Cumpleaños, calles y el sol

I suppose today marks the end of week two and theres one thing I know for sure, Peruvians know how to fiesta. Since we last talked (wink) I have been to four cumpleaño (birthday) celebrations that were like nothing I have ever seen before. One of the parties took us three hours outside of Lima along the coast to a place called Cañete. It was a night and day experience compared to Limas dusty streets and closely knit buildings. In Cañete there were open roads and a clear view of the desert running right up against the ocean. There was room to breathe and the fastest vehicle around, besides our lone bus, was the neighbor´s burro pulled cart. We were welcomed warmly into this home that belonged to the sister of one of our friends from the street in Lima. Our friend´s daughter was living in Cañete to escape the street life her mother is so involved in. Our visit for this little girl´s party is the first time mother and daughter have been together in months. There were tears and smiles throughout the celebration that started at 1:00 in the afternoon and continued well after we left at 5:00. They fed us wonderfully and yet again I was served by the people that I came hoping to serve.

This seems to be the theme that is following me throughout the week. This Tuesday was my first time going to the calle (street) at night. We made hot chocolate, ham sandwichs and picked up some bananas and headed out around 9:30 pm to meet up with kids in their place. As we walked we met kids who called out to us to wait or to tell us they would catch up with us at Grau (the name of the street we gather on). We passed prostitutes strategically placed along the streets and for a second their guard was let down as they greeted us and we kissed them and they eagerly told me their names and asked mine, "you´re new, right? how long are you staying?". Some joined us as we walked and others went back to their posts as taxis pulled up to gawk. When we finally arrived at our destination many kids were already gathered. Half I knew from Casa Job and half were new faces, but even through I recognized their faces I could tell that some of my friends had never arrived that night, their bodies had come but they were lost in a bag of glue that helps them forget the cold and the pain and the loss. Still others came with smiles after a long day of work and they enthusiastically came taking a risk by remembering my name and hoping that I would remember theirs in return. I greeted them all as we formed a circle and began to sing. And boy did we sing. To many it would have looked like a circle of prostitutes, thieves, and gringos helplessly crying into the sky. To me it looked like it would have been Jesus´ favorite place to hang out and I was honored to be among such beautiful genuine people as they sang to a God that hears and sees and knows each one of us by name. When we finished singing we handed out the food and than stayed for conversation and fútbol in the street. I commented on a kids earring and either he misunderstood my broken spanish or again this boy, without much, immediately gave what he had. I desperately tried to give it back knowing that if he would have asked for my earrings i would not have given them, but he insisted and so I was amazed by the graciousness yet again.

And to top it all off, the sun has shined this week... ahhhh, the wonder of el sol. It seems that summer is coming faster than usual and we could not be more thankful:). Wednesday was the first day of afternoon sun (crucial for successful laundry experiences) so when the sun began to peak out on Thursday my thoughts weren´t of parks or beaches, but rather of jeans that if washed quickly might actually dry! So we rushed back filled the tina with water and started scrubbing away. Just wait, I´m going to have guns like you wouldn´t believe when I get back (wink). Nothing like two hours of handwashing laundry to tone those muscles...

But that wasn´t the end of the sun, it came out again as we traveled to the outskirts of town to visit a community for men & boys to live when they get off the street. We arrived with food Esther prepared at Casa Job and shared songs and prayers with those living in the community. They, like all the others, were so warm and gracious and there was a wonderful time of sharing testimonies as almost half of the guys shared about how Christ has revolutionized their lives. Their joy was so evident and I was humbled yet again by their utter reliance on God. In the midst of passionate spanish I picked up the words of one man as he said,"I was a thief and a murderer until Christ changed my life. Don´t forget that He can change people like me. Tell them in your home that the Lord is good and that he has changed a man like me." I walked away reminded that there is no such thing as a lost cause. Why do I so easily write people off? The Lord saw me in the deepest dark and came for me and He wants to the same for all of creation. His power and compassion has no limit and no requirements. Wow.

And will you believe it, in the dead of winter the sun came out for a fourth and fifth day in a row and we were able to play in the sunshine with a group of young (7-12 years old) kids that work the streets with their families. We fed the ducks, played hide and go seek, did acrobatics, ate helado (ice cream), played at least 100 games of paper-rock-scissors, and of course there was roasted chicken for the two kids we took out to lunch for their birthdays, all Peruvian kids love rotisserie chicken-- something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in out to lunch in Peru with a child.

As always I have written long and still feel like there are stories to tell, feel free to ask. For now the most amazing tacos you´ve ever had for a little over a dollar (thats right, and I don´t even LIKE tacos :) are calling my name. Or maybe its the chaufa (peruvian fried rice) calling-- I´m telling you no one makes fried rice like this Chinese-Peruvian couple. Yum! Okay, thats all for now, peace & love, all your prayers are so appreciated... ciao!

p.s. two of my team members have blogspots as well if you are interested:

www.janeinperu.blogspot.com

www.markhewitt.blogspot.com

or the word made flesh website is: www.wordmadeflesh.org

AND check out this blog just for fun :) : www.babyjoe.blogspot.com