We are back home now--unpacked, cleaned up, and reacquainted with the cat, who isn't sure whether she missed us or not. Yesterday (Friday) we checked out of our lodging in Arequipa around 8:30 and were taken right away to the local office of LAN, the Chilean-Peruvian airline on which we were book for a flight to Lima later that day. I had gotten a message from a third party about a departure delay, and we were already concerned about a tight connection. The office assured us that all was running on time.
So we proceeded with a day of exploring the Anglican presence in the city of Arequipa. First up was the smallest and newest mission, Holy Nativity. The church is a modest structure, even by Peruvian standards, but it is strategically located in a well-populated sub-municipality. While we were in the area, Bishop Alejandro decided it would be a good idea to drop in on the local mayor, whom he had not met and wants to cultivate a relationship with. Peru lacks the embedded suspicion of church-state relations that is our heritage in the U.S., and clergy are still held in high regard there, so the bishop's instincts were on target for his environment.
From there we made our way, through thick urban traffic (and a driving culture that curls the hair of most Americans), to the mission of St James the Apostle. This is the church that Bishop Alejandro had direct responsibility for when we was elected bishop, and he's still trying to figure out just how to take care of it going forward. The church sits on an ample lot, with lots of room for expansion and program development. What impresses me about both Holy Nativity and St James is that that they are both located in desperately poor neighborhoods. In North America, anyone contemplating a church plant would look for a location with a concentration of middle and upper-middle class families, for obvious practical reasons. But there's something utterly Jesus-like about camping out in the midst of the poor, and trying to build community with "those kids of people." I honor that.
By then, it was time for lunch, so we drove to a lovely indoor-outdoor traditional Peruvian restaurant call La Nueva Palomino. I had earlier expressed an interest in a Peruvian version of chile relleno when it was described to me (more meat than the typical Mexican version), and the dish is featured there. It was yummy.
We continued our tour with a visit to St Luke's Church. This one is indeed in a more established middle-classish neighborhood. This parish operates a school, but the children were away on winter break, so we didn't get to meet them. Nearby is a residential facility(Holy Family) for about 15 young people between the ages of nine and seventeen. It's not, strictly speaking, an orphanage, but the kids all come from very broken and dysfunctional domestic environments. We were overwhelmed by our reception--hugs for all and from all both coming and going. For me, this was surely one of the highlights of the trip. Seeing places and things is well and good--places and things are essential for the work of the gospel--but meeting actual human beings in the flesh was inspiring. The plan is to move the children's home onto the campus of St Luke's, and repurpose the Holy Family facility for a new school aimed at the children of affluent families that would have a more rigorous (elite?) academic orientation, thus combining mission with financially smart strategy, since such a school can potentially finance some of the other outreach projects.
After seeing St Luke's Church, the school, and the children's home, we headed to the "cardinal" parish in Arequipa, Christ the Redeemer, where we had left our bulky luggage earlier in the day in order to make room in the crowded van. After a brief look at the physical plant, we did some last-minute re-packing, and headed for the airport, nearly an hour's drive through thick, Friday rush hour traffic. Not only was our scheduled flight running on time, but the LAN agent booked us on another one departing ten minutes earlier. (Why schedule two flights ten minutes apart? Beats me.) We took our leave from our new Peruvian friends, and, from then on, everything went quite smoothly. Our flight to Lima departed promptly at 9:40pm. In Lima, we had to retrieve our luggage, go literally outside one airport door and inside another, where we checked in for our 1:10am departure for Atlanta on Delta. Then we had to clear Peruvian passport control, which went very quickly, and we had time to relax for a while in the gate area. The six-plus hour flight to Atlanta put us there around 8:30 in the morning. Once again, we had to retrieve our luggage, clear U.S. immigration and customs, give our luggage back to the baggage-handling system, go through security again, and make our way from one end of the airport to the other (E concourse to A concourse). It was the final leg that actually ran about 10 minutes late, with wheels down in St Louis ar 12:15. We pulled into our driveway at around 3:30, some 21 hours after we got in the familiar white van for the last time for the ride to Arequipa airport. The three of us were tired, and in need of a shower, but grateful for how smoothly everything went.
I'm still processing everything, but, at the moment, I have three takeaways from this trip: 1) They have certainly found "the man of God's own choosing" in Bishop Alejandro Mesco. I told him yesterday that we did not make him a bishop on July 25, we sacramentally revealed the bishop who was already there. He clearly already thinks like a bishop. He is a man of persistent prayer, humility, pastoral love, deep faith, and evangelical fervor. In his context, he has the makings of a John Henry Hobart or Jackson Kemper. 2) I shall continue to ponder and discern how to make the appropriate translation between the contexts of Peru and Illinois when it comes to incarnational ("moving into the neighborhood") evangelism. We can't do exactly what they do because our population centers are much less dense, and our people exponentially more mobile. But we need to figure out how to do the same thing in our own cultural and demographic context. 3) I'm still not at a place where I can say truthfully that "I speak Spanish," but I can see that place from where I am, and it's not that far away. I'm sure I made some laughable blunders, but I was able to communicate in a way much more sophisticated than rudimentary exchanges with table servers and hotel desk clerks. Vocabulary is my biggest shortcoming, but with improved vocabulary will come, I am confident, increased ability to "hear" the language. Que bueno.