The Lord’s Day (X Pentecost)

My vacation officially began yesterday, but, because of the Peru trip, I’ve been busy tying up loose ends so I can actually be on vacation. This post is one of them! I’ll be going dark on this site and unplugging from social media until the 29th. Be well, and, of your charity, old me in your prayers. I’ll see you on the other end of the tunnel–tanned, fit, and relaxed.

In the meantime, here’s my daily diary of the Peru trip:

Thursday, 23 July

Wednesday was a very long day of travel, made longer by a mechanical issue (malfunctioning weather radar) forcing our plane from Altanta to Lima to turn back to Atlanta an hour after being airborne. Then we had to circle Atlanta to burn off fuel and wait out a thunderstorm. The eventual delay amounted to five hours. So we didn’t get to our hotel until this morning at nearly sunup. We took the morning to get some sleep and settle in. At 2pm we were picked up by one of the senior clergy of the diocese in a spacious but “veteran” van owned by the diocese. We were accompanied by Fr John Park, formerly a missionary here in Peru and now retired back in the U.S. Fr Park served as our interpreter. We were also joined by Bishop John Hind, sometime Bishop of Gibralter and retired from Chichester, and his wife Janet. They took us to visit two churches in the northern part of the Lima area. Even though it was “in town'” getting there involved over 90 minutes of thick, urban driving. Both churches are planted in “improvised” communities. In Brazil, they would be called favelas. These are very poor people, and the Diocese of Peru has, literally, “moved into the neighborhood” in ways that no other church will commit to. I was deeply moved, and spent most of our dinner conversation later, at an Italian-Peruvian “fusion” restaurant, talking with Fr Evans and Brenda about how we might “translate” what we saw into our context in central and southern Illinois.

St James’ Day, 25 July

Blogging for yesterday fell victim to a time of socializing with old and new friends at the most spectacular bar/restaurant setting I have ever seen–a place designed with a stunning pre-Incan burial mound, lit up at night, as a backdrop. So I will try to cover two days in this post.

We were picked up by another of the senior priests of the diocese, along with a driver, in yet another very used 12-passenger van. In addition to Brenda and me and Fr Evans, the group consisted of Bishop and Mrs Hind once again, the new General Secretary of the Anglican Communion (Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon), the special assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury for Anglican Communion Affairs (Canon Precious Omuku), Bishop Dorsey Henderson (retired of Upper South Carolina and now assisting in Florida, which also has a companion relationship with Peru), the Bishop of Paraguay (Peter Bartlett), and a lay woman from Dallas who handles finances for the Friends of Peru. 

This time our destination was the southern environs of Lima. (Lima is home to more than 10 million people, and is geographically immense. Traffic is consistently thick, and it would take about three hours to drive across town from north to south.) We visited two churches and a school attached to a third church. In the first case, we heard the moving testimony of three women whose lives had been positively affected by the ministries of the parish. In the second, we heard from a priest with an exuberant outsize personality as he described his 13 years in that work. At the third, we encountered school children in the midst of a pageant recounting the narrative of Peruvian independence from Spain, the annual national celebration of which is next week. All three are in locations and physical plants that would be considered impoverished or sub-par by U.S. standards, but are several rungs up the ladder from what we saw in north Lima the day before.

It was nearly 2:00 by the time we were dropped off back at our hotel. The three of us were all hungry for seafood, and with some asking around, located a very nice fish restaurant nearby. After eating, we took the opportunity for some down time back at the hotel.

Not too long thereafter, we reported to the cathedral, just three short blocks away, where we (“we” being an even larger group now) boarded a full size (and, again, very “tired”) bus for a 45 minute ride through monumentally congested traffic to the offices of the Diocese of Peru, where there was a reception for the three new bishops-to-be and their families, and all the guests–from other parts of South America, the U.S., and England. It was a very happy occasion.

We were dropped off back at the cathedral around 9:00, after which came the visit to the exotic bar mentioned above.

