Unexpected Gifts and Culture Shock

Culture shock.

  1. a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.    – Dictionary.com

I found a website that accurately describes exactly how culture shock feels and what it looks like to a new missionary at http://www.pettengillmissionaries.org/missions-and-the-shocking-reality-of-culture-shock/. I don’t feel like I can say this any better to help others understand this complex feeling, so I quote…

Many missionaries think they have culture shock licked before they ever leave their home. We try to intellectualize culture shock. We think, “Ok, I get it. There is going to be poverty, new food, new language and new customs. Great. Let’s move on.” The reality is culture shock is exhausting. You don’t realize how much your senses are bombarded by new sounds, sights, tastes and experiences. It wears a person down to continually process the external stimulus.

Then add in experiences like not being able to communicate, or understand anything, moral dilemmas and always getting lost. There is nothing more humbling than to be pulled from your home culture, where you are relatively smart and can communicate, and being plopped into a situation where you sound like an uneducated three-year-old and nothing makes sense.

-Mike in “Missions and the Shocking Reality of Culture Shock”

Every missionary goes through it. It is the point of your journey where you have been in your new country for 6 months or more (for us it is 10), and you enter the frustration period of transition. Everyone has different reactions at different times when presented with the same circumstance. Mine has been the frustration of being here and learning Spanish, but not being able to communicate emotionally yet. When I feel like I am making a connection only for them to open up to me with words I haven’t learned yet.

There are days I just want to avoid Spanish speakers because I don’t want that disappointment of reaching for a connection with someone only to be blocked by this formidable Spanish barrier. But I go anyway.

I go to coffee. We have dinner. Haha as you can see, we center around food.. but I keep chugging along because I know that culture shock will subside soon enough. I just need to wait it out, keep being involved, and learn as much Spanish as I can. And I pray. And pray that God is here with me. And that he sees my frustration and please oh please give me the gift of tongues. In Spanish preferably.

But then He gives me a greater gift. He sends friends who are amazing and patient and are looking for a connection just like I am. Sure, I may not speak all the words correctly, but having new friends come to our home while we prepare homemade Alfredo sauce is such a gift. Friends that have stories just like we do. Friends that are willing to share and teach and don’t mind if I don’t know the word to use for “climbing trees.” Or a “piece” of cake. Because they want to know ME . All I have to do is open the door that God has put in front of me. The door that show that culture shock stinks some times, but these friends will be here for me as I enter through.

Tonight they were from Venezuela. But I know that my gifts that God is sending are telling me to not take the easy way out. Because the hard way is the most rewarding way.

Galatians 6:9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

In Love,
Rachel Routh

P.S. Culture shock may stink, but we will get through it! And we definitely appreciate all prayers.

“You Must Take the Teeth” (An Interesting Tale of Adventures in Lima)

When you move to another country many things happen to you. This is especially true whenever your new country speaks another language entirely than the one you grew up with. Many of their customs and traditions seem strange and foreign to you. That is most likely because that is exactly what they are, foreign. Except after spending a few weeks to months in the country, an odd sensation begins to occur. You slowly realize that the customs you saw as strange are not foreign; they are what is natural for where you are at. You begin to realize that you are the foreigner, and that all those things you grew up having ingrained into you like the value of time and germ theory are perhaps not as prized here as the States. Maybe it isn’t the worst thing ever as we could all benefit from slowing down and talking to our close friends about how Christ has worked in our lives over tea.

Still, there are moments that will occur that are, for a lack of any other word, inexplicable. One of these instances occurred while we were learning Spanish in Lima. We had been studying the language for about a month, while we lived in a small little two bedroom apartment near the school. We had been relaxing in the apartment, when all of the sudden our doorbell rang. This was odd, as we only knew a handful of people in Lima at this point. Our landlord always let us know if she was heading over. Only a few from the church knew how to get to our place, and they would have given us notice, wouldn’t they?

Our apartment wasn’t in – what would you say – a state of great presentation. We had laundry to be done, dishes to clean, and a bathroom ready to be scrubbed. Rachel and I quickly looked at one another and immediately knew the plan that had to be enacted. She would throw the laundry under the bed, close the bathroom door, and attempt to use a vanishing spell on the dishes, while I would go down and attempt to figure out who had decided to join our merry party.

