I have mentioned in some of my previous posts about the random and unexpected series of circumstances that caused me to serve as a translator for a medical mission trip in southern Peru, rather than spend a week in the jungle with Caro like I had originally planned. But there is much, much more to the story than a mere series of unexpected and fortuitous coincidences. Before I go into the details of what actually happened while I was serving in Pampachiri, I would like to first take some time to talk more in depth about how I got there. I apologize if the story is a little disjointed. I will do my best to be coherent, but you will see that the details themselves are quite scattered, which may make it difficult to have a linear tale.
I suppose my story – at least to the depth of my knowledge – begins about 4 weeks before I left for Peru. I was trying to figure out what to pack; although I knew that I was going to be there during the Peruvian winter, Peru is also a fairly tropical country, so I wasn’t sure how cold it was actually going to get. I talked to a very outdoorsy friend of mine, and she said that it would be better to be safe than sorry, and recommended that I buy a nice Patagonia winter jacket. I listened to her advice, and purchased it; it arrived just a few days before I left the country. But for most of the trip, I was regretting bringing it. It was not far enough along in winter to need it in the south, and as we journeyed further north, closer to the equator, it became even warmer. I found myself frustrated with myself for packing this heavy jacket, and in the end having to lug it all around the country without ever actually needing to wear it. But then I ended up in Pampachiri, and wouldn’t you know, it got below freezing every single night.
But wait! I have completely skipped over one of the most exciting details – how I actually got to Pampachiri in the first place! About halfway through our trip, both Caroline and I, independently of each other, had started to come to the same conclusion – that 5 weeks of pure sightseeing is too long. The idea of spending an entire week in the jungle was starting to seem like not worth the effort to both of us, and I was starting to really regret having left our friends in Cusco so early. We had pushed so hard so that we could see everything (including the jungle), but now we didn’t even want to see the jungle! It was frustrating. On top of that, Caro was beginning to think about leaving me and flying down to Argentina to see her fiance’s family, who live down there. It was around this time that we arrived in Chachapoyas – I remember that we arrived on a Saturday evening. Little did I know, but a conference called JAQ (Jesus and the Q’uran) was happening at the same time back in Atlanta at Grace Snellville, the parent church of my own church. When we checked into the hostel in Chachapoyas and I checked my email, I had a message from a woman I’d never met. She said that her name was Julie, and that she had met a friend of mine, Monica, who was serving at the coffee counter at JAQ. (If you want to take the story back even further, I found out later that Monica had been volunteering at JAQ for years, but she originally asked to serve at the registration tables. They put her at the coffee bar instead, and when she realized the opportunity that serving there gave her to meet and talk with people, she started requesting the coffee bar every time she works at JAQ. If she hadn’t done that, she and Julia never would have met. Isn’t it crazy how far back this story goes?!?) But anyway, Julie and Monica met, and they started chatting about Peru. Julie said that she was heading down there next week to serve on a medical missions trip with Grace Snellville, and Monica mentioned that I was already there. Since she didn’t have my contact information, Julie asked to use Monica’s Facebook account to send me a message inviting me to join them as a translator (I later found out that Julie almost didn’t act on the impulse she had to write to me. I’m so very glad that she did!).
So, switch back to me in my hostel in Chachapoyas. I received the message from Julie, and was very excited about it. I had originally thought that she was one of the group leaders; it turns out that she wasn’t, which makes me even happier that she chose to act on her impulse and invite me anyway. And immediately, I started seeing how God had been working behind the scenes (although it would be weeks before I got the full picture) to get me there my entire trip. I was looking at the calendar, and realized that if we had stayed longer in Cusco like I had originally wanted to – particularly after deciding to not go to the jungle – I would not have had time to get back to Pampachiri in time, as I was pretty far away when I got Julie’s message. Also, I just love that Caro and I had already independently decided not to go to the jungle and to split up, pretty much just a few hours before I received Julie’s message. So there wasn’t even a concern about leaving Caro or disappointing her by not going to the jungle with her. Little did I know that Julie did not have regular access to internet, and I certainly did not. But her message came in right as I was checking into a hostel that did happen to have internet, so I was able to write back immediately and get another response from her with a bit more information. Again, if the initial communication hadn’t been so quick, I wouldn’t have had time to purchase my plane ticket and meet the team on time.
Oh, the plane ticket is another incredible example of God’s provision. Because I was so far away from Pampachiri when I received Julie’s message, I had to take a plane down to meet the team there. I technically could have taken a bus – and I almost did when I saw the cost of the plane ticket – but I finally decided that I simply could not handle another long-distance bus through the mountains of Peru. So I just bit the bullet and bought the plane ticket. Right after I bought the ticket, I checked the balance on my bank account to make sure that I had enough left to last me the rest of the trip. Wouldn’t you know it, I had an unexpected deposit from Georgia Tech – for the exact same amount that the plane ticket had cost. If that’s not confirmation of divine guidance, I don’t know what is :). In my hurry, I had even originally bought a ticket for the wrong day – and was able to change it (via spotty emails in Spanish to the customer service department, since I didn’t have phone service) without getting charged any sort of fee. I’ve never heard of an airline that doesn’t charge you to change a flight less than a week before departure.
Oh, and while I’m on the subject of numbers, I suppose I should mention my bag. The weight limit for bringing a bag on this flight, since it was such a small plane, was pretty small. I weighed my bag before getting to the airport, and it was half a kilo over the weight limit. I had to bring all of my stuff with me, though, so I just went to the airport anyway. I was planning on just begging them to let me on when I got there. Wouldn’t you know, when the airport weighed my bag, it actually weighed almost a full kilo less than the weight limit. And it weighed even less on my return trip, after I had bought a few souvenirs!
Pampachiri was really the summation of weeks of God gently (and sometimes not so gently) teaching me to let go and let Him lead. Teaching me that He is looking out for me, even if I don’t know how, even if I can’t see it. I probably wouldn’t have even considered signing up for the mission trip in the first place if I hadn’t already been in Peru – I didn’t have enough confidence in my Spanish skills to think that I would be able to translate at a medical clinic. But because I was already in the country, I went, and I never regretted it for a second. Pampachiri was so incredible…and seeing how God worked behind the scenes – gave me a “peek behind the curtain” – to get me there was extraordinarily humbling. It really reminded me of why I love to travel in the first place – to learn more about myself and the world around me, and not just to learn about it, but to make a difference in it. I’m so glad God chose to remind me – I had almost forgotten. I’m just flabbergasted by His goodness. Can’t wait to tell you what happened while I was there in the next installment of Sinbad’s adventures!