This morning Fr Mark and Brenda and I hunted for breakfast. We weren’t too choosy, so we settled for a Chili’s franchise, which sort of thing is always “kind of” like its American counterpart, but also kind of not. But, in any case, we ate. Which was a good thing, because it would be several hours before we would have another opportunity. I grabbed my vestment bag from the hotel room closet and hiked back to the cathedral, where the vesting area for visiting dignitaries was the home of the Dean and his family. The consecration liturgy was scheduled to begin at 10:00. I didn’t notice what time it was when we processed into the church, but it was around 1:30 when we got out. The service was quite glorious. The cathedral was packed. (It’s about the size of St Paul’s in Springfield.) The ordinands were radiant. The Primate of the Province of South America preached. It was obvious that three quite extraordinary men had been chosen by a diocese that holds them in high esteem. Everything was in Spanish, of course, save for a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury that was read at the end. I find that when native speakers speak Spanish, I pick up about 10%. But when a non-native speaker talks (like Bishop Godfrey), that figure rises to more like 90%.

There was, of course, a reception with light refreshments in the cathedral parish hall. Then, the VIPs (for lack of a better term) got back on last night’s bus to be driven about 30 minutes to a restaurant for a pre-arranged lunch (if a meal that concludes at 5:00 can be called such!). Once again, it was a great time for visiting and cultivating relationships.

At that point, dinner plans didn’t seem to make sense, so it was a quiet evening at the hotel.

The Lord’s Day, 26 July

It was my joy to preach twice today at both of the English language services at the Cathedral of the Good Shepard in Lima. (Attendees were mostly American, Canadian, and British ex-pats, with a smattering of Peruvians who are, for whatever reason, attracted to worship in English; there is also a Spanish service at 11:30.) After the usual coffee hour in the parish hall, we were treated to a delicious curry lunch in the deanery, occupied by Fr Allen and Deacon Rachel Hill and their two boys; Allen takes care of the English-speaking cathedral parishioners. Arriving back at the hotel sometime after 2:00, we seized the opportunity for some rest, though I used it to proces a stack of emails. Dinner in the evening for Brenda and me was with Bishop Godfrey and Judith at an Argentinian steakhouse on a high bluff overlooking the ocean. We leave Lima tomorrow morning by air for Arequipa. More from there.

Monday, 27 July

We checked out of the Villa Molina, our Lima digs, in time to meet our ride to the airport at 7:30. Peru is beginning to celebrate what is effectively a week of Independence Day festivities (the actual day is tomorrow), so auto traffic was lighter than usual. But, for the same reason, “people” traffic at the airport was heavy. All went smoothly, with only minor hiccups, and we touched down in Arequipa, about 450 miles southeast of Lima, at 12:30. The first thing we noticed, and immediately welcomed, was the brilliant sunshine. It virtually never rains in Lima, but, during the winter, it’s perpetually drizzly and 60-something degrees. Arequipa is true desert–warmer than Lima by day and cooler by night. We were met by Bishop Alejandro and one of his priests, Fr Ricardo. They took us to the guest house where we are spending the night, where we dropped off our luggage and immediately went back out for lunch at a nearby restaurant. After the meal, Fr Ricardo was our host for the afternoon. He took us to a shopping mall, where Brenda and I purchased supplementary apparel, given that nighttime lows where we are headed tomorrow will hover around the freezing mark. With that chore accomplished, we picked up his lovely wife Karen, and we were off on an excellent tour of Arequipa, focusing on church buildings from the Spanish colonial period, of which there is an abundance. After helping us acquire a supply of bottled water (dangerous for gringos to drink tap water here), we were dropped off back at our lodging. The three of us then found a nearby restaurant for a relaxing dinner.

I was dog-tired, and here’s why: My Spanish is not that good, but none of our Arequipa hosts have as much English as I have Spanish. And not only do I have to speak Spanish and listen to Spanish, I have to serve as interpreter for Brenda and Fr Mark. I’m quite out of my depth, but I’m afraid that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of our time in Peru. The bright side of this is that my Spanish is going to get a lot better. It already has, thanks to Fr Ricardo’s willingness to speak slowly and use simple words. But it wears me out, nonetheless.

Tomorrow we head out again by van, driving further in-country through and to some very isolated territory, including a pass over the crest of the Andes at 15,000 feet. I don’t know what the wifi situation will be where we bed down tomorrow night. There may not be any. If I go silent, assume that’s the reason.

Wednesday, 29 July

Yesterday we travelled–with Bishop Alejandro, his English-speaking grown son, and Fr Victor as our most excellent driver–from Arequipa to Cabanaconde, more than six hours in a modestly comfortable but smallish Chevy van. This entailed views of wild vicuña herds, desert landscapes resembling parts of Utah and Nevada, herds of alpaca and sheep under professional oversight, crossing the crest of the Andes as 15,000 feet, stopping for some coca leaf tea (it alleviates the symptoms of altitude sickness), spying a settlement far, far below the mountain road we were traversing and being told it was our lunch destination (and then waiting nearly an hour for us to actually arrive there), ordering (and enjoying) grilled alpaca for lunch (no, it doesn’t taste like chicken), driving along the world famous Colca Canyon, and generally taking in some of the most spectacular scenery on which I have ever set my eyes.

