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2016 (Aug/Oct) 2nd Mission Trip (1 of 7) – Arrival, Orientation & Huacachina

Our 2nd trip of the year. This time we are heading down with a large group of people from San Diego to teach knitting and crocheting skills to the villagers. We are also going one week after our regular Mission managers, the Sanchez’s, have left for some time back home in Mexico. They will return in September and we will reconnect with them then.  We also hope to move forward on some individual village projects we started last trip, and to get some minor projects done at the mission as well. 

10 August, Wednesday – Arrived at 5am or so after a long pair of flights from California through Dallas on American. Spent much of today doing some nap catch-up. Lily, who slept better on the flight, did some errand running around with our daughter and grandson (Theresa & Nico) who made this initial trip with us as well, coming in a little later on a more direct LA to Lima flight. Visiting the money-changers, getting our bus tickets and more. Looks like Theresa, Nico & I will be catching a 6:30am bus from Lima to Ica so off to bed again.  Lily will follow us a few days later with all the Hearts & Hands traveling group.

11 August, Thursday – We end up taking all the excess luggage with us to the bus station, requiring us to rent two cabs, total of 40 soles.  The freight charge for 10 bags was another 130 soles (exchange rate about 3.3 soles to the dollar).  Theresa, Nico & I (William) caught our 6:30am bus from Lima to Ica.   The bus was comfortable, but the service was missing a bit and no working internet … oh well, so much for their pioneering new service 5 months ago when it was new.  Got to watch a few movies on my personal TV but no pause or rewind … man am I spoiled! 

We were met at the bus station in Ica by Lecha, our regular picker-upper cabbie.  Also unloaded one of the ten bags to a person it was brought for, leaving us with nine.  We took a short side-trip to a market so we could get a few grocery items before heading to the mission.  When we finally arrived, things were somewhat quiet but started to pick up rather quickly as the villagers discovered the mission was attended again.  The Sanchez’s were only gone a week but they have become a very active family with the community.  Antonio Wong, the groundskeeper, was at the mission but he is retired and not in a missionary role so not nearly as active and visible with the villagers. 

Shortly after arriving and unloading, I went out to the sidewalk and the first young one to see me was Juancito.  He is our miracle child and I was so touched by him being first and his running toward me considering his challenging health situation!  I was really impressed!!  So glad to have him do that.  We keep praying for this young boy and when I arrived on this trip he was the first one I encounter.  I swear it looks like he grew a few inches!  Praise God!!   Video telling Juancito’s story

After a little bit, I discovered that the internet was not really working, so I went down the street to talk to Francesca (our retailer) and in short order it was up and running. Which of course somehow was the first thing that the other children, as they started showing up, wanted to use. 

We met up with Antonio Wong, who is the carekeeper at the mission and also Lilys (our founders) oldest brother.  He moved down to the Mission from Lima last year at our invitation and has been instrumental in bringing in some of the older retired villagers to the mission services.  Antonio was ecstatic, being the father of two beautiful girls, to see Nico and insisted that he be able to take him into Ica with him.  His mom, Theresa, and I both thought this was his desire to show off the ‘newest Wong’ addition on the male side, kind of a ‘minni-me’ thing.  Anyway, Antonio enjoyed having that family time with his grand nephew.  Both of them hardly speak the language of the other, but they apparently had a good adventure.

The kids kept coming.  Although it will not be till Saturday when Lily shows up, we still had some great reunions with many of the mission regulars. Rosicela, a young lady who we have not seen in a year, showed up and that was great.  She is a real character.  She showed up with our regular attendee, Luciana & brother Jose.  Rosicela and Luciana both started playing pretend Kareoke and engaged Nico in doing likewise.  Even though there was a language barrier, it is amazing how the youth break that barrier faster than adults.  

Not really sure how we ended the night but i do remember getting Theresa and Nico settled up on the 3rd floor in the “Sanchez wing” and I spent the first night in the dorms on the 2nd floor.

12 August, Friday – Next day, we all talked about the earthquake at 4:30am about, it was a 4.7.  Enough to wake you up but I didn’t get out of bed.  Theresa said she did.  Apparently it was right off the coast of Ica.  Anyway, after a meal, the three of us took a bit of a tour of the village.  Nico got to visit the earthquake damaged church and try out the lecturn (something that both Tanto and Pastor James Vas Dias did last year).  We checked out the remains of the earthquake damaged cemetery behind the church, most of it has been reconstructed but still one major structure to be rebuilt.

