Friday, February 25, 2011

3am Prayer.....

1: Wake up at 3am cold and shivering
2: Make yourself get out of bed
3: Go to the bathroom, you're up already
4: While in the cold bathroom, thinking about how you feel like your camping every night...PRAY
5: Pray for strength and warmth and perserverance
6: Go back to your room and put your slippers on
7: Walk through the puddle of water from the rain and go down stairs
8: Heat up some water
9: Pour the hot water into plastic water bottles and seal them up
10: Walk back through the puddle to your bedroom
11: Climb into bed
12: Snuggle with the hot plastic water bottles and go back to sleep

In case you didn't catch on, this is what happened to me the other night. Its been extra difficult to be here lately as it has not only been raining early in the morning and in the evening. But last week it had been rainy until noon or later and then start back up about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And in the few hours of dryness, the sun might make an appearance but it would be windy and chilly. I was thinking that night when I was praying, yes, in the bathroom, about how hard it has been to just be here and live here lately. There have been times when I've thought about how I just want to be home, in Colorado. The work is physically and emotionally draining. Then we come home to a house without heating (but warmed with love, awww!). I love my partner, our room, our house, our family and Puno. But as I was praying that night, yes, in the bathroom, I prayed that satan wouldn't be able to get me down. That his attacks would do nothing to me. Because in these moments of weakness, I don't love my partner, our room, our house, the work, or Puno.
God has been answering my prayer....
Prayer for warmth - I was blessed as my brother Micah let me borrow an extra blanket and Amanda's parents brought us real hot water bottles, not plastic drinking bottles, to share and use at night.
Prayer for strength - Its kind of embarrasing, but on days when I'm not feeling well or just plain tired, I sing in my head the song, Give me oil for my lamp. It reminds me while I'm singing it that my strength comes not from within me, but from HIM.
Prayer for perserverance - God is ligthing a fire in me for these people and our work, a fire that makes me want to be here even when its tough.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Festival de la Candelaria

The biggest part of the Festival de la Candelaria is over. Today and yesterday were the biggest and most important days. Yesterday was the procession of the Virgin de La Candelaria and there were dances in the stadium with an entrance fee of about $10. Today, there was a free parade with all the dancers throughout the Plaza de Armas and more. As it was our day off, some of us went down to see the costumes and dances. The festival is cultural and interesting and fun. The problem is the amount of beer that is consumed during this time along with cheating spouses, children left alone, hundreds of dollars blown and more.
Here are a few facts about the festival....
* Last year this festival generated $7 million in revenue
* There are over 30,000 people participating in the dances
* The costumes are rented and the daily prices start at $100 (to put this price in perspective, an average daily wage might be about $15)
* Each costume typically is used for at least 2 days
* There are fees to enter into the parade
* The government distributed 100,000 condoms to homosexuals and prostitutes to prevent the spread of AIDS
* The casual sex occurences during this festival are a well known fact around the counrty
Having a beer in your hand or pocket while performing is normal. There are also people walking with the dancers and their job is to give them a beer while stopped.
Cusquena is a brand of beer and has advertising everywhere.
These gals were my favorite. They wear up to 30 skirts and swish them around until the top skirt gets stuck on their head. They were colorful and fun.
We have been told the girls skirts get shorter and shorter every year.
This is beer on the street. The tradition is that you drink your beer but leave a little at the bottom of the cup or bottle and spill that bit left on the ground to give beer to La Pachamama, mother earth.
The dancers drink during the parade.
These belts are creepy and I'm not sure what they symbolize. Everyone in the blue outfits like this are from Huascar, one of Franci and my locations.
I've heard band music all over the city and in my house for over a week at all hours, literally, and it is sure to continue for another week or so.
This cute little girl is wearing typical Andian clothing and stopped to pose for me!
This guy is frequently at this corner playing his mini guitar with a tiny plastic spoon as a pick.
Sitting around drinking like this is normal for all times of the year but is much more common to see during the festival.
These red crates are filled with 12 beers each.
A colorful diablo mask.
A young man in his diablito costume. The masks are very tall and heavy, they are carried more often than they are worn.
More drinking with a man passed out in his chair.
You can get 4 beers for 10 soles (about $3.60)
320,000 crates of beer were sold in 2010, at 12 beers per crates, that's 3.84 million beers consumed in a matter of about 2 weeks.
Here is a drunk man being lead out of the crowded street by the police.
And here he is, away from the crowd, alone and drunk.
The city of Puno will have many lives shattered over the next few days. Women will find their husbands with other women, people will get infected with AIDS, children will be left without clothes for school or even food because their parents just spent all their money on the festival. Our hope is not to see lives shattered, but to see people hit rock bottom and realize this is no way to live life. Our hope is to be there with compassion and mercy to show them that there is a better way to live, it involves taking a different path but is worth the change in direction.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Celina, Manuel & Jesus....

