Peru SST: The toughest job we’ll ever love
By Richard R. Aguirre and Judy Weaver
Peru Study-Service Term Co-Directors, 2013-2014
Today, Aug. 1, 2014, is a significant day for the Peru Study-Service Term program and for us. Our formal responsibilities end today as directors of the program from 2013 to 2014, and Duane Stoltzfus and Karen Sherer Stoltzfus assume leadership for 2014-2015. In addition, today we celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. And in five days, we are scheduled to leave Peru and return to our home in Goshen and to the Goshen College community.
Since arriving in Peru on July 21, 2013 we have received many blessings, chief among them the opportunity to lead 40 wonderful students in learning about and serving in Peru. These intelligent, curious, enthusiastic and kind students are the sole reason we were in Peru and it has been a great privilege to serve as their SST leaders. Because of them, we have explored much of Peru – coast, mountains and jungle and from Arequipa and Ayacucho and Lima and Machu Picchu to La Merced and Oxapampa and Tacna and Tarma. What an extraordinary country!
The seven students who made up the fall unit were Alan Leichty, Becca Augsburger, Jacob Putnam, Joshua Schlabach, Landon Slabaugh, Lauren Weaver and Rudy Litwiller.
Our 15 spring semester students were Aimee Flaming, April Zehr, Caleb Beachy, Dean Nafziger, Derek Johnson, Gina Gautsche, Gretchen Geyer, Jackson Bush, Jake Smucker, Jonathan Mark, Natalie Graber, Neal Brubaker, Malaina Weldy, Maria Thomas, and Thomas Applegate.
Finally, the 18 members of our summer unit were Alejandro Genis, Andrew Leaman, Brian Sutter, Brody Thomas, Derek Schwartz, Derek Swartzendruber, Edith Fraire, Emma Caskey, Jaime Stack, Joel Yoder, Leah Amstutz, Lucas Harnish, Matt Wimmer, Michael Darby, Miranda Earnhart, Sierra Wheeler, Stefan Baumgartner and Tim Lehman. They arrived back in the United States on Monday.
Besides our amazing students, we also are grateful for the support and prayers of the Goshen College community. Leading SST is a 24/7 responsibility and we could not have done it without the unwavering support of Associate Academic Dean and Director of International Education Tom Meyers and Administrative Assistant Chris Kennel. We appreciate the help we received from the Communications and Marketing Office, and the Accounting Office. We also owe special thanks to all of the previous Peru SST directors, especially our outstanding predecessors, Jerrell and Jane Ross Richer.
Speaking of directors, the Peru SST program is now in the extremely capable hands of Duane and Karen, who served as directors here in 2007-2008. Duane is a professor of communication at Goshen College and chair of the Communication Department and Karen served as the executive director of Family Christian Development Center in Nappanee. Since arriving back in Peru on July 22, they have renewed key contacts, reacquainted themselves with Lima, and begun preparing the fall program with their study and service coordinators. Even as we brief them about the current program, including academics, finances, logistics and service assignments, we know there is much Duane and Karen could still teach us.
Throughout our time in Peru, we were guided by Goshen College’s core values of Christ-centeredness, passionate learning, servant leadership, compassionate peacemaking and global citizenship. We also were inspired by the college’s vision to be recognized as “an influential leader in liberal arts education focusing on international, intercultural, interdisciplinary, and integrative teaching and learning.” In that regard, we believe Goshen’s pioneering SST program is more relevant than ever in a world where so many people live in distrust and conflict.
For us now, we can hardly wait to see family and friends and to get back on campus. At the same time, we are sad to be leaving dear friends in Peru. It is tough to say goodbye to Study Coordinator Celia Vasquez, Service Coordinator Wilfredo “Willy” Villavicencio and Program Assistant Alicia Taipe Tello. We also have formed strong bonds with our excellent Spanish teachers, guest lecturers, service providers and host families in Lima and throughout Peru. We have received more hospitality and kindness from Peruvians than we could ever acknowledge or repay.
As we end this blog and close the book on the Peru SST unit for 2013-2014, we want to conclude with a prayer we have taught (and recited with) all three student groups we have led. It is a prayer that has been special to us throughout our marriage of a Catholic born in Texas and a Mennonite born in Indiana – the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. This prayer will always remind us of our time in Peru and what we encouraged our students to provide while on service.
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console:
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Hasta luego, Perú. Esperamos volver algún día!
(See you later, Peru. We hope to return someday!)