Two days from right now, this very moment, I will be on a plane on my way to Houston where I will hop on a connecting flight to Lima. In Lima, I will meet up with old friends and strangers. I have been given explicit instruction on where to wait for those I will be travelling my next leg with - the cafe directly to the left once I clear customs. Don't move, don't go anywhere else, wait. Check. Wait. From Lima, we will travel as a team to Iquitos, a city of about 850,000 once known for rubber, yes, rubber. I love Iquitos.
Peru was never on my list of must-see places. I fell in love with Peru through trying circumstances and now I cannot imagine never returning again and again. I arrived in Peru last September just after the first year anniversary of the death of my grandfather. His mother went home to be with Jesus just the week before I left. Armed with my Bible and my faith, missing Papa so much it hurt, I left my lonely apartement in Toronto and flew south. I wasn't supposed to be doing this alone.
Years ago, plans began for the Amazon Ark. A boat to be built for ministry use on the Rio Amazon and it's tributaries. My grandfather was passionate about it from the very start. He kept a copy of the blueprints on the wall in his office. I was just a kid at the time, but remember the excitement surrounding the project. I'd hear my grandfather talk about it often over the next dozen years. When I was old enough and had realized the calling on my life regarding the mission field, I told my grandfather I would go with him to Peru to see and hopefully minister on the boat. The Josiah (named for the baby boy who died on the mission field) had been on the river for over 10 years when it was decided that Peru would host it's first ever Family Reunion (Congresso Familiar) in Santa Clotilde the fall of 2008.
The Association of Faith Churches and Ministers (AFCM) hosts Family Reunions around the world ever year as a way for ministers and members to get together for fellowship with each other, teaching from other ministers and to hear and see what God is doing around the world through us. We heard the news about Congresso Familiar more than a year before the dates were set. After a brief discussion, it was decided that this was the trip I would take with my grandfather. We'd travel to Peru to be a part of the ministry team on the Josiah for the Family Reunion.
It wasn't long after our decision was made that Papa started to get sick. He thought it was the flu. So did we. So did his doctor. But it didn't get better. We as a family, as a church, stood in faith that whatever had taken over his body had to leave in the name of Jesus. After several surgeries, he started getting better. He was well enough (barely) to perform my sister's wedding in June and head out to Saskatchewan on vacation in July. His brother passed away that summer and he and my grandmother stayed for the memorial service. When they got back to Vancouver, it was back to the doctor. I took my lunch hour one day to take my grandparents to the hospital for an appointment. I'd pick them up after work. My phone rang that afternoon with a call from Mama saying that I didn't need to come and get them. The doctor wanted to keep Papa in for observation over night. He never did come home from the hospital. But he didn't give up either.
Being a pastor, my grandfather was always the one to shake his fist at the devil when stupid things like cancer happened. And shake his fist he did! The last time I saw him alive, Papa smiled at me the best he could and held up two fingers. Most people would take that as a hippie sign for peace. For Papa, it was a "V" for Victory. He wasn't going to let cancer take him from this earth and I don't believe he did.
Papa went home to Glory early on a Saturday morning. He didn't go until Mama told him it was okay. It was this action that leads me to believe that he could have pushed through if he had the will to do so. When Mama had asked him to take another breath, he did. When she asked again, he did. When she let him go, he let go. His last week here on Earth, he was seeing things beyond our natural realm. Who are we to judge what took him Home? I still believe that he'd seen the other side and Earth no longer held any appeal. The last few sermons he'd preached had been on faith and glory. I don't for one minute believe that his faith ever waivered. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when he left this earth, he went from glory to glory and on to a greater glory. For what could be more glorious than to spend eternity with our Father?
As difficult and as painful as it was (and sometimes still is) to let him go, we move on with life, never forgetting those that have gone before us. A pastor friend spoke at the memorial service stating that the ceiling of Papa's ministry would be the floor for ours. We have not forgotten his vision, nor the work he did in the ministry, but have started where he left off. His passion for the Nations has not been forgotten, nor has the call or vision been left behind.
Papa was gone and we had to move on. It wasn't long before I decided to go ahead with the trip to Peru. Papa's passion for the Josiah and the work able to be done because of it was contagious. I would go to Iquitos and travel the Amazon for Papa. Maybe I was selfish in my motives in that ministry had little to do with it. I made a promise to Papa and I was going to keep it. But, as always, God had other plans for me.
We hadn't been in Iquitos for more than a few hours when we took motor cars through the city. The sights and sounds assailed my senses and I was immediately taken in my my surroundings. The hot, humid air was like a brick wall every time I stepped out of the comfort of an air-conditioned building. Dogs roamed the streets as freely as the locals. Latin pop music blared from buses, stores and porch radios. Motor bikes churned up dust from the side streets. Several men worked on the side of the road trying to fix a motor car while a family waited patiently for another. I was in a world completely unlike my own and I was loving every minute of it. I couldn't help but ponder what Papa would have thought of it all. To my knowledge, he'd never left North America. I could picture him beside me laughing at local children playing in the streets, pointing at items in shop windows and trying to speak Spanish even though I'm sure he didn't know a lick of it. Papa would have loved it as much as I do.
The first few days were hard. I nearly cried the first time I saw the Josiah on the river. We sat on the banks of the Amazon and waited in the scorching sun. I got sick the next day. My skin burned and my head spinned. I'd almost convinced myself it was all due to missing Papa so much. I got better with rest and water and soon began to wander the boat talking to those on board. My life changed in a matter of two weeks. By the time we returned to Iquitos, I didn't want to leave at all. I made new friends and got closer to my extended church family. I fulfilled my promise to Papa and in doing so, found a place I'd never expected to love.
In the months since my return to Canada, I've been waiting to leave again. And now I leave in two days! This trip will be an extension of the fulfillment of the promise I made to Papa and even more so, the promise I made to God. "Send me" leads my every step (not only in spirit, but in the natural as the quote is now a permanent fixture on my right ankle). I will go where the Lord sends me and I am so thankful that He sent me to Peru. I am eager to return and pick up where I left off in October of last year. I pray that I will be open to everything God has in store for me this time around and that I will not miss out on anything He has for me because I didn't want to participate or didn't feel something was for me. I am open and ready.
Here am I Lord, send me!