Last weekend we celebrated the 3 year anniversary of the mother church here in Puno. Three years ago pastor Herman, his wife Diana, and their four children, David, Jonathan, Daniel and Jherdi, moved from the comfort of their home and town in northern Peru to be missionaries here in Puno. And this is really cool, the house they lived in and started the church in, its the same house we are living in right now!!!!
Anyway, that was a little sidetrack there and some background. Well, Saturday night and Sunday we had special services to celebrate the anniversary. As missionaries, even thoughwe are technically here to plant our own churches, we are here for the church in general, for God's work in general. So Franci and I took the day off from going out to our sites on Sunday to help out our mother church. We left in the morning to go invite a gal to the service/party. We tried calling her to make sure she was home but the phone number was incorrect. So we figured since we had her address, we could just run by her house to leave the invitation with her or a family member. The address was something like 118 Sillustani. I had seen a hotel Sillustani the night before and with a low number, thinking in terms of Colorado streets, I thought it must be down from our house and by that hotel. Franci and I walked through the center for a while then started asking people if they knew where this street Sillustani was. Nobody knew. Franci asked some policemen while I asked a Bajaj taxi thingy. They are these weird little mototaxi/taxi combinations. Anyway, he told me it was up the hill. So, with little time to spare before the next thing on our agenda, we hopped in the Bajaj and let him take us to this street and house we had been looking for. Come to find out, the house we were looking for is literally a block from our house! You can see this house from our street corner! wow! I blame it on the fact that we don't know the city too well yet. But, I guess I can't say I'm as good at directions as I thought! And after all that, the girl wasn't even there and her mom told us that they are with a different religion and not interested.

We moved onto our next item on the agenda for the day which was to help Milagros, a gal from the church pick up the cakes, decorate them with flowers (her mom owns a flower shop), an make sandwiches for the party. We met up with Milagros at her house and with her mom we left for the center, again. Franci, Milagros and I went to get the cakes while her mom opened up the flower shop two blocks away. They bring the cakes out to us, totally peruvian complete with little streamers around the cake. Milagros was not happy with the cakes for many reasons. First, the Nazarene logo was not how she wanted it, second, they put grapes on the sides which she specifically asked them not to, and third, there was a dead fly stuck in the icing on one of them. Yummy! So after a bit of debate, they brought down the price and we carried the cakes to the flower shop. They were sheet cakes and somewhat heavy but the two blocks to the flower shop wasn't a huge task.
Franci and I sat down and watched as Milagros created floral arrangements to decorate each cake. This took quite a while but they looked beautiful in the end. Then, what came next, we had to take the cakes to the hotel where we had rented a room to hold the service as the church location we have right now barley fits us on a normal Sunday. I thought, surely we would get a taxi even thought its close because we had all this stuff to carry. Wrong. Milagros and I each carried a cake while Franci carried the flowers about 7 blocks. Milagros and I had to stop 3 times to rest our arms from carrying the cakes and manuvering them through the narrow sidewalks and crowds of people. But we made it! I remember thinking about how different the cultures are while carrying that cake. Thinking about how lazy we are in the states and how we take our conveniences for granted. What would you do without a shopping cart? There's no such thing down here. And do you get grouchy that you have to make more than one trip to unload the groceries from your trunk? Try carrying several pounds of groceries on your back across town!
Finally, the cakes were ready to go but it was now 2pm and we still had to make the sandwiches, eat lunch, oh yeah, and get ready as I was still in my pijamas running around town! From the hotel we walked back down to the center (3rd time) to go to the market. Milagros introduced Franci and I to her caseritas, the gals she buys from in the market. We got some veggies to make soup and then across from the veggies bought some chicken. I just can't even describe to you how unsaintary things can be down here. There was a lady selling raw chicken, the chicken lined up on the counter in front of her, and I watched her eat her lunch with her hands sitting right by all this raw chicken. How much do you want to bet she had'nt washed her hands with soap after touching raw chicken and before eating her lunch?! And while she was eating, the vendor next to her was taking a butchers knife and hacking these dead chickens in half with chicken juice spraying all over the place. But, we got the chicken, had the vegtables, and didn't have much time and were very tired so we took a taxi back to Milagros house. Miliagros and Franci cooked lunch while Amanda and I got the sandwiches ready. It was simple, we sliced the bread and spread a smidge of Mayo, one piece of cheese and one piece of ham on each one. We made about 100 sandwiches and packed them up.
Finally, lunch was ready at 3 or 3:30pm. Gathered together, we ate our delicious soup and conversed. And I was still in my pijamas! Then after the soup we said goodbye to Milagros and her family for a few hours and went home to rest for an hour and get ready for the party. I dosed off for a little nap leaving myself ready 20 minutes t get ready before leaving the house.
Sandwiches in hand, we arrived to the hotel and got set up for the service. As the hour of 7pm came and went, I was so nervous and frustrated because barely anyone was there! We had a huge room with many open seats and I know how frustrating and hard that can be on the pastor and the core of the church. I prayed for more people to arrive. The day before I had 3 different people tell me they would come and none of them ever came. But the good news is, the seats filled up. By the end of the service we probably only had about 15 chairs open and we had a few people accept Christ!
I helped serve cake and sandwiches and once everyone was served, I sat down by a little family to talk. I talked with Celina, Manuel and their son Jesus. Jesus is a member of the church but his work takes him out of town often. His mom, Celina, has come a few times but isn't very committed. And his father, Manuel, an adorable, tall, old man dressed nicely in a suit, had never been. But that night, he was touched and started a relationship with our Savior! I had a great time talking with them, laughing and getting to know them all. That time with them made the whole day of preparation worth it.
When I found out about Extreme, when God lead me down this path, what excited me was the thought of buildng relationships and friendships with the people here. I'm really not one to go preach the gospel, that's not my spiritual gift or what gets me going. What gets me is the relationship.