Final Day

Sunday, August 18 (Josh Blessing)

After the long day of hiking the rainbow mountains, we were all thankful for a later start on Sunday, the last day of our trip to Peru. Before church, our family and Jim & Lily spent some time with our host family, Rolando, Francisca, and Christian, and took some pictures together. At 9:30am, Pastor Roberto and Valeria picked up our group and drove to Huacarpay Mennonite Church, where there would be a special 26th anniversary service at 10am, which also included the congregations from Lucre and San Jeronimo. The worship was very lively and included members of all 3 churches; it included guitars, violins, a flute, and saxophone with songs sung in Spanish and Quechua. Pastor Celestino gave the sermon and then there was some amazing Quechua-style dancing to worship music with very beautiful outfits and hats. After the service we had sort of a potluck style meal together where people brought all kinds of food. We had more cuy, pork, potatoes, vegetables, and tea, which was delicious as always.

Following the meal, our group met with the board of the national Mennonite church for a time of prayer and sharing. The board consisted of Pastors Roberto, David, and Celestino, and their wives. It was a blessed time where we could learn more about the needs of the people and churches in the area. Unity is a real challenge at times and there are concerns about new theological ideas being introduced in the campo (countryside). I was very thankful that we could pray over these pastors since they had been such a blessing to our group; this was a way to give back. We took some time to say goodbye to many people in the churches and then drove back to our apartment in San Jeronimo.

While waiting at the apartment, we took some time to hear the testimonies of Pastor Roberto and his wife, Valeria. This was an emotional time and a meaningful way to end our time in Cusco. Valeria shared how she was really one of the first converts in the area and both she and Roberto came from families where anger and abuse was present to some degree. This Pastor couple has a great heart for the churches in the campo (countryside) and they have served us so well during our time in Peru. They also shared about how much Steve and Beth have been their spiritual parents. That came across as well in conversations with the other pastors, David and Celestino. We got to see and experience how God used the Gibbs in their ministry in Cusco and the fruit that was produced! I also want to mention that everyone in these churches loves Bethany Weaver and misses her greatly. I know it was very hard for Bethany not to be able to come on this trip but we are so thankful for how she has walked with our group … even through helping with the blog postings. The people in Cusco look forward to the day they will be able to see Steve and Bethany again and meet their son, Daniel!

At 5:30pm we left the apartment for the airport in Cusco with Pastor Roberto and Valeria. Francisca also joined us for the trip to the airport which allowed us to once again say our goodbyes. Steve and Beth helped us get our luggage checked in at the airport counter and then we had to say goodbye to them too. They would be spending the next few days in the campo visiting churches with Roberto. Everything went very smoothly on the flights home. The only challenge was probably experienced by Jim and Lily who had to gather and re-check their luggage in Lima and then again in Toronto. We had a long layover in Lima so we were able to wait and have some dinner with Jim and Lily while they waited for the Air Canada counter to open. We slept a few hours in the Lima terminals and then said goodbye to Ramona once we got to El Salvador. Probably the most time-consuming thing that happened was going through customs once we got back to Dulles Washington DC. Thank you to all who journeyed with us through prayer and looking at the blog and supporting us. We will never forget Peru and I believe God will use the experience to expand our worldview as we seek to worship Him in Spirit and in truth and to serve others.

Rainbow Mountains

Saturday, August 17 (Josh Blessing)

Everybody was ready at 2:30am for our hike to the Rainbow Mountains. Our guides were Juve and Carlos, who arrived in a very nice, white tourist van, which are plentiful here in Cusco. They went over the schedule and gave us blankets so we could try to sleep during the 3 hour journey to the mountain. With the van, we ascended to 15,000 feet above sea level (from 10,500 in Cusco) and the last half of the journey was quite bumpy. I downloaded an offline altimeter on my phone so we could check our altitude (via the GPS). The guides then provided us with breakfast of coca tea, coffee, and sandwiches. We were the first van on location at close to 6am, which was a good thing. As the day goes on, the mountains become filled with hikers and tourists, and getting an early start allowed us to get done earlier as well.

The hike went well and was incredibly challenging and rewarding. The children did very well for the most part and adjusted to the altitude probably better than all of the adults in our group. However, the reality is we were all tired simply from not getting enough sleep the night before. This impacted Micah the most who wound up getting carried for a portion of the hike (by me and our guide, Juve). But once things settled, he climbed the hardest parts of the hike on his own strength. Our group made it to the top of the rainbow mountains at 16,500 feet, which I believe is higher than all of the Colorado Rocky mountains! The pictures show just how incredible the scenery is in the landscape although even those can’t do it justice. The rainbow colors are created by minerals including gold, sulfur, and copper. There is a glacier in the distance too where some people can hike for days. Our guide said that there are also similar “rainbow” mountains in both China and Argentina; but the ones in Peru are of course the best! I was very nervous about this hike but am so glad we were able to complete it. Many of our group felt the effects of altitude sickness (headache, loss of breath, etc) after the hike and were provided some oxygen by our guides. That seemed to help a lot. Some of the group did an extended hike into the “red valley,” which again showed the amazing colors of these mountains. Interestingly, we did not see other children on this hike (or at Machu Picchu). Our Rainbow Mountain guide said he had never taken children younger than 10 years of age on the hike.

