Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Extreme Peru Vlog #5



The JNI (Nazarene Youth) of Arequipa--which, by the way, includes all single young people ages 12-40-- have begun doing a joint service each Saturday night at one of the four churches, and they have let the 40/40s get involved.

This past Saturday, it was at my church, Umacollo. Brandi was in charge of directing the games, I sang a song and Alex and Blake played with me, and a bunch of our team did choreography to "I Can Only Imagine. It was awesome:

The song I sang was "More Love, More Power," so I'll leave you with the lyrics, exactly as I sang them:

Más amor, más poder, más de ti en mi vida
Más amor, más poder, más de ti en mi vida

Y te alabaré con todo mi corazón
Te alabaré con toda mi mente
Te alabaré con toda mi fuerza
Porque eres mi Dios

More love, more power, more of you in my life
More love, more power, more of you in my life

And I will worship you with all of my heart
I will worship you with all of my mind
I will worship you with all of my strength
For you are my God

And I will seek your face with all of my heart
I will seek your face with all of my mind
I will seek your face with all of my strength
For you are my God

Y te alabaré con todo mi corazón
Te alabaré con toda mi mente
Te alabaré con toda mi fuerza
Poque eres mi Dios, eres mi Dios

Monday, April 26, 2010

*Important Prayer Request*

My roommate Brandi, a fellow 40/40 from Ohio, is headed to Lima tonight for some important doctor's appointments and tests.

She has been having problems with her neck and back since our trip to Cusco, so she has been in pain for weeks, and it has been progressively getting worse. She now has pain and numbness down her left arm, can't sit down for any length of time, and standing hurts as well.

Pray for her as she gets an MRI and has other tests done, and as she sees a neurosurgeon. She is in unbearable pain all the time, and even though she tries to be a trooper about it, she can't do anything anymore.

Extreme Peru Vlog #4


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Musings on Religion in Peru

Last week, I broke my promise to blog at least once a week. I'll try to do better.

Things have been crazy! I don't really even know why; we are just starting to wrap up language school, so we have finals. My class has to take four: a written one, a listening one, an oral one, and our written-out speech counts as a written one. We also just took a test on Friday.

We also went on another field trip this past Friday, to two different churches and a couple of mercadillos (markets that don't sell fresh produce.)

Peru is an interesting place when it comes to religion. According to the Joshua Project, 77% of the population is Roman Catholic, with 7.3% Protestant. In total, 90% of the population is "Christian." A small portion of the Protestants are Evangelical, but the percentage of Evangelical Christians in Peru is significantly lower in the southern part than the north. To put it in perspective, there are 50,000 Nazarene members in the north, and in all of south Peru, there are 300 Nazarene members.

Let me describe the Catholic churches for you, since you aren't allowed to take pictures inside the churches in the mornings. We went to one near the center, and also visited the Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, and they are just decked out. They utilize the white volcanic stone, and tons of gold and fanciness.

It really makes me wonder what they think of our churches; one of the four Nazarene churches here is the size of my bedroom and has dirt floors. My church has hand-made decorations. If I were visiting and was accustomed to Catholic churches, I would be super taken aback by our churches.

But as Brandi and I have discussed, this gives us an opportunity to talk about the fact that because of Jesus Christ, the buildings we worship in don't matter. We, the believers, are the temple. In fact, the early church didn't have a specific temple or building where they worshipped. Because Jesus came and offered his life as a sacrifice for our sins, they no longer needed a place to go and offer sacrifices. It actually gives us a great "in" to begin talking about what we believe.

The other really interesting thing about the church buildings here are the statues of Jesus, Mary, and the saints that have glass cases in the churches, but are taken out and used in processions. There are many of them spread throughout each church, and on Friday, we witnessed devout Catholics going around praying to the Virgen or the saints. This definitely made me understand the practice in certain religions, including Islam, of not using any graphics or depictions of their deities or religious figures (this is called iconoclasm). There is a fine line between veneration and idolatry, and that is something we definitely have to be careful of.

We have had many talks in class about religion with our teacher, a practicing Catholic. She has asked us a lot about what we believe, she has shared where she is coming from, and we've even talked about Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses (they are common here). She knows we have the same beliefs about Christ, but she holds strong to her beliefs about Mary. We have asked where in the Bible it says to pray to Mary, and her response was, "Where does it say not to pray to Mary?"

It is clear, though, that Catholicism here in Peru is very diluted with beliefs handed down from the Incas. Some of the beliefs are a little crazy, like the Black Guinea Pig. If someone is sick, they have a ritual with a black guinea pig where the chamán rubs the cuy over the body of the sick person until it dies. When it was dead, they cut into it to see it's organs, and whichever one appears inflamed or whatever is the one causing the illness of the person. If the cuy has a bad liver, then the person's liver is causing them pain or sickness. There are many other examples of strange rituals still practiced here, and it would probably be defined as syncretism: combining of different religions or beliefs. They do these strange rituals, but pray to God during them.

