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.

The Devil’s Work Can Hurt Sometimes


I’ve struggled for quite a while on how to convey this post into words. You may have noticed a long absence of updates from us in and around the holidays. This was primarily due to the story I am about to relay. It was one of the most challenging series of events we’ve been faced with since we landed in Peru. In many ways, I would rather be back in the ICU fighting altitude sickness and pneumonia than have to deal with this again (not that I would willingly choose either).



A little background is probably in order. When we were preparing to embark on this journey, we quickly realized that there were a few different methods a family could move to another country in. Some families have put all their possessions into a shipping container and literally moved a household into a new location. This has the advantage of allowing the family to instantly feel at home once they move in. However, it requires a degree of coordination to have the shipment arrive exactly when the family is ready for it (i.e. they have found a new apartment to receive the shipment. Shipment and customs clearance times can be extravagant, and the import tax can often be exuberant. We know one family that was charged the maximum 30% of declared value of their goods on their shipment.


There is also the other side of the spectrum. These are the families that move to the country with only what they can carry with them on an airplane (this is actually a fair amount with 2 check bags, 1 carry on, a backpack, and a pillow per person). Their philosophy is to buy everything in their destination city once they arrive. We know several families in Brazil that used just this method to great effect. Overall it is probably much cheaper to go this way. Yet the opportunity cost with this method in South America varies vastly country to country and even more so from city to city. Major metropolitan areas such as Lima, Buenos Aires, La Paz, or Rio have nearly all the amenities that you would want to buy. Cusco and many of her less developed sisters often will have many of the creature comforts unavailable for purchase. This could include but is not limited to squishy mattresses, kitchen utensils such as cast iron, well-padded sofas, picture frames, BBQ smokers, and any number of personal home furnishings that you can’t quite put a value on.


In the end, we adopted a hybrid of the methods for our family. We decided to ship only the things we determined would be hard to find in Cusco or things that meant a lot to us on 4 plastic pallets to Cusco. As four pallets is dramatically less than cargo load, the theory was that this would be much less expensive than those who had gone one before us. We wouldn’t be able to ship a couch down, but we could definitely get that smoker for church evangelism BBQ social events down here! There are several companies that are willing to help out missionaries with personal moves. We called probably nearly all of them, but the one that was most helpful and responsive was Straightway Logistics out of Michigan (ironically). Their main rep, Dan Gregg, gave us a more than fair price and quickly educated us on the world of shipping. However, he could only get our goods as far as Callao (the port area of Lima, Peru). He referred us to a long list of contacts he had that were “in network” that could help us clear customs and truck the pallets to Cusco.




This is the point that now made this post so difficult to write. I firmly believe that I desire everything we do to be a reflection of the light and love in our lives from Jesus Christ our savior. We also fully desire to be so much more that a name on a bulletin to our supporting congregations. We want them to – as much as possible – walk through this journey with us step for step. We want them to know the great moments, the sad moments, and the terrible moments. That being said, when the difficult moments come and you feel as though Satan has chosen to target you in particular for his next crusade, it can be hard to be a bright beacon of love and hope in the journey. I chose to wait and write this post until now to allow as much of the emotion as possible to fade from it.



From here on out, I will outline what happened to us on a day by day basis. This is reconstructed from email records, phone logs, notary stamps, and picture time stamps. We had to reconstruct all of this when we submitted it to the investigative squad, but luckily living in the 21st century has all the advantages of being digital. I will try to keep to mostly facts in describing the events of each day, but I will also try to add in vital details where needed. On certain days, long periods of prayer and devotion were required to just make it through the day.



November 27 – We get multiple quotes from several companies for cost to ship to Cusco. ABC Moving Company stands out to us. They are willing to work with our limited Spanish, and their outline of expected charges on their quote is far more detailed than any of their competitors. I even used their quote when talking to other companies to ask about missing items on their quotes. I quickly realize that there are a lot of sharks in these waters waiting to take advantage to gringos wanting to ship goods.




November 28 – We receive arrival notice to Callao and that the shipment will be available on the 29th. I provide it to ABC.




November 29 – We receive an email about if we want to file a damage report for our shipment to Callao, we need to do it soon. I have no idea why I would get this. Talking to ABC, they tell me it is just a standard notification. I forward the email to them anyhow.




November 30 – I have a phone conversation with ABC explaining to them our situation of being in Cusco already. He assures me it is no issue, and that there will be no need for us to come to Callao. He says photo copies of our passports will be fine.




December 18:26 AM – we send an email to ABC requesting their services. I include a copy of my passport and a copy of the packing list as we provided it to Straightway (the American freight company). ABC replies with the amount we need to deposit into their account, and makes reference to Vanguard (the warehouse coleader company), showing he has knowledge of them.


4:18 PM – We receive an email from ABC with all the documents we need to get notarized. However, due to the hour, we must wait until the next day to notarize them.




Looking back at this, this is just one of several moves ABC would make in a similar fashion. Whether deliberate or not, they had a propensity of waiting until last minute to provide me the information I needed. This would cause us to wait until the next business day to accomplish their requests. All the meanwhile, the temporary warehouse charges of housing prior to clearing customs would be accumulating.




December 2 –  We go to notarize the documents provided to us by ABC. Just for reference, getting anything notarized here can often be a half day plus process in Cusco. The notary is often not in office, lines can be absurd, many notaries refuse to notarize a document for an individual with only a passport (you have to have a carnet), and they like to go over every detail on the document (they aren’t just validating your signature as authentic). In our case, the notaries refused to notarize them as they have the date and location typed as “Lima, December 01” on them. We redo the documents with the correct time and date, get them notarized, and send ABC pictures taken with our cell phones of the documents at 12:27 PM. Not bad for an effort that started at 7 that morning! No reply from ABC until Monday as this is a Saturday, but still I’m pretty sure they were operating that day.




