Reimagine Peru, June 23-July 2, 2022
Our first day in Peru, we hit the ground running with our first build. We were bussed to a community called Santa Rosita, which is in Lima. The town is one where the American teams with Reimagine have established themselves as regulars in the community. Reimagine teams have been coming here for twenty years and they have relationships with the Peruvian people that run deep and have crossed generations. When “Mama Linda” and her group from America arrive, the entire community comes out to greet them. Kim and I were told to just get ready to be hugged and kissed and high-fived by a bunch of people that will love you before they even meet you. Wow, that was an understatement!
After the hugs and greetings, we learned that our first construction was considered an easy one–it was on the ground level. The foundation cement was already in place and it was to be a community kitchen. All we had to do was assist in holding plywood in place while the two Peruvian construction workers nailed it all together around us. Kim was wanting in on the building action; however, we were obviously not in America anymore. There were no trusses or table saws or even electricity running to the site. The place was erected very quickly and Linda chose two families to dedicate it. The Reimagine cross was placed next to the doorway. (These crosses are actually made by groups at Teen Challenge in Pensacola. What a cool way to mark the connection to home!) A blessing was made over all who would have access to the kitchen and then we returned to the Reimagine church for lunch and to prep for the afternoon’s lessons with the children of Santa Rosita.
The next day, we went back to Santa Rosita. The build was on the top of a mountainside. It wasn’t a long trek, but the incline was rough! Being out of shape made for a lot of huffing and puffing! Once again the Reimagine regulars told us this was “easy” because the foundation was already there and the plywood panels were delivered most of the way. We would just need to pass them up one incline and assist in holding things in place. Since we spent the previous afternoon with the community, we made some friends already. I love how they all joined us–kids and moms, and even the older generation climbed the hill with us.
We learned that today’s building would be a community center for everyone in the area to use. There would be a kitchen and they could have celebratory events there. Apparently it was the largest structure ever built by the Reimagine teams.
It seemed like every person in the town came out to hold these walls in place. We love how well Kim blends in with the Peruvian crowd! Lol!
As I mentioned in God’s Math Part 2 (https://loveisthecommonthread.com/2022/07/20/gods-math-part-2/), the plan was to build 5 houses while we were there. I must admit after donating the amount to pay for a house, I was getting ahead of God’s plans (as usual). I was thinking how wonderful it would be if we were chosen to dedicate a home to a single mom since I had shared those same hardships for several years before meeting Kim. I would feel an instant connection to the mom. I thought to myself, “All of those times I was given help as a single mom and now I am able to pay it forward and buy a single mom a home?! Wow, that’d be awesome!” Sounds pretty harmless, right? I thought so too.
But then, Linda asked Kim and I to dedicate this community center alongside another family. Admittedly, I was a little bummed that we weren’t dedicating a home for a single mom. I had a plan–I was supposed to have this grand connection with the recipient. I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually questioned in my mind, “Will it make as good a story and have as great an impact if there is no “single mom” connection for me?” And right about then, God put this zinger in my brain…”Who paid for this?” It struck me like a bolt right through my heart!
Kim and I didn’t pay for this community center or for any of the other houses that were built while we were there–this was God’s doing! “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalms 24:1) HE made it happen. HE made this trip happen. Every single moment of this happened because of HIM! It was a split second thought, but it was a very powerful one! Shame on me for trying to dictate what God did with these funds. I am incredibly thankful that He helped me to recognize this because it was the nudge I needed to get out of the way to let God do His thing–His Math! Once again, His plan was SO much better than any that I could’ve crafted.
During our dedication, I explained our “Peru fund” and the symbolism of the anniversary donation to the crowd. They needed to know though that this was a gift from God for his beloved Peruvian people. After the other family’s beautiful prayer, the person who is considered the president of the area spoke to thank all of us. Here is a shortened video of what was said:
Did you hear that? Did you catch what God did there? I was thinking $1000 + Reimagine = a house for a single mom. God’s Math made $1000 + Reimagine = a community center that will bless more than FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTY PEOPLE!! What a fool I was to think that I knew better! I am hugely grateful to have been a part of this lesson and even moreso thankful to be a part of this special Reimagine group.
The next morning, I received an email from American Airlines. I was refunded $106.87 due to a seat change on our flight. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking our first deposit to Peru fund 2.0 has just been made!! God is so good!
Since it was Sunday, the three communities where Reimagine groups have built homes were brought in to enjoy worshipping together in the church at the Reimagine complex. During the service, each of the Americans was called up and we were presented with a present (a piece of chocolate and clothespin butterfly) that was handmade by a chosen child from one of the communities. The child I was paired with was this cutie, Dayana. During the service, we prayed over our little gift givers and I got to meet her mom and brother as well.
