A Texas Team, Prof. T on a dune-buggy and the 4th

Trip Start Jun 06, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hello again family and friends.  I´m still alive.  I know more spanish.  I really need a haircut and a new change of clothes, but I´ve been having some more great experiences.  Check them out if you like, I think the one about the dune buggy ride is fun if you only have time to glance at one. 

Much love to you all, and please send me any thoughts and updates!

The Texas Mission Group
I spent one week in June as a member of a Lutheran mission team from Texas.  Their loving generosity and committed service was the perfect reminder to me of God´s purpose for us on earth, to love and to serve.  After many visits to churches and communities around Lima, a Vacation Bible School serving 500 Peruvian children, and several nights together eating, drinking, and laughing, the Texas team said goodbye.  Before they left, I left them with a toast...
 Dear friends from Texas and brothers and sisters in Christ,
During my first weeks here in Peru I had a thrilling and unique adventure in the Andes of northern Peru.  One night my friends and I stayed with a village family deep in the mountains.  They were so generous to take us into their home and feed us, and feed us, and feed us.  We could not resist their generosity.  We stuffed ourselves to the point of being sick, and even had to put dozens of little potatoes into our pockets.  We just could not say no.  Their kindness was irresistible.
The generosity of that family, like so many others here in Peru, is endearing and absolutely heart-warming.  Sometimes I think I should stay in this country forever. 
Then I realize that likewise, you all have shared with me something that I could not resist.  That is, your loving and open arms as you welcomed me into your church family. 
Thank you for filling me with comfort during my stay with you as well as filling me with hope and confidence for the future of this ministry.  I hope to return to Texas some day soon and see you all again.  I pray God continues to fill you up with the irresistible love that you shared with me and everyone here during your time in Peru.

Tomas, El Profesor
With little to do and a whole day to do it, I worked up the gumption to visit Luz Divina.  Luz Divina is one of the four Lutheran churches in this city of 8 million that I visited with the group from Texas.  After help and guidance from my dear Peruvian family, the Rojas´s, I arrived safely to the secure oasis of the church in the dangerous neighbourhood of Marquez. 
As the combi (a vehicle hybrid between a bus and a minivan) sped off I hurriedly stepped to the street.  I had been warned repeatedly about the danger of burglars and other tough guys in the area so I immediately located a store, bought a bottle of water, and asked for directions.  By God´s grace a woman at the store perked up at the name of the church.  She was a member and she agreed to be my compañera. 
I stepped inside one of the church buildings in the neighbourhood and was greeted by dozens of smiles, hugs, and kisses.  It was lunch time for the kids in the Children of the Future program sponsored by churches in the U.S.  The program serves 84 children, providing them with lunch M-F as well as two hours of supervised study and play time every afternoon (let me know if you´re interested in the program, I´d be delighted to tell more).  The timing was great because the first thing I was offered after a chair was a steaming plate of rice, noodles, and some tough and tasty beef.
Amidst my chewing, more kisses on the cheek, and telling people my name is Tomás, I met Elisabeth, one of the programs leaders.  We talked for awhile upstairs.  One hour later, using my modest Spanish skills and her modest English skills, I was Profesor Tomás.  Imagine, it takes almost 10 years to earn that title back in the states!
What a blessing.  One thing I had hoped for during my stay in Peru was to plant myself somewhere for awhile.  I can´t imagine a place more fertile for personal cultivation and an opportunity more conducive for service and learning. 
My first day I taught drawing.  I think I´ll teach them Old McDonald tomorrow.  I´ll be Prof. T for a couple weeks.  Life is good.  God continues to be generous.

A Ride in the Dunes of Ica
Listo?  I hadn´t learned the word yet, but my automatic response of ¨Si¨ ended up being the right one, I think.  I found out later that listo means ¨ready¨ in Spanish.  Our daring dune-buggy driver, Dito, asked if I was ready, I said yes, and Silvana and I were off to the dunes.
I thought of the scene in the great Star Wars trilogy when Luke is cruising through the desert in search of R2D2.  I felt like I was on my way to visit Obi-Wan in my sand cruiser.  Chased by the crazy, barking sand people we had to drive at life threatening speeds to avoid our certain capture.
As we flew over the mountainous dunes, hundreds of feet tall, there were times I wasn´t sure if we´d make it home alive.  With hearts pounding, we approached the crest of a dune and the only sand we saw was a mile away in the sun-bathed desert before us.  We plummeted down the ridge, Silvana screaming, me laughing madly, the dune-buggy turning almost entirely sideways with lack of traction.  In that moment I wished that I had known the word for ¨ready¨ back at the beginning because I´m not so sure we were.  We lacked helmets, the seatbelts were faulty, and I knew nothing about our driver. 
After a few more thrilling plummets the sun began to set on the desert sand and on our adventure as well.  After a few attempts at sand-boarding it came sweetly to completion.  We sat on the highest ridge in the area and watched the sun go down.  Behind us a mist of sand blew and swirled into the air.  It was tremendous.  The shadows from the falling sun on the red and gold dunes painted an impressive picture before us.  I have never seen desert look so wonderful. 
Do they have the 4th of July in Peru?
Remember being asked that question in some form as a kid?  I always responded so confidently, ¨No, duh...¨ only to realize I was wrong, because everyone has the day on their calendar.  However, after celebrating the 4th of July here in Peru I would respond with a ¨Yes¨ even if I didn´t understand the joke.
No parades, no hot grills, no lakes, frisbees, or fireworks, but I had a wonderful 4th of July celebrations.  Why?  Because I was with my wonderful Peruvian family and my dear cousin Cheridyn.  We were cooking, listening to country music, and drinking cervezas in the kitchen.  With Cheridyn and Silvana taking charge in the kitchen I stomped around with a cowboy hat and danced with my mamá, Isabel.  Then, with great ceremony, my brother Alberto, father Fabio, and I raised the U.S. and Peruvian flags taping them to the kitchen wall while bobbing our heads to, Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy by Big and Rich.
The meal was so American.  We opened the beers early and appeased our appetites with nachos and guacamole.  We had watermelon, homemade potato salad, green beans, and a variation of beer brats and buns.  We sat down and ate listening to the Beatles.  For desert, none other than America´s favourite cookie, an Oreo.  In addition, we shared bounties of laughter and the little information about the U.S. Independence that Cheri and I retained from U.S. history class. 
So, do they have 4th of July in Peru?  Yes they do.
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