Saying goodbye: rejoicing in the small victories 

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A beautiful rainbow seen from the shelter a few weeks ago

Lucas

He holds the weight
Of the world
In his eyes.
The gleam of life,
The dark of
Pain – his birthright –
And twelve year
Strength in his
DNA.
The world, bright –
And misleading –
Lies before him.

And there remains
The promise of
His soul crafted,
Born of the
Beloved,
Within the womb.
His hands with
Future purpose,
To recreate
His mother’s
Destiny –
His life from
Her ashes.

(a poem I wrote in reflection of one of the babies at the shelter, 8 months old, and his mother, 12 years old)

In just 7 days, I will be on a plane traveling to the USA. It feels surreal and a bit strange to be going back home – and it feels like these 9 months were hardly any time at all. But in these 9 months, I look back and rejoice in how God has worked through me and in me. A few sweet memories and small victories, specifically at the shelter, include:

  • Being present for the births of 4 babies to young adolescents. With one in particular we started in the shelter at the same time, and I witnessed her journey of pregnancy until the birth of her baby girl just last week. Praise the Lord for answering prayers for a safe and healthy birth!
  • Leading educative workshops for 20+ girls, reinforcing what they learn in school, and teaching 1 how to read!!! Also administering bi-semester evaluations and seeing major growth in their learning.
  • Sharing and baking 10 recipes with the adolescents (& only 1 was inedible!)
  • Playing countless volleyball games (fun fact: volleyball happens to be just as popular a sport as soccer in Peru)
  • Improvement in my dancing skills 🙂
  • Joining the social worker on home visits in rural and extremely poor areas of the jungle and countryside
  • Being the “madrina” to two girls for their graduations!
  • Achieving a growing fluency in Spanish!
  • Learning the power of valuing – of paying attention – to the one, right in front of me. Although I played no part in reducing the rate of sexual violence in this country nor altered any part of the broken and oppressive systems towards women and girls, I sought to love the one girl in front of me, to learn and listen to her needs and dreams, to understand her, to know her, to teach her, and to love her.
  • Having the opportunity to”lift up the arms” of the full-time staff who pour themselves into this difficult work every day. My high school mentor prayed this specifically, that I could be an Aaron to their Moses – and I see how God has answered that prayer.

Perhaps the biggest victory has been seeing my own growth through my relationships with the girls. They have expanded my ability to love, to have patience, to persevere, to work hard, to see the value of interdependence. To not be self-conscious when I dance. To love my blue eyes. To laugh. They have taught me more about being human. They are kids and teenage girls – yes, with stories full of more brokenness than most of us can imagine – but with good days and bad days, mood swings, and a passionate love for all things Korean. I love them dearly and truly feel part of my heart is staying with them.

As I prepare to depart, I think about the ordinary things that I will miss about living and working here. I will miss the loud Cumbia music (distinct to Peru) outside our house blasting in the nearby store. I will miss holding and playing with babies and toddlers every day. I will miss being called ‘Mamita’ by 30+ girls. I will miss the satisfaction in explaining subtraction and seeing the light-bulb go on! I will miss ‘abrazos de oso’ (bear hugs) and secret handshakes. I will miss the animals, the interesting and delicious fruit, the constant streaming of telenovelas or game shows. I will miss post-dinner conversations with my wise and joyful host mom. I will miss the moto-taxis, and constant activity in the house. I will miss the overwhelming hospitality. I will miss the delight in seeing something familiar from my home culture (i.e. nutella). I will miss feeling needed beyond my capacity and wishing there were three more of me to be able to be present to every girl’s needs. I will miss knowing and recognizing the Latin American music on the radio. I will miss the never ending adventures in baking and praying my recipe comes out half-decent. I will miss witnessing how these girls – the least of these – touch those they interact with just by being who they are.

Even though goodbyes are hard, they are also beautiful knowing how God has very much been faithful and present with me during my time in Peru – in providing the best and most gracious host family, work that didn’t feel like work at all, countless opportunities to practice showing His love, and His grace showing up in hard moments. Thank you for all your faithful prayers, words of encouragement, and thoughts in this season. It is by the grace of God through your generosity that I was able to serve in Peru and become part of the work He is already doing here. All glory be to God who surrounds the oppressed with His perfect, steadfast love.

