July 29, 2009

Peru 2009 - Yungay Tragedy

On day 3 we had the opportunity to visit the town of Yungay. Yungay is a small town in the valley just south of Huaraz. It is also the site of a horrible tragedy.

On May 31, 1970, an undersea earthquake off the coast of Casma and Chimbote, north of Lima, triggered one of the most cataclysmic avalanches in recorded history – wiping out the entire highland town of Yungay and most of its 25,000 inhabitants.

Around 3:23 PM, local time, while most were tuned in to the Italy-Brazil FIFA World Cup Match, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Peru. Lasting 45 seconds, the earthquake crumbled adobe homes, bridges, roads and schools across 83,000 square kilometers, an area larger than Belgium and the Netherlands combined. Registered as one of the worst earthquakes ever to be experienced in South America, damages and casualties were reported as far as Tumbes, Iquitos and Pisco, as well as in some parts of Ecuador and Brazil.

In Yungay, a small highland town in the picturesque Callejon de Huaylas, founded by Domingo Santo Tomás in 1540, the earthquake triggered an even greater calamity.

The quake destabilized the glacier on the north face of Mount Huascarán, causing 10 million cubic meters of rock, ice and snow to break away and tear down its slope at more than 120 miles per hour.

As it thundered down toward Yungay, and the town of Ranrahirca on the other side of the ridge, the wave of debris picked up more glacial deposits and began to spit out mud, dust, and boulders. By the time it reached the valley - barely three minutes later 3,000 feet-wide wave was estimated to have consisted of about 80 million cubic meters of ice, mud, and rocks.

Within moments, what was Yungay and its 25,000 inhabitants – many of whom had rushed into the church to pray after the earthquake struck – were buried and crushed by the landslide.

The reported death toll from what came to be known as Peru’s Great Earthquake totaled more than 74,000 people. About 25,600 were declared missing, over 143,000 were injured and more than one million left homeless. The city of Huaraz was rubble, the valley buried in mud, and coastal towns such as Casma were also shaken to the ground.

In Yungay, only some 350 people survived, including the few who were able to climb to the town’s elevated step-like cemetery.

Among the survivors were 300 children, who had been taken to the circus at the local stadium, set on higher ground and on the outskirts of the town.

Today, Yungay is a national cemetery, and the Huascarán’s victims are still vividly remembered.

To this day, a crushed intercity bus, four of the original palm trees that once crowned the city’s main plaza and remnants of the cathedral still stand.


July 21, 2009

What's That Noise?

I've got a problem. It's becoming an addiction. When I told my wife, she said "again?"
I have become uncontrollably addicted to cycling...again.
I can't wait to get out and ride...again.
So the other day I was out riding...on my road bike...just a nice Sunday afternoon ride. The weather was awesome. The ride as going great.

I also have another problem. I tend to hear things. Sometimes I'll hear things that no one else hears. Little annoying sounds, sounds that just don't quite belong.

So there I was, riding along, and I kept hearing a light sound, like metal on metal. It was a very faint sound, like a piece of metal was loose, tapping, tapping tapping. I just knew something must be coming loose on the bike. So I stopped, I fiddled around, I shook the bike, I tried to make the sound occur. I just wanted to know what it was...so I could make it stop...so I could fix the problem.


So I got back on and sure enough, it started again. So I stopped...looked, shook the bike...still nothing!

That is so annoying! What is making that noise?

A few miles down the road, after trying unsuccessfully to ignore this irritating little sound, I reached up to unzip my cycling jersey, just trying to created a little more ventilation. Then I realized what the sound was. I wear a cross around my neck. It is metal. It had been hitting against the zipper. That was the irritating little sound I kept hearing!

Then this thought occurred to me. How often do we look around at all the "obvious" sources to look for God's will, God's direction, for our lives. How often do we feel that nudge, or hear that "irritating" sound in the background, and look to our own humanity to try and solve it?

And how often do we miss an opportunity to hear from God, because rather than going to the cross, the source of our salvation, we try to "fix" things in our own power?

Don't ignore the voice of God. He will patiently and softly speak to you, and it is up to you to listen, discern, and answer His calling.

July 09, 2009

Peru 2009 - Lessons from Moses

Bob - our team leader - had asked me to share a devotional with the group. So after a long day, we all gathered around the nice big fireplace in the restaurant.

Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of captivity. After quite a bit of convincing, Moses finally submitted to God's call. After many years of wandering, the people were nearing the time to enter the Promised Land. Moses, however, had been forbidden by God to enter the land. In Deuteronomy 3:23, we read Moses' words to God:

"And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, 24 'O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? 25 Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.' 26 But the LORD was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the LORD said to me, 'Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again.