I'm not sure if it would be easier to try to witness to someone who's beliefs are very different from Christianity than someone who believes they are Christian. But this is what we are up against. And we have been told that we don't belong here--the people are either Incan or Catholic, and even if they convert, once we leave they will go right back.

But we aren't really about religion, after all. We want to share with people the truth, and Truth is a person, named Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Faith Gets Tested

So nearly 2 years ago, I had a regular check-up with the eye doctor, but after my eyes were dilated, he ended up looking into my left one for 40 minutes, and getting a second opinion before referring me to a specialist where they again looked at my eye for an hour.  

What was the fuss about? 

A possible hole in my retina. 

But they decided that at the time there was no hole or tear, but I needed to get it checked every 6 months and watch out for the symptoms. In December when I saw my regular eye doctor, she told me that there still was no hole, but I was set up to have a retinal detachment. So I needed to watch out for the symptoms. 

On Saturday, I had a symptom. I saw flashing lights on two different occasions.  

I called the Cincinnati Eye Institute where I had seen the specialist once before on Saturday night. The answering service person told me that I couldn't talk to the on-call doctor unless I gave him the name of the doctor I saw before. So we hung up, and Brandi and I got on their website to see if I could remember who my doctor was almost two years ago. I couldn't even tell her whether it was a man or a woman. So I picked a random doctor--Dr. Miller.  

We called back, and I told him I remembered that i had seen Dr. Miller. He put me on the phone with the on-call doctor, and I then explained what had happened. He asked me, "do you remember another guy coming in to look at your eye before Dr. Miller saw you?" I did remember that, even though I had randomly picked Miller's name. He told me that he remembered looking at my eye! He said I am set up to have a retinal detachment, but given my age, it's still unlikely. But he told me I needed to get it checked out soon.  

So I hadn't had any more symptoms, and I asked a lot of people to pray for my eye. I went today to the clinic, and the doctor did multiple tests of my vision, dilated my eyes, and looked at my retinas with two different machines. He didn't see anything! He told me that he had diagnosed a detached retina before, and my eye looked fine. He also asked me what made my other doctors think I would have a detached retina?  

So, we can either choose to believe that Peruvian doctors stink, and he missed something...  

Or we can choose to believe that God heard all of your prayers, and I'm all better!

Faith Without Deeds is Dead

On Saturday, Brandi and I went with our pastor's wife and a few other people from the church to Huacsapata, a pueblo about 45 minutes outside of the city. She had asked us to go a few times before, because she could really use the help. You see, our church has helped to start a mission church in Huacsapata. Mondays and Wednesdays, they have services for the adults and teens. And Saturday is a big day because they go and have a kids day, including games, songs, English lessons, and Bible classes. They also feed them lunch, and we are told that it is the one healthy meal they get a week.

Huacsapata is one of the many very poor areas on the outside of Arequipa, a city of 1 million people. They are the poorest of the poor. Their houses consist of one room, they don't have water, and they don't have money to provide their children with proper nutrition. 

But the kids are beautiful. Right before lunch, a few of the girls asked me to help them with their English. And we practiced some English tongue twisters!

And the whole time, I had the feeling that this is what I want to be doing. I want to live an Isaiah 61 life: to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, to release prisoners from darkness, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, to comfort those who mourn, to provide fro those who grieve, and to replace the crowns of ashes with crowns of beauty. This is what it means to live in the kingdom of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. So yes, I was pretty heartbroken for the kids live in a reality without adequate food and without water. But we have good news for the poor, that Jesus Christ is the bread of life! That the least on earth are the greatest in the kingdom of God!

There is a song that I have been wanting to share in my blog since I first heard it, and this seems like the time to do it. It is a song called "Albertine" by Brooke Fraser, about her experience in Africa. She visited Rwanda, and saw sites where people had been greatly affected by the genocide. Her tour guide introduced her to a girl named Albertine; the tour guide told Brooke her story, that she had personally saved Albertine's life during the violence. And she asked Brooke to tell her story. So she is, with this song.

"Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead."

This is how I feel about visiting the slums of Arequipa. I have seen the depths of poverty, and the lives it affects. Now I am responsible. Because I serve a God who care very deeply about the poor, the downtrodden, the widows and orphans. And He tells me that as His follower, I have to take care of them. He tells me that I am saved by grace alone, but once I am saved, my life will produce fruit. And if my faith isn't producing fruit, then it is dead.

"Now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go 'til you are..."


My Inheritance

So for those of you who don't yet know, I started reading the Bible from the start when I first got to Peru; I am now in 1 Samuel. But a couple weeks ago I was reading and thinking about Joshua. And around chapter 13, God is once again handing out land that has been conquered to each of the tribes of Israel.

But Joshua 13:33 says, "But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them."

I am realizing that the Lord God Almighty is my inheritance as well. He has called me to proclaim His kingdom in all the earth. And so even if He never gives me my own home, or a husband, or children, or the American dream, and even if I am one day forgotten, the Creator God of the Universe is my inheritance, and that is enough for me.