As I prepare to leave and enter into the next threshold, I appreciate prayers for safe travels, provision for a job, and a smooth process of re-entry. Thank you and love to you all!
Processed with VSCO with t1 presetSee you in the USA,
Lynnae

**please continue praying for and following Casa Del Buen Trato. Their facebook page, which contains updates as well as a link to donate,  is: https://www.facebook.com/CasaBuenTratoHovde/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

**Check out below for some photos of recent adventures

Visiting the hometown of my host mom, 6 hours away in the rural countryside, & visiting Tantamayo, which contains beautiful Incan ruins

 A fun & relaxing weekend in Tingo Maria, a nearby jungle town. My friend & I swam in a waterfall, took a spontaneous river boat ride, walked through a national park, & drank out of coconuts!

Celebrating the birthday of my host dad (L); a visit to Kotosh, Huanuco’s own archeological site, with Mali, my host mom, & Johanna (a German volunteer who’s been here for the past 6 weeks) (R)

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7 months in: lessons learned & lived

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Today my post is 2-part: a reflection and a photo-journey of my life in recent weeks. After 7 months of living and working in Hnuco, I decided it’d be worthwhile to share some lessons I’ve learned from (1) the people I’ve had the privilege of sharing my life with (2) the wider Peruvian culture and (3) my personal experience being immersed in a different culture and living overseas (in no particular order):

– People are more important than things. This is one way in which I have seen God reflected in this culture. Whether it’s greeting everyone in the room, sharing your snack, or stopping to have a conversation for a few minutes even if you’re running late, relationships matter.

– The beauty of hospitality. No matter who you are, you deserve to be welcomed. “One of the most rewarding aspects of living in a strange land is the experience of being loved not for what we do, but for who we are.” (Henri Nouwen). What a beautiful thing it has been to share life with a family who has shown genuine love towards me just for being who I am – my sometimes awkward, clumsy, book-loving, coffee-drinking, all-too American self.

– As an American, I feel entitled to fair treatment – even in a foreign country! My culture has so shaped me to grab hold of my “rights” that it was very difficult to surrender my desire of being treated “fairly” (as in my concept of fairly) in the workplace (even though I am yes, in fact, a volunteer). I’ve learned that in Peru, like many other high context countries, you must respect the hierarchy you find yourself in.

– What it feels like to be a minority (but still a privileged one). It is uncomfortable to be stared at, cat-called, and frequently misunderstood. But I’m aware that I carry with me – greatly and sadly evidenced by my skin color – immense privilege. I have the resources to travel far away from home, and also resources that generally can keep me from harm (at least perceived harm).  My Peruvian host family and friends do not have that same privilege.

– To survive means to depend on one another. Life is hard for many, many Peruvians (and was even harder during the period of terrorism between the 1980s-early 2000s). But I’ve learned, witnessed, and experienced first-hand a powerful survival tactic: interdependence. It is beautiful and has challenged over and over again my individualistic (i.e. only looking out for myself) mindset.

– To eat all the food on my plate is a form of respect. Even if I couldn’t be more tired of eating rice and potato every day. 🙂

When you hand-wash your clothes, you learn to appreciate them a lot more. Enough said.

People in developing countries are people too. People who care for their families, who enjoy good food and music, who carry with them stories of joy and suffering. They value cleanliness, hate the corruption in their government systems, and like a reason to celebrate.

– Living overseas is not glamorous. Particularly when doing ministry in a place where there are few other Westerners.  It can be ordinary, overwhelming, and lonely. I have immense admiration and respect for long-term missionaries who dedicate their lives to understanding and ministering to people with vastly different experiences and mindsets from their own.

Courage. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned here is from working at the shelter – from the girls themselves. A 12 year old girl birthing a child – without her family by her side to support her – is the definition of courage. As is the 15  year old who decides to keep and care for and love the baby that is her sister as well as daughter. And the 17 year old with 3 younger siblings who will soon face the reality of caring for her family on her own. Their stories break me, but their smiling faces every day, their perseverance in the most difficult of circumstances, their contagious joy and enthusiasm for life – only fill me with hope.