We did more of the village but mainly spent time getting the mission ready for tomorrow’s arrival of a large bunch of folks from Lima.  We had lunch at Jose’s home a few houses down from the mission and since that was where the larger group was going to eat as well later, we just threw yesterday and today on the bill that was pending.  

we had more nino’s and nina’s come by and played board games and some internet.  We also had ‘movie night’ a tradition here at the mission for Fridays.  Theresa had a few movies on her computer and Rosicela wanted to make popcorn and then they wanted to make Chicha Morada (local punch drink) and we made a night of it.  I ended up walking a group of them home and we stopped by for a hamburgeasa (as they call it) and I ended up buying nine of them (1 for me of courses). So, that ran me about 7-8 US dollars but they were all worth it.  Luciana’s mom Maria came up while I was transacting so I made her the ninth.

13 August, Saturday – Theresa, still trying to resolve getting all her ticketing for Machu Pichu next week worked out, needed to run into Ica to do so.  So, being her first collectivo ride, I volunteered to go with her to show her how it works.  We ended up doing some walking to the main square and getting what Theresa needed for her later trip at the local bank.  After which, while we were in town, I wanted to find a ball pump since all the soccer and volleyballs at the mission were a little flat.  So we set out for the closest mall and on the way found what we needed in an indoor ‘mercato’ which is a bunch of little independent shop keepers selling similar goods.  We found the pump AND a volleyball net which was another need for the mission.  Problem was that they couldn’t take credit cards until the next shopkeeper opened which would be an hour.  So, we continued our walk a bit farther to the only downtown actual mall which was good since Theresa was dying for a cup of coffee.  We got a little snack and bought a few other items we could use at the mall (bleach, rope, etc) and headed back to the mercado.  Still couldn’t take a credit card so we just exhausted our cash and made our purchase and headed back to the mission. 

I showed Theresa the route and method and where you had to go for the specific ‘collectivo’s’ going to “El Carmen El Olivos”.   We texted Lily and company and got the impression that they were stopping to eat somewhere which surprised us, but in actuality there was a bus in front of the mission when we arrived and since I had the keys, it was well timed that we showed up when we did to let them all in. 

Not long till we all went down the street a few houses, where Theresa Nico & I had eaten for two days prior, to have our group lunch.  Time to get rested, settled in, well fed and oriented. Had a great tour of the village, one that I had given Theresa & Nico a day ago.  We circumnavigated El Carmen, going north first meeting some of the villagers, seeing how the area functioned, it’s little shops, our internet retailer’s antenna, many of the local personalities and many many dogs.  A very rural farm oriented village. 


We then took the only east west street on the north side of town to the west, and we came to some farm animals and took a few photos.  We then turned back south on the bank of the dried creek.  Many of the homes here are new, having been ‘fresh invasions’.  Although they all seemed to have running water and sewer which is what you get when you promise to vote for the latest political candidate!   Funny how these villages grow, possession is 9/10ths of the law around here, especially when the large land holdings are large farms held by large companies, many of them from Chili. 

Eventually our walk brought us to the back side of the mission.  As we kept walking we ended up on the border between El Carmen and the housing area known as ‘Invacion’.  This is an entire village, probably about 1200+ people, that took up residence on the edge of the farming area and got their water, sewer and electric somehow from a politician or are borrowing it temporarily from a neighbor until the next election! El Carmen and Invacion make up about half of the people that we aim to service within walking distance of the mission.  

We arrived at the entrance to El Carmen, a sign that our Mission grounds keeper, Antonio Wong, put up and then headed back towards the mission, meeting and greeting many villagers along the way. Back at the mission, we were met by Victor who was there to run OANSA with the youth.  We had the Hearts & Hands member participate in many of the games with the youth.  Also had a few Mission regular ‘graduates’ and ‘sometime volunteers’ come by and say hello. 

After OANSA games, the children are broken into 3 groups by age for specific crafts or bible study.  We had one visiting missionary, that was staying with El Shaddai church in Ica, join the regular team that comes up with Victor to do the OANSA program.  She had come to the mission before and is from Hopewell church in Pennsylvania.  She is getting intense exposure for spanish, by spending a month in Ica and being housed and coached by Pastor Martin and the church staff.  

After the studies portion of OANSA, the groups come together again and have 40 minutes or so of worship and fellowship and some sort of treat.  

We have this every Saturday.  We are told the headcount is about 45 right now, but we only counted 30-32 today.  Many that were missing were apparently in Catechism training going on the same time.  We are looking at moving the OANSA meeting up for that purpose and to be a little more convenient for some of the volunteers as well.  Our fear is that the local church will do the same thing.   We have a problem in El Carmen, in that no matter what we schedule, the local ‘diocese’ who doesn’t seem to want us here, goes out of its way to schedule something at the ‘same time’ and in many ways tries to duplicate what we are doing.  I only wish that we could work together more instead of this but that is our current relationship.  Hope it improves.  

