Bonds built while “doing life” during short-term mission

Two years into its relationship with San Mateo school and chapel in San Juan de Lurigancho (a northern district of Lima), members of the short-term mission team from New Grace Anglican Church (Fleming Island, Florida) spent the week of July 14 doing more than building benches and wielding paint brushes. They built bonds. 

How did they do that? In the same way we build bonds in our life groups at church, our neighborhoods, and our families: by “doing life” together.  Sharing meals and laughter, celebrating birthdays, worshiping together, giving and receiving gifts, and enjoying the warmth of home hospitality.

These photos reflect some of this relationship-building:

Lunch was provided by the school's cooks. Here, the team and Bishop Godfrey enjoy meats, potatoes, and veggies Pachamanca-style (cooked in a sealed clay pot).

Lunch was provided by the school’s cooks. Here, the team shared the table with Bishop to Peru Bill Godfrey (with SAMS missionary Kathy Decker) enjoying meats, potatoes, and veggies Pachamanca-style (cooked in a sealed clay pot).

Padre Carlos's wife and son offer work-site refreshment.

Padre Carlos’s wife and son offer work-site refreshment.

Snacks are shared with some of the students from the school.

Snacks are shared with some of the students from the school.

Carmen, director of San Mateo school, presents a birthday cake to team leader Randy.

Carmen, director of San Mateo school, presents a birthday cake to team leader Randy.

Birthday celebration for the team's leader!

Worshiping together.

Worshiping together.

Padre Carlos at the pulpit.

Padre Carlos at the pulpit.

The team's seminarian had a turn at the pulpit too.

The team’s seminarian had a turn at the pulpit too.

The team joined locals in admiring a festive parade through nearby streets.

The team joined locals in admiring a festive parade through nearby streets.

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What a joy to deliver these dolls, made with love by women at  Zion Episcopal Church in Manchester, Vermont.

What a joy to deliver these dolls, made with love by women at Zion Episcopal Church in Manchester, Vermont (the banner in the background recognizes Peru’s upcoming Independence Day, July 28).

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Even director Carmen got one!

Even director Carmen got one!

No, the boys didn't seem to mind not getting the dolls.

Both the team and the children were eager to spend time together.

After a long week, the team had the privilege of relaxing at Padre Carlos's home for a night of good food and great music provided by Carlos's talented son.

After a long week, the team had the privilege of relaxing at Padre Carlos’s home for a night of good food and great music provided by Carlos’s talented son on the keyboard.

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New Grace (Fleming Island, FL) paints and builds at new chapel in Lima

July 2014 New Grace mission team to San Mateo, Lima.

July 2014 New Grace mission team in Lima (with Fr. Ian Montgomery and Pdr. Carlos Quispe).

The week of July 14, a 6-member team from New Grace Anglican Church in Fleming Island, Florida worked at the new chapel at San Mateo school in the San Juan de Lurigancho district of Lima. This is the second year of New Grace’s relationship with San Mateo, and 3 of the team had been on last year’s inaugural trip.

The team in front of San Mateo school. (The chapel is behind the school.)

The team in front of San Mateo school. (The chapel is behind the school.)

The team was joined by Rev. Ian Montgomery from Vermont (and before that, a long-term SAMS missionary to Peru), who had worked behind the scenes with San Mateo’s rector Padre Carlos Quispe to structure the work week. A successful mission requires pre-planning, and Fr. Ian took the time to visit Lima in April and meet with Pdr. Quispe to determine how the team’s time and talents could best serve his church.

Fr. Ian with Padres Carlos and Jorge during Ian's April visit to review the plans for the chapel and New Grace's mission.

Fr. Ian with Padres Carlos and Jorge during Ian’s April visit to review the plans for the chapel and solidify New Grace’s mission.

San Mateo is in the process of building a new chapel on the plot of land immediately behind the school.

The space in April.

The space in April.

