Thursday, December 21, 2017

Graduation Party ~ Peruvian Style

For the last two years we've heard 
people talking about 
"la promocion". 

Although we knew it to be the high school graduation, we could tell from the stress that people felt and the context of various conversations that it was more involved than we realized. 

This past year Katelyn and Anna became friends with several high school seniors. As such, they saw the intense preparation from an inside perspective. We learned that when kids enter high school (at age 12) their parents MUST begin making monthly payments for the graduation party that their child will participate in five years later.  If payments are missed, there are looming threats of exclusion. In addition to the monthly payments, there are several mandatory fundraisers. During the final year the parents are all required to collaborate and make/buy all that is needed for the celebrations: music, decorations, cakes, invitations, etc... Given the unpredictable nature of people's employment, living arrangements, health conditions, etc.. these obligations cause a significant amount of stress.

Before traveling to Lima in November we were told by many to buy dresses and shoes for the party while we were there.  This is another expense for which people save-up for months and months; in some cases even years.

Without wanting to insult us, our friends asked if we could possibly buy "normal" dresses so that we "fit in" and didn't look as much like missionaries.  We took the opportunity to talk about the importance of modesty, but also assured them that we would find dresses that were appropriately elegant.

As Katelyn, Anna and I were getting ready we realized how exciting it was to get dressed in nice clothes for the first time in over two years.  As I was carefully lining my eyes with a black pencil it occurred to me that I hadn't put on make-up since August of 2015.  Katelyn and Anna left the house with make-up on for the first time in their lives.  Although it was exciting, I shed some tears thinking about the reality that my little girls aren't so little anymore.  (In fact, Katelyn has been taller than me for months now!)

When we arrived at the party, which was held at the high school, we were awe struck by the sheer beauty of it all.

People (like our friends Angie and Carlos) that we know to be very, very poor were wearing elegant gowns and sparkly shoes.

The tables (which had come out of the classrooms) were lined in fancy cloths (which each family provided for their own group), and flowers made out of balloons were strung all around, including overhead which made the space feel extra special and fun!

When it was time to eat, each person was given a styrofoam container overflowing with love...

This is our friend and animadora Charo, who has
become like family to us. Her son Carlos
made his promocion this year and we were
honored to be able to celebrate with them. 
The moms and grandmas of every graduating senior had gathered together at 3:30AM to kill, clean and prepare hundreds of chickens for this extra special occasion. In addition, they made rice, yucca and a cabbage salad.  At a glance, one might presume that this meal was the same as every other chicken dinner, but it wasn't.  It was the meal that these families had been anticipating for years. 

It has been our experience that the people here really enjoy conversation....for hours and hours.  They never mind waiting for anything to start or finish because delays are nothing more than an opportunity to chat with others. It's a part of the culture that we've really come to appreciate and enjoy.  As such, nobody was in a hurry to finish their meals. We ate and talked, talked and ate, which was delightful!

After everyone finished dinner the group clean-up effort began. Tables were stripped, garbage was hauled away, tables were returned to their respective classrooms and chairs were moved aside to make room for the upcoming presentation of the graduates and their sponsors.

It constantly amazes us to see how humble and selfless the people here are.  They truly have servants' hearts.  Regardless of what someone is wearing or what s/he is doing, they'll stop everything to help another... even if their nice clothes get covered in dirt and oil...even if they're going to miss an appointment... even if... even if... even if.... It's an incredible witness to the truth that "people are more important than things".  We've taught our kids this their entire lives, but being here has really challenged us to "put our money where our mouths are"! We thank God for the beautiful example we have in those with which we live who know and live this truth .

Anna was the sponsor of
our friend Omar, who is a young
man that lives down the street. He
recently received full initiation
into the church and has been
attending with us ever since.
Katelyn was the sponsor of  our friend Ramon, who
broke his leg playing soccer three months ago.
Because of inadequate medical care, Ramon still
can not walk and has had subsequent problems ever
since. The doctors hope that he'll walk again someday,
but aren't sure. This is a dire prognosis given the fact
that his injury was a clean break to the fibula, which
is the smaller bone in the lower leg. In the United States
caring for such a problem is considered routine and
full recovery is expected.  Things are SO different here!

