I am back in Arequipa after our first trip to Cusco! (I will be moving to Cusco near the end of October to plant three churches there with my Peruvian partner.) And let me just start off by saying, although I love Arequipa, Cusco feels like home.
Nine of us went on this trip, including a couple of the 40/40s for Arequipa. We left on Friday evening on a bus, and were technically supposed to arrive within ten hours.
That didn't happen.
About an hour outside of Arequipa, we got a flat tire, which took about two hours to fix.
So we arrived a little late on Saturday morning, and even though we were running on very little sleep, we jumped right into outreach.
We met up with the group of short-term volunteers from Alaska, Idaho, and Illinois, and headed to a market to hold a children's festival there. This included Rico Cuy, the guinea pig mascot who walked around to invite kids to the festival, ballons, face-painting, games, jump ropes, puppets, salvation bracelets, and several kids, parents, and even grand-parents making decisions for Jesus Christ.
Afterwards, we went to the construction site, aka, our future home! The team has been working so hard and got so much done in spite of the rain. We have a foundation and four walls finished on the three-floor building that will house a church, 40/40 dorms, and an apartment for our cluster support family.
That night, we had a huge dinner at the hotel for the families who had come to VBS the week prior. This was an excellent opportunity to practice Spanish! It is really cool to see how God is developing in me a love for the people. We made some great contacts that night, hopefully the beginning of relationships that can grow once we move to Cusco.
Sunday began with breakfast and a devotional, because the one Nazarene church in Cusco only has Sunday service in the evening. Afterwards, we went to the bus station to buy our tickets, and went out to see a few sights. We went to the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city. (Basically every city and pueblo has a plaza in the center.) Cusco's Plaza is particularly impressive! We had lunch at the plaza too. For the record, the food in Arequipa is a little more rico. I'll have to get my fill of empanadas before I move to Cusco!
We had a clothing drive at the church that afternoon. The church is in a fairly poor part of town, so many of the members are living in poverty. The pastor's wife invited people that she knew were in need of clothes, and we helped to pass them out.
Then we had the church service, and sang songs in Spanish and English. The sermon was also translated, so I didn't have to work hard to understand it! Three people accepted Christ that night! Gloria a Dios!
We weren't planning to stay for Monday, but boy are we glad we did! After breakfast, we headed out to two sites of future church plants. What an incredible opportunity for us to go see the pueblos where we will be planting churches. The team has been doing this all week, going to the different sites to pray and annoint the ground where God is going to move in so many people's lives.
After the prayer, we hung out at the Plaza for awhile just to talk with people. The idea was just to offer to pray for people, no strings attached, and then hopefully start a conversation with them about Jesus. This is a really simple way to do evangelism. And we got to tell a lot of people that we are going to be starting a church there!
After lunch (which was an adventure in itself!) all of the ladies went to a place called Mantay, which means "mother" in Quechua. It is a home for adolescent mothers, ages 12-18. Most of the twelve girls currently living there with their twelve children were victims of abuse. So we just went to try to show them the love of Jesus! We brought lotion and fingernail polish to give them manicures, and showed the movie Magdalena, a version of the Jesus Film specifically for women. It was beautiful because it showed how Jesus accepted and cared for women, even the outcasts of society. Then we got to lead the girls in a prayer of salvation, and all of them accepted Christ! We cannot wait to go back and start discipling these girls!
So that was our weekend in Cusco, because just after leaving Mantay, we went to the bus station to return to Arequipa.
Now I would like to ask you to pray for the people of Cusco. You may have heard about all the rain in Cusco, but what you might not realize is how devastating this rain has been. Most of the houses in Cusco are made of adobe, so when the rain comes, they basically crumble. While driving into Cusco, we passed a tent city that has been set up for the many people who have lost their homes. There have also been serious mudslides that have cost people their lives. In addition, Cusco is a tourist city, so nearly all of the people's livelihoods depend on tourist revenue. With the rain, Machu Pichu, the main attraction, has been closed, so very few tourists are coming. This means there is so much devastation in more ways than one. But we also need to pray that God will be softening the hearts of the people to hear His gospel message and tearing down the walls that will hinder this ministry.