The apartment was very typical of apartment buildings in Peru. There is a front central gate that all the tenants have a key to. This allows you to access the stairs or elevator (if one exists) to get to your individual apartment. Some of the nicer apartments have a “watchyman” (really, that is what they are called. I didn’t make it up). Ours, Roberto, met me at the foot of the stairs and said something to the extent of there is a lady at the gate wanting the residents of our apartment.

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I cautiously approached the gate and the little lady who may have reached five foot tall with heels. I had no idea who she was or what she wanted us for, but I knew that this was going to be one of the first great tests for my limited Spanish. Up until then, the bulk majority of my Spanish usage had been in controlled environments: school, restaurants, markets, and stuff of the like. However, this was that moment when you realize that the only person that can get you past this situation is yourself. Knowing that I had no other choice, I walked up to the gate and uttered my best, “Buenas tardes.”

What followed is still one of the most bizarre conversations I’ve ever had. The lady looked up at me. She was older with dark eyes, many wrinkles in her face, and a traditional type floppy hat atop her head. Without missing a beat, she held up a small, clear sandwich bag and declared, “Debes recibir los dentes!”

“What!?!”, I responded in first English and then after realizing what I had done in Spanish. She repeated the phrase. Yup, I had heard her correctly. Granted my Spanish vocabulary was small, but I was almost certain of what she was telling me: “You must receive the teeth!” How does one respond to that?

For better or worse she didn’t let me respond. She just pushed the sandwich bag through the gate’s bars, held up a piece of paper that had my address and apartment number on it, pointed from it to me, and went into a frenzy of a lot of words I didn’t understand with “teeth, receive, late, and must” thrown in amongst a lot of phrases. She seemed to calm down when I reached up to take the bag. From what I could see, inside was some object that had been wrapped in paper towels. Looking into her eyes, it was apparent that she wanted me to open it to verify that they belonged to me. Curious as to if the most wanted ax murderer of Lima had escaped from Arkham Asylum and landed on my doorstep, I slowly opened the bad and unwrapped its contents.

What was inside was indeed teeth, or at least it appeared that way. It looked to be a mold cast from the impressions someone had had done. The teeth were definitely not belonging to me as A) I hadn’t had any dental work done in Peru other than a quick look at my teeth at Interpol when we had applied for residency and B) these teeth were in terrible condition. I’m no dentist, but if you’re missing several teeth, have the remaining ones set in haphazard directions, and one that looks to be pointing into the center of your month from the side of your gum, you’re either not from the States or have refused to see a dentist for the entirety of your life.

So there I was in a pickle. The lady was looking very pleased that I had finally come to the point she had wanted me to be at all along, but I wasn’t about to keep these teeth. Unfortunately I had no way of telling her they weren’t mine at that point. So I did the best I could and looked at her to say, “No es yo” (Yes I am aware now that my sentence had all sorts of issues). I think she got the idea, though, as this sent her into another frenzy of speaking at increasing velocity using those “must, receive, and teeth” words as well as pointing with great force from the teeth in my hand to my mouth.

Glad to be on the other side of the gate, I got her to calm down by asking for a moment and pulling out my cell phone to insinuate I needed to make a call. Who would I call? I decided upon Jonathan Cooper, one of the missionaries I had met in Lima. At the least, he would be able to more adequately talk to her than I could. When he picked up, I explained to him the situation as it had unfolded thus far. He told me to put her on the phone. I watched the lady as she explained to Jonathan her presence and her response of another fit of insistence when I imagine Jonathan had told her they weren’t my teeth.

 

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Johnathan and his wife, Bani (far left back row) work with the Church of Christ in Lima

 

After a few minutes, she gave me back the phone. Jonathan told me that she seemed convinced that I had had some dental work done and needed to take the teeth from her. We both agreed that about the only way out of this was to take the teeth and see if anyone else came looking for them. Hence, I hung up the phone, put the teeth back into the bag, and said, “Gracias.” The lady looked relieved and took off at a sprinter’s pace away from the apartment.

