Mid-Late May. Grandma and Grandpa Gayheart visit. Few days with internet. June. M travels to first community along the river. Internet down. Still down. General meeting of missionary families in the desert. July. Dear friends follow us back to A-town. Ginger the monkey has disappeared into the jungle behind our house. Sorrowing. Sadness. August. M travels with our team leaders to Yarina Isla for a pastoral training event. We are separated for nearly three weeks. Highly unusual. Begin language study again. In a new dialect. Meet our fearless team leaders in Lima where we share dental work and goodbyes. At the airport we watch as they disappear into the crowd, anticipating their new life and work in Southeast Asia. We had one year together…
Next day. We return to the airport for a direct flight from Lima to LAX. Vacation. Twenty day blur of sweetness and joy in California. Touring SoCal in a lovingly-lent 15 passenger van, we visit churches, eat Cinnabon and Chipotle, laugh hard and cry harder with our sorely-missed families and dear friends. Meet our two nephews and niece for the first time. End of September. Full, happy hearts. We return to Lima where M works a few days at office headquarters with a mega-city strategist from Argentina in managing research data with Geographical Information systems (GIS). New homeschooling year : Kindergarten, 2nd, 4th and 5th grade.
The following account details the trip back to our home in A-town.
The Andes. Mining towns. Ghost towns. Lakes and clear streams over jagged rocks and barren hills Tiny settlements of Quechua women distinctly layered in aprons and skirts with hats over two black braids along their backs. Unseen babies in brilliant, multi-colored fabric tied to those bent backs. Thick clusters that look like blossoming weeds tied in that same fabric to other backs in transit to the market. Densely-layered, red-cheeked grandmothers hang cold, wet laundry on the lines that hug the paved highway.
Clouds darken. Gentle snow falls. Then hail. Sleet slices at the windshield. Angry rain beats the mountain. Someone is sick to their stomach. Then another. Our temples sear with sharp pain. The Altitude. It creeps into our heads and stomachs. 14,000 feet. The truck loses power. Insufficient oxygen to engine. We are without water. Pinned between two strong mountains jutting out of the highway, we are in drivers’ blind spots coming at us from both directions. We pray. The car starts. We crawl just far enough to pull over roadside. We wait. We pray. The car starts again. The rain stops. We stagger along like a wounded beast. Stop again. The pattern continues over and over until…
Dropping altitude breathes life into tidy square gardens lined with rows of rose buds and yellow daisies. There are gardens of indigo irises and chamomile and what looks like green onion. Homes of adobe painted every green and blue: turquoise and mint green and celadon and aqua,and every hue in between. Semi-deliberate built homes clustered in groups climbing the red and green mountains whose dilapidated tile roofs are strangely appealing. But even the beauty fails to hold our attention.
Too tired to continue. Too weak to drive. Time to stop. Sickness does not relent. We pull alongside a curb. Michael is desperately ill with brain-retching head pain. Abigail and I locate a trusty hotel: a safe place to park the truck, and a private bathroom where everyone can finish being sick. Nevermind that one of the walls is shared with the casino courtyard.
Everyone falls asleep while there is still light. It is cold and we are layered under blankets of llama and alpaca. Michael awakens. His condition worsens. I descend the narrow staircase to find a pharmacy. Abigail and I buy four pills that promise to help. Abigail becomes sick. She slumps under the alpaca and is instantly asleep. Nathanael awakens. He hasn’t eaten and moans with hunger. Chloe joins him. And Julia. I take those who moan down the narrow staircase. We cross the street to the sign that translates Good Flavored Chicken. The ceiling is very low. Pictures of war heroes hang crookedly on yellowing, paint-peeled walls. A tiny sturdy woman brings heaping plates of golden rotisserie chicken piled high on hot french-fries and a small salad plate. We eat in contented silence looking into the faces of war heroes. Return to room above casino and drift into a fitful night tossing and turning amidst the ringing of slot machines.
O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever… (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Still reeling a bit from Day One. We do not move as fast as we planned. Each person takes their turn in a hot shower, but puts on clothes from the day before. We brush our teeth and wash our faces and debrief on the state of the family. The consensus is that we’re moving too slow to make it to A-town today. If we try, we’ll more than likely be stuck in raw jungle when the blackness of night falls.
For now, the truck effortlessly paces alongside strong rivers who feed emerald tree-studded mountains that seem to touch the sky. I will proclaim the name of the Lord. O, praise the greatness of our God. I am drowsy with sleep. My eyes want nothing more than to close. But to close them means to miss the mountains of majesty and their tunnels hewn through massive rock. He is the Rock, His works are perfect…And the sun is so bright and warm with the cold mountain behind us…and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He (Deuteronomy 32:3-4). When I wake, we are pulling along the curb of the industrial-looking building that will have internet and soft beds. There will be no thick, blanket layers. Only sheets. We are in the jungle. We are almost home.
The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior! (2 Samuel 22:2-3)
Wake early. Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders…Children still sleeping deeply. Cold Shower. No hot water. None is necessary. Already the room is warm as the sun crawls up from the east. We are out of water bottles again and everyone will wake with thirst. Gather scattered belongings into bag. Load two bags at the bread shop: one with cold water bottles—the other with hot fried egg sandwiches.