She told me that she lived “in the green house” and pointed out the window to the hill behind the complex where we were staying. Once I figured out which green house she was talking about, I realized that I could see it from the bedroom window where I was sleeping.
On the morning after we arrived, I took this picture out of the big window that I looked at from my bed. During the night prior, I was staring up at the houses on the hill–there were only a few lights to be seen in the distance. The poverty in which these people live is just mindboggling and unsettling. As I lay there in the darkness, looking out the window, I thought of them lying there in the dark. I prayed for the people that lived on that hill. I prayed for their children, for their protection, for their livelihood, and I prayed that they wouldn’t be afraid of the dark. In my opinion, they need so much, and yet, they seemed to be content with so little.
It was crazy to me that out of all the children that they could have chosen from the three communities to pair me up with, that Dayana was the one that was picked for me. Because the night before I even met her, unbeknownst to both of us, I prayed over her and her family.❤
On Monday, we were told that the house we were building was in the community where we were staying, Jicamarca. As we trudged up the mountain right behind the Reimagine complex, we were once again grateful that the foundation was already there and that the plywood was able to be transported via a truck right up to the job site. As we got closer and closer, I saw my little friend, Dayana in the distance. She came running toward us and gave hugs to all. I asked her if her green house was here. She pointed and said yes, and then I spotted her mother. Lo and behold, the home we were building was her next door neighbor’s house! How’s that for a connection?!
Even though Kim drove him a little crazy, after 3 days of hand signals to understand how things are done here, he and his Peruvian construction worker friend were finally in a groove; working hard to get the homes put together. A fellow firefighter and Reimagine teammate, Tim, also assisted and had Kim’s back as needed. Lol!
Some of the moms started cooking lunch and the house’s water tank was filled while we were there. It’s so hard for us to imagine a life like this. I truly don’t know how they do it!
As soon as we finished this house and returned to our rooms, I took a new picture from my window. I was so touched by the fact that Reimagine is literally changing the landscape of Lima, one blessed structure at a time! This picture serves as a reminder to me that we were a part of something special, and something WAY bigger than ourselves that day. What a gift!
The next day we were building in a community called Mano de Dios (The hand of God). Judging by how high up on the mountain this place was, I realized quite quickly why they called it that! This one had a foundation, but there was no way to deliver the wood to the location, so it all had to be passed up…and up…and up. The best way to explain this is to show you the videos. The first one is the passing of the plywood walls from the road to the first, second, maybe third level. The saying, “Many hands make light work” was never more true than in Peru!
By the time I walked up to the location, the house was pretty much built! The contractor’s wave indicates to me that they don’t need my help up there. Thank God! Lol!!
The next day, which we thought would be our last house to build, we finally got to experience the making of a foundation. I’m SO glad they saved this part for last because it was as rough as the veterans said it was! Thankfully, once again the entire community joined in passing the bags of sand up the mountainside to make the cement foundation at the house site. Some bags were heavier than others, but all in all it took a good 30-40 minutes of non-stop passing to get the job done.
This act of teamwork was incredibly impressive and it made me love the Peruvian people even more than I already did. What a blessing that people come together to help each other!
Once again, by the time I make my way, huffing and puffing up all the steps to the foundation, the house is pretty much already built!!
Every afternoon after our house building in Santa Rosita, we would return to our Reimagine home base to have lunch before spending the afternoon with the community.
There was a children’s Bible lesson that we all took part in each day. (Thank you, John Mark and Susanna for your awesome lead in those!) They would play music and dance and we would all act out parts of the lesson. Afterwards the kids would play ball, jump rope, color, use play dough, and/or run around in the playground. It was as much fun for them as it was for us! Kim and I made some special friends that we really hope to see again.
One of which was my sweet friend and Spanish professor, Jair and the other was my buddy, Benjamin. These boys were absolutely precious and despite our language barrier, we hit it off! Thanks to some sidewalk chalk and colored pencils, they taught me the color words in Spanish and then led me around naming different things that were drawn on the pavement. We hung out with them every day that we were in their community. I got to meet both of their beautiful mothers and their siblings as well.
Before we left, Jair gave me this special necklace. It says “Me (Jair) and My Friend.” On the back it says “My friend is pretty.” It is my greatest treasure from the trip! ❤
Jair had surgery on his arm when he was younger so he wasn’t able to use the “passo manos” (monkey bars) without assistance. Upon realizing why he wanted to do it so frequently, Kim was honored to be his constant monkey bar transport. It made both of them SO happy. However, before long, Kim would have a line waiting for a free ride across.