Now wondering if the teeth were about to explode at any given moment in some twisted terrorist plot, I went back up to the apartment to find Rachel still trying to get things in a cleaner order. I relayed to the story of all that had happened, and her mind echoed mine when she asked, “So are they going to explode?”

We settled on putting them on the table for the moment. It was about then that I wondered if perhaps these belonged to one of the family members of my landlord, and somehow they had been sent to us by mistake. I quickly sent a Facebook message to her granddaughter that could speak English.

She responded saying that she believed there was dentist that lived in the next stairwell over in apartment 408. This made sense, so I immediately took the teeth and went to investigate. I went to next stairwell and started to climb, but when I reached the top it only got to number 405. There was no number 408. Slightly defeated I started down again. At the bottom in front of apartment 402, a lady emerged with a phone in her hand talking at a rapid pace. It was obvious she was flustered. She took one look at the bag in my hand and said in perfect English, “You have my teeth.” Taken aback, all I could say was “Excuse me?” She went on to explain that she was the aforementioned dentist and had been expecting the teeth. I gladly let her have them, and then we laughed when we realized what had happened. She lived in apartment 402; we were staying in number 204. It had been a simple matter of dyslexia.  Our only regret was not getting a picture of the teeth, but everything happened really fast.

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The whole experience is still one of the stranger events to occur to us since we’ve moved here. It showed us how we can never know what to expect out of the new place we call home. It showed us the importance of being friendly, attempting to understand where others are coming from, and at times just going with the flow. Eventually what is really happening will come to light.

In Christ,

Mitchel and Rachel Routh

El Sol Escuela de Español

While we were in Lima, Peru, we worked hard to have a base for our Spanish language skills before our upcoming move to Cusco, Peru. We enrolled in an immersion school called: El Sol Escuela de Español. We really enjoyed it and love the way the program has been set up.

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We arrived every morning at 9 a.m. and began grammar class. The purpose of this class was to teach us new vocabulary as well as the “rules” of the language. After two hours of vigorously taking notes, we had a twenty minute break to get some much needed coffee.

Then our second class began. This was the conversation class where we put into practice everything we had been working on that morning.  Some classes focused on answering questions and having a predetermined conversation, while other classes wove games into learning!

With El Sol’s curriculum, we had one teacher for grammar and another teacher for conversation. After two weeks, the teachers rotated, and we got to know two completely new teachers. Sometimes this was a great thing because we got to experience different teaching styles and if a specific style was hard to learn from, we just stuck it out for two weeks, and then we would get a new teacher. However, it was also a little hard to have the instability. We finally got used to our teachers and their styles and began to enjoy it, then we lost them and needed to become accustomed to a new teacher.

After four hours everyday of new Spanish concepts and language learning, we liked to eat lunch and take a walk on the cliffs of Lima to decompress and let our brains relax! Occasionally, we got to go back to school later that afternoon and participate in some exciting activities.

One of the best things about El Sol were the “culture classes” that they provided! You may have seen a lot of our fun pictures over the past months… these classes were where those came from. Everything said was in Spanish, so we not only got to practice listening and responding, but we also got to dive into the Peruvian culture from the perspective of native Peruvians!

Some Wednesdays they offered cooking classes taught by a local chef! We learned how to make some delicious Peruvian dishes including Ceviche, Receta de Choros a la Chalaca, and Rocoto Relleno Cuzqueño!

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Ceviche is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of Latin America and the Caribbean. In regard to its origin, various explanations are given. According to some historic sources from Peru, ceviche would have originated among the Moche, a coastal civilization that began to flourish in the area of current-day northern Peru nearly 2000 years ago. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers. Additional seasonings, such as chopped onions, salt, and cilantro, may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes that complement its flavors, such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn, avocado or plantain. As the dish is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared fresh to minimize the risk of food poisoning. – Wikipedia (I know it is a shady source, but everything above is true 🙂 )

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Choritos are mussels, and “a la chalaca” means “Callao-style“. It’s simple: steamed mussels, covered with a vegetable medley, (very spicy with the kick of rocoto). – Receta de Choros a la Chalaca Recipe (This website has a very similar recipe to what we made, if you are interested 🙂 )

