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A letter from Sara Armstrong and Rusty Edmondson in Peru

September 8, 2009

Dear Friends,

Translating cultures

Living in a new culture means we tend to translate everything through the lens of our own culture and experience. That includes essentials such as food. So where is Peru’s “best food on the planet,” as advertised in Gourmet magazine? Maybe in Lircay? In this remote mountain village, the cooking is done over a wood fire by Quechua-speaking women in fabulous skirts and bowler hats. The meat locker? The alpaca haunch is hanging on the adobe wall. Or perhaps jungle delicacies of the Amazonia region? A species of large grubs are seasoned and tastefully barbequed on a stick. Thanks, but I think I’ll stick to the alligator.

Language

Photograph of eight people sitting on benches inside a partially constructed church.

Interpreting at the new construction site of San Tomas Church in the Amazon region near Iquitos.

How many times did Sara tell the church as she was translating that we were building 100 banks (bancos) rather than 100 benches (bancas)? No wonder they looked puzzled. One time she meant to talk about Jews (judios) and referred instead to green beans (judias)! Rusty usually has long conversations with the drivers during taxi rides. He was chatting away one day and the taxi driver began laughing, hitting the steering wheel, just missing a light pole. Each time he would settle down, he would glance sideways at Rusty and start laughing all over again. Rusty never knew what he had said that was so funny.

Travel

Overnight buses into the highlands are the norm for most travelers. They rocket through the night with nonstop raucous videos, either violence or really bad comedy. The limited views out the windows show precipitous drops as we round hairpin curves. However, hot tea comes with the ticket and it is pretty good. Visit Lima for no other reason than to travel by taxi. They are the best “carnie rides” on the planet and very affordable too!

Shopping

Shopping took some getting used to! The best deals are at the local markets, if you can figure out how to get your turn at the fruit stand. The furniture malls felt more like places where Peruvians could get a look at two unlikely gringo shoppers, but we made it safely home with a bed and desks. Clothes and household items are best obtained at Gamarra; a huge area of streets lined with shops. Shills tout all kinds of products. Watch your pockets and get out before noon when it starts getting really crowded. In fact, we find that in Lima you can get most everything — from paper hankies to chocolate chips to camping stoves — but we couldn’t find antimalarial pills. Do you (1) pay a clinic $100 to get a prescription? (2) wait in line for hours to see a public doctor or (3) call endlessly at local pharmacies? We asked a friend of a friend who works for a drug company if she could get it for us without a prescription. It is not what you know ….

Weather

The weather and seasons here have been tweaked. In April we unpacked our sweaters and got out the alpaca blanket. We celebrated July 4th on a cloudy, wintery day. In September we’ll begin to pack our sweaters and bring out our summer wear. We long for those summer days to come soon — just in time to decorate our cactus for Christmas.

Religion

Photo of about 15 people gathered in front of a small building apparently made of woven mats and black plastic and a corrugated metal roof. A bright blue hand-lettered sign indicates that this is a Presbyterian Church.

Believers in Peru are not ashamed to talk openly about Christ.

Peru claims to have a population that is 95 percent Catholic. Jesus and Mary are woven into every part of Peruvian life: statues in every park and most homes, parishes in every neighborhood, religious symbols throughout every Peruvian government building. We have been welcomed into our neighborhood by our delightful parish priest from Spain, Father Angel. We work and worship with our Presbyterian partner churches, the Evangelical, Reformed, Presbyterian Church in Peru (IEPRP) and the Evangelical Church of Peru (IEP) NE Presbytery. Our partner churches are focused on evangelism, and to this work they are as intent as is possible. Every church has sponsored one or more mission sites, and every mission site is looking for the next place to plant a church. The pastors and leadership of the Reformed churches work tirelessly in the poorer parts of Peru, where the need is the greatest. They travel to the depths of the jungle to encourage churches and to the Andean highlands to meet with fellow Presbyterians in Quechua-speaking communities.

Evangelism

There are many strong and committed youth leaders in the IEPRP and IEP. Many of them are studying in seminaries or in lay Bible institutes. They are excited and active participants in churches. They are purposefully leading the charge, bringing other youth and their parents to an intentional relationship with Christ. Believers in Peru are not ashamed to talk openly about Christ. He is welcomed in almost every function, government or private, in the entire country. This translation from U.S. to Peruvian faith in action is changing our lives.

God has blessed our steep learning curve here in Peru. Come and visit us and we will help you enjoy this translating between cultures. You can also visit us through Sara’s Facebook site.

Mission Celebration

For our friends who love mission, there is an opportunity to be with others who have the same passion at the World Mission Celebration, a large gathering for Presbyterians to be held October 22-24 in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the adjoining Duke Energy Center. Learn more at the Mission Celebration Web site or by calling Lis Valle at (888) 728-7228, x5279.

Rusty and Sara

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