- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 25 July 2016 25 July 2016
The Saint John's Heseder group successfully reunited in Lima in the early morning hours at the airport hotel. After a short night of sleep—a nap, really—the Saint John’s and the rest of the 32-person Lifetree mission group ventured back to the airport and boarded a short flight to the town of Pucallpa. A team of this size brings a lot of luggage, especially when they are hauling supply donations from their congregations. The luggage was stuffed into the back of a bus, which left just enough passenger seats for us. We took a short bus ride through the town of Pucallpa to the docks where the riverboat, El Evangelista, was awaiting our arrival. We loaded the boat with all our supplies, received a quick safety orientation (complete with orange life jackets!), and embarked on our five-hour cruise up the Ucayali River.
The journey was smooth sailing. We rode on the roof of the boat and enjoyed the landscape along the way. The banks of the river are lined with thick jungle plants, such as bamboo, banana and mango trees. We passed several fishing boats, logs being floated down the river and even a big boat hauling two Caterpillar front-end loaders. Beautiful white cranes were fishing on both shores all along the way.
During the journey, we enjoyed our first chicken and rice lunch. We also worked to sort through the donated supplies and categorize items for later use in the village.
Late afternoon brought us to the village of Nueva Palestina. The children of the village were waiting on the shore for our arrival and, as we tied off, were joined by the adults. We ventured off the boat and climbed the very steep embankment (a thirty-foot climb almost straight up) to tour the village and meet the Shipibo people. We met briefly in the church for a quick welcome service, intending to come back later in the night for the official welcoming ceremony. Then we walked through the village to see the medical clinic and doctor's quarters, where many of the work projects will be for the week.
While walking toward the training center where we worked two years ago, a rainbow appeared in the sky, reminding us of God’s promise to keep us safe. Which was a nice reminder, as just a few minutes later the sky suddenly opened up and drenched us in a tropical downpour. We ran for shelter. The boat crew, though, knew that the steep embankment we had climbed up was getting more and more treacherous with the rain, and insisted we get back to the boat. Here is the beginning of the adventure! A couple of brave volunteers slip-slided down the mud hill with little grace. The rest stood at the top of the hill and declined this option. To try and move things along, the crew strung up a long rope from the boat to a big tree at the hill. Several more people tried the rope stabilization option and took their turn sliding down the hill. This didn’t encourage the skeptics still at the top of the hill. So the crew planted themselves along the rope course to provide supposed stabilization to help the rest down the hill. Graceless falls continued with muddy consequences. Finally the crew attempted to carve stairs in the mud. This worked a little better and allowed the final few to get down. But ultimately everyone was soaked in water and mud and had our shoes baptized in five-gallon pails of river water. The planned welcoming ceremony back up in the village? Definitely postponed.
We dried out watching a beautiful sunset from the top of the boat and enjoyed the sight of the village children swimming in the river. Dinner brought food, fellowship and new friends. Then an early evening to bed to be ready to begin our service in the morning.
“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?