Rocoto Relleno is literally a stuffed pepper. It is one of the most famous dishes from Peru and there are at least two versions of it. The first more popular is the Rocoto Relleno de Arequipa which has cheese and is baked. We learned how to make Rocoto Relleno Cuzqueño that doesn’t have cheese and is lightly fried on all sides at the end. This recipe is in Spanish, but it is worth the trouble to translate it. Mitchel and I think it may be our favorite dish we learned to make!!   Rocoto Relleno Cuzqueno

Most weeks, we also had the opportunity to visit a museum in Lima. The first was Museo Larco that had a broad collection of artifacts that told the history of Lima from about 250 a.d. and onward.

Later, we visited the Lima Art Museum that had a traveling exhibit about the Nazca people (the same people that are associated with the famous Peru Nazca Lines). We learned about their lives, worship habits, hierarchy, and funerary rituals.

There is an ancient temple built around 500 AD almost a 20 minute walk from where our apartment was!

 

We were able to take a tour of the Historic Center of Lima and learn the history of the city as it is now – the Spanish conquistadors and Peru’s declaration of Independence.

We have also taken a tour of Barranco – the artists’ district of Lima.

Finally, we learned that singing and dancing are a huge part of South American culture. We were excited that El Sol offers Salsa classes taught by a professional dancer once a week!

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We spent two months total in Lima with our goal to get a solid base for the language and the culture before moving to Cusco. We are so glad that the Spanish School we chose gave us the opportunity to really explore life here in Peru.

That Time My Wife Saved My Life

What is the value of an hour? How much time does it contain, how much potential? Can anything be accomplished in such an amount of time? I’ve seen both sides of the coin in my life – of having an hour last forever and almost nothing at all. I must have been around eight when my Grandpa came to visit us once. I cannot recall exactly what I did, but I must have acted up real good since Mom’s punishment for me was to go and sit on my bed for an hour. I remember watching my old radio clock slowly inch along in what seems like the longest hour of my life. Conversely, I can remember the last hour leading up to class in college where we had to turn in a group report. Needless to say, there did not seem to be enough minutes for the task in that one.

The following are my memories of what happened to me during the week I arrived in Cusco. It was a scary experience for all involved. The question of time became paramount for me during these events. Had Rachel not acted when she did and drug me to the hospital, this post would likely never have been written. To have delayed even one more hour would have been catastrophic. I strongly caution anyone who may not want to know the details of my near death to abstain from reading this post.

Gary, Barton, Ryan, and I landed in Cusco Saturday, October 7. The four of us had just returned from a Latin American Missionaries’ Retreat near Sao Paulo, Brazil the week prior. The week had been relaxing and renewing, but I had been tired during the course of it. I took a nap during each free period we had. I didn’t feel sick during that time; so I just chalked it up to staying up too late to dominate at spades with Barton. Looking back now, I would guess that I had a mild infection of some sort that my body was fighting.

Anyhow, that first night I slept great. It was probably the best first night at altitude sleep that I had ever had. It probably helped that I took an Aleve before retiring. I had learned my body over the years, and the first week at altitude is usually riddled with frontal lobe headaches that love to disrupt my sleep patterns. I had found that drinking an insane amount of water and pre-emptively taking something for the headaches allowed me to adjust more smoothly.

Sunday and Monday went about as well as I could have hoped. I felt winded a bit – especially after long walks, but I was up and functioning. My sleep Monday into Tuesday was disrupted however. I awoke at around 2 with a headache that I couldn’t shake. No worries at this point, though, it’s only the altitude.

Ryan and Sarah left shortly after lunch to head back stateside for Furlough on Tuesday. It was later that afternoon I noticed a low grade fever and a persistent cough starting to hit me. The fever wasn’t entirely unexpected. For whatever reason, my body decides to do this right at about the 72 hour mark into being at altitude. I had always come out of it fine before. My body just needed to rest and figure out nothing is wrong. As for the cough, well colds happen, right?

