We are sorry for not having kept up with our goal of a monthly blog, we know that there are many who enjoy reading and keeping up to date on our life here. So, I am going to give you more of a catch-up style blog. July was the month of preparations and August time spent with family.
In late July Peru Projects would be hosting the third annual Conquistadores (Pathfinders) Camporee. This camporee is for the clubs that live in the jungle regions that Peru Projects serves. Many of these clubs are started and fostered by the missionaries that work in their villages during the year; they are unable to attend the “official” camporee, which is held in Lima, Peru every year.
The camporee was scheduled to begin on Thursday, July 29th and would conclude at noon on Sunday, August 1st. So, as you can imagine most of the month of July was busy planning, and setting up for the over 300 kids and leaders that would be attending. The grounds were mowed (or weed whacked, as the mower is broken…again), the camping sites staked, our water tanks filled, bath houses cleaned, and the frame for the stage was made. Each club would be responsible for their own shelters, food, and transpiration. Peru Projects would be responsible for almost everything else.
A week before the camporee was to begin our first Conquistadores club arrived. Like many of the villages in the jungle, transportation up and down the river runs on a specific schedule. For many clubs this meant they would need to catch passage on one of the only boats going by their village that week. For some they have multiple boats they can get a ride on each week and for others there may only be one boat every two weeks. Thus, a week before the camporee our base slowly began to fill with clubs that needed to come early or they would miss out on the whole event.
Brad and I were responsible for the Saturday night activities. The first thing that came to mind was “Capture the Flag”. Both of us have fond memories of playing this game in Pathfinders, Youth Groups, and at large family gatherings. We taught the staff and played a couple games one night, and although the staff loved it, it was decided that it would be too much work to explain and teach it to the kids. So we decided that we would divide the kids into groups and play rotating relay games. After another practice run with the staff, it was decided that this would work best. This was just our small portion of responsibilities. As you can imagine the rest of the staff (those who speak Spanish) had a lot more on their plate.
At the opening ceremonies on Thursday night, the theme “Called to Serve” was introduced by our guest speaker, Pastor Omar, a young pastor with a heart for youth. He shared his testimony and what being called to serve had meant to him. He was a young man in a difficult position. He attended a youth camporee here on the grounds of Peru Projects and had learned about God, but at home he was well on his way to becoming a professional fútbol player (soccer). He knew by the end of those meetings that his ability to play for the international Peru fútbol team was in jeopardy. He had asked God to be a part of his life, and was determined to keep the Sabbath; which meant that he would not play or attend practice on Saturdays. After talking with his coach who told him not participating on that day was not an option; he chose to walk away from his earthly dream and follow God’s path for his life.
He has since become a pastor and has focused his attention on youth and young families. Pastor Omar continued to talk about what serving God means and how it was a possibility for each individual there.
Outside of the meetings, the clubs participated in events like spear throwing, raft building, shot put, and obstacle courses. Each club was also responsible for creating a nice and organized camp site. It was so much fun to walk around and see the ingenuity of the clubs. There were bamboo entrances, shelters, tables, benches, shoe racks, and luggage racks created. In the United States, a camporee trailer is filled with totes of food, cooking supplies and so much equipment. Most of the clubs here had a big pot, open fire, a huge pile of plantains, rice, eggs (one club even brought a chicken), and many had dried fish. This was their food and shelter. Yes, most of the clubs had tents, but a club of twenty could share anywhere from 5-8 tents.
Getting to see and experience different elements of this camporee gave me a lot to think about. There were many times where Brad and I would laugh, when we thought about how many of these activities would never be allowed in the United States. Raft building was one of them. When the timer began, a club could have a raft built fully from scratch, in the water, in under 7 minutes. They knew what they were doing and it was clear that these were skills that they learned and used in the jungle. I have seen raft building in a Pathfinder club before, and there was more time spent on what the proper techniques were and making sure you had the proper tools. These kids had balsa wood from the jungle, rope, and bamboo split in the middle for paddles. It was fast, simple, and mostly effective. It was just so cool to watch activities that focused on the skills and practices of their jungle lives. The best way to describe it, is like watching a movie about rock climbing vs. actually seeing a seasoned climber in person.