Henri Nouwen writes the following in his journal that chronicles his experiences serving in Peru and Bolivia, called Gracias: 

“True missioners are people who are hunting for the Divine treasure hidden in the heart of the people to whom they want to make the Good News known. They always expect to see the beauty and truth of God shining through those with whom they live and work. The great paradox of ministry, therefore, is that we minister above all with our weakness, a weakness that invites us to receive from those to whom we go. The more in touch we are with our own need for healing and salvation, the more open we are to receive in gratitude what others have to offer us.”

I have received far more than I could have ever imagined.

And now for the photos 🙂

Natalie & I loved exploring one of Peru’s natural wonders, “Bosque de Piedra” (Rock Forest) in February (one of the most mystical places I’ve ever been). On the right is a selfie with the iconic elephant rock!

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I celebrated my 22nd birthday on March 2nd, & enjoyed a delicious breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes. The day was full & memorable (including getting an egg cracked on my head)

Pictures with good friends – Anni, a shelter volunteer from Huancayo, & Sawyer, one of the leaders from the Kivu group who was here for 2 months. 

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My family came to visit in March!! My mom, my older sister Lydia, & I had the best couple weeks doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu & exploring Cusco & the Sacred Valley. For their last couple days they were able to come see my life in Hnuco, which was such a blessing to share with them!

Thank you always for your prayers and for joining alongside me!

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Join me in praise for:

  • A fun & life-giving vacation with my family
  • Continued opportunities to share God’s truth and love with the girls
  • Raquel*’s (12) birth of a  healthy baby boy
  • Provision of family members and safe spaces for many of our beneficiaries who have left the shelter

Join me in prayer for: 

  • Staying present these last weeks & to do my work faithfully & joyfully
  • Guidance with young moms in shelter (ages 12, 12, & 13) and  their decisions to adopt or keep their babies
  • Unity and teamwork in the staff
  • My transition back home to Colorado in May

Belonging & belovedness: stories of seeking, finding, waiting

Dear friends,

IMG_8165I am now past halfway my time here in Huánuco and serving at the shelter, and I truly can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I know I have grown and changed in immeasurable ways since I’ve arrived and am so grateful for the prayers and support you have consistently offered – they are  a manifestation of God’s grace that help me to continue walking forward and working faithfully day by day.

Growing closer to the girls (and being more comfortable in the language) means I’ve had opportunities to sit with them, cry with them, hear about their daily struggles, fears, and insecurities – there are times when I have no words and all I can do is sit and be present with them, other times when I can encourage them and remind them that they are beloved and cherished by the God of the universe. In one conversation I shared with Jocelyn* (15), for example, I learned about the deep pain she feels as a result of being abandoned by her family – but how she is also learning that as a young woman she deserves respect and has rights. She told me about her goals of becoming a psychologist in the future and her knowledge that she is loved as a daughter of God. These conversations give me so much hope and remind me how the shelter provides opportunities for these girls to form their identity, to discover their passions and interests, and to experience love and affection that they would perhaps never have otherwise. It is evidence of God’s work that He is rescuing these girls from danger and oppression and placing them in a place of safety where they can learn and feel empowered.

Just as often as I feel hopeful, though, it seems I also feel helpless in the face of the trauma and horror the girls have experienced. One of our newest arrivals, Fernanda*, who is 14, has been sexually abused by her stepfather since she was 8 years old. She even as a son as a result of the incest. How can I encourage her to seek a God who can heal and redeem her fully, who calls her Beloved? This is my daily prayer. And then there are other girls who have nowhere to go after the shelter, who have no family, and whose attitudes and behaviors reveal that they lack knowledge of their belovedness. Where is Jesus in these seemingly hopeless situations? But again and again God reminds me that He is powerful enough to carry all of these girls in His arms, that He is working on their behalf – “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (psalm 9:9). So I cling to the promises in Scripture. I wait. And I pray.

Even in this undeniable darkness, there penetrates light. There are moments of indescribable joy – in watching 6 beneficiaries and their babies decide to get baptized, in bringing Christmas gifts to the girls on Christmas eve, in spontaneous water fights in the sun, and in seeing a 15 year old take on her new role as a mother with such strength and courage. In December, I had the opportunity to accompany two girls in their elementary and high school graduations as their “Madrina” (translation: godmother) – this entails that I am an important person in this girl’s life and have the obligation to support her in pursuing her goals and dreams. What an honor!

