The Church Being the Church

I shamelessly stole the title of this post from the paparazzi that shadowed us Monday and Tuesday: an LCMS staff writer and photographer who came to Lima to document "the church being the church" for a story that'll run in the Spring 2020 edition of Lutherans Engage the World.

Not a bunch of privileged Anglos from Midwestern suburbia taking pity on people of humble means. Not a thinly disguised tour group that did some good deeds in between 1st century Incan and 16th century Baroque architecture or dulce de leche stuffed croissants and ceviche (although we enjoyed all of the above). Just God's people who happen to have been born in one place and grown up speaking one language doing a lot of mutual sharing, learning, laughing, crying, teaching, encouraging, praying, and hugging with more of God's people who happen to have been born in another place and grown up speaking another language. Notice I didn't say which was which. Mere days into their time in Lima, last week's short-term team picked up on the fact that so much of humanity is universal. A new mom's self-doubt. A toddler's mischievous expression. A new believer's curiosity. And all of our sinful condition and need for a Savior.

On the surface, team members exercised their vocations to teach people - at both LCMS church plants, in their homes, at a public school, in a hospital waiting room, and in a hillside community - about simple ways to improve their health. It's not common knowledge everywhere in the world that a diet void of color is also void of nutrients, or that dousing a burn in mayonnaise invites infection. On a deeper level, they connected these and other simple lessons with Gospel truths, which led to connections with people, which has already led to people connecting with the local church, and it was awesome. Take a look.

Monday was a full day of visits in Los Olivos. We walked to some homes, took the bus to others, and Uber-ed to still others. 

In his words, Jorge's home is small, but his heart is big! 

The local team did a great job publicizing Tuesday's workshop at a public school within walking distance of Los Olivos. 

Jen, Ginger, Mel, and Sam are ready to get kids' blood pumping with an interactive food group guessing game. 

More than 80 people - largely parents - were jostling to see and hear the presenters by the time all was said and done!

We gave the kids Oreos...and then floss, toothbrushes, and toothpaste!

A future M.D. just like team leader Jen?
Two school moms engaged me in conversation about future church-sponsored activities. Both left with contact information in hand!

Vicar Elvis and Pastor Walterson were able to speak with a number of others, one of whom sent Elvis a WhatsApp message over lunch that same day!

Hospital visit game plan...aaaaaand break! I escorted the writer and photographer to La Victoria midway through the afternoon but heard plenty of stories of being in the right place at the right time. 

On the bus to Cerro San Cosme, a hillside community of 30,000, Wednesday morning. I would have had to pry my knuckles off the edge of my seat to take a picture of the moto (a 3-wheeled vehicle with a cloth canopy covering and a bench seat that fits 2-3 people, known elsewhere as a tuk-tuk) ride that followed.

These ladies had been there since 6:30 am preparing lunch for us. P.S. I recognized the woman in the black flowered blouse's glasses from November's Vision for All clinic!

We addressed a roomful of children in the morning. Having refined our delivery after yesterday's debut, it was here, in my opinion, that we did the best job of explaining the why of being fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image behind caring for our bodies. 

It was also the only place we included an activity with the hand-washing lesson. Sam put honey on one person's hand and then gave us 60 seconds to greet as many people as possible. The stickiness spread like, well, germs!

Can we talk about lunch for a second? Ours wasn't cooked in a hole in the ground as is traditional, but the love that went into this Styrofoam plate of pachamaca elevated humble ingredients to the realm of the divine. Also, it's taken me three trips to fully grasp the extent of Peru's potato obsession. There are over 4,000 varieties, some of which are still being investigated to determine whether or not they're edible. 

We had a few hours until the senior club members we'd be addressing in the afternoon would arrive, so Dr. Felix from the local health station gave us a walking tour of one small sector of the Cerro

Pastor Osmel could have been teaching a course on Church Planting 101: Identify a community. Begin attending regular activities so as to make contacts. Seek out community leaders. Build goodwill with said leaders. And so on. 

Our walk turned into somewhat of a culinary tour, with an Inca Kola toast followed by gelatinas sold by another health station representative. 

Lima. Is. HUGE. 

Seniors were starting to come out of the woodwork as we headed back.

The club started with eight charter members 19 years ago and now overflows its temporary meeting space in the former health station building. 

We switched back into visit mode on Thursday, this time in La Victoria. Elizabeth's four boys thought retired fireman/paramedic Doug's firetruck pics were the coolest

Cancer survivor Ginger was - not coincidentally - part of the group that visited Buby, recently diagnosed with melanoma. 

Ginger is ALSO a Scrabble player, and a good one at that! 

Remember that 16th century Baroque architecture? This photo op is about two blocks from the Saint Francis Monastery, which we toured Friday morning before heading to Castillo Fuerte. 

We enjoyed Norma's delicious cooking, shared our lineup of lessons with the kids who weren't rehearsing for later on, and then were treated to an exhibition of crafts, drama, and music to celebrate the end of the summer session. 

Saturday morning, we went backwards in time to 200 A.D. I'd been to Pachacamac before in July, but this time there were LLAMAS (far left, about halfway up)!

Saturday it was back to Castillo Fuerte for 4:00 pm Bible school. Jorge demonstrated his exceptional abilities with the kids as he taught the Transfiguration story. 

I interpreted as the team shared its final workshop with a smattering of parents at 6:00 pm. 

The evening, and the week, ended with a lomo saltado feast courtesy of Jorge's wife Betzabeth, and tres leches cake for birthday girl Kelley!

By now, each member of the team has safely reached his or her next destination. For some, it was Cusco and Machu Picchu. For Courtney, Jamielynn, and I it was Santiago, at 12:30 am on Monday morning. I feel like I'm doing a 180 in terms of my work focus in the coming days, but I won't soon forget all of the ways I saw the church in one part of the world being the church for people from another part of the world. As before, who's who is irrelevant. I'm also excited about refining our CHE (Community Health Evangelism) practices and doing more of it in LAC, especially now that we have a 2nd RN, Tirzah Krey, as a part of the regional team!

Until next time, blessings!