To the Family at Church of the Advent:
First, to my family at Church of the Advent: I apologize for being such a slacker in communicating with you. I follow what is going on in Baker because of all of Father Ken’s faithful communication to the church and my bi-weekly call with Father Rob. However, I realize you do not know what is going on in my life. I have been excited for many days about what God has let me participate in and an update is long overdue.
Many of you know that I was invited to work with a ministry here in Cajamarca, Peru called Villa Milagro. To my great surprise, I was asked to interpret for short- term mission teams. I have gone out to the ‘campo,' usually an hour or more drive, with short -term medical- mission teams. I have also interpreted for a team of dentists and one group of women who came to minister to the women in a church an hour from where I live and also with Wheels for the World. In this blog, I will tell you about the trip to Celendin and save the rest for future posts. Celendin is a 3 -hour drive from Banos del Inca (think suburban Cajamarca, sort of) where I live. We spent two nights in a hotel there and drove to sites from this location.
The first night we arrived in Celendin there was a giant crowd in front of our hotel. Some in our group thought they saw a fight and immediately concluded it was a protest. Celendin is notorious for hating mining and is known as an unsafe location for miners because there are frequent anti-mining protests there. Though I am not a miner, my husband, Brad is an executive with a mining company and we are often reminded to be cautious. Traveling to Celendin is not considered cautious.
We were finally taken into the hotel through a back way to avoid the crowd that was easily numbered at 400 people. To our great relief we learned that the crowd outside was there to see the ‘stars’ of a Peruvian reality show called Combate. It’s a crazy show with teams and romance (drama) and young women in swimsuits for all competitions. It is a wildly popular show in Peru but who would have thought it would be in the outback of Peru? It was our great fortune to be staying in the same hotel with these stars. It turned out to be a highlight for a few of the male medical students that were with us.
Later, when I went to my hotel window and opened it, the crowd began to cheer and flash photos. It was pretty funny. However, it did not take them long to figure out I was not who they were waiting for. However, when the Combate stars went to their windows the cheering was quite exuberant.
Our hotel was right on the Plaza de Armas, home of all official fiestas in every town in Peru. It was just our fortune that in addition to Combate Stars, it was also the fiesta of San Martin. This meant that the loudest music possible began at 10pm and lasted until 5 am, just an hour before we had to travel to our first village. Needless to say we were all lacking a good nights sleep. The devoted coffee drinkers among us, of which I am one, had to learn to make due with instant.
It was still dark at 4am when we began our journey, this was actually a good thing based on road conditions. The road was a narrow dirt road that literally clung to the edge of a mountain on one side and plunged to a river far, far below on the other. We had one show-down when we met a truck going in the opposite direction. We celebrated our victory when the ex-Army Ranger among us convinced them it was safer for them to back-up than for us to do so.
Our 3 and ½ hour trip to Jose Chavez took 6 hours. A breakfast of fruit and delicious banana bread had been prepared by the Villa Milagro cooks for us to eat on the way. We stopped to eat it at Villa Nueva: it would have been easy to miss that this was a pueblo. After we ate we continued to Jose Chavez and saw all the people waiting to see a doctor.
The cooks and driver left Jose Chavez 1 and 1/2 hours before we did. Imagine our surprise when we found the van that had left early was parked in the middle of the road at the pueblo of Villa Nueva, where we had earlier in the day eaten our breakfast. The van had been stopped by a group of Ronderos, local vigilantes. The Ronderos all wore matching vests with various patches sewn on them. Each of them carried a 3 foot-long stick that is used to whip guilty parties with. We were asked to stay in the van as we waited to see what would happen. While we waited, those who knew of the worst things vigilantes in Peru had done began to tell their stories. (Women, this is like being at a baby shower and everyone starts to tell their labor and delivery horror stories). Indeed, Ronderos are known to have killed people they find guilty. Needless to say, some among us were very uncomfortable, maybe even terrified. Finally, we prayed.
The Ronderos thought we were out trying to convince the locals that mining was a good thing. The local pastor with us explained that we had come in the name of Jesus to help others. Finally, the pastor’s identification card information was recorded in their book and he was required to sign it, and we were then released.
I was truly at peace during that entire episode. There has been a great deal of anti-mining demonstrations in this area: I won’t even try to report all of it here. There was no reason for the Ronderos to suspect my connections, but had they been discovered it could have been dangerous for the group. Truly, I feel safe here, but I believe it is because of your faithful prayers. Thank you. We live on the main road in Banos and everyone knows where we live. Without making this sound like it is more dangerous than it is, I am so grateful for your prayers.
God has been so good, growing me during this time. I have some other things to tell you, but if I do it all in one blog I might lose you, so until the next posting my dear friends….