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July 30, 2013


The students boarded a Peruvian bus one last time to travel from our home, Casa Goshen, to Lima’s Jorge Chavez Airport.  They checked in their luggage, received their boarding passes and posed for one last group photo.  They received their last minute instructions — first go through security, then immigration, then, if you like chocolate, try the samples in the Britta store near your departure gate.  Then we hugged and shared goodbyes and the students hopped on the escalator to ascend to the second floor departure area. Our family has had a rare privilege:  leading ten groups of students through…

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July 30, 2013


The semester ended with a final retreat in Kauai, a conference center located on the Pacific Coast two hours south of Lima.  This is winter in the southern hemisphere and the weather is cloudy and cold.  No matter — whether hot or cold, sunny or overcast, the view is immense, the ocean timeless and the beach a fitting setting for the students’ final days in Peru.  This last weekend together was a time for reflection, a chance to tell stories and begin saying our goodbyes.  It was also a time for questions:  What have we learned while studying, serving and…

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July 27, 2013

Service in Oxapampa

Jessica and Cara’s service assignment is in Oxapampa.  This charming town of 10,000 inhabitants is sometimes called “Little Switzerland.”  An immigrant population from Austria and Germany settled here in the late 19th century and the food, architecture and certain aspects of the local culture have a distinct European flavor.  At 1.800 meters (5,905 feet) above sea level, the temperatures are pleasant — not too hot, not too cold — although many residents are noticing the affects of climate change.  This “summer” (dry) season is a lot more like the “winter” (wet) season than people are accustomed to. Jessica serves at…

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July 26, 2013

Service in Marankiari

Petey and Clayton are serving in an indigenous community perched on a hillside far above the Perene River valley.  San Miguel de Marankiari is home to several dozen native Ashaninka families, most of whom are descended from a common great-great-grandfather.  The Ashaninka people are quickly becoming westernized due to forces outside their control.  Ecomundos, a nonprofit organization founded by members of the community, is attempting to preserve key aspects of Ashaninka identity and customs.  Their hope is that cultural tourism, in which foreigners pay to visit and stay overnight in the community in order to experience the unique aspects of…

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July 24, 2013

Service in Chanchamayo

Philip, Elizabeth and Jenna are serving in the province of Chanchamayo.  This is the gateway to the selva central, Peru’s central rain forest.  It is the dry season in the jungle, but there is still enough rain to keep the surrounding hillsides lush and green.  The city where the students volunteer, San Ramon, is situated on the eastern flank of the Andes mountains.  At 770 meters (2,526 feet) above sea level, the temperatures are warm, sometimes hot, during the day.  The evenings are cool and pleasant.  The natural world resembles a paradise in this part of Peru, but life in…

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July 17, 2013

Service in Tarma

Megan, Luke and Dan are volunteering in Tarma, the “Pearl of the Andes.”  Also known as the City of Flowers, Tarma is situated in a protected valley on the eastern flank of the highest mountains in the western hemisphere.  The sunny climate is conducive to agriculture and flowers are exported to Lima and other markets on the Peruvian coast.  Tarma is located on the Carretera Central, the main highway linking Peru’s capital to the central rain forest, and trucks arrive daily bringing tropical fruits and other products grown in the jungle. Megan and Luke are serving at Colegio Fe y…

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July 14, 2013

Service in Cuchipampa

Emily volunteers at a Christian primary school perched on a hillside far above the city of Huamanga.  The neighborhood of Cuchipampa, “Hog Flats” in the local dialect of Quechua, was recently settled by migrants from the countryside of Ayacucho.  Most of the streets are still unpaved and the houses are in various states of construction.  Missionaries from North America planted a church here several years ago:  Emanuel (“God is With Us”) Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  The church holds worship services in Quechua on Sunday mornings and programs for youth as well as an outreach ministry to neighborhood families during the week. …

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July 13, 2013

Service in Huamanga

Kelly, Nikita and Mary are volunteering in the bustling capital of Ayacucho departmento (state).  San Juan de la Frontera de Huamanga, or simply Huamanga, is home to 170,000 people.  The city lies in a protected valley some 2,746 meters (9,009 feet) above sea level.  Known as the “City of Churches,” Huamanga was founded in 1540 and built around a large central plaza.  The grand architecture still stands, giving the city a colonial flavor that dates back hundreds of years.  People seem especially proud of the battle of independence that was fought on a mountainside not far from the city.  An…

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July 7, 2013

Stephen, Michael and Anna are teaching in schools in a humble sector of the capital of the Departamento de Ayacucho (Ayacucho state).  The district of San Juan Bautista, named after John the Baptist, is situated on the southeast side of the city and is home to over 38,000 people.  At 2,734 meters (8,969 feet) above sea level, there is a large daily variation in temperature.  At night the temperature drops to the mid-thirties, but in the afternoon the sun shines brightly and the temperature climbs back up into the 70s. Most of the residents of San Juan Bautista struggle to…

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July 3, 2013

Service in Huanta

Hannah and Kendall are serving in the city of Huanta:  Population = 84,000, Elevation = 2,624 meters (8,609 feet) above sea level.  The valley where Huanta is situated is unusually green, featuring a wide variety of vegetation and earning it the nickname “Emerald of the Andes.”  The climate is sunny and dry, with cool mornings and hot afternoons.  Huanta feels more like a small town than a growing city.  The population swelled during the 1980s and 90s as people fled the countryside to escape the conflict between the Shining Path terrorists and government soldiers.  Huanta continues to grow as people…

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