At the end of the day, after OANSA, we did some socializing with the village youth, breaking out some new chess boards that we brought down and other board games.   We then called it a night.

14 August, Sunday – Next morning, we had a casual breakfast and then a bus came to get us to take us to church in Ica.  Although we will have services at the mission later in the day, we went to Ica today to worship at El Shaddai and to meet with Pastor Felipe Martin Laos.  El Shaddai is our partner church down here and provides all the volunteers for the youth group and for any major outreach that we might have.  Our regular missionaries that live here, the Sanchez’s, also attend at El Shaddai, are under the pastorship of Martin.  Although the missionary is separate and independent, we are very strong partners in developing and building the mission up and supporting the local efforts.  

We arrived at El Shaddai about 30 minutes before services began as they were finishing up the early service.  Since the worship for our service was going to be at least an hour of the service, and everyone didn’t really feel they had enough coffee to wait, we walked across the ‘Pan American Highway’ (playing ‘frogger’ as someone put it) and went to one of the few Starbucks in Ica. 

We returned to El Shaddai, enjoying a very energetic worship and sermon and then concluded with more worship and communion.  

At the end of the service, we stepped up for a group photo, and then were able to include Pastor Martin in our picture as well. Jo Ann had an interesting exchange with Pastor, via Lily translating, discussing the practice of kissing on the cheek.  I think she just wanted both cheeks kissed! 

Pastor invited us to his house this week if we could break free.  I am writing this on Wednesday, and so far no break to do so.  Busy week. Hope we can take him up on it.

After church services, we headed (by bus) to Huacachina, a regular tourist resort in the area that is frequented often.  It is a desert oasis surrounded by large sand dunes, and offers dune buggy rides and sand boarding experience.  

People come from all over to visit here for this attraction and we went to check it out and to have an over-priced lunch while doing so.

We got a pretty good view of the lagoon from where we were eating and did some touristing with many photos (click on one of the Huacachina pictures and scroll through for a few more). Many of us decided to return tomorrow to actually participate in a dune buggy ride. 

After our bus returned us to the mission, we had some time to rest before church services at 6pm.  Victor, our regular OANSA leader from El Shaddai, returned and met us at the mission so that he could help lead the service. I got volunteered to pastor a sermon which got me up at 3am this morning to prepare for since I was only informed of this the day before. 

I put together a talk on an overview of the New Testament, borrowing heavily from a recent 10 minute video I saw a pastor do.  I found it very enlightening and thought the material would be to others as well.  It seemed to go over well.  Thank goodness for Lily’s translation.  I prepared 20+ slides in bilingual form to help with the communication. 

After service, we had some social interactions, Yadira who speaks fluent spanish was quite participatory interacting with the local families and praying with them afterwards.  Antonio Wong had brought in a cake to share as well so everyone had something to snack on.  Nice church fellowship.

Nico and Joshua spent some time with the local boys playing chess in front of the mission while the adults were fellowshipping. End of another day.

15 August, Monday – We have our first classes today in the afternoon after the children come home from school, and then also the adults.  Before that, we thought we would return to Huacachina to do some final touristing.  Not all of us, but most.

Cost for a dune buggy ride is $35 and then there is a $3.50 tax for ‘dune maintenance’ or something, so figure from $35-$40 per person.  We were in a buggy that fit in 3 rows 11 people, without the driver that just fit the 10 of us.  There are different size dune buggys if you have a smaller or larger group.  I originally thought that there were just the two major dunes that you see from the center of Huacachina, but no!  These dune buggy rides are like a roller coaster and go out in the desert to many different highs and lows, and many dunes!!  

There was a theory that the front seat is moderate, middle is rough and the back is really crazy for the ride … at least that was what my grandson told me as to the reason why he chose the back seat. I only wish he would have told me sooner so I had an option!! This was one ‘E ticket’ ride for sure!!   Lot’s of fun. 

At a certain point they stop at the top of a dune and give you an option to sand board.  

All of us tried it except one, Greta who is 75 years old but the driver didn’t believe she was that old.  I told her that she might get her name on a plaque if she does it but she didn’t buy it. 

I actually did it, but sat on the board (as many did) after first trying to stand and not quite having the balance for it.  I think Yareda has it captured in video form but so far (thank goodness) she hasn’t posted it.  It was a fun ride down … the real challenge though is the long walk back up.  The slope was about 700 feet long.  But that was the first one.   The second slope was much farther (1000 feet?) and once you went down it, you were just supposed to stay there and we would come down and pick you up. 4 or 5 of us did the 2nd one as well, but the rest of us rode the buggy down that slope and ‘what a ride’ THAT was!  Anyway, a great thing to do for all that come to Ica area. 

I think I will start the next blog with the start of the actual Hearts & Hands ministry this afternoon.  

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