Peruvian Journey

Peru_Pics-060It was October of 2012. I sat visiting with my brother, Ken, who was in the last stages of mesothelioma. “Promise me something,” he said.

“Of course.” (When your brother is dying, you would promise him the moon, if you could.)

“Promise me you’ll do something to help Sharron Hall and Abrigo Andino in Arequipa, Peru.

Sharron’s parents, and our parents, had been assigned to the same missionary post in Arequipa in the 1940s. Ken had always dreamed of opening an orphanage in Peru, as a memorial to our parents. When it looked like that was never going to materialize, he changed his focus to helping Sharron’s ministry. I had never met Sharron Hall, nor had I ever visited Abrigo Andino, (Shelter of the Andes, the homeless shelter she ran.) However, I felt morally obligated to fulfill my promise. Dear God, what have I done? I prayed. Please give me some direction. Soon I was sharing emails and phone calls with Sharron to get a little better acquainted.

In the meantime, I had been working on the manuscript of my book. The book is about my family’s missionary life in Peru, South America. It also includes my brother and sister-in-law’s amazing journey into the northern Andes Mountains to find our father’s grave site.  About halfway through the book, as I sat at my computer writing, the plan fell into place. I would publish the book and donate all proceeds from the sale of the book to Abrigo Andino.  I quickly communicated the idea in an email to Sharron, and she was thrilled. I felt relieved that I finally had a plan in place to fulfill my promise to my brother.

That was the year 2016.  It was in May of that year my mother passed away. To say that my manuscript was bathed in tears, is an understatement. During these past several years the book has gone through several rounds of editing, pruning, scraping, cutting, revising, and re-calibrating. This has taken a good deal of patience, not only on my part, but especially for my editor, who is a dear friend. I am forever grateful for her expertise and advice.

I felt the need to write this blog to update many of you who have been curious, and asking about the status of my book. I am still waiting on the “green light.” I felt a pause and hold button, and wasn’t quite sure why, until recently. Earlier this year, I received an email from Sharron Hall. She was conveying to all thePeru_Pics-060 former MKs (missionary kids) from Peru, an invitation to attend the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Assemblies of God in Peru in October of 2019. Finally, I understood the delay. This was a trip I was destined to make, and I needed to make it before the publication of my book. It would give me the closure I needed.  My departure date is scheduled for October 14th. I will fly to Lima, the capital, and city of my birth, and there I will meet Sharron Hall for the first time.  We will spend several days in Lima for the celebration, along with other missionaries and missionary kids, as well as many national Peruvians who will have gathered from all over the country. What an awesome experience that will be!

After the celebration, I will fly to Arequipa with Sharron and visit Abrigo Andino. I will spend a week getting a first-hand look at a ministry my brother had such a desire to help. I can only imagine the excitement my family would feel to make this journey with me. They had such a passion and love for Peru. It will be my great honor to go and represent them, and be their ambassador.  Once I return from my journey, I will feel I have come “full circle” and it will be time to launch a book!

Thoughts on Humility

Having been raised as the daughter of missionary parents, I have had the privilege of visiting some small Andean churches in the mountain hamlets of Peru. One such occasion left a profound impact on me and I still remember it to this day. The church had a dirt floor and adobe walls. A beautiful vase of lilies from one of the local villagers adorned the front of the church. The congregants were simple folk, peasants and farmers. They were dressed in typical Andean garb; men in their ponchos, women in their long skirts with their babies nestled piggy-back on their shoulders. The preaching was simple, and the music, although lacking any great talent or appeal, was enjoyed with great gusto, love and sincerity of heart. Almost everyone had walked some miles over rugged roads or stony trails to attend the meeting.