One day, after the children all received candy from one of the Reimagine team members, Kim walked around with a bag to collect their candy wrappers. He asked me how to say garbage in Spanish–I looked it up and we both learned a new word, “basura.” So Kim walked around saying, “Basura” with his bag and for no apparent reason, one child roared at him. Well, if you ever watched Monsters, Inc, you would’ve thought Sully was in Peru as Kim pulled out his inner monster and roared with all he had, “BAAAAA–SUUUUUU–RAHHHHH!!” The kids went absolutely bonkers! They went running around looking for something to throw away in his bag. He followed after them yelling, “Basura!!” They were yelling it back at him.
Even a day or two later, I could hear him walking up the street–the children continued to call out to him…and he would always respond! Lol! Despite the fact that he enjoyed all the construction work he did on this trip, I have no doubt that he will instead be remembered as the Garbage Monster. 😂
I must say though that this right here, is what sets Reimagine apart from other mission trips. The fact that we are returning to these same communities day after day and we get to learn each other’s names and make memories like this one–this is what makes this mission group so special!
As it turns out, our 5th building was not the last one that we would be working on during this trip. While we were passing sandbags up at the last house, a young single mother pulled Linda aside and explained that her house burned down. She was living on the streets with her two children and she had nothing left. Yes, I know exactly what I said–she was a single mother–God has such an interesting way of getting our attention, doesn’t He?!!
The desperate woman begged for help and asked if there was anyway Reimagine could build her a home. The amazing part is that she wasn’t even part of the Santa Rosita community. How did she hear about Reimagine? How did she know we were there at that moment? How did she get there–her community was NOT close to where we were! And finally, how was it that two of the Reimagine team members were given extra monetary donations to be used at their discretion if/when the need arose? They had enough to cover the cost of the woman’s house AND enough to provide her with some furniture/kitchen stuff. Linda and Marisol (the lifeblood of Reimagine in Peru) set it all up so that the contractor and his workers would bring the supplies to her location in the morning. It was truly a miracle in the making!
When we arrived at her community, Juan Pablo, it took a few seconds to realize that this was not like any of our previous builds!! The steps became less like steps and more like partly piled layers of unsteady rock as they rose higher and higher. The people in this area didn’t know who we were because Reimagine never built there before. They didn’t come out to assist us and there weren’t enough of us to stand and pass up the supplies. The location of the slab was up and to the right of the purple structure that is next to the yellow house at the top of this horrifying stairway. This was going to be a treacherous one!
The brave guys carried the supplies up in teams. It was too dangerous to follow closely behind each other and some parts were too narrow to hold the pieces flat, so some waited at the bottom till it was safe to head up. Thankfully there were Peruvian workers who assisted in the climb.
Once again, by the time I made the trek up, the structure was already in place. This sweet mom sobbed with gratitude as her house was dedicated. I must say, I think we all felt as blessed as she did–if not more! So the “single mom” house was meant to be a connection for ALL of us! Once again, God’s plan was WAY better than mine!
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work, we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35 NIV)
Speaking of giving, remember when I showed the picture of the donations that I collected to bring to Peru? (https://loveisthecommonthread.com/2022/07/20/gods-math-part-2/) Here it is on the left, in case you forgot… And after the packing party, when combined with all the other’s donations (so we wouldn’t be stopped by customs for carrying too much of one thing); our stash looked like this (on the right).
Well how about God’s Math with this stuff? Absolutely mind blowing! Here’s what those donations of yours turned into…
The people from the three communities who came to church at Reimagine came back at the end of the week to select from different piles. Our Peruvian Reimagine teammates had a wonderful system in place so that everyone got things that they needed. Everybody left with armfuls of clothes and shoes and pharmaceuticals. They were so very appreciative and so was I; knowing that you, my friends and family who donated to this trip did this! You helped provide supplies to build the houses; you gave money to provide a community with a kitchen and you contributed to the Santa Rosita community center. You gave what you could with money, vitamins, and sneakers, and God multiplied it all in His mighty way!
As I wrap this up, I have to tell you, all night I have been praying, “Lord, did I write what I needed to write? Did I give you glory? Was your message conveyed?” This morning, I woke up and saw this magnet on my fridge.
And once again I am reminded, it’s not up to me to feed the 5000, I just have to provide the loaves and fish. The rest is up to God to help people see things how He wants them to be seen.
As our flight from Lima prepared to land in Dallas, the cabin received one last walk through. The voice walking up the aisle behind me was that of the flight attendant with her garbage bag, “Basura?” she asked. Kim and I couldn’t help but smile knowing that although this trip to Peru is over, there will surely be more in our future.
When we got home I withdrew the $107 refund from American Airlines and I put it in a new “Peru fund” envelope. I just hope this time we get to go in less than 6 years—I know, there I go again, making plans ahead of God! Geez! What can I say? I’m a work in progress.