December 4 –    9 AM – I resend all 5 documents that we notarized in a higher quality scan. I also send a copy of Rachel’s passport. I ask how to get the original Bill of Lading signed to them and a copy of my Passenger Migratory Movement (2 things they requested of us with no instruction whatsoever).


12:39 AM – ABC responds saying the packing list I provided needs to be in Spanish with a value for each item listed. They advise us to go to Migrations in Cusco for the Passenger Migratory Movement. No mention of Rachel needing one is made. They also resend the Bill of Lading (turns out this is just the cover page of the shipment that Straightway made for me) saying “The Bill of Lading Original must be signed by you, enclosed the digital BL that you sent us, since your co-loader (Vanguard) indicates that it does not have an issue at destination it must be provided the original to you in origin”. Still not entirely sure what they meant to convey in English right there, but I took it as you need to go get this notarized with your signature.


Insert a long period of time where I type up the list into an Excel table with everything in Spanish. I keep to the advice Straightway gave us in keeping the descriptions basic and generic. I have fully comprehensive, itemized packing list with every item listed on it, but I refuse to share this or the knowledge of its existence with them on principal. If customs demands it, I will give it to them personally. I get some Spanish speakers to proof read it and send it to ABC.


 5:31 PM – ABC responds that she doesn’t like the format of the new Spanish packing list. They says the list will also need to be notarized and finger printed. They also asks for the children’s passports as there are several kids’ items on the pallets.


5:48 PM – We respond to ABC telling her we don’t have kids but plan to soon, and that for now the toys belong to us.




December 5 –    I go and apply for a migrations movement form on myself. This is basically an official document by the government that outlines my entrances and exits from countries for the past year. I still can’t get the exact reason why it is needed, but perhaps they want to prove I really am moving here. It takes 4 hours to finish the up at migrations in Cusco and they tell me to return for the paperwork the next day.




December 6 –      9AM – ABC calls our friend from church who has been helping us out to tell her she needs our physical passports to proceed. Meanwhile, I go and get one of the powers of attorney done again in Cusco. The first one did not have the shipment number on it, and inasmuch was useless. I do not email this to them, as we are expecting to have to fly to Lima at this point with all the difficulties we are encountering. The notaries refuse to notarize the packing list and bill of lading. They say they can only notarize the original bill of lading and that it is not the correct process to notarize the packing list. One would think that a shipping company would have known both these pieces of information.


12:12 PM – ABC says the list wasn’t matching what they were seeing on the pallet. At this point, we got real suspicious. We email ABC to tell them we will be flying into Callao tomorrow.



Sometime that afternoon – Per the timestamp of the pictures, ABC carried out their own inspection of our pallets on this date. They did so without our knowledge, consent, or with any powers of attorney in hand. One of the pictures of the power of attorneys they did have was completely useless at this point as it did not have the shipment number on it. In conducting an investigation in this manner, ABC has just broken international law.





December 7 –    We fly into Callao. A friend we had made in Lima who is fully fluent in Spanish meets us and we walk over to ABC. We’ll call him Jorge for now. When we got there, they informed us that there were several items they were highly concerned about going through customs. When asked about how they knew anything about particulars on the pallets outside of the packing list, they told us that they had opened our pallets and conducted their own inspection. This was without our knowledge or permission. Jorge was with us for the entirety of this conversation. This obviously upset us. They were chiefly concerned about what an ottoman is (thinking we had packed a miniature dude from the Ottoman Empire, my wifi repeater station, a blue tooth speaker, and kid’s toys. Since we don’t have children of our own yet, they claimed it would look suspicious to customs for us to have them. My rebuttal was that A) I happen to like Legos and things of the like and B) we are a young couple moving to a foreign country for many years and plan to have kids soon. Why would we not have toys for their future on what we plan to be our one big shipment?)



Nevertheless, they continuously advised us to deliberately omit any reference of toys of our packing list and refused to let us submit any list that had them to customs. We have email chains showing us providing the packing list to them with the toys included, but we are rather sure that they submitted lists without toys to customs. We would eventually be hit with a $350 “charge” (more on that in a bit) on the toys by customs.



They then told us that they needed a migrations movement paper on Rachel too. This was brand new information to us. They also said that we were going to need to pay an extra $1200 as our warehouse time was expiring for the initial “lease”.


Luckily we brought Jorge with us. He got them to admit that they knew all along they would need our physical passports, that our warehouse time would be expiring and the rate would go up, that they did not inform us of this until we arrived, that they could have taken action to move it into a cheaper facility on our behalf but didn’t, that they opened our pallets without permission, that they knew I would have to sign the original Bill of Lading in Callao, and that the entire thing was more or less set up to ensure we failed at getting our pallets through the process in a timely fashion such that we would get charged more.



Jorge had to basically threaten them the book of reclamations. This is basically a government issued book that every corporation must have. Think of it as a way to alert the Better Business Bureau of any misdeeds. We think it may actually carry some power, because upon mention of it, ABC seemed to get their act together and promised to do all they could to try and make our experience pleasant. We would just have to run to the migrations office to get the movement document for Rachel, and we had to do it within 4 hours on Thursday. As Friday was a holiday, the office closed in 4 hours, and Monday would be too late to avoid the extra $1200. Luckily we succeeded and got the papers to them in time.



I requested photos of the inspection they conducted. It may be the norm for them, but for an inspection I did not authorize, I was highly upset at the lack of care that seems to have been afforded to our things. Finally, we spend an extra $180 to reschedule our flights for the following Wednesday as it looks like we’ll need at least one full more day to take care of everything.




