Time flies when you are having fun. We have been in Peru for five months. It’s Sunday night in a cold and very humid Lima. I can hear the exciting party going on across the street from our apartment. I can’t help wondering how late it will go given that tomorrow is a business day and most of the guests will need to get up very early to go to work or school. Our laundry is drying on the terrace. Even though we would not think of winter as being humid, our proximity to the ocean makes drying clothes a very difficult task. Drying our laundry on a rack inside the apartment is not an option either. We tried that last week and after three days, our clothes were still damp and had a mildewy smell that called for a re-washing.
Luckily Dan took care of that after our morning commitments today while I tried to recover from a weeping cold that started yesterday. He just took off to another part of the city called Miraflores where he is taking an intensive 4-week Spanish course. Due to the distance traveling by bus, we decided that it was better for him to rent a room near the school as opposed to spending 5 or 6 hours on the bus every day. I get to stay with him on Tuesday and Wednesday nights before our main days for ministries at the parish start (Thursday through Sunday). He comes home during the weekends and attends to our commitments with the different chapels.
On the other hand, I am taking a 3-week course every morning on The Realities of Peru. I still have one week to go, but I already feel positively bombarded by a wreath of information that will allow me to do a better job with our communities at the parish.
Now, you may be wondering: “What do they do at the parish?”, “What are their commitments or ministries?” After working with five (map of our work area) of the fifteen chapels that our parish (map of the whole parish) is divided into, we have a better idea of how to answer those questions. So far we have shared with you on this blog, different anecdotes of our life in Lima. However, some of you may be curious to know what what our Every day life is like,
Here it goes:
Our busiest days are Thursday through Sunday. Our work on Thursday and Friday happens at night. People work or study and that is when they can meet and participate in the life of their chapels. On Thursday night, I play guitar with a choir of children and women. We practice the songs for the Sunday mass every week, even though I take turns with another chapel who also has a choir and a mass at the same time and day of the week. I am learning their repertoire in the guitar. Sometimes I know the songs from having grown up in Colombia and sometimes the ladies teach me the ones I don’t know. From the beginning I made sure they knew I wasn’t the coordinator of our choir (which is a role taken by one of the ladies in the community). I also made sure not to impose my repertoire just because I know the songs but instead work with them to play and sing what they are comfortable singing. In the past month, this particular choir has grown to 15 people (about 5 ladies and 10 kids from ages 8 to 13). It gives me great energy to work with them and it seems like the word is getting around about how much fun we have practicing and participating in the Sunday mass because more kids and ladies are joining us every week.
On Friday night, Dan participates in a program that prepares kids for First Communion in an area called Paraiso (Paradise), 45 minutes away by foot from the last bus stop of the area. The catechist is a girl from that community and she takes care of the weekly themes while Dan provides support by answering questions and promoting participation in the class. A Franciscan missionary meets weekly with the parents of these kids to work on the same themes with them so parents are able to talk about these topics with their children at home. It’s a Columban comprehensive approach called Evangelizing in the Family. At the same time of the night I play the same role for another community called Pan de Azucar (Sugar Bread). It’s closer to the bus stop so Dan drops me off and continues going north to get to Paraiso. I have to admit that my least favorite part of Friday nights is to go through the leaks fields to get to my destinations. It is not a security issue…it’s dark if the moon is being covered by the heavy clouds and we walk on the edges of the fields close to the irrigation system, jumping a few hoops to get to the area. Dan manages well and even says that he rather walk by the fields at night so he doesn’t see the potential presence of rats that circle the crops. He tells me to trust my instincts and balance because it is not very likely that I will fall. I still stare at the ground to avoid stepping on rocks, wholes or dead-sand. Using a flashlight would actually makes things worse because if we run out of batteries, our eyes won’t adjust to the darkness right away.
Our ministries with these two communities are worth the long walk for Dan or crossing dark fields for me. These are the most remote chapels of a huge parish that often feel forgotten. Maybe the kids continue to come back to the sessions every Friday to see the gringo with the blue eyes or the Colombian with the new games. They just don’t meet a lot of foreigners on this little corner of the world. The kids are curious about Dan as a whole and find my Spanish accent hilarious. It is definitely a learning experience for everyone involved. And the best part? They are in fact getting ready for their First Communion.
Saturdays are usually busy with invitations from the chapels to participate in their activities, Rosaries, Annual Patron Saint celebrations as well as gatherings with one of the Parish priests to share with other chapels in our area how the First Communion program is going.
Sundays are our toughest days. A short choir practice at either one of the chapels I work with, followed by a mass or a Liturgy of the Word if a priests is not scheduled to come. After that, we participate in Evangelizing the Family again with a different group of kids and parets. Dan works with the catechist of the kids and I work with the catechist of the parents. These two pictures were taken last Sunday at Sagrado Corazon chapel with some of the program participants.
Some Sundays afternoons are free except for when we have our Parish monthly meeting when representatives from all 15 chapels get together for planning purposes. Next Sunday however, the Youth Confirmation Program will begin in Paraiso and Pan de Azucar. We do not know what to expect. Kids (15 to 18 years old) have signed up but we are not sure they will show up. We do not have a catechist in Paraiso which is not the ideal because we like to be in the background of things so the communities take charge of their own programs. In this case, we will start as the catechists, hoping to spot leadership among the participants and talk to them about preparing to take over next year’s program. What would be the point of us leading all the ministries? Two more years of mission will go by fast and we wish to empower people that will sustain the programs and prepare others that can continue these efforts in case they too move on.
We usually attend a mass service on Sunday night in chapels that do not need anything else from us but our presence as a married couple. This is also the Eucharist that gets to be ours. I am not playing the guitar…Dan is not attending the sound system problems…this is our time to be truly present with God.
Wednesdays is our day off!!!!
Other commitments are things like the monthly meeting with the Columban community, the monthly meeting with all the lay missionaries and off course our bi-weekly team meeting with Fathers Joe, Placido and Peter to talk about our parish and have lunch (just to name a few items on our calendar).
So, the music is still playing outside my window. Dan just called me to tell me he got to his temporary “home” in Miraflores safe and sound. I stopped writing this blog which I did not expect to be as long is it turned out, to get our laundry from the terrace. It actually dried in less than 3 days. Yeah =)
At this point…this is our life. Busy at times but very rewarding. Of course we encounter challenges and I am sure there will be more or different demands in the near future. After all, we are still getting settled. But when an 11 year old named Junior came to choir practice for the first time last Thursday and asked me if he could play his keyboard at mass with us, I was so excited that the news of a renewed choir for his chapel had reached him. Junior wanted to share his talent with us. Now we have a bongo, a keyboard, panderetas and my guitar. I hope we don’t drown our voices by having so many loud instruments but most importantly I hope people’s motivation will stay afloat during our time here and long after we are gone.