Hillsides of coffee. Large, rectangular, black plastic tarps spread with coffee beans drying in the sunshine. Homes are prosperous in this part: cement and painted wood with two stories. Some even have glass in the windows. Roadside community store. Shelves stacked high with yellow sandwich-bag portions of laundry soap and washing bars and hammocks and machetes. Soda-- pink concoctions and red ones and Inca Kola and Coca Cola. Shrink wrapped in groups of six. Stacked high. Layer after layer. Row after row.
Forest. Trees are taller. There are more of them—tangled in bossy vines nearly swallowing them up with the will to dominate. Ferns clamor for their own attention groping the roadside in dense clusters. A waterfall spills over the top of commanding boulders and mossy peaks, sputtering over our truck and trickling as a clear stream into the river we are chasing. Stop. We splash sweet coldness into our faces.
Give to the Lord the glory due His name… O, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! (1 Chronicles 16:29)
Butterflies. Purple and lime and scarlet and poppy. Such colors! Everywhere. Feeding and fluttering where the waterfall yields to the stream. Chloe is spinning in dizzy delight. Rest.
Wide river. Yellow tractors are still. Long trucks and watering tanks are parked midstream. Men at rest. Their mud-caked, bare feet hang out open windows. Time to cross. M evaluates deep waters. Assesses the rocks. Notes where the trucks feed, then forges the mental path we will follow. Man against river. He is confident this time, dominating and subduing rushing water and rock and earth beneath the vehicle with fierceness and ease. Save us, O God of our salvation… to give thanks to Your Holy name, to triumph in Your praise.” (1 Chronicles 16:35). Men whoop and holler from the windows cheering him on. They exchange knowing glances and hearty greetings.
Native communities. Women in violet tunics wearing their hand-woven baskets across their foreheads and down their backs, with magnificent loads of yucca root. The weight is nearly blinding, but the women are strong. Men and guns accompany them. Mostly naked children scamper about laughing and crying as their mothers yank them from the road we’re traveling.
Few hours remain before we are spit onto the backside of isolated A-town. A bed of a million crushed rocks are deposited, spread, then tractor-packed along the red mud. Slowly over the rock. Slowly. Road widens. Stop. Pull over. And behold the spectacular beauty before us. Let the heavens rejoice. Let the earth be glad; The first time we stopped here was to watch the sun rise on our first trip to capital city from A-town. Let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” Even in late afternoon, the expansive, green sea of jungle makes us feel little. Even afraid. We hold our breath. Let the field be jubilant and everything in them! Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the Lord for He comes to judge the earth. (1 Chronicles 16: 31-33)
Open fields of bony, white cattle hemmed in behind crude, ivory bark fencing. Round water tower. A woman wearing a teal, satin prom dress and tall heels walks clumsily along the pasture. A-town.
A chorus of praise and relief.
Pull alongside the curb in front of our house. House-sitting Peruvian family is accompanied by others on the front porch. Our landlord is carrying wood through the front door. His tools are spread about. It all seems a little peculiar.
Break in. Again. More wooden slats kicked through the hallway while the family was sleeping. Not a sound was heard. Landlord is reinforcing other walls with strong support. Nothing is taken. We left it bare.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)
Michael went to find the guy who could help us with internet. Nowhere to be found. Went to internet café. Painfully slow. Nearly imperceptible. Stop. No internet. The one man in town who works internet was sure he’d have some kinks worked out and the possibility of connecting to a world beyond A-town would be considerable upon our return from the States... but for today, we are at the mercy of a cantankerous satellite system operating out of Spain.
The rain beats upon the aluminum pieces forming the roof. So severe the beating, M and I are awakened to enjoy the lightning and thunder. He goes out to the front patio to rock on metal framed, plastic woven rockers. He reads a book in the darkness and downpour. I lay silently—my eyes still closed-- how quickly I have forgotten the sound of rain on aluminum! The sheer pounding and power of it is deafening. And calming.
Praise the Lord… praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; Praise Him for His surpassing greatness. (Psalm 150:1-2)
I have found one tool mighty in the slaughter of discouragement and homesickness.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
It has proven to be particularly practical. Thank you,God that you are with us on this mountain where we are stalled. Thank you that all power is yours and this vehicle is in your hands.
It is praise. Thanking God. Enjoying God. Delighting in Him. Adoring Him. Celebrating who He is and what He does and how He does it and why. Praise extinguishes fear. It liberates me as I celebrate Him. Thank you, Creator, for the people you’ve created on this mountain. For their red cheeks and brightly bundled babies. They are beautiful and you are a good Creator. May all the peoples praise you! (Psalm 67:3)
Praise fills the dark, fearing corners of my weak, doubting heart with shouts of triumph. To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy… to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ, before all ages now and forevermore! (Jude 24-25)
While sitting at the computer to pull these last months together, I noticed what seemed to be another giant rat under the roof. It was dark. I could not see well. I stopped typing. That’s not a rat.There’s a monkey in our window.
There was a chorus of cries Ginger!
Everyone raced outside screaming. Shouting. The neighbors came out. Abigail opened a can of peaches, and moments later she was in Michael’s hands with her peach half.
Three months ago, Julia cried Dear God, please bring Ginger back. I’ve already lost Osito. Please bring Ginger back if you think it is a good idea.
Ginger lived in the wild for three months. Last night she came home. Snuggled between Julia and Abigail contentedly, the three of them slept as if she never left.
O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever… (1 Chronicles 16:34)