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3 of our girls at their elementary school graduation
In January and February, the girls are on summer vacation which means a completely different schedule for them and for the staff. Every day the girls attend a variety of “Talleres” (workshops) to learn new skills, such as the Peruvian national dance and handicrafts. I continue to lead a few educational workshops and teach a baking workshop for the adolescents. Two of the most recent baking accomplishments were carrot cake and mini apple pies! It is definitely a highlight of my week to laugh and bake with the girls. There has also been a change in the staff as the social worker I’ve been interning with these past 5 months left the shelter for a new travel opportunity. She has been replaced by Eli who I’m excited to get to know more and work with for my second half of my time here!

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Making mini apple pies!

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3 precious little ones (children of our adolescent moms) I get to see every day

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A recent hike with the girls + volunteer group

Times with my host family + friends

In addition to feeling like the girls at the shelter have become like family, God has been so gracious to provide me with a host family who support and love me well. I was able to spend Christmas with them and travel to Lima with them to celebrate New Years. Even though it was difficult to be away from my family during the holidays, I could not be more grateful for this incredible family who have welcomed me as one of their own. I continue to learn so much from doing daily life with them!

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Selfie with my incredible host parents

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Chile for a week for a vacation and stay with my friend Jeymie and her family (who was the spiritual director in the shelter for a year). It was so fun to experience another country and culture in South America, to swim in the ocean, try new foods, and see the city of Santiago (the capital). It was just the vacation I needed and I’m so grateful to my friend and her family for their generous hospitality!

I continue to attend the “Grupo de Jovenes” at the Iglesia Alianza and develop and strengthen relationships there. I’ve also been joined by 5 new friends (2 Peruvian, 3 American) in my host family for a couple months who are also volunteering in the shelter. It’s been fun to get to speak English again and also adventure with them! (i.e. hiking and dancing in a discoteca!)

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With friends from church after a Christmas kids program we put on at a rural church in the mountains
I had the unique opportunity to travel to Lima with the shelter staff to join Paz y Esperanza and all the staff from their regional offices to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It was a special week of learning, meeting new people, and being inspired and encouraged by the work God has done through Paz to fight for human rights in South America.

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The past couple months have been full and rich- of new experiences, learning, renewed confidence, travel, adventure, of feeling at home – and also plenty of questions, doubts, of sometimes reluctant surrender – I know life (in every season) is about leaning and trusting in this paradox.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers!

Con amor y muchos abrazos,
Lynnae

Join me in praise for:

  • Prayers answered in the healthy births of two babies to two of our adolescent mothers in December
  • Opportunities to speak truth & encouragement to the girls in conversations
  • Prayers answered in an enriching time being alone in December/January, learning independence, new connections, & knowledge of God’s presence with me
  • Refreshing vacation in Chile a couple weeks ago (& the blessing of my friend Jeymie & her family’s hospitality)
  • Opportunity to learn more about Paz y Esperanza’s work in Lima during their 20th anniversary, deepened relationship with staff, & new connections

Join me in prayer for:

  • Wisdom for the staff as they make decisions for some of the girls’ reintegrations.
  • The new social worker, Elizabeth, her transition into the shelter & that I will be a support for her.
  • Raquel* (12) and Yessica* (13), whose babies are due in April & May (respectively). Please pray for their final months of pregnancy & for peace as they prepare to be young mothers.
  • Cathy*, who recently turned 18 & will soon need to leave the shelter as she is no longer a minor. Please pray that God will provide her work & a safe place to live.

The hard and the holy: thanksgiving in the messiness

In this crazy world, there’s an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they’re never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom . . . We are sent to wherever there is poverty, loneliness, and suffering to have the courage to be with people. Trust that by throwing yourself into that place of pain you will find the joy of Jesus.” – henri nouwen

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Walking in the Andes after a home visit in a rural town

These past couple months have been marked by unforeseen challenges as well as joy and grace-filled moments; I am thankful for both as I know God is growing me, teaching me, and revealing to me my need for Him and His strength as I press on in the work I’ve been called to in this season. I’m realizing more and more the messiness of ministry – that always entails working with broken people, fighting my own self-doubts and insecurities (no matter what country I’m living in), and my need to daily practice grace and gratitude.

