Over the last two weeks we have been travelling. We visited two missions in Perú to stay and travel with the mission presidents and their wives as well as travelling to different zone conferences within the mission to do some mental health training. During the first week we visited the Perú Piura Mission. The second week was spent travelling through the Perú Huancayo Mission.
Every twelve weeks or so a mission president and his wife tour their mission area, holding training meetings with a zone of young missionaries (usually about 16-24 elders and sisters). Depending on the geographic size of a mission some of these are combined into multi-zone conferences.
The Piura Mission is in the very northern part of Perú that borders with Ecuador. It is hot and dusty, and has a number of small towns scattered across its generally barren landscape. Like most other places it is what the missionaries affectionately refer to as “dirt and dogs”. However, there are beautiful coastlines along the Pacific Ocean and it is well known for its surfing beaches.
Travelling on country roads in Perú is an adventure in itself. There are invisible speed humps on the open road that can take out the bottom of your car or the top of your head on the roof if don’t see them and slow down quickly enough. The job of the passenger is to call out “BUMP”!!!! and to be forever vigilant. We even noticed that not much fazes us anymore, although the episode with two semi-trailers, a passing third truck, a car, a moto-taxi in the opposite direction who acted like a terrier taking on a bulldog shaking his handlebars and flashing his lights, and the dog walking through the middle of it causing everyone to break, as well as the speed hump, caused us to end up driving on the dirt verge on the opposite side of the road. A few deep breaths and we were on our way….you had to be there!
The home where the mission president and his wife live in Piura is a beautiful sanctuary inthe middle of town where they can rest and regroup. It was busy with the baking of monster cookies for the each zone conference and missionaries coming and going.
The Huancayo Mission is a complete opposite geographically. We flew in a small twin prop plane up to the city of Huancayo at about 3,300 metres (10,500 feet) in the Andes Mountains. The view from the plane was spectacular as we left the dirt mountains and cloudy skies of Lima for the lush verdant mountains and valleys of this prime agricultural area. With a small headache to remind us that we were at altitude foreign to us we were grateful that it didn’t get worse. The small rural airports have an added attraction with security men scattered along the runway to keep out grazing cows. Landing planes amongst cows is considered not safe for some reason. (Or, maybe they could just fix the holes in the fence).
The next day we headed down to the Amazonian jungle town of La Merced with its tropical rainforest and associated heat and humidity. It even rained, but in the middle of the night. We heard it on the tin roof, but couldn't be bothered getting out of bed, so we still haven’t “seen” rain for 11 months. After our zone conference we walked through the jungle to a 30 metre waterfall. It was a spectacular walk. Alas, still no Paddington Bear!
The following day was back to altitude as we travelled up and over the Andes Mountains again passing through Cerro de Pasco. At 4,330 metres (14,210 ft) elevation, it is one of the highest cities in the world. Interestingly it is a mining town and also one of the most polluted cities in the world. It also has the highest stake centre in the Church. The surrounding high plains with snow capped mountains in the distance added to the grandeur of the area. We particularly enjoyed seeing the vicuña, a small grazing animal related to llamas and alpacas. They run free because they don’t breed if domesticated. Parts of their fur is so rare and soft it is some of the most expensive in the world. They are also really dumb and like to stand in the middle of the road for some reason.
On the way to Cerro de Pasco we detoured off to a small town San Pedro. In the middle of a working day we stumbled into the town having a ceremony to honour its elderly women who were busily spinning and knitting wool while their names were announced. They were all in traditional dress. Our eyes were pretty fuzzy and heads spinning a bit as we got out of the car at this altitude.
Finally, we headed down to the city ofHuánuco at 2,000 meters (6,200 feet) where we stayed for a couple of days before heading back on the small plane to Lima.
Enough of a travelogue. The purpose of our mission visits was to meet the wonderful missionaries in their zone conferences and for both of us to teach principles of good mental health. We want them to be self-reliant in taking care of themselves physically, emotionally, mentally, as well as spiritually. These young people are amazing. They live in conditions that are often challenging, but they serve with happy hearts and a love for the people. Each of the missions consists approximately of 50% North Americans and 50% Spanish speaking South and Central Americans.
Craig did his hour long presentation in Spanish, getting better each time and is developing a good repertoire (a French word) of Spanish jokes. We had to laugh as it became obvious in the telling that there were three waves of laughter. The first was from the group who understood the language and the joke and got it straight away. The second was from the group that had to think about it, the joke or the language. The last were those who had to have it explained to them, the language or the joke. Suffice to say Craig’s jokes are just as bad in Spanish as they are in English. Lesley utilised one of the missionaries to translate for her, (from Australian to American to Spanish), but finished her final bit in Spanish herself. She is getting better.
We particularly enjoyed the time travelling and talking and eating with the mission presidents and their wives. They are our heroes as are the young people we work with.