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At the end of the church service I found myself outside where I casually entered into conversation with an elderly campesino, a peasant farmer. I don’t remember any particular details of what we shared, but I do recall standing there, watching him as he walked away into the misty distance of a mountain trail. I will never forget the feeling I experienced of having stood in the presence of greatness. It certainly had nothing to do with the man’s educational status, fine clothing or great wealth. I do remember his sweetness of soul, his gentle spirit, his contentment with his lot in life, his calm demeanor and his peaceful countenance. I remember his dusty, sandaled feet, and I am reminded of the root meaning of the word “humble” – hummus; earth, clay. His feet were covered in hummus and he was cloaked in humility. No wonder I have never forgotten him.

In the Holy Scriptures we read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. They were caked in hummus, as well, but in the very loving act of washing from the Master’s hands, the dirt and filth were transformed to a spiritual hummus of the heart. From that day on, anyone near them would sense a presence of greatness, not of their own, but of having been in the presence of the humble Son of God.

In retrospect, looking back on my life as a missionary kid, I realize how fortunate, how privileged, my family and I were to share some of those dusty Andean trails with the beautiful people of Peru. They were not foreigners to us, nor did they look on us as such. We called them brothers and sisters, hermanos and hermanas. They were family. Even in their poverty or lack, they were genuinely hospitable and loved sharing their food.

As I read and reread, peruse and study the rough drafts of my book, over and over, I pray to God that I will do justice in telling the story of these beautiful, humble people, and how they so profoundly impacted my life, and the lives of my family.

He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

The Timing of Seasons

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that everything is ordered by the timing of a powerful internal and eternal clock. We, being impatient creatures, often find ourselves wresting against this powerful force, whereas nature, and animals within her realm, live in harmonious and peaceful acceptance of this sync and rhythm of life. The geyser, Old Faithful, operates under this law of nature, erupting every hour on the hour. Even the smallest butterfly knows when it’s time to head south to a mountain in Mexico for the winter. They are keenly in tune with their internal clock. Bears know when it’s time to find their cave and hibernate. Salmon know when it’s time to fight the current and swim upstream. Small, white blossoms know when it’s time to burst through the cracks of our walkway announcing the arrival of a new season. Even their timing is perfect.

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Yes,” there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) There is a time to keep and a time to throw away. In the past several years I have found myself in the season of “throwing away and casting out.” It was during one of these days of sorting through and casting out that I came across a storage bin of family momentos. That was a day of epiphany for me. It was a sudden revelation of exactly what my book was to be about. I knew I was called to write a book, but I had been struggling with direction. Now I knew. There in front of me, neatly stored away, for just the right timing, was a treasure trove of old family photos, letters, newspaper and magazine articles, missions pamphlets about my parents’ missionary work in Peru, and various books and booklets with a wealth of information. I instinctively knew in that moment that I was to take this unorganized collection of information and put it into a book. There was no doubt in my mind. It was as if some unseen hand had gathered these materials together for me and neatly packed them away for this very day, this beginning of a season for writing.

In the excitement of receiving this revelation, I took the bin of stored materials, scattered them across the dining room table in a heap, and wondered where and how I would ever begin. There was no rhyme nor reason to the bits and pieces and I quickly found myself overwhelmed at the challenge before me. No one ever warned me how difficult it would be to begin writing a book.  I sat staring at this vast assortment on the table as if I were looking at a thousand-piece puzzle. Little by little, bit by bit, and piece by painstaking piece, I began weaving the story of my family; my father, my mother and my brother Ken.

Within a year’s time I had managed to finish the first rough draft of my manuscript. It was not an easy task, as at the very same time I was facing the painful reality that my mother would soon be departing this life. How I wished I could have had her insights into this project. As it was, I spilled many tears along the way. There were times I had to stop writing and just have a good cry. My family are all in heaven now, and I am left to tell their story.

I remember the day when I typed the final words to the final chapter: Let go and let God. I sat back rather pleased with myself. I thought I had completed what I had been called to do. I stood up and walked over to the window, still musing about my accomplishment. As I stood gazing out the window, I looked down and saw a stone sitting on the windowsill embedded with the words Let go and let God. I knew it was no coincidence. Only seconds before, I had typed those very words. That message was not to be part of my book. That message was meant for me! I would have been thrilled to have had my book published overnight, impatient human creature that I am. However, the message was clear. God still had something He wanted to add to the story, and I needed to wait. So, my manuscript sat on the shelf for over a year, waiting for God’s appointed time. I knew something was going on behind the scene, and someday it would be revealed to me.

