Lucre, a mountain hamlet of 4,000 people, is nestled between steep slopes and framed by blue skies. The first Mennonite Church in Peru was founded here in the 1980s and each Sunday a group of Spanish- and Quechua-speakers worships here. On the other days of the week the members of Iglesia Evangelica Menonita de Lucre (Lucre Mennonite Evangelical Church) venture into the surrounding hills to tend their animals and work their fields. This is a high altitude location: 3,162 meters, or 10,374 feet, above sea level. But the lay of the land and the protection offered by the surrounding mountains gives Lucre a distinctly warm and calm micro-climate. This is late Spring in the southern hemisphere — the corn, potatoes and quinua have been planted and it is time to remove the weeds that would otherwise use up the nutrients in the soil and the scarce water channeled here from far above. On this side of the valley is a long, horizontal canal that was dug into the side of the mountain centuries ago and still provides irrigation water to the fields near the village.
Brian is volunteering on a farm owned by elderly members of the church, Teodora and Victor, and their daughter, Margarita. He has helped out in a variety of ways since he arrived in October. Margarita is a pioneer among the villagers — she was the first to accept the offer of peach tree seedlings in a project established by the local government to diversify agriculture in this traditional farming community. The rootstock of each young tree is grafted with a tasty variety of peach that has a good market among consumers and 160+ trees have been planted in one of the family’s fields near the river. Brian helps to remove the leaves from the rootstock of each tree to favor the leaves that have emerged from the scion, or graft. He has also planted potatoes and removed weeds from the corn planted among the trees to provide food for the family this season — the peaches won’t be ready for at least three more years. To protect the field from intrusion by animals or thieves, Brian has planted a large number of spiny pakpaka plants on the fence row. And when he is not busy in the fields, he does a little home improvement (e.g. the construction of a new floor in the second-story of the family’s adobe home), plays soccer with the children at Promesa School and spends time with his little brother, Jared. Brian has a great attitude and a willing spirit and his host family appreciates the time and energy he has shared with them, both on their farm and in their home.