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Monday, January 30, 2012

Faces

Today was a good day. The bus was quiet on the way to El Refugio, where I taught English this morning. Doris had the kids more organized and separated into smaller classes. I started with the youngest and worked my way up to the oldest in half hour sessions.

With the three younger groups, I helped them practice talking about emotions. They learned "happy," "sad," "angry," "bored," "scared," and "surprised." We drew pictures, happy faces, sad faces, and so on for each word, and then we took pictures of all of us making those faces. With one of the older groups I read "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," and we looked for the emotions in the story. That group really enjoyed it as a sort of treasure hunt. But one of my best achievements of the day was when Angelo put down his whiteboard and marker, looked at me with a straight face, and said, "I'm bored." At least he's learning.

The oldest group didn't feel like drawing. They are much more advanced than the younger kids. Instead, they wanted to read. I found a Magic Treehouse book in our cupboard, and we took turns reading to each other. I was amazed at their comprehension. They had lots of questions, but they had a pretty good idea of what was happening in the story. They're excited to finish the book next week.

This afternoon I was supposed to teach English with a group of kids from San Martin, but no one came. I don't know when or where the communication fell through, but it did. Maybe next time kids will show up. But instead of hanging around the apartment, Carlos and I took the time to go to Santa Rosa to spend time with the kids there. We played more soccer and met a few more kids. They're getting pretty excited about our treasure hunt on Saturday. When we left, the kids asked us to come and play again tomorrow. When we said yes, you should have seen their faces.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Futbol

Today was filled with it.

Carlos and I left our apartment around eight this morning for a youth league soccer tournament in Santa Rosa. Several of the Young Life leaders had volunteered to help run the tournament in order to meet more kids and become a part of the community.

The tournament was supposed to start at nine, but we ran late. It didn't get started until around nine-thirty. By that time there were kids everywhere, all in different colored jerseys, doing warm-ups, and crowding around the cement soccer field to watch the current game.

Around eleven we began using the adjacent field as well, also cement. The directors of the tournament asked the Young Life leaders to oversee that field. Lucho helped referee while Edson kept score. The rest of us cheered for kids we knew while trying to keep spectators from getting to close to the sidelines.

The tournament ended around two-thirty. To be honest, I have no idea who won. But it was an incredibly fun day, and we definitely began some relationships that could result in a new club in Santa Rosa. Afterwards, the group that had hosted the tournament invited us back to their building for soda. As we sat around sharing three liters of Pepsi, we had the opportunity to share with these people the vision of Young Life. I believe they are catching the vision. This is the same group that Edson and Carlos are working with to find a place to hold club. It's really good to see these relationships forming.

After that, we ran into some of the kids we played soccer with earlier this week. They were excited to see us, and invited us to play soccer. It turned out that we had enough leaders with us to play a game of leaders v. kids, five on five. The first to ten would win. And the winners losers would buy soda.

It was a tough game, and the truth is the kids could have ran circles around us. But somehow, we pulled out a 10-9 victory. And we bought the kids soda anyway. It was good for them to experience that kind of friendship. Afterwards we invited them to the all area treasure hunt that we're putting on in a couple of weeks. They were very excited about it, and several of the boys are planning on coming.

As for now, Carlos and I just got home from a meeting in which we planned Lima's Young Life banquet. They were very interested to hear about how ours usually works in the States. They're pulling several ideas from what I had to share, including putting on a mini-program and asking kids to serve, and giving it all their own Peruvian twist.

As I get ready to go to bed, please be praying for rest and strength for me. Half way through this trip, I am getting tired. Ask the Lord to grant me perseverance. Ask for renewed energy and creativity, clarity of thought, and wisdom.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lunch

Lunch is the most important meal of the day. At least, it is in Peru. Here, breakfast is generally small, a little bread, maybe with an egg, and some juice. Most nights we don't eat dinner, but when we do, it's also small, some rice, a little potato, and chicken, usually. Lunch is the main meal of the day.

Over the past couple of days I have had the privilege of sharing lunch with several friends. Often Carlos and Lucho join me for lunch in my apartment. We'll make a quick run to the store, pick up a few things, and come back. Anything we forget or can't find Carlos has in his house across the street. We spend the early afternoon in the kitchen cooking, and eat sometime between two and three, and spend the rest of the afternoon together in my livingroom.

Today, Rafael, the Area Director in Reynoso invited Carlos and I over for lunch. He wanted us to spend some time with one of his Global Leaders, Jason, and a potential leader, Torro. The five of us squeezed into his kitchen. Rafael is very short. His head doesn't even come up to my shoulder. So when I say squeezed, I mean it. I hit my head a couple of times on the cabinets and the hood over the stove. Anyway, the five us squeezed into Rafael's kitchen, peeled the potatoes, sliced the bananas, washed the rice and vegetables, and prepared the meal together. French fries, Milanesa, fried bananas, rice, and salad.

It took us about an hour and a half to cook, and only about twenty minutes to eat it all. But it was certainly time well spent. Cooking with Jason and Torro was a great way to get to know them. After lunch we sat around the table and each shared how we came to be involved in Young Life. Jason and Rafael shared some of the problems they are facing in club, including the fact that they do not have female leaders. We talked about ways to still reach the young women of the neighborhood through forming relationships with their parents, planning events to do with larger groups, or borrowing leaders from another club. It was really neat to hear from these young men about how God is using Young Life in their lives, and how he is using their lives for his glory.

Tonight, Carlos is out doing contact work in Santa Rosa. There is a women's group using my apartment for a meeting starting at six, so I'm hanging out upstairs. Monica is coming over soon to finish setting up. I cleaned the apartment after lunch today, and am now beginning to think about making an early dinner and calling some friends back home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Contact

Today, Carlos and I went to Edson's house for breakfast around nine o'clock. Edson is the Young Life Area Director in San Martin de Porres, where I'm living. We ate a large breakfast together, and later discussed some of the issues facing the Global Leaders, as explained in the last post. We spent some time praying for them, and then further discussed what I will be doing in the remaining weeks of my stay here in Peru. After that, Rafael showed up and we worked on planning the all area treasure hunt that we're doing at the end of the month. We'll have teams running all over North Lima, and ending up together at the beach. Think "Amazing Race," Young Life style.

