Twenty-six hours ago we had left all we had ever known. We were now half way around the world on a pot hole riddled mountain road. Amazingly, we still had two hours and multiple thousands of feet to climb before reaching our finale destination. This was International World Changers Mission Trip Peru 2009.
It had all started when Tiger Brooks, Indian Springs Baptist Church’s new youth minister, shared his vision of young adult international mission trips. Upon hearing the vision, all of the youth eligible and able to go, including myself, were instantly committed to go no matter the time or place. It was only a few months later that the vision became a reality. Our bags were packed and hearts prepared to do God’s work in Canta, Peru.
That determination was abruptly tested the first day of travel. After numerous hours on multiple airplanes, I could hardly comprehend the stress of a four and a half hour, ten thousand foot ascent in a stuffy charter bus. With many aches and sore bottoms, we finally reached the small mountain town of Canta. Consequently, any excitement we may have lost on the trip was exponentially replaced by the view of the South American Eden we found ourselves in. Throughout the week I would sometimes simply stand in awe of the looming mountains, green pastures, and distant waterfalls that God had so eloquently created. The larger than life terrain was very humbling, yet it was also very satisfying to feel the size and power of our creator. Oddly enough, I realized that feeling belittled in comparison to God actually makes one closer to him and more willing to seek his will. This hypothesis would be greatly tested and even proved by the end of the week.
We had not come to sightsee though, and we had no time to waste. Every morning, after a rather early breakfast, we would pack our backpacks and descend into the heart of Canta from our hilltop hotel. The sounds of the waking town resounded clearly in the cool morning air. The sounds of a rooster parading down Main Street, an early worker repairing a drafty tin roof, or the playful laughing of children on their way to school were welcomed over the annoying braying of the donkey outside our window. All of these sounds however, reflected the simple life of the town’s people.
We took our time reaching the school at which we were working, stopping to observe the simple and foreign lifestyle. It was amazing to think of a life in which you grew most of the food you ate, or made a meager living from selling livestock. The people had no barbed wire fences, but instead they made low, expertly crafted stone walls made to keep animals in, not people out. The daily shuttle bus from Lima was one of the few automobiles that traveled through the town. Main Street was the only two lane road in Canta, but even it was more of a market place, eloquently decorated with food and craft carts that filled the broken median. Many Americans would find the simple lifestyle primitive, boring, and repulsive. I myself experienced a bit of culture shock. I soon opened my mind to the idea that our hectic American way might not be the sign of an advanced race, and quickly realized it wasn’t. I found myself envying the poor, uneducated people of Canta. They were living a much less tiresome and stressful life full of joy and satisfaction. It would do us well to slow down, learn to enjoy the basic blessings of life, and spend more time with our communities and even our inner selves.
Not only did I realize the faults in our chaotic society, but I also realized the power of the blessings God has bestowed on me. I had played soccer for thirteen years and had never thought of it as a tool for evangelism. This all changed in the school yard and narrow streets of Canta. Every school day I would be flocked by little boys frantically asking me to join their recess soccer team, or at least wanting the ball I always carried in my backpack. The common love for soccer opened the door to share the Gospel with this group of rowdy school boys, and their admiration of the soccer-playing “gringo” resulted in their complete attention and respect when I told them about what Jesus had done for them. Even after school, I would have the chance to share God’s love with the boys while playing in the narrow streets. These opportunities allowed me to see my unique spiritual gift. I am now more aware of the influence I have as an athlete and look for ways to be a witness as a result.
During my trip to Peru I experienced many unique and exciting things. The most important thing that gained from the trip was the new outlook on life that I now have. I yearn for God to humble me to the point of complete submission. My priorities in life have been transformed into a life in search of simplicity and satisfaction, and most importantly, I strive to use my blessings to praise and glorify my Creator. I guess you could say I came back to all I had ever known, knowing a lot more.
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