Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Our Neighbors Died

San Hilarion is on the Huallaga River which runs through the mountains. There are many towns and villages along the river and one major highway which connects them all.   

This is a typical moto.
Everyone that we've talked to agrees that this highway is dangerous. Personally, I think it's a combination of things: people's reckless driving, the variety of vehicles on the road, the mountainous terrain and the minimal penalties for driving infractions (including fatal accidents).  There is a constant stream of motos which travel slowly near the shoulder of the road.  Taxis, camionetas (trucks that carry passengers in the bed for a fare), tourist buses and WWII trucks (large delivery trucks) zoom by. They avoid the motos by crossing over the white line - even with oncoming traffic.  Zipping around and squeezing in wherever they can are countless motorcycles.    
We've been here in Peru for only a month.  Already, we know of several people that have been seriously injured or died in traffic accidents.  It's a sad reality that everyone seems to accept as an inevitable part of life.

Last week, the reality of death came knocking at our door... literally. 

In the house two doors down there lives a large extended family: two grandparents, 7 of their 12 adult children, their kids' spouses and the grandchildren.  Of all the people living in the house, one woman was especially friendly.  She came to our house days after we arrived and introduced herself.  We giggled and laughed for over an hour trying to communicate in two different languages. This woman was married and had two kids; a 7 year old girl and a 3 year old boy.  

Last week, this same woman was traveling on a motorcycle with her husband and two children (which is very common here) along the highway. A camioneta hit them from behind, launching the motorcycle into the air, sending the passengers flying.  The mom and daughter died right away.  The dad was rushed to the hospital, but died shortly after.  Angel, their 3 year old son, survived only because of his mom's sacrificial love.  She held her son in her arms until her last dying breath.  She embraced him so tightly that when they hit the ground together, they boy remained in her arms.  She cushioned his fall with her own body.  Angel has been rushed to Lima for emergency care.  Please pray for the success of the operations he requires and his complete recovery.  

Here is Chris (in the yellow shirt) helping to lead
a prayer service in the family's home.

We spent most of last week at our neighbor's house doing our best to bring them Jesus. 

Chris and a local seminarian giving
the final blessings over the caskets
before leaving for the cemetery.

There are no funeral homes in this region, so families commemorate death inside of their homes. The family asked us to lead the group in prayer several times throughout this time of mourning.  We were honored to lead the group in praying the rosary several times.  We shared the readings for each day and reflected on the gospel.  We even did more formal prayer services which (thankfully) are scripted in a book from the bishop.  There were over a hundred people there, which was a bit intimidating, but we know that God works wonders through His faithful disciples.

It is the tradition in this region to hang a black tarp outside of the home to notify the community of a death. Everyone came together to support this family in such a difficult time.  

For days, our street was full of people praying, reading scripture together, looking at pictures, crying and consoling one another.

Behind the family's house a group of woman constantly prepared and served food for all those gathered.

After grieving in the home for three days, we accompanied the friends, neighbors and extended family members to a nearby village where the family was buried.  

Once there, hundreds of us walked up a narrow, dirt path through the mountains to a hilltop overlooking the valley.  

Three groups of men carried the caskets up this same path to the cemetery.  

After everyone prayed together, the family's caskets were lowered with ropes into the deep holes that had been prepared for them. Everyone helped fill the holes with flowers, letters, stuffed animals, toys, rocks and dirt. The crying echoed over the hills.  It was incredibly emotional.

With each day that passes, we enter more fully into the pain and suffering that makes life here difficult.  Please continue to pray that we're able to bring them the hope that exists only through Christ Our Savior.

Mama, Mama, a cama!!

This last month we've made so many friends here in San Hilarion.  The people are truly amazing!! In the last couple weeks we've gotten to know the family shown here - it's a mom and her two adult sons.  

During our family's morning prayer the Lord put on our hearts the needs of the hungry.  We left shortly after searching for an opportunity to serve those who were going without the basic necessities of life.  When we asked a friend to take us to those in need, she immediately headed for this family's home.  They are very poor, to say the least.   We learned that none of them have been able to find steady work and often can't afford food.  We went to the market that day and bought them all the basics (rice, beans, oil, plantains, potatoes, onions) as well as some special treats (eggs, sugar, bread). Anna asked if she could buy the food from the money she earned in Michigan.  Thanks again to all those that supported her fundraising efforts.  

Although we know we can't fix every problem we encounter, it was heartbreaking to discover that this mom and her two adult sons only had one bed  They take turns sleeping on the rotted foam mattress of sorts while the other two sleep on the dirt floor.