By then it was two o'clock in the afternoon. We had missed meeting Emilio and his friends to play soccer in Santa Rosa, but Carlos had made plans with some other kids to play around four. So, Edson sent us home to eat and to rest. Carlos brought lunch over from his mom's house and we ate with our friend Lucho. After lunch, I fell asleep on the couch for about an hour, and then woke up and headed out to do some contact work.

But they don't call it contact work here in Peru. They just call it contact, or contacto. Vamos a hacer contacto. I like that. It takes some of the pressure off. After all, meeting kids, building relationships, shouldn't be work. That is, it shouldn't feel like work, it shouldn't be a labor. It should and does take effort. But so does playing soccer.

When we left the house, Marcelo was downstairs outside his house. We invited him to come along. He was very curious about what we were doing, and why people from San Martin de Porres were going to Santa Rosa to do Young Life. It was a joy to listen as Carlos explained why we were going to start club in Santa Rosa, and that Young Life is bigger than San Martin, that it's everywhere, including Fresno, Fowler, Sanger, and even Mongolia. We want to share what Marcelo has with the kids in Santa Rosa. Marcelo thought that was pretty cool, or as they say here, bien chevere.

When we arrived in San Martin, I watched as Carlos began to feel the nerves any Young Life leader feels as they walk into the world of kids, into the unknown. Eventually he found a kid he knew and introduced himself to his friends. After kicking a ball around and some small talk, we started a mini soccer tournament. Four teams of three to four people, best of three goals wins, winners move on. As more and more kids gathered to play and to watch, I recognized a few kids that had joined us at camp, including my buddy, Emilio. He joined my team right away, and was a pretty good little goalie. I'm proud to say that my team won. Afterward, Marcelo asked me where I'd learned to play soccer. I told him my Young Life friends back home taught me.

It was good to get out and meet some kids and be a part of forming relationships that could lead to starting a new club in Lima. It was good to see Emilio again. It was good to hear Marcelo's curiosity about why we do what we do.

Tonight, Carlos and I had a quiet night in getting some much needed rest.

Monday, January 23, 2012

High Places

This morning, I woke up early, showered, cooked breakfast for Carlos and me, and made it out of the house around 8:00. It usually takes about an hour to ride the bus to Doris's house, and it looked like I would make it by 9:00, if not earlier. But then, nothing ever goes as planned.

I didn't wait long until I saw the purple and gold San German bus turn onto our street. I waived it down, but it drove straight past me. It stopped at the next corner, and I ran to catch it, but didn't make it in time. The same thing happened with the next bus. And the next one. The fourth one stopped. But it was absolutely full, and I didn't feel like hanging out the window. Four purple and golds.

Luckily, Carlos was with me this morning, and he knew an alternate route. We walked a few blocks and caught a comvee to Santa Rosa, where we caught another on the way to La Marina. But by the time we made it to La Marina, we were out of money. Carlos hadn't planned on coming with me, and I had only brought enough to pay my own bus fare both ways. So, we had to get out at La Marina, and walked until we found an ATM. Once we had cash, we caught one last comvee the rest of the way to Doris's house.

This morning I started teaching English to small groups of kids at El Refugio, the house where Doris runs her ministry for abandoned children. My first group was Rachel and Angel, the 11 year olds. They were very eager to learn, and already knew quite a bit. We practiced greetings, reading, and played one of my favorite Young Life games. "What are you doing?" is a really fun way for them to practice verbs.

Then the younger group came in. Today I had Dulce, Celeste, and Lucas. Those children have so much energy. And they were much more interested in coloring and drawing than learning English. So, I made some adjustments, and let them draw, and then talked to them in English about what they drew. But they soon got bored, and began running wild around the house. There wasn't much I could do at that point, because Mondays are Doris's day off, and the staff speaks primarily German. All the kids know German. But I don't. I'm going to have to find a way to have a little more support on the days I teach there.

After our English lessons, Carlos and I ate lunch and then rested for the afternoon. He came by around 5:00 to take me to downtown Lima. We enjoyed walking around the square, and then found a tour that would take us to the top of a mountain in the middle of the city that overlooks all of Lima, called Mirador San Cristobal. When we summited the hill, the sun was just beginning to set. Perfect lighting for pictures. We enjoyed the view, took pictures of the giant cross at the top, breathed, and rested in the light.

I've come to realize that I love finding a place where I can get up high somewhere and see all that is around me. I find that I often fix my eyes on the high places, whether in the mountains as I hike in Yosemite or near Oakhurst, or in the city, looking up to the skyscrapers, or here in Lima, gazing at the tops of cathedrals. I fix my eyes on the high places.

I realized this last summer as I was backpacking through Yosemite with a group of campers from Calvin Crest. One morning during our devotion I found myself staring at the top of a mountain we planned to summit, anticipating the view and the thrill of being up so high, and the pure majesty of the mountain itself. But later that day, at the peak, I realized that what I appreciate most about the high places is the perspective that they offer. From the high places we can look down and see where we have been, and can look ahead and see where we are going. From the tops of mountains we can better appreciate the valleys.

Tomorrow, Carlos and I are eating breakfast with Edson, one of the area directors here in Lima, and praying for Young Life's Global Leader program here. This is a program that provides college education for students around the world who desire to learn about the ministry, and will work as part-time staff while they are in school. The Global Leaders here in Lima have been facing numerous difficulties in the last month, from illness to finances to trouble with interpersonal relationships. Edson believes that the source of these trials are spiritual, and so we will be praying over them tomorrow morning. Please join us as we do so.

Please also pray for us as we play soccer with kids in Santa Rosa tomorrow. We are very close to starting a club there. Several kids from Santa Rosa joined us at camp this year and gave their lives to Christ, including my friend Emilio. We're working on building relationships with more kids and getting them excited about the first club in Santa Rosa, which may take place as early as March.

For now, I'm enjoying the friendships that are forming, and fixing my eyes on the high places, lifting my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes from.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Celebrate

Carlitos came to stay with me today. He made sure I had a ride to church with David and Edson. He usually goes to church with us, but his parents asked him to go with them this week. But after church he came by my place and invited me to his mom's house for lunch. His mother is a sweet little lady who works with Doris at El Refugio, and she has offered to cook for us whenever we need a meal.

After lunch we went to the grocery store and bought everything we'll need for breakfast. I found what I needed to make french toast, because I've been missing American breakfasts, but I realized that there's no way I'll be up in time to actually prepare a meal. I'll probably end up making toast one morning and fried eggs another. It will make the food last longer, if nothing else.