December 8 –    Today is a holiday so no work is accomplished.




December 11-     We receive the pictures of the inspection they conducted. We sign the original Bill of Lading and give our passports to a ABC agent at the house of Jorge




December 12-     4PM – We get notice that they need a copy of our marriage certificate last minute


5:41 PM – We send a copy of the marriage certificate to ABC


10:12 PM – ABC, “Tomorrow we will present the documents at first hour hopefully they will not notify us again to deliver your passport.”




December 13 – We fly back to Cusco after having present all the documents to customs. Inspection is tentatively scheduled for the next day.




December 14 – ABC tells us there is a $350 fine for the toys. We must either agree to pay it or the toys will the immobilized in the warehouse. We agree to pay it. We would later learn that this is a common tactic used. If they omitted the toys from the list, then technically they don’t exist in paperwork. If we think there is a fine for them, then often foreigners will just ask to refuse to that part of the shipment, and the shipper gets to keep them without any documentation.




December 15 – We had returned to Cusco for our team retreat. It was there that they informed us that we had cleared the customs inspection, but there were a few things that needed to be cleared up before we could have our goods shipped to us. First the customs import tax was much higher than we expected. On their initial quote they told us to expect 5-10% tax on the value of all the goods. We were taxed at closer to 15-18%. When I confronted ABC about this and said they deliberately misled me, all they would respond with was, “I’m Sorry.” Second we were issued a $350 fee for the toys. Third we were issued a near $1600 fee for the warehouse charges. This was up from the initial $250 quote we were given on what it would cost.



When I asked for details on the warehouse fee, they claimed that they could not do anything about this charge. They claimed that this is simply what the warehouse said was owed and they couldn’t even negotiate with the warehouse on our behalf. They said that the carrier we used to ship to Callao had placed our goods into an American warehouse, and because of as much they couldn’t access or do anything to it. This made little sense as we knew they had conducted their own inspection of the shipment already. They said that we would have to call the American company that shipped our goods and see if they could ask for a discount on the warehouse charges.



I don’t believe they expected us to call internationally, but we did. Our contact from the American company told us that they do not own any warehouses in Callao, and that we needed to call the Peruvian warehouse listed on our Bill of Lading. We did so, and the Peruvian warehouse told us that the shipment had been there since the first of the month, that ABC should have brought it out of the warehouse and put it in a more long term cheaper facility soon as it arrived, but they would see if they could provide us a discount.


We send an email to the warehouse explaining the situation and asking for a discount. To their credit, ABC sent emails out asking for the same almost immediately when they saw we CC’d them.




December 17 – We get a 15% discount from the warehouse. There are a few emails reminding ABC of the $295 already paid to them for warehouse expenses and to subtract it from their new bill to us.




December 18 – Money is deposited into ABC’s account.




December 19 – ABC has issues getting the shipment out of the warehouse. However, it is the fault of the warehouse and no additional cost is charged to us.




December 20 – ABC tells us that the truck is in route to Cusco. Expected delivery is Thursday




December 21 – We call ABC. They check into it and tell us that the shipment is delayed due to holiday traffic. Arrival is now expected Saturday. Google maps shows there is no additional traffic and max transit time is 18.5 hours direct. At this point they will be driving our cargo less than 4 hours a day to arrive to us on Saturday.




December 23 – Finally, the shipment did arrive on Saturday. The condition of the shipment upon its arrival is beyond words. What looked like it was an open air garbage truck pulled in front of our apartment for us to unload. The shipment looked as though it had been rained on multiple times in transit from Cusco. Boxes were thrown haphazardly into the back of the truck with absolutely no care or gentleness. Boxes were rotting and smelling awful. Boxes were in near destroyed condition. Plastic bins had standing water in them. It was painfully obvious that the shipment had been given as little care as possible.




We took pictures of every box in the condition it arrived to us in and the condition of the contents as we unpacked everything. There is about $1300 in damages and missing items. When all is taken into account for damages, missing items on the shipment, negligence, and additional fees because of ABC’s actions the monetary value of what they cost us is approaching unthinkable realms.




January 3 – It takes quite some time for us to get through everything. We are meticulous as we unpack everything in documenting the process with photos. Many items there are no saving, they just have to be thrown out. One of the biggest reliefs was actually the day we were able to get a truck to haul off the rotting cardboard boxes out of our apartment. Those things reeked so badly! Shortly after Christmas, the lawyer working on our carnets (residence cards) told us that they were ready. He advised us to come into Lima on the 3rd as the 1st and 2nd were holidays. He also offered to put us in touch with some customs agents while we were in town. We had contacted him about any powers we had to recoup costs due to damages when we received the shipment. He himself didn’t specialize in shipping cases, but he believed his friends could help us. Big win for this day was that after nearly 4 months of waiting, we were residents!




January 4 – We meet with the customs agent for over four hours. Turns out the lawyer’s contact is the actually the head of a shipping company now- Mt. Zion Shipping. She used to be an agent for customs and inasmuch knows the ins and outs of the process. She carefully listens to our story, asking questions along the way. She seems to be crossing off all possible people at fault before passing judgement. For example, she asked a lot of questions of Straightway’s involvement, how we chose ABC, our interactions with customs (none personally, all through ABC), and anything we knew personally about the warehouse. Eventually, she seemed to determine that ABC was the only avenue that could have done the bulk of our description. At this point she started going through our paperwork and noticed a lot of irregularities.


1)      The dates of the receipts of payment were a full week after we actually got the shipment. These are usually issued day of. The dates used are suspiciously around the last time I had contact with the company. They had called to make sure we received the shipment. In my frustration I told them we had, I wasn’t happy with the condition, and that we were seriously contemplating coming to sign the book of reclamations. To her, this looked very much like ABC trying to get the paperwork in order once they realized an investigation might occur.