We had the carpenter here in town make them a bed frame.  We would have had him make two, but the family doesn't have enough room in their home for three bed frames.  We bought them three mattresses; two for the beds and one to store underneath.   This allows all three of them to sleep comfortably. 

This is the carpenter and his daughter delivering the mattress,
which you can see on top of the moto.
The family's home is the dirt one at the right edge of the photo.

Here is Jack with one of the sons and his mom.
She was much more excited than she appears in this picture.
I think she felt weird getting her picture taken.

As we were driving to their house with the bed, the son jumped up and yelled to his mom who was visiting a neighbor, "Mama, Mama, a cama!!" ("Cama" is "bed" in Spanish)  He ran ahead of our moto and kept leaping up.  He told several people that we passed, "We have a bed!"  Thank you Jesus for the opportunity to minister to those in such great need.

In the mornings I walk and pray my rosary.  One morning this same mom stopped me and asked if I would help her son.  He injured his knee.  When I went to their home I found the son laying in bed with a blazing fever and and large, infected wound on his leg.  I cleaned him up and cared for his wound as best I could.  Then, I spent time praying with the family.  The next morning I returned to redress the wounds and brought them a bible, rosaries, wooden comfort crosses and prayer cards. They were tearful with thanksgiving. Each day for a week I attended to the man's knee and prayed with the family.  It has been very powerful.

The Lord has worked wonders in this family these last few weeks. All three of them now have steady employment.  The mom and one son are working at a local farm several days a week.  The other son is working for the town's sanitation department.  Life is truly turning around, praise God!!!  They all walk with some pep in their steps and smiles on their faces.

Thank you Team Carmody for your constant "yes" to the Lord's call to missions!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

An Unplanned Birthday Party

Each night we've been gathering the youth in the plaza to jump rope.  It is such a blast!!

One night last week we were packing up the jump ropes when the kids asked if we could have a birthday party at our house the next morning for one of the girls.  We say "yes" as much as possible...

Early the next morning we scrambled to make a cake and a birthday card.  Shayla was really excited to blow out a candle.  We sang Happy Birthday in English and Spanish, which everyone enjoyed.

In our broken Spanish we taught the kids to play Duck Duck Goose and Hot Potato.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Our First Trip to the Emergency Room - Pictures Added

4pm is an important time at the local park.  It marks the end of soccer and the beginning of volleyball.  We sat beside the fields patiently waiting for volleyball time, eager to play with our new friends.  Unbeknownst to us, the Lord had different plans.

This is Cecelia's house by the park.

In a small dirt home by the park a 3 year old girl named Cecelia was writhing in pain and screaming out in agony.

The previous day when she was playing outside her house a moto zoomed by and hit her.  Somehow she got tangled up and was dragged down the street.  After her fragile little body broke free from the moto, she tumbled to a stop.  There she lay, a bloody mess, as the motorist sped away.

This is an example of a moto

Cecelia's parents took her to the medical clinic here in San Hilarion where she received basic care (some cream and a couple bandages).  Here in Peru, everyone receives basic care if/when it's needed. However, if patients require additional treatment they must show proof of payment before any further care is given.

For Cecelia, the treatment she needed would have cost money that they didn't have, so she had to go without.

As we sat waiting for volleyball to begin a woman approached us.  In Spanish, she informed us of Cecelia's condition and asked for our help.  Although we understood only a bit of what she was saying, we rushed home to get some medical supplies and then went to Cecelia's house, begging Our Lord the whole way to compensate for our inadequacies.

Cecelia's wounds were badly infected.  Despite our efforts to clean them out, put Neosporin on them and wrap them, we knew she needed more.  We abandoned our plans for the afternoon and gladly accepted the Lord's plans.

Our missionary friend, Taylor, drove us through the mountains to the Tarapoto urgent care clinic which is 1.5 hours away.  We were relieved when we finally arrived, but were quickly discouraged when the doctor and nurses would not see Cecelia.  We assured them payment, but they were still reluctant to help even though it appeared that there weren't any other patients there.  Thank God that Taylor had previously connected with a wonderfully compassionate doctor who offered his advocacy services for the poor.  After this doctor friend became involved, the urgent care staff became more cooperative.  It was heart breaking to hear Cecelia screaming for over 20 minutes as the doctor scraped away all the infected skin on each wound.  They dressed her wounds, X-rayed her potentially broken ankle and prescribed some antibiotics.  The doctor had the X-ray in his hand when he informed us that we would have to return the next day for the results.  We described where we live and the tremendous expense required to return, but he assured us that they had done all they could for the night.