This evening we went to Diana's birthday party. Diana used to be a leader with Young Life and is now what they call an adult helper. Her's was probably the most interesting birthday party I have ever attended.

First of all, the usual cast was present. Almost everyone was part of the Young Life family. Many of them had been leaders in past years, are on staff, or are currently leaders. The only people that weren't a part of the Young Life family in attendance were Diana's mother and younger sister.

We started the party with karaoke via Youtube. They had set the television up so it was the monitor of the computer, and had plugged a microphone into a stereo system It actually worked really well as a karaoke system.

Then, what I consider the coolest part of the party took place. Instead of everyone gathering around to watch Diana open gifts, Diana sat down in the middle of the group, and began to share how certain people in the group had affected her life, how they had helped her grow throughout the last year. After Diana thanked each person, that person then got to choose a Young Life song to sing with the group.

It was a really neat way to celebrate. Instead of making Diana the center of attention, and instead of us thanking her for her life, she took her birthday and made it a time to appreciate the lives of those who have helped make her life what it has become, celebrating those have made her who she is. It became a very other-centered, community-oriented celebration.

After Diana had finished sharing, Edson gave a brief devotional on the story of Zaccheus. It was a really incredible way to celebrate one's birthday, by gathering friends, thanking them for their support, and by praising Christ together.

After the devotional, they stuck a sparkler that was firework-grade in the cake, sang a version of "Happy Birthday," and brought the karaoke back. We sang several more songs, and then danced the rest of the night. We had so much fun. I'm so glad to be a part of this family, even if I'm flying back to the United States in a matter of weeks. I'm enjoying learning from them about how to grieve together, how to celebrate, and how to live. And I'm glad that one day I'll see them all again.

As I get ready for bed tonight, I'd like to follow in the example that Diana set for me tonight.

Dad, thank you for your support. Thank you for all that you've helped me through in the past couple of years and for praying for me continuously. Thank you for loving me.

Mom, thank you for being there for me, for listening, and for always offering a positive point of view. Thank you for teaching me how to care for others.

Erik, thank you for teaching me, for training me, for showing me the importance of building relationships. Thank you for challenging me to do something with my faith.

Greg, thank you for making me laugh.

Max, thank you for being a brother.

David, thank you for being a friend and a confidante.

Yours,

Travis

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Solo

Today started out with my first solo bus ride. That should have been exciting enough. But that's not the way things go for me in Peru.

I woke up early this morning and made myself some eggs for breakfast, showered, and walked to the bus stop where I waited for the purple and gold San German bus. When it arrived, it was absolutely full. There was just enough space for me to stand on the steps by the back door. I was surprised because Christen had told me that traffic would be light on Saturdays. I was even more surprised when the back door didn't close.

The doors stayed open for several blocks, and all I could think about was holding on to the handrail. Eventually the driver realized that the doors weren't shut, and I could relax. But then we had another problem.

The doors wouldn't open. At least, the back door wouldn't. And with a bus that full, it's nearly impossible to get from the back of the bus to the front in time to get off at any given stop. People were starting to get pretty frustrated. Luckily my first stop came shortly after most people left the bus, and was easy to find.

I got off the bus at the Plaza San Miguel and waited for Samuel. He, Janeth, and I then headed to the INABIF home to see the Capernaum kids. They were all very excited to see us. Janeth brought sidewalk chalk and we spent the morning adding color to the walkways of INABIF. It was a joy to see these kids enjoying themselves and being creative.

Jonathan, though, wouldn't have anything to do with the chalk. He only wanted music. So, Samuel went and got the Capernaum guitar that we used to use in club in Fresno, and brought it outside where we had the kids. Jonathan insisted that I sit right next to him and play the whole time while he sang. I think I played for about an hour straight, and have a blister on my right thumb to prove it.

For lunch, we met Christen, Christian, Daniel, and Julisa for a family meal, a sort of goodbye celebration for Christen and Christian as they head to Florida for the Young Life All Staff Celebration. We ate at a nice Italian restaurant, and shared pizza and pasta and stories.

The rest of the day was spent preparing for Christen and Christian's departure. People were in and out of the house the whole time. But they are finally on their way. They headed to the airport about half an hour ago. Now, I truly am solo. But not really.

I still have the Peruvian Young Life family all around me, just down the street, only a phone call away. And one thing that they are really good at doing is supporting. I'm glad I've had the privilege of seeing that over the past three weeks. These next two weeks I'll be spending a lot of time with leaders and their kids. I'm hoping to invite the boys of San Miguel over for pizza and a movie one night next week. I'm looking forward to building relationships with those guys.

For now, please pray for safety for Christen and Christian as they travel, and as they spend the next two weeks in the United States with other Young Life staff and visiting family. Also pray for me as I will be traveling alone more often and will be, in many ways, fending for myself. Also continue to pray for the Young Life family in Peru, that they would be encouraged and strengthened after such a tragic January.

For now, it's time to get ready for bed. David and Lucho are coming to take me to church in the morning, and then we'll wee where the day goes from there.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Luck

Bus routes have been learned. All I have to do is find the purple and gold San German bus and know whether to get off at San Miguel or the military hospital. If I'm going to INABIF, the orphanage, with Capernaum, I get off at San Miguel. If I'm going to Doris's house, I get off at the hospital. And on the way back, I can get off on our street.

Simple enough.

Last night, Christian and I decided it would be fun to go downtown Lima for the celebration of the city's anniversary. When we arrived, there were people everywhere. The President's house was let up, with guards at every door. All the old cathedrals were also illuminated. Truly a beautiful scene. We made our way to the Plaza de San Martin where we found an outdoor concert taking place. The band offered a mixed sound of traditional Incan flute accompanied by heavy metal guitars. I enjoyed it. It gave Christian a headache.

After a while, we headed back to the main square where the Presidential Palace is located. The square was peculiarly empty for this sort of celebration. Near the fountain at the center of the square we found a security guard and asked when the festivities would begin. The answer? Six O'clock, the day before. Just our luck.

After discovering that we had arrived a day late, Christian and I headed back to the barrio for dinner. We found a place to get pollo a la brasa. But no sooner did we finish than I had to rush home to use the restroom. I've been experiencing severe stomach cramps every time I eat since eating ceviche with the boys...last Saturday.

