Monday, May 28, 2018

A New Ministry at the Boys' Orphanage

There are so many aspects of missionary life that rival for our favorite.  One contender for first place is when we get to share bible stories that we know folks are hearing for the first time. When we went to visit the orphanage in Bellavista we asked the kids if they had ever heard the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  They all shook their heads back and forth as they scooted closer to hear.

They were perfectly attentive and all clapped when they learned how the story ended.  It was exciting.

This time was really special for Javier as well. Knowing that he is a weak reader, he has never volunteered to read in front of a group. Historically, when teachers called on him to read in class he misbehaved, hoping to get kicked out, to avoid humiliation. Today was different.  Despite his limited abilities, Javier eagerly read to the kids and they were really blessed by his enthusiasm. 

After discussing the story the kids brought it to life.  They wrapped each other in toilet paper so that they looked like Lazarus.

Javier played the role of Jesus. As he blessed each mummy, the kid broke out of his wraps and ran around praising Jesus.

When they returned to the patio they all started wrestling and throwing toilet paper at each other.  I think their laughter was heard for miles around.

When they were done we picked up every last piece of toilet paper and put it in bags so the kids could use it in the bathroom instead of the old school papers that they typically use.

When the boys finished the activity was repeated with the girls. They too listened intently to the story and then wrapped each other like Lazarus.

Next, they all made signs to be hung next tho their beds that read, "Jesus me ama!"
(which means Jesus loves me!)

While the kids were working, Chris blessed us with pretty praise and worship music.

The kids were amazed at how well Anna can draw.  They kept staring at her with intense curiosity and asking "Why can you draw so pretty?" Anna just giggled and said, "Come on, let's make your sign."  She is so humble and always feels uncomfortable when people compliment her.

Next on the agenda was "Sin Ball".  When Anna and Javier hit someone with the ball, which represented sin, they had to come to me for "confession."

After we read the Act of Contrition together they re-entered the game.

I was so happy to see that after many trips to "confession" several of the kids had the prayer memorized.

It's incredible how quickly kids learn when they're having fun.

"Dynamicas" are an all-time favorite. Everyone always enjoys dancing around doing silly moves and gestures while singing to Our Lord. Anna has learned a ton of them and has a gift for picking the ones that are most appropriate for a given situation.

Javier's mom, Maria, prepared a delicious meal for dinner. The kids were super excited to have something other than rice and yucca, which is their standard fare.

While the kids were eating I asked them if they could see "love".  They were a little confused, thought a bunch and eventually said, "no".

"What if I told you that this food is an example of LOVE?"  They just giggled.

I explained that the food before them was a physical sign of the invisible love that our friends in the United States have for them.

I continued by describing our mission and the importance of Team Carmody. I explained that the money we have is not ours. Our job is simply to guard our friends' money until we find people that need help.  "Do you guys need help?" I asked.  "Yes!" they shouted in unison.  "And so, I used my friends' money to help you.  Isn't that wonderful?"  I asked.  They all shook their heads up and down as they gobbled up their dinner.  I'm not certain they grasped my profound message of universal love, but I'll rest assured that a seed was planted.  Little by little I believe they'll understand the real power that Christ has to move mountains with the helping hands of the faithful.

After the girls were done eating it was the boys' turn.  I was told that during dinner they're usually very social.  However, tonight they were too excited to eat Maria's scrumptious meal. I  could have heard a pin drop.

After dinner Chris, Javier and Anna led the group in praise and worship.

As a super-duper special treat we brought cake. They kids were in heaven. It was interesting to watch how each kid enjoyed their cake.  Some gobbled it down in an instant while others took little tiny bites to make it last longer.

Our time at the orphanage was incredibly blessed.  When it was time to leave we generously gave away hugs and promised to return another day.... which we have.

The following week we planned to go to the orphanage, but couldn't because of other obligations that arose unexpectedly.  To our surprise and delight, our Precious Sheep came to the rescue.  Isaac, Javier, Jherson, Ivan, Esbranller and their friend Alexander went to the orphanage on their own and put on a fun program for the kids.  It was incredible and the kids at the orphanage couldn't wait for them to return.  As I considered their decision to go alone it occured to me that these young men are truly becoming disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

A couple weeks later Anna and I taught the kids the story of the Good Samaritan and had them act it out.  It was especially funny to watch the Good Samaritan lay the victim onto the kid crawling along as a donkey on their way to the inn.

Just a couple days ago I visited the orphanage with Javier, Jherson and Ivan.  Our theme was "I want to have a heart like Jesus". Jherson started with a drawing lesson. Step-by-step he showed the kids how to draw the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  He is incredibly patient and has a gift for explaining things in a simple and loving way.

While Jherson was explaining each step, Javier and Ivan circulated through the group offering help to whoever needed it.

There is a beautiful  "big brother" type relationship forming which obviously blesses them all.

After the drawing lesson they played a game whereby the kids needed to help each other make it around a course. During the first round one partner was blind-folded. His partner needed to be his eyes and guide him carefully as not to put him in harms way.  During the next round the kids' arms and legs were bound and their partners needed to help them hobble along.

