We visited our first child development sponsorship center today for church services. They greeted us so lovingly - singing, confetti, balloons, whistles, etc. - and the kids! Oh, I can´t tell you how many kisses on my cheeks I received today or how many genuine hugs. I got so emotional at how unworthy we were to receive such a grand reception. We sat through their youth service, which is completely lead by the high schoolers for the children, before they have Sunday school. They had singing, a sermon, human videos, dancing. The teenagers really touched my heart, because I see their lives in the lives of the teens we work with. Even though it is a different culture, we are all so the same. The little boys were joking with one another, the little girls were using their noisemakers and had to be quieted during the sermon.
My first young friend I made was Marco who was 8. I wish my Spanish was better. I get frustrated not being to communicate without a translator. The kids come up to me and just start talking a mile a minute! I must have said "No Entiendo" (I don´t understand) 25 times! But a smile and a hug goes a long way with my broken (very broken) Spanish. We left and were told that we had to stop waving because the kids would just keep running after the bus and it would not be safe. It has been an emotional day. I feel like I have to fight back tears even thinking of it now. It is a good thing that the Peruvians are very comfortable with hugs and other displays of affection, because that was the only way we could communicate and we all wanted to tell them just how much they all meant to us.
We also got to meet all the staff. They are all such dedicated workers and they were so loving as well. One of the advocates ended up sponsoring a boy there today, even though she has another child at another project she will meet later in the week. He was able to sit on her lap the rest of the morning and the sweetness of the moment with them matched permeated the group.
We then went and toured the city and the Catacombs and the St. Francis monastery and Basilica, ending at the "Garden of Love" on the Pacific Ocean and then a market place. We only had a half hour and I was freezing and between bartering and figuring out the exchange rate, etc., all I ended up getting was an Alpaca sweater. We are supposed to be able to go back to the market on another day... And we have eaten - way too much. Peruvians show love through food and we have felt much love. It is still tricky knowing what is okay and what is not. So far, none of us have gotten sick. There are so many other things I want to talk about, but we will soon meet to put gift packages together for the programs we will visit in the next few days. Please keep us in your prayers.
Perhaps one day I will visit Jeremias as well. Happy Monday.