Construction began before the New Grace team arrived; walls were erected, but they needed to be primed and painted.

The challenge? The walls were high! But the team met the challenge.

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And they learned how to mix the paint from scratch.

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A second project was to build wooden benches for the congregation, replacing the existing plastic chairs. With design instructions in hand, the designated carpenters visited a local wood supplier who cut the necessary pieces. Once built, the  benches were given a warm brown stain.

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They were put into place in preparation for Sunday’s service.

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As a finishing touch, the team helped secure the overhead sheeting that would protect the congregation from the winter’s inclement weather.

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What remains to be done? A roof, tile floors, more benches, a proper front wall section, and second-story living quarters for the rector, at the least.

The entrance to the chapel (white and blue), ready for a face-lift.

The entrance to the chapel (white and blue), ready for a face-lift.

San Mateo is truly blessed by the continuing commitment of and an ongoing relationship with New Grace Anglican Church, Fleming Island, Florida.

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An answer to prayer: Christ Church (Plano, TX) Men’s Construction Team in Juliaca

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“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. . . . [B]ecause this [persistent] widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out.” Luke 18:1-5

Like the persistent widow in Jesus’ parable, Padre Luis Quispe was unrelenting in raising prayers for help for his church in Juliaca! For four years, Padre Luis prayed that the diocese would send a mission team to work on the premises of Santa María Magdalena.

And his prayers were answered in the form of the hard-working men’s construction team from Christ Church, Plano, Texas.

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The men’s team, with SAMS missionaries Kym McDaniel and Madison Murray, Padre Luis, and Luis’s mother Nati (who cooked for the crew!).

Christ Church has sent a men’s construction team to Peru each year for many years. For one unforgettable week, the men leave behind their suits (for one of the men, a fire suit!) and computers for old clothes and basic tools.

At Santa María Magdalena, the mission was to sand and paint the chapel and courtyard walls and to prepare the grounds of the courtyard for the new tile walkway that professional “maestros” would lay after the team returned home.

“Before” and “after” photos testify to the lasting difference a one-week mission can make:

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Sanding the chapel walls to prepare them for painting.

Beautifully painted chapel.

Today’s beautifully painted chapel.

Sanding the courtyard walls.

Sanding the courtyard walls.

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Priming the courtyard walls.

Chaos before the order.

Chaos before the order.

Kym is a detail person!

Kym is a detail person!

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Yes, more walls need painting!

Hauling out dirt, to prepare the courtyard for re-tiling.

Hauling out dirt, to prepare the courtyard for re-tiling.

The courtyard today.

The courtyard today.

Beautifully painted courtyard walls.

Beautifully painted courtyard walls.

A poignant thread ran through the week of hard labor. A long-time member of the construction team, Dave Zebe, had passed away before this year’s trip. Knowing how much he would have wanted to be with them, the men dedicated the week to their friend. They arrived in Peru wearing shirts with his name (shown in the group picture, above), and on the memorial wall in the courtyard, he is remembered.

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Sketching out the team’s memorial wall.

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The completed memorial wall.

Did the week present a few unexpected twists? Absolutely!

As it turned out, God had a few more people in mind to help with the mission. Besides SAMS missionaries Kym McDaniel and Madison Murray (who served as the team’s translators) and Luis’s mom Nati (who cooked for the crew and supported their morale with her good humor), two German tourists met the team at their hotel and decided to become members.

The young German tourists added their names to the memorial wall.

The young German tourists added their names to the memorial wall.

In the delightful way God brings people together, the tourists met the team when the hotel’s receptionist called Kym down from her room to translate for the women who spoke English but no Spanish. The young women embraced the work at the church while spending time with godly people serving Christ. Who knows what they will do with the seeds of love and service they have carried back to Germany.

Another take-away story? The general strike that shut down much of the city and outlying areas.

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Rocks and glass thrown onto the streets by strikers to prevent travel in the city.

