Monday, September 19, 2016

No Crib for a Bed

    I love Christmas time!  I love the story of my Saviour's birth.  I love the songs, I love the family gatherings.  Now, to tell you the truth (and at the risk of sounding kinda like Scrooge), I couldn't care less about the tree, the decorations, and the gifts.  I mean it.  I'd rather my girls kissed me Christmas morning, and sang carols with me all day long without handing me one gift.  It's not that I'm stingy and don't want to get THEM one... or ten.  I'd just rather it not be a part of Christmas.  I don't believe it to be super spirituality or anything, but I just feel like it cheapens Christmas.  SO much money spent on things nobody really wants, much less needs.  SO much worry about whether one of my girls will feel shorted this year.   And that dumb tree makes such a mess and takes so long to put up and even longer to take down.  Yes, I'm exaggerating, but I really could do without the commercialization of Christmas.

    This bantering of mine is somewhat new.  I think I've grown into this attitude.  The more I preach about Christ and His birth, the more I see the Christmas story pushed into a corner to bring in the bigger, the heavier, and the more expensive gifts.  Now, I don't believe that Jesus was born in December, but I don't mind joining many other Christians in celebrating His birth on the 25th.  I don't like the tree, but I'm not against it.  One day, when we first moved up to the mountains of Peru, I told my family that we could have a tree but that I didn't want it the main attraction in our house.  Some of the Peruvian Christians had questioned the use of the tree by believers.  To avoid offending them, I was glad to have an excuse to not make my living room a winter wonderland.  I decided to put the tree in the corner of a room on the second floor of our house.  A room that was usually a storage room, but was a nice little room that could be used as a TV room or a reading room, right on the front of the house.  We set up the tree, and lit it up.  It was neat to see the girls, who were much smaller then, smile broadly at our accomplishment.  And I must admit, our fake tree still looks good after 11 years of use.  Well, one night, not long after, I was driving home when I realized my mistake.  Now, instead of having to walk into our house and see the shrine to Christmas, it lit up the whole front of our house from inside the window on the second floor.  Now, EVERYONE could see it.  Oh, well.  My intentions were good.

    I am not writing this to discuss Christmas per say, but one particular part of Christmas.  You see, my family and I have just moved back down to Peru after about six months in the US for what everyone else calls "furlough" (or rest.)  Really, it is a lot more work to be on "rest" in America than at "work" in Peru.  Anyway, since we gave up our rental home that we had lived in for the past six years, we need to find a new house.  We also were blessed with a little baby girl back in March.  The Lord worked it out so that my wife could be in the US for the delivery.  That turned out to be a very good thing considering some of the complications she had.  All is well, and we named our little one Sienna Grace.  I thought about putting a stamp on her foot when she was born that said "Made in Peru", but my wife turned down the idea.

    The complications I mention were preeclampsia and placenta previa, neither of which we had ever had to deal with.  Stephanie got so bad at four-months pregnant, she was ordered on bedrest by her doctor.  The girls and I took over the cooking and cleaning, and we tried to get Stephanie to the US as soon as possible.  Once, while she was still walking around, she began to fret over the birth, assuming the worst from all she had been reading about her particular problems.  I decided one day to ease her conscience and distract her from her needless worry.  I bought her a crib.  Five months from her due date, we walked into a little store that I had never seen before and saw the perfect crib.  I bought it, took it home, and put it together.  Stephanie cried when she saw it, but it gave her hope and revived her spirit.  The crib went into storage, and we headed for the US.

    After a month or so treating her preeclampsia, and discarding any danger of placenta previa, and only two weeks after I made it to the States, Sienna arrived.  She weighed only 4lbs, and half an ounce, but she was beautiful, and mostly healthy.  Five weeks later, we took her home, and began the wonderful task of travelling around the country with a newborn.  Yes, she had three big sisters to help, but it was no "furlough". Sienna's schedule was all out of whack.  We'd get her sleeping through the night, then we'd travel all day for a meeting a couple states away.  Of course, she would sleep all day in the van, and promptly forget that she needed to sleep when the rest of us did.  When she was not sleeping in her car seat, it was a pack-n-play.  Oh, that we were in Peru, where she could sleep in a real crib with a soft mattress!  ...and with a schedule!

    Soon enough, with 5-month-old Sienna in our arms, we headed back to Peru.  Since we left our truck with a friend of ours in Huancayo, we still have a vehicle to get around in; but it only seats five.  We are now six.  So, now, we must sell the truck.  And with no home to go to, the church has allowed us to set up house in the parsonage.  (Makes sense since I am the pastor.)  The problem is that the parsonage is not habitable yet.  The floors are unfinished, the walls unpainted, the kitchen and bathrooms uninstalled.  So basically, we are living in a few Sunday School rooms.  On purpose, we left the school books, the dishes, and the beds as the last things packed into storage.  When we arrived, they were the easiest things to get out.  I am writing this blog on our old mattress that is laid out on the floor.  From here, I can see about ten suitcases overflowing, a small space heater, and a huge window with cardboard and paper taped up to keep out the sun and to give me some privacy.  What? You expected curtains before the floor was put in?  My poor wife has to cook on a small two-burner stove that we borrowed from a church member.  My three older girls are doing school work in the front room/dining room/kitchen/storage room....

    I set up Kaitlynn's, Alyssa's, and Savanna's beds in one of the Sunday School rooms, and Stephanie and I were to share a room with Sienna.  Well, I got a bad cold, partly from the change in climate, mostly from my lack of sleep.  Stephanie is doing a great job getting Sienna BACK on schedule.  She does have a new crib to make things more comfortable.  But my body could not wait.  At night, I was restless and would keep Stephanie up.  Sienna would cry and keep me up.  We decided that for the sake of health and sanity, I should take the big cold room with all the suitcases, and Stephanie should take the smaller room with Sienna.  I love my wife, and I love Sienna; but I'm really enjoying my sleep right now!  My girls have their own set of problems. The bed frames are old and the wood slats that hold the mattresses up are just short enough to slip out of place when one of the girls is sitting or sleeping on the bed.  Since Savanna was on the bottom level of the bunk-bed she shared with Alyssa, she decided to sleep on the floor to avoid being smacked in the face at night by a falling bed board.  And although we have restrooms just outside our rooms, the shower is downstairs next to the auditorium.  Once again, there is no flooring put in yet, and the shower head is what we call a "widow-maker".  It has a small electric head that heats the water up just as it comes out of the pipes.  It does a good job heating the water, but if you try to adjust the pressure by grabbing the metal faucet handle, you are reminded that you live in a country with 220v electricity.  Standing naked under a shower, being zapped by a faucet is not a very pleasant way to get clean.  I've just decided to boycott showers altogether.  I mean, if that's the price to pay, then cleanliness is overrated.