I was struck by Moses' comment in verse 24. "You have only begun to show...your greatness and your mighty hand." Amazing. Think about it. Think about all that Moses had already seen God do! First you have the fact that his life was saved when we was a mere baby. Then when he approached Pharaoh to take the people out of Egypt, he saw God perform miracle after miracle. The plagues, the death of the firstborn, the parting of the Red Sea. Then for years in the wilderness Moses watched as God led them with a cloud by night and a pillar of fire by night. God supplied manna from heaven for the people to eat. Moses had seen God do so many great and mighty things in his lifetime. Yet he says "You have only begun to show...your greatness and your mighty hand." Moses understood something about God. God is infinite. God can do more than we can even imagine. Our minds are so limited we cannot even grasp the greatness of God.

But what was Moses asking for? "Please let me go over and see the land beyond the Jordan." Moses had been forbidden by God from entering the Promised Land. Why? Check out Numbers 20:

The people had run out of water. They were thirsty. They were complaining to Moses. So Moses went to God. "What should I do?" God gave Moses very clear orders.

"Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle." (Numbers 20:8)

God told Moses to talk to the rock, and water would be supplied. But keep reading - look what Moses did:

"Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock." (Numbers 20:10-11)

Moses hit the rock! God told him to talk to the rock, and Moses, in his anger, hit it!

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them." (Numbers 20:12)

So God told Moses he would not be entering the land. All those years Moses had done so much. And now, one time, Moses gets angry, and God says "That's it - you are not going in!" Seems harsh. Why would God be so mean so suddenly?

Here's what I think. I think God wants the glory. I know God wants the glory. In fact, I believe that is why God punished Moses this time. Moses - whether he meant to or not - by saying what he did and striking the rock like he did, made it look like he was the one that made the water come out of the rock. He made it look like it was his idea. He made it look like it was in his power. Rather than putting God at the top, he elevated himself to the level of God. And that is what God cannot stand.

Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land, because he took the focus off of God and led the people to believe that Moses performed a miracle. God said "you did not uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people."

Here's the take away. Everything I do, I do only because God allows me to do it. Without God I am nothing. But my human nature leads me to bring attention to myself. To make sure people like me, that people notice how great I am. I like it when people tell me I did a good job. Now, there's nothing wrong with doing a good job, there's nothing wrong with being noticed. The problem is when I take the glory. The problem is when I fail to redirect the attention to God, without whom I would be nothing.

What about you? When is the last time you recognized the source of your power. Whether you go on a missions trip to another country, or feed homeless people in your own town, remember this - it is for God and because of God that you do these things. Any other motive is wrong. Giving glory to any other source is wrong.

Remember - God has only begun to show you His greatness and His mighty hand.

Peru 2009 - Days 3 & 4

6/21/09 - We slept good last night...until about 4am. Apparently that's when roosters get up in Huaraz. They must be blind, having no idea the sun doesn't come up until 7!

We have breakfast on the 4th floor. It's quite a climb up those flights of stairs. It really does take your breath away! It is hard to get enough breath up here in the clouds! The view from our restaurant is awesome!

Church at 11am. We walked a couple of blocks. The church meets in a small corner of a building, right on the street. We got there a little early, so we hung out. We were eventually greeted by one of the members. I had totally forgotten it was Father's day until she came up and asked me if I had children! Then I got a big hug and a Happy Father's Day in Spanish!

The service was great, although all in Spanish. We enjoyed worshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a blessing that was. At the end of the service two young girls got up and sang a song to fathers, then they passed out little chocolate shoes to all the dads. Pretty cool.

After lunch we headed up the side of a mountain overlooking Huaraz, where a giant cross stands. We drove up, but hiked back down - trying to acclimate, getting used to hiking at higher elevation! After the hike we went and visited an orphanage in town.

The kids were so excited to have us there. We played games. They played with our digital cameras. We played more games. They arranged the games so that we ended up losing. During one game of hot potato, I ended up losing and had to stand up and be a statue, moving my arms and legs into whatever position they chose! After playing these games for a while they decided to teach us how to dance. They had choreographed dances that they insisted on teaching us. We thought walking up a flight of stairs was hard! Try dancing to their aerobic style dances for `0 minutes without passing out! We had a blast, but we had to say goodbye.

- The next day we drove 2 1/2 hours to beautiful lake Llanganaco. It is located in the Huascaran National Park - at an elevation of about 14,000 ft. We took a couple of hikes, while enjoying some beautiful scenery. The Andes mountains are absolutely beuatiful. I was reminded of the sheer cliffs of Yosemite, and the vast mountain peaks of Alaska. It is difficult to even describe. Pictures don't capture the immensity of what we saw and experienced.

