People of Peru

Often on mission trips the ones you are sent to serve end up giving you something. That’s what I found in Peru.

Little girls.

Little girls.

One day we demolished and then built a new house on the same spot. The husband was at work, but the wife worked along side us. She offered sweat equity, as she removed the roof of her old home almost entirely by herself. She then made sure we stacked the wood from the old home so it could be used for firewood. Having finished by mid-afternoon we retuned at dusk with a gift and had a small party for her. The neighbors came out to celebrate and she thanked us for our help as she busily but her home in order. Although we came to work for her, it was her resourcefulness and grit that were gifts for me. I needed to see that.

Another day, we met some enterprising women in Comas who had started a savings group through a member of the church. What’s a savings group? It’s a way for people to pool their resources so they can then take out loans for starting or maintaining a business. They meet weekly, have officials and are required to contribute whatever they can at each meeting. The people we met had a new group and were building their savings to a level that they could then loan from. Once loans are made, they are required to pay back on a weekly basis. We met with them at one of their business. The floor was dirt, the light was dim, but they had hope and joy in knowing that they can change their circumstances. They showed me that even when things look bleak and prospects are slim, you can still choose to press on.

One morning we helped serve breakfast to the poorest of the poor children in Comas. In a small room, we met 40 or so kids and served them their only meal of the day, consisting of bread and oatmeal. Despite being young, tired and hungry, they were thankful. They were in good spirits, laughed (they thought we were funny…..looking), and enjoyed each others company  Those children showed me bravery. I don’t know how well I would handle my children eating once a day, but they did it with grace.

Timely product placement for Gloria.

Timely product placement for Gloria.

One member of our team, Gloria, is a resident of Columbia and was the oldest of our group. I wasn’t quite sure about her role, but soon it was made clear. She was the one member of the group who could reach the unreachable. She was not tall, swift or loud, but she was confident, persistent and has the gift of establishing trust.  She was the one who, when a little boy said God didn’t love him, engaged him on his level and made him know that God certainly does love him. She was the one who saw the pain of the 16 yr old mother, who felt abandonment and shame, and connected with her. By taking her hand and asking for eye contact, she communicated to that mother that God has a plan for her and that her life is one worth living.


Pastor Luis and a dodgy looking fellow.

Finally, their was Pastor Luis, our chaperone for the week. He was duty bound (learned he’s a former police officer) to be certain our team was comfortable, fed and safe. He was our shepherd and we were the sheep. Pastor Luis made sure we were met at customs in the Lima airport (with big welcome signs at midnight) and escorted us as far as security would allow as we prepared to depart the following week. He coordinated the welcome breakfast and a traditional Peruvian dance send-off from the church. He helped us get wifi and made sure we didn’t walk the streets alone. He prayed over us and encouraged us. Most importantly, he took us out everyday to see the people his church serves:

  • those who are sure of their salvation and those who are not
  • those who attend church each Sunday and those they are trying to reach
  • those who are doing OK by the world’s standard and those who are struggling.

Pastor Luis showed me humble leadership.

To all of them I say well done faithful servants. Well done.









Sensing Peru

If Comas, Peru, were a person, I’d give him (or her) a drink of water.

Homes on the hill.

Homes on the hill.

It’s a sprawling district of Lima, with nearly 500,000 inhabitants. Although it is just a few miles from the Pacific ocean, this mountainous area is dry and arid – averaging less than an inch of rain per year. That would appear to be inhospitable to someone looking to establish a residence, but the place is actually growing. Many who are born there, remain there, but refugees are coming from the jungles with the hopes of making a living.

Dust is everywhere in Comas. It covers everything and reminded me of the images of Manhattan after 9/11. Plants and tree leaves look grey, not green. Dust, although thick in the air, is not the only thing floating around.

Sounds and Driving

Sounds are plentiful in Comas. People talking and laughing, music on the radio and bands playing, barking dogs and roosters crowing are all part of it, but the prevailing sound is vehicle related. Revving engines, squeaky breaks and honking horns are constant. The streets of Comas is where old, old Chevy Impalas and Dodge pick-ups went to live in retirement. Three wheeled cabs and packed busses endlessly drive the avenues, streets and alley ways – and they all have a working horn. In fact, honking is a language all it’s own and I never picked up on the finer points of it. If you go in reverse, you honk. If you come to a stop, you honk. If you pass a pretty girl, you honk. If have air in your lungs, you honk.

Changing lanes is communicated by a honk as well. For example, if you’re driving in the far left lane and need to turn right at the next block, it appears that all you do is honk and turn. As unsetting as that was to me, you learn to live with it. What was harder for me to accept was vehicle spacing while on the move. I learned to drive using the rule of two second spacing at a minimum, between my car and the car in front of me. In Peru, it’s more like two feet of space at – 40 mph – between you and whatever is in front of you. If I had to drive here, I wouldn’t.

Our "home" with bars and a 3 wheeled cab passing by.

Our “home” with bars and a 3 wheeled cab passing by.


Much like the driving, the homes have an older look and appear to need some maintenance. They are built in dusty rows, with heavy iron and steal bars protecting the doors and windows. The roof tops are flat with rebar protruding from each corner, giving the home an unfinished look. The roof is used for catching any water that falls from the sky, pets, drying laundry and expansion; when you need more room, you add a floor.

