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A letter from YAV Ginna Irby in Peru

January 18, 2010

Email: Ginna Irby

Dear friends, family, supporters, prospective YAVs, Presbyterians interested in World Mission, and anyone else who may be reading this,

Greetings from Carabayllo, a hilly and relatively underdeveloped district on the northernmost end of Lima, Peru. My name is Ginna Irby and I am a YAV working with the Fraternidad Cristiana Vida (Brotherhood of Christian Life), a network of churches in the Northeastern part of Lima. Those of you who have been following my blog know a good deal about what I've been up to, but to make sure everyone's on the same page, here's a brief summary:

I work directly with two churches in the Fraternidad. Tuesday through Thursday, I work at the IEP Collique helping out with their Compassion International program. This program serves over 250 kids between the ages of 4 and 17 who live in the surrounding areas. While faith-based, the program is focused on holistic development. We feed the kids, have some sort of devotional time, help them with school work, educate them about public health, social development, environmental care, etc., and spend time doing music and sports. It is a challenging and rewarding experience; 5-year-olds aren't particularly forgiving with the language barrier! Some Thursdays we go on home visits to check on the needs of the families, and I have several times had the opportunity to go up on the hill next to the church where most of the kids in the program live with their families in one-room, dirt-floored houses, usually without running water or electricity. It is a type of poverty I could not have imagined before coming here, and describing it doesn't really do it justice. All I can really say is that these kids have shown me a whole new definition of what it means to be "in need."

Friday through Sunday I work at a smaller church closer to central Lima called the IEP Ingeniería. There I teach English, guitar, piano, and singing lessons and do more stereotypical "churchly" things like help teach Sunday school, attend Bible study, assist in worship, and sometimes even preach! I"ve also had the opportunity to participate in monthly churchwide "workshops" of sorts on themes like ecumenism and environmental preservation and, shortly after arriving at my placement, helped lead one of these discussion workshops on women in ministry. While on the more progressive end of the spectrum of Peruvian churches, there is a great variety of opinions within this small church on "hot topics" such as these, and it has been a true learning experience, coming from a liberal Presbyterian perspective, to participate in these discussions.

I live with the pastor of the IEP Ingeniería, his wife, and their 2-year-old son. They are a great family who has taken incredible care of me as I've settled in and gotten accustomed to my new life here. It certainly makes me feel much more legit to be living the daily life of a Peruvian, everything from hanging my clothes out on the line to dry to eating typical food (read: both rice and potatoes served at literally EVERY meal!) to spending time each week with both sides of the extended family to showering out of a bucket to watching "Al Fondo Hay Sitio," the super-popular telenovela that nearly all the YAVs down here have quickly become addicted to, every night over dinner. The placement with a host family really is one of the most interesting and valuable parts of the YAV program in Peru.

While this letter gives a general summary of what I've been up to, it really can't begin to cover the day-to-day experiences I've had in the last 4 ½ months, which, I think, are more meaningful and the real reason that I'm here. To hear more about that, I encourage you to check out my blog. To those who have been supporting me spiritually, emotionally, and financially, I am greatly indebted to all you have done for me; thank you for sharing with me in this ministry.

I leave you now with a Peruvian praise song that I've sung with the kids at both churches where I work (translation below):

Seguiremos la huellas del Maestro,
Anunciando el Reino del Señor,
Proclamando buenas nuevas as los pobres,
Vamos a cantar alegres a Jesucristo, Liberador!

Let us follow in the footsteps of our Teacher,
Announcing the Kingdom of God,
Proclaiming good news to the poor,
Let us sing praises to Jesus Christ, our Liberator!

As a student and adherent of the famous theology of liberation, I find that this song says everything about what I'm trying to do here in Peru. Trying to live and work for social justice and liberation as Jesus did, we boldly proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come, a kingdom in which, as the Magnificat reminds us, the poor and hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty. And all the while, we give thanks and sing praises to Christ, our Liberator.

Peace to all of you,
Ginna Irby

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