Recent Posts

November 28, 2012

Cusco is a magnificent place.  As the capital of the Inca Empire, it was so central to their people’s existence it became known as “the navel of the world.”  When Francisco Pizzaro and his motley cohort of conquistadores came upon the city in 1533, they marveled at its order, design and architecture.  Nearly 500 years later, people continue to flock here from all over the globe to walk its ancient streets, visit its churches and museums, sample its Andean cuisine and visit the countless archaeological sites scattered throughout the region.  According to a recent government report, in 2011 more than…

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November 26, 2012

San Jerónimo is located along the main highway that connects Cusco, the region’s capital, to Puno, the port city at the edge of Lake Titicaca which forms the southeastern boundary of Peru.  At 3,245 meters (10,646 feet) above sea level, the sun shines brightly most mornings and rain clouds often gather in the afternoons — local farmers are anxious for rain to water their recently-planted fields.  San Jerónimo’s founding dates back to the time of the Incas:  the royal family’s clan (panaca) was headquartered here.  During the colonial period a large plaza and many stone houses were built in this…

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November 25, 2012

Service in Huacarpay

Huacarpay is home to perhaps five hundred people — it’s hard to tell.  This one-street town at the edge of Huacarpay Lake was inundated by flood waters in January 2010 and life has still not returned to normal.  Frightened residents moved to higher ground on a ridge that overlooks the lake during four days of heavy rain.  Their adobe houses were saturated with water and began to collapse as the waters rose.  Living in tents above the town, they endured wind and cold temperatures in tents provided by U.S. AID, Backus Corporation (a Peruvian beverage maker) and other donors.  The…

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November 21, 2012

Service in Lucre

Lucre, a mountain hamlet of 4,000 people, is nestled between steep slopes and framed by blue skies.    The first Mennonite Church in Peru was founded here in the 1980s and each Sunday a group of Spanish- and Quechua-speakers worships here.  On the other days of the week the members of Iglesia Evangelica Menonita de Lucre (Lucre Mennonite Evangelical Church) venture into the surrounding hills to tend their animals and work their fields.  This is a high altitude location: 3,162 meters, or 10,374 feet, above sea level.  But the lay of the land and the protection offered by the surrounding mountains…

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November 16, 2012

Service in Ayacucho

Ayacucho, the “stately city,” is the political and economic capital of the departamento (state) of the same name.  Locals call the city Huamanga.  Thirty-three catholic churches dominate the skyline, one for each year of Jesus’ life.  At 2,761 meters (about 9,000 feet) above sea level, the skies are clear and sunny most days, with warm temperatures and commanding views of the surrounding hillsides.  Ayacucho means “corner of the dead” in Quechua, a name given to the city by Simon Bolivar shortly after Peru’s war of independence against Spain was won on a battlefield nearby.  Sadly, the name became apt once…

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November 13, 2012

Service in Huanta

Huanta, the “Emerald of the Andes,” is situated at 2,627 meters (over 8,600 feet) above sea level.  Despite the high elevation, the sun shines almost every day in this protected valley and the daytime temperatures are warm.  Home to over 80,000 people, this small city feels more like a mountain town.   Most of its inhabitants moved here to escape the violence between the Shining Path Maoist terrorist movement and the Peruvian government in the 1980s and early 90s.   These rural transplants have settled into the many neighborhoods that surround the business district.  Here they have tried to make a new…

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November 6, 2012

Service in San Ramon

San Ramon, gateway to Peru’s central rain forest, is home to 30,000 people.  Life at 770 meters (about 2500 feet) above sea level is calm and relaxed; the weather is hot and sunny most of the time, with rain showers every few days to cool down the temperature and bring needed rain to the wide variety of plants and trees that thrive here.  The people of San Ramon are mixed as far as ethnicity — some are descended from the native Ashaninka people that have lived in this region for centuries; others trace their ancestry to the Italian migrants who…

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November 4, 2012

Service in Oxapampa

Oxapampa is a charming city of 10,000 inhabitants located in the lush green foothills of the Andes, some 1,800 meters (5,905 feet) above sea level.  Settled in 1891 by a group of colonists who originated in Austria’s Tirolean Alps, the city features a distinct culture that brings together European, Native and Spanish elements.  The city has attracted migrants from the surrounding villages who have come in search of work, opportunity and education for their children. Schools often fail, however, in their attempt to teach children how to read and write.  According to one source, while most Peruvian children claim they…

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November 2, 2012


Students are serving in schools, churches, clinics, farms and non-governmental organizations in three regions:  the southern Andes (Cusco, San Jeronimo, Huacarpay and Lucre), the Ayacucho area (Huamanga and Huanta) and the central rain forest (Oxapampa and San Ramon).  After our ten-day journey together in the Andes and our visit to Machu Picchu we parted ways:  nine of the students remained in the southern Andes to meet their new host families and begin their service assignments, while the other half of the group flew back to Lima with the directors and then boarded overnight buses for Ayacucho and the rain forest….

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November 1, 2012

Machu Picchu

What is this amazing place, perched high above the Urubamba River on a granite mountain?  Who built it?  And why?  Hiram Bingham, often credited with discovering Machu Picchu, thought it was Vilcabamba, the famed “lost city of the Incas”.  It turns out that Vilcabamba, where Manco Inca hid from the Spanish, is farther down the river and much less spectacular.  And local farmers knew about Machu Picchu’s existence long before Bingham cut back the vegetation that covered most of the stones and published his photos in National Geographic a century ago. Another archaeologist who researched the area several decades later…

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