The next day we took Cecelia and her mom back to Tarapoto for a 3:00 p.m. appointment.  We sat for hours as other patients were cared for.  Thank you Jesus for the opportunity to suffer alongside the poor who receive only the treatment they can afford.  Around 6pm the doctor finally invited Cecelia and her mom into the consultation room to tell her that her ankle isn't broken.

We thank each one of you praying for our missionary work here in Peru.  We can feel the Lord's presence inside of each moment.  We also thank each and every one of our financial supporters.  We used your donations to pay for our transportation to Tarapoto, Cecelia's care at the hospital and all of the medications required for her rehabilitation.  Each time I looked over at Cecelia curled up in her mom's arms crying, I saw Jesus.  Praise God that together we were able to care for Him when He needed our help.

Several days later we were invited to celebrate Cecelia's 4th birthday.  She's doing well and recovering from this very traumatic experience.

Following are a few more pictures from her birthday celebration.

A New Roof for a VERY Poor Family - pictures added

Currently, it is the "rainy season". We were aware of this thing called "the rainy season" before we arrived, but didn't really know what that meant. Now, we know. It rains every day. Sometimes for only an hour, other times all day. In addition, it rains really hard almost every night. A couple weeks ago we experienced a severe storm during the night. We expected to stay dry because our house was recently constructed. We were wrong.

Water came in everywhere that the wavy steel roofing meets the cement. By morning our corn stalk mattress was soaked because there was standing water in the room where we sleep. As we mopped up the water in our house, it occurred to us that the other people in our town were likely having a much harder time.

This is our neighbor's house.  
It's an example of a typical home
here in San Hilarion.
Many of the homes have mud (or black plastic) walls and dirt floors. Some of the homes are cement, but even those have either bamboo or steel sheeting roofs. Most of the homes have only three exterior walls: one facing the street and one on each side. The backs of the homes are typically open to the yard where they have an outdoor kitchen of sorts and some livestock. Very few houses have glass windows and most have large gaps in the walls/roofs where the materials aren’t quite big enough to fill the intended spaces.

From the street this home didn't seem too bad.
After walking through the hallway 
in between the bedrooms 
we saw things differently.
Anyhow, we stopped cleaning and headed out to see who needed help. We asked one of our friends to take us to the poorest people in town, which she did. I’ve never personally witnessed people living in such dire circumstances. The rain poured through the gaping holes in their piecemeal roofs. They had buckets everywhere, but couldn’t catch all the water coming in. Their dirt floors had transformed into slippery, mud baths. In one house, there were only a handful of places to stand that weren’t ankle deep with water. The family had a hammock strung up which allowed for temporary relief from the muddy mess, but even that hung beneath a holy roof. They had their meager belongings suspended from the bamboo supports on the ceiling to keep them as dry as possible, but their efforts seemed almost useless. We visited four families that day and all of them were in such desperate need. We weren’t quite sure where to start, but figured an obvious first step was to get them the food they so greatly needed. After visiting the market we returned to each house to deliver the food and pray with them. We chose the family whose situation seemed the worst and arranged for a local carpenter to replace their whole roof and all the rotten support columns. He built it to allow for drainage channels which is how they collect rain water for washing, cooking, drinking, etc. The carpenter did an excellent job and had the job complete in three days, praise God!! Following are some pictures of the project.

Jack and Michael preferred playing with 
the guinea pigs,
which the family raises for food.

The first step was to take down the existing structure.

Here's Anna taking a quick break before getting back to work.

After removing the piecemeal structure, we leveled
the floor and prepared the area for the carpenter.

Michael and Jack love the loose
safety rules here in Peru.

Everyone was super excited when 
the new roof started to appear.

Roof building Peruvian style.

The new roof, thank you Jesus!!!

Edgardo, the carpenter (who is actually a member of the church that doesn’t attend very often), has agreed to help us help other families as well. We’re really blessed that the Lord guided us to this man. He respects us for the work we’re doing as missionaries, is eager to help and has agreed to do the job for less than half of what another carpenter quoted. We look forward to visiting these families regularly, building friendships with them and teaching them more about the Lord whom they already love so much.

We thank you VERY much for making this first big project possible.

Katelyn's Volleyball Skills are a Big Hit!!

The two most popular pastimes here are volleyball and soccer. Everybody of every age plays and they're REALLY good!