Monday, April 5, 2010


After lunch today, I was pretty sure I was going to have to tell you that Easter this year was kind of a dud.

You see, I have heard that you only really understand a culture when you spend the holidays in it. So I was really looking forward to our first holiday in Peru. But we asked our family what they were going to do to celebrate Easter, and they told us about the traditions here, but nothing about us being part of their family's tradition.

By the way, I woke up around 5 am to fireworks going off in one of the plazas nearby. It is tradition to have a sunrise mass beginning around 4 am, and during the service, they burn a statue of Judas. But there are actually explosives involved. I really wish I had gone, since I ended up being awake anyway!

So we went to church this morning, and it really didn't seem like an Easter service, although we did take Communion, which was great.

Then we came home, heated up our lunch in the microwave, and ate alone, just me and Brandi. They weren't home.

So we spent the afternoon just hanging out in a mostly empty house, Brandi talking to family on skype, and I mostly listened to music.

At 4:00, we had a get-together at the office, with an egg hunt for the kids of Extreme staff, and a bunch of desserts and snacks to celebrate together the resurrection of our Lord.

After, the Arequipa 40/40s went to go have their Bible study at the Wilkin's apartment. The Cusco 40/40s then decided to hang out at Stephen and Alex's house. We went up onto their roof, and started out in prayer. We then just shared some things that are going on in our lives. Then we worshipped in music, singing everything from Beloved by Tenth Ave. North to How Great Thou Art, to He Knows My Name, Draw Me Close, and How He Loves. We had some personal prayer time, and shared our requests in the group and closed all lifting each other up in prayer. It was probably the best time of worship I've experienced in  Peru, and was great to share that with the family I will live with for the next two years.

After, we went down to just hang out while a couple people used the internet, since they don't have it at their house. But I spent the whole time, probably more than an hour, talking to the guy's host parents. And they are awesome! Seriously, their mom is so sweet. And it is awesome to get complimented on my Spanish. It feels like such a slow process, but I carried on a long conversation and was understood and everything. It was a great end to the day!

So as we finish out this Easter day, I am so thankful for the sacrifice my Lord and Savior gave. We were bandaged and bruised, awaiting a cure, but Jesus came, our beautiful king, bringing relief.  Let's let go of all the things that have kept us from him! And praise him, because the curtain in the Temple was torn on the day he died, making a way for us to enter into the Holy of Holies, as we hide in the wounds of Christ the same way Moses hid in the cleft of the rock as the glory of the Lord passed by! Praise his holy name! THAT"S my King!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


One choice
One tree
One fall for humanity
One lie
One liar
One bite is all death required
One great regret
One squandered chance, and yet
One hope
One day
One name above all other names
One bridge between then and now
One way to discover how
One price
One tree
One drop of crimson covers me

-Nichole Nordeman

Friday, April 2, 2010

Semana Santa Thoughts

So I know I haven't been blogging as much as I should these days. The truth is, I have so many ideas, but just haven't had the time to put pen to paper, as they used to say. Of course now it's like fingertips to keys.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a couple quick thoughts. I think it will be quick anyway. In actuality, speaking English has been becoming harder and harder. I have so many typos these days because I've forgotten how to spell in English that this could be a very long process.

Once again-- anyway, it is the Thursday of "Semana Santa." See, Holy Week is a very big deal here. I kind of think that since Catholics make such a big deal about it that the Evangelical church has kind of downplayed it. Nonetheless, it is the evening of Maundy Thursday, the day before we commemorate the crucifixion, the night Jesus spent with his disciples celebrating the Passover.

Now if we were Jewish, especially back in the day, we would look at this story a lot differently. Because when Jesus offered the cup of wine to his disciples, it was reminiscent of a marriage proposal to them. See, a Hebrew man would meet up with a girl's parents to let them know he wanted to marry their daughter. They would figure out what exactly this would cost him, in sheep and goats or whatever. Then he would get to formally propose to his bride. He would do this by pouring a cup of wine and offering it to her; she got to choose whether or not to drink it, but if she did, they were engaged.

Once they were officially betrothed, he would begin to build their future home, an addition on to his parents home. But they had to be separated during this time. Do you remember what Jesus told his disciples shortly before he was taken away from them? He said, "In my Father's house, there are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you, but if I go, I will come back for you so that you can be where I am."

Then he had to pay the dowry. And he payed a very high price for his bride. It cost him his life.

After a Hebrew woman was betrothed though, she was now called "The One Who Was Bought With a Price." That was her name. The Bride of Christ, the Church, was certainly bought with a very high price.

And as I think about the Last Supper tonight, I think about Jesus Christ offering me a cup. A cup that represents his love for me. A cup that represents his sacrifice of blood. A cup that reminds me that I am his betrothed. A cup that calls me into relationship with him. A cup that makes me want to no longer be his wayward wife, but instead a faithful one.

I hope you are reminded of this as well.