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Padre Luis on the red motorcycle, with the construction team and German tourists in the green service car, hoping to travel through the strike to visit Lake Titicaca. A wild adventure, successful only for the tourists.

To read about the strike and how Padre Luis came to the rescue–on his motorcycle–to escort the two German tourists toward their next vacation destination of Lake Titicaca, visit the team’s blog at: http://peruconstructionmission.blogspot.com.

On the blog, slide shows, videos, and day-by-day observations capture the week of work, laughter, and spiritual growth.

 

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Shining light into a dark place; talking (God) with the animals

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What distinguishes the city of Juliaca, other than its proximity to the famed Lake Titicaca with its floating islands of reeds? Unfortunately, nothing very good. According to guide books and Peruvians alike, Juliaca’s heavy involvement in the black market, a strong criminal element, a general unattractiveness, and an unmistakable feeling of oppression make it a city best bypassed whenever possible. (Click here to take a ride around town: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_3wbSy8W3I.)

Luckily, our Church has chosen not to bypass but to illuminate this dark city with the light and love of Christ. We have both a church in the heart of Juliaca and a mission in its nearby “altiplano,” or high plains. (Fun fact: for their altitude of 12,500 feet or 3,800 meters above sea level–and not for the “bells and smells” of high mass–they’re our “highest” churches.)

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Santa María Magdalena

Our church, Santa María Magdalena, was formally established in 2009. But before that, the church community had developed organically through the efforts of Padre Juan Carlos Revilla, rector of Cristo Redentor, the church on the grounds of our seminary in Arequipa (see above map). Juan Carlos knew Juliaca fairly well since his wife had grown up there. Twice a month, he brought seminary students north on the five-hour bus ride to engage in pastoral visits. For their part, the seminarians were eager to put into practice what they had learned in their classrooms and to be known as a church engaging in social work as well as ministering the holy sacraments.

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The chapel of Santa María Magdalena, Juliaca.

Bit by bit, the community developed into the present church. In a former colonial-style home, it sits on ample property with a serene chapel and spacious work rooms ringing an internal courtyard.

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A slice of the courtyard at the center of the church property.

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The extra land behind the church where a hoped-for school could one day be built.

Today, under Padres Luis Vizcarra Quispe (Rector) and Justo Maqque, the church is a beacon of Christ’s healing and life-giving love, offering regular Sunday services, a youth and young-adult ministry, Sunday school, a prayer ministry, pastoral visits, and a ministry for children with disabilities.

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Foot washing during a recent Maundy Thursday service.

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The physical therapist at work during one of his weekly Saturday-afternoon sessions.

 

Esquen Tariachi Mission

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Have you ever been enjoying an after-church social time at the entrance of your church, when you’ve had to pull away your plate to keep some llamas from sharing your food? That was the scene at a recent visit to our mission in the high plains outside Juliaca when a few of these fluffy friends broke away from the herd being led out to pasture.

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Padre Luis giving in to their cuteness. His watermelon was a hit!

Our mission of Esquen Tariachi is located about 40 minutes outside Juliaca in the chapel inside one wing of a large working hacienda that houses llamas, cattle, and goats.

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The chapel was being used only a few times a year by the Catholic hacienda owners to celebrate special saints’ days, but three years ago an agreement was reached to allow the Anglican church to use the chapel on Sundays in return for keeping it clean and maintained.

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What a treasure! The terracota-colored brick floors, warm wooden seating, and facing sets of stained-glass windows, plus thick walls that hold in the night’s cool temperatures, offer a pleasing place for worship.

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Good acoustics allow this youth-led music to soar throughout the church.

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The chapel brings together an eclectic congregation of more sophisticated families and young adults who have driven from Juliaca to the “country” church along with indigenous Quechua speakers who have walked the miles from their adjacent properties in their distinctive native dress.

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Enjoying the blessing of sisterly love.

