Thursday, April 19, 2018

Corn Strike Affects Everyone! by Chris

Last month, we had a corn farmer's strike that lasted for about 15 days.  This strike stretched all across Peru where the farmers took to the main highway and at intervals of about every 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) formed a blockade, mainly near the bigger towns.  In our region, it happened to coincide with our medical mission, where the 26 nurses were able to experience what a Peruvian agricultural strike is all about.  It also made getting around very complicated and expensive as all motorcar and taxi prices pretty much doubled during that time.  I want to share some of the backstory from what I learned about it from talking with the farmers at the blockades.  We had some powerful moments to pray and to sing praise and worship with the farmers as well which were very memorable for me.

Most of the people that we live around are involved in one form or another of "agricultura" which is castellano for farming.  Over the course of the last few decades, the rather closed market of Peru has been slowly, but surely opening to the global marketplace.  With that comes much good with lower prices for consumers and more selection of quality goods from around the world.  Along with it comes the bottom falling out one-by-one on each agricultural product grown here.  Last year, it was the local product here in San Hilarion, rice, which was the cause of a rather large-scale strike.  In addition to rice, cacao, cafe and many other products have been impacted by the opening of the marketplace here.  In the long run, this will be very good for Peru and for the people but in the short-term, it is causing many farming families to suffer.

The corn strike started small and grew progressively each day to be larger and more crippling to the local economy (henceforth, more effective).  It was not until the rice farmers joined with the corn farmers in solidarity that the strike really became large enough to draw the attention of the federal government in Lima.  At that point, a representative from the Peruvian equivalent of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) flew in to Tarapoto for negotiations with the leaders of the strike.  All of that took approximately 15 days to take place.

During that time, the local farmers here which are part of farming cooperatives or unions, each had to go and spend all day and night at the local strike location (which were highway blockades) or pay steep fines equivalent to more than one day's wages.  Very few farmers could afford to pay the fine, so most all went.  During this strike, the local economy came grinding to a halt.  All of the workers were not earning wages and there is no strike pay or a strike fund here.  The blockade led to shortages in everything from gasoline, diesel and propane, to food staples and medical supplies.

 All of this was taking place at the same time when the schools were all starting up after their summer break.  Therefore, very few children were prepared for school on the first day with their uniforms and school supplies.  We helped out many families thanks to the support of our generous benefactors on Team Carmody.  We also had to cross the blockades at various times to perform ministries at which time we stopped to pray with the striking farmers and to sing praise and worship songs with them to raise their spirits.  These opportunities really helped us to bond with them and to feel their pain and suffering.  Please pray that the negotiated resolution of the situation was a fair and just one and that no future strikes would be necessary.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Video Gaming in the 3rd World

Jesus tells us, 
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, 
and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)

I'm not sure if Jesus was referring to video games; perhaps we've taken some liberties on His promise. However, we've discovered that sneaking away to the gaming shop is a delightful way to rest and have some good ol' fashion family fun.   

Tarapoto is the largest city in our area.  It is about 1 1/2 hours away
on the other side of the mountains from us.
For the first two years that we lived here we didn't even know that the "PLAY", as the locals call it, existed because it lacks signage, artwork, etc. 

The word on the street was that we just had to find "the little hallway between the two auto part shops."  After a bit of searching and asking around, we finally discovered Tarapoto's hidden treasure.

Upon entering customers talk with the owner (who waits at the wooden desk that you can see in this photo) about what games are available on a given day.

They discuss who is currently playing which games in which small rooms to determine how new groups could be formed.

There are a number of different rooms where people play.  Some are small and dark, perfect for combat and strategy games.  Other spaces are big and bright, more conducive to soccer, racing, Minecraft and more.

The game that we wanted to play was full, so we hung out in the waiting area and challenged each other in bike races until there was sufficient space for us amongst the existing groups.

As we were waiting I noticed a number of kids coming in just to watch. Some clearly wanted to learn advanced moves and tricks. They'd study the players hands and ask questions whenever there was a break in action. Other kids seemed to be there for the companionship, not necessarily the gaming. The largest group of spectators were those that couldn't afford to play, but lingered in hopes of being invited into a round for free.

The PLAY in Tarapoto is such a lively place.  There are constantly cheers and groans, laughter and joking.  Kids partner up with friends and strangers alike. They recount especially difficult battles and tragic endings.  They share secrets and conspire amongst team members. I realized that this communal space, whereby kids of all ages come together to play video games, provides a totally different experience than what we're used to in the United States.