The above quote is taken from one of Nouwen’s essays that a dear friend sent me, and it has encouraged me the past couple months when I’ve struggled with doubts or frustrations. Although at times the stories of the girls’ cases seem too much to bear, I have been encouraged by the power of presence – just being present and witnessing the lives of these girls, laughing and joking with them, celebrating their birthdays, rejoicing with them when they receive A’s on their exams, teaching them Sudoku, knitting and baking with them, playing with their babies – and seeing their gradual transformation through their time in the shelter gives me so much hope. They’ve embraced me as ‘Mamita’ and inspire me with their joy despite being separated and/or abandoned from their families, history of violence, and situations of extreme poverty. There are hard days, of course, and at times it requires more patience than I feel like I can muster – but I think most work with kids is like that 🙂

Right now I’m continuing to help the social worker in the office, tutor in the afternoons, and Benny and I were able to take the kids to the nearby farm a few times in the afternoons and pick fruits and play games. We’ve also taught a couple more baking classes – a cake and snicker doodles! And I’m happy to report neither came out burned 🙂 It has been encouraging to see progress in the girls’ education and motivation as well as my own progress in language learning and accomplishing my work responsibilities.

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Sweet coworkers

La Selva 

A couple weeks weeks ago, I had the unique opportunity to join Madeleyne on home visits for a couple days in the jungle (otherwise known as “la selva” or the Amazon). To say that I loved every minute of the adventure (despite the humidity and mosquitoes) is an understatement! We ascended mountains, crossed rivers, picked a bounty of fruit – and it was incredible to enter into remote jungle towns and witness what life is like there, especially to meet a few of the girls’ families and better understand their home environments. The purpose of home visits is to assess whether a family is ready and able for their daughter’s reinsertion after they finish their time in the shelter. Many of these families are considered to be living in extreme poverty (I.e. no running water or electricity, dirt floor), and this lack of economic resources is part of the reason these girls are victims of abuse – unfortunately, oppressors plague on the poor as they have the knowledge that there likely will be no repercussion for their actions. I learned so much from observing Madeleyne during these home visits, as she has a gift for entering into the lives of these people, showing respect and dignity – and also communicating empathy and firmness when necessary. This trip opened my eyes in a whole new way just how significant is the work that the shelter ls doing and the opportunities it’s providing to the children and women to escape the cycle of violence and poverty.

Times of adventuring

In October, a group of volunteers from the shelter and Hermano Julio (the shelter’s bus driver) spent a Sunday morning hiking through the rain and in the clouds to 5 lagoons in the Andes- one of my favorite memories of my time here thus far! It was absolutely stunning and refreshing for my mountain and hiking-loving heart.

Benny and I spent a week in Lima for an evaluation with our program, and in addition to it being helpful in setting goals and reflecting on my time here thus far, we also were able to be tourists and see the sites, go salsa dancing, go to a Damien Rice concert, get our cravings fixed (i.e. burritos, burgers..). We absolutely loved Lima and felt so energized from our time there!

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Enjoying an ocean-side walk in Miraflores
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A beautiful sunset in Barranco, Lima

Last weekend, my host sister got married! Benny and I had the honor of being bridesmaids, and my first Peruvian wedding certainly exceeded any imaginations or expectations I had. 🙂 (we didn’t go home until 2:30 in the morning!)

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The past 3 months have been a whirlwind of learning, growing, and being constantly pushed out of my comfort zone – and I know the next 6 will be no different. Despite the hard – discouragement and heaviness from the work, homesickness, exhaustion from language and culture learning – I know God has me here and I am grateful.

Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement! May God be with you in this time of advent, and please don’t hesitate to send me prayer requests and life updates – I love hearing how God is working in others around the world!