Pollo a la brasa is one of my favorite meals here, and so I ate a lot of it. And I paid for it by staying up most of the night. Today, I focused on resting. Drinking water. Eating soda crackers. Drinking water. Sleeping. Drinking water. You get the picture.

Later in the day, after I had rested and was feeling more myself, Christian, Samuel, and Janeth decided it was time to get me out of the house. We wanted to see Sherlock Holmes. The trouble was finding the subtitled version, not the dubbed version. The four of us all speak English, and there was no way I would be able to understand a movie as complicated as Sherlock Holmes in Spanish. A romantic comedy, something with a simple, predictable storyline? Maybe. But not Sherlock. Anyway, we called ahead to one theater, and they said they had the version with subtitles. But they lied. So we hurried and grabbed a taxi to another theater, and were just in time to catch the subtitled version of the film.

But about half way through the film, the picture went fuzzy, and then the audio cut out. Then there was a loud noise and Robert Downey Jr.'s face caught fire. Something had gone terribly wrong in the projection room. It took them several minutes to get the movie up and running again. Christian has a theory on why it happened. I must be bad luck.

Joking aside, I'm glad I don't rely on luck. I'm glad I serve a God who knows why I'm here, and knows what he has planned. I'm glad that he's big enough to handle my questions. I'm glad I don't have to know all the answers. And I'm glad he's given me friends that can find the humor in each and every situation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Plan

Today, Christen, Cristian, and I met with Edson, the North Lima area director. We came up with a plan for my time here while Christen and Cristian are in Florida for the Young Life All Staff Conference.

Starting Thursday, I will spend the day with leaders from San Martin, the neighborhood where I live. Weekends are fairly open. I am free to choose where I go to church, but will probably go to Calvary Chapel Lima with several of the leaders most Sundays. Edson also suggested that I spend the weekends with families in different communities, learning the culture and building relationships. I'm not exactly sure what that will look like yet.

Mondays will be my days off. They are for resting, running errands, doing laundry, and exploring Lima.

Then the plan starts over, with Tuesday through Thursday being spent with a specified club each day. The idea is that I will help with contact work, Young Life slang for spending quality time with kids. The staff down here has found that when they can tell kids that they have a North American friend visiting, more parents will let their kids come in hopes that they will learn English. This allows the Peruvian leaders to engage kids that would otherwise be disinterested. My hope is to lead several games in English, possibly teach a little bit of guitar, play soccer or basketball, and point kids towards the leaders that live here with them in Peru.

I'm also hoping to spend a couple of mornings at El Refugio with Doris's kids. If I understand correctly I should have time to do this on most Fridays. Saturdays will probably be spent with Samuel and Janeth at the orphanage with Capernaum.

Tomorrow I start learning bus routes. Cristian will help me learn how to give directions to a taxi driver, how to get the right price, where to catch a bus, and where to get off. It will most certainly be an adventure. But it's time I learned how to get around this city on my own.

Thank you all for the prayer and support over the last couple of days. I have needed it greatly. Please continue those prayers along with prayers for safety as I learn to navigate the public transportation system. Pray that I can be an encouragement and a resource to the leaders living and ministering here in Peru. Pray that I would be used for His plans, and not my own.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Home

This morning I woke up early. Really early. I didn't sleep too well last night, and really haven't slept well for a few nights now. But I was up early again, and so I went upstairs to help Cristian start the day. Angela, One of the Young Life leaders from San Martin, was already there. She had volunteered to help Cristian settle in and get the apartment ready for Christen. The three of us made breakfast together, and then we came up with a plan. Cristian would go to the hospital and pick up his wife, Angela would clean the upstairs apartment, and I would clean my apartment downstairs, and we'd be ready for Christen when she got home.

About mid-morning Manolo and Marcelo came by the house. I had promised them at camp that we would go out for lunch and get ceviche. But they recognized that Angela and I were both busy, and offered to help Angela upstairs. When I finished my apartment, I joined the others, and we finished cleaning in no time at all. The boys even made fresh squeezed orange juice for Christen.

Later, several of the other boys from camp came by to go eat ceviche, but Christen and Cristian still weren't home, and I felt like I really needed to wait for them. Eventually, Manuel, the boys' leader, called Cristian to find out how long they would be. It turned out we had just enough time to run and get the ceviche and take it back to my apartment. Christen had just gotten home when we got there, and the boys went up to greet her while I got out dishes and poured the Pepsi. We spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening sitting around my living room playing guitar, singing Young Life songs, and watching Youtube videos.

Christen is home now, and doing well. It turns out that she had been hit by a buswhile driving the van. The pictures looked pretty bad. But her only injuries were from the whiplash and from hitting her head. She was well protected. We're all working together to keep an eye on her, to make sure that she's safe. She's supposed to rest for the next couple days. Right now she and some friends are upstairs watching a movie. We're just glad we still have her. And we're glad she's home.

As for me, recently I've been thinking a lot about home. It's been a really difficult two weeks. I've felt a lot of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and inadequacy. And being far from home doesn't make that easier. I'm really beginning to miss my family and friends. And the exhaustion from camp is setting in after all the activity of the day.

I miss home. But, I have to remind myself that I am in the process of making a new home, and gaining new family. And I can find hope in that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sand

Last Sunday we woke up early and packed our things for the week. We spent the morning with the Infrastructure team (Infra) loading the bus with the stuff we would need for camp: tents, speakers, shovels, tarps, games. After a couple of hours, we finally loaded everything, and I took a seat next to my buddy, Manolo, and we left Lima, headed for the desert and the beach.

After staring out the window and sleeping through the second half of the the three hour bus ride, we pulled into the YMCA owned camp. The parking lot was at the top of a huge bluff, and far below was the beach. We unloaded as fast as we could, piling everything at the top of the stairs. Then the work began. About fourteen of us began carrying all our camp equipment down the beach. One hundred and ninety stairs. Up and down, and up and down. In the desert heat.

Eventually we grew smart and formed a fire brigade system, passing items a few at a time. But by then my legs were shaking. It took us the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon to move everything down those stairs, and the rest of the evening to set up all the tents. I was good and tired. I didn't even care that I was sleeping on sand.