The kids here are constantly making new friends and practicing the art of conversation.  They learn how to learn and also how to teach. Working in teams requires solid communication, especially when they have to navigate through their differences. They encourage one another, but also offer constructive criticism when needed.  I was amazed and thankful to witness this incredibly social event because it blew apart my stereotype of gamers sitting alone in a basement somewhere.

There are many reasons why living poor among the poor is hard.  However, there are many other reasons why it's absolutely delightful.  The people here don't have the financial means to purchase personal gaming systems, but even if they did I'm not sure that they'd trade in their time at the PLAY where the community gathers for a whole lot of fun, for time alone in their own homes.

We've had lots of surprises these last couple of years as we've become accustomed to the culture here in Peru.  Added to that list is the delightful realization that our family can have lots of fun together in a dumpy little shop playing video games.

In Revelation 13:13 St. John recounts hearing the Lord say to him, 
"Let them find rest from their labors."
I can't help but wonder if God knew we'd find so much peace in punching little buttons
to make race cars zip around an imaginary track. 

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Local Tradition ~ De-Nailing of Jesus From the Cross

Every community has cultural traditions which punctuate time. For the people here in San Hilarion the de-nailing of Jesus from the cross on Good Friday is one especially important event that marks the beginning of Jesus' passion.

To kick off the event, the local vigilantes enter the church in formation and take their positions along the wall. Their shear presence puts hearts at ease knowing that everyone is safe and nothing would disrupt this special time.

Father Paco explains the importance of this tradition, leads prayer, and encourages everyone to go back in time to when Jesus was being taken off the cross.

Could we imagine ourselves removing each nail?  In our minds, when we look down at our own hands, do we see Jesus' blood upon them?

First, the group of men in white remove Jesus' crown of thorns and ceremonially offer it up in reparation for our sins. The crowd in the church is solemn and contemplative.  It's amazing!

One by one the group prayerfully removes each nail and presents it to all those present, asking us to meditate on Jesus' suffering and sacrifices.

There were intense drum rhythms which guided our emotions and kept the mood somber.

Finally, the men in white carefully and prayerfully removed the corpse of Jesus from the cross. They gently laid him into the hands of the others and then...

...joined them to process to Jesus' casket.

There was a lot of quiet fuss about how exactly to put Jesus because everyone had an opinion and wanted what was most respectful.

When the puppet of Jesus was all ready, everyone left the church and began processing through the streets while carrying Jesus in his glass-topped casket.

At various decorated corners the group stopped to pray and reflect on Jesus' passion.  Before leaving each station a pinata, which was purposefully empty, was broken open in silence.  We were told that this represents the emptiness that we all feel knowing that it was for our sins that Jesus had to die.

The group processed through the streets for three hours in agony...the same amount of time that Jesus suffered on the cross.

The first year that we participated in this tradition it all seemed very strange to us; partly because we didn't understand was happening, but also because it's so different than what we had experienced in the United States.

Last year we understood a bit better, but it was still a little strange.

This year we looked forward to this annual event and found it to be a beautiful time of prayer.

When we first arrived we participated in "their" traditions with a mixed sense of curiosity and obligation.  Now, we joyfully participate because they're "our" traditions. We've adapted to the culture and have become a real part of the community.  We love it here and thank God for the opportunity to live alongside such amazing people!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Living Stations of the Cross - Peruvian Style

On Good Friday Jesus' passion came alive in the streets of San Hilarion 
as Katelyn, Anna and the rest of the youth group presented a thrilling dramatization. 

While they were eating, Jesus took bread,
said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said,
"Take and eat, this is my body..." 

Jesus and His 12 apostles gathered in the plaza for the Last Supper.  They sat talking quietly until the crowd gathered around and seemed ready for the show to begin.  

(This is so different than what we experienced in the United States where events such as this always had a designated start time.  Here people just hang out until it seems like a good time to begin. When we first arrived here in Peru two years ago this was a big adjustment, but now we love how laid back everyone is.)

"Friend, do what you have come for."  Then stepping
forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him...

After the Last Supper Jesus and His apostles went to the Mount of Olives.

While Jesus was praying the soldiers came, apprehended Him and lead him away.