The Camporee ended with one of the most amazing events. Over 76 kids and adults were baptized Sabbath afternoon. I have grown up seeing mass baptisms in mission videos or in pictures, but to physically be there, attending one is something else. It shows me the power of God and the need to share the gospel with those who haven’t had a chance to hear it yet. This also brought up a few questions for me. In the United States you can’t get baptized until you have completed baptismal classes and understand the meaning behind the action. I inquired as to how that worked with mass baptisms, and was informed that there is the hope of the Bible studies as well, but for many there isn’t the opportunity for a pastor to baptize them at home. The missionaries in the villages have been busy providing the Bible studies since the clubs have returned home.
Saturday night, after the games, brought another experience that I had only heard or read about. And that was the realness of the devils presence. Saturday night all staff were called to one of the club’s camps. Three of the campers were exhibiting demon possession behaviors. One was taken to the hospital, having exhibited behavior similar to seizures. He was there for several days, and to this day we don’t know if there was a medical cause. The other two campers were having troubles with fainting and expressing odd sounds. One of the campers had been having trouble earlier in the camporee, and had been given a medical clearance, but the behavior didn’t subside. As a staff, we spent time praying over the children, camp, and personal time in prayer at our homes. The devil didn’t like that these kids were focusing on a life devoted to God, he didn’t like that they were going to be sharing their experiences with their villages upon their return. It is so true that it only takes one person to experience God and share it with those around them and soon you begin to see the ripple effect. If you don’t get much from our blog, please, get one thing. Your influence, in your daily life, will affect those around you! Live like you are God’s child, and ooze His character and love to everyone around you. It will make a difference, even if you never see it, it will make a difference.
The week after the camporee brought lots of cleaning, shopping, and traveling. My parents would be flying into Lima on August 5th, and I flew there to meet them. They had never traveled internationally before, and would be arriving late, needing to get a hotel, and all the fun stuff that comes with a late night flight. I arrived, checked into the hotel we had rented, right across from the airport, got some food (so they could eat super when they arrived), and then at about midnight went over and waited in a populated, well-lit section of the arrival gate. I had called ahead and arranged for their luggage to be checked in for our morning flight when they arrived that evening, this would save us from standing in line in the morning. This allowed us to not have to carry as many things, and also helped to keep us safer, since nothing says I am a foreigner like carrying 8 suitcases. It took them longer to get through customs then I thought it would, so it was closer to 12:45 am by the time they came walking out the exit. There were hugs, smiles and tears as we greeted each other.
Once luggage was checked (it was such a relief to not have to deal with the crowds in in the morning), we headed to the hotel room and got a few hours of sleep. I remember telling mom and dad to enjoy their last warm shower for the next two weeks. We met Eben and his son for our return flight, as they had been in Lima for some business. The sky was clear and we were able to see the mountain tops and watch as the landscape became more and more green. Upon arrival in Pucallpa, my parents got to experience the wall of humidity and heat that hits you as you leave the plane, and walk on the tarmac to claim your luggage. Brad picked us up and we headed to base. Watching Mom’s and Dad’s faces as they tried to soak in their new surroundings was very enjoyable. Everything was new and so very different from back home.
The next several days found us exploring our local zoo, taking a boat ride, working around the house and in the hanger, and buying souvenirs. The highlight for us was a few days trip we took with Eben’s family to Tingo Maria. Tingo Maria is located about five or so hours on the road towards Lima. On the way we would pass by the farms on the flat land and start working our way into the hills of the high jungle. Everyone was excited. Food had been packed…more than we thought we would need, clothes for an overnight stay, along with any motorcycle gear needed. Eben, Brad, and my dad would be riding motorcycles, while the other five of us would be riding in the pickup.
I became the designated driver for the truck. This was an interesting situation. I had not driven a vehicle in nearly 6 months and I had not driven a manual since high school. I knew that the driving element wouldn’t take long to readjust to, but driving on the roads down here…well that would be a different story. A one lane road is treated like a four lane road. You will be surrounded by motorcycles, motorcars, and other vehicles. But, no one else was going to drive, and I didn’t want one of the guys to miss out on the motorcycle trip. So, we headed out. It was slow going at first, driving in town and getting to the main road. The road to Tingo Maria is an odd road. The best way I can describe it is a road with the curves of a backroad in Tennessee, the drop offs of the west, and the potholes and washouts like the jungle. I was not only relearning to drive a stick (which included a few stalls and accidentally leaving the hand brake on for a few miles…let’s just say things were smoking), but was also playing chicken with cars and ended up doing a three point turn on a slanted two-lane road in a canyon, in front of an oncoming semi. Let just say, by the time we stopped at the waterfall, 3 hours into the drive, my nerves were in the limbo stage. Stuck between frazzled and feeling like I was slowly getting the hang of it, I pushed on because there was no other option…
The waterfalls were beautiful. No picture will ever do justice to the water cascading through the jungle foliage and into a clear river. The big waterfall was something straight from a picture of paradise, right down to the people swimming in the clear, cold waters at its base. We enjoyed a lunch of burritos, prepared by Elvia, Eben’s wife (homemade food from a Mexican, beats any other form of burrito…just saying). It had been raining on and off during our trip but by the end of lunch the weather began to clear. We continued our journey up into the mountains. The scenery just kept getting more and more beautiful. We crossed a couple sketchy bridges, which were high above ravines, a few more rough road patches, and finally we began our decent into the valley of Tingo Maria.
