Uros Islands!

May 31, 2022

We touched down at Arequipa and met up with one of Leo’s mission connections. He coordinated with a sweet couple to prepare dinner for us: sandwiches with cheese and meat, bananas, juice, and coca tea! Coca tea leaves are used to help adjust our bodies to the high altitude, 12,000 feet to be exact. Since we knew the car ride would be at least six hours to get to hotel, I was banking on sleeping but the ride was way too bumpy for me. We made a bathroom pit spot where I smelled the stinkiest stench I’ve ever smelled and purchased our first Peru souvenirs for a great price. We arrived at the hotel around 12:30 in the morning.

It was Freezing when we got out! The temperature dropped down to 31 degrees. We moved my roommate’s bed closer to mine, away from the window and closer to the heater. Shower never got HOT so I stood on the sides of the tub to get some height and hotter water. I crashed but didn’t get nearly enough sleep.

Breakfast! Coca tea, maracuya juice, sliced fruit, cereal, bread and butter. Three of our team members were having altitude sickness and stayed in.

We walked down the street to buy school supplies for the Uros children and empanadas (beef and chicken) for lunch. There was a a sweet boy who came to get lunch at the same spot. It was just another day in the life for him dropping by the little shop to pick up an empanada lunch. He knew exactly what he wanted and left quickly after his turn.

The buildings and streets remind me of Spain. The narrow sidewalks and narrow streets. Colorful and old buildings. Love it all. It makes sense since Spain ruled Peru for hundreds of years.

We took a little motorcycle taxi to the port and walked by some little vendors. The buildings on the mountain were all a reddish brown. We saw them coming in as spaced out little lights. We walked over a few boats to get to ours.

We were waiting for some of our team to bring the school supplies and food for the Uros people, so our time was well spent laying down on the sunny warm roof of the boat and enjoying the scenery.

Lake Titicaca is the lake with the highest altitude and the largest lake in South America. It is also the lake that is home to the Uros Islands and the Uros people. After two hours on the boat, packing school supplies in bags, and munching on empanadas, we arrived at our first stop. The first Christian in the Uros and the rest his family lives on this island. We met his wife, his parents, and his children. They showed us how they build their floating islands out of totora reeds. Two blocks of root are tied together with rope and after a week the roots grow into each other. Four eucalyptus sticks are stabbed into each block for totora reed blocks. Next stacks of reeds are stacked upon each other like Jenga blocks. Really amazing. Another fun fact was that each island can only hold up to six to seven families!

The whole family then sat down and we asked them what they needed prayer for. The wife of the first Christian said she wanted more of His presence. She never wants to be without His presence. The grandpa said he has son-figures on the different islands and wants to see them all come to the Lord.

Our team came around them to pray for them. How sweet were their prayers. They live very humbly and only want more of God – not more things, an ideal lifestyle, money; but simply, more of God.

We took smaller motor boats to visit another island where a small yellow Catholic building was built (rarely used), two black pigs and a dog roaming around, and children and some of their parents met us. We shared about Jesus and invited everyone to receive Jesus into their hearts. Then we prayed for those who needed healing. Two people were completely healed of physical pain, and two others were partially healed!

My boat went to the next island and we were greeted by boats and children.. and a crusade sign! We had no idea we were doing a crusade but here we are and everyone is expectant! God, you must come through! Today was a crusade for all the children and we arrived, boy were we welcomed by all the children! We started making circles and playing games with the children and thinking that we would take it easy with how the altitude was affecting some of us, and that idea went out the window. Village after village we have visited, and the children are always so curious and wanting to connect! I noticed when I came in for a hug, they tended to reach out both hands to hold my hands as a greeting. They weren’t used to hugs, at least with us.

It was really funny when Hugo was counting his fingers and since he had only four on his left hand, it kept throwing the children off! The rest of the team arrived and the pastor took the lead! Leo, the director of missions in Peru invited students at a seminary school to serve in the Uros Islands and only one person raised his hand. It was this pastor, Pastor Lince. Wow. For the last two years, he’s devoted four months to pastor the people in the Uros Islands. He was very lively, kind, and passionate for the Lord and for these people. He led the children in worship, in the Word, and games! He had everything he needed: the Word, one loud speaker and mic, and dirt to draw a line through for the game. Children of all ages had the best time!

Terry led the children in song with “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Dance” in place of “Hokey Pokey.” She did a beautiful job on teaching how to love one another well as brothers and sisters. I noticed the children were pretty rough and mean with each other, both boys and girls! They pushed each other around and said mean words to each other. She also had children come up and tell Jesus what they want, and most of them said they wanted Him to take care of them. 🥺

We went home on the boat. Light rain started to come. Taxied home and picked up two more of our team members that were back to good health! I was so ready for bed! Squinty eyes and knowing this was my limit and needed some serious good sleep tonight. One left us to go to bed. I was tempted to go to bed too but wanted to share a meal with everyone.

