“Week 3 - The Final Week”
It feels crazy and inexpicable how quickly the summer moves by. Last night I was sitting in the front of the bus driving through Lima on our way to the airport to leave the country of Peru, and it felt like mere moments had passed since the reverse– since July 4th when we arrived exhausted but excited for the ministry ahead. Our final weekend was eventful to say the least. Our team had been dealing with some sickness (some colds and some stomach bugs) but we persevered through the end of our time in Arequipa and last Saturday we took a bus up north to Chivay. Our plan was to spend just two days up in the mountains, the first for ministry and the second for recreation. We stopped along the way for the cultural experience of sipping Inca Tea (which is said to aid in altitude sickness) and we stopped about an hour later at an elevation of just over 16,000 feet to get some sweet pictures.
Soon after, we descended into Chivay which would be our home for the night. We then split into three groups. One group stayed back at our hotel to rest and heal (our sick friends). Another group stayed in Chivay and looked for opportunities in the plaza to talk about Jesus with the locals and also practiced the ‘Secret Christian’ game that our friend Armond taught us in Arequipa. The third group drove even further into the mountains and what felt like further into isolation to run a one-night kids program in the stunningly picturesque Canocota. Our program consisted of the Spanish songs and dances we’ve done throughout the summer, some ice breaker games, a skit of Jesus healing the paralytic man, crafts, soccer (of course), and we concluded with a Gospel presentation and personal testimony shared by Bethany… entirely in Spanish! As the students would say, “We ate and left no crumbs!” which I guess is slang to say that we did well…
The next day was a cultural and heritage experience. We began with an early morning trip to Colca Canyon where we got to watch Andean Condors soar through the sky. This was particularly beautiful and many locals have indicated far more pride in Colca than even in Machu Pichu. We spent most of the day basking in God’s creation. Late morning was spent exploring some Incan ruins where we may or may not have also discovered human bones. That afternoon we took the team to a local hot springs for a pleasant dip, but we began with worship. We worshipped through music and then we worshipped through baptism as Bethany chose to obey this necessary step in her spiritual life. Our trip back to Arequipa that evening was difficult – our team struggled with a fair amount of altitude sickness (headaches and nausea) on top of the already sick nature of a large portion of our group. But we made it back for the night, and the next morning we flew to Lima for debriefing.
We returned to our hostel from the first week we spent in Lima and we took Monday-Friday to debrief the summer together in that familiar environment. Debriefing is a significant part of a Royal Servants summer as it provides us an opportunity to sit with the work God has done in us and reflect on what that might mean in our lives moving forward. Debriefing was filled with teachings on how ro respond to some of the challenges associated with going home, focused Bible studies on fear and courage, reflection time to write both group and individuals reports about the summer, and coaching on how to engage believers non-believers alike once home.
Another awesome part of debriefing is how the schedule s l o w s d o w n. Our weeks of ministry were often a mad dash and filled to the brim with forward motion; this week, however, was about taking a breath. This also allowed more intentional time to just be with a team, to be a family. We got to enjoy a well earned popcorn & movie night (The Emperor’s New Groove, of course!) and I had some more free time to take out different members of the team for coffee or ice cream or baked goods (Clara was very pleased with her Strawberry Tart; Josh went more the chicken salad sandwich route!) On Thursday, we got to enjoy one final day out and about in Peru, this time in the Mira Flores district of Lima. Discipleship groups got to enjoy an epic final meal together and collect their last bit of souvenirs, some even went down to the beach to stick their toes in the Pacific. We concluded the night at the Circuito Magico del Agua, a big park with a bouncy house, many food vendors, and about a thousand fountains. The fountain lights show was particularly impressive.
What can I say about this team as I write from our gate in the Miami airport, mere hours away from our final flight to Chicago which concludes with the dissolution of this team? Boy have we have had a lot of fun together. As them about our bus ride to Chivay. Or about the infamous Dear David notes. Or what the difference is between a llama, an alpaca, and a vicuna. Or you could ask them about any of the variety of ministry opportunities we had this summer and how we stepped up to the plate when it was we needed. I have seen many of these students rise above their own preconceptions of what they were capable of accomplishing, above and beyond. They have grown immensely, as human beings, as community members, and most importantly as followers of King Jesus. It was an honor to lead this team and these individuals.
To Ava, Bergen, Bethany, Clara, Brody, David, Emily, Grace, Ivy, Johann, Josh, Keira, Kennedy, Lizzie, Mari, Nathan, Olivia, and Quaid: Well done. Thank you for obeying God’s call on your lives this summer. I eagerly look forward to seeing the story our Father is going to author in the rest of your lives. And it was a joy to be a small part of your story this summer. Never stop following the true Jesus.