If you live in the city, the inside of the homes I saw were modern looking and clean. Most city structures are painted concrete or brick, but as you go up the hill and away from the center of town, concrete eventually gives way to smaller wooden dwellings, thatch homes and finally homes made of wood scraps and card board. In the homes on the hill side, floors were often dirt. Electricity and water could be found, but not always. If you had electric power, I got the feeling that it depended on how good you are at splicing live electric wires. I also got the feeling that the electric power board, and water department for that matter, were not monitoring use.

Food and Beverage

There are lots of restaurants and street vendors in Comas, but we were advised to only eat pre-packaged food, or what the host church served us. We ate a lot of tasty rice, potatoes, chicken, steak and bread, with some vegetables in the mix. The drinks of choice were CocaCola and Inka Cola, which based on it’s Mt. Dew-like appearance, doesn’t taste like you think it should.

Many people prepare food in outdoor kitchens or on the street, so there is always smoke from cooking mixed in the air with everything else. The aroma is interesting and complex. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems to be equal parts burned wood, rubber, auto exhaust, diesel fuel, brake fluid, chicken, animal and human waste (did you know you don’t flush toilet paper in Peru?) and onions.

Sometimes, the aroma mix overwhelms the senses and you lose your appetite.

Other times it makes you hungry for more.

Grievin’ and Dreamin’

compassSounds a bit like Rhymin & Stealin, or, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, but whatever it sounds like to you, it’s the process I’m working through right now.

First: the grieving

That was the advice I received the day after learning my services were no longer needed at work. Both parties were ready to move on, but the news still stung and I was advised to take time to mourn the loss. That was helpful because it helped me to clear my mind. It gave me a chance to feel what I was feeling and not act like it didn’t bother me. It did bother me and I needed to grieve the loss.

Now: the dreaming

“What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Although it’s better to ask that when you’re young and have it answered by now, plenty of people restart their careers in their 30s, 40s and 50s. They start their own business or change industries completely because they felt a draw to something different. They do it out of necessity, need, the economy or passion. What I’m learning is it’s OK to try something different.

For my parents, and the greatest generation before them, the deal was you worked one or two jobs your whole career. You got a gold watch at retirement (if you were lucky) and lived on a pension (even luckier). They stayed put for the most part – and that worked for them – but it’s not the case any longer. You’ve got to be willing to learn a new skill, take a risk and go about things differently or you’ll end up where you’ve always been. I value consistency, but how many more chances will I truly get to hit the “reset button” and try something new? I’m guessing not many, so now seems like a good time to at least explore the possibilities.

The last month has been filled with one-on-one meetings, assessments and tests to determine the next course. I’ve filled white boards with ideas I never knew were in my head, read books and replaced playlists with pod casts about success. I’ve been to meet-ups, captured ideas on Evernote while running and reintroduced myself to the Y. Some fear and loathing and some joy have been experienced along the way as well. I’m getting my career compass bearing, but also stopping to smell a few roses along the way like:

  • jumping on the trampoline with my daughter
  • camping with my oldest son
  • sitting with my youngest son as he learns to crawl
  • taking some load off my wife so she can do some things she wants to do (I should also say here that we’ve never communicated better than we have in the last month – we’re in this together)
  • hitting the matinée with the whole family
  • serving on a mission trip to Peru
  • getting in the best shape I possibly can get in
  • working on micro-business ideas
  • learning what my true interests, skills and motivators are and aligning them with my future

I look forward to the next job. It could be working for myself, someone else, or a combination of the two. Whatever it is, I’m thankful I grieved and finally let some of the dreams out of my head. I’m also thankful for the time to camp, cook, crawl and jump with the ones who mean the most to me.

That’s an unrealized dream coming true.

Phantoms, Snoring and Cat Pee – The Week That Was

Quick hits form the road last week:

Goodbye old friend, but you smell like the inside of a cat and that's unacceptable.

Goodbye old friend, but you smell like the inside of a cat and that’s not working for me in this relationship.

Phantom – Our son wakes up most nights, which means I wake up most nights. I thought going on the road for work would mean that at least I would get some better sleep. Instead, I wake up disoriented, thinking I hear my son crying a few times every night.

Tone Def – Free wi fi was more than the guy in the seat behind on a SWA flight last week could apparently handle. Thanks for the music you shared with us all.  I especially liked that you also fell asleep and snored. Nice touch.

Zyppah – On the subject of snoring, the miracle of satellite radio has brought us limitless, up to date news, talk and music without interruption. It’s also brought us the worst radio commercials without interruption. The main offender right now is “Jimmy from Zyppah.” If you have heard him, you know what I mean; if you haven’t you’re blessed. Runner up is Big Lou, who is on meds too and wants to sell you insurance.

My Backpack smells like the inside of a Cat – I noticed last Monday that my back back was wet. That wasn’t odd to me because I had eye drops in one of the pockets and figured it had leaked. I cleaned out the wet stuff, packed, and went to the airport. By Tuesday morning in the hotel, I realized it wasn’t eye drops.

It was cat pee.

Looks like the cat will get to know the great outdoors sooner rather than later. Enjoy it!