Join me in praise for: 

  • Clear progress in the girls’ education (particularly one  who has shown so much growth in reading!)
  • Good health
  • Sweet times of fellowship with my host family and friends
  • Relationships building with the staff at the shelter

Join me in prayer for: 

  • As of today, my dear friend Benny is off and returning to Canada. Please pray for her transition back home as well as my transition into being alone – for knowledge of God’s presence and strengthened relationships.
  • Fighting discouragement and perseverance as I seek to rely on God’s strength and not my own.
  • The girls who are returning back to their families soon – that God would watch over them and they will feel loved and supported by their families.
  • Jessica* (age 14), who recently just had her baby. Please pray for the health of her baby and that she will feel well-loved and supported at the shelter.
  • All of the girls to have a heart-knowledge of the love of God and to accept Jesus Christ as Lord in their lives.

 

Some moments, big and small

An image taken at the sustainable farm of the Andes and the shelter in the distance
A photo taken at the sustainable farm that is close by – the shelter is in the distance

I think it is safe to say I have experienced the whole range of emotions throughout the past month. There are heartbreaking moments when I feel so powerless and helpless in the face of such suffering at the shelter, such as when the staff discovered that one of our newer residents is unexpectedly pregnant – she is 13. And all I can do is cry out to God that He would take what was meant for evil – something as evil as rape and abuse – and transform it into good in this young girl’s life. There are humbling moments, such as when I sit and eat lunch with the adolescent mothers, who are teenagers yet work so hard to care for their babies, clean, cook, and take sewing, knitting, and computation classes – and I forget that I am the oldest one there. There are surreal moments when I hold the 2 month old baby of a 12 year old girl while I help her with math or reading. There are scary and frustrating moments when a 10 year old girl I had developed a relationship with, Paula*, runs away from school (by the grace of God she was found a couple hours later running on the highway), and subsequently is transferred to another shelter because the risk of her running away again is too great.

And there are, nevertheless, beautiful moments as well – such when we celebrate one girl’s “quinceañera” (a coming of age party when a girl turns 15) and eat and dance the night away. And of course there are hilarious moments, when I teach a baking class and the attempt to make brownies results in a mostly blackened, inedible product that hardly resembles brownies at all. (But, I am happy to say, the cupcake-making was much more successful!).

My work…

…involves, as of now, helping the social worker in the mornings and the teacher in the afternoons, and 1 day a week I will be taking on more responsibilities for the communication/fundraising area of the shelter. Needless to say, I stay rather busy balancing all of these responsibilities! A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to join the social worker, Madelyne, on a home visit with one of the women in Casa Refugio, Malia*. After 2.5 hours of winding through the Andes we arrived in the rural town of Kishke where her cousins lived. After a short hike in the forest, we arrived to her cousins’ home and discussed the possibility of Malia and her 4 kids moving in, as returning to Malia’s home was out of the question since her husband is extremely abusive. I received so much peace after I noticed Isaiah 43:1 posted on the wall of this family’s home, and I knew that Malia and her 4 children would be safe and taken care of with this family.

After-school tutoring with some of the kiddos :)
After-school tutoring with the kiddos

In the afternoons I tutor a group of 6th graders in math and reading, and one day a week I am tutoring a 13 year old, Cristina*, who cannot read and struggles with basic math functions. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in continuing to better the education of these girls and would appreciate prayers for God to use me in this area while granting me patience and diligence.

As already mentioned, Benny and I are also teaching a baking class on Saturdays to the adolescents. This experience has proved to teach me lessons about flexibility, creativity, and the importance and freedom in laughing at myself. 🙂 (There’s nothing like trying to bake in a foreign country to improve my baking skills!)

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Benny & I with Sra. Norma, the shelter’s cook, during our cupcake-making class
“Taller de Reposteria”

During my free time… 

I explore Huánuco – which includes eating at a pizzeria, shopping in the “mercado” for plantain chips, eating ice cream, or going to coffee shops – continue to get involved in the church youth group, spend time with my host family (the other week Benny and I made pancakes for them!), and study Spanish (I am currently reading The Fault in Our Stars in Spanish to help with this endeavor).

Enjoying a dinner & fellowship at the 20-something church group
Enjoying a dinner & fellowship at the 20-something church group
Benny & I after a long week of work enjoying ice cream!
Benny & I after a long week of work enjoying ice cream!
I've also tried a variety of new foods. This meal contained chicken foot!
I’ve also tried a variety of new foods. This meal contained chicken foot!