2)      Apparently when I received the shipment, I was supposed to sign a copy of the packing list asserting everything was received in expected condition. Ya…. That didn’t happen.


3)      The guy our powers of attorney were made out to so that ABC could represent us at Customs isn’t on the official government record of employee’s for ABC. Hence, she had no idea how they got us through Customs clearance.


4)      Nowhere on the customs side of paperwork was there an indication of $350 for children’s toys. It would appear that this charge was completely falsified to us.


5)      ABC charged us $1400 for packing and care expenses in addition to transportation costs. This was to cover making sure everything arrived to us in good condition. I have a hard time not laughing at this one.



Overall if you need something shipped in Peru, I now have the contact. We were very impressed with Mt. Zion. They even printed off copies of all our documents and pictures for us. They advised us to write up a day by day account (similar to this) and present everything to Indecopi directly. This the government intuition that oversees the book of reclamations. This would dramatically cut down the time to resolution and keep us from having to see ABC again.



That evening we create the entirety of the paperwork to submit to Indecopi. Jorge’s wife helps us translate everything into Spanish.



January 5thWe submit everything to Indecopi. There are a few bumps in having to redo the cover page and format, but overall the process went smooth. They tell us that due to the amount and our status as brand new residents, they are placing us on the emergency case list. This drops the time to completion from 120 days to around 30 days.



And that is the last we had to really do with regards to our shipping issues. It was a rough and stressful situation. There were times we honestly didn’t know if the shipment was ever going to come. Part of us really does believe this whole thing was just another way for the Devil to try and run us out of the country. Had we been any less stubborn of individuals, it may have worked. We have no idea if the investigation will result in anything, and honestly if it doesn’t, in the grand scheme of things it will matter very little. We are here to try and be lights to the world and help install the first wave of leaders to the church in Cusco. If that costs us a few thousand dollars, then it was money well spent.



Once again, we don’t write this to y’all asking or expecting for any money or tears. The chief and main purpose in this novel is let you walk in this journey with us. People have often told me that the cost to follow Christ and do his will could and would be high. Sometimes that sentiment is understood more clearly than others.


In Him,

Mitchel and Rachel

“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.


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.



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.


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.


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!


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 🙂 )


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!


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.


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.


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

Month One of Total Immersion

Hello all!

 The past couple of weeks have been full of complete and total immersion in every way one can possibly imagine. It has been an experience so unlike any other that it seems difficult to articulate exactly what is happening, but we’ll do our best to put into words all that has happened and that we are feeling since we arrived in Lima.


Our typical weekdays in Lima consist of going to Spanish school starting at 9 AM. We have a two hour session of grammar class in which we learn the structure and vocabulary of the Spanish language. Thus far we’ve learned basic vocabulary (days of the week, counting, colors, most oft used verbs and adjectives, directions, greetings,etc.), conjugating in the present tense, reflexive verbs (where one receives the action that is done), all the use cases of tener (to have), irregular verbs (conjugated differently), differences in ser/estar (to be), and most recently how to use the past tense on the aforementioned. When I sit and examine all that we have covered in about 2 and half weeks of immersion school, it is the equivalent of almost all Mitchel had been taught in two semesters of high school.

21297853_10156683421316110_1718802047_o One of the big differences between now and high school, though, is our ability to actually use the language. After grammar class and following a brief break, we have two more hours of conversation/speaking class. Here we utilize all the ideas we have learned thus far and put them into practice. The first week or so these classes involved much of us slipping back to English to try and develop the backbone of what we were trying to convey. In recent days, these classes have become almost exclusively in Spanish. While difficult, we have found that we are able to keep up and understand all of what the teachers are presenting.

 The real world is an entirely different animal. In class, the other students and teachers recognize that we are learning and will usually speak slowly and annunciate clearly for us. In the streets, at restaurants, church, at stores, and in the general public people often speak at what sounds like a ridiculous speed (though even this is starting to show signs of beginning to slow down to our ears). Thankfully, most Peruanos are receptive to us asking them to repeat what they said more slowly.


Even more though, existing in a culture where you can hardly express yourself to others is really, really difficult. We won’t lie to you, there have been moments of extreme frustration, but please don’t take it as any form of regret in our minds. Just imagine spending days where the only one who can really converse with you is your spouse and you realize that you need some basic household items so you go to the supermarket. You figure out where you think one is through the wonderful invention of Google Maps, but you soon realize this is no trip to Wal Mart.


Everything is quasi organized into groups that you are used to but, as you walk down every isle you have more and more questions that  don’t seem to have to immediate answer. They call that thing a fruit? Seriously I just want a regular potato, why are there 15 different bins of them? They call this a limon? (it looks like a lime)? Is this bleach or laundry detergent? Do Peruvians wear deodorant, all I see is Axe body spray? Also how do they bathe, there are no loofas or wash clothes in existence? Is the product that looks like it has nearly the exact same logo as the name brand I recognize just as good? Why does every toilet paper seem to have perfume added to it? So apparently milk comes in a box or a bag now? And with honey added to it? The list goes on and on, but by the end of it we were both so overcome by feeling like we didn’t know anything that we felt like we had just failed at life. We’ve repeated the store experience many times now, and it has gotten better. The first time though was overwhelming.

In fact, when we look at our progress of how far we have come in a little under 3 weeks, it is almost baffling. Tasks that seemed pipe dreams 10 days ago now seem completely attainable. Ordering food to our tastes, asking employees if they have certain items, taking the city bus, getting a taxi, holding a prolonged conversation with someone that is willing to be patient with us (and hopefully knows the faintest amount of English), and getting the paperwork filed with Interpol to become residents are all things that we can now do with relative ease.