After everyone finished their hike and returned to the van, we set off for a restaurant for lunch. It was a buffet-style lunch with at least 10 different Peruvian dishes and of course, tea and chicha morada (purple corn drink) to drink. We were very thankful for our guides, especially with the uncertainty of not having our preparation meeting exactly as planned. God provided for us. We even prayed over the crew from the Trek company after our lunch and Mike Hostetter (EMM missionary in Peru) shared a testimony to them as well. Following lunch, the guides showed us an outside game (similar to horseshoes) where you have to try and throw coins into the mouth of a “frog.” The kids especially enjoyed that. Finally, we returned home where we were all exhausted. A few people went into Cusco to see a dance show that we had tried to see on a few other days, but most stayed home and rested and prepared for our journey back to the States. It has been an incredible trip in my opinion with so many memories.

Promesa Day 3

Friday, August 16 (Hannah Zimmerman)

We've spent the last three mornings visiting Promesa school. It was an honor for me to be included in a variety of classes and school programs. The teachers and students were very welcoming and accommodating to our group. I was amazed by the unity of the staff in incorporating God's word into their class routines. I experienced teachers and students praying and quoting scripture during transitions in their school schedules.

Each morning, our group joined the teachers and staff for a prayer and devotional time. This time was followed with a student chapel. One morning some of the students did a special dance during chapel. I was impressed by their energy and synchronism.

Following chapel, our group was welcomed to split into smaller groups and join different classes for their school day. Some of us chose a grade, others chose to shadow a specific teacher, and others visited a variety of classes. Lily and Joelyn attended second grade every day and Micah was a part of a kindergarten class.

I most enjoyed joining some of the physical education classes. We played volleyball and futbol (soccer). I also enjoyed joining Micah in kindergarten. The children and teachers were so kind to us.

Aug 16 (Josh Blessing)

Friday was our last day volunteering at Promesa school. We met with the teachers for the devotional time and also had a time for sharing. The school showed a video of some things they had accomplished athletically against other schools and if I understood them correctly, they were hoping to have their soccer team compete in a tournament of sorts in Mexico in the near future. Then, Edie presented the gifts we had brought from the LV children’s offering giving time we had done over the last few months. We gave many school supplies, soccer balls and volleyballs, and also a monetary gift. Then the school provided some breakfast with sandwiches and delicious tamales with coffee and tea. After the opening time, I spent the first period with the kindergarten class where my son, Micah, has been participating. The class was physical education where the students did some exercises and then played soccer. Every time the kindergartners see me, they shout “Josue,” which I find amusing. I then went back to the school and attended some English classes and finished the day, doing some soccer stretches and exercises with the high school boys.

For lunch, we returned to our apartment where Francisca and Valeria prepared yet another delicious feast for us with rice, steamed vegetables, and a stew that included a unique kind of squash, ground lima beans, and queso (cheese). There was tea of course as well. We then had a pretty relaxed afternoon as we prepared for a 5pm meeting with our Rainbow mountains tour guide. Unfortunately, the tour guide never showed up and Steve and Beth had trouble making contact with the tour agency, so they decided to take a taxi into the headquarters in Cusco. I believe the agency’s main office is in Colorado. Thankfully, Steve and Beth were able to get to the Cusco office and met the manager who was very apologetic as it turns out the guide originally on schedule to lead us was with his wife who just had a baby. The manager then drove Steve and Beth to their hotel and we had the preparations meeting with our group after all. Following the meeting with the manager, we all went to bed as early as possible since we needed to be up and ready by 2:30 am!

Promesa Day 2

Thursday, August 15 (Josh Blessing)

Today was our second day volunteering at the Promesa school. My family and Jim & Lily Weaver started the day with a quick breakfast of eggs and bread and then walked down to the hotel (about 1 mile away) where the others are staying, which is also very close to the school. We first sat in on the devotional time for teachers and then we helped lead the devotional time for the high school classes. Jim and I led a devotional on Daniel 12, which was the next chapter in the series they were doing. It was very challenging to try and explain this particular passage because it deals with eschatology (end times theology) and prophecy. We focused on the fact that this is one of the earliest passages in all of scripture where heaven and hope for those who suffer and die are mentioned. We then sang some worship songs and got to see some Quechua-style dancing that the younger students had been working on.

