We haven’t written here in a few months, but we have had an amazing and life changing time over the last half of the year! Since we are closing out 2018 in a few hours, here is a type of “family newsletter” or year in review with some of our more memorable moments…
We are definitely not the same people that we were on December 31, 2017!
This time last year, we had just received our shipment from the US, picked an apartment, and had only had about 3 months of Spanish classes! January and February were a whirlwind of adapting and getting acquainted with the members of the Church as well as dealing with our misguided shipping company. March came and we had our first experiences of being able to be a big part of the work here where we felt helpful enough with our Spanish and our love for children was exemplified – the Medical Campaign! This was our first experience where we felt that “THIS IS WHY WE CAME HERE!” – when we were able to finally interact with people on a relationship basis and also provide a much needed service to the community. We also had a visit from Mitchel’s parents, an opportunity to do some amazing touristy sightseeing, and Rachel received a generous gift from a salad – an amoebic parasite.
April arrived and we spent a lot of time preparing for the new team transition that was rapidly approaching with some amazing seminars customized to helping us transition healthily into the next year. When May came, after 10 months living in Peru, we were able to take a small vacation to some islands off of Ecuador! Living in the Andes mountains can sometime feel really cold (temperature wise) and isolating (geographically speaking). It was a really nice change of pace to head somewhere warm close to the equator and enjoy a beach day or two, as well as be able to be a little leisurely about using our Spanish and letting our minds take a small rest!
In June, we were able to make it back home to Tennessee for a week to witness Mitchel’s youngest sister get married! It was also an amazing time in Cusco as June is one of the biggest months of celebrations with Inti Rymi, an ancient Incan festival around the winter solstice.
July passed slowly for us in it’s coldness. We really learned this month what it means to not have central heat inside our house! There were about 2 weeks where our apartment was 45 degrees Fahrenheit! We entered into August with excitement as Rachel’s parents were coming to visit for a few weeks and we were able to receive some American items that we have been missing over the past year, like CHOCOLATE CHIPS!!!!! We were also able to do a few more tourist activities, like a citywide open bus tour! Our team also spent some time in Pisac, a city in the Sacred Valley about 40 minutes from Cusco, for a team building retreat as well as preparing for the upcoming transition of watching some of our “oldest” teammates and friends leave the work and Peru later in the year.
In September, Mitchel needed to go back with all of the other male missionaries to a conference in Memphis about our building project here in Cusco! He was only gone for a week, but Rachel sure missed him! We were also integrated enough into friendships and the people here that we were able to help in planning a baby shower for one of the ladies at Church! October may have been our busiest month in Peru. Rachel was able to go to Brazil on a South American Missionary Ladies Conference and connect with other lady missionaries that are serving in cultures and languages different than their own. They were able to grow together spiritually and share experiences that they knew the other ladies would be able to relate to, as well as build lasting friendships with fellow servants in the Kingdom from other countries. We also had one of our biggest days yet in the Church in Cusco. We celebrated the 8th anniversary of the Allyu Congregation by having a “Gran Dia” in the park! In just the one day, we more than double and a halved our attendance with many visitors and had an amazing children’s program with more than 70 kids!
After a year and three months on the mission field, in November we finally returned to the United States on furlough to give updates to all of our supporting congregations and were able to spend quality time with our families, as well as have an real American Thanksgiving (we have definitely missed the macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pie!). Rachel was so excited about being able to return during the Christmas season and go to the wonderfully decorated place known as Cracker Barrel! We loved being able to see so many of our friends and church family and were sad that, even though we were in the US for a little over a month, we didn’t have enough time to see everyone we wanted to see. We came back to Cusco in December in time for the final Sunday of some of our teammates time in Peru. After they had spent the past 9 years in Cusco, we saw them off at the airport in an emotional goodbye. A week later, Mitchel made a visit back to the hospital for a few days with another infection in his lungs compounded with high altitude complications. It wasn’t nearly as scary as the hospital visit in 2017, and we are so thankful to all the prayers lifted up on our behalf! He was released from his hospital stay in time for Christmas Eve! One of our most favorite things about Cusco is the city-wide fireworks display that begins at midnight on Christmas Eve! The entire city is lit up in beautiful sparks celebrating the birth of Christ!
After spending a year in a foreign country, we have definitely learned a few things. We have been humbled in learning and adapting to a new culture, taught patience in acquiring a new language, and been shown how much the love of God has been spread throughout His Kingdom and His family! We are so thankful to the ones who have sent us (you) and to the ones who have received us (Cuzqueños). This year has rarely been easy, but it has all been worth it. Thank you so much for being on this special journey with us as we continue to work in The Kingdom!
In His Love,
Mitchel and Rachel
Happy New Year!