I took another Aleve and attempted to sleep Tuesday night. That was never meant to be. The cough was constantly applying mucus to the back of my throat causing me to cough repeatedly. It didn’t seem as though I could go more than a minute or two without coughing. This definitely prevented me from falling into sleep. I moved to the living room, turned on Netflix, propped my head up higher with lots of pillows in an attempt to not let the mucus settle on my throat. It was a vain attempt. I doubt I slept much longer than 30 consecutive minutes that night. What was more was my headache seemed to be intensifying. Where was that Aleve in my system?

I had been downing incredible amounts of water in an attempt to combat the altitude sickness, but here is where even my body’s hydration came under attack. Shortly before Rachel woke, I threw up for the first time. I would do so again three more times. I lay on the couch most of the day. I had chill like muscle aches pulsing through me that morning. What was this, the flu? I had Ken Burn’s WWII documentary playing in the background. It was impossible to concentrate. Hours passed slowly, but early Wednesday afternoon, I made some progress. The chills left, the cough lessened, and the headaches subsided. I was convinced that with some much needed sleep, I would overcome whatever this was.

Rachel seemed less sure of my state of being. It could have been my inability to hold down an ounce of banana for more than fifteen seconds or what she described as “my graying complexion”, but she had a couple teammates take a look at me too. Rachel had been reading up online on altitude sickness and discovered that in severe cases fluid and pressure can build up in the lungs or brain. I was exhibiting many of the symptoms listed for the severe case, but we both hate self-diagnosing. The team-mates assured Rachel that in their many years here they hadn’t seen anyone ever have the severe case. They gave me an anti-vomiting pill that allowed me drink a Gatorade – at last some electrolytes back in me.

It was right around this point that my memories begin to falter. I was at last able to sleep, but it was in an odd state. By breathing was strained when asleep. Rachel says that it would sound as though I would stop breathing entirely for a few seconds before resuming into a strained snore. Along with my worsening complexion, she decided to wake me up.

I remember her waking me, and being angry at her. However I was not mad at her for waking me, but rather because she wasn’t following the proper strategy. I was convinced that we were playing a card game similar to spades and she was my partner. I have no clue what the exact rules were, but I do recall that the way Rachel was laying her cards down was making it impossible for me to react correctly and win any tricks. I let her know as much when she woke me.

She was baffled to say the least. What cards? What people? What game? She asked me many questions about who was in the room with us and what we were doing? I remained convinced she was loony and determined to make us lose the game. However, after I got up and went and used the restroom, she says I seemed much more “normal”. So she let me fall back asleep again.

An hour later, Rachel woke me again when she saw me twitching under the covers. My twitching was me scratching my left hand with my right. When she asked what I was doing, I told her I was “scoring”. Apparently I was tallying up the scores from the card game, and we were not winning. When I refused to stop, she asked if I was writing on paper or on my hand. What a silly question, I told her obviously I was writing on paper. I was trapped in my own hallucinations.

Rachel then noticed my tongue. It had gone purple grey. The front portions looked as though they were receding, dying even. She made brush my teeth; at this point I don’t remember any of this. Whatever was happening to my tongue didn’t come off with brushing. She then saw my fingers and lips. I was losing color and quickly.

Around eleven at night, Rachel called Barton’s cell. Thankfully they live just across the hall from where we are staying. “Are you awake? Actually, it doesn’t matter – I need you to drive us to the hospital”, these were the words Rachel told Barton that late Wednesday night. Rachel dressed me and made me take some breaths off the oxy-shot (an aerosol like can that has oxygen in it and a breath mask attached).

Barton, having been kept in the loop to my condition the entire day before, knew exactly what was happening and what needed to happen. He helped me down the elevator – motor function had ceased working – and drove us to MacSalud Hospital. The team had heard that this new place in Cusco actually had the medical equipment to handle emergencies. Upon arrival they got me into a wheel chair. I was acting as though I had come off anesthesia. Barton asked if I wanted to pop some wheelies to which I joyfully affirmed the idea.