    Anyway, as I began to count all the problems I was having, I thought about our upcoming Christmas pageant.  We haven't even decided on the drama yet, but I am beginning to gather some songs and ideas.  I came across a very interesting truth in one of the carols we sing every Christmas.  "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed."  I thought, "How fitting.  We should make this year's focus on the humble beginnings of Christ as the incarnate Word of God."  I think we can empathize, however so slightly, with Jesus' being put to rest in such an uncomfortable environment.  Even when I was a child, when my mother would correct me for leaving the door open by saying "We're you born in a barn?," I always wanted to respond, "Yep. Me and Jesus both."

    Now, I am sure that Mary did everything she could to make that feeding trough comfortable for her little One, but it was not the ideal place for the birth of the King, the Messiah.  Well, least, not as we may imagine.  For we know that God picked out the PERFECT place for his Word to be born.  Although we may certainly prefer a more comfortable, respectable place, interestingly, God preferred the stable, the smells, and the company JUST as it was.  Jesus left his throne for a manger and His glory for the cross,  What a wonderful Saviour!

    As for us here in Peru, we found a fairly big house about a half an hour away from our church.  Now, that is a long way when everyone else could practically walk to church, but the house is almost ideal.  The kitchen is a little small, and the house is colder than we would like, but the YARD!!  Having an 8,500 ft2 yard in Huancayo is almost unheard of.  We could host many church fellowships out on the patio.  We could raise rabbits and guinea pigs.  You know,... for lunch.  Many things about the house is just what we wanted.  But, alas, the owner does not want to give us the whole house, just the first and second floor.  She and her husband come to Huancayo once in a while from Lima and need a place to stay.  Well, we like our privacy.  We are not likely to stay where we have to share the house with the owner; so as for now, we are staying in the church.

    Just this morning, my wife said, "If that house is not what the Lord wants us to have, He must have a bigger, better one out there somewhere."  Oh, me of little faith!  But when I consider the Lord of Glory coming to earth and celebrating His birth with Mom, Mom's husband, and a few shepherds in that unwelcoming stable, I am thankful for the accommodations that we DO have.  After all, at least we have a crib!

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Onward, Christian Soldiers!"

Well, Life has been exciting this past year. One interesting thing that has happened is that I forgot all about this blogspot!  I went to the jungle again and remembered the story I shared last year.  This time, I'll try to keep it short; I promise.

These past few weeks have been full of travel.  A few weeks ago, I went to Lima to get some preaching.  I am constantly in the pulpit and, for once, figured I would enjoy sitting and being fed, as opposed to bringing the food myself.  So I packed an overnight bag, kissed the wife and kids, and left at midnight on a bus to Lima.  I arrived about three hours later than normal; but otherwise, the trip was a pleasant, the preaching was refreshing, and that night, I left to return to Huancayo (our home in the Andes Mountains about 200 miles or 6-8 hours east of Lima.)  When I arrived in Huancayo, I left my wallet on the bus (with about $30, two credit cards, and my carnet - my resident card).  That meant another day's trip to Lima.  Once again, I packed an overnight bag, kissed my wife and kids, and left at midnight on a bus to Lima.  The trip was uneventful, and I made it to the Immigrations office first thing in the morning.

Now, the Peruvian Immigration's Office is one of those things that can really bring out the flesh in this preacher. Each year, they ask for new things - new documents - that weren't required the year before.  Their latest kick is Birth Certificates.  "We need an original birth certificate for each child, apostilled by the Secretary of State, notarized in Peru, and translated by an official translator in Lima."  Well, OK. If that's what it takes.  The following year: "We need an original birth certificate for each child, apostilled by the Secretary of State, notarized in Peru, and translated by an official translator in Lima."  "Wait,... You know I gave you the original last year, right?"  "Yes, but that one is no longer valid.  It expired."  "Um, birth certificates do NOT expire!  And do you know what original means?"  "We need an original birth certificate for each child..."  "Yeah, I know! ...  Give me a month."

Last year, I again ordered birth certificates for the yearly process.  They were purchased then mailed to the Secretary of State, who had them in the mail to Peru the next day with all the necessary seals and stamps.  A postal service strike in Peru sent them to the black hole - you know, the one where that other sock went.  So then, we were late with my girls' visa renewals, and it cost me more money and time getting new birth certificates... again.  I ordered them, and just before my second trip to Lima, they arrived at my house.  So while I was in Lima getting my new carnet, I met up with my lawyer to hand everything over to him.

Anyway, because of the "ok,-now,-come-back-tomorrow-to-pick-it-up" process in immigrations, my one-day trip turned into a four-day trip.  I'll spare you the details.  With my new carnet in hand, I headed back to Huancayo, looking forward to NOT travelling for a while.  The next day, I received a call from my lawyer -- my girls' passports had expired, and we cannot proceed with the visa process.  Back to Lima.  This time with the whole family.  We were able to get the passports processed in an hour at the embassy.  America's got that system down: Birth certificates from 2010 (still valid), a picture ID from Mom and Dad., and an "Ok, come back in three weeks to pick up your new passports."  ...and we walked out the door.  Peruvian Immigrations would have taken three days to do that.  Since we spent so much in gas just to get to Lima, we decided to take a couple extra days to relax in the capital with some missionary friends of ours.

Soon, we packed up the truck and braced ourselves for another 6-hour trip.  But this time, we were going home!  On our way back to Huancayo, about a half-hour into the trip (i.e. 5:30am), our radiator hose came loose.  I noticed that the truck was overheating and decided to pull into a gas station on the opposite side of the road.  I turned into a u-turn for oncoming traffic, and the truck stalled.  It was still dark, but traffic was picking up that morning, and truck drivers were trying to turn ...legally.  After many insults, one person was kind enough to help me push the vehicle across the road to the gas station.  When I inspected the truck, the only thing wrong was a hose that was no longer attached to the radiator.  I let everything cool down, plugged the hose back in, filled up with water (that my wife always insists that we carry), and the truck started right up.  The mountain air cooled the truck enough to make it to a store about two hours from Lima where I bought a new clamp and secured the hose a little better.  We made it to Huancayo that afternoon and began to count our blessings.  We broke down a half an hour from Lima, not halfway to Huancayo.  We broke down at a gas station, not somewhere between San Mateo and La Oroya (4 hours of beautiful scenery but not one repair shop).  And we broke down with what turned out to be the easiest thing to fix I've come across yet.  I've learned that God is good, even if He hadn't been so generous with the timing, location, or gravity of our problem.  But I sure appreciated His extra care that morning.