What I’m learning…

“Justice, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is not a good idea, a noble aspiration, a theoretical satisfaction or an impersonal principle –
it is his beating heart.”
– Gary Haugen, The Good News About Injustice 

Reading the above book, The Good News About Injustice, has encouraged me deeply the past few weeks. Even though it is exhausting and heart-breaking to be confronted daily with the consequences of the pervasive injustice committed in the real lives of the women and girls I work with at the shelter, this book has reminded me how God – the God of hope – feels towards injustice. It has strengthened my faith in how present He is with victims of injustice, such as the children and women at the Casa, and humbled me to think that He uses His people to fight and overcome the horror of it.

I am experiencing and learning so much, and being pushed out of my comfort zone in huge ways. I am releasing perfectionism as I make a handful of cultural and linguistic mistakes on any given day – and am walking more closely with Christ as He reminds me that despite all my inadequacies, my identity remains the same as His daughter, and He has given me this opportunity to share that same truth with these girls who He has allowed my life to intersect with for this time.

Thank you for your continued prayers!

With love,
Lynnae

Join me in praise for: 

  • Evident improvement in my Spanish the past few weeks
  • Progress in developing relationships with my host family, staff, and church community

Join me in prayer for: 

  • Johanna*, who is 13 and is unexpectedly pregnant
  • Jessica*, who is 14 and in her 7 month of pregnancy and has been having a difficult time in the Casa, particularly getting along with the other girls
  • Opportunities to have more meaningful and spiritual conversations with the girls and to share about God’s love
  • Patience and diligence at the shelter, particularly in the education area
  • That the whole staff would be encouraged and strengthened by the God of hope

*All names of the girls have been altered to protect their identities

To fear the Lord: the joys & challenges thus far

Hello from Huánuco, that claims to be a city which has “el mejor clima del mundo” (the best climate of the world)! I arrived here about 2 1/2 weeks ago after my orientation in Lima, and have already faced a plenitude of joys and challenges.

My host family

God has blessed me with an incredible host family, who immediately welcomed me with open arms, delicious (& abundant) food, and have displayed such patience, support, and love as I adjust to learning Spanish and the unfamiliarity of living in a new (& somewhat chaotic) city. I live with five other people, but with frequent other visitors as some of my sisters live close by with their families. Just a couple days after I arrived, I was invited with the family to go to the hospital to meet one of my sister’s newly born baby! I feel truly privileged to have the opportunity to enter into this family’s daily rhythms and to be considered part of the family despite the fact that I have known them for such a short amount of time. My host mom, especially, has been such evidence of Christ’s love as she has helped me navigate public transportation, has willingly and patiently listened and corrected my fumbling Spanish, shown me how to wash clothes by hand, and given me natural remedies for when my mosquito bites get out of control. I am looking forward to all the ways I will grow in my relationships with my host family and learn from them throughout this year!

Daniella, Dyana, & Adrianna - my "nieces"
Daniella, Dyana, & Adrianna – my “nieces” 🙂

Huánuco 

Huánuco is unlike any place I have lived, to say the least. It is a city of about 173,000 people, bustling day and night with motor taxis, “combis” (small buses), cars, unpaved and dusty roads, and absolutely no traffic rules. So far, it seems to me to be a city of contrasts – it has a large shopping mall (complete with a movie theater) that feels like any other mall back home, for instance, while also having open-air restaurants on the streets and houses stacked on top of one another. Some days the city feels overwhelming and exhausting, but then Huánuco will surprise me – this week’s surprise was finding a couple stores with natural and organic products, for example.

Flying into Huánuco
Flying into Huánuco

My community

Another huge blessing and encouragement has been Benny. She is from Canada and has been working in the shelter since June. It didn’t take us long to bond as we discovered we share many similar passions and interests, and she has helped so much with my transition here through showing me around Huánuco, encouraging me in the frustrations of language immersion and not being able to communicate, and much more. We have grown quickly in our friendship and I am so grateful. Some of you know that her health has been not great as she has been fighting parasites and other infections, but her health is now on the up-swing! I have also enjoyed getting to know another new volunteer at the shelter, Natalie, who is from Austria and is with a government volunteer program.

I’ve been attending a Christian Missionary Alliance church and am hoping to get more involved in the “grupo de jovenes,” which is a 20-something group that meets weekly. Because Benny leaves in December, I want to be intentional about forming relationships with other believers that can be a support in the spring.

