Adventure in the Andes — Part 1

What might it be like to live in the highest mountain range in the Americas?  We had an opportunity to learn and serve in the Andes during an extended visit and will share our experiences in a series of posts over the next few days.

Our adventure began with a five-day trip to the town of San Jerónimo, home to a Mennonite Church planted by North American missionaries more than twenty years ago.  Members hosted students in their homes and the pastoral team organized a variety of service projects for us.  Students took turns volunteering at a medical clinic while others assisted teachers at a primary school.  The rest spent time outdoors assisting with recovery efforts from the flood of early 2010 – moving salvageable materials from a collapsed adobe structure and carrying large stones to shore up a river bank undercut by rising water.

The work week ended with a national holiday called Día del Estudiante (Student Day).  We joined in the festivities, singing at the opening convocation at the primary school and accompanying 230 students and their teachers on a field trip to a recreation complex outside of town.  What fun!

Our visit coincided with the annual gathering of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita del Perú (Mennonite Evangelical Church of Peru).  We were honored to take part in this all-day gathering, bringing greetings from our brothers and sisters in North America and singing “We are Marching in the Light of God” in Swahili, English and Spanish.  Our Peruvian hosts sang praise songs in Peru’s two official languages — Spanish and Quechua — accompanied by dancers in traditional Andean costumes.  After worship we shared a fellowship meal of chicken and potatoes, then played volleyball, soccer and a children’s game organized by a student with summer camp staff experience:  “This is but a simple song, follow me and sing along…”