The next morning, Cristian and I got up, and joined the others in finishing setting up awnings. After breakfast we set up a couple storage tents, and then began work on setting up the first game: Defend Your Leader, a classic Young Life camp game. The Infra boss, Alex, asked Cristian and I to dig a hole down by the water to make a small pool for the obstacle course. We asked the Program team where exactly they wanted it, and set to work. We finished work on the hole around 2:00 pm, lunch time. But when we got back to the beach after lunch, the hole was gone. The water had completely filled it in. There wasn't a mark in the sand where it had been.

We started hole number two. About half way through our second hole, Cristian's phone rang. Christen had been in an accident back in Lima. Immediately, Cristian dropped his shovel and left.

So, there I was. The only gringo, the only English speaker, digging a hole on a Peruvian beach. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried, if I said I wasn't scared. But I knew the Infra team would take care of me. Not long after, Alex came and explained what had happened to Christen. She had been driving the van and hit another car. She'd broken the windshield with her head, but he said she'd be fine. But Cristian was staying with her.

Alex joined me in my man made sandbox within a sandbox and helped me finish the second hole. And then the water poured in. As we watched our second hole fill in with sand, we moved even farther up the beach, and dug our third hole. About that time the rest of the teams were arriving, so we had a little more help, but it was only day two, and I'd already had enough sand for a week.

That night the kids arrived, and were full of energy. It was good to see their excitement, and to see how well Young Life has standardized camping. It was like they were following the Woodleaf script. That was a real comfort. But still, I was very alone that first night, trying just to follow the flow. I ended up falling asleep in club, and heading to bed early.

The next day, right after breakfast, we gathered the kids together to head out on the caminata, the hike. The YMCA staff led the kids on a hike along the coast, exploring all sorts of sea caves and natural swimming pools. It was a lot of fun, and I'm so glad I got to join them on that adventure. On a couple of the beaches we walked along, there were dozens of palm sized crabs, bright red, scattered across the sand. The kids took off running, chasing them, but were afraid to touch them. I was able to corner a couple against a rock, and succeeded in picking one up without getting pinched. It was then that I realized I could handle this week, that I wasn't alone. As the kids gathered around and made jokes about eating the crab, and asking to hold it, I knew I had made about a dozen friends.

That afternoon we all played on the beach, getting covered in sand playing volleyball, and swimming in the ocean. One of my new friends, eleven-year-old Emilio, asked me to take him out in the water. He couldn't swim. So I walked out with him, but about the time we joined the spontaneous dance party in the sea, people started heading for the shore as fast as they could. I soon realized why. My legs started to itch. And then they started stinging. When Emilio and I got to shore, I kept hearing the word malagua. Jellyfish. We'd all been stung.

So we opened the showers early and spent the rest of the day on the sand. I was lucky. My wounds weren't so bad and didn't hurt after a few hours. Others had pretty large welts. But everyone had pretty good attitudes about it. It was, in a way, a great experience to share with these kids. Afterwards, I grabbed my guitar and sat in the sand with the kids--David, Marcelo, Pedro, Cesar, and several others--and sang Young Life songs that they had heard on the radio.

Wednesday morning we woke up at 5:00 am. We had a long hike ahead of us through the sand dunes of the desert on the other side of the highway. We got the kids out of bed and ready to go pretty quickly and headed out to sandboard. It's what you do when you want to go sledding but live in the desert. It was loads of fun, and great to see the kids try something new. However, soon the sun came up and the sand grew hot. I had taken off my shoes so that I could walk easier through the shifting sands, and could tell it was getting hotter by the minute. On the way back to camp, I made sure to stop and put my shoes back on, and to thank God that I don't live in the middle of a desert like that.

Infra spent the rest of the morning putting up more awnings so that the kids had places to sit in the sand out of the sun. Later we helped with some of the games. But mostly, Wednesday was really. The kids were all pretty tired. So were we.

That evening, after club, we set up the fair. We had several games that we had brought. It was a very typical Woodleaf scene, with kids trying to earn money or tickets at different games in order to smear shaving cream on their leaders' faces. One of the games was called Haz reir al Indio. Make the Indian Laugh. Chiki, the leader of the program team, asked me to be the Indian. My Spanish had improved greatly throughout the week, but they figured I still didn't understand Peruvian humor. And they were right. So the idea was that kids had to make me laugh using only facial expressions. It was loads of fun, and ended up becoming the main attraction. I'm proud to say I only laughed twice.

Thursday morning was slow as well. The kids all slept in, and after a later breakfast played games down by the water. After gathering some of the Infra stuff that was no longer needed, I joined the kids in their games. I learned how to play Peruvian Ultimate Frisbee. Basically, it's Ultimate Frisbee with hula hoops as goals. And no rules. Go ahead, run with the Frisbee--but you'll probably get tackled, or sand thrown in your face. Lot's of fun. I can't wait to play it in the States.

That evening we spent a lot of time together sitting in the sand, taking pictures down by the water, and reliving the week. At club that night, Christ's love was communicated clearly through the message of the cross. Afterward we set up a bonfire on the beach. To do so, we dug another three holes. The water came up within ten meters of our tents before the tide went out again. Luckily, I avoided those holes, and helped gather wood instead.

That night, the Work Crew team shared their testimonies during the bonfire. Manolo shared about the pain of his parents' divorce, and how Young Life and Christ's love had helped him through that. It was really powerful for the campers to hear real stories from their peers.

This morning, Friday, we woke up early and Infra began taking down tents and hauling gear back up the one hundred and ninety steps to the parking lot. I was glad to be heading home, to have a mattress rather than a bed of sand, and meals that weren't so rushed. But I also knew I'd miss our life there on the beach. I began to realize I may not see several of these kids again. And my heart broke a little.

But while we were tearing down the last tent, I heard a familiar sound. It was the sound of a Say So, a time at the end of camp when new Christians are given the opportunity to stand up and declare their new faith to their friends. I stopped work, and ran to where I could see the club area. I couldn't believe the number of kids that were standing up. And among them, I saw my friend Emilio. That made it worth it. That was worth the bruised and blistered palm I had after digging three holes in the sand. That was worth getting stung by a jellyfish. That was worth feeling like an outsider. That was worth sleeping in the sand. It was worth it all to see those kids standing up and declaring that they had given their lives to Christ.