Upon arrival at the mission in Cabanaconde (which Bishop Alejandro himself founded some 15 years ago), we had a serious discussion of his missionary vision for the region-cum-diocese of Arequipa. My observation is that he is really hitting the ground running, and was effectively already the bishop of this area some good while before he was consecrated last Saturday. Our quarters for the night were right there on the grounds, where volunteers over the years have build a small guest house that is not fancy, but gets the job done. The main challenge was dealing with the nighttime and morning chill, as temps dropped into the 30s, and nothing there (or in the whole rest of the country, so far as I can tell) is heated.

Before hitting the road this morning (at about 10), we celebrated the Eucharist together, with Bishop Alejandro presiding and preaching, using the Peruvian liturgy that has been expertly crafted by Bishop Bill Godfrey. Then we were taken to an overlook area where we could get a panoramic view of some of the most rugged and gorgeous territory I have ever seen, and could scarcely begin to imagine, let alone describe. It amazes me that human beings have actually lived here for hundreds of years. Then it was back in the van and a reverse of most of yesterday’s route, stopping again for lunch in Chivay, and again enjoying alpaca, this time in sandwich form. It was just past sunset when we pulled into the city of Juliaca, which, like much of Peru, is a dynamic stew of “first world” and “third world” elements. We stopped by the parish of Sancta Maria Magdalena, met the local deacon, and again had a deep discussion about mission strategy. Then, after checking in at our hotel, we (the seven of us, now including Deacon Justo) drove a short while through traffic congested by an armada of three-wheeled taxis to a mall food court, where we were able to choose from an array for our dinner. Three days ago, I hadn’t even heard of Juliaca, Peru. Tonight, I found myself eating mediocre fast Chinese food in an ambience that, at first glance, could be mistaken for any number of American settings in the recent era before malls were eclipsed by strip malls.

Thursday, 30 July

Woke up to a crisp 27°F, though it was not that cold in our unheated hotel room in Juliaca. We were picked up by our usual driver, Fr Victor, at 8am. The first stop was the parish of St Mary Magdalene, where we had visited briefly last night. This time, Fr Luis, the rector, was with us. We read Morning Prayer together, then learned more about the details of the parish’s ministries and their plans for expansion onto property they already own in order to accommodate the demand for a primary school. There are also two missions in Juliaca, both of which are also taken care of by the same clergy team of Fr Luis and Deacon Justo. Both of the buildings are owned by private parties who are happy to make them available to the diocese as long as they continue to hold services. Both are located in growing neighborhoods, where the Roman Church has no presence. There is great potential in both places. Together, the three churches involve over 300 people on a regular basis.

It was around 11:30 when we got back into our familiar van and headed south for the six hour drive to Arequipa. Much of this was through a desert plain–known as the Altiplano–that sits around 12,000 feet in elevation. I’m not happy about the fact that I don’t do well at such an altitude, and the last two nights have been largely sleepless because of the need to take a particularly deep breath about every minute or two, which requires being awake. Arequipa sits at about 7,500 feet, and my lungs are grateful for the respite.

Saturday (St Joseph of Arimathea), 1 August

We are back home now–unpacked, cleaned up, and reacquainted with the cat, who isn’t sure whether she missed us or not. Yesterday (Friday) we checked out of our lodging in Arequipa around 8:30 and were taken right away to the local office of LAN, the Chilean-Peruvian airline on which we were book for a flight to Lima later that day. I had gotten a message from a third party about a departure delay, and we were already concerned about a tight connection. The office assured us that all was running on time. 

So we proceeded with a day of exploring the Anglican presence in the city of Arequipa. First up was the smallest and newest mission, Holy Nativity. The church is a modest structure, even by Peruvian standards, but it is strategically located in a well-populated sub-municipality. While we were in the area, Bishop Alejandro decided it would be a good idea to drop in on the local mayor, whom he had not met and wants to cultivate a relationship with. Peru lacks the embedded suspicion of church-state relations that is our heritage in the U.S., and clergy are still held in high regard there, so the bishop’s instincts were on target for his environment. 

