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.

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