Benny & I on my first day at the shelter
 Benny & I on my first day at work

My work

The shelter I work in is about an hour away from the city, tucked between the beautiful Andes, and has two components: “Albergue,” a shelter for children under 18 who have suffered sexual abuse or family violence who stay from 6 months – 2 years, and “Casa Refugio,” a short-term shelter for women who have experienced family violence who stay from 2-6 months. The albergue also includes adolescent mothers, who can be as young as 12 and became pregnant as a result of their abuse. The residents can come from all over Peru and the Huánuco region, and the injustice and tragedy of their circumstances has been heart-wrenching to learn about.

During my first week, I was put straight to work helping Benny with some promotional material for the shelter, and later in the week we celebrated the Casa’s 5 year anniversary! One day we all went to the pool and the day was full of laughter and joy – reminding me of Psalm 126:2:, “our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” – it was so hopeful to witness everyone having the opportunity to play in the pool on a hot day; even the mothers, while their babies were sleeping, had the chance to play with the rest of the teenagers. The next day, the staff celebrated with a breakfast, worship, and prayer together celebrating and reflecting on all the lives God has transformed through the love and dedication the staff show towards each and every child and woman who have come into the shelter.

I’ve really enjoyed dipping my toes into the work and through observations and lots of question-asking am understanding the holistic services the girls so desperately need and receive while residing at the shelter. I’m also slowly getting to know the children and women and each of their situations.  My role for the next few weeks will be working in the education area two days a week (which includes tutoring and teaching skills classes – I get to teach a baking class in a couple weeks which I’m excited about!) and the other days helping the social worker in the office and in her community work. I’m looking forward to writing more extensively about my work with the children and women in future posts and with specific prayer requests.

A day at the pool
A day at the pool
Happy anniversary Casa Del Buen Trato!
   Happy anniversary Casa Del Buen Trato!
The incredible people I get to work with
The incredible people I get to work with

What I’ve been learning 

The most difficult thing so far being here has been feeling incredibly inadequate in my Spanish-speaking, and how much I rely on communication  to connect with people. There have been moments of extreme discouragement as I wonder if I’m actually improving in understanding Spanish and whether it will be possible for me to connect with the people around me without the ability to fully speak or understand. Through this, God has been showing me how much I care about what other people think of me instead of fearing Him and His opinion above all, and living to faithfully serve Him and what He’s called me to as the most important audience of one.

Please e-mail me, message me (I have Wifi in my host family!), or comment below with any questions – I’m so grateful for all of your support and prayers, I could not be here without them!

Bendiciones de Peru,
Lynnae

Join me in praise for: 

  • Safe travel and good health thus far
  • My incredible host family that God has provided me with
  • Benny, who has been an incredible help and encouragement

Join me in prayer for: 

  • Patience, perseverance, and discipline in learning Spanish
  • A humble and joyful spirit in my work
  • Intentionality with forming connections at church
  • Benny’s health to continue improving

1 Week Out: gratitude + weakness

Dear friends,

The countdown is now just 7 days until I depart for Peru – needless to say, I can’t believe how quickly it’s approaching! Over the past couple weeks, I’ve felt mixtures of excitement and sadness as this dream I’ve had since I was 14 that is becoming reality – to live & serve in Latin America – has been coupled with goodbyes to people dearest to me. Yet I am also grateful beyond belief for the support friends & family near & far have so graciously given me, for God’s provision, for details falling into place, for advice & wisdom from others who have had the experience of living in another country, & for God’s constant presence during transition.

During this preparation time, I’ve also been reflecting on how weak I truly am. I am moving to another country that I know little about, without fluency in the language, by myself, and working in an area of social work that I have had little experience in. Despite how discouraging this may sound (& perhaps not typically what we’re always eager to admit), I have with this been meditating on how God often works: through human weakness. Paul wrote it best: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Though I am entering into this season with plenty of weaknesses, I am so hopeful and excited for God to reveal more of His power, love, and strength through them – and for this blog to be a vehicle of sharing about what God is doing at Casa del Buen Trato. Thank you for joining me & for your prayers.

With love,
Lynnae

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