I have often written about the adventures of Greasy and Grubby in El Salvador. There are still adventures from the past to transcribe and to share, but since Greasy moved away, the number of Salvadoran adventures has lessened. Last week, Greasy and Grubby were together again in Lima, Peru, where Greasy's church has a sister church relationship with Luz Divina, a Lutheran congregation just north of the city. Greasy's daughter gave me the idea to write a bit about this Peruvian experience with the occasional question: "First impressions?"
So, here are a few first impressions...
Warmth - not the climate, but the people. Greetings in Peru are filled with "encantada" (which is like saying, "enchanted to meet you") and a big kiss on the cheek. Good-byes at the end of the day or at the close of an event take a very long time, as everyone gives everyone a hug and a kiss.
Hospitality - the sister churches had worked together to plan the week. We divided into two teams, headed up by lay-leaders from Luz Divina and Luz de Paraiso (the nearby mission site where most of the visits and work took place). One team did house visits and one team worked to rebuild two roofs and two complete homes for families who were in extreme need. Greasy and I were on the visiting team. As we were welcomed into homes, as we were offered places to sit, as we observed a child being sent to the store to buy some Inca Kola, as we listened to stories, as we laughed together, as we cried a little, and as we prayed together, the visits acquired a familiar rhythm. Some of the women apologized for not having time to prepare something. Others served their specialty desserts. One young mom, after telling us a few tales about raising her four kids which include a set of identical twin boys who started the house on fire last New Year's Eve, pulled out a pot, added some water, sent one of her boys to the store to buy some cloves, and quickly whipped up a quinoa and milk dish which could be served as dessert in any fine restaurant. In home after home we were welcomed and trusted and loved: Thank you for visiting us. We have waited and hoped for a visit like this to happen. Our home is humble but the doors and our arms are always open to you. When will you come back again?
The Gray - Greasy told me once that her first impression of Lima was that it is just so gray. She wondered if I would also have that feeling of the lack of color. It's not just that gray clouds blanket the sky every day, that the gray mist rolls in off of the Pacific in the evenings and lingers until well after sunrise, though certainly this contributes to the sensation that Lima is gray. The Gray also lies in the not black, not white sand on the beach, the loose sandy dirt and rock that slips down the hills and bluffs that form the eastern boundary of the city. The Gray is the film of dust that forms over every surface. For those who can afford paint, they tint their homes with bright lime green, pink, royal blue, and purple, and beautiful bright sweaters abound. Much attention is given to the cultivating of small flower gardens along the beach, in the medians along the highway, wherever plants can take root on the hillsides, even in the dusty pathways of El Paraiso. Color is very precious when there is so much gray.
The Singing - we sang everywhere. Maybe this is a little bit of a Lutheran thing, but we sure did have a lot of fun finding songs in common and teaching each other all kinds of camp songs, kids' songs and hymns. It's amazing what kind of accompaniment a kid can create with a coin on a seashell. There was also a fair bit of dancing, and I have to admire the Texas spirit in my friends who brought music to teach the Cotton-Eye-Joe. During the farewell fiesta in El Paraiso, the Sunday School girls, decked out in sparkly dresses and battery-operated blinking tiaras, did a song and dance routine expressing God's love for them and how in God's eyes they are princesses. Near the end of the song the girls broke out into an air-guitar routine that was just precious. Seriously, when was the last time you saw Sunday School kids doing an air-guitar routine in church.
I am sure that when I look back into my journals, I will find all kinds of other first impressions and reflections. God certainly has something in mind with the life labyrinth in which Greasy and Grubby walk. Only God knows what mysteries lie ahead as I carry the voices, the faces and the kisses of my new Peruvian friends with me during a journey to El Salvador in two weeks.
(And to all who know us personally, you will laugh when you learn that even in Peru, it only took 24 hours for people to be confusing Greasy with Grubby and using our real names together in a sentence as if they are one name. Greasy - when you read this, I know you will chuckle. We are the Laverne and Shirley of ministry!)