Sunday, October 16 - Cañete, Peru

Hola querida familia y amigos!  
First of all let me reassure you that we have all arrived safely and are doing very well here in Peru- demos gracias a Dios!  (Thanks be to God!)  Wow – is this ever an amazing adventure!  Our team of 23 members from all over Canada and our many hosts (from Peru and two from the US, doubling as translators), have been busy since the moment we said ‘yes’ to this mission – and life here is even busier!  Every day feels like two days!
The people here gave us a phenomenal welcome Sunday night when we arrived in Cañete which really took many of us by surprise!  They must have spent more than the better part of a month preparing this celebration for us, which included singing both their national anthem and ours, as well as performing songs, skits and dances….and of course preparing a feast for us afterwards.  The celebration included many surprises for our team – some shocking, others leaving us very puzzled – and all of them leaving their mark on our hearts in one form or fashion.
I think most of us were amazed that they were celebrating our arrival in such a grand fashion, all dressed up as if they were attending a very formal event, while having the children dressed in suits or beautiful dresses escort each one of us to our seats. We thought we had come here to serve them! The children and adults alike looked so sharp and were so warm and affectionate, and they were obviously excited to welcome us!  One member of our team said they felt like they were being treated as if they were prime minister!
Putting the show together in both languages so that we could both enjoy and understand what was being said is just one example among many of the thoughtfulness that characterizes the people here.  When performing a traditional local dance, the traditional costumes with their beautiful colors took many of us by surprise, knowing that we had arrived in an impoverished area.  There was no indication anywhere that we were among some of the world’s poorest because they gave us their finest!  They even presented each one of us with a wrapped gift, moving many members of our team to tears.  Here we came to serve them and all they did was honor us, serve us, celebrate us and show us their love and appreciation.
After the initial songs and dances, and brief introductions to their land and culture, complete with brightly colored costumes and bright smiles to match, the skits took us into the heart of the issues the children and families struggle with each day.  When the title of one song was introduced “Let me die”, there was a sudden silence among us – no one clapped to welcome the performer, and a great awkwardness hung over the room like a dark cloud. The emcee appeared to be confused and invited us once again to applaud, but we were silent – that heavy silence that said something was very wrong here. These skits performed by children of all ages dealt with hunger, cold, imprisonment, war, violence, addictions,  sickness and death – topics too depressing for children to watch, never mind that they were enacting them! When this song was announced, we didn’t know how to respond!  The stark images of desperate struggles described in verse after verse certainly made many of us feel uncomfortable, and certainly these were not child-appropriate themes, but to our relief, the title of the song referred  to the death to self  that is required of someone who is willing to lay aside their own plans in life in order to help those in need.
Knowing that the heart of our mission is to apply ourselves to the corporal acts of mercy, these acts of mercy were integrated into the final messages of the performances – the children get it, but do we?  Mercy and forgiveness, charity and kindness, denying oneself to be at the service of the needy – these themes were woven into the very fabric of their songs and skits as the children acknowledged the need for mercy:  forgiveness; kindness; friendship; sharing our resources; compassion…acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and even prisoners and their families are suffering from these mistakes; and the need to reach out to those in need, no matter who they are or how they are suffering. This is a universal call to brotherhood.
I couldn’t help but ponder that back home our children put on songs and skits about happy topics – fun things – and here we are seeing the children present topics that we protect our own children from even hearing about!  How sad and depressing!  Yet this is a way of life for some of these little ones.  Learning to work out the issues through drama, and introducing the works of mercy in response to tragic circumstances, must help the children to process some of life’s hardships.
How many of us would wish such things upon our own children?  We protect our own back home, so why do these children have to be exposed? Are they not our children too?
Coming out of there with some heavy hearts, but also hearts that were deeply touched by the generosity and love of these people, many of us were left with mixed feelings. This was the preamble that prepared the stage for the days ahead where we would encounter some of each – poverty and hardship – love and generosity.  Here in Cañete, they go hand in hand!
Vaya con Dios!  More to come!
God bless you all!

Shared by Mary, a volunteer on our 2016 Solidarity Tour in Peru