People have also taken notice of our presence. Our neighbors at our apartment stopped us the other day and we were able to have a quick conversation with them about who we are, where we are from, and what we are doing. We’ve made friends with a Limeña woman from school. She has shown us around many parts and museums of Lima, and in the course of our talks with her she has seemed receptive to coming to church with us on a Sunday. According to her, most people she knows are “Christian”, but very few actually go to church. When we described to her how the church in Lima had immediately taken us in, helped us get initially set up, and how we have been to a few different members houses for meals already, she seemed genuinely intrigued. She said it sounded almost like a family. We assured her that is exactly what it is.

Not all forms of attention are welcome though. After a while the constant being honked at by taxis, asking if I want money exchanged, having random trinkets presented to me to peruse to buy, and stares of people wondering how I got there can grow old. There is no hiding in this culture. We are taller, whiter, and in general more well cared for health wise than the vast majority of the population. This does hold advantages, but in the midst of decompressing after a particularly difficult Spanish lesson, it can make one greatly desire to kick the pigeon walking around you who doesn’t understand personal space (not that we’ve done such a thing… really!).

 IMG_20170812_144616All in all, these first few weeks have been an absolute roller coaster (funnily enough that word translated in Spanish is “Russian Mountain”). One minute we’re ecstatic that we’re able to speak without looking like too much of a buffoon, an hour later we questioning humanity because the place that grows coffee beans drinks instant coffee by and large, the next hour we are falling in love of the history of the culture at a local museum, and by the end of the day Mitchel is depressed because he ordered what he had hoped was going to be some sort of delicious empanda and they gave him some cornbread thing. Add in a minor sinus infection that bit Mitchel and the first round of an intestinal bug that got Rachel (we think it was just something she ate) and life has certainly been full.

 We appreciate all the prayers we know you have lifted up for us. We are grateful for the opportunity you have given us, and please know that we are doing our very best to learn the language and culture that we have transplanted into. It may be difficult at times, but we would still never trade this chance to spread God’s word for anything else we could be doing. We also want to thank those who have been sending us emails! They are so encouraging to us and we love to hear about what is happening in your lives! Please try and take a look at our website from time to time and keep up with us on Facebook. Our more “daily” updates can usually be found there. We plan on compiling a news letter and developing the first of our video series to be sent out soon.


We hope you are well and that the work of spreading the news about our Lord and Savior in the States is proving fruitful.


A last minute update : We have noticed that Sundays are often the hardest days of the week for us. During the weekdays, we go to school for four hours a day and then get off and walk around Lima. However, by the end of the day, we know everything that happened, and we understood the majority of everything that was said to us. When we go to Church on Sundays in our new language, it often gets overwhelming, and we leave not understanding the words that were said (but we still love getting to worship our God with the people in Lima. Even if our languages aren’t the same yet, the intent of our gathering and partaking the Lord’s Supper are universal). However, we have made great strides in the month that we have been here!!! Today was the first day that we left church feeling refreshed rather than overwhelmed! We also understood about 30% of Bible class and about 40% of the sermon today (it certainly helps when the preacher is animated with hand gestures, annunciates clearly, and speaks pretty slowly. It is also nice to have grown up in the Church and a have a feeling on how he is tying different readings together)!!! Thank you so much for your prayers, interceding on our behalf for language acquisition and cultural assimilation! We honestly believe we are picking up our new language rather quickly, and we give all the credit to God!!


Thank you so much for the opportunity!


Mitchel and Rachel 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.


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.


Mitchel and Rachel Routh


Recipes and Dinner Events

We are so thankful to be supported by all of our friends and family –  financially, emotionally, and spiritually! So to honor you and to show you how excited we are to be able to fulfill our dreams of becoming missionaries, we hosted three different events: at Brighton Church of Christ in Brighton, Michigan, at Laurel Church of Christ in Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Winchester Church of Christ in Winchester, Tennessee.

These events were to show you a little about why we fell in love with the people that live in Peru and how we felt that God was pushing us toward his Church there. We began our events with a meal of more traditional Peruvian food that you can find if you come to visit on a campaign! Rotisserie chicken with aji verde (green spicy sauce), Papa a la Huancaína (potatoes and a cheesy spicy sauce), green salads, chicken empanadas, salchipapas (hotdogs and French fries mixed together), fruit and tres leches for dessert. Additionally, we brought back Chicha Morada (which we affectionately call purple corn Kool-Aid) and Inca Kola (some people think it tastes like bubblegum soda) from Peru.

After we finished eating, Mitchel shared the story about our first visit to Peru and how we felt that there was nothing better that we could be doing on Earth than to work for the Church in a place where there are extremely few Christians. Then we played a really awesome game that Rachel put together to teach a little about Peruvian culture and geography! When we were finished, we took many questions! If there is anything that you would still like to know, feel free to leave a comment, and we will answer you! The question you may have, might be someone else’s who doesn’t feel comfortable asking!!

Finally, we wanted to share some recipes from our Dinners with you! A lot of people seemed to really like the chicken empanadas, the two different sauces, and tres leches!!


Recipe for Chicken Empanadas

  • 1 box refrigerated pie crusts
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 4.5 oz can diced green chilis
  • 1/2 cup Tomatoes with green chili, drained I used Rotel
  • 1/4 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

  3. In a large bowl, combine chicken, cream cheese, shredded cheese, green chilies, tomatoes with green chilies, green onions, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.