After the devotional times, I sat in on 4 consecutive English classes for the high school students; the English teacher is new and she had me grade several of the assignments in each of the classes. I think English is one of the hardest languages to master because of all the tenses and rules that are not always followed consistently (in my opinion). There is definitely a big difference between the 9th and 10th grade classes and the upper classes in terms of their English competency, which is to be expected. I then went to check on Micah in his kindergarten class. The children in these classes have been very friendly to us and wanting to develop relationships. I only peeked my head in the classroom and several of Micah’s classmates yelled, “Josue!” (Spanish for Joshua) I sat in on some of Micah’s classes yesterday so they knew me. After that, I went to watch and see some of the students on break playing volleyball in the small courtyard area of the school. They really make good use of the space here. One (or perhaps more) of the high school grades had their physical education class next and they asked me if I’d like to join them to play volleyball. I of course said yes and then brought Jim and Hannah with me to play with Edie and Ramona tagging along to watch. We went to the big community center across the street, which has a huge gym and pool, and had a great time playing volleyball with the girls. In this culture, it seems that mostly boys play soccer and the girls play volleyball. These girls were very good and competitive!

We then left the school at 1pm and went to pastor Roberto and Valeria’s house for a lunch feast. Mike and Nancy Hostetler, EMM regional reps for South America, joined us too. We had cuy (guinea pig), pollo (chicken), stuffed peppers, regular and sweet potatoes, a kind of lime beans, and cauliflower/broccoli cake with coco mate. Afterwards, pastor Roberto brought some soda to drink, including Inca Cola, which tastes a lot like cream soda. Apparently, when coca cola tried to enter this market, they found it very difficult to compete with Inca cola… they just bought out the company. My family, Hannah, and Jim & Lily Weaver then walked back to our homes (maybe 2 miles) while the pastors met to discuss some local things. We had a relaxed afternoon after that, taking naps and getting some laundry done. There is basically no climate control in this place and is really not necessary since you experience both hot and cold throughout the day. And dryers are not used for laundry; we simply hang the laundry on the roof of the house (4th floor). But you must make sure the clothes are securely clipped to the line, otherwise the strong wind could blow them a block away! In the evening, some of us went back into town for ice cream and to finish shopping and others stayed back to rest. This has been a fantastic trip; thank you for praying.

Thursday, August 15 (Jim and Lily Weaver)

Last evening (Wednesday) was another late evening and impacted the kids as all three fell asleep in the taxi ride back to the apartment. Even with an accelerated bedtime, we were dragging this morning. Breakfast was very good (eggs, bread, and oatmeal), but we needed to eat quickly and walk briskly to the school.

Chapel was pretty much awesome! It was lengthy.

1. Promesa’s principal led the worship / devotional time for the faculty.

2. Then, grades 7 to 11 joined which is somewhere around 100 students. Their student worship band kept a good rhythm in leading (presumably) a worship song. (Unsure what the Spanish lyrics translated to). I was particularly impressed with their drummer.

3. Next, it was the students turn to struggle with the language difference. Josh and I taught Daniel 12. Prior chapels had taught the earlier 11 chapters of Daniel, so we were asked to finish the book. We taught in English without a translator. I suspect most students were unable to follow our lesson. We spoke slow and aimed for a limited vocabulary, but it was quite hard for them. Our lesson focused on how the promise of everlasting life encourages us during troubled times. This chapter is perhaps the clearest evidence of heaven in the Old Testament.

4. Student dancers performed a folk dance that appeared to be the developing relationship between male birds (perhaps a condor) and female birds. Dancers dressed in colorful Peruvian clothes.

5. Memorized story told by one of the students. His impassioned story told of a conversation between a father and a son. The father sacrificed much so that the son could become an educated professional. His expectations were for his son to become a doctor, nurse, engineer, or architect. However, the son saw that being a teacher afforded the greatest benefit to others. The student’s story covered the back and forth dialog. It was impressive. I thought I saw one teacher tearing up.

Thursday, August 15 (Lily Weaver)

After chapel, Joelyn, Shelby, and I joined Promesa’s 2nd grade class. We did geography. Countries of Colombia, Peru, Chile, Bolivia. Regions of Chinchaysuyo, Antisuyo, Cortisuyo, and Collasuyo. Then, we did English class. We practiced emotions such as “I like”, “I love”, “I don’t like”, and “I hate”. We practiced fruits like guava, grapes, mangoes, and limes. After English ended, we, three, went to meet up with the church group. Hannah left her charger in computer class and went in to get it and saw our 2nd grade class. In computer class, the students learned mouse and keyboard control by playing computer games.

All of us went to Pastor Roberto and Valerio’s house. We went for lunch. They made guinea pig which was not bad and not good tasting for me. They also made cauliflower and broccoli shaped like pancakes. They also made a casserole that my dad liked, but he said it was spicy. Potatoes were made like this: they built an oven (out of bricks); put potatoes inside the oven; covered it all with dirt; started the fire; collapsed the brick / dirt oven; potatoes baked over three hours; then, taken out and served to us. We had to peel off the skin because of how the potatoes were cooked. Also, Roberto had two happy dogs and a cat.

