A Christian Tsunami

Kawai – Mala, Peru

I just survived, or rather returned from, my first ever Tsunami drill. It basically consists of meeting at an initial point and then walking in a straight line until you are safely away from the onslaught. The principle behind is that you will have about 24 minutes warning before the wave beaks. I’m not sure what this number is based on, but they told us that we did a good job. I’ll take their word for it. Our drill involved “rescuing” some children who are also staying at the conference center. This meant that we chased them from their rooms to meet us at the final meeting point. I got to firemen’s carry and “injured” child to great applause. For once, it was not me being overly dramatic. I was handed the kid to carry.

As I write this, a group of Bolivian Methodists is rehearsing the music for tomorrow’s worship service. To fill y’all from my last point of writing, I am now at an evangelism seminar with Methodists from all over South America as well as United Methodist leaders with an interest in evangelism such as Eddie Fox and Bishop Michael Watson (of the North Georgia Conference). I spend most of my time in the tech booth running the video switcher and managing the 3 camera operators. I am also blogging for the conference and trying to participate as best as I can. This is another instance where I wish that I might have paid slightly more attention in high school Spanish and not spent my time perfecting the art of texting without having to look at my phone. Thank the Lord, there are people from all over South America attending this conference. However, this means that they all speak Spanish and not English. I can’t cheat, like in Kenya, and use middle school or high school students. During the sessions, there is translation, but for everyday life, I have to get by on what I should have learned in high school. I am even in a small group where I am the only English speaker. Luckily, I understand Spanish much better than I speak and can at least follow the conversation. We did introductions today, and they were at least able to understand what I said. No doubt, it sounded fairly ridiculous. Again, thankfully, they are fellow Methodists and did not give me a hard time about it.

We arrived here at the conference center on Tuesday. Before that, we were on the no sleep, no rest tour of Cuzco and Machupicchu. Here is the timeline, we left Atlanta at 5:20pm and arrived in Lima around midnight. We then got helß up at customs for trying to import the sound and video equipment that we are using for the conference. We had to check in for our flight to Cuzco at 4am, so we just hung out that airport until check in opened. We boarded the flight at 6am and arrived in Cuzco at 8am. We got to our hotel and finally got to rest at 9:30am after having been awake for over 24hrs. However, it didn’t end there. Two hours later, we had to get up and shower for a 5hr walking tour of Cuzco. When I hear walking tour, I think of wandering around city streets. Oh no, this meant visiting Mayan ruins scattered in the hills surrounding the city. Again, this does not sound like that big a deal. However, Cuzco sits at 10,000ft above sea level. IN WWII, this was the altitude at which the bomber pilots were required to switch to Oxygen tanks. We did not have tanks or Oxygen either. At that altitude, just climbing up stairs is exhausting, and on 2hrs of sleep, we were climbing hills, steps build by the Inca, and trying not to pass out.

I would love to report that at the end of that day, we got to rest and relax, but alas, no. We got to bed around 9:30pm and had to be up at 3am to catch the first leg of our journey to Machupicchu. From there, we caught a train at 6am and another bus and arrived at Machupicchu around 9am. We then did a whole day of climbing until about 3:30pm at a mere 6,000ft above sea level, when we started to head back. Between dinner and the various legs of transport, we did not return to our hotel until 10pm. In all, we slept a maximum of 7.5 hrs in a 60hr period.

Whirlwind aside, I have two reflections. I will write a post covering the conference more in depth later in the week after it has really gotten going. However, Machupicchu is by far one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. Although I certainly made an attempt, it is difficult to capture all of it on film. The Inca built it about 600 years ago as a center for religion and commerce. They nestled in a space between two mountains using stepped terraces as its support system and needed a trade network to keep it supplied with food and supplies. The stonework literally fits together like Lego bricks. However, the evidence seems to indicate that they abandoned it before the Spanish arrived. The ruins themselves are beautiful. The mountains are beautiful. The cloud forest is beautiful. What makes Machupicchu so stunning is that it combines all three of these things into one testament to the human spirit and the beauty of God’s creation both through nature and through humanity.

The other major take away that I had came out through the two tour guides, Karina and Beto, that took us around Cuzco and Machpicchu. In our tour of the Cathedral, Karina made a point to show how Inca religious traditions had been incorporated and encoded into their expression of Catholicism. We saw Mary wearing a traditional Inca outfit, guinea pig being served in a painting of the Last Supper, and a painter signing his work with the traditional Inca snake. Beto made two key statements in our tour of Machupicchu. One was that the Inca believed in one supreme god of the universe and the other lesser deities and spirits were merely expression of or avenues to this supreme being. He also taught us that Inca life was grounded on 3 principles, love, work, and knowledge. I had not spent much time studying Inca religion, and both of these tour guides opened my eyes. What Beto taught us speaks to me of Previnient Grace - this idea of God going before leading people to God’s path. Karina’s statements helped me see more clearly how we all express our Christian faith in metaphors and images that we understand. In Kenya, I often saw images of a clearly African Jesus hanging on the cross. European art often connected Biblical figures with images of Greek and Roman gods. The Incas, after converting to Christianity, did the same thing. On one hand, it kept their own culture alive and passed it down. In another way, it helped them understand who God is by using ideas that are familiar to them.

In other, less serious news, I fulfilled a bucket list item. I ate a guinea pig. I named him Fred. There is a story behind Fred. You see, when I was in 4th grade, a girl named Anna was my best friend. She had a guinea pig that was named Fred. One day, Fred bit me, and it hurt. From that day on, I have had in for the entire guinea pig race. Guinea pig also happens to be a delicacy here in Peru. This led to the perfect confluence of circumstances where I could get revenge and enjoy local culture. I ate a deep fried guinea pig (called Cuy), and it was delicious. There are a couple of great images below. Similar to chicken heart, it tastes like nice, dark meat, chicken.

As I am already blogging for the conference as well, you can expect at least two more posts this week and then one to wrap up the summer. I am getting into the truly the home stretch. There are about 90 new photos up on the photo site for y’all to enjoy. Thanks as always for your thoughts, comments, and prayers.

Check out the photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosewindowministries/

Vaya con Dios,