An Adventure in Perspective
First, thanks to all who supported this trip. It was a blessing. For those who haven’t heard the details, here’s the story (If you prefer to just skip to the photos–links at the bottom)…
River Valley Church, where Winnie and I attend, has a ministry called Global Project. I was part of a team that participated in a ministry trip to the Amazon – Global Team Peru 2014. Our task was to travel to a village and build a church–one they’d been seeking in prayer for over 5 years. A lot of the experience was familiar from my years leading groups of youth on mission trips, and time spent in Mexico and Central America. I’d never been to Peru. It was very similar to other Spanish speaking countries, but the jungle was new and very cool.
Welcome to the Jungle
We flew into Lima, Peru, took a local flight to Iquitos and connected with the YWAM (youth with a mission) base there. After getting our bearings and repacking for the jungle, they connected us with a group of people that run a ministry on the Amazon. They have a heart for the villages and the people that live on the river, and they were our connection to one particular village where we’d be staying and working. There was instant acceptance, and we started getting to know them as we took a 9+ hour boat ride up the river.
Around dusk, we arrived to open arms. We were late, and were surprised that everyone in the village was waiting expectantly. They had clearly done their best to tidy up the area, and were all bathed and dressed up for our welcome. After showing us the homes where we’d be staying, they held a worship service and they welcomed us officially. It was the beginning of many days getting to know them and learning about their lives.
The framework of the church had been built in advance by locals. That work was headed by Listo (Lee-stow), a talented, humble man. He is also part of the river ministry and it was his boat we arrived in. We spent the next 5 days finishing the church (they held nightly services even in its rough state). It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun.
The most impressive thing to learn, was watching how they cut all the lumber for the building from the surrounding forest. They had a chainsaw, which they used to cut huge trees, and then milled them into usable lumber of varying lengths and thicknesses, all with ONLY that chainsaw (see photos)! Their only tools for building were hammers, some hand saws, and most impressive, machetes. When fitting boards, they use machetes to trim and fit them with amazing precision. They could have finished it without us, but needed the resources. That’s what we brought, and we teamed up to finish the church together. It was hilarious to see all these Americans come in with power tools and a generator, trying to do it their way (wasting a ton in the process) to show them how to do it “better.” Everyone was cool though. Perceptions changed and we found a balance.
During our 6 days there, I had many opportunities to get to know the villagers, play with the kids, talk with different people from the river and ask tons of questions (answering a bunch in return). They were happy to share their lives, perceptions, dreams and desires. They taught me about their customs, food they harvested to eat and trade, plants, animals and many other things their jungle home provided.
I was the only one that spoke Spanish from the team of 19 men (aside from a translator that was around for parts). I was concerned that I’d lost too much of my modest language skills, since it had been many years since I’d spoken. It was either a God thing or memory triggered by the setting (probably both). Once I was on the scene, it all came flooding back. In conversation, I easily recalled words and phrases I’d forgotten I knew. It was a blessing, and it felt good to be helpful. It also allowed me to connect in a way others couldn’t and allowed me a much different experience than the rest of the team.
It was great to connect so easily with people who have nothing in common with us except one thing–their love for Christ. It’s like we knew each other already, even though we traveled from another world to meet them. This relationship aligned and connected us beyond anything the world would say divides us. It was refreshing to be reminded of how great our Father’s love is, in a very real way.
The biggest impact on me was being so acutely reminded how wealthy we are here in the US (not just rich…wealthy)! Living in a country included in the top 1% of the world’s wealth, we rarely encounter how most of the world lives (except in news bytes and interesting facts). Personally, experiences like this really help me appreciate what I have, and embarrassed at some of the things I consider problems.
Many of you have experienced this awareness, and it really puts things into proper perspective. It is mind blowing every time I see it up close, and it’s easy to forget when we’re regularly surrounded by so much excess. Almost every time we “don’t have” something, it usually just means temporarily. I don’t have a car…at the moment, until I buy another one. I haven’t eaten…since lunch, or because I haven’t been to the grocery store yet.
There’s also a general lack of healthy appreciation and perspective of our possessions. Without even talking about the types of houses we have in the US, consider a more humble living space–an apartment. Even a modest one has comforts that would amaze most of the world–things like heat, air, drinking water, showers, beds, closets full of clothes, etc. You get the point. Even our big struggles are embarrassing next to the reality of how most in the world lives.
There’s a lot more I could share, but this is long enough, and should give you an idea what it was like. I left with connections that I continue to maintain, both personally and professionally.
Dejando Huellas (“Leaving Footprints”)
Amazon River Ministry
In addition to the limited visit, I’m also working with Listo and others who minister to the people living on the river. They’re dedicated, organized and are wisely utilizing the resources they have, but they need stateside support to really make it happen. We’re in the process of developing a website to make it easier for US teams and individuals to partner with them in their ministry. If this sounds like something you’d like to support, keep an eye on http://leavingfootprintsriverministry.com (http://dejandohuellasministeriorio.com for the Spanish counterpart). Coming this summer.
Thanks for Reading This Far
I’m happy to answer any questions you have. I highly recommend going on one of the Global Team trips. Even if the Amazon doesn’t interest you, they take teams all over the world. It’s definitely worth the small sacrifice. Thanks for your time and God bless.