Recent Posts

May 22, 2013

Mountains and Valleys

The Andes are a fascinating place, steeped in history and buzzing with activity.  It is commonly held that the Inca people believed in a variety of dieties, including the sun, the stars and the snow-capped mountains.  But one of our speakers, Juan Carlos Machicado, has a different perspective on Andean spirituality.  His studies of Spanish manuscripts and Inca archaeology, along with visits to distant communities where the old ways are still practiced, lead him to the conclusion that the Incas as well as many cultures that preceded them believed in a creator God named Wiracocha who, along with Pachamama (mother…

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May 19, 2013

The Peasantry

We are reading a book entitled A Path of Our Own: An Andean Village and Tomorrow’s Economy of Values.  The author, Adam K. Webb, describes how more than one-third of the earth’s inhabitants live as peasants.  Subsistence farmers, they plant crops and tend animals much as their ancestors did.  While many in the Global North consider this lifestyle backward or undeveloped, Webb points out that peasant life can have redeeming qualities.  The peasantry places a greater emphasis on traditional values such as equity and fairness, life in community, family ties and a basic sense of decency that are becoming increasingly…

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May 10, 2013

We began our first week of study with a colloquium presentation on income and poverty in Peru — how poor is this country relative to the U.S.?  We discovered that the average income is about five times higher in the U.S. when the difference in cost of living is accounted for.  But Peru’s average income is growing about three times faster and the poverty rate is falling quickly.  And compared to other SST countries (e.g. Nicaragua, Cambodia), income is several times higher and much less equally distributed.  There is tremendous wealth concentrated in the capital of Lima, much of it…

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May 7, 2013

Life in the Andes

If our purpose is to study the changes happening in Peru — the movement from a traditional Andean culture to a society influenced by North America and connected to the global economy – it makes sense to begin in the beginning.  If we had a time machine, we’d simply dial back to the 1400’s, a century before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors on South American soil, and experience life in an Inca village.  But Apple hasn’t invented this device yet– or at least it hasn’t been released to the public.  So instead we boarded a jet for Cusco, one-time…

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May 4, 2013


This country is incredibly diverse — how do we even begin to learn about Peru and the changes that are taking place here as the nation evolves from a people steeped in Inca culture and tradition to an up-and-coming global player? The students began their first day on Peruvian soil walking the streets of Miraflores, recovering from their 24-hour journey from Goshen and taking in the sights, sounds and smells all around them.  The district of Miraflores and neighboring San Isidro are affluent by any standard.  The group instantly recognized names and businesses that are common in North America:  Starbucks,…

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May 2, 2013


Twenty-two students stepped into the cool evening air outside Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport an hour and a half ago.  The group appeared weary from a long journey, but happy to be here at last and definitely ready to begin a new adventure.  They made it through immigration and customs in record time, about an hour, and we boarded the bus for a quiet hostel in Miraflores.  Tomorrow we begin the program with a day of orientation here in Peru’s capital.  Now it’s time to get some rest.    

May 1, 2013


As we prepare to welcome our next group of SST students we reflect on these words from Henri Nouwen: “Latin America:  impressive wealth and degrading poverty, splendid flowers and dusty broken roads, loving people and cruel torturers, smiling children and soldiers who kill.  It is here that we have to hunt for God’s treasure.” And hunt we will… But before we were ready to receive the 22 students who will step off the plane Wednesday night, we needed to travel north to Ecuador to renew our visas, rest our bodies and refresh our spirits.  We celebrated three birthdays — Sierra’s…

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April 8, 2013


Excitement mixed with sadness permeated the air at Casa Goshen.  The students had two hours to pack up their belongings, making sure their suitcases weighed in at just under 50 pounds.  We shared a final dinner prepared by Glicerio, Alicia’s son-in-law, who was trained in culinary arts at the Marriot Hotel in Miraflores — the strips of beef melted in our mouths and the maracuya (passion fruit) juice tingled our tongues.  Celia, our study coordinator, and several host families dropped by to say goodbye.  Then, in groups of twos and fours, the students lugged their suitcases down the three sets…

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April 8, 2013


The Spring 2013 Study Service Term in Peru finished with a retreat at the Scripture Union Center in Kauai.  Located two hours south of Lima, Kauai is situated on a sandy beach far from the hustle and bustle of the city.  The students presented the research they did while on service, with topics ranging from “Peruvian Forms of Healing” to “Adobe in the Jungle.”  We worshiped together and talked about returning to the US, including the phenomenon of reverse culture shock.  And we enjoyed some recreation on the beach — this is the end of summer in the southern hemisphere…

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April 5, 2013


Emma and Mandy are volunteering at two preschools and one after-school program in the rain forest city of Oxapampa.  According to anecdotes from Peruvian teachers and school administrators, the nation’s education system is underfunded, with underpaid teachers, classrooms devoid of basic supplies and a pedagogy that emphasizes rote memory over creativity or critical thinking.  Conscious that the system is not preparing students adequately for adult life, the students are pushed harder each year.  But the added pressure does little to improve outcomes; it frustrates and discourages the children. One teacher recently quipped, “They are burned out by first grade.”  To…

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