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From what I am told, they did a preliminary exam on me on the first floor. They had me on a table, but I was too far up on it to lay my head. I also couldn’t scoot myself down, hence Rachel held my head while they poked and prodded me. It was determined that I needed to be taken to ICU, but the system here in Peru works differently than in the States. Here you have to go purchase your IV bags and supplies from the pharmacy before going up to the ICU. Rachel wasn’t about to leave me. Thankfully Barton was able to take care of procuring the needed items while Rachel stayed with me. This was probably some of the scariest moments for her. I was unresponsive and deteriorating quickly, and here we are wasting time when in her opinion I really need to be hooked onto life support.

 

Eventually we did get everything. I can remember Rachel helping me take my boots off. I remember them saying that they needed to shave my chest so they can attach the heart monitor pads. Apparently I yelled, “Por que!?!?” in response to this. All I remember is Rachel saying “Esta bien”, me thinking that if Rachel says it’s ok then it must be, and going “ok”.

They hooked up the heart monitor, a blood pressure cuff, and a pulse oximeter. It was around this point that we – or rather they – found out how bad I was. Blood oxygen percent levels need to be high. Chances are that as you are reading this, yours is hovering around 95%. Most people that live at sea level ish and come to Cusco will drop down to 85-90%. Once you get below 80% things start to turn bad. Once you get below 60% muscle paralysis sets in. Once you get below 40%, you should probably pull out your invisibility cloak because death is about to come looking for you.

Mine was low enough that had we waited another hour or so, there would likely be no more Mitchel. They immediately started giving me oxygen. They also wanted to get me on an IV. However, be it because of the vomiting or who knows what, my normally easy to hit veins were not cooperating. It took them many attempts to get a needle in me. When I regained cognitive thought the next day, I remember looking at the many cotton balls taped to my hands and arms from their unsuccessful attempts and wondering what had happened to me.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes or so, everyone watched my oxygen levels climb. I can recall coming more to and everyone seeming to relax a bit when I breached the 80% mark. It was at this point that they informed me that they wanted to move me to a more permanent bed in the ICU and out of the emergency room area they initially took me up to. I thought this was ridiculous. I still didn’t understand the severity of my condition. In my mind, I had been in the hospital maybe 15 minutes, given some oxygen, and all was ok now. I thought their proposition was extortion. Barton convinced me that it was already 2:30 in the morning, and I might as well stay the one night. They provided Rachel a bed in a room upstairs, and I fell back asleep on a heavy dose of oxygen.

Around 5:00 I woke up really needing to empty my bladder. Problem was A) I have no idea where I am, B) I have no idea what is connected to me, and C) I see no one else to help me. After progressively yelling, “hola” for about 5 minutes, a nurse appeared. I told her of my need in Spanish, and she unhooked me from all the machines. However, my blood oxygen level must have collapsed during this event because she looked concerned when I returned and got rehooked in. From there on out, they brought me a “pato” which is more or less a bed pan for me to use. Oddly enough “pato” also means “duck” – a fact my nurses found hilarious when I brought it to their attention.

The next day consisted of sleep and tests. I found that while on oxygen, I was able to get the first REM sleep I had had in days. They woke me up to x-ray my chest and take a brain scan. The brain scan was normal (I know surprisingly), but my right lung looked to have an atypical infection in it. It wasn’t localized at all but spread out. A CAT scan on my chest cavity later that day revealed that nearly two thirds of my right lung was consumed. No wonder I couldn’t breathe. They took blood vials and phlegm samples of stuff I would cough up.  It was found to be pneumonia. I was immediately started on antibiotics.

The next several days involved much sleep as I fought the infection. I was on two antibiotics, a stomach settler, a clot buster shot since I wasn’t moving much, a lung enhancer similar to what asthma patients get, and oxygen. They gradually reduced how much oxygen I got until around day 5 I didn’t use it in the daytime at all. I was incredibly weak, only able to stay awake for about 6 hours or so before I needed a nap. Granted the hospital cooking in Peru is nothing to write about, so I won’t. I lost fifteen pounds in six days. If you ever want to lose weight and master your Spanish in a hurry, I might have the plan for you.

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Eventually on day 6, new X rays revealed that the infection had cleared up enough to allow me to go home. I would still need to take oral antibiotics for the next week, but I could walk again and no longer needed oxygen. What had started in my mind as a quick trip to stabilize my oxygen had turned into 4 days in the ICU and another 2 in the hospital.

All in all, I can honestly say that Rachel saved my life. She saw my condition and took action. She didn’t care what others may have thought or said, she knew something was not right with me. As I mentioned earlier, all it would have taken was probably another hour of doing nothing, and everything would have ended much differently. I never expected this to happen to me. I never saw it coming. I thought I had plenty of time. And yet as I reflect on it, I was powerless to save myself.

There is too much symbolism and metaphor with what happened to me to not be mentioned. Everything I have written – my helplessness, my rapid decay to a depraved state, my need for someone to save me – it can all be seen as a counter image to our lives as humans. My youth minister’s favorite verse growing up was James 4:14. In it we read that our lives are but a vapor, and they could be gone before we even know it. I came much closer to death than I ever wanted to be these past few weeks, but my plea is to everyone reading this. We are all much closer to death than we realize, and no amount of oxygen or antibiotics can stop that. When the end does come, what will wish you had done with that last hour? Upon whose name will you call for help? How will others remember your life? Don’t wait for a near brush with death to be able to answer these questions in the way you desire.

In Him,
Mitchel Routh

Our First Week in Lima!

Bienvenidos from Lima, Peru! We wanted to give you a quick update on how our first week settling in to another country was for us.

Before making the move to Peru, we had several weeks with our families and our overseeing congregation, Winchester Church of Christ. Those weeks were full of excitement and a lot of chaos for us. We were packing our belongings, sorting out pallets to be shipped to Cusco, getting shipping quotes, setting up banking systems, obtaining medical and life insurance, meeting with as many members from the congregation on a personal level as possible, saying goodbye to families, and taking care of last minute issues as they arose.

The flights into Lima were uneventful – which is always a good thing. We left Nashville at 6:05 AM, had a layover in Miami, and landed in Lima at 8:45 PM on August 3rd. One of our teammates met us at the airport with one of the members from the Lima congregation that drives taxi vans to take us to the apartment we had allocated to use while here in Lima for language school. The apartment is nice but modest. It is only a short walk from our school, so we are able to save on not spending money for taxi fare each day.

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On Friday we were able to go out and see part of the city (Miraflores district) that we are staying in. It is a safer part of Lima where most tourists will go to if in Lima. We were then able to get to go to another church member’s home from here in Lima. She served us some delicious, traditional food – Aji de gallina. After much fellowship with her family and attempting to use as much of our meager Spanish as possible, we returned back to the apartment to watch after our teammate’s son while they went to a wedding that they were performing for a couple here in Lima.

20638089_791006311180_431297719171569553_nSunday was a long day. Church in Lima is a bit of an all-day family affair. You show up for class at 10 for about an hour, have a coffee and bread break, the women have a ladies class, then another coffee break, which leads into a service of songs, a sermon, prayer, and the Lord’s supper, which was followed by a social hour afterward where we had the pleasure to witness a sister at this congregation being baptized! Finally many of the members will break off to various venues together for lunch/dinner around 2. We say lunch/dinner because that is exactly how and what it is. The culture in Peru is to take your time and enjoy each other’s company paramount to anything else. We had a small plate at the house we had been invited to as soon as we got there, but it wasn’t until closer to 6/7 that the main course was actually served. In all of it though we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the members of the Lima congregation and see how the family of believers here are going to such lengths to make any that pass through Lima feel welcome. It is an attitude we will strive to emulate in Cusco.

After the weekend was over, we began our language school. We go for four hours a day each weekday. It may seem like a lot on the surface, but we are finding the classes to pass by quickly. Each day has a 2 hour session of grammar followed by a 2 hour session of speaking and vocabulary. (More about our amazing school in the next post). After school we have been busy getting the apartment set up, exploring the streets of Lima, and using as much Spanish as we can with others. The owner of our apartment is a member of the church. She and her granddaughter came over and went on a three hour walk with us the first week and were “guinea pigs” to us practicing our Spanish and asking as many questions as we could.

All in all our first week in Lima went really well. Please pray that our Spanish continues to progress and that we can meld into the culture as seamlessly as possible. We are so grateful for the church to give us this opportunity.

Love,

Mitchel and Rachel Routh