Hey, I know that girl …

Here it is, my last night in Arequipa. I waited at the home for one of the girls to come home from work, so I could say goodbye to her. Mirella will be gone when I get there tomorrow morning. We had a good chat together, and a less difficult goodbye this time, because this time we knew I would be back, and with my family.

Mirella is a very bright young girl. She has just finished high school, and as I understand it, she has the Peruvian equivalent of the SAT coming up in April. If she does well enough, and God provides a way, she might be able to fulfill her dream of going to the university and becoming a psychologist. Pray for Mirella.

I got back to the hotel later than usual, but I still went back out. I wanted to walk up to the Plaza de Armas, the big public park about a mile away, which is surrounded by all sorts of shops and restaurants. I bought a coffee at the Cusco Cafe, and decided to just walk around the plaza until I was finished drinking it. As usual, there must have been a thousand people milling about.

As I walked along in front of the big cathedral, I noticed a young girl who was helping out a very old woman. This girl looked straight at me and began to say something. I immediately expected a plea for help or money, but as she began I could swear I recognized her. I listened to her very quite voice as she asked, “Are you a pastor?” and “Have you been to the Casa Hogar Torre Fuerte?”

Continue reading “Hey, I know that girl …”

Downs and ups …

Myra

The day started out with kids scattered all over, in the kitchen, dining hall, play room playing games outside, and on the swings and monkey bars. I played a little with the kids, a game they call “kiwi” – at least that’s how it sounds. I know I’m not in great shape, but I know some of this is the altitude – just a couple of minutes and I was sucking air, and sitting down on the sidewalk.

A moment later, several of the little girls came running to me, chattering something about Myra. They pointed, and I followed. I found little Myra under the monkey bars, lying on the safety mat there, with her eyes rolled back and barely responding. I could discern that her elbow was hurting pretty bad, and told the girls to run and get some of the other adults. By the time they came, Myra was a little more responsive, and I determined that I could pick her up and carry her to the big game room, where there are sofas to lie on. I didn’t know what to do but pray for her. It was all kind of scary, but in an hour or so she was feeling pretty good. By the time I left tonight, she was showing me her elbow and telling me she was fine.

Monica

It was shortly after this excitement, that two of the older girls approached me, obviously with something on their minds.Ursula did all the talking, as she informed me that Monica would like for me to be her “padrino”, or godfather.

I’m not sure what all that entails, except that when she turns 15 in a little over a year, I would be her sponsor/dad. I didn’t know what was involved, but what do you say to a young girl, whose parents have both died from aids, when she asks such a question? I said yes.

Chicas traviesas

Rosa and Anais

There are two girls at Torre Fuerte who are the most mischievous. Anais and Rosa are probably in trouble a lot, but they’re also a lot of fun. Never mean or malicious, just a couple of kids always looking for a laugh. They’re both the kind of kids you’d rather not see with an egg or a bucket of water. I really do like these kids. They make me laugh. Today was such a special day with them.

As Anais asked me some questions outside the dining room, we sat on the sidewalk and began to talk. (Both of these girls, by the way, have become very helpful and patient with the language barrier) As Anais and I talked, I was aware of one of the girls lying next to me and putting her head on my lap. I didn’t even look at first, because this kind of need for closeness and affection is so common there.

We were halfway through a discussion about some English grammar, when I glanced down and realized that Rosa was curled up next to me, sound asleep.

Our conversation turned as Anais asked how long until I leave and when I would come back. She had not heard our plans. I was feeling pretty good about using past tense to describe my call, present tense to describe our current efforts, and future tense to talk about our plans to move to Arequipa. Anais even interjected at one point that my Spanish is getting much better.

But things changed in the conversation as I told Anais of our plans, and my call to help in the home, and she began to get a little emotional and I had a hard time finishing my story. So there I sat, with these two bookends, chicas traviesas, on either side of me. One was asleep with her head on my lap, and the other was getting choked up over my plans to serve in the home.   I love these kids, even the “troublemakers”, and I believe that God has great things in store for them.

Pray for Anais and Rosa. They’re good kids.

Peru italiana

We took a group of the older girls out to dinner last night, to a very nice Italian restaurant. The team from Twisp, WA, a few translators, Paul Eklund, and I escorted these young ladies for this rare treat.

A few of us climbed onto the bus, a half hour late, waiting for the girls to join us. To get them moving a little faster, it was suggested the the bus start moving out. It worked. Girls came running from all over, and soon they were piling on the bus.

