A letter from YAV Rachel Hudson in Peru
November 5-15, 2010
The Power and Grace of God
We planned a quick excursion to Pucallpa so that the boys could play their instruments at a local church. What we didn’t know was that God had a longer stay intended for us. Our two day trip ended up being an 11 day adventure that has really challenged my faith and touched my heart.
We were welcomed to the “selva” (jungle) of Pucallpa by a friendly slap of humid air on a Friday morning at 5:30. The sun was already high in the sky. We threw the instruments into the open-aired motorcars of the selva and whipped off to the church. My adventuresome spirit couldn’t have been happier as the wind blew in our faces and I tried to hide my grin.
At the church we were greeted by a relaxed and welcoming smile from the pastor which I now know reflects the amazing hospitality and Godly “gozo” (joy) that is unique to the people of Pucallpa. We put our stuff down in the room next to the sanctuary. It was a little cramped and muggy with some thin mattresses to throw on the cement floor. But I wasn’t worried. After all, “It’s just two days. I can stand a few bugs for two days.”
The concert that night was awesome. My brothers played well and we did a musical drama to represent the youth of our church in Huánuco. I continue to be so impressed by the strong faith and devotion to God that Christians in Perú exhibit. I am inspired by the energy with which they worship the Lord. God is not someone they think about on Sundays; He is the center of their lives and every conversation.
We had a great weekend. We tried out the pools to escape the heat and visited a few more church events. But when Sunday came we found out that multiple “huaycos” (landslides) had occurred between Huánuco and Pucallpa and that the highway was covered, preventing all bus passage.
Our initial reaction was worry for all of our responsibilities back home. I had commitments in Paz y Esperanza, my siblings had classes and exams, my host mother would be left by herself tending to our store, and my host dad had trips planned for his NGO. We were worried about those important jobs back home but we knew that God must have a plan and a reason. We worried too about money. How long would we be stuck? We didn’t bring money for a whole week.
Without a second thought, the church members gathered and planned a schedule to provide us with meals. Various families took two or three of us at a time to eat. We divided up to visit the houses of the church members. They continued to feed us for the next eight days! Their hospitality toward strangers was incredible. Each family offered the very best of what they had, serving us huge helpings of delicious food typical to the jungle.
I was profoundly touched by the generosity of the community, because by American standards, they didn’t have very much themselves. They live very humbly with few commodities. Yet despite what that community may lack in resources and opportunity, they are abundantly rich in their relationships with God and others, which is more important than anything money can buy.
My host family and I were uncomfortable to be “caught” without money to support ourselves. We didn’t like having to rely on others. We weren’t sure what to do without our jobs, studies and everyday activities back in Huánuco. Yet I believe that God wanted to give us a taste of his free grace. It didn’t matter what we accomplished that week. Productivity was impossible. Instead, we just had to be ourselves and experience Pucallpa. We didn’t earn or deserve the special treatment that the church community offered us, but God blessed us with that experience to show us his love through the people of Pucallpa.
We learned so much more during those 11 days than we would have if we had been back at home, living our everyday lives, and busy with “things to do.” I will never forget the special moments and conversations we had in the homes of each family. We practiced English, baked, shared life stories, rested together and worshipped together.
During a time of need, God gave us the opportunity to truly get to know that church community in a way that never would have happened if we hadn’t been stranded. God’s plan was bigger than we could have imagined. He knew the best way for us to make true connections in that neighborhood and experience his love.
My experience in Pucallpa has really made me think about what is important in life and about the kind of life I want to lead. I was reminded that God calls each of us to serve others. We are each called to serve in different ways, using our many different talents. I hope that I don’t become so busy with my own personal agenda one day that I forget to look for where there is greater need than my own.
I realize how incredibly blessed I am with all of the amazing opportunities that I have had as a North American. I struggle with the contrasting social classes that exist in the world. Why is it that some of us have everything at our fingertips, while others live in dirt houses? I don’t know if I will ever fully understand why our society is the way it is, but I know that we have a lot to learn from each other. The people of Pucallpa may not ever receive an American university education and they may never have the opportunity to fly across the world to share their faith, but they are witnesses of God’s love and they are changing lives.
I think that God has a purpose for each of us. We are all called to serve God in the reality that we live in, with the resources that are available to us. We are also called to acknowledge need and suffering in all of its forms. Even when it means stepping out of our comfort zone, or letting go of a few items on our personal “to do list” sometimes. For those of us with more privileges come greater responsibilities. I am left with a challenging question to propel me forward. How can I use my resources, my education, and my talents to make positive changes in the world?
“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (1 Peter 4:10)