23 Jun 2011

Sunshine, Mountains & Hanging On For Dear Life!


Greetings from Arequipa! We’ve been here for just over a week now, and although it’s still early days, are beginning to feel a bit more settled. Arequipa is Peru’s second city, although it feels significantly smaller than Lima. This might be because the roads are considerably less hectic, and could be due to the lack of high buildings – they keep them low here because of the fairly regular seismic tremors! It is, however, a beautiful city, and we are looking forward to exploring the winding cobbled streets and historic buildings. The sun shines every day, meaning that it gets nicely warm in the day time. The same cannot be said, however, for the nights, which are decidedly chilly! The cold doesn’t seem to impede the local stray dogs, who sound their chorus late into the night and again a little too early in the morning. This is more than compensated for by the view – the city is surrounded by a spectacular mountain range, including three volcanoes, of which we have a stunning view from the roof of our house. Watching the early evening sunlight on the snow covered peaks as it turns orange and slowly sinks away is breathtaking. God has done well here!


This week we began language school. This means that every morning we pile on one of the many combis – small busses which are usually rammed with people and driven at breakneck speed around the city whilst everyone hangs on for dear life. Although there are taxis (thousands of them in fact), we prefer to take the bus when we can as a) it’s considerably cheaper and b) it seems a much better inculturation into Peruvian life.

Our classes start with an hour and a half of grammar with Julio, who is also our landlord. Julio is also a dentist and seems to have an inexhaustible supply of incredibly funny stories about life here in Peru. Lessons are not going to be dull! We share the class with an Australian couple – David and Christine – and are sometimes joined by their 10 month baby Samuel, who is showing better aptitude for grammar than the rest of us.


After a short break we then have another hour and a half of one to one ‘practical’ work, in which we sit with a teacher and are drilled in conversation, pronunciation and vocabulary. This is, as you can imagine, pretty intense, but we’ve been amazed at how much we’ve learned already.

Once lessons are over it’s back on the combi to head home for lunch, then hit the homework, of which we’re meant to do a couple of hours each day. We are slowly discovering different places we can work to get us out of the house, including our personal favourites the coffee shops. So all in all we’re doing well – thanks to all who have been praying. Please pray that we’d continue to settle in, that we’d be able to find a church to attend regularly, that we’d be able to adapt well to the altitude (Arequipa is 2,500m above sea level), and that our brains would expand sufficiently to fit in all the new words we’re learning!

Muchas Gracias!

14 Jun 2011

Residency, Horns and the Faint Smell of Fish...

For the last week and a half we have been staying in Lima with Margaret Swires, one of our BMS colleagues. Lima is like any other big city - bustling and full of life. We have enjoyed being tourists and having a chance to visit sights such as the Presidential Palace, as well as sampling some classic Peruvian cuisine such as Starbucks and KFC. A lasting memory, however, will be of the traffic and general standards of driving, which make rush hour in central London look like Driving Miss Daisy on sedatives. Another will be of the lingering dreary grey which hangs over the city at this time of year, carrying with it the faint aroma of wet fish.


Most importantly we did, after several days of standing in queues and enjoying Peruvian bureacracy, manage to both retrieve our freight which we'd sent over (easier said than done), and get our Peruvian ID cards. The process for the latter included a trip to Interpol to have our photos taken, be fingerprinted and have our teeth checked, which was...erm...fun! The end result is that we're officially residents of Peru now, which should make life a lot easier in the long run! Thanks again to all who were praying for this. Despite our moaning, the process was relatively quick and easy. Thanks also to Margaret, without whom we wouldn't have been able to do anything!


Time marches on, and it's time to pack again and move us and all our stuff to Arequipa to begin language school where it should, at least, be sunny! Again we're not sure what sort of internet connection we'll have once we're there, but we'll keep you posted as soon as possible.


Chincha



On Saturday we travelled with Margaret 2 1/2 hours south from Lima to the town of Chincha, which was hit by a massive earthquake 4 years ago. Margaret and others from the Baptist Convention arrived in Chincha 24 hours after the quake, and were able to play an instrumental role in providing basic relief. Later, this developed into a project, funded by a BMS relief appeal, which helped people to rebuild their homes. The results of this can be seen in the video below.




BMS Relief Appeal - After the quake from BMS World Mission on Vimeo.

We were able to visit a couple of the houses that had been built and meet the people living in them, including Luis and Lydia, the couple in the photo. Everyone we met was very friendly, but we were struck by the huge amount of money and effort which is still needed to help people rebuild their lives - many are still living in homes made of wood, reed matting and canvas from USAID tents!

More recently BMS have employed a Supported Partner Worker, Francisco, who has been trying to get various sports programmes established in the town. The main point of our trip yesterday was so that Margaret could attend a local residents meeting about a proposed new sports centre. Thankfully, the meeting voted in favour so the project can begin to move ahead. Please pray for Francisco, Margaret and everyone else involved as they work to make this a reality!




5 Jun 2011

Brazil!


Greetings from Lima!  We arrived here yesterday after a fairly hectic, but good, trip to Brazil.

After an overnight flight to São Paulo we spent a day and night at the BMS Mission House before getting an early bus to Rio de Janeiro. Here we were staying with José and Loyde Laurindo and their family. José has played a key role in church planting and leadership in the Brazilian Baptist Convention and has served as president of Brazilian Baptist Missionary Society. He is currently the senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Niterói, which is one of the biggest Baptist churches in Brazil. It was great to be able to begin our time in South America with them, as they made us feel incredibly welcome and like part of the family from the start.

The weather wasn’t brilliant, but we were still able to go to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain and see the whole city laid out below us, with Christ the Redeemer towering above everything. We also got to see Copacabana (in the rain!) and the old fortress. On Sunday we attended their church, who again were incredibly welcoming. We were prayed for and commissioned again by the whole church, and James had the immense privilege of helping to baptise 12 people. The greatest value of the time, however, was the opportunity to spend time with people who have so much experience and insight into life and work in South America. We learned a huge amount and were given a lot to reflect on as we begin life in Peru.


After returning to São Paulo on Sunday evening, we were up early again on Monday to fly to Brasilia for the bi-annual BMS Latin America retreat. This was an opportunity for all the BMS personnel in Latin America to get together, have a few days rest and share together both the highs and lows of life here. The whole thing felt a bit odd, as by this point we’d been in the country a grand total of 5 days, but again the team made us feel very welcome, and it was good to meet new colleagues and be able to spend some time hearing from the experiences of others.

We also got to see the futuristic concrete marvel that is the city of Brasilia itself; a modern, purpose built capital which is the direct result of giving one architect a free hand to do whatever he wants with a whole city. Our favourite place was probably the Cathedral Dom Bosco, which is made almost entirely of blue stained glass. The result is stunningly beautiful!


After all of this it is something of a relief to actually arrive in Peru, although we are already feeling the frustrations of not speaking the language. We are well, but still feel quite unsettled, so please pray that everything goes smoothly as we wrangle with bureaucracy over the next few days. Please also pray for Peru as a whole, as they elect a new president tomorrow. We’ll keep you posted how things go over the next few days!