Then came the day that I received some exciting news. Plans were being made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Assemblies of God in Peru in October of 2019. The invitation had gone out to all the former and present-day missionaries and missionary kids to attend and be part of the celebration. I instinctively knew, God willing, that I would be making that trip. This was the missing link I needed to give my book the closure I had been desperately seeking.

I can see how I am coming full circle. I have gone through a season of barrenness, a season of inspiration, growth and productivity, and now the season of harvest has arrived. My inner clock is calling me south, back to the mountains of Peru.

In Search of Inspiration

The three most difficult parts in writing a book are the beginning, the middle, and the ending, with the beginning and ending being nigh unto impossible. This is my fifth blog post documenting this journey. In the previous few posts I shared the motivating experiences leading up to my decision to write a book. However, the day came when I actually had to sit down and begin.

Winter Tree

I never realized how daunting a blank computer screen can look. Everything is so stark and white. It is somewhat similar to peering out a window during a blizzard and seeing nothing but a lone tree struggling against a harsh wind. You can’t even place the horizon, and you quickly lose your bearings. I understand why writers often draw their inspiration from nature. You need color, texture, dimension and motion. You need the feeling of solid ground underneath you, and the gentle whisper of a refreshing breeze. To put it simply, you need the inspiration and movement of life in your writing, or it can quickly turn drab and meaningless.

So, where does a person begin? Why not write about my own life?  That will be easy. I know the subject well. After all, I had lived a wonderfully interesting life full of adventure. Soon my blank screen was brimming with words, lots of words, overflowing words about my wonderful life. My fingers literally flew across the keyboard, and I was just as happy as a lark. It wasn’t long before I had completed fifteen chapters.  I’m making great progress, I thought. And then it came…the Still Small Voice. This is not the book I’ve called you to write. It’s not about you.  Stop and start over.

I remember feeling stunned and disoriented, not to mention discouraged. I’m reminded of a quote I once heard, “God is still writing your story. Quit trying to steal the pen.”  A friend suggested I place my first rough draft on the shelf and perhaps revisit the work at a later date, and that’s where it remains to this day…on the shelf. I started over in search of inspiration, and much to my delight, I found it.  I have much to learn on this journey.

All Is Vanity

Ah, King Solomon. Almost you persuade me not to write, to be done with it, to put it on the shelf, out of mind and out of sight. After all, you are one of the wisest men who ever lived. After reading through your book of Ecclesiastes, I begin to wonder. Shouldn’t I take your advice?

A Chasing after the Wind

“Meaningless! Meaningless!,” you say, “all is vanity.” All things are wearisome. After all, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Of making books there is no end. How true! If only you could see the proliferation of books today! I’m sure you would throw your hands up in despair. Does the world need another book, my book? Sometimes I wonder. Much dreaming and many words are meaningless, you tell us. The more the words, the less the meaning. It all wearies the body.

When I read the story of your life, then I think I understand. You even admit, you were in despair. Is it any wonder? You had 700 pagan wives! If I had 700 pagan husbands, I most assuredly would be despondent as well! So, you probably had every right to be depressed. If I had been in your situation, I think I would have made a run for the hills and hidden myself in a cave. Your father actually did that, and there it was that he produced some of his most inspired and anointed writings!

I do see glimmers of hope in your writing though, and that is much appreciated, and spurs me on. You remind us there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven, and if we will only trust God, He will make everything beautiful in its time.

You do ask one powerful, rhetorical question: For whom am I toiling? In the margin of my Bible, next to your words, I write my answer in red ink: GOD.

