Sunday, May 10, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the Jungle-From 11,000 feet to just above sea level....

I just got back from the jungle and what an experience it was. It all started on Monday evening at the bus station in Arequipa, Peru. Mike Drinkwater and I scheduled a fact finding mission to Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. Cusco is where one would fly to get to Machu Pichu and Puerto Maldonado is a jungle town of about 40,000 people or so. Our goal was to connect with the local pastors who are developing churches in each of the respective cities. These pastors have been on the ground less than a year each. They have picked up their lives in other areas and transitioned into a new area to fulfill the great commission. These people are on fire. I wish I could say that I see this type of fire often, but it ain’t common! What a delight to see Pastor Herbert and Freddy jumping into the fire. I believe with God’s help, their communities will be exposed to a sound message of hope and peace. I am ever so impressed with these two pastors.
Let me tell you about one of our evenings in Cusco. Mike and I brought with us on the bus a portable sound system. We figured that we would drop it off and the pastor could use it in the future. We were right. We got our meetings out of the way with nothing else to do but to accept the invite to help with the Jesus Film showing that night. Keep in mind that Mike and I rode the bus all night before, arrived in Cusco at 6AM and had been going 100 miles per hour since we connected with Pastor Herbert. So why not another 2 to 3 hours of Jesus Film? We agreed to help. That is when God somehow gave me a boost, somewhat like that of an energy drink. It was way too cold for the little sweatshirt I had on. I could see my breath, I was hungry, my feet were aching, and there was no place to sit. How was I going to make it through this night? Well, I had a bag of candy that was designed to hand out to kids.
I started handing out the candy to each kid I could connect with. It was fun to see them light up as I handed them a Tootsie Roll or Twizzler. Not long, the film started rolling. People were strolling by and stopping for a chance to catch the entertainment value of this film. While there, they were able to capture the message of the Gospel instead. Many people were impacted right there on the spot. Our group was able to obtain information on about 25 people who had either made a decision for Christ or had expressed interest in a pastoral visit. This was just one night.
For me, I connected with two young girls, the same age as my oldest daughter Kayle. They shyly stood behind me and giggled for a while until I noticed that they were seeking some interaction. I quickly started a conversation with them. I found out that they knew just a little bit of English and they wanted to practice on me, but were very intimidated. I knelt down on my knee to be able to look them in the eyes, and began to converse with these two precious little girls. I tested them by asking them to answer my Spanish questions in English. It was a fun game. They really started to warm up and our discussion was a blast. Jessica, one of the girls, asked if she could run home and get her English folder so that she could practice more. I excitedly said yes, and they ran off like scared rabbits only to return with more smiles and a notebook. There is nothing more rewarding than connecting with kids. I am sure that God has wired me to thoroughly enjoy those moments with young people. One of the girls had been going to an evangelical mission church there in Cusco. The other, I could not tell. However, during the film, there were many people who were shown a message of hope in a real way. We had a couple of testimonies given from our group and then Pastor Herbert finished off with an invitation. The night was amazing!
Was that as good as it could get? Not a chance. The next morning we ran all over Cusco working out the details with different facilities to house our short term volunteers, as well as check out a piece of property to build our 40/40 cluster support missionary building. This process went extremely well as we were able to secure the housing and food for one of our major events in Cusco. As for the real estate, I am thinking I saw a miracle. We were standing on the property that we thought was the best thing available in all of Cusco. The location was right, the price was as small as we could find, and it was a good size for our project. We had hoped that we could get something cheaper, but nothing was available. Literally, while we were scratching our heads over this property, a little old lady wheeling a propane tank down the rutted path stopped and asked if we were looking to buy the property. The pastor confirmed that we were. Just then, the lady mentioned that her neighbor was selling a lot or two next door to her house and that we ought to take a look.
After a bit of communication, we found ourselves helping this lady carry her propane tank across a small corn field about 100 meters away from the original lot. She took us to meet the owner and we discovered that for a lot less of a price, we could get a lot more property. The new one has water and septic already installed. A much better deal! I should not be surprised at such events. God is working all around us. However, I am still blown away at the “in my face” things that God is revealing to us. So now we are working on purchasing the new property. Hopefully this will be completed in a few weeks.

It doesn’t stop there. After our morning in Cusco was over, we jumped on a plane to Puerto Maldonado. Arriving at the airport, we had a mob of anxious taxi/motorcar drivers who all wanted to be the chosen few to take us around town. We made our choice and headed off into the streets of Puerto. We dumped off our baggage at the house of Vivian. Many of you are familiar with Vivian as she is the former prostitute that is now working with Extreme Nazarene. At the time, she was in Arequipa at our office, and she agreed to let us use her house. That became our base camp for the next day and a half.