Now, I'm back at the apartment. After two showers, I can still see places where sand is caked to my arms and feet. Probably my back, too. When I got back, I found out that Christen had had to go to the hospital today. Something about swelling on her brain. I don't know much, and don't have a phone right now. I can't find anyone that will tell me plainly in simple Spanish or can communicate what happened well enough in English. But Cristian is with her. Thank you for your prayers this week. Now, I ask you to pray for Christen, that God would bring healing to her.

Tonight, I'm spending some much needed time alone, answering emails, and resting. And washing off the sand.



Saturday, January 7, 2012

Laughter

Today, Christen and I and one of the Capernaum leaders, Samuel, went to the orphanage. The orphanage houses 105 children with disabilities of various forms. This particular orphanage is the best state run operation in the country. There are two caregivers for every twelve kids, and each works a twelve hour shift. However, on weekends, the directors of the orphanage do not work, and so it is not uncommon for caregivers to show up late or skip work entirely. This means that whichever caregiver is working cannot get home to their family until they are relieved. With 105 mouths to feed, diapers to change, medications to give, and so on, they have a daunting task.

As Capernaum leaders, we have two goals: Love the kids, and love their caregivers. Christen and the other Capernaum leaders in Peru have realized that one of the best ways we can care for the kids at the orphanage is to make sure that they are well taken care of, and we can do that by taking care of their care providers. Often Capernaum leaders will show up to find staff that has been at work for more than twenty four hours, with the worries of home weighing upon them. So, on Saturdays, Capernaum leaders spend the morning at the orphanage, playing and building relationships with the kids, but also stepping in to help the staff, giving them rest, and building relationships with them as well.

Today, after playing and laughing in the boys' house for a while, we moved all the kids to the cafeteria for lunch. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Several of the kids are able to feed themselves, and do so. Others need help. I had the privilege of helping two young women eat their lunch, and watching as Carlos, one of our Capernaum kids, helped one of his friends eat. I watched as they laughed and enjoyed each other's company.

Christen later told me a little something about Carlos's story. When Capernaum first came to the orphanage, they realized that the last thing they needed to do was talk about Jesus. The kids would simply ask, angrily, "Which Jesus are you talking about?" The Catholic priest would come in twice a year and conduct a service, and leave. The Mormon priest would do the same. Volunteers would come from the states for two weeks, and then leave. The staff rarely stays more than two years. These kids only knew a Jesus that would walk out on them after a matter of hours. What these kids needed was consistency. They needed relationships, relationships with people who wouldn't leave. Luckily, that's what Young Life does best.

Anyway, after the first six months, the leaders finally felt they had earned the right to be heard, the right to share the gospel. When they first started talking about Jesus with Carlos, he would get angry. He would throw things. He would hit people. But the leaders hung in there with him, and began talking to the kids about being a family and taking care of each other. They told the kids that rather than hitting the younger ones when they were annoying, love them and teach them. Carlos heard this message, and a few years later, he loves Jesus, claims God as his Father, and is one of the most humble servants at the orphanage.

After we fed the kids, we played and laughed a little more, then left to have lunch with Samuel's fiancee, Janeth. We went to a nearby mall and got sandwiches and salads and fresh watermelon and strawberry juice. Right near where we ate, there was a store called Hong Kong Market. Janeth got very excited and told Christen, "They have gringa things!" So Janeth and Christen went on a short shopping adventure, and came back with pretzels--gringa things. We shared the bag, and when Samuel put the first bite in his mouth, he made a funny face, and told us it was just like wood. Needless to say, lunch was full of jokes about wood and gringa things.

This evening, Christen decided to make a salad for dinner. When I asked if I could help, she asked me to boil some eggs and the chicken breast that was in the freezer. When I looked in the freezer, I didn't see anything that looked like chicken, but there was a black bag with some sort of meat in it.

I asked Christen and she said it was chicken. But, we wanted to be extra sure, so we asked the Peruvians that were over visiting and working on Young Life paperwork what it was. Each of them said it was chicken. So, I put it in the pot with the water and some spices, and let it boil. After a while, Christen asked me if I smelled fish. Something did smell fishy--in every sense of the expression. When we took the lid off the pot, what we saw looked more like a white sausage. About that time, Cristian got home. We asked him to come and look at it to see what it was. It obviously wasn't chicken.

He was speechless. After a moment, once he caught his breath, he told us that we had just boiled caviar. He had bought it to make a special breakfast for Christen before we left for camp. And now it was ruined. Christen and I didn't believe him. Cristian can be very sarcastic. But it was true. I had boiled eggs alright. Fish eggs.

We all had a good laugh afterwards. Cristian didn't laugh so much, but he'll laugh more later. As for now, they're both gone at planning meetings for camp. I'm back at the house getting ready to leave in the morning. The camp team leaves tomorrow, Sunday, to set up camp. On Monday, the kids will arrive, and then the fun begins. I will not be able to post stories during this next week, but I would again ask for prayers for wisdom for the leaders, and for those kids that will meet Jesus this week. Pray that relationships would be formed and deepened. Pray that Christ would be evident in all that we do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Joy

Today, Christen and I went to Alberto's house to pick up his four year old son, Fabio. While Alberto went to pick up his wife's death certificate and his youngest son's birth certificate, Fabio was going to go with us to play with some kids his age who live at El Refugio.

El Refugio is not an orphanage, but that might be the easiest way to explain it to someone who has never seen it. There's just no possible way to put it into words. Doris, the Swiss lady who runs it, lives there with twelve children between the ages of four and eleven. The air is filled with a mixture of Spanish, English, and Swiss German. Children running everywhere. It's the stuff movies are made of. Think Cheaper by the Dozen. Each child has a tragic story behind them. Some were abandoned by their parents. Others were born to mothers with disabilities. Many of their mothers were raped. But Doris makes it clear that this is not an orphanage. It is a home, and they are a family. Each child belongs. One might think that with histories like these that this would be a very sad place, but the miracles that Christ is doing here are incredible. I've never seen a house so full of joy.

At first, Fabio didn't seem too sure about the whole thing. But then he met the triplets. Blanca, Celeste, and Dulce immediately drew him in and made him their friend. They showed him how to use all their toys, and were very kind. What was really interesting was that Fabio comes from a much wealthier family, but at El Refugio, all were equal, and this afternoon, he was just as much a part of the family as everybody else. It's amazing the borders that children can cross.

After a while some of Doris's staff and I took the kids to the park down the street. There, I made friends with Samuel, who is four years old and loves to wrestle. But most of the time we were there he was content to just sit on my lap and stare. He kept calling me a clown. He's a really sweet, joyful little boy.