From there we made our way, through thick urban traffic (and a driving culture that curls the hair of most Americans), to the mission of St James the Apostle. This is the church that Bishop Alejandro had direct responsibility for when we was elected bishop, and he’s still trying to figure out just how to take care of it going forward. The church sits on an ample lot, with lots of room for expansion and program development. What impresses me about both Holy Nativity and St James is that that they are both located in desperately poor neighborhoods. In North America, anyone contemplating a church plant would look for a location with a concentration of middle and upper-middle class families, for obvious practical reasons. But there’s something utterly Jesus-like about camping out in the midst of the poor, and trying to build community with “those kids of people.” I honor that.

By then, it was time for lunch, so we drove to a lovely indoor-outdoor traditional Peruvian restaurant call La Nueva Palomino. I had earlier expressed an interest in a Peruvian version of chile relleno when it was described to me (more meat than the typical Mexican version), and the dish is featured there. It was yummy.

We continued our tour with a visit to St Luke’s Church. This one is indeed in a more established middle-classish neighborhood. This parish operates a school, but the children were away on winter break, so we didn’t get to meet them. Nearby is a residential facility(Holy Family) for about 15 young people between the ages of nine and seventeen. It’s not, strictly speaking, an orphanage, but the kids all come from very broken and dysfunctional domestic environments. We were overwhelmed by our reception–hugs for all and from all both coming and going. For me, this was surely one of the highlights of the trip. Seeing places and things is well and good–places and things are essential for the work of the gospel–but meeting actual human beings in the flesh was inspiring. The plan is to move the children’s home onto the campus of St Luke’s, and repurpose the Holy Family facility for a new school aimed at the children of affluent families that would have a more rigorous (elite?) academic orientation, thus combining mission with financially smart strategy, since such a school can potentially finance some of the other outreach projects.

After seeing St Luke’s Church, the school, and the children’s home, we headed to the “cardinal” parish in Arequipa, Christ the Redeemer, where we had left our bulky luggage earlier in the day in order to make room in the crowded van. After a brief look at the physical plant, we did some last-minute re-packing, and headed for the airport, nearly an hour’s drive through thick, Friday rush hour traffic. Not only was our scheduled flight running on time, but the LAN agent booked us on another one departing ten minutes earlier. (Why schedule two flights ten minutes apart? Beats me.) We took our leave from our new Peruvian friends, and, from then on, everything went quite smoothly. Our flight to Lima departed promptly at 9:40pm. In Lima, we had to retrieve our luggage, go literally outside one airport door and inside another, where we checked in for our 1:10am departure for Atlanta on Delta. Then we had to clear Peruvian passport control, which went very quickly, and we had time to relax for a while in the gate area. The six-plus hour flight to Atlanta put us there around 8:30 in the morning. Once again, we had to retrieve our luggage, clear U.S. immigration and customs, give our luggage back to the baggage-handling system, go through security again, and make our way from one end of the airport to the other (E concourse to A concourse). It was the final leg that actually ran about 10 minutes late, with wheels down in St Louis ar 12:15. We pulled into our driveway at around 3:30, some 21 hours after we got in the familiar white van for the last time for the ride to Arequipa airport. The three of us were tired, and in need of a shower, but grateful for how smoothly everything went.

I’m still processing everything, but, at the moment, I have three takeaways from this trip: 1) They have certainly found “the man of God’s own choosing” in Bishop Alejandro Mesco. I told him yesterday that we did not make him a bishop on July 25, we sacramentally revealed the bishop who was already there. He clearly already thinks like a bishop. He is a man of persistent prayer, humility, pastoral love, deep faith, and evangelical fervor. In his context, he has the makings of a John Henry Hobart or Jackson Kemper. 2) I shall continue to ponder and discern how to make the appropriate translation between the contexts of Peru and Illinois when it comes to incarnational (“moving into the neighborhood”) evangelism. We can’t do exactly what they do because our population centers are much less dense, and our people exponentially more mobile. But we need to figure out how to do the same thing in our own cultural and demographic context. 3) I’m still not at a place where I can say truthfully that “I speak Spanish,” but I can see that place from where I am, and it’s not that far away. I’m sure I made some laughable blunders, but I was able to communicate in a way much more sophisticated than rudimentary exchanges with table servers and hotel desk clerks. Vocabulary is my biggest shortcoming, but with improved vocabulary will come, I am confident, increased ability to “hear” the language. Que bueno.


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