As I write this blog, we are waiting for some fuel filters from the US.  Yes, that's filters - plural.  The truck broke down last week because of a dirty filter.  The gas here contains lead and is very contaminated here in the mountains; and every six months or so, my truck begins to get choked up.  Now, I'm going to stock up on fuel filters!  Otherwise, we are well; and we're thrilled to be able to do what we do -- drive to Lima a few times a month with a sick vehicle to jump through hoops in Immigrations to be able to stay in the country.

"Onward, Christian Soldiers." right?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jungle Trip, etc.

OK.  I'm not sure how much time you have, but here is my Jungle Trip blog.  Enjoy.

        There are many things than can take one out of his “comfort zone”, challenge him, or make him quite uncomfortable ― things like jumping off a bridge or eating worms or even travelling into new and exotic places.  Recently, I took a trip to the Jungle of Peru, along the Amazon River ― a trip that would prove to be one of the most enjoyable trips of my life.  It was truly a unique experience for me.  I had been to that part of Peru before.  This would be my second such trip.  Last year, I went to many of the same towns and saw many of the same faces; but this year was more of an adventure, somehow.
        The Amazonia, or the Amazon River basin, is a stunningly beautiful place.  Whether you travel by airplane or by boat (you cannot travel by land ― there are no roads in or out), you will not leave unimpressed.  The dense wooded areas, the winding rivers that are miles-wide, the floating houses, gas stations and stores, the elevated homes along the river, the beautiful people… something is bound to leave you in awe of this part of the world.  Now, I am at a disadvantage because I am red/green colorblind.  I used to laugh at the doctor when would ask me to tell him what number I saw in the little circles.  “Come on, Doc!  There’s no number in there!”  I can discern between colors, but sometimes the vividness gets lost.  Still, it was a beautiful place, and I forgot that I was colorblind.
        The people are mostly warm and friendly, although a little awestruck by the whiteness of my skin.  Maybe they are just afraid of me or regard me as a higher being.  I have noticed that even in the most populous cities of Peru, the Peruvians are almost always interested to see Gringos.  Few see many white people on a daily basis, and most treat the encounter similar to seeing a movie star on the streets.  Others think that since the white man has so much more money than they that it is only right that he share a little of his unbalanced wealth, whether through high-priced services or purchases made in the market.  They may just pick your pocket and be done with it.  No haggling necessary.  Or, as once happened to my wife and me, they could kidnap you and turn your own taxi into the getaway vehicle.  That way seems to be the most efficient.  They have all the time they need to squeeze every penny out of you, while you’re cowering in the back seat, wondering if you’ll make it back home alive.  I had no qualms whatsoever about telling them my PIN for my debit card through the black stocking cap they had placed over my head.  As I have stated, regardless of their motive, they are always interested to see Gringos.
        The trip to the Amazon began for me in Huancayo, a city of over 500,000 people, situated about 10,500 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.  I have lived in Huancayo for the past seven years.  My wife and three daughters have willingly joined me as I work to establish local Baptist churches in the area.  Well, my wife has willingly joined me; I am not sure that my girls had a choice.  They are happy, anyway.  Currently, I am pastoring the Independent Baptist Church of El Tambo, Huancayo.  (I think that all Baptist churches here are independent; mine just happens to carry the name.)  My desire is to preach wherever the Lord gives me an opportunity.  I would like to see churches in every one of the nine provinces of our department.   [The Peruvian Department is like a State in the US; so a province is sort of like a county.]  Wherever the Lord may lead me to preach, I pray He never removes me from Huancayo, in the Mantaro Valley.  I live in a place with neither extreme heat nor extreme cold; the air is pure, and the scenery is second to none. 
        In fact, the only thing we struggle with in the mountains, besides the erratic driving habits of the locals, is the spiders.  Our house is infested with spiders of all shapes, colors and sizes.  I do not like spiders, but I think I have overcome my fear of them.  While most would use a flyswatter in the States, I just smack them with the palm of my hand (until they get as big as my hand ― then I go for a shoe.)  My wife has a unique way to deal with spiders, or any pests for that matter.  If it is on the floor, she will step on it, and then grind it into the ground, leaving nothing but a streak.  If she finds a mosquito on my arm, she will smack it and smear it all over my sleeve. This has been a point of contention between us.  When I suggest that she smack it quickly and then brush it to the ground, she replies that she wants some assurance that the bug is truly dead.  While I can appreciate her concern for me, I sometimes wish that she would just point out the threat, and let me handle it.
        Leaving spiders, let us return to our story.  The purpose of my trip was to join a group of pastors from Lima, carrying training materials to the local pastors of the Amazon region.  There are dozens of towns along the Amazon River between Iquitos - a major city in Peru, and Santa Rosa - the town that lies on the border with Columbia and Brazil.  One of those towns is Caballo Cocha.  Caballo is horse in Spanish, and Cocha is lagoon in Quechua.  There are two churches in Caballo Cocha, and Baptist missionaries from decades past have donated a nice little property right on the edge of the lagoon for the area churches for use as a camp.  It was to this camp that we invited all the pastors from the area that wanted to attend along with other servants from their churches.  There were sixteen pastors in all, ten from the Amazon region, one from Columbia, and our team of speakers ― two preachers from Lima, an American missionary who once worked along that same section of river, another missionary friend of mine and myself.
        The entire week was filled with classes for the brethren.  Bibliology, Church Organization and Administration were brought by the pastors from Lima, I taught on Pastoral Etiquette and music; and the other American missionary, Andrew Large, taught on the Christian Life.  Brother Andy (as Andrew is called) was able to bring his wife this year, and she taught the women that were present on The Role of Women in the Ministry.  It was a special blessing for Andy to be able to visit the ministries that he had seen begun years ago.  We were well-received, and I hope that we were a blessing to the churches.  This trip was organized by Fidel Gómez, one of the preachers from Lima, who has a desire to help other churches along the Amazon.  He heads up a group each year to visit these churches and offer some fellowship, some counsel to the pastors, and some training for the men. 
        For this particular trip, I had purchased a hundred-pound sack of potatoes.  Last year, the food at camp was wonderful.  Fish, rice, and bananas for breakfast; fish, rice, and bananas for lunch; fish, rice and bananas for supper.  It really was delicious, but we begged them to vary the menu for this year; and I was fulfilling a promise to bring freshly harvested potatoes from Huancayo.  These were so fresh that I had to spend an hour or so washing off the mud and looking for worms.  I would have to take a different and longer route this time because of the potatoes.  The last time, I took a bus to Lima and then flew to Iquitos.  However, the potatoes would not be able to go on an airplane with me.  So I was grounded until I had delivered my package.