We walked home (1.5 miles). After we got home, we took showers, did laundry. Others went out to shop, while we stayed back at the apartment.

I was nervous the 1st time I went to class in Promesa. I found friends named Kelly, Abigail, and Marcos. I’m glad that I visited their class even though I cannot understand their words.

Promesa Day 1

Wednesday, August 14 (Edie Weaver)

This was our first day at Promesa Mennonite School. We sat in on the 7:45 a.m. morning devotions for the teachers and also a devotional for the students. We then split up and went to various classrooms and observed and helped where we could. Lily, Joelyn, and Micah are enjoying interacting with students at Promesa. We were then served a delicious meal by Valeria and Francisca. We had some down time in the afternoon and then went to downtown Cusco for the evening. We were hoping to see a traditional dance show but arrived too late so went to a pizza shop and did some shopping instead.


Wednesday, August 14 (Rosemary Blessing)

Promesa School was founded 14 years ago as a joint effort, joining the personnel of Eastern Mennonite Missions to the vision of the Peruvian Mennonite church. We have heard a lot about the school from pastor Steve/Beth and Bethany Weaver, who served long-term in Cusco, and through special offerings at church for the school’s building project. It is a gift to be here! Our first day we were present for teacher and then student chapel services, I attended a middle school English and math class, I helped teach recorders to a small student group in music class, and I was present in kindergarten (with my son). Although our time here is short, and our understanding of the Peruvian education system is very limited, I value seeing the surface similarities and differences to my children’s school experiences. Concrete floors, small classroom space, uniforms for students of all ages, secondary grade teachers moving from room to room to teach their subjects, and no toilet paper provided in the bathrooms contrast to what my children experience in their school setting. However, enormous amounts of student energy, peer friendships, laughter, occasional distractions in class, and the importance for students to learn remain exactly the same! This experience of broadening one’s understanding of global education, and recognizing differences are not right or wrong, is something I am thankful for my children to see and experience. Promesa leadership has a deep passion and vision for this faith-based school! As with any school (private or public), there are challenges. However, this experience is a reminder of the importance for children of any nationality, socioeconomic level, and learning level to have access to quality education which benefits themselves and all of society. When we are able to work together and advocate for each other, locally and globally, everyone benefits! As is often the case with short term church trips, it is the participants whose hearts become bigger, eyes are opened, faith is deepened, and world view becomes more compassionate. One by one, this contributes to making the world a better place. 

Machu Picchu

Tuesday, August 13 (Steve Gibbs)

Machu Picchu is unique in so many ways. Whenever Peru is mentioned, Machu Picchu is the first thing that people associate with it. It is the “Lost City of the Incas”. And its mystique was experienced by our mission team.

We had a scare as Micah cut his lip while we were in line for the bus that was leaving the site. Thankfully the bleeding was quickly stopped and Micah got back to being his happy self. For that we are glad!

Leaving Machu Picchu we went for lunch and then the thermal baths before leaving on the train to return to the Sacred Valley and then driven back to Cusco. More than anything this trip has been an amazing encounter between the folks from our church and the folks here. I am humbled by what God is doing in our midst and I look forward to what He will do in the future through the partnership of LMC and the Peruvian national Mennonite church.


Tuesday, August 13 (Shelby Gruber)

We spent the day at Machu Picchu. The highlight for me was imagining how the Inca Indians lived and prospered in such a secluded area as well as seeing buildings and temples that have lasted for hundreds of years.

I have enjoyed exploring a country that I thought I would never see in person which has turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. Something I have learned about myself through this experience is working in harmony with a large group of people was something that I am not used to but learned that I can do.


Monday, August 12 (Beth Gibbs)

Today, we woke up in Pisac, staying in a lovely hotel on the square where hotel costs are amazingly inexpensive at $30 a night. As I was getting ready, I heard familiar voices out the window, and some of our group were already out shopping for gifts. The sellers work hard here setting up their sweaters and scarves, and tapestries and artwork, and jewelry and blankets, and much more, early in the morning and selling through early evening. Ramona was looking for some baby alpaca yarn, and she was so, so excited when she found some at a very reasonable price!

We gathered in the dining room a little before 8 am and had a good simple breakfast of coffee, juice, bread, and a fried egg. After breakfast, we had our devotions and Roberto and Valeria joined us which, with some translating, added a special dimension to our sharing. We could share together about what we were grateful for and appreciative of as we started our day, read a short Scripture together, discuss, and learn from each other about what the Lord was speaking to each of us.