"He deserves to die," they said as they spat in his face
and struck him, while some slapped him, saying,
"Prophesy for us, Messiah, who is it that struck you?" 

When they arrived at the Praetorium the crowd shouted their accusations, demanding that Jesus be crucified.  As one of the accusors, Katelyn did her fair share of shouting. However, each "action" shot I took looked ridiculous, so here she is just watching from afar.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged...

Jesus was led to a  whipping block where the soldiers, including Chris who was invited to participate at the last minute, whipped him and beat him.  Some of the soldiers hit Jesus softly (since it was just a re-enactment after all), but others really let him have it.  The harder the soldiers hit Jesus, the more worked up the crowd got.

It was really intense! 

Jesus returned to Pilate for his death sentence.  Amidst the crowd Anna spoke out, demanding that Our Lord be put to death.
The Jews answered, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God..."

Carrying the cross himself...

As the assembly left the Praetorium Anna and her friend Evelin stepped out of character for just a moment to smile for the camera.

The crowd looked on as Jesus began his pilgrimage toward Golgotha.

Hundreds of people followed Jesus through the streets of San Hilarion.

Closely behind Jesus were the two criminals.

Although I don't believe anybody gave the spectators instructions, they were perfectly on cue.

They yelled at Jesus and the two criminals. They threw rocks and actually hit them.  The spectators kicked Our Lord and his companions, making them fall to the ground.  As they fell, the crowd continued yelling horrible things.  Looking back I realize that I never shouted a thing because I felt really sorry for the people playing the parts of those being tormented.  It was so unlike anything I ever witnessed in the States.

As Jesus was carrying His cross through town the crowd was pressing in on Him, but the soldiers pushed them back with their wooden spears.

According to Michael, "When I tried to get close they whipped me with a catcus on a stick.  They also used this weird bush that has thorns and a leather belt too.  It hurts when they whip you really hard, but it's fun too."

Each time Jesus fell the soldiers yelled and mocked Him.

The spectators laughed and spit.

With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left. 

During the walk the criminals began bleeding from all the abuse.

(Actually, members of the youth group got close and "secretly" squirted fake blood on them, but everyone pretended not to notice.)

Jesus said,
"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

The criminal said, "We have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has donenothing criminal." 
Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 
The group re-entered the plaza for the final stretch of the walk to Golgotha.

When they arrived at the raised platform the soldiers tied Jesus to the cross (while the cast members 'secretly squirted fake blood on his hands, down his arms and all over his feet).

The intensity of the crowd had continued to grow, which made the whole thing so surreal.

Here is a video of the soldiers raising Jesus on the cross:

Then they crucified him...

As Jesus hung on the cross the crowd went wild.  Some wailed in agony while others screamed curses.

It was as if every spectator was following a script, although I knew this wasn't the case.  I was amazed at how active the crowd had been throughout the entire presentation.  Their involvement reminded me of the Rocky Horror Picture Shows that I attended so many years ago.

After Jesus had been "crucified" a narrator read the final part of the passion whereby the veil of the sanctuary is torn in two from the top to bottom.  He spoke about the earth shaking, tombs opening and the bodies of many saints being raised.  When the narrator finished he asked for a moment of silence so we could contemplate the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
The inscription of the charge against him read
:The King of the Jews".

I was pleasantly surprised that the unruly crowd who had been yelling for hours fell silent and bowed their heads in total respect for Our Lord and Savior. Had I not been lost in my own prayers it might have occurred to me to sneak a photo...but I was and so I didn't.

When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle
saw what had happened,
they returned home beating their breasts... 
The narrator concluded by asking the hundreds of attendees to put their hands together for the "missionaries who made this whole day possible".  Totally caught off guard, my cheeks reddened as everyone turned our way, clapping and cheering. "Why the embarrassment?" Because I was fully aware that we weren't the ones that deserved the applause.  It was Team Carmody that they were cheering for.  It was Team Carmody that had made the day possible through their many sacrifices, but there was no opportunity to explain that.  Unsure what else to do, we simply smiled and extended our arms toward the youth group who had done such an amazing job.  As I clapped and yelled I realized how proud I was of Anna and Katelyn, not just for a great performance, but for the countless hours of evangelization that inspired this group to come together for such a noble task.  They are truly amazing missionaries!!!

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit in nudging you to support us financially  so that we can continue serving the poor here in Peru, please visit either:

Call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.