I had reserved a room for my parents at one of the two nicer hotels in town. I did this because I wanted them to have air conditioning. They hadn’t been sleeping well in the heat at the house, so I wanted them to get some rest. This hotel provided a secure location for parking, which was important, especially for the motorcycles, as they are a commonly stolen item. We parked, unloaded, checked in, and then walked down the city square in search of supper. We ended up eating at a juice bar and got a few vegetarian sandwiches. It was fun for mom and dad to try new flavors. Some pool time (which was freezing) and then off to bed we all went.
In the morning we were treated to an amazing breakfast by the hotel and then we packed up. It had been raining (pouring jungle style) on and off all morning and after discussing the safety of the roads, especially for the bikes, we decided to head out. The trip back was much smoother and faster, at least it seemed that way to me. The shifting wasn’t as foreign and was getting much smoother, and the guys would go around the semi’s and let us know if it was safe to pass on the corners. One of the tires on the truck was having issues holding air and after a couple attempts to fill it, which didn’t work, it was decided that we would need to have it patched. A shop was found, and while the tire was being patched, we went next door to the local shop and bought water and some snacks. Once fixed we were back on the road.
This was Friday afternoon, and it was getting late. We had thought that we could make it back to base, but it was becoming clear that we would not make it back before sundown. It isn’t very safe to travel in the dark with the motorcycles, so after some discussion it was decided that we would find a hotel for the night and enjoy a leisurely Sabbath getting back the next day. After some creative driving and lots of searching (round and round), we found a hostel to stay in for the night. This was a more native experience for my parents. The rooms were damp and full of black mold, which my mom has terrible allergies to, but God blessed and she did not have any negative side effects.
This is where the extra food came in really handy, it helped to provide us with supper, supplemented breakfast, and lunch. Clothes were washed by hand in bathroom sinks, so that we had something to wear Sabbath. For most of us that meant putting on slightly damp cloths in the morning as they had not completely dried during the night.
Sabbath morning we headed out and enjoyed seeing the scenes as we went. Around 12:30 am I pulled over in a nice gravel parking lot, on top of a hill, and we cooked lunch. I remember Eben being surprised that we still had food in the truck. My mom and I laughed, because we are always being accused of bringing too much, and most of the time it comes in handy. After lunch we continued on our way. About an hour and a half or so from base, the patched tire on the truck began to go flat. We pulled off and changed the tire with the spare and continued on our way, arriving at base around 4:00 pm.
The trip was not only fun, but true to Curran trip rules. Rough roads, extra food packed, hand washing clothes if needed, having a one-and-a-half-day trip turn into a three-day trip, a flat tire, road side picnics, and breathtaking views. It was a taste of home, in Peru.
On Sunday evening, Brad, Mom, Dad and I flew to Lima. We had rented and Airbnb on the coast (not the cheapest, but worth a once in a lifetime experience) in Miraflores. This allowed us to enjoy the South Pacific Ocean, with our being in the middle of the city. We enjoyed walking along the cliffs and down on the rocky beach. In the mornings and throughout the day you could see people surfing and parasailing. The temperature was cool, and in the evenings down right cold. It was fun to spend the last couple days together on the ocean coast. On Tuesday evening we took a taxi to the airport and after mom and dad checked in their suitcases, we hung out for a few hours in the food court. When it was time for them to go, we hugged, said goodbye and cried as we watched them walk out of view. Brad and I headed back to the Airbnb and left for Pucallpa in the morning.
It has been two months with adventures and new experiences. Although it was busy, it was filled with opportunities to learn and grow. It was so nice to see my parents and get to do some crazy things with them. It has been something that all of us will never forget and it’s fun to talk on the phone now since they know the places and people you are talking about.