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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I’m writing from the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru right now. Our family was invited here to work with missionary Ken Loveall for a few weeks. I was so thrilled and amazed when the Lord directed us to come. I taught school for missionary kids in Lima, Peru, back in 1988-90, but we’ve only been here once since, in 1993. Blog

I’m writing from the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru right now. Our family was invited here to work with missionary Ken Loveall for a few weeks. I was so thrilled and amazed when the Lord directed us to come. I taught school for missionary kids in Lima, Peru, back in 1988-90, but we’ve only been here once since, in 1993.

We had to get up early (about 3:30 AM ) which means that feeling of going on an adventure was there right from the first. James, Paul’s nephew, had to bring us to the airport, which was rough on him too, as he had been staying up late and working hard to get some of Paul’s sermons translated into Spanish, and produced in time for us to take them with him. He got 6 chalk talk sermons produced and made about 100 DVD’s for us to take with us to distribute so that, hopefully, our short time in Peru can be multiplied.

The kids were quite cheery, in spite of being pulled from their beds. They stayed cheery through the 2 hour flight to Johannesburg, and then through a rather long lay over there. The moment of tired despair came as we got settled in for the 10 hour flight across the Atlantic. We were flying South African Airways so they were hoping for the personal little TV screens and were bitterly disappointed to find that this plane was not equipped like that. I was thankful that the first movie showed overhead was a good one, a historical boat battle from the time of Napoleon, which cheered the boys up immensely. Evangel was cheered along the way by videotaping clouds for her movie making.

The flights were peaceful, sleepy times, with meals for the highlights. That first day we made it as far as Sao Paolo, Brazil, where we got a good night’s sleep in a hotel, and a memorable breakfast in the hotel lobby. It had the best pineapple I’ve ever eaten in my life, plus eggs, yogurts, many cute little kinds of breads, meats, juices, and something we all were wanting to try again: yucca! Gloria’s been craving yucca, so we were happy to see it for her sake. But after one little trial, the novelty of that wore off, and we returned to sampling things with more flavor. (Yucca is a root, a bit similar to a potato, but bigger, and a bit stringy when cooked. It doesn’t have a strong flavor.)

To get the adrenalin pumping, we lost our little black pouch with all our money for the trip in it! I looked in the suitcase pocket where it should have been, and then began hunting through everything. Paul came and looked through that pocket too, and then hunted through the pile of luggage. We prayed and hunted and prayed some more. What a great relief to find the pouch right where it should have been, only its blackness was a perfect camouflage against the blackness of the suitcase pouch.

By now it was past time to leave for the airport, so we shifted into high gear and hurried out. That airport had dauntingly long lines! None of us speaks Portuguese, but we asked a few questions and got into the longest line around. Tension mounted as the minutes ticked by, and finally we were told we were in the wrong line. We had to run far through the airport, to another concourse, to get to the ticket counter where we needed to be. With five of us, pushing 2 trolleys and laden with our back-packs, we were quite a crowd, but we made it in time to get on the plane for the last leg of the journey, to Lima.
Lima has sure changed from 15 years ago when Paul and I last saw it. New buildings, booming businesses, and gleaming cars told of much greater prosperity than when I lived there. Nancy Miller, my beloved former roommate, and Cecilia Torres, a dear Peruvian friend, were there to greet us, and it was so good to see them again. They toted us across town, through many a traffic jam, to Salamanca where we were to spend a couple of days.

Salamanca is where I lived 18 years ago, so it is full of people who I was eager to see. I was feeling a little apprehensive about being older and wider, but I soon noticed that I wasn’t the only one who had aged. It was so much fun to see who had married whom, and to meet the children of dear friends, as well as to introduce my husband and children to so many. There was also the disappointment of hearing of those who had not gone on with the Lord and who are living in their sins. When I asked about different ones who were not in church, this statement summed it up, “estan en el mundo.” “They are in the world.”

We had 2 whole days in Lima to see people, eat Chifa (Peruvian Chinese food--yum!), visit Fetzer Memorial Christian Academy, where I used to teach, and see Nancy’s school, Menterrico —she’s the principal! Paul preached there, as well as in la Iglesia Bautista de la Fe, my former church. I only had to translate for the school, a pastor did the church.

Jet lag was pretty rough, so we didn’t do much sight seeing or other extras, but just going to the grocery store gave us cultural experiences. We had to change money on the streets from dollars to “sols.” The “sol” is the Peruvian money, and it means “sun” in Spanish. In English, this sounds like you sell your soul for 5 bread rolls. J

Our flight out for Cusco was at 5:40 AM. It was rough getting up and taxiing to the airport that early, but if felt worth it when we saw the sunrise in the Andes as we flew through the snowcapped peaks. “How Great Thou Art” came to mind and stayed.

Cusco was quite chilly, so we were glad to connect with missionary Ken Loveall and get into his warm Land Cruiser. He told us there was a national strike that day, and we couldn’t travel outside of Cusco until after dark so we spent the day doing errands with him, resting a bit, and a little bit of shopping. We set off for Urubamba after sunset, expecting a smooth ride, but things were not as we expected.

