Buenos dias! It is 8 a.m. and I have been without power for the past 5 hours - at least. The silence from the absence of my fan blowing woke me up around 3 a.m. - well, that and the shrill humming of a mosquito near my ear. I have been unable to go back to sleep without some air stirring for fear that I would most certainly be a complex case of both malaria and dengue fever by morning if I didn't constantly fan myself to keep the biting insects away. Of course anyone who has seen me recently would say that was a waste of time, because there isn't any unbitten flesh left on my arms and legs at this point, so the bugs would chalk me up as a lost cause and move on.
Before I go on, I want to first say thank you to those who have been praying for Ina. She is currently in Lima awaiting a cornea transplant. It is my understanding that she may be there for as long as 3 months to recuperate, and for the doctors to monitor her progress. I was able to join her family last week to see her off and was blessed to be able to tell her that I miss and love her. As any mother would be, she is worried, anxious, and upset by the thought of being away from her daughters for that length of time. Valerie is 11 and Maria is 6 - they are staying with Ina's sister. Please continue to lift up Ina, her children, and the rest of her family through this very difficult time.
Three weeks ago (Wow! Where has the time gone?) the first of two groups from Huntington, WV arrived, and with them my good buddy Monty Fulton. I've had the pleasure of Monty's acquaintance for better than three years now, and I am always invigorated by his passion for this mission. Lest you begin to believe Monty is a saint, let me assure you he is quite a character. When he's not flooding my email inbox with blonde jokes, he's sending me sarcastic torts questioning why I have yet to post anything about him and his team on my blog - so Monty, this is for you.
The first Huntington group ministered to the physical well-being of Gallito with the medical team seeing patients and the remainder of the team installing simple water filter systems both in the church and in homes. The hope is that the people will begin to see the value of having and using clean water, which will, in turn, go a long way toward preventing some of their most common illnesses. The aforementioned Monty was part of the water team, even with his hurt leg, which he injured by falling off a ladder the day before his departure for Peru. I offered to shoot the lame horse; Sherry, his wife, was all for the idea, but the rest of the team had second thoughts; thus, Monty is still with us. The second group began their week in a most exciting fashion with Cal Kent displaying symptoms of a stroke during dinner on Saturday night. After several hours of tests and specialists at the Ana Stahl Clinic, Cal was diagnosed as having suffered a TIA (or mini-stroke) and medicated accordingly. Both the doctor here and Cal's doctor at home recommended that he return to the U.S. immediately for further tests, but "immediately" was going to be a problem because a transportation strike was taking place in Lima and one was threatened for Iquitos. The Kents were finally able to fly home on Thursday of that week and reported back that he did not suffer from a TIA but from TGA, or trans-global amnesia which can occur when travelers have experienced sleeping and eating patterns that significantly deviate from the normal with the added factors of equatorial heat and the effects of anti-malaria medicine. He gave us quite a scare, and I am very thankful that he is ok. Additionally, the second group was truly initiated into Peruvian culture through the medium of rain. Unless you have lived here, it is difficult to understand how rain affects life in the jungle - it stops. The most likely reason for the cessation of activity is because the Peruvians travel in rickshaws or by motorcycle with no way to remain dry, or because the work to be done is outside rather than inside. Regardless, Group 2 experienced daily downpours, keeping them from the grueling Gringo schedule that the mission teams maintain, but they adapted well and learned that it is, indeed, ok to just hang out and get to know people, and that they did most admirably. While they began construction on the new Sunday School building, they also found joy in playing with the children, taking naps on church benches, and following John Stephens (the younger version of Monty Fulton) into the Amazon for a swim. I find this refreshing, because our North American lifestyles are so driven by such an insanely inhuman notion of productivity that it is ridiculous. Throughout the two weeks of West Virginians I also had the opportunity to make some new friends among their first-timers who taught me a new card game and laughed uncontrollably with me (it is the best medicine). I look forward to seeing you all again soon (even Monty) when I visit Huntington during one of my trips back to the States.
More than once since I got here I've asked the question, "What else can happen?" The big occurrences like Ina and Cal, the not-so-big ones like multiple power outages (that have always managed to happen on evenings when no mission teams are here) and no hot water, and the smaller, insignificant ones like dial-up vs. high speed, wireless internet, when all added together seem enormous. It feels like a thousand little things go wrong daily, all leading up to the big whammies; and by the time the big ones join the mountains I've made out of mole hills, the climb is nearly impossible. But then I remember the summer of 2000 in Buena Vista, Colorado when I was having a hard time hiking to the top of 13,000 ft. Mt. Chrysolite with my arthritic hip. Just when I thought I couldn't take another step and was ready to give up, I looked up to see Steve Wise coming back down the mountain for me. No matter how many times I told him to go back to the top to be with his guys, he refused to leave me. Instead, he stayed with me every step, encouraging me, pushing me, never letting me quit. I recognized back then that this experience was significant and that God was showing a piece of Himself to me through Steve, but that mental image holds even greater importance to me today. It is in this memory that I see the present; God is always with me, never leaving me, as I climb the mountain of cross-cultural living and ministry. And His capacity for closeness is much greater than Steve's, for He is in the very air I breathe.
By the way, the power is finally back on...