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Padre Luis with the son of the hacienda’s caretaker, who brings his family to church each Sunday.

And the nearby foothills are put to dramatic use during Holy Week, when the youth reenact Christ’s Passion after dragging a heavy wooden cross to the summit.

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Making the hike.

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Bearing the cross.

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A plateau to practice the Passion.

 

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Two Hills, Two Churches: Church Planting in Puente Piedra

Padre Benjamin with Father Clay Lein and Stuart Nibbelin of St. Philip's, Frisco, and some of the children from a recent summer program

Padre Benjamin with Father Clay Lein and Stuart Nibbelin of St. Philip’s, Frisco, Texas and some of the children from a recent summer program.

Padre Benjamin Salas planted–and continues to serve–our two churches in the Puente Piedra district of Lima. He was ministering in another district of Lima when he was approached by a group of families from the “Cajamarca Hill” in Puente Piedra, so called because its residents had come to Lima from the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca. The families wanted the Anglican Church, and Padre Benjamin in particular, to care for them and to baptize their children. The baptisms took place in October 2007 at the beautiful Good Shepherd Cathedral in Miraflores, and the church plant of San Andrés Anglican Church began to take root.

Like many church plants, San Andrés spent its formative months in an interim building, one owned by a generous parishioner.

The interim church building.

The interim church building.

There, eighteen families were prepared for baptism in just six months. Meanwhile, Padre Benjamin was praying for some land to build a church. And God provided the land: a small plot on the hilltop. In Padre Benjamin’s words:

We flattened what was necessary in order to build a house of mats six by four square meters. We decorated it like a cathedral. We joined our offerings and bought wooden panels for the walls, and we improved our chapel. My son Miguel painted our apostle San Andrés in watercolors. The church was pretty, and we built it with much love.

Watercolor of Saint Andrew.

Behind the altar, with the watercolor of Saint Andrew.

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Early visitors to San Andrés included Todd Atwood from Texas, Rev. Allen Hill from Lima, Rev. Marvin Bowers from California, and Padre Ricardo Vergara Peñaranda, now serving as a priest in Arequipa, Peru.

At the inauguration of the new church, Bishop Godfrey presided over the holy eucharist, and ten boys and girls made their first communion.

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San Andrés was blessed to receive invaluable start-up necessities like Bibles, work books, and supplies of paper and crayons from a Presbyterian mission organization that even committed to provide lunch for thirty children for three years.

Padre Benjamin does not ascribe these blessings to luck. Rather, he says,

they resulted from the strength and perseverance of a believing community that waits, that trusts, and that praises and gives thanks to God. 

San Andrés moved forward as a church, driven by the desire to know God and to know about the life and love of Christ. Padre Benjamin sought to help his parishioners know the sacred scriptures, to help them understand and participate in the liturgies of the Eucharist and Holy Baptism, and to live together “like brothers of the same Father, brothers in Christ our Savior.”

But the property around San Andrés was unstable, as evidenced by a deep and wide crevice that developed outside its entrance.

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It became too dangerous to worship in the church. And for a while, the people had no place to gather. Again, though, God provided for the people’s needs. Padre Benjamin recalls with gratitude:

At a critical moment when we were without a chapel to celebrate and teach in, Todd Atwood came from Frisco, Texas with the great news that there was a congregation, St. Philip’s, that wanted to help us, to be our family, our brothers. And that’s how, in February 2013, Draggy, Monica, Debi, Gorgi, Janice, Stuart, Ron, and Robert came with all of their love, their care, their patience, and an eagerness to work. 

There would be a new church, Santísima Cruz, on the “Primavera Hill,” next to but more populated than the Cajamarca Hill.

It is the hope that the San Andrés property can one day be made secure. And there is still much to do on the Santísima Cruz property before a chapel can be built, including building retaining walls on both the up- and down-hill sides.

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The need for retaining walls is clear from this picture that shows the steep hill the land is carved from.