Jherson was delighted to have Segundo as his partner.  When it was their turn he lifted Segundo onto his back and ran around the course.  Segundo giggled the whole time.  Due to the malformation of Segundo's leg others often need to help him get around; however, it's never as fun as it was with Jherson!

After the game was over we all sat in a circle and talked about what it means to have a heart like Jesus.  The kids gave examples, from their own lives, of how they can help others despite their age and limited resources.  I was most encouraged by their conviction that praying for others is hands-down the most important thing we can do.

I'm heading to the orphanage again tomorrow and can't wait to see the kids....all of them, big and small....share the love that Jesus has put in their hearts.  I'll be especially blessed if the story that we have for them is one they've never heard.

I ask for prayers as we continue to preach the gospel and serve the poor in this beautiful jungle community of kid at a time!

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.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy (Unhappy) Mother's Day

After living here in the same community for over two years I often find that things happen as I've come to expect.  However, at times I'm totally caught off guard; today was one such occasion. As the pseudo-adopted mom of many, I was invited to attend the Mother's Day celebration at the high school where my "kids" would act out skits, recite poems and perform dance routines in honor of the mothers. Upon arriving a young man escorted me, arm-in-arm, into the assembly area. The balloons, flowers and gift baskets gave the impression that this event would resemble a Mother's Day celebration in the United States. Oh, how looks can deceive!

The first group of students introduced themselves and announced that they would perform a skit in honor of all the mothers, both living and deceased.

A boy dressed as a mom entered with some basic props and began "preparing soup".

Her "son" entered with a harsh attitude and began speaking indignantly. He demanded food and complained that his favorite shirt had not yet been laundered.  She apologized and assured him that she'd wash clothes a bit later.

After he stormed out, her drunk husband arrived. Their interactions included physical, mental and verbal abuse. The "dad" shoved her to the ground and yelled at her, but she maintained her composure.

As the skit continued the guys continued mistreating the mom, until finally she died under the heavy hand of her husband. One of the actors concluded the skit by stating, "We can't wait until our moms are dead to appreciate them. We have to treat them as the priceless gifts that they are. When you see your mom, don't yell at her or complain. Give her a hug and thank her for everything she does."  As he finished, I heard the crowd go wild with applause, but was unwilling to join them. I just sat silently in a fog of sorts.  I suppose it just never would have occurred to me to honor my mom in this way.

The next act was the recitation of a poem. Historically it has been difficult for me to understand this type of artist language, but today it took only a couple moments to realize that she was describing the pain of living without the mom with whom she used to talk and laugh with, cry with and hug. My tear ducts burst open as this young lady darted about, waving her arms, calling to the mom who had abandoned her family years ago. Unable to maintain my composure, I lowered my head and wept quietly.

To my relief, the next group performed a light-hearted Peruvian dance routine in beautiful traditional costumes. Although I felt saddened by how short the girls' skirts were, I joined along as everyone clapped to the music and tapped their toes. My racing heart calmed a bit when the girls I know caught my glance and gave me great big smiles.

Their routine was followed by a solo act in which a teacher sang about his undying love for the mother that he'd never see again. Everyone nodded in understanding as he explained through song that
life's circumstances had left them living so far apart that their paths would unlikely cross again. Although the probability of never seeing loved ones again is readily accepted here, it continues to stir something incredibly painful in my heart.

As my mind wondered one group sang a love song to their mothers while another did a cheerleader type chant. 

Lost in my own thoughts I was a bit startled when one of the teachers sat down beside me and whispered, "Are you enjoying the show?"  Totally unsure as to how I might respond I simply smiled and said, "I'm not sure."  She grinned and explained that Mother's Day isn't always a joyful celebration in these parts.  With the high incidence of death, abandonment, domestic abuse, imprisonment and neglect it's often a day of painful memories and unavoidable disappointments.

As I turned my attention back to the show another young lady was tearfully reflecting on life without her mom.

The girl sitting beside me explained that her mother died just a few years earlier.

My beautiful daughters came to my emotional rescue as they began hopping and skipping about with the other members of their dance team.  They performed a traditional routine that lightened the mood and brought grand smiles to everyone's faces....especially mine!

The Mother's Day celebration ended after the dance team performed a second routine with even livelier music that apparently was an "old time favorite".  The emotional heaviness had dissipated and everyone cheerfully greeted the mothers, wishing them a wonderfully relaxing day this coming Sunday.

This quick recovery of emotions is perfectly in line with what I've come to expect of my Peruvian friends. When something awful happens they grieve intensely for a short period of time and then move on.  I've come to appreciate their candor and vulnerability.  They don't feel the need to hide or disguise their feelings and accept reality for what it is.  It's really raw, but seemingly effective.

Dancing beneath the blazing hot jungle sun left the dancers physically exhausted.

Plus, their feet got burned from the griddle-like pavement.

Anna dug deep into her repertoire of missionary skills to find some relief for her blistered-covered souls.

When I saw Anna's solution I couldn't stop giggling.

Thank you Jesus for allowing me to be the mom of such amazing kids... both my own and all those Peruvians who call me "Mom".

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.