At the park, we also played chapadas, or tag. The triplets especially loved this game. When it was time to go, Fabio climbed up on my shoulders, and Samuel grabbed my hand, and we walked back to the house together.

Back at the house, we played card games and did puzzles together, and then it was time to start getting ready for bed. All the kids put their pajamas on before dinner because after the staff leaves, Doris is home with all twelve kids by herself. Needless to say, once the staff left and dinner was served, things got crazy. There's no way I could do what Doris does, but she loves these kids well.

Just before dinner, Christen asked me to get out Doris's guitar and teach the kids some songs. We sang "Lean on Me," "I'm Yours," "Jesus Loves Me," "Lord I Lift Your Name on High," and "Every Move I Make." The kids loved it. "Every Move I Make" was their favorite, and they all sang along, me singing in English, and the kids singing in Spanish and German. They all got out percussion instruments and played along and danced on the couch, laughing the whole time. Samuel even sang along, singing, "Blah blah blah blah...."

Just as we were leaving, Doris told me how our singing had lifted her spirits, how it had brought her such great joy. Christen later explained to me the difficulties of Doris's day, including many of her licenses expiring and the possibility of the government shutting down several of her homes like El Refugio. I was glad that I could be used to brighten her day.

But the best part of the day was seeing Fabio smile. Alberto still hasn't been able to explain to him what happened to his mom, but he knows that something is not right. It was good to see him truly enjoying himself and playing and laughing with kids his age. He is so full of joy.

After we left, Fabio and Alberto dropped us off at the bus stop, where we caught a bus back to one of the leader's houses for a camp meeting. We're starting to get really excited for camp. Only one more day until we leave! The camp team leaves Sunday to set up, and kids will arrive on Monday. We can use prayers for safety, both physically and spiritually. Pray for those kids that have an appointment with Jesus this week. And pray for their leaders, the ones who will make that introduction.

I still have not been able to post pictures on this blog, but for now I will be posting them on Facebook, and you can view them from my profile. Otherwise, my parents will have pictures at church. Again, thank you for your support and for your prayers!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Beads

I woke up early today. Monica and Linda came by the apartment early to take me to el Centro, downtown Lima. We spent the whole morning and much of the early afternoon looking for beads and seeds and such to make jewelry for their WyldLife kids to make and sell to pay their way to camp.

Our journey started by walking through San Martin de Porres, our neighborhood, to La Avenida Peru, where we boarded a bus. On our way we were stopped by the police. Don't worry. It's nothing like Federale checkpoints in Mexico. Just a routine checkpoint to make sure it is a legitimate bus, that the driver has a license, that there is safety equipment on board. It may even be more regulated than the cab service back home. An adventure nonetheless.

When we arrived downtown, we made our way over to a building full of shops selling beads. At the first shop, Linda and Monica asked me to wait outside. They said that when the owners see Americans, they charge more. So, I made the most of it, and wandered around the first floor, where most of the tourist shops were. Lots of llamas and blankets, earflap beanies and the like. It was interesting. Mostly, I enjoyed watching people, trying to guess who was a tourist and who was a local.

After about an hour, Linda and Monica came out of the first store. I was beginning to think this was going to be a long way to spend the day. But, they realized I felt that way and let me go with them into the next store, which was much bigger than the first. We found several items there, but what we really needed were large stone pendants, and they didn't have them. So, Monica decided we should split up. She took off running to search the second and third floors while Linda and I looked on the bottom floor. We were both grateful, because neither of of us could keep up with Monica. And since I had already seen much of the first floor, we didn't have to look too hard. Eventually, we took the opportunity to sit and rest, and swap Young Life stories.

Soon, which in this case, is just an expression--it was more like thirty or forty five minutes--Monica came back downstairs and said she'd found something. So we followed her upstairs and picked out several pendants. I was beginning to realize that this was going to be very nice jewelry. Christen showed me some of the jewelry Monica had made for the bridesmaids in her wedding. Very impressive.

After we had all the pendants for the necklaces we needed to find seeds that matched to make earrings. This was much easier, though it took us a while to find a store that had the right colors in a large enough size. But at this stage I was able to be much more helpful, since all we had to do was find seeds that were the same colors as the pendants, and then find ones that were the same shape. Then we matched a couple of beads to the seeds, and were about ready to go.

By this point, I was exhausted, and I could see that Linda was too. But Monica has enough energy for about ten people. So, I went outside, found a place to buy a Coke, and sat down to watch people. When Monica and Linda came out, they told me I looked like a poor beggar!

Anyway, we caught a cab back to San Martin, and I headed back to the apartment. It was about 2:30, and I was ready for lunch. I ate, and took a long nap.

It's a slow night tonight. Christen is answering Young Life emails after spending the day in a meeting. Cristian and his friend Lucho are working on translating a book from English to Spanish for the Young Life staff here. Desa, the dog, is finally worn out after playing fetch all evening. Finally, life is becoming a little more normal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Three

Last night, Christen told me that in the barrio tragedies like this always happen in threes. Like the way surfers talk about big waves. They always come in sets. One after the other. And they sweep past, letting nothing stand in the way. Last night as we returned from the funeral we drove past, or through, another funeral gathering just a few doors down from our apartment. This morning, Cristian told me that another lady on the same block had died of grief.

One.

Two.

Three.

The third death affecting this neighborhood. January 3rd. The third day of the new year. My third day in Peru. Three.

Today is the burial, and Christen and Cristian and our other Young Life friends are now gathering around Alberto, supporting him in this hard time. Earlier there were six busses on our street to take people, probably from all three families, out to the cemetery that is about an hour and half outside of town. Meanwhile, I am back at the apartment, trying to get some reading done, resting, working on posting pictures, and trying to feel better. I don't know if it is the intensity of our schedule the last few days or some of the food I have eaten, or a lack of sleep, but I am beginning to feel weak, and a little nauseous. Hopefully it will pass.

Meanwhile, I am reflecting on the number three. Jesus rose on the third day. He kept three close friends, Peter, James, and John. Daniel prayed in his room three times a day. And in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Twenty Four Hours

When the plane landed, it was already dark. It was around 10:30 pm, New Year's Day. I didn't get to see much of the country as we made our descent. Soon after getting off the plane, I found myself in a long line outside of the immigration check point. It was there that I met Harry, a minister from Philadelphia, and Cecilia, a very kind Peruvian woman who insisted on helping me through immigration and customs. It was such a blessing to meet her in my first moments in the country.

