemed like a mile to the other end of the Miami airport we joked about the long commute. I found out that his destination was also Cusco, and naturally he asked what I would be doing—Machu Picchu, right? Well, that’s certainly a perk, but I responded that I would be teaching at a Bible institute. “Which denomination?” he asked. I shared that I was working with Baptist Mid-Missions, and to my surprise, he revealed that he had come to know Christ as Savior through the ministry of a BMM missionary when he lived in the Dominican Republic. And not only that, but he also was going to the region of Cusco for missions—specifically evangelizing through a summer camp.
Later in the evening, while I was standing in line for the vouchers and a bit tired from the incessant waiting of the day, I simply the person behind me if he was from Peru. We then got into my reason for heading to Peru, and when I shared that I was going to teach at a Bible institute, he told me that he has taught at Bible institute in Peru for ten years. Currently, he’s living in Chicago and attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). We then got into a wonderfully interesting discussion about Christianity and biblical education in Latin America. He spoke of the urgent need to help young Christian think and know why they believe what they believe. Instantly, this conversation reaffirmed why I was going to the mission field for three long weeks away from my family and comforts of the U.S.
June 23, 2018
I woke up this morning in a Holiday Inn, not in Peru of course, but in Miami due to the delays yesterday. Arriving at the airport with plenty of time, I used one of my food vouchers at a place called Juan Valdez Café. Wow, was this good. Not knowing what a espresso cubano was, I ordered it anyway because I’m always up for new coffee delights. This rich, double-shot espresso was mixed with brown sugar, which hit the spot to be sure. By 10:15, we boarded and left around 10:30. The crowd of a majority of native Peruvians clapped as we elevated into the air (in contrast to last night’s groans and probably a bunch of Spanish curse words that I couldn’t translate). Finally, the destination of Lima was on the horizon.
I had never seen such natural beauty from an airplane as we passed the snow-capped Andes Mountains piercing through the overcast, cloudy skies. Indeed, I was in Peru! I walked downstairs to get my 30-day tourist visa—nothing more than a stamp on my passport really. Then I proceeded to pick up my luggage to then transfer it to LATAM (Latin American Airlines). There were a lot of large, black suitcases that came off the plane. One came in after another. Yet as the rate of new suitcases slowed down in the baggage claim facility, I soon realized that my luggage wasn’t in Lima. This, of course, was pretty stressful, especially as I was trying to catch a plane to Cusco with little time remaining. After filling out paperwork, I quickly tried to check in for my receiving a boarding pass. The self-service machines were not working for me, so I waited in a rather long and slow-moving line. I didn’t know that I was going to make it. Providentially, a LATAM worker approached me and asked what I needed (there were probably 50 people in front of me at least). I said I didn’t have any luggage to check, just carry-ons, but I needed a boarding pass. “Come with me,” she replied. And within one minute I was on the way upstairs with my boarding pass in hand.
I took about an hour flight to Cusco, arriving in somewhat worn-down airport. Heading outside, I met up with a missionary in Cusco, Aaron, who had helped me tremendously with the baggage fiasco. He brought me to his home, where I was graciously welcomed by his wife and three young children. What I came to realize what made this trip so difficult thus far was not necessarily the craziness of late flights and missing baggage; it was traveling without a team. But just spending the evening with Aaron, his wife Stephenie, and children really took a great deal of stress off and provided much joy in our time of fellowship.
June 24, 2018
The blessing in disguise about the flight challenges was that I actually got to sleep for several hours in an actual bed. Had I arrived in Lima on time, I would’ve stayed overnight in the airport in order to catch the early morning flight out to Cusco. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast (and really delicious potato soup the previous evening) with the missionaries in Cusco, we went to their small local church nearby. After being dropped off via taxi ride (no parking places at this church), we walked up one street and were greeted by a steep dirt trail that led to the congregation’s modest building.