Walked through the city plaza on the way to Pizza and Pasta. Beautiful streets all lit up! My phone was dead and I couldn’t take any photos at the restaurant, but we walked into a charming little one! A stone pizza oven greeted us with its warmth. The ceramic dish sets and wall displays were a refreshing sight to see. Small tables with huddled groups of 2-3 people and tasteful local art pieces filled the room. We walked to the back room where the restaurant moved tables together for us. An employee’s bike was behind me and we felt we were sitting in a cozy little space just for ourselves. Leo’s missions department decided to treat our team tonight. The sweetest gesture. Leo has been such a big help translating for us! His presence is refreshing and generous!

We ordered margherita pizzas. It was so good to have a meal together. Enjoying the food, enjoying one another.

June 1, 2022

We met for breakfast, prayer, and communion. Our whole team felt good enough to all go to the Uros together! It felt good to all be together once again. 🙂 We took the boat to the same island we went to the day prior. They had all their touristy souvenirs out, one table outside each hut. Whatever we bought from each table directly supported the family hosting the table. It was a little more expensive to buy here but to know it supports the people directly makes me happy. 🙂 it’s also not a lot of money when thinking of it as US dollars. It was a challenge to know what to buy because each table had very similar items.

Next up. Time to hop into the “Mercedes Benz,” fancy boats painted red and yellow, made of the reeds and containing four thousand large bottles to keep the boat afloat. Powered by two strong men, one at the front and one at the back. One of the men demonstrated how they cut the reeds with the knife – gently above the roots. They shared how when there was a food shortage, they would would cut open the roots, dry them out, and grind them against a rock to make powder. They would then use the powder to make thick drinks for the children to drink for food. There were also these burrs along the reeds that they would use to make for herbal drinks.

Went back to the island, hopped on our boat, and enjoyed our empanada lunch. The family also shared some of their yummy catch of fish, roka (root), and purple potatoes with us! Wow the fish was more delicious than it looked! It meant a lot to us since there’s been a shortage of fish in the waters lately. The government came in a while back to “clean” the waters and it took out a lot of the fish. They are praying God would bring more fish to them! That’s a big part of their food supply. We all shared half a fish with each other. Sophie and I went to the top to enjoy the view. We then took the boat to where the crusade would be at 3 pm, then took two smaller boats to another island. 

After a while, we stopped asking questions as to what we were going to do. Just go with the flow! We were greeted by trash, loud birds, some ducks, run down huts, and hanging laundry. As we walked further some of the islanders walked out and a ton of little bigs were scurrying around. The ground felt more firm like land, unlike some of the islands build purely out of reeds.

Jessica asked Helen and I to speak and make sure we share the message of salvation with them. Right before she asked us, my stomach started feeling funny and uncomfortable. I really didn’t want to be called out on. Funny because earlier Terry said I should do it on the boat! I was like noooo, shhhh. Helen went first and shared a little bit on her story as I stood there asking God what I should even talk about. There were only about six or seven adults and three children. But still, I felt the weight of this time together. Anthony came over and put his hands on my shoulders and prayed for me. He totd me to think about what might relate to them, their environment, etc. and go from there. Go with your heart. Thank God he prayed for me! I was actually getting the sense of relating to them in their space and environment already. Whew, confirmation!

It was my turn. I sat cross-legged on the grass and said hello! My name is Amy, and you are all so beautiful! Your smiles, the colors you’re wearing, and so on. I saw joy on their faces and shared with them that they can have incomprehensible joy that comes from God! No matter what village we visited, no matter how wealthy and how poor, you can sense God’s joy through His people! I shared the gospel message with them. I was so nervous. I looked at my team “phoning a friend” but that didn’t work so well. No pressure Amy. Even with the sleepiness in my eyes, God came through. I shared how Jesus was born as a baby in a manger similar to their little huts! There were horses, cows, chickens, and straw! He was tempted in every way like us. He could’ve lied, stole, gossiped, but he didn’t. He took all of our mistakes and sins and put it on Him when we died on the cross. “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross.” He had all of you in mind! He wants to be your best friend. I asked if they wanted to meet Jesus and one lady raised her hand shyly. Everyone was looking around to see what the other’s were doing. They were waiting for some kind of approval.

Jessica stepped in noticing that everyone was looking at each other and asked again if they would like to receive Jesus. One of the women said she wanted to think about it first. Jessica said what is there to think about? What are your questions? Then the one man there with us said he witnessed the Catholics come evangelize to them and they were very hypocritical and mean. They lied and stole from each other. He had a problem with that. I really felt before Jessica even talked to him that if the man had some breakthrough, it would open up the atmosphere for the all the women to receive.