St. Philip’s, Frisco, Texas is committed to supporting Santísima Cruz, and in the meantime, Padre Benjamin does not hesitate to use the bare space for Sunday services and to fill it to the brim for children’s programs.

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Again, Padre Benjamin is quick to praise God for all he has done:

So, now that God has blessed us with the love of his brothers of St. Philip’s, and therefore, soon with a pretty church and rectory, I think we have to thank him for having put in our path good people to help us in the realization of this great vision. 

And while St. Philip’s is the most recent supporter of the church in Puente Piedra, Padre Benjamin remembers with special fondness a long-term SAMS missionary who came alongside him from the start, Father Ian Montgomery.

We were blessed by God from the beginning because we always had the support, enthusiasm, and love of Padre Ian Montgomery. Padre Ian was always concerned for our improvement, for our necessities, and for our problems, looking for people to help us or helping us directly. He helped us especially in the liturgy and with the youth program. And we felt his great love and appreciation for our people, always talking and telling our story through the gifts God gave him: photography and music.

Then-SAMS missionary and fellow banjo enthusiast Fr. Ian Montgomery enjoyed accompanying Padre Benjamin.

Fr. Ian Montgomery joining Padre Benjamin in musical worship.

Bishop Godfrey, too, has uplifted the work in Puente Piedra, “visiting us, encouraging us, and always valuing our work, progress, and activities.”  And Bishop Mike Chapman blessed the cornerstone of San Andrés and is remembered for his healing service.

Padre Benjamin feels a lasting connection to the people who have come alongside his ministry in Puente Piedra:

God has sent–and continues to send–many people to help us. We always pray for them, that their lives may be blessed.

 

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Love and Joy and Worship amidst Dirt Hills and Difficult Lives

What does an Anglican church look like? In some places, it looks like this:

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Or for a more modern twist, like this:

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For the people of Puente Piedra, a northern district of Lima, it looks like this:

San Andrés Anglican Church, Puente Piedra

San Andrés Anglican Church, Puente Piedra

And this:

Santísima Cruz Anglican Church, Puente Piedra

The open land of Santísima Cruz Anglican Church, Puente Piedra

Our two churches in Puente Piedra–San Andrés and Santísima Cruz–sit on adjacent hills separated by about 100 yards and a lot of huffing and puffing.

The dirt hills are steep!

A hill aside San Andrés.

A hill aside San Andrés.

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Making the ascent.

They assure that coming to church is not a simple matter.

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Congregants outside San Andrés.

Congregants outside San Andrés.

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A determined little girl assessing the climb ahead.

And in the open air of Santísima Cruz, it’s not possible to escape the bitter winter cold or the sweltering summer sun.

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Visitors from England, including Rev. Phil Bradford, share in this service at Santísima Cruz.

A life in Puente Piedra holds little promise of comfort.

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But thanks be to God, Padre Benjamin Salas has a heart to love and serve the people of Puente Piedra.

A kind and energetic Padre Benjamin and his generous, fun wife Livia.

A kind and energetic Padre Benjamin and his generous, fun wife Livia.

Padre Benjamin has sacrificed the comforts of his home in a developed district of Lima to live in the simple rooms on the property of Santísima Cruz.

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Padre Benjamin helping his lovely wife Livia navigate the steps from his new home.

Living in the community, he can do what he does best: nurture relationships, which he forms while holding after-school children’s programs, enjoying the hospitality of a home visit, or simply setting up a neighborhood volleyball game or chatting with his neighbors.

Sometimes more than people are found in the homes!

Sometimes more than people are found in the homes!

Of course, all who know Padre Benjamin know the joy he brings to the community through his music. He plays the guitar and sings. He plays the banjo and sings. He encourages the children to sing. He leads his congregations in song. Praise and worship through song; these are a constant in his life and a huge blessing to his churches.

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Then-SAMS missionary and fellow banjo enthusiast Fr. Ian Montgomery enjoyed accompanying Padre Benjamin.