        The missionary friend that accompanied me was Jon Harris.  He has lived in Andahuaylas for the last three years with his family.  He also is striving to establish churches in Peru.  I have never been to Andahuaylas, but I understand that it is at the same altitude as Huancayo and similar in many respects, just much smaller.  I invited Jon to join me, knowing that he was interested in visiting different parts of Peru.  His presence alone was a factor in many of my sideline adventures on this trip.  For example, I wonder if I would have jumped twenty feet from a bridge into the river below had it not been for his encouragement.  As a child, and even as a young man, whenever I would blame my friends for something that I had done ― something dangerous or imprudent or just plain wrong ― my mother would say, “…and if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?”  Well… yes.
        On Monday, I was to meet up with Jon in the jungle city of Pucallpa, where a Peruvian friend of ours is pastoring a deaf work.  From there, we planned to take a boat four days up the Ucayali River to Iquitos.  (The Ucayali and the Marañón Rivers join along the route between Pucallpa and Iquitos to create the massive Amazon River.)  We chose the fastest boat possible as I could not imagine an airplane between these two remote cites.  Once I got to Pucallpa after a fifteen-hour bus ride from Huancayo, we went down to the pier to get a spot on the boat.  Over half the boat was already filled.  The lower deck was for cargo, the second and third were for passengers.  We had our minds set on the third deck because there were little cabins for two with a window and a private bathroom; but by the time we arrived, those were all occupied.  The second deck was already lined with hammocks that passengers had purchased for their journey.  Now, that sounds nice; but these hammocks were packed so tightly that it was like the prisoner deck you might see on a boat in some old movie.  There were two bathrooms for the seventy or so people to share and absolutely no privacy.  We had just boarded to look over the boat when we were approached by some of the travelers’ children: “Please, Sir, could you spare some change?”  Yep, the Gringos had arrived.  Jon looked at me with one eyebrow raised and said, “Are you sure about this?” 
      After we had looked over another boat, we were told that it might be just slightly more expensive to go in an airplane.  An airplane?  Are you kidding me?  It takes only an hour to fly, while the boat ride takes four days ― and that’s because the river is up.  It could take five or six.  The only problem now is the potatoes.  I could take whatever luggage on the boat with me, no matter the weight; but if we chose to fly, neither of the two boats we had investigated would accept the potatoes as freight.  Dozens of companies sent their goods on the first deck, but if I was not going to be on the boat, my potatoes weren’t either.  After asking several boating companies, I finally found one that would reluctantly receive my potatoes if I would pick them up personally in Iquitos.  Done!  We left the potatoes and booked a flight for Thursday morning.
     Henry Vasquez, our Peruvian friend in Pucallpa, has a church of about eighty deaf people.  A couple of hearing families come as well.  Jon stayed at his house until I arrived.  Henry and his wife, Mirian, have two children ― Dolly, their eighteen-year-old daughter, and a sixteen-year-old son, Isaí (Jesse).  Jesse had graciously given up his room for a couple nights for Jon to be more comfortable.  Well, now that we did not have to leave the same day on the boat, we had a few extra days to spend with our preacher friend.  That was a blessing because Jon and I both wanted to spend more time with Henry and see the ministry.  At the same time, we hoped to be a blessing to him.  The first thing that Henry suggested after we bought our plane tickets was that we return with him and stay at his house.  Jesse was gracious enough to move back out of his room for us, and we set up camp.
      Those next few days were spent installing a cistern for the church, travelling around Pucallpa, counselling brethren from the church, and preaching in the services. Henry owns a mototaxi [a Rickshaw or a Tuk-tuk ― a three-wheeled motorcycle with a bench in the back.]  He was our chauffeur during our time there.  We were quite comfortable in Jesse’s room and on the air mattress laid out in the front room, but it was hot.  At first, I didn’t mind so much; but after a while, the stench from our sweaty clothes began to remind us of the cabins at youth camp.  Mirian was kind enough to wash our clothes for us; and, since it was raining outside, we hung them inside the church on one long line stretching from one side of the auditorium to the other.  I was just imagining the embarrassment if someone came to service and saw my underwear and Jon’s hanging from the rafters.
        While we were cleaning out the tank that was to become our cistern, I found a beautiful spider that resembled our Grand Daddy Longlegs.  I picked him up by his leg and showed him to Jesse.  Jesse looked at me with an odd look of curiosity mixed with horror, and explained that the spider I was holding was poisonous.  I immediately began to sweat, but my face did not flinch.  As I held the spider, I mentioned his translucent legs.  Then I told Jesse that our spiders are poisonous as well, but their mouths are so small, they cannot hurt you.  “Oh, that one can!” he retorted.  As I tried not to appear shaken by his words, I nodded my head and said, “Interesting.”  Then, without hurrying, I casually threw it from me and went back to work like nothing had happened.
        That next morning, we retrieved our mostly dry clothes, ate breakfast with our host family, and headed to the airport.  I do not exactly know what happened or how we miscalculated, but for the first time in my life, I arrived too late to the airport; and we missed our flight.  I think I may have seen Henry sigh as he called his wife.  I could not hear him very well, but I think he said, “Don’t put the air mattress up yet, and get Jesse back to our bedroom floor.  The Gringos are coming back.”  We spent that next day enjoying the fellowship with Henry and his family.  We left them a small gift, and the next morning, we were at the airport about two hours early.  Henry dropped us off at the door, and this time, he didn’t even come inside.   As soon as our luggage was out of his mototaxi, he said, “God bless you two.  See you later.”  And then he sped out of the parking lot.  Jon and I looked at each other, standing there on the curb, both knowing that Henry was calling Mirian, “If Markos or Jon calls, don’t answer the phone!”  Of course, this time our flight was delayed about five hours which would have suited us just perfectly the day prior; but we did make it out of Pucallpa.
       When we arrived in Iquitos, we found a hotel just off the main square and headed to the port where my potatoes were to be waiting for me.  Worried that I had upset the Mestre, the administrator of the boat, by my tardiness, I rushed down to the boats asking where the Henry V was docked.  I was told that it was not expected until tomorrow.  Ok, the boat was already late, and they expected it tomorrow?  I was nervous.  I have learned that when someone says mañana in Peru, it does not mean tomorrow as my Spanish teacher, Mr. Smith, had told me in highschool.  It means not todayTomorrow was Saturday, and I had to have them by then, and get them on a boat. The fast boat that Jon and I were taking from Iquitos to Caballo Cocha on Sunday morning did not allow more than twenty kilos of luggage per person.  So I was going to have to implore the boat companies to help me out the same way I had done in Pucallpa.  Well, after arguing with the company’s receptionist as if it would make a difference in the boat’s arrival time, I was told that the Henry V was pulling into the dock at that very moment.  After thanking the receptionist for the prompt service, I returned to the pier; and, sure enough, there was my delivery boat. 
