Our Peruvian mission began towards the end of February, and a new life for the family began as well. What many would call our mission post can better be called our new home! Because of the thousands of coconut, banana, papaya and mango trees we often feel like we are blessed to live in paradise! Though the commuities live at a level of poverty that we had not encountered anywhere in our previous mission posts, we can’t deny it is beautiful here. We are surrounded by the foothills of the Andes Mountains and are bordered on one side by the beautiful (yet dangerous because we are still in the midst of the rainy season) Huallaga River.
Our first few weeks were spent in Picota with the Spanish missionary priests from Cordoba, Spain. Padre Paco and Padre Leopoldo have been amazing, and within a week of our arrival they found us our new abode, rent free, in a village not far from Picota, called Pucacaca! It’s OK, you can go ahead and laugh. We do! (It’s pronounced POO ca ca ca!) The average age in this village is around 20. The population is primarily composed of school age children. How very fortunate for a family who happens to have 5 school age children! We were also informed/warned that one of the major issues for this area is the early promiscuity seen with the local young people (which is a huge contributor to the suprisingly low average age of the population). When we asked the priests for ideas on how we could help combat this problem their response was, “Only God knows.”
With prayer for guidance, and a blind trust that this was what the Lord wanted, we moved into our new house. Within the first week of living in our new home, we visited the schools (which our children had already begun attending) to invite them to join us in a local children’s choir. Jon has always been very talented on guitar and because he learned a plethera of songs with hand motions in Mexico, we figured this would be a great way to get the students involved during Mass. The first choir practice had over a hundred young people in attendance (from all grade levels) and they LOVED it! They were moving and dancing and so excited to be there. Mass was said the following evening and the priests were amazed at how many people participated. What completely baffled them was when one of the ladies mentioned how she was sorry that more of the adults could not be there because there was a mandatory PTA meeting at the High School at the same time. Apparently previous Masses were not well attended before we arrived.
Since then we have been overwhelmed by the love shown to us by the community, especially the young people. Not a day goes by that we don’t have 20-30 children coming by the house to spend time with our kids, play games with us or tell us stories about their lives. They have become more than our friends, they are like family to us. They have brought us on adventures through the chacras (farms), up the foot hills to the bat caves, and to the Mesita which are large rocks where you can get a view of the entire village.
One morning, not long after our first Mass I caught the first moto I could flag down (basically a motorcycle that has a bench on the back so it can take passengers) to take me to Picota to meet with the priests and Jonathan who was already there. It took me about fifteen seconds to see that this moto was not in the best shape and what should be a 10 minute ride was going to take at least double that. It was all part of the Lord’s plan though because not long after we began our trip, and because we were going so slow that the driver, Tomas, could literally turn completely around to talk to me, we started up a conversation. Tomas began with the usual pleasantries, asking where I was from, why I was here and if our family liked it here. I said I loved it. The then got quiet and asked if I had a son named Moses who was in 7th grade, because he had a son in the same class who kept talking about this great missionary kid named Moses. I said yes and he began to tell me how thankful he and the whole community of Pucacaca was for our family. He said everyone loves the fact that we moved into town, that the children have been so happy and so excited about their faith and God. He mentioned the Mass and how their were soooooo many children there. He said that was a miracle because before we came the children never went to Mass, just the old ladies and the children would stay out in the plaza and play, but now, they want to go to Mass because our children are at the Mass and they want to be like our kids who seem so happy and excited about their faith!!!! What music to my ears!!!!! And people wonder why families should be missionaries!!!!
It is the witness of our FAMILY that is impacting the people here and we pray that with our willing hearts, and God’s grace we will be able to help these young people choose what is right and not fall into the sins that are so common to this area. We pray they will know what love truly is and not seek it in the wrong places. God alone suffices! To God be the glory now and forever!!!!!