It’s that simple, Solomon. I believe He is the one who placed the flame in my spirit to WRITE. It burns inside of me, and if I don’t release it, I think it will begin to die and turn to ashes. My apologies, Solomon, but the world will be getting another book. I can only trust and pray that it won’t be wearisome and meaningless. However, I will remember your sound advice, “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

In Pursuit of a Dream

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for
every dream precedes the goal.  – Pamela Vaull Stan

 I remained seated in the church congregation, as many around me rose to their feet. Our minister had just finished a sermon on dreaming big dreams for God. “Stand up,” the minister encouraged, “if you have a dream, a goal, or ambition, something big you want to accomplish for God, because I want to pray for you.” Then came a prayer of commitment, asking God to take the dreams, bless them and infuse them with inspiration.

A Dream Awakened

I left the church that morning feeling saddened. I had no dream, no goal I was working toward, no vision for the future. How could this be? All my life I had always been a goal-oriented person. I had pursued an education and worked hard to achieve my dreams. I had a dream of teaching overseas, and later set myself new goals of becoming an art teacher and a Spanish teacher. I never wanted to be one of those teachers that taught the same subject or grade level, in the same classroom for 30 or 40 years. I thrived on challenge.

This particular Sunday morning, however, I wasn’t sure I held any other dream in my heart. Had I already achieved everything there was to achieve in life? Not even close. “God, I need a dream,” I prayed, “give me a vision, keep me moving forward.” I had no sooner prayed than the dream literally fell into my heart. It’s time to write that book you’ve always wanted to write. All your life people have encouraged you to write a book. Now is the time. And that’s when this interesting and challenging journey began.

Mark Batterson put it so well…“Nothing honors God more than a big dream that is way beyond our ability to accomplish. Why? Because there is no way we can take credit for it. And nothing is better for our spiritual development than a big dream because it keeps us on our knees in raw dependence on God.”

I was excited to begin, but I was soon to discover writing a book was no easy task. It didn’t take me long to realize this dream was way beyond my ability to accomplish.  I once heard it said that when you pray for rain, you better be prepared to walk through the mud. I had a lot of mud to slog through.

Behind the Veil

The last several weeks of 30 below wind chills, snow drifts and ice- covered parking lots has inspired me to stay home, stay warm and get the creative writing juices flowing. Kudos to my husband Steve who has invested hours of his time setting up a website/blog for me. He’s the tech guy in this family. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I wasn’t even sure I really needed to do this, but he’s been insistent. Sometimes it just takes a good husband to come alongside and encourage, or should I say prod? He has also taken on the challenge of scanning hundreds of photos I’ve taken over the years and trying to put them into some semblance of order and format. Check out my website; a work in progress.

Mt. Rainier

One of the first things I needed to do was choose a photo as a header for my website. I was instinctively drawn to a photo of Mt. Rainier I had taken on a trip to Washington state to visit my west coast family. My cousin Dave and his wife Diana had driven me to Mt. Rainier National Park for a fun outing. As the day progressed, the clouds and mist began to roll in and completely obscure any view of this majestic peak. We stopped and did some hiking, and took some time to visit with the many tourists from around the world who were standing around the lookout sites hoping the clouds might part.

We stopped in at the visitor center and found our way to an auditorium where they were showing a documentary film about the history of the park. I remember sitting there thinking how much I wanted to see what was behind that veil of clouds. I just breathed a simple prayer, “Lord, just a glimpse, that’s all I’m asking, just a glimpse.”

A short time later we were back on another trail, admiring the profusion of beautiful wildflowers. Then it happened. For a brief 60 seconds at the very most, the clouds parted and we stood transfixed, gazing at the power and majesty before us. Just as quickly as the clouds had opened, the mists rolled in again and the vision departed. However, it didn’t totally vanish, as it now heads my website/blog and hangs in the art gallery of my mind, a forever memory that inspires me still to this day. The documentary described it well, “There are some places that linger long over your soul.” I’m also reminded of another quote, from the Apostle Paul, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12  Someday the clouds will roll back!