- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: 04 August 2014 04 August 2014
Every mission trip provides a unique opportunity to look into the lives of your fellow group members. Since we were a smaller group this time—and, especially, because Janet, the interrogator, was with us—we learned some new things about each other.
We each ended up with a two-word descriptor of our personalities, courtesy of Janet. Can you guess who is who?
- Immature Old Soul
- Optimistic Pessimist
- Musical MacGyver
- Messy Meticulous
- Calm Neurotic
Busy days and blog-post planning chats that turn into general “get to know you” conversations have left us without much game-playing time at night. So, while we've literally been up and down a river, we haven't found time to play Saint John's mission-favorite card game “Up the River, Down the River.” Though we did catch Sam playing an electronic version on her phone when she was supposed to be helping with the blog.
We're back in Pucallpa now, spending one more night on the boat before packing up and heading back to Lima in the morning. But, before we talk about tonight, we should jump back to earlier in the day.
Since today was our last work day, we wanted to push hard to try and get our projects on the Community Center finished. Or at least as finished as our dwindling material pile would allow. We've been struggling to match boards all week: getting a whole row of the width prevents gaps and makes the whole assembly process much easier. But, despite the quality of the lumber (we're using beautiful local mahogany on the floor and siding, and then—gasp!—painting it), the milling leaves a little to be desired. So you'll occasionally hear cries from the folks in the trenches looking for someone to come and do some POOSHING! to try and lever the tongue and groove into a tight fit.
Besides “POOSHING”, we learned some other useful construction terms and wisdom. Janet can drive a nail in three hits of the hammer. The advice contained in the aphorism “If the nail's at an angle, hammer at an angle” is certainly applicable on the job site, and maybe to life in general. Zach, from the Omaha team, who skillfully operated the skillsaw throughout the week, kept asking whether he should “keep the line or take the line.” And we learned how useful it is to have working tools (in contrast to Haiti).
By the end of the morning, the exterior painting had team finished up, the siding team was done and an interior wall sprang up seemingly out of nowhere. Tim spent the morning working logistical miracles to get the floor as far along as possible. In the end, though, we came up a couple of rows short. So, with a sense of finality, if not completion, we all signed our last board and nailed it into place.
As we finished up our building project, the villagers set up a makeshift market on the path to the boat. Actually, word had gotten around that we were going to be doing some shopping, so there were also some relatives, from as far away as Pucallpa, who had made the river trek to join in on the selling. They displayed beautiful jewelry, clothing, instruments and carvings. It was hard to choose who to buy from; knowing how much each family depended on this income made it difficult to settle down with one person to make a deal. But we each ended up with some phenomenal works of art to keep or share back home.
After the sale, it was time to say goodbye. We gathered one last time in the church building. The women of the village had us stand in a big circle, then came around offering hugs and gifts—necklaces, bags, bracelets and the like. As we enjoyed one last song, the people took our hands and led us back to the boat. As they sang, one of the leaders translated the words: “We're sad that you're leaving, but our time together was valuable.” It was a touching Shipibo farewell. We waved and some tears were shed as we pulled away from the shore.
The journey back to Pucallpa—with the current—was much quicker than the trip upriver had been. We relaxed and talked up on the open deck, watching the jungle go by. Sam caught a glimpse of a pink river dolphin. Yes, that sounds completely made up, but there really are pink river dolphins here. The rest of us were disappointed not to have seen one.
As we got back toward civilization—and the Coast Guard—we had to go dig out our life jackets. Which had been put to use as anything but, mostly as extra pillows or to lend some extra support to the thin bunk bed mattresses.
The final event of our trip was a night out in Pucallpa. After docking, we took our bus to Orlando's Restaurant, a steakhouse across town. They served us a family-style meal: a salad of avocados, onions and other chopped vegetables, fried potatoes, plantains and yucca and a platter of delicious grilled meats—steak, chicken, pork and sausage. And, lest we had any doubt about what we were eating, there were helpful photos of prize-worthy cattle decorating the walls.
After dinner, we enjoyed a lovely Friday-night cruise through the city. We took a bit of a detour to stop at a nice little open-air ice cream parlor just off the main town square. The ambiance was great: there was a worship service taking place just across the street in the huge and beautiful Pucallpa Cathedral. Ricardo, Jr., the son of El Evangelsta missionary Ricardo, got the teenage girls (and maybe some of the slightly-older-than-teenage women) swooning as he sang with a pan pipe and guitar-playing street performer.
Now we're back, enjoying a beautiful final evening aboard the boat that's been our home for the last week, It's been a great time and a valuable experience for all of us. We each found our role to play in our service to the people of Nueva Palestina. We worked hard to get our job done and accomplished a lot toward helping this amazing village achieve its ambitious goals. We met people who are making a real difference in the region: Ricardo and the crew of the El Evangelista, Pastor Roger and the leaders and people of Nueva Palestina. It was seeing and supporting their work to spread the gospel and hope that made this trip feel truly worthwhile. And we're coming away knowing a little bit more about each other!
It has been a day of farewells, and this will make for one more. This is the last of the mission postings from Peru. We are planning to put up one more entry to share a little bit about our journey over the next couple of days back to Lima and on to Cusco for a big hike and visit to Machu Picchu.
Thank you for reading! We hope this has been an inspiration to learn a little more about Peru and to find out how you can be of service, whether in person or by proxy, to people in town or across the world!
*Author's note: I have no idea what “The Scent of Tim” means. I wrote it in my notes at some point during our talk about what we wanted to include in today's blog, but I don't remember why! With apologies to Tim, it was too good to pass up as a title.
“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?