In July 2008, I went with my youth group from my church back home on a mission trip to Trujillo, Peru, to do ministry with an organization called Inca Link International. Inca Link is headquartered in North Carolina, but their ministry can be found in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and other countries. That was my first mission trip, and I still believe that was the most powerful trip I ever went on. And after we went, my friends and I all started talking about wanting to go back someday to the sites we did ministry at.
Four years later, I did it. In 2011, I got approved to be an intern with Inca Link in the summer of 2012, which would not only mean I would be able to see a lot of places I remembered from Trujillo, but I’d be able to serve in more ministries that Inca Link has in Quito, Ecuador. Now, before we actually lead teams and youth groups and stuff, all the interns have training together. And for training, Inca Link has their own version of “The Amazing Race”, where the interns get into groups and do challenges together around the cities where Inca Link works. That’s what my first week was, and I’m going to do my best to go through each step of that first week for all of you who are wondering what I’m doing in South America.
May 25, 2012:
Left on a flight from Cleveland to Atlanta, which would then take me into Lima, Peru, at 11:00 PM. Another intern named Georgia Ann was on that second flight, so I got to make a connection very quickly. When we arrived in Lima, we were greeted by Abby and Brent, who are also serving with Inca Link. Abby is more of a supervisor, while Brent is another intern but a little older than the rest of us. After meeting them, I got to meet the interns that had already arrived: Ana and Kyle from Ohio; Aaron and Jen from Iowa; Derek from Minnesota; and Christina from Pennsylvania. So from the airport, we took taxis to a local hotel where we stayed the night.
That morning, after a couple more interns—Bethany from California and Heather from Pennsylvania—arrived, we all took a big charter bus sort of thing on a nine-hour bus ride from Lima to Trujillo. When we arrived finally that night, we got to see most of the missionaries we would be working with throughout the summer, including Rich and Lisa Brown and their family, Gustavo Cadena, and Lisa Merritt, all of whom I met in Trujillo four years before. Also there I met Matt from Michigan, who got there a little later than the rest of us. So after meeting with them, the interns that would serve in Ecuador sent their luggage ahead with the Browns so we would have less stuff to carry from Trujillo, and we all headed to the children’s home we would be staying at. Inca Link has been building a children’s home in Trujillo for a few years, which my youth group did work for in 2008, and it was extremely powerful to see how far it’s come since then.
The first day of The Amazing Race took place in Trujillo, but in more of a mountainous region with a lake. Challenges included: swimming across a lake and back (not a big one, thank goodness); two people out of each group of four sand boarding down a pretty big mountain; finding sixteen tadpoles in the lake and catching them, which was kind of a pain for me; learning a local dance; translating one of Inca Link’s mission statements onto a poster from Spanish to English; and, my favorite, eating cow stomachs and chicken feet. I can’t wait to go home and tell people I ate that stuff. Later that night, after cleaning off, we went to a church in Trujillo associated with my denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, where the pastor was doing a series on marriage based around the movie “Fireproof”. They even showed a clip of the movie dubbed in Spanish! For somebody like me, it was really moving to see that.
The next day, our groups were switched around a little bit, and we started doing more challenges in the actual city of Trujillo. We started out around the children’s home in the lands surrounding it, with challenges like finding a rock of a certain size and building bricks outside of the children’s home. Then we started taking buses into Trujillo for more challenges: we washed windows at a local daycare center (another place I remember serving at); we danced outside a city street with an Inca Link poster; one member of each group had to stay on a surfboard in the Pacific Ocean for five seconds (outside a market that I shopped at four years ago); and at the beach, we had to use plastic cups to basically build a sandcastle. That I think was my favorite day of the Race, not only because my group was actually pretty awesome and did really well, but also I ended up seeing a lot of places I had been to before. However, that was sadly the end of my time in Trujillo: that night, we got on a bus to head towards the border of Peru and Ecuador.
That morning, we got off the bus, we got on another one, and then Gustavo drove us all in an Inca Link van across the border into Ecuador. So total, we traveled about 24 hours from Trujillo to our next destination. That place was El Carmen, where the interns got to stay with Inca Link missionaries for the night. Before we went to bed, the other guys I was staying with and I got to pray for that family… which I’m pretty sure was the first time I’ve ever prayed in Spanish.
That day, we did more challenges around El Carmen, starting with going to a banana plantation and learning how to take plátanas out of a tree, clean them, and box them to be shipped around the world. (We got to eat some, too, and they were darn good!) After that, we got to hear the testimony of a pastor at an Alliance church across the street from the plantation, and we all got to pray for him. After that, we eventually got into the city, where Brent and Heather, in my group for the day, had their biggest challenge: help push a tricicleta (a mode of transportation where a man bikes a cart down the street for people to sit in) down a street in El Carmen to our next challenge. They pushed hard, and we made good time in order to do our next challenge, which was getting rid of weeds and stuff in a certain space in a local field. Most of us got pretty muddy, but after washing off a little, we headed to our next destination: Quito! There, we saw the Browns again, I got my other luggage back, and we slept at the CasaBlanca facility that Inca Link uses as a shelter for locals in need… which I’ll admit is a really nice facility.
However, we didn’t stay at CasaBlanca for very long. The next morning, we took a backpack of essentials and started a five-hour drive to Huaticocha, a city in Ecuador that’s pretty much outside the jungle. There, we met Mark and Cheryl Schafer, missionaries in Huaticocha who welcomed us there and helped us get started on that day’s challenges. First, we had to find “yucca” and a sugar cane that were to be used to make part of that night’s dinner; next, we had to find lemons, also to be used for dinner; and after that came the biggest challenge of the day for me, canoeing back and forth on a local river, two people at a time. I hadn’t been canoeing for a very long time, so it was a little tricky, but we eventually got done, got to make dinner, and ate. Yucca actually tastes a little like a potato, in my opinion. However, what I didn’t get to taste was “chichi”, a drink made from boiled yucca that’s been chewed for two minutes by many people, then spat back into a pot, fermented (which we didn’t do), and drank. Apparently it didn’t taste very good. Props to the guys who drank that stuff.
After staying overnight at a mission home in Huaticocha, we all woke up for what we were warned would be the hardest day of the Amazing Race. At first, it wasn’t so bad: in groups, we led elementary-to-middle-school-aged students at a local Christian school in an hour-long activity, which gave me my first opportunity in four years (since Trujillo) to lead a Bible lesson in Spanish. But our next challenge, though short and sweet, was the toughest physically: walk two hours down a trail and up a muddy mountain to another school with more kids. I feel like I could have done a lot more with those kids if I hadn’t been out of breath and sweating from walking so long. But it was still pretty fun, and afterwards our last challenge was to go to a bridge we passed on the way to the mountain and jump off into the river below. THAT was awesome—I needed to get into the water after that hike. After that, we drove back to CasaBlanca and got ready for the last couple days of the race.
Day six of The Amazing Race took all the groups around different places in Quito. That meant that not only I got to see a lot of awesome new places, but I also had to use public transportation with my group that I hadn’t done before. I swear, I’d never been in a taxi before until today. And what was different today was that each group could work at its own pace, with no one waiting for them after a challenge was completed to give them a new clue. Our group went from CasaBlanca to a park to a soccer stadium to a morgue to a restaurant to even an amusement park, among other little places, all in eight hours or so. Once we finished, we all met at the Brown’s apartment in Quito for dinner and a debrief, which was pretty powerful.
And that's all for the first week or so. I'm going to try to keep posting stuff whenever I can, so feel free to keep up!