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!