        As I waited on land for them to set a huge stake and anchor the boat to it, I took pictures with my digital camera.  It was a small, inexpensive camera; but one young man took the time to warn me that thieves were plentiful and that I should put my camera away soon.  I thanked him and followed his advice.  No sooner had he left my side than another young man appeared, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Excuse me.  Are you that pastor?”  I do not know what “that pastor” meant, but I recognized him from last year’s camp and said, “Yes.  Good to see you again.”  He told me that his name was Gian Pier and that he was going to camp again this year, only not on the fast boat with me.  His would take three days.  He was to leave on Saturday.  “Wait!  You’re leaving on the slow boat for camp on Saturday?”  “Yes.” “…and you can take whatever you want on the boat without paying extra for it?”  “Yes.”  “Great!  I have some potatoes for you.” 
        With the potatoes on their way, and our spirits encouraged to see the Lord working things out in His timing, we went back to town and relaxed for the evening.  Saturday turned into our day of tourism.  We tried to visit the Bible Baptist Institute of Iquitos (IBBI in Spanish), but we were turned away at the door.  A brother met us at the entrance, but he had just arrived at the ministry and did not have much information; and no one else was at the compound.  We left in a taxi and later found ourselves in a place called Nanay.  From Nanay, we took a small boat called a peke-peke ― because of the sound the motor makes ―  to the native community of the Boras.  The indigenous Boras enjoy a primitive and mostly nude life in the jungle.  Of course, the place we visited was so “touristy” that Jon, who had spent some time in the jungles of Venezuela, joked that they were probably going to take off their clothes and put on their feathers for us; and as soon as we left, they would be playing soccer in their blue jeans.  As it turns out, it was much more a reality than a joke; but we didn’t mind.  It was still an interesting experience.  One of the elders, named Rafael, told us that he, too, was a Christian; and we had a wonderful time listening to his stories about his ancestors.
        After our visit with the Boras, we visited a nature reserve, where many exotic animals are kept in cages on stilts.   We had to walk along wooden catwalks to get to them.  The elevated zoo is to protect the animals from the rising Amazon River during the months of May and June.  We saw a large anaconda, but we could not pick it up because it had just eaten a whole chicken.  We saw a sloth that kind of resembled Jon (in fact, his name was Juan), parrots, monkeys, rodents, and even an alligator.  I tried to pick the alligator up, but it bit me.  Don’t worry; it was only about eight inches long.  Besides, it was more a stunt for my girls than anything, but it really did hurt.  His name was Jorge.  Jorge in Peru is called Coco (like a coconut).  I thought it was very fitting since Coco is also the beginning of the word cocodrilo, or crocodile.
        When we returned to Nanay, we saw these fat worms wiggling around in a small tub.  We asked what they were called, and we were presented with four of them on a stick ― grilled.  As I grabbed one of them by the head and popped the body in my mouth, I cringed at the thought of being squirted by bug juice.  As it turned out, they were not that bad.  They reminded me of burnt cheese.  (No, they were nothing like chicken.)  After a good meal at a local restaurant, we went back to town.  That night, the two preachers from Lima, Fidel Gómez and Américo Días, were coming in; and in the morning, we all were to be at the loading dock by 5am for our fast boat to Caballo Cocha.
        Before retiring to our hotel, we found a nice restaurant called The Yellow Rose of Texas.  The owner, Gerald Mayeaux, was a nice man from Texas; and, having played baseball for the University of Texas, he was a sports fanatic.  His restaurant was decked out with sports memorabilia from all over the US.  Many other countries were represented in one way or another as well, but the theme was definitely American.  It was good to speak English for a time as Gerald pointed out his most prized possessions: autographed footballs, baseballs, jerseys, etc….  Jon and I quickly picked up that Gerald was very opinionated.  My father would say, “He might not always be right, but he’s never in doubt.”  He seemed to slip in a curse word once in a while, and then would say “pardon my French.”  I never knew all those words were French, too.  When he would use a particularly colorful term, I would say, “As Baptist preachers, we would probably say…” and proceed to remind him the proper English phrasing. 
        The alarm clock went off way too soon on Sunday, and we dragged ourselves and our luggage down to the dock.  We boarded without incident and by 6am, we were underway.  Our fast boat was much like a bus on the water.  It had ten or eleven rows of seats, two seats on either side of an aisle, each with a life jacket draped over the back of it, a restroom in the back (that flushed directly into the river) and an engine room that stored the large jet engine that pushed us down river.  The first several hours passed while I tried to sleep.  It was kind of like sleeping in a moving oven.  The small window that I was sitting next to let very little air in, but the sounds and the scenery made up for the discomfort.
        The jet engines are preferred over the outboard motors like those on boats of other companies because they do not get knocked around and broken by the logs floating down the river.   However, once every half hour or so, the captain would stop the boat, reverse the engine, and blow out all the debris that may have found its way into the propulsion system.  The whole cycle took only about thirty seconds to complete, but it broke up the monotony of the trip.  About half-way through our journey, the engine suddenly sounded like it was pulling too hard.  A man whistled from the open door of the engine room, and the boat was quickly shut off.  By that time, smoke was visible in the back of the boat, and a lady sitting near Jon already had her life jacket on, and most were standing in the aisle.  A radiator had blown a hole in it, and we had to float down the Amazon for the next hour until they had it fixed.  We were spinning slowly and getting closer and closer to the shore.  By the time we reached the shore, the rear was leading us down the river, and we climbed on top of the boat to push against the passing trees to move us away from the shore.  We were successful, and after a little longer delay with the radiator, the engine was fired up again.
        It took us about ten hours to get to Caballo Cocha, and we were glad to get onto dry land again.  We stopped and praised the Lord that we had not taken that four-day boat ride earlier in the week.  When Jesse had heard that we were considering the scenic route to Iquitos, he told Jon, “I could be your tour guide.  ‘On the left you’ll see some trees.  Over on your right, you’ll see more trees….’”  I wonder how long we would have been excited about our adventure before we said, “Ok, that was neat.  Can we get off now?”  I guess it would have been less than twenty-four hours.
        In Caballo Cocha, we were taken to a hotel (I use that word very loosely), where we each had our own room with a private bathroom.  That came as a welcomed surprise.  We had only cold water, but considering the heat, it was not a concern.  The only problem I had was a simple one that lasted the entire trip ― my cell phone would not work.  Since arriving in Iquitos, I could not get a signal.  My poor wife was already worried about me on this trip, and now I could not even call to say that everything was all right.  Jon had a phone with room enough for my cell phone chip, so I was able to make and receive calls through his phone.
