Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Little Bit of Everything

Here's some theme music for you, if you like listening as you read!
Since I last posted...

This handsome fella turned three! We love this happy little guy!

We've received four new children at the Juniper Tree Children's Home--all girls, and all four as sweet as can be.

Over Thanksgiving, we got a visit from Aunt Hannah! Hannah is Dan's sister. She was here for her birthday so we celebrated with ice cream and Tres Leches cake.

We had so much fun showing her around Lima and spending time catching up.

We were proud to attend the seminary graduation of Estefanny, who grew up at the Juniper Tree. What an outstanding person she had turned into! Beautiful inside and out.

Here is Estefanny with her housemom, Oli. It was a small graduating class of two--and the Juniper Tree filled half of the seats available, all of us excited to cheer her on.

Found in our grocery store: Honey Nut Noonies. Nope, they don't taste anything like the real thing.

A 5k was held to benefit our ministry and another local ministry who helps children. It was a huge success! All the kids and staff from the Children's Home ran in it, along with hundreds of other Lima runners. It was a fun family event.

My favorite moment of the race was when we passed a group of bystanders who were clapping and cheering for the runners. One little girl that we were running with saw the crowd and put on a show, sprinting past them in her best running form, waving as she passed. She was a bit short-sighted as she slowed down again the moment she passed them (even though they could still see her), but I'm guessing they thought it was as cute as I did!

We celebrated a landmark at the Children's Home this month as one of the boys turned 18 and graduated from high school in the same month. There was a party to celebrate him and send him out into the world with love and prayers. He will stay at the Juniper Tree for the summer, and then plans on going to Bible school for one year, followed by university to study to become a veterinarian.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 'Till next time...


Thursday, November 3, 2016

One Little Boy's Story

There's a boy who was brought to our Children's Home after he was found sleeping alone outside on the street, at night during the winter, with only a light blanket. At five years old.

All of the kids at the Juniper Tree have hard stories in their past, but there is something about this one that makes me cry every time I think about it. I try to imagine what it must have been like for him; my thoughts go to Davy (my seven-year-old) being alone on the streets at night and knowing how terrified she would be makes me sick to my stomach.

I hate what happened to him. I hate that he had to experience that fear and vulnerability and danger as a little boy. It makes me angry.

It's easy to let my anger be directed towards the parents. I mean, who does that?! The anger rushes over me each time I hear a new story of the awful things that go on in this wretched world. How can people be so capable of evil towards their own precious children?

While I believe that anger is a reasonable response to their stories, I was challenged by a grace-filled attitude towards these parents in a blog post written by another Kids Alive missionary. He wrote:

...this redemption extends beyond the children to stand in the gap for their natural parents and families, who have been unable to care for their children. Perhaps [the Children's Home's] reach grasps some of the desperate longings of these parents and relatives, who may be trapped in the despair of poverty and its patterns.

The truth is that it's likely that few of these parents, at the birth of their children, had starry-eyed dreams of abandoning, abusing or leaving their babies alone on the street. Like you and me, their hearts probably melted with one look into their eyes; they probably felt fierce protection of them, if only briefly.  Sadly, sin, selfishness, and addiction are nasty, horrible things that sneak in and trap, ensnare and make slaves of us. There but for the grace of God, go I.

Despite my anger,  I have to admit that many of these families probably have deep longings for restoration but are trapped in their sin and in the generational cycles of sin. Which is heartbreakingly sad.

What hope we have in Jesus! He has set us free!

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6:6-7

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

Praise God!! The generational cycles of sin can STOP with these kids!!

Praise God!! The hopes and dreams of these parents for their children can be realized through the work of Kids Alive!!

Praise God!! From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children- Psalm 103:17 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Our Week With the Howells

We just spent a week with Seth, Jessica and the girls before they headed up to Arequipa for language school. It was a pretty crazy week!

After arriving in the middle of the night on Tuesday, Dan and I spent an hour or two with them on Wednesday morning before leaving to make a quick trip to the notary for a simple document. The "quick trip" morphed into a "ridiculously long trip" as Dan and I ran around Lima trying to get what we needed. Because of a typo on Lucy's birth certificate, we couldn't get the document we needed and ended up buying last minute plane tickets to Chile! (The "why" for this is a very long and boring story having to do with visa renewals and paperwork, so I'll spare you.)

So, Day One of the Howell's missionary journey was spent babysitting our kids ALL DAY (we got home at 7pm) and even though they were exhausted after their travel, Jessica managed to make dinner for all of us and had it on the table when we got home. It will be nice having family here with us; normally, the kids would have had to come along with us on a long day like that.

On Day Two and Three of the Howell's missionary journey, they were abandoned by their hosts (us), who left the country. (Ha-ha!) The plan was to fly to the south of Peru, take a taxi across the border into Chile, stay the night, drive back the next morning and re-enter Peru (thus renewing visas), and then fly back to Lima.