Leonor

There are a few of these girls who have kept their distance, and I have respected that. I figured they would begin to establish a relationship when they were ready. I was pleased to find Leonor suddenly acting as if we’d been friends for years. Our group was large enough to have a room to ourselves, and two large tables. Leonor was insistent that I sit with her.

The menus were distributed, and I soon found out that Leonor had never had Italian food, and thought it was a little weird. As we went through the menu, I found her to be a pretty fussy eater. She most definitely does not like garlic, and requested dessert numerous times.

She finally asked me to pick something “rico” for her. I suggested that I pick two dishes I thought she might like, let her taste both, and pick the one she liked best. Leonor has decided that Lasagna es muy rico!! Asparagus, mushrooms, and sausage … not so much. We used the same approach for dessert, and she liked both of them.

It was such a blessing to develop this new friendship, and to be able to treat this young lady to a nice dinner. It was a fun night for all, with  lots of laughs, lots of good memories, and a new friend for me.

Everything I had imagined …

I was able to make a surprise visit to Torre Fuerte on Tuesday, walking in with Paul Eklund of Lightshine Ministries, another big supporter of the home. Since leaving this place last June, I have imagined what it would be like to come back. I made many very special friendships here, and couldn’t wait to see them again. I wondered, though, was our time at Torre Fuerte as significant to those girls as it was to us? Were we just another work team to come through and then be forgotten over time?

I walked in on Tuesday morning, and as soon as I stepped into the yard, I was swarmed by shouting and screaming kids, very much surprised by my visit. Little Tatiana, who had been in the wading pool on the roof of the cafeteria, ran straight up to me and gave me a hug. So I was a little wet; it was a great reception.

I can freely acknowledge that there is some personal satisfaction in being liked by the kids. But there’s more to it than that. This is the place I feel God is calling me and my family to serve. The greeting these kids gave me just reaffirmed that we had developed something very special back in June. There was no time needed waiting for the girls to “warm up to me” or remember me. It was as if, in their minds, I had come home.

At this point, I have spent half a day with Pastor Dario and a translator, working out some of the details of my ministry here. He wanted to hear the story of my call here, as well as discuss expectations between us, possible housing locations, and the absolute necessity of our support coming from the US.

The rest of my time has been spent visiting with the girls: answering their questions, explaining why I’m here, explaining why my son Micah is not, updating the kids of the people in our June work team, and getting lots of instruction and correction in my Spanish.

There have been a few very special moments. As I have explained our plans to several of the girls – plans I thought they were aware of – their eyes have gotten big as they’ve thrown their arms around my neck. Little Tatiana took me aside yesterday to let me know that I am a “very special person” to her. When you understand the backgrounds of abuse and abandonment these kids have, a statement like that gives you a lump in your throat.

Part of my goal for my time here is to establish a relationship with the rest of the girls – those I had not really gotten to know in June. These are mostly the very youngest and very oldest of the girls. I was taken by the hand yesterday, eventually by four or five of the little ones, and given a two hour Spanish lesson. Very cute, but also very helpful. The relationship with those kids is underway. I have also made significant headway with some of the older girls, although some of them are painfully shy and very shattered by their past.

All in all, I’m having a blast, doing exactly what I feel God has called me to do. Still, your prayers are very much appreciated.

I’ll be in Peru tomorrow …

I’m heading for Seattle late tonight, for a departure at 8 am. This will be a first for me – traveling outside of the States alone, with no work team to coordinate. Rick Daviscourt will be in Lima to greet me when I get there.

Prayers for a safe and productive trip would be greatly appreciated. I’ll post whatever I can during my two weeks there – lots more than I have been posting, I’m sure.

Seeya soon …

Back to Peru

Well, it looks like I’ll be headed back to Peru on the 15th of this month for another two week visit.

I’ve been asked to go with Rick and spend some time getting to know some of their other ministries, as well as some of the inner workings of the ministry in Peru.

It sounds like there will be lots of meetings, introductions, traveling – reason enough to get back to that schedule of four hours of Spanish study per day. I seem to pick up the language better when I’m there, but I want to be as prepared as possible.

I’m anxious to visit Torre Fuerte again. I’m hoping my visit can be a little bit of a surprise to all of my friends there. I’m bringing the scarves/gloves that our youth group made for each of the girls, as well as some photos of some of our church members – especially the team members they’ll recognize.

We took some pictures yesterday at a youth group sledding party. Those should be a hit with a bunch of girls who have never seen snow. Too bad I can’t bring a snowball along with me.

I’ll be posting here as the trip progresses, no doubt.