Part #1 - Chris and Ron’s trip Home (Personal)
Well, it’s been more than a couple of weeks since my last posting.
I didn’t want to post anything until I’d dealt with all the fallout of reclaiming stolen items, passport replacement, and phone replacement. That being completed now, it’s time to write again.
I/we who went to Peru have now settled back into our lives back in Canada. It was nice to be welcomed home by many who went on the trip. I’ll let you in on some of that return trip home stuff with Chris and myself for a moment.
Chris and I finally received our temporary passports on the Wednesday, much to our relief. We entered the Lima airport with much different emotions than on the previous Monday. We were now much more cautious about our belongings, and watching people in a much different way. We knew that some of our innocence was now gone, and it was not a very nice feeling. Roger wanted to start asking people if they had obtained a new back pack or computer recently from the airport and if they answered yes, he wanted to have them arrested. I found that funny.
Chris and I approached the Delta ticket counter hoping that God would have had prepared the way for us to return home without much trouble. It was evident from the start that this was truly the case. We could have been charged $300 USF each for a change of flight, but the lady at the ticket counter was not impressed that our stuff was stolen in the airport and was determined to not have us pay that extra fee. She spent about 20 minutes on the phone with managers, etc and eventually it was waived. A woman next to us was trying to get home early due to health issues, but Delta was not treating her with the same kindness they were treating us with. She was forced to pay the fee.
We were not able to bring the wonderful painting home. The airline couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t get damaged so we left it with Roger for him to ship home in a tube. We hope to receive that painting soon.
Once checked in, Chris and I said goodbye to Roger and began the process of going through airport security. There are several stops in that process, and all went very smoothly. Peru immigration didn’t quite know what to do with us at first. We were shuffled to two different agents, and finally they just let us through. We were quite happy to board the plane on time and take off. I left Peru with a sense of relief, sorrow, and a better sense of what Peruvians experience every day of their lives.
Our flight to Atlanta was uneventful. We slept a bit, but not well. Once in Atlanta it was time for U.S. immigration. We were directed to a room near customs where they would process our temporary documentation. There were 4 others in the room. The room was filled with about 50 comfy chairs and a counter with two U.S. Customs officials behind it. You could tell from the get go that these two people were on their own timetable, and you better not mess with it. We had 2.5 hours between flights, but others in the room weren’t so lucky, and you were at the mercy of the two at the counter.
An elderly lady next to me was anxiously waiting for her name to be called, as her plane was leaving in 20 minutes. I don’t think she made her flight. Another older lady in a wheel chair ended up getting chewed out by a Customs official for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t think the method of relaying information was appropriate, but I could tell first hand that this is a country on edge about it’s own security, and you had better stay calm, quiet, and obedient if you wanted to get out of this room.
About 45 minutes later we were allowed to leave. We boarded our next plane in time and eventually made it to Detroit. Another short layover and it was on to Ottawa. Once in Ottawa, we were diverted to Canada Customs where we surrendered our temporary passports. Apparently this sort of thing happens quite a bit in Peru, according to the Canada Customs official we were talking with.
After getting our luggage we proceeded to the exit. Chris had already given me a heads up that there might be some people waiting to welcome us home, and we were not disappointed. Thank you, again, to all those who came out to welcome Chris and I home. That will always be a wonderful memory in our minds.
Having now had time to decompress, and rest, I reflect on all that happened to us in those two days. Though I wouldn’t want to go through that process again, it was good to experience for many different reasons.
First, I think Chris and I experienced in a micro way what many Peruvians experience every day. Peru is not an easy country to live in for many. There is poverty, corruption, theft, injustice, and more. Louis helped us with the police, but Louis has told me stories about how their own police and boarder people have not treated him well. The hope for many Peruvians is to not have to deal with police, or gov’t authorities at all. They just want to be left alone to do their thing and eek out a living. I think our experience helped me to understand, if only a little, more of what life is really like in Peru.
Second, I realized anew that in many instances most people are only looking out for themselves. Having to deal with my own country, Passport Canada, gov’t protocol, all reinforced the sad fact that you are really on your own when it comes to travel and security.
People are in their jobs (at least in the gov’t sectors I dealt with) and they are not going to go that extra mile for people in trouble. There are protocols to follow (granted, they are needed), and there seem to be no exceptions to the rule. We often think that injustices’ are done more often in other countries, but I was reminded that many injustices are committed within the great country we call Canada.
This was unfortunately reinforced once again when I tried to replace my cell phone. It too was part of the stolen items. Replacing the phone was not an issue. Getting it working properly, well that was another story. I spent about 3 weeks talking with people at the company (it will remain nameless to protect the guilty) trying to get my phone to work. The left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing prevailed. I finally had to write a lengthy letter to the company’s higher ups and then things slowly started to move. Again, those feelings of helplessness, frustration, and anger began to surface. The one good thing about it all was that a $650 bill racked up by our thieves on the phone was reduced by $300. Good can come out of bad.
The only bright light in this whole experience was dealing with my insurance company to reclaim all the lost items. They were kind, friendly, efficient and a breath of fresh air.
So, after all these experiences, I hope that I have a softer heart when it comes to people’s needs and their unique circumstances. Maybe I can be a better help to people in need knowing that I have experienced injustice, even if it is on a minor level. I know that I am much more aware of my impatience and the need to curb that and be more relaxed about life and what goes on around me that is both within, and out of my control.
It was not a great experience, but it was character building and for a reason. For that I am thankful.
Part #2 – Some final thoughts about Gamaliel Church
Having all of that out of the way, I would like to return to the real reason we went to Peru and all that went on there. You will have read about our events in the different blog entries, so you know what we did. What you may or may not know is how the trip continues to work on the lives of those who have gone to Peru.
This is the third time we have travelled to Gamaliel church in Pachacutec, Peru. Each time the emphasis has been different, but focussed on relationship. This time around, I really saw the fruits of that relationship develop. Sure, there are things that have been “done” during our time in Pachacutec. We have “done” VBS’; we have built, painted and fixed things at the church; we have visited members of the church in their homes. In all of this we have been interacting with individuals, and that’s what has been the thread that has woven this relationship together. Those who have gone have gotten to know, and yes I dare say, even love, a group of people who make up a church called Gamaliel.
Now, having that happen begins to raise many many questions in our own hearts once we return. What do we do with those relationships that are so far away from us? How do we continue to grow from this experience and not forget those with whom we have formed friendships? How do we transfer our growth to our daily lives back home? I think these are good tensions to have in our lives, and they continue to ferment in the hearts of those who have made the trip to Gamaliel church.
This tension has caused some of us to want this relationship with Gamaliel church to continue. This has prompted our Ministry Board to strike up a committee that delved into the issue of international partnerships and right and wrong ways of doing it, or even why they should be done at all.
The committee has finished its work and another group has now been tasked with bringing this ministry to the broader congregation to allow us all to dialogue about international partnerships and to hopefully give room for this one, at least, to happen in a more organized way. The committee looks forward to sharing with you the history of how we got to where we are at, what is currently happening, and what the future could look like. There is so much good that could come out of an international partnership, but only if our congregation embraces the idea and allows those that wish to pursue it to do so.
Stay tuned for more updates about Gamaliel church, and opportunities for your input soon.
I do hope that you have taken some time to talk with any who may have gone to Peru over the past six years. They have much to share with you about growth and challenge in their lives and the lives of those they have met. As Pastor of Youth and Congregational Life, that is what gets me up in the morning, whether that be because of something that happened in Peru, or right here in Ottawa.