We arrived in Chiclayo, a coastal city about 12 hours north of Lima, on a Friday, after an overnight bus trip. We stopped at a hotel only long enough to drop off our bags and then headed out on the dusty highway that leads west to Pimentel, a beach resort town.
About halfway between Chiclayo and Pimentel, we found Colegio Harvest, a Baptist mission school for the deaf that Lee and Eva Johnson started in 1995.
Lee and Eva warmly welcomed us to the school in the late morning. Adriene, Armando and Jessica, who are majoring in American Sign Language at the college, are serving as teaching assistants. Eva is the administrator at the school, which currently enrolls 32 deaf students.
We arrived just in time to watch the transition from classroom study to recreation. By tradition, on Fridays the students have a chance to play volleyball and soccer together. As in all schools, some students appeared to enjoy this more than others! The Johnsons were generous with their time, giving us a tour of the school and sharing their vision for the future development of the facility, which happens little by little here in Peru.
In the afternoon, we began our visits to each host family home, starting with Jessica in the city of Santa Rosa, an hour’s run down the beach from Pimentel. Jessica’s sister, Jhomira, 18, is a student at Harvest. We shared a meal of aji de gallina with Jhomira and her parents, Juan Carlos and Gloria, and her brother Benjamin, 15. A fisherman, Juan Carlos led us up to the roof, where he stores a narrow, reed boat, called a caballito de totora, or “little horse,” made of the totora reed. It’s the traditional fishing boat for this region.
Later that evening, we joined Armando’s family in the city of Chiclayo, for a meal of chicken and rice in a peanut sauce. His parents, Guzman and Mary Ramos Mendoza, are both deaf and teach at the Harvest school. Their baby, Rosa, not quite 1, is hearing. Armando spends much of his free time at the house, including many weekend hours helping to install a tile floor in a downstairs apartment.
Our third stop was in the apartment of Jamie Rowe, an American missionary and teacher at Colegio Harvest. Adriene is living with Jamie and a 13-year-old Peruvian girl named Marleny. The three of them live in an apartment in Pimentel, right along the edge of the ocean. Jamie, who is from Tennessee, and partially deaf, began work at the school in April.
Nearing the end of our visit, we had the chance to attend a worship service for the deaf and the hearing on the Harvest campus. Lee Johnson, who serves as pastor, warmly welcomed us to the first of two services that morning. He preached from I Corinthians 11. He spoke without notes, simultaneously signing, urging us to be imitators of Christ, in the spirit of Paul. In the gathered group of worshipers, we recognized many of the children and teachers we had seen in the classrooms at school when we arrived on Friday.
A steady breeze came through the open windows; we were seated, about 40 of us, in rows on white plastic chairs. The subtext of the morning was unity. On the wall behind the lectern a banner read: Sordos and oyentes unidos para Cristo (Deaf and hearing united in Christ). On an adjoining wall were flags from Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay. The second preacher that day was a guest from Uruguay.
The Goshen group spent the afternoon together in Pimentel. We walked along the boardwalk (malecón) by the ocean — and even took one long walk into the ocean — courtesy of the longest pier in South America, where shippers once loaded sugar and cotton, and where tourists now angle for the best photo-ops.