Another aspect of this culture that we love is the dancing. Kids are taught a wide variety of styles from an early age and think nothing of learning complex routines that span several continuous songs. During the promocion the graduates performed a beautiful dance in which partners twirled and dipped, shimmied and hopped. Their perfectly coordinated, succinct movements spoke volumes about the time invested in this night. Their broad smiles communicated everything about the excitement they felt to be together in this place, performing for all those they love so much! It was amazing!!!

When the kids were done with their presentations everyone else was invited to dance... which we did until 5:30AM.

We spent the following days talking to everyone about "la promocion".

At some point we realized that we were part of the very same  conversations we had only overheard in the past. After living here for two years, we are truly part of this community and it's amazing!!!

Simply stated, the promocion was nothing more than a communal high school graduation party, but in reality it was so much more. 

Since many students end their career after elementary, another large percentage never finish high school, and very few continue on to college, this is truly a celebration of success!

We thank God for every single person that has supported us in this mission, making it possible for us to live with and serve these beautiful people!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially so that we can continue serving
the people here in Peru, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at
(337) 893-6111

Monday, December 18, 2017

Life Changing Retreats - By Kids for Kids

In November over 100 lives changed as a result of one spiritual retreat put on by teens in a nearby community.  "EJE", which stands for "Encuentro para Jovenes en el Espiritu", is designed to be a profound encounter with the Holy Spirit. This retreat is offered through the Catholic church all throughout the Spanish speaking world. About 20 teens from our area left that retreat on fire for the Lord and have done incredible things since.

As part of the concluding ceremony the teens receive a fish shaped medallion necklace which serves as a reminder of the commitments they make to live in the spirit.  I thought the novelty of this "trinket" would pass as things of this sort usually do, but after six weeks the majority still wear them everyday.

Our Precious Sheep, previously known as our Lost Sheep, have reported feeling spiritually stronger when wearing their necklaces. They benefit from the reminder to pray when temptations arise and constantly think about their desires to live for God.  It's amazing!

Many of the EJE alumni, including our daughters and several of their friends, have joined the staff and now lead EJE retreats for others.

On Friday night the teen leaders from several different communities meet at the designated location to pray, plan, practice and prepare.

Early Saturday morning the participants arrive and the fun begins. They dance, play games, and sing songs of praise to break the ice.

After everyone gets comfortable they break into small groups and begin sharing their stories, which all too often include abuse, addiction, neglect and the death of siblings, parents and close friends.  For hours and hours the kids lovingly listen, encouraging one another to allow the love and light of Jesus Christ into their darkest places.  They patiently wait when kids just need to weep and pray constantly that the Holy Spirit be present to guide them through the difficulties....which He always does!

There is also time for kids to share their testimonies with the group.  From what I've been told, it is incredibly powerful for kids to hear other kids explaining how their lives changed after they surrendered completely to Jesus and allowed the Holy Spirit to take control.

In addition to EJE, which is for teens ages 14+, there is a similar retreat for kids ages 10-13 called Demoli.

Last weekend Katelyn, Anna and several others hosted this retreat in our area for the first time.  It was extra special because both Jack and Michael were able to attend as participants.  Can you find them in this picture?

At the end of December all the EJE alumni are invited to participate in a celebration of faith in a resort town a couple hours away. Katelyn and Anna will attend with the others from our area that desire to recommit themselves to living in the Spirit (including almost all of our Precious Sheep).  Leading these retreats is definitely Anna's favorite ministry and Katelyn has told me that if these retreats were the only ministry we had our time here in Peru would be totally that's powerful!!  We ask for prayers of protection against all attacks of the devil, who we're certain doesn't want these powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit to be successful.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially so that we can continue serving
the people here in Peru, please visit:
or call Family Missions Company at
(337) 893-6111