Friday, July 4, 2008

The Universal Language

"So, how was your trip to Peru?" I've gotten this question an uncountable amount of times from everyone I know, but I'm always at a loss of how to answer it. How do you sum up an unbelievable ten day trip in a few sentences? I can't do it. I can't convey what it was like seeing the destruction following a disaster that most of us in America never even heard about. I can't tell you what it was like working with children who own nothing but still love to share what they have and to give acceptance and love freely. I can't describe what it was like to see first hand how blessed my life is or what it felt like being surrounded by literally hundreds of beautiful, starving children who wait for their turn to receive a meager meal that was to last them for the whole day. Not to mention the extremely fun parts of the trip, like taking a harrowing ride through the city in three-wheeled "beetles", or flying through the desert in a dune buggy, or speedboating in the Pacific! I look back on that extended week and I can hardly believe it happened. Just two weeks ago I was in the desert, shoveling dirt, longing for a warm shower, and spending time with some of the most loving people I have ever met. It seems very surreal.

In order to keep this update from becoming a short novel, I will summarize the main points quickly. Our church sent 54 people to Peru (a mix of adult leaders and teens from our youth group) to help with post-earthquake relief efforts. We spent most of our time building houses in Ica, and then went to Lima to help with a feeding program there for a day. By the end of the trip we had built three houses, started two more, raised money for another, moved rubble from the streets, and got to experience the amazing program (started by one man) that feeds almost 12,000 children everyday! We went to two of the feeding sites that day and helped pass out meals to the children. We also visited the school this man also started that offers opportunities for the poorest of the poor to recieve an education. Everyone at the school was unbelievably welcoming, the children lined the sidewalks and wanted to shake our hands, give us hugs, and practice the few English words they knew. Someone from our group said, "Wow, I feel like we're celebrities or something!" This made me sad because it was true, they were treating us like celebrities when really I respected them so much more than they should ever respect me. The faith of some of the people we met blew me away. There are so many stories that I could share! I don't have the space to run through them all, but I simply have to tell you about a little girl named Melissa that we met in the village we were working in...

Towards the end of the week, a small group of us were shoveling a pile of rubble off the street in front of the school. We were taking a break when a tiny, dark skinned girl waddled over to us and handed me a letter. A friend and I were trying to read it, but our Spanish only extended so far, luckily one of our translators was standing nearby and told us that the letter basically introduced the girl as Melissa and she was 2 years old. It went on to say that she was cold at night and had become sick because her family didn't have the money to finish her house. It asked if we could please help her. We found Melissa's mother who told us that she suffered from bronchitis and the medicines she needed had absorbed most of the family's funds and as a result they were unable to build anything better than a thin-walled shack to live in. Because we were short on time, there simply wasn't any way for us to build this family a house. We prayed for them, but most of us longed to do more. The next day, Steve (our missionary leader) "happened" to meet up with three bricklayers looking for a job, and by collecting $5 from every member of our group we were able to pay them for their labor! When we left the village, the house was progressing quickly. It's almost impossible not to look at a situation like this and not see the hand of God. It's just so amazing.

Undoubtedly, the hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye to the children of the village. During the week they loved to help us at the worksite and play with us. Many times they would run over, grab our hands and lead us to a game of volleyball or soccer. They loved to tease us, teach us, and learn new things from us. Though most of us couldn't speak Spanish and none of them spoke more than a few English words, we felt like there wasn't even a language barrier. As one of my friends said, "Love truly is the universal language." The day we left i think I received more hugs then than I ever have in my entire life! I was such a mess. I didn't want to leave these sweet angels. I wasn't the only one. One of my friends was crying so hard that one of the village boys asked her why she was so sad, she answered it was because we were leaving, to which he promptly replied, "don't be sad, i'll see you in heaven!" They were so different from any children I have ever known, it was unbelievably hard to say goodbye.

Being home now for a little while has allowed me to process the trip a little more and to really acknowledge all I have been blessed with. I realized that I have not had to really depend on God for a whole lot in my lifetime. I wondered how strong my faith would stand if I was in a situation like many of the people we met. I also really wanted to make others in this country understand how good they have it. America disgusted me for a few days immediately after I got back, but then I realized's not what we have, but what we do with what we have. So I stopped viewing my comfy life as a curse, but as what it is, a blessing that I should learn to use for God's glory.

I'd love to tell you more and show you pictures and such, don't hesitate to ask : ).