We headed up to the ruins above the town and had a wonderful morning of hiking and experiencing the archeological wonders of Pisac. We hiked up and down many steps, through a tunnel and some narrow places. Our only problem was that not everyone in our group went as far, and some of us came out at a lower level and had to figure out how to have us all meet up again. Roberto and Valeria though found us all, and we were on our way down to some shopping. We had only about 40 minutes as we had to be on our way down the valley and a two hour ride to Ollantaytambo and the ruins there as well as the train station. We had a short time in the ruins and rushed down to the train station which left at 4:30 for the town of Aguas Calientes which is at the base of Machu Picchu.

Riding a train in Peru is a fun, but bouncy experience. Aguas Calientes is truly a tourist town as it only exists to provide a place for people to have a base for going up to Machu Picchu. It is situated on the side of the mountain across from Machu Picchu. After a very long walk (at least ½ a mile uphill, steep uphill, we arrived at our hotel. Our rooms were assigned, and we were deciding what to do with the rest of the evening, when Edie realized she had left her hiking boots under her seat on the train. So we checked with the hotel manager if he thought we would have a chance of getting them back. He said to go down and check, to talk with the girls who clean the trains as maybe someone found them. So Edie Shelby and I made our way back down that very steep hill on tired legs all the way down to the train station. I talked with the guy at the ticket window, and his first response was, “no”, no one has turned in any boots, not possible. However I saw one of the girls behind him and asked her. The clerk and the young woman were behind a window, so I couldn’t hear everything, but she was much more positive and soon the clerk was making a phone call. A few minutes later, he came out with the boots—and we were so excited and thankful to the Lord! But now we had to hike all the way back up that super steep hill to our hotel. We met the rest of our group at a restaurant on the way up, and joined them for a delicious dinner. The basic menu lets you chose an appetizer, a main dish, and lemonade, all for about $5, and it was wonderful after a long day of hiking. During dinner we had Wifi and I was able to Facetime with our daughter, Anna, and was so excited for her when she told me she passed her nursing boards. We are so, so proud of all her hard work!

We headed back to our hotel and to bed as we would be getting up at 4 am to catch our bus up to Machu Picchu! I am so thankful to be here together with our church friends and share with them the wonders of this place we called home for twelve years, and more than the place, to have them meet and know some of the very special people who are our friends here in Peru.

Monday, August 12 (Josh and Rosemary)

Josh is taking another turn at the wheel on the blog since Rosemary has been working so much on editing and photo selection. Rosemary would like to share that it has been very meaningful to see Steve and Beth in this context and see the fruits of their work as missionaries. The relationships that were formed between them and this community are strong and continue to this day. And because of that, our team has been on the receiving end of much generosity and hospitality. Pastor Roberto and his wife Valeria have traveled together with us for much of our trip and been our primary drivers too. It can be challenging when you don’t speak the same language but Pastor Roberto shared this morning in our devotional time that he looks forward to heaven when we will all be able to communicate and understand each other…in the Quechua language of course 😉. Just kidding.

On Monday, some of our group woke up early to take some pictures and do some shopping in the market right outside our hotel. It was amazing to see people who have to set up and tear down their market stands each and every day; they start early and go home late, leaving nothing behind! A little later at 7:40 a.m., we ate breakfast together and then had a group devotional time. We then checked out of our hotel and traveled with Pastor Roberto and Valeria to explore the “Sacred Valley” area and do more hiking. It was a 5 mile hike with incredible views of the valley and the terraces where the Incas did their farming. Just imagine huge retaining walls that created terraces where the Incas would plant crops. The Incas were incredible stone masons. We then returned from the Sacred Valley to Pisaq for a brief period and then left for Ollantaytambo where there were more ruins to explore, specifically the “baths of the princesses.” There are so many natural springs in the mountains that never run dry.

From Ollantaytambo, we took the train to Aguas Calientes and checked in to our hotel. We had originally planned to go visit the hot springs, however due to the time and the fact we hadn’t had dinner yet, we decided to try and do that the next day after visiting Machu Picchu. A huge answer to prayer happened in the evening because, upon arriving at the hotel, Edie realized she had left her brand new hiking boots (purchased for this trip) back on the train. Beth, Edie, and Shelby walked back to the train station and amazingly, they were able to find the boots. Thank you God! We then all met at a restaurant for dinner; Hannah ordered grilled alpaca off the menu and seemed to enjoy it 😊. Please keep praying for us for the upcoming week when we plan to volunteer in the Promesa school for several days. We depart at 5:15 a.m. to see Machu Picchu in the morning and then return to Cusco in the evening.


Sunday, August 11 (Ramona Garcia)

Today we divided into 3 groups so that we could visit 3 churches. Shelby, Jim, Lily, and I attended the church in Lucre. As the worship team started leading the singing, and the congregation continued to arrive, the worship was contagious with clapping of hands and singing. The leader of the worship team was charismatic and explained each song before it was sung. I truly felt the presence of Lord in that church.