When we reached to border, first we stopped at the Peruvian immigration building, which went fine except that it was very slow and we had to wait for well over an hour. After exiting Peru, we drove a half-mile or so through "no-man's land" to the Chilean border. When we arrived, this is what we saw:

These pictures don't do it justice, but there were several very long lines of people waiting to enter Chile. There was a strike, and they were only letting people through at a rate of 60 people an hour. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there waiting, it was nearing sundown, and starting to get pretty chilly. Waiting in that line did not sound like a good time! But our taxi driver had the brilliant idea of just turning around and re-entering Peru. Technically, we only were required to leave Peru, which, we'd done! So we drove right back to the Peru border and re-entered with no problem! We found a hotel and flew back to Lima the next morning. While it wasn't the most enjoyable trip for us, it ended up being great for the Howells, who, being left by themselves in our house for two days, had time to rest and recuperate alone.

After we got back, the time with the Howells flew by quickly, filled mostly with paperwork and making preparations for living in Peru. But we also found a little time for an afternoon at the beach and a couple of game nights. It was a hard week because of the busyness, made harder by bad colds that all four of them picked up on the airplane, but they survived and the cousins had a great time playing together.


We're so happy to have them here! They left on Thursday for Arequipa where they will be in language school for the next 4-6 months.

Be praying for the Howells; there is nothing easy about the first year in a new country. It's very hard. I am excited for them though, because God always takes hard things and makes them beautiful! Looking back on my first few years, that's how I feel. I wouldn't want to repeat them (no, no, no!!), but I am oh-so-thankful for what God taught us in those years.

It's been a while since I have written a ministry update, but there are a lot of great things going in the ministries! I plan on writing an update this week, so if you don't receive our ministry updates, please be sure to sign up in the right hand side of our blog.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Great Are You, Lord!

It's time to play catch-up on what's been happening in our lives here in Peru! The last few months have been pretty full. I've been neglecting the blog not for lack of things to write about, so much as lack of time to sit down and write them out! So here is a quick recap of what's been going on.

God tends to teach me things He wants me to learn in themes...staying with it until I get it! The theme in mine and Dan's life these past few months has definitely been connecting with God through prayer and simply being in His presence. And, wow, in His presence is where I want to be! He's with us all the time, but this song (below) quickly makes me aware of His presence, and so has been heard in our house a lot during this season. I thought it would make a fitting theme song as I think back over the last several months, so please push play, if you wish, and read on!

In June, we hosted an intern, Kenzie, in our home for a month. She helped us with a sponsorship project and taught English classes at the Oasis, all while getting a taste of missionary life. We loved having her! She was a hit with all the kiddos at the Children's Home (and with my kids, too!).

Kenzie wanted to do something fun with all the girls from the Home, so one night we bought a bunch of pizzas, played games, watched a movie, and stayed up late with the "little" girls...

...and the next night we took the "big" girls out for a nice dinner followed by a movie in the theater.

In June, Dan and I finally made it to Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! We have been wanting to go since coming to Peru, and the perfect opportunity arose when a team wanted us to accompany them to help with logistics. It certainly lived up to its hype. It really is amazing and beautiful. We brought John along but left the girls for the weekend with the Fietjes. It was a quick trip and the three of us suffered some altitude sickness, but not enough to ruin our trip.

In July, Dan and I celebrated our 16th anniversary! This year, since Kenzie was staying with us and offered to watch the kids, we got to go out on a real date to celebrate! I'm soooooo glad that Dan's my partner for this life!

In mid-July, I took a crazy, very last minute and unexpected trip to the US for a women's conference near Seattle. The whole experience was amazing, in particular how God worked it all out for me to go, as well as the ways He revealed Himself to me throughout the week. Plus, the week was full of sweet gifts from God... seeing this...

...and spending an afternoon with my friends Heidi and Angela, where I got to pick blackberries behind Heidi's house...

...and spending a couple of days with my two cute nieces.

Dan spent the week as a single dad, and did awesome. But we were all super happy to be back together as a family when the week was over! 

June and July were so busy that I think we spent August recovering, so I don't remember much about August. Except that we had some friends over and tried our hand at making corn dogs! They were a success!

Both the Fietje's and Lisa have been gone for several months while they are on home assignment in Canada. As such, Dan and I have been covering sponsorship responsibilities. So, much of August was spent writing letters with kids, translating, and preparing the letters to be sent to the home offices.  Is this not the cutest letter? I love how she ended the letter with "Amen".

Winters in Lima are pretty mild, so if my kids want snow they have to make it themselves by putting ice in the blender. They had an epic 5-second snowball fight before running out of snow.

This photo was taken just as the photographer was pelted in the face by four tiny snowballs...

In September, Davy turned 7! We celebrated with strawberry cheesecake.

She's a sweet seven-year-old.