After making it through immigration without any problems, I continued on to gather my bags and exchange my money. From there I headed towards customs. On my way I prayed that I would receive the green light. In Peruvian customs you are asked to press a button as you pass through. If it lights up green, you are free to go. If it is lights up red, they check your bags. Thankfully, I got a green light, and made my way out into the lobby.

The lobby was full of Peruanos holding signs with people's names written in felt pen. Christen had told me to look for the pay phones, and to wait there to be picked up by either her or her husband, Cristian. Almost immediately three young men approached me, and one said, "Tu eres Travis?" But I didn't understand him. I said, "No." But then I saw Cristian standing a few meters away with another group of boys about the same age. When Cristian recognized me, they all gathered around for introductions. Marcelo, David, Pedro and the other guys helped me get my bags to the van, and were ripe with questions about what I liked to do, and about life in the US, and most importantly, about whether or not I was going to camp. When we got the the apartment, Christen and Cristian introduced me to the boys as their sons. This was my first glimpse at the importance of family in Peru.

The first news I heard from Christen, immediately after arriving at the apartment, was not good news. Just about the time that my plane landed, they had received a call from Peru's Young Life National Director, Alberto. His wife had died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving him with a four-year-old child and a one week old baby to care for. As soon as the boys left, Christen and Christen left me in the apartment to unpack while they went to be with the family. They stayed with Alberto until around 3:00 am. That's the way things are done here. La communidad es muy importante. When your family needs you, you go.

This morning, Christen and Cristian invited me to have breakfast with them. It was then that Christen received news that the National Director had spent everything he had for the hospitalization of his wife last week for the birth of their child. He had nothing to pay for the funeral or the burial, or to take care of the baby. But in a couple of hours, all those needs were met. Different family members and Young Life staff stepped in almost immediately to care for this grieving man's needs.

When Christen and Cristian went out to buy the diapers and formula that Alberto needed, they left me at the apartment again. They told me that their friends, Janeth and Samuel, would be coming by to check on me. I used the time to read and finish settling in. Eventually, Janeth and Samuel arrived. They are both Capernaum leaders here in Lima, and just recently got engaged. They spent the morning with me and helped me understand a little about the grieving process in Peru, a process that I hadn't anticipated experiencing, but one in which I was now involved.

Later, Christen and Cristian returned and made lunch for all of us. Then Christen told me that Alberto's wife's funeral was going to be that afternoon. From what I had gathered about the grieving process and the importance of family in the Young Life community here, I figured I needed to go. Though a distant relative, I am a part of that same family. We spent the afternoon resting, and then around 4:00 pm we left for the funeral.

Now, we're living in San Martin, un barrio in Lima. The funeral was in Mira Flores, the richer part of the city. So, as we crammed into the van and drove across the city, I was able to see how truly diverse it is. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of San Francisco, where you can cross a street and cross into an entirely different culture and an entirely different world. The buildings are built right up against each other, and almost one on top of the other, just like in San Francisco. There are signs in several languages. Streets that almost never intersect at right angles. But in a lot of ways it is also very different. I'm sure I will be able to see those differences soon.

We arrived at the funeral and made our way downstairs to the viewing. Now, most Peruvian funerals, or velatorios, are held in the family's home. In fact, there is one underway as I type this just down the street from our apartment, with people gathering en la calle and probably planning to stay all night. This funeral was different because it was in a church. The family got permission to use the church because they knew how many people would be coming because of Alberto's relationship with Young Life. Janeth told me as people gathered outside the church that every single person in attendance, probably a couple hundred, were all Young Life. Every one of them, either a leader, staff member, or student who grew up through Young Life. And this is only about 17 hours after the death. News travels fast, and family responds faster.

I'm not really sure how I'm processing all of this. In our culture, death is very sanitary, and very slow. Here, it is very public, very raw, and very quick. What would take us a week to put together happened in a matter of hours. It's just a completely different way of grieving. It's very hard for me to understand. What I do understand is that this group of Christians loves each other deeply. Christen told me that most velatorios are very dramatic and that people stand around and cry for hours, often all night. But this one was very calm and peaceful, tranquilo. Christen said it was the only service she had been to that included any sharing time or music or message. But this service had something different. It had hope. The words and music that were shared, from what I gathered with my limited grasp on the Spanish language, were full of hope and life. So far, twenty four hours into this trip, that seems to be what Young Life is all about here in Lima--hope, life, and Jesus Christ.

We haven't had any time to really rest or process this yet. I've had no instruction in the culture. Mostly, I stick close to Christen, Cristian, Janeth, or Samuel, and do what they do. But in this hard time it is difficult to know what to do or what to say. For now, I'm a baby. I know less about how to respond to this than the children do. But that's all part of learning the culture. In the next few days, after the burial, Christen and Cristian will have more time to help me understand the culture, learn bus routes, know where to get food, and so on. For now, I'm trying to do everything I can to not be a burden on them. For now, they need to be with their family.

Please lift me up in your prayers, and ask God for wisdom for me as I navigate this tragedy. And pray the same for Christen and Cristian. Ask God to comfort the Young Life community in Peru, and especially for comfort for Alberto y su familia.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Airport

Last night my parents and I celebrated the New Year in our hotel room near the San Francisco airport with our friends in Lima, at 9:00 pm. After waking up at 4:30 this morning, I now sit at gate 94 at SFO, looking out over the dark tarmac. It's quiet here, which is nice. I'm finally finding that peace I was looking for, finally able to rest, knowing that I'm on my way.

Just a little over twelve hours until I land in Lima, until summer begins. That's only twelve hours to finish my pre-trip reading. I finished the first book Christen asked me to read yesterday. If you haven't read When Helping Hurts, you should. It gives a very insightful perspective on poverty alleviation in the Majority World. On the plane I will be attempting to make a dent in Serving with Eyes Wide Open. I also received many recommendations from friends regarding good music to listen to, and so that will also occupy much of my time today.

Again, thank you for your prayers as I travel. Today, I would like to ask for prayers for safety and rest, and for the preparation of my heart, eyes, and body. I'm am extremely excited about finally starting out on this adventure, and am extremely grateful to each of you. Again, thank you all very much.