The people were very friendly and rather young (though there were several older adults as well). There was a keyboard, but no keyboardist, so I offered to play for their music. While I was told I was a blessing to them, it really was a blessing for me to be part of the ministry that Sunday morning. We sang about 5 or 6 songs (one I had to quickly sight read) and the pastor preached a heart-filled sermon. After the service, a young Peruvian boy went over to the keyboard to play. He pressed a button that teaches the song “Pachelbel’s Canon.” I asked him if he knew the name of the song, and he did. I then asked him if he knew “Fur Elise,” so I played that for him. We couldn’t speak a whole of one another’s spoken language, but we both love music, which really is a kind of language that can cross cultural and linguistic boundaries.
The missionary family took me out to lunch in the city. I enjoyed a stir-fry type of meal with beef, onions, and tomatoes. On the side, I had fries and white rice. This was all accompanied by an assortment of tasty sauces. After an enjoyable meal, Aaron took me to a transportation center, where a van would take me down to Urubamba—the final destination!
We traveled through the busy city streets, filled not just with cars, but people walking everywhere and not a few wandering dogs. The windy streets had plenty of twists and turns—and llamas of course! In this drive, poverty and picturesque landscape were everywhere. I was the only “gringo” in the van, so I was a little apprehensive about the exact location I was supposed to exit the vehicle. After trying to converse with my lackluster Spanish (or in Peru, it’s called Castellano to avoid some of the historical discomforts with the Spanish invaders), I left the vehicle to arrive at a gas station in Urubamba which, thankfully, was indeed the correct location. The local missionary in Urubamba, Rachel, and a high school intern picked me up and we traveled just a few minutes to the seminary campus. The final road that led to the campus had about few inches of room on each side of the vehicle. I was tremendously thankful to arrive at my room on campus with my lost luggage now found and back in my possession.
I changed into some dress clothes and then we walked about 8 or 9 minutes to a local church in Urubamba. This congregation was much larger than the one in the morning, but to attend each service was a privilege for me. After another song-filled service with plenty of preaching time, we returned to the campus, where I got a lot of my things in order and prepared for tomorrow’s day of classes.
June 25, 2018
Today was a packed day of many exciting things. I had ten students—which includes the high school intern—attend the first day of classes in my course, Doctrina I (Doctrine I). After getting the technology in order, I explained what was to be expected throughout the next three weeks of coursework. I’m using the materials of a previous professor, so thankfully a lot of the intricate work had already been prepared, though I did slightly amend a few things.
The students seemed to enjoy the teaching and were pretty involved when asking for volunteers or when I asked questions—they even laughed at my jokes! I covered every item I needed to cover today, which was a big accomplishment. The songs during the chapel service filled the room with the sound of a few dozen Peruvians, men and women, singing quite beautifully. In total, I taught for about three and half hours, plus the hour of chapel.
For lunch, there was chicken, rice, and potatoes alongside a soup with very similar ingredients (though a little bit of beef instead of chicken). At 2:30, we left for an absolutely breathtaking site called Ollantaytambo. I cannot adequately describe this ancient Incan fortress city, filled with ruins, terraces, and other unique imagery. As a tourist hub, there were numerous gift shops, including a chocolate museum, where I bought chocolate coffee and chocolate tea.
The team members that went, eight of us in total, were able to pass out dozens of tracts to people as well, written in Spanish. For dinner, I had an alpaca burger at a place called Hearts Café. This was quite delicious, as it was certainly a little “earthy” in flavor, fresh tasting, and served with fries (and what seemed like homemade ketchup).
On the way back, the lead missionary for our group, Rachel, picked up some of the best tasting bread I’ve ever had. It was lightly sweet, soft, and very fresh. It was a busy Monday, but man was it enjoyable. I am in complete awe of the beauty of the sites of Peru, but also am greatly encouraged by the spirit of the people here. Our team of missionaries, teachers, translators, etc. is also a fantastic bunch! I look forward to what tomorrow might bring.