        That evening, being Sunday, we went to Rock of Power Baptist Church (that sounds less contemporary in Spanish).  I was invited to preach, and that evening, I brought a message from the book of Jeremiah.  It was a refreshing evening seeing friends from last year’s trip, and enjoying the fellowship with other brothers in Christ.  I have learned that people are people, no matter where they are found.  In the US, in Huancayo, in the jungle, people are the same: sinners in need of a Saviour.  The majority of the people of Caballo Cocha were surprisingly young ― many young families and many, many children.  Usually, a population with an abundance of youths is associated with violence or, at least, petty crimes.  Caballo Cocha was pleasantly quiet, and even the young people said that there was very little crime there. 
        Back in our hotel that evening, I showered and headed right for bed.  The weariness that accompanies travel is hard to get rid of.  I tossed and turned, dosing off and on for a bit before finally getting to sleep.  At about 2am, I woke up and made my way to the bathroom.  Without turning any lights on, I noticed a big black spot on the white wall not far from me.  As I returned to the bed, my fear was confirmed: it was a huge spider.  I did not notice its color because of the darkness, but it was every bit of three inches in diameter with its legs pulled into a resting position.  I grabbed the nearest shoe, and began smacking it.  I probably hit the thing four times on the wall (which I am sure pleased Pastor Gomez in the adjacent room), and I hit it another two times on the floor.  With my enemy lying on his back with his legs curled up, looking kind of shriveled, I was satisfied.  In the morning, as I went to prepare myself for the day, I noticed that the spider was gone.  Immediately, I concluded that my wife was not so excessive after all.  From that night on, I would sleep with one eye open, constantly darting around the room in search of a vengeful spider. 
        Like last year, I went to the jungle prepared against mosquito bites.  I am not too fond of the idea of malaria or dengue or yellow fever.  So I took some malaria-prevention pills, a lot of insect repellent, and I even tried out some new mosquito patches.  I am not too sure of their effectiveness, but I received fewer bites than last year, so I am not going to criticize them.  Anyway, I believe that the medicine made me ill that first day of camp, and I left early to rest in my room for a couple of hours.  On my way back to the hotel, I had to go over a long bridge.  Toward the end of the bridge, the brush and marsh-like bed under the bridge turned into a tributary of a river.  Several children about ten to twelve years of age were jumping off the bridge into the river about twenty feet below.  I asked the oldest of them how deep the river was at that point.  He replied that he had never touched the bottom.  I smiled and walked on.
        When Jon returned to the hotel, the first thing he said was, “Hey, did you see those kids jumping off the bridge?  Tomorrow, I’m going.”  Admittedly, I was thrilled at the prospect, but the next day, when I stepped over the railing of the bridge; I began to count ― bad idea.  “1, 2, 3,… 4, 5...”  I could not let go.  I really wanted to; I just could not do it.  It was as if my hands would not obey my brain.  Jon got on the bridge next to me and said, “Here I go!”  So I jumped.  Sorry, Mom.
        While we jumped repeatedly off the bridge, I began to ask the children questions about the wild life in the area.  I asked them if they were afraid of the piranha.  They said no.  They were more leery of the anaconda.  However, most frightening of all, they said, was the canero, a parasitic fish that seemed to be more legend than fact.  It does exist and it has been found inside a human once; but, personally, I believe the fear is an exaggerated one.  The canero is said to be attracted to the scent of urine and will follow the scent of human urine and will introduce itself into the urethra.  Others claim they will enter the mouth or the nose or the ear and that they can be deadly.  Whether it is true or not, it would be a good story to tell the children to keep them from urinating in the pool.  When I heard about it, I suddenly had second thoughts about jumping off the bridge.  But the next day, I was diving off headfirst.
    Fellowship among brothers in Christ from different cultures can be interesting and quite educational.  I learned not to eat with my left hand from a Middle Eastern brother.  I learned not to toss things to people from a Peruvian.  I learned to hand things off using both hands from an Indian.  I learned not to smile at everybody you meet from an Asian brother.  What I have learned most is to observe others and not to criticize what is not understood.  A brother went to Mexico to “help” in a building project.  He was a mason by trade, so he sincerely wanted to teach the Mexicans a few things to help perfect their techniques.  It was pure selflessness.  However, when he showed them how to use the plum line to get the bricks just right, the nationals shrugged, threw his plum line down a hole and kept building.  In the end, they put stucco over the whole wall, and no one ever saw the crooked bricks.
        Though we are all of different cultural backgrounds, Christ’s love and forgiveness transcends all cultures.  However, the sharing of that message is cultural.  While living in a Catholic culture for the past eight years, I have noticed that many Peruvians are willing to “embrace Christ” and continue in Catholicism.  The main reason is that they see what we know as true salvation as simply one more step toward heaven.  The temptation is for preachers to turn to Calvinism to counteract.  That is one issue that we faced this year during our conversations with the pastors.  We just went back to the basics of grace and faith.  If salvation is presented correctly in any culture, it will be understood correctly: for God’s Word will not return unto Him void.
       These cultural differences are found in nearly every aspect of life.  As you may have noticed in my writing style, I love humor; and I think we have some great jokes in English.  When I tell a joke in Peru, I have to be ready to explain it; or they might not understand it.  I think Jon and I laughed more at the fact that no one got our jokes than at the jokes themselves.  When we tell jokes in English, the funniest ones are the ones that you deduce by logic and reasoning.  Peruvians are not ignorant people, but deductive reasoning does not come into play when listening to a story that someone else is telling you.  I still do not get how they don’t understand; they just don’t.
        A blind man went to Texas for the first time.  When he reached his room at the hotel, he said, “Wow, this is a BIG bed!”  The reply was, “Sir, everything’s big in Texas.”  The man, still wondering at the size of his plush accommodations, went downstairs to the dining room.  When he was handed a cup of coffee, he exclaimed, “Wow, this is a BIG coffee cup!”  The reply was, “Sir, everything’s big in Texas.”  Sitting there marveling at this new experience, he asked where he might find the restroom.  The waitress told him that he needed to go down the hall and that the restroom was the second door on the right.  He went down the hall but accidentally went to the third door on the right and fell into the swimming pool.  He frantically began to cry out, “Don’t flush! Don’t flush!”
        Now, at this point, an American would be laughing.  My dear Peruvian brothers were still looking at me with anticipation, waiting for the funny part.  Then I said “…because he thought he had fallen into a really bit toilet.”  Now, everyone is laughing!  You might have to find new ways to illustrate things in a new culture, but truth is truth, sin is sin, God is love, and humor is still humor. 
       Back to Caballo Cocha….  The town of Caballo Cocha is named for the small lagoon near which it is located, and it is known for its pink dolphins.  No joke ― pink dolphins.  Now, when I got home and told my girls, they asked, “Um, Daddy.  Did someone besides you call them pink?  You know you’re colorblind, right?”  But they really are pink; I saw them.  Of course, I thought they were grey. 