We met with Pastor Freddy Zapata in order to have him show us a few locations that would work for food and housing of our short term volunteers. We found a few options. There is not a whole lot to pick from, but we will make due with what we have. Our Puerto Projects are shaping up to be phenomenal.
We conducted a lot of business that first afternoon. That evening, my perspective of life and its value, got a good dose of reality. We went right into the middle of one of the many red light areas of town to visit with some local prostitutes. I was riding on the back of Vivian’s motorcycle while the driver, Vivian’s cousin, Manuel, guided us to the prosti-bars. We arrived a minute or two before the rest of our group. There I was standing out in front of 4 houses on a dark street. Each of these houses had any number of women and men loitering in the obscure light and front porch areas. As Manuel went to try to find a couple of willing prostitutes to interview, I suddenly felt what might be a similar feeling when an attractive woman in the US walks by a construction site only to have here ears adorned with cat calls. I was a gringo standing alone on the sidewalk. I felt like everyone in the whole area was screaming for my business. It was an uncomfortable place to say the least. Just about an eternity later, the rest of our group showed up. Boy was I relieved!
Manuel returned and had secured three willing ladies to interview. We proceeded to sit down on the front porch in a small circle while the pastor asked questions to try to understand the broken and suppressed hearts of the young ladies with which we were talking. We began the interview with three girls. Two of the girls quickly left. I think they had customers that arrived. Not sure, but our conversation with Alejandra was very difficult. She explained the process of her path into the prostitution world. Not a pretty sight. She needed to care for her children. This was a fast and uncomplicated process to meet the needs. However, the effects of this lifestyle were written on her face. She was embarrassed that we would take her picture, she kept downplaying her role as a companion/escort, and she kept wafering back and forth about the ability to leave the lifestyle. The first interview was not very productive. We might have planted some seeds. In nothing else, our eyes were opened to the deep need that exists in this area.

The night continued as we connected with two other gals at a different location. These two gals had just recently been lured into the business. Each had been from Lima and had been enticed by the lure of a good paying job as a “party girl” or companion. Cathy, mentioned that she was sure that the prostitute thing happens, but that it would never happen to her. She was trapped into it. She was fearful. She kept looking around as if she was about to get caught doing something wrong. It was apparent that she was not willing to part from this life as she was fearful of the ramifications of leaving. Cathy was very open with her discussion. She explained how she got involved, how she spent her money, why she was doing this type of work, as well as a bunch of other info. Her time quickly ran out as she was scared that her boss would get mad if she and her friend did not return. We paid them for their time and asked if they wanted to continue the discussion in the morning when they had some “free” time. Their time was monitored by the boss, so it was not free at all. However, they had a little bit more freedom during the day.
The next day we returned to pick up the two girls. Cathy was willing to come to the church and talk about things. It was a good time of planting seeds. She was blown away that we cared enough to spend the time with her. She experienced something that hadn’t been present in her life in months if not years; compassion. We lifted her up by letting her know how valuable her life is, that her past did not matter as long as she makes a change, and that she has the opportunity to transform her heart and life with a personal relationship with Jesus. She broke down as we prayed for her. She made no decisions at that time, but her heart was pounding as she was heavily thinking about her place in the world. God was definitely there in that room. We had a good time of getting to know this young gal. She was a normal young lady that went down a path that was not very wholesome. Seeds were surely planted. What an experience!
As we scrambled to the airport so that we could return to Cusco, we said our goodbyes to our new friends, Cathy, Manuel, and Pastor Freddy. I cannot wait to visit again. Hopefully Cathy will have made some progress in a relationship with Christ. We can surely pray about it.
We arrived back in Cusco for our last meeting before jumping on the bus to return home to Arequipa. The last meeting was filled with tons of ministry impact ideas from Pastor Herbert and a few of the leaders in his church. Our projects are shaping up in Cusco and I cannot wait to see how God makes this all work out. What an excitime!
There is so much more to write about, but I am afraid that too much at a time might become a bit burdensome to read. I will continue to post new stuff as exciting things happen.
As for our family, we are doing great! The kids are really starting to grasp the language and adapt to the school environment. They have been really active in the school as well as our local church. The process of culture shock has not taken its expected result as of yet. Please continue to pray for us as we will probably be experiencing some issues before long. For right now, there are smiles on our faces.

As for our projects, things are shaping up in a huge way. Our team is putting together some out of the ordinary things that will transform the way missions are done. I am so honored to be part of this team of solid people that have put their faith to work in such an amazing way. Be sure to keep praying for our work here in Peru. When you get a chance to check out our website, I would encourage you to take a look. It is Feel free to sign up for the newsletter as well. It is a good way to keep up to speed on our projects.

We continue to pray for all of our supporters. You are an integral part of our mission. Thank you so much for partnering with us. We have been experiencing God’s blessings as we have never experienced in our lives so far. It is a wonderful place to be.

May God pour out his abundance on your lives.

The Englund Family

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