The roads there all seem to be winding over the edge of steep cliffs, so they’re scary anyway, if you look down, or at the small spaces between vehicles. There were dozens of road blocks of big rocks across the road which Ken managed to get around. But then when people started throwing rocks at us, it really got scary! We caught up with a convoy of police and army men, but that was no protection from rocks flying out of the darkness. They kept thudding against the car, and finally one smashed our back window. That convoy actually had us trapped so that we couldn’t race ahead! We kept the kids’ heads down, though Josh slept through all the excitement safely in between Paul and Ken in the front seat.

What would normally be a one hour drive took us much longer, but finally we were able to weave down the side of a mountain and into Urubamba. It was a blessed relief to get to the seminary there, and move into an apartment they had prepared for us. We were safe! Except for that back window of the car.

In Urubamba Paul preached in schools, in the streets, and in the seminary. The street meetings were at night and were especially fun. Ken Loveall was his usual translator, and Paul appreciated his energy and enthusiasm. They “clicked” well together, so it was a fun time.

One thing I liked, was the safe feeling. We could let the kids go around the streets at night with us, and go off some by themselves during the day. One time a little Loveall got left alone at a street meeting, but was soon returned to the seminary by a police lady who knew where the “gringos” were.

The seminary students were to start out on outreach ministries a few days after we got there, so we were supposed to go with a group to Cusco, and then to other towns. I got sick in the night before we were to leave, so Paul went alone with the group while the kids and I stayed in Urubamba. It was then I discovered I don’t bounce back from a night of “total body evacuation” like I used to. It took 2 days of being pretty much horizontal before I had the strength to start wobbling around a bit.

I enjoyed the kids so much while I was sick. They pitched in to do the cooking and eating while I wasn’t doing much of anything, and they were so funny. We were nearly out of food, so they made a long list of all the things we needed, in Spanish, and took about an hour to work up their nerve to go out into the streets to buy things. The first time they chickened out and just went to the little seminary shop where the lady who waited on them would be a Believer and would be sure not to take advantage of them. The second time they made it out of the gate, and had great adventures getting lost in the narrow, cobbled streets of Urubamba, and finally recognizing the way home by a certain dead rat they had seen.

When I could finally stagger downstairs, I found that for all their “pitching in” the house was a mess, so I started crabbing and bossing and trying to get things put right. Evangel kindly (?) suggested I go back to bed, and after a few minutes of straightening up, I saw the wisdom of that one.

Paul came back after a few days, and we went with him on the next section of the trip. (Why do outreach trips all have to start at 4:30 AM? I’m not complaining, mind you, just wondering.) We drove over a mountain pass at 14,000 ft. as the sun was rising. The snow capped mountain peaks were beautiful as they caught the first rays of the sun, and we gazed from the shady switchbacks in the depths of the valleys. I was experiencing carsickness from those same switchbacks, and have severe sore bottomitis from the potholes, but those mountain peaks made me forget the aches and pains for a moment and reflect on our beauty-creating Creator.

You might think that the missionary, Ken Loveall, would be so used to this gorgeousness that he wouldn’t be too impressed, but he was reveling in it too. He was taking pictures with our camera as he came around the hairpin curves! I wasn’t noticing, because I was busy keeping my insides in, but Paul was in the front. Ken would call out, “Tell me if anything’s coming,” as he snapped photos of the mountains above and the valleys 3 miles straight down below us. It was a good time to pray!

Ken is an amazing, energy-filled missionary. We admired the rapport he had with his students and his own 6 children. He reminded me of John Wayne just a tad. His oldest son Marcos was with us on this trip, much to the delight of our three kids. Marcos, just turned 13, impressed me with how he could quietly get car sick, and take care of the whole operation himself, without any trouble or fuss, and then pull his head back in the window and resume telling jokes with our kids.

We rolled into Quillabamba for an open air meeting at the local university, and then one in a town square before we crashed. Quillabamba was so different from the mountain towns. It was quite hot there, and buggy, and had banana trees. It’s called “high jungle”. It was a fun place to hand out tracts, as the people were friendly and interested, though very Catholic.

We had meetings in churches both nights, well, in one church and outside the other as there were too many people to squish inside. Those were good. The kids and I abandoned the serious stuff for a while the second day and found a place to go swimming. That was a big treat. We got to ride in mototaxis (little 2 seater buggies stuck on to the back of a motorcycle) and bought ice creams and added to our collection of bug bites.

A couple of days later, we were headed back over the pass to Urubamba. (It would be fascinating to see all this on We passed a rushing river and green tropics at first, with llamas and ruins making the way fascinating further along. For treats we ate bread and a salty local cheese that tastes like Feta, but at a much better price. If we lived there, we might have to give up peanut butter (over $3.00 a cup!) but we’d enjoy that cheese.

