the kiddos

the kiddos

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Love in Any Language

So, I know I am going to date myself with this one but back in the day I loved to listen to Sandi Patty. She was one of my favorite Christian artists and she had a song called "Love in Any Language". She sings of how we are all different but how the important things, like love, are the same. That song came to mind as I was thinking about our trip to Peru.

Obviously there are many things that are different in Peru. The obvious difference is that they speak Spanish. Another big difference is that you can't flush your toilet paper. That was a tricky one! Also, they drink a delicious beverage called Inca Kola! I don't even drink soda but I LOVE it! Their homes are different, oftentimes protected by a wall/gate at the street with some type of deterrent at the top of the wall (barbed wire, broken glass, etc). Even though it was "winter" there, the flowers and flowering trees are incredibly beautiful! Also, the avocados are ginormous! We were told that these were medium sized!!

Walls protecting the homes or businesses within

Park along El Malecón in Miraflores

Medium sized avocados
But even with all of the differences, there were so many things that are not different! Children playing and laughing, praise and worship (if it is different it is because some songs sound prettier in Spanish!!), the love parents have for their children, and the positive effect we can have on one another, to name a few!

During one of our block parties in front of the house in La Victoria, a young girl on our trip began playing with a sweet little boy. She would gather up the hoola hoops and roll them to him. He would smile and squeal with delight, give them back to her and she would repeat. I am not exaggerating when I say they did this for probably an hour! And he never tired of it! Lauren made a friend named Kaory coloring with sidewalk chalk. The sweet girl didn't want to do anything else, only color with Lauren! There was a soccer game going on, face painting, Twister, and at one point even a game of Pato, Pato, Ganso (the Spanish version of Duck, Duck, Goose). We couldn't communicate with our words but we could play and laugh!
Cait setting up the pins for these cuties to bowl

Lauren and Kaory

Sierra and the hoops
Hank was the Ganso!

The super cool thing about this is that the parents were standing around beaming with joy as they watched their kids playing and laughing. And Sierra had the privilege of watching her friend's mother raise her hand to accept Jesus as her Savior! Sierra investing in this little boy opened the door for the mother to trust us and Camino de Vida.

Also, as the week progressed, the families in the neighborhood would gather outside and watch us work. We weren't asking them to participate in the clean up - no words were spoken. But as we began cleaning up the area in front of the house, neighbors began sweeping in front of their homes. We were leading by example!

And probably one of the highlights for me (okay, I know there were many) was the praise and worship! On that last morning, after pouring our hearts and souls and strength into getting the house ready, we walked into the main room where the guys were practicing for the service and we were overwhelmed with the worship. It was so beautiful! The wonder and awe associated with praising God for all that He is and all that He has done and for His love and grace is the same in any language! Many of us were completely overwhelmed with emotions - for all that had taken place over the week, for all of the potential in that place, for the opportunity to be part of something so much bigger than us, and with all of the love for these people and the La Victoria community! It didn't matter that we didn't know all of the words or that we couldn't pronounce them exactly right - the worship behind the words was what is what should always matter the most.

I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to go to Lima and I am so thankful I did not let a language barrier keep me from going! A hug, a smile, love - they mean the same thing and have the same effect in Lima as they do at home!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hospitality is Alive and Well in Lima, Peru

Have you ever been someplace where you felt at home immediately? Where you felt comfortable and welcome? Growing up that place was my grandma's house. Partially it was because her house was fun - she had a swimming pool, she always kept crayons there for me and she had little candy bars stashed in various places but more than anything it was the way she and my grandpa treated us. It was the way they spoke, the way they considered us in plans, the way they loved on us. No other place has ever felt quite like Grandma and Grandpa's house.

When I consider the time we spent in Peru - one thing that I keep coming back to is the way we were received. The people at Camino de Vida were absolutely incredible! Obviously they were happy to have a group of people come to help finish a very big project but it went so far past that!

Israel and the crew on the bus

I should start with Israel Chavez. Our trip would not have been the same if not for this guy! He was our constant companion, our translator and our friend. He sacrificed his time (vacation time) and time with his wife and four kids to be with us. He made sure to show us some of the coolest places in Lima, made sure to introduce us to some of the best food in Peru, came early several mornings to walk us 20 minutes to the best coffee shop in Lima, helped us pick out chocolate at the grocery store, rescued us at the check out when the cashier was speaking muy rapido en Espanol, and did an incredible impression of our Catacomb tour guide. He is an incredible story teller and we so enjoyed hearing about his time in the US in high school and about the first time he ever saw his wife. Also, he is like a legit praise and worship rock star! My daughters and I agree, meeting Israel was a highlight of our trip and it wouldn't have been the same without his investment in our lives and our trip.

Look at those smiles!

Then there were the ladies and gentlemen in the kitchen!! I want to remember their sweet faces forever. They cooked and cleaned and chopped literally all day (they started before we arrived each day and were always working when we left preparing for the next day) to serve us some of the best food I have ever eaten! I actually think I gained weight while I was there!!! And they were genuinely happy to do it.

Dominique, Haley and Stephany

Then there were these two, Stephany and Dominique! They were so very gracious, constantly checking on us, going floor to floor offering water and checking to see if we needed anything. They were eager to try to talk with us and build relationships despite the language barrier! They truly have a heart of serving and hospitality and it blessed us!! And look at those beautiful smiles!!