        I was impressed with the dolphins, the hard-working people, the little children who could guide a canoe a lot better than I could, the humility of the most educated among them, and the mutual respect that everyone seemed to enjoy.  I went to the bank one afternoon to pick up a deposit.  I waited in line for nearly a half an hour before I realized that I had left the account number in a text message in Jon’s phone.  I left my spot in line, went back to camp, retrieved the message, and returned to the bank.  Since I had left nearly thirty minutes earlier, the line had grown considerably, and I was not looking forward to waiting another half an hour or more to get the money.   But there was only one bank in the whole town, and I needed to get the deposit, so I went to the back of the line.  A lady walked out of the bank, and when she saw me, she came over to say, “Your line is already inside.  Come with me.”  I followed her, feeling like everyone was looking at me, screaming under their breath, “Cola!  Cola!” which means “Get to the back of the line!”  However, when I sheepishly raised my eyes to look at the others, now behind me, everyone was motioning for me to go into the bank and resume my place in the line! 
       The camp site sits right on the lagoon; and to get to the hotel about a mile away, a passing mototaxi would take us for about eighty cents.  The problem was finding a passing mototaxi.  When there was none, we had to walk that mile.  The route took us along a wide sidewalk beside some elevated houses, right along the water’s edge, then through town to the square.  It was a delightful walk, but a long one.  On one occasion, a young man driving his mototaxi stopped and asked where I was going.  I replied that I was heading to the Pheonix hotel, and he told me to climb in.  I had never met the man, but he knew that I was a preacher because I was a white man and because I was walking from the campground that is known around town as Monte Carmelo (Mount Carmel), the Baptist Camp.  He dropped me off and said, “No charge.”  Later in the week, a couple of men were taking their motorized cart into town.  Jon and I were soaking wet from our diving practice, and they gave us a ride to the hotel as well.  There seemed to be a respect for preachers in Caballo Cocha.  I was pleased ― not for the benefits we received, but for those men’s sake that God had placed there to minister.  How encouraging it can be to feel honored and welcome.
        On one of the days at camp, while I was teaching about God’s call on a preacher, I mentioned a meal that I had shared with another missionary in Lima.  The church that had invited us sat all the pastors at a separate table.  As everyone was being fed a delicious meal of chicken and rice and other vegetables, everyone at our table was given a big fried trout.  Then, we heard someone say, “Man, I want to be a pastor, too!”  The point I was making in my lesson was that God’s calling was “not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”  Now, I know that Romans 9:16 is in reference to salvation, but wanting trout instead of chicken is not an evidence of God’s call.  And yes, there are some places in the world where people still remove their hats for the preacher, or give him the bigger portion or the nicest room.
        A brother that lives and works in the border towns near Santa Rosa had come to camp with his pastor.  His pastor is a dear friend of mine and happens to share my name, but he spells it wrong: Marcos.  Anyway, this brother was sitting at the table with us one day, and I asked him about camp, about the teaching, about the town, etc.  Somehow, we got onto the subject of the river and all the exotic animals there.  I wanted to know which creature he feared the most, so I asked him about the piranha, the anaconda, the canero, and which was the one that gave him the most pause when he wanted to jump into the lagoon.  He replied, “The dolphins!”  …   I bit my cheek as hard as I could and asked as innocently as possible, “The pink ones?”  “Yes!”  He was serious.  The dolphins were what scared him the most.  I tried to explain that dolphins were known to be one of the most intelligent ― not to mention one of the most playful ― animals in the world.  With all the life-threatening creatures in that area of the world, he was afraid the pink dolphins?
        I had arrived at camp with a cold.  Now, I enjoy preaching, and I enjoy singing; but I could not do either one very well when we began our lessons.  I kept the first lesson short but soon realized that the more I preached, the better I could speak.  When I stood up to speak, I could be understood, probably because of the way one projects his voice in public speaking.  Anyway, when I would talk normally to someone in a private conversation, I could not make the sounds come out of my mouth, just air and squeaks.  So, the next day, I taught for an hour and fifteen minutes.  Many people asked me to sing a special or to lead the music, but as much as I wanted to, I could not.  Now, I know too many musicians to ever think myself a good singer; but in the jungles of Peru, I could be a professional for all the townspeople know.  On the last day of camp, in the evening service, I was finally able to sin, so I sang “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus.”  My voice had returned, though not in full strength.  The Lord allowed me to forget the words to the first verse to keep me humble.  I had to start over again; but in the end, I believe the song was a blessing.
        After our week in Caballo Cocha, we took a fast boat to the border town of Santa Rosa.  Santa Rosa is on the southwest side of the Amazon River in Peru.  Across the river is Leticia, Columbia, and just to the south and east on the same shore as Columbia is Tabatinga, Brazil.  My friend, Marcos Vela, works in this tri-border area, planting churches and training men for the ministry of the Gospel.  Last year, God showed me a true servant in Marcos.  This year, our friendship grew even more.  We stayed at a hotel not far from his house in Tabatinga.  While we were there, Marcos told us about the difficulties of preaching in the area, specifically because of the many ethnic groups.  There are three countries, three different currencies, several different languages, and several different cultures. 
        On one occasion, he had seen a motorcycle shop setting up a display to promote the motorcycles that were on sale.  The owner had rented one of those air blowers and a balloon clown that you see in the US at many outdoor events or in advertisement.  You know, those inflatable tube men that seem to bow and dance because of the air forced through them?  Well, the clown was still lying on the ground waiting to be given life by the air machine when an Indian came walking by carrying tapioca to sell in the market.  His curiosity got the best of him, and he watched intently as the workers began setting up their props.  When they turned the air on, that balloon clown rose to the sky and began to wave his arms like some angry spirit.  That Indian dropped his tapioca and took off running in the first direction his feet would take him.  Marcos almost crashed the motorcycle he was riding because he was laughing so hard.
        On Saturday night, we went to church in Santa Rosa, Peru, where I had visited last year.  I was so impressed with the ministry there that I encouraged my church in Huancayo to buy two oscillating fans for the auditorium.  Sometimes, our people complain about the cold, the rain, the heat, the distance… whatever excuse they can find for not coming to church.  Those in Santa Rosa, walk through mud to get to church every week.  And in the rainy months, the church members have to take canoes to church because the island is mostly covered by water.  They sit through smoldering heat, and not one of them looks unhappy. 
        On Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast at Marcos’ house, we visited a mission work in an island town called Fujimori.  The island is fairly new, created by the land erosion and movements of the Amazon River.  The rainy months have the same effects as in Santa Rosa.  Before Pastor Días and I preached that morning, we were all invited to our second breakfast of fish, rice and bananas.  All five of the pastors that had eaten an hour ago looked at each other, wondering how he was going to force down another meal.  However, this time, we were eating palometa, a close relative of the piranha.  So it was sort of like turning the tables somewhat and taking vengeance on nature.  Whatever the menu, and no matter how delicious, we were more than satisfied with food for a while.