Then-SAMS missionary and fellow banjo enthusiast Fr. Ian Montgomery enjoyed accompanying Padre Benjamin.

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Padre Benjamin’s joyful heart comes from knowing and freely sharing the love of Christ. It is with that joyful heart that he carries out our great commission to preach the gospel to all the world.

So, what does an Anglican church look like? It looks like the love and joy and praise and worship and caring relationships that are found in our churches in Puente Piedra.

Who can see these beautiful, hopeful eyes and doubt God's presence in Puente Piedra?

Who can see these beautiful, hopeful eyes and doubt God’s presence in Puente Piedra?

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St. Philip’s (Frisco, Tx) mission team works in Puente Piedra

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The last week of February, a seven-member mission team from St. Philip’s (Frisco, Texas) worked at Santisima Cruz church in the Puente Piedra district of northern Lima. Long-term SAMS missionary Kathy Decker joined her sending church to work alongside Padre Benjamin Salas and his lovely wife Livia.

Walking up the hill that leads to the church.

Walking up the hill that leads to the church.

Taking advantage of the children’s summer vacation from school, the team’s central mission was a children’s program. As a testament to the community’s love for Padre Benjamin and Livia and its fond memories of  last year’s St. Philip’s team, the program was filled to capacity!

Each morning at 9:00 a.m., up to 60 neighborhood children squeezed onto wooden benches on either side of outdoor tables.

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Padre Benjamin lives in this building, and church services are held outside in this cut-out space on the hill. Here, the children are arriving for one of the morning programs.

Latecomers sat on the ground and used tarps or planks of wood for both bench and table.

Team leader Ron Whetsell took his place on the plank chairs/tables as well.

Team leader Ron Whetsell took his place on this plank chair/table as well.

Father Clay Lein, Senior Pastor of St. Philip's, enjoying one-on-one coloring time.

Father Clay Lein, Senior Pastor of St. Philip’s, enjoyed one-on-one coloring time.

In one of the Bible-related crafts, the children drew self-portraits after learning that God made each one of them unique and beautiful.

This boy is wearing a St. Philip's T-shirt that the team brought last year. He's a secon

This boy is wearing a St. Philip’s T-shirt that the team brought last year. Isn’t it wonderful to see long-term relationships being built?

Time with the children also included outdoor recreation–thankfully on a nearby plot of FLAT land–using all kinds of fun equipment.

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Team translator Draggy Petrovic’s love of volley ball showed here.

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Getting ready for the ring toss.

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The classic jump rope was a huge hit with girls and boys alike.

This little boy brought his own toy!

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And what to do with extra chalk and a cement wall? Praise graffiti, of course! So many reasons to praise God!

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Jump rope was so popular that Padre Benjamin turned it into a contest back at the church.

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And given Padre Benjamin’s musical talent, it’s no surprise that music was a part of the week as well.

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The children also learned about brushing their teeth, and they really seemed to like their gift of toothbrushes.

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He’s practicing his newly learned brushing technique.

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This girl bundled her toothbrush with her midday cookie snack!

And throughout the week, a little work was done around the church grounds.

Rocks were chipped then hauled away from a small hill that needs to be cleared.

Rocks were chipped then hauled away from a small hill that needs to be cleared.

The men relax around stairs they replaced and the new, more secure path down the hill.

The men relax around stairs they replaced and the new, more secure path down the hill.

St. Philip’s is dedicated to partnering with Santisima Cruz in the years to come. It shares Padre Benjamin’s vision of a property made secure by necessary retaining walls, followed by a chapel. And it hopes to build lasting relationships–and to continue to share Jesus’ love–with  the children of Puente Piedra and all the community that surrounds Santisima Cruz.

Some of the mission team with their new friends.

Some of the mission team with their Peru friends.

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Even one of the town’s cats seems to have found the week peaceful.

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