Mission trip in La Florida, Peru, plus visits to Lima and Paracas

When I heard that my church was organizing a weeklong mission trip to Nicaragua, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. And when unrest in Nicaragua made it unsafe for us to travel there and we decided to shift our trip to Peru instead, I was still unequivocally in. Those may have been the exact words I used in my email to our trip leader when she asked our thoughts, actually.

We did so much fundraising for this mission trip that I was lucky enough to have my entire trip paid for, and I felt so strongly that I was meant to be here that summer. God’s plan to put us in Peru prevailed over everything else we thought we had planned, and I’m pretty grateful for that.

We spent the week working on building two homes in La Florida, Peru, a town south of Lima. Last year there was 1 cm of rain in the district the whole year. We worked on houses for Evelyn and her family and Luis and his family. I absolutely loved building things for the past week, spending every evening doing devotionals with my team, making friends with Agusto Uno and Agusto Dos and Jose at the worksites as they led our builds and told us about their families, touring the Ballestas Islands by boat, trying local pisco, seeing ancient Inca ruins, getting to know Senon and Flor and Rosa and Rosita as they took care of us every day, sharing our Gatorade with La Florida kids, going through the catacombs of Iglesia y Conventa de San Francisco, and exploring the city of Lima on Peru’s Independence Day.

Anyone close to me can tell you that for the last two years I’ve felt incredibly called to travel and do service and mission work. God just said “Go,” and I’ve been trying to do it as much as possible ever since.

Let me tell you, mission work is hard. Just because it’s something I love a lot doesn’t mean it’s easy. The physical stuff: Carrying buckets of concrete back and forth to pour a house foundation. Cutting and nailing and framing a roof despite knowing essentially nothing about construction. Trying to sleep when there are several dozen roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing outside your window at 2 a.m. Eating food that you’re not used to, which may or may not wreak havoc on your digestive system. Trying to take care of bruises and bumps and pulled muscles. Trying to rely on the Spanish you haven’t studied in four years to get you through conversations. Not being able to drink the water or flush the toilet paper. The mental and social stuff: Lots of people thinking that your trip is a vacation. Feeling barriers start to come up between you and people you thought you were your friends at home who just don’t get it. Battling anxiety and your control freak personality. Being thousands of miles from your husband for a while. Missing important social events or birthdays or graduations or weddings because you’re out of the country. Hearing about corruption and wishing you could do something about the local government. Holding back the desire to slap the people at home who still crack insensitive jokes about starving kids in [insert place you’ve traveled here]. Knowing that the thousands of photos you take still won’t make people actually get it. Making new friends despite language barriers and thousands of miles and knowing there’s a distinct possibility you may never see them again. Feeling like whatever you do, it will never be enough ever. Struggling with the idea that poverty is something you personally can easily walk into for a week and then go back home to America, but it’s someone else’s whole life.

About a year ago, I was flipping through radio stations on the way home. I settled on a talk radio station I’d never listened to before because I was tired and thought it might help me stay awake. No sooner had I settled on the station when the person on the radio said, “What are you going to do if you get to the gates of heaven and God says, ‘How come thousands and thousands of children died during your lifetime?’ You’ll say ‘Oh, well, they weren’t my children.’ And He’ll say, ‘No, but they were mine.’”

Every time I travel I think there couldn’t possibly be enough of my heart left to steal, and then I’m wrong.

If you feel the calling to go, you should. It’ll change everything.


First day in Peru, exploring pre-Incan ruins


Award-winning pisco factory


Lunahuana, Peru


One of our worksites (featuring my favorite dog)


Paracas and Islas Ballestas


Downtown Lima on Peru Independence Day, and Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco