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Peru Stories

by Anna Gandy
I have this desire to have a simplified take away from ten days in and around Kusi, Peru, but I haven’t been able to stratify any thoughts to the extent of creating some kind of moral or theme. Maybe there’s a metaphor in the gigantic mound of dirt that the mission team and I spent days moving approximately five feet to the left that never seemed to end. Something about the seeming futility of life and little things being what make up something great, but I don’t really have it yet. Peru was this incredibly rich experience that I can not succeed in putting into words, but I will attempt to do anyway.

There is this strangeness in how similar things in places continents apart can be. The boys at the home we stayed and worked at played soccer and threw things at the dogs and wrestled just like boys their age do everywhere. They just spoke Spanish. Church services in Yunguy felt like services here in Huntsville, again just in Spanish. I came with this expectation of massive cultural differences, but instead was given this portrait of similarity in human nature. People there struggle with drugs and alcohol, lack of faith and instances of human cruelty. People here struggle with the same things. They may manifest themselves differently, but at heart there’s the commonality of searching for identity and searching for purpose. There’s a commonality in finding joy and finding pain in interacting with other people, in a deep desire to love and be loved. It’s so easy to forget that humanity is universal. It’s so beautiful that it is.

Cultural differences still do exist. Peru has less material, so it bases less value on material things. There is a pure joy found in the boys there that exists not from having much, but from having contentment with little. There is less ambition for things like higher education because it’s simply not something that is in reach. Things are accomplished not through the intensity of desire as in the United States, but through practical consideration of what can and cannot be done. It is not for a lack of passion, nor is it something better or worse than the American ideology that anything is possible. It is simply how life is.

Life in the mountains of Peru was easy to adapt to. I missed the high availability of hot water for showers, but I did not miss the air conditioning. There was no feeling of loss accompanying a lack of my phone and thus a lack of internet and social media. The mountains were astonishingly beautiful, food was different but delightful, work was hard but in the pleasant way that an intense work out is hard. Coming back to America was jarring. I held my phone again and it felt like a completely foreign object in my hands. Suddenly the world was at my fingertips again and I realized I might not want it to be. There was an immediate loss of contentedness that I was entirely aware I had until the feeling had been replaced by the very American striving for something more. In Peru I looked at myself in the mirror maybe once every two days and suddenly I returned to seeing my reflection more than every hour. I did not feel at home in my house and it was odd to lack a relief in getting there. Everything is so much more in America than in Peru; more electricity, more buildings, more choices. It’s overwhelming.

I’m still not sure of the moral of my Peru story. I’m honestly still a little overwhelmed to be in the states again. I am undoubtably ready to continue to travel, to continue experiencing different cultures and different people. If I was asked to leave again tomorrow, I would. I miss the mountains. I miss the night sky full of South America’s stars. I continue to look for fulfillment and hope to one day reach this enlightenment that supposedly exists and know why I’m here and why it matters that I am. Maybe as a result of this trip I’ll attempt to live a little more simply, to want less, to gather less worth from how well I’m received on the internet, to gather less worth from my appearance and more from my actions. Maybe I’ll learn from the example of boys who are happy with much less. Maybe I’ll have more faith like the couple who gave up their lives to raise forty abandoned boys because that’s what God called them to do. At the very least I’ve gained lots of photos of me covered in mud and some random Spanish phrases, but I so hope that is not all.

by Steve Williams
I love youth, and have spent much of my time working with the youth wherever God has led me, which has been primarily at Southwood over the past several years.  As far as missions outside the country, the Peru mission trip was my first experience of this type as it is a significant commitment of time away from the office.  Although we met several times prior to leaving for Peru, I was still somewhat uncertain what to expect when we gathered at the airport and headed out.  We were equipped with a great energetic team that was focused on the mission of expressing God’s grace to the boys and staff at Kusi.  What God had planned for us was more amazing than I think anyone in the group expected.

The first adjustment was the loss of communications.  I’m used to seeing people with their smartphones in-hand texting, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc.  Instead they were talking, reading and playing cards.  The adjustment seemed instantaneous and it was good to see that we can survive and even thrive with and without our electronic attachments.  Travel was long as we flew the first day and spent 10 hours on a bus the second day to get to Yungay.  The team was greeted with Peruvian hospitality and we felt very welcome at their home in Kusi.  We played a quick game of soccer, in which the boys graded our ball skills, at least subconsciously.

We spent the week moving rocks, mixing concrete and making adobe bricks which included moving several cubic yards of dirt 10 feet to break it up and remove the rocks and mixing it with water and straw and placing into the molds.  Sounds easier than it is, and I was extremely proud of how the team worked together!  Follow that with wrestling, soccer and just running around with the boys and you have one of the most effective weight loss programs developed, if it was not for the wonderful food that was provided.  Now to what really mattered; the boys, ages six to nineteen.  I have not seen the contentment here that I experienced in Kusi.  These boys had a soccer ball, trompos (wooden tops), frisbee (that I think was eaten by Sam the big dog), some marbles, two bikes and a scooter; no XBox, TV, phones, cars etc.  The boys almost always were smiling and seemed thrilled to have us there with them.  We did crafts with the boys and just hung out with them trying to speak Spanish and they would reciprocate with a little English. The highlight of the week for me was Thursday night at the campfire.  A few of the boys shared their testimony, however one of the boys had been at the home for several years and he shared his testimony for the first time with us.  What a special moment it was as Rosa and Anhil (the house parents) came to his side as he shared.  God’s love and grace covers Kusi and it’s evident in the boys.

I went to express God’s love and grace and I felt that I was the recipient from the boys, the staff and the team rather than the provider.  I think the boys enjoyed spending the time with us even more than they like Nutella!  The team was tired at the end of the week, but there wasn’t anyone who wouldn’t have stayed longer if possible.  We left at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and the boys came out to see us off with warm wishes and hugs.  I’m pretty sure most of our kids are asleep at that time on Saturdays, but not saying they didn’t go back inside and climb in bed.

What did I bring back from Peru?  A clearer understanding of the work God is doing in Kusi, boundless grace, love for the boys and my own Trompo.