        That afternoon, we visited a church in Leticia, Columbia where Pastor Américo Días preached again.  He brought a very good message, and there was a sweet spirit among the brethren.  I had many good memories of the members of that church from my previous visit, and it was good to see the them all still being faithful.  Travelling around Leticia was interesting.  The fact that it lies on the Amazon River and there are no roads in or out means that there are very few cars.  One would have to bring one in on a boat, and then the roads are full of motorcycles - not rickshaws, motorcycles.  When you flag down a taxi, the motorcycle driver hands you a helmet (it's the law), and you hop on the back. Now, that was interesting.  The back tire of the motorcycle I was riding blew out as we were pulling up to church.  The brother that had taken me made it clear that my weight probably had something to do with it.  But, in South America, that't not offensive.  He is just stating the facts.  I try to explain to them why strange Americans get so upset when someone tells them, "You're a little chubby, aren't you?"
        Later that evening, we took a boat back over to Tabatinga, Brazil, then walked about forty minutes to Igleja Batista Emanuel (Emmanuel Baptist Church).  The pastor asked me to introduce our group and explain the purpose of our visit to that area of the Amazon; but since I do not speak much Portuguese, it was very brief.  The service was well-attended and the pastor did not preach long (maybe those go hand in hand.)  I interpreted what I could for Jon.  I am not sure if he was impressed or if he was wondering if I was just making up my own message; but he asked, “You speak Portuguese?”  Well, no, but it kind of sounds like Spanish with a bad accent, so I got the main ideas of the message.  Thankfully, it was a simple salvation message emphasizing the importance of the cross of Christ.
        That same day we walked all the way from Columbia to Brazil and back.  Of course, it was only about fifteen blocks, but it sounds more impressive if you leave that part out.  So, in one day, we were able to visit churches in Peru, Columbia and Brazil.  That was a first for me.  That afternoon, Américo and I were taking a picture on the Columbian/Brazilian border.  Américo said, “Isn’t that interesting?   An American and a Peruvian at the Columbian/Brazilian border.” 
        While Américo and Fidel went up river a couple hours to a Columbian town called Puerto Nariño to visit a pastor, Jon and I spent the next day in Tabatinga and in Leticia.  I bought my girls and my wife each a skirt.  I kept the receipt because it cost me 28,000 pesos!  (That was only like $14USD, but was still an impressive receipt.)  We settled in early that evening because our twelve-hour boat ride back to Iquitos began at 3:30am in Peru.  We had to be at the dock at 2am to catch a boat in Brazil that would take across the river.  So, we were up at 1:15am.
        I was not looking forward to the trip.  In all sincerity, I was ready to be home with my wife and kids.  The food on the fast boats was not bad, it was just kind of bland and predictable: a small piece of meat, a lot of rice and a baked banana.  The open windows did not seem to attract much wind, and the seats are like coach seats on a cheap airline with hardly any cushion or recline.  Besides, by the time we got to the boat, Jon and I were both still tired after our three-hour nap that night.
        The same crew that brought us from Iquitos was the one taking us back.  In a way, that brought me some peace of mind.  I figured that they had learned their lesson from our previous trip and would be more cautious to avoid overheating.  Well, they were certainly more cautious, stopping every twenty minutes, and even resting with the motors shut down for a half an hour or so to cool the engine off.  Our boat ride would stretch to fourteen hours; and this time, since there were no ruptured radiators to give us an excuse to climb on top of the boat, we didn’t stand up once.  It took me a minute or two to find my legs when we docked in Iquitos.  We grabbed our luggage and headed up the steps to the street where dozens of mototaxis were waiting to charge me my left leg to get to the town square.  I was tempted to give it to them because it wasn’t doing me any good at the moment.
        Our flight to Lima, where Jon would get a flight to Andahuaylas and I would catch a bus to Huancayo, was to leave at 10:30pm, so Jon and I found our way back to The Yellow Rose of Texas to eat some excellent barbecue ribs and, of course, to see our buddy, Gerald.  He kindly obliged us to an earful of French-riddled English before we went to the airport.
       When we picked up our boarding passes at the airline’s counter, we were given a seat assignment in row 23 ― no seat letter, just “Row 23”.  When we boarded the plane, we understood.  They do not care where you sit, as long as you sit in that row.  We sat down, and in a little while longer, we were in the air.
        Upon arriving in Lima, I called my wife to let her know that I would catch a bus at noon and be home by supper.  She reminded me that I had told her that I would be home that morning and asked that if it were at all possible to leave right away.  I told her that I wanted to rest; she replied that I could rest when I got home.  I said I wanted to take a shower; she told me that we had a shower at the house.  Honestly, she made too much sense; so I found a car at midnight leaving for Huancayo and jumped in the front seat.  The driver was nice, but he did not know how to cut curves on the mountain road.  He took each curve as fast as he could while staying in the lines.  With my head bouncing off the window and then off his shoulder every few seconds, I got very little sleep.
        When the car finally stopped in Huancayo, and my head stopped spinning, I found a taxi to take me to my house.  On my trip to the jungle, I rode in many vehicles: buses, motorcycles, boats, cars, and airplanes.  The entire day after I arrived, I felt like I was still moving, even when I was lying in bed.  When I walked into my house, I found a big welcome banner hanging from the ceiling just inside the door.  There was also a table filled with cinnamon rolls, peanut butter cookies, and a sweet potato pie.  There was also a happy woman and three smaller versions of her smiling very broadly.  In Caballo Cocha. and in my house, people sure know how to make a preacher feel welcome.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

8 years passed - a lifetime to go...

    My Family and I have been in Peru for eight years now, seven of which we have spent in the beautiful Andes Mountains.  We are Independent Baptist Missionaries sent out of Lighthouse Baptist Church of Indianapolis, Indiana.  Our goal is to evangelize the lost, make disciples out of new converts, and teach them to grow in the Lord as we plant churches in the Mantaro Valley, all the while trying to fight off the devil and make a Christian home for our three little girls.  We are healthy and happy, and I hope we are making a difference where we live.  The name of our city is Huancayo (pronounced Wan KAY yo).  
    This blog started with the simple idea that we have a lot of things to share, but not everyone wants to sit and listen to our stories for hours on end.  So for those of you who have an interest in our life and ministry - Thank you.  Things are happening everyday, and the Lord has blessed us with a wonderful ministry. Whenever we are asked, "How long do you plan to stay in Peru?" our answer is "For life!"  If the Lord were to send me elsewhere, I will pack up my family and move; but not until then.  I came to stay.  

Stay tuned for more.  I have an 11-page blog that I have yet to post about my most recent trip to the Peruvian jungle.  

In Christ,
Markos for the Lindseys