So this past weekend I had the unique opportunity to go and visit my future home in Cusco, Peru. There was a short-term Extreme Team that was working and we were asked if we would like to come and experience first-hand what was being done. This experience was definitely apart of God's perfect plan and timing.
Nine of us left late on March 5th which was the one-year mark for when I first received my call to go to Peru. We had a 10+ hour bus ride over night from Arequipa to Cusco. As we were entering Cusco, I woke up and was in awe of the majestic green mountains that filled the landscape; it was more than I ever expected! My prayer was that God would help me have a love for the people of Cusco and see them the way he does, as being even more stunning than the mountains and worthy of his love.
As soon as we got to our hotel, we got onto another bus with the short-term volunteers and Extreme staff and went to the central market to do a children's festival. Our team learned the true meaning of being flexible and had the full missionary imersion during our three-day stay in Cusco. Many locals gathered around as we had several activities to attract their attention: Rico the Cuy, face painting, balloon animals, jump ropes, puppet shows, and salvation bracelets. I had some previous experience with balloon animals, so I helped in that area for the three hours we were there. It was an incredibly effective ministry and many decisions for Christ were made! There has been alot of rain in Cusco which has caused alot of devastation and has really hurt the economy. We were expecting more rain and cooler temperatures, but it was actually hotter than Arequipa and we all left with sunburns! We went to the site where they are building our new home to meet those who have put so much time and energy into this project. The views were beautiful and it was a neat experience to feel at home.
That evening we had a dinner at the hotel for the parents and children who were involved with the VBS' during the week. I really enjoyed the opportunity to introduce myself and our team to these people who we will be ministering to and was able to practice my Español! I also met a young woman named Maria who is from Cusco and is interested in doing missions. We talked about what it means to be a missionary, the beliefs of the Nazarene church, and how she could be involved. I got her information and sent it to the pastor in charge of the Peruvian 40/40's and am awaiting to see what happens!
On Sunday we went for a tour of the historical Plaza de Armas and made the decision to leave on Monday so that we could have one more day of ministry. We went to the church and met with Pastor David and Daisy who we will be working alongside when we begin our ministry. We were able to help with a clothing drive at the church before the service. The pastor's wife had invited several people who she knew were in need. We had a beautiful standing-room only service where three people made decisions to follow Christ!
Monday was a very special day of ministry and really helped me refocus on why I am here in Peru and gave me a renewed love for the beautiful Cusqueñans. All week long, the Extreme Team volunteers had been going to each one of the 18 sites where we are going to be planting churches and prayed over them and consecrated them with oil. We had the opportunity to join in these ceremonies at two of the church-plant sites.
After our second ceremony in Oropesa, we went out into the local plaza in small groups and asked people if we could pray with them and told them our plans of beginning a church there. It was an intimidating process at first because it was all in Spanish, but we met several people who were willing to listen to us and allowed us to pray with them. I was overwhelmed with the fact that this is where I will be serving and how ready the harvest really is!!
All of the women of the group then went to Mantay, a shelter for young mother's between the age of 12-18 that is located on the same street as our future home! It is owned my an organization in Spain and houses up to 16 girls who were victims of abuse and come from severe poverty. There are only two of these shelters available in all of Peru. They help these young girls develop skills and go to school so that they can become self-supporting and find jobs where they will not be exploited. We did mini manacures with the ladies and I was able to talk with a few of them and share about what we were doing. We then showed the Jesus film from the point of view of the women that were involved in Jesus' ministry. It was a powerful display of God's redeeming love and how each one of them are worthy of that same love and hope. All of the women who watched the video came up to accept Christ! It was one of those experiences that I can only describe as devine. We then helped them make the salvation bracelets and passed out gifts that we had for them. There was also a little workshop where the girls make items to sell in order to help them earn an income. If you would like to visit their website, go to: http://www.mantayamerica.org/. The shelter has asked us to come back and we are looking forward to starting a ministry and Bible study with these beautiful young girls!
Overall this was a powerful three-day experience that fanned the flame in my heart for the work that God is doing in Cusco. There are two more short-term trips that will happen in Cusco, one which I will be helping with, before we finally come in October. Now I am even more motivated to learn the language and go through our classes so that I can better serve the people of Cusco!