Jon Carlos and Braxton

The beautiful Veronica Chiang

And I can't forget to mention Jon Carlos and Veronica. Jon Carlos will be running the house in La Victoria and he has such a heart for this community. He was so grateful to have us there and was so sweet to us. Veronica was amazing! She went out with us on outreaches to help us with our Spanish (which improved while were were there but is still VERY lacking!) She is genuinely kind, extremely patient, funny and loving and we are blessed to know her!

These are just a few of the people who blessed us while they were there but honestly, there was an overall spirit of hospitality! We felt so welcome and loved! I think that is part of the reason it was so hard to say goodbye! I didn't expect to fall in love with the people of Peru - but I did!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:9 (amplified version)
Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him).

This is exactly the way they received us - they are representatives of Christ and I pray that every person who steps foot in the La Victoria house senses this love and grace. That they feel welcome in that place and in the family of God!

Back at home, it is our job to make sure we make others feel this way in our homes and in our church. It is more than saying hello as a visitor comes through the door. It is a genuine smile, a conversation, meeting needs and loving them! It is slowing down a bit to actually listen when someone talks. It is considering others in our plans, taking into consideration how we would want to be treated. I need to grow in this - I will use my sweet friends in Peru as my example!!

Muchas gracias, mi nueva familia! Te amo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Meet Lisa Alfonsi

So, I feel like I should tell you that in general I find myself getting pretty disgusted  and discouraged with and by humanity in general. I often shake my head when I consider all of the horrible things going on around the world that people allow and usually applaud. And don't get me wrong...I've not done much to help the situation. I find myself asking the question, "what can one person do, really?" In fact, I realized on this trip that I have a character flaw (ok one of many). When I don't feel like I can do something with excellence and finish a task in a reasonable amount of time, I just don't start the task. The problems seem impossible. However, on my trip to Lima, I met people doing things to make a difference. I met people willing to do whatever it takes to obey the call of God on their lives. And I realized that everything you do to make a difference, even if seemingly small, God can multiply to make a difference for and in many! I'd like to tell you about one of those people - her name is Lisa.

One day while in Lima Caitlin, Lauren, Sierra and I had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage with Lisa.

Caitlin, Lauren, Sierra and me
Lisa and 3 year old Adriano

Lisa is an occupational therapist who works with children with various disabilities in Lima. She serves at two local orphanages and will have an OT room at the new Camino de Vida house in La Victoria. There are 24 children who live in this house and while it is sad that they do not have parents, Lisa encouraged us to remember that while they live in this house, they are cared for, receive medical care and therapy, are bathed and fed, etc. Oftentimes parents of disabled children do not have the resources or the knowledge to appropriately care for their children. We so enjoyed watching her with Adriano, a sweet 3 year old boy who stole our heart with his sweet smile and we were so thrilled to see him progress in the short session Lisa had with him! Watching Lisa speak sweetly to each child, gently caressing their hair and kissing their sweet little heads melted my heart.

She uses a platform swing with most of her kiddos. I'd never seen anything like it but we loved watching her use the swing in her therapy session. The kids loved it and really responded well. I was reminded of how much my nieces and nephews enjoy their time on the swing and thought it was so cool that something like that could be used to help children in so many different ways! She mentioned that she had donated her swing to this particular orphanage so she would be without one at her new location at the La Victoria house.  I hope to help her remedy this situation!!
Adriano and the platform swing
I was blown away by this young lady and her commitment to being obedient to God and loving on and working with children. She only worked with 3 kids that particular day but she impacted the 4 of us forever and inspired us to do more and to love more. She is making a difference in Peru and I don't think we will know the full story on the difference she has made until we get to heaven! I can't wait to celebrate with her when she receives her crown!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Exceedingly Abundantly Above and Beyond

So, I haven't blogged for a very long years. But, my daughters and I have just returned from a missions trip to Lima, Peru with COTM Missions serving at Camino de Vida and I have to start putting some of my thoughts into words to process them. Plus, this way if people want to know details about the trip - they can read the blog and I won't bore to tears someone who is completely uninterested by telling story after story after story!

I think I need to say that I decided to go on this trip because my daughters wanted to go on this trip. COTM had several trips a person could sign up for but Caitlin wanted to go to Peru and she is under 18 so she had to be accompanied by an adult. When we had our first meeting before the trip and everyone was sharing why they were going to Peru - I felt like an imposter. God had not spoken audibly to me telling me to go to Lima, I had never really even considered the Peruvian people. One guy from our group had already made several trips to Peru, one had been praying for Peru since he was a child, even my older daughter, Lauren, had had this particular church on her heart for years. For me, I knew that I wanted to serve God somewhere...I knew that I wanted to go on a missions trip...I knew that I wanted my kids to have a missions trip experience - where they come back more thankful for their lives and their things and their parents. I wanted them to see how good they have it. So even the whole time we were raising the funds to go I felt like I was piggybacking on Caitlin's desire to go to Lima. I felt fake.

When the time for the trip was drawing close, people began telling us to have fun and there was always talk of a trip like this changing your life but I felt like it was wrong to expect to have fun...I felt like the priority should be on changing the lives of others - not on personally having an experience.

What I found was that serving God, being obedient and willing to serve others does it all - it changed me, it changed the community, it changed my daughters, and it was fun! God is so cool like that - serving Him blesses everyone involved - it wasn't either/or! I can't think of a time in my life where I worked as hard and laughed as much or loved as deeply or felt like I was making a difference or made as many lifetime friends or was as proud of my daughters, and on and on and on!

The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all I can ask or think (infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams)..and that is exactly what He did!