The sermon was given by a sister named Natalie, who is a professor at the Promesa school. She spoke on marriage and family as a Christian. She emphasized that a spouse and children should be considered a blessing from the Lord. We should never think of them as burdens. As she was speaking, a young Peruvian mother sat in front of us with a beautiful baby. The baby smiled and giggled every time she looked at us. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ command to the disciples to let the children come to him because theirs is the kingdom of God. Babies and children all around the world, including Peru, deserve to have a healthy and fruitful life as well as the opportunity to learn about our Lord. This is what the Promesa (Mennonite) School in Cusco, Peru, is doing. They are being educated and the gospel is being introduced to them. We look forward to spending time at the school this week.

After the service church members were shaking our hands and giving us hugs. We felt very welcomed! Pastor Eloy Sullca owns a fish farm and restaurant. He treated us to a meal there. We had the freshest fish ever. We witnessed them catching, cleaning, and frying the fish for our lunch. The meal was delicious.

Then we back to the hotel where we quickly packed for the next adventure. Pastor Roberto and his wife Valeria took to Pisaq on the church van. They are transporting us every day with so much patience and dedication. Valeria sat next to me and we shared our testimony and trials. We comforted and hugged each other. We agreed that The Lord is great and He has been with us through all our trials. It’s amazing that 2 women from such different backgrounds can connect in this way. We are sisters in the family of God.

One of the joys I have enjoyed in this trip has been having the 3 children travelling with us. Lily, Joelyn and Micah have acted like seasoned travelers. I love hearing their giggles and laughter in the van. They have energy like the energizer rabbit. I was so touched with how well they played with two of the pastor’s children even though they did not know their language. We should all be like children.

Sunday, August 11 (Josh Blessing)

On Sunday, our group was separated for a bit but it was for good reasons; we got to worship with 3 different Mennonite churches in the towns of Huacarpay, San Jeronimo, and Lucre. Before leaving for church, our host Francisca prepared a delicious breakfast of pancakes (with maple syrup), bread, fruit, and hot chocolate. I don’t believe pancakes are a common breakfast item here so it was very kind of her to make something like that for us! Pastor Roberto then arrived and drove us along with Edie, Ramona, and Pastor Steve to the respective churches we would be visiting. My family and Pastor Steve went to the church in Huacarpay, which is a church he helped plant more than 25 years ago. Pastor Celestino and his wife Ines were discipled by Steve many years ago and now lead the church, which has definitely grown. Steve mentioned that when he pastored here, there were never more than 20 adults. But today there were perhaps double that number with many young people.

We enjoyed the worship time which included many songs in Quechua and Spanish. Two of the songs sung were ones I was familiar with in English but had been translated. I especially liked the ones in Quechua, which is the original language of the Incas. When Pastor Steve and Beth served in Peru, there mission was to help plant churches amongst the Quechua people, which according to some leaders at Wycliffe Bible Translators, had been very difficult. 30 years ago the Quechua language was looked down upon from others in Peru, sort of like a pig-latin or language of the poor. However, there has been a revival of sorts in the community that has preserved Quechua in the Cusco area. The other churches in San Jeronimo and Lucre also use Quechua in their worship and teaching.

The church in Huacarpay is in a great location which had been prayed over for many years. The church owns the building and a covered lot next door which Pastor Celestino hopes to cover with artificial turf when funds become available. This will make it a better and safer place for children to play and will make the church a bigger hub for the community. At the end of the service, Pastor Steve was invited to come forward and give a greeting. He invited me up as well to share of our experiences so far. I must commend Steve who translated everything for us during the entire service including the songs! He deserved a nap because translating can be very tiring, however he was definitely energized to be here and share so much of his time in Peru with us. We were very blessed.

After church we walked down to Pastor Celestino and Ines’s home for lunch. They treated us to an incredible meal of Peruvian dishes including the famous “cuy” (guinea pig), stuffed roccoto peppers, potatoes, and Inca Cola. The stuffed peppers were my favorite and Celestino’s daughter said they had to boil the peppers 3 times to take some of the heat off! I thought they were perfect and the cuy was good too. Pastor Steve said that the peppers and cuy are usually only prepared for special occasions like weddings so they treated us royally! After the meal, we got to go outside and see where they kept and raised the love guinea pigs which were very cute 😊. When our group all got together again later, we learned that others had similar eating experiences. One group got to enjoy delicious fish in Lucre, where the pastor owns a fish farm. And I believe the group in San Jeronimo enjoyed pork ribs which were also delicious.