The students and Paul and Ken traveled on to Cusco for more preaching, while the younger generation and I prepared for a day visiting the old ruins. We went to Ollentaytambo, a mountain-side “ruin” that’s in such good shape that we were allowed to climb all over it. It was, apparently, a fortress of the Incas, and perhaps a place of worship. The 6 Loveall kids (Isn’t “Loveall” the most perfect name for missionaries? It sounds like something out of Pilgrim’s Progress.) and 2 young missionary ladies, Rachel and Julie came with us.

I had hopes of showing the kids Machu Picchu, but it would have cost too much to get there so Ollentaytambo was an excellent substitute. Machu Picchu is the most impressive, but really, there are ruins of Incan architecture all over the “Sacred Valley of the Incas.”
That Saturday night, we went to spend with a young missionary couple named Buddy and Loren Fitzgerald. We were just getting settled in, when any ice remaining between us was broken by the discovery that Buddy’s little sister Bethany, is our niece Ariel’s best friend! In fact, the 2 of them are on a mission’s trip to the UK right now! It was so nice to find that link and then to just enjoy them.

On that last Sunday we drove up to Cusco to join Paul at the Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church). This time Buddy translated for Paul in the morning, and then we drove back to their home in Arin for the evening service. The electricity went off in the middle of that service, and our Josh was thrilled to have his headlamp called into service to help illuminate the chalk drawing. J
We were enjoying a nice time of fellowship with Buddy and Loren when we heard a terrible scream from upstairs. Josh had ducked into a bathroom sink, and his tooth came through his lower lip, and was also chipped. Mom (me) didn’t handle that one too well, but Loren came through it with flying colors as she is studying to be a doctor. This young couple impressed us so much with their dedication to the Lord. You might want to pray for them as they’re expecting a baby in November after several years of miscarriages, waiting and praying.

Buddy took us back to Cusco the next morning for the flight back to Lima. In Lima we had a deaf school where Paul preached in the afternoon and Kids’ Alive children’s home in the evening. I fell in love with 2 of the kids from the children’s home, Vanessa and Chantel, 2 little sisters who speak English as well as Spanish. I would love to adopt this sweet pair, but since I can’t, I’m willing to put any other Christian couples in touch with them. I got to translate for both of these, plus a kids’ club at a Bible institute the next day. It stresses me out to be struggling around for the right verb tense or whatever, but it’s great to really feel more a part of giving out the Good News of God’s salvation to people. We saw decisions all along the way, though, of course, the Lord sees the hearts.

In Lima we got to go to the central Plaza de Armas where the government buildings are, and I was amazed at all the changes in the 15 years since the last time we were there. The streets are full of people of all ages until late at night, and we just so enjoyed being a part of that “night life”. We don’t go out much at all at night in South Africa, so it was a novelty for the kids too.

We went to the catacombs under the Cathedral of San Francisco and saw hundreds (thousands?) of bones in this old Catholic church built in the 1600’s. It felt like a good field trip as it has pictures by famous painters too. We nearly got in the middle of a demonstration, but we aren’t sure what that was all about. As long as no one threw rocks, we’re not complaining!

The last full night in Lima, the “jovenes” (youth group) in my church in Salamanca, had a reunion at the guest house where we were staying. These “youth” are now averaging about 40 years old, but it felt like we stepped back in time to 1990 when I last lived in Salamanca. We sang all the old songs, laughed over old memories, and caught up on as much current news as we could. Paul got tired and went to bed about 11:30, but people were still arriving after that! The reunion went on til 1 AM when I finally fell into bed.
The last day in Lima was full again. It was full of rest and laundry in the morning, then a walk and a trip to preach one last time in Lima.

Nancy tried to take us to see the new fountains in Lima, a gorgeous lighted, musical display. We could see it, but it was closed so we only saw it from out side the gates. Just after 10 PM we headed for the airport, wondering if my strength would hold up until the plane. A friend named Sylvia gave me the verse about strength, about mounting up on eagle’s wings, and that helped to encourage me.

Our adventures were not over yet. We touched down in Brazil in the morning, and spent a long day falling asleep in funny poses, draped over airport chairs. We tried not to eat much there because 3 plastic wrapped sandwiches and 3 grape drinks for lunch cost 40 US dollars (ouch!) so we kept holding off for the supper on the airplane. We got on the plane around 5:30 PM, but then our plane was held up for over THREE HOURS with my stomach rumbling as loud as the idling engines (almost). Finally we took off and made it over the Atlantic in about 8 hours. We had missed our connection in Johannesburg, but that didn’t hold us up for long. We were rescheduled to another flight and made it to Cape Town less than two hours late.

How good and blessed to be at home! James picked us up at the airport, and Gloria had Uncle Paul’s favorite meal, chicken cauliflower skillet, cooked and waiting when we got home.


  1. Oops, I meant to leave my comment on this more recent post, not the older one! I really enjoyed reading about your adventures. Keep posting! Melanie