This is the letter I wrote to my supporters upon my return from Peru. It was an experience of a lifetime (as you will soon read). Therefore, I wanted to share my experience with all of you out there. Enjoy!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As you have probably heard (or at the very least are now becoming aware), I am back from Puerto Maldonado, Peru. It was the trip of a lifetime to say the very least. It challenged me in ways I didn’t anticipate and I loved it. And I think God knew I needed that. As I was walking back from the informational meeting about Peru back in September, I was met with a poster that had just appeared that day. It said this: a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. God really took me out the harbor on this one. Wow! Even on the trip I was contemplating what I was going to say to you all when I returned and even as I type I am not entirely sure everything God is trying to teach me and show me through the trip. There are a few things I am absolutely sure about though. One is that I will never forget Peru, the people I went with, the people I met there, or the lessons God taught me. Another is that none of it would have been possible if God hadn’t provided and I firmly believe you all were a grand part of that. That is obviously evident by your financial support (which provided everything I needed for this trip and more!) and your prayers which are evidenced by the results of our trip. We safely traveled 4,000 miles, drove from the Twin Cities to Chicago, took 9 flights, slept in an airport twice, and spent 8 days in the jungle without getting eaten or bitten by anything deadly. So thank you for your support through financial giving and all your prayer.
There are so many things I wish to tell you about the trip but first – the basics. We left on Thursday March 3rd at 3 a.m. We drove to Chicago then flew to El Salvador. From El Salvador we flew to Lima, Peru. After a nice stay on the airport floor, we flew to Cusco and then to our final destination, Puerto Maldonado. The group was small – it was just 4 of us. We spent 8 days serving with El Arca children’s home on a farm in the Amazon jungle. We spent time with the family (especially the kids – man, will I never forget them) and served them by helping wherever needed (making meals, cleaning, painting, fixing the road, etc.) After our time was up, we started our long journey back home. We had a fun night in Lima during our 12 hour layover which was just what we needed after being in the middle of the jungle with no contact with the outside world for over a week. We arrived back home Sunday, March 13th in the evening.
Our trip was filled with so many new adventures and new things for me. I left the continent for the first time. I went to the jungle for the first time. I flew by myself for the first time (from Chicago to Minneapolis). I slept in an airport for the first time (and the second time we were awoken by a woman who was poking us to get us up so she could wash the floor we were sleeping on!). I rode in a taxi for the first time (with a crazy driver in a traffic jam – seatbelt is highly recommended for that ride). I ate octopus and ceviche for the first time. I spilled human waste on myself for the first (and I hope the last) time. I made eggplant lasagna for the first time (that one was an adventure – it turns out it is even more difficult to make lasagna in the jungle). I saw a rat run across the dining room for the first time. I saw spiders bigger than the palm of my hand for the first time. And I went a week without any contact with my parents for the first time. My trip was filled with a lot of firsts and I hope to continuing make such firsts for the rest of my life (except maybe ones like the whole spilling waste on myself thing).
Not only was it filled with a lot of exciting adventures and firsts but it was also filled with a lot of life lessons. One of the things I think God really wanted to remind me of on this trip is how constant He is. There are times in your life when you realize that in more dramatic ways. That first night in the jungle was one of those times for me. I was sitting there and I finally got it. Nothing is constant or guaranteed. Not the presence of friends or family, not your location, not your abilities, not your health, not your safety. Nothing is constant but the Creator of those things. Thankfully, that constant is all we truly need. Even if everything else were to fall away, we would still have all we needed because He is true, He is good, and He is loving. I realized that as I saw this family suffer. They left everything they knew in pursuit of starting this children’s home only to lose many of the kids years into their ministry as a result of the government trying to shut down orphanages. I can only imagine what it must be like for them right now as they choose which children they can keep and try to adopt and which they have to say goodbye to. I wrestled with this striking blow to the ministry of this family. How could God let this happen? I don’t know. My only prayer is that as a result more souls would be won for the kingdom as these children who are not able to stay are sent back to their families. Still, even as I wrestled with this. I noticed that the family wasn’t. Or at least that is what it seemed like. They went on praising God for His goodness and faithfulness. And suddenly I was struck on the head and reminded. God never promises prosperity. He promises His presence. Just like He never asks for fruitfulness, just faithfulness. And that is exactly what this family is doing. Trusting God and being faithful. I don’t know why some things happen but I do know this: God is good and He never lets anything be wasted. And so I want to be faithful. It is a lot easier to be faithful in the easier times of life but it will get harder. When I start my church someday, I hope the Lenz family and their perseverance will pop up in my head and I will be encouraged to continue to be faithful in the difficult season of church planting. As a result of this trip, I also want to get even closer to the Father. When I realized that He is the only true constant I realized that I need to have an even stronger relationship with Him than I already do. If He is my one and only then I need to spend even more time with Him and I want to because He is so so good.
It is still a little hard to believe. This time last week I was sleeping in the Lima, Peru airport after spending a week in the jungle. Now I am sitting in my dorm alone writing to all of you. This time two weeks ago I was almost to Puerto Maldonado with 3 people I barely knew and I came back with 2 sisters and a big brother (I guess traveling 4,000 miles to the jungle bonds people). So many things are uncertain. I don’t know if I will ever see any of those people I met in Peru again this side of heaven. I don’t know all the reasons God sent me to Peru yet. I don’t know where He will send me next (what is more outside my comfort zone than the Amazon jungle with 3 people I barely know?). But I do know this: God is true. God is good. God is loving. God is constant. And He provides. He provides in beautiful ways. He provides with finances, health, safety, and with marvelous family like you. Praise God.
Love, peace, and grace to you all,