It is fascinating to see the landscape as we drive through these places. Agriculture is very important, but not much of the land is flat making the use of tractors difficult if not impossible in most areas. Many farms are manual operations using manpower or oxen. I am also loving the fact that there appears to be little to no insects in Cusco (due to the altitude) and I haven’t see anyone smoking cigarettes in the public areas of Cusco. Our group left San Jeronimo in the afternoon and traveled to Pisaq where we stayed in a hotel. Along the way we stopped at a lookout to see the Sacred Valley down below, which we will be seeing on Monday. We bought some bread, cheese, snacks, and fruit, at a store also along the way which we used for our evening meal at the hotel. Everyone seems to be doing very well with no headaches of late. Thank you for praying!


Saturday, August 10 (Hannah Zimmerman)

Hello from Pisaq! We’ve just arrived at our hotel for tonight. I’m sitting in the courtyard, listening to the bells’ ringing. Micah is on my lap and Joelyn and Lily are on either side of me. Apparently, I need 3 editors. Anyway, I am supposed to be writing about yesterday, so come back in time with me.

My morning began at 7am. Most of you are probably experiencing humid weather, but it is quite cold in Cusco, especially indoors. I enjoyed the warmth of laying under three blankets for a bit longer, then took a cold shower. Breakfast consisted of delicious pan (bread) with butter, marmalade, and an egg. The hotel provides us with a steady supply of hot water and coca leaves for coca tea. The coca leaves are supposed to help us adjust to the altitude.

After breakfast, we had devotions and prayer together before driving to the apartment to pick up Jim, Lily, Josh, Rosemary, Joelyn, and Micah. We were also joined by Pamela, who works at Promesa. Her two sons (age 7 and 8) joined us and her husband drove the van for us. Walter and Elsa, another pastoring couple, also came along. We all squeezed into the van and drove up into the mountains that surround Cusco. The rest of our daylight hours were spent exploring various Inca ruins with our friends. Outside of each entrance were men and women selling beautiful handcrafts and souvenirs. The highlight of our first stop, was hiking on the trails that surrounded the ruins. My favorite part of the second stop was finding a small cave and showing it to the children. Our third stop was my favorite. I started by walking the trail to the panoramic view of Cusco. At this place, we could also see Blanco Jesus, a statue of Jesus looking over the city. We walked to the opposite side of the site to where there are large, smooth rocks that visitors use as slides. I’m still trying to decide if I had more fun climbing up or sliding down. After we left the slides, we discovered another cave. This cave was one that we could walk through. I am somewhat claustrophobic, so when we met others who had entered through the exit, I had to work extra hard to stay calm. Thankfully, I made it out. Actually, I ended up going through the cave a second time.

We drove back into Cusco and then to the apartments, where we heard two testimonies from the local pastors. Valeria and Francisca brought us a dinner of chicken, rice, potatoes, and vegetables. I’m learning that it’s common to eat your meal first and then drink afterwards. So, after we ate, tea and water were served. A highlight of the day for me was experiencing the wonder of the children and hearing their questions about our experiences. Oh, and I took a photo with a baby goat and llama.

Saturday, August 10 (Jim Weaver)

Saturday was a day of play.  We explored ancient ruins on the hilltops surrounding Cusco.  The exploration had aspects for everyone: impressive overlooks of Cusco, interesting history, and shopping with vendors selling handmade crafts and clothes.  Kids were entertained by several small caves and by a sliding down the sides of a hill.  (Many of the adults slid down the hill, too.)  Fun day, however, several of us ended the day with sunburn and with altitude related headaches.  Good times…

I’ve enjoyed gaining a feel for Cusco.  The city is larger than Lancaster but has managed to maintain its historical areas.  A saying around town is that Cusco is the ‘naval’ of the world.  In my mind, a more apt analogy is that Cusco is a ‘Magnet’.  I mean, it attracts people.  Tourists are drawn from all over the world to Cusco’s attractions.  Peruvians are drawn to the city for better paying trades.  Rural families are drawn to better educational opportunities within the city.  I presume the government is challenged to keep up with the infrastructure needs of the influx.

My highlight from yesterday was a time of testimonials by two of the local pastors, Pastor Walter and Pastor David.Steve and Beth served as translators.It was wonderful to hear of pastoral faithfulness and persistence in reaching the surrounding rural communities.It was God’s call and God’s work in seeking and saving folks.Indeed, our God is mighty to save.


Saturday, Aug 10th

First, thank you to everyone who has supported us as we prepared to go and to all of you who are praying for us during this trip.

We are all doing well, a few headaches, which is normal for coming up to an altitude of 10,500, but ibuprofen seems to be taking care of them for everyone. Please keep praying that we all stay healthy and strong!

Yesterday we arrived here in Cusco about 7:30 after a long 24+ hours of travel. Pastor Roberto and his wife Valeria were there to pick us up at the airport. It was wonderful to see the familiar faces of our good friends. We loaded the church van and headed to San Jeronimo where some of us are staying in a host home, an apartment in the home of Rolando and Francisca and some of us are staying about a mile away in a hotel which is a block from the school, PROMESA.

