This past week has been one of the craziest travel weeks of the whole race. We started out in Lima, Peru and made our way to Cuzco which took about 25 hours. Once in Cuzco, we had a full day of leadership development sessions followed by a day where we had the amazing opportunity to visit Machu Picchu. The next day after that, we hopped on a bus for 12 hours and spent over 3 hours at the Bolivian border where it was freezing at first, but then the sun came up and it was sweltering, and to top it all off there was this mysterious pepper spray stuff coming into the building that caused one squad mate to jump out the window.
Finally, we arrived in La Paz, Bolivia and since we were later than expected, the hostel had not kept our reservations together which unfortunately for me meant that I was in a room with randoms who were not the best roommates...eek. I won't go into details on that now. The point is, I was EXHAUSTED and the next day my team and I hopped on ANOTHER bus to travel to our actual ministry site. This bus ride was 19 hours!
OK now for the best part, only two days before this we found out that we had been approved to have a translator come with us to our ministry site in Yacuiba because we do not have any strong Spanish speakers on our team. Well, after the bus ride we were supposed to meet our translator in Santa Cruz so she could travel another 10 hours with us to Yacuiba. Around hour 16 of the bus ride I realized that my team phone would not let me make a call to our translator, Stefany. I started panicking wondering how in the world we were going to find her without a phone, especially because our bus was running two hours later than expected.
Lucky for us, the moment we stepped off the bus, Stefany was standing there with her dad who graciously helped us unload our ridiculously heavy bags and had a taxi waiting. He informed us that there were political demonstrations and roadblocks making it dangerous for us to continue our travel to Yacuiba. All I could think was THANK GOD we got approved to have a translator or we would have gone unknowingly straight into the road blocks and not been able to communicate because of the language barrier! This was a big moment for our team as we recognized how much God protected us.
Stefany's family brought us to their house where they had a delicious meal waiting on the table for us, offered us showers, and let us make ourselves at home. I can't explain how this felt after a 19 hour bus ride where all I had to eat was a Twix and an orange, I had to use a "bathroom" that I referred to as a stew pot for reasons you don't want to know, and I sat in a seat next to the world's largest gum collection. YUUUUCK. After all of that, a meal and a shower were seriously HEAVEN to me. Not only that, but Stefany has the CUTEST Golden Retriever puppy ever....and air conditioning! Seriously, heaven.
The hospitality did not end there...no, not even close. Later that night, we found out the road blocks were getting worse and more dangerous and we still couldn't travel. Stefany took us to see the town square where we got dinner at her favorite restaurant, her family got sleeping arrangements ready for us, and let us do laundry (praise God for washing machines). That night, I had the best and most restful sleep I have had in a really long time.
The next morning, Stefany and her mom had made us pancakes and coffee for breakfast! Later in the day, we were invited to women's' bible study where we briefly mentioned it was one of our team mate's, Anna's, birthday the next day, and that she likes brownies. After the bible study, we went to get pizza for Anna's birthday and when we came back, Stefany's mom had fresh baked brownies waiting for us!! Then, today (Anna's actual birthday), Stefany's mom made a special lunch, Stefany took us to the zoo, and then we were invited to dinner at one of the bible study lady's house. She invited us to their other bible study that was tonight and you won't believe this but, they had a cake waiting for Anna and called her up to sing her Spanish happy birthday. THEN, they fed us ANOTHER dinner!!
I am sitting here now in Stefany's house feeling so thankful for the hospitality and love that we have been shown these past three days. It means so much to me and to my team that this whole community has embraced us with open arms and just made us feel so comfortable and welcome. God is using this experience to challenge me to be more warm and welcoming even when it is unexpected or inconvenient. The way we have been treated here in Santa Cruz has made my entire team and I feel amazing. We are so excited about this month and we have been able to find several ministry opportunities here in Santa Cruz, and are just waiting on the definite approval for us to stay here.
I have, to be honest (and I will write more on this later) but I was completely drained in Peru and I was starting to feel a little like I was going through the motions and I really didn't have my usual inspiration and zest for life. But just having three days of being treated with so much kindness, love, and appreciation, has made me feel completely back to myself and given me so much motivation and energy. I can't wait to find out for sure what exactly we will be doing this month but already I have learned such a valuable lesson about why hospitality is important and I hope that God will give me plenty of opportunities to bless people the way I have been blessed here in Santa Cruz!