We stopped in at a picnic shelter where a couple of ladies were selling food. We tried some of the local delicacies: Roasted Guinea Pig and Potatoes, ChoCho beans, and roasted corn. Delicious. The Guinea Pig (called cuy in Peru) is a local delicacy. What did it taste like? The closest thing I can compare it to is rabbit, or iguana. It was a little bit chewy and gamey. Not bad for a rodent!

That night I led devotions with the group. I'm gonna save the content for another post. In the mean time, click here for a whole lotta more pictures...

July 07, 2009

Peru 2009 - Days 1 & 2

Alright, alright, a little patience everyone...here come some trip reports! I know some of you are anxiously waiting to here from me. So here goes. I will try not to bore you with to many details - but there are a lot of great stories. Let me know your thoughts!

Day 1

Got up around 6am - had to be at the airport by 10am to meet the team and check in. Everyone showed up with luggage in tow. Looking around it was hard to believe the day had finally arrived. We had been meeting as a team for about 3 months in preparation for this trip...and it was finally here!

We grabbed some Burger King and headed to our gate. Everything was going according to schedule...until we got to Miami. We landed in a rainstorm, and they closed the ramp. So we sat on the tarmac for about 1 hour (it may have been longer). They finally let us off the plane, and we headed to catch our flight to Lima. It was delayed. We finally took off around 6:30pm. Here we go!

The plane landed in Lima at 10:30pm (local time - they are 1 hour behind us). When we got off the plane we were greeted by airport employees wearing masks. I guess the fear of unknown diseases was a real thing there. We made it through immigration and customs...only Brad was stopped at customs. A quick scan of his bag and they let him go. We found our bus, which had been pre-arranged, and headed to the guest house where we would spend the night.

Day 2

Breakfast was fresh baked bread and jelly. This is the typical breakfast in Peru. The bread was amazing. Then we headed to the bus station to get ready for the 8 hour drive north to Huaraz, where we would spend the majority of our time. We had several 1st class seats, which were downstairs. The coach seats were all upstairs, on the second level. The view from the front row what pretty crazy, like a ride at disney world. I enjoyed sitting downstairs just fine. The chance for motion sickness upstairs was to great for me.

They showed movies, served lunch, and played a rousing game of Bingo...yes, Bingo! I almost won...maybe next time?

After about 3 hours heading north up the coast we took a right turn and began our ascent. We would travel from sealevel, over the first ridge at about 14,000 ft, and arrive in Huaraz at 10,500 ft. We began taking ibuprofen to help with the altitude.

The scenery was gorgeous. The coast was barren, very desert like, very sandy. As we began to gain elevation, the vegetation began to appear, We started to see creeks and rivers flowing. And when we crested the big mountain we saw the Andes mountains right in front of us. It was absolutely breathtaking! Words and pictures cannot do justice to what we saw. It was amazing!

One big change we had to get used to was the time the sun sets. At 6pm it got dark. We pulled into Huaraz at 6:30pm. We were met by Rachel (her husband, Ade, would be our guide). She took us to the hotel to check in. Then we went to her house where she had prepared the most amazing chicken soup for dinner. It really hit the spot. We headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

July 01, 2009

Peru - Initial Thoughts

Well we're back. It feels good to be home again. The trip to Peru went way too fast, yet I was so glad to be back in the arms of my family again. I have tons of stories to tell. I hope I can find the time to share many of them here. For now, here are some of my thoughts.

We worked with a group of godly men, Pushpi, Tim, Anchi and Ade. Yaepo is another member of their team, but he was not able to travel with us. These men worked closely with Wycliff to translate the New Testament into Quechuan. They are now working on the Old Testament, which is about 50% complete. Our task was to hike with these men to villages in the Andes Mountains, to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ, and to bring Bibles to people who had never seen God's Word in their own language. Many of them have never see a Bible in any language.

As I watched these men, I began to realize something that blew me away. These men are a modern day Acts story in action! They spend their lives walking from village to village telling people about Jesus. There are hundreds of these villages. Nobody knows how many there are. There is no way to really count. But these men have a plan to touch them all.

We spend a few days with them. We passed through maybe 6-8 villages. These men will go out again in a few days and continue on their mission.

Here's the thing. You always hear people come back from missions trips, talking about life change, how they will never be the same again. I am not going to try and convince you have any of that. I will say this - I saw and experienced things that God did. I watched things happen that only God could orchestrate. I was a part of something much bigger than me. It was beautiful.

If you've never been on a missions trip, then all I have to say to you is go. I don't care if you don't have the money - go. I don't care if it doesn't make sense - go. I don't care what your lousy excuse is - just go! God will take you to a whole new level in your walk and experience with Him. Go!