July 17, 2008

Tingo Maria

We landed in Huanuco (the smallest airport on the face of the earth, for sure) in a little plane that wasn't big enough to stand upright in. We came in sideways, which was quite fun. Huanuco is a little valley town in the mountains east of Lima. We hopped taxis to Tingo Maria, a 2 to 3-hour drive through the hills into the high jungle.

Tingo was quite beautiful, all the beauty of mountains mixed with jungle temperatures and vegetation. We visited the bat cave (quite an experience, if you enjoy walking on bat poo) and several spectacular waterfalls.

Tingo Maria is known for being an area heavy in marijuana and especially cocaine. There were no other Americans in the town but us, and we were told that when Americans come, the locals are a bit afraid of them because they are usually there for drug trafficking. Needless to say, it was tough to start random conversations on the street.

We visited an orphanage there and played ball with the kids, handed out little toys, and shared the story of Jesus' love with them. We returned the next day with some supplies they needed, including a machine that plays an audio Bible, either by electrical power, by solar energy, or by cranking the arm on the side of the box. We were all eaten alive by sand fleas at this place, which didn't dampen how much we enjoyed spending time with these kids. One of the girls asked me if I could adopt her. That was a tough one.

Later, we joined with several area churches on top of a mountain overlooking the town. There was a huge cross on this peak, lit up each night. We had a service and took communion, praying over their land and against the witchcraft and curses that are common there. We were happy to avoid the area where the sacrifices are still rumored to take place.

The next day, we hosted a huge fiesta/carnival for the town's children. A stage was set up in the street, several of our team members and church brothers there dressed in costumes (clowns, Minnie Mouse, Shrek, etc.) and danced around to kids's songs to draw them in. Then the team acted out the story of the Three Trees, explaining a bit of Jesus' life story. Mateo broke down and danced for the kids, but he lost his Lion King head and had to cut it short this time. There were HUNDREDS of kids, not to mention the local taxis, police, and market workers who heard about God's love through the fiesta that day.

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