  4. Unroll one pie crust on a lightly floured surface.

  5. Using a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Re-roll dough as needed.

  6. Repeat using both pie crusts in package.

  7. Lightly brush the outer edge of each round with water.

  8. Place one heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of each round.

  9. Fold dough over the filling and press edges together with a fork to seal.

  10. Repeat with remaining rounds and mixture.

  11. Place the empanadas on baking sheet and light brush the tops with beaten egg.

  12. Bake for 12-15 minutes.


Note: We used rotisserie chicken because it is already seasoned and delicious! We also used the top of a mason jar to cut out circles in the pie crust to make the perfect sample size. This recipe should make about 24 miniature empanadas.


Recipe for Aji Verde (the green sauce)


Rotisserie Chicken and Aji Verde Sauce


  • 2 fresh jalapeños, including seeds and ribs, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon aji Amarillo paste
  • 1 cup freshly picked cilantro leaves and small stems
  • 2 tablespoons grated cotija cheese or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine jalapeños, aji amarillo, cilantro, cotjia, garlic, oil, vinegar, and lime juice in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth paste forms. Add mayonnaise and blend until homogenous. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grilled chicken. Unused sauce can be stored in a covered container for up to 1 week.

Note: Aji amarillo paste is a hot yellow pepper paste from peru. It can be found in Latin specialty stores or ordered online. If unavailable, it can be omitted.
– We also doctored the sauce since we served it to a large group of people: we seeded one of the jalapeños, and added more cheese, garlic, and mayonnaise to cut the heat.


Recipe for Huancaina Sauce (the yellow cheese sauce)


Papa a la Huancaína

  • 2 tablespoons aji Amarillo paste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 saltine crackers
  • 8 oz queso fresco (farmer cheese)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Salt to taste

In a blender, add the aji amarillo paste, oil and evaporated milk, crackers, farmer cheese and salt. Process until creamy.

Note: We used Mexican Cheese since we couldn’t find queso fresco at Walmart and added more saltine crackers to thicken it up a little.
– Traditionally this is served on boiled potatoes, but since we were serving to a large group, we put it on mashed potatoes. Enjoy however you want!

Recipe for Pastel de Tres Leches (Tres Leches Cake)

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 eggs separated
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

For the milk mixture:

  • 1 ounces can evaporated milk 12
  • 1 ounces can sweetened condensed milk 14
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

For the topping

  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Generously grease two 8×8 non-stick square pans or one 9×13 pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, pour in egg whites and beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks are formed.
  5. In another mixing bowl, pour in egg yolks and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  6. Add egg yolks to egg whites, stirring gently so as to not deflate.
  7. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture folding in gently so as to not deflate.
  8. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and cook for 22-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
  9. While the cake is in the oven, mix together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, and vanilla.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and turn out the two pans onto separate trays with a rim. Cut off edges if desired.
  11. Using a fork, generously poke holes all over in the top of the cakes.
  12. Pour the three-milk mixture onto the HOT cakes, half on each cake, letting it soak in as you are pouring. Make sure to pour around the edges.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or until serve time.

To Serve:

  1. Beat the fresh whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until very thick and spreadable.
  2. Spread the whipped cream onto the cake(s)and then sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve cold.

Note: We noticed in Peru that they pour coffee on their Tres Leches! If you haven’t tried it that way and are a coffee lover, we really suggest that you do!


Formal Training for Missionaries

Once we had both come to the point in deciding that we should consider becoming missionaries, we first sought our confirmation from those that knew us best. Rachel went to talk to the elder’s wife whom she affectionately calls “her Naomi”. This family is one that has shown us the true extent as to what unending love can mean. They have 15 kids, three of which are biological. They have adopted and loved for so many children through the years that there must be a special place in heaven for people like them. He is about to retire in the next couple of years and their youngest are in the midst of middle school!

What happened at this meeting was about as affirming as you can get. Rachel and – let’s just call her Naomi – sat down in the study one day while she was over. This was incredibly odd as we hardly ever sat in this room. It must have been the seriousness in Rachel’s voice when she told Naomi that she had something she needed to talk to her about that triggered the more private setting. However, once the obligatory chit chat had been taken care of, Rachel told Naomi that we were seriously considering quitting our jobs to become full time missionaries to somewhere in Latin America. Several things happened almost simultaneously at this point. Naomi jumped to her feet, embraced Rachel, started crying, and told her that this what God meant for her to do with her life.

Further validation came shortly thereafter when we told the eldership in Michigan of our ambitions, and they told us that it only made too much sense. We had come into the congregation seeking ways to get involved and to teach. It would only seem right that this is how we would ever want to leave it. From that point on, we felt as though we knew we could do this if we really wanted to in spite of how crazy the idea may seem.

It was only short few moments after we had decided to completely alter our lives to become missionaries when we realized that we had absolutely no idea how to accomplish that. Could it be as simple as grabbing your bible and moving to an unknown world to read scripture to them? Something about that methodology seemed lacking.

Luckily, we are not the first to have ever embarked on this path. We would turn to what would end up as our future teammates for advice on how to get started. They outlined for us many things. How to make funding materials for potential sponsors, how to develop a budget, what places are best to target for locating to, and perhaps most importantly how to prepare for entering the mission field.

In fact, as Mitchel spoke to many other former missionaries he had know through the years from Brazil or Peru, the number one piece of advice was always, “Go find some training prior to departing.” We have been told that the average length of stay for a new missionary is less than a year now. So many are entering the field only to return shortly later to the States for one reason or another. Many studies seem to be backing it up.

