- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: 04 August 2014 04 August 2014
Sorry to leave you hanging last night. We were too tired to write after the day's events! Needless to say, we did make it up the river safely. The captain came came back, and the rest of the motor up the river was pretty uneventful. We spent several hours chatting, enjoying the fresh air of a moving boat and making bracelets for the village children out of beads and pipe cleaners.
Nightfall came at about 6:00 pm (it's winter in the southern hemisphere and we are quite close to the equator in northern Peru), just before we arrived at the village. Suddenly, a cry went up to get to the front of the boat. The villagers of Nueva Palestina had prepared a special welcome for us! As the crew secured the boat along the steep shore, the women of the village sang and danced. Some of the men were playing the traditional pipes and drums. Children peeked out from between their mothers' knees—at least, those who weren't singing along. The people encouraged us to come up the hill and join them in their church building by grabbing our hands and leading us through their village.
As we entered the sanctuary, the pipes were joined by an electric guitar, bass and keyboard. The worship band continued the welcoming song as the women led the singing and dancing. We were directed into seats, then enjoyed a welcoming speech and more music.
After dinner (back on the boat), we headed back up to the church building. The band played some more great worship music; though led by guitar and drums, the songs had a distinctive Peruvian flair. Many were written by people in the village or nearby. Some were in the Shipibo language, but most were in the more commonly used (especially around foreigners) Spanish.
An itinerant pastor to the people of the river, Roger Marquez, delivered a great sermon. He talked about serving: how some of us serve where we are, some of us serve the people next door and some of us travel many miles to serve our more remote neighbors. The message was an encouragement to us in the mission team as well as to the village people, who may never have the opportunity to travel so far, but still have a role in service to each other and the villages nearby.
Roger told us the next morning about Animism, the traditional belief of the Shipibo tribe. This belief ascribes a spirit to every living thing. Some spirits are considered good, others evil. One frightening consequence of this belief was that some people believed that babies born illegitimately, disabled or otherwise unwanted were possessed of an evil spirit, and use this as a justification for burying them alive. Roger was almost killed in this way when he was born. He was saved by the charity of the chief of the tribe, who stopped his burial and adopted Roger into his own family. Roger explained that this practice persisted until Christian teaching started to take hold and supplanted the idea of good or evil spirits with the concept of a loving God.
Roger has been serving the people of the region as a pastor and spiritual mentor. He takes one of what one of our group leaders fondly refers to as "death boats", which taxi people up and down the river, to travel to remote villages. His role is to inspire tribal leaders and come up with ideas to improve their lives and their churches.
The service ended with more music, and the women song leaders came and grabbed our hands to invite us into their dance. We formed into concentric circles, arms swinging, while we moved side-to-side or in-and-out. We got a real feel for just how long a Shipibo worship song is. “This is the dance that never ends … ”
After our first full night of sleep of the trip, it was finally time to get to work. We started the morning by forming a chain to pass floor and siding boards up the steep embankment and to the work site. Then we split into groups to begin various jobs.
We figured Tim would be a key person on this trip, and we were right. He was put to work right away leading the main project: laying down a tongue and groove floor. This project required a lot of inexperienced people to do some fairly technical work—operating circular saws, sorting and marking wood pieces, hammering in nails and manipulating floorboards into the correct place—and Tim patiently trained and guided his large and constantly shifting team.
Tom started the day drilling holes, but began running back and forth between that and lending a little oomph to one of the siding teams. The siding people were using slightly different tongue and groove boards to form a wall for the building. At one point he disappeared a little too long from his drilling job and returned to find that Sam had stolen the drill. That turned out to be ok. Sam, our aspiring doctor, proved to be quite good with the drill. One full day, no broken bits. We suspect she’ll be wanting to do surgery with the thing before long.
As the day went by, the children of the village had started popping up around the work site to see what was going on. Janet went out with several other people to show our appreciation of their company. They played "Duck, Duck, Goose", "London Bridge" (both the American and a Peruvian version), made rockets out of gum and other candy wrappers, and played soccer and volleyball. At one point, we saw Janet getting her hair done by several young girls.
Kimberly had been working hard all day, but felt that her impact was limited; this was after coming into the trip with a fear that she wouldn't be useful. That evening, however, James, one of the group leaders, asked if she could take a look at the foot of a girl who had stepped on a nail a few days earlier. Little Elizabeth had developed a fever and the foot looked infected. Kimberly was able to remove some of the infected tissue, bandage up the injured foot, find some medicine that Elizabeth could take over the next few days, and (through a translator) give the girl's father, Cesar, instructions on how to keep the foot clean and protected.
Kimberly also has a knack for attracting biting insects—previously demonstrated in Haiti—which we assume has helped to keep bugs off of the rest of us.
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?