In Peru they call me Madre Carolyn...Mama Gringa...Mama C. I am "mother to many." This trip I travelled with 15 youths from the states and it's a very different type mission. I am so happy with the things I see in the four I brought with me (2 of my daughters & 2 teen boys near and dear to my heart) as well as the entire team. They impressed me every day and I am still bursting with pride. I have to brag on some of my proudest moments from this trip:
Day 1: Team leader says we will all be cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Juan raises his hand and says he would do it every night. Elise and Rachel wanted to join me for a Make a Miracle meeting with Reimagine (another charity that builds houses for Peruvians), and Elise said that was the highlight of her day. (I didn't think she would want to come or find it interesting.) Celso & Robert ordered anticucho (cow heart) and even ate it after I told them what it was...they also bonded with the Otero family we had dinner with so quickly.
Day 2: Vacation Bible School for approximately 150 kids! Craziness! Elise painted about a million faces; Rachel sang "you're a good good father" in English & Spanish; Juan offered to run the bean bag toss and organized it like a boss; Celso ran the sack race and encouraged and joked with the kids with unsurpassed energy (confiding the "old" him would never had been able to do that).
Day 3: When asked who wanted to say grace, Celso jumped in and did an amazing job. Juan let Maricielo lay her head on his shoulder for a long time, and let all the kids hug him (he doesn't typically like hugs to say the least...pictures above.)
Day 4: Rachel and Elise both played soccer with the kids in Paradise (on a dirt soccer field!) which is way outside their box. Juan translated the gospel for Rick so beautifully (pictured above on soccer field...note little boy praying in front of him!)
Day 5: We went to Maria's house that we built last year and found her distraught from the passing of her beloved grandmother 12 days earlier. Celso, who didn't even know her, enveloped her with healing hugs and prayers. She felt so much better afterwards (pictured above)!
Juan gave Marlon (from Pat's Place) his Naruto armband that he wore all the time because Marlon likes Naruto too. Afterwards we had a devotion about selflessness and Juan told me later that he regrets being selfish that morning and not sharing his gum with his brother. He did not even think of the selflessness of giving the gift to Marlon. I got to share with him that when Marlon first arrived at the shelter for abused women & children he was causing trouble, fighting with the other kids and never smiled. Just like Juan was several months earlier. It’s hard to believe how far these two have come…both always helping others, smiling and having fun. With God, anyone can change.
I was so proud of Rachel for trying hard to connect with her shy Compassion child at the zoo. With the language barrier and timidity it wasn’t easy but she poured love into her and her family (pictured above). Proud of Celso for going to his bible when he was upset, and finding the answer he was looking for. Happy to see his heart soften more every day. Proud of Elise for taking care of herself when she was sick!
Juan said if his kids ever get spoiled he is going to pack up all their stuff and take them to Peru. He is going to ask them “Do you see these kids? Do you see how happy they are and they don’t have any stuff?” Then he is going to let each child pick one thing of his kids. He also said he noticed everyone takes school so seriously in Peru, and that American's take education for granted. I find these two things really astute for a 13 year old! Celso spent time teaching our bus driver Edgar how to play basketball. How many people invest time in their drivers? or in anyone?
Juan learned how to give a real hug. Not just his typical fake hug with a light pat on the back. He was at our debrief the last morning leaning on his brother’s shoulder, cuddling with 7 year old Madicielo, hugging 4-5 kids at a time when he could. He was pretty emotional this whole last day and asked “why were tears even invented? I never cry.” How cool to see his heart soften and to see him connect with people!
On this trip kindness was everywhere, and I couldn't be prouder of these kids!
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." Aesop