Jessica shared how she grew up Catholic and didn’t know until later in life how she could have a real relationship with God! That He could be HER Lord and Savior. She wasn’t taught that. I love that because both Helen and I shared about God being a very relational God.

After Jessica shared and helped the man understand what kind of relationship you can have with God, the man and all the ladies were more receptive. She asked again if they would like to receive Jesus into their hearts and they said yes. We prayed together for them to receive Jesus and also prayed for their healing. We said our quick goodbyes and took the small boats back to where the crusade would be.

As we sat in the boat taking turns to use the restroom, the boy Yoja came to join us on the ledge of the boat. Leo asked us how we prepared for the trip during our weekly meetings and if it really helped our team during the trip. As we sat there, Tess kept seeing Yoja wear the beanie she’s been letting me borrow. She put the beanie on him and he totally melted and bent over. He was so moved by this gesture and gift he didn’t know what to do with himself. I was personally so moved by this! Had I known his reaction would be that, I would’ve brought so many gifts for them! How one beanie gift would be such an act of extragavant love stunned me!

We all got off the boat and it seemed that everyone was waiting for us since we arrived later. The little ones gave us hugs and jumped all over Tess. I sat in the back row with our team. They led worship songs. Younger children performed some songs. It was sweet how no matter how on pitch or tempo they were, the whole crowd was clapping and singing with them. There wasn’t much “performance” mindset here. Less pressure here that’s for sure. The kids kept trying to come to the front and an older man would shoo them away lol. Bouncer of the front area.

It was getting colder and it was time for Jessica to go up. She invited all of us up. Jessica shared how Jesus is relational! He was a baby born in a manger like theirs! There was a theme of God being the relational God that he is. She then had all of us share for a minute – who we are and what our message is to them! So beautiful to see everyone’s reactions to each of our team members. I love how God uses each of us differently and shine a different aspect of God to them. I shared how God loves spending time with them! While they’re cooking, cleaning, cutting down totora. If we don’t spend time with Him, He misses us! So spend time with Him! He’s your best friend. 🙂

We prayed for those who dabbled in witchcraft, those who needed healing, and those who wanted salvation. Many of them were shy! We had everyone stand up to receive Jesus,a and ahd those who were accepting Christ for the first time to raise their hands. It makes them more comfortable. Only one girl raised her hand when asked who dabbled in witchcraft. She quickly put it down when she looked around and no one else raised their hand. It usually takes only one brave soul to raise their hand to give people permission and freedom to raise theirs. There’s always more than one.

We had the opportunity to pray for each person who needed healing. We asked the first row of people what they needed prayer for and it was consistently neck, knees, and back. The second row was more headaches. Interesting how each row had its theme. No matter how tired and exhausted we are, God is faithful to come through. The authority we have in Jesus overrides our weakness. Thank GOD! It’s not about how capable and strong we are, but by His Spirit and by His strength. We just show up willing and available and He shows up! One man had heart problems and after prayer, he realized the pain was gone. His face went from a startle, a smile, and tears! Other women had complete healing from the pain in their backs and necks. They work so hard in the Uros that it wasn’t surprising how many suffered from pain.

After praying, we passed out New Testament Bibles to all who didn’t have one. The children especially were so excited about them, trying to take them off the table before it was even time. After handing out Bibles, we lined up males and females to get warm socks we bought for them! They were so excited! It was funny because most of them weren’t even wearing shoes. They grew up running aroun barefoot, one with the dirt, that I was surprised how happy they were to receive socks!

How easy it was to love on these people! We loved them in a practical way to meet their needs – giving them Bibles and socks. We also got to love them by healing the sick and brokenhearted! One lady was suffering from depression with both her parents dying this past year. We got to see the Lord minister to her and her pain left!

All glory to God!

It was time to go. It was getting dark and cold. Apparently there are after-hours where boats aren’t supposed to be out on the lake past a certain time. Sometimes there are nets and rocks regulating boats from moving through the lake. Not sure how that works but it’s a thing.

Arrived back at the dock. Taxis are plentiful but not everyone wants to pick us up. We got into a motorcycle taxi and I was excited to finally get in one! He said 5 soles at first, then raised it to 10 soles while we were already inside. How could they do that? We got out and waited for another taxi.

We arrived back at the hotel and went back to our rooms for a bit while waiting for our food delivery to arrive. Chicken and cilantro soup with chicken giblets. We also got roasted chicken and fries. Why is it that the food here in Peru is salty? I have no idea but I never got used to it. We debriefed the day and a little from our mission trip. It was indeed the official ending of our mission trip!

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