We all took the rest of the morning to sleep which is so important after first arriving up at this altitude and after not much sleep the night before. We had a delicious lunch of soup, bread, and fruit prepared by Francisca and Valeria. We will eat a lot of our meals there at the apartment. Then we headed downtown to purchase our tourist tickets and change some money and give everyone a chance to see downtown Cusco. A few of us already did some shopping! I bought a beautiful scarf!

Then we went out for dinner to a Peruvian restaurant for some delicious Peruvian style pizza cooked in a wood burning oven. We had planned to go to see a typical dance show, but we all needed a relaxed evening. The restaurant took a long time, but we had fun relaxing, talking, and playing games with the children. Roberto and Valeria were with us so it was a good opportunity for some Spanish practice.


We arrived in Cusco around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, August 9. We were greeted at the airport by two smiling faces, pastor Roberto and Valeria. They picked us up in a mini bus and took us to our hotel and host home. We were all tired and so we rested and were then served a delicious meal of soup, bread, and fruit for lunch. In the afternoon we went to downtown Cusco and we had some awesome ice cream, exchanged currency, went shopping and just enjoyed the city. We were amused to observe how traffic functions ... beep your horn and keep driving! :)



Thursday, Aug 8 - Friday, Aug 9 (Josh Blessing)

Edie, Hannah, and Shelby met at our house in the morning around 9am and then we traveled down to Washington DC and parked at a hotel. It was a great idea by Beth to pay for hotel parking rather than airport parking. We then took the hotel shuttle to the Dulles airport where we met Steve and Beth to check in our luggage and get our plane tickets. The airline we used was Avianca, a Colombian airline, and everything went very smoothly from the ticketing to check-in to getting through security. Thank you Lord! As soon as we got through security in DC, Shelby started buying souvenirs (sorry Tom) 😊, which she of course generously shared with the children on the trip. Shelby also brought along a lot of snacks which we enjoyed!

We made it to our departing gate in plenty of time with over an hour to spare. This is the first plane ride for my son, Micah, and he was excited to look through the big windows at all the planes taking off and landing. It’s also the first plane ride for Edie and the first international flight for Shelby! We were served a delicious meal of spinach and mushroom empanadas with a couscous salad on the first flight, which landed in El Salvador around 7pm (I think). The interesting thing about this journey is we flew 2 hours back to El Salvador and then an hour forward to Peru due to the time-zone changes. In Peru, we will only be one hour behind EST in Pennsylvania. The second flight from El Salvador to Lima, which is the capitol of Peru, went very smoothly as well. On this flight we enjoyed a meal of either pasta or pollo (chicken). We had to go through customs in Lima and check in our luggage again but the good news is we made it through to our gate in plenty of time again, and we were greeted by Jim and Lily, who arrived from Canada, for the last leg of their flights.

Our final flight to Cusco lasted only one hour but those who stayed awake to look outside the window were blessed to see the beautiful Andes mountains, many of which were snow-capped! We arrived safely in Cusco at 6:55 am but were all exhausted from inadequate sleep on the planes. Pastor Roberto and his wife Valeria warmly greeted us at the airport (in very cold temperatures) and took us to the hotel and apartment (home of Francisca and Rolando where Bethany used to live) where we are staying. Thanks to everyone for praying! We are doing well and spending much of the day resting and adjusting to the altitude and colder climate.

Peru Trip Itinerary

Thursday, August 8 - Travel

Dulles (4:25 pm) to San Salvador (6:55 pm)

San Sal. (8:20 pm) to Lima (1:40 am)

Friday, August 9 - Travel

Lima (5:40 am) to Cusco (7:20 am)

Rest, explore downtown Cusco, see traditional dance show

Saturday, August 10

Visit ruins around and above the city

Sunday, August 11

Church service, lunch and fellowship with church members

Late afternoon travel to Sacred Valley

Overnight in Pisac

Monday, August 12

Sacred Valley

Train from Ollantaytambo to Agua Calientes

Tuesday, August 13

5 am bus up to Machu Picchu

Late afternoon - train back to Cusco

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, August 14, 15 and 16

Volunteer at Promesa School 7:40 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Afternoons: visit Medical Clinic in San Jeronimo, Andahuaylillas village (old church), Tipon and Pikillaqta ruins, fish farm

Friday afternoon: Steve and Beth invited to give a workshop on marriage for the teachers and spouses

Evenings: participate in church small groups and game night with youth.

Saturday, August 17

Rainbow Mountains (2:15 am departure)

Sunday, August 18

Church service, lunch, and fellowship with church members

Depart for airport (5 pm)

Flight: Cusco (8:05 pm) to Lima (9:35 pm)

Monday, August 19 - Travel

Lima (3:49 am) to San Salvador (7:05 am)

San Salvador (8:15 am) to Dulles (2:31 pm)