This mission trip was very challenging for me but also very rewarding. I have more of an awareness of what God is already doing in the lives of billions of people around the world. Here is a summary of our week in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machupicchu.
Cusco is a city of about half a million people, filling a valley high in the Andes mountains The people are friendly and open to strangers. They speak Spanish, and most speak the native Quechua (Inca) language as well. It is a city full of young children. Transportation options included taxi, public bus, and a lot of walking. Q: “What is the seating capacity of a Peruvian bus?” A: “at least one more!”
Air travel took about 18 hours each direction, with three flights, two layovers, and twice through customs and immigration in each direction.
Carrie Kleinschmidt is a missionary from the US who was the team’s main host. She has lived in Cusco for about seven years and leads the Corazon Kids Club. When it didn’t work out to worship with the Lutheran church for the first Sunday, she invited us along to a Peruvian megachurch called La Vid, where we all felt very welcome.
The Meeting Place is a non-profit cafe, giving all its proceeds to local missions. It is also a hub for the international missionary community, especially English-speakers, to volunteer and connect. Shortly after our arrival we joined Carrie to teach a group of kids there (their parents were selling arts and crafts in a nearby plaza). The next day we cleaned and repaired the building, then joined an evening discussion group and worship service.
Bible stories the team shared with the different children’s groups included the parables of the lost sheep and coin (Luke 15:1-10), the call of the disciples to “fish for people” (Luke 5:1-11 and Matthew 4:18-22) and the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20). For each story we had a skit, games, crafts, and a devotion. We tried to share the love of God through the stories and through our interactions during the activities. It felt a lot like cross-cultural Vacation Bible School most of the week.
Corazon is a holistic community ministry that arose from the vision of Pastor Americo Ramos. It is located on a mountainside south of the city of Cusco and serves the children of south-side neighborhoods. On Monday, the team joined Pastor Ramos and other members of the staff for a prayer-walk (which involved some climbing about 600 feet to the mountain’s summit and a panoramic view of the city). After that our team passed out fliers in the neighborhood about Corazon. On Tuesday morning we built and refurbished their playground equipment. On Tuesday through Thursday afternoons we joined the Kid Club’s 30 to 40 children doing the skits,crafts, and games.
Altitude for the week in Cusco was 11,000 feet plus. Thankfully no one got altitude sickness, but the thin air left the team huffing and puffing while hiking up and down Cusco’s hilly streets carrying craft supplies.
Huch’uy Runa is a private elementary school for about 130 at-risk children, located in the Old City of Cusco. Some children live with family members and commute daily, while others commute weekly and orphans live at the school full-time. For several years it has received funds through the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to which we are contributors. Our team got to spend Wednesday morning with the 1st-3rd graders and Thursday morning with the 4th-6th graders doing skits and crafts.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machupicchu – the team’s travel out of Cusco was on Friday and Saturday, by bus, train, and more walking. The Sacred Valley was the ancestral home of the Quechua/Inca people, founders of the empire. Cusco was their capital and Machupicchu a mountain retreat for their royalty. History was everywhere.
Talitha Kum is the name of the Lutheran congregation in Cusco. Communication ahead of time was difficult so they weren’t sure just when we were coming – we just showed up the first Sunday morning and met with the leaders. They are struggling without a pastor, but have a very warm fellowship and great connection to their neighborhood. We returned Wednesday evening to offer an adult Bible study and Sunday School for almost 30 children. On our last Sunday morning we shared worship and communion. We didn’t have to translate everything because everyone knew the same liturgy! After enjoying their hospitality it was time to begin packing to come home.
Thank you to all that prayed and contributed to my mission trip and made it possible for me to go. It was truly a gift from God and very inspirational to me and our whole team. Hope that you enjoyed reading this summary of the mission trip.
The photo album can be viewed here.