Why do Missionary Care? by Dorris Schulz, Director for Missionary Care with Missions Resource Network.  “International business understands the importance of pre-departure training. In 1985 data suggested that somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of international relocations ended with premature return. In developing countries the failure rate was as high as 70 percent. Since 1985 pre-departure training of executives has increased considerably, reducing attrition rates. ” 

“Get on the Bus”: How do Missionaries and Other Expats Make International Transitions? by Dale Hawley, Associate Director for Missionary Care at Missions Resource Network. Come prepared. An international move is a major undertaking… [Missionaries] are not simply doing their job in a foreign location; they are immersing themselves in the culture in order to influence it. This calls for a different level of preparation. No amount of planning fully prepares someone for moving to a mission field, but training in cross cultural missions, learning as much as possible about the specific culture to which you are moving, and, to the degree possible, language preparation are all important factors contributing to an easier transition.”

One of the things we both fully agreed on was that if we were to do this, we wanted to be in it for the long haul. We did not want to put in so much work into an effort only to have it fail in less than a year. We wanted to make sure that to whatever extent we were able that we were prepared to move to our new home and profession.

The original church plant team that went to Cusco in 2009 utilized an organization named The Continent of Great Cities to facilitate their evaluation and training. The same group had been able to structure a program when the second wave of missionaries moved to Cusco in 2014. They suggested that we seek their guidance on how to prepare ourselves for this transition.

Great Cities Missions.png

Training can really be thought of as two unique separate sections. The first is the “evaluation” phase. This involves filling out an insanely long application (seriously one of the questions was an open free form of “Describe your spiritual auto-biography”) that took us 6 hours to complete, background checks via personal references, multiple personality profile tests, and a several day session with a clinical psychologist to see if we have the profiles, temperament, and character to be successful in the field. It may sound obvious, but the smallest things of making sure that potential missionaries are active already in the church, have good strong marriages, aren’t volatile, can easily adapt to change, and are willing to lay everything down for God often aren’t ever considered prior to sending off teams. The Evaluation Stage is meant to avert any potential land mines that could produce self inflicted wounds to a team once they relocate.

The second portion of our work with Great Cities was in what you could label as traditional “training”. This a more formal classroom setting in which missionaries learn about the history of the church in their target country, how to evangelize, the importance of discipleship, how to handle team dynamics and let each member play to their strengths, how to overcome conflict within a team, language training, what is culture shock and how to deal with it, and many other important topics.

Great Cities Missions ministry provides:

  • Missionary team recruiting
  • Carefully screened and approved missionaries
  • Team training that includes language preparation, team dynamics, and urban church planting strategy
  • On-the-field adjustment assistance
  • Ongoing care for missionary families
  • Counsel and assistance with re-entry issues

Normally, Great Cities trains teams that are forming first time church plants into a new target city. It is odd for them to do training for a second wave. We were the very first group to ever be trained by them as a third wave. Inasmuch our training had to be modified to accommodate what would be appropriate.

We were fortunate to be invited to join in portions of training with another group that is also preparing to depart to the mission field: the Sao Luis Team. The Dye, Gibbins, and Hill families from San Antonio, Texas, are heading to Sao Luis, Brazil to establish a Church there. They were in the beginning stages of their 3 month training with Great Cities Missions before moving internationally in December 2017, and were gracious enough to allow us to join in on a few of their classes! As we spent time with this team, we began to call them friends! We are prayerful that their efforts to move to Brazil are realized and are successful! Their website is above, if you would like to keep up with what God is doing in Brazil!


The Sao Luis Team

There were two major sections to our time in San Antonio. The first was a seminar course called “Crucial Conversations”. This is a lesson series that one of the members at Northside church of Christ in San Antonio puts on for real world organizations for a living. The idea behind it is how do you encourage dialogue that is healthy when two parties have a strong difference of opinions, emotions are strong, and stakes are equally as high. During this course we got to learn and practice techniques to help others feel safe in communicating with us even if these situations are present.

The second portion of our training revolved much around cultural awareness and the culture shock to expect when you transition into a completely new environment. The stages of going from being settled and involved somewhere, to departing, to chaos, to re-settling, and finally to gaining some balance of being re-settled. Former missionaries told us how you will find yourself bouncing between each of the stages many times over during your first year of moving. We also learned what some of the typical cultural customs acted as agitators on Americans that moved into the culture. Through all of it though, we were given hope that as long as you prayed and persevered through the difficult stages of adjustment, you will come out better for it in the end.


Training with the Sao Luis Team


With Ron and Georgia Freidas

And that is where we are with our training at the moment. This Monday (August 7th), we bridge into a whole new realm of training. We start eight weeks of language immersion school here in Lima, Peru to jump start our ability to communicate with the locals. From there we will move to Cusco where we will continue private Spanish lessons for many more months to come. We will also have the opportunity to have Great Cities come down and facilitate some team based training with all the missionary couples working in Cusco.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point. I daresay we are far from finished, but the one thing we want everyone to know is that we are doing everything we can to make sure that the work in Cusco is not hindered in any way by us. We want this to be a long partnership with our supporters that doesn’t fail for any number of petty reasons Satan is sure to throw our way. Our chief desire is to get out the way and to let God work through us. We don’t want anyone to ever look at us and say, “See all the wonderful things Mitchel and Rachel did.” We only want them to see all of the wonderful things that Jesus did in our lives.

In Him,
Mitchel and Rachel Routh








Mt. Dora, Florida

What is a mission? Is it simply getting on a church van for a minimum of 3 hours to go into a place you have never been, with the sole intention of doing things you somewhat refused to do in “everyday” life? If we’re being honest, that is what my opinion was of mission trips when I went through youth group some years ago. It was a time when you would go to some awesome place, and your local youth minister relished in putting you in uncomfortable situations. It wasn’t until I had started going on many myself in latter high school years and in college, that I realized the need for missions, and how they can help so much more than the “target” group or city.