Days after arriving in San Hilarion we inquired about playing. We were taken to the park where there is one court.  After sitting off to the side for one whole afternoon we figured out that only the highly skilled adults are permitted to play because they compete for money.

We bought a ball and just hit the ball around for a few days and the local kids were thrilled. A few days later Chris caught a ride into Taropoto (the bigger city where more things are available) and bought a net.  We setup our own court at the park and invited the kids to play.  Our only requirement was that everyone had to play for free.  

The local kids were so excited and quickly came to expect us to be there everyday; which we are.  This has allowed us to get to know the local kids really well.

Each night we have something going on at church: Monday, Wednesday and Friday we pray the rosary, Tuesday and Thursday we conduct a bible study.  When we finish volleyball each day we invite all the people in the park to join us at church and several of them come.  It's amazing and beautiful!!!

Please continue to pray for our mission.   Go TEAM CARMODY!!

Transvestites Versus Double Dutch

“Will you bring your jump ropes to the plaza tonight?” the local kids begged.  We say “yes” as often as possible and this “yes” seemed pretty easy and straightforward....

Around 8pm we went to the town square with our bag of jump ropes.  The plaza was FULL of people.  Something was obviously going on.

We quickly figured out that the transvestites were having a comedy show of sorts, which everyone had come out to watch.  Without skipping a beat, we diverted the kids' attention and found an open area.  We invited the local kids to jump and before long we had a crowd of about 60 people watching and participating.  Kids of all ages, young adults and even some of the older people (our age) joined in.  About an hour later one of the kids informed me that there weren't any kids watching the transvestite show anymore. Instead, they were had chosen to jump rope with us.  

Thank you Jesus!!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Unused Tastebuds, On Guard!!

“What is that?” and “How do I eat it?” have become common questions these last couple weeks as we become acquainted with the Peruvian food.

We’re settling in and making friends.  The neighbors have stopped staring; instead, they smile, wave and greet us in a language we’re just starting to understand.  We know we’ll never be “one of them”, but we’re trying our best to blend in.  As such, we can’t carry our camera around taking pictures all the time…that would make us intrusive outsiders.  Here are a few snapshots of the new foods we’ve encountered:

Jack LOVES spicy food, but even he has limits.  At the market, Chris followed the standard pepper rule which says the smaller the pepper, the hotter it is.  This medium size pepper seemed that it would offer the perfect amount of spice to our otherwise bland pasta dinner.  Boy, were we ever wrong.  One bite is all the majority of us (Karen, Katelyn, Anna, Jack and Michael) could handle.  Chris took one for the team and choked some of it down, but even he could only take so much.  Despite grumbling tummies, we all went to bed hungry.

Our first week was filled with coconuts and plantains, neither of which we knew what to do with in their raw, natural state.  We went to our neighbor’s house, coconut in hand, seeking help.  The 14 year old girl grabbed her machete, plopped down on their dirt floor, and started chopping away.  She sliced off the outer layers and then cleaned up the inner seed.  By making a small hole in the top, she drained the milk into a cup (which we drank for breakfast).  Lastly, she broke it open to allow us to enjoy the meat.  It was delicious!!  

Katelyn utilized her blossoming culinary skills to create a delicious, sweet treat of plantains (which need to be cooked). 

The neighbor kids shared their favorite snack with Anna.  We see people eating them all around town; they’re a local favorite.  None of us love them yet…

Juanis are a local favorite that we do love!!  Juanis are rice, vegetables, scrambled eggs and an olive steamed in a large jungle leaf.  After unpeeling the leaf, people eat the rice loaf without utensils and then throw the leaf into the weeds.  It is similar to the pasty eaten by immigrants in northern Michigan while working in the mines.  

We’ve also come to love “chupetas” - homemade popsicle-like treats served semi-frozen in thin baggies.  They’re made by the people here in town with either ground water (or maybe river water), so they could have parasites in them. Please pray for our health and safety as we “eat what is set before us”.

Yucca is another local fare.  We’ve eaten them several times, but haven’t had the chance to photograph them.  Imagine a long, thick white banana that tastes like potatoes… 

Apples have always been a Carmody family mainstay.  Unfortunately, they don’t grow around here so they’re really expensive.  We splurged last week and bought three small ones to share.  After soaking them in bleach water to kill the parasites, we gathered ‘round to enjoy a little taste of home.

“What is that?” and “How do I eat it?” – We’re learning the answers to these questions as we become acquainted with the Peruvian food.