Coming back from the mountaintop

Local missionaries talk about their work in Peru

Interacting with the children of Iquitos and doing crafts with them was a favorite part of the trip for the missionaries.  Photos supplied
Interacting with the children of Iquitos and doing crafts with them was a favorite part of the trip for the missionaries.
Photos supplied

Mark Allen describes going on a mission trip as “being on the mountaintop.”
“The mountaintop is where you develop social relationships with team members, you get to know people better, you cry together, you experience joy together,” he said. “It’s a pretty personal experience.”
Allen is a longtime missionary who, along with his wife Chris, founded Chaplain Ministries International. They got to gain a further understanding of “the mountaintop” with eight other missionaries from Kost Evangelical Free Church in North Branch when the group headed to Iquitos, Peru, March 8-19 for a mission trip.
The group had a list of goals to accomplish while on the trip: perform construction projects, which included pouring concrete at a church; teaching basic English to the locals; performing child evangelism and crafts at the church in the Puchana district; and helping firefighters train in CPR.
Missionary Sue Humble said the work, both physical and spiritual in nature, was rewarding. She recalled what it was like to work on pouring a concrete slab in Delfines.
“It was really funny because not a lot of the other women did physical labor, necessarily,” she said. “It’s not customary there, I think.”
With the first wheelbarrow of concrete Humble poured, she said, the man who was filling it put in a light load.
“By the eighth or ninth wheelbarrow, Roberto was filling it fuller and fuller each time, just to see how much I could haul around,” she said, laughing.
Providing physical labor and needed upgrades to the church was fulfilling for the missionaries, but forging relationships and spreading the word of God was special.
Humble mentioned interacting with the many children in Iquitos was particularly memorable.
“One day in Delfines we went door to door and invited families, kids and adults, to a youth program at 3 p.m. and a movie at 6:30 p.m.,” she said. “There were about 160 kids there. It was great. We did crafts that day. We did a bead, colors of salvation, cross. We did some other crosses, like a stained-glass cross project.”
After the film in the evening, the missionaries handed out Bibles they had brought with them.

Being grateful
Allen said coming down from “the mountaintop” can be difficult, especially for first-time missionaries. It can take time to transition back into the lives they left for a time when they went to go do missionary work.
“When we leave that, one thing is, we’ll never, ever have this team back together again the same way — never again,” Allen said. “There’s a feeling of loss with that. Sometimes with that feeling of loss you come home and you feel lost, too, in your own culture.”
Allen said sometimes upon return missionaries feel frustrated with the people and the world around them, and that’s why he and his wife debrief the team before heading home.

The church in the Puchana district is where the missionary group performed child evangelism and crafts.
The church in the Puchana district is where the missionary group performed child evangelism and crafts.

“Sometimes people come back angry,” he said. “Sometimes people will blurt out to somebody, ‘Oh, you don’t know how good you have it here.’ That’s not the thing to do. The thing to do is share your experience and gently tell people about how the other 90 to 95 percent of the world lives.”
Humble said just being grateful and helping people is key to finding a sense of harmony.
“It’s not always easy,” she said. “Everybody has stuff in their lives and there are obstacles, but there is a payout to trusting that God has you in his hands.”
Allen said he’s “already thinking about” the next mission trip.
“I’m going back in October with Hiro (a pastor there),” he said. “He and I are going to go up the river a ways. There is some work that a team might be able to do.”
This was Humble’s first organized mission trip, and she’s open to the idea of doing more.
“I’ll follow whatever lead God throws out there for me,” she said. “I like to help people, I like to see the world. I think God has put experiences out there for us to have. When the opportunities arise, we should embrace them.”

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