On October 2 we celebrated 5 years in Peru! Here's a picture of Davy on our flight here five years ago at age two--and as I write this, another sweet two-year-old is also taking her first flight to Peru! Dan's sister Jessica and her husband Seth with their daughters, Molina (4) and Marcie (2) are on their way to begin their time as missionaries with Kids Alive in Lima. Dan will head to the airport to pick them up in a couple of hours. We're excited! Jessica and Seth were with us when we first came down five years ago, because they came along to watch our kids while we were in language school. That was when they first started considering coming back. Five years plus two kids later, and here they come. :)

We´ve been busy this week preparing for their arrival and getting their room ready. They'll stay with us for a week or so before heading to Arequipa to study Spanish. 

 We have been enjoying some beautiful weather lately, and the sun is coming out more and more each day. Dan's wondering if maybe this will be the year he gets John out on a surfboard? ;) 

And that brings you up to date! Thanks for staying with me; I know it was a long one. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

History Class and a Family Vacation

Today is a big day in Peru, Round Two of presidential elections (no candidate got a large enough percentage of the votes in the first round of votes in April) where it will be decided if Peru will have Keiko Fujimori or "PPK", Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, as their next president. It has been an intriguing election, with much controversy surrounding the popular Keiko, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori.

(Short history lesson) Alberto Fujimori was president for all of the 90's and was well-liked due to his role in defeating the Shining Path and other guerrilla groups terrorizing Peru at the time, as well as the economic stability that he brought to the country. But in 2000, amidst emerging scandals of rumors of corruption, Fujimori fled to Japan, and from Japan faxed in his resignation as President of Peru. He was later extradited and is currently in prison serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted of...well, lots of bad things related to corruption and human rights abuses. (End of short history lesson.)

There has been a lot of talk during this election about whether or not Keiko will let her father out of jail, or whether she will run the country in the same way that he did. Despite him being in prison, he is still a popular president, and Keiko has been popular as well, so there is a good possibility that Keiko will win this election. We shall find out by the end of today!

This week we took some time off from work and decided to head to the Andes mountains for a few days, to a mountain town called Huaraz. Its a place we have been meaning to visit since we moved here, and our week off gave us the perfect opportunity. 
We kicked off our family vacation with a "pollo a la brasa" dinner (chicken and fries)

We discovered Johny is a big fan of "anticuchos", marinated pieces of beef heart on a stick.
It was an eight hour drive, and the views as we drove were breathtaking. It was fun watching the scenery change from brown to green as we drove higher into the Andes. 

We kept our eyes peeled for the first sighting of snow, as we were headed for the awesome "Cordillera Blanca", a beautiful snow-capped mountain range.

On our second day in Huaraz, we headed even further up into the mountains, and were rewarded with the view of this amazing mountain lake. Yes, the water really was that color!

Here are the kids with the impressive mountain "Huascaran" behind them. A beautiful view but the valley directly behind them was the site of a horrific tragedy.  (Begin short history lesson #2)

In 1970, there was a big earthquake which caused a huge chunk off the side of Huascaran to break loose, beginning an enormous avalanche which came roaring down the side of the mountain at speeds of 450-980 km per hour. The avalanche completely buried an entire town, called Yungay, which used to be located in the area right behind the kids in the above photo. Over 18,000 people died. You can see below a photo of Yungay before (on the left) and after (right) the avalanche. The whole town just disappeared! Incredible.

The town of Yungay was eventually rebuilt north of the old location, but the old site has been declared a national cemetery. We were able to walk around and could see remains of the old Yungay; a crushed and demolished metal bus, and parts of the old cathedral. It felt a little eerie being there, and I had to keep my overactive imagination and terrified-of-earthquakes mind from imagining a repeat of history as we walked around with giant Huascaran looming above us. :)

There were only 92 survivors of the avalanche, all people who were on top of the town cemetery (pictured below), which was the highest point in the town. The 92 people were trapped there for three days before being rescued, including two Japanese journalists who photographed everything. (End of short history lesson #2)

All of those little squares in the side of the cemetery are graves. We happened to be at there on the 46th anniversary of the disaster so there were a lot of people there visiting.

One of my favorite parts of visiting the mountains here, besides the beauty, is seeing all the women in their traditional dress. Many people in the mountains still wear traditional dress, and I love their colorful skirts, braids, and hats. The hats in Huaraz were different than others we've seen; they were much taller, like top hats. I was bummed because I didn't get many pictures, but I find it awkward asking for photos and feel bad if I don't ask for permission. These two ladies in the market who I bought a blanket from said I could take their photo, and though their clothes weren't as colorful as others, the second lady showed off her nice tall hat for me.

Huaraz was a great trip, and we got to have some nice family time together. A highlight for us was that on our last night we stayed in a place that had a fireplace. It was so fun to be in the cold mountains, sitting around a fireplace, drinking hot cocoa and playing Phase 10. Good times and good memories!