Change is everywhere. From the KFC’s and Starbucks that are replacing traditional eateries here in Lima to the appearance of hundreds of off-highway vehicles for this weekend’s Dakar Rally, the old is giving way to the new. Globalization promises new opportunities, higher incomes and greater awareness of what is happening in the rest of the world to Peru’s thirty million inhabitants. At the same time, distinct customs, languages and ways of life are disappearing as people migrate from the mountains to the cities in search of what they hope will be a better life for themselves and their children.
This semester we will focus on the changes afoot in one of the world’s fastest growing economies. We will spend several weeks living and studying among traditional highland peoples whose ancestors have inhabited the western hemisphere’s highest mountain range for thousands of years. Next we’ll follow the footsteps of recent migrants, making our way to the nation’s growing capital to experience urban life and finish the study portion of the semester. At the term’s half way point, the students will disperse to the provinces to volunteer at schools, clinics, churches and nonprofit organizations. Afterwards we’ll gather at a retreat center on the southern coast to reflect on our experiences and discover how we ourselves have changed during this time in the global south.
As directors of the program, we continue to grow in our understanding of Latin American culture and customs, each day gaining more appreciation for this place and its people. After the departure of our last group in December, we spent time in neighboring Ecuador, both to renew our visas as well as renew our spirits and prepare for the arrival of our next group. This break in the action gave us a chance to collect ourselves as a family and reflect on our time as leaders of the Peru Study Service Term.
We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to receive nineteen new students this semester, walking with them as they discover Peru and learn more about themselves and their role in a changing world. We are grateful to God and thankful to Goshen College for this incredible learning experience. We also thank those who have supported the students as they prepare to depart for Peru — parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and other loved ones who will keep the students in their thoughts and prayers over the next three months.
Late Wednesday night Jerrell and our study coordinator, Celia Vasquez, will be among the thousands of family, friends and drivers meeting arriving passengers at Jorge Chavez International Airport. We’ll be the ones waving a hand-made purple sign and yelling “Goshen” as the students emerge from customs and step into the cool, moist air of a Lima summer night. Until then, we pray they will be blessed during their last few days at home — packing their bags, saying goodbye to their loved ones and preparing to open their hearts and minds to a new place and a new people.