One short week after we arrived back in Tennessee, we packed up again to head out. It’s amazing to us how God works. During the preceding month as we were discussing the transition timelines with our elders, they mentioned that the youth group had a planned mission trip during the middle of June that was in desperate need of chaperones. They suggested that if we were available, that we should get in touch with the youth minister to see if we could accompany them and help out. How can you say no to such a proposition?!?!?

I immediately called Alex to find out that just the previous night he had been seriously considering having to cancel the trip due to lack of adult support that could go to Florida. He had sat down and prayed that God send him some individuals to act as chaperones and mentors to his teens. Rachel and I asking if we could help out on the trip was a literal less than 24 hour response to Alex’s prayer!

We had such an incredible week with Winchester Church of Christ’s Youth Group to Mt. Dora, Florida! About 25 people were involved from our Overseeing Congregation in this trip. When we departed for Florida, we only loosely knew some of the individuals on the campaign. We came back with memories of friends, brothers, and sisters that we will cherish forever.

One of the primary emphasis’s of the mission trip was to put on a VBS for the Mt. Dora church of Christ. Seeing as we had held a VBS at Winchester the week prior to the trip, this should have been a super easy task, right? Well there are a number things that added some fun wrinkles to the mix.

When this Vacation Bible School was put on in Winchester, the teachers had four days to prepare their rooms. Here in Mt. Dora, we had four hours! It turned out beautiful and really emphasized how fast things get done when people work together! Rooms were decorated to put kids directly into the setting of one of the four bible stories we would cover. Our theme for VBS was “Survivor: Saved By God”. It emphasized how God can rescue you from any situation and use it to his glory.

SAVED BY GOD – From Hopeless Situations to Great Salvations
– Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – the Fiery Furnace
– Daniel and the Lions Den
– Jonah and the Great Fish
– Paul and Silas in Prison

Also, we tried to put our teens into as many leaderships roles as possible. In Winchester, the whole assembly of membership pitched in to teach classes, guide craft sessions, and relegate snack duty. At Mt. Dora, Mitchel taught the adult class each night, there was an adult to oversee each classroom, but all of the lessons, crafts, and structured times were teen led. It was great to see the teens step up and demonstrate what it means to be a leader in God’s church. Even little Emma Cowan – who is only going into 5th grade herself – was seen stepping up to help distribute snacks and make sure everyone was taken care of!

All of the teens hard work was rewarded. Sunday, the first day of VBS, we had 10 children come, and by the fourth and last day, that number doubled to 22 children participating! Throughout this VBS, several future leaders became apparent!


Playground popsicles

Remember that little bit at the beginning about a crazed youth minister that relished in putting in uncomfortable situations? It seems to be status quo on mission trips and this one was no different. As we mentioned we had 10 kids show up to VBS on the first night – a solid start, but we knew that we had the potential to reach out so many more.

Hence, we took our teens to the streets! They went door knocking into the neighborhoods surrounding the church to spread the news of the VBS we were holding. Many of our teens commented on how the simple act of inviting someone to church was a new and uncomfortable experience for them, but they also told us of how it was one of the ways that caused them to grow the most during the week. Simply telling others of your faith and inviting those around you to share in it is becoming a dying art, and our teens were blessed to see how easy and beneficial it can be.

There is an old saying that people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It was great to go door knocking, but Alex wanted to try and demonstrate this principle to the teens as well. What ensued was the complete takeover of some of Mt. Dora’s parks. Our teens rushed into the playgrounds, played with the kids there, handed out free popsicles and VBS flyers, and sang some awesome VBS and camp songs with some of the children at the park. It was like a mini VBS all unto itself! Indeed we had several new kids come and attend each night that we met at the parks.


Do you also recall the part about mission trips involving tasks you would normally have no interest in participating in? We were blessed to get to have this experience for our group as well! Located in the city of Mt. Dora, Florida are the local Christian School for kids pre-K through 12th grade and the associated children’s’ home. There were a number manual tasks that we were able to help out with. So Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. we met at the church and divided into two groups.

The first helped out with an area of the school that needed some landscaping work. They cleared out trees, logs, vines, and undergrowth from a hillside that was soon to be seeing much more foot traffic as the school’s football field was being put in nearby. The second group had the honor of scraping gum off of the gym bleachers, cleaning out trash cans, and spraying down the outdoor mats.

After our service projects were complete, we were given a tour of the children’s home and Christian academy. It was a blessing to see the resources they had been able to establish to invite children to come in from various broken situations, have a room to call their own, a house parent to watch after them, and a top notch educational facility to go get their primary and secondary schooling from.

We were also reminded of just how connected the church is though God and his people!! The elementary school portion of the Christian Academy in Mt. Dora has a wing named in honor of Jim and Ruby Vanzant. Which was a really special treat for those at Winchester, TN as we have a wing of our church building named after them also!


It truly was an amazing week of seeing the teens grow and reach out to youth of Mt. Dora. But this brings us back to the original question of what is a mission? Anyone that knows of them happening in the church might call it what I did as a younger child, a group of people going to some place to help some people. I think our teens began to learn in a week what took me quite some time to figure out. As they were stepping up to teach, to share their faith openly, to live it out in a way that others could see it, they were living out the very definition of mission. A mission is more than a trip, it is being intentional with your actions and your life to make sure that you spread the good news of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection to as many people as possible.

Whether it is in Cusco, Peru,  Mt. Dora, Florida, or at the grocery store in your own hometown, what are you doing to help build the Kingdom? Whose lives are you making a difference in by living out and sharing the Gospel? We challenge you to try and live